What I'm Up To At The Moment

Dateline: Dallas/ Ft. Worth & Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, July 2024

One of my podcasts likely brought you here - GrowGreat.com or LeaningTowardWisdom.com or HotSpringsVillageInsideOut.com.

Grow.Great-A.City.Government.Leadership.Podcast        Hot Springs Village Inside Out

My podcast topics of passion include leadership, personal development/improvement, peer advantage and wisdom. And of course, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas - my favorite place.

Right now I'm intent on elevating my video skills for the Hot Springs Village Inside Out show. With 26,000 acres of awesomeness, Hot Springs Village has boundless beauty to capture (and share) on video. I also want to grow our YouTube channel for that show: https://www.youtube.com/@hotspringsvillageinsideout

Favorite Quotes

Everything is hard until it's easy.

Sir Winston Churchill remarked, "All I want is compliance with my wishes after a reasonable discussion."

There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment. Hunter S. ThompsonNapoleon 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."

Leslie Knope of Parks & Rec TV series 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."

"Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you."  -an old farmer

"Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important."  -T.S. Eliot

"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

Michael Weston, the main character in the TV series, Burn Notice, made this observation: "You just need a believable story and a lot of confidence."

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

― T.S. Eliot

I think Mr. Eliot got it wrong. It's far more than half.

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.

Making A Difference One At A Time

The parable of the starfish was inspired by a story by Loren C. Eiseley (an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer) called “The Star Thrower."

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed boy picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.

Approaching the boy he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?”

“Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die,” the boy replied.

The man laughed to himself and said, “Do you realize there are miles of miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference.”

After listening politely, the boy bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the surf. Then, he smiled at the man and said, “I made a difference to that one.”

Making a deeper, longer lasting impact is at the center of ALL my work. At my age, it's different now. Time is short. Always. Diminishing quickly with age making my opportunities more limited. Which motivates me to consider how to best spend or invest my time, effort and work.

The ONE THING that drives me professionally is making a difference to just one. I'm not as interested in scope and scale as much as I'm interested in making a difference.

The Connection Between Spiritual & Mental Well-Being

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 this picture listing 2021 goals 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. Well, almost everything.

But there's this one eternal area of life that isn't competitive at all, our spiritual lives. Measuring our status by where we stand relative to others is completely unprofitable when it comes to our spiritual health. It's an area of life where our loss or gain has little or no bearing on others, 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. The standard we'll be judged by is God's standard, not how we stack up against each other.

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."

2023 became a year where I increasingly leaned into spiritual self-preservation by concentrating on doing a better job of protecting my spiritual health. Largely, it meant refusing to pay attention to some things and some people. Mostly, it involved eliminating the impact of people who impose on others. It also included navigating the things that have a destructive influence. In short, it's an exercise in protection. I began 2024 realizing I needed to up my game and do an even better job.

King Solomon said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to do it better than I ever have before.

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.

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. 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.

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, But Worth It

“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


“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”
― George Burns

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.

“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”   ― George Burns

Don't judge my effort by this page. 😀

Practical Minimalism, Curbing Consumerism & Contentment = High Utility 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, and 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 entering a new phase, the encore chapter, where I'm growing increasingly pickier about the things that occupy space in my life. Some things - like the story-telling tools of audio and video gear - have increased. I'm pursuing those activities more vigorously so it makes sense that I should up my game.

But in most every other area, I'm diminishing my interest and my activities. The result? I care less, and with less care comes the off-loading of even more stuff.

Coupled with that is the growing awareness of my own consumerism. This was accelerated after we made a couple of moves requiring us to get rid of some things, which prompted us to need other things. When we sold one house we left behind a washer and dryer that were in perfect working condition, but they were a decade old...so we included them with the sell of the house. That house had a built-in Sub Zero refrigerator. Moving into another house required the purchase of a new washer, dryer and refrigerator. All big ticket purchases. There were smaller ticket purchases required, too.

I didn't begrudge these purchases, but for awhile there it felt like the outpouring of money to buy things was too frequent. I set about to slow things down...and I'm still setting about to do that even better!

Social media isn't helping. Targeted ads are common because they work. Social media networks know what we love most and they pander to us. I catch myself hiding ads more regularly than ever before - just to avoid being tempted. More and more I'm asking myself, "Why do I need that?" More and more I have no answer...which is all the answer I need. Just say, "No." 😉

Contentment begins with gratitude. Grateful for what I have, including possessions. Grateful enough to make the most of what I already have rather than thinking of the many things I don't have...that might be nice. Totally unnecessary and perhaps even useless, but nice.

I boil it all down to high utility living. That means the stuff in my life needs to be high utility...very useful. Commonly useful. Regularly useful. Beneficial. If not, then I have to really question it's place in my life.

When I Die

Death is important. But first, there's life.

About 15 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.

The death of my mother in early April 2024 prompted an update to the document. It seems that every death that impacts me prompts more edits to the document.

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 LaGrange, GA) at Let The Bible Speak TV. But first, permit me to introduce you to a lifelong mentor who died on February 20, 2019. He was a gospel preacher whom I had known all my life. He served me during some of my best and most challenging moments. His name was Barney Owens. On April 4, 2010, he preached this sermon entitled, "And he died."

That about sums it up. What about you? What are you up to? I'd like to know. Contact me here.

John Wick


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