FREE Kindle Downloads This Weekend

Yeah, that was a bit clickbait-ish, but it’s still true. Starting midnight on August 29th, every one of my books will be FREE in the Kindle store. That’s a total of six books, all available for download on your Kindle, all for free.

So what’s the occasion?

Four years ago, my dad’s dad passed away. My family was able to stand at his bedside as he left this world behind. My first book, Blue Like the Sky, is a collection of the blog posts I wrote during his final months, and I felt it would be fitting to give the book away in honor of Pop Harold.

But why stop there?

My book, You’re Still Here, is a guide to help parents after the death of a child. Couldn’t people use it?

Both of my short story collections, Bulldawg (detective stories set in Athens, GA) and Warm & Weird (a collection of 20 stories) could help someone pass the time in a pleasant way this weekend.

And if someone is in need of a laugh, they could certainly benefit from my essay collection, Just Pretend You’re Dead, or my illustrated Christmas classic (for those with sick minds), A Stick-Boy Christmas.

All I ask is that you download them and enjoy. If you want to share the link to any of the books, or to my Amazon author page, that would be lovely, but if not, no big deal. I’m happy to share. Part of the legacy that Pop left behind is of generosity and an open hand. This is the least I can do to honor him.

Remember – this doesn’t start until midnight on the 29th, but after that you’ll have until midnight on September 1st to get your copies.

Hope you enjoy them.

Defeating the Scarcity Mentality

A scarcity mentality is the perspective that there’s only so much good to be had.

Like a pie, or a pizza, there are only so many slices, and once they are gone, that’s it. There is no more.

This mindset comes out in people in different ways; for some, it creates a hyper-competitiveness, an insatiable need to win at all costs. For others, it creates a deep-seeded selfishness, manifested in a refusal to share or be generous.

For me, it resulted in fear. Of almost everything.

That fear–of failing, of letting others down, of not being good enough–took over my life at different points along the way, resulting in me accepting life instead of living it. When doors of opportunity opened to me, I passed them by because I was afraid. When people encouraged me, I shook them off because I was afraid. When I wanted something more, wanted to BE something more, I remained passive because I was afraid.

Of all the constants in my life, the most debilitating has been that scarcity mentality.

Because God is merciful (and persistent) with me, I’ve been tackling my scarcity mindset over the last two years.

I stepped away from a job and lifestyle that kept me comfortably helpless, and I’ve spent each day learning to be dependent on God and the talents and passion he gave me. As a result, I’ve done things I didn’t think possible: published my own books, started a community news website, even taken a job as a full-time writer with a nationally renowned company that focuses on an area about which I’m passionate.

I have learned that you defeat the scarcity mentality by choosing to see the world differently.

Leadership experts Steven Covey and John Maxwell talk about that perspective shift. They call it an Abundance Mentality. It’s the belief that the world is not finite in its goodness; that even if the pie runs out, all you have to do is bake another. And another. And another. It’s the choice to look for the good in life, instead of looking for the bad.

There is goodness, beauty, and wonder all around us–if we’ll choose to see it.

Photography has taught me that lesson. With a camera, I tend to look at the world differently; instead of seeing only what’s in front of me, I find myself looking for different perspectives, for beauty that would otherwise escape my notice. The practice of trying to document that beauty with my camera is exactly what trains me to look for it.

Being a writer helps too. Small moments with my kids become life-affirming gems (or, in some cases, massive growth experiences).

But nothing has helped me embrace abundance like surrounding myself with people who share that mindset. I had no idea how impactful my surroundings were until I changed them. I’m constantly around people who strive for excellence, see things from a positive perspective, and encourage others to live the same. As a result, I find I am defeating the scarcity mentality on a daily basis.

Being with people who see the world as a blessing instead of a curse is essential to living a life of abundance.

You can’t see what’s good in life if you’re surrounded by people who are afraid of that goodness going away. By nature, you end up focusing on the diminution of goodness instead of what is actually good. It’s a subtle thing, this mindset, but it’s powerful nonetheless.

If you find you’re surrounded by people who talk about what’s good only when they lament its gradual (or sudden) loss, then you are in a scarcity environment. You will find your growth either stunted or entirely halted, simply because you can’t grow when you’re stressed all the time.

You change your life by changing your mindset, and you can change your mindset by changing your environment. It’s hard, and you may be able to think of a million reasons not to do it, but I promise you it is worth it. The freedom you’ll feel by looking at the world as it is–full of promise and wonder–will heal you more than leaving your old world could ever hurt you.

Beauty, hope, and fulfillment are out there. You don’t have to live afraid.

90% Failure Means You’re Doing Great

I heard an incredible interview today on WABE, the local Atlanta NPR affiliate.

Radio host Lois Reitzes sat down with Matthew Diffee, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, to talk about Diffee’s new book “Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart, Attractive People.”

During the interview, Reitzes asked Diffee about his work process, and Diffee explained that, on average, he submitted 10 cartoon ideas per week. And if he sold ONE of those ideas he considered it a great week.

“Ninety percent [rejection] means you’re doing great,” Diffee said.

Diffee went on to explain that many artists come up with three to five ideas and little more. Some, he said, only have their one cartoon–and if (or, more likely, when) that one is rejected, they have nothing else in the pipeline. They have no recourse for dealing with the rejection.

It reminds me of Seth Godin’s approach to shipping your ideas: you have to consistently come up with ideas–good and bad–before you land on something great.

Rejection is part of the creative process. It’s part of finding your way to where you’re meant to be.

Personally, this resonated with me because I haven’t written much for publication lately. I’ve been hiding behind contract work and the excuse of “not having anything important to say.”

But the truth is, I’ve had lots to say–I just haven’t wanted to go through the hassle of writing something, believing its good, and then going through the process of having people say, “No thanks.”

