This message is for people who work too hard.

At some point when I was a kid, I vaguely recall that I was a perfectionist. If I worked on a project for school, I would try to go above and beyond, getting every little detail to the best of my ability. It didn’t seem right to stop when there was still more I knew I could do to improve. Perhaps you can relate to that feeling.

I think at some point I became a procrastinator, largely to prevent this perfectionism. If I only allowed myself two hours to do a project, then I would do the best I could in that two hours and working more on little details was not an option anymore.

Another thing that helped change my perspective on perfection was learning about the law of diminishing returns. This was an economic term that explained the very common phenomenon that the more effort you put into something, the less actual benefit. We humans usually assume that if something is good, more is better, but that is not always the case.

Consider: the first hour you spend studying for a test might get you a 70%, the next hour bumps that up to an 85% and another hour gets you an A at 93%. If you just need an A for your transcript, does putting another 3 hours in to make sure you get a 100% really benefit you? What about if you stay up all night studying and then you fall asleep during the test and fail it?

Here’s another example. The big box store spends money to prevent shoplifting. They install some cameras, hire a guard and maybe put security devices on items. This is called “Loss Prevention.” They could spend even more money to hire more guards, employ extensive technologies and thorough methods, but if they did manage to completely prevent shoplifting, they would almost certainly have spent more money to prevent all the shoplifting than they saved by accomplishing their perfect goal.

I also started to realize that the “perfection” I was chasing was very narrowly focused. If I spend all weekend on a school project, I might see myself as a perfect student, but it would be imperfect of me to neglect my friends and family. If in theory you could be perfect in one area, it would almost always come at severe cost to other areas. But that first amount of effort in an area paid big dividends, and if I could settle for being good enough at something, then I would have time to spare to be good at many things. I started to wonder if perfection in the grand scheme of things was being a good student, a good son, a good friend, etc., and still have time to play and relax so that I actually enjoyed my life.

Consider the verse: “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Tim 6:10 NIV.

I’ve always been struck by that term, “pierced with many griefs.” It’s so true. Money is important, but like I said before, we think that if something is good, more is better. There are many times in my life where I have opportunities to make more money. But I have recognized that the law of diminishing returns applies. If I do all the work on an investment, I might get a 7% return on investment. If I turn the management side over to someone else, then I almost eliminate my stress, and still get a 6% return on investment. How much is my peace of mind worth? Isn’t that part of the reason we chase money, because we think it will make our lives better?

Perhaps you aren’t into investing, but have opportunities to take on a second or third job. There are times where that may be necessary, but if those extra hours increase your income 10% but take up 100% of your free time, when do you plan to enjoy that extra money? Was it worth it? What if you work 12 hours a day to provide a nice home for your family, but they would rather live in a smaller house and actually have you home in the evenings?

Saving, budgeting and working hard are very important, but consider that the law of diminishing returns indicates that the first amount you spend on a task is most productive. Rather than spend 100% of your effort on the future, make sure to put some effort into enjoying today. Treating yourself occasionally and taking it a little easier can make those working decades much more enjoyable. You wouldn’t want to pinch every penny for forty years and have plenty of income to retire on, but not enjoy it because your health is too bad.

These are just intended to be a few more pieces of the puzzle to help with the usual needs for perspective and balance. I hope you find them as beneficial as I have. It’s always nice when five minutes of learning can improve the rest of your life. That’s a pretty good return on investment.


When I was a teenager, one of my fondest memories was the summer that I had no responsibilities and my best friend practically lived at our house. We’d stay up all night playing video games and sleep all day. There seemed to be no end to the fun.

But on occasion, my friend’s mother would call and tell him that he needed to come home. We would ask what was the reason for the end to our fun and I still remember to this day, she would say, “He needs balance.”

As a teen, I just thought this was a lame excuse to ruin our fun.

But as I have gotten older, I have changed my tune. What I thought was foolishness, was just wisdom I did not understand.

Now I understand that more is not always better. You can have too much of a good thing.

The most obvious example is water.

Not enough water and you will die of thirst.

