Taking the Mulligan in 2019

hnyHappy New Year!

If you’re reading this, thank you for coming back! I know it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me and I’m sorry about that. But it’s a new year and we are moving forward.

A new year always seems to bring with it a flurry of activity related to making the most of the blank slate that is stretching out before us in all it’s 347 gloriously as yet unlived days (since it’s already the middle of January, I adjusted the number). Setting goals, having a focus, hitting a reset. Or even the dreaded “New Year’s Resolution”. I say dreaded, because that idea of a resolution just feels like too much pressure and I can’t even remember a single one I’ve kept or followed through on in my entire life. Ever. I gave up on them years ago.

It occurs to me that all of these are different ways we describe what is possibly the greatest invention of childhood, the do-over! You remember how this works, right? You attempt something…it doesn’t quite work out the way you planned, hoped, or boasted so you immediately yell, “DO OVER” and try it again. If you must have a more mature metaphor – in golf, they call it a Mulligan. While in golf, and sometimes in childhood, there’s usually a limit to the number of “do-over’s” one can claim in the quest for the goal before you must concede defeat/failure – the great thing about being a grown up is that you learn that there actually isn’t a limit to the number of do-overs you’re allowed as you pursue your goals and dreams.

Isn’t that amazing?!

So as we stare down the barrel of a new year, it’s time to rethink your goals. Do you have any? What about left over goals from last year? Weren’t there things you wanted to accomplish in 2018 that you’re still looking to complete? I thought so. I have them too.

Here’s what I want you to do. Yes, this post is interactive…and it’s your actions that define you not your words, so, right now, what I want you to do is:

  • Get a clear picture in your mind of a goal or a dream you’ve been working toward but haven’t yet fully realized. You may have several, but only focus in on one. The first one that came to mind. Maybe it’s a business goal or a wellness goal or a relational or spiritual goal or maybe its a physical goal or challenge. Get it clear in your mind. (Feel free to grab a clean sheet of paper and write the goal down at the top of the page if it helps you.)
  • Now I want you to spend a few moments thinking about all the reasons you haven’t hit that goal yet. Everything…no matter how daunting or how trivial or selfish or cliche. Even if you sound like you’re whining inside your head…start listing it out in your mind (or on the page, if you choose.). Get through them all. Get them all out.
  • For this next part, you won’t need your paper. Now I want you to close your eyes (after you’ve read the instructions) and  envision all of those reasons – all of those barriers – all of those burdens – lifting off of you and your goal. Watch all of those obstacles move aside to create a clear way through. See yourself with a clear path to achieving your goal. (If you have them, and are so inclined, I encourage you to take a few drops of essential oil and breathe deeply. I would recommend something grounding or stimulating like Peppermint or Spruce. If you have it, Young Living Envision essential oil blend is ideal for this exercise.)
  • Once you see the clear path, open your eyes.  

You have now shifted your mindset around that one goal in just a few moments. Well done!

Mindfulness is a concept that has become quite trendy of late. There are a lot of interesting practices associated with that word as well. And while in our day, it is easily associated with what many call the “New Age” and may make us uncomfortable, like many practices, mindfulness is actually rooted in ancient spiritual practice. Christians are even encouraged to do this throughout New Testament Scripture.  The concept of being mindful or intentional or guarding our thoughts appears in Scripture 26 times. The word actually means to direct the mind to (or toward), to seek for. We are instructed to take every thought captive, have the mind of Christ, and to set our minds on things above…

Mindset and intention are critical. There’s a reason Proverbs says “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

As you think about a new year and new goals – or getting back on track with some old ones, here are two ideas to help us make the mulligan of this new year count for all it’s worth.

The first is Discipline. That terrible “D” word, at least it’s a word I have strong emotions around. Some people are naturally disciplined and I find that amazing. Truly. I am in awe of those among you who are able to set a course and order your steps in service to that course no matter what. Me? I have to work at it. But when we talk about a successful mindset change, discipline is key. The courage to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things in service to your goal – whatever that goal is.  

Then comes Consistency. Consistency is sort of the other side of the coin to discipline. Consistency to keep on saying no or saying yes. Do what you need to do. In the context of your goal, what does that look like? I’ll let you in on one of mine – it’s this – the writing – consistently carving out time to shut out everything else and put fingers to keys or pen to paper. That’s how I’m going to take the mulligan here at Look Deeper Coaching and get back to helping the most people in the best way I can.

