Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why Less Than 1/3 of Your Life is Happy

Most Psychologists agree that we have 9 basic feelings:
  1. Joy
  2. Fear
  3. Anger
  4. Shock
  5. Love
  6. Disgust
  7. Sadness
  8. Guilt
  9. Curiosity
Go back through the list and count how many of those are "good" feelings.

Most people pick 2 or 3: Joy and Love, and sometimes Curiosity.

Most people consider Fear, Anger, Shock, Disgust, Sadness and Guilt to be negative or "bad" feelings.

Well, let's assume you're a normal person and in an average day you feel most of these emotions, and in about equal amounts.  If 6/9 or 7/9 of them are BAD then you can only spend 1/3 of your life feeling GOOD.  

If you live 75 years like most Americans, then you are going to spend every moment of an entire 50 years feeling BAD.

That leaves what, 25 good years?  Most people think of their childhood as pretty good, and sometimes up to their mid-twenties, so that means most of the good times are behind you.   So I guess most of you can look forward to the next 50 years of constantly feeling BAD, and then you'll die.

(I really should end this blog post here, just leave everything BAD)

What if there were no "good emotions" and no "bad emotions."  What if emotions were just, well, emotions?  They were something to be felt.  That's it.  

What if none of them were bad, what if they were all just meant to serve a purpose and move us forward, all in their own time.

The writers of the Disney movie "Inside Out" understood this. They chose 5 emotions for the movie, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust.  

Joy was the only "good" emotion. She tried to control the mind all the time.  She thought that if JOY could be the only emotion ever felt, then life would be perfect.  She worked really really REALLY hard to make sure sadness never took control.  Sadness couldn't touch the mind, or the memories.

In fact, in the movie, Joy eventually made Sadness promise never to do anything or affect anything by staying inside a circle she drew on the ground.

Joy was caught in the happiness trap. She thought that sadness was BAD, and anger was BAD.

She didn't realize until the end of the film, that sadness is necessary.  Sadness helps us apologize and fix relationships. Anger helps us protect what's important in our lives when it is threatened.

Emotions aren't good or bad.  The only way we should measure good v. bad is "Are we doing what matters to us?  Are we living according to our beliefs, our values?"  If we value family, are we doing what matters to make our family succeed?  If anger and sadness and love and joy and guilt and fear all help us live our values, then they are all worth it.  

We don't WANT to feel them all.  We are instead, willing to feel them all because we WANT to make our family succeed.  

If you keep labeling emotions as "good and bad" or "acceptable and unacceptable" then you are guaranteed to have a BAD and UNACCEPTABLE life at least 2/3rds of the time.

Let yourself out of the box.  Don't be chained to a life of misery by thinking you have to feel joy all the time for life to be "good."  Statistically, almost 90% of your life will not be "joy"ful.  

When you accept all 9 emotions, and make them all useful, then 100% of your life can be worthwhile, and push you further down the path you want to go, living the life you want to live.

That is TRUE Happiness.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is Your Life Filled With Darkness? Come Unto Christ

How many of us have begged and prayed and pleaded to be comforted?
How many of us have felt just like M. Lowrie Hofford who penned the words:

Savior, stay this night with me;
Lone will be the night If I cannot commune with thee nor find in thee my light.
Savior, stay this night with me; Or the darkness of the world, I fear, would in my home abide.

Have you been there?
I imagine most of us have, some of us in ways we’ll never share.  It’s too dark, too painful.

I remember the birth of my oldest, Emma.  I was so in love, and so very ignorant. I had taken the classes, taken child development, and had been raised by amazing parents and had married an amazing wife, what could go wrong?
Somehow, I had ignored or missed everything anyone ever told me about sleep deprivation.
After 3 weeks of sleepless nights in my parents basement, working days as an intern at the INL, while trying to prepare to move to Iowa to start medical school in a few weeks, I finally got it.
When I was sitting there at 2 a.m. trying to let my exhausted wife sleep and keep my daughter from awaking my parents, I finally reached that point.  I finally understood how parents can see it as a reasonable option to make sure the pacifier stays in the babies mouth, by tying it around their head.
That’s insane by the way – the risk of suffocation is enormous.  But just like shaken baby, and all the other horrific things that can happen, I found myself in that moment, understanding those parents.
That’s when I put my baby down in the crib, closed the door, went to the far corner of the house, and fell asleep.  I knew that at that moment, the best thing I could do as a parent for my baby, was sleep.  Anything else I might do would only make things more dangerous.  She was safe, in her crib, fed and changed, and still screaming like a banshee.

