A Look Ahead…2013

2 Timothy 1:7Gini Dietrich shared her 2013 Business and Personal Goals with you yesterday and it motivated me to share with you my personal goals for 2013.

If you happen to be friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that 2 Timothy 1:7 is my personal Bible verse for 2013. The idea of not living in fear but with “power, love and self-discipline” covers every aspect of my life…both relational, physical, mental, and professional giving me the motivation to try new things this year and experience things that quite frankly would normally scare the heck out of me!

So here we go…below are some of the goals I’ve set forth for myself. I’m asking for your help in holding me accountable and seeing how I do!

RUN A MARATHON
I’ve run but never 26.2 miles and not even 13.1 miles. Ever since I’ve lost over 30 pounds in a contest at my kids’ school, I’ve been more motivated to make this change to my body last and become a lifestyle so why not use the lighter body to run a marathon! And I’m not just running a marathon for myself. I decided after watching the story of the Pokot Tribe in Kenya that I needed to run with purpose. The purpose being to raise money so that these people can have access to the most basic need that we often take for granted…clean water. I’m hoping after watching the video below, that you will consider helping me reach my fundraising goal of $2000. Who knows, if I hit it I may just raise it!

FOSTER CARE / ADOPTION
This has been a big one for me over the last year. I’ve finally got my head wrapped around the idea of it but I haven’t quite figured out how our family will be act on it. Is it foster care? Is it adoption? Is it foster to adopt? Either way, I know that there are children out there that do not have the benefit of parents to love them and lead them and participate in their lives. Why can’t I, who lives in one of the wealthiest countries in the world spare an extra room in my home (which by some standards is a mansion in other countries) and care for the least of these? More to come on this one but certainly something that I will hope to act on very soon.

BE A BETTER HUSBAND & FATHER
I can always do better here. I can be more intentional with the time with my wife and kids. I can give my kids goals to strive towards that will help them at school, on the teams they play on, and provide them with a foundation to be the leaders I pray they can be. I can put aside the busyness of life and make sure to date my wife. Besides my faith, my relationship with her is the next most important relationship I’ll ever have in life. Why not set that example of marriage for my kids so they know how they should treat their spouse and how their spouse should treat them.

There are other goals for this year but these are the big ones. I found that I won’t have success unless I write them down. Something I learned in my weight loss…track everything and measure yourself against your goals regularly. So now I ask you to hold me accountable. If I can stick to these with 2 Timothy 1:7 as my motivation, I hope I’ll be able to look back fondly on 2013 but more importantly motivate others to look at their own lives and goals and live in power, love and self-discipline instead of fear and timidity.

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The Downside of Success

Missing the TargetIn my last post, I told all of you about my weight loss and exercise program as part of Oakland Christian School‘s Biggest Loser competition.  Well today’s is to give you a little update!

On Wednesday, I received an email from Merianne telling us that we are in for a “surprise weigh in” on Friday.  Well, much to my delight, my initial thought was “Nice! I can’t wait to see if I maintained or maybe even lost another pound or 2!”

So this morning, I stepped on that scale and I actually GAINED almost 4 pounds!  Not the news I was hoping to get!  What happened?

I think a few things could contribute to this…those “few things” being the number of Christmas parties and pot lucks I’ve attended over the last couple of weeks!  More importantly though, I think I experienced the downside of success…complacency.  I took my eyes off the target of maintaining my weight and healthy eating habits and thought that I could now just coast.  Thankfully, the scale can be a painful reminder that in order to have continued success, you need to stay focused on your goal which for me was staying and eating healthy.  It’s time to refocus and not let this small setback derail all the work I’ve done up to this point!

As I look forward to 2013, this little year end lesson made me think about other areas in my life where I’ve enjoyed some success and maybe have given in to some complacency:

  • MY FAITH – my relationship with God is stronger than ever but still requires full commitment from me to live it out every day
  • MY MARRIAGE – Julianne and I will celebrate 14 years in August next year.  We’ve had our ups and downs but our relationship is the glue that holds our family together and I want make sure that she knows how much I love her and admire her
  • MY KIDS – These 4 little ones always bring a smile to my face and I take being their father seriously.  There are things I can (and will) do better next year.  In addition to spending more time with them individually, I want to provide them with their own targets / goals to achieve and hold them accountable.
  • MY JOBMRM Detroit has been great to me and it really is hard to believe I’ve been here for over 2 years now.  The leadership here has been very supportive especially when the account I came here for was closed.  They reassured me they would find a place for me, they did and now I have a reason to be even more appreciative with the recent promotion I received

So there you have it.  Along with my health, the 4 things I listed above need my continued focus and that means staying true to the goals I’ve laid out for myself in each of them.

