Small Stones Make Long-Lasting Ripples: How A Small Part of Your Day Is Either Helping or Hurting You.

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Have you ever thrown stones in a lake? For some reason it seems to be one of the greatest joys of boyhood. One of the many things I love doing with my boys is going hiking at local parks. Inevitably, when we come to the edge of a lake, pond, or river, they begin passionately looking for stashes of stones in the ground that they can throw into the water. A competition ensues to see who is able to throw a stone the furthest or who can skip a rock the most times. But have you ever watched what happens after the stone lands in the water? Of course you know that it creates ripples in the water that gradually expand out from the point at which the stone first entered the surface of the water. But have you ever stopped to take a moment to watch it? The ripples, even from a small stone, carry on and effect the water surprisingly far away from the point of entrance of the stone. There is much we can learn about that concept when we apply it to our life. Our lives are made up of a collection of small decisions which create ripple effects upon the lake of our entire life. One of these small daily decisions that has huge impacts on whether we are making progress toward our life goals or moving backwards away from our goals is how we handle our bedtime routine.

Of course, I am assuming you are already on a path of living on purpose or living with what I have called inspired resolve. This means you have written down your life purpose and have written some lofty life goals for yourself which are directly connected to your life purpose. If you have not done that yet, then it won’t really matter to you one way or another whether you have a productive bedtime routine or not. And your bedtime routine will also depend on if you are single, married, living with a roommate, have children or not, etc. But make no mistake, we can trace the ripples that are created by our bedtime routines.

I have done a lot of reading about what makes successful people stand out from those who have no direction or are unsuccessful. There are many things that make them stand out, one of the most important being how they spend their early mornings. Successful people see their mornings as invaluable parts of their day. Intentionally living the early morning part of your day is critical to living your life with inspired resolve and growing towards accomplishing your life goals.

Imagine going through your life always sleeping in until the last possible minute before you have to get up to get somewhere on time. For some of you, you don’t have to imagine. You start your day out stressed, hurried, eating an unhealthy breakfast if you eat one at all. You are speeding to get to work or school, trying to see how many traffic laws you can come close to breaking without getting pulled over. You are wearing a wrinkled shirt because you had no time to iron. You are playing catch up with every aspect of your day from the moment you awake. Sounds unpleasant right?

Now imagine you wake up early, let’s say 5:00 am for the purpose of this conversation. You have a rigidly structured morning routine which includes a time of prayer and inspirational reading, stretching, exercise, reviewing your plans and goals for the day, and giving yourself plenty of time to begin your work. As you sit in the quietness of the early morning before other members of the home have awaken, you hear the birds begin to chirp while you read and drink your coffee. You get ready with plenty of time to spare. You leave for work with plenty of time to be a few minutes early. You are calm, already feel productive for the day, and feel physically and emotionally refreshed and confident as you set out to live your day with inspired resolve.

Which type of day would you like to live? I assume you said the second one, the one where you awoke early and were productive.

Let me ask you another question: What is your normal bedtime routine? Do you have a set bedtime for yourself or do you go to bed when you are just too tired to stay awake any longer. Do you watch tv or movies in bed? Do you stay awake late into the night? Remember you most likely already acknowledged the fact that you would like to live a life of inspired resolve, awaking early every morning with purpose and intention.

The way we spend our mornings creates ripples throughout our entire day, and then those days turn into weeks, months, years, and a lifetime. The way you wake up each morning is directly related to whether you are living your life accomplishing your goals and, ultimately, your purpose in life.

If you, like me, see the value of starting each day early and living on purpose, you need to realize that it requires you to have an equally intentional and purposeful bedtime routine the night before. Something that my wife and I got into the bad habit of doing is going to bed every night with a digital device and watching our favorite shows on Netflix until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. This became very harmful to our relationship and to our overall life. We both found it very difficult to get up in the morning even though we both wanted to live our early mornings with inspired resolve. We have decided to commit to no longer ending our day this way.

My new routine is to sit down some time in the late afternoon or early evening (before I am too tired) and review what I accomplished that day and what I want to accomplish the next day. I then write out my agenda for the next day with all the tasks I want to finish carefully planned out. I have a very strict bedtime of 10pm so that I can be sure to wake up at 4:15am, my desired wake up time. Some days I am not faithful at this routine, but I am growing. I review my goals every night as a reminder about why I want to do this so that when the temptation comes to break this routine, I am able to remember what inspires me.

