Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Wonderful World of Books

Part of my new office library in Florida
"The [person] who will not read is no better than the [person] who cannot read."

 Mark Twain 


I have always LOVED books.

It is, therefore, with an unusual sense of gratification and pleasure that I pen today's post from my brand new desk in my new home office where I am nearly completely surrounded by the beautiful sight of my personal library.  

My family and I recently fulfilled a long-held dream of ours to relocate to South Florida. Moving is an exciting time in one's life; it can also be stressful. My experiences with moving have been unusually many and varied—even by our highly mobile twenty-first century standards.

To wit, I am only 41 years old, yet have moved 45 times to 42 different addresses in two countries, five different time zones, seven different states, and two provinces of Canada. 

It's been exciting... and exhausting! 

Suffice it to say, with a little luck, we won't be moving again anytime soon. And with a little more luck, the balance of our lives will not include many more moves.

It is upon reflection of these past experiences that I sit here at my computer in my new Palm Beach Gardens home office and take a literal and figurative sigh of relief to think that we are finally settled at least semi-permanently. And it is with a sense of joy and pleasure that I do so in my newly arranged personal library. After all, one of my favorite things to do every time we move is to rearrange my BELOVED BOOKS.  

Next to the sight of my beautiful wife and children and the picturesque aqua-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Florida, there are few sights on Earth as pleasurable and soul-satisfying as a vista of literary volumes—especially if said tomes represent my favorite genres of history, philosophy, theology, poetry, and leadership.

My love of books goes back to before I could even read.

As a six-year-old, I recall the day my neighbor—a gal named Emily Anderson—stopped by our house with her mother, Suzanne. Emily was a "Big First-Grader" and knew how to read; I was still in kindergarten and had not yet learned. Deeply attracted to her budding competency, I invited Emily into my personal office (playhouse under the stairs), handed her some paperwork I had retrieved from my Dad's office trash, and asked earnestly and hopefully if she would do me the honor of reading to me. She obliged; and I was both impressed and entranced by such skill.

How I yearned to follow in her footsteps!

With my Mama, as a First Grader
Soon thereafter, my family moved—one of my first moves in life—and I began first grade, which is where I learned how to read. I wasn't very good at first. My instruction at home had not included explicit details on phonics and my kindergarten experience had focused on pre-reading activities. In addition, I was an August birthday and on the oldest end of my class. As such, I was seven years old before I formally learned how to read. But I was motivated, so it didn't take long for me to get rolling. Part of my drive can be credited with the fact that I initially tested into the "middle" or average of three reading groups in my class. My best friend—Eric Driggs—tested into the top or above average group and I wasn't about to be left behind. It wasn't long before I advanced into Eric's group. 

Despite my slow start to formal reading, I was blessed to have been born into a family that loved books as much as I did. My maternal grandfather (1899-1964)—a professor of speech and drama and one of the top-flight oral readers in the United States in his time—built a personal library of thousands of books over the course of his life and career. And while he died 14 years before I was born, his books stayed behind in my grandmother's home where I was able to discover, relish, devour, borrow, and eventually annex some of them into my own library. In addition to Grandmother Smith's sizable personal library, my father—a career English teacher—also owned an impressive number of books for a middle-class man of the 1980s. Consequently, my childhood home—and in time, my own bedroom—was filled with books.

Copying trigonometry equations
from my older brothers' math
textbook as a first grader in
sunny Mesa, Arizona
Many of my choicest childhood hours were spent in blissful solitude surrounded by wonderful stacks of books in my grandmother's home, my own home, or any other library (public or private) I could find. And the beauty of it all was that no one ever pressured me to like or read books; I freely discovered the passion all on my own by the simple fact and virtue that piles of books were made readily available to me by my parents and grandparents. It is, in part, for this very reason that I have now accumulated a one-thousand book personal library of my own—because I want to provide the same opportunity to my own children.

Perhaps avid readers of the Freedom Focused blog have asked themselves: How does Jordan keep coming up with different topics to write about week-after-week-after-week? Well, now you have an answer. When you have traveled as much and read as widely as I have, the well is deep and the memories are thick and rich!

And the cool part is that there is nothing inherently special about me; but everything is special about BOOKS! As such, there is nothing stopping you from diving in more deeply and widely yourself... beginning TODAY! Perhaps reading this article will inspire you to do a little more reading in your own personal and professional life.

I highly recommend it!  

Of the one thousand books I currently own, there is one that is dedicated in particular to this subject. I found it as a young boy scanning the shelves of my Grandmother Smith's home library in Centerville, Utah.

