Becoming Spirtitual S.E.A.L.S.

The Navy SEALs continue to fascinate me, two of my blogs have been about them in the past (please see June 1, 2017  and November 2015). Who knows everything they secretly accomplish behind the scenes and what sacrifices they pay? Part of me wants to become one – without becoming one. Many leadership books and articles about them have come across my path. I bought a SEAL t-shirt at a speaking engagement and frequently wear it in public. As of today, no one has asked me if I’m a current or former SEAL.  For $19.95, I purchased an online course called “The Navy SEAL 30 Day Mental Toughness Challenge.”  So far I’m 67 days into it – and still haven’t finished.

One day on a walk, I was contemplating if there was some type of equivalent to the Navy SEALs in the spiritual realm? A way to go deeper in our relationship with God? We know the obvious ways of studying the Bible, praying, going to church, serving, giving, and sharing our faith with others. Is there something more? After extensive searching and reflection – I created an acronym for SEALS:

Eating Less (or Fasting)
Leisure (or a Sabbath Day)

Let’s break down each one of them. Please don’t attempt all of these at once.

  1. Silence – Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46: 10) It is incredibly difficult to sit still and do nothing. Boredom has become a thing of the past. Multiple studies show that we look at our phones over 100 times per day! Psychiatrists are now treating people of all ages with the clinical diagnosis of Screen Addiction, Hypertexting, Social Isolation, and Facebook Depression (from the book Glow Kids). One remedy? How about a daily walk (and leave your phone)? C.S. Lewis believed if physically capable, everyone should take a walk every day. Maybe start small, 3 out of 7 days. It is a chance to think freely, create, dream, pray, vent, admire the outdoors, and be thankful. If nothing else, you’ll be a hero in your dog’s eyes.
  2. Eating Less (or Fasting) – I denied myself by fasting for them. (Psalm 35:13) One common theme found throughout the Bible is that when people were serious about praying, fasting was accompanied with it. This is not a way to “twist God’s arm” – but a way to humble ourselves, dedicate that eating time to God, and to get a little bit uncomfortable. Confession time – I struggle big time with this one. My four basic food groups are Mexican, Italian, BBQ, and Chocolate. Again, start small. Maybe miss one meal during the week. Spend that time with God instead.
  3. Alertness – Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. (1 Peter 5: 8,9) This one speaks for itself – having discernment about what is really going on around you. Jon Gordon states that “the narrative of the universe is the tale of good vs. evil.” Just look at all of the popular stories and movies with this theme (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Superheroes, Disney films). In the Old Testament, it is said that from the tribe of Issachar, “All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (1 Chronicles 12: 32). We can pray to God for true insight, and ask Him for the eyes to see beyond the physical into the invisible realm.
  4. Leisure (or a Sabbath day) – Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. (Exodus 20: 8) This can be a fun one if we allow it! A day off of pleasure, resting, and leisure – and it doesn’t have to be Sunday! Two great books on this subject are Sabbath by Dan Allender and Addicted To Busy by Brady Boyd. Allender states: “The Sabbath is an invitation to enter delight. The Sabbath, when experienced as God intended, is the best day of our lives. Without question or thought, it is the best day of the week. It is the day we anticipate.” Do we have anything that remotely resembles that in our fast-paced, schedule packed, and screen driven lives? This one is easy – pick one day of the week, every week. Schedule nothing – or, incredibly fun activities that will rejuvenate and connect you and your family.
  5. Suffering – Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. (Romans 8: 18) This is the toughest and probably the least popular one. The other 4 we have a choice in the matter. Christine Caine states, “Trials and tribulations don’t check with your schedule.” Suffering is extremely personalized – from the teenager being bullied – to the citizen of China who belongs to an underground church and fears for his life. SEALs get so tough because of their intense, painful, and extremely uncomfortable training. In a similar way, we grow in character and strength – through struggles, hassles, disappointments, tragedy, pain, and loss. The apostle Paul reassures that we’re not alone:  But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.  (Romans 8:17)

A Navy SEAL spends nearly every day of their career focusing on getting 1% better than the day before – what would happen if we did the same?


Dave 🙂

P.S. There is so much more material on these topics – please let me know in Comments if you’d perhaps be interested in reading a book regarding this subject sometime in the future 🙂

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Discovered! The Lost Kingdom of Elysium

Deep inside, don’t you think life should be getting easier the older and wiser we get? Shouldn’t there be fewer problems, issues, stress, disappointments – and more money stashed away?

