Wednesday, March 28, 2012


So this morning I was contemplating what to write and I thought about expectations. Specifically, the power of expectations and the role expectations play in shaping our culture, our lives, our experiences. You may not ever really give much thought to the idea of expectations but they are always present, shading your every move. 99% of the time they are subconscious, only rising to the surface when they are NOT met. For example, your boss is a jerk. You go to work expecting to be mad at him or her. Guess what, you get mad at him or her. No surprise, you expected it to be that way. But what if the jerk boss surprised you with an encouraging word, a raise, a promotion, a cupcake or something like that. Your expectation would NOT be met and it would certainly shade the experience. Perhaps you would change your opinion of your boss, perhaps you would expect the hammer to fall at some point. Those expectations turned something fairly ordinary into an event shaded with fear, suspicion, elation, contemplation or some other emotion simply because what you expected to happen did not happen. Keep this in mind, we have lots of names for expectations--fear, anxiety, anticipation, restlessness, motivation, etc. Different names, but the same thing tied to differing emotions.

Expectations are super important in my line of work. When I meet with a buyer for the first time it is essential that I find out what their expectations are. See, they may have set their expectations from gathering information from sources like Trulia or Zillow. These sources are notoriously incorrect. They may have set their expectations from a previous experience with another Realtor. I need to find out if that Realtor was competent, a good communicator, etc. They may have set their expectations from the national media. If thats the case, then I have a TON of work to do! Regardless, I have to find out "where they are coming from" in order to best serve them. My goal is always to exceed their expectations, or at least meet them. I never want to fall short. Why? Because expecations color the experience and determine whether or not they will become fans. Most importantly, I am in the service industry. If I didn't meet or exceed my clients' expectations, what did I really even do for them?

So, how do I do this. Number 1, I simply ask them. What do you intend to happen? How much do you intend to spend? What kind of time frame are we dealing with? What information have you already gathered? From where? Have you purchased a home before? Was it a pleasant experience? You get the idea. For sellers, it is basically the same thing, just a little more in depth about the specific home and financial situation.

What other ways do expectations cloud our perceptions? How about in the dating arena? Like it or not our parents' relationship often sets our expectations. Our intake of media sets expectations. Our friends set expectations. Be very careful in relationships to acknowledge where your expectations come from and if they are worthwhile expectations. Often, they are not. They are unrealistic, unhealthy and unattainable. I'm not saying to lower your criteria, but rather to simply look at it from a holistic perspective.

Think about some areas of your life where your expectations hold you back. How about your spiritual life? Are you afraid to go to church because you expect the people there to be judgemental? Totally understandable but unhealthy. What about your job? Just because you never got a promotion does not mean you won't be promoted. BUT, you definitely won't be promoted if you go through your job everyday expecting that the boss hates you.

I would love to hear about how your expectations held you back and you overcame those. I would also challenge you to identify and to challenge the expectations in your life that might be detrimental. Have a great week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Covenant Marriage Law

I read a story the other day where Alabama is contemplating a "covenant marriage option." Basically, when you get your marriage license in Alabama, you can opt for a "covenant marriage." This option would not allow you to divorce for "irreconcilable differences" or to have a "no-fault divorce." This means that the only way to divorce is to have a very, very good, provable reason. I am intrigued by this proposal.

First, let me say that I believe marriage already IS a covenant. I also believe the government should have very, very little to do with marriages. I know they have intertwined themselves in the process through tax codes and priveleges for couples. I don't think they should. God established marriage as a covenant. There are lots and lots of scriptures that describe His plan for marriage. That said, at its core, all a marriage really is is a promise between two people to be true to each other, love each other, and share a life together. How you interpret the specifics is going to be shaded by your religious (or lack of religious) beliefs. I happen to believe that anything that strays from God's very specific plan is not, in fact, a true "marriage", regardless of what you call it. That said, the government does not have the authority to discriminate. When they started giving incentives for marriage, they opened up a can of worms. That is just my opinion.

So, should there be a law that gives you the option for a marriage that is harder to break? The proponents think it will force people that go for that option to work through the tough times. You can't just end the marriage when it gets tough. What are the risks? What if you opt for the covenant marriage and then discover your spouse had something hidden? You have to prove it in order to get away from them. This means more court cases. At least with a no-fault divorce, the divorce itself is relatively easy (settlement of assets and child custody may not be, but the divorce is). How much more complicated will it be for a covenant marriage to be ended? Perhaps this is a moot point. Perhaps there won't be any covenant marriages broken. I don't know. Perhaps the private investigator business will boom in Alabama!

On the flip side, I applaud Alabama for trying SOMETHING to secure the family. There is overwhelming evidence that both parents at home gives children a tremendous advantage in many areas of development and achievement. That said, if the parents are terrible for each other, still choose to have a kid, raise that kid in a home filled with discord and arguments because the mom can not actually "prove" the husband is lousy, is that really better than a no-fault divorce? I don't know. All I do know is that Alabama is at least trying to strengthen the family. They have at least taken a step to fight for what is good. AND they didn't do it in such a way as to be oppressive. You have the OPTION to get into this agreement. You do not HAVE to do it. It shouldn't cost much, if anything, to implement up front (just may cost after a while with increased court time, unseen as of now). Why not give that option?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


How do you measure success? The question can be answered in so many ways and often it depends on the context of the question. For example, I wrote a short blog last week that 34 people read. The whole point of the blog was to inspire some dialogue and hopefully explore the crippling lethargy that I sometimes experience. 34 read it, 0 commented on it. Based on context, the blog was an epic failure. It did not achieve its intended purpose. It was not successful. I earned two awards in the past 2 weeks for hitting arbitrary sales goals and helping a specific number of people. I sold 22 homes last year. In order to "qualify" for these awards, I needed to sell at least 15. Who set that number? What is significant about that number? If I sold 14 homes, am I less successful? What if those 14 homes were $1 million dollars each, I would have made WAY more money than selling the 22 homes I did sell. Then who is successful? One person has the award, the other has a lot more money.
"Society" worships success. There are thousands of books, blogs, videos and other media out there centered on "success." There are movies made about "successful people." Everyone has an idea of what success looks like when they see it but very few can explain what success actually is. This is an important distinction as we strive to be successful people. It is very hard to strive for a goal when your definition is "I'll know it when I see it."

