An Uncommen Blog

New Year’s Resolutions for UNCOMMEN Dad’s

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Welcome to 2017! I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. As a matter of fact, my standard resolution is not to make any. How’s that for a resolution?

However, as I watch my two children, who are 5 and 2, get a little bit bigger and a little bit older each year, I keep having this thought in my mind that there is more I could be doing as a dad. Other than my wife, my kids are the most important thing for me. But does my time or attitude when I am with them reflect that? Or do I act like they are more of an inconvenience, always shuffling them in their mother’s direction? 

 

 

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Finishing the Year Strong

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As 2016 comes to a close and we enter into the holiday season, we know that both in work and life finishing strong is essential. Success in life as a man is not measured where you start; it is where you finish.   

About 12 years ago and approximately 15-20 pounds ago, I was a college soccer player for an elite program. Fitness was always a huge priority for our team, and we always joked that we were one the best “track teams” in college soccer. Even though we didn’t have the best talent, we always seemed to have a team with a lot of depth, and we could outlast teams physically and mentally. One of the ways our mentality was developed was in the tradition of the 5 Minute Mile. Every player was challenged to try to make that time, and it was an “unofficial” gauge of our overall team fitness in preparation for the coming season.

Our coach would repeatedly tell us, “Guys, anyone can start strong, but very few finish strong. Don’t bleed into the finish.”

“Don’t Bleed into the Finish. Finish Strong.” became a tagline for our team and something we would repeat over and over again until it was ingrained in our minds. I was never an exceptionally talented runner, so during the summers, I would spend time on the track several times a week to be ready to make the time. The first night of training camp we would report to the track for 5 Minute Mile. Little did I know that it would become a framework on how I viewed nearly every challenge to persevere and finish strong.

Lap 1

We would all start together, and there was a general sense of excitement, but also nervousness for the coming 5 minutes of pain ahead. We would line up and hear our coach saying “Ready, Set, Go!” And off we went. The key in the first lap is finding a comfortable pace that would allow you to find a rhythm and stay the course. Run too fast, and you risk burning up all your energy and blowing out. Run too slow, and you would put yourself in a position that was too far back and you would likely not be able to regain the pace as your legs would tire later in the run. 

When you start to undertake a big challenge requiring endurance, make sure you prepare appropriately and operate at a pace you can maintain. Often in a work environment, the first quarter is marked by a lot of planning and lofty goals. Being able to achieve those goals and break that down into small steps is essential to finishing strong. Don’t overdo it early on.

Lap 2

On the second lap, it became more apparent how our legs were feeling and whether or not you ran the first lap at the appropriate pace. The second lap was a time to make adjustments and if you are smart, finding someone you could follow that would help you maintain that right rhythm. As you round the turn back home to complete the second lap, we would often begin to be able to know if your preparations paid off, or whether the next two laps were going to be an exercise in agony. 

As you find yourself in the middle of a challenge in the year, make sure you pick your head up and align yourself with people that can help you stay on track with your goals. Self-assess and be aware of what you can physically and mentally do. While there is a lot of inspirational quotes out there about pushing as hard as you can all the time, the reality is that a UNCOMMEN man knows his limits and manages his energy appropriately. Youthful energy is nice, but it is fleeting. Maybe the second lap for you requires holding back a bit to be able to maintain the pace to the finish.

Lap 3

They say it’s the hardest lap of the mile. Lactic acid starts to build up in the legs, maybe you start to get some tightness or cramping, or maybe you feel great. But for most of us, it was time to face the music. You are halfway, but you are starting to pay the price for the pace. Self-doubt would often creep in and thoughts like “Can I do this? My legs are on fire” or “Maybe it’s time to slow down or quit.” Now is the time to persevere and put yourself in position for the final lap. Counter those thoughts of self-doubt with encouragement and truth.

Throughout the year or even throughout your day, you are faced with setbacks and moments of self-doubt. For me, I find myself in a few of these seasons throughout the year. The key is meet self-doubt with the truth about who you are and where you want to go. Remind yourself of why you are doing it, and often you will find the motivation to press forward in the face of adversity. Push through.   

Lap 4

Entering into the 4th lap is when gaps seemed to open up between individual runners. Some of my teammates seem to kick it into another gear, while others pace appeared to slow or even completely drop off. The 4th Lap was the time to let it all hang out. We had all worked this hard to be here, and it was a decision to push through with everything we had to cross the finish line. What always amazed me was that certain guys would make their final lap their fastest. They had left enough in the tank so that when others were too tired, that is when they would make their move. 

As you come into the final lap of 2016, be encouraged that regardless of where you started the year or whether you achieved all your goals, to push hard through the finish. Give it all you have. It will do as much for your final result, as it will for your character.   

Be UNCOMMEN. Finish Strong.

About the Author: Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. He wishes he could still run a 5 Minute Mile, but doing his best to finish 2016 strong.

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UNCOMMEN Dads Make Holiday Memories with Kids

So you got a couple of weeks or maybe days to the holidays. Being a leader in your family means taking the lead for the holidays as well. That doesn’t mean you have to pack your schedule with tons of activities or spend tons of money to make those Christmas memories. Just don’t be one of those zombie dads you see walking through the mall who look in a total daze and completely unsure of what’s happening next. Truth time: many men are notoriously bad at planning around the holidays for social gatherings, work parties and planning out great activities for the family that can help create those lifelong memories. Time to change the situation.

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How to Be an Uncommen Husband during the Holidays

 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir

Old time Christmas songs fill the air, the decorations, the food, the gifts, the excitement of children opening up presents, the smell of Christmas cookies from the kitchen, decorating the tree, throwing one more log on that open fire; it’s that time of year again. The Christmas season is upon us.