Just like my boys and I throwing stones in a lake and creating ripples that effect the water far away from where the stone fell in, we are constantly making ripples in our life with our daily choices. It is entirely up to you how you want your life to go. You just have to realize that the ripples you are living in today are a direct result of the stones you threw days, weeks, months, and years ago. And if you don’t like how your life is going today, then maybe you should begin to start throwing different kinds of stones in new places in your life. The ripples always come, but you get to dictate where and how.

 

 

The Glory of the Daily Grind

In “Break Free from Our Self-Adorned Chains”, I discussed the need for us to stop limiting ourselves with a focus on our own limitations. I challenged you to identify an area in your life where you have been limiting yourself based on your own false self-limitations. Too often we live our life wishing we could accomplish things we see others accomplishing, but never trying because we falsely believe they are beyond our grasp. However, breaking free from self-inflicted limitations is only the first step of accomplishing your lofty goals. If we are to accomplish much in our short time on this earth, we must not only be inspired but live daily with resolve to work at our goals, even when we don’t feel inspired.

I was sharing with my wife how discouraged I am because at 37 years old, I feel like there is so much I wanted to have accomplished by now. She encouraged me that great accomplishments happen through the mundane daily struggle of daily faithfulness. That is the key! It clicked in my heart at a deeper level than ever before. If I wanted to learn to play the piano, it is not out of my grasp; it is very achievable if I am willing to practice every day. If you want to write a book, it is not just a pipe dream that you should think you will never accomplish, it is very achievable if you are willing to sit down and do the work.

I am currently listening to an audio book by John Maxwell called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. In Chapter One he tells a riddle that goes something like this: 4 turtles were sitting on a log in the water. Three of them decided to jump into the water. How many were left still on the log? If you think the answer is 1, you are wrong. There were still 4 turtles left on the log. Why? Because 3 of them only decided to jump into the water. If they were going to accomplish it, they still needed to go from deciding in their minds to actually doing.

So as we begin to work on changing our own self-perceptions and beliefs, we still need to take another step–actually begin to do. And that is a very hard step to take. You see it can be easy to motivate ourselves to take the first step towards our goals. (Indeed, you are reading this blog because I made the first step towards executing my decision.) But the real success comes when we commit ourselves to the daily faithfulness of working toward that goal.

I can tell you right now that I am not making rapid progress in learning the piano. I only sit down to practice once or twice per week and usually only for 15 minutes at a time. This blog was exhilarating and exciting for me for the first 4 of my posts. (I am actually surprised it lasted that long without my excitement waning). But today was a different story. My goal is to write and post something every day. But when I sat down to write this post, I initially felt uninspired and unmotivated, and did not feel like doing it. Thankfully, I was able to fight through that feeling, and I hope you are the better for having read this far.

We love beauty. We are wired for it. We vacation to places where we can behold the beauty of the majestic creation. We listen to beautiful music. We enjoy watching professional athletes because they manifest an element of beauty as they compete to be the best at their craft. We appreciate beautiful furniture, clothing, cars, homes, etc. But the greatest violinist or the most gifted ballet dancer, or the most beautiful opera singer did not become that way without hours upon hours of hard work in the quiet places and in the early morning and late at night. They did not work at practice and discipline only when they felt inspired and only when they felt refreshed and motivated. They had to commit themselves to discipline and practice on a daily basis. They lived their daily life with inspired resolve. For while it is easy to pursue your goals when you are inspired, you need resolve to pursue them when you can’t find or remember the inspiration that led you to make the goal to begin with.

As you walk with me on my journey of living with inspired resolve, I hope you and I will both commit to growing in the seemingly boring, mundane, grind of daily faithfulness working towards our goals. For it is in that boring world, that we can truly accomplish great things.

 

An Open Letter to Cody Parkey

Dear Cody Parkey,

What a devastating field goal miss last night. Valleys can be so dark when you are in them.

You don’t know me. My name is Brian Carnesecchi. I live in Detroit. I am 37 years old, married with 4 kids, and I’m a lifelong Bears fan.

I just finished watching the Bears’ loss to the Eagles with my family. I know you must be devastated about missing that field goal to lose the game. Even though the loss can be placed on the whole team, I imagine you are haunted with a lot of regret about that miss.

