The Mustn’ts

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the lmpossibles, the Won’ts.

Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.

Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

-Shel Silverstein

I remember my daughter climbing on my knee as I read her this poem. I talked to her about how life was wide open for her–full of choices and options. She hung on every word. I told her she could be anything she wants when she grows up. She listened intensely. I told her how achieving greatness is a decision, rather than a circumstance. She believed me.




And then I thought how I had just lied to my little girl. Her warmth in my arms, and I thought of the lie fresh off my lips. I thought about how, for all of us, “anything” is bound and chained by reality. The reality is that we have mental and physical limitations, and we have limitations of opportunity.


I thought how, for many of us, life has laid opportunities in our path that are not available to others … opportunities to have good families and sound employment.  Opportunities that have spared us getting news at the doctor that no one wants to hear.  Opportunities to live in a country where we do not have to worry about things like roadside bombs.


And in the same manner others have opportunities we can only dream of.  And no matter how much we may want to, we can never have the opportunities for fame or fortune or whatever opportunities God has selected to bypass us and fall in the laps of our neighbors. It seems we are dealt certain cards in life, and we are prohibited from handpicking through the deck.


Back to the poem … I let the lie rest with Rachael. I never corrected it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because the dream is so much more appealing than the reality. Maybe it was because I was embarrassed that I had been told the same story and could never pull it off.  Whatever the reason, I’ve thought about this poem and my daughter a lot lately.  I’ve thought about how life is about hope, and hope is about convincing people that “anything can be … ” I’ve thought about kids with cancer, child rape, school lockdowns in Frankfort, school shootings in Ohio, and famous stars of Hollywood who have taken their own lives because behind the glamor and fame, life was just too hard.  I’ve thought of how 60% of the adult population is on prescription antidepressants.  I’ve thought of the burdens carried by hard workers caught in the cross hairs of a corporate downsizing.  I’ve thought of bullying at school … and I’ve thought of a million other problems I do not know how to fix.


It makes me sad.  But then I think of what Paul Harvey used to call, “The rest of the story.”  How I cannot be anything … without limitations … but I can be one thing very well.  I think of how, with all the people with all these problems, I get opportunities to live my faith each and every day.  Each day I get opportunities to be the Good Samaritan.  We all do.


The opportunity to be a Good Samaritan is not something far in the distance … it is at my doorstep.  You know the opportunities.  You see them in the eyes of the Walmart clerk.  You hear them hiding behind the words as a kid talks about school.  You sense them in the overweight coworker who just cannot loose the weight.


How great it is that our options are limited.  How wonderful it is that we can help carry a little bit of the load for friends and neighbors.  If that doesn’t open a world of possibilities, I don’t know what does.

Happy, Thankful and Awed

I have a personal mission statement for my life.  Hokey… yes.  Academic… just a little.  Trite and frivolous… no way.

You see, my mission statement pushes me to live my life and to view things in a particular way…in a way that I have consciously chosen to look at things.  A realist by nature and downright pessimistic at times, the life view demanded by my mission statement is completely different than how I would naturally look at things.  This mission statement forces me in a direction that is uniquely different from the way I would approach life on autopilot.

My mission statement is a bit of intentional dreaming I did years ago under one of my mentors, Tricia Thurman.  Tricia taught me that personal mission statements should capture the type of person we want to be, which for me was a long distance away from the type of person I was.

I wrote my mission statement as part of a class, and then reviewed it and edited it daily until it seemed right.  It took me three week of off-and-on thinking to craft my mission statement, and the months and years following were perhaps the happiest time of my life.  Everything I did, everything I saw, and everything I felt snuggled warmly against my newfound mission.  For the first time, all of life seemed to fit together, like a jigsaw puzzle with no missing pieces.

But then life got busy, two more kids came along, my mother-in-law got Alzheimer’s, my father-in-law died, my dad died, and for some reason I forgot my mission.  I started to withdraw.  Life for me grew darker…not bad, just darker.

Out of the blue, my mission statement popped into my head the other day.  I don’t know why it did.  I was just driving down the road and I guess my mind wandered.  (Thank you, wandering mind.)  Since then, my view of life has been a little clearer, my work has been a bit more productive, and I have seen a joy I haven’t noticed in quite some time.  Welcome back, mission statement.  I’ve missed you.

