Scoreboard, I Hate You

A few days ago I downloaded this app called “My Fitness Pal”. Anyone else tried that one? You enter everything you eat and drink during the day, and it tallies up your calorie intake, as well as the nutritional info.  And then it tells you “If you eat like this, you will weight X kg by X date.”

Oh. Dear.

Every day so far, I have exceeded my recommended calorie intake—and it’s not even an unreasonable goal because of my active lifestyle. But I like chips.

What changed? Did my diet change for the worse because I started tracking it? No, I just got a reasonable picture of what I am eating.

A few days before that, I tallied up my expenses and receipts for the month of November to see if I made budget. I didn’t. Not even close—saved only because I worked overtime and made more than I’d projected, and even then I went backwards last month. Ugh. I’ve been tracking my budget for the last four months, and I have never made budget perfectly. But this much I know, I’ve been a lot closer when I’ve been tracking it.

Of course, that doesn’t make it any less depressing.

I also track what books I read, how many audios I listen to, the stats to my blog, Twitter and Facebook. Most months I make my goals, but the progress seems really slow.

Claude Hamilton, in his book Toughen Up: Basic Training for Leadership and Success, says, “We track what we respect. If you don’t respect your money, you won’t track it. If you do respect your time, you’ll track it… those who don’t respect their time and money enough to track them are always too busy and broke.” Ouch. I suspect that the same thing applies to my diet: I didn’t respect my body, so I didn’t track my diet, ergo I’m overweight.

I don’t know if tracking my food-intake will help me lose weight, but not tracking it would have kept me on the same path of weight gain I was on, just as not tracking my finances would have kept me broke. As it is, I am able to live off 80 percent of my income, and slowly am gaining financial traction. Because I set goals and revisit them regularly, I read more, learn more, and do more because I respect my time.

As you see, I go from failure to failure. When you’re losing, the scoreboard is depressing. That’s why some kiddy sports team have eliminated it—as if that could boost the self-esteem of said kiddies by sticking their heads in their sand.  “Oh, they’ll feel bad if they see that they suck.”  Yup.  They will.  Maybe it does boost their self-esteem for the moment, but it will ultimately hurt them by giving them unrealistic expectations: their boss will keep score on their productivity. Their bank will keep score on their accounts. Keeping a scoreboard keeps you honest about your failures, and when you have the courage to confront your weakness and do something about it, there are few things that build your self-esteem more.

For further reading, check out the chapter on keeping score in Resolved: 13 Resolutions for LIFE by Orrin Woodward, or the chapter on putting first things first in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Or this article on keeping score at Orrin Woodward’s Blog here

3 Reasons Why I Love Audio Learning

What are you listening to right now? What’s on your phone? What’s in your disk-changer (if you still have one of those dinosaurs)? Is it helping you or hurting you? Is it feeding your brain?

I love listening to music–darn near addicted. But for the past five years I’ve been on a steady diet of audios–podcasts, lectures, sermons and motivational talks. And I love it. Here’s why that’s my favourite way to learn.

1. I can multitask.

As a borderline workaholic, I love to be able to accomplish two things at once. I can prepare dinner while learning about the history of Great Britain—a workaholic nerd’s dream. The kitchen becomes a classroom, the car becomes a university on wheels, and the bathroom becomes a church. Getting preached at while I put on mascara? Oh yes. Unlike reading, which requires having eyes on the page, audio learning just requires having your stereo (or phone) in earshot. This kills the “I don’t have time” excuse.

2. It’s cheap and effective.

Let’s compare, shall we? I subscribe to a fifty-dollar CD and book package that sends me four CD’s a month on various topics. I’ve received this, or something similar, for almost five years. Let’s say I’ve spent three grand on audios over the last five years, give or take. I also get three free podcasts a week. 16 audios a month for around fifty bucks, and I listen to them more than once.

I spent two years in college to receive a diploma. It was a small private school where the tuition is partially subsidized by donations. This cost me about 15,000.

Both were well worth their while, but I learned about the same thing in each–History, economics, politics, leadership, success principles, personal development, time management, financial management, principles for a good marriage, principles for parenting, psychology, theology, communication, philosophy, apologetics, and science.