At that moment, I felt I was there – I was in the darkness, and I couldn’t get out by myself.  I couldn't do it alone.  I needed Christ.

I remember “getting to that point” as a missionary.

Our mission did not use Elders as Branch President’s, so imagine my surprise when I got the call.  A small city was having serious problems. Two branches with total membership on the records of 500, were meeting as one branch, and only had 19 people in attendance.  There was also a question of tithing funds going missing, and many other concerns.

So I was called as Branch President and my companion was Elder’s Quorum President.
Our companionship was not a success.
I was very rigid in my interpretation of the rules.  And when he watched movies and played video games and called his girlfriend on the phone, and wanted to spend all day hanging out at one members home with their 19 year old daughter, I had serious problems, and we has serious arguments.
We were called to serve a branch, to revitalize, reactivate, baptize, and teach by the spirit.
We had some success.
Attendance got as high as 50.
We had a few strong members who were working hard in their leadership positions to bring others to Christ.

Then one evening, I received two phone calls.  The first was from the Primary President’s husband, who was not a member.  He said he his wife was no longer allowed to attend our church.
The second call, about 10 minutes later, was from the Relief Society President, asking to be released, and also asking that I not ask why.

In one night I went from having a really bad companionship and tough calling, to having a branch with no member leadership.

I cried.  I balled, and begged and pleaded and told God “I don’t know what to do.  I can’t do this.  You must.”

It was the first time I really truly thought to myself.  I’m not enough.  I cannot succeed in this.  All my talents, and knowledge, and scripture reading, and spiritual experiences, and training, and manual reading, and personality, and language study and everything – is not enough.  I have tried as hard as I can and I have done everything I can, and I can’t do this. 

Savior, stay this night with me;
Lone will be the night If I cannot commune with thee nor find in thee my light.
Savior, stay this night with me; Or the darkness of the world, I fear, would in my home abide.

Isaiah told us that Christ has been there: “Surely he hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows”

Christ felt it all. Literally.  He has felt everything we feel.  Christ never sinned.  But when He was in Gethsemane hH wasn't imagining what sin and guilt and shame would feel like.  He wasn't feeling sorry for us. He felt all of it for real.  He experienced all our sorrows, exactly as we feel them.

I believe that.

I believe that Christ knows what it’s like to be abused, to be insulted in front of his entire school.  He knows what it’s like to sin so terribly that he could never tell another soul.
He knows what it’s like to be addicted.  Can you see that?  Can you see him in Gethsemane, suddenly experiencing pornography addiction? Knowing all the shame and guilt and hiding and lying and self berating and everything?

Christ has been hooked on every drug, committed every sin, and felt the lifelong repercussions of every one of those choices. 

When Joseph Smith was in the Liberty Jail and he had reached his lowest point, he asked:
“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed… how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, Remember thy suffering saints.”
He was told: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”
Christ has been “lower” than any of us.  He has been lower than all of us combined. 
And what does he tell us: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

How many times have we been invited to Come unto Christ?

I looked through the Book of Mormon and couldn’t count them all, but here are a few:

(Alma 5:33–34). “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, … Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life”
(Morm. 6:17). Come, for he stands “with open arms to receive you”
(Jacob 3:1).Come, for “he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause”
(Omni 1:26). “Come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him”

We are told over and over again to Come Unto Christ. That’s the whole message of the Book of Mormon.
Nephi starts the book and says: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
A thousand years later, after Christ has come, taught, and mostly been forgotten, the last Nephite is being chased down to be killed.  He’s the last prophet, and he knows that he has the only scriptural record of their existence in his hands, and he is running, and hiding, knowing any day he could be killed.  And what does he add to the book?
He asks us to read the book.  Pray and know that it’s true.  Then in the last 5 verses: “I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ… And awake, and arise from the dust…Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you.”

You’ve been in the darkness?  So have I.  So has Joseph Smith.  So has Paul, and Job, and Alma and millions more.

“Come unto me” he says: “All ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Decide today to Come Unto Christ.
First – Believe, or just hope to believe.
Second - make the decision to do something to obey Him.  Pick some small thing you can do, and do it today.
Third - strive to bring others to him.  Try to do unto others as He would do.