The book is called The Wonderful World of Books, edited by Alfred Stefferud. On its front cover, it reads: This book can change your life and the lives of those around you. With its help you can win greater success and happiness, benefit from the treasuries of the world's wisdom and knowledge, explore fascinating realms of adventure and entertainment and make valued new friends... all through the magic of reading

This book of short essays incorporates the wisdom of nearly seventy (70) different authors who expound upon why books can be among our greatest friends, provide us with enormous personal and professional pleasure, help us become better people and citizens, and learn to read more effectively. It is a wonderful reminder of the diamond mine of information contained in the world's greatest books. I do hope that introducing this unique book's title and contents might spur your own thinking about how you might further tap into the riches available to you through the written word. 

Too many people, upon completing their formal education, stop reading seriously. And in the age of the Internet, too many people spend most of their reading time online consuming virtual print that has little authentic educational value and does not edify the mind or uplift the heart or soul.

This is sad.

          It is also preventable.

Hyrum W. Smith
Co-Founder of FranklinCovey
Originator of the Franklin Day Planner
1943-2019


My late uncle, Hyrum W. Smith, co-founded FranklinCovey with Dr. Stephen R. Covey. A few years ago, I interviewed my Uncle Hyrum for an entrepreneurship textbook project I was working on. The final question I asked in the interview was: "What advice would you give to young college students interested in becoming entrepreneurs?" Assuming his answer would have something to do with motivation, hard work, persistence, or handling rejection, his answer surprised me.

He said:

When I was just a boy, my father had me memorize a statement that said, "You cannot think any deeper than your vocabulary will allow you to think." If you really examine anyone who has been authentically successful as an entrepreneur—or in any other field—you will discover they have a large vocabulary. As I reflect back over my career, I attribute much of my success to a love of the English language and my commitment to read deeply and widely, and to study speech and language. Anyone who wants to be successful in this world has got to read books, and lots of them. This requires a willingness to set aside electronic devices, social media, video games, and other distractions, and the discipline to stick to the task of reading—even when it seems boring. In order to learn independently of others and expand your vocabulary, you must pay the price to spend time with good books, including the dictionary. There is no other way. The size of your vocabulary will, to a large extent, determine how much success you enjoy—or don't enjoy—in your life

        Hyrum W. Smith


Suffice it to say, I have learned the spot-on truth of my uncle's words throughout my own life and career, and they ring ever truer as the years go by. 

My college "Vocabulary Journal"
When I was in college, one of the most important work tasks I ever undertook (by far) was to diligently keep a vocabulary journal. 

When I would come across a word I didn't know in a textbook or elsewhere, I would write it down in my vocabulary journal. I would then look up the word in the dictionary and copy down the definition and other relevant information about the word. Sometimes I would also include a "practice sentence" using the word in my own way.  

This particular task was NOT an official assignment. It was simply something I knew in my own mind and heart would be a very smart thing to do. And you won't be surprised to hear that this activity has been far more valuable to me in my life and career than 99.9% of the official assignments my professors required me to complete.

Side work that a student proactively pursues on his or her own often ends up being of far greater value than anything a professor formally assigns one to do. Thus it is that the "quality" of a person's formal education is usually determined more by one's own passionate pursuit of learning than the quality or reputation of one's professors—or the supposed prestige of a particular school.

To illustrate this point, consider the following example...

Both of my degrees (a bachelor's in English and a Doctorate in Education) are from obscure, non-prestigious schools. Nevertheless, I'd wager that the quality of my own personal education can beat most (if not all) Ivy Leaguers (or culturally equivalent) in my field. Why? Because the quality of my education was not determined by the schools I attended or the professors I had; it was determined by a conscious choice backed up by concrete, consistent, determined, focused, and persistent (extra) effort on my part.

That's the MAGIC and POWER of SELF-ACTION LEADERSHIP!  

I'm not here to tell you what books to read. That's up to YOU to decide. However, just for starters, it couldn't hurt to provide a few of my favorites—just as examples of some of the books that have impacted my life the most, and that could likely bless your life as well, if you are willing to discipline yourself to begin seriously reading one (or more) of them.   

Happy Reading!  


Thirteen (13) Books that Have Influenced Dr. Jordan Jensen's Life the Most

1. The Road Less Traveled.........................by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

2. Further Along the Road Less Traveled.........................by: M. Scott Peck, M.D.

3. The Road Less Traveled and Beyond..........................by: M. Scott Peck, M.D.

4. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.........................by: Dale Carnegie

5. How to Win Friends and Influence People.........................by: Dale Carnegie

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.........................by: Stephen R. Covey

7. The Lessons of History.........................by:Will & Ariel Durant

8. The Greatest Secret in the World.........................by: Og Mandino

9. Hamlet.........................by: William Shakespeare

10. 101 Famous Poems with a Prose Supplement.........................Edited by: Roy J. Cook 

11. Man's Search for Meaning.........................by: Viktor Frankl

12.  Self-Leadership: The Definitive Guide to Personal Excellence.........................by: Christopher P. Neck, Charles C. Manz, and Jeffery D. Houghton

13. The Holy Bible

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Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn about the Power of Synergy.

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Elusive, yet Euphoric, Rewards of Endurance

I am a runner and triathlete.