And the audio learning didn’t require a loan, or quitting my job.

3. It refreshes my mind.

I’m a consummate over-thinker. When I’m worrying or just plain in a funk, I need something to shut me up. I’ve found that if I pop in a CD or put on a podcast, it shuts out my negative self-talk and invigorates my mind. After listening I am ready to take on the next task—and if I’m not, I’ve at least accomplished something. But this only works if it’s a positive audio. If it’s some negative, crass, or ‘brain-candy’ type thing, it probably won’t work.

Where to Start?

Pick stuff that interests you and challenges you. Pick stuff that will help in your area of expertise, or is in a field you’d like to improve in. I also recommend a steady diet of personal development material from sources who have the results that prove they know their stuff.

Here are a few ideas:

The LIFE audio series, by LIFE Leadership:
LIFE produces audios on the themes of the “8 F’s” (Faith, Family, Finance, Fitness, Friends, Freedom, Following and Fun), taught by successful business and social leaders. Relatable, engaging and entertaining. Cost: roughly 50.00 per month for 4 CD’s and one book.

The British History Podcast: Produced by Jamie Jeffers, a former attorney who presents the history of Great Britain with a conversational, witty style and doesn’t hesitate to buck tradition. This is NOT your high school history class. Cost: free podcast, with optional membership for bonus content (5.00 per month).

Ravi Zacharias, “Let My People Think”: Author and apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and guests discuss living and defending a Christian worldview in a hostile environment. Ravi is humble and soft-spoken, but his brilliance shines through. Free podcasts.

Focus on the Family Radio Theatres: Movie-quality sound, original scores and full casts bring classic novels and original stories to life. My personal favorites are the Chronicles of Narnia. Other titles include Ben Hur and Les Miserables. Available through iTunes. Cost: 4.99 to 25.99 per title.

Give it a go. Try one per week. Try a few different audios. I bet it will grow on you.

To Thine Own Self be True: Backhanded Cure No. 2

I used to think I was an honest person.

I had a reality check when I found two points of dishonesty that were a regular part of my life. One: I’d lie to cover up things that embarrassed me, and two: I’d lie to myself. I’ve realized (with help) that if I can’t be honest to myself, I’m not a trustworthy person. And if I can’t trust myself, that is a serious blow to the self-esteem.

Leadership guru Orrin Woodward said that if you set your alarm to get up at six, but snooze twice and get up at 6:18, that is a lack of integrity. You said you’d get up at six and you didn’t. Sure, no one else cares, but you know, and this will erode your self-confidence. I guess if I can’t discipline myself to get up when I say I will, I don’t have much discipline. Ouch.

If you say “this evening I’m going to get this project done” but watch TV instead, you’ve broken a promise to yourself. If you say you won’t spend money on eating out, but you do, you’ve broken a promise to yourself. After a while, when you say you’re going to do something, doesn’t your inner voice say “yeah right”?

Mine would.

Think about someone you know who always tells you their plans, but never carries them out. Don’t you just nod and smile and think yeah, whatever?

But doing what you say you’re going to do builds confidence. My small victory in this area has been delaying gratification in buying clothes. I don’t deny myself the pleasure of buying new clothes. Instead, I set a goal, which, if I accomplish it, ‘unlocks’ a portion of spending money. Over the last months I’ve raised the goal, and I have do to a lot of work to unlock just $30 of money toward my wardrobe. But when I buy the clothes, there’s no need to feel guilty. I’ve earned them.

It definitely wasn’t always like that. My finances are one area where I’ve been very dishonest with myself.

Some would rather be free to do what they like, and say what they like. But I suspect true freedom is the opposite. To be able to trust one’s self, and control one’s self is to be free. No human can reach complete mastery, of course, but that shouldn’t stop us from doing our best and leaving the rest to God’s grace. To thine own self be trustworthy.

Three Reasons Why You Should Study History

I’ve loved history as long as I can remember, so I can’t really understand this: “History is boring”, or “History is irrelevant” or “Studying history is so hard—I can’t remember the dates.”