Seems simple, right?

Of course it isn’t. So that’s why I am also going to encourage you to make yourself accountable to at least one other person who you share your goal with and what steps you’re taking to move towards that goal. They’ll be able to help you say yes to the right things and say no to the wrong things – or even defend your choices when others may not easily understand. And if you need somebody to hold you accountable, email me your goal and let’s talk about it!

The last thing I will say is simply this. I’m not necessarily a deep expert in goal setting and the ideas I’ve shared with you aren’t meant to be an exhaustive list of all the ways to achieve or set your goals. What I hope I’ve done is encouraged you to find a way to be intentional in going after your goals, whatever those goals are. Even if you’ve been chasing it for years.

And I invite you – and may I even go so far as to say give you permission – to take the mulligan – as many times as you need it. Just keep moving forward.

I wrote this a couple of years ago, and I think it applies here as well. Let it be your marching orders for the new year. Join me, won’t you?

“… as I choose to shake off the dust and regret and to shut out those nagging feelings of doubt and failure. I’m choosing, instead, to set out back on the journey. I’m choosing to take action. Because I must. And because I know that I’m the only one who can stop me.” (From this post here on the blog:

If you want to learn more about Young Living Essential Oils, go here: Young Living Essential Oils

To read more about the concepts of discipline and execution, read this post: Get Your Game Face On: 4 Keys to Breaking the Slacker Cycle or check out the other content here on the blog.

If you’d like some accountability in your goals or need help finding a way forward, schedule a free discovery session by clicking on Contact at the top of the page.


Back to Basics – Lesson #1 Your Resume


After a summer off, I’m excited to relaunch today with a new series devoted to one of everybody’s favorite topics – themselves. Or, more accurately, their career. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of career coaching and I’ve noticed some things. Not exactly trends, but more like consistent issues.  

As we find ourselves heading into back to school season, I thought it would be fun to go back to basics on your career, too. Hiring hasn’t really slowed down much this summer and we are still a few months away from the end of year dead zone. Now is the perfect time to put yourself out there and find that next great opportunity. If you are thinking about it or you are already in the job market, this series is for you.

Lesson #1 – Your Resume.

The first thing most any hiring manager or recruiter will know of you is what is on your resume. It is important that it tells the best possible version of your career story. Most screeners and recruiters will only spend a couple of minutes looking at it before they decide if you are worth a phone call. The purpose of your resume is to get you that phone call.

While there will always be some subjectivity in any resume review, there are three key elements that will greatly increase the chances of your resume prompting that recruiter or hiring manager to pick up the phone. So pull out your resume and look at it through the eyes of a recruiter. Ask yourself, how clearly do these three elements show up on the page?

Element #1: Focus on Action

Without exception, the most common mistake  on most every resume I read (and I’ve read thousands), is the lack of action or activity. Most resumes tend to read more like job descriptions. They tell the story of the job, but not of the person in the job – you.

As a general rule, the job title you list on your resume will tell me all I need to know about the responsibilities of the role. What I need to know is what you were able to accomplish in that role. Take a look at these examples:

Instead of this… Say this…
Responsible for all aspects of recruiting. Reduced time to fill by an average of  3 days per role.
Provided tier 1 technical support. Increased first call resolution by 15% over six months.
Managed multiple customer accounts. Increased total sales by 20% by growing existing customer accounts.

You get the idea.

The first column is descriptive. The second column is active.

The first column is vague. The second column is specific.

The first column is generic. The second column is personal.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, I care less about what you were responsible for and much more about what you accomplished. Tell me about what you were able to contribute and how you did what you did, not just what your boss told you to do. I need to get an image of how you approach your work. That picture is what helps me determine if you fit into what I have open.

Wherever possible, lead with an action word that describes your result and follow it up with the actual result. And always, always, always write your resume in first person. Experts calls this the human voiced resume. You are telling your story. It is personal. First person makes your storytelling that much stronger.

Element #2: Leverage the Data

Once you lead with the action, wherever possible, you need to incorporate real data into the statements. Please don’t make things up here. This is not the opportunity to “embellish” your resume. Point to actual results and provide the context or time-frame for the data.

