I was speaking at an event in New Orleans recently, and I told a story of a defining moment I had during my time on The Biggest Loser. I think it might be something that you need to hear, too.
On The Biggest Loser, each week we had a challenge. It might be a feat of speed that you might have to compete at (of which I would never win…I’m slow). Or it might be a feat of strength that you might have to win (and there was a contestant there that could do a pull-up on day one! I couldn’t even hang for 1 second at 430 pounds). Needless to say, this 5’11” short, Irish-American wasn’t very fast, or strong, or even confident at the time. For the first 4 weeks I didn’t do well in the challenges. In fact, I was usually in the back of the pack. But in Week 6, we had a different kind of challenge.
Your Strength may not be your strength
When we walked down to the beach and saw Alison Sweeny, we knew something was about to happen. We arrived to see 8 large sand piles on Malibu Beach, each with a shovel handle sticking out of the top. I heard the contestant next to me groan, “Ah, man! Do you know what we’re gonna have to do?” And I answered while smiling, “Oh yea, I do! We’re gonna have to DIG!”
He thought I was crazy, but what he didn’t know was that I can dig! I mean, not just dig, but if you put a sharp-shooter shovel in my hands, it’s like a 6-shooter in John Wayne’s hands! Much of my life was spent with a shovel in hand – on my Uncle’s paving crew, and while looking for property corners while surveying land – and I felt something for the first time: confidence!
The Race Begins
Alison explained that each team of four would have to dig down into the beach and uncover a treasure chest that contained a key. After we retrieved it and unlocked one of four locks on a prize box, we could go back to help a teammate dig. The first team of four to unlock all of the locks would get what was inside the box.
Alison said, “On your mark, get set, GO!” and we were off! And after 25 minutes of digging, with my back killing me, my chest was nowhere in sight. I was so frustrated, because it seemed I was just making no headway!
Have you ever dug a hole in the sand? What happens? After you dig some sand out, and it looks like you’re making progress, the sides cave in and cover up all of the hard work you just did. After the 25 minutes I was getting so discouraged that I felt like giving up.
It’s not a matter of speed, it’s a matter of will
But I didn’t give up. I kept digging and digging and digging. So much so that I got angry! And finally, the shovel came down and hit something!
“Danny’s the first one to get to his treasure chest!” Those words were the sweetest words I’d heard since going to the biggest loser! I was FIRST at something! I pulled it out of the sand, got the key, and ran to unlock my lock. After doing so, I returned to see who could dig the best so I could help them finish – and my team couldn’t dig worth a darn!
I was first, but our team lost the challenge. And when I found out that the Blue Team had won plane tickets home to their families, I cried. I hadn’t seen or talked to Darci, David and Mary Claire in over a month! I was devastated.
Defining moments often come in defeat
I walked over to the hole I had just dug and looked down in it. And I saw something other than a hole; I saw my life.
Over and over I would begin to lose weight, losing 10 – 20 – 30 – even 60 pounds, only to become discouraged and quit. In fact, I lost 239 pounds in 6 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days on that show – but that was NOTHING! I added up all of the weight I had lost and regained over the 10 years before that night and was shocked. I’d lost over 1,000 pounds! I’d lose some and get injured – quit – and gain it all back. Then I’d lose some more and go out with friends – and eat pizza – and never get back on track, causing me to gain it all back and then some. And let’s face it – when you weigh almost 500 pounds like I did, and you lose 20 pounds, it seems like the sand that kept caving in on me! I’ll never be finished!
But that night, digging that hole, I didn’t give up; I didn’t quit. And I finished! I made myself a promise that night. I promised myself that no matter how hard things got, no matter how hopeless things seemed in my life, that when I set out to do something, I WOULD FINISH! I would Lose My Quit. And never again would I be a quitter.
Life is that hole in the sand
In our marriages and relationships, in our jobs, in our health, in our goals and dreams…There will always be a thousand reasons to quit. But what you need to do when you hit those times is keep going! Victory is just on the other side of that obstacle! Lose Your Quit and you will get where you are going.
