0to50: What I Learned From the This Past Year!

Today, as I awake to the reality that I am now 50 years old, I am reflecting on what I have really learned this last year. It was over a year ago, as I was getting ready to turn 49 years old, that I decided to have a year fully directed at changing my life in three areas.

The first area was to lose weight. I was almost 300 lbs when I turned 49. Today I am a very healthy 248!

The second goal was to write my first book. Last year I started with an undeveloped idea in my head. Today I have a book in the making as I have defined the characters, the timeline and most of the plot lines. My book idea is alive and growing every day!

The third and last area was to deepen my relationship with God. No doubt about it, this past year has brought me closer to God. While you can’t measure being close to God like you can losing weight or writing a book, there are key signs like hunger and dependency. I am more hungry for and dependant on God than ever before.

I am so thankful for the progress that I have made this last year in not just those three areas but other areas of my life. While I learned a lot from this last year, I think the main thing I learned was the power of living life on purpose. Here are some of those insights.

  1. Living life on purpose brings lifelong change. I have lived life on purpose, and I have also let life happen to me “as it may”, and now I see the difference between the two. I started last year with three goals in mind. Defining and setting those goals helped me to direct every decision that I made this last year. In essence, my life now has a road map, a compass, and a vehicle for movement. I have changed because I had a plan to change.
  2. Living life on purpose brings wisdom and understanding. I can look back and see that during this past year, I learned more about life and myself than any other year. Living on purpose brought that. Psalm 90:12 says it best: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I numbered 365 of them and it caused me to gain wisdom and understanding.
  3. Living life on purpose brings more purpose.  Living life on purpose last year has filled me with more purpose for this upcoming year. I don’t know exactly why getting control of your life fills you with more vision, but it does. I have a greater vision for my life today then I did when I started this 365 days ago. Purpose begets more purpose!

This is not the end of 365to50 but really the beginning. Next week I will post my new goals for the New Year! A very good friend of mine shared with me that today is Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new year according to God’s calendar. He called this “the year of open doors to new opportunities.” I believe that and I am ready to define and set my course for my next 365 days until! I encourage you to do the same and watch what happens when you live life on purpose. Meet me back here next week, and let’s do it together!

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The Resume of My 40’s

As I approach my 50th birthday, just one week from today, I am reflecting on the wonderful things that occurred during the decade of my forties. A lot of life happened during this decade. In fact, I would say that I experienced some of the most important events of my life during my time from 39 through 49 years old.

Here are a few things that happened from 39 to 49!

  • Left Florida for the first time in my life as Tracee, Hunter and myself moved across country to Texas to be part of a new church.
  • Moved back to Florida 2 years later to plant a new church in Winter Springs called Crown Pointe.
  • Traveled to more places, both internationally and nationally, than all the places I had ever visited in all of the first 30 years of my life.
  • Watched my children graduate from high school and two of the three graduate from college. My youngest is getting closer to his degree every day!
  • Walked my daughter Ashlee down the aisle as she was married to Lee Kasten. The memory still warms my heart!
  • Experienced the birth of our first granddaughter, Paislee Kasten. There is nothing like having a grandchild!
  • Had one of my deepest spiritual experiences of my entire life in Wales when I was 39. Had another one, just as significant in Wales again when I was 41. Nothing compares to an encounter with God!
  • I Finally finished college for myself, earning a Bachelor of Theology degree.
  • Coached high school football at Winter Springs High School and loved every single minute of it.
  • Went to work at Chase Card Services and became one of their top national sales representatives two years in a row. By God’s grace, I literally went from worst to first.
  • Took a brand new career path in sales and publishing at Xulon Press, where I eventually became the Sales Manager.
  • Competed in my first triathlon! A year later, I would actually place second in my age group.
  • Proudly watched as my wife Tracee published her first book, The Adventures of Akeem.
  • Started working on my first book, a novel called The Family Tree.
  • Finally went to my first Garth Brooks concert in Kansas City (when he came out of retirement just for me!).
  • Traced my family history all the way back to England and actually visited the historic church that my 7th great-grandfather founded in 1771.
  • Made over 100 new friends that I know by name.
  • Laughed almost every day!
  • By the Grace of God, I matured more in this decade than any other. I feel like it was my forties that caused me to grow into a man that fully loves God, his family and his friends. I thought I knew how to be a man in my twenties and thirties, but I am now sure that it takes years to make a man and decades to make a man of God.

These are just the main highlights. While I can’t fully describe everything, I can tell you that this decade has been the most significant one so far in my entire life—both in the great things that occurred and the deep testings that we went through, this decade is like a lifetime of its own.

