I love food and the people I meet because of it!

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ve always enjoyed food. Well, that’s not 100% true. My parents told me that when I was a baby, I was born premature and had trouble eating. This didn’t last long though. One day my dad was watching me at home and fed me an entire bowl of oatmeal. To his surprise I ate the whole thing and haven’t looked back since!

As a kid I was an adventurous eater, always wanting to try different things at restaurants. One time when I was eight years old, we were at a restaurant. The waitress asked me what I wanted and I said “PBR me!” My parents put a stop to that one before I got in any trouble. Another time we went to the original Chipotle’s (before it was a national franchise). I ordered the veggie burrito because a black bean burrito sounded like a good idea. I still haven’t lived that one down with my family, despite being 12 at the time.

I am fascinated by foods in different cultures. They are a gateway to understanding a culture’s history and behavior. There are always amazing stories around food. Ask someone to tell you about their favorite meal or dish, and their eyes will light up. They will share a memory of a meal at their grandmother’s house or perhaps a travel experience.

For this reason I started a group in Fargo called “The International Potluck“. It’s mission was to connect people through food and story-telling. My own selfish ambition was to meet new people and try some good food. The first Potluck was held in February of 2016. 25 people showed up, all invited by me. We had a great time sharing food and stories. Someone offered to host the next one at his studio. Oh, of course there should be a next one!

Attendees of the first Potluck
Attendees of the first Potluck

Two months later we did just that. This time 65 people came! I knew 10 of them. I thought to myself, I might be on to something here…

The second Potluck -
The second Potluck –

In June we hosted another. Same thing – 65 people, I knew a few of them. People asking if we would host another one in July. They offered to help with setup, graphic design, etc. It was growing!

The third Potluck, hosted in June
The third Potluck, hosted in June

Shortly after that event I received an e-mail from a dear friend. She introduced me to the CEO of the Plains Art Museum. The museum wanted to host community events in the cafe; was I interested in hosting my Potluck there? Of course I was! We met, planned an event for October. 100 people came! We had a speaker who shared the story of the Yazidi people. A TV crew came to interview him.

Fourth Potluck, first one at the Plains! This was a proud moment for me.
Fourth Potluck, first one at the Plains! This was a proud moment for me.

I’ve met many wonderful people through this event. In the coming weeks I will share stories about each of them, telling their background and some of the fun we have had.

Many cultures, one plate
Many cultures, one plate
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Setting goals, big or small

Several weeks ago I hurt my elbow and have been using modified workouts at CrossFit. Today I was doing air squats and sit ups while the rest of the group was on the row machines and doing pull ups. For my first round I worked hard (or so I thought) and logged 25 air squats and 24 sit ups. During the minute break I thought to myself “I wonder if I could do 30?”

The next round I did 35 squats and 30 sit ups! Now we were rolling. I had a challenge each time. Rather than going into the minute thinking “get as many done as possible” I had a challenge…I had a mission. Hit 30 of each. Most of the rounds I hit my goal but I noticed a few things about the workout after I changed gears:

  1. Going at it by yourself is tough. When you are working out with a group, there are people around you to challenge you. It’s a natural competition and drive to do better. You are all in it together. When you are doing your own thing, those driving factors are gone and the motivation needs to come within.
  2. Set specific goals. When I approached the minute with a goal in mind, it changed my intensity. I had focus. The minute had a purpose.
  3. Celebrate! When I had a specific number in mind, it gave me something to look forward to. I was working towards that number and felt GREAT when I hit 34 or 35. Without that expectation it wouldn’t have felt the same way.

What are some of the ways you set goals for the small things?

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How do you start your day?

 

Several weeks ago, Jeff Bajorek posted a short but important video on YouTube. “What’s The First Thing You Do Every Day?”  Once you are ready for work, how do you start? Most people would answer by saying they check e-mail or social media.

Jeff notes that most people look for something to react to, rather than seizing the day. Do something positive! Take a few minutes to read 10 pages from a book that inspires you. Watch a motivational video on YouTube. DO SOMETHING that inspires you to approach the day with vigor.

His challenge was to take the rest of that week and next to start your day like this. I thought to myself, “I like this! I’m going to do it.” Here’s what happened.

When I wake up in the morning, my mind is like a coiled up spring. Energy bottled up from the previous night’s sleep that needs to go somewhere. I noticed the following on days that started with exercise a positive mindset:

  • I was more focused, accomplished more, and was more fun to be around.
  • Time felt more effortless.
  • Days had a clearer purpose.

On the days where I missed exercise and the right start:

  • My activities were less efficient.
  • It took more energy to get started with or move between tasks.
  • Negative thoughts increased exponentially.