Why is it then . . .

We go to the doctor for one thing, and they find something else?

You pay top dollar to have the AC fixed in your car, but they also discover you need a new set of tires to replace the bald ones?

The exterminator takes care of the fire ant armies attacking your land, only to discover clans of squirrels that have discovered a cozy residence in many private entrances to your attic?

How can we be middle-aged and still battling acne???

BTW – All the above situations are purely fiction and hypothetical 🙂

So what in the world does my above ranting have to do with Elysium? What in the heck is Elysium? I’m glad you asked!

Several ancient cultures, primarily the Greek and Romans, believed in something besides Heaven when we die, a magical paradise called Elysium. Here are just a few samples of the writings from that period:

. . . to the Elysian plain . . . where life is easiest for men . . . ” – Homer

“. . . And they live untouched by sorrow . . . ” – Hesiod

“. . . The good receive a life free from toil . . .” – Pindar

A place of paradise, an easy life, no sorrow, free from toil – that sounds pretty great right about now! Basically, it would be heaven on earth – where do I sign up???

My light bulb moment is that deep in the back of my mind – I somehow think I should eventually achieve an “Elysium lifestyle” before my time is up. Things will stop breaking down, illness will cease, problems should be minuscule, and piles of money will somehow come rolling in on a fairly consistent basis.

The Kingdom of Elysium is an unhealthy mindset that I frequently default to during the here and now.

Author Ryan Holiday has this brilliant insight:

Elysium is a myth. One does not overcome an obstacle to enter the land of no obstacles. On the contrary, the more you accomplish, the more things will stand in your way. There are always more obstacles, bigger challenges. You’re always fighting uphill. Get used to it and train accordingly.” (The Obstacle is the Way)

Two solutions come to mind: thankfulness and perspective. I’m thankful to have a vehicle, a home, a job, family and friends, some savings, and doctors to go to.

My perspective needs to embrace the mindset that we don’t get heaven now – we don’t even get Eden. The same God who showers us with innumerable blessings also allows mysterious calamity to frequent our lives. True, unshakeable joy and peace come when our life purpose is centered around loving God and others.




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“It’s the most stressful time of the year . . . “


Besides the holidays – the end of the school year seems to bring on incredible busyness and stress: state assessments, report cards, behavior challenges, proms, award ceremonies, graduations, financial burdens, illness & injuries, ball games, deadlines, paperwork, sales quotas, etc., etc., etc!  In our crazy, busy lifestyles – we all seem to have forgotten that one of the original Ten Commandments was to take a Sabbath Day (a day of rest) at least once a week.   I wanted to share a few quotes from a book I would strongly recommend to anyone who feels like they are running at full speed on a hamster wheel. It is called Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd, and can be found at:

See if any of these quotes resonate with you:

  • “If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath – our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us.”  (pg. 33)
  • “Ultimately, every problem I see in every person I know is a problem of moving too fast for too long in too many aspects of life.”  (pg. 44)
  • “God is not merely a peaceful person; God, in fact, is peace.  When we sit in God’s presence, we’re sitting in the presence of peace.” (pg. 56)
  • “I have a theory on this, which is that busyness is our means to impress.  If I’m busy, then I’m important, and if I’m important, then you’ll be impressed.  Right?”  (pg. 70)
  • “I’ve been to Jerusalem on several occasions, and each time I’m there over a Sabbath, I’m struck by how seriously the Jews take their day of rest.  In Jerusalem, you can’t get anything done on the Sabbath.  Nothing.  The whole town essentially shuts down. . . . I guarantee all Jewish shopkeepers are closed for the day.  They’re at home or at a synagogue with their families, enjoying a Sabbath meal, enjoying the pleasure of one another’s company, and enjoying the inner strength that comes when we rest.” (pg. 83-84)
  • “‘Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm,'” . . . . Absolutely, he does just that:  engage, engage, engage, withdraw . . . . engage, engage, engage, withdraw . . . . It’s how we’re invited to live too.”  (pg. 105)
  • “Something always interrupts our rest, because real rest is always opposed.”  (pg. 164)

And in conclusion – my favorite part:

  • ” . . . . we think if we don’t get every room vacuumed, every bookshelf dusted, every meal made by hand, every child’s homework folder initialed, every birthday party attended, every plant watered, every inch of grass mowed, every load of laundry folded, every lacrosse practice made, every book read, every app mastered, every televised sporting event watched, every everything done, we will somehow be lesser human beings. I myself had lived according to that philosophy for far too many years.  I’m here to tell you it’s bunk.  The whole philosophy is bunk.  The universe will keep on spinning, and you will keep on being a great person, even if a few things are left undone.
  • A New Zealand Prayer Book has a fantastic prayer in it called “Night Prayer,” and one of the stanzas reads,

“It is night after a long day.