Are you getting ready to turn 40? If you are, don’t dread it, look forward to it! If your journey is like mine, you will experience some of the greatest things that life has to offer during the next decade. A lot of life is getting ready to happen! Make sure you take it all in and that you take a few pictures along the way. You’re going to want to remember it one day! It makes me look forward to next decade of my life. What will I do in my fifties that I have never done before?

Next week I will post my 50th post of this blog on my 50th birthday. I will share what I have learned on this incredible 365-day journey to my 50th birthday!

21 Days and Counting

In just over 21 days I will finally be a grown-up, as I will turn 50 years old on September 5th. Wow! It has been an amazing year and I have learned some incredible things about life and myself. I am so glad that I did this 365to50 project, and I am planning to do it again next year as I set my annual goals to achieve before I turn 51 next September.

My goals for this year were:

  • Lose weight and get into better physical condition
  • Write my first book
  • Grow closer to God

I am so happy to report that I have made steady progress in all three of those areas. I have lost weight, and now I am in good enough shape to compete in triathlons. I have the story line for my book “The Family Tree”, and I have had breakthroughs with God that I so desperately needed and wanted. All in all, its been an awesome journey!

I am so glad that I didn’t let momentary failure keep me from moving on. I shudder at the thought of what it would have been like to face 50 while extremely overweight, with no book idea at all, and no closer to God than when I turned 49. That would have been a wasted year, and I have had my share of wasted years. You see, it’s not that I had to get everything right and hit every goal along the way, I just had to move from where I was at. To have stayed in the exact same place without moving forward would have been failure and another wasted year. While I have not entered the promised land of being a 205 lb author who knows God like Moses did, I am miles away from being a 299lb man with just a dream and ideas that were on hold. I tell you, there is no feeling like being miles away from where you never really wanted to be.

So, what do you want to leave? To leave the place that you don’t want to be in, you need to do these three things:

  • Love the Dream! Do more than just hate where you are at: you have to love where you are going. While it’s true that sometimes you will move when your misery factory gets bigger than your fear factor, misery alone will not make you move. You have to have a dream and desire that you love
  • You have to be willing to risk failure. So many people, including me, fail to move because they don’t want to fail. Every successful person’s path to the dream they desire is built by the bricks of failure. I have failed over and over this past year, but here is my secret. I fall forward. Yes, I fall down, but I fall toward my goal. Thats why, despite failure, I am miles away from where I started from.
  • You have to move! You have to take one step! My goal for every triathlon was to “Compete and Complete” every race I entered in. I never let the fact that I was far from winning keep me from entering the race. I may actually win a race one day, but I have to compete in and complete a lot of races on the way to achieving that goal. What are you failing to compete in or complete because you feel like you can’t win? Movement is winning! Just ask Lazarus!

I am now focused on a 21 day challenge to really hit the boosters as I hit 50 and start my next goals for 51. Follow me over the next few weeks as I really begin to reveal what I have learned from this journey.

What place are you trying to leave today? Leave me comments with your story below! Don’t forget, you can also follow me on Twitter here.

Three new things!

This past weekend I did something that I have never done before. In fact I actually did three things that I have never done before. All three things were part of a Three-Day Cruise that I took with my entire family to the Bahamas. The trip was awesome! One of the best vacations I have ever had before. Here are the three new things that I did for the first time and what my takeaway was from each of them.