Jim Rohn once said: “Don’t start the day until it is pretty well finished — at least the outline of the day. Leave some room to improvise. Leave some room for extra strategies, but finish it before you start it.”

This begins with your mindset. Have a positive mindset, set a vision for the day, then approach it with vigor!

What’s the first thing you do every day? Are there certain authors or people you follow, things you do to get motivated? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Opportunity Knocks

That is one of the tricks of opportunity. It has a sly habit of slipping in by the back door, and often it comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat. Perhaps this is why so many fail to recognize opportunity.

– Napoleon Hill

I spoke with a friend who is facing some critical decisions for his business. The results of the choices will dramatically change its future direction. Challenging the practices that have brought the business to this point has created tension. The results of the choices will mean letting go of some practices and focusing on others for growth.

On one hand, it would be tempting to be nostalgic. After all, he built the operations around this area and it would mean letting go of that part of the business. It could be tempting to take a negative view and see this as a defeat. I could think “I failed because we are no longer doing this part of the business.”

I’ve also struggled with this mentality. It would be easy to look at my time moving back to Kulm as a defeat, rather than an opportunity. My mind would then be filled with regret. I would want to avoid thinking about my time there. I could feel shame about the decision.

Instead, I see that “temporary defeat” as a gateway to new opportunity. I learned things about myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was able to learn valuable skills in business operations, sales, and marketing. Our family was able to spend two wonderful years living right next to my parents. Those memories are invaluable and I wouldn’t trade them for anything!

During our conversation we talked about an upcoming project that will be stressful. My first reaction was to say: “It will be fun!” (People soon learn I have a strange definition of a fun time…)

It goes back to how I think. Will I look at a tough situation with fear and doubt? Or will I approach the endeavor with a spirit of enthusiasm, optimism, and curiosity? Certainly the work will be real, there will be legitimate problems to solve, and I will feel stress at times. But if I begin with a spirit of enthusiasm, optimism, and curiosity I will discover those moments.

How do you approach difficult situations? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


Earlier this week I started re-reading Napoleon Hills’ classic “Think and Grow Rich.” I’d like to post my thoughts here on a regular basis for your own reflection. Hopefully this sparks some thoughts in your life and a conversation with me about it!

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The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work (And How to Fix Them)

Looking back on the past eight years I’d be lying if I said that everything has been wonderful. There have been many stressful moments, most of them self-inflicted.

I got involved with a family business for the wrong reasons. Our family relocated…twice. I sat with indifference for several years at my day job just waiting for the right moment to be anointed as a leader. I fought with those around me – my spouse, my children, myself, my brother, my parents. I waited for others to make decisions then blamed them for my own lack of self-determination.

James Clear has identified three stages where people fail in life and work:

https://medium.com/the-mission/the-3-stages-of-failure-in-life-and-work-and-how-to-fix-them-5d69196e0b38#.i5xy28qag

The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work
The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work

I’m not ashamed to say I’ve fell down on all the points listed in the article. The idea that struck me most while reading this article was the example of Emerson.

Like many children, Emerson followed the path of his father to the same school and the same profession before opening his eyes and realizing it wasn’t what he wanted. Adopting someone else’s vision as your own — whether it be from family, friends, celebrities, your boss, or society as a whole — is unlikely to lead to your personal dream. Your identity and your habits need to be aligned.

My work in progress from this article is to determine my non-negotiable. I also stand to improve how I handle criticism (read: I don’t handle criticism well at all).

Which stage do you identify with most? Where are you at on the journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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“I think I just tooted”

Last night I went through the normal bedtime routine with Emma. We read our princess story, sang a few songs, then snuggled and prayed.

As I got up I looked at her and said “I love you so much Emma, I am grateful for every moment with you and thank God for you every day.”

Emma smiled and responded: “I think I just tooted…”

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“The Land of the Lines”

I don’t impose limits on myself. If I find a better idea for a scene, I adapt the story. That way, the narration remains instinctive, which is especially important for a story like The Land of Lines.

-Victor Hussenot

One of the things I love about having children is the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. It keeps my sense of wonder fresh and new every day. Stuff that could easily be ignored by adults such as graphic novels or animated films are part of a parent’s daily rhythm.

Several months ago I was browsing through Zandbroz Variety (my favorite store in Fargo) and started flipping through a book. At first I found myself idly flipping through pages waiting for the words to start but soon realized there were no words. Only lines and pictures.

Intrigued I started over and began my journey in the land of the lines.

Click the picture for a great interview with the author – but beware the spoilers if you plan on reading the book.