What has been done has been done;

what has not been done has not been done;

let it be.”    (pg. 89)

Great advice “let it be.”  Or, as the psalmist once wrote:

“Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)




P.S. If you’re in the book buying spirit – another quick read that can help you develop inner peace and create more margin is my book Five Prayers That Can Change History found at

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The time YOU were prayed for in The Bible . . .

Have you tried reading the Bible and it feels distant?

You gave it a chance and could not make a personal connection?

Could you use a little bit of hope right now?

Stick with me during this sequence and you’ll see when Jesus mentions YOU in the Bible – and a glimpse into his future plans for YOU!

So go back with me over 2000 years. Jesus is having a pretty intense and extended conversation with his followers called “the disciples.” Chapters 14 -17 in the book of John are a combination of Jesus talking, teaching, and praying. He just compared himself to being “the good shepherd” and his disciples are “the sheep.” (John 10:11)

He then says, “I know my own sheep, and they know me . . . I have OTHER sheep, too, that are not of this sheepfold.” (John 10:14-16) He is referring to more besides his disciples and the nation of Israel (which would include us as the OTHERs)!

But then it gets even more personal while he is speaking to the men, he states: “I am not only praying for these disciples but also for ALL who will ever believe in me through their message.” (John 17:20) What was their message? Be sorry for our sins > believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead for us > and choosing now to live for him. If that describes you – then YOU are a part of the ALL he was talking about! Isn’t that cool?

Like a well-crafted movie trailer – the story seems to take a turn for the worse. A few verses before he is praying for the ones in his care (which would now include US). He says to God, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Wait a minute – “the evil one” is part of this deal??? Keep safe – how is the evil one trying to hurt me???

The trouble keeps piling on – Jesus forwarned them earlier, “Here on earth you will have MANY trials and sorrows . . . ” (John 16:33) Why did he say many and not a few? Take a brief glimpse into our world and our own narrative for evidence:

Innocent lives being taken

Financial hardships

Broken relationships

Incurable diseases

Unanswered prayers

Natural disasters

However, like any great story – a hero rises! There is a second part of the many trials comment – “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. BUT take heart, because I have OVERCOME the world.” (John 16:33) So why all the problems if he has overcome? Great question! I don’t have all the answers. What I do know – we get to experience a partial overcoming of our situations and circumstances, and a complete overcoming when we finally experience Heaven. For now – some diseases are healed, some relationships are restored, some disasters are avoided, and some financial situations are reversed for the better. But not all. How does He decide which ones? That’s what makes him God and not us.

And in conclusion of this great story – I go back a few chapters with some words of hope that Jesus started his message with:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

He’s had over 2000 years to prepare a place for us – that is the ultimate Fixer Upper! He probably keeps adding a little more to it every day – he just can’t leave well enough alone. 🙂 I don’t understand it all – but when he will always be with us – all wrongs will be righted, all diseases will be healed,  all disasters will cease, and the evil one will stop pestering us -forever!

We could all use a little bit of hope right now . . .



P.S. I mentioned at the beginning that reading the Bible might sometimes be a challenge. Some people feel the same about their prayer life – they don’t know where to start, what to say, or is anyone listening??? I wrote a book called Five Prayers That Can Change History. This book seamlessly takes you step by step on how to pray powerfully straight from the Bible. You can get instant access by clicking right here:

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When The Magical Kingdom Isn’t So Magical After All . . .

A year ago I painstakingly planned the “perfect” vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios for Spring Break. This ended up being one of my most popular blog posts that many people commented they could completely relate to. Here’s a recap of my story:

Are you a “Planner”, or do you like to “Fly by the seat of your pants”? I’m a total Planner. Thus, the inspiration for this blog. I had extensively planned for about 8 months an Orlando Spring Break vacation for my daughter’s senior trip. We had never been there as a family – so I read endless books, conducted extensive interviews and interrogations with those that had been past visitors, and combed the Internet for anything related to this magical place. This was going to be the greatest family trip we (or anyone else in history) had ever taken. This time, I was going to do everything right. No room for error. Pure joy. Every activity would be on a precise schedule – just like Robert Deniro’s character in Meet the Parents.