For example, “Increased first call resolution by 15%” is a strong statement, but adding the time descriptor, “within six months” makes the statement that much stronger. Context to the data is important. Add just enough to describe the impact.

Why is this important? Because every single business who is looking to hire is concerned about one thing above all others – bottom line results. We know that there are numerous data points reflected in any bottom line, so where did your role influence a metric that ultimately translates to the bottom line? That’s where you want to shine a light.

Data gives your resume weight and credibility. It demonstrates that you understand what drives the business you are a part of. It signals to a hiring manager that you are able to deliver results. That’s what every manager is after in the hiring process, the right person to deliver the right results.

Element #3: Describe the Impact

If there is a secret to the secret sauce of resume writing, this is it. Whatever else you do, you need to be thinking in terms of impact. What is, or was, the impact of your work in a particular job.

If you’re not sure how to describe that, answer the “So What?” question. You were a customer service rep for a big company. So what? What did you do in that role to make an impact on your employer’s business, customers, other employees, or bottom line? The answer to the “So What?” question helps you describe the impact you made. That’s the story you need to tell.

When I read that you were able to increase repeat customer traffic by focusing on customer care and increasing customer satisfaction rates, I learn that you know how to take care of customers. I also learn that you know what will help increase sales for a business. At that point, I can reasonably believe that you will deliver similar results in my position. Even if the positions are not exactly the same, what you’ve accomplished in the past is a reasonable predictor of what you will be able to accomplish in the future.

The more clearly you can describe the impact of your work – of your presence – the more of my attention you will capture. When you capture my attention, I am far more likely to pick up the phone. And if I pick up the phone, you’re one step closer to landing that next gig.

Does Your Resume Make the Grade?

How does your resume stack up? How well do these three elements show up in your story? What could you do today to make it even better?

If you’d like some help, complete the contact form here and request a Resume Review. If you mention that you read the blog, I’ll send you a complementary critique. You can also book one of my other service offerings you can find listed here.

Next week, we’ll turn our attention to search strategy…just how do you know where to send this new and improved resume, anyway?

Get Your Game Face On: 4 Keys to Breaking the Slacker Cycle


Get your game face on. Do you have a game face? Do you know what that is? Game face is that look of focused determination that you see on athletes from Lebron James to Will Durant to Simone Biles to JP. Who’s JP? That’s my son. More about him later.

We all want to be successful. No one wakes up and says, “Gee, I hope I royally screw things up today.” We all want to be named among the best and the brightest. The hardest lesson for any any of us to learn is the one of discipline. The “D” word as I like to call it. This is especially true if, like me, you consider yourself of the creative mindset. Really. We creative types pride ourselves on being outsiders and, well…free.

The Catch-22 of that reality is that to be truly excellent at anything creative requires far more structure and yes, discipline, than most of us ever imagined. Actually, to be truly excellent at anything at all requires discipline. Discipline is what sets the true superstars apart from all the rest of us.

I am an expert in everything it takes to avoid discipline. I’ve personally authored nearly 1,000 excuses as to why I can’t get something done. Well, maybe not 1,000, but a lot. The truth is it’s much easier for me to utter an excuse than it is to admit that I just didn’t do the work I needed to in order to achieve the success I wanted.


So to help myself move forward and to achieve my dreams, I’m going to own my issue here, publicly, for all the world to read. Hi. My name is Matt. I am a recovering slacker. (Please don’t read that statement as lacking sensitivity. I am deeply sensitive to and respectful of what it takes to overcome any addictive behavior and those men and women who choose that path are perfect examples of what this post advocates.)

There are, from my perspective, research, and observation, 4 keys to breaking the slacker cycle. Each builds on the next.

Key #1: Discipline

Discipline  is the foundation on which the other 3 keys will rest. Easy word to say, difficult habit to develop, and impossible trait to succeed without. If you want to be truly excellent, you have to be disciplined. Structured. Dare I say, organized?

There are those of you who are much more wired for this than others of us. (Notice what I did there?) Some people are just naturally more disciplined. Some people can eat the same thing for breakfast day in and day out with very few exceptions. Some that can schedule their day down to the minute and actually follow through on that schedule.