To date, I have completed an Ironman 70.3 triathlon, 13 marathons, and countless other distance and middle distance races on roads, trails, and tracks.

Why do I run, bike, and swim? On their face, all three activities can appear dull, monotonous, and challenging? And there are many people who would agree with all three of those sentiments. And despite my love and appreciation of all three activities, I understand the source of the naysayers' groans. After all, running, biking, and swimming can all be both monotonous and challenging activities—especially when your aim is to cover a long distance.

Yet, despite any and all difficulties involved, I continue to get back into my shoes, onto my bike, and in the pool, lake, or ocean time-after-time-after-time. 

Why? 

The answer to this question lies in the countless experiences I have had that demonstrate the importance of endurance and the joy that comes from effortfully enduring something that is difficult. In other words, the Runner, Biker, or Swimmer's "High" is a real phenomenon.

And while such euphoria can be elusive, the elation is real.

Himalayan Mountain Range
But it goes well beyond the natural "High" that comes from hurtling along a track or treadmill, spinning along a highway or byway, or coursing through a pool or lake at personally satisfying speeds. It also has to do with the immense natural rewards inherent in overcoming myself as I exercise endurance.

In the words of the famous New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary—the first person to ever set foot atop the world's highest mountaintop, Mount Everest—It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.  


"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

 Sir Edmund Hillary 


A Natural Reward is something positive a self-action leader obtains as a by-product of engaging in a certain activity. Self-action leaders wisely arrange and plan their work and lives in ways that maximize their leverage over naturally rewarding activities.

Over time, a self-action leader comes to discover that one of the greatest natural rewards of all is the quiet, inner feeling of accomplishment that can only come in ONE way—by enduring to the end of a given task, goal, or mission. And the more difficult the process, the more rewarding its completion. 

Pikes Peak as viewed from the desert-plains at its base
A few years ago, I signed up for a half-marathon race to the top of Pikes Peak in Central Colorado. I had run several half marathons before entering the Pikes Peak Ascent. But scaling a mountain towering 14,115 feet above sea level was no ordinary half-marathon. 

The race begins at an elevation of just 6,315 feet—just west of the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Over the course of the 13.3 mile course, runners gain an elevation of 7,800 feet. The first eight or nine miles are challenging, but doable—even at a running or jogging pace. The last four of five miles—and particularly the last mile—are another story! Between the steep grades and rarer air at the top of the mountain, it took me a lengthy 30 minutes to complete the final mile, meaning that my pace amounted to that of a slow walk! In all, it took me four hours and eight minutes to run those 13.3 miles—more than twice as long as my average half-marathon time on a paved course. 

But that was the price required to summit that mighty mountain; and if I wanted the full scale of satisfaction (natural rewards) of making it to the top, I had no other choice but to faithfully endure.

As you can imagine, it was worth it.

The view from the top was stunning, and the sense of accomplishment was significant. After arriving at the summit, I learned that the view from the top of Pikes Peak was the same vista that inspired the American poet, Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929), to write the words to the famous song: America the Beautiful.


"O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountains majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!"


In Bates' own words:

"One day ... I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. ... I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there...."


Interesting, don't you think, that the inspiration of Bates' pen did not arrive until after she had made it to the top of the mountain?

Life is often just like that. It holds out its greatest joys, rewards, satisfactions, and inspirations until the end of a given journey—or at very least until well into it. As such, you cheat yourself out of great riches and plenty if you give up short of a worthy goal. Sadder still, you will never really know what you are missing if you decide to settle for less along the pathways of your life's journeys.  

What is something worthwhile in your life that you are tempted to give up on, but know deep down in your heart and soul that you would be selling yourself short if you prematurely terminated your journey? 

What might you do beginning TODAY to refocus your vision, energy, and efforts on enduring to the end? Additionally, what kinds of positive cues might you employ to continually remind yourself of the natural rewards that await you at the Mountain Top?

Click HERE to learn more about "Positive Cues."  
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Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn about the Wonderful World of Books.

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Jordan Jensen

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbooks 


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Law of the Harvest

The Law of the Harvest, sometimes referred to as the Law of the Farm (Covey), is the subject of this week's article. A clear and certain understanding of this vital natural and universal law ranks among the most primal and important of all SAL lessons. 

Three weeks before my 19th birthday, I got a job working for a dry wheat farmer in my hometown in Southeastern Utah. The term "dry" wheat is used to describe the wheat that farmers grow without the benefit of man-made watering (sprinkler or irrigation) systems. Dry wheat yields fewer bushels per acre than watered wheat, but remains a viable crop in arid areas of the country and world, including Southeastern Utah and Southwestern Colorado.  

Shortly after graduating from high school, I worked on Spencer Frost's wheat farm for seven consecutive weeks in August and September 1998; my role was to assist him in bringing in the fall harvest. 