You’re a sinner?  You’re unworthy?
He said “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick…I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Come unto Christ so that you may feel like singing:
Thy earnest words have filled my soul and kept me near thy side.
O Savior stay this night with me, behold Tis Eventide’

Tuesday, September 8, 2015





There is only one person responsible.  One person accountable.  One person who gets to choose.


If you are the teacher – you are responsible.  Teach your students.  Adapt.  Change. Make it work, Get through.  Deal with kids and parents and systems and administrators and everything that might impede your way, and get it done.

If you are the student – you are responsible.  Learn.  If your parents don’t support you and your teacher is terrible and ignores you and the school is in shambles and gangs are rampant – make it work.  Get your education.  Learn.

If you are the parent – you are responsible.  Just like the child. Just like the boss.  Just like the employee. Just like the President, the Senator, the City Councilman, the voter.  Just like everyone.

Agency is amazing.  YOU CAN CHOOSE.  You can make a difference.  You cannot control others, you can control yourself – and how you influence others – so do it.  Make it work.  Decide what you want in life and make it so.

Blame is not important unless you’re an elected judge.  Blame and shame and finger pointing and excuses make us feel better temporarily, but they don’t improve anything.  They only delay the inevitable.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

I Am Not The Most Physically Attractive Man My Wife Has Ever Seen

My wife likes men who are tall, dark and handsome.
I am short, pasty white, and bald.

I like women with long blond curly hair.
My wife has brown hair, and keeps it completely straight, and currently short.

If I look back at the girls I dated in high school and college and consider who I found the most attractive physically, it was the girls about 2 inches shorter than me with big blue eyes like a Disney Princess and long flowing blonde curls.  I knew the body type I liked, the eye and hair color, the style of clothes, everything.  Wow – when I saw a girl that had all that, I was hooked.  That’s who I noticed in crowds, choir concerts, and classes – the Disney Princess. That's who I dated.  Seriously! Two of my high school girlfriends went on to work for Disney in their theme parks.  I LITERALLY dated Disney Princesses!

When I met my wife my tastes hadn’t changed.  I doubt they’ve changed now. I’m betting the same is true for her.  She sees other men who are more physically attractive than I am.

Sure I try to stay in shape, but I'm still short and bald and not very muscular.

I work hard, I laugh, I sing, I serve others, I try to be the best version of me.  I try to continually improve, be more of who I want to be, who God wants me to be, and who my wife wants me to be.

But I will never be the physical specimen that turns heads.  I can be fit, in shape, well dressed and smiling, and still my wife is going to find Brad Pitt or George Clooney or some other man more physically handsome.

That’s okay.

That’s more than “okay”, that‘s the way it is. That’s reality.


Stop telling your kids that your wife has the most gorgeous looks of anyone in the whole world and you’ve never even looked at another woman.

Your wife may be the most attractive woman to you.  You would rather be with her than with any other woman.  You chose her, and you would choose her again, everyday, for the rest of eternity.

Tell your kids that looks DO matter, but they are one factor only.  There is intelligence, humor, spirituality, ambition, kindness, appreciation, flexibility, determination.

I am not the most intelligent, the funniest, the most spiritual, the most ambitious, the kindest, or the most ANYTHING man in the world.

But I am the most attractive man in the world to my wife, because my combination of traits is what she likes the best. (she told me so)

I think the same of her. She is not my purely physical ideal (a Disney Princess).  She is my whole package ideal.

My Junior year of college I dated a few girls, but there was one girl I really REALLY wanted to date.  She had a boyfriend, and I didn’t care.  I told her: “I am better than your boyfriend, and when you realize that and break up with him, call me.” (humble I know)

Then I met the woman I would marry.  It took six weeks of flirting to get her to finally say yes to a date.  Then I asked her out nearly every single night for months. 
Then I asked her to marry me, to be my one and only.  She said Yes.

THEN – the girl I had really REALLY wanted to date from before called.  She said “I broke up with my boyfriend, you wanna go out?”

I immediately said no. 
Then I had a thought, and I sat down and literally made a list of every girl I had dated or ever wanted to date.  Every movie star or singer or woman I could possibly think of who I was attracted to in some way.
I went through the list one by one.  If that woman called and said she was interested in me and wanted to date me or possibly marry me – would I break up with my fiancĂ©e?