I know the path to your mission will be different than mine.  I know it won’t take you three weeks…it may be shorter or perhaps longer.  But I also know you will be happier if you spend the intentional time deciding what type of person you want to be when you grow up.

Post your mission statements on this blog, and let me know the process you went through to get to yours.  We’ll all grow from sharing our experiences.

James Hale—MISSION STATEMENT:  Happy with my life, thankful for my gifts, and awed by inspirations from those around me.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Letter to Satan

Letter_to_SatanDear Satan,

It’s me, the man you know so well.  I don’t talk to you much, but I sure do see you a lot.  Everyday, I catch a glimpse of you in the mirror.  Every hour, I hear you scratching at my door.  Every second, your thoughts chew in my head.

Do you chase everyone like you chase me?  Am I really that important to you?  Do you want me so much you’ll try anything and never give up?

I wonder if you do this because I lead you on so.  I do let you in at times.  I do return your catching glance.   I admit it freely.  But make no mistake, you and I are at war.  For even though at times I call you my friend, I am not proud of those moments.  They capture me at my weakest, my most shameful, my ugliest.

Do I love you?  No, for even though I am commanded to love my neighbor and even thought I see you in my neighbor, you are too distant to be my neighbor.  Do I hate you?  No, for hate would give you power, and power is something you have plenty of.  Do I feel sorry for you?  Yes, for I know even you could rest in peace if you took the warm embrace of our Father’s arms.

I am sure we’ll be seeing each other again, very soon.  Just so you know, I’ll be the one fighting to turn away from your glance, and though you may catch it for a moment, you will find yourself holding something you cannot keep—my soul.

In Christ’s name I pray,

James Hale

— James is a porter.  He helps people carry their loads along life’s journey.  He is author of the All Star Press book “Quiet Spaces:  Hearing God’s Call in a Noisy World.”

All Star Press presents “Quiet Spaces: Hearing God’s Voice in a Noisy World”

Quiet Spaces by James HaleThere are two types of callings: the loud, drama-filled, unmistakable directions that make the good Bible stories, and the quieter, more subtle, personal nudges meant for one person. These latter ones are not intended for public viewing. They are soft, personal, one-to-one messages from God to someone for whom He has a purpose. Maybe for you. 

All Star Press is proud to announce the e-book release of James Hale’s “Quiet Spaces: Hearing God’s Voice in a Noisy World.” This powerful book is available for the Kindle and all e-book formats

Of the two types of callings, the quieter ones are the more common, but less understood. These are ones that Jesus and so many others experienced in biblical times…and today. It’s these quieter callings Hale teaches the reader to hear. These are much more subtle than the dramatic ones. These messages cascade gently down from on high, and we do hear them, but we often do not listen to them. 

The great physicist Albert Einstein understood the goodness of God – like most people do – but he also understood the quietness of so many of God’s greatest works and how we often miss his messages or think he’s being elusive or tricky. Einstein observed that “God is subtle, but He is not malicious.” Yes, God is deep and profound, but not devious. Understanding God often baffles and confuses us, but there is no deception, no false path. God places the cookie jar within our sight, and invites us to stretch to reach it, without any traps in the way. He calls to us in quiet, subtle ways, and none of His callings are evil or misguided. There are no tricks, no deceit, no misdirection. 

In “Quiet Spaces” author James Hale teaches you the simple steps to make your work your calling. This influential book includes an easy-to-use 45-day devotional on career choices that everyone can benefit from.


“Any young person who reads this book and follows its suggestions is bound to become a better and happier person.” Bethany Holt – Entrepreneur 

“Even though I am past choosing a vocation in life, I still have a road to finish traveling. This book has helped tremendously.” Angela Masters, Retiree 

“God often speaks to us in ‘gentle whispers’ (just ask Elijah). Quiet Spaces will prepare you to hear God’s call to your heart. This is another great resources for Christian workers from a great Christian organization–Path Choices.” James Smith- – Senior Minister, Mt Carmel Chirstian Church, Cynthiana, KY

Are you ready to incorporate your calling into your daily work? Download “Quiet Spaces” today to your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other eReader.