Thursday, January 12, 2012

Be Specific

How many New Year’s resolutions have already gone up in smoke…or down in donut grease? 
I spoke of goal-setting last week, but we all know that the hard part is carrying through.   It’s not how you start the race, but how you finish that counts – a lesson we try to teach everyday at Whetstone Boys Ranch…with words if necessary. 

So let’s just say your goal is to be less rushed, to heal what John Ortberg calls, your “hurry-sickness.”   (Mind you, I’m just picking a random goal…not one that has been on my list of New Year’s resolutions since I was five.)  

Now, what are you going to do about it?  

For the last 15 years, I have had my students submit their goals for a class grade.  I find this to be a useful exercise for them, and an entertaining one for me.  

I’ve had some memorable ones over the years:

·         Become a benevolent dictator of a small island country
·         Live to cash my first Social Security Check
·         Become a master snow-boarder (in Lexington, KY!)
·         Successfully complete a New York Times Crossword on a Saturday
·         Overcome my fear of rolley-slidey things
·         Get into fewer stupid fights with my dear mother
·         Start collecting vinyl records
·         Don’t sweat the small stuff
·         Break my addiction to over-the-counter nasal decongestant
·         Visit every country in the world 

What I like about most of these goals is that they are unique and specific.  Most of them are measurable to some extent.  Instead of “travel more,” it’s visit every country in the world.  And while this may be impractical, expensive and extremely dangerous, you know if you have achieved it or not.  (Note:  A better goal might be “Visit a country on every continent by the time I am 40.”  Video games don’t count.)

In any case, making a goal that goes beyond the generic “get healthier” or “get richer” or “get smarter” is more likely to become a reality.

And to be specific, Whetstone is in the reality business.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012


We all need goals in life.  Physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social…pick a category.  Pick’em all.  There is no lack of areas where we can improve.  Our imperfection knows no bounds. 

At Whetstone, we have a white board to keep track of certain “Feats of Strength,” like maximum weight lifted, highest free throw percentage, fastest two-mile run.   This was my brother Irving’s idea.  He’s known about Whetstone’s sharpening concept from the time we were little, and my dad offered us 50 bucks in exchange for our New Year’s Resolutions.  He required 3 long term and 3 short term goals from each of his children, recorded neatly on a 3x5 card along with a few steps that would aid us in accomplishing them.  

My dad is a prolific goal-setter.  Before the crack of dawn each morning (“daylight in the swamps,” he calls it) he’s up making lists – long lists in his unique curly font, that detail his goals for the day, week, and often year.  I have fond memories of finding him at his desk in the morning, felt tip pen in one hand and coffee in the other, hovered over his yellow legal pad.  When I return home for holidays, I sometimes find these lists lying around the house: 

1.       Dawn Donuts
2.       Take truck to Dump
3.       Bible Study @ Franklin Road
4.       14 Mile and Telegraph
5.       Flea Market  @ Noon
6.       Call my daughter
7.       Empty Mom’s side the garage
8.        “Wet ducks never fly at night”
9.       Taxes
10.   Deposit checks 

I don’t always know what these things mean, but I know my dad well enough to know he has it all worked out in his head.  

When working with at-risk boys, it can be a real challenge to help them set meaningful goals that aren’t too high or too low, too short or too long.  We all need to be challenged without feeling defeated.   We all need stepping stones and stopping points.  We must aim for perfection, while being content with the fact that we’ll never reach it.  

But as someone once said:  “If you aim at nothing, you’ll most likely achieve it.”  

The record at Whetstone for a 2-mile run is 14:59.  It was set by a very ambitious young man, who has very high standards for himself.   Maybe too high.  Success in life is determined by our ability to know what we can and can’t do – and by remembering that only God working in us, makes anything possible.   For if he were to withdraw his breath, Job writes, we’d all perish. 

Please pray that Whetstone will have the wisdom to know if 14:59 is good enough.