There are so many ways to define success and I think it can be different for everyone.

For me, success would be that one day someone would ask our children what the best thing their Father ever did for them was and I hope they would say something like this: “He led me to Jesus and he loved my mother relentlessly, passionately, and unconditionally.”

If I do anything in life, I hope that is the legacy I leave. And further, that they would lead their children to Jesus and love their wives in the same way they hopefully see me love their mother.

For me, that would be success.

What’s your definition of success?

The Death of Debt

Debt is a monkey (or boulder) on the back of many American families and our country as a whole. Money is one of the top reasons couples fight and ultimately divorce. I don’t know about you, but I want to kill anything that could be a top reason to create division in my marriage. For that reason, and many others, we decided to fight debt to the death in our family.

If we really want to be free, as a country and as individual families, we’ve got to kill the debt.

The Bible says it best:

“…the borrower is the slave of the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7b

How true is that?

Almost 3 years ago, my wife and I decided to make getting out of debt a top priority. At the time, I had some student loans, we had racked up credit card debt, had a mortgage with a high interest rate, two car loans, and little to nothing in savings. I was making more money than I had ever made, but we were still headed in the wrong direction. The debt and spending were out of control. For the future of our family, something had to change.

We talked about it and agreed we needed to start walking the walk. It’s hard to point the finger at the Federal government’s budget when I was barely balancing my own at the time. I knew what to do, I just wasn’t doing it.

To help catapult us in the right direction, we took a Crown Financial class at a local church but ultimately ended up following Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps and a combination of other techniques & tools.

We took steps to drop spending wherever it was possible, especially recurring expenses like Satellite TV and eating out. We used the free (and great) to track our spending. We setup an initial emergency fund by making savings AUTOMATIC.

Setting up an automatic transfer each week out of your checking account and into the savings account (even a small amount) can ad up huge overtime. Don’t let your self decide if you want to put that money in savings that week, make it automatic. This was a huge thing I learned from the Automatic Millionaire.

We’re still working our way through Dave’s steps, but as of this month, we’ve paid off all debt with the exception of the mortgage (which we also got refinanced to a lower rate). We’re now working on growing savings a little more before investing more heavily in our retirement plan.

The freedom from marching away from debt is an incredible one. It takes time, sometimes a lot of it, but if you have a plan and stick to it, it will change your life.

Or goal, Lord willing, is to have our mortgage paid off before the kids graduate from high school.

Start with step 1, save a little weekly to get at least $1000 in an emergency fund. Then start the debt snowball, along with a detailed budget, and you’ll be surprised how fast it all starts to fade away.

You can do it!

5 Tips for Work at Home Balance

Working from home sounds like a great idea in this economy.

The truth though, is that not everyone is cut out for it. Working from home requires a delicate balance between family, work, personal time, and other priorities.

The best thing about working from home is that you never have to go to work, the bad thing is that you never get to leave.

It’s a blessing and a curse and it’s easy to fall of either side of the cliff — working too little or working too much.

I’ve had the blessing of working from home for the past 13 years. In that time period, home could be defined as my a dorm room, a friends house, my mother’s garage, an apartment, our first house, and the place we call home now. Each location and season of life presented it’s own series of challenges.

Through the years, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and managed to work too much and too little. It’s still a daily balance at times.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that can help make it a little easier:

  1. Define Work Times: Working from home often allows for unusual schedules, which is great, but that can often lead to too much or too little work. If you can define a period of time each day for work, it will help normalize your schedule and improve productivity. Hold yourself to those times.
  2. Define a Work Space: This one is harder for some depending on the space you have available at home, but if you can carve out a space that’s specifically designed for work only, it will help you focus when you’re in that space. Kind of like watching TV in bed can lead to poor sleep and sex, trying to work in a play space can be equally unproductive.
  3. Work when You’re Working: Sounds simple, but it’s not always. Facebook, twitter, blogging, news, and much more can quickly sweep us away for hours of the day without notice. Before you know it, you’ve wasted a ton of valuable time.
  4. Play when you’re Playing: Ok, ok, I’m starting to sound a little repetitive, but seriously… almost all of the very successful business owners I know are great at productive work, but they are also great at playing hard. When you’re with family, or friends, and outside of the defined hours in #1 above, put down the phone, shutdown the laptop, and HAVE FUN!
  5. Communicate with your Spouse: (This probably should be #1) If you’re married, working from home can bring an all new kind of stressors (or be a huge blessing). Making sure your spouse knows when you’re working, when you’re playing, and when you’re available to help with other things is extremely important. Communicate these things BEFORE they become a problem.
Working from home is a delicate balance. I’ve been doing it for years and I still screw it up. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them.