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  1. This was my first time on a Cruise. Many of my friends have taken a cruise before, but this was my very first time. Infact when I think about it, some of my friends have been on 6 or more in their lifetime. Year after year, I would always hear what it was like to be on a floating buffett and I would always think “Well maybe one day I will get to do that.” I can tell you that while I know everyone’s experience is not the same, mine was awesome. I loved everything about it, but the best thing was that I was doing something new and doing it with my family. What new place or experience are you looking to do one day? Are you wanting to take a cruise or travel to Europe? 
  2. This was my first time in the Caribbean. Ever since I was 20 years old I dreamed of going to Jamaica, Bahamas, Cancun or anywhere that looked like one of those places you dream of going if you like travel. I have always loved those commercials that show someone sitting under a coconut tree as the surf just gently rolls in, one wave at time. In fact I used to carry travel brochures in my patrol car when I was a State Trooper. On some of those days when I was working 16 hours I would take mental vacations as I planned my next trip. Year after year went by and the dream remained a dream. It began in my twenties and then I was thirty. Soon I was forty and finally just before I turn 50 I finally made it to a place I have always dreamed about going to. I finally made it and it did not disappoint me. As I stood and looked at the clearest ocean that I had ever seen, I said to myself “This was so worth and it.” It was better than the brochures that I looked at year after year. Where do you want to go and are you dreaming about doing it one day? I live by the motto “Better late than never at all”. It may take years,but never stop dreaming!
  3. This was the first time ever that I had gone on a vacation without the use of a cell phone or the internet. While the first two things that I have never done before were life changing, this one may have been life saving. Since I have had a cell phone, I have never been anywhere without it or without finding a way to check my email or my voicemail. Even when I went to London years ago, I was going to the internet cafe to check email. When our boat left Port Canaveral on Friday and my signal went dead, I turned my phone off so that I wouldn’t get roaming charges. I never never turned it on again until we were in the car on the way home on Monday. Four days with no cell, no internet, no way for anyone to get a hold of me showed me something. It showed me how addicted I have been to interruptions and distractions. We all need to find ways to be unplugged from the phone, the internet and even our blogs. This blog is actually late, but I had a good reason. I was spending quality time with my family. Challenge! On your next vacation, turn everything but your attention off! It might be your first time, but I guarantee you that it won’t be the last!

What will make you change your life?

I began 365to50 last September when I was getting ready to turn 49 years old. I wanted to chronicle a year of my life before I turned 50. My goal was to help myself and others as I worked to change my life in three specific areas.

  • Lose Weight: I was almost 300 lbs when I started this journey, but now I am under 250 lbs.
  • Write my first book: Last year I had nothing but an idea in my head, the same idea that had been there for the last 15 years. Now, although I am still far from completion, I have character descriptions, chapter ideas, plot lines and a developing outline.
  •  Grow closer to God: My faith is deeper than it has ever been before! I am not the same follower of Christ that I was this time last year.

When I look at the three goals that I set for 365to50, I see one common goal in all three. 365to50 is all about changing my life! Here are some key thoughts that I have learned regarding change. I pray that they help you in your journey.

  1. Change is inevitable! Your life will change over the next 365 days whether you like it or not. The question is what will change about your life. I saw a series of pictures the other day of a teacher who wore the same shirt in all of the school pictures that he took during his career. It was amazing to see pictures from 1973 until 2003, all with the same man wearing the same shirt in every picture. While the shirt never changed, the man continued to change, from a young man to an older man.  You can never stop change from happening to you, but you can choose how and what you decide to change. “You are the captain of your own ship and while you can’t stop the wind, the tide or the currents, but you can set the direction and chart a course for where you want to go.”
  2. Time is a gift for change! Each new year brings you the wonderful gift of being able to change more. Think of it! Another year means that you will not die like you are right now. With another year, You get the gift of time and experience. Used wisely, that gift will make you a better person tomorrow than you are today. Time is a gift from God to change who you really are for all of eternity!
  3. Change will always look different in the end! When I set my goals to change my life last September, I had expectations of how it would all look when I turned 50 years old. It is not looking exactly like I thought it would, but that is not a bad thing at all. The reason it looks different is mainly due to the fact that parts of my original goals changed along the way. Certain things became a little more important during the journey, and like a good captain I adjusted my course slightly. Have you ever gone on a vacation and the destination looks a little different than what you thought it would look like? Well, you’re still glad that you’re on vacation, and you may even be pleasantly surprised that its even better than what you first expected.

What will change your life? Time will change your life. Treat it as a gift from God and maximize every moment of it to direct your course in the direction that you want to go in. Live life on purpose and live like your life depends on it, because it does!

Trooper Tales -“the broken branch trick!”

The other day I was reminded of all of the funny things that happened to me when I was a State Trooper. Unless you’ve been in Law Enforcement before, or any other emergency response job, you might not understand how people can have so much fun in the midst of such dangerous and high pressure situations.

I don’t know if its the stress or moments of pure boredom that drive officers to look for anything that is funny. So much so, that a few become “Professional Pranksters” in order to create a little extra fun when nothing is going on. I guess I fell into that profession early when I was in the Training Academy. From that day forward, I was always mentioned as one of the usual suspects behind the latest gag.

Don and Gator.
Don and Gator.