No matter what you see (or don’t see), no matter what you hear, no matter how you feel, what matters is what you do – Never, ever quit. Never give up, and I promise, you’ll have a defining moment in the struggle, and your Journey will not be in vain!
In The Journey Training, you’ll have several defining moments like mine. You’ll find out things that have been holding you back, things you need to do to get you where you want to be, and you’ll also find ways to enjoy the journey instead of just racing the race! I hope you’ll join us for the next Threshold and begin digging your hole today! The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll have your defining moment!
I am a facilitator in The Journey Training. Recently, I was traveling to Tulsa for a training weekend and I had a layover at the Atlanta airport. I had several hours in between my flights so I got something to eat and then went to the assigned gate with plenty of time to charge my phone and catch up on some email. When I arrived at my gate all of the electric outlets were already being used by other people. I’ll admit I was a little frustrated. I looked around and noticed a fairly empty area a few gates away, so I went down there and sat in a seat near the check-in desk. I plugged in and started to go through my email. Everything was back on plan.
About 5 minutes later, a lady came to the gate area and sat directly across from me on the other side the check-in desk. I could tell that she was very distraught. She was talking with someone on her phone, she was bent over and rocking back and forth in the seat, and she was crying. I had no idea what was wrong, but it must have been bad.
Immediately, a soft voice in my head said “Go to her.” I answered that voice with “Do what? I don’t think so, I’m busy.” A few minutes go by and that voice says again “Go to her.” Once again, I declined and added “Someone else will help her.” This process repeated itself in my head several times over the next 15 minutes or so until I finally said to the insistent voice “Ok, Ok – I’ll go!” Then I started trying to figure out what to say and how I was going to help her. I remembered that I had a travel pack of Kleenex in my briefcase. I got the Kleenex out and wouldn’t you know it, that’s when she stopped talking on her phone. I thought I was just going to be able to walk over, offer her the Kleenex, and walk away. I would have done what the voice asked me to do and that would be that.
I had already made eye contact with her though and now I was committed. There was no easy way out. I got up, grabbed my stuff, walked over and said “I’m not sure what you’re going through, I hope these will help a little.” She reached up and grabbed hold of the Kleenex but didn’t pull them from my hand. She just looked at me. I sat down and asked her what had happened. It took her a minute and then she said “My ex-husband committed suicide 3 hours ago, he shot himself.” I was shocked by her statement, but then things just slowed down and I knew why I was there and what I was supposed to do.
For the next 40 minutes we sat and talked. She told me about how angry she was at him, about how she should have seen the warning signs, about how it was her fault. And yes we cried together too – in front of all kinds of people. But before she boarded her flight, I helped her understand that it wasn’t her fault and I got her to tell me all the good things about him. Slowly, the weariness of guilt, grief, and anger began to fade and her face began to change when she told me how he would play with their young grandson on the floor. We talked about how she was going to go through a lot of ups and downs in the days and weeks to come. I encouraged her to remember the good things about him during those down times. Then it was time for her to board her flight. She thanked me for spending time with her, we said our goodbyes, and we went our separate ways.
I’ve thought about that day often since then. Looking back, I realize now that God orchestrated my steps. He intentionally positioned me at that gate, in that seat, directly across from another empty seat, for a specific purpose. I almost chose to ignore Him, several times in fact. Why? Because I was afraid. What was I so afraid of? Was it that she might reject my offer to help? Honestly, I think I was most afraid of being embarrassed in front of other people – if she would have made a scene and yelled something like “Just leave me alone, it’s none of your business!” I was afraid of being humiliated in public.
I’m so glad that I finally listened to the soft voice and didn’t let that fear stop me! She may never remember my name or all the details of our conversation, but I’m certain she will never forget how she felt when someone cared enough to just offer her a tissue and sit and talk with her. I hope I was as big a blessing to her as she was to me. Yes that’s what I said. She was a huge blessing to me too. She helped me remember what courage is that day, to take action even when it feels uncomfortable. God used both of us!