My primary job was to drive the wheat truck. After Farmer Frost had filled up his harvesting combine with wheat, he would empty its contents into the dump truck. I would then drive the truck to the storage grain silos and pour the wheat into a grain auger which would then transport the harvested wheat up into a storage silo where it would remain until it was ready to be transported for sale later on. 

Another of my jobs was to drive a tractor for the purpose of "weeding" (plowing) the fallow fields. "Fallow" refers to those fields left unplanted every other year to restore their nutrients. Lastly, I was called upon to walk through certain fields searching for stray rye stalks that had sprung up in the midst of the wheat. In this setting, the rye stalks were akin to the biblical "tares" that must be separated from the "wheat" in order to preserve the purity of the harvest.

I cherish the opportunity I had to work on Farmer Frost's wheat farm. In all of my life, I have experienced few things as enjoyable, satisfying, and peaceful as several of the various tasks I undertook amidst those expansive fields of rich soil and golden grain. I further cherish the many beautiful moments of stillness and solitude I enjoyed whilst in Farmer Frost's employ.

Working on that farm served to reinforce in my mind, heart, and spirit the Laws of the Harvest, or the Laws of the Farm, that I had been taught since my youth—and that I have continued to study, ponder, and internalize into my adult years. 

The Good Book famously teaches that "whatsoever a [person] soweth, that shall he [or she] also reap."* That is the simplest articulation of the Law of the Harvest or Farm. But there is more to it than just that. This is just the beginning—and a mere encapsulation—of a deep and holistic principle. To better comprehend the full extent of the Law, there are at least three more essential components that must be taken into account. In addition to reaping what you sow, you also reap more than you sow, reap in a different season than you sow, and are saddled with a variety of short-term challenges that spring up as painful exceptions to the rule all along the way. Taken together, you must recognize and face-up to these additional components in order to better understand the full nature of the Law of the Harvest (or Farm). 

Let's consider these elemental issues, one-by-one, beginning with their summary statement 

You reap what you sow

This overriding summation of the Law of the Harvest/Farm is, in the aggregate, quite accurate over time. If you consistently sow goodness, positivity, productivity, and service, you will eventually reap a cornucopia of freedom, friendship, goodwill, happiness, and prosperity. If you consistently sow selfishness, error, and/or evil, you will eventually reap a whirlwind of bondage, negativity, loss, derision, and despair. Without consulting the "footnotes" it really is that simple in the long-run. However, as any studious, wise, and long-term thinking scholar-practitioner knows, some real gems of thought and action can be found in the footnotes.

So, what are the footnote PRINCIPLES of the Law of the Harvest/Farm?

Compound Interest

Principle 1:  You reap more than you sow.

While a farmer (or you and me) technically reaps precisely what he or she sows in the short run, the principle of compound interest is always at play in the long-run. Your sowing and reaping may be equal on year one, but once you begin investing your resources, your reaping quotient begins to grow over time, and not just incrementally, but exponentially. That is the power of compound interest, and it applies to matters financial as well as social, emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, etc. Thus, as long as you respect and make use of the law of compound interest by virtue of your own diligence, consistency, and focus over time, you will begin to reap more than you sow on year two, three, four, etc.... forever into the future.   

Principle 2:  You reap in a different season than you sow.

If there were a "most important" footnote to the Law of the Harvest/Farm, it would probably be this one. 

Why?

Because this is the footnote that teaches us the importance—nay, the indispensability—of both FAITH and PATIENCE. For without faith and patience, you would never take the seeming risk involved in sowing in the first place. 

We live in a world where many people embrace a culture of immediate gratification and quick-fix approaches to achievement and problem solving. Sadly, this culture deeply erodes both faith and patience within individuals who embrace it. While you may still be able to survive and "get-by" with minimal faith or patience in your life or career, there is only ONE way to thrive—and that is to consistently exercise both faith and patience over long periods of time. 

For starters, you must exercise the faith to sow in the first place. When a farmer first plants a seed, nothing appears for a while; and it is quite a while afterward before a seedling matures into harvestable flora. You must be willing to exercise the faith required to act in full recognition that you may not see the seedling—much less the full fruit—of your labors for quite some time.  

Additionally, you must exercise patience. It takes time for a crop to sprout, grow, develop, and mature. A finished and polished plant cannot be harvested prematurely—no matter how badly the farmer wishes to do so. No amount of hard work, effort, positive thinking, praying, or even luck can alter the natural laws that govern the harvest.

That is just the way things are!       

The principles of FAITH and PATIENCE can be even more important for non-farmers than for farmers. Why is this? Because results are often more predictable on the farm than they are off the farm. On the farm, things are pretty predictable as long as the farmer is in good health, his or her tools work properly, and the weather cooperates. Barring an unexpected disaster or other unforeseen variables of consequence, a farmer is usually assured to reap one season after he or she sows. 

As challenging as life can be on the farm, it can sometimes be even more difficult off the farm. In some cases, it may take many seasons, or even years, decades, or centuries before a person (or group) reaps the rewards of his, her, (their), or someone else's collective sowing.