Too much water and you will die from drowning.

“The wise man avoids all extremes.” 1

I think learning about balance and moderation is a large part of maturity. I imagine I’m probably just preaching to the choir for most adults. But I wanted to point out a phenomenon about passing on wisdom that seems to be lost in most memes and debates.

To find balance and wisdom, you often have to be aware of both extremes. But when people are passing on their wisdom or hard earned life lessons, they are usually just warning you of one extreme. And when people put this in meme form or a post on social media, it is just one part of a complicated puzzle, almost always eliciting arguments and derision because other people are looking at another piece.

Consider some quotes you may or may not have heard to illustrate this.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” 2


“The nail that sticks out gets hammered” 3


“Never, Never, Never Give Up” 4


“You have to know when to quit”


“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. “ 5


“Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. “ 6


“Black Lives Matter”


“Blue Lives Matter”

Often times people find a problem with something and assume the opposite is right, but in most situations the truth is somewhere in the middle. No one is 100% right or 100% wrong. I have learned some very valuable insights from some cruel people, because the source of wisdom does not always determine the quality of wisdom.

As they say, “A broken clock is still right twice a day.”

With modern media’s polarized debates and short attention span, people do not take the time to incorporate the points of both sides. Instead, one of the new favorite past times is to shut people up. People think that finding a flaw in someone’s point, or pointing out something they missed is equivalent to winning an argument. But I say:

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” 7
“It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.” 1

Perhaps even thinking of it as an argument with two opposing sides is problematic. I think we need less debates and more discussions.

“Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood “ 8

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 9

In my opinion, a good example of balance is a healthy two parent family. Often times you will see one parent being more compassionate while another parent is more authoritarian. Sometimes this can lead to arguments about parenting style, but when two people are able to respect what the other brings to the table, they usually do much better than either would alone. There are times when a child needs to be pushed, have consequences and allowed to fail. But there are also times when a child needs to be rescued and nurtured. Any one person is usually going to err on one side or the other and I have seen the devastating effects of both parenting styles in their extreme.

At the end of the day, figuring things out in life is tricky. There is no one right or wrong answer you can apply across the board. You can’t just take people’s advice at face value.

Sometimes you need to listen to hard truths:

“The wounds of a friend can be trusted” 10

and sometimes you have to be able to rise above what everyone else is telling you:

“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” 11

You have to sort it out for yourself and find that balance and what applies in any given situation.

“Memes are easy, life is hard.” 12

It is easy to get offended or assume the worst in someone when they make a point, thinking they don’t see the whole picture. For instance, I know that this blog about wisdom may sound arrogant, but I am aware that I fall short and make mistakes all the time. I know that striving for balance is hard. Those truths don’t make balance any less valuable.

The best wisdom understands both sides and the need to incorporate them properly.

One of my favorite quotes is a major part of Alcoholics Anonymous, where people struggle daily with moderation:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference. “ 13


“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.“ 14

P.S. I like quotes.

Here is what I could come up with for sources:

1 – Ecclesiates 7:18

2 – American Proverb

3 – Japanese Proverb

4 – Winston Churchill

5 – Proverbs 26:4

6 – Proverbs 26:5

7 – German Proverb

8 – Steven Covey

9 – Epictetus

10 – Proverbs 27:6

Today’s post comes from an anonymous guest writer who has figured out how to thrive after decades of being stuck in depression. I hope you enjoy these insights as much as I did.