Actually, I can’t remember the dates either, but anyway…

It seems that history is taught as an esoteric list of dates and names of dead people, battles, kings and other irrelevant things. That’s a shame. Chris Brady said that this is like “giving you an ice cream sandwich that you spit out because you don’t like the taste of the paper. If no one unwrapped it properly for you, or taught you to do it for yourself, you might be stuck your whole life thinking ice cream sandwiches taste like paper”.

And many people I know were handed wrapped ice cream sandwiches. They left it wrapped, set it on the shelf, or took a bite and threw it out. And once you’ve tossed it or shelved it, why would you pick it up again?

But I’m telling you, if you threw out history the moment you left high school, you’ve severely short-changed yourself. Lemme ‘splain.

1. History shows us why we think what we think.

My ethnic background, as many Canadians, is a blending of two heritages. On one side I am Dutch, the child of a 1st generation Canadian. My grandparents emigrated just over 50 years ago, bringing with them a ‘time capsule’ of Dutch language, customs and thinking. That’s why at family gatherings we greet each other and bid each other goodbye with kisses on the cheek. That’s why we eat speculaas, olie ballen, slaatje and other things most people haven’t heard of.

There’s also still fall-out from World War II in my family. My grandparents were very young when Holland was occupied by Germany, still in their formative years. Many of the health issues my grandmother has now are related to malnutrition when she was young, growing up in wartime Holland.

On the other side, I am Mennonite. A hundred and fifty years ago my ancestors emigrated from Russia in order to find religious freedom. They brought with them a conservative, peaceful, separatist worldview. All these years later I live in one of the original towns they planted, a town that still retains much of its conservative, rural mindset.

I get the bulk of my belief system from the Mennonites, and the more I study my history, the more I believe in what they believed. But the blending of cultures in my family has softened the Mennonite conservatism and given me a broader look at life.

You look at life through the lenses of your heritage. You interpret events the way you were taught to interpret (however deliberate that teaching was). Thus, if you want to understand why you do what you do, you should study your history. And also, you must keep in mind that others have their own unique history that makes them see life very differently.

2. History shows us why others thought what they thought.

As an amateur Bible scholar, I’ve been studying the book of 1 Peter for almost two months. 1 Peter is a letter, written by the Apostle Peter, to the Christians of Asia Minor. At this time the Christians were a socially marginalized group, either because of their faith or because they were aliens, scattered in foreign nations. This was also during the reign of Nero, a time in which Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Given this social and historical context, the book means something rather different than if it were written to middle class, Canadian, Evangelical Christians. As a Christian my beliefs are considered old-fashioned and intellectually inferior, but they don’t affect my ability to get a job, support myself or remain safe on a daily basis. When Peter talks about ‘suffering’ he doesn’t mean going without air conditioning for a week.

When we read or learn about historical events, it is crucial to understand the context. If we project our 21st century, North American worldview on everything, our interpretations will be sorely misguided.

3. History helps us see where we’re going.

It’s an axiom that history repeats itself. Much of what we’re doing now has already been tried. We can consult history to see how previous attempts have concluded.

For instance, Canada, the United States and many other countries are on a paper, fiat money system, not tied to any real backing. What is the likely result of this? Well, we can read the example of John Law and France in the early 1700’s. Fiat money flooded the economy, creating a boom. Orrin Woodward said “Since France was printing inherently worthless fiat money with both hands, the prices of everything in France were rising dramatically… the timeless axiom that bad money drives good money out of circulation, came into full effect. Gold coins were hoarded and smuggled out of France, and paper fiat currency was spent as rapidly as it was received.” This could not be sustained forever. The bubble popped, and for many years there was widespread economic chaos.

And that’s not the only example. You could read about Germany post World War 1, or about Argentina in more recent times.

So why did our governments instate a fiat money system? Well, it’s a democracy. We let them. Did we not know any better?

In recap, you should study history to understand yourself, understand others, and understand where the world is going. These are three of life’s huge questions and they all find their answers in history.

So what should we do about it?

Why don’t you start with your own history? You can read books about your town, country or region. You can visit museums. But the most interesting way of studying your history is by talking to your parents and grandparents, if you are lucky enough to still have them.

Please comment. What has your relationship with history been? What parts of history interest you?

For further reading, see excellent examples of lessons learned from history at Chris Brady’s blog at
and Orrin Woodward’s Blog at