Is there anyone in this world I would ever want more than the woman I was engaged to?

That re-affirmed what I already knew.

I do care about looks.  Yes, I care about physical attraction.  I ALSO care about spiritual and emotional and intellectual attraction.  My wife attracts me in all those ways.  And she attracts me more than any other person.
There is no one I would rather be with than her.

So.  Be honest with your kids. Don’t set up unrealistic and unhealthy expectations in their minds.

If your spouse isn’t the best violinist in the world, why would you lie to your kids and tell them otherwise? 
I like violin music, I’m “attracted” to it.  Sure, if my wife played the violin, that would be awesome.  (BONUS!) But I won’t pick my wife based on her being the best violinist in the world.

Just like I won’t pick my spouse based on her being the most physically attractive woman in the world.

I love my wife.  I love her looks.   

Don’t tell your kids that looks don’t matter.  Don’t tell them that looks are ALL that matter either.

Tell them the truth.  Tell them what’s real. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: The Martian

Grade: A+

This book is a genius thriller.  Pair excellent science with a hilarious astronaut, and it's irresistible. 

I mean it.  You can't believe how realistic the book is, and how the main character is always saying and thinking exactly what you would be.

This is not a spoiler, because you find this out on the first page - the book is about an American astronaut, Mark Watney, who gets stranded on Mars.

How do you survive on a planet in a research dome meant to last 30 days, when no one will be back for 4 years?

The twists and turns are unexpected and realistic.  The author didn't make up crazy things, he just studied mars really REALLY well to know what would naturally happen. 

There is a caveat to my recommendation.  There is a good amount of language in this book.  When a man thinks he's gonna die alone on another planet - he swears!  Mark Watney is the guy you want to be best friends with and invite over to BBQs at your house.  He is smart, funny, creative, down to earth, and just irreverent enough to make you laugh out loud over and over again.

You've been warned, and you've been also been teased with the promise of an amazingly awesome, fast paced, believable thriller.


(and read it before the movie with Matt Damon comes out)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Why I Stay a Mormon When Many Friends Have Left

Because It's True.

For the same reasons I stay married when it gets tough.  The same reasons I don't abandon my kids when it gets tough. 

If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently.

Being a Mormon does not "spark joy" every day.  Parenting doesn't either.  Some days are terrible.  Just like some days I don't like my work.  Some days I don't get along with my wife. 

Sometimes I am too tired to sing a goodnight song, or tell a story.  I really couldn't care less about which creature in SlugTerra has which superpower. 

It is the same at church.  I don't enjoy every lesson.  I don't get along with every member.  I don't always like fulfilling my callings.

Then why did I skip family breakfast everyday for 2 months to drive downtown to teach seminary when I knew no students were going to show up?

Because if you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. 

Christ really is the Son of God.  He really did live on earth, died for us, and was resurrected on the 3rd day.  He really did call prophets anciently, called Peter as a prophet after his earthly ministry, and since called Joseph Smith and successive prophets to continue His work.

Marriage can be eternal.  Families can be eternal.  The Gospel is eternal.

Why am I still a Mormon when many friends have left?

Because what others do has no influence on the Gospel being true or not.  It is true, so I strive to follow it.  If I fail or fall away - it's on me.  Just me.  Christ is the Savior, and this is His gospel, whether I follow it or not.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman

Grade: A-

I have not read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 20 years, and I remember very little about the book.
I refrained from reading it again because I wanted to see: can this book stand on it’s own?


This book is not what I expected.  I expected a somewhat entertaining story that eventually told us, “don’t be racist” and did it in a very convincing and poignant way. 
Lee did much more than that.  She let us love the people around us without jumping to crazy conclusions. 

She let us be good people without being perfect people.  She let us be heroes, who have real lives, and live in the real world.
Though the book was written in 1957, it feels as though it was written for our day.  It was written to teach us that Paula Deen is not a racist monster, and we can have heroes and role models who don’t meet the current public criteria of “appropriate.”
This is a fairly quick read, even though the book is not fast paced.  Lee did a wonderful job of developing characters and relationships so that the climax of the book is real.  The emotions and interactions are real and heartfelt because we know the back story of each character.

Lee took the time to teach vital life lessons, and through this book she taught them wonderfully.