Ways that a life living with years of depression has left me with challenges in
my new life.
When you live with depression, you spend all day everyday in your head. The only
person you talk to is yourself. The internet and tv and Netflix are your only
The result is a state of living in fantasy. When you come out of this state of
arrested development, there are challenges that I framed as fantasy versus
In fantasy, there are no consequences. You don’t hurt anyone’s feelings if you
don’t interact with anyone real. Fantasy people say whatever you’d like them to
say. These imaginary people in your head offer no feedback and no advice. When
you talk, your words mean nothing, they’re just words. When you talk to real
people, they usually assume your words mean something. Your promises are
expected to be binding.
There’s no making plans in fantasy, you can just leap to the best part. There’s
no reason you can’t just say you’ve slain the dragon and now you’re here to
marry the princess. In reality, there are steps in between where you are and
what you want.
Like tv, fantasy has no progress. Every ‘episode’ ends happily, and the next one
starts with a new fresh start. All is forgiven and forgotten. In reality you
have to push and push and keep up the effort to reach a worthwhile goal. Only
simple goals can be finished in a half an hour. And when depression keeps you
from finishing a plan, you have to start over when you get the gumption to get
back to it, if you get back to it at all.
Fantasy is like a single play in football, where every play ends in a touchdown.
There are no ‘plays’, no strategy. In life, you have to persist over many, many
plays, struggling for every yard. You don’t shoot for a touchdown every time.
You try for a first down, and then another and then another as you creep toward
the goal. You don’t learn strategies in fantasy, they aren’t needed.
Not only are there no steps in fantasy, there are no rewards. When the fantasy
is done, that world evaporates. In reality, whether you win or lose you get a
result. You will get a lesson. Fantasy offers no lessons.
There’s no time in fantasy. Things can take as long as you want, good times last
as long as you focus on them. In reality you have to put up with movies that are
over, and ushers that tell you it’s time to leave the building.
Fantasy has no friction. The world is like a smooth sheet of glass. You can fly
and glide and teleport across time and space. In reality the rubber has to meet
the road. The road provides the friction to move you forward. You have to have
friction, it’s the grip of the tires on the road.
In fantasy you can have perfection. The princess is flawlessly beautiful. The
castle is strong and well-built. In reality perfection is not only impossible,
chasing perfection will always get in the way of getting what’s ‘good enough’.
In reality you need to get things good enough and move on to the next thing. If
you don’t, you find yourself always far behind where you want to be because
you’re waiting for the ‘perfect’ opportunity. In reality the best way to move
forward fast is to get things good enough and then ask, “what’s next?”.
Fantasy is a road trip, and reality is moving and having a life.
– Anonymous

One of my favorite stories has an uncertain origin, so I don’t know who to attribute it to or even where I heard it. It has many variations from different cultures, but here is how I heard it:


Once upon a time, there was a man who was given the opportunity to see what Heaven and Hell looked like before he died.

First, he was taken to Hell. He expected to see fire and brimstone, along with people being tortured with pitchforks. He was surprised by what he saw.

He was taken to a giant wooden set of double doors and they opened up into an enormous banquet hall. The hall stretched beyond sight and everyone in Hell was there. All throughout the banquet hall were a series of long rectangular banquet tables and everyone was seated on either of the two long sides at a table. 

All along the tables were giant bowls of soup. Now, I’m not much of a soup fan, but when you smelled this soup you were immediately overwhelmed by the sensation that if you could just have some of that soup you would be happy for eternity.

However, everyone in Hell was lashed to the benches so that they could not get up or reach the soup bowls, which could not be moved. The only way to reach the soup was with the 3 foot long wooden spoons that were lashed to everyone’s arm such that they could not be removed. Consequently, everyone in Hell was desperately trying to get a spoonful of soup, but because they could not get up, undo the spoon or bend their arms in a successful manner, no one could do it.

Throughout the hall, everyone was in agony as they strained their arms and necks and groaned in desperate pain to get the thing they so desired but was just barely out of reach.

The man quickly realized that this was a psychological torture and he could not bear to watch the faces contorted in agony or hear their groans. He asked to be taken away.


And so he was. He was promptly taken to Heaven where he expected to see clouds, streets of gold and people playing harps. But yet again, he was surprised at what he saw.

It was the exact same scenario. Giant wooden double doors opened up to a banquet hall as far as the eye could see. It had the same tables and the same soup that would bring eternal happiness. And yet again, the people were all lashed to the benches and had 3 foot long wooden spoons strapped to their arms.

The circumstances were exactly the same in Heaven as they were in Hell. So what was different?

In Heaven, each person reached their spoon out, got a spoonful and fed the person across from them. And in return, that person fed them back.



