Trust is the most valuable commodity of the human heart.  It is the cornerstone of healthy relationships.  Without it, relationships exist, but they’re not the stuff of which great partnerships are made.  Without it, two people can be amicable, but the dynamic between them will not approach excellence.  Mediocrity is the best possible outcome.  Without trust, there can’t be faith, hope and love.

To trust is to rely on the character of another person, i.e. their kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and integrity.  When someone is untrustworthy, they become unreliable to serve the greater good.

Life’s basic building blocks are the relationships we have with other people.  It’s vital to build your foundation on trustworthy ones.  To that end, some questions are worth asking:

Am I deserving of others’ trust?  Am I reliable?  Am I dependable?

Before judging others, assess yourself.  Understand and embrace any opportunities for improvement of your character to a higher standard.

When trust is lost, can it be restored?

Once severed, trust is very difficult to restore and the restorative effort is proportional to the severity of the offense.  The greater the betrayal, the harder it is to earn back.

When trust is lost, do you need to forgive the offender?  

Yes.  Forgiveness is required to be able to let go and move on.  Without it, you will harbor bitterness, resentment and anger.  Forgiveness is for you, the victim, not the offender.  You are the beneficiary.  

Can you love someone you do not trust?

No.  Love and trust go hand in hand.  You can not love that which you do not trust.  You can demonstrate love by being kind and compassionate, but you can not be in love with the other person.  

How do you work or deal with someone you do not trust? 

Take the first step.  Initiate action.  Serve them without any expectation of getting something in return.  Give grace.  Be kind.  Show love.  “Play on your home field” in a calm, assertive manner.  Don’t let them throw you off your game.

Focus your mind on moments that serve as fuel and ignore the rest.  Here’s a verse from the Bible that helps me to focus.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent and praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippeans 4:8)

How do you build your life on trustworthy relationships?

Be prayerful, patient and choose one of following three options for any relationship:

  1. Nurture the relationship with someone you trust that is bearing fruit.
  2. Convert an unhealthy relationship to a healthy one by attempting to allow trust to be restored.  Recognize it’s possible, but very hard to do.  The burden is on the offender, not the victim.
  3. “Trim the vine” of any unhealthy relationship that can not be converted to a healthy one.  Pruning these relationships from your life will spawn new fruit bearing branches.  

Options two and three are easier said than done, but you don’t have to have all of your doubts resolved before you make those decisions.  To be wise, you must make a decision in faith knowing that problems will come, doing your best to plan for them and trusting God to provide what you need to confront them.  Here’s a bible verse that gives me the strength to act in faith.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2)

It’s OK to Howl

Some people like to bully and be mean to other people.  Maybe there is something going on in their story, and they are taking it out on you.

If it happens once, then ask them to not to it again.  If it happens a second time, then speak up and say STOP!  If the bully still does not stop, then tell a friend or an adult.  It’s OK, because you can trust them.  They can help you solve the problem, just like an easy math problem, 9 x 3 is 27.

I solved a problem this way.  You can do it too.  Try it.

Simple Life

Life is simple.  We tend to make it complex.  Our main purpose is to love and be loved.  That’s why we’re here.  Imagine waking up every day and focusing on that simple fact.  Wouldn’t life be awesome?

Well, what are you waiting for?  I know, I know, let me guess.  You have to go to class.  You need that degree.  You have to go to work.  You want a promotion.  The kids need to go to school.  You have to make more money.  You want a bigger house.  You don’t have enough things.  You need to make more “friends” on Facebook.

Since when did life become about the pursuit of more?  When did we start to believe these myths:

  • Having more will make me happy
  • Having more will make me important
  • Having more will make me secure

All that stuff is noise.  It just gets in the way of our main purpose.  It creates daily, self-induced stress, which is like always waking up to a cloudy, rainy day.  Have you ever noticed how you feel when you wake up to a sunny day?  How would like to wake up to a sunny day every day for the rest of your life?  How would you like to be both ambitious and content? 

Ambition and contentment have nothing to do with each other.  Contentment isn’t laziness, complacency or apathy.  It’s enjoying what you have right now instead of waiting for something else to happen so you can be happy.  It doesn’t mean you don’t have goals.  It simply means you’re happy with what you have.

