Who Can I Serve?

When I think about trying to get over a certain hump or push through a particular problem, I normally ask myself questions like these…

  • What can I do differently to move things along?
  • How can I do this better?
  • How can I change processes?
  • What’s my dang problem?
  • What disciplines do I need to put in place to bring some kind of success in this situation?

Those questions are fine. They can help get at some new ideas and bust me out of my rut, but they also can lead to navel-gazing and mere guesses at solutions. Who can I serve?

The two questions that are more effective in removing logjams (and yes, I know that the first question contains bad grammar, but who really says, “Whom can I serve?”):

  1. Who can I serve?
  2. How can I serve them? 

That’s it. Very seldom are our problems solely about ourselves. Nearly everything we deal with has a relational component.

If you’re struggling at work to move a project along, then ask those two questions, “Who am I trying to serve with this project? How can I best serve them?”

Those questions clarify the purpose and cleanse motivations. If you pinpoint who you are serving, then the answers become less about yourself and more about solving someone’s problem or serving someone. You see things through her or his eyes instead of your own. You become empowered.

These two questions can even help us out with our health and finances.

If we are trying to become better stewards of our bodies and our money, then asking who we’re serving and how we can serve them provides some level of motivation.

I want to be healthy for my active elementary aged kids. I want more energy; therefore, I exercise and try… try… to eat better.

I want to serve my children by taking care of myself. The connection is not a leap at all. If I solely focus on my need to be more disciplined, then I can burn out more easily.

So today, when you’re considering some moment of ‘stuckness’, as yourself, “Who am I serving with this thing I’m trying to do? How can I best serve them?”

Maybe it will help.

By the way, how can I serve you with these occasional posts? If there’s been a topic you’ve read that you’d like to see more, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll ask myself who I’m serving and how I can do it and make my best guesses….

21 Ideas for Your Family’s Code of Ethics

In truth, these are 21 ideas for my family’s code of ethics. Feel free to give them a look and steal a couple if you’re like me and think about things like family code of ethics. I’d rather call them something more whimsical, but I’m struggling at the moment, so I’ll stick with code of ethics.

Anyway, steal a few because I sure as heck didn’t come up with these all by myself. A few are directly from sermons I’ve heard or books I’ve read or random ideas from podcasts. All of them originated from those sources at least indirectly as people and experiences have shaped my thinking.

Family code of ethics

Photo: https://unsplash.com/tonynaccarato

Why Have a Family Code of Ethics (or Rules to Live By or How We Do Things ‘Round Here Principles)

This is one of those ideas that had never occurred to me until the last couple years. And it hasn’t grabbed hold of me and my wife enough to make us sit down and work through it and clarify which 10, 12, or 13 (or 7 maybe?) items we’d like to include quite yet.

But the older my children get, the more I feel the need to be clear on what I hope we value as a family.

Most families, I’m sure of it, haven’t codified this type of thing. Families do reflect the general values that they hold. Sometimes there is intentionality behind this. often there is not.

If part of my life’s work is my family, then it would make sense to be intentional about how our family operates. A code of ethics frames the character and practices we’d like to build into our family over time.

Another reason why I think this is important is because I would love to give my children short phrases that might (hopefully) come to mind when they find themselves up against difficult situations and decisions. Frankly, I could use some reminders, too.

I know this exercise isn’t mandatory for a family to function and love well, but I’m thinking it can’t hurt, either.

My Initial Code of Ethics Brainstorm Session

We’re in the process of selecting what to include in ours. Here are 21 ideas from a recent personal brainstorming session. Some might not make sense to you. You can ask about any of them in the comments. I’ll expand on them in the future (and give credit where credit is due).

  1. Complete the job
  2. Boys go down, girls go free (The guy takes the bullet, takes a protective stance, puts the women and children in the lifeboat first. For a much more eloquent explanation, check out minutes 35:00-40:00 from this video).
  3. What does love require of you?
  4. Smile when you talk
  5. Take responsibility
  6. Be generous
  7. Have fun
  8. Be honest
  9. Share the load
  10. Communicate with kindness
  11. Bring the temperature down
  12. You’ll get better – Nobody is awesome the first time they try something
  13. Just ship it
  14. What is healthy?
  15. Explore everything
  16. Try something new
  17. What is the wise thing to do?
  18. One extra step
  19. Do difficult things
  20. Danger can be good
  21. Seek God

We hope to settle on no less than 7 and no more than 13.

What would be in your family’s code of ethics?

Do you think this kind of thing is helpful or important?

What is Your Life’s Work?

What is your lifes work?

I dare say that most of us have never started a sentence like this:

My life’s work is….

We think of a writer or an artist or a great scientist as being able to look back with pride upon his or her ‘life’s work.’ The author, on the death bed, dropping final bits of wisdom to her closest family and friends while adoring fans tweet and Facebook and more seasoned columnists wax eloquent about that author’s ‘life’s work’ and ‘contribution to the world of whatever.’