I love telling this story, especially when people are surprised at the ending or don’t try to find loopholes in the premise. Often people will say, couldn’t the people in Hell have done the same thing?

Well, of course it is just a fable, but I would imagine if it were true that human nature easily explains the situation. I figure that in Hell, maybe people did try that idea. But then someone spills a spoonful and burns someone, or tries to take two turns, or doesn’t give a fair amount or that they just insist that the other person trusts first before they return the favor. Bitterness, selfishness and distrust would probably be long forgotten reasons why sharing is not even an option after a while. And really, that explanation makes the story all the more relevant.

And I have found the originally intended moral equally accurate. Different people have different circumstances, but trust and taking care of each other is how we make Heaven on earth. On the flip side, people who are always looking out for number one usually create their own personal Hell.

Many people will quickly jump to saying they try to be selfless but others take advantage of them. On one hand it is true that this does not really work if others do not cooperate, so surrounding yourself with the right people is important, and a long lesson in itself. But also, getting angry when others do not return the favor is contractual thinking. That kind of thinking usually leads to resentment and revenge, as opposed to forgiveness and restoration, which are yet again good explanations of how one place becomes Hell and the other becomes Heaven.

“Get wisdom, get understanding;

do not forget my words or turn away from them.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;

love her, and she will watch over you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.

Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

Proverbs 4:5-7 NIV


This blog post has been a long time coming. In some ways it is the foundation for everything else I write and do. On almost every post I make, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer, which is this:

I do not always know the sources of what I say. Sometimes it is something I heard decades ago, sometimes it is a basic idea I have expanded upon and sometimes it is all me. But the thing is, I ultimately do not feel any of what I say belongs to me.

Wisdom is wisdom. We do not create it, we only discover it and pass it on, therefore I believe no one can really claim it. 

Sure, you can copyright a quote, but a quote would be of no value if it did not highlight a truth far beyond the author.

And as the scripture above shows, people have been seeking wisdom and passing it on for thousands of years. Wisdom is different than knowledge and intelligence. Wisdom is about how to live life well. Wisdom is proven right in action. I have seen many extremely intelligent people who can accomplish great tasks and understand complex ideas, but struggle to make wise decisions or live well.

Some people would say that wisdom is the integration of intelligence and experience, but I have often seen the simple and the young able to understand a problem better than those who have a lifetime of complicated theories and baggage cluttering their minds.


I have been fascinated with wisdom since childhood when I read about King Solomon who, when granted one wish from God, requested wisdom to serve his people better. Pleased with the heart of the request, God gladly granted it and Solomon additionally received riches, honor and life as a result of his wisdom.

I imagine I may be a bit annoying at times when I have a saying or cliche that has been passed down for ages to apply to most any situation. But I believe those sayings have been handed down for generations because they have proven true. Often wisdom teaches lessons that are contrary to what we would expect or hard for us to accept. Some people insist on learning these lessons for themselves, but there is an enormous wealth of experience from everyone who came before us, and they usually hand it out generously only to find it rejected. I for one figured it was smart to learn from others so that I could stand on their shoulders and add to the collection.

Another key facet of wisdom is the deep understanding and acceptance of how much you do not know. The usual lack of this understanding is one of the main reasons why teenagers can be so infuriating. Children know there is a vast world of things they need to know that they do not. Adults eventually come back to this awareness. Teenagers are in a sweet spot of being exposed to vast amounts of new information, often knowing things that others do not, and mistaking this for being more enlightened than they really are.

Awareness of how much you do not know is very humbling. I would expect any purveyor of wisdom worth their salt to walk a fine line between knowing the value of the wisdom they have accumulated, while being modest about their own accomplishment.

I mentioned earlier that I often spout trite sayings to apply to various situations. Please bear in mind that I am fully aware that every situation is more complicated, real and heartfelt than some of those sayings may imply. Also, if you pay attention, almost every clever piece of wisdom has a counterpoint. 

There are sayings about persistence and sayings about knowing when to quit.

There are sayings about breaking from tradition and reasons to respect it.

There are times to speak out and times to bite your tongue.

