14. Slow Down

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”
-Lily Tomlin

Slowing down in Baja California at Punta Pequeña.

When I think of slowing down, I am reminded of surfing trips in the 80s to Punta Pequeña in Baja California with good friends John Chick, Eddie Means, John Park, and Peter Vanderburg. As my career was ramping up, those trips taught me to take my foot off the gas pedal and listen within.

Punta Pequeña is a dream of a surfing destination—especially if you catch a solid south swell. It is the kind of surfing spot I imagine in heaven, composed of a near-perfectly sculpted series of right points that corral south swells as good as anywhere on the California coast.

It was as if Michelangelo himself had carved out the shallow volcanic rock shelf for a regular foot surfer riding a yellow Hanifin Bananafin longboard. I could not wipe the smile off my face the entire time we were there. The quality of the wave and the length of the ride was unequaled in my book. It is rumored that you can ride over one kilometer on a really big day. Best of all, we were removed entirely from the SoCal mainstream surfing scene. A crowd of surfers in the water was not something we had concern over.

However, we did have concerns about getting there, which made it all the more appealing. Punta Pequeña was a thousand miles from nowhere, in one of the more remote and inaccessible regions of Baja California. The real McCoy started after a two-day adventure on the rugged-but-paved Baja Mexico Highway 1, which for safety reasons, we never drove at night.

After 900 or so miles of slugging it out on the pot-hole-ridden asphalt segment, a clandestine Baja-dusty dirt road appeared out of nowhere to lead us onto the final exam for our driving odyssey. Sixty miles of ungraded rocky, dusty, and at times, washboard dirt and sand led directly west to the sleepy fishing village of San Juanico on the Pacific Ocean.

Unless you were driving an army tank, this part was never a given, even if you had made it before. It was a full-on assault that included removing parts of your car if they got in the way. To this day, I lay claim to one of the greatest driving achievements in modern surfing history with my 1983 VW Diesel Rabbit. John Park and I almost lost our silver fillings on the washboard and ended up passing out mucho dinero to the local ranchers to tow us through the quicksand section. When we pulled onto the bluff at Punta Pequeña in the Rabbit with a mere twelve inches of ground clearance, the other surfers looked at us like we had just landed Apollo 13. It had been a new car when we left, but it aged 20 years on that trip!

Eddie and John christening the 60 miles ahead to San Juanico (“dónde está la playa?”)

Once camp was established, life at Punta Pequeña settled into a singular focus on surfing. Everything we did was in preparation for that next session in the water. If the surf dropped, we had plenty to keep us busy; but hardly ten minutes went by without a glance at the waves to see if conditions were changing.

If you weren’t out surfing, you were sitting in a beach chair drinking beer, scientifically analyzing the tide and wind conditions as the sun lazed across the powder blue Baja sky. The only responsible duty was rotating the twenty cases of beer into the four ice chests to ensure we had cold brew for the entire trip. It was not as easy as it sounds! Extended games of Bocci ball down the vast, endless beach were the usual diversion in the afternoon if the surf had blown out. But we could only wander a mile or so away for fear the beer would run out, and we suffer dehydration before making it back to base camp. That could impact the next surfing session.

Looking back on those trips today, I realize that my ability to slow down was about the absolute freedom I experienced from being so wholly removed from civilized interruptions in my life. There were zero connections to the outside world. My physical body was at peace. It was similar to what backpackers experience on an extended trip into the wilderness. We were unencumbered and free, which bonded us with our surroundings. The vast nothingness of the environment soothed my soul in a way I can only dream about today. I could sit in my beach chair and gaze down upon the endless spit of land as far as the eye could see. It was beautiful beyond words. Those trips fed my soul in ways only God can explain.

I thirst for that same level of contentedness today.

Going Too Fast
Fast forward to Silicon Valley forty years later: The world is moving too fast. Our vision of the “leisure society” has been reduced to rubble by the explosive growth of computers. The chasm from the slow pace of Punta Pequeña life in the 80s is looking like the grand canyon. We are losing our ability to set aside time to be in peace and rest our souls. Busyness has consumed our lives, and information technology is bombarding us with an incessant need to be distracted by our devices instead of focusing in the present moment. Deep down, we know it is too much for our human psyche to make sense of.

There is a dichotomy here. I love doing so much in so little time with the technology we have today; I’d be lying to tell you otherwise. I have an iPhone and I use it constantly. I can check the surf, tide tables, traffic conditions, and view a live camera of Steamer Lane, all with a finger tap on my phone while I’m shopping from my electronic grocery list at Trader Joe’s.

That’s fantastic!

Like the groceries, it comes at a cost; but unlike the groceries, it’s costing us our lives.

Dr. Richard Swenson, the author of best-selling book Margin, puts it this way:

“The world has witnessed almost continuous change, but never before with such levels of speed, suddenness, complexity, intensity, information, communication, media, money, mobility, technology, weaponry, and interconnectedness.“[i]

Let’s add “stress” to that list.

Unfortunately, our children are the innocent victims of this onslaught. We have all heard the stories because it is happening to our kids. Understandably, they are having issues coping with the complexity and speed of life today. The statistics are staggering. They headline the news every day. Stress, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, ADHD, obesity, learning disabilities, social skills, and even death from suicide have been linked to the overload our children face today.

Here’s a simple example. I received an email last week from a security service I subscribe to called LifeLock. The subject was “Data Breach Notification,” urging me to change my passwords as a preventative measure.  OK.  I went into my password manager program (on my iPhone) to find out that I had entered 263 passwords! That stressed me out (and still does). I don’t think we can begin to understand the toll that stress takes.

My parents both smoked cigarettes as they came into adulthood. It was cool to have a cigarette back then, and they had no good reason not to smoke. Then they got addicted. Nobody had studied the link between smoking tobacco and deaths from things like lung cancer or emphysema. My mom died of emphysema at age 76. Those studies are out now. But for mom, it was too late.

Forty years later, I am sure that similar studies are forthcoming on the deadly effects of the technology overload we are being subjected to today. Our brains are not equipped to handle the barrage of information and radio frequency (FR) exposure coming at them. It’s too much. The negative impact on our health is clear!

This story is just one example from a close friend of mine:

After high school, his son hit a rough patch in life and developed a serious alcohol/drug habit. It was not pretty, but he got himself into a long-term rehab center and is now doing fantastic. While in the rehab center, he told a story about a small group discussion he had with a dozen or so other young adults in the same situation. The leader asked each of them in the group what they thought had led to their addiction. Each one of them agreed that it was their deep internal need to slow down. Life was moving too fast, and they could no longer cope, so they began to take alcohol or drugs to help them deal with it.

If I were to boil down my twelve months of New Ventures West coaching training to the most important thing I learned, it would be the need for us all to slow down. If one genuinely wants to have freedom in their being to discover and pursue who they are in the world, slowing down is a mandatory first step.

I had the opportunity to slow down when I was laid off from my job. It was a bit like Punta Pequeña; suddenly, I had time just “to be”. That experience led me to step off the Silicon Valley express train to make a significant transition in my career. I began to feel the freedom one experiences when listening to your heart. It was like going surfing without a leash. I felt empowered to experience the freedom of whom I was deep inside without being tethered to earthly expectations. Although I was quite scared that I would quickly fall and lose my way, this new awakening brought about a sense of joy not felt in years.

As I began to coach clients, I quickly learned that a key to my success was getting them to slow down. Coaching a client traveling through life at today’s “normal” speed is like trying to diagnose car trouble with no dashboard to display the metrics. You might as well be throwing darts at an invisible target—you have no idea what the underlying issues are. The speed and intensity of life today seem to require that we lose touch with our inner-self. We are too busy to look at our dashboard.

Being Present
Meditation is an excellent first step for starting to slow down. It is amazing what our mind, body, and heart can tell us if we can slow down enough to listen. We tend to see the world in a physical sense. If I look OK, I must be OK. Coaching brought me to realize that there is an equally-important spiritual side to our being. The soul requires every bit as much attention and care as our physical bodies do. Meditation tends to our needs in our spiritual bodies. Even the Bible contains over sixty references that tell us to meditate. [iiii]

A valuable tool for dealing with stress is learning to pay attention to this very moment. “Being present” is a phrase for nonjudgmentally allowing yourself to experience the here and now. Another common term is mindfulness, or bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. The awareness that can emerge from paying attention to the present moment can be life-altering. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day, it can make a world of difference. There is plenty to read from a wealth of books on this subject. Two of my favorites are mentioned below.[ii]

Looking to Heaven
Steven Curtis Chapman was on to something when he released the hit song “Next 5 Minutes” in 1999. The song talks about living the next five minutes as if they were your last five minutes; truly living in the moment.