Slowly but surely the story drew me in and I followed this journey of discovery, adventure, and more. I found myself feeling connected to these characters and feeling a sense of sadness when the story ended. How could I feel sad about a few lines after only a five minute read?

There is power and beauty in simplicity. If you haven’t read the book, stop by my office and take a quick peek (it only takes 5 minutes to read), then buy yourself a copy and pay it forward.

In the land of lines, anything is possible…

 

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“Song of the Sea” – A beautiful movie

A few nights ago we were looking for a good family movie to watch while we ate pizza.

We opened the Amazon movie app and “Song of the Sea” caught our eye. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. This film has a well-deserved 99% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Critics Consensus:Song of the Sea boasts narrative depth commensurate with its visual beauty, adding up to an animated saga overflowing with family-friendly riches.

Each frame is gorgeous, the type of movie you could pause at any moment and marvel at the beautiful art.

In addition to the beautiful music and animated art, the story is compelling and rich. Themes of love, embracing emotion, and remembering our past are all woven into an enchanting story.

Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. One of the things I love most about having kids is the excuse to watch animated movies. Like children themselves, children’s stories often have wonderful meanings and beauty for adults if we take the time to watch and listen.

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Defeated before the day starts

“Have you ever waken up and just felt defeated before the day even starts?”

This has happened to me many times. I wake up at 3, 4, or 5 in the morning immediately worried about the topic of the day. One time I found myself worried that I wasn’t going to be able to pay my kids’ college tuition. My oldest daughter is 7 years old. I paused for a moment and came to a few realizations:

  1. My kids might not go to college, or a traditional 4 year school (and that’s ok!)
  2. If they do go, it’s not my responsibility to pay for it.
  3. There is no limit or end to the arbitrary things I could pick to worry about.

When I wake up in this state, it’s so easy for it to snowball into the rest of the day. That stress and anxiety leads to thoughts of self-defeat and negativity. Before you know it everything is going wrong. It reminds me of a book I read as a child: “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

Perhaps you read this as a child and are now reading it to your kids or children in your life. What I’ve come to realize is that you have a choice on how good or bad your day is. One of my virtual mentors, Jeffrey Gitomer, put it this way:

“I’m having a bad day” is bologna. What you’re really saying is: “I’ve let other people get to my attitude” or “I’ve let other circumstances get to my attitude.” That’s not only unjustifiable; it’s a sign of mental weakness. If you tell yourself you’re having a bad day, I promise you will have one, and if you tell yourself you’re having a great day, I promise you will have one. The day is not bad unless you declare it bad.

My best plan of attack, once I’ve realized I’m in this cycle is to stop the cycle, slow time, and reset.

Stop the cycle

Once the thoughts and stress are rolling, it can feel difficult or impossible to stop but I promise it isn’t! People have many ways to stop the cycle but what works for me is a quick pause for meditation. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and focus on releasing all the thoughts in my head. Usually 1-5 minutes is enough time to break the cycle to move on to my next move which is to slow time.

Slow time

I love walks! Taking a quick walk around the block gets the blood flowing. It takes me out of the physical atmosphere where the negativity started and gives me a chance for a fresh start. I pause and take moments to experience everything that is around me. Last week I took a quick walk and appreciated the cool breeze, the smell of fresh cut grass, and the sound of the birds. I focused on being present in that moment.

Reset

Each of these steps helps me get to a state where I can reset or reframe my day. I begin to focus on positive thoughts. Reflecting on life’s blessings, I look to the future as a place filled with opportunity and hope.

I hope you have found this to be helpful. Each day is full of possibility! You will find what you are looking for in the day whether it be positive or negative. What are some ways you conquer these patterns in your life? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Celebrate your failures!

 

“I didn’t catch a fish daddy!”

Emma cheered gleefully as she pulled the line out of the water. It was her first time fishing. She sat intently at the edge of the dock, fishing rod in hand, peering over the edge into the water. This was, without a doubt, the highlight of her weekend!

I watched her repeat this and wondered to myself why she was so excited for producing nothing, until it hit me. The aim for Emma wasn’t to catch a fish, it was to enjoy the moment and activity. At 4 years old, Emma demonstrated mastery of a concept Brendon Burchard calls “How to Slow Time”. (For more information about this idea I recommend checking out his post here.)

How often are we focused on the wrong definitions of success? It’s easy for failures to draw us into negativity. In this context they become false confirmation of negative self-talk. Failure can be an opportunity to reflect, to learn, and to grow.

The next time you encounter failure will you enjoy this moment, or will it fuel a negative spirit? My hope is that you will embrace the moment as Emma did, celebrating her catch.

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