I have good news for you.  Gaining this perspective is possible, and you’re at the right place.  The process is simple, but not quick.  It will require daily progress, step by step.  Some days, you’ll take giant leaps.  Others, baby steps.  Either way, you’ll be headed in the right direction, and I’ll be right by your side to help. 

What’s the secret of living in every situation, whether it’s with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little?  What’s the secret to always waking up to sunny days and being able to love and be loved?  You must discover who you want to be.  That’s right.  You get to define it.  The person you want to be.  You’re not an object aimlessly floating in the ocean of life.  Rather, you’re a ship in control of your destination.  

Now, you have a choice to make.  You can stop reading and go back to the noise, stress and chaos of your current life.  Or, you can click on Cathedral Rock below below to set your new direction and discover who you want to be.

Cathedral Rock MindGym
Cathedral Rock is a rock formation in Sedona, AZ.  It’s my favorite place on Earth and where I do my best thinking.

Chicken Fingers & a Smartphone

At what point did we become so busy and so distracted that we can’t afford to spend as much quality time with our family as we’d like?  Since when did chicken fingers and a smartphone become babysitters?  Why are we unknowingly encouraging our kids to become digital zombies?

As I write this, I am still without power to my house.  We’ve been without it since the ice/snow/rain storm on Thursday.  Despite what you may think, I am grateful for it, as my family has been forced to be creative with our time together.  Boredom, daydreaming, a good book, playing board games and interactivity with other humans, we’ve experienced them all the past 60 hours.  Its sad these precious experiences are often being denied these days. 

While my family is sleeping, I snuck out to my local Starbucks for my Sunday morning “quiet time”, recharge my laptop battery and connect to “the web” for a bit to share a little of myself again.  I’ll be back before they wake up.

This weekend has given me a heightened awareness of the importance of “my work” and who I want to be.  What good is it if I can’t share it with my family and others I care about?  I spend so much time away from them during the work week, shame on me I if I allow them to be distracted by their iPhones, YouTube, Fortnite, SnapChat, and Musically when I’m with them.

I want to do the work I’m proud of for people I care about, and I want to continually expand the community of people I care about.  My immediate family is the inner-most circle followed by my extended family, friends, and colleagues at work and church.  Every new day is an opportunity to connect with somebody and become the person I seek to be, a better version of the person I was yesterday.

An idea shared is more powerful than one that’s hidden.  A community is stronger than divided individuals ever could be.  When I give away my work by building the network, I’m not giving it away at all.  I’m building trust, authority and a positive cycle of better.

Imagine if we all take this perspective and initiative?  Start with your kids and other loved ones who need a mentor.  Chicken fingers and smartphones aren’t substitutes for you.  

True. Noble. Right. Pure. Lovely. Admirable. Excellent. Praiseworthy.  Think about such things.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace.  It will guard your heart and mind.  Anxiety will become a thing of the past, and you’ll feel motivated to share more of yourself with others.

Don’t believe me?  Try this.  Next Friday evening when you get home from work, go to your circuit breaker panel in your house and trip the main circuit breaker for the entire weekend.  Then, fill the weekend with meaningful experiences with your kids and family.

Your Story

Everybody has a story, but here’s a fair question to ask yourself, “Is my story working for me?”  If not, then perhaps it’s time to write a new story.

If your current story, which has been built over time as a function of your circumstances, isn’t taking you where you want to go, then what good is it?  It’s time to create the circumstances you want to craft the story you want.

Marc's Story 1987 - 2018

You don’t need a new city, a new job, a new house or a new thing, but a new story.  One that’s different.  One that’s useful.  One that’s about opportunity and possibility.  One that’s about connection and trust.  A story that’s about your “why”, “for what” and “with whom”.  A story that’s in harmony with who you want to be.  When I realized this, it changed my life for the better.

Here are two fundamental habits needed to write your new story.

Habit #1:  Create the habit of being alone.

Over the course of human history, this has proven to be an effective habit and the best gift you can give yourself.  Even Jesus Christ practiced it.  He often slipped away to be alone to reflect, renew and recharge.  Nobody carried greater stress in life than Jesus.  He faced constant demands.  People frequently wanted to see him.  He had no privacy.  Other people tried to trap and kill him.