The trip got off to a rough start when I noticed a sharp discomfort in my lower back around 5:30 am at DFW Airport. Thought it was a cramp, nerves, or some other nuance that would go away. We boarded the flight, and those uncomfortable airplane seats were even more uncomfortable. Three hours later, I was writhing in pain – I literally started crawling on the floor of the terminal at the Orlando airport. Was this “The Big One” like Fred Sanford used to say? Was one of my major organs giving out? Appendix bursting? We found a saint of a cab driver that sped us to a close and quality ER. About 5 hours later, I had passed my first kidney stone! Okay, this wasn’t in the plans. However, the medical staff patched me up – and I was screaming in exhilaration as we rode The Everest Expedition Roller Coaster that evening. Slight “blip” in the plans, but we would hit the next few days with a vengeance. Universal Studios and Harry Potter World were tomorrow.

In spite of getting up at the crack of dawn, it seemed as though tens of thousands of other people had that same idea. As the lines allowed, we rode every ride we could between the two Universal Parks (some marketing genius out there conceived the idea of splitting up the Harry Potter World into two worlds – I would love to say it was for the benefit of the consumers, but it was so they can double their moolah intake). We were exhausted, but tomorrow was The Magic Kingdom – and I was determined to see my plans to fruition.

Our hotel was about 20 minutes away from The Magic Kingdom. They offered a “free shuttle” that left at 7 am and dropped everyone off at Epcot (which I was informed is the central hub for all Disney park transportation). Thought we’d save a few bucks and not use a taxi or Uber. Sounded perfect – The Kingdom opens at 8, leave at 7, arrive between 7:30-7:45, scan our tickets, and we would be in! Everyone had advised us to get there right as the park opens, and you can experience at least 3 major rides before the crowd hits. That advice combined with 3 Fastpasses – I envisioned myself joyfully singing, “Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a Pirate’s Life for Me!” We had the potential of enjoying 6 major rides before the clock struck noon – boom!

The trend of the majority of my plans not going as I had hoped once again began to rear its ugly head. I first became suspicious when our “shuttle” was a giant charter bus. “Wow, that’s nice of them to provide such a big bus for one hotel,” I thought in my ever increasingly fatigued, naive, and delusional mind. Even though we are not Orlando residents, after about 10 minutes we noticed, “Hey, this isn’t the route to the park.” The bus, oh excuse me – the “shuttle” literally made 7 stops at other hotels before Epcot. The driver dropped us off around 8:15 am in an empty parking lot the size of the poppy field in The Wizard of Oz. It took about a 10-minute walk to get to the Monorail. Phew, finally made it. Oh, but wait – you have to get off this Monorail and transfer to another one. Stood in line for about 15 minutes. Rumors circulated throughout the tense crowd that there was a delay.  We waited about 15 more minutes to get on a ferry headed for Disney World. 20 more minutes on the boat ride – and we finally arrived at the entrance around 9:15 am. We soon discovered that half of humanity had already beaten us to the ride (and food) lines – realizing it’s not really such a Small World After All. As the day unfolded, I soon began to fully immerse myself in the spirit of the dwarf Grumpy – along with some of his lesser-known brothers: Pushy, Pouty, and Rudey.

A few days after we returned home – I had some quality time to reflect. I then realized that one of the most important events of our trip was that crummy shuttle ride. That experience served as a great reminder of what it is like to walk with God. So many unplanned stops along the way that test my patience. Not having control over situations and just having to go with the flow. Disappointment. People getting on my nerves. Me getting on people’s nerves. Unexpected barriers and delays that get in the way of me reaching my envisioned destination.  Which leads to the question we can ask in every situation: Is my envisioned destination His envisioned destination?

Plus, I had so much to be thankful for. We were able to save up for the trip instead of charging everything. I could have been stuck in that ER for days, or possibly have had to have surgery, or it could have been “The Big One”. The family had several spontaneous moments of belly busting laughter. A ticket snafu that “entitled” us to 3 any time any ride Fastpasses at Disney Hollywood Studios. And finally, embracing every second of having lunch in Epcot Italy knowing that my daughter is only a few months away from going to college.

