Thursday, August 27, 2015

Enjoy The Journey

We live in a fast paced world--there's no question about that.  All too often we spend so much time trying to get through one thing so we can begin to work on the next thing that we fail to stop and enjoy the place we're at.

I have that same problem.  Too much to do, too little time.  I get stressed out because so many people depend on me for so many different things.  I'm the employee.  The dad.  The husband.  The Secretary.  The writer.  The Founder.  The curator.  The speaker.  The idea guy.  The educator.  And every so often, the officiant.  And every once in awhile I drop the ball.  Not often, but it happens.  And I get all ticked off, because I have so much on my plate, and I get annoyed that I don't have more help in these things I've taken on of my own free will and accord.

But then I stop myself.  What's the alternative?  Sitting at home evenings watching television?  Watching hours and hours of sports, drinking beer, and memorizing stats?  That's what I used to do once upon a time for recreation.  It wasn't fulfilling, and I suddenly realized I was wasting my life on things that really didn't matter.  I wanted more, so I sought out more--and boy did I find it!

People can't grow unless they get out of that comfort zone.  Get involved.  Take a few risks.  Do something that really matters--that means something to you.  Make a few mistakes, but enjoy the journey.  And when you find that passion, and you begin finding yourself with work to do, enjoy the work, and the fact you have the opportunity, and that people are depending you.  Take every task seriously, and try your best.  Don't take something on if you know you can't do a good job with it--if you're not going to do it, then don't raise your hand.  But if you do raise your hand, you'll find greater pleasure from the work, than you'll ever find from relaxing at home on the couch.

But when that stress inevitably comes from a busy life well lived, don't think of it as all the things you have to do.  Think of it as all the things you get to do.  There will come a day when you won't be able to do all the things you do now.  Believe it or not, you're going to miss it.  So enjoy where you're at.  And remember that the more you're able to give, the richer your life is going to be.  Nobody gets to the end of their life and wishes they had done less during their time on earth.

Life is short--it's never too late to make your mark.  Make it count.

~Todd E. Creason

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Through The Freemason's Lens

Greg Knott doing what he does . . .
Back in February, fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott and I took a trip to Washington D.C. to attend Masonic Week.  When we weren't attending conference events, we were all over the city.  In fact, less than an hour after we hit the ground, we were watching the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery--we walked more than ten miles that first day, and every day we were there was just like that.

Todd E. Creason doing what he does . . .
You see, there was another reason for that visit other than to just attend Masonic Week.  Greg is a frequent visitor to our nation's capital, but I hadn't been for a long time.  He's had an idea for a book for a long time.  He's a photographer.  He's taken thousands and thousands and thousands of photographs, and the vast majority of them are related in one way or another to Freemasonry.  He had a great story to tell, he just wasn't sure how to go about telling it.

Greg and I enjoyed a private tour of the World War II Memorial
So he recruited me to help him with it, and off we go to Washington D.C. so he can walk me around these locations he's visited, so that I can see the same things he's seen, and hopefully be able to find that thread that turns this huge idea into a narrative.  I had my doubts about it--I'm a writer and a storyteller.  I don't know the first thing about telling a story using both words and photographs.    There's a big difference between people who communicate through pictures, and those who communicate through the written word (as we very quickly discovered).  But somewhere between Arlington, the Holocaust Museum, the Vietnam Wall, and my visit with Mr. Lincoln I suddenly saw it.  I saw the same thing Greg did.  He was right.  He would have never been able to explain it--he had to show me.
House of the Temple, Washington, D.C.
And so we've been working on it.  I think one day when I look back, this is going to wind up being one of my favorite projects--because it's been the most challenging.  They say a picture tells a thousand words, and so many of Greg's photographs are stunning.  It means I don't have to describe anything in the accompanying narrative--that's a very different concept for me.  I can just whittle all those extra words and focus on the message alone.  The meaning.  That amazing story that Greg Knott has been thinking about for a long, long time.

As we get closer to wrapping this up, we'll keep you updated.  Stay tuned.

~TEC

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Yes, Character Does Matter!

"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."
 
~George Washington

I usually try and steer clear of politics on this blog, but with the upcoming Presidential election looming, I thought it was timely to talk about leadership, and the importance of character.  Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal, character should matter to you in  leader, and it should be one of the things that you consider first and foremost when selecting any candidate for public office.  