Don’t take your eyes off the target or you might get stuck with an extra 4 pounds you don’t want.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Enjoying the Ride

After a little bit of a hiatus, I’ve brought back the “By Dads For Dads” series.  It’s been a while since my last guest post and when I sent out a tweet last week asking for contributors, I was pleasantly surprised at the response!  Through fellow Spartan and previous contributor, Tim Bograkos, I was introduced to Paul Vance.  It is my pleasure to introduce you to Paul!

I recently came across the following quote from Joe Gibbs, the former Hall of Fame coach of the Washington Redskins: “People who enjoy what they are doing invariably do it well.” I doubt this was intended to apply to being a dad, but I believe it does.

I am a new dad, just a little over three months into fatherhood, still learning what it takes to be a dad. And hoping I am doing things right. These early months have not been easy. There are the nights were my son isn’t sleeping (he is sleeping better now), when he is crying and I can’t figure out why, the diaper blowouts, getting peed on and, of course, the spit ups. Yet, I feel like I am having the time of my life.

Before my son arrived, my life consisted mainly of work, watching sports, work, exercising and more work. Finding the necessary balance between my work life with being a dad has been difficult. I often find myself thinking – Am I spending enough time with my son? Am I keeping pace at work? Am I giving my wife enough support? I worry that due to my hectic work schedule and long hours I may not be bonding enough with my son. Despite all the questions and doubts, I have confidence that I am doing just fine. I am making it work and adapting, whatever it takes. Why? Because I genuinely love being a dad. And when my little guy shows me that bright smile of his all those doubts and worries wash away.

So three months into fatherhood, what have I learned? Being a dad is hard work. Finding that balance between work and family is challenging. Those days of taking a quick nap are over. Relaxing and watching television just isn’t going to happen very often any more. In spite of all the difficult times, I have found fatherhood to be the coolest, most rewarding job I have ever had.

When it comes to being a dad, I hope Coach Gibbs is right.

Paul Vance is an associate attorney at Cline, Cline, and Griffin, P.C. He was recently selected by Super Lawyers Magazine as a “Rising Star” in the state of Michigan. Paul was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and currently resides in East Lansing with his wife and their new son, Kellen. You call follow Paul on twitter at @PaulVance_Esq or contact him via email at pvance@ccglawyers.com.

If you’re a dad and interested in contributing to this series, send me a tweet to @patrickreyes or click on the “Contact Me” above.

Friendship Redefined

I’m a huge advocate of social media (as you know) and how it has impacted the way brands market.  I love the connections that I’ve made from using Facebook and Twitter.  This blog has given me a platform to share my thoughts on faith, fatherhood and marketing.  Social has expanded our reach to across the country and in some cases around the globe.  I’m sure you’ve also seen the ability to reconnect with people you once thought you may have never been able to again.

However, with all of the positives I just mentioned, social has redefined the word “friend” hasn’t it?  Think about this…I have 1,177 friends on Facebook.  I don’t tell you that to brag, but as I look at that number, what real relationship do I have with all of those people?  Yes, there are a select few that I can say I have a deep friendship with but most of the others are people that I’ve come to know professionally, people I’ve come to know through Kensington, others are childhood friends and others are those from Michigan State.  Regardless, each group of people was significant for a certain period of my life but I can’t honestly say the friendship is nothing more than a casual friendship.

What I’ve learned and was reinforced this past weekend at Kensington Orion was that social media does a great job of expanding our friendships horizontally but often times causes the vertical depth of friendships to suffer.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been able to establish deep and meaningful friendships with some…Gini Dietrich and Justin Brackett are 2 great examples but those were able to grow because of the personal investment we made to get to know each other not only through our online interactions but also through in person visits and conversations.

As I’ve continued to think about this over the last few days I began to look at the friendships I have with other guys around me…or lack thereof.  I hope I’m not in the minority on this, but in conversations I’ve had with other guys in my circles (not a Google+ reference), many of us can only name maybe 1 guy that we feel comfortable enough sharing more than the surface level stuff with.  It must be a guy thing because I know this comes much easier for women.