This trip was a continual reminder that I want comfort, control, and predictability. God offers wild, uncomfortable uncertainty – covered with many promises that He will be with us every step of the way. May your journey find you somewhere between the happy medium of planning and pants flying.

Dave 🙂

P.S. If you or anyone you know plans to interview in the near future – please check out my new book on Amazon called:  Top of the Class Teacher Interviews: 55 Strategies to Maximize Preparation and Supercharge Your Confidence. Although designed to help teacher candidates through the mental and physical preparation of the overwhelming process of an interview – it can be beneficial for anyone looking to improve their interview skills. This is the second weekend it has been featured as Amazon’s #1 New Seller in the Education Research category. Click here for instant access:


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Are You Part of the 81%?

Research conducted by entrepreneur Chandler Bolt discovered that approximately 81% of people would sincerely like to write a book – but don’t. Eight out of ten – that’s a fairly large amount. So if you are one of those eight – the good news is that it is easier than ever to self-publish your own book – for free!

Sure, you’re saying, “What could I write a book about?”

Anything and everything!!!!

You could write about a particular subject you’re passionate about. Maybe you’ve uncovered some amazing family history using Is there a creative work of fiction or a children’s story that has been brewing in your brain? How about all of those family recipes that are written on sticky notes or scraps of paper? Your job or life experiences from an insider’s perspective. A book of hope for others sharing a major obstacle you’ve overcome. A bonus manual to sell in the back of the room after you give a speech. The possibilities are endless. Does this help get the wheels in your mind spinning?

A short stroll down memory lane concerning the world of publishing. Before the explosion of online sales, the historical route was to create a manuscript you felt was worthy of being sold in bookstores. Next, you would then submit the manuscript and a proposal to publishers hoping that against all odds they would sign you on to a deal. I can recall at least 4 people I know that were blessed to be able to go that route.

Fast forward to the publishing world of 2018. Here is the sobering truth. Less than 5% of all submissions get a deal from publishing companies. If you do – they take over a portion of your creative content, potentially give you 2%-10% of the net profit of each book sold, and you are still responsible for marketing your work. Unless your last name is Grisham or Rowlett – it is tough to join this exclusive club and stay in it.

Going back to my point in the first paragraph – now is the best time in history to self-publish your book! Amazon accounts for 70% of all book sales (which saddens me since Barnes & Noble is my favorite store). Amazon owns Createspace, one of the largest self-publishing companies (you can Google for others). The great thing about Createspace – you can do the entire process for free (they offer paid services, but you are not required to use them). They print on demand – so if you sell 3 copies or 30,000 copies, it doesn’t cost you a dime. They ship directly from their warehouses, so the middleman and your packaging and shipping costs are eliminated. Your book can be as short or as long as you’d like. Research conducted by Leadership Expert Michael Hyatt reveals that books less than 100 pages have the greatest likelihood of being read from cover to cover.

Yeah, but what about . . . . ?

  1. “I’m waiting for just the right time.”  That would be today – it is never the right time.
  2. “I don’t have enough hours in the day.” Nobody does – you have to create small blocks of time.
  3. “It’s too much work.”  True, but not if you break it down into a 10-minute commitment every day. You more than likely will bounce back and forth between a love/hate relationship with your manuscript.
  4. “But I want it to be perfect.” As author Sean Wes says, “When creating something original – get past the perfection mindset, or it will never be good enough and you’ll end up not doing it because you’re overwhelmed. Shoot for a 90% standard – that takes so much of the pressure off.”
  5. “Okay, I did it. But all I see are the flaws and mistakes.” Chandler Bolt proudly declares, “Your crappy, self-published book is far better than someone else’s ‘perfect’ book that is an unpublished manuscript sitting in a desk drawer or in a computer file.”
  6. “I don’t know how to use the technology involved in self-publishing.” Perfect! Createspace walks you through one step at a time and offers text and video supports.

Do you know why I’m so familiar with these “What about excuses”? Because I’ve used every one of them on my own journey multiple times. I had notes and a rough draft of my book Five Prayers That Can Change History sitting in a box for about 3 years. I didn’t want to face rejection from publishing companies – so I eventually put in the work and self-published it.

