Thanks to the Daily Herald for running this article about my book.
Thanks to the Daily Herald for running this article about my book.
This is one of those twice-annual days when time becomes a favorite topic of conversation because of Daylight Savings Time. Granted, there is much less complaining this time of year when we get to “fall back” and enjoy an extra hour of sleep.
Time, for me, is a fascinating subject. It is the Universal Gift that God has bestowed upon mankind. Every person is given 24 hours in each day to do with as he/she pleases. Eventually, it is how we use our time that distinguishes us from each other. Those who are good stewards of the Universal Gift usually are able to accomplish more with their lives and have a bigger impact for good in the world. The first key in my book Living a Life That Matters: 7 Keys for Purposeful Living is “Be a Doer, Not a Spectator.” I have noticed over the years that people living purposeful lives tend to make good use of their time. They spend their time doing rather than watching. They know what they want to do with their lives and use their God-allotted time to accomplish their goals.
As I think back through history at those who had a big impact on mankind, Benjamin Franklin certainly stands out. He was a prolific inventor, philosopher and statesman. It is an understatement to say he lived a purposeful life. He organized his life to make good use of every minute of his day. Order was the virtue he valued most, so he had a daily schedule that allowed him to do those things that mattered most to him. He would arise at 5 o’clock each morning and spend the first three hours getting ready for the day by washing, eating breakfast and asking the question, “What good shall I do this day?” In his words, his first three hours were “Arise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study and take breakfast.”
After breakfast, he would work four hours then “read or overlook my accounts and dine.” Following another four hours of work, he would, “Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion or conversation. Examination of the day.” For the latter, he would ask the question, “What good have I done today?” Then he would retire for the evening and get seven hours of sleep.
We all find ourselves in different circumstances in life with varying stewardships. Parents of small children have a different set of challenges than empty nesters like me and my wife. Nevertheless, like Franklin, we can have “order” in our lives if we approach them with purpose and planning. There is no doubt that efficient use of time requires more effort and energy than non-efficient time use. It takes effort and planning to be punctual. It takes effort to get up early in the morning to do your exercising. It takes effort to find time to study each day. The person living a purposeful life understands that the increased effort will be rewarded with success and happiness.
It is never too late to take an inventory of your use of time and determine how you can use it better to benefit your life and others’. Alan Lakein summed it all up very well: “Time = Life. Therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.”
I recently read (okay, listened to) the new book by David McCullough about the Wright Brothers (Simon and Shuster, New York, 2015). This was a fascinating book, and I highly recommend it. I thought I knew a lot about the Wright Brothers, but it turns out I knew very little. The Wright Brothers were the perfect example of the sixth key in my book, Living a Life That Matters: 7 Keys for Purposeful Living. The sixth key is “Be a Lifelong Learner.”
Orville and Wilbur never attended college, yet they were two of the most brilliant, innovative men of their era and made a huge impact on our world. What was the cause of their incredible success and ingenuity? Their father, a Bishop, filled their home with books and a love of learning. They didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity or a telephone, but they had a multitude of books at their disposal and took advantage of the opportunity to learn from them. They became knowledgeable about engineering, bird flight, aerodynamics, architecture, wind and many more subjects.
McCullough says in his book, “Years later [after they had made their historic first flight], a friend told Orville that he and his brother would always stand as an example of how far Americans with no special advantage could advance in the world. ‘But it isn’t true,’ Orville responded emphatically, ‘to say we had no special advantages. The greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.'”
Wilbur had aspirations of attending Yale and was planning to go there, but he was hit in the face by a stick during a hockey game and lost his front teeth. (The boy who hit him was later executed for murdering his parents and an estimated 12 other people.) Wilbur went into depression and secluded himself in his house for three years. During that time, he read practically non-stop and filled his mind with information about many topics, including bird flight and aerodynamics. He and Orville may never have become history makers had not Wilbur suffered such an unfortunate incident. When Wilbur later visited Paris to showcase the new airplane, he visited the Louvre 15 times and wrote home lengthy letters about architecture, art and culture in Paris. He never ceased learning.
