1. The Cost of a Meeting

    The cost of a meeting is more than just the time allocated for the meeting. There’s also the prep time, the travel time, and all the other time spent in preliminary communication and follow up. It all adds up.

    Now take the total time requirements a meeting creates for an individual, and multiply it by the number of attendees. That’s closer to the true cost of a meeting. And that’s not even considering the opportunity costs of not being able to spend that time elsewhere.

    Meetings have their place. But the overall cost of the meeting can be far greater than we initially realize. So if you’re scheduling one, take a moment to make sure it’s worth the price it will actually cost.

  2. Training for Flexibility and Stability

    When you think about physical training, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, developing greater strength or endurance are usually at the top of the list. I know there are other areas of physical fitness that are important—like flexibility and core stability—but I’ve often overlooked them.

    But last weekend, that all changed.

    One week ago, I was running around with my kids, and somehow I tweaked my back. For some people, back pain is a normal part of life. But for me, it was a new experience. And one I didn’t like at all.

    After doing some research and talking to friends who’ve had similar experiences, I gained a new appreciation for the types of training that I’ve often overlooked in the past. It may not be flashy, but developing greater flexibility and strengthening one’s core can help alleviate and even prevent some of these kinds of injuries.

    After a couple days, my back felt normal again. But as a result of what I learned and experienced, I also began to focus more on flexibility and core stability in my regular routine. These kinds of practices will not only increase what I can physically do, but can also provide some protection from certain types of injuries down the road.

    * * *

    Well, it turns out that flexibility and stability are qualities worth having in every area of life, not just in the gym. If you’re flexible and stable as a person, it won’t matter what kind of situation or season you’re in, you’ll be able to handle it much better than someone who is inflexible or not grounded.

    And one habit that can help develop these kinds of qualities is the practice of gratitude. If you regularly turn your attention to what you can be grateful for, you’ll be less likely to lose hope when things get tough. If you’re aware of all the things you can be thankful for, you’ll be better able to stay content when things don’t go as you planned.

    No, practicing gratitude isn’t flashy. It may not seem like a big deal. But once it becomes a habit, it can provide deeper levels of stability and flexibility. And when life inevitably throws you a curve ball, you’ll be able to adjust accordingly.

  3. Playback Speed

    If I’m listening to a podcast or an audiobook, it’s almost guaranteed I’m listening to it at a higher-than-normal playback rate. Playing it at 1.5-2x the normal speed is common, but 2-3x isn’t unheard of. Once you’re use to the higher speed, you can consume way more content in less time. And many times, that is often my goal: to extract any helpful information as efficiently as possible.

    But there’s one time when I’m guaranteed not to try to mess with the playback speed. And that’s when I’m listening to music. Sure, I could try to get through albums at 2x the normal speed, allowing me to ‘listen’ to twice as much in the same amount of time. But with music, getting through it as fast as possible isn’t the point. And trying to rush through it will only cause me to miss the experience as it was intended.

    The same kind of dynamic is true of life: it isn’t meant to be lived in a hurry. You can try to rush it if you want, but getting through it as fast as possible isn’t the point. It doesn’t add anything to the experience, but rather causes you to miss out on so much along the way.

  4. Walking in Their Skin

    First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
    —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

    When you get frustrated at how someone is acting, try imagining walking around in their skin for a while. Sometimes they’ve gone through experiences you forget about. Other times they make honest mistakes, or speak out of ignorance. Perhaps what seems obvious to you isn’t so obvious to them.

    If you appreciate it when others try to understand where you’re coming from, shouldn’t you be willing to do the same for them? Trying to understand isn’t the same as seeking to condone. But it can lead to greater levels of graciousness in how you assess, and relate to, others.

  5. Royal Beauty Bright

    In the couple weeks leading up to Christmas, I had the privilege of working with some colleagues on an interesting story about the ‘Christmas star’—the star that, according to Matthew’s gospel, Magi from the east followed to the place of Jesus’ birth.

    What was this star that led them? And is there any external evidence of this extraordinary phenomenon? A Notre Dame astrophysicist has his hypothesis about what took place, and explains some of the unique astronomical occurrences that coincided with the general time frame of Jesus’ birth.

    Read story Listen to podcast

  6. When You're Forced To

    Just over a week ago, I found myself sitting on the couch for most of the day. Our two youngest felt fine, but the rest of us had some kind of stomach bug that took us out of commission for around 24 hours. Now, when I went to bed the night before, I had all kinds of plans for what I would be doing that day—errands to run and things to do around the house. But when I woke up, I realized that none of those plans were going to take place.

    We all know that what we plan to do and what we actually end up doing are not always the same. Sometimes we’re simply distracted by something else that comes along. Sometimes we have to veer from our plans due to outside forces beyond our control. And sometimes we’re forced to deal with issues all because we neglected to address them earlier, when we had a chance.

    Take physical rest, for example. If you know you should be getting more rest, but continue to neglect that area of your life, it’s only a matter of time before your body will begin to feel the effects. And it’s quite possible that eventually you’ll be forced to rest due to a medical emergency. You may not have planned to rest, but at that point, you may not have a choice. Or consider those situations where you continue to neglect having the hard conversation that needs to take place. Eventually, you may wind up in a position where you’re forced to act, although the situation itself grew messier and more difficult because you waited.