Taking time for what matters

It’s easy. Easy to get caught up in work, in things, in stuff. Things that matter, but not as much as we often think they do.

Running my own business and having an office at home makes it too easy to never leave work. I often say that the great thing about working from home is that you never have to go to work, the bad thing is that you never leave.

I enjoy my work and that can make it difficult to put down and focus on what matters. I look around and I see people loosing their jobs in massive numbers, I see the headlines that unemployment is at 10% or more…  so I work, I work hard so that I may not end up in that statistic. Working hard is good, but I have to constantly remind myself of what is really most important in my life.

Last week I spent 72 hours by my grandfather’s side as he took his last breaths. I held my grandmother’s hand, prayed with him, sang to him, and sat silently with him. In those moments, the square footage of my house, model of my car, quality of my watch, speed of my computer, or size of my television lost all value. What mattered was time.

The things I remember most about my grandfather are not the things he bought me or money he spent on me. They are not the car he drove or how fancy his house was (or wasn’t). What mattered was the late night trips for pizza and the early morning trips for doughnuts. What mattered was watching a baseball game together, spending time together, and enjoying family. I may not have had the exact same views as a twelve year old, but in retrospect, those were the things that really stay in my mind the most.

My work is important to me. I love what I do, want to be great at it, enjoy helping businesses with their design and web site needs, and enjoy making money while doing it. But what really matters to me is my wife, our three boys, our friends, our families, and the almightily God.

I say that, but don’t always live it. It is easy to forget what really matters, but I hope that in the end, as I take my last breaths, I am surrounded by a family that is thankful for my time more than anything else.

Be reminded to work hard, but don’t make the mistake of working just for money’s sake. Work for something that matters, I will try to do the same.

Marriage is like landscaping…

I believe that the greatest danger facing our nation is not health care, or the economy, or Barrack Obama, or Nancy Pelosi, or the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” I believe the greatest danger facing our nation is the loss of family.

Marriage and families are no longer the sacred treasures that they once were. Mother’s no longer care for their children, Father’s often forsake their families for their own fantasies, and no one seems to mind. Children leave for school early in the morning and return home in the afternoon with a key and an empty house. All this and we wonder why our nation is depressed, in violence, and unstable.

We have forsaken family dinner for fast food and convenience. We have forsaken our marriages for “individualism” and “personal freedom”. There are consequences for our actions as a nation. We, as a nation, live well beyond our means and as a result, most people work longer and harder than they should, often forgetting what is most important… family.

With all of the current chaos in our world, I am reminded that if everything was stripped from us, our homes, our cars, our “things” that we love so much – we would be left with just ourselves, our family, and our God.

We need a REVOLUTION. Not a revolution where we fight a government with guns, but one where we rebuild our families with more than just words. Play together, laugh together, cry together, eat together, and just be together.

If the Father’s of this nation would stand up and be MEN, we would be far better off in the future. Not just men that go to work and drop off a pay check on Friday, but men that are the rock of their family, men that would lead their family to God, and men that provide for the needs of their wives and children by more than just finances.

Children NEED a mother and a father that love them and guide them. They have plenty of friends, what they need is parents. Parents who are willing to make tough decisions for their futures and provide a stable foundation for them to grow up on.

I don’t pretend for a moment that my family is perfect. I get angry at my children far too often and I am selfish. I write these words as much for myself as for anyone else. I pray that TOGETHER, Claire and I are able to raise modern day knights in our boys. We will stumble and we will make mistakes, but when I said ’til death do we part, I meant it. And if I ever stray from that, please be bold enough to remind me.

My prayer today, for our nation, is that our families are strengthened through tough times and that we are reminded of what really matters in life. In a footer of her e-mail, my sister Kari reminded me that Billy Graham once said “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.” My hope is that the current valleys in our nation produce much fruit.