My son, JP, is a competitive athlete. During the track season, he is incredibly disciplined about what he eats, when he sleeps, what he drinks. Every decision he makes is in service to what will give him the best chance to perform well.

That’s the foundation – what is it going to take for you to perform at the highest possible level? Every choice you make must then serve to meet that goal. What is going to enable you to close the most deals? How will you ensure the highest performance from your team? What can you do today to ensure you hit your bonus at the end of the year? Those are the kinds of questions you need to be asking yourself every day. Then say yes to those things that move you forward and no to everything else. That’s what discipline looks like.

Key #2:Consistency

The next level is Consistency. Once you develop the discipline to work in service to your goal, whatever that is, next you need to work at it consistently. Not just for today or this week, but constantly.

The track season typically lasts from January to May. For those 4 odd months, my son is very consistent. He is in bed early, he is up with enough time to eat and allow that food to digest before he has to be at practice, he works on school work before and immediately after practice, he packs his water and snacks, he makes sure his uniform is washed, he warms up the same way, he cools down the same way, day in and day out. At practice he follows the program laid out for him by his coaches. He works it with the same intensity day in and day out. It’s hard work. He is generally exhausted by the time practice is done. When he doesn’t get something right in practice, he does it again.

This summer, he’s participating in a club team that competes in the Junior Olympics. At his very first practice with this new team, the coach gave them an exercise to do that consisted of running around the full track (400m) in 25m cycles of jog, sprint, float, walk. I noticed at one point that everyone else had stopped, but he was still going. On the way home I asked him about it he said, “Coach said to do 5, I did 5.” By inference, everyone else did not.

That’s discipline and consistency at work.

Key #3: Execution

The next rung up the ladder is execution, getting it done when it counts. Discipline and Consistency prepare  you to execute well. You cannot expect to simply show up the day of a track meet and win. It doesn’t work like that. You have to put the hard work in to be ready to perform the day of the competition.

The same is true for you in your professional and personal pursuits. You can’t just decide to make a call one day and expect the potential client to buy what you’re selling. You have to be prepared. You can’t show up to the job interview and expect that they will hire you without first knowing as much as you can about the job and the company so that you can show you are genuinely curious and concerned.

This is the point where you just need to get it done. If you’ve developed the discipline to focus on what’s important and prepared consistently, then you are ready to execute flawlessly. And repeatedly. Over and over again. Rarely does one client call or one contract change the entire course of your business’ performance or lead to the dream job offer you are hoping for. Duplicate, duplicate, duplicate. Execution is the key that will unlock that door.

Key #4: Excellence

Discipline, consistency, and execution are what lead to excellence. Excellence is a result. It’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s the outcome. It comes last in our list because it comes last.

When Adele took the stage at Radio City Music Hall in the fall of 2015, she didn’t wake up that morning and say, “Hey, think I’ll go sing a bunch of new stuff tonight.” No – she worked at it in the rehearsal studio, the recording studio, and the stage long before the audience were in their seats and the TV cameras were plugged in. Simone Biles didn’t just wake up the best gymnast in the world. She executed flawlessly for a long time. Simone Manuel didn’t just show up that day to win her first gold medal in the pool. You get the picture.

Excellence comes from disciplined, consistent execution.

So the question for you is what do you need to do today to build that disciplined approach in your own life? Where have you faltered in your consistency and need to get back on track? What have you not pulled the trigger on that you need to?

Let’s get after it. So that you get to stand on the medal stand.

18403720_10213242754167116_6395152159876927182_n If you’re interested, this is JP (not what we call him). At the end of his season he captured 3 top 8 finishes in the State of Florida out of 4 events. He’s ranked nationally in those same 3 events. That’s excellence personified. Not that I’m biased or anything…

It’s All About the Leader

FTL RedThe clash for power. The clash of ideals. The tipping point. The boiling point. The point of no return. Whatever you call it, the moment it erupts can have devastating consequences. That moment can also provide incredible catharsis. Often, it offers both.

Basically, it comes down to one person wants one thing and another person wants something different or has serious concerns. So you express those concerns. The other person becomes increasingly frustrated. So frustrated in fact that what follows is the not uncommon but also not productive downward spiral into defensiveness and disintegrating communication.