    They’ll be plenty of times where you’ll end up doing things you didn’t plan to do. Sometimes these may be pleasant surprises, and sometimes they may be due to forces you have no control over. But they can also be the result of continuing to neglect what you know needs to be done. So if something has to be done, why not do it sooner rather than later, while you still have options of how and when to proceed? Otherwise, the things you neglect may end up one day hijacking your schedule, regardless of what you were originally planning to do that day.

  7. Why the Rush?

    This morning, as I drove to the office, a blue truck came barreling up behind me. It was moving fast, and soon used a turn-only lane to get around me; I was obviously only slowing it down.

    Well, a minute later, lo and behold, I roll up behind the same truck at a stoplight. As the light turns green, I see it blow through the intersection. But only a moment later it has to pump its brake as it quickly closed the gap between it and the cars in front of it.

    This same pattern of acceleration and braking happened repeatedly at the next few intersections. Eight minutes later, as I turned onto another road, I could still see the truck. In fact, we ended up going through that final intersection at approximately the same time. I was in the turn lane making a right, and it continued at full speed straight ahead.

    It was obvious that whoever was driving was in a hurry. And I’m assuming that the repeated slowing down and braking was pretty frustrating for them. But for all the hurry, and all the frustration, they didn’t seem to be actually getting anywhere any faster than the rest of us.

    It reminds me of those times in life when we’re in such a hurry to see something happen, and get frustrated whenever there is any delay to our plans. How many times would we end up in approximately the same spot if we had not been in a hurry? And how much self-imposed annoyance and frustration do we experience, all because we’re in such a rush?

  8. Always Listening

    Whether it be the radio, or podcasts, or cable news, or your favorite album or show, there are countless ways you can keep yourself from experiencing silence in the course of day, if you so choose. Now, I know we’re all wired differently, and some people enjoy silence more than others. But regardless of your personality, there’s value in having at least some space in your life to sit with your own thoughts. It’s in these moments you can gain a little perspective; you can glean insights that you may otherwise miss; you can decide on the best path forward.

    Yes, there may be lots of good—maybe even really good—things to listen to. And they can be valuable. But always being plugged in can also become addictive, distracting you from more valuable uses of your attention. For instance, you may listen to something that has potentially valuable information, but because you don’t take a moment to reflect on what you learned, or figure out how you’re going to use that information, or whether you should change anything in your life as a result, it fails to have any lasting impact.

    Or when you encounter silence, you immediately, out of habit, begin looking for something else to listen to, even though there may be other things in life that could use your attention. Reflecting on the current state of your life, what you’re learning, and what kind of person you want to become, requires some space. It’s hard to think clearly about these kinds of things when you’re giving your attention to something else.

    Which means, although I’m grateful for all the options that I have to keep myself occupied, I also know first hand how easy it is to allow them to squeeze out moments of silence for reflection. These moments need not be too frequent or too long, but I’ve found that having at least some moments of silence during a given day gives my heart and mind a chance to check and see what else may be going on in my life—things that I may fail to notice if I’m always listening to something else.

  9. Willing to Fight

    ”…The really important things are the things about which men will fight.” –J. Gresham Machen

    You can often tell what people care most about by what they choose to fight for. Some will argue over politics or religion, others over sports teams, still others over artists or schools or tech companies.

    Now you may say you care about this or that. But if you’re unwilling to take a stand for it, what are you saying about the depth of your conviction? Or, you may say you don’t care that much about something else, but invest plenty of energy in taking, and defending, a position concerning it. I can say my religion is more important to me than my favorite football team, but if I’m more willing to take a stand for the team than I am for the truths I say I believe, what does that say about what I really find important?

    If you’re curious about what’s really important to you, take an honest look at what you’re willing to fight for. Because that’s where you’ll find your answer.

  10. Learning When to Compare

    Over the past couple months my son’s become increasingly fascinated with comparison. He’s beginning to understand comparative words (e.g. older, younger, shorter, taller, bigger, smaller, etc.) and is constantly looking for ways to use them.

    For instance, he’ll ask how old someone is, and as soon as he gets an answer he’ll begin to verbally figure out how that age relates to other people he knows. He’ll do the same with people’s heights. It’s not uncommon to overhear him talking about how Joey is older than Jimmy, but how Jimmy is taller than Joey. And how both of them are younger than Jill.

    Learning how to compare is part of growing up, and can be a valuable skill to have. When faced with multiple options, knowing how to properly compare them can help you make better decisions, and may even save you money or pain down the road.

    But there are other times where comparing does you little good—and may even cause some harm. You can be tempted to compare your life with those you see online, forgetting that you have no idea what’s really going on behind the scenes. Or you can allow your contentment in life to be altered by comparing what you have with those around you. What was once a perfectly nice car or house or phone suddenly isn’t good enough because of what others have.

    Or you can get caught up in the comparison of things that are beyond your control. You can’t control your physical features, or your family-of-origin, or certain opportunities you may (or may not) have had in life. And yet, if you’re not careful, you can wind up comparing yourself to others in these areas, instead of simply focusing on running your own race.

    Knowing how to compare is a valuable skill to have in life. But knowing when—and when not—to compare can be just as important.