For example, consider how many years abolitionists had to sow long and hard before they were able to reap the rewards of the end of legalized slavery in Western Countries? And what about all those men and women of great talent and effort whose work was not recognized or rewarded until long after they had died? This phenomenon seems to especially affect artists and writers, and includes the following list of esteemed men and women from the past: Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, Vincent Van Gogh, Galileo, Vivian Maier, and John Keats—to name just a few.

An especially prominent member of this group—the gifted Dutch painter, Van Gogh—produced more than two thousand paintings before his death by suicide at age 37. Plagued by poverty, depression, and other mental illness throughout his life, Van Gogh was never commercially successful or widely recognized in his lifetime. But the artwork he sowed eventually reaped worldwide acclaim and financial success in the range of $US billions with a 'B.'  

Whether on a real FARM or in our lives or
careers, we all have to deal with hailstorms.
Principle 3.  In the short-run, there are always exceptions to the rule. 

In a single season, or even in a series of several years, devastating setbacks, disappointments, and even tragedies can occur. Whether it is a hailstorm on a wheat field or an unfortunate/unfair situation or circumstance in one's personal life or career, things are rarely FAIR in the short-run.

Whenever your temporary circumstances are less-than-ideal, you must reengage your faith and patience in a way that enables you to effectively "Discipline your Disappointment" (Jim Rohn). In other words, you must not let your disappointment in the moment influence a deviation from the appointed pathway provided by your hope in the ultimate harvest. Disciplining your disappointment is not an easy or pleasant experience. I know because I've had to do my share throughout my life and career. It requires enormous will, focus, and emotional intelligence. And no matter who you are or how talented you may be, there will be MANY occasions throughout your life and career that will be saliently, poignantly, and painfully marked by deep disappointment, frustration, and/or discouragement. But dedicating yourself to "Disciplining your Disappointment" is the only viable alternative if you seek to remain safely on the tracks that lead to your ultimate potential harvest.

Everything that you think about, say, and do carries a concomitant consequence. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton: To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Some consequences come immediately; others come later on down the road a ways. Some consequences are triggered by unfair events that strike you down in the present; others are like handsome payments of compound interest that raise you up years into the future.

Some reap poorly and sow greatly in the short-run. Others sow greatly and reap poorly in the short-run. But in the long-run, everyone reaps more-or-less precisely as they sow. In the end, no one can cheat the Laws of Nature, including the Law of the Harvest/Farm, because Universal Laws are no respecter of persons. They operate independently of any and all human will or desires. We can learn about, acknowledge, and choose to align our thoughts, speech, and behavior with their irrevocable and omnipotent edicts, or we can choose to ignore, disregard, and flout them. But in the end, the results will be what they will be, and they will be more-or-less mathematical in their just precision—based largely on your own choices.  

The ultimate question in each of our lives is not: "will my life reflect the natural laws of the harvest?" The answer to that question is always (and for everyone) "YES!" The ultimate questions are: "what pathway will you choose?" and "are you willing to do whatever it takes and pay whatever price the Laws demand in order to stay on the pathway that leads to your own desired and hoped-for ultimate destination?" and "Are you willing to "Discipline your Disappointment" all along the way?"  

The CHOICE is YOURS.

          Choose Courageously, Purposefully, and Wisely! 

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Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn about The Importance of Endurance.

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Jordan Jensen

Click HERE to buy a copy of the SAL Textbooks

 References

* Galatians 6:7 (New Testament)

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

SAL Definition of Success

What is your personal and/or professional
definition of SUCCESS?
What does it mean to be successful?

In other words, what do YOU believe that you have to do, be, or accomplish in order to qualify as a personal or professional success?

This is a good and important question to ask oneself, and there are no limits to the variety of answers that human beings can and do provide to this question.

Unfortunately, many people make it almost impossible for themselves to feel successful because of the unrealistically high expectations that are placed upon themselves by others, or that they choose to place upon themselves.

For example, think of someone you know who will never consider him or herself a success until he or she has acquired a certain amount (usually an unnecessarily large amount) of financial resources or material possessions. Or think about those who will never view themselves as being successful until they have attained a certain job, career title, hierarchical position, or relationship? And what about those who are continually living in the shadows of other people, and who refuse to allow themselves to feel successful until they have accomplished some unrealistic standard that someone else (in whose shadow they choose to live) has previously accomplished.

One of the most important SAL lessons I have ever learned—and that I could ever teach—is that all the definitions of success elucidated above (and any related suppositions of success) are ultimately bogus and unwise metrics for actual and authentic SAL success. If this is the case, then what is the SAL definition of success? 

Good Question!

          And Freedom Focused has a good answer. 

At the proverbial "End of the Day" there is really only one authentic, legitimate, and fair definition of success for everyone under the sun, and it is this...