I am writing to thank you. When I put my 10 year old son to bed tonight, I told him how much I would commend you for being out there and trying. I know you gave it your best. It is no small thing to have accomplished being a professional football player.

And you failed in that moment. But I would rather have a son who was out there trying to be great than a son sitting at home criticizing everyone else for their failures. I pray you see how blessed you are to be in this situation.

This loss will hurt for a while. And I would not be surprised if you have nightmares about it for a while. However, after swallowing this bitter pill, I pray that you use it in your life to become a better person. We all have trials and setbacks. What matters is how we respond to them.

You see Cody, my son Zachary, who is now 10 years old, will never have the chance to be in a position like you were in tonight. When Zachary turned 6 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. The doctors found a tumor in his pelvis. After 12 rounds of chemotherapy, he had a massive surgery to remove about 30% of his pelvis on his left side including his left hip socket. Once his body recovered enough, he then had 27 more rounds of chemo. It has been 3.5 years since his last chemo treatment and Zachary is currently doing great.

However, although he has found a new boyhood love for football and for the Bears, he understands that he will never be able to play the sport. It would be too risky for his body and his athletic abilities have been significantly diminished from his surgery. He now runs with a limp and struggles to keep up with his 8 year old brother.

I don’t feel sorry for him or our family though. We know everything happens for a reason. Going through that trial and now living every day always aware his cancer could return has been the hardest thing my wife and I have ever had to go through so far in our life. But it has been such a blessing. It has given us so many opportunities to be an encouragement to others. And it has taught us to measure life with more gratitude and sobriety. Our priorities have been recalibrated according to what matters most.

So although this loss hurts and that field goal miss leaves you with a pit in your stomach, use it to become great–whether  in football or as a human being. Grow from the struggle.

By the way, you can check out a facebook page we used to chronicle Zachary’s cancer story on facebook @ZacharysStory.

-Rooting for you,

Brian Carnesecchi (bscarn@gmail.com)

 

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Zachary about a week after his surgery.

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Zachary is on the right between his sisters. Right before singing at a Christmas choir concert.

Your Phone’s Alarm Clock Doesn’t Work.

In a previous post here, I discussed the importance of having restraint when using social media. Social media can become harmfully, excessively intrusive in our daily lives. If you read that post, you know that I have deleted my fb page. However, as a Realtor and a writer, I have to maintain some connectedness on the internet. Having abandoned facebook, I find I have more time available for other things. While I have more time, the temptation to be overly connected to my digital devices continues. I have realized my phone is hurting me in ways I thought it was helping.

As I went to bed last night, I set the time on my alarm clock to 4am (Yes, even on a Saturday, especially on a Saturday). I was eager to get right to work on my writing and my real estate work. However, I made one critical mistake as I fell asleep. I forgot to properly set my alarm.

You see, the night I deleted my facebook account, I also drove up to the local Meijer around 10pm, and bought a stand alone alarm clock. From the moment I decided I needed to buy a stand-alone alarm clock to the moment I came home with one in hand, there were many obstacles which could have deterred me from accomplishing this mission.

This was a very critical step in my journey to live with inspired resolve. I couldn’t let the time of night, or the fact that the electronics department was closed for the night, or the fact that some of the employees whose help I sought were uninterested in helping me stop me from doing what I felt inspired in that moment to do. I know myself well enough to know that if I did not go buy that alarm clock in that moment, I would probably never do it. But why was buying an alarm clock such an important step?

I have become convinced that if I want to live with inspired resolve, I must be less connected to the distraction of the internet and be more present in the here and now of my life. The internet has been a force for much good in the world since its beginning, but it has also become a monstrous form of living a distracted life.

Compare how the average American today spends his free time versus the average American two hundred years ago. The average American was probably working in his field, living a life of hard work and benefiting from all one can learn from reaping and sowing. If he had any free time, he was probably spending it writing letters, having face to face conversations with others, or reading classic works of literature.

How often do you spend time with a friend or loved one and give that person more than 3 to 5 minutes of thoughtful, intentional, undivided attention through listening and having discourse without ever looking at or thinking about your phone? How much time do you spend reading classic literature versus keeping your brain preoccupied or distracted on sites like Pinterest, facebook, instagram, etc. If you are like me, your answers to those questions are not very encouraging.

