Thursday, December 5, 2013

Want To Be Righteous? Think Like Rich Dad

Rich people think differently. We get it. But what about righteous people? I'll define "righteous" in a moment, but let's start by talking about wealth.

A simple internet search can help you find at least 5, or as many as 21 ways rich people think differently from average citizens. Rich Dad, Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki distills them down to a fundamental difference of philosophy:
"My real dad was very educated, worked hard, and made a good income. However, he held traditional views about money and as a result ended up struggling financially all his life – I call him my poor dad. My rich dad, (my friend’s dad) did not have a college degree, also worked hard, but he thrived financially. Unlike my poor dad, he had a rich mindset and thought about money very differently and as a result ended up being one of the richest men in Hawaii."
Kiyosaki asserts (and I agree) that rich people think differently about every facet of wealth: careers, assets, real estate, taxes, spending, saving, giving, education, and time. If you've read any 21st century motivational material (book, blog, facebook post), you get it. We get it. Thanks Millionaire authors. Thanks Internet. We get it.

Because we get it, I won't write much more on how rich people think. But herein lies a principle that may apply to another area of life: Righteousness.

Wondering what's up with this guy? Click HERE
What is righteousness? 

These days, we think of it as an outstanding degree of morality (sometimes perceived negatively, e.g. "He thinks he's so righteous"), but the prevailing concept through time and various languages (including Latin: "iusticia"; Hebrew: "tzedekah"; and Hawaiian: "pono") is balance. The righteous life is the balanced life. For the Christian, this means a life in alignment with the teachings of Jesus, weighing one's values/actions on one side of the scale with scripture on the other. "Am I loving, faithful, humble, repentant, dependent upon God? etc." If the scales line up, this is the balanced, righteous life for the Christian.

Unfortunately, false righteousness is all around us. People tout their faith, yet act out of line with their own beliefs. This leaves the observing masses with a sour disposition toward "believers". Their lasting impression is ironically not one of righteousness, but of unrighteousness.

I am not unsympathetic toward religious hypocrites. Throughout my youth I have been a prince among them -- lying, stealing, cussing, and coveting in spite of the faith I professed. And what that half-hearted devotion led me to do was shine down, in other words, dim this little light of mine. If you've been a Christian long enough, you feel me right now. Living a righteous life is hard.

But maybe a truly righteous man thinks differently than the average citizen.

For the sake of illustration, let's pull that Robert Kiyosaki quote down and replace the parts about wealth with references to faith and righteousness.
 "My real dad was seminary educated, attended church, served his community, and prayed and read his Bible daily. However, he held traditional views about religion and as a result ended up struggling with righteousness all his life – I call him my poor dad. My rich dad, (my friend’s dad) did not have a theology degree, also attended church, served his community, and prayed and read his Bible daily. Unlike my poor dad, he had a righteous mindset and thought about faith very differently and as a result ended up being one of the most upstanding men in Hawaii."
Could this be a feasible reality? Absolutely. To the casual observer, the two men described above look very similar, but they differ in levels of peace and prosperity due to the way they think. The real difference is in the minds of men.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world," says the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2, "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Can anyone else see valuable parallels between the mind of the rich and the mind of the righteous? I'm still developing my thoughts on this. Would love to hear yours.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Retirement Living for the Twenty-Something

Retirement. By the time the average man retires, he should be richer and wiser than he ever was, even while in his prime. What will you do one day with all that wealth?

This is not a post about financial planning or investing. There are a lot books about how to get retired, but far too few on how to be retired. Unless you have (or are) a financial planner, you may think it's too early to prepare for that phase of life, but

What if you knew that how you live today reflects how you will spend retirement?

A friend in real estate recently told me about an elderly couple who, for the last twenty years, didn't do much more with their time than eat, watch TV, and sleep in the home they were about to sell. They were reasonably healthy. Their full-grown children had lives of their own and they had enough money to fund the remainder of their lives at a retirement home. Now, to some people, this is not a bad setup. But to my friend, this was a tragic waste. "In retirement," he told me, "you have more money, more knowledge, and more time than you've had your whole life leading up to it."

"Well, what should retirement look like?" I asked him.

He shared his vision for the winter years of his own life, which reflected his desire to redevelop communities, invest in local churches and overseas missions, make his family prosper, and teach young men to love God, live and succeed. But here's the kicker: these are all things that he is already doing when he's not selling homes.

When I shed some light on that fact, he gave me this gem:

"Retirement will look like whatever you do now in your free time, just more of it." 