It may start out innocently at first. In an attempt to diffuse the tension, someone may try a retreat defense. That looks something like this: “Well, I think it’s important and I want to talk about it but if you don’t agree then I defer to you. Whatever.” I don’t know about you, but I almost instantly recognize this for what it is, an avoidance tactic.

This moment is the moment of truth. Do you wade into this or do you leave it alone? I usually wade into those waters. I respectfully ask the other person not to defer but to engage in the discussion.

Sometimes, that’s when it goes downhill.

The specifics don’t really matter. You can guess what happens next. There is a “passionate exchange” that quickly escalates into a public shouting match. In a worst case scenario, it culminates in someone storming out of the meeting altogether. Productivity dies.

The rest of the meeting becomes hesitant and awkward. The remaining party usually withdraws and offers only what is absolutely necessary instead of bringing their best. The team misses an opportunity to take their effectiveness to the next level by working through the disagreement without disintegration. It is unnecessary and unfortunate.

And ultimately, it is the leader’s fault.

The buck stops with the leader. Always. In whatever circumstance. Whether they think that or not and whether they own it or not.

In my sordid little tale, what if the leader (who stormed out) had reacted differently? What if he or she had made their case in a calm manner along with reasoned arguments that supported that position? What if he or she had taken the lead and set out a strong vision and then invited us into how to make that vision a reality? What if he or she had refused to lose their temper, no matter how frustrated they were?

I have been fortunate to work for some incredible leaders in my career. Men and women who confidently and consistently cast a vision, set the direction, and lead the charge. There were great successes achieved in those environments. I have also worked for some ineffective leaders, too. Men and women who were self absorbed, timid, and completely unsure of themselves.

And in neither case did the team ever succeed, working under whichever leader, in spite of this fact. The quality of the leader always had a direct correlation to the success of the team. Always.

What’s important to remember here is that the leader sets the tone. When there is insecurity, lack of clarity, and lack of direction, the organization struggles to know who they are meant to be and therefore, what they are meant to do. What you are left with is an organization (team, partnership, business, company) that gets in its own way and a leader who feels increasingly disconnected from the reality of a place he or she just doesn’t recognize anymore.

So, if you are a leader, take stock.  Ask yourself some important questions about the effect of your behavior:

  • Who am I being as a leader?
  • What impact is that having on my organization?
  • Where am I not being clear?
  • What are some ways I can provide both vision and direction without micromanaging?
  • How can I know that I am being an effective leader?

If you are working or serving under a leader who is getting in their own way, what can you do? First of all, you must recognize there is a limit to what you can do. Ultimately, you can’t change them. The individual will have to make that choice for themselves. However, you aren’t helpless.

There are things you can do:

  • You can lovingly and respectfully ask some of the questions above.
  • You can send them the link to this blog (or another that you really like).
  • You can choose to be very calm and clear and communicate how this leader’s behavior is impacting you and your ability to perform.
  • You can walk away.

Sometimes, that’s the best thing for all involved. Don’t waste your energy  if it’s just not working. Go in search of the environment that will allow you to work at your best.

What has your experience been? When have you seen this principle play out in the real world (positive or negative)? What advice would you offer to the person dealing with an ineffective leader? 

Share your stories and I’ll write a follow up post in a week or so.

(Life) What Gets In the Way


I’ve heard variations on this theme, “Life gets in the way,” a lot in my day. I’ve even said those words, “Life just got in the way” when trying to comfort myself in my own failure to achieve a goal. And today, I feel the need to call “bull” on this phrase and anyone who has ever uttered it. On myself most of all.

How, exactly, does life get in the way of life? There is no logic, beyond a self serving logic, in this concept. After all, we only have one life. This is it. One run for all the marbles. You don’t get a do-over, not really.

I have a confession to make. I’ve turned into a bit of a curmudgeon lately. Really. I am the poster child for grumpiness. I have even put myself in time out more than once in the last few weeks. There is a discontent and an anger in me that feels like it’s pegging off the charts. I mean, most men of a certain age deal with these two emotions (I’m not as young as I used to be).  I just feel it rising up in me…churning like an active volcano preparing to spew.

Losing my dad has a lot to do with this, I know. (That just happened in November. More about this in the weeks ahead.)

And losing my way in the process.