…And a time to every purpose under heaven. Turn, turn, turn.

Wisdom is also all about understanding balance and discernment. Because those little tidbits are often one sided, they are excellent for highlighting and simplifying the priorities for decision making, but knowing when they apply and when they don’t is a further role of wisdom.

As you can see, wisdom is complicated. I have been daunted from writing this for a while for many of the reasons above. To write about wisdom is inherently a bit arrogant. To that I say, go ahead and take my words with a grain of salt. If they are valuable it is only because they are true. Wisdom is also a multifaceted and difficult thing to express, so I’m fairly certain I will fail to fully capture all I would want to say on the subject. Oh well, wisdom has recently taught me it is often better to do something that may have flaws than to do nothing at all.

And lastly, I am sure I will not be able to fully convey just how valuable wisdom is, yet I will try.

Above all else, gain wisdom. It will guard your life. Though it may help you gain fame and fortune, it will also teach you those things are not the most important. It will allow you to find happiness and peace, yet give you courage and guidance to give up those things for even greater treasures. If you want a life worth living, my first and simplest advice to you is to seek wisdom.

This week I’m going to take a back seat and point you to someone else that I think is worth hearing. Her name is Megan Phelps-Roper, and not only does she have a fascinating story of being brought up in the Westboro Baptist Church, but she has some invaluable insights in how we should talk to one another if we really care about helping each other.

In case you don’t know, the Westboro Baptist Church is a small family church of about 40 people or so that is not officially affiliated with the Baptist Convention. They have become famous for hate speech and protesting funerals. I’m most amazed that the only time I have ever seen a comment section on the internet where everyone agreed was when people were talking about how awful the Westboro Baptist Church is.

So, hearing about the experience of being raised in that environment is intriguing. But, I am linking to this video, not out of curiosity, but because this woman has some invaluable insights on how people managed to overcome a seemingly impenetrable wall of denial and opposition to get through to her. These are tools we should all learn.

While her speaking style may be a little stilted, I highly encourage you to listen to everything she has to say. One of the lessons that has most stuck with me is:

“I thought my rightness justified my rudeness”

Just imagine how much the internet, our discussions and our relationships would improve if everyone believed that our rightness does not justify our rudeness.

Here’s the link to the full video.

I aspire to be gentle. I’m also one of those guys who gets hyped at the idea of manhood. But not the macho idea of manhood. Something greater. A lot of my ideas on the subject of authentic manhood come from John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart

But I think being gentle has a lot of negative connotations, that cause men, and women, to think that it is a sign of weakness. The word gentle often conjures up definitions like “sensitive,” “moderate,” “timid,” or “soft.” But I believe there is a lot more to the concept.

Think about what kind of words are paired with gentle: “Gentle Giant,” Gentleman, Gentle Ben. Gentle is paired with things that are considered strong or dangerous. When you explain to a child how to treat a baby, you tell them to be gentle, because if they exert their full force they will hurt the baby. But why? Here is my definition of gentleness:

Gentleness is strength restrained.

Anyone can be destructive or hurtful. To be honest, that sort of behavior may make us feel powerful. But even toddlers can be destructive. No one hurts me as much as my 4 year old daughter. Not because she is strong, but because she lacks control. The immature let loose their anger because it is the only way they think their impact will be felt. Similarly, bullies and cowards abuse their strength to cover their fear that they are not good enough.

However, it is the gentle, who are truly strong. They do not need to put on a show. They may have the power to control, take or destroy, yet do not. The gentle act in love, often choosing to stand, rather than run or fight, knowing that they can outlast their challenges. Gentleness can meet hurting people in the midst of their distress, without the overwhelming need to remove the tension before it has done its work. Gentleness says “it is ok,” with the strength and certainty to back it up.

I want to be that kind of gentle.


“Never go to bed angry,” is one of the most common pieces of advice given to newlyweds. If you ask people you know or search the web, you’ll find plenty of comments, opinions and research to either back up or contradict this age old advice.