However, he knew how to handle the stress.  He had a productive balance to his life.  He had a habit of creating quiet times for himself that enabled him to handle pressure with peace.

To write your story, you must emulate this habit.  Create intentional times of quietness and solitude.  Noise is stress.  If you always have noise, you’ll always feel stressed, and you won’t have the spiritual and emotional resources to handle it.  Your smart phone is noise.  Social media is noise.  The TV is noise.  It’s okay to turn them off.  You’ll survive for 15-30 minutes and so will everyone else.

Personally, I do this in the morning, evening and when needed throughout my day.  It’s especially important in the morning, as I want to start my mornings with good news.  I can’t afford to fill my mind with negativity right off the bat.

Habit #2:  Create the habit of controlling your emotions.

When you have peace under pressure (habit #1), you can then form the habit of controlling your emotions.  Whether you realize it or not, your emotions run you.  They affect your behavior, limit your abilities, cloud your awareness and impede your decisions.  That’s not to say they are bad.  On the contrary, emotions are like superpowers.  They can be a valuable source of insight and power if you learn how to use them in productive ways.

Here is the basic framework to develop this habit:

  1. Make an effort to bring your emotional experience into your conscious awareness.
    • During conversations, silently label your own negative emotions as well as those of your counterpart’s.  This will help reduce their power and give you some space to recenter yourself.
    • Once emotions are labeled, resist emotionally driven impulses and reactions.  Rather redirect your attention and focus on how to achieve your goals during the conversation.
      • Maintain an open and nonjudgmental attitude.
      • Strive to accept where you’re at in the moment and attempt to refocus your attention on understanding your counterpart.
      • Avoid being immobilized by your own emotions and direct your focus on uncovering the cause of your counterpart’s.
  2. Treat every conscious emotional experience as an opportunity to learn and build upon.  View failures as learning opportunities to get better.

The result of developing peace under pressure (habit #1) and harnessing your emotional superpowers (habit #2) is your story.  The one you want.  The one that is useful to you and others.

There is also a wonderful side effect.  Forgiveness is the natural result of a new story.  Changing your story is the key to changing your feelings.  You’ll feel less resentment, envy and bitterness, which is good for your soul.  Icy feelings inside you will begin to melt.  You’ll decide that being happy is more important than being right.  You’ll learn the panic associated with surrendering your resentments is just your ego quivering in fear and that’s a good thing.

Don’t waste another second.  Start writing your new story today.  Form the two fundamental habits.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Discover Who, Discover You

Everybody has a story. Much of that story is out of our control. However, there is at least one thing within our control, the choice to discover who we want to become. The person we want to be. No matter our circumstances, it is our duty. We owe it to ourselves.

We are here for a reason. When we’re born, we have no ability to understand why. Our circumstances shape us throughout our childhood, and they either hinder or help our ability to clearly see why. Most of the time, they distort our vision. We get off track. We get hurt, experience pain and loss or let our ego’s drive us. We journey in to adulthood and lack a firm foundation on which to make good decisions and form good habits. We don’t develop a “front sight focus” on establishing a relationship with the One who created us. This relationship enables us to set the proper foundation.

There’s good news. No matter how many chapters of your story are written, they’re still your story. And as long as you have breath, you can choose to control how the story ends. That choice is committing to discover who you want to be, which is in sync with why you are here.

MindWolves™ is a community that supports everyone’s quest to discover who they want to be. This community is our pack, a group of people who have achieved or are committed to finding the proper mind-heart balance. They exhibit the character qualities conducive to living a meaningful life.

Akela and the wolf pack from Disney’s, The Jungle Book, 2016

Within the pack, a member has their own story, yet understands they are part of something bigger than themselves. The whole pack is greater than the sum of the parts. Each member understands they are uniquely created and contributes their story to the pack.

The pack is stronger with each new member.  And because each member is continually strengthening their relationship with God, who is working within them, they are able to accomplish infinitely more than they might ask or think.

Discover who you want to be and discover the real you.

Companies are Organisms, not Machines

I am amazed by how many companies today are still run like factories.  This byproduct of the industrial revolution has outlived it’s usefulness.  In fact, not only are we past the industrial age, we have blown through the information age and are now in the age of connection.  The connection age is a beneficiary of the all the advances made during the industrial and information ages, but also addresses the primary need we humans have, that is to love and be loved.