The Holidays can indeed be the most wonderful time of the year, reconnecting with family, and the overall festive spirit in the air. But for many of us, navigating the holidays can be quite challenging. Make the wrong move and the experience of the holidays can change from a happy time to a time that can be quite the opposite. For many women, our wives included, Christmas can often be one of the most stressful periods of the year. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that women typically feel a lot more stressed than men and have a harder time relaxing and being able to enjoy the holiday season. While it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, often that’s not the case.

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Eternity is Written on Our Hearts

This is our last week with Shane Falco and Jimmy McGinty.  We watched as Shane changed.  He was a boat washer who wanted to be forgotten, a man who had lost his heart.  Now he is a leader and a quarterback who wanted the ball in his hands with the game on the line.  This sort of transition is one I hope we all go through.

As Falco is leading his team down the field in the second half of the final game, he looks in the huddle.  His teammates are exhausted and hurting from the physicality of the match.  He tells them, “I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn’t be our style.  Pain heals.  Chicks dig scars.  Glory…lasts forever.” 

I find this theme recurring in movies and real life.  Early on in the film Gladiator, General Maximus spoke to his troops before a battle.  As they stood in formation ready to unleash hell, he reminded them, “Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.”  Each soldier would make a difference in the outcome of the battle. 

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, once said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.  Otherwise why else even be here?”  He wanted to make a difference and change the world he lived in.  It was the driving purpose in everything he did. 

This concept goes as far back as the Bible.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God “has set eternity in the human heart.”  No matter what pain, adversity or hopeless odds we face, our hearts are drawn to things that will last.  It is in our DNA.

We recognize the reality of this theme by the way our hearts resonate and respond to this call.  We also find ourselves struggling with the execution of this desire.  How do we make a dent in the universe?  It’s great for Steve Jobs to say, he ran Apple.  All I do is run my kids to school and practice.  I’m no quarterback or leader of hundreds of men.  What difference can I have that will last forever?

One way I have tried to align my life with eternity is to look at those things that only I can do.  I mean, I do a lot of things and have many roles.  Father, husband, brother, son, friend.  Teacher, instructor, nurse, writer, speaker.  I can easily fill my time with activities so that I am always busy.  Lead a small group?  Sure.  Attend this meeting?  No problem.  Before I know it, my time is booked with activities, but I lose track of the meaning.  Every time I say yes to something, I am saying no to something else.

It’s important to go back to the question: What am I doing that only I can do?  I am the only man who can husband my wife.  I am the only one who can father my children.  I have been given gifts and abilities to succeed in my calling.  Those areas should be a priority and take precedence over anything else.  What does that look like?  That means I have a choice to make and I ensure that the most important roles take priority and guide my decisions.

As men, we get trapped thinking we always have to do something or appear a certain way.  “I have to go here and do this because it’s expected.”  Just because we are expected to do something doesn’t mean it matters in eternity. 

Investigate your life.  Identify those things that ONLY you can do.  What is your critical mission, your top priorities?  Are you giving enough time and energy to those areas?  It will be hard.  We feel important and involved, and we wonder where we stand or what people will think if we say no. 

Remember what matters.  You have a role that can only be filled by you.  You have a calling that only you can do.  Eternity resides in your heart.  Follow it.

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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Miles and Miles of Heart

We’re getting close to the end of The Replacements.  The season has gone on and this team of losers, rejects and has-beens learned to play well together.  We get to the last game of the season, with the playoffs on the line, and the star quarterback decides to return to the team.  He is an arrogant, condescending jerk and the team falls apart in the first half.  At halftime, the coach is asked what it will take to get back in the game.  He responds, “You’ve got to have heart.  Miles and miles of heart.”  Keanu appears in the locker room, the team rallies around him and they win the game in dramatic fashion.  They run off the field as the closing song plays.  “We can be heroes, just for one day.” 

Proving that all you need to win the game, get the girl and be the hero is to have “miles and miles of heart.”

But what does that mean?  We’ve got lots of phrases about the heart.  You see a guy and say “He’s got no heart,” or “My heart’s not in it.”  What does it look like to “have heart” or “lose heart?”

Plenty of men have lost their heart.  They might show up, but they aren’t present.  At dinner, they eat with their family but spend the whole time on the phone or watching TV.  They go to work, go home, go to bed.  Rinse and repeat the next day.  Over and over.  These men are checked out, empty shells of who they once wanted to be.

Sometimes, they try to fill the void in their chest with anything they can—alcohol, drugs, work, women, even fantasy football and video games.  While it doesn’t give them what they are looking for, at least it covers it up so no one else can see they have lost heart.  Like hanging a picture over the hole you punched in the wall, it doesn’t fix the problem, just covers it up.

So many of us have lost heart in some area.  We had great dreams and desires as young men, and life happened.  Being married wasn’t as easy as we thought, especially once kids came along.  Doing the same job, day after day, without meaning, without purpose takes its toll.  As duty bound men, we put our heads down and do what has to be done.  Usually, that involves killing our dreams and desires, and over time we lose our hearts.

We were meant to be much more than breadwinners, bacon bringers, and bill payers.  We see men who have miles and miles of heart, and we want that.  But when we look around us at all the “stuff”—expectations, demands, and duties—we are overwhelmed.  How can we get our hearts back?

The first step, as they say, is admitting we have a problem.  Realizing our hearts are dead.  Or at least sick.  We aren’t where we would like to be, and we want to do something about it.  But what?

Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Sometime over this next week, I would encourage you to sit down and write out what it is you want to see in different areas of your life.  Start with yourself and what sort of man you want to be.  Then expand your vision to your marriage, your children, your friends, work, calling and dreams.  Be as clear as you can and dream as big as you want.  If you don’t know what it looks like to have heart, you won’t know how to get there.  This week, start making your map.

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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