You can be anything you want in life. So not true!

Got Purpose?

“You can be anything you want in life.”

That is a lie told by well-meaning parents who want their kids to dream big and achieve greatness.  The reality is there are limits and restrictions on your potential.  One of these limitations is your natural skills and talents.  There are some skills—perhaps reading or math or caring for others or an ability to focus quietly—that come easy to you.  Maybe you have chosen to work on refining these natural gifts into perfected talents, or maybe you are like most of us and fallen a little short in this effort.  Regardless, these seeds must be watered and nourished if they are to grow.  Get to work perfecting your natural gifts.

That’s your natural gifts.  But there are other skills that are not as natural for you.  These areas can limit your options in choosing a career, and they can be your downfall in the job search.  For example, the brilliant yet introverted mathematician who cannot deal with people makes a lousy teacher, if he does not deal with his shortcoming.  Similarly, the extroverted people-person who lacks the discipline to master mathematics also becomes a lousy teacher, if he does not try to control skills that do not come naturally.  Recognize that you are set free by your natural skills, but limited by those that are not as developed in you.

But raw skill is not the only variable affecting your ability to choose your profession.  You are also either empowered or restricted by your finances, your network of support from family and friends, and the unique opportunities that come your way every day.  You cannot simple “will” your way into a job by raw desire.  And no matter how hard you work at achieving career goals, some will simply stay beyond your grasp.

When I was in school at Western Kentucky University I worked hard to be the Geologist Senior of the Year.  I was a lab assistant, I volunteered to help teachers outside of class, I tutored people who were struggling in geology, and I studied nightly into the wee hours.  I got the highest grades in the class on nearly all my tests … and I came in second.  Similarly, every day thousands of talented, brilliantly gifted kids work tirelessly to become the next music superstar … but only one person can hold this spot.  You must live YOUR life, recognizing that you will not have the opportunities provided to others.

You cannot be anything you want to in life…but the reality is even better.  You have been placed on earth for a unique purpose… with unique skills…at a unique place…at a unique time.  You cannot be anything, but you can be one thing better than anyone else.  Better than anyone!  That’s because you have a truly unique skill set and completely unique opportunities that no one else will have.  Just like you may not be able to be the next President of the United States, the next president cannot be you … even if he or she tried.

The opportunities come your way every day, but they are usually subtle and you have to look carefully for them.  They reside in the manager you walk by every day, but never talk to.  The back-to-school scholarship you never looked for on the web.  The online degree taught by the university half-way around the world. The article in the newspaper about a community problem.  Or the difficulties that a friend or co-worker is facing.

Look for YOUR opportunities.  YOU can serve YOUR purpose like no one else because of the unique combinations of abilities you have, the unique lessons your life experiences have taught you, and the unique opportunities that will be presented to you and no one else. Successful people focus on the short-term opportunities around them, rather than the vague dreams that can never be realized.

The Ticking Clock

by James Smith,

Dark Bedroom ClockIn my bedroom is a clock.  It’s not digital, but it has the round face with the numbers 1 – 12 and a couple of hands that spin around it.  And it ticks!  We get so used to the clock that we typically don’t notice the ticking anymore.  Last night I noticed the ticking.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….

Each of those ticks represent a second of my life.  Tick, tick, tick, tick…  They go by so fast.  A second may not seem like a long time but when you add several together you eventually have a minute.  Add a few more and you have an hour.  The hours turn into days, the days weeks, and the weeks years.  All made up of individual seconds.

As the seconds of my life were ticking off that clock, I thought about the fact that with each tick a second of time was gone forever.  Wow!  How precious each moment of our lives are when we hear the wheels of time rolling.

The question becomes, “How valuable do we see those ticks of life’s clock?” The answer is found in how we spend them, what we do with them.  For me, I want every second to count for something.  I want every tick of my life’s clock to be valuable in some way to someone.  Whether it’s God, my wife, my children, my church, my friends, my community, or myself, I want to use those valuable seconds to make me or others better.  It all comes down to how I choose to spend them.

