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The Life Plan of a Courageous Man

Men! In western society today, we’ve typecast men as unable to be responsible, intelligent, or relationally healthy. Boys will be boys. Men just can’t control themselves. Girls rule. Boys drool. We aren’t doing our boys any favors by hold up this particular caricature. Equally dangerous is the other extreme, embraced in various generations of history in which men are domineering overlords of the weaker sex. Between and beyond these two models is the model of a godly man.

When David was turning the throne over to his son Solomon, he gave him this charge, “Take courage and be a man. Observe all the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go.” (1 Kings 2:2-3 NLT)

This is the life plan of a godly man. Step up to your responsibilities. Take courage and rise to the occasion. Take ownership, in the sense of taking responsibility, for your life, your family, your workplace, your community, etc. Follow the example God has set. He loves unconditionally and lays down His life for His friends as well as His enemies. And live within the parameters of His Word and His wisdom.

The sure result of this kind of life is success – perhaps not the kind of success you seek, measured in dollars and trophies, but the kind of success that matters for eternity. So men, throw off culture’s assumptions. Take courage and be a man!

2 Criteria for Redefining Success for Sanity’s Sake

The Stars

Photo by jurvetson.

What is success? Most people define it in one of three ways:

  • How many possessions do you own?
  • How much power do you wield over others?
  • How much prestige do you have among peers?

American Christians tend to blend right in. We even apply these standards to churches and church leaders. Which church has the biggest budget, the nicest building, or the largest weekend attendance? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things – money is good, influence is invaluable, and popularity is something God can use in huge ways. And we certainly need churches to grow exponentially in a world as lost as ours. The problem is, none of those factor into God’s viewpoint on success.

Jesus gathered a handful of followers in His lifetime, didn’t have a place of His own, and was despised and rejected by the social elite of his community. But He was most definitely successful. In fact, He was so successful that He could come to the end of His life and confidently proclaim…

I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

– John 17:4 NKJV

Jesus did two things completely that provide the perfect framework for our understanding of success.

  1. He became all that God wanted Him to become.
  2. He did all that God wanted Him to do.

He glorified God in His life perfectly. He grew from the baby in the manger into the perfect, sinless Jesus who changed the world. He was kind, generous, funny (though we usually miss His humor), loving, and strong. He was everything God wanted Him to be. To keep your sanity, start thinking about WHO God wants you to become instead of what options He wants you to choose. In other words, it’s less about where you go to college or which car you buy and more about whether you take the high road and keep your integrity.

He also finished all the tasks which God had assigned to Him, leading right up to the final moment of His life, which He gave as a ransom for mankind. The second way to redefine success for sanity’s sake is to focus only on what God calls YOU to do and not on all the good things that others might be involved in.

Furthermore, He will give us all the time, talent, treasure, and relationships to accomplish exactly His will for our lives. When we are good stewards of these resources, we never run short. Not having enough time, not being able to please everyone, and not being able to escape pressure is usually a sign that we’re trying to do things God hasn’t called or equipped us to do.

So for sanity’s sake, redefine success. Get to the end of your life and be able to say, “I’ve become the person God wanted me to become, and I’ve finished the ‘to do’ list He gave to me.” That’s it.

Praise: Life’s Toughest of Tests

Refiner's FireJesus’ followers are constantly being tested – not in the sense that He’s trying to make us fail, but in the sense that He’s preparing us to pass. He tests us through trials and troubles, just as a craftsman “tries” or purifies metals in intense and melting heat. But the toughest of tests isn’t loneliness or loss. It isn’t suffering. It’s praise.

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” ~ [youversion]Proverbs 27:21 NLT[/youversion]

Success brings its own test, and it’s often much more difficult to pass than the test of suffering. Think about it. How many mistakes have you made in your life as a result of hoping everyone around you continues to like you? We avoid painful truth. We become in authentic. We allow pride to creep in, which “goes before destruction.”

If we’re not careful, we will actually begin to believe all the good things others are saying about us in our moments of success. When this happens, we’re in danger of believing that we’re untouchable or incapable of failure. Great heroes are forged in the fires of suffering and I wouldn’t diminish the role of suffering in the believer’s life. But if death to self is the key to discipleship, then death to criticism and to praise is necessary.

We’re living in an age where too many leaders have too much success too early, and too little character to prepare them for handling the spotlight. If you’re in a spot in life where everyone is singing your praises, guard your heart all the more aggressively against pride. Withstand this test, stay humble, keep a right perspective on self in relation to God and you’ll come forth as gold!

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

7 Business Skills You Need If You’re Blogging for Income

Make Money BloggingBlogging is a business, so in addition to good writing and a basic grasp of technical things, you need a certain set of skills if you’re ever going to earn an income from blogging. Consider what Richard Branson said about his own career in publishing:

I wanted to be an editor or a journalist… but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going. ~Richard Branson

Source: Copyblogger

So what exactly are the business and entrepreneurial skills you need to make an income from blogging?

Vision

If you’re going to grow anything, including the reach of a blog, you need to be able to visualize the ideal future of it. Where do you see your blogging business going? How do you see it branching out and developing? What’s your ideal readership? Or as Guy Kawasaki might ask, how exactly are you going to change the world?