I get tired of hearing excuses for bad behavior from our public officials.  "There's no rule prohibiting him from doing that," or "she didn't break any laws."  There's a big difference between legal and illegal, and right and wrong.  People should care about that.  Is it honest to do something dishonest just because there is no rule or law specifically prohibiting it?  And there are a lot of things that are not illegal that are still morally wrong.  Or are we saying we no longer care about arcane principles such as morality?
 
I can hear it now, "leave his private life out of it.  You should judge him based on his ability to do the job."  I disagree with that, and we've heard that excuse over and over again when representatives are out there having affairs, taking part is shady business deals, and sending nude selfies to young women on the internet.  If that individual is representing you, you believe their values don't matter?  Is that what we're saying?  Your saying you'd trust a person's judgement to run this country as your representative, when they can't even manage their own life?  I'm sorry, but I believe being an example is one of the most fundamental principles of leadership.  I wouldn't go to a heart surgeon who I knew was an alcoholic any more than I'd attend a church whose pastor ran a porn shop. 

I don't think Americans are ready to scrap our values just yet.  I think this political spinning is growing tiresome with everyone.  Everyone knows that twenty years ago the term "he misspoke" means he told a bald-faced lie.  I think people are ready for representatives that just don't say what they think their audience wants to hear, but speak with conviction for the things they actually believe in.  And when you have a conviction, and a strong belief, you'll find a long track record of consistent behavior to back it up.  That's what you'll find sorely lacking in so many of our public officials today.  A track record to back up whatever they happen to be claiming to strongly believe in that day. 
 
Such individuals still exist believe it or not.  I know hundreds of such men.  Men I trust at their word.  Men I know that have demonstrated what they stand for by their actions, not their words.  Their life tells it's own story.  Many I met in a Masonic Lodges.  I know a lot of virtuous women as well.  Sadly, not many run for public office. Politics has little to offer people of character.  As George Washington once said, "it is better to be alone than in bad company."  

So take a little time to think this time around.  Who best represents you?  Who do you trust?  Perhaps instead of listening to the words, you should focus on what that individual has actually done.  As the Bible says, "a tree is known by its fruits."  

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Importance Of Both A Vision And A Mission In Life

"People who use time wisely spend it on activities that advance their overall purpose in life."

~John C. Maxwell

I've been involved in an interesting project--we're working on chartering a brand new chapter of the Royal Arch here in Illinois.  In fact, our new chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.,  met for our very first official meeting, under dispensation, just last week.  

We have some very different ideas about what we want to accomplish, so one of the first things we felt was important to do, was to come up with a mission statement and a vision statement.  It's a very useful tool in helping to establish where you want your organization to go and what you want it to be.  

People confuse the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement.  A vision statement is the long-term desired outcome of an organization's work.  For instance, the Boy Scouts of America's vision statement reads, "The Boy Scouts of America will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law."  That's a very grand goal, but it's the BSA's "dream" to do just that.  In other words, the vision statement is the dream.  

The Mission Statement, on the other hand, is a little more specific.  It's a statement that explains the reason an organization exists and is used to help the organization plan their programs, and understand their responsibilities and priorities.  For instance, the Mission Statement of the Smithsonian Institute reads, "The increase and diffusion of knowledge."  Very simple, and very specific.  Everything they do, every action they take, and every program they put in place is towards that very specific mission.

But it occurred to me the other night as we're discussing a vision statement and a mission statement for our new Royal Arch chapter, that it might be a useful exercise for a person to go through as well.  I know there's a lot of times I feel like I'm not sure what my vision is--I lose sight of the big picture dream.  And I'm not always sure what direction to go in because I'm not sure what my mission is.  Perhaps we should all sit down and take a few minutes to consider who we want to be, how we want to be seen, where we want to go, and how we want to get there--and write it down.  Keep it top of mind.  

When you know what your vision is, and what your mission is, it is certainly much easier to make decisions in your life that are in line with your objectives.  I found it to be a very useful experiment, and I must admit I found it a lot harder than I expected. I discovered pretty quickly that my actions don't always line up with the direction I think I'm going.  I believe going forward, it's going to be much easier for me to use those two statements to keep me focused and on my desired path.  

But I encourage you--try it and see what you think. 

~Todd E. Creason
To prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law - See more at: http://topnonprofits.com/examples/vision-statements/#sthash.HMizYtlF.dpuf
To prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law - See more at: http://topnonprofits.com/examples/vision-statements/#sthash.HMizYtlF.dpuf
To prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law - See more at: http://topnonprofits.com/examples/vision-statements/#sthash.HMizYtlF.dpuf
To prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law - See more at: http://topnonprofits.com/examples/vision-statements/#sthash.HMizYtlF.dpuf
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