What if the next five minutes are all you have?

I did a great deal of contemplation about my life following the layoff from Oracle and subsequent one-year sabbatical to become a life coach. There was no question about the 2×4 hitting me square on the head; I could feel God at work. Yet, I found my mind often drifting to my mortality. Mom and dad were now gone, so I was next, right? It was kind of difficult to avoid that one. In one sense, that motivated me to get my act together for that “second mountain” I had to climb (in the words of David Brooks’ from his book, The Second Mountain). But in another sense, it made me wonder about what was next. I was closer to that part of my life than I wanted to admit.

Since I am a Christian, did I really believe that paradise awaited me?[iii] What did the Bible have to say about heaven? And what about all those near-death experience (NDE) trips to heaven that people have written so many books about—Are those valid? I even wondered if I would be able to go surfing in heaven!?

It struck in me an insatiable desire to learn more.

Punta Pequeña Nothingness

[i] https://www.amazon.com/Margin-Restoring-Emotional-Financial-Overloaded/dp/1576836827

[ii] Books on meditation:
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body
by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson
There are more books than I can count, extolling the many wonders of meditation. I liked this book because Daniel and Richard sifted through the morass of clinical research to boil out the truth about what meditation can do for us and how to get the most out of it. I had the opportunity to meet Daniel Goleman at a promotion event for this book and can assure you he is legit.

Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
This is a beautifully written account of how to care for our innermost being. Having a firm belief that our soul is what we take with us to heaven in the life hereafter, I found this to be a refreshing view on making the most of my life here on earth in preparation for our eternal home in heaven. I completely agree with Mr. Moore’s assertion that our “loss of soul” is a significant problem facing us today, resulting in many societal ills. The primary takeaway underscored the profound value of quiet time and meditating on a daily basis. According to Mr. Moore, we care for the soul by living life in a way that our inner sense of who we are flourishes.

[iii] “Jesus answered him [on the cross], “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43

[iii] https://biblereasons.com/meditation/

“That’s not fair …”

“I’ll be there.  We’ll run between the raindrops,”

— Roy Lambertson

I am at a loss to express the void we all feel over the sudden and unexpected passing of Roy Lambertson (obit). Roy left an everlasting impression on me; I took Roy for granted. He was a man of few words yet strong actions who was never looking to be in the limelight.

Another grueling 7-by-7 workout in the books

Roy seemed to be the perfect mix of quiet humility with a wit and humor that just plain made you want to be around him. Whenever I pulled into the parking lot to meet for a run and spotted Roy’s Subaru wagon, I knew it was going to be a good one.

Running in our 7-by-7 community (a Los Altos running club) will never be the same without Roy. In his memory, I want to celebrate some of the things I will miss most about him.

  • Deadpan jokes and pranks. 

Everyone surely would agree that this was Roy’s sweet spot. He was relentless with his humor yet seemed to catch you when you least expected it in a way you could not have anticipated.  I learned when an email from Roy appeared, I should immediately read it. Here’s a good one:

“Subject: Displaced Ursus Americanus Mandible

You guys are pranksters, so you might appreciate this:

On my last trip to Yosemite, I found a bear jawbone, complete with large teeth.  This morning I placed it just off a trail in Hidden Villa.  The idea is to get someone to find it and identify it and cause a sensation.  Black bears in Los Altos Hills!  In a Summer Camp!

           Of course, this is wishful thinking.  We shall see,

  • Humility.

There are many examples of this! Roy stayed in the background and did not draw attention to his accomplishments (like climbing all of the 14,000+ foot peaks in California). His consistently outstanding performances year after year at the Nisene Marks Half Marathon are but one example. Roy almost always placed in the top 2 in his age group and blitzed a course that included 3,100 feet of climbing over a very challenging single-track trail with roots and rocks galore.  Here’s just one result I found:

2013 at 52 years old he placed 2nd in his age group and 9th overall (156 runners) averaging 7:53 per mile. Huh?!

Roy closing in to steamroll Dino at the Kaiser San Francisco Half marathon.
  • Quiet [but effective] approach to challenges.

I was witness to this year after year in Roy’s role as Course Director for the Spartan Turkey Trot.  Whether he was lacing the light poles with colored ribbon the night before, lecturing me about a speed bump on the course, or showing up at 4:30 am on race day to subvert attempted sabotage on our course, Roy was constantly “covering my butt” on details I hadn’t even thought about.

Roy rewiring the Christmas tree lights at 5 am on race day — saving the 2014 Spartan Turkey Trot from disaster.
  • Wit and humor.

When Roy spoke, I learned to listen carefully. This email response to Dino’s proposed “22 miles on the track” (Subject: monotony run) strikes that cord perfectly:

Monotony is not always bad; my wife and I have been practicing it for years.  Wait, that’s monogamy.  Close, but not the same thing.

There were also the many aliases’ Roy might choose for the next upcoming race to make sure we could not find him:

“OK, Dag Xarph is also signed up.  Wait, or is it Lowe N. Durrance?  Who am I this time?”

And of course, he often had a political barb or conspiracy theory on COVID:

“Bill, Dr. Sarah Cody is gunning for you; among the restrictions in the new health orders is a prohibition on running the Old Barn Loop in Los Altos Hills.  I plan to be there; we’ll be careful.”

  • Brevity.
  • To say Roy was brief and to the point would be an understatement. He was truly a “just the facts mam” kind of guy. Here’s a typical race report on the historic Dipsea Race to the 7-by-7 club.  Mind you, most of us only dream of running this race, which is open only to an elite few.  I could have written a book on that day, but Roy boiled it down to the important details.

    “Unfortunately, in Sunday’s Dipsea Race, Dino rolled his left foot at mile 5 and broke a bone.  I got the impression that it was a metatarsal.  No surgery but he’ll be in an immobilizing boot for at least 6 weeks.”

    Sometimes you didn’t even have to read his email.  The subject line told it all:

    Sat am: 14 miles flat, fast, boring”

    Unlike me, Roy was not going to offer an excuse if he could not run:

    “Thanks Bill; next time,”

    Roy showing off his recycled running magazines at the annual 7-by-7 gift exchange
    • Curriculum vitae.

    Roy was the last person to talk about or document his running accomplishments.  We likely will never know all he did on the racing circuit due to his many aliases’. Here’s how I found out he was running Dipsea one year:

    “Can’t do it; thanks Bill.  I’ll be up in Marin, running from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach with 1400 of my closest friends.”

    Roy might be the only human being on planet earth to have run from San Francisco to Oakland inside the BART tunnel. He did let out a few snippets about the authorities who were waiting for him as he came out of the tunnel. He outran them, but I never was sure about his mention of the bullets flying by as he turned the corner.

    Roy’s “Hash Run” included running through a gym while people were trying to work out! What I would give to have him lead me on that run again now …
    • Writing skill.

    Roy was a wonderfully talented writer. His “April Fools” story from the New York Times about me winning the Mavericks Big Wave contest (62-year old surfer wins Mavericks Surf Contest) is of course my personal favorite. God bless him, it felt as if I had really done it! I even received a few inquiries about the authenticity, despite him whipping it up a bit at the end: 

    “As the wave curled and, despite its monstrous size, became tubular, the crowd feared that all was lost as Mulkey disappeared behind the leading edge [of a 50′ wave…]. But a cheer erupted ten seconds later as they caught sight of him emerging from the collapsing tube in fine form, hanging ten and giving a “hang loose” hand signal. As the wave ran out into turbulent white foam, he offered up a headstand on the board. “

    • Knowledge of the outdoors.

    This one goes without saying. Roy was the ultimate outdoorsman. When he heard I was planning a bike packing trip he immediately brought me an engineering diagram of how to hang a food sack [Roy would correct me, “its Ursack Mike”] from a tree (for the bears) and offered to schedule time at his house to demonstrate… Upon reviewing my bike “packing list”, Roy did not hesitate to cut me down to size:

    “Delete (to save weight):  Camp seat, bear spray, ground sheets, some of the bike tools, maybe the second spare bike tube, towel (just have a wash cloth), extra clothes (but not the extra socks), etc.“

    Roy and I exchanged many stories about his backcountry ski adventures. Photo by Stephane Mouradian.
    • Deep wisdom of running injuries.

    A lotta shit is happening with the 7-by-7 runners these days, and Roy was always quick to offer his expert medical advice:

    “Brian, if I were an M.D. I would refrain from engaging in armchair diagnosis of your injury.  I would want to do a physical examination, to rule out bursitis, sciatica, etc. But I’m not an M.D, so the sky’s the limit! …”

    And God forbid if you were not very precise in your description of the injury:

    “Doug, the answer is stretching.  What was the question?…”

    • Attention to detail.

