What I'm Up To At The Moment
Dateline: Dallas/ Ft. Worth, February 2023
It's likely one of my podcasts brought you here - GrowGreat.com or LeaningTowardWisdom.com. Or my collaboration with Leo Bottary might have intrigued you enough to bring you here. Leo and I do a podcast together (currently it's on hiatus) to promote our united belief that together we go further, faster - Peernovation.
I also own and produce a podcast about one of my favorite places on earth, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas - HotSpringsVillageInsideOut.com. I'm currently on hiatus from co-hosting that show (since July 2022), but I do the behind-the-scenes work.
My podcast topics of passion include leadership, peer advantage, personal development/improvement, and wisdom. And of course, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas.
Since 1997 I've been a one-man media company "slash" executive/leadership coach. I love to write, podcast, and create content to help people. Leadership, high-performance cultures, highly effective groups/teams/organizations - that's the professional work. Mostly, it's about helping people "figure it out." Not because I've already figured it out, but because I'm a great listener armed with high curiosity and solid questions. The magic is in the process! I'm a great human sounding board.
Leaning Toward Wisdom was the first podcast, started around 1997 as an "audio journal" when my kids were winding down high school. It began as a passion and a legacy project. Curiosity still fuels the passion to learn more and gain as much wisdom as possible.
Thoughts of legacy dawned on me when I thought about great grandfathers I never knew and imagined how cool it would be if I could click a "play" button and hear them share some things. So I began taking advantage of technology by recording my insights, experience, and wisdom. Along the way, I've gained a small, but loyal following of listeners, something I never expected or pursued. I'm thankful for each one of them.
Legacy isn't about patting oneself on the back. It's about passing it on, something I'm increasingly passionate about because so many older folks served me that way.
Grow Great (the podcast) was relaunched in May 2022 with a new (first-time ever for that podcast), co-host. It's always been focused on leadership, but now the focus is on city government leadership. Lisa Norris is the Director of Human Resources/Civil Service for the city of Grand Prairie, Texas. Lisa joined me to co-host the Grow Great podcast. We profile leaders in city government and discuss leadership topics in the context of the public sector. It's a niche I love to serve - so much so that I've pushed just about all my professional chips into the middle of the table to serve folks in city government leadership.
Everything is hard until it's easy.
It's my all-time favorite quote, one I've never been able to attribute to anybody...and I would rather love to acknowledge whoever said it because it's brilliant.
You likely already know how fond I am of sarcasm, so it's no surprise that snarky quotes rank high with me.
Charles de Gaulle, once the President of the French Republic, said, "How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?"
On why he consumes so much sugar, Warren Buffett said, "I checked the actuarial tables, and the lowest death rate is among six-year-olds. So I decided to eat like a six-year-old. It's the safest course I can take."
Sir Winston Churchill remarked, "All I want is compliance with my wishes after a reasonable discussion."
Napoleon Bonaparte is attributed with this one: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
Eb Dawson of Green Acres fame once said, "It's not a crime to lose all your money. It's just stupid."
Speaking of stupid. There's a quote attributed to Einstein that he never said or wrote. It's still clever, although I disagree with the first part of it.
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Leslie Knope of Parks & Rec uttered this bit of brilliance, "We've got a big problem with the library. The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They're mean, conniving, rude, and extremely well-read which makes them very dangerous."
"Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is that you're stupid and you make bad decisions."
"Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you." -an old farmer
"The death of a dream is the day that you stop believing in the work it takes to get there." ― Chris Burkmenn
Here's another quote attributed to Einstein, but he never said it. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” When you're a bonafide genius I guess people figure lots of clever sayings were born in your brain. I don't suffer such indignities. 😉
"A young man is a theory, an old man is a fact." – E. W. Howe
"Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you." -Anonymous
Elmore Leonard, the novelist, and author of Freaky Deaky crafted this line in that novel: "It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to sound like it does."
"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure." -Mark Twain
"If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around." -an old farmer
Sherlock Holmes has this bit of wisdom. "It is easy to be wise after the event." Long ago, I concluded that my definition of wisdom is getting it right in real-time. That's largely what Leaning Toward Wisdom seeks to do - provide us with some observations and insights that hopefully help us do that in our own lives. There's a fair amount of snark and chuckling along the way.
Spiritual Growth & Mental Health
Self-denial is hard—worth it, but hard.
Temperance (self-control) is hard. Meekness is hard.
There's extraordinary power in our willingness to discipline ourselves. To resist behaving foolishly. To resist satisfying our every selfish desire.
Somebody shared that picture with me. I've seen this idea before, but the illustration is good. True, too.
Some things are easy to surrender to, but the end results are hard. Very hard.