It’s been nearly six months since I published a post on this blog. There are plenty of reasons, even some pretty good ones. And LOTS of excuses. But at the end of the day, you know what got in the way? Me. I did.

That’s the whole ugly truth of the matter. I got in the way. In the two years since I published my first blog, I’ve grown to love the maddening art of writing to teach, to communicate, and to explore. I never set out to be a writer. But I needed to get a message out there. I believed I could help some people.

Looking at the stated purpose of this blog, to help myself and others to #lookdeeper, I need to dig deeper into why I haven’t published anything these past months. Where is the discontent and anger coming from? And, more importantly, what am I going to do about it? I don’t want to be content with just existing or oozing through life. I don’t want to feel like I’ve missed the mark, or missed my calling, or missed the point. And worse, I don’t want my children to miss out on their best life because I didn’t set a good example for them.

So I choose to shake off the dust and regret and to shut out those nagging feelings of doubt and failure. I’m choosing, instead, to set out back on the journey. I’m choosing to take action. Because I must. And because I know that I’m the only one who can stop me.

So here we go…with only moments to spare, I’ve met a goal I set at the beginning of February to re-launch the blog. Does it look like I wanted it to? No. Is it accompanied with the brilliant marketing strategy rolling around in my head? Not even close. But at the beginning of January, I heard God speak the word “action” over this year. I’m great with the words…but the actions, not so much. This is action. This is faith. Because, I’m the only one who can stop me.

And you’re the only one who can stop you. So where do you need to take action? What have you laid down that you need to pick back up? What have you put off starting that you need to just get moving on? When will you take that next step?

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to feel right or good. Just do something.

What needs to get done? Get after it.

A Quarter ’til Life: Getting to What’s Possible


We spend a lot of time and energy on The Look Deeper Blog devoted to content about fulfilling your purpose and pursuing your dreams. After all, the whole purpose is to help you move from where you are to where you want to be.

That’s why I’m so excited to bring you something a little bit different today. An interview with my friend, Andy. On September 1st of this year, Andy released his first novel,  A Quarter ’til Life. Not only was I privileged to read an advanced copy of the book, but yours truly also makes an appearance as a character! How cool is that?

12717659_794328064006181_7662262712942471643_n        I wanted you guys to get to know Andy because when Andy and I were at college together, writing novels was not on his radar screen. At all. In fact, I’m not convinced writing was on his agenda much, period.  Yet here we are, some 25 years later, and not only has Andy written a great story, but he’s published it as well.

There is great wisdom to be gathered learning from others who have walked a path before us. Someone who has had to figure out who they wanted to be when they grew up long after they were chronologically a grown up. Someone who struggled to figure out when to write since it wasn’t putting food on the table (and still isn’t, quite yet).

So if you’re pondering starting a new endeavor, or you need a little shot in the arm to re-energize your side hustle or dream chasing – grab a cup of something that makes you happy, and take a seat next to me on the couch while we talk to blogger, author, and my friend, M. Andrew Cockrell (or just plain Andy).

What made you want to become a writer? – I have enjoyed writing for most of my life, and had a desire for years to write in a more dedicated way.  Penning novels wasn’t anything close to what I had ever envisioned, though.  I saw myself writing non-fiction, either more “academic,” research-oriented pursuits or Bible study/devotional material.

What was the hardest part of getting started? – The hardest part was actually AFTER I’d gotten started and realized that my initial drafts of those early chapters were awful.  Writing fiction is an entirely different proposition from the years of academic papers that I had been churning out.  Added to that, I don’t read much fiction so my mindset and skill set were both lacking.  I made all of the beginner’s mistakes: I went overboard with vocabulary, employed way too many adjective and adverbs, and overly narrated every part of every chapter.  Once I learned to eliminate unnecessary words, to show rather than tell, and to allow dialogue to drive the story instead of narration, the quality of the content improved considerably.

What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome? – The single greatest frustration was – and is – a lack of capable and accessible mentors.  Life is busy for everyone, and creative people are usually investing their time in their own personal projects.  Nobody wants to help a “nobody;” if they can’t gain something from it then it’s not a second thought for them.  I found a few people who were willing to “consult” with me for a fee, but I couldn’t find even a single published author who would give some guidance as I tried to find my way.  I knew nothing about anything when it came to publishing, and I couldn’t find anyone willing to personally point me towards the best choices.