He continued, "If all a person's life consists of is work and rest, retirement will be all rest. If it's work and play, then retirement will be all play." In other words, people don't suddenly have a radical shift in values when they turn 62. How we spend our resources today will accurately depict how we will spend our lives years from now.

I could talk about all the things I would do if I had more. Maybe you could too. Here are a few for me:

If I had more money I would be more generous
If I had more knowledge/skills, I would write a book
If I had more time, I would be more intentional in my friendships

But if, in the mean time, all my free hours are spent on Facebook, Netflix or in bed; if my money is spent on pleasure in the form of food, drink, or grown-up toys; if I am not giving/writing/loving with the resources I have now, chances are I will be doing none of those things when I have more.

Maybe we haven't been doing the things we want to be doing in the future. But that's the beauty of the gift of today. We currently have no control over yesterday or tomorrow. But by God's grace, we have power to choose how to spend our lives today, which will tremendously impact tomorrow.

The best thing I can do for my retirement, more than saving and investing, is to create a beautiful life with the time and resources I have now. Be generous today. Spend time with the people I love today. Learn new things, enjoy nature, lend a helping hand, give hope today. 

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
-Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Success Is Not the Point

I got a rejection letter today. Two weeks ago, I sent "Overhead" to a big-time record label requesting to be considered for distribution. Their reply was one I've never heard before, that due to the high volume of music they handle, they are unable to give my music the time it deserves to be reviewed.

I was unfazed by the news, much to my surprise. Once I figured out what the letter was saying, I put it in my desk drawer and continued on with my day as usual.

What has since occupied my mind was not the rejection of my product, but my emotional detachment from the experience. How did I arrive at a place where I am okay with the labor of my heart being passed up and delivered back to my doorstep?

I began to think of my earlier days as a student athlete at a rural public high school. We could not accomplish a winning season in a single event. Throughout my four years there, I could count the combined wins of every team sport on one hand. Losing was simply a part of student life. I often wondered what it would be like to attend a school that won at everything. Further, I wondered what effect that would have on my character.

What is accomplished in a man who perceives failure as the norm?

If the "progress principle" indicates that little wins instill us with confidence and sense of competence, shouldn't losses have the lasting effect of perpetuating a "loser psyche"? That's what I concluded in my blog titled, "How to Be a Loser" (check it out HERE). But I recently read an article that causes me to rethink my previous assertions. Author Jim Collins, who was invited to be a guest lecturer at West Point, observed a connection between failure and character ... 

"Well, let's talk about failure," said Collins. "How many of you have experienced failure?" They all nodded or raised a hand.

"Failure is part of life here," said a diminutive female cadet, Kiley Hunkler. "There's a recurring sense of inadequacy," she says. "For a 200-pound linebacker, it's having to do a cartwheel. For me, it's the survival swim in full combat gear."

"Does anyone get through West Point without feeling that sense of inadequacy?" Collins asked the group.

"No," they said, more or less in unison.

Later, while participating with his students on an indoor wall climb, he had this conversation with a struggling cadet:

"Why do you keep throwing yourself at this?" Collins asked. "All it does is give you failure upon failure. Why go back?"

"Because success is not the primary point," Caldwell said. "I go back because the climb is making me better. It is making me stronger. I am not failing; I am growing."

Whereas small losses tend to make big losers, big losses have the potential to produce great character. 

In my mind, this is the difference between a "small loss" and a "big loss": A "small loss" is failing to achieve something I know is within reach. For instance: I could have worked out today, but I didn't; I could've met the deadline, but I slacked off instead; I should've told the truth, but I chose to lie. These "small losses" chip away at the inner man and perpetuate a "loser's psyche".

On the other hand, a "big loss" is failing at something just beyond what I know I can achieve. It is the bitter-sweet failure we experience upon attempting to do something great. For Cadet Caldwell, it was climbing that wall. For me, it was getting a bigger label to distribute my music. In the days to come, I hope to try my hand at even bigger things, accepting full well that failure is not only possible, but probable.

From Abraham Lincoln to Jeremy Lin, history and pop culture spew forth examples of men rising up bigger and better after defeat. Where are you at this moment? Relishing in victory or recovering from a devastating loss? Wherever you may be, here are some words of inspiration:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. "

-Theodore Roosevelt

The righteous man falls seven times but rises again.

Stand strong,

Friday, November 1, 2013

Why We Get Tattoos

I got my first tattoo when I was 19. Like many young Americans raised in Christian homes, I wanted something that would set me apart from stodgy conservatives but also ingratiate me to the young badasses I was now surrounded with at the University. The obvious middle path: Christian tattoo!