And now . . . . it is currently rocking the Amazon Best Seller Charts at #2,236,996 (seriously, but it’s out there)! 🙂

However, a college student shared how she had a copy of Five Prayers That Can Change History and decided to read the first chapter one night. She ended up staying up all night reading it cover to cover, highlighting sections that spoke to her, and writing her own anecdotal notes in the margins.

That is why I write. You can too.

Here’s the deal. If you write a book between now and February 28, 2019. And you are blessed with a publishing deal or decide to self-publish – I promise to purchase a copy. Even if the topic is something like Five Tips For a Healthy Pregnancy (I’ll give it as a gift). There – you already have one preorder from a paying customer. Email me at when it happens.

Your book can be a lasting legacy. It may impact one person, or it may impact over one hundred thousand. Enough said!

Dave 🙂

P.S. Since we’re on the subject of books – my third one will be available on Amazon February 17th! It is called Top of the Class Teacher Interviews: 55 Strategies to Maximize Preparation and Supercharge Your Confidence. It is designed to help teacher candidates through the mental and physical preparation of the overwhelming process of an interview, especially for the first time. Besides personal insights, I used over two dozen reference sources from the world of education and business. So maybe someone looking to reenter the workforce or at potentially switching jobs would also find it beneficial. I’ve been working feverishly on this one since July – so I’m anxious to finally get it out there!

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Who Are You C.S. Lewis To?

I thoroughly enjoy The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia books and movies. My wife has had the experience of visiting the pub in England where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would sit by the fireplace discussing their stories, characters, hopes and dreams regarding their work. However, I recently discovered that The Lord of the Rings came close to never happening. We were almost deprived of one of the greatest literary works of all time. Here is the story from Michael Hyatt’s book Your Best Year Ever (pg.177-179):

After the surprise success of J.R.R. Tolkien’s children’s novel, The Hobbit, in the fall of 1937 his publisher asked him to write a sequel. The public, he wrote, will be “clamouring to hear more from you about Hobbits!” Tolkien had no plan for a follow-up at first. “I am a little perturbed,” he responded. “I cannot think of anything more to say about hobbits.

The issue might have ended there, but it didn’t.

Tolkien mentioned that he had written more about Middle Earth, the imaginary world in which The Hobbit transpires. He offered to let his publisher read the material, even though it was missing the star attraction. “I should rather like an opinion, other than that of Mr. C. S. Lewis and my children, whether it has any value in itself . . . apart from hobbits.”

A cog was turning in Tolkien’s mind. For nearly two decades he’d hustled at uninteresting, sideline writing projects to make financial ends meet. But now, despite having no real plans for a sequel, he was imagining how he might pull it off. “I must confess that your letter has aroused in me a faint hope,” he continued. “I begin to wonder whether duty (the need for cash) and desire (his passion for the stories he loved) may not (perhaps) in future go more closely together.”

You can hear it through the tentative language: Here at last was his big chance to tell stories he loved and simultaneously improve his family’s financial situation Tolkien knew this was a life-changing opportunity. All he had to do was write another novel – preferably with more hobbits. Easy, right? It seemed so at first. By Christmas he finished the first chapter of the sequel. He was on his way! But then life happened.

Personal distractions, professional duties, and health crises seemed to pile up and prevent him from making any progress. Several times he gave up work on the project. “I have no idea what to do with it,” he admitted. Reading through his letters, you can spot a familiar zigzag pattern. He went back and forth between feeling confident and close to finishing, and running out of inspiration and energy to complete the project. At one point he said his “labour of delight” had been “transformed into a nightmare.”

So how did Tolkien overcome the distractions and discouragement to finish The Lord of the Rings, one of the top-selling books of the twentieth century? The answer starts back at the beginning with Tolkien’s friend, C.S. Lewis. At several critical moments, Lewis encouraged Tolkien to stick with the project when he had given up. “Only by his support and friendship did I ever struggle to the end of the labour,” he said in 1954 as the first reviews began coming in. Over a decade later, he still was quick to credit Lewis for his support:

“The unpayable debt that I owe to him was . . . sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my “stuff” could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The Lord of the Rings to a conclusion.”


Leadership expert Jon Maxwell has a simple litmus test to know if someone needs encouragement or not: “If they have a pulse, they need encouragement.” Why don’t we make it our ambition this year to be excessively liberal with our praise and encouragement to those around us? What great work is being stalled or perhaps extinguished because a person is fed up with it, and no one around them is speaking life to them?

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (1st Thessalonians 5:11)


Dave 🙂




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