Sadly, that’s the life of a writer. Or a cartoonist. Or an actor. Or a musician. Or anyone else who creates things of beauty and value.

If you create, you must understand the inevitability of rejection as well as its value. Because each rejection has within it information to make you that much better the next time out.

Or, as my boss says, “Experience isn’t the best teacher. Evaluated experience is.”

The key is to keep submitting. Keep creating. Keep putting your work out there, and continually learn from each rejection.

Every artist is rejected; only those who keep creating and submitting make a difference.

Keep the Train Rolling

This week I’m participating in Seth Godin’s #YourTurnChallenge. My goal is to blog everyday this week (Mon-Sun) here on my site as well as on the challenge’s official Tumblr blog. Here’s my Day 4 submission.

Today is my 39th birthday. One year away from 40.

I wrestle most days with feeling like a failure. The definition of success I learned growing up (marriage, family, steady job, plenty of money) hasn’t played out in my life. I’m almost 40 and still starting over in so many ways.

But then I stop and think:

  • I am a husband to a wonderful wife, Rachel.
  • I am daddy to two beautiful children, Ella and Jon, and a third, Ruthanne, who waits for me in heaven.
  • We have a beautiful home.
  • We have nice cars.
  • I have a wide and wonderful assortment of friends.
  • I rock Twitter.
  • I get paid to do what I do best: communicate (both written and verbal).
  • I’ve recorded and released an album with two of my closest friends.
  • I’ve written over 365 radio programs that still air to this day on 1700 radio stations worldwide (not to mention podcast downloads).
  • I’ve written and directed three short films, and won a Telly award for one of them.
  • I’ve written and published 5 books.
  • I’ve started three blogs, two websites, and one company.
  • I’ve pastored a church that was dying, and helped it not only die with dignity but give over $300,000 away to deserving causes as a last act.
  • I’ve performed over 30 marriages, many of those being the marriages of students who sat under my teaching and mentoring.
  • I’ve been privileged to write for a Fortune 500 company, a multi-national leadership firm, one of the nation’s largest churches, one of my community’s finest charities, and countless other people whose vision deserved to be shared.
  • I’ve interviewed entrepreneurs, civic leaders, spiritual leaders, and other interesting people and been privileged to share their stories with the public via magazine articles.

All of that by 39. Sure there are folks who’ve achieved more–but there are those who’ve achieved less. It’s not a competition anyway.

But more than all I’ve achieved, I’ve come to realize what I’m proudest of is that we–my wife, my kids and myself–keep looking for the next thing. The next step. The next challenge. We may fail, but as my wife is fond of saying, “We’re going to keep the train rolling.”

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know this: if we win today, tomorrow will take care of itself.

It’s taken me 39 years to understand just what that means. Here’s to another 39 (and more) to keep living it the best I can.

Free Chapter From My Next Book: You’re Still Here – Surviving the Death of a Child

holding handsI’ve mentioned on Twitter that I’m working on a new ebook for people who have lost a child, or know someone who has. I’ll also release the book through CreateSpace as a paperback. It’s not going to be terribly long, and I’m not a doctor or therapist or big name celebrity pastor/author, so it’s not going to be terribly popular. But what it will be is honest. Perhaps too honest.

But as I’m writing for hurting people, that’s not a bad thing.

See, there aren’t a lot of resources out there for people who’ve buried a child. Be it a stillbirth, a miscarriage, SIDS, an early childhood illness or just the injustice of a fallen universe, a lot of people are hurting without many resources to comfort them. I don’ t know if it’s because those resources have a limited audience and therefore remain unknown or if companies and writers are simply unwilling to publish on the topic. It also may be that there are tons of resources available and I just don’t know how to Google search them.

I doubt that last point, though, because every time someone I know experiences a child’s death – be it personally or via friends and family – one of the first questions I get is always, “I’ve looked online for resources on this, but there don’t seem to be that many. Can you recommend something?”

The thought of writing something for hurting parents and family and friends has been in the back of my head for a while. I’ve put it off because A- I don’t have the platform to effectively write and sell such a book, and B- I’m not an official expert in the matters of grief. But I got a message from my cousin the other day on Facebook asking about resources for someone who’d just lost a baby. I gave her a couple of books that Rachel and I had read that kind of helped, and gave her some advice on what not to say or do around the grieving parents. And I realized: I don’t have to write the definitive book on surviving the death of a child. I don’t have to be psychologist or counselor or mega-pastor to speak from a place of wisdom.

I’ve lived it. And if I keep it short and sweet, and tell my story as a way of offering advice and insight, then that would be enough.

Part of writing is offering help to the people who read what you write. Whether it’s escape or insight or just a momentary sense of camaraderie, giving something to your reader is an essential piece of being a good writer. I know that enough people come to this blog on a search for information on stillbirth and child death to know that even a short book on living through such a horrific life trauma might help someone else grieve better. So I’ve put my other projects on hold for the moment in order to get this book done.

If you know someone who might benefit from this book, please be on the lookout for it’s release. I’m hoping to get it done relatively soon, with sections for both the grieving parents and the friends and family of the aggrieved. It’s not going to be lengthy – maybe 30,000 words all told, but it will be sincere. If you work for a funeral service or maybe as a grief counselor or hospital chaplin, I’d love to send you a manuscript file before I publish and get some feedback and a review for the book. You can fill out the form below if you’re interested.

For everyone else, you can have a free chapter from the book by simply downloading the sample via this link: Sample Chapter_You’re Still Here. The chapter is titled The God Dilemma and it’s a quick look at how the question of God comes into play after the death of a child. The file is read-only.

If you know someone who’s coping with the death of a child, please share this post with them. I’d love for them to know that someone understands, and that a resource is being developed to offer some help in their time of need.