Because of freewill, the means we use to serve that end are not always good.  Therefore, not all examples of “connection” in the connection age are good, i.e. Facebook, however in the context of this message, I am referring to the good.

Companies are not machines.  They are living, breathing, organisms.  They have character.  They have heart.  They have soul.  They make mistakes.  They can learn from those mistakes and become better.  They think.  They feel.

Companies are in the business of creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and relationships.  They may not realize it, but to survive in the connection age, they will have to adapt.  The customer must always feel heard.  It’s not about the customer being right or wrong, it’s about being heard.

This is also true of employees.  Even with compensation as a motivator, companies that thrive in the connection age know that anyone who works for them chooses to do so because of what the company stands for.  Anyone who is qualified for a job in the company is also qualified for many other jobs at the same pay scale.  It’s up to the company to provide solid reasons for their employees to want to work for them, over and above the compensation.

It’s about feeling valued and respected.  It’s about empathy and humility.

And this leads to a great opportunity for the person who coordinates the work of people to serve customers and employees in this capacity.  I want to be that person.  I want to find brilliant customers and teammates that others foolishly overlook.

To assist us in our journey, we all need a mentor and role model that coaches us along the way.  For me, it’s Jesus.  He has shown me how to arrange my life around simple habits that serve the way I want to behave.  He’s set the bar for the character qualities I want to possess.

In fact, I view Jesus as being in the hospitality business.  He was concerned about how he made his customers feel.  He attracted volunteers because of what he stood for.  He knew the best way to get a good hug is first to give one.

He understands our weaknesses and faced all the same tests we face.  He demonstrated great compassion and forgiveness.  He knew our primary need is to love and be loved.  He understood our need for connection.

I think it’s wonderful that we’ve come full circle with Age of Connection.  Companies are able to use machines, processes, technology, information, and artificial intelligence for the good of making customers and employees feel heard and loved.

Why is There Evil in the World?

As a parent, I only want good things for my children.  It’s in my nature.  Everything I do for my kids is good.  Because of that, my plans for their lives will always be good.

When bad things happen to them, I ask, “why”?  After much reflection, I can see the answer is simple.  I can’t force them to do good.  Nor can I force other people to do good to them.  Evil exists because God gave mankind a free choice, and we choose not to do good a lot of the time.  My kids have freewill.  Other people they encounter also have freewill.

This begs the question, “why is there any good?”  In a dog-eat-dog world, the only reason there is good is because there is a God and he is good by nature.  He can’t be evil.  He can’t do bad things.  He sets the baseline for right and wrong.  They are absolutes.  Just as I only want good things for my children, God only wants good things for me.  I get hurt because I make poor decisions.  I experience pain because someone else chooses to harm me.

Therefore, we are accountable for our decisions.  Our decisions, and our behaviors, are influenced by how we think.  How we think is affected by what we think about.  What we think about is what we allow to dwell in our minds.  When something dwells, it lives there.  We can’t control what enters our mind, but we can control if it stays.

Understanding this fundamental fact is crucial to a clean slate and fresh start.  Right thinking and right living comes from God and starts with controlling what dwells in your mind.

“Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent and praiseworthy — think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

And from the lyrics of the song, Freewill, by Rush, the best rock band of all time:

Neil Peart in concert with Rush. Milan, Italy (September 21, 2004)

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice

You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose freewill

Freewill is both a blessing and a curse.  In The Grand Experiment of mankind, it’s the choice that determines whether or not evil exists in the world.

Therefore, each and every one of us is accountable for evil existing, not God.  When bad things happen, don’t blame God.  We only have to look in the mirror.

The good news is that we have the power within us to control the outcome.  The One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.

Do good or do evil?  It your choice.  The battleground is your mind.

And as with any fight, you need the right arsenal to defeat the enemy.  These weapons are skills that can be acquired through training.  I had to learn them.  Now, unwanted thoughts dwelling in my mind are a thing of the past.

If you want this too, and feel as though you need help, I can serve as your coach.  To learn more, click here.

Question Mark, or Question, Marc?