My Bible says in the letter of James that our life is a “mist.”  It’s here today but tomorrow may be gone.  Several psalms compare life to grass of the field, here today but gone tomorrow.  We have no idea when our clocks are going to stop ticking, that makes every tick a gift from God – a gift to be treasured and used for something marvelous and wonderful.

Thoreau wrote in Walden, “I went to the woods to live deliberately; to drink deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”  Drink deep of this wonderful gift of life.  If you’re reading this today, God gave you a gift of another day in time.  What are you going to do with it?  How are you going to show your appreciation to Him for it?  Do you value the gift?  What are you going to spend your time doing today?

Watching TV?  Playing video games?  On Facebook?  Or maybe talking to God?  Spending time with people?  Reading God’s Message to you?  Serving the poor?  Making your community a better place?  Connecting with co-workers?  Loving your spouse and children?

There’s a million choices that we can make each day on how we’re going to spend the ticks on our clocks.  How are you going to spend yours today?  How valuable do you see them?  Are you going to make them matter?

Tick, tick, tick…


— written by James Smith


Two Easy Tips for More Restful Sleep

by Rich Nilsen, author of “Sleep Great for Life” ebook

Do you sleep great?Do you often have trouble falling asleep? Do you suffer from insomnia one or more nights per week? There are many things you can do to significantly improve your chances for a better night’s sleep. Here are two easy tips that everyone can start applying right away.


Don’t want to miss that favorite television show that starts at 10:00 p.m.?  Well, that is what DVRs and VCRs are for. DVRs are wonderful in that you can set up a regular, scheduled taping every time your favorite show airs. You can also easily record the remainder of a show if you find yourself getting sleepy. Use modern technology to your advantage. Your sleep is too important.


I am a firm believer that by putting your thoughts to paper, it helps release them from your mind.  It allows you to wake up the next day and, at that time, begin to address the issue(s). Another benefit of doing this is that you will not lose that great idea that you just had while lying in bed!

Make sure you do not go to bed with your mind racing or with problems still pending.  Put them “to bed” for the night, and then you will be able to put yourself to bed – peacefully.

This blog was reprinted in part from


Endowed with the Seeds of Greatness

Seeds of GreatnessYour power is much greater than you think.  Sure you have limitations, but you also have some tremendous strengths that you may take for granted.  After all, you have been made in God’s image.  If you accept the fact that you were born for greatness, you will be surprised how you can control your own destiny.

Find that place deep within your heart where you know you where hardwired to succeed.  If you do not know where to look, it is that tiny spot buried under the busy-ness of modern day life and all the difficulties that have come your way recently.  Find the spot, dust it off, and take a look.  You know it is there.  It has just been neglected for a while.  It’s time to clean it up and give it some attention.

Once you recognize the truth that you were born for greatness, ACT like the great person you know you were meant to be.  Start getting your health under control.  Pour some energy into the people around you.  Set a goal for yourself.  Start reading or learning or becoming an expert at something.  Inch your way toward getting out of debt.

If these are all too tough for you at the moment, start by controlling some simple behaviors.  Consciously put a spring in your step.  Hold your head high when you walk.  Look people directly in the eye and when they talk listen to them not just with your ears, but with your eyes and your heart.  Introduce yourself first to new people you meet.  Smile.  Be a little bold in your speech by talking first and saying things that put a high energy positive spin on the conversation.  These are the behaviors of a person who is born to win.

You need these behaviors even if you have to fake them at first.  If you start to ACT like you believe in yourself, you will start to FEEL like you believe in yourself.  When you start to act bold and confident and optimistic, you will draw people in, which will give you power.  When people give you this power, you turn their expectations into reality by becoming the person they think you are  … a person of greatness.

You may have self-doubt that makes you feel small at times, but think of the power a mosquito has trapped in your bedroom.  Despite its tiny size, the mosquito rules all.  You can rule your entire destiny and consciously alter your future…by a simple personal choice to succeed.