Your best is really the best you can ever do
SAL  DEFINITION  OF  SUCCESS: I am successful when I can look back at any given effort, performance, project, relationship, or time period in my life and honestly say to myself: "I did the imperfect BEST of which I was capable at the time."

Logically speaking, is it possible to do better than your best at any given moment in time? The answer, of course, is NO! As such, as long as you honestly and authentically put forth your very best effort at something, you can legitimately consider yourself as being consummately successful—at least in that particular moment in time.

Our challenge and opportunity in life is not to "do better than our best." Our challenge and opportunity in life is to actually do our best. If we are consistently successful in this single endeavor, we will find that results will take care of themselves in the long run.  

Imagine how much more successful people would view themselves if they exchanged their bogus, unwise, and unrealistic definitions of success for the much more pragmatic and achievable SAL definition of success. Moreover, imagine how much harder people would TRY if they truly adopted the SAL definition of success as their own definition of success. It is one of those powerful paradigm shifts that, when fully embraced by large numbers of people, could literally change the world.  

For better or for worse—and sometimes it is for the better; but often it is for the worse—human beings can be very competitive with each other. Such competitiveness makes comparisons with others an inevitability. Let's face it... we all like to "win" and virtually all of us spend too much time fixating on how we "stack up" against others. I know this is true in part because I myself am probably the most competitive person I've ever known, and I have certainly done my share of comparing myself with others.

Old Ben Franklin can help us reassess
what it means to be successful
Comparisons with other people have their place, but only if they serve to positively and productively bolster your own self-improvement and growth... and only if they are kept in their proper perspective. Outside of these strict parameters, comparing yourself with others serves little positive or productive purpose beyond hindering your own happiness, curtailing your own contentment, and gypping your own joy.

In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: "Who is rich? He that rejoiceth in his portion." And in the pithy parlance of Theodore Roosevelt: "Comparison in the Thief of Joy."


"Who is rich? He that rejoiceth in his portion."

 Benjamin Franklin 


"Comparison is the Thief of Joy."

 Theodore Roosevelt


I first learned the importance of changing my own definition of success as a junior in high school. The fall semester of my junior year (1996), I claimed an individual State Championship and co-captained my team to a team State Championship in my school's classification. I had worked long and hard to accomplish this goal, and reaching this prep-pinnacle of my sport was enormously satisfying and rewarding.

But a funny thing happened after I won that gold medal and trophy. I started to get greedy. Consequently, avarice began influencing my definition of success. Thus, during track season the following spring it was no longer enough to merely "win" a State race. Instead, I had to win all four of my events in order to qualify as a true "success."

Standing in between the two runners who
beat me in the 3200 meters at State.
I worked just as hard to attain my increasingly ambitious goals; but unfortunately, I did not achieve them during track season. Instead of four GOLD medals at the State meet in 1997, I won two silvers, a bronze, and a 4th place medal.

Despite these legitimate accomplishments, I was predictably disappointed.  

The outcome of my distance medley relay race was especially deflating because one of my teammates dropped the baton after the first lap of the race, costing us several seconds of precious time and many meters of lost ground. Despite being favored to win the race, we were now playing catch-up in a big way. What should have been a glorious victory from start-to-finish turned into a disaster-in-the-making. 

Dismayed, but undaunted, I, the anchor (last) leg of our relay team, ran my heart out for the final 800 meters of the 1600 meter distance relay race (consisting of a 200m, 200m, 400m, and 800m segments). Absolutely determined to make up the ground we had lost, I grabbed the baton from our 400 meter runner and began to furiously pursue all of the runners in front of me. One-by-one, I reeled them in and passed them by. Six hundred yards into the race, I finally caught up with the lead runner and passed him also. Despite starting out thirty or forty yards behind first place, and also trailing three or four other runners, I had managed to catch everyone ahead of me in less than 90 seconds. Sadly, I had perhaps pushed myself too hard for those first 600 meters, and on the final straightaway, began to hear a runner gaining ground on me from behind. Surging once more with every last bit of energy, strength and will I had remaining, I lunged across the finish line in utter desperation. But it was not enough. The runner who had a 30-40 meter head start on me on his 800 meter leg had managed to catch me and just barely cross the finish line in first place, a mere few hundredths of a second before I did. 

Despite running the fastest 800 meter anchor leg of the entire field of competitors, second place still felt like a failure to me. I even recall throwing my team's baton in frustration—an immature and uncharacteristic response to the race result.

The race's outcome seemed so unfair.    

But here's the thing... I ran that 800 meters faster than I had ever run the 800 meters in my entire life to date. In fact, over the course of the rest of my high school running career, which included my entire senior season in 1998, I ran faster in the 800 meters only once, and that was by a mere half-second nearly a year later. 

I also broke personal records in both the 1600 and 3200 meter races at the 1997 State Meet. As such, I should have been very pleased by my performances, regardless of the color of the medals I received. The bottom line was that regardless where I had stacked up against others, I had personally been very successful as judged by the stopwatch, not to mention the extent of my own personal effort, which had been COMPLETE, and especially so in the distance medley relay.  