I’ll never forget hearing Mrs. Melnick, my 7th grade English teacher, ask, “Question, Marc?”  I blurted, “No, Mrs. Melnick, I don’t have a question.”  I wondered why so many of my classmates chuckled at my response.

In Arabic script, which is written from right to left, the question mark ؟ is mirrored right-to-left from the English question mark.

The humor was in the fact that Mrs. Melnick, while reviewing punctuation, was referring to the punctuation mark indicating an interrogative clause or phrase.  Caught day dreaming, I thought Mrs. Melnick was asking if I didn’t understand something she had said.

Embedded in my long-term memory, that moment forever reminds me of the nickname given to me by many of my teachers, Questions.  I was not shy about asking questions.

If I did not understand, then I asked why?  If I needed clarity, I asked when?  If it didn’t make sense, I needed to find out how?  Who, what, when, where, why and how?  I was polite and respectful, raising my hand in class, or taking advantage of office hours.  This is how I learned.  This how I grew.

My significance was directly linked to my inquisitive mind.  I felt fulfilled when asking questions, as I benefited and usually someone else did too.  By asking, I was also contributing to the greater good.  To me, it seemed liked the right thing to do.

Thirty-seven years after the “Mrs. Melnick Moment”, I still have that inquisitive spirit.  And now, I have a deeper understanding of why I am so secure in questioning everything for the greater good.  My security is derived from the source of love I crave the most.  That source of love unconsciously teaches me how to be significant and loved by them.  What is the source of love?  At risk of sounding cliché, it’s God’s love.

Because I crave God’s love most, I am better able to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control to others.  What I stand for emanates from that baseline.

To me, questioning the status quo serves the greater good because it flushes out hidden agendas, ego, and ulterior motives.  Questions that reveal unhealthy conformity are healthy.  There are absolute rights and wrongs, and I am pleased to be among their defenders.  I am happy to cede control because I humbly accept I’m ultimately not in control.

Philipians 2.13

I stand for doing the right thing with God’s love and grace as my baseline.  I am able to serve others by extending the same love and grace.  Questions are useful tools that enable me to gain clarity in serving others.  Everyone needs to feel significant.  Everyone needs to feel connection and love.  Everyone needs to grow.  Everyone needs to contribute.

Questions help me help others discover who they want to be.  Mrs. Melnick, thank you for the reminder.  I am forever grateful.

Empower People in the Trenches

This week, our team at First National Insurance had a very open, honest and healthy conversation about empowerment.  There is a hunger for it at all levels of our organization, which I am thrilled to see.  At present, too many decisions are made by top leaders.  This has resulted in an unhealthy culture where too many teammates are afraid to make decisions.  They think “that’s not my problem” and defer the decision to someone else.  A much healthier culture fosters a feeling of empowerment, where the teammates say, “I’m going to try to solve it, and if I can’t, I’ll see that it gets solved.”

I’m committed to championing the empowerment cause and modelling the needed behaviors.  At stake is our existence.  Without empowered people in the trenches serving clients, we will not survive the imminent change to our industry.

The insurance industry is at a crossroads.  There are those that want to preserve the legacy model, which is broken.  Investment capital is flowing into new business models that cut out the “middle man”, i.e. the insurance broker.  “Old school” brokers that offer little value will be replaced by automation.  “New” brokers who intimately know their customers, serve them in a hospitable manner and do things that artificial intelligence can not will survive.

Our mission is to become “The City upon a Hill” of the insurance brokerage industry.  We are the light of an antiquated industry, a team of people serving with a sense of purpose, not merely doing a job.  The only way to sustain that momentum is to empower people in the trenches, the ones who serve clients day in, day out.

The flip side is that with empowerment comes great responsibility.  Mindsets have to shift from being an employee to being an owner, and there is a huge difference between the two mindsets.  Owners care about more things than employees care about.  It’s not that they care more, rather they care about more, and what you care about determines what you can be trusted with.

The bottom line is that empowerment is a two-way street.  The only way to get people to think like owners is to give them ownership.  And they must accept the responsibility that comes with it.

People on the front lines are essential to our future success and survival.  By empowering them to think like owners, they will solve problems “people at the top” don’t even realize exist.  That’s a key ingredient to moving hearts toward the mission.

A City upon a Hill

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