What did you do to overcome the lack of mentoring help available?  – When I could not find mentors: I did copious amounts of research.  That in itself brought on additional challenges.  There is plenty of advice to go around about every aspect of publishing.  Distinguishing the person who is genuinely trying to be helpful from the person attempting to validate his own path by luring new people down it can be a difficult task.  And, the more I learned, the more I realized there was to learn.  In time, I became more comfortable in identifying some people that I wanted to emulate and deferred to their guidance.  I adopted a “do what I can with what I have” mindset and then prioritized the steps that were critical (and that I could do something about).  As I developed a sense of peace, eventually a few folks with experience began to be sprinkled into my life, making the last couple of months before publishing the book a bit easier.

What are your strategies for dealing with your inner critic? – I channel the critic in me that wants to produce the best content that I can, and I flat out ignore the inner critic that discourages me from sharing my work.  My background is in vocational ministry, so I have relatively thick skin anyway and I am used to communicating publicly.  When I became conscious of the fact that I wasn’t writing to please or impress everybody, the self-imposed pressure subsided greatly.  Another important step is to resist the temptation to compare myself to others.  Finally, when discouragement does mount (which is inevitable) then I rely on my like-minded fellow writers for encouragement and support.

How did you decide to publish the book? – The basic elements of the story came to me in October of last year and wouldn’t go away. The more I pondered the story, the more it evolved.  I began to consider the possibility of turning it into a book, but it wasn’t complete.  I think I know a good story when I hear it or see it, and this wasn’t yet a good story.  Still, it wouldn’t leave me.  After five or six weeks, I realized the missing piece was a missing character and that the story’s focus/point of view needed to change.  When I reached that point, I felt strongly that I finally had a good story.  At that point, I couldn’t NOT write it.  And if I was going to write it then it was going to be published!

Why did you decide to self publish? – The more I learned about the traditional book publishing world, the more I loathed it.  Publishing is a business, first and foremost.  In today’s world, the size of an author’s following is more important than the quality of the new content he or she produces.   With that being the case, traditional publishing was not a realistic option for me.  Even if my book proposal had been accepted by a traditional publishing firm, that would have meant 18 months – two years before a finished book ever hit the shelves.  It would have also meant that I would relinquish ultimate creative control over the book.  I decided to turn the project into my personal learning lab.  I am also viewing it as an audition of sorts.  I hope to use  A Quarter ‘til Life as a tool to grow my platform and footprint for my future writing content.  I am proud of the final product, both the content and the presentation of that content.  I don’t claim that it’s perfect but – especially to be a completely self-published project from beginning to end – it’s a lot better than many books that are already sitting on shelves in stores.  Hopefully the story will gain traction with readers out there in the real world.  Even if it doesn’t, I published a book!

What did you set out to do in your professional life? – I have been in vocational ministry since graduating from college in 1993 (except for a brief period from 2005-2010, when I was a child protective services investigator).

What did you go to school for? – When I started college in the fall of 1989, my plans were to become a lawyer.  I felt God calling me toward ministry in 1991, but I fought that call for a year or more.  By the time I stopped running from that call, to change my major would have prolonged my undergraduate education.  I was not interested in that, so my undergraduate degree is in Government.  My Master’s Degree is in Pastoral Ministry.

What are some of the jobs you’ve held over the course of your career? – Pastor, Associate Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Child Protective Services Investigative Social Worker have been the primary jobs of my adult life.  Substitute teacher, minor league baseball stadium employee, construction worker, and delivery driver are some of the jobs I have held at various times to supplement income.

What was the inspiration for the story of A Quarter til Life? – The main elements of the story itself were given to me by God, there was no specific person or circumstance that was the basis.  As the story developed, I began to see how my friends could fit into certain roles.  I even began to create characters for the story that were based on friends from my real life.  I added a few “true to life” snippets in the plot that most of the world will never discern anyway, but the major pieces of the story are completely fictional and originate from my God-inspired imagination.