Later on as a college runner, and unlike my high school career, I won very few races. In fact, the only race I ever won in college was in the 'B' heat of an indoor mile race. For those unfamiliar with track and field, the 'B' heat is where they put the slower runners competing in a track meet. The fastest guys compete in the 'A' heat.

Despite my lack of "winning" in college, I made significant improvements in my personal times in most events in which I competed. In fact, some of my best times in college would have broken State Records in the classification in which I competed in high school. According to the stopwatch and my own effort quotient, I was, in fact, a very successful collegiate athlete—despite almost never "winning." In other words, despite losing almost every race I ever ran in college, I was a very successful runner according to the SAL Definition of Success.     

These experiences as a collegiate athlete helped me to change my own definition of success to mirror the SAL definition of success. And I have been better off, and unquestionably happier and more content, ever since as a result.

I openly confess I still have a weakness for comparing myself to others. Moreover, I remain very competitive in my desire to not only be my own best self, but, if and when possible, to come out on top of my fellow competitors as well. Nevertheless, I am pleased to report that I can also honestly say that despite any and all of the things I have not yet accomplished in my life or career, I view myself as being a very successful person and professional RIGHT NOW. 

Why?

          Simple...

Because I consistently do my imperfect BEST at whatever I undertake.

Now... someone who knows me very well (like my wife) will tell you that my imperfect best can, at times, be pretty lousy! And they are probably spot on in their assessment (SMILE). Such times provide me with a "reality check" in regards to how far I still have to go in my own personal and professional growth and development. Such moments of reflection help me continually improve. Thus, when I do make a mistake, fall short, or fall prey to inertia (laziness)—which, SAL guy notwithstanding, still happens on a regular basis—I make a sincere effort to change and improve moving forward.

And I never give up trying to get better. I always keep trying, however imperfectly. As a result, I remain, and will continue to remain, a success—regardless how relatively imperfectly my actual performance or results may be on a day-to-day basis. In short, I strive always to follow the counsel of Winston Churchill, who has said:

"Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about. ... Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. ... Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

 Sir Winston Spencer Churchill  

Freedom Focused declares that while life often seems to be a competition or series of unending comparisons with our fellowmen and women, that is not what it is designed or meant to be. Rather, it was designed and meant to be an opportunity for us to learn from others as we strive to continually put forth our own best effort in whatever we undertake—in an unending attempt to grow, improve, and progress both personally and professionally. And as long as we are sincerely and honestly giving our best all along the way, we can, at any given moment in time in our lives enjoy the authentically satisfying, rewarding, and contented pleasure that come from being a SAL Success.  

In what ways do you counterproductively compare yourself to others? Has your own definition of success reached unrealistic heights in your personal life, educational journey, or professional career? What is one simple thing you could begin thinking, saying, or doing beginning TODAY to let go of pseudo-definitions of success and begin embracing the SAL Definition of Success?    

SAL DEFINITION OF SUCCESS: I am successful when I can look back at any given effort, performance, project, relationship, or time period in my life and honestly say to myself: "I did the imperfect BEST of which I was capable at the time."

.........................

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn about The Law of the Harvest.

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Jordan Jensen

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbooks


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Education, not Politics, will Save America

Present-day partisans, pundits, and citizens
 alike too often value politics above education.
For better or for worse—and it seems increasingly for the worse—politics is as popular as it has ever been in America.

How do we know this?

Because voter turnout for the 2020 Presidential Election (over 60% of eligible voters cast a vote) was higher than it has been in over 100 years. That is an amazingly high percentage when compared to other elections throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 1908 election between William Howard Taft and William Jennings Bryant to find a comparatively high percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in a U.S. Presidential Election.

While the COVID-19 Pandemic undoubtedly played a prominent role in these soaring voter turnout numbers, it was not the only variable at play. The rise of social media and its concomitant culture of puerile political polarization and unremitting divisiveness also factored into this increase. 

One of the most assumptive misnomers among both professional partisans and pundits, as well as social media laity and the citizenry-at-large, is that the answer to our deepest and most pressing problems in the United States and beyond lies in politics. In the eyes of many, everything would be hunky-dory if only we could keep a particular person or party in power in perpetuity. 

Despite any and all partisan persuasions or insinuations, this simply is not true.  

As important as politics is, anyone with any common sense about reality recognizes that there remain other, more basic, fundamental, and even primal elements of life and society that transcend the importance of politics. 

What are these elements? 

Answer: One's FAMILY ENVIRONMENT in conjunction with the formal and informal EDUCATION one receives and seeks out.  