At that time, various artistic renderings of the Cross had been all the rage among my peers, but were now on their way out. Words or phrases in biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew ... but not so much Aramaic) were totally in. Not entirely sure whether the first era had passed, I opted for yet another middle path: a cross inscribed with the Koine Greek words for "Live" and "Love".

We often hear that tattoos are statements of identity. I believe this is only partially true. Any coward could pay someone to ink the Roosevelt coat-of-arms on his shoulder without exhibiting an inkling of courage or moral character. But what would drive a young man to do such a thing is the desire to move from his current reality into a greater one.

The tattoo is an indicator of the transitions we desire to make, from one identity to another.

As a Laker fan, I recall being perplexed by Kobe Bryant's "religious" tattoo following the rape allegations in 2003. It depicts a crown and angel wings and a reference to an Old Testament psalm. Bryant had never been known for being very religious (as is still the case), so a seemingly Christian tattoo wouldn't make much sense if we hold to the idea of ink being reflective of current character. It makes much more sense if we see it as an illustration of a transition he hoped to pass through in his own life: from unfaithful to faithful; from sinner to scripture-bearer; victimizer to vindicated.

But why a tattoo? Why not a new car or a haircut? I believe it is because tattoos carry with them two elements we seem to desire in times of change: Permanence and pain.

In the face of change, we desire permanence. Change is uncomfortable, so in order to tackle this discomfort, we seek out something that will not change. Because the tattoo indicates the desire to progress from an inferior state to a superior, we desire permanence on that higher plane.

In the face of change, we subconsciously seek out pain. Most humans understand that pain is necessary to attain a higher quality of life, to move us from addiction to recovery; amateur to professional; busboy to boss; chump to champion. A great deal of suffering is endured by anyone who achieves greatness.

And so the tattoo offers, at least for the moment (and rather cheaply), exactly what we desire in a time of transition: pain that leads to permanence. And for a little while, it's thrilling. But after two weeks to a month of being stoked, many of us awaken to the realization that the coveted transition has not been made at all.

Seldom is the tattoo itself truly a catalyst for change.

Our tattoos then merely memorialize the impasse. Whereas the pain of the needle is physical and momentary, the kind of pain we have to undergo to change our character -- and become better men and women -- is spiritual, daily.

My tattoo failed to make me a more life-embracing, more loving Christian. But just as I bear the mark of desire to become a better man, I also bear the responsibility to see that it comes to pass.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

ARRESTED: a poem

Clouds, like feathers
flung as darts
suspended on the spectrum
between pink and blue,

Ocean pulsing,
roaring with
a crash, dispersing congregants;
its fury now

Heaven as soprano sings
with alto sea
a harmony
whose song is un-

And with an artful
their Author speaks
to him who seeks
til strivings cease
producing now
abundant peace
in his reflective soul,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How To Be A Loser

I'll start by talking about a couple of winners.

Example 1: Colin wasn't taller than 5' 5", a half-Chinese, half-Filipino, Hawaii-born freshman at the University of Oregon. Pound for pound, he was the quickest, most consistent shooter on the court. Before every pick-up game, he would take about 20 or 30 shots inside the first block of the key (a foot away from under the hoop).  When I asked him why he warmed up that way, he said he wanted to see the ball go in as many times as possible.

Example 2: TK has been one of the Top 100 Realtors in his state for the last three years in a row. He tells me the more a client says "Yes," the more likely he is to make a sale. Here's a hypothetical dialogue:

TK: "So, it seems that you like the house."
Client: "Yeah, but I don't really like (random aspect of house)."
TK: "Great. So, except for _____ you really like it."
Client: "Yeah."
TK: "Great. You said your budget was _____ ."
Client: "Yes."
TK: "Great. So you probably don't want to pay (some higher number)."
Client: "Yeahhh, that's too high."
TK: "Great. So if you were to make an offer, what would it be?"

And thus begins the momentum toward the sale.

So it seems the amount of successful small shots contributes to the confidence and capacity to make bigger shots. And the number of small yeses can stack up to bigger yeses, then perhaps, one big yes.

Professor Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School calls this the "progress principle." In her study she reports that realizing and appreciating our "small wins" can increase our sense of competence. We then are able to "leverage that confidence" to achieve bigger wins.

Now, I like to win, so the prospect of winning daily really appeals to me. Flossed last night? Win. Made my bed this morning? Win. Posted a blog last week? Win. Followed through on a commitment to a friend? Worked out? Avoided McDonald's? Win, win, win. Give me a shot at something bigger, because I'm on a roll ...