Why is this important?
I mention all of this because of the message from Kensington Orion this week.  This past Sunday we talked about the 3 men in David’s life that…

…were committed
…were Christ like
…carried burdens

This group of men battled for each other and supported each other.  I want that in my life.  I also want that for the life of my sons.  I want other men, other than me, to pour into my boys and teach them what having strong male figures in their lives will do for them as they grow up to become men.  For me, I want a select few guys to be able to hold me accountable to my faith, to my marriage and be able to help me when I’m struggling.  This verse from Proverbs states it perfectly:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27:17

Having these close relationships sharpens us, makes us better men, better husbands and better fathers.

What is my action step?  To invest in the relationships around me and pray that God reveals to me the open doors of friendships that will sharpen me and to make the vertical investment.

What about you?

A Father’s Day Poem from John Wooden

Don Cousins spoke at Kensington yesterday.  If you don’t know him, he is the father of Michigan State University quarterback, Kirk Cousins who also gave an awesome message as he reflected on things he learned from his father.  This was a great example for dads everywhere to remember our kids are watching every move we make and every thing we say.  Dads, be a leader to your kids.  If you do, you’ll see the influence you had on them as they grow and mature.

A careful man I want to be,
A little fellow follows me;
I do not dare to go astray
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes.
Whate’er he sees me do he tries.
Like ME he says he’s going to be –
That little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go
Through summer suns and winter snows,
I am building for the years to be –
That little chap who follows me.

出生證明書 – Chūshēng zhèngmíng shū – Birth Certificate

It hit me once again 7 months ago, when I was staring at Emma’s birth certificate and I couldn’t understand a single word on it.

Let me start by saying that I am Spanish and that my second daughter, Emma, was born in Shanghai, China. So, no, I don’t understand my own daughter’s birth certificate. It is written in Chinese characters.

Because of my job, I have lived and worked, and therefore, had permanent addresses in Madrid (Spain), Stockholm (Sweden), Zurich (Switzerland), Miami, FL (USA) and now Shanghai (China).  My first daughter, Olivia, was born in Miami in 2008. And my second daughter, Emma, was born in Shanghai in 2010. These 2 little ladies have already been to more places in the World that many of my adult friends. How cool is that?

Apart from the fact that Olivia has dual citizenship (Spanish – American) and that Emma has her birth certificate written in Chinese traditional characters, there are so many great things about raising a kid in such an international environment.

  1. Although it is a tough thing to do over and over again, moving places and meeting new people makes them more adaptable and flexible. Also more social. Olivia never had a problem making new friends and she is quite open, social and interactive with other kids. I believe this trains a kid to be more resilient.
  2. They are growing up surrounded by kids from all over the World, which will make them used to interact with other cultures, races and backgrounds from an earlier age. I believe this is critical in fighting against intolerance and racism, which are rooted in ignorance and lack of exposure of individuals to others that are different.
  3. I have to admit I drool in admiration (and envy) when I listen to Olivia speak Spanish, English and Chinese words and phrases. Some say that multilingual environments slow down a kid’s ability to start talking. While it might be true (not in Olivia’s case though) we all eventually learn to talk, so whether you are fluent and articulate at 2 or at 3 doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you have already programmed in your language skills learning ability the basics for more than one language. We will probably be leaving China before Olivia is fluent (she is not even 3), so she will probably forget all she learns, but if she picks it up again in the future, I believe it will be much easier for her.
  4. Olivia is developing the ability to make friends that will live around the World, and thus, building an International network of friends around the World. Who knows, one of her childhood friends might become the president of some country. All good contacts to have…

It also comes with great responsibility. When making professional decisions on what assignment to take next, now I have to factor in my family’s well being too. So in addition to evaluating the new job and remuneration package, I now have to consider things like the quality of International schools, language spoken, weather conditions, outdoor activities… Things that didn’t play a big role when I made decisions on where to live next back when I was single but that now are as important, or sometimes even more, than the actual content of the job or the compensation package.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks.