I got to the point with my phone that I was always aware of its whereabouts while I slept during the night. I needed my phone as an alarm clock. So I made sure it was well-charged and close by me every night before I fell asleep. I had this strange awareness of my phone’s presence at my bedside at all times. Even though I always try to wake up between 4am and 5:30am, using the phone as my way of doing that was actually hurting me. When I woke up I was faced with immediate distraction; the very thing I depended upon to wake up early to be productive is the thing that overwhelmingly tempted me with instant distraction. I woke up to spend the early morning in prayer, exercise, reading, and other early morning productive activities, and often found myself instead sitting and reading news stories or social media posts which, when I am honest with myself, are very irrelevant to me and my life.

So by using my phone as an alarm clock, I had to literally pick up the distraction and literally hold it in my hand. If I had any hope of being productive each morning, I instantly upon waking, had to be faced with a powerful temptation to be distracted and then make an active choice to deny that temptation. Why would I put myself in such a position every morning.

It was time to separate my phone from my alarm clock. It was time to put my phone to bed every night in a place that was not my bedroom. So with the purchase of a new inexpensive and simple alarm clock is the beginning of a new bedtime routine.

With a new alarm clock, it is important to remember to actually execute the change with intention and resolve. Last night, I set my wake up time for 4am. But I didn’t wake up until 7am. I was so disappointed when I discovered I overslept and perplexed about what happened. The alarm clock seemed ineffective and it was only day two.

As I got going, however, I realized what happened. When I depended on my phone as an alarm clock, I never had to reset the alarm or turn the alarm back on each night. However, my new alarm clock is different. Each night it must be switched back to the “on” position, and each morning when it goes off, I literally need to turn it “off”.

I couldn’t be more excited to have such a seemingly primitive device in the 2019 world of high tech. With this device, I am removing a deeply detrimental temptation to waste time each morning, and am forced to be more intentional about my bedtime and wake up routine. And that is what living with inspired resolve is all about…being intentional.

If you can relate to the problem of using your phone as your alarm clock, or it you want to join me in making this change, leave a comment below to let me know.

Break Free from Our Self-Adorned Chains

As I have grown older (Not a young buck anymore), I’ve increasingly realized how much I’ve placed false limitations on myself due to my own self-perception. Too often I have enslaved myself to the subtle whisper in my head of the words “I can’t…”. There is so much I have not done in my life because I didn’t believe I could do it. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was limiting myself in this way. It seems like so often lately I have uncovered a new self-limitation that has held me back in life.

No more.

One example of this is becoming a musician. My wife (of 15 years as I am typing this) is a very gifted and well-known (in our small circles) pianist and piano teacher. And yet I can’t play anything on the piano even though I have a piano teacher as my best friend. Why? Because I have always lived believing that I am unable to learn it. “I can’t play the piano. I wish I could but I can’t.”

Now I am asking myself, “Why not?”

So I went to the music store and bought myself an adult beginner book. I will play the piano darn it!

Now its your turn…

What is one thing in your life that you have limited yourself in doing because you didn’t believe you could do it? 

Leave your answers in the comments section.

I look forward to reading them.

And don’t forget to resolve to live inspired.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! Today represents something very important in my life-relentlessness. I refuse to give up on my goals. This blog is something I hope to turn into a regular blog which will help me stay focused on my life goals while also inspiring you to pursue your own.

I hope you will join me on the journey. Each of us has a choice. We can either choose to live a daily mundane, ho-hum life, never striving to accomplish much, or we can choose to wake up each morning inspired to strive after our goals. We can either let life happen to us, one day, one week, one month, one year, one decade, one life at a time. Or we can live inspired each and every day.

I look forward to living inspired with you.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Disconnecting is The First Step to Living with Inspired Resolve

The first step I am taking in my resolve to live an inspired life is to do a little disconnecting. But it is not without good reason. Before I go any further, let me explain what I mean by “disconnecting”. While I would love to be able to completely and totally disconnect (get rid of my home wifi, all digital devices, my mobile phone, all social media accounts) my job requires me to be connected. However, there is one very important area in which I have taken the step to disconnect, and will chronicle how that is going throughout the next 30 days.