Another thing that impressed me about the brothers was their ingenuity and courage. They didn’t have a crew of engineers and mechanics at their disposal. When their airplane broke (which it did often), they had to fix it on their own. Every time they took to the air in their “experimental” aircraft, they were putting their lives in jeopardy. In fact, Orville seriously broke his leg in a crash at Washington, D.C., and his passenger (a high-ranking military officer) was killed.
At the same time the Wrights were preparing their aircraft, the US government had given tens of thousands of dollars to the Smithsonian Institute to develop a flying machine. That machine never achieved flight. Orville and Wilbur spent less than $1,000 on their project, proving once again that a couple of entrepreneurs operating in the private sector could be more successful and do it for less money than a government-sponsored endeavor.
For me, the takeaway from this book was that one of the greatest things we can do for ourselves, our children and society is to cultivate a love of learning. We are never too old or too young to learn something new. Knowledge drives our society and our economy. It is difficult for an ignorant, uninformed person to live purposefully. Most of the truly great people I know and respect are avid learners. We may never invent something as dramatic and impactful as an airplane, but filling our minds continually will help us lead happier and more productive lives. What good books have your read lately? What wisdom or information have you shared recently with your children, grandchildren or co-workers? What have you learned today?
The most difficult chapter in my book to write was the key “Seek Spiritual Balance.” It was difficult because this book is written for a secular audience, not necessarily a faith-based one. It would have been easy for me to share my personal spiritual ideas and thoughts–which I did somewhat–but I wanted to be as objective as possible. Spirituality tends to be an individual thing and is viewed differently by many people and many faiths.
I was pleased to see that former Utah Lt. Governor Greg Bell recently wrote a column in the Deseret News that dovetails nicely with the notion that spirituality helps one live a more healthy and purposeful life. In the article, he references a couple of studies on religiosity. One study by Dan Buettner looked at people living in the “Blue Zone,” where people tend to live to 100 without suffering from dementia, depression and deadly diseases that tend to end life earlier. In fact, the factors Buettner listed as causes for their longevity corresponded with some of the keys mentioned in my book: strong family and social ties, regular moderate physical activity and a moderate diet. The most surprising thing Buettner mentioned, however, was the impact religiosity had on life’s longevity among those people. Those who attended church four times a month added anywhere from 4 to 14 years of quality living to their life expectancy.
Bell points out another study of 9,000 older Europeans by the London School of Economics and the Neatherlands’ Erasmus Medical Center. The study looked at factors affecting mental health. It looked at things like charitable giving and volunteering, participation in politics and social organizations, educational pursuits and participating in religious activities. The study concludes that the only activity to provide a lasting positive influence on mental health was participating in religious organizations.
“Science tells us that religion and going to church makes people happier, healthier and more purposeful,” Bell says.
As I did research for my chapter on seeking spiritual balance, I found plenty of studies that point to the positive effects of spirituality and religiosity. But, as with most of the things I discuss in my book, I have plenty of life experience to back up my assertion that spiritual balance is a key to living a life that matters and a life filled with purpose.
The notion of writing a book and sharing personal thoughts, ideas and experiences with the world is frightening, intimidating and exhilarating, all at the same time. I have spent hours summoning memories from the past and writing them down so others can vicariously experience them and, hopefully, learn something or be inspired to live a happier and more impactful life.
The idea for this book was born when I one day opened my file cabinet and pulled out a thick file containing the many talks I had given over the years. I had struggled mightily to write those talks and condense my thinking to words on paper. I was once asked to speak at a graduation for a university, and I had chosen to title my remarks: Living a Life That Matters. Much of the content for that talk had come from other previous talks. I determined that day to begin a book dealing with that subject.
If you read this book, you will be exposed to many personal experiences stemming from a lifetime of interacting with and watching other people. I am a student of life and an observer of my environment. The beauty of writing a book is that I can share my world view. My philosophies. My opinions. Readers may disagree with some of what I write, and that’s okay. This book represents my thoughts about those keys that, I believe, will make our lives more enjoyable and more impactful.
So if you decide to buy the book, I welcome you into my life. I welcome you into my mind. I hope you enjoy the journey!