Fortitude, Personal Development

2021 Team Quadzilla Book List

How People Change – Allen Wheelis

As one with special interest in mental fitness and human behavior, I expected this book to be right up my alley, based on the title alone. But when I saw it was written in the 70’s, I half expected some really outdated counsel on the topic. Instead the saying, “there is nothing new under the sun” rang true. Many of the thoughts and strategies that we know to be true today about mental fitness, overcoming bad habits, changing behavior, and  achieving goals were written long ago. The author says things like, “…we are what we do, if we want to change what we are we must begin by changing what we do.” (pg101) And one of my favorite ideas on mental fitness is discussed just a paragraph later where Wheelis writes, “Change will occur only if such action is maintained over a long period of time.” This is a short book and easy to read. The sad story about his childhood will make you happy about yours.

Men Who Love Fierce Women – LeRoy & Kim Wagner

Are you a married man? Read this book. Regardless of your wife’s personality, this is a must read. LeRoy is gut-honest about his failures and frustrations as a husband, and in this book he shares realizations that saved his marriage. Be encouraged how to love and lead your wife well even if you are a more quiet and reserved type of guy. This goes on the re-read list for me.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes – Dan Egan

I found this book fascinating. My son had to read this for AP English and write papers on it, so I thought I’d read it with him. We talked about this one often. It’s US history, politics, agriculture, business, environmental science, and biology all wrapped in one witty and entertaining narrative. Trust me, you have no idea how important or valuable the Great Lakes is to humanity. Or how many times humanity has tried to destroy it. Highly recommend.

The Dichotomy of Leadership – Jocko Willink

Leadership insights from a guy who spent his career leading men in war? Sign me up. I gained more respect for those who lay their lives on the line to protect mine. These guys have relentless pursuit of doing the right things right, communicating clearly, working as a team, leaning on one another, etc. because if they don’t, they die. Jocko shares from his mistakes about what leadership is not. He explains “extreme ownership,” when to act fast and when to pause, and how to care for the people you lead by serving them with humility. Good stuff here.

When Night Comes – Dan Walsh

A winter diversion from my typical “educational” books is this novel about a man with very strange dreams. There’s WWII story to it that is fun to read and Walsh makes you feel like you were there.

Remembering Dresden – Dan Walsh

Another novel because the first one went well for me. This one is also good. Digging deeper into some WWII stuff, Walsh spins a fun mystery with plenty of twists I didn’t expect.

Change Your World – John Maxwell

My friend and John Maxwell Team member Nick gave me this book which is the latest in the John C Maxwell library. Especially in these pandemic times we live in, Maxwell emphasizes the importance of relating to people. We need one another for encouragement, accountability, mentoring, laughing, and helping each other whether in person or not. You and I can change our world when we make the effort to get together. Maxwell shows us how.

The Screwtape Letters – CS Lewis

A classic must read. And re-read. This is a compelling book about the psychology of temptation from the point of view of the devil. So witty and brilliant how Lewis gives us an inside look at conversations the devils must have with one another about how to get humanity off track and keep us from knowing and loving God.

The Lazarus Life – Stephen Smith

My dear friend Jay gave me this book several years ago because it encouraged him. This is my third time through it. If you have (or are currently) endured pain, suffering, and waiting and have wondered where God is in all of it, this book is for you. If you are ready for a real, lasting change – a transformation, then the story of Lazarus is one worth becoming intimately familiar. Smith helps us to “unwrap the grave clothes” of the things that are dead in us and experience the life and freedom for which Jesus has set us free. Experience the love Jesus has for you in and through your pains, your past, your present. This is a book of hope.

Prayers to Start Your Day – Criswell Freeman

One hundred prayers. Each on a single page. A scripture reference for each. A word of encouragement for everyday life. Takes 2 minutes to read, but it can really help you through the day. This belongs on repeat. Think Oswald Chambers and “My Utmost for His Highest” but easier to read and not quite so heavy.

Extremely Loud Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

I’m not sure why this book is so popular. It’s dumb. My son had to read it for AP English and write papers on it, so I wanted to read it with him. Honestly, I’m kind of upset that this book is fine for students to read while other “classics” are now cancelled because of their “offensive” content. This book has more offensive content than any classic I’ve ever read. Ugh. I digress. Don’t waste your time on this one.

A Love Worth Giving – Max Lucado

Based on the “love” passage in 1 Corinthians 13, Lucado takes us verse at a time to explain how we should love. It’s a task we can’t do well on our own. Thankfully, God gives us what we need to love well by the power of his Holy Spirit who lives in every believer. Lucado explains that even with the Spirit in us, we will still struggle to love well until we fully understand the amazing love that God has shown to us first.

The Great Divorce – CS Lewis

Like all CS Lewis books, this requires some focus when reading as every word is thick with meaning. This is a story filled with allegory about a bus ride from Hell to heaven. Lewis puts us in the minds of the passengers as they talk about the thoughts we have about both places. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, reading it once likely won’t be enough. This will need read multiple times to get all that Lewis means to share with us.

What is a Healthy Church – Mark Dever

A small book that my missionary friend Peter McMillan gave me on his visit this summer. It takes a detailed look at the characteristics of a healthy church. For those who are looking for a church or wondering if they are in the “right” church, this guide can bring clarity. And since the church is made up of people, one could look in the mirror as he reads this book to evaluate how well he’s doing his part as a follower of Jesus and active participant in his church.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

This is really 2 books in one. The first half or so is the author sharing his experience in the German concentration camps during WWII. It’s awful to read how people treated each other there, yet also inspiring to hear of the power of the human spirit to endure such hardship. The rest of the book reviews the science of Frankl’s philosophy of psychiatric care in what he calls logotherapy. Where traditional psychotherapy delves into your past and focuses on introspection, logotherapy looks to your future and helps one to focus on a personal meaning to life to drive healing from the mental hurts and hang-ups that keep us from being our best.

I won’t spoil the details, because I think you should read it for yourself, but be prepared to be encouraged and inspired about what you are made of and the future you can have when you live on purpose.

The COACH Model for Christian Leaders – Keith E. Webb

This book is an eye opener for me. Leadership, mentoring, coaching looks very different than I thought, and certainly different from any coaching I’ve received. The leadership skills required to really help people are centered around listening and asking great questions. It’s not at all about having good answers, or any answers for that matter. A well trained coach can help anyone with virtually any problem because the solutions come from the person. The COACH model shows how anyone can connect, relate, and help others with their questions and problems. This inspires me to pursue training in coaching skills so I can be of better help to others.

faith, Fortitude, Personal Development

The Danger of Ambition | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Son, most men learn about the dangers of ambition the hard way. 

We never intend to slowly distance ourselves from God, family, or meaningful relationships. We never aim to become evil, manipulative, or narcissistic. We never plan to commit adultery, get divorced, be prosecuted, get fired, or be canceled on social media. But ambition has led to all these results and more.

And for those who have been down these roads and experienced these results, we know the hidden dangers. For some, it begins with seeking a competitive edge. Or for others, begins with a desire to please others who are never satisfied. And others get caught in its trappings by the promise of achievements, notoriety, and prosperity.

So, son, in guarding and forewarning yourself of these dangers, here are some things you must know.

One | Ambition Feeds on Selfishness

“as to zeal, a persecutor of the church…”—Paul commenting on his past as the man formerly known as Saul, in Philippians 3:6

These short words are how Paul identified his former behavior. His zeal was second to none. He was known for his ambition. This was so widely known that his conversion to faith was unbelievable for many Christians.

And when [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.—Acts 9:26

What’s interesting about a man’s ambition is not that it’s all bad. Ambition, zeal, and industry are good, as long the object of ambition is not the self. When the ambition focuses on the self, a man will ultimately use others around him to accomplish his own end. They become his means to elevate himself, which has now become his central focus. This is tough to see when at first, but as selfish ambition grows, the effects are far-reaching. And as we discover in Saul’s life, he began using people for his personal advancement. And this process can become so self-serving and devious that deviation from this path can seem unbelievable and impossible to observers.

The dilemma is that there is no end to this progression until the pain of necessary change confronts a man. And depending on how callous and impervious to the pain we’ve become, it might require tremendous pain. Or, like in Saul’s case, we finally have a confrontation with Jesus Christ that knocks us off our feet and onto our knees.

Two | Ambition is Aimless Enticement

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

King Solomon- Ecclesiastes 1:14

Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest man to ever live, has something significant to teach us about the path of ambition. Money. Fame. Success. They are all attractive. Many a man will pursue them. The reason why men seek them is positive short-term gains. But the problem is that the short term gains always fall short. Moreover, the short-lived gains lead to aimless running. Therefore men from one temporary gain to the next. Before long, we look up and see we have been running after purposelessness and aimlessness.

No man wants this. We want the exact opposite—purpose and meaning. And as Solomon discovered, there was only one to find it. And in the final sentences of the book of Ecclesiastes, he tells us how to find purpose and meaning. The path to discovering it is not through human ambition but holy fear. Fear of the One who provides purpose to a man. And this is not aimlessness—this is our aim!

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Three | Ambition Compromises Character

And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”—Samson’s confession to Deliah in Judges 16:17

This confession led to Samson’s fall. But he did not arrive at this moment suddenly. He got there one small decision at a time. His selfish ambition eventually caused him to get closer and closer to the edge of compromise. Until finally, he thought he was impervious to failing. Thus, his ambition clouded his wisdom and exposed his character and, therefore, his life’s mission and purpose.

All human ambition will lead a man to do something that seems stupid. What’s interesting is that at the moment they do it, they don’t think it’s stupid. It’s just another choice in a series of choices that lead to a final and foolish decision. But what this decision reveals is their character. Therefore most men look back at this, realizing how stupid one decision was and the series of smaller decisions that led up to it—that can never be undone but can only be done differently from that point forward.

So what can we do?

Overcoming Ambition

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

Instead of surrendering to ambition, great men surrender ambition itself. In the act of surrender, we loosen our grip on what has a hold on us. And we offer it to God. We submit everything our ambitions have been focused on, which is the self, and we give our ambitions and the self to a holy and willing God. Then God, who we now worship—not the self—guides us down a new path focused only on him. 

And the best part is that God does something in this exchange that reignites the male ambition with a twist—it becomes holy ambition. Ambition focused solely on him and his purposes. And in this, we discover that God has a purpose for us and that he wants us to live in out in his character and in his way.

Son, be ambitious. But do not fall for the trappings of human ambition. They are, but folly, and many a man has fallen to its trapping. I love you—Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

Family, Fortitude

ConQuer Your Past Pains

If you’ve been ALIVE for any length of time, then you have pains. I’m talking about emotional pain. We all carry some “baggage” from our past – things we’ve said and done, or the things that others have said or done to us. It hurts bad. Or maybe we’ve become numb to the pain and we just kind of exist with it, like a prisoner on a life sentence with no chance for parole. Such pains are impossible to forget and seemingly impossible to get past. There is a desire to “get over it,” move on, and no longer allow the past pain to affect our attitude, outlook, and behavior today, but it’s hard. Are you nodding your head with me?

So how do you get over the past? The million dollar question has a pretty simple answer. Simple, but not easy. The first step is to realize what you’re REALLY trying to accomplish. What does it REALLY mean to get over the past?

You can’t change what happened. There’s no time machine that can send you back to relive the past. What’s done is done.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that your situation is hopeless. What I’m saying is that you first have to be clear about what you can and cannot change. You CAN get over your past (as I’ll explain). But you can NOT change events that already occurred.

The good news is that you don’t have to change the past in order to get over it. What you have to change is the MEANING of the past.

Think for a moment. Was there ever a time in your life when something horrible happened and you thought, “Why is this happening to me?” But then a few years later you looked back and you could answer that question. In retrospect, you understood why it happened. At first, it seemed like the world was caving in. Later, it all made sense.

In fact, very often, we eventually realize that bad times are part of a process that leads to something good!

It’s the events that FOLLOW bad times that determine the ultimate meaning of those times. In other words, it’s your future that determines your past; not the other way around. And since YOU are in charge of your future, then YOU determine the meaning of your past.

It’s interesting to think about this in the context of an age-old question: Do we have free choice or is everything predetermined? The answer is YES. Everything is predetermined AND we have free choice.

It’s like when you play a card game. You get dealt a hand. And you have no control over the cards you get dealt. It’s predetermined.

But you also get to play that hand. You also have free choice.

Ultimately, it’s the COMBINATION of the hand you’re dealt and the way you play it that determines the outcome. And it’s the outcome that shapes your view of the original hand you were dealt.

God deals you a hand. There’s nothing you can do to change that. But you get to play that hand. You get to respond to the events of your life. And it’s your response, your actions in the future, which determine the meaning of the events in your past.

So how do you get over the past? You don’t have to get over the past. The past is over! What’s important is the MEANING the past has for you NOW. And the MEANING of your past is determined by your actions in the future.

The people who have the best lives/ marriages/ relationships are people who went through hell in some way. They “got over” their past because they used it as a catalyst to IMPROVE their situation. In other words, the painful events inspired them to change themselves.

If you make the right moves, you will come to view certain events as birth pains that led to a new AND IMPROVED life/ marriage/ relationship. THAT’S how you “get over” the past.

It’s strange how life works sometimes, but if you play your hand right, your hurts become part of your healing. And, in fact, when it comes to relationships, it’s usually bad times that awaken people to search for new ways.

Thanks to Mort Fertel for doing the heavy lifting on this article. I’m grateful for his insight on the illustration about the cards we are dealt.

Fortitude, Personal Development, Uncategorized

Quit To Win – Part 2

What follows is Part 2 in the I Quit series. If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.

Instead of striving so hard to never quit, never give up, and knock myself out to get what I believe I want, maybe I should just quit. Yeah, that’s right. Sometimes you need to quit to win at life. I’ll explain.

Striving to be a better human and quitting are two sides of the same coin. Certainly there are things we can and must do to live to our full potential, so don’t get me wrong. Self-control, self-discipline, loving well, doing what is right even when it’s hard, are all very necessary beliefs/ behaviors/ habits we need to work on. But there are also many things we must quit if we are to be the person God has made us to be and to live with the inner peace, joy, and fulfillment we all seek.

Following is another example of something to quit that has the power to make the world a better place. This is me preaching to myself. I hope this helps you as well.

I quit the attitude of entitlement

In our culture of the “easy button” with everything made to be fast, easy, convenient, and cheap, it seems we must battle like never before to avoid an attitude of entitlement. No one wants to admit they are entitled, but we behave as though we are. We are getting soft. We expect things to go our way, for others to be agreeable to us, and that somehow life owes us – someone owes us anyway. I deserve, I need, gimme, gimme, gimme.

Well, guess what? Life is hard. The longer I travel this journey of life, the more I realize that believing I deserve anything, or that life should be easier, or that others should think and behave the way I want them to, is counterproductive and foolish. The truth is I’m responsible for my life, which means I’m also to blame for the frustrations I live with. Even when things go “bad” – and they surely will – I still have control over how I choose to respond.

Brief rabbit trail here. Have you ever thought about the root of most of your frustrations? If you are honest with yourself, it is very likely because in that moment, in that situation, you are not getting what you want. Let’s practice exercising self-control and emotional intelligence to realize that we are not entitled to our desires and preferences all the time. I digress.

Entitlement is a disease and it’s highly contagious. I know people sick with this attitude of entitlement and they are not fun to be around. They are highly selfish, often complaining, rarely happy, and unaware of their sickness. Further, such people want to spread their sickness with anyone close enough to hear them.  Entitlement can also be caught without personal contact by way of social media, TV, movies, books, news, etc. I’m telling you, the sickness of entitlement is dangerous.

What is the remedy? Personal responsibility, plain and simple. When I fully own my choices (and the consequences of my choices), I have greatly increased control over what I get in life than the person ill with entitlement. When I own my mistakes, learn from them, and forgive myself for them, I grow and become a better human. Blaming others destroys the growth opportunity that mistakes and failures provide. The benefits of personal responsibility make living with the sickness of entitlement seem especially lame, so I quit my attitude of entitlement by pursuing increased personal responsibility in every area of my life.

Fortitude, Personal Development

My 2020 Book List

I’ll not waste precious ink to tell you how important it is to read. You already know that feeding your mind positive inputs is key to your healthy living journey. If you read a book that knocked your socks off this year, I’d like to hear about it.

Made For His Pleasure – Alistair Begg

To be honest, this was not my favorite book, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t ready for the central message. I firmly believe we can only receive instruction or be convicted to the point of making change in our life when we are ready for it. God is good like that. This book challenges our human nature to live for self and look for pleasure in all the wrong places when it is living fully for God and his purposes that answers our deepest needs. Thought provoking, convicting, and entertaining when you read it in Alistair’s Irish accent.