As a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, I am very excited my team has finally made the playoffs and have a good chance to make it to the Super Bowl this year. This is due in large part to their new coach, Matt Nagy. The more I learn about this guy, the more I am inspired by him. You see, Matt Nagy’s path is very non-conventional. After playing football in the now-shuttered Arena Football League, he decided to give up his dreams of football and get a regular job in the business world. He started selling new homes. However, when unpaid and low-paid opportunities popped up with the Philadelphia Eagles, he pursued them. Most people would not have taken the risk. (He had to start out with a pay cut of more than 50%). But he did. And now he is on track to possibly become the NFL Coach of the Year, turning around a Bears team with 5 wins, 11 losses last year to 12-4 this year, divisional champions, and a playoff berth. Matt Nagy chose to buck conventional wisdom and take a chance. He lived with inspired resolve.

Nagy’s example caused me to stop and ask the question: Is there some lifelong dream or passion in my life which I have put to death long ago because I believed the lie that I could never do it? As I pondered this question, I came across another interesting man who lives his life with inspired resolve. Daron K Roberts was a student at Harvard Law School. He was set to start a promising and lucrative law career. One day a friend invited him to work at a football camp for a few weeks. He fell in love with coaching football and the opportunity coaching could provide to inspire young men. He abandoned his law career and set out to become an NFL Coach. I couldn’t believe it! He resolved to pursue what inspired him. I had to learn more about this man.

After working long hard hours for little or no pay as an NFL coaching intern, Daron K Roberts eventually landed a position as an assistant NFL coach. After coaching in the NFL for several years, he now lectures at the University of Texas and is the founding director of The Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation and the author of a book called Call an Audible: Let My Pivot from Harvard Law to NFL Coach Inspire Your Transition. As I learned more about Daron K Roberts, I watched a talk he gave to a room of young college students about living with purpose. His first point in that talk was “Script don’t Scroll.” He emphasized the importance of not wasting your days away every day being closely connected to your phone scrolling through all the latest social media platforms to see what interesting thing the platform thinks you need to know next.

This got me thinking about my own social media usage throughout each day. My social media platform of choice is was facebook. I would look at it so often throughout the day that I got to a point where if I was bored, I would check fb. I am not sure but I would guess that I checked facebook probably more than 50 times per day. I would check it everywhere-in the bathroom, at my office, in line at the grocery store, in my living room after dinner when my kids were all around me and longed for my full attention, and everywhere else. The most concerning thing about this as I thought about it was (1) that I often was mindlessly scrolling through my feed while in the presence of others who need and wanted my full attention, and (2) that I was constantly connected to it. I would typically check facebook (for no good reason) within 15-30 minutes of waking up in the morning.

You may have seen this video, which has gone viral on social media, in which Simon Sinek discusses the way social media is damaging us and our whole culture. If you haven’t seen it, it is very much worth 15 minutes to watch. In it he discusses the importance of putting down our phones, not keeping them by our bed as an alarm clock, and keeping our social media usage limited. The video is enlightening and inspiring. I have seen it 3 or 4 times over the past year or two. And every time I see it, I decide I am going to delete my facebook account. And I never do.

However, after learning about Matt Nagy’s and Daron K Roberts’ intentionality, purpose, and resolve to live inspired, and being challenged by Roberts to stop scrolling and instead live a daily life of purpose, I have decided to delete my facebook account. Last night, I went into my fb settings and selected the button to create a temporary file which catalogued all my previous fb usage so that I have a record of my past posts, photos, and videos. Then I downloaded the file and clicked to delete my account. Facebook has it set up to have my information active and visible on facebook for 30 days to give me a chance to change my mind. This time facebook will not be getting me back though. I am choosing to stop scrolling and instead to script my life. I am resolving to live inspired. Facebook, by its very nature, builds into you a mindset of reacting to life instead of scripting your life. You have very little control as fb leaves you addicted to more of the same. The scrolling action invites a hunger for more scrolling. No longer will that be part of my life. I choose to be more present with the people around me and to live intentionally.

The most interesting thing about deleting my fb account is that I have had these urges to pick up my phone and check fb or to post an interesting article I found on it. At least twice in the 12 hours since I have deleted my fb account, I have come across an interesting article and began the steps of copying the url so I could share it on fb. It is amazing how much facebook has built itself its own little cozy place in my head. I have now kicked it out and it has no home with me now.

Tomorrow I will write about what other steps I am taking this month to live with inspired resolve and disconnect more from the chains of technology that occupy too much of my time. I hope you will join me and you too will live your life in 2019 with inspired resolve.

Please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.