Most of us who sell or account or lawyer up or teach or manage or cook or clean don’t think of what we do as our life’s work.

We think of our work as work. We think of our life as our life. We think of our family as our family. We think of those hobbies we love as hobbies we love.

That’s fine and all, but we’re missing out if we don’t sit back and look at our work, our relationships, our faith, our community service, and our various avocations as all being facets of our life’s work.

We fail to see the overall value of what we do and the legacy we have the potential of creating.

The Power of Calling All I Do “My Life’s Work”

I love the way writer and blogger Jeff Goins describes a ‘portfolio life’ in his book The Art of Work.

The basic idea of a portfolio life is that instead of thinking of your work as a monolithic activity, what if you chose to see it as the complex group of interests, passions and activities it is? And what if instead of identifying with a job description, you began to see the whole mass of things you do as one portfolio of activity?

What strikes me about these words isn’t that you can clump all of the facets of your life into a ball and call it your life’s work, i.e. that your life’s work isn’t only about the work you produce throughout your career but about all the other bits and pieces that make up your world.

What strikes me is that we should actually call what we do our life’s work. Our careers, our family lives, and our hobbies aren’t just stuff we do. Each activity we do and decision we make is building something, something that at the end of our lives will leave a legacy.

Building a Legacy

All of those interests, passions, and activities aren’t just disconnected pieces. They are, in fact, building blocks.

I’m still working through my thoughts on this idea, but the older I get, the more I realize that my life’s work stares back at me when I put my children to bed at night.

My life’s work texts me while I’m on my way home from the office to stop and pick up milk and eggs.

My life’s work is each prayer I pray and each call with my Mom or Dad.

My life’s work is every conversation I have when I’m at my day job (ouch).

My life’s work is actually doing good work and helping my managers and colleagues produce.

My life’s work is each word I write, each time I go for a jog, every time I cook a meal.

I’m building all day long.

If I don’t realize that I’m continually creating, then I won’t be intentional. Sure I run the risk of taking things too seriously (those who know me are crying bull on that one), but if I don’t consider all I do as part of my life’s work, then I diminish the potential I have for leaving a greater legacy.

My job becomes a job. Parenting becomes about managing stress and logistics. Marriage becomes about what I can get out of it versus how I can serve. My faith becomes religion. The couch and a bag of chips become a way to medicate, not a moment to enjoy a favorite show or a flick with my lady.

It all comes down to what kind of legacy I want to leave.  I’ve not always built well. And I’ve not always realized that I was, in fact, building something… that i was building my life’s work, for better or worse.

It puts things into perspective for me. I pray my life’s work is worth something, if only to just a few.

What is your life’s work? 


Couch to Cave Challenge: The Results

So… on June 1, 2015 (today is July 1 2015 in case you’re joining us at some point in the future when I accidentally repost this on Twitter or something) I decided to embark on what I called the Couch to Cave Challenge. I should copyright that or trademark it or whatever.

This was my challenge. I created it because I think 30 Day Challenges are the best thing the internet has to offer. Here’s how it was to have worked (not sounding good, is it?):

The three main components of the challenge were these:

  1. Eat according to the Whole30 nutrition plan.

  2. Walk 10,000 steps a day.

  3. Fit in 20 strength training sessions.

My goals, whether I explicitly laid them out in my original post or not:

  1. Develop two habits:
    1. Walking over 10,000 steps a day
    2. Working out at least 4 times a week
  2. Lose weight: I started the month at 218.5 and my overall goal is to get back to my grad school weight of 185. I didn’t intend to hit 185 this month, but I hoped to kickstart my shedding of my suburban couch potato pounds.

How Did I Do?

My Whole30 Plan

I was not a Whole30 legalist I’m afraid. I stuck well to the plan (no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar outside of what naturally occurs in fruit, etc.) during the week and at least 1/2-2/3 of meals on the weekends.

Where I struggled…

  • Weekends: My first weekend I intended only to have a couple glasses of wine as a cheat. I had pizza when on a little road trip with my family. And a hamburger. The next weekend, I was sick, so I had some dry toast, saltines, and Gatorade. Then there was Father’s Day where I had ice cream. As you can see, I basically cheated on Whole30 on weekends. Not all weekend, every weekend, but at some point each weekend, I had some form of bread, beer or wine, or something sweet. Sorry Whole30. I do love you. You are good to me.
  • Social times: The reason I struggled on weekends was that I wanted to enjoy, sensibly,  my times with friends and family. I don’t necessarily feel bad about this, but it is something I need to be aware if I decide to dive deeper. And I can’t be worried that I’ll come off like an obnoxious CrossFit, paleo, vegan evangelist. I don’t mind any of those three approaches, but I know that to speak too much of ones nutrition or workout plan can border on the obnox.