  1. The distance with the (extended) family. Every kids needs to be spoiled by their grandparents and in a Latin society like mine, staying close to your family is a core component of a child’s development. It is hard for my daughters’ grandparents to only see them once or twice a year.  But it is also hard for me and my wife to be missing out on many things back home. Thanks to the Internet and technologies like Whatsapp, Skype and Picasa, we stay in virtual touch. It is fascinating how these things suddenly become a core part of my daughters’ life.  At the end it is a trade off. But what in life isn’t?
  2. Moving from one country to another is a traumatic event. And not only because of all the things you have to sort out, but also because of the friends you leave behind. And for a kid, this can be even more traumatic. Saying good bye to good friends, having to adjust to new schools…
  3. Kids that are brought up in this ever changing environment are probably more likely to end up having a similar lifestyle, which means that, as my parents and parents in law are suffering from not spending time with their kids and their granddaughters, we will end up living apart from our kids.

Some American friends that might be reading this might think all this sounds familiar. I have learnt to appreciate the Americans in their resilience and their adaptability. They are more used to moving  from place to place than the average rest of the World. But this is not that common for Latins and other societies where the extended family is at the very core, and having your family members scattered around the World is a very hard thing to deal with.

All in all, I believe that, as my daughters have given me the best gift a man can receive, I am giving them back the gift of traveling around the World, learning languages, making lots of friends and, ultimately, making them more diverse, open, resilient and, hopefully happy.

I met Jaime at SXSW this year.  Although he currently works on the other side of the world, I feel like I’ve gotten to know him through our conversations on Twitter.  The man is a world traveler and there is a part of me that is a little envious of all the things he’s been able to experience.  Not many people can say they have been in 35 countries through work and vacations!  One thing I know for certain is that Jaime is father who is passionate about his kids and I’m so glad he is here to give you his thoughts on raising a family abroad and away from family.  You can follow Jaime on Twitter at @jaime_del_valle, check out his blog and connect with him on LinkedIn.  Thanks, Jaime!

The Currency of Fatherhood is TIME

Justin Brackett is up next in By Dads For Dads.  I’ve gotten to know Justin really well over the last year.  We have so much in common, I knew from the start, a great friendship would develop.  We finally met in person at CES in January.  He is a quality guy and passionate about his family and 2 kids.  You can find Justin on Twitter at @justinthesouth.  You can also find him at Social Village, Develop Socially, and Abiah!

A few weeks ago there was a story about a career day at a middle school on local TV . Near the end of the story, the crew found a young boy to ask the question of the hour: “So, when you grow up what do you want to do?”  The boy without hesitation said “A state highway patrol man.”

In that moment your heart can’t help but swell with pride and joy that this young guy at such a young age know without a doubt what his calling was.

Then, he followed up his comment… “Then I can see my dad!.”
It hit me. That young middle school aged boy, the future of society, was speaking out for the millions of children out there… who were aching to see their dad. He was telling the story of our potential future. When we become busy, noisy, distracted- we spend less time with the investment in our children, our legacy.Did you know that the American Camping Association reports that parents have less than 90 mins a month, in meaningful conversation with their kids! A MONTH!! When did it become acceptable to be passively shirk your responsibilities? Is parenting really not a big deal? Are we really that busy?

What is motivating your kids today to make decisions that will affect them the rest of their life?
Until you read this you may have not been aware at how often the iPhone is in your hand or how often your attention is with something else… maybe you did not realize that your child, no matter how young notices your behavior. We lead by example, our character is not a part time, multi tasked gig- it’s a full time lifestyle.My buddy Michael Jr. has a term for that “Lack-a-daddy.”
It’s the term describing absent fathers- those who are physically or even mentally present.

You can even look at the news headlines- there are tragic stories of parents choosing Farmville or Facebook over caring for their children. It doesn’t have to be that extreme to impact your child’s life. Are we living our love for our children? Are we showing them in action that we are passionate about their growth and place in this world?

What would a generation look like if a handful of us fathers banded together to make a commitment to have healthy boundaries and priorities? To choose to love and protect our kids before that task or job or email or app or device… to give our children the attention they deserve. Do we trust God enough to allow Him to align our priorities? What legacy are you leaving in your children? Is it distracted, impatient, diluted, unhappy? Or is it focused, honorable, loving, generous?

Are we willing to become Fathers and men by living with character and leading our families? Are we courageous enough to shatter the status quo of being busy with intentional living and leading? If we do, and are present and listen, it will be one of the most gracious acts of love we can give anyone, especially our children. Are we willing to sacrifice that email, blog comment, retweet, traffic to our site for the love of our children? Does any of that really matter in comparison to our future and legacy?

The way we love our children is the purest form of discipleship. Today, I put down my phone, close my laptop, and press the big ignore button, nothing matters more than my kids. Today I choose love. Who is with me?