For what it is worth, I think the fundamental principle of the cliche is true. But like most any piece of wisdom, you have to avoid taking it to extremes and there may be other factors to consider, which is the basis of the arguments criticizing this time honored saying saying.

I think that this sage advice dates back thousands of years to the scripture:

” ‘In your anger do not sin’ : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” – Ephesians 4:26 NIV

And since this wisdom has been around for thousands of years, all I intend to do here is add my 2 cents for why it matters.

I came to understand it during my bachelor days.

My roommate, other friends and myself were playing poker in our apartment. I’m known to be overly competitive at times and my friends decided to play a little prank on me. Throughout the night, they would frequently cheat and give the winning cards to one of the other players. The player they gave the winning cards to was the person who cared the least about winning, did not take the game seriously and often had haphazard strategy. My friends knew that one of my pet peeves was losing to someone I thought played poorly. I’m not proud of this trait and try to work on it, but it is an important fact of the story.

As the night went on, I got more and more frustrated when I lost repeatedly to this player. The odds of him having the cards he did as often as he did were mind boggling. I have pretty honest friends, so I would never expect them to cheat to win, but I guess cheating to irritate me was a different matter, which is why I was slow to consider the possibility. At some point I crossed into being legitimately mad, but they continued the prank.

When they all finally had a good laugh at my expense, I was not in a good place. “How could they keep provoking me when they knew I was so upset,” I thought to myself. I don’t recall how the night ended or what happened next, but I do know that I called it a night and went to bed before any apologies or reparations could be made. I went to bed angry.

And what happens next may be familiar to you, even if you didn’t recognize what was happening. What started out as anger at a problem situation, “How could they keep provoking me when they knew I was so upset,” evolved over time as I stewed about the night. After a while, my thoughts became, “How could they be so insensitive,” to “How could they be so cruel,” to “they are such cruel, thoughtless jerks.” You see, when we dwell on a hurt without addressing the person, the problem situation eventually becomes a problem person. We attribute what happened to a flaw in the character of those who hurt us. Now that character flaw is our problem.

And it is so much harder to resolve a problem with someone when you believe the problem is their character. And when the problem is their character, the possibility of change or resolution is so much more hopeless and frustrating. Which conversation will be more productive?

 “I was hurt when you knowingly pushed my buttons,” or “I need to talk to you about how manipulative and inconsiderate you are.”

Regardless of whether you deal with a problem today or tomorrow, I think one of the key things to remember is to stay focused on the situation and not allow your anger to fester and taint your whole perception of a person. It is always easier to deal with a situational problem than a character problem. People will be far more defensive, the scope of resolution gets overwhelming, and you will have much more difficulty dealing with facts when you try to take on something as arbitrary as a character defect.

And while we are on the topic of attributions of character, here is another valuable tip. It has been observed that when we have bad behavior, we tend to blame our circumstances:

  • “I didn’t get enough sleep and was irritable”
  • “I’m under a lot of stress right now”
  • “If you only knew what my childhood was like”
  • “It was just a miscommunication”

But when other people have bad behavior, we attribute it to their character:

  • “What a selfish jerk”
  • “They are just lazy”
  • “She’s such a B—-“
  • “Don’t be an idiot”

We excuse our bad behavior with understanding and context, but we simply chalk up other people’s bad behavior to innate character flaws. I believe we do this because we love ourselves (let’s not get into the whole other subject of people who do not love themselves). Because we love ourselves, we want to think better of ourselves, so we try to understand our behavior in context. We are more than a simple label. We have good days and bad days and we don’t want all our good points and accomplishments to be cancelled out by a mistake. We don’t do this for other people, because doing all that thinking to understand someone takes a lot of mental energy, and if we’re honest, we don’t love other people enough to put in the effort to understand them.

What if one of the main lessons of the golden rule is to love others as ourselves, which means to cut other people the same amount of slack we do for ourselves. It is a lot harder to be angry when you try to consider someone as a complicated human being who is struggling to do their best, rather than just a villain.

So, if you go to bed angry, you run the risk of turning someone you care about into a villain…and that kind of makes you sound like the bad guy now, doesn’t it?