    Roy was always uber prepared. His recent 7-by-7 backpacking trip with Bill Gough and the gang underscored this in many ways. Bill lost the soles to his boots on the very first hike (not kidding!). Roy simply pulled out a backup pair of boots from his Subaru that were the exact size Bill needed. They covered Bill for the entire backpacking trip. You are killing me Roy!

    This was not one of Roy’s jokes …
    • Kindness.

    Roy was a kind and gentle soul with a big heart. When a 7-by-7 member had her first baby Roy thought ahead to buy a baby jogger and organize a day at the track to give it to her. And of course, we all took credit.

    Roy’s passing of the baton (and baby stroller) at a 7-by-7 workout

    Thanks Roy. We will carry your baton forward proudly. You have made us all better people.

    Upon hearing the news of the sudden and unexpected death of our 3-year-old Labrador Retriever earlier this year, Roy acknowledged,

    “That’s not fair.”

    Nothing more needs to be said.

    7-by-7 Photo Gallery

    Remembering Roy Lambertson

    STOP and Smell The Roses

    “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
    Jon Kabat-Zinn

    Regarding the theme of “A Lotta Shit …”, my thoughts go well beyond just the physical ailments from running. Emotional stress can be equally taxing or more. The stress of living in today’s world is intense. Using surfing terminology, life can be gnarly!

    I especially see this in our kids today. How is it that grammar school students could be worrying more about a mass shooting at their school than the peer pressure of fitting in? Or that middle school students can fret about what sex they are, or what sex they should be? A recent study by the Journal of Depression and Anxiety found that  “3 out of 4 college students say they’re stressed and many report suicidal thoughts.” Suicide among all age groups is on the increase. The U.S. suicide rate has risen by 30 percent since 1999. The list goes on. The anxiety associated with living in today’s world is literally killing us. Is this surprising news? It is not when I look at the world we are living in today.


    We planted a red rose bush in our front yard when my mom passed away in January of 2007. Mom absolutely LOVED the color red. That rose bush has been in full bloom every June on her birthday since. It has been remarkable. I believe God sent it as a reminder to me to STOP and smell the roses in her memory. Too often I zoom in or out of our driveway too hurried or preoccupied to take notice.

    When I was growing up in Corona del Mar in the 1960s I don’t think the word “stress” was in my vocabulary. Today my kids tell me that stress is in their DNA. It is unavoidable. We could list a hundred reasons for it; it’s a byproduct of living in today’s world. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), “approximately one in five adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year”. That’s 20% of us! To quote Daniel Amen M.D.,

    “Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.”

    Slapping more resin and fiberglass on the surface may simply be disguising the deeper issues below. So much can seem wrong, even the most optimistic person can get down from so much stress. Having Marathon Faith is helpful, but that is the long-term view. We need a way to get through today!

    Being Present
    Steven Curtis Chapman was on to something when he released the hit song
    Next 5 Minutes” in 1999:

    “I’m living the next 5 minutes
    Like these are my last 5 minutes,
    ‘Cause I know the next 5 minutes
    May be all I have”

    A valuable tool for dealing with stress is learning to pay attention to this very moment. “Being present”, is a phrase for nonjudgmentally allowing yourself to experience the here and now. Another common term is mindfulness, which Wikipedia defines as,

    “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.”

    The awareness that can emerge from paying attention to the present moment can be life-altering. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day, it can make a world of difference. There is plenty to read from a wealth of books written on this subject. A couple of my favorites are mentioned below (see “Resources”). However, when stress is overwhelming me, the Bible is one place I turn for comfort. The Book of Psalms in the Old Testament is often referred to as the book of human emotions. Every experience of man’s heart is reflected in this book. In the words of Ray Stedman:

    In times of struggle and persecution, in times of deep personal distress, in times of great overflowing joy, there is nothing like the Psalms to match the experience of the heart.

    “Be still, and know that I am God.”
    Psalm 46:10

    Sitting
    “Sitting” is a simple form of meditation I often recommend to my coaching clients as a practice for finding rest in their hectic lives. I sit almost every day early in the morning so I can ensure my time is private and quiet. This time in solitude is often a highlight of my day. I make a cup of green tea and then retreat into my sanctuary. Sitting centers me and calms my heart for whatever God has in store. It reminds me of what is important and helps to cool any emotions that might be bubbling over on my stovetop. I come out of these sessions feeling refreshed and encouraged with a sense of purpose around the upcoming day.

    Toni Packer describes sitting in The Work of This Moment”,

    “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks — images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody.”

    I discovered the sitting practice in my New Ventures West (NVW) Integral Coaching class. Our instructor Steve March requested that we spend thirty minutes a day sitting for the entire year of our training to help us learn to be present. Thirty minutes a day seemed far-fetched to me at that point of our training (“30 minutes? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?”). I am not one to sit idly.

    Amazingly, sitting became a personal highlight of my NVW training. I worked up to thirty minutes a day and found that time to be transformative in molding me as an Integral Coach™. Sitting allowed me the freedom to connect with my spiritual center while feeding my soul in my stillness. It is hard for me to hear what my soul desires if I am not still and present. I cannot recommend it enough; even if it is for just five minutes!

    “How wonderful it is to have a moment in time where we don’t have to be anyone.” Anonymous

    We miss so much in a day about ourselves because of our constant forward motion. As human beings, we are constantly striving to improve and get ahead in life. But in the midst of our forward progress, we tend to miss what we are feeling in our innermost being. A simple example was when I was taking a video of my father (Kona Jack) playing tennis with our two kids before he passed in 2016. I was quite intent on capturing the moment on camera, knowing how special it would be to the kids years later. In doing that, I missed the time of just enjoying it at courtside and letting deep joy sink into my soul. I can go replay the video (if I can find it), but I can’t recreate what I was feeling at the time it happened. I was too preoccupied to capture it on camera. Of course, once dad passed, I can think of many instances. He often yelled at me to “put away the camera” when I pulled it out.

    Kona Jack, the resident expert on being present (“Get rid of that camera Michael!”)

    Sitting in the Surf
    Depending on the consistency of the swell, sitting can be a big part of surfing. It is one of the first skills one must learn to be adept at catching waves. It is something I have always struggled with. Anyone who has surfed with me knows that I am a “type-A” surfer who does not like sitting and waiting for waves. If there is a wave anywhere on the beach, I am likely to paddle after it! After all, isn’t that the point of surfing? Slowly, I am learning to appreciate the time on my surfboard when I can sit and be present. In the past, I would have labeled that time as a “lull” and possibly called it a poor surfing day if there were too many.

    Just last weekend I was out surfing and found myself experiencing sitting in a new way. Nobody was in the water with me to disrupt my present state. As I scanned the horizon for an upcoming wave, I was suddenly able to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation all around me. I was sitting in an endless ocean of salt water that covers three-fourths of the Earth. A pod of dolphins playfully came by to greet me as I began to feel the cold water against my body. The air was crisp against my face. My legs were hanging free over the side of my board without a leash. Pelicans were flying in a formation on the distant horizon. A seal suddenly popped his head out 25 yards from where I was sitting to say hi. I was able to settle into my sitting pose and appreciate the unfolding of the experience around me as if it were a movie playing just for me.

    This was something new for me. I did not have to be anyone. I only had to be. I began looking forward to the lull and hoping it would last. I wanted to grab on to this moment and keep it forever! I had stopped to smell the roses and their smell was sweet.

    Sitting tandem with Mark Magiera; San Onofre, July 18, 1991

    ** Resources **
    Sitting Practice Instructions (pdf handout)
    This is a self-explanatory 1-page overview of how to get started with a sitting practice. It also includes links to free audio resources for a guided meditation (sitting) practice. This can be useful if you are unable to control your thoughts when doing it on your own.

    Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body
    by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson
    There are more books than I can count extolling the many wonders of meditation. What I liked about this book is that Daniel and Richard sifted through the morass of clinical research to boil out the truth about what meditation can really do for us and how to get the most out of it. I had the opportunity to meet Daniel Goleman at a promotion event for this book and can assure you he is legit. Here is a list of books he has written, including the groundbreaking Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

    Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore
    This is a beautifully written account of how to care for our innermost being. Having a firm belief that our soul is what we take with us to heaven in the life hereafter, I found this to be a refreshing view on how to make the most of my life here on earth in preparation for our eternal home in heaven. I completely agree with Mr. Moore’s assertion that our “loss of soul” is a major problem facing us today, which is resulting in many societal ills. The primary takeaway underscored the deep value of quiet time and sitting on a daily basis. According to Mr. Moore, we care for the soul by living life in a way that our inner sense of who we are flourishes.