Because of this great potential, you must accept responsibility for all your actions.  You must consciously choose what thoughts to let grow in your mind.  You must act with graciousness and bold action.  Be aware of the self-doubt and the worries, but do not let these thoughts take root in your mind.  Instead, focus on turning positive, optimistic thoughts into tangible, concrete actions.   When you have no time to entertain negative thoughts, no one will be able to stop you.  You will constantly push on when you encounter setbacks, because you truly were designed to succeed.  Like the world champ Mohammad Ali said, “It’s hard to beat someone who never gives up.”   Your job search starts with the recognition that you were endowed with the seeds of greatness.

Get Up and Run Again

by Rich Nilsen,

What do you do when you face obstacles? Do you fold up like an accordian, or do you get right back up, shake the dust off, and get back on track? How you handle roadblocks that get in your way during the course of life will play a huge factor in whether or not you meet your goals on personal and professional levels.

If you are looking for inspiration to start your week and help get you on the right path, look no further than this short video that went viral on YouTube some time ago.

Have a super week!

The Mountain’s Call

Mountain View

Are you listening to the mountain's call?

“It’s impossible!” yelled pride.

“It’s risky!” bellowed experience.

“It’s pointless!” howled reason.

“Ignore the others.  Follow the mountain’s call.” whispered the heart.

Today, you will discover your destiny.

Look at your feet and you’ll be surprised to see that right before you there is an unexpected fork in your career path.  You have a choice of taking your life down one of two directions.

You cannot take a single step farther without making an irrevocable commitment to one of the two paths. Both branches lead to a possible future.  Both create very different destinies.

One path takes you up the mountain—the other leaves you wandering in the valley.  One path will take you to new heights—the other will keep you in the lowlands.  One path promises light—the other shadows.  One puts you in the glow of the elite few—the other leaves you with the grayness of the masses.  One guarantees the joy of accomplishment—the other promises the seduction of comfort and ease.

One path will show you self-doubt, test your resolve, and make you stronger—the other will leave you soft.  One promises success beyond your widest imaginations—the other will ensnare you in failure.  One has Yeti and scary demons to challenge every step—the other is monster free.

One path has thin oxygen and threatens to suffocate you—the other is comfy cozy.  One offers true hope—the other appears hopeful, but only has deceit.  One preserves for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth—the other sentences us to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

The choice of which path to take is ours.  We cannot delegate this responsibility.  And if we cower from this responsibility, our fate will be sealed.  I pray we all have the intellect to choose wisely, the courage to take each step with confidence, and the discernment to discover the call from the mountain’s summit.

Do the Impossible…So now, go!

Ever feel like the task before you is impossible? Ever feel like what you’re being called to do is beyond your reach?  This blogs for you.

“So now, go.  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  God said these words to Moses.  Exo 3:10

Never in the history of mankind has a man been given a task as impossible as that which Moses was given by God.  When God gave Moses the mission, it reads like a passing comment tacked onto the end of God’s expression of concern.  Here’s my paraphrase:  “I’ve seen how my people are suffering and how much misery they are in.  I’ve come down from heaven to rescue them and lead them to the promised land.  I’ve seen how they’re being mistreated and I’m going to do something about it.  So now, go on.  Here’s the bus ticket to Egypt, Moses.  Go and bring my people to me.”

“So now, go.”  Moses must have been stunned.  I’m sure he was expecting God to do it Himself.  Maybe he expected that God would ride in on chariots of fire with lightning bolts and thunder and angels all around.  But God’s plan was different.

“So now, go.”  I can imagine God saying this the way I would tell my daughter, “We need some milk.  So now, go.  I’m sending you to the store to bring home some milk.”  Or maybe it was like a boss telling an employee, “We need to make this sell; it’s a huge client.  So now, go.  I’m sending you to make the sell.”