Let's start with the flawed description above. Who do you see as successful? Frequently we see celebrities as successful. They started down a path to be a star and they made it. Now they have gobs of money, live in big houses and are household names. Does that define success? We look at business owners and entrepreneurs that have achieved an independently wealthy status, i.e. they can survive the rest of their lives very comfortably without working. Does that define success? How about the president? There is not a higher elected official in our country. Is that success?

I would suggest that "being successful as a person" is not the same as "having success." Having success is very simple to define--the intended outcome has occurred. In other words, a goal was set, an activity was set in motion (or multiple activities) and the intended consequence was met--I woke up hungry, my goal was to not be hungry, I decided eating would solve the issue, I ate and I was no longer hungry--SUCCESS.

Being successful is not as simple. The real hard part is that you and only you can set the meter that measures success--and many, MANY of us don't know (A) what we truly view as success in life and (B) how to get there. I challenge you to figure out what needs to be in place when you get old in order for you to look back at your life and say, "wow, I was successful." It may involve your children, it may involve your work. It may involve strangers you help. It may involve money and material things. It may involve your giving. Regardless, YOU need to define that goal and ignore what society says is success. You will be much happier that way.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Ok, this one will be short. It is more of a question. I struggle with lethargy sometimes. I have lots to do but absolutely no drive to do it. Sometimes it is being physically tired, sometimes it is mental exhaustion, sometimes it is just plain procrastination. I think sometimes it is even being overwhelmed at the sheer amount of stuff I have to do and it is fretting over how to get started. There are days when this is nearly incapacitating. Do any of you struggle with this and if so, how do you get over it?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Busyness vs. Handling Your Business

Sorry this is a day late. It has been incredibly busy lately. That is actually the topic of this blog!

Americans are addicted to busyness. We have it so ingrained in our culture that we don't even think about it anymore. When was the last time you said, "What have you been up to?" or "How are you doing?" We say these things instead of "Are you well" or even a simple "I have been thinking about you" or something to that effect. The point is, we assume that person has been doing something. It would be weird if they haven't. We stay in motion constantly. What if you asked someone what they have been up to and they replied "Absolutely nothing for the past week. I have done nothing, zip, zero, zilch." MOST of us would automatically say something like "oh, have you been ill?" In other words, it is just not normal to do nothing, you must be sick.

Why are we so addicted to being busy? I think, and this is just a theory, it is fear and worry (really the same thing). Fear of being behind or missing out on something. If we are idle, we don't get rewarded with material items. We may miss our opportunity to make more money which gives us more stuff. Stuff is really what its all about, right?  Just as a personal example, somewhere around 23 or 24 years old I looked around at my life. I was still in college (working on a master's degree), renting an apartment and had no kids. I was married to an awesome wife. I looked at some of my friends and they already had their "first big job", had already bought a home, already had cute kids. I found myself thinking I was "behind". I was too slow in getting my life started. Sounds absurd, right? I bet, if a lot of you are honest, you have had that same feeling at some point. The natural solution to this "problem", GET BUSY.

Thus it starts--finish school, get a job, have a kid or two, work the hours it takes to get promoted, buy a house, work on that house, work at your job more, hate your job, work for the weekend, work on the house on the weekend, work toward vacation, go on vacation and spend so much time running around and "doing stuff" you want to have a vacation from your vacation, work some more, etc, etc. It nver stops. We get so busy we forget to enjoy life.  Why? So we can get "ahead" in this race we have created for ourselves. Silly isn't it.

I had this discussion last night with a bunch of college age guys at church. I especially wanted them to hear it. We approached it from a few angles. One, you have understand YOU invented that race. It is not real. Two, God wants you to take care of your business but to not get so involved in BUSYNESS that you forget to pay attention to him. Psalm 46:10 says to be still and know that I am God. Its interesting because God is telling you to DO two things, 1) be still, 2) KNOW that I am God. I think that in order to do the second thing, you have to do the first thing--completely. You have to shut off all the garbage going through your head. You have to stop being BUSY in order to be in tune with your creator.

We looked at one other verse (out of context but I think it fits). Exodus 14:14. Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Pharoah is chasing them and they start to grumble. "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?" Moses tells them (this is the New Harmon Paraphrase Translation), "Look, God told me to bring you here. 'The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'" Then God tells Moses how to handle his business, the sea is parted and the Israelites go to safety. You know the story. The key here is that the Israelites were afraid and worrying about something they could not control. If they would just still their minds, handle the business God put in front of them, God would take care of them--and he did--in spectacular fashion.

I don't foresee any of us running from Pharoah's army but I do know that sometimes I feel like I have that much pressure on me. I feel like I am pushed into a corner with all the work I "have to do" and the pressures of life. At times like this I need to still my mind, handle the business God has put in front of me and let Him take care of the rest. In other words (back tot he New Harmon Paraphrase Translation) Exodus 14:14--"Chill out, I got this" Your Friend, God.