Selfishness is easy. Giving in to our every desire is easy. Bitterness is easy. Hatred, too.
But when these easy things become our way of life, then we find life is really, really hard. No surprise because God, who created us, told us in Proverbs 13:15, "...the way of the transgressor is hard." Sin fools us into thinking it's easy. Fun. Pleasurable. The path to happiness.
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death (that's eternal death), but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Comparing our lives with one another doesn't matter when it comes to our spiritual lives. It likely doesn't matter much in any area of our life except in competition.
Everything is a competition.
But there's this one eternal area of life that isn't, our spiritual lives. An area where it has nothing to do with our status measured by where we stand relative to others. An area of life where your loss or gain has little or no bearing on your loss or gain, except for the power of influence. An area where humility, submission, kindness, meekness, gentleness, grace, and compassion are highly prized because these are godly qualities that Heaven praises. Proof that heavenly wisdom is vastly superior to manmade wisdom.
Spiritual health is overlooked more than physical or mental health. It's the challenge we face whenever we seek short-term joy or happiness over long-term benefits. According to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it's the earthly over the spiritual, the temporal over the eternal.
Matthew 16:24 "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
Ecclesiastes 12:13 "This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man."
During good times reliance on God can slip. It's manifested in lax prayer habits and Bible reading.
During bad times - even desperate times - people are often driven to their knees crying out to God. Searching for answers to questions they didn't even know they had when they were more fully devoted only to themselves.
I'm working to schedule the important spiritual things: prayer, reading the scriptures, studying (and preparing sermons), and meditation. Preaching and serving others privately has always been the priority. This area of life is supremely important because - Eternity changes everything! It's easily worth scheduling. And making it a bigger priority.
Around the first of April 2020, I began to record some sermons (audio only) and post them on YouTube in a playlist entitled, In Thy Paths. Since then I've posted them as an audio playlist here. Just go up to the navigation and click that link, In Thy Paths.
Mental health - at least for me - can't be viewed separately from spiritual growth (and health). That's because we serve God first with our minds. Until a person makes up their mind they'll respond appropriately to the Gospel by putting God first, then serving God isn't possible. It's why the repeated admonition of the Lord was to "deny yourself." Self-denial is a decision followed by taking action. The power of a mind made up is manifested whenever we commit to spiritual growth.
For me, spiritual growth and mental health are congruent. Increasingly I'm aware of how my frame of mind impacts everything. I believe we're each responsible for our own lives. For guarding our hearts. I don't accept the notion that we're merely puppets subject to the impositions of others. No matter who is at fault, or who is to blame - we're responsible for what we think, what we believe, how we feel, and how we behave. Bad things happen to all of us - sometimes horrible things beyond our control - but we can decide how to best respond. Moving forward or cowering in the corner are options. It's up to us to decide.
Brevity Is Hard Work
“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
— Blaise Pascal, mathematician, and physicist
“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”
— Henry David Thoreau, writer, and philosopher
“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”
— Mark Twain, writer, speaker, and humorist
I'd like to report that I've grown enormously in this area, but I can't. 😉
I'm working on it.
I can report that I'm more highly motivated than ever before. It began some years ago in my preaching at church. I noticed sermons were growing increasingly longer and longer. I grew up hearing the adage, “The mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure.” I guess some preachers think hour-long sermons are more effective than shorter ones. They're wrong!
I noticed my own sermons creeping up in length. I also knew why. I wasn't putting in sufficient effort to make them briefer. As I'd listen to others, and watch sermons online, it was evident to me that very few preachers were putting in the effort. Laziness is a hard thing to manage.
Coming out of the Pandemic, assuming we have, I noticed even more sermon-length creep. They grew even longer. I suppose it's because as more gospel meetings were being conducted preachers were making up for lost time by gobbling as much time from congregations as possible. I noticed online sermons were almost always hovering around 50 minutes, likely at least 20 minutes too long!
I had been carving time off of my own sermons well before the Pandemic happened. Given my embrace of minimalism, it seemed fitting to purge some time off sermons, but until recently I didn't apply the same effort to other forms of communication.
Personal Communication, including face-to-face, Zoom, phone calls, texting, messaging (whatever platform)
They're all now under more serious scrutiny.
While I don't want to overthink it, I want to be more intentional, thoughtful, and purposeful.
Do you know the guy who loves to use 100 words when 10 will do? Yeah, me, too. I've never wanted to be THAT GUY. Instead, I'd like to be the guy who finds a way to use 6 instead of 10.
Don't judge my effort by this page. 😀
High Utility / Low Maintenance Living
I started purging possessions in July 2022, determined to rid myself of at least 80% of everything I owned. Turns out I underestimated my commitment and ability to get rid of things. I think I've likely eliminated over 90% of my personal possessions (think clothes, books, etc.). It's among the most liberating things I've ever done.