There are any number of things in our lives that may seem impossible to us.  But consider Moses’ task.  Walk into the throne room of the most powerful ruler of the biggest superpower on earth and tell him to let his largest labor pool (2-3 million slaves) leave!  Moses was surely feeling inadequate.  Afterall, he was a foster child who was rejected by his people (the Hebrews) and condemned to death by his adoptive family (Pharaoh).  He had fled to the wilderness as a fugitive when his family tried to kill him.  He had murdered a man so he was carrying the baggage of being a wanted criminal.  He had a low self-esteem at this point and possibly even a speech impediment (or at least in his eyes).  He had fallen in life from being the son of Pharaoh to being a sheep herder in the desert!  He had just had an experience with a talking burning bush that probably made him doubt his very sanity.

This man…this flawed imperfect man…was being asked to do the most impossible task!  “Uh…Mr. Pharaoh, will you let all your slaves go…this voice out of a burning bush in the middle of the desert told me to tell you that.  I’ll be waiting outside for them.”

How could this man even contemplate accepting this Mission: Impossible?  It was suicide!  Now consider God’s next words to Moses:  Exo 3:12 And God said, “I will be with you.”

What could you do if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was going to be with you?  What could you accomplish if you were so confident that God was with you that there was NO doubt in your mind?  There are times in my life that I’m so confident that God is with me that I’m ready to charge into hell with a water gun!  And there are times that I cower in insecurity and fear over the simplest task that I know that I could do.  The difference is when you know that God is with you!

“So now, go.”

What are the seemingly impossible dreams and goals in your life that you know that God would want you to do?  Moses grappled with fear and insecurity over his impossible mission.  Yet, after that initial struggle, he went.  And we know the rest of the story!

Jesus told us that there is nothing impossible for God.  Paul told us that if God is with us, nothing can stand against us.  All we have to do is “go.”  And God said, “I will be with you.”

So now, go!

The Mind of The Resume Writer

Resume CartoonWhat is a resume? A resume is a specialized teaching tool.  It is not a marketing piece or an advertisement.  This is in contrast to what most resume “experts” will tell you.  But think about the mindset of a marketer.  Marketers pull out all the stops and do whatever they can to get us to think we need their product.  They spend millions researching logos, product names, color usage, and advertising campaigns.

Marketers exaggerate product claims about what their products can do for us (check out the weight loss and get-rich-quick infomercials), sometimes crossing over the line by lying or at least providing false hope to the general public.  (“I lost 35 pounds in a week eating nothing but Oreos and ice cream!”)  The marketer doesn’t reveal that the product rarely works this good.  It’s all a marketing scheme, grounded in well-researched persuasive psychology and walking the line on legality and the ethical high road.

The purpose of a resume is to teach—not to market yourself.  When you draft your resume, think about the characteristics of great teachers.

Marketers don’t care what buying their product will do to your budget, and they don’t have your best interest at heart.  YOUR best interest is not THEIR job—their job is to make money.  If they don’t make money, they lose their job and their kids go hungry.  Their job is to play to your emotions, your intellect, and your sense of urgency so that you leave the house right now and go buy their product.  That’s their job.  It doesn’t necessarily make them bad people; it just means that they don’t care that much about you.

Lots of people writing their resumes think of themselves as self-marketers.  They try to present themselves as bigger than life, greater than great.  Studies indicate that over 60-90% of resume writers exaggerate the truth on their resumes.  And, as a hiring manager, I’ve sometimes fallen for this.  The result:  I’ve hired people who SEEM to be a good fit for the job, but after a while, they don’t work out.  They’ve sold themselves to me and end up not being a good fit for the job.

