Letters to my son – Life Principle #10

Mark, here is the last and final segment of the series you asked me to write, Top Ten Life Principles I Would Teach A Son If I Were To Have One At This Stage Of My Life.


Ever wonder where all the fun went?

When you started out in life, play time filled your day. Then, you started growing up. As the years passed, work, responsibility and structure slowly but surely replaced fun, recess and free time. Now, months away from college graduation, you will soon face the even less-playful-than-school “real world”: working for a living.

When did “go out and play” become “get to work?”

Despite what you hear, there are three good reasons to pursue fun, live large and embrace a playful life: it’s healthier, it’s got better perspective and it’s aligned with God’s heart.

Play Your Way to Better Health and Performance

“Be laborious and diligent in your callings and labour…”Richard Baxter, Puritan leader

Our Puritan DNA nurtured the “work hard” ethic we Americans value. Long work hours are commendable. Many of today’s employees actually feel guilty if they aren’t working way too much. The result of this mentality? Think Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Days with energizing play, blossoming curiosity and energy release have been replaced by mundane, humdrum drudgery.


Letters to my son – Life Principle #9

Remember way back in 2011 when you asked me to share with you the Top Ten Life Principles I would teach a son if I were to have one at this stage of my life?

Time has passed since that day! Back then, you had just started college. Now, you are only months away from college graduation and the next exciting step forward into your life adventure! Anyway, I haven’t forgotten so here goes with #9.


The last eight principles are important parts of my life compass. But, even though it’s towards the bottom of my Top Ten List, today’s principle is the most important of the ten. It’s also the hardest to live by.

Jabez prayed to God “Oh, that you would bless me and
enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep
me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted
his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:10)

In this super short prayer, Jabez asked God to “bless me” and “enlarge my territory.” He asked God to give him “more” in his life. Then, God “granted his request.” He gave Jabez what he asked for.

After reading that, you might ask yourself, “That’s it? I just ask God for something and He gives it to me?” Sounds nice and easy like an every-tickets-a-winner heavenly lottery? Sorry to rain on this parade, but experience tells me that this is not how things work.

I remember asking for “more” lots of times. Sometimes, I got something but not what I asked for. Sometimes, I got nothing. Sometimes, I got worse. So, why do I like this passage enough to build a Life Principle around it?

Because I believe it speaks to something you will want to use to anchor the structure of your life’s foundation: the belief of anticipation.


Building Your Own Snake Oil Detection Radar, part 5

Let’s wrap up my “Building a Snake Oil Detection Radar” five-part series. Today, let’s look at what to do when, despite all your best efforts, it all goes wrong and you end up in relationship with a Snake Oil Salesman.

There are only a handful of“Real Deal” people around so they are easy to miss. You are building your Snake Oil Detection Radar to discover them among most everybody else you’ll meet. I divide this pool of “everybody else” into two groups of Snake Oil Salesman:

The Unintentional. Most Snake Oil Salesman innocently stretch the truth and cloud the facts. They just get carried away trying to be liked, hired and loved. Sure, you could say they lack integrity. But, I have found that they sincerely mean well and usually don’t cross over the “white lie” line. Tall tales are red flags but remember that most tall tales are benign. It is a judgement call but if you know who you are dealing with and what you are looking out for, I think it is okay to engage with caution.

The Intentional. You really need to watch out for this very small group of Snake Oil Salesmen.


My Friend, Chris, Writes On The Lighter Side

My friend Chris Huff writes a daily blog that I enjoy very much. I have known him for a long time which makes me understand where he is writing from. His past and related story increases the value of what he shares.

Usually, he is teaching valuable business and leadership lessons. However, today he made me laugh. If you are working as a leader, manager or employee (I guess that means anyone in the workplace), I think you will find this one to be a fun read:

Engineering Humor

by anysinglestrand

I am a huge Dilbert fan.  This one ran yesterday and cracked me up! But today, I wanted to share an old favorite from my “Engineer Humor” archives:

A man in a hot air balloon realized that he was lost.  He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below.  He descended a bit more and shouted “Excuse me – can you help me?  I promised a friend that I would meet him an hour ago but I don’t know where I am.” 


Letters to my son – Life Principle #8



Way back in 2011 you asked me to share the Top Ten Life Principles I would teach my son if I were to have one at this stage of my life. What would I tell him after my six decades on the planet?

As you can tell so far, the last seven principles are important to me. But, here goes with what must be THE most important…


I am not sure why this Principle ended up as #8. It is the foundation from which to build the only life I think worth living, an honorable one. I first experienced the concept of integrity as a child through what your grandfather said and did. Later, I learned and lived it myself as a West Point cadet. The Academy reinforced what Grandpa had been teaching me in two ways: its Motto and Honor Code.

“Duty, Honor, Country”

“Duty, Honor, Country”

My alma mater’s motto was adopted in 1898. Once established, the United States Military Academy’s mission became, in part, to educate, train and inspire character committed to the values of “Duty, Honor, Country”. Your grandfather was there in 1962 to hear GEN Douglas MacArthur accept the Sylvanus Thayer Award in a remarkable speech:

“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.”

What he shared about those three words has reverberated in the souls of countless men, whether West Pointers or not, who have chosen to live lives filled with integrity.

That night GEN MacArthur also reaffirmed the value of the twelve word Cadet Honor Code. He linked it to the very essence of the United States Military Academy and great men everywhere. Through my 47 month West Point experience, I was immersed in its character-building, honor-embedded training program. In 1976, West Point was rocked by a massive honor scandal. Sadly, some of my peers had cheated on an Electrical Engineering exam and were asked to leave. Seeing the Code violated and integrity broken by those I deeply respected was a life-changing experience. It reinforced integrity as my life’s centerpiece but revealed how fragile this rock really was.

In those experiences and the decades since here is what I have learned about honor: