“You Can’t Go Home Again”…John Page Burton

Recently, I enjoyed a wonderful evening of food and laughter with some good friends. We share the commonality of having grown up in a small town and thus a conversation began around how uncomfortable we usually felt when we returned home to visit. We laughed about the “zingers” we routinely endure from family and friends. These “zingers” come in various forms but the common theme seems to be centered around “how we could have possibly given up all of this (home town) to go there”. I shared a story of returning home shortly after my forty fifth birthday and how surprised I was to see my childhood friend George, still cruising main street with his wife cuddled next to him in the front seat. As I enjoyed dinner at a sidewalk cafe overlooking the avenue, George passed by at least ten times. I remembered as teenagers how George and I routinely cruised from one end of town to the other, all the while talking about our dreams and how we were going to “blow this place” after we graduated. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sadness that George had never “blown the place”. I am also reminded of a quote by the late author, Thomas Wolf, who so eloquently stated “you cant go home again”. I can’t help but draw a parallel to another quote I have grown to appreciate, “an expanded mind never returns to it’s original size”. Here are some of the reasons why I believe it is so uncomfortable for most of us to return home.

The crab pot analogy. If you have spent any time around the ocean you may have come upon a crab pot. As crabs are caught they are thrown into a pot that doesn’t have a lid. You might be thinking to yourself…wouldn’t the crabs just crawl out and return to the ocean? The answer is NO, but not for a lack of trying. As a crab begins to climb up the side of the pot and make a break for freedom, another crab will attach himself to the freedom seeking crab and pull him back down into the pot. This process repeats itself time and again and therefore there is never a need to put a lid on a crab pot. Anytime we venture out of our comfort zone to explore new worlds or experience new things, we are bound to encounter people, often well meaning friends and family members, who desire to “pull us down” in order to keep us from disrupting their COMFORT ZONE. They will use criticism, sarcasm or other deflection techniques to counter their deep seeded fear of “leaving home”. We must keep CLIMBING!!!

Dumbing down. When we expand and grow, we become aware of just how many amazing opportunities are available to us. Much like a child visiting Disneyland for the first time, we become consumed with the adventure and develop an unquenchable thirst for more. We now know what lies beyond the city limits and we are excited to return home to share our new found knowledge with the people we love and care about. Sadly, a short time after our arrival, we can’t help but notice that in our absence something has dramatically changed. We experience a noticeable disconnect and we find ourselves “dumbing down” in order to hold a conversation. Our friends and family gaze at us with vacant stares and robotically nod their heads as we talk about our “brave new world”.  Within hours we are feeling stifled, frustrated and yearning to leave home again. We must keep LEARNING and GROWING!!!

Guilt. After choosing to leave the city limits of our youth, many of us find ourselves feeling guilty for making the decision to move forward. It was never our intention to hurt the feelings of our family and friends but we knew that staying around for their benefit would mean giving up on our dreams. Life is a process of trial and error and quite frankly most of us experience a great deal of error. When we return home and begin sharing our life lessons, we are often reminded by our loved ones just how “good we had it” and how sad everyone is that “we chose to leave them behind”. Initially, this drama can be easy to buy into and we may even entertain thoughts that we are being selfish and self centered. We must remember that this is our personal journey and it is good to be SELF CENTERED!!!

“Going home again” may be a physical visit or it may be a trip down memory lane. Once we have left the confines of “home” and entered the bigger picture we will never be the same. It is our acceptance of who we are today, combined with an appreciation of our past that allows us to step into our future.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

Being Male Doesn’t Make Us Men…John Page Burton

Like millions of other American’s, I recently watched the “low lights” of Miley Cyrus gyrating across the stage, her tongue wagging provocatively, grinding her backside into the front side of Robin Thick, all while belting out the lyrics to the questionable hit “Blurred Lines”. To be quite honest, I was more disturbed by Robin’s behavior than by the behavior of Miley Cyrus. I am well versed in First Amendment Law and understand that Robin has the constitutional right to produce lyrics and music which can then be legally distributed and sold to anyone willing to pay for this type of “entertainment”. I also understand that neither Robin, his manager or his record label could care less what my thoughts are. With that being said, I will exercise my own constitutional right to share my thoughts with my “dude brethren” and hope that together we can rise to the challenge of grooming the next generation of family leaders.

BEING MALE DOESN’T MAKE US MEN, TREATING PEOPLE WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT MAKES US MEN.

I believe that the vast majority of American men, myself included, must do a better job of setting a healthier example for the next generation of family leaders. When did it become acceptable for a male comedian to refer to a female political candidate by using the “C” word on national television? As stated earlier, I am grateful to live in a country in which people are allowed to expose themselves to this type of abuse in order to ensure our democratic process and MY FREEDOM. With this being said, this particular comedians behavior is not only offensive but is a very poor reflection on his character. I can’t help but believe that he is also using his celebrity status as a platform to validate his obvious belief that it is perfectly acceptable for men to treat women in such disrespectful manner. What kind of example is being set by men (or anyone else) who show up at protests to spit and hurl insults at soldiers returning home from a war? Our soldiers have the intestinal fortitude to put their lives on the line for our FREEDOM and should always be treated with the respect and gratitude they have EARNED, irregardless of how we feel politically. Our next generation of family leaders are subjected to news accounts of male politicians texting photos of their body parts to women half their age, a presidential candidate cheating on his terminally ill wife or an attorney general romping with hookers using tax payer dollars. The world wide web provides our next generation of family leaders with a 24/7 window in which they observe behavior, develop beliefs and ultimately begin incorporating these beliefs into their own lives. The only way that men can counteract these bad examples of behavior is by providing the next generation with a more acceptable model of behavior. What type of people do we desire our next generation of family leaders to be? Men, we have the opportunity to shape the beliefs of the next generation and it is NOW o’CLOCK!  Men, we need to be teaching our children the principles and values of integrity and hard work instead of supporting men who choose to spend their time camped out in a city park, leveling charges of corporate greed and hurling insults at those who choose to engage in their right to build the American dream. Men, we need to be teaching our children the principles of respect and dignity and not supporting the principles of religious intolerance, racism, bigotry or hate. The next generation of family leaders is watching our every move and we need to make sure that we are setting a good example.

Men, I challenge all of us to lead like we have never lead before. I challenge each of us to engage in an empowering dialogue with the next generation. We need to teach them that democracy includes “civil disagreement”, not hate filled or disrespectful dialogue. We must teach our children work ethics and  encourage them to use their talents to pursue the American dream rather than become dependent on the government. Finally, through our own actions we must teach our children what it means to be compassionate. Some of the “toughest dudes” I know lead their families in prayer and spiritual study on a daily basis. We live in the greatest country on earth. The world watches us for a reason. Our next generation of family leaders are entrusted with preserving the way of life that our forefathers, family members and friends fought for, I believe we owe it to them.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Is Tithing Over Rated?…John Page Burton

I recently engaged in a discussion with a client who volunteered his thoughts on tithing. He firmly believes that tithing is “over rated” and also feels that ” if his tax dollars were put to proper use he would not be subjected to what he feels has become a rash of professional begging”.  He went on to share that he “faithfully” puts 10% of his weekly income into the offering plate at church and feels “it is more than enough to help offset the needs of his community”. ( I couldn’t help but have a flashback of Ebeneezer Scrooge dismissing the charity collectors on Christmas Eve) I asked him what he meant when he said that “tithing was over rated” and he explained that it had never “proven to show much of a return on his investment” as “the poor just keep getting poorer”.

For many years I have been involved in the world of charitable giving. I have volunteered with various organizations, served on the board of directors for a college foundation and have raised considerable amounts of capital for the organizations I have chosen to support. With this being said, I am still surprised by just how many people are conflicted when they hear the word “tithing”. I recently facilitated a personal development seminar that focused on goal setting. I asked each of the participants to set a significant goal in four quadrants. Health, financial, spiritual and contribution. Most of the participants quickly came up with goals in the health and financial quadrants. Establishing a spiritual goal proved to be challenging for many of the participants and defining a significant contribution goal produced a multitude of questions aimed at identifying exactly what I meant by a contribution goal? A spirited discussion ensued on the topic of contribution. Several participants shared the “guilt” they routinely felt for not consistently tithing or volunteering their time and yet most quickly justified their lack of consistency. Several held the belief that they would never be able to make a “real difference” anyway and therefore did little if anything for the betterment of their fellow man. Of course, we also had a handful of “selfless givers” who seemed rooted in the belief that “what goes around ultimately comes around” and they were determined to make sure that their personal Karma would remain unscathed. A few others clearly kept a “tithing score” and were quick to judge others who they deemed capable of “giving more”.  As our contribution conversation evolved, I was able to identify 5 common excuses routinely used for a lack of contribution. Below, are my thoughts on these excuses.

Contributing our 3 T’s…

Before I respond to the 5 most common excuses, I would like to first share what I believe are the 3 T’s for contribution. Remember, contribution doesn’t have to look a specific way.

TIME. We all have a few extra hours each week that can be allocated for volunteerism.
TREASURE. 10% of our weekly income can have an amazing compounding effect.
TALENT. What gifts did God bless us with? How can we share our gifts with others?

The 5 common excuses…

“I barely have enough money to pay my own bills”. There are numerous organizations that are looking for volunteers to help facilitate programs, put on fundraising events and help with other essential activities. Your TIME is “tithing”. Most of us spend quite a bit of money on things we don’t need. I encourage you to examine your spending habits and if you are like most of us, you will find a considerable amount of “extra money” as you begin to eliminate impulse purchasing. Before I purchase something I have a habit of first asking myself if this item is something I need or something I want? This practice helps me keep my spending in check.

“Big corporations should carry the load because they have all the money”. The fact is that most large corporations donate millions of dollars every year. This isn’t about them, it is about YOU! The contribution agreement is between YOU and God. Each of us can truly begin making a difference the moment we quit expecting someone else to shoulder the responsibility.

“I prefer to know where my money is going before I just give it away”. When asked, most legitimate organizations will gladly provide you with a financial breakdown highlighting their income, reasonable operating expenses and a specific dollar amount that the charity receives.*Charities do have reasonable operating costs and these costs are normally paid from a small percentage of every donation they receive. If we are truly concerned about how our donation is going to be spent we can always use our debit card to purchase food, clothing or other items and deliver them directly to a local charity. The charitable organization will welcome your kindness and you will have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where your money went.

“It’s too overwhelming, I will never even make a dent in the problem”. Once we understand the compounding effect of exponential growth, we can also recognize the value of mass cooperation. If I donate $100 to my favorite charity I have made a nice contribution. If I encourage 10 of my friends to do the same we have collectively generated a $1000 contribution. Our focus should remain on what WE can do.

“He or she looks perfectly capable of finding a job and they will probably just buy booze with the money anyway”. Remember, you are on a mission from God. Release the money and move on. We do not know what anyone’s true circumstances are unless we have a conversation with them. We are not called to judge other people but rather to share what we have been blessed with.

My hope is that this message has caused a shift in your thinking and you may now view tithing from a different perspective. When we strive to contribute our 3 T’s we are helping to make our world a much better place and we can also enjoy the personal satisfaction that comes from giving.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Limitless Perspective…John Page Burton

How many times have we heard someone say, “Let’s put this in perspective”. When I hear this statement my initial reaction is almost always, “whose perspective, yours or mine?”  Our perspective is usually based on the way WE see things, is drawn from a collection of life experiences, reference points and influences, all of which serve to support our current beliefs. Many of us have experienced misunderstandings we can later trace back to nothing more than a clash of perspectives. “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth”. Marcus Aurelius

Let’s take a closer look at three areas of our lives in which perspective plays a key role.

* Problem Solving And Adversity.  How we approach problems and handle adversity is based on what I call our “conditioned perspective”. For example, some people hold onto the belief the world is “out to get them” while others view the world as a limitless “land of opportunity”. Again, it is worth noting that our perspective is brought about by our own unique life experiences and influences. Those who believe the universe is conspiring against them can always find “proof” to build their case. Others who believe the universe rewards people who work hard and are willing to sacrifice can also supply “proof” for their position. When we find ourselves struggling to find a solution to a problem or an adverse situation, it is always a good idea to step back and look at it from a different perspective. “Our way” may not be the most effective way to achieve a desired result. Many times simply looking at something from a different perspective will provide the clarity we need to create a breakthrough.

* Communication. How we communicate with others is generally based on our perspective. Two people can hear the same thing and have an entirely different reaction. For example, let’s say I grew up and was heavily influenced by a parent who was a perfectionist. Routinely, they let me know both verbally and non-verbally (by a distinct look or gesture) I didn’t do anything right.  As an adult, whenever a person in authority offers me advice, I instinctively perceive it as criticism rather than positive feedback. Surprisingly, millions of people function with this type of skewed perspective and spend their lifetime struggling to get along, receive promotions or enjoy a healthy, peaceful relationship with friends and family. If on the other hand I grew up in a nurturing childhood environment where I was encouraged to do new things, accept failure as part of my growth and was not berated for doing things “wrong” then my perspective toward authority is going to be vastly different and I will be more likely to embrace feedback.

* Human Relations. Recently, I engaged in a “clash of perspectives” with a neighbor. My neighbor leaves his dogs alone while he is at work. I work from home and my office is approximately 50 ft from his living room window. Throughout the day, all summer long, I have listened to his dogs bark. I left him a note on his door, to which he responded “he never leaves his dogs alone”. Shortly thereafter, I called him at work to let him know his dogs were again barking out of control. He responded by telling me “he had checked with all of his other neighbors and I was the only person who had heard any barking coming from his home”. Eventually, I began making audio / video recordings highlighting the excessive dog barking and was able to garner support from other neighbors who were also subjected to the excessive dog barking. I submitted this information to our neighborhood HOA director. Even with conclusive proof, my neighbor still continued to claim I was simply “out to get him”. From my perspective my neighbor should not have dogs if he is unwilling to take responsibility for their care. From my neighbors perspective, I am attempting to make trouble for him and I should mind my own business. Wars are started, crimes committed, marriages end and friendships often severed because of a clash of perspectives. When conflicts arise it is a good idea for both parties to step back and take a look at things from the other person’s point of view. By engaging in this process, we may be able to better understand the other person’s perspective and ultimately find some common ground.

3 ways we can maintain a healthy perspective.

* Practice Objectivity. Look at issues and situations from the other person’s perspective. Seek to understand their point of view. This doesn’t mean we are going to change our mind, however it provides us with a better sense of where the other person may be coming from and how we can respond more effectively. When we find ourselves embroiled in a clash of perspectives it is always a good idea to step back and look at both sides of the issue with an objective set of eyes.

* Perspectives vs Expectations.
Is it our true perspective or is it an expectation? For example, my parents believe a couple should be married before they live together. My perspective is more weight should be placed on how we treat our fellow man than on legalistic doctrine. Because of this “difference in perspectives” my parents may not visit our home for the holidays. Is this a “clash of perspectives” or is it a rigid expectation that is not being acknowledged? Looking at something from an objective point of view will often give us permission to release our death grip on expectation.

* Origin Of Perspective. Where did our current perspective originate? Past experiences, another person of influence, present reality or what we perceive to be societal expectations? All of these factors contribute to our current point of view. When we find ourselves engaging in a clash of perspectives it is wise to identify the origin and determine whether it is serving our greater good. Many of us are looking at things from a very “outdated” perspective and we simply need to upgrade our view.

This is my perspective on things. I would love to hear your perspective and as always I appreciate and respect your feedback.

The Unfortunate Death of “Sandbox Bobby”…John Page Burton

I grew up in a small town where just about everyone eventually ended up with a nickname. My personal moniker was “Burtbutt”. Forty years later I can still recall many of the nicknames. There was HoHo, (aptly named for his love of Hostess products) Punky, Scooter, Chico, Blackey (the only African American kid in our town) Porkchop and finally Sandbox Bobby. Over time, I have lost track of all of these colorful characters with the exception of one, Sandbox Bobby.

Sandbox Bobby died when he was nineteen years old. The coroner determined his cause of death was alcohol poisoning. Today, from my perspective as a peak performance coach, I believe that his death was a bi-product of his mothers insatiable need to protect him from failure. Shortly after Bobby graduated from high school, he found a job, bought his first car, moved into his own apartment and immediately began making up for all the things he had failed to participate in as a young adult. Less than a year later he was gone.

The story of Sandbox Bobby dramatizes a dilemma that faces parents everywhere. How do we find and maintain a healthy balance between keeping our children safe and still allowing them to navigate their way through normal, albeit often painful life experiences? Bobby’s mother chose to relive her own childhood drama by projecting her fears onto her son.  During high school, Bobby’s mom drove him to and from school, enforced an “in by dark” curfew, didn’t allow him to attend dances, go to parties or even have a girlfriend. She made his bed, did his laundry, cooked his meals, packed his lunch and discouraged him from securing after school employment. Granted, this is an extreme example, yet many parents are doing a similiar injustice to their children by always playing the role of the “great protector”. KIDS NEED TO HAVE THE FREEDOM TO FAIL & EXPERIENCE DISCOMFORT!!!

Transference…

Many of us relive our past trauma by projecting our hurts, fears and concerns onto our children. I recently engaged in a conversation with a client who shared that she was not willing to put her daughter through the same “name calling and bullying” that she had endured as a child. Her daughter, on one occasion, had complained that a classmate had called her a name. Because of this one incident and much to the dismay and objections of her husband, she made a decision to “home school” her children. She has admitted that she isn’t qualified to teach anything more than the most basic academic subjects however, in her mind “it is better than the alternative”. Her life changing decision is a direct result of her perception that her daughter will continue to be made fun of by her classmates in the same manner she had been. By “saving her daughter” she is actually crippling her daughter.

Another client is a single mom who up until recently was engaged in a power struggle with her 14 year old son. Her son loves football and wanted to try out for his high school team. My client had determined that it was “simply too dangerous” for him to be playing football. She sited her concern about “concussions” as the main reason. I pressed her further and finally was able to get to the root of her concern.  She admitted that because he is small for his age she was concerned that he would be “crushed” when he didn’t make the team. I had an opportunity to speak with her son and brought up the possibility that he might not make the team. “If that’s the case, I will try out for the golf team, I actually like golf better than football anyway but she should at least let me try out”. Mom later admitted that she had been “crushed” when she had been cut from her high school cheerleading squad and later the debate team. She carried this feeling of rejection for years and simply did not want her son to experience those same feelings. *It can be noted that as of this writing her son not only made the team but may have a chance to get significant playing time as a freshman.

In both of these cases the parent is projecting their fears onto the child. It is important that we look back on our childhood objectively and be willing to release our past fears and insecurities. We must acknowledge that kids can be cruel, accept that failure is a part of our children’s growth process and understand that sheltering our kids from the natural flow of life may produce significant long term consequences.

Some thoughts on finding and maintaining a healthy balance…

*Create an authentic environment where your children can communicate their true feelings. When our children feel comfortable communicating with us from an authentic place, they are more likely to open up to us in times of confusion, adversity and even despair.

*Make a clear distinction between criticism and concern. When we have a concern it is wise to address it right away however, we must do so in a manner that doesn’t make us right and our children wrong. It is up to us to provide reasonable boundaries for our children without extinguishing their spirit.

*Spend quality time together. I believe that the family that plays together stays together. Engaging in healthy, outdoor activities provides us with an opportunity to bond and get to know each other on a deeper level.

*Encourage our kids to think outside of the box. We must challenge our children to look for solutions rather than dwell on problems. Remember, we are grooming the next generation for success not co-dependency.

*Encourage our kids to take risks and teach them that failure is an integral part of the success process. Protecting our kids from “potential” failure is not preparing them for the real world. When our children fail it is our job to let them know that we are proud of them for their willingness to take risks and for getting out of their comfort zone. As adults, how we react when our children experience failure will leave an indelible impression on them. Make sure it is empowering!

In short, Sandbox Bobby did what most of us would do if we had spent a lifetime on the outside looking in. Bobby made a conscious decision to make up for some lost time. At the time of his unfortunate death, Bobby was socially stunted, curious, easily influenced and he took everything to the extreme. I believe that if Bobby’s mother had been equipped with the information I have shared with you, Bobby would have been able to leave the sandbox at the appropriate time and never look back. God had other plans for Bobby. My hope is that by hearing his story another life may be saved.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

A”Miracle Breakthrough” For The Ages…John Page Burton

Is it just me or has it become next to impossible to watch a television program without getting bombarded by a plethora of advertisements promoting over the counter products and prescription DRUGS that have been scientifically designed and chemically engineered to help me achieve optimum levels of health and wellness? Maybe I am more aware of these advertisments because I am now in the over fifty club? At one time or another, most of us have been approached by a well meaning, profit driven friend or family member who has recently become a distributor for a health and wellness company whose products “are going to revolutionize the health and wellness industry”. Blah, blah, blah. With all of this being said, what if I told you that you can have immediate access to a “MIRACLE BREAKTHROUGH” that is guaranteed to improve your health and vitality, increase your overall happiness, stimulate heart activity, boost your immune system and in the process possibly even enhance your SEX LIFE!!! What if I also told you that this “MIRACLE BREAKTHROUGH” has been under your nose since birth! What would you pay for something that could do all of this and MORE? Would you pay a hundred dollars, five hundred, a thousand? Are you sitting down? This MIRACLE BREAKTHROUGH is absolutely FREE! You may not believe me or you may think that “this simply sounds to good to be true”. Well friends, it is true and I am about to share with you the features and benefits of this “MIRACLE BREAKTHORUGH” most commonly referred to as hugging.

Here are some of the features & benefits inherent to hugging.

*It is 100% heart healthy.
*It boosts the body’s natural immune system.
*It has substantial benefits for people who struggle with depression.
*It dramatically reduces stress.
*It has been shown to lower blood pressure.
*It induces better sleep.
*It’s invigorating and rejuvenating.
*It has NO unpleasant side effects.
*It can be taken in extremely heavy doses. In fact, the more the better.
*It is organic with no preservatives or artificial ingredients…it’s the real thing.
*Non-fattening. In fact, it has the potential to burn several calories if used over longer periods of time..

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

*It can be taken anywhere. Hugging is extremely mobile.
*No batteries or special order parts will ever be needed.
*Simple instructions that even a 2 year old can understand.
*Low energy consumption, high energy yield.
*Extremely cost effective…hugging is FREE!
*No insurance premium, no co-pays.
*Tax and duty free.

And last but not least, hugging is 100% returnable. I encourage everyone to try it for themselves. If you are not completely satisfied with your results, you may want to consider packing a donkey and heading into some far away wilderness area.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.