    Heaven Can’t Wait

    What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while.
    Then it disappears.”    
    James 4:14

    When I first heard about Steve Jobs death I was working Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco (October 5, 2011).   I had walked up to the Apple Store near Union Square to buy a couple of iPod’s for our booth giveaways and found the store shrouded in candles with employees walking around like zombies, unwilling to accept the news.  It was as if the store needed to stop operations and pause to reflect.  But the iPhone 4s had just been announced a day earlier and they were selling like hot cakes, with swarms of people showing up like bees to honey. Jobs was clearly one of the most instrumental leaders in the history of Silicon Valley.

    Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs” was released just a few weeks after, and I immediately picked up a copy and dove into the account of his life.  Jobs and I were born within a month of each other, so I was more than curious to hear his story and especially to better understand his genius.  In the words of Isaacson,

    “Steve Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination.  He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology.“

    I devoured the book and was fascinated with how his career paralleled the growth of Silicon Valley as the personal computer (PC) was invented and the Internet economy was born.  But there was an element of Steve Jobs personality that made me quite sad and deeply stirred my passion around the work/life balance theme.  At times, Jobs could be described as a sociopathic monster in his handling of people.  His unruly antics were well documented in Isaacson’s biography, along with several movies, which followed.  I think most would agree, he reached the top of the mountain, but that it came at a serious price to many who were with him.

    Just looking at a short list of products Steve Jobs produced in his career at Apple is quite extraordinary.  What he was able to accomplish in 56 short years on this planet was nothing short of astonishing.

    Apple I, 1976—Macintosh, 1984—iMac, 1998—iPod, 2001—iTunes, 2003—iPhone, 2007— iPad, 2010 …

    But I have to ask, was as it worth it?  At what price success?  Did he build a life of eternal significance?

    I really don’t know.   Only God can answer those questions.

    What I have discovered is that everything we do here in this life on earth matters.
    Forever.
    Heaven really can’t wait, and this post is about helping us to understand why.

    As good as we know Heaven will be (see: Begin with the End in Mind & Opening Day in Paradise), there is one significant point that is missing in this discussion: Heaven does not begin when you die, it begins right now, today.  To put it in Silicon Valley vernacular, it is happening in real-time as you read this.

    Every day we live on this earth is impacting our life in Heaven for eternity

    Folks, this is BIG.
    I lived most of my Christian life without truly grasping it.
    If your aim is to build a life of eternal significance, this is a momentous point.

    According to research, we can spend up to 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime.  In Silicon Valley, that is a conservative estimate (based on a 40-hour work week – ha!).  Does it matter how we spend that time?  After all, we do need to earn a living and provide for the family.  What does it matter how we go about doing that and why should we really care?

    Jesus made it clear in Matthew 16:27 that there is a direct connection between what you do in this life and the life you spend in Heaven:

     “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”

    Just to be blatant, lets review that again:
    “… and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”

    As it turns out, this promise is not an isolated incident; there are other examples in the Bible of Jesus telling us what we are doing here on earth really matters once we get to Heaven:

    • Luke 6:23: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”
    • Matthew 19:21: “You will have a treasure in heaven.”
    • Luke 14:14: “You will be blessed… for you shall be repaid at the resurrection.”
    • Matthew 5:12: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…”

    God is keeping track of us as we live out our life here on earth.
    And eventually (when we get to Heaven), He will reward us for how well we’ve lived our life on earth.

    To avoid confusion, I need to mention that this “rewards” thing is not about doing good works on earth, in order to get to Heaven.  The Bible is very explicit that getting to Heaven is strictly an act of faith, not an act of works.  Paul makes this point quite powerfully throughout the book of Romans (see Romans 3:21-26), and one of the more renowned verses in all of the Bible, which even shows up on the bottom of my In-N-Out vanilla shake cup, states this quite clearly:

    Jesus tells us about these rewards waiting in Heaven multiple times, in various contexts.  In my years of studying the Bible, I have learned to pay very close attention to anything Jesus tells us repeatedly.  This is undoubtedly one of them.  And yet it seems to be one of the most overlooked aspects of Christian life. In my experience, this is not something that gets much attention or discussion in church either.   But it carries eternal value for us, beyond the mist that disappears.

    There are numerous books written on this subject.  One of my favorites is Bruce Wilkinson’s “A Life God Rewards, Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever”, which really hits this topic head on.  It’s a small book and a very quick read.

    Wilkinson opens the book to explain the positioning between our beliefs (faith) versus our works (behavior):

    “The teachings of Jesus show us that there are two keys to determine everything about your eternity. The first key is your belief.  This key unlocks the door to eternal life and determines where you will spend eternity. The second key is your behavior.  It unlocks the door to reward and determines how you will spend eternity.”

    It’s this second key (your behavior on earth) that I am referring to here.  Jesus is telling us that our behavior on earth will result in “rewards” or “treasures” in Heaven.  For eternity.

    The Greek root of “rewards” is “misthos”, which translates to “wages”.   

    In essence, Jesus is telling us we are going to get paid for our time here on earth and that it will have eternal value.  It’s almost as if we have a savings account for our good behavior on earth that will pay out when we get to Heaven.  And Jesus is the one who will sign the check.   

    Wilkinson explains further the impact this should have on us now:

    “…by the time you’re done reading [“A Life God Rewards”], you’ll approach daily life in a dramatically different way.  Simple decisions, such as how you spend your time and money, will become opportunities of great promise.  And you will begin to live with an unshakable certainty that everything you do today matters forever the harvest you produce will directly impact your experience in eternity.”

    We could have a lengthy discussion on what those rewards (wages) might look like in Heaven. What I do know about Jesus, I feel pretty confident the rewards will be worth the effort, so I’ll leave that discussion for a future post.

    But regarding our desired behavior here on earth, Jesus addressed that quite often throughout the Bible.  Probably the most famous talk he gave on this subject is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  The first ten verses (called the Beatitudes) tell us a lot about the behavior Jesus values (Matthew 5:1-10):

    Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch (1876)

     1Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them.

    3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
    5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
    6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
    7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
    8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
    9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
    10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    I find it intriguing that “the kingdom of Heaven” frames this section of Jesus’ speech. I think Jesus was making a point.
    And no surprise, which topic Jesus mentions next in verse 12?

    “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”…

    These words rock the life we are living today here in Silicon Valley.  Jesus is telling us we need a transformation of our character to right the ship here on earth.  Radical change is required to live this.  To put it in surfing terms, conducting your life that way today requires paddling against the incoming tide.  Everything around us is telling us to go the other way.  In the words of Matthew 16:26:

     What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

    In the final few paragraphs of Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs (Chapter 42; “Legacy: The Brightest Heaven of Invention”), Jobs reflected on death,

    “I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God.  For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.  But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch.  Click!  And you’re gone.   Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”

    For me, I’ll take the on-off switch.

    Our life truly is a mist that appears for a little while, and then quickly fades (James 14:4).  I want Heaven to be proud of my life here on earth when I get there. I believe the work each of us is doing in our life here on earth is helping to construct the kingdom of Heaven. Nothing is ever lost (or wasted) with God.  Everything we do on earth will build on our eternal life we spend in Heaven with God.  Every second really does matter.

    In his book “The Real Heaven, What the Bible Actually Says”, Chip Ingram frames it this way, with a picture of a dot connected to a line:

    “When you get a clear picture of your future, it will change your perspective of your trials and struggles today.  Its like the analogy used by C.S. Lewis.  All of eternity can be compared to a continuous line that has no beginning and no end, and all of human history is like a tiny dot on that line.  And inside the dot of human history there is a microscopic dot that represents all of your life here on this earth.  So, the question I want to ask you is, are you living for the dot or for the line?”

    Playing Maximus in the movie “Gladiator”, Russell Crowe summed it up well by saying:

    “What you do in this life echo’s through eternity” 

    *RESOURCES*

    Christian Leaders on Eternal Rewards:

    • Charles R. Swindoll:
      “…He promises a reward.  And we can be sure He will keep His promise.”
    • Jonathan Edwards:
      “There are many mansions in God’s house because heave is intended for various degrees of honor and blessedness.”
    • Charles H. Spurgeon:
      “Seek secrecy for your good deeds.”
    • Theodore H. Epp:
      “God is eager to reward us and does everything possible to help us lay up rewards.”
    • John MacArthur Jr.:
      “There will be varying degrees of reward in heaven.  That shouldn’t surprise us:  There are varying degrees of giftedness even here on earth.”
    • John Wesley:
      “God will reward everyone according to his works.”
    • R.C. Sproul:
      “If a person has been faithful in many things through many years, then he will be acknowledged by His Master, who will say to him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… there are at least twenty-five occasions where the New Testament clearly teaches that we will be granted rewards according to our works.”
    • Billy Graham:
      “… and the work we have done must stand the ultimate test; final exams come at the Judgment Seat of Christ when we receive our rewards.”
    • Martin Luther:
      “Therefore, he who does good works and guards himself against sin, God will reward.”

    Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

    If you want to understand the man behind the Apple I & II, Mac, iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, Apple stores and a lot more, this book is a page burner for you.  And it provides a nice backdrop on the history of Silicon Valley during the internet boom years, which continue to this day.

    A Life God Rewards, Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever” by Bruce Wilkinson

    Wilkinson connects the dots between what you are doing today and what you will experience after you die.  It is a quick read, and guaranteed to get you thinking more about how what you do today really matters.  Forever!

    The Real Heaven, What the Bible Actually Says” by Chip Ingram

    Chip Ingram is a pastor of over 25 years in Los Gatos, California, and has written twelve books at last count. He is an easy to understand communicator about truth of the Bible.  His premise with this book is to outline what God actually wants us to know and understand about Heaven, and to show how Heaven actually should be impacting our lives today.

    Opening Day in Paradise

     “The serious business of Heaven is joy.”      CS Lewis

    I have a dear friend who for several years invited my son and I to join him and his son to Opening Day of the San Francisco 49ers season at the now defunct Candlestick Park.  It was always a memorable day, which my son and I looked forward to with special appreciation of the experience we knew to come.  On opening day there is a special feeling of electricity in the air, full of optimism and excitement for the season ahead for the 49ers.  The pre-game tailgate BBQ’s seemed to start a little earlier than usual and were more elaborate than ever, with everyone dressed in 49er garb head to toe.  Once you got into the stadium it seemed as though scarlet and gold were everywhere and the entire pre-game ceremony signaled that this was not just another football game.  It climaxed in an unveiling of the American flag (covering the entire field), with fireworks and rockets going off (“and the rockets red glare”) and the Blue Angels hitting their afterburners over the stadium as we finished singing our national anthem (“the home of the free and the land of the brave”).

    Bring on the Root Beer, its GAME ON!

    As amazing as the day was, I truly believe our “opening day” in paradise (Heaven) will make that 49er game seem like a day at the library in comparison.

    Seriously.

    I’ve often wondered what my own “opening day” in Heaven will be like, and maybe some of you do too. If we plan to spend an eternity in Heaven, perhaps it is important we have a good idea of what we’re getting in to.  Having an accurate picture of what it is going to be like in Heaven could (and should!) dramatically reshape our view of our life here on earth.  In other words, “begin with the end in mind.

    Let’s take a walk down that path and see if you agree.

    Randy Alcorn speaks to the power of what awaits us in Heaven:

    “The day I die will be the best day I ever lived.”

    The very second we enter Heaven our world will be transformed into indescribable beauty and peace from what we know here on Earth. What we see will exceed our wildest imagination following our life on earth.  To quote from my Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) notes on Heaven:

    “God’s new creation will provide a sense of familiarity, yet we will experience something altogether new and awesome as the blinders of our sin nature are removed...  To an infinite measure, the tangible experience Heaven is and will be beyond human articulation.”

    Chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation have the most striking descriptions of Heaven in the Bible.  Heaven will be illuminated with the brilliant and constant light of God, removing all darkness of evil and suffering.  We will experience new colors we could hardly dream of, streams of water as clear as crystal, flowers and trees and mountains more beautiful than anything we have seen here on Earth.  Best of all, there will be a joyous reunion with friends and family who preceded us in our death on earth.  We will feel a sense of infinite love and peace and comfort that will tell us we have finally found our true home.  Our thoughts of life back on earth will quickly fade away as we rejoice to the wonder of it all.

    To quote my BSF notes on Revelation 21:3-5:

    This life with God will satisfy every sense of loneliness and alienation ever experienced by a human heart.  It will exponentially intensify every joy.  All of us were made for this!

    Tasting Heaven

    The Bible is the sole authority on Heaven.  Aside from Jesus, who speaks of Heaven more than anyone else in the Bible, there are a few other important mentions of people entering or seeing Heaven and telling us what they saw.  Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-5) had visions of Heaven that overwhelmed them.  John says he saw the “throne of Heaven” in Revelation 4, and described in great detail the “Holy City, New Jerusalem” in Revelation 21.  In 2 Corinthians (12:4) the Apostle Paul tells about a friend who was “caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”  And in Acts 7, Stephen was stoned to death after his speech to the Sanhedrin, in which he claimed to “see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

    Clearly Heaven is not a topic in the Bible to be taken lightly.

    There are an abundance of books available today about people’s journey to Heaven and back after a near death experience, possibly offering a glimpse of what God has in store for us.  A few of these stories have recently been released as movies: “90 minutes in Heaven; “Heaven is for Real and “Miracles from Heaven.   Most of these books are very interesting reads, but how does one validate their authenticity?  Here is a list: Books on Heaven-v5.5, to provide a sampling of how many have made the effort to document their story by publishing a book (those I have read I marked with an asterisk).  It is God’s mystery that these experiences happen to people, and I want to qualify them by reiterating that the Bible is our only source of truth on the subject.  These stories are fun to read, and provide me a taste of heaven, allowing my imagination to run on what will it be like for me?

    90 Minutes in Heaven” was the first book I read.  It is the story of Don Piper, a Texas pastor who died in a horrific car crash.  Piper wrote a powerful account of what was to be his 90 minutes in Heaven.  It impacted me so deeply I made my wife and kids read it as soon as I was finished.  It was the first time I had read anything with such detail about the experiences.  It gave me goose bumps.  Piper admitted that words truly could not do the experience justice, and in fact it took him years before publically speaking about the experience.  In his words, “I considered it a sacred secret.”

    Several books immediately followed. I found it fascinating and encouraging to read stories of people who had come back from Heaven to tell how incredibly wonderful it had been and how the experience had changed their life forever.  All of them spoke about experiencing a love that far exceeded anything they had ever known on earth, and none of them said they wanted to come back to Earth after getting a taste of it.

    Not all of these books are written by Christian authors, which I find even more interesting to hear people tell their experiences without bringing the Scriptures into the discussion.

    One of these is “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife”, written by Eben Alexander, a Jewish faculty member at Harvard Medical School.  Alexander writes about his near death experience while in a meningitis-induced coma in 2008.  He used his vast experience as a neurosurgeon (he performed thousands of brain surgeries) to scientifically prove that he could not have dreamed the experience he had going to Heaven while in the coma.

    Life after Life was another, published in 1975 by Raymond Moody, who was credited with coining the term “Near Death Experience” (NDE).  In this book, Moody started a revolution in attitudes about the life after physical death. He accounted for more than 100 case studies of people who experienced “clinical death” and were subsequently revived.  In an interview, Moody shared his personal conclusions about his research into NDEs:

    “I don’t mind saying that after talking with over a thousand people who have had these experiences, and having experienced many times some of the really baffling and unusual features of these experiences, it has given me great confidence that there is a life after death. As a matter of fact, I must confess to you in all honesty, I have absolutely no doubt, on the basis of what my patients have told me, that they did get a glimpse of the beyond.

    One book in particular really caught me.

    I came across it when our family was on vacation in Portland, Oregon at Powell’s bookstore, which claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the world.  Powell’s is the kind of place where you can just pick your favorite subject, go find that section of books, and spend an entire day going through the selection, including many books you will not find on Amazon.  So after doing my due diligence on “surfing”, I wandered over to a section on “Heaven” and was overwhelmed by the number of books.

    Here I found one book that I just could not put down, “When Will The Heaven Begin” by Ally Breedlove.  Ally wrote this book about her brother, Ben Breedlove, who had lived his entire life on the precipice of death/Heaven due to a heart condition he was born with.  Ben died at the age of 18 on Christmas evening after experiencing a remarkable day with his entire family.

    In this book, Ally referenced a video “This is my story, which Ben had posted on Youtube to tell his story prior to his passing on Christmas day.  I immediately called my family over and we watched in amazement on the cold cement floor in Powell’s.  Ben tells his story with flip cards, of how he had been waiting for Heaven to begin.  His sister Ally discovered the video while rummaging through his stuff on Christmas night.  Go watch that video now, and you will see what I mean (~7 minutes).  No matter what your beliefs are on Heaven, Ben’s story is one to behold.  As a vibrant 19-year old boy with a full life, including a girlfriend and loving family, Ben realized what was awaiting him in Heaven was much better than the life he had here on earth. He decided to leave his family a video to comfort them in case he did go there.