But, as with all principles, the inverse also applies. If small wins boost my self-concept, small losses deflate it.

An understanding of both sides of this principle may motivate us in life's mundane moments. Sometimes life is boring, and in those times, it's difficult to maintain focus and a sense of purpose. We're convinced we have a handle on the consequences of our irresponsibilities and may think things like:

"If I don't turn this in on time, I could probably still pass the class."
"If I don't make this call today, the business won't fall apart."
"If I choose to sin, I'm still going to heaven."

Whereas all these suppositions may prove to be true, these thoughts are destructive to my inner man because they turn me into a loser. 

Just as my diligence in small things today will become food for future success, so my current lack of discipline will feed my failures tomorrow.

But if I realize small wins make big winners, I realize that everything I do counts. Wait, what? Everything I do counts? Flossing, replying to emails, arriving on time, being honest, praying, believing? Yes. Everything I do will contribute to the next big win or devastating failure. The little things matter.

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." - Luke 16:10

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stood Up (An Interactive Blog)

Stood up. I am sitting alone in Glazer’s on South King St., where the …


      1.     coffee is                   a. hot
2.     the clientele is         b. flowing
3.     and creativity is       c. fresh

Flighty. This is the word I now use to describe the muses who, in the past, have hooked my Bohemian heart. Nelly Furtado captures their essence: “I’m like a bird / I’ll only fly away / I don’t know where my home is / I don’t know where my soul is”

Now, I’ll be the first to admit: we artsy/feely types don’t tend to have much structure in our lives. But once in a while – say, every 3 months or so, give or take a year – we’ll realize the ramifications of our unharnessed fluidity. Possible omens include:

1.     abandoned                   a. projects
2.     low                              b. friends
3.     disappointed                c. account balances
4.     empty                          d. sense of self
5.     lost                              e. refrigerators
6.     deleted                        f. clients

So, last week, after freshly experiencing the pain of (select one item from the above list) my gypsy friend declared to me her desire for structure. This came after I confessed how terribly inconsistent I am in writing and editing blogs. The solution to both our problems: We’ll do it together! Wednesday morning! At Glazer’s on South King! I love that place! Me too!

I should clarify at this point that this was not supposed to be a date. She is hardly the Lenny to my Manti. She is, in fact the …

a.     girlfriend
b.     ex-girlfriend
c.     crush
d.     inspiration
e.     all of the above
f.      none of the above

of my …

a.     best friend
b.     room mate
c.     worst enemy
d.     future self
e.     a. and b. only
f.      c. and d. only

It was an attempt by two artists to improve our art by fostering the very unartistic characteristics of consistency, reliability, and accountability.

But she canceled. Little did she know that today was the day I would be bragging on her, about how she is the gifted photographer responsible for every image on my latest album Overhead and that I would be referring people to her site:
Alas, who will tell me whether I’ve mistakenly used one adverb too many? Or suggest that readers won’t know off-hand who Lenny and Manti are? Or question whether “alas” is too archaic a word to appear in any form of digital media at all?

In asking myself these questions, the answer becomes clear: I will. I have to. At the end of the day, no one is responsible for my artistic output but me. I may blame weather or laundry or my dad, but in reality,

if I am willing to accept applause for my efforts, I must equally accept responsibility for my lack of output. 

It seems my blog against the inconsistencies in others has proven to be a tirade against myself. I am the inconsistent flight risk, undisciplined even in activities I enjoy. Paul captures my essence: "Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." 

And so, Ms. Heaston, my ghost-partner-in-crime and mirror image of myself, I forgive you. And I am calling us out. Let's give this world our best. Let's end the apathy, you and me and every other writer of a thousand unfinished poems -- mothers and fathers of aborted drafts. Our abandoned art awaits us, alone in a coffee shop, crying out for the appropriate adverb.

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Album, OVERHEAD Available Now!

I am excited to announce the release of my first studio album in five years, "Overhead"!

The tracks were engineered by Imua Garza, who has arranged island favorites by Opihi Pickers, Rebel Souljahz and Kolohe Kai. Also featured: Jon Porlas, who has provided the musical heartbeat for Hawaii's most beloved artists, including Jake Shimabukuro, Mailani Makainai, Ernie Cruz Jr., and Ekolu.

It's ambitious project. We had a blast in the studio blending R&B, Hawaiian ukulele stylings and Brazilian rhythms and our team is really happy with the outcome. Hope you enjoy ... Mahalo for listening!