Where I won…

  • I kept going: There have been times when I might have taken the fact I had pizza as a clue that I should just stop for the rest of the month. I didn’t. I kept eating the Whole30 way each week and most meals on the weekend (although we all know that snack times will get you on the weekends). I bounced back.
  • I found a sustainable approach: While I don’t think I could live Whole30 all the time, I’m pretty sure I can maintain some form of this past month’s approach. I can stick to whole foods and natural proteins, eschewing grains and sweets, for much of each week.
  • I lost 11.5 lbs: I lost a decent chunk of poundage. I’ll take a 11.5 loss in a month anytime. The kicker will be if I can start July at 207, endure the Independence Day cookouts and still get to 200 by end of the month. That’s the goal, by the way.
whole30 and 10000 step plan for one month


All in all, I’m pleased. I could have done better and will take on a more pure Whole30 again some time in the future, but for now, I’ll take the 80/20 approach (80% Whole30, 20% sensibly NOT Whole30).

My 10,000 Steps Plan

I am most excited about my results here. I hit my step goal 24 out of 30 days. Three times were when I was ill. And three times were this past weekend when I didn’t plan my morning walks as well as I should have.

For comparison, here’s how many times I hit 10,000 steps in the previous 3 months:

  • March: 1 time
  • April: 3 times
  • May: 1 time

As you can see, I saw some major improvement.

And this one, outside of injury or sickness, is a non-negotiable. I declare Saturday or Sunday as ‘cheat days’ depending on family obligations, but other than that, this is a lifestyle change I can and will maintain.

The benefits are endless. I’ll post on this idea more in the future. For tips on how you can get 10,000 steps a day, even if you work at an office, check out my post here.

My 20 Workouts

I got 3 in. Womp, womp. Toilet flush sound.

Obviously, this is an area I need improvement. It is one that I will reengage for the upcoming month.

I’ll schedule 10 weight training sessions for the month of July and see how it goes. Starting small is a good approach in this area anyway.

Final Takeaways

I just had an epiphany. The only one of these three items that I could visually keep track of and gamify was the 10,000 step component. I wonder if that is why I had the most success there? I could watch my progress each day on my app and developed a sense of what I needed to do each day to keep on track. Gamification works for me.

I realize that I need to not only take on challenges, but I need to find a healthy, sustainable approach to my nutrition and fitness. I think… I think I found it in my week on, weekend semi-off rhythm. I love a good sandwich. And I love to enjoy food and drink with friends and family without having to sit and look at a plate of carrots while everybody else is eating that ridiculously good non-GMO Chicago Mix Popcorn (YUM!!!).

Community works in my nutritional favor, also.  Instagram is a fun place to post Whole30 meal pictures. I did gamify this: Could I get more than 20 likes for my Whole30 snapshot? Sorry real friends who don’t care to see what I was eating, but all of my Whole30 compadres where a huge encouragement.  You can check out my account here. I might add a Couch to Cave themed account soon so my family and friends don’t have to suffer through snapshots of eggs and spinach.

Also, I was invited to join The Seasonal Diet community for a bit. I’ll write a review of my experience after I dig a bit deeper in there, but the community with it’s Facebook group has been hugely helpful even if the other members don’t realize it. A bunch of people a trying to build good habits are the right people to be around, whether virtually or in real life.

If you’re looking for well-laid out plans to help you eat the best foods your community has to offer in a way that makes sense for the rhythms of each year, check out Sarah and Peter Hagstrom’s approach (it’s plant-based, but they are meat-eater friendly).

I love to write, but I must plan to write. This is the final takeaway. I dropped off after the first couple weeks. Writing, also, must be approached in a sustainable way or as a more committed priority. We’ll see how this goes moving forward. A 2-3 post a week plan is a better idea. Tuesdays and Fridays, with an option for a third day sounds like a solid approach.

I’d love to hear if any of you took up any part of this challenge.

Thanks for reading!



How Do You Protect Your Time?

how do you protect your time

Seriously. I’m asking. I would love to know.

There are times when I’m not so great at making sure the time I have with the people I love is as high quality as I’d like it to be.

If you’re good at protecting your time, keeping priorities, saving margin in your day for your most important relationships… how do you do it?

And if you have white space at the end of your day, do you feel like you spend it wisely (on those relationships or other most important priorities)?

Is there more screen time than face time?

Is there more showing each other what we found online vs. sharing with each other what happened in our day?

I’m the last person to be overly-critical of time spent on devices, but I am extremely nervous about how habits can develop without our even knowing it.

I guess protecting time starts with noticing how I’m using it?

Or maybe protecting time starts with deciding how I should be engaging and actually scheduling it into my evening’s calendar (yes, I’m mostly talking about time at home, not time at work).

All I know is that every day is a day I can’t get back. And every day is a day that builds upon the day before.

What am I building with my days? What are you building with yours?