    These stories paint a striking and consistent picture of Heaven as a physical place of indescribable beauty where our bodies are transformed into our perfect selves. Any suffering we experience here, no matter how intense, is completely cancelled out by the love that awaits us in Heaven. Those who have tasted it say they no longer fear death, as Ben Breedlove showed, they would rather be there than anywhere else.

    Interestingly, each person’s experience of Heaven seems to be different, as if God had individually prepared a place for each one of them (see John 14:1-3).  They all pondered why God had chosen them to have the experience, and what to do with it after returning to earth.  Most who have written books believe that God gave them these experiences to spread the joy and hope for what awaits us in Heaven.

    Randy Alcorn summarizes it well in his book “Heaven”:

    “The most ordinary moment on the New Earth [Heaven] will be greater than the most perfect moments in this life – those experiences you wanted to bottle or hang on to but couldn’t.  It can get better, far better, than this – and it will.”  Life on the New Earth will be like sitting in front of the fire with family and friends, basking in the warmth, laughing uproariously, dreaming of the adventures to come – and then going out and living those adventures together.   With no fear that it will ever end or that tragedy will descend like a dark cloud.  With no fear that dreams will be shattered or relationships broken.”

    For those who have placed their trust in God, an amazing new place awaits us.

    As I continue along my path in Silicon Valley, Roger Williams’ words of wisdom have echoed in my heart about changing the way I live today – for Heaven.

    Here’s a video of Roger speaking those very words to a Mount Hermon family camp (01:14):

    “It’s not the end – it’s … the beginning.”

    We need to think about Heaven now, and it will dramatically impact the life we are living here today on Earth.

    We’ll talk more about that in my next post: “Heaven Can’t Wait”.

    **RESOURCES**

    Books on “Heaven” – compiled by Mike Mulkey:

    I want to qualify this list by noting that I have not read all these books (I marked those I have read with an asterisk).  The Bible is the ultimate authority on Heaven, and we should never second-guess it in that respect.  But these books provide some enjoyable reading on the joy and love and promise of what awaits us in Heaven.

    Hearing From Heaven: A Memoir of God At Work At Mount Hermon

    by Roger Williams

    If you know of and/or visit Mount Hermon in the Santa Cruz mountains, this book is a must read. One of my “2X4” incidents was when Roger Williams’ book “Hearing from Heaven” (published posthumously), showed up on our kitchen counter unannounced late one evening following Roger’s early departure from life here on earth.  The short story is that I had been teaching a class to the young adults from our church that night, and came home feeling incapable of teaching the next session, which was to be on the topic of “Heaven”.  I was just thinking over how truly inadequate I felt for this assignment when I walked into the kitchen late that night and suddenly saw this book on the counter staring me in the face (Hearing from Heaven!).  I knew nothing of Roger writing this book; not to speak for the fact that he was now living there! I almost fell to my knees.  I had no idea what to make of it, or where it even came from?!

    Needless to say I did teach the class and of course it went very well. Thank you Roger!

    Begin with the End in Mind

    “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
    Genesis 2:3

    God was setting an important example for us when he rested after six days of work in the opening book of the Bible.  Work is a critical element to life here on Earth, as well the life we will live in Heaven (Matthew 25:23).  Even after creating man, God immediately put him to work in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).

    I would like to propose a new perspective on how to approach the challenge of balancing work with the rest of our life, by contemplating our death.

    While I am passionate about the need for balance in work and life, I’ll be the first to admit that there is no quick fix to the many challenges we all face today in this area.  There are plenty of books, articles and videos telling us how to solve it.  Here’s a “top 15” list I compiled just in case you want the quick fix:

    1. Set boundaries with email
    2. Ask for support
    3. Get organized
    4. Concentrate on one thing at a time (get present)
    5. Make time for loved ones
    6. Schedule everything
    7. Let go of perfectionism
    8. Work smarter, not longer
    9. Don’t compromise on your sleep
    10. Set life goals
    11. Learn how to say “no”
    12. Make relaxation and breaks a priority
    13. Exercise and meditate
    14. My 2nd favorite: Hire a personal coach
    15. And my favorite (it really works): Unplug!

    Check out my Circle of Life quiz, which provides a quick view of the current state in balancing your life:

    This work/life balance thing is a very tough nut to crack in our non-stop 24/7 economy that is being driven by a mobile device that seems to travel everywhere with us.  Rebecca Zucker writes in a recent Harvard Business Review article titled: “How to Achieve Work/Life Balance”:

    “… I now work as an executive coach, and work-life balance is an issue that my clients frequently grapple with, as they face the new work demands that come with technological advances. For example, one client in San Francisco who works for a fast-growing tech company shared that she gets up at 4am to work. She has anxiety about the possibility of missing an e-mail at midnight. “Is this normal?” she asked.“

    I don’t think it’s “normal”, but I do know it is happening more and more as an increasing number of us are now sleeping with these little mobile “devils”, beyond just getting us up at 4am to keep up.  Fortune magazine recently reported that 71% of us sleep with their own smartphones either on a nightstand or in their bed!

    At times I wish I could beam my family back to the 1960’s when I was growing up in Corona del Mar spending summers on the beach without a thought in the world, other than what was going on right then in front of me.  It did create some challenges with surfing however, as we actually had to go to the beach to look at the waves to see if it was worth going out.  Today you simply push a button on your iPhone – and magically the tides, wind, swell and even a video appear for that day; that moment…  What!?

    This cover shot from Matt Warsaw’s “History of Surfing” captures my memories of growing up at the beach in CdM – except the waves were not that good!

    When my wife and I started our high tech careers at ROLM there was no Internet, no cell phones, no voice mail, and no way of carrying your “days work” around in your pocket.  When we left work, we were done for the day.  The only thing waiting the next day when one arrived to work [possibly] was a pink slip or two.  Not the pink slip that dismissed you from your job, but a pink form someone filled in when a phone call came in for you while you were out of the office. The workday started when you arrived at the facility.   

    I worked hard and had days when I worked late, or when I would come in on a Saturday to get caught up.  But when I was not at work I was focused on my life outside of work, whether that was family, friends, fitness, or just relaxing and watching the surf to see if I could anticipate a swell on the rise.

    Since we’re not beaming back to the 60’s anytime soon, lets agree there seems to be no stopping this lightening bolt of progress.  Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D. summed it up well in his book Margin when he asked:

    “If we are enjoying so much progress, why is everyone so worn out?“

    So let’s pause on all that progress for a moment and talk about what happens at “the end”You know, when we die.

    Then what?

    Steven Covey, in his best selling book: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, was the first to gain widespread attention with “Begin with the end in mind” (Habit #2)”.  Covey asks us to question whether we are approaching life in a manner that reflects our values and beliefs.  To make his point, he included a very insightful exercise that impacted me immensely.  He asks you to find a place where you can be alone and uninterrupted to visualize attending your own funeral – three years from now.  Covey then asks you to write the speech of four people who were important in your life and who will speak at your funeral: a family member, a close friend, a co-worker, and a member of your church or community.   What do you want them to say about your life?

    Here is a reprint of it (Covey_End-In-Mind_Exercise) to try it out.  I have used this as a self-reflection exercise in my coaching.  It powerfully demonstrates how you are prioritizing your time, and helps to seriously re-examine your priorities.  As the old adage goes, you never do hear anyone say from their deathbed that they wished they had worked more.   In her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware cites the number two regret (of five) as:  “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.

    Suddenly, another thought creeps into my head.  Suppose I die.  The odds are about 100% that eventually that will happen. And people then [hopefully] say nice things about me at my funeral.
    Then what?

    Being a Christian, Heaven is a given after life on EarthBut, what does that really mean?  What will it be like?  What will my body be like?  Will I know anyone?  Will I still be able to surf?  There are a thousand other questions I could ask.  If I am going to be in Heaven for an eternity, I’d like to know a little more.

    Imagine

    As mentioned earlier (About surfing and my Christian faith), I did not become a Christian until I my mid-thirties.  Prior to that, I had a real fear of death.  It was something I called “permanent lights-out”.   This thought of complete nothingness would envelop me.  It was my biggest fear.  By far.

    John Lennon’s “Imagine” (1971) has a few verses that speak to this way of thinking.  It is a beautiful song.  But pay attention to what it really is saying.

    “Imagine there’s no Heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people — living for today

    He’s talking about permanent LIGHTS OUT!