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people … Galatians 6:10 NIV
We are all presented with opportunities every single day to make a difference in the life of another person and receive a blessing for ourselves in return. We most often hear that soft voice, God’s voice, and choose to ignore it. We often tell ourselves “It’s none of my business, don’t get involved, they don’t need any help.” We just sit there or walk on by because we’re afraid of something.
Whenever we are doing something that is not in our best interest or in the best interest of others, we are choosing to let fear control us.
We need to realize that these opportunities are not accidents or coincidences. We need to make the choice to slow our lives down a bit so we can truly see what is going on around us, to listen to that soft voice that urges us to act, and set aside our personal fears and take action.
Let’s make it our business to have courage – to reach out to other people – to get involved – to do good in this world!
Do you often deny or ignore that soft voice? Do you let fear keep you from taking action? Come join us in The Journey Training. We’ll help you find out why and how to change it. I hope we see you soon!
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6
People are always striving to balance work life and personal life. Through an exercise in my “Simply Lose It” coaching group, I stumbled into balance!
The exercise: a spreadsheet with the days of the week running across the top and daily activities running down the side. The activities included SLEEP, GROOMING, NECESSITIES (like eating and cleaning), WORK, and FUN AND LEISURE. For each day and activity, I put the amount of my day I put into each activity in increments of 15 minutes. The idea is to see where your time goes and then, at the end of the day, identify whether you spend more or less than 24 hours. It’s a personal reflection exercise from there.
My times for the WEEK:
SLEEP: 46.5 hours
GROOMING: 5.75 hours
WORK (Mon-Fri): 50.5 hours
FUN AND LEISURE: 49.25 hours
NECESSITIES: 15.5 hours
What jumped out most to me was how close my times were between SLEEP, WORK, and FUN AND LEISURE! They are within 3 hours and 45 minutes of each other. I call that balance!
How did I do this? We can debate the ability to multi-task all day long, so I’ll identify some key points of equality.
Commute: I moved to an apartment closer to work. I work with fabulous people who drive me to and from work. I’m having quality time with friends WHILE commuting to work!
Spirituality and Fellowship: Much of my spiritual time was spent in worship services with friends!
Meal prep: I am at my healthiest when my meals are planned, prepped, and ready to go. Not only do I make healthier choices, but it also frees up time later in the week for other activities.
A veteran teacher I work with is great about organizing social activities. She says, “Work will ALWAYS be there.” As a teacher, there is always something I can be doing for work. But if I focus too much time there that’s burn out, not balance.
Where are you spending most of your time? Work on the exercise mentioned above to help you find out.
What can you do to find balance in your life? Maybe it’s walking with friends, setting some alarms on your phone, or making reminders for yourself.
In The Journey Training, participants are given tools to help prioritize the important things in life and manage commitments and time. Do some multi-tasking and enroll in the next Threshold class. You’ll give time to you, your work, and your relationships!
True fulfillment sometimes eludes us at every turn. We grind through everyday life doing what we do, and sometimes we pause for a moment, only to find ourselves feeling empty. We ask ourselves, “Is this all life has to offer? Is this all I can expect out of my journey?”
So we set goals, create dream boards, and make ourselves promises – composed of the things we think will fulfill us. These things might include money, title, a dream car or new toy, or maybe a new home. Sometimes, we blame our lack of fulfillment on our spouses and carry resentments, or we choose to separate, or even divorce, in search of what will fulfill us. And our church – if they’d only see things my way and treat me better I’d feel fulfilled. I’ve seen this “hamster wheel” go on and on in people’s lives, including mine, and it’s time for all of this to stop.
Searching turns up little fulfillment
I’ve found that those who leave their church, spouse, or job in search of fulfillment often find themselves leaving their new one when they feel unfulfilled again, sometimes in just a few years. This is because outside influences cannot bring us fulfillment. And neither will achieved goals, the dream car or the new house. They might for a while, but we soon find that wherever we go, there we are. The common denominator is us, not others or other things.