Initiative

There is plenty of talk among business bloggers about creating a four hour work week and kicking back on the beach all day. We are psychologically drawn to phrases like “auto-pilot profits” and “instant cash” but the reality is that initiative is necessary for anyone who is going to be successful at anything. In the world of blogging, you have to decide to write, publish, and promote content.

Bootstrapping

Blogging can get expensive. From hosting and custom theme design to the inherent costs of learning a new skill, you can wind up spending a lot of money. And some tools and products are definitely worth what we spend. But successful business bloggers have the ability to determine if an investment will pay off or not. Whether it’s a new logo or a specialized WordPress plugin, high income bloggers can decide fairly easily if they’re going to see their money back or not. And you also need to be resourceful. I work for a large organization, but I’m still always on the hunt for a free or cheap way to get big things done.

Communication

It isn’t just writing that you have to think about. It’s communication, which is more. Great writing is a start, but with blogging, you also need to understand how readers think. You don’t need a content strategy, you need a communications strategy that includes content. G

Great communication means getting the right message through to the right people at the right time, and providing a right response to feedback to stimulate productive conversations… conversations that move needles and make things happen.

Networking

This one is more crucial than ever. The ability to connect with people is absolutely essential if you’re going to make an income from blogging. And proper networking means building relationships that are mutually beneficial. Networking requires us to get out of the box, to be pro-active, to listen and respond, and to promote the work of others as often as possible.

Creativity

Have you noticed how fast things change on the internet? Today’s awesome apps are tomorrow’s techno-scrap, unless they are shaped by creative minds. If you’re still talking about “thinking outside the box” then you’ve just demonstrated a lack of creativity. That particular phrase has been used and abused in the business world for well over a decade now, so it’s not just about thinking outside the box. It’s about imagining things that aren’t quite happening yet, but could be with the right strategy.

Recovery

Rebounding from failure is an absolute must for business bloggers. You’re going to blow it. You’re going to make some bad calls, write some poor posts, and tick off the wrong people at times. It happens. So learn from it and fail forward. Get up and write again.

There are more skills, but I’d like to let you fill them in. What kind of business skills does it take to successfully earn an income from blogging?

10 Vital Questions for Diagnosing Your Blog's Health

Exam TimeBlogging has been around for a while now – over a decade depending on how you define blogging. But over that decade, blogging has evolved and changed by leaps and bounds. If you monitor the blogging industry, you’ll notice that it’s in a constant state of change as new tools and apps replace old ones and as new methodologies emerge.

In other words, you don’t have it all figured out yet, and neither do I. Reaching success as a blogger requires constant evaluation and experimentation. If you sit still long, you’re toast.

So I want to challenge you to do a periodic evaluation of your blog just as you might have an annual physical or a quarterly oil change. And as you evaluate yourself, here are the questions on the exam.

How Does My Blog’s Design Stack Up?

There are a plethora of great design showcases and galleries around the internet, such as Blog Design Heroes and The CSS Awards. Peruse them. Some designs will stand out to you and they probably represent your own tastes and personality. Having looked at the ones that really appeal to your own sense of beauty, how does your blog’s design compare?

Is My Blog Actually Usable?

It’s okay to get creative with your layout and navigation, but always think of the user first. Decide to impress the user at every possible turn. Know that if you give equal weight to everything, people will probably see nothing. Help them to know what to click and where to go.

Is My Content Helpful?

Real community doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens as people gather together around valuable content. And in today’s culture, “valuable” means meeting needs. That’s why “how to” posts and tutorials are often so effective. One of the goals of content creation is putting ourselves right in the proximity of the questions people are asking with all the right answers.

Can I Be Found?

That is, have I implemented some very basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques so that my blog is well-indexed and high-ranking in the results of searches performed on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines? “Inbound marketing” is the art of having people arrive at what you have to offer without your having to disrupt the flow of their lives to alert them to your presence. Can your blog be found?

Is My Readership Growing?

Search engines provide us with immediate clicks from strangers, but it’s even more valuable to recruit a loyal readership. If you’re using Feedburner, you can already track how many people are reading your site’s content in a feed reader or in email. These people may not visit your blog and register a page view, but they’re highly valuable to your success.

Are People Talking About My Blog?

In other words, is your blog being mentioned on other blogs and social networks? Are people passing along your links? We tend to be quite protective of our influence and are therefore more careful than ever that we pass along to others only what we truly find valuable. So handing people your content on a silver platter is important. Make it shareable.

Am I Selling Anything?

This question rubs people the wrong way at times, but if you’re trying to earn an income by blogging then you certainly must sell something, whether it’s your own product or someone else’s. So at the end of a post, or in your feed, or in your sidebar, or in your in-text links, are there products or services that people are buying because your content presentation has convinced them of its value?

Are New Opportunities Opening For Me?

When you’re doing things effectively, your traffic, readership, and community are bound to grow, which will open new opportunities. Those opportunities might be in the form of interviews, contributions, or collaboration with a team.

Can I Still See Room for Improvement?

If not, as I said before, you’re toast. If you ever “arrive” then you’re on the way to being obsolete. I’ve been designing websites since 1998 and one constant over the years is that I’m never satisfied with a project. Tweaking is always in order. If you can’t make a list of things to work on, look more closely. Or better yet, ask your Mom, your accountant, or your Pastor. Blog health isn’t a state of perfection, it’s a state of growth.

What did I not ask that I should have?

photo credit: William and Mary Law

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