When I began the process I decided how I'd determine what I'd keep. I'd ask a few questions:
1. Do I use this regularly?
2. If I don't, when was the last time I used it? (if I hadn't touched it in a year or more and it didn't provide some other value, out it went)
3. Is it sentimental, a keep-sake? If so, do I want to hang onto it?
That got the process moving forward. Right away I started asking about the utility of things. Were they high utility?
That question erupted as I was looking at things like furniture, then it moved into just about everything. My spaces contained some fixtures and furniture that were not of high utility. They were really just taking up space and providing hiding places for clutter. I determined that if something wasn't high utility, then I'd part with it. By the end of the first week of my purging, high-utility living became my mantra driving almost all my choices.
I'm leaning hard toward high-utility living as I architect the next chapter of my life. I wish I had figured this out years ago. 😉
The Encore Chapter
A day late, a dollar short.
We've all been there.
Rhonda and I are kinda there right now as we're navigating our encore chapter of life. For a few years now we've been seriously thinking about what we want the next chapter of our life to look like. These are difficult decisions made harder because of age, experience, insights, wisdom, and relationships, particularly family relationships. We don’t judge the decisions others make because we understand that we have to do what's right for us - and our situation.
A couple in northern California has three kids scattered all over the country. None of the kids have remained in California. One is up in Seattle, one in Washington, DC, and another in Omaha. Navigating their encore chapter looks quite different from ours. Do they move to where one of the kids lives? What if they do that and their child takes a job in a different city? If such a decision begins with family - and for most of us it does - they face a substantially different decision than the ones we face.
They've decided to find a place where they most would like to live. They just want to make sure it's got access to a good airport. But it doesn't stop there.
They also have to think about how they'd like to influence family gatherings. Getting everybody together is increasingly more difficult, but after sitting down with the family they decided they need and want a larger house, one that will accommodate big family gatherings. Is that necessary? Of course not, but it's what they most want. They hash out the economics of having a big house that will likely host big family gatherings twice a year, but there's more to consider. They're very sociable and enjoy entertaining. And the place where they've set their sights is a place where they have a few friends already.
Another older married couple has no children and no other family. They're looking at low-cost places where their dollars can be fully stretched. Some time back they plugged into places where Americans are migrating for the same reasons. Currently, they're very interested in Ecuador.
I bring these up to illustrate how dramatically different situations can be. Rhonda and I wouldn't consider either of these scenarios because neither one fits us. Family-wise. Finance-wise. Interest-wise.
"Figuring it out," is the catchphrase for my work. I coach professional folks, helping them figure it out for themselves because just like these encore chapter scenarios, everybody's life is different. There may be some framework truths to consider, like budget considerations, but we have to make our own choices based on what matters most to us.
All of us facing our encore chapter are thinking of the present and the future. I don't suppose many of us are getting too far ahead of ourselves, but you hear older couples talk about not wanting stairs, for instance. Stairs aren't currently a problem but fast forward 10 or 15 years and we wonder, "Will they be?" Such considerations impact our decisions.
Right now, Rhonda and I are in purge mode, not acquire mode. We're ridding ourselves of things so we can then figure out what we most would like to acquire. And where? We have strong ideas and I'd say we're about 95% decided, but now we have to execute. Part of purging is getting rid of things - which includes selling things, giving things away, and donating things. Part of purging is simultaneously acquiring resources (for example, turning unused or necessary furniture into cash). In time, we're going to sell our house, too. That's the big purge and acquisition because it will help us fund our encore chapter - a chapter we're fully intent on cash flowing. Where will we go? What will all that look like? We don't yet know even though we have ideas and plans. First things first. Right now, most of it is subject to change because figuring it out is active work where we learn with every step forward. Stay tuned and I'll let you know how it's going.
The current words that ideally depict what we're pursuing are: modest, practical, sustainable (and I don't mean green, but I mean predictably repeatable), realistic and probable. Another phrase I use regularly is "high utility," meaning very useful. I'd encourage you to put specific words to what you're most pursuing right now, knowing they're subject to change. We're old, so these words likely illustrate our station in life at the moment.
The considerations remain in priority order as they always have: God, family (firstly, me and Rhonda, then the rest of our tribe), finances, then us (what we most want for ourselves as an old married couple). So we keep working, planning, and praying. Stay tuned.
Phone Distraction & Obsession
This annoys me far more than social media although they're not mutually exclusive because I know many people are staring at their phones because of social media. Thankfully, this is one of the rare areas of my life where self-control is high. Maybe it's because my cumulative hours on a phone are historic! I've spent so much time on the phone in business (mostly) and personally...maybe I hit my quota. I don't know. I just know my phone is almost never intrusive in my life because I just don't give it the love many people give theirs.