Now, I am not saying to just sit idle and not strive for what you want. That is a part of life! But I am saying that things, title, money or others will never make you feel fulfilled. These things are great, but can often be distractions for what we are truly called to do.
The Flow is what Fulfills
Matthew 26:6-13 tells of a woman who poured out everything she had for Jesus. Some proclaimed it was a waste, and it could have been used for something better. That is when Jesus answered them and explained that in her heart, she had done a beautiful thing! Do you think she felt fulfilled when Jesus said this? What would you give to hear those words out of His mouth? He also said in Matthew 25:31-46, ‘‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” He is describing “The Flow.”
My good friend Bob Harrison often talks of The Dead Sea. It is dead because there is only inflow and no outflow, and all of the minerals and normally healthy things that flow are trapped and can’t flow out again. This causes the water to become so toxic that nothing can live in it.
I believe our lives are like the sea. We were meant to pour out what we have so we can be filled again. If we don’t, we soon find that we are unhappy in our Dead Sea of a life. This is where we ask ourselves, “Really? I thought money would make me happy. Now I find I still have the same problems I did when I was broke – they’re just more expensive!” The same happens in marriages, churches, and in every area of life.
The journey to fulfillment isn’t found by filling yourself up. True fulfillment comes by pouring yourself out. It begins with your love, moves to your time and energy, and finishes with whatever you have to give. And it’s the one thing God guarantees – that if you test him in your tithe, or pouring yourself out to the things of God – you’ll see a blessing that is “pressed down, of good measure!” That, my friends, is the definition of fulfillment!
So I ask you, what are you running from? What are you chasing that you believe will fulfill you? Life is full of seasons, and we are filled up to be poured out. Where in your marriage can you sow seeds? Where in your church can you plug in and find relationship? What do you have to give that will bring the true fulfillment you are looking for? Listen to Desert Song carefully and ask yourself: what season am I in? What season am I headed for? And what purpose can I find for the struggle I am in?
I identify with this in my food addition and compulsive overeating. In fact, I believe that all of our addictions stem from searching for something that only Jesus can fulfill. His instructions to us weren’t to labor to find things to fulfill us – they were to labor to rest in what He has done. And when we pour out by loving and serving others, we find the peace that surpasses understanding that we long for, and the fulfillment we have always dreamed of. When we do this, I believe our focus turns from our addictions to Jesus, and we can finally rest in that peace – His peace. And then we can quit trying to find it by running from our current situations or chasing a “fix” that will make us feel better.
Listen patiently. Listen attentively. There’s nothing frustrating like having a thought or ideas and having the listener ignore you or maybe not quite “connected.” Listen to what they have to say. Don’t be in a hurry to make excuses. Listen first. This sets the stage for turning the conversation more productive. Frustration can also be on your end later. How many times have you been frustrated at not getting all the information and realize, you were the one that didn’t effectively listen to all the facts? Listen patiently. Listen attentively.
Apologize for what happened. Don’t take it personally. It’s not likely something you did directly, but apologize anyway. More often than not, the listener needs to hear you recognizing what happened and to take responsibility. “I am so sorry!”
The next step is to actually solve the problem. That’s the least we can do. Create a systematic solution in a creative and loving way. Did you offend the listener? What could you do differently in future conversations? How can you make the interaction better and create a better understanding for the next time you need to have a crucial conversation? Most of the time the listener wants… wait for it… to be heard and apologized to (“Listen” and “Apologize.) No excuses. Listen. Apologize. Then solve the problem, going the extra mile whenever possible.
Thank them? Absolutely. Many times a listener will not say anything further to us, but if they bring something negative to our attention, that is an opportunity for us to get better at serving them. Yes, I said serving.
Proverbs 15: 31-33
“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.”
We should always be serving others with understanding. That alone deserves a “thank you!” That heartfelt gratitude on our part may be all it takes to turn them from frustration to acceptance and appreciation.
My wife, Noell, says a phrase all the time: “Would you rather be right or happy, because you can’t always be both!” We even have an exercise at The Journey Training about being right or happy.