    Most research tells us roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they actually do believe in Heaven — defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.”  Most of us really do want to go to Heaven, and I believe God desires for us to use our imagination to anticipate the beauty and wonder and joy of what awaits us there.   In Matthew 6:19-21, God commands us to set our hearts and minds on heaven above.  Jesus was consistently very clear about that in the Bible:

     “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    When Jesus met with his disciples for their last meal together before his death, he did not use the time to review the strategic plan on how to move his ministry forward after He’s gone.  That’s what I probably would have done.  But instead, Jesus speaks about Heaven, and gives them a picture of hope around the place he is preparing for each of them:

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”   John 14:1-3

    Chip Ingram makes the following comment about this in his book “The Real Heaven”:

    “Jesus knew that a crystal clear view of eternity and of their future home in Heaven would sustain them through the most difficult of times.  When life would get hard and when persecution would come, the hope of Heaven would motivate them to persevere.”

    When I became a Christian no one handed me a brochure on Heaven.  It remained a mystery not discussed much in church or Bible studies. I wanted to know more and thus began a wonderful study for me.  It all started with the Bible.

    I will see you in paradise

    A disclaimer here:
    I am not a professional theologian, pastor or trained biblical scholar.  These writings are based on my research solely and do involve some conjecture on my part.  I am not the expert, but I do reference a few books (including the Bible) for those who want to learn more.

    While I have studied the Bible and attended church fairly consistently over the past 30 years, I did not have a very clear picture of Heaven.  It had always been present in discussions about life after death, but I never felt I had much of a grasp on what it was.

    The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of Heaven (622 times according to Google), and hands-down, Jesus speaks of Heaven more than any other.

    Another useful resource on Heaven is Randy Alcorn’s book appropriately called Heaven”.   Alcorn has spent over 25 years researching what the Bible says about it, and he attempts to answer some challenging questions, such as understanding the difference between the present Heaven (where Christians go when they die) and the ultimate, eternal Heaven (where God will dwell with his people on the New Earth).  I don’t want to get to that level, but highly recommend it.

    I also have referenced my notes and materials from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).  BSF is an international Christian interdenominational structured Bible study (begun in 1959) I have been participating in for the past 12 years.  BSF is a wonderful program for anyone wanting to learn more about the Bible.

    “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

    One of my favorite verses on Heaven in the Bible is this one, where Jesus refers to Heaven as “paradise”, in almost the last words he spoke on Earth before his death.   He said this to a dying thief who was being crucified next to him on the cross.  As the thief accepted Christ as his Lord and Master he was assured of his place in Heaven.

    So just exactly what is this “paradise” that awaits us that Jesus is referring to?  According to Jesus, they were going to be there “today”!  As I have studied Heaven, it has given me great purpose for my life here on Earth.  The Bible is crystal clear about what awaits us by accepting Jesus as our Lord and savior.  Heaven is a real, physical place Christians know to be the final destination, where we will enjoy life with God for eternity.

    Chapter 21 of the book of Revelation in the Bible represents heaven as a place where there is no more sin, death or sorrow.  Heaven will have indescribable beauty beyond our wildest imagination from what we know here on Earth.  We will rejoice with those we knew in life on Earth when we are in Heaven.  We will be home with God with a sense of peace and joy that everything is as it should be.  In Heaven we will have real physical bodies, will eat and drink and wear clothes like we do here on Earth.  In Heaven we will be able to do physical things just like we do here on Earth today.  Like having a tasty barbecue with your good friends on the beach.

    As Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he made a point to eat with them and asked them to touch him and see that he was a physical being (Luke 24:36-43).  He even prepared a breakfast fish barbecue on the beach for his disciples to demonstrate to them that he was himself (John 21:1-15).  I know this is hard to imagine for us here on Earth.  Nobody of course understands the mystery of how God works all his miracles, but the Bible is very clear on all of it.

    The resurrected Jesus barbecued a fish breakfast on the beach for his disciples (Luke 24:36-43)

    From all the reading I have done, a life way better than we can imagine awaits us in Heaven.  The very best we may have experienced here on Earth will surely pale in comparison to what God has planned.

    Here is a quote from Randy Alcorn’s Heaven to frame this picture:

    “All of our lives we’ve been dreaming of the New Earth.  Whenever we see beauty in water, wind, flower, deer, man, woman, or child, we catch a glimpse of Heaven.  Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.”

    While Heaven and Earth appear to be separated today, according to the Bible, in end times when Jesus returns to Earth, Heaven will come here onto a new Earth for eternity.  The New Jerusalem comes down to the renewed Earth and there the redeemed will spend eternity with God on the renewed Earth.  Revelation 21 contains a surprisingly detailed description of what this “New Jerusalem” will look like.

    I purposely am avoiding further detail, and recommend Randy Alcorn’s Heaven if you want to learn more.  But it is fun to use one’s imagination to provide an image of this wonderful world yet to come.

    While all this is interesting, I found myself still wanting to know more about Heaven.  I wanted to debunk this belief about Heaven being boring or anything we might get tired of.  I even have one friend who half jokingly described it as a non-stop church service singing “Holy-Holy-Holy” … for eternity?

    Gary Larson spoke to that well in his many comics on Heaven.

    Stay tuned for my next post: “Opening day in paradise”.

    **RESOURCES**

    The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel

    This book was made into a movie in 2017, and I highly recommend both if you have any questions around the historical reliability of the New Testament, and/or claims made by Jesus Christ.  Lee Strobel was a self-proclaimed atheist when he began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ after his wife’s conversion. As an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee pulled together all the facts about Jesus as if he were going to trial. Prompted by the results of his investigation, he became a Christian on November 8, 1981.

    Heaven by Randy Alcorn

    I’ve made my case for this book in the above post.  Simply wonderful.
    In the words of Stu Weber (stated on the front cover):

    “Other than the Bible itself, this may well be the single most life-changing book you’ll ever read.”

    The Circle of Life

    “Next to love, balance is the most important thing.”
    Coach John Wooden

    Circle_of_life_pic
    (click image for “Circle of Life” quiz)

    Prologue (4.2)

    To me that it’s the simple things in life that can make the biggest difference.

    This story starts with a bit of an epiphany I had one night while in graduate school at Golden Gate University in Los Angeles.

    As I was launching my career in high technology with ROLM, it became apparent that my Sports Management degree was only going to take me so far. After successfully navigating the transition from tennis club into telecommunications, I enrolled into a Masters degree program at Golden Gate University to both learn about the industry and open opportunities for advancement in my career. Over the course of what seemed at the time like an eternity (eight or so years of night school), I completed a Masters Degree in Telecommunications Management.

    golden_gate_logo

    One of those evenings in class as I was sipping a hot chocolate to wake up after a long day at work, I discovered something that was to stick with me for the remainder of my career in high-tech.

    It was the first day of a Telecommunications 101 class, and the instructor walked into the room to begin. He proceeded to pass out something completely unrelated to the class syllabus. He called it the Circle of Life.

    Wait, what!?…
    This caught my attention.

    I sat back trying to understand why he was talking about “life” beyond telecommunications. Yet as he spoke, I realized that he was quite serious about this and in fact it made good sense.

    “If you are able to keep your life in balance, you will inevitably be a much happier and healthier person”.

    What a novel thought. So simple, yet so true!
    Best of all, he backed up his claim with a quiz he proceeded to pass out to test us on just how well we were doing in the area of life balance right now. We had immediate feedback on the life we were living. For me, it stuck.

    Then he moved on to the class syllabus for Telecommunications 101 and I went back to my hot chocolate.

    I’d like to tell you that my life changed that very moment as I reviewed the results of my Circle of Life quiz and began thinking about the areas where I wanted to focus to achieve better balance in my life. But in truth, that handout went into my class binder and did not come back out for many years later.
    In fact, a marriage, two kids, and two jobs later.

    When it finally did surface, I was working for Sun Microsystems in Menlo Park in 1999, riding the high-tech Silicon Valley bubble. I leveraged my telecommunications skills to join Sun’s new and emerging “Netra” division, and they were selling servers like In-n-Out sells hamburgers. We couldn’t build them fast enough.

    sun_logo2

    As the story went, Scott McNealy provided a $1 billion credit line to a senior executive at Sun by the name of Neil Knox to bring a family of telecommunications grade servers (Netra product line) to market for Sun — FAST. These early days working for Neil and his Netra product team in Menlo Park were high-flying and very fun times. Sun had been labeled “the dot in dot-com”. They had invented Java. Scott had even coined the term, The network is the computer, and that was BEFORE we had the internet. It just didn’t get any better than this as far as I was concerned from a professional standpoint.

    ironman_logo

    Congratulations!
    During this very hectic time at work, I received the highly coveted acceptance letter from Ironman Hawaii announcing my lottery number had come up, and I was accepted to compete in the 1999 Ironman Hawaii Triathlon.
    Whoa…!  How I would possibly find time to do the necessary training without losing my job or my family!?