If you could go back to Andy at Campbell and give him one piece of advice, what would that advice be? – Andy at Campbell needed a lot of pieces of advice!  My communication over the years would have been much improved if I had been more concerned with loving people and less concerned about being right.  That advice isn’t directly relevant to publishing a book, but it’s relevant to me personally.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give the person reading this who is where you were a year ago – thinking about hitting a dream and making it happen, whatever that dream might be – but who isn’t sure they want to or what to do next? – If you aren’t passionate about it, then don’t do it.  For most of us, creativity isn’t going to be a winning lottery ticket to financial riches, so that can’t be the sole or primary motivation for undertaking any writing or art project.  But, if you are passionate about it then don’t let yourself be deterred.  We all want to be recognized, but our abilities and gifts don’t come from other people and our ideas aren’t given to us by other people.  Our creativity is a way that we can honor the God who gave us our gifts, and it’s a way that we can minister to other people.  I remind myself often that I am writing in an effort to be a blessing to people, but I am never writing to be validated by people.

What are you writing now? –    In February of this year, I launched a blog (www.searchingfordaffodils.com) aimed at helping people in their journeys of grief.  And, I am turning my attention to a second novel which is about half-written.  After I finished the first draft of A Quarter ‘til Life, I separated myself from that manuscript for a couple of months.  During that time, I started working on book #2.  Now that #1 has made it to the finish line, I want to jump back into working on #2.

“But, if you are passionate about it then don’t let yourself be deterred.” That may be the best piece of advice and it feels like the right place to end our interview. Thanks, Andy, for sharing your story and your advice. Looking forward to reading #2!

If you’re looking for a fun read, I strongly recommend you check out A Quarter ‘til Life. It is also available for the nook at Barnes and Noble: here

Faith, Hope, Love, and BBQ Sauce – Recipe for a Legacy

Family reunions are always a mixture of ingredients…usually great food, some tender reunions, and much awkward silence with people you barely know. Every time I leave one, though, I’m struck by the power of legacy. On a late summer Sunday, we gathered with my wife’s father’s family and I thought about how a legacy is like a recipe.

There’s always great BBQ when my wife’s family gets together. In fact, the BBQ Sauce recipe is a long standing and closely guarded family secret. I knew I had made it when I was allowed to even lay eyes on that recipe for the first time.

It’s a secret primarily because it’s the backbone of Slim’s Deep South BBQ in Arcadia, Florida. Slim, or Ernest, was one of eight children raised in Arcadia. He was an uncle to my father-in-law. As the descendants of those original eight kids gathered in the town of the family’s origin on that late Summer Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of the incredible strength of faith that is my wife’s heritage. It’s a lot like a recipe.  

My teenaged kids didn’t want to go. I’m sure you can picture the conversation. “I don’t know these people.” “I don’t want to have to hear, look how big you’ve gotten all day!” Stuff like that.

But they went (as if there was ever an option).

Even though they definitely heard “I cant believe how big you are!” many, many times. They also heard some other things, too. They heard stories about a woman who was widowed and raised eight children. Stories about a woman who helped to raise her grandchildren. Stories about a a family where faith and loyalty and love were expected, modeled, and given freely. About a family who knew the pain of loss and how to overcome. About the importance of good food and family dinners. And respecting the bathroom schedule in a one bathroom house!

No family is perfect and there is dark as well as light in the stories that were told in the back room of Slim’s that afternoon. I’m sure there is more that I don’t know about. That’s okay, that’s part of the recipe too. Dark only makes the light shine that much brighter.

This is the legacy of my children’s great-great grandmother. And her son, their great-grandfather (whom they called Old Granddad) and their grandfather (whom they barely knew). But most importantly, it is the legacy that shaped their mother and therefore, is shaping them.

Theirs is a legacy of faith, hope, and love. It is a legacy of hard work. It is a legacy of great joy too. There was lots of laughter in that restaurant. There is always a lot of laughter in that family. Theirs is a legacy of strength. I have realized in a way I never have before, that strength, and particularly strong women, are on both sides of my wife’s family tree.

The resulting combination of ingredients is something to behold. Not unlike the BBQ sauce – a little sweet, a little spicy, and strong enough to stand on it’s own.

I guess, what I’m really trying to say is that I hope my children will one day be as grateful as I am for the unique mix of strength and tenderness that comes together in this woman I get to call wife and that they call mama. How I pray that generations from now,  her grandchildren will know and honor her the way Grandmother C was honored on a September Sunday.

“A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children…” Proverbs 13:22a