Signers of the American
Declaration of Independence
One of the main reasons family environment and education is even more important than politics is because politics itself is ultimately an outgrowth of the familial environments, education, and experiences of individual citizens and politicians. This phenomenon explains why America's august Founding Fathers and Mothers valued freedom, equality, and opportunity so much. And why did they value these principles and virtues so much? Because they were taught in their homes and schools that said virtues and principles were practically essential and politically indispensable. As a result, they grew up into men and women of great character and capacity who were willing to pledge their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honors" on the altar of promoting and perpetuating those same values.

The secret to solving America's deepest problems at home and abroad is not to ensure that a certain political party attains and maintains power. The secret lies in transforming American home life and education in ways that refocuses American Students' attention on the enduring, uniting, non-partisan virtues and values enshrined in her founding documents (i.e. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution).

And what exactly are those values? 

The secret to our success both individually and collectively
was set in stone over two centuries ago in Philadelphia, PA.
Answer

Life, Liberty, Equality, Self-Reliance, The Pursuit of Happiness, The Rule of Law, Equal Justice Under the Law, and Divided Government that Limits and Shares power.

Unlike politicians, who often complicate things and manipulate people for petty partisan purposes, Freedom Focused likes to keep things basic, simple, honest, straightforward, and consistent.

We accomplish this aim by remaining laser focused on these fundamental, timeless, and true principles equally applicable to both self-government AND self-governance. As such, everything we model, teach, or promote is aimed at safeguarding and perpetuating Life, Liberty, Equality, Self-RelianceThe Pursuit of Happiness, The Rule of Law, Equal Justice Under the Law, and Divided Government that Limits and Shares power.

At Freedom Focused, we eschew the political fractures and cultural division so common in our contemporary world. And we do so in an effort to create greater unity built upon certain fixed, timeless, and true principles and practices that have proven themselves endlessly efficacious by the unimpeachable test tubes of time. 

We therefore hold that the greatest way to form a more perfect union (e pluribus unum) is to focus more on education than we do on politics. Not because politics doesn't matter; it does! But because we recognize the great truth that politics will largely take care of itself as long as education is focused on those preeminent issues emblazoned in our nation's vital founding documents.

Part of a quality education is to learn about and participate in the political process. All responsible citizens should take at least enough interest in politics to become informed voters. I have personally always been interested in politics. In fact, for much of my life, I thought I might eventually run for office myself, up-to-and-including the office of President of the United States. Over time, I learned I was poorly suited for a political career. More importantly, I discovered that in the long run I could influence more people and make a greater positive impact on the world as an EDUCATOR than I ever could as a POLITICIAN.

That is why I chose to become an educator.

In a forthcoming blog article, I will spotlight and summarize an upcoming academic paper (pending publication in the Journal of Leadership & Management) that offers a common-sense, non-partisan, and balanced educational framework for the twenty-first century in which persons of all political parties and ideological backgrounds can potentially find common ground. 

To some, it may seem like na├»ve, "pie-in-the-sky" optimism to believe that anything under the sun could possibly bridge the current cultural chasms and partisan political polarization that so divides the not-so-United States of America.

For better or for worse, I am a simple person who is just provincial and optimistic enough to believe that such a solution not only exists, but, when widely applied, will eventually accomplish such an "Impossible Dream" — in much the same way that those miraculous COVID-19 vaccines are currently ridding the world of our cruel contemporary plague.

What are YOU waiting for?
If you agree with and like this article, share it!
Imagine an American social media environment where people were more passionate about posting principled pedagogical placards than they were about perpetually proliferating partisan political paraphernalia!

Please pardon the publicly punishing, yet personally pleasing perpetuation of purple prose purposely placed in the previous and present pontifications. Sometimes I just can't resist the urge to ostentatiously opine and otherwise operate alliteratively.  

It's kinda hard to imagine such a stark and welcomed cultural reversal, isn't it? Yet the simple truth is that YOU can take a step in the right direction and make a positive difference right this minute by simply sharing this article on your own social media platforms. 

For better or for worse, all of us at Freedom Focused are on board this SHIP of FREEDOM bound for A More Perfect Union... or bust! We invite YOU to join us by signing up for our blog and telling your friends, family, and colleagues about our movement by encouraging them to do the same.  

Steve Jobs and Apple Computers Changed the World.
Educators at Freedom Focused Have a Similar Aim
Maybe we will fail. Or maybe we will succeed. Time will tell. But succeed or fail, my colleagues and I choose to live and die fully engaged in making the attempt. Maybe we're crazy to even try. But make no mistake: try we will! After all, "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are [usually] the ones who do." So said one of those relatively few fellows who, along with his countless committed colleagues, actually did change the world in an epically transformative and positive way.  

"The People who are crazy enough to think they can 

change the world are [usually] the ones who do."

Steve Jobs

Co-Founder of Apple Computers    

.........................  

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn the SAL Definition of Success.

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Jordan R. Jensen

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbooks

Taking Pride in Doing the Right Thing

In the short run, a team, organization, or other entity can lie, cheat, and manipulate its way to a competitive advantage.  But in the LONG...