    Fast-forward four months down this path and things seemed to be working out Ok. Or, so I thought…
    Then my wife said something to me, which really captured my attention.
    We were discussing making family time a priority on weekends when she suddenly blurted out,

    “If you put as much time into your family as you do into training for this triathlon, we would have no issues…!”

    Gulp.

    Now mind you, I am pretty good about that balancing act between work, family and play. But that one really stuck.

    Enter the Circle of Life.

    Clearly my life was revolving around my job and my triathlon training, and not much else, other than the necessary sleeping & eating to keep it all going. Family had taken a back seat. Once I pulled out the Circle of Life and mapped it out – it was clear as the light of day to me. And worst of all, I had been in a cloud of denial about seeing it.
    Thank God my wife brought me to my senses.

    This is a discussion much larger than just triathlon training, but it helps make the point to use this example. Just like the three events of a triathlon (swim, bike, run), I needed to equally balance the time and energy I was spending in each area of my life (Work, Family, Self) in order to come out with the best overall performance.  But I also needed time to rest and have some inner quiet time (in the words of Dr. Richard Swenson, margin), to feed my soul and attain an optimum performance in the triathlon.

    And most importantly, this was about not sacrificing my family.  I truly believe that the family is the key to our future.  There is a saying that:
    “If things go well with the family, life is worth living; when the family falters, life falls apart.”

    Whether it was work, sport, or maybe something else, keeping my family a priority is something that would be important to me for the rest of my life, as well as something I would model for my children.
    I had to make some changes – right away.

    Here is a 5 page document called the “Circle of Life” quiz (pdf file).
    It is best if printed so you can fill it in and keep it with you.

    Give it a try!
    It has helped me several times get order back into my life. As my instructor stated in that Telecommunications 101 class many years ago,
    “If you are able to keep your life in balance, you will inevitably be a much happier and healthier person”.

    He was right. I have experienced both sides, and I can tell you that a balanced life not only feels good, but it just plain works!

    ** Resources **
    What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
    Amazingly, Richard Bolles has been updating this book since 1975, when it was first written.  In spite of the dramatic changes in the job market today – driven largely by the emergence of the Internet and social media tools like Linked-In, his principals pierce time and are life changing if properly applied. Most importantly, he does something that many of these job seeking books miss.  Richard makes a strong case for taking a thorough inventory of who you are, before embarking on your job search.  In other words, what color is your parachute.

    What_Color_Parachute

    SLOW DOWN

    “The road is better than the inn.”
    Miguel de Cervantes

    Prologue (4.1)

    ROLM_logo

    ROLM Corporation was a dream company to start a career, and they were led by one of the truly great Silicon Valley pioneers, Ken Oshman, who established “Great Place To Work” (GPW) as a corporate goal at ROLM in the early 1970s. I stayed with ROLM (“The Fittest Company in Silicon Valley”) through two difficult acquisitions (IBM in 1984, and then Siemens AG in 1989), and was managing a global product team with Siemens ROLM when this story takes place. Our product teams were split between the U.S. and Germany, requiring me to fly over to Munich periodically to help coordinate activities between the two. On this particular day I was at San Francisco International Airport waiting to board my Lufthansa flight to Munich, while very intently hammering out urgent last minute emails to my team. I was literally racing to get as much email completed as possible before I had to board for the 11+ hour flight. The idea of WiFi and a power plug on board the plane was not even a consideration at that point in time.

    Suddenly, an older businessman with greying hair, nice suit and tie, probably in his 60’s, approached me appearing to want to interrupt me to chat. He was patiently waiting for me to pause long enough from my emails, as he seemed to have something important to say. I can’t remember his exact words. The essence of it was that I reminded him of himself 20 or so years ago, and he was stopping by to tell me to relax, SLOW DOWN, stop and smell the roses; it would still be there waiting when I landed. I do remember one comment, “you’ll learn when you’re my age, it really doesn’t matter.” For some reason, the way he said it really stuck. It made me pause and think about what I was doing.

    Mostly, I was just shocked that he was telling me this out of the blue when he had no idea who I was, who I worked for, or where I was going and why. However, I had an immediate sense that he was absolutely right! I remember thinking about him that entire flight.   Of course, I never saw him again. Maybe he was an angel sent to help me. I don’t rule that out, because suddenly, 25 years after that incident, I have become that man. I want to say the exact same thing to those I am working with, or see at airports or coffee shops. That is why I am writing this blog. I want to help others see this early in their career make the adjustments toward more balance. Sometimes all it takes is a brief pause and some reflection on the situation. I have learned over many years you are going to be better off if you can keep your life in balance.

    ** Resources **

    The Rhythm of Life: Living Everyday With Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly

    Matthew Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author who has written a book that truly has a calming effect to those who are living a chaotic lifestyle. His suggestions are simple, but make a great deal of sense. Things like “spend less time doing and more time being” and “focus on being the best version of yourself.”  This book made a lot of sense to me.

    Rythym-of-Life

     

     

    25 years of Riding the Wave in Silicon Valley

    “Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.”
    Coach John Wooden

    Prologue (Part 4 of 4)

    The intent of this final prologue is to briefly review my 25+ years in Silicon Valley to provide a glimpse into the viewpoints I carry into this blog. This starts with a quick summary of how I ended up here from my roots in Southern California.

    Somehow, I decided to leave the surfer’s paradise of Corona del Mar for what turned out to be a wonderful four years of college for me at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. I majored in Sports Management in the “Recreation & Leisure Studies” department, which was predicted to be the “boom” industry of the future, as the emergence of the computer in the late 1970’s would soon provide the baby boomer generation with an over abundance of free time. Ha! Well, not quite.

    My dream job coming out of college was to find a tennis club in Southern California where I could spend my workday lounging in tennis clothes, while socializing and hitting tennis balls with club members on my breaks. And as fate would have it, I landed that very job as General Manager of the Covina Hills Racquet Club in West Covina. However, it wasn’t quite as good as it had sounded, as my days were some of the longest I have ever worked (we were open 6am – 10pm), and I seemed to always be at the club when everyone else was off (weekends, holidays and evenings). Balance went right out the window, even if I was wearing tennis clothes all day!

    CHRC_OpenHouse

    Marketing for new members at the tennis club

    After 2-years at the Covina Hills Racquet Club, I switched careers and made my debut at an emerging Silicon Valley telecommunications firm by the name of ROLM. As the government mandated breakup of AT&T’s monopoly of telephone service in the U.S. was taking shape, companies like ROLM were hiring and investing heavily in technical training of their work force to get a jump on the new opportunity. This was perfect for me, as my skills did not go much beyond washing tennis courts and counting tennis balls in the Pro Shop; I did not know the slightest thing about computers! Best of all, I met the love of my life at ROLM, and we soon moved up to ROLM’s headquarters in Santa Clara following our marriage in Newport Beach. There we put our roots into the ground, raised our two children, and began to call Mountain View home.

    My first impressions of Silicon Valley in 1991 are best summarized with three questions, which seemed to slap me in the face when we first arrived:
    – How COLD is the water at the beach?
    – What does everyone do in their free time if they aren’t going to the beach?
    – Why is everyone at work so much!?

    IBM_Tennis

    From Tennis Clubs to Silicon Valley

    It took me 5 years to brave the cold water in Santa Cruz and realize that Silicon Valley had access to some of the best surfing on the California coast, less than an hour from our doorstep in Mountain View.  As soon as I surfed Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz at low tide on a winter pacific swell, I realized home base had officially moved up north. With the right conditions, Steamers Lane is a world-class wave, which can provide a longer and more exhilarating ride than any wave I’ve experienced in California. It was a dream of a discovery for me, and has been pivotal to keep me in balance while struggling to maintain my career in the fast lane of Silicon Valley high technology companies.

    Following are four short stories to help explain a few experiences that have shaped my beliefs over these past 25 years in Silicon Valley.

    4.1 — SLOW DOWN
    4.2 – The Circle of Life
    4.3 – Peace of mind
    4.4 – Hit over the head by a 2×4

    **Resources**
    “Starting Up Silicon Valley: How ROLM Became a Cultural Icon and Fortune 500 Company” by Katherine Maxfield

    For those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of the ROLM story, this book is a must have.  And for those just curious to understand how ROLM set the stage in Silicon Valley as a center of innovation years before Apple, Google, Facebook and others came along, it is a good lesson in computer history.  But most of all for me, the stories of the personalities who worked at ROLM are wonderfully captured.  It truly was an amazing company.

    ROLM_Book