So, I have decided to come clean and to share some of my favorites each week or two, to help you have a laugh and maybe even help you to remember how to laugh at life and yourself at times. I see it this way, as long as nobody gets hurt and your willing to take what you dish out, (because it always comes back your way), then its all good fun. I never let it get out of hand, although I pushed the envelope a few times. I cant recall one prank that I pulled where everyone wasn’t laughing in the end.  I will call these funny stories from my days as a State Trooper “Trooper Tales”

The Broken Branch Trick

There is not a law man alive who hasn’t had to take one of those momentary naps to get through a long or late night shift. When most officers have to close their blood shot eyes for just a moment, they do what all of us would do, they call their zone partner. An officers zone partner is his most trusted friend, sworn to protect him or her throughout their shift.

One night around 3:30 in the morning, I had a special request from my zone buddy. He wanted to know if I could watch things for a moment while he did some paperwork. Well, I would do anything for my zone partner, so I told him “Sure, you go ahead and take a nap, I mean do your paperwork,  I got you covered.”

Well I waited about 15 minutes before I decided to go and check on him and see how he was doing. I had no problem finding him since he was occupying one of my favorite hiding spots off of the side of the road. I think he was concentrating very hard to remember some points for his report because he had his head back and his eyes were shut. Maybe it helped him to concentrate. Slobber had not begun to develop but he was getting close.

With all good zone partner pacts and agreements, comes the one that you will watch out for and wake up your buddy after a few minutes so he doesn’t oversleep his 15 minute nap. I knew it was time to fulfill my obligation so I proceeded to do just that, wake him up and get him back to doing his paperwork.

Then I had an idea! I walked over to the woods a broke off a large tree branch and placed it across his windshield. I went back and got another one and repeated this action again. After piling a few branches on his windshield I did what I always did, I taped on his window and I woke him him up. I never will forget as he looked at me with that glaze in his eye, and that wasn’t from the donuts. I then looked at him while looking at his hood and said “I think you hit a tree”. I don’t know if he cussed first and then cried or cried first and then cussed. All I know was, he was now wide awake!

I think it took a few minutes or hours but my zone buddy was soon laughing about it. Did I get paid back for this one? You bet I did. Keep reading my future “Trooper Tales” and one day I will tell you how I got paid back with interest. You know there are a lot of good law enforcement officers out there who work a lot of long and dedicated hours. They do it not to be served, but rather to serve and protect others. It’s a risky job! Thank God it can also be a little fun at times. It helps to offset the hard side of a very tough job. I hope you have some good fun this week and if no one gets hurt and everyone can laugh a little, then it can be a very good thing.

The Escape Hatch

This week I found myself getting a little sidetracked by some unexpected trials and obstacles. A few weeks ago, I had one of the best bike rides of the year on a chilly February Saturday—which promptly handed me a serious sinus infection and bronchitis. Just when I had begun to make progress again, I could barely breathe. At about the same time, challenges arose at work and I found it almost impossible to focus on my well-laid plans for achieving my goals.  It is hard enough to stay disciplined and focused when I have a normal week with fairly normal hours, but when the normal is interrupted with trials and hardships it becomes even harder to stay focused. What is the unexpected trial that has popped up and threatened your progress towards your goals this week? Financial hardship? Issues with friends, partners, children? Catching “the bug” that’s going around?

We have often heard the term “comfort food”; for some of us, when we want or need comfort in our trials we wrongly can turn to food to help us feel better. It’s amazing how easy things are when the sun is shining and the bills are paid, but it can all go off-course when an obstacle harries our day and tempts us to reach for our favorite treat.  Some trials are truly so serious that a detour is definitely prescribed, but hopefully those serious trials are rare. The question then is what do we do to stay on track when those lesser trials hit us? When we get sick, when we get under job stress, or when we have problems in our relationships. We can all go on and on about the sneaky problems which derail our good efforts, the question is “how do we stay focused in trials?”

1. Force yourself to look beyond today. Whatever the current trial is, it will not last forever. It has a limited lifespan. Knowing that it will not last forever enables us to look past it. To look beyond it. We can’t get lost in it. When the dust of this trial settles, where will we really want to be?

2. Turn to God and set your mind on him. Looking to God gives us peace. He’s a faithful God who will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3). In this, God will give you peace and peace will give you the ability to focus and get through the trial.

3. Look for the escape hatch. God will lead out of that temptation or past that obstacle if you let Him. Remember, God told us that we will face all kinds of trials, but he also promised that for every trial that he would provide a way to escape it or overcome it:

1 Corinthians 10:13 The Message (MSG)

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

What temptation or obstacle must you overcome today?  

If you haven’t already, “Like” my 365to50 Facebook page, or find me on Twitter at @donlnewman, and share your goals and your journey to achieve them with me! I can’t wait to hear from you! 

 

 

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