Leadership & Self-deception- Arbinger Institute

I first read this book about 10 years ago as an assignment for work. It blows your mind to realize that the reason for most of our problems in life are our own fault. We are all deceived, seeing the world and other people from a narrow and skewed perspective that sabotages our relationships and personal productivity. Written in a story format, it’s engaging and thought provoking. I often put the book down mid-paragraph to think about what just happened and how spot on it is to my own experience. Read this.

The Self-Propelled Island – Jules Verne

A diversion into classic fiction, which I don’t do very often. Verne has many famous stories like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days, so I took a chance on a lesser known story he wrote 100 years ago. His vision of technology is fascinating and the way he describes the adventures in the middle of the ocean makes you believe you were actually there. It’s pretty fun.

Kingdom Man – Tony Evans

As chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Evans has endorsements from NFL stars like Tony Romo, Tony Dungy, Jon Kitna, and Joe Gibbs for this amazing playbook for life. He tells it like it is, and sometimes it hits you like a linebacker. This is a valuable resource worth reading on the regular to give men the encouragement and inspiration to live, lead, and love in ways that will change our corner of the world.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People- Stephen R. Covey

Everyone needs to read this book. Period. It’s a little wordy in spots, but the principles discussed here are timeless. I’ve written about it before, and even had my article on the 7 Habits published in a magazine. This is another book that needs to be in regular rotation for anyone who strives to be their best – no matter your role.

The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren

This is the most impactful book I read this year. Like some of my other books, this one should be in regular rotation. It is so rich with insight taken directly from the best instruction manual for life – the Bible. There are over 1,000 Bible verses referenced in this book which is broken down into 40 short chapters. While it could be read in a “40 Days of Purpose Challenge,” I took much longer as the concepts to absorb were more than I can manage in one day. Warren doesn’t mince words, but rather it seems as if every word has importance. I’ve nearly highlighted the whole thing! Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and read this book.

Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

My 11th grader was assigned this book for summer reading in prep for his AP English class. I thought I’d read it with him to give us something else to talk about. Glad I did. It’s a good one. Entertaining and thought provoking about what successful people look like. It’s not at all what you think. His observations and scientific research turn what we thought we knew about what makes a person successful on its head. Just when you thought all you had to do was try harder and maybe you’ll get lucky…

Believe Become Be – Robert Noland

What we believe about ourselves is important. If you are like me, or at all human, it’s likely you believe some lies about yourself. These lies are holding us back from being all we were made to be. Noland helps us unravel some of these lies and shows us the truth about who we are and who we are meant to be.

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

Daring greatly is to be vulnerable. To let your guard down and not be so afraid of what we think other people believe about us. To be your authentic self, to be brave, take a chance, and see what is on the other side of going for it. It’s a call for those of us who are hiding behind walls of fear and doubt to say, “I am enough, and I am tired of being imprisoned by the lies I tell myself.” Brown compels us to believe that the safety we perceive behind our walls is no safety at all, but rather a prison keeping us from being all we were meant to be. How liberating it would be if we lived with even just a wee bit of raw vulnerability. We might find some incredible blessing. I recommend this book for teens and up.

The Road Less Traveled – M. Scott Peck, MD

An old friend recommended this book to me many years ago. This is my 3rd time through it. It’s as deep and heavy as you are ready to receive the message Dr. Peck has about how to live and love well. Like other books in my list this year, there is strong emphasis on personal responsibility and the power of our choices. Choosing well and owning our life is hard. So hard at times that it’s easy to see why most people won’t travel this road. But since we want to live life to the full and be our very best, we will choose the road less traveled. This book shows you how.

Compound Effect – Darren Hardy

The message in this little book is simple. Doing the simple and mundane things (healthy habits, personal/ professional productivity habits, etc.) consistently over time will compound results no matter the venture. The trouble is that we give up too early, or we see no point in doing the mundane. Hardy shares stories and illustrations that are easily relatable to help inspire us to be patient and stick with it. I have begun to see some fruit to some simple and mundane newer habits I’ve adopted – things I’ve tried before but given up too early. The compound effect is real.

Jesus is___. – Judah Smith

This is among the most impactful books I’ve ever read. My 3rd time around, and I still find new things to knock my socks off. The writing style is very conversational as it seems like Pastor Judah is in the room talking directly to me. He brings Jesus to life in unconventional ways, using familiar Bible stories and looking at them from a unique perspective. Who is Jesus? You fill in the blank for yourself, but not until you read this book.