Everyone pays a price for resume lies:  the manager, because he’s hired a person who is unable to do the job; HIS boss, because he now thinks the hiring manager is incompetent;  and the person hired, because he is not able to do the job he convinced the manager he COULD do.  As a result, the employee can end up with disciplinary actions against him, which could result in termination of his employment—not to mention all the associated stress caused from his failure on the job.  Or he may have just locked himself into a job for life because his incompetence means he won’t be promoted.  Or, if the company finds out he falsified information to get the job, he could end up at the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Experienced managers can smell self-interest marketing techniques.  They intuitively identify someone who is trying to sell themselves.  When an experienced manager senses that someone is trying to sell themselves in a resume or job interview, the manager sees the person as desperate and self-centered.  The manager will run away, because the applicant sounds like a used car salesman trying to unload a junker.  It’s like the applicant is holding a big “WILL WORK FOR FOOD” sign—People tend to look the other way.  As a resume writer, you are trying to teach managers what you can do for their particular business, not trying to sell yourself as the best thing since sliced bread.

The purpose of a resume is to teach—not to market yourself.  When you draft your resume, think about the characteristics of great teachers.  This takes the pressure off of you.  You don’t have to become a salesman.  But, in teaching the hiring manager, you must adhere to teaching basics:  First, eliminate distractions.  Remember how easy it was in school to get distracted by things going on outside the windows or things the class clown was doing?  And sometimes you were so bored in the class that you probably LOOKED for things to distract you.  I know I did.  The hiring manager is the same.  If your resume is too wordy, has a distracting layout, or has any other attributes that distract the manager, it will be headed for the trash can.

Second, educational psychologists have found that people need to hear a message at least three times before they remember it.  If you give students a piece of information once and never bring it up again, they are sure to forget it.  So what does this mean for you?  I want you to remember that 3 X 3 does not equal 9 x 1.  Here’s what I mean:  Giving a manager examples of three skills you have and repeating these skills in three different situations is much more powerful than giving the manager nine different skills and mentioning each only once.  The nine won’t make an impression, but the three will make you look like an expert. For example, if a company is accepting resumes for a team leader, you are better off using three different examples of when you’ve successfully led team projects, rather than nine different skills you have, one of which is team leader.

Condense and emphasize.  Otherwise, you end up hiding your qualifications behind too much data and trivial facts.  In writing your resume, you will have to choose what to include and what to leave out of each description of your past and current jobs.  Leave out irrelevant details and emphasize necessary qualities for the job you want.

The hiring manager has the right to hire the very best person for the job.  They get to choose—that’s their job.  It is their right and their responsibility to the company.  Your job is not to sway them that you are better than some other job candidate.  Chances are you don’t know the other people the hiring manager is considering.  But your job, on the other hand, is to teach them who you are.  You have the right AND the responsibility—to yourself and those affected by your employment decisions—to put your very best in front of the manager for him to consider.  You are an educator, not a sales person.

This is a complete mental shift for most people.  Every day many great applicants are passed over because they are selling themselves, not teaching the manager.  If a manager can look over your resume and know what you have accomplished and what skills you could bring to the job, you have succeeded as a teacher, regardless of who gets the job offer.  But, remember, most people draft their resume as a sales tool.  Draft your resume as a teaching tool and you WILL stand out.

Susan Powell, Her Two Sons, and One Promise

[Warning: This blog post is of an adult nature]

by Rich Nilsen,

Chuck and Judy Cox, parents of Susan PowellThis week one of the worst acts of evil ever witnessed in my lifetime was accomplished by Josh Powell, the man most sane people felt was responsible for the disappearance of his wife Susan in 2009. Powell claimed that he took his two sons on a camping trip during a snow storm that featured bitterly cold temperatures. During this overnight trip his wife Susan disappeared. He felt that Susan just up and left, abandoning not only him but also her two young sons. It was arguably one of the worst “stories” ever used by a pathological killer.Shortly after the national story hit the press, Powell moved out of state.

Evil often begets evil, and over the subsequent weeks and months that followed, Josh’s father was an accomplice in tarnishing the reputation of his beautiful daughter-in-law, Susan. He made outrageous claims, including that he had an affair with Susan. During this incredibly difficult time, Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, stood strong in their faith and attested that they believed Josh was responsible for his wife’s disappearance.