When texting overtook voice calls, I was thrilled. Not because I don't enjoy good conversation, but because many conversations aren't good. 😉
And texting is asynchronous. We can handle it on our timetable, not the person who is texting us. Phone calls are interruptions. Texts are not. Unless we let them.
My phone is turned off by 7 pm every day. It never enters my bedroom. I don't even walk around the house with it. It stays pretty stationary when I'm home. And it almost never has the sound turned on (ringer). If there were some way to measure how much time we have our phones in our hands, my time would likely be much, much lower than most. That screen time measurement you get on Apple iPhones (which is what I have), is never very high.
Comedians used to poke fun at how bad cell phone reception was while phones were adding functionality and apps. "How 'bout we get a phone that's a GOOD PHONE?" they'd mock. Other than the camera, the music, texting, calendars, and navigation --- and the occasional web browsing (looking something up) --- I'm content to not have my phone affixed to my hand.
We all see the sad reality of phones in our lives. Husbands and wives touch their phones more than they do each other. We talk to (on) our phones more than we speak with one another. We pay a lot more attention to our phones than we do to each other. Yet, we're increasingly craving more intimacy - deeper connections - than ever. Until we decide to behave with more focused intentionality toward the people who matter most, that's not likely going to change!
Partners For Life: Racing Toward (and beyond) Our 45th Anniversary
We had just turned 18 when we went on our first date (together). 😉 It was July 2, 1975. From that moment on, we were and remain a couple. Lifelong partners. On January 2, 1978, we got married. Rhonda Lynn Childers became Mrs. Cantrell and it remains one of my most cherished decisions trumped only by becoming a Christian when I was baptized into Christ (July 1968).
Today we're grandparents, something those kids sitting at that park picnic table (pictured to the left) could have never imagined. Five grandkids. Five adults, including the two of us. That's our tribe. That's our blessing. The most important people to us.
Genesis 1:27-28 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.' "
Genesis 2:24 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
Ephesians 5:25-33 "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, ..."
For at least the past twenty years I've had one recurring fear that haunts me...losing her. I don't live in daily mortification, but I confess it crosses my mind often. Daily. She means that much to me and makes my life so much more than it would have otherwise been. I can't - and won't - imagine life without her. I stare down my fears of losing her in the daily attempts to cherish her, something I don't do as well as I should.
Strength. Resilience. Determination. Resolve. Resourcefulness. Enterprising. Productive. Entrepreneurial. Caring. Committed.
The adjectives to describe her come easily. The difficulty is stopping, for fear of gushing on too much. And embarrassing her.
Proverbs 31:10 "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels."
I found an excellent wife, the love of my life. And I was beyond fortunate to find her when I was young, and hang onto her for dear life!
On January 2, 2023, we celebrated 45 years of marriage. It was quiet and understated - which is how we roll. There are lots of miles behind us and we're praying for many more ahead of us. Daily we face the reality that making the most of our time together is the priority, even though we don't often enough behave like it. We go about our business likely taking for granted moments - it's the practical life that overrides things for all of us.
It's urgent that we don't squander our opportunities. That's why many times each night I find myself reaching over simply to touch her, making sure she's still there. And mostly, making sure I'm not just dreaming that the girl I fell in love with many years ago is still my best friend, partner, and love of my life. It's also why I'm increasingly focused on being a better man!
That whole passing it on thing - legacy - is in full swing because now we have grandkids. We're devoted to having as big an impact on them as they'll allow. Right now, they're pretty compliant to let us be part of their lives. That's liable to change as they grow older so we're working hard to be important to them right now!
When I Die
Death is important. But first, there's life.
More than a dozen years ago I created a DropBox folder shared with my wife called, "When I Die." In that folder is a working document of what I want to happen when I die. The details aren't important here, but they're important for my wife and family. While I'm alive they matter to me, but I realize when the realities of that document happen, I won't know or care. I'll be somewhere else far, far away.
Death is too important to ignore. Specifically, our own death is important. I know my death will be a reflection of my life though so my daily choices matter. How I treat others, how I behave myself (or fail to), how I influence others, how I serve others - these are the things that matter. Mostly, how I glorify God will matter because He's who I'll face when this life is over. So admittedly, I think about my death. It'd be foolish not to.
Check out some of my sermons at In Thy Paths. Better yet check out some sermons by a much more talented preacher, Kevin Presley (a gospel preacher currently based in Dothan, Alabama) at Let The Bible Speak TV.
That about sums it up. What about you? What are you up to? I'd like to know. Contact me here.