Then in 2011 it came out that child pornography was found on the hard drives of Josh’s father. As a result, the elder Powell was sent to prison on child porn and voyeurism charges.

In recent weeks the grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox, obtained custody of the two boys, and Josh Powell would only be allowed supervised visits. To make matters worse for Powell, at least one of the two boys had started recalling events from that fateful night, stating that he remembered “mommy in the trunk.”

Clearly, these events pushed Powell over the edge. Before blowing up his house this week in a shocking suicide-double murder, Josh Powell attacked his sons with a hatchet. Evil at its absolute worst.

1 Corinthians 2:9

But, as it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

In a remarkable portrayal of strength, Chuck and Judy Cox appeared on NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday, only a couple of days after the two grandsons they had been caring for were murdered in a brutal and horrific way. The Cox’s discussed how they feared something awful could happen to the boys on one of the visits with their father, and they warned the authorities about their concerns.

At the conclusion of this amazing interview, NBC host Ann Curry asked the grieving couple what gives them the strength and peace to handle this.

“Our faith,” replied Judy Cox.

“We know where our daughter is,” explained Chuck Cox. “We know that she is safe, and we know that the boys are now back with their mother.”

Susan Powell reunited with her two beautiful sons.

No eye has seen.

No ear has heard.

No heart of man conceived.

What God has prepared for those who love him.

The Black Horizon

Black HorizonIt is April 14, some years back, and the ocean cargo ship Californian has almost completed her journey from Liverpool, England to Boston Harbor.  After a hard journey, the crew sleeps peacefully as the Californian rocks rhythmically for the night.  It is near midnight, as Second Officer Herbert Stone bounds up the Californian’s steps to report for watch duty on the bridge.

Reporting for duty, Stone finds his apprentice seaman—Charles Grove—glued to a pair of binoculars, starring motionless toward the black horizon.  Grove has spotted a ship in the distance … just 9 miles out. While some details of the ship are obscure, the ship is close enough that Grove can make out the ship’s masthead, cabin lights, and the glare of white lights on her afterdeck—a freighter by all appearance.

Stone asks Grove to try to communicate by means of the Californian’s bright signal lamp—similar to what I would call an airport spot light or search light.  Grove flashes a bright beacon signal, but no answer from the steamer.

“Will that be all, sir?”  Grove asks.  Stone nods, and Grove leaves to make a note in his log.

Now Second Officer Stone is alone on the bridge.  Glancing idly over the peaceful waves, the boat on the horizon catches his eye.

Grove returns to the bridge and Stone requests further communication attempts through the signal lamp.  Grove employs the beacon signal once more, but still no reply from the steamer.

Lifting the binoculars to his eyes once more, Stone observes three flashes like fireworks in the sky, but now his attention is drawn to the steamer’s cabin lights.  They seem to be disappearing, as though the steamer were sailing away.  The movement is easily dismissed as routine sailing as the steamer makes its way through the night sea.  By 2:40 a.m., the steamer’s lights vanish into the night.

Neither the second officer nor his apprentice interpret the white flashes as cause for alarm.  The event is dismissed by all as curious, but nothing more than a slight oddity.  After all, the steamer had never replied to the Californian’s repeated messages sent through their bright beacon lamp.

But things are often not as they seem.  For the officers of the Californian had—unbeknownst to any of them—been front row for an unimaginable drama.  You see, the steamer they had been watching had launched its rocket flares into the night sky as distress signals, and the Californian—only nine miles away—might have easily rushed to her aid, but the crew on the Californian never interpreted the flares as an emergency signal.

In addition to the flares, the steamer was sending out distress calls by their radio.  And the Californian was well within the range of those messages… but her radio operator was asleep.  After all, the Californian’s officers believed that a hard working crew needs its rest.  So the Californian’s fledging radio operator—fresh from training school—was fast asleep in his cabin.  And that night the ship’s second officer and his apprentice, from their vantage point on the bridge, watched the sinking of the Titanic, and didn’t even know it.

Let’s all watch our horizons for signals.