Share Retirement Dreams for Chance to Win Free Book

Let’s dream a little bit.  Most people think more about their next vacation than they ever think about retirement.  But I believe that’s mostly because people get sidetracked by the numbers and forget the dreams.

So leave a comment and share what your retirement dreams are.  For your participation, one lucky commenter will win a free copy of the #1 New York Times Bestselling book, Retired Inspired.

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or on AL.com here.

Retire Inspired Giveaway

Why Fear is Not a Reason to Vote

If you haven’t been paying attention for the past few months, then you’ve missed the selections of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as major party nominees for this year’s Presidential Election.  With those selections have come anxiety, worry, and any other emotions associated with fear.

But why fear? Why is fear the most prevalent emotion presently?  Let’s allow nationally-recognized pastor, Max Lucado, introduce this bewilderment a little more deeply.

There’s an angst in the country, and I think there’s a fear.  I think there’s a fear of we don’t know what’s next.  And I’ve tried, maybe you can help me, I’ve tried to put my finger on the root of this fear.  – Max Lucado

Lucado goes on to say he believes this fear comes from a disconnect with God and a disconnect with fellow man.

I tend to agree with him as Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

So if you’re a Christian reading this, I plead with you to stop being fearful.  If you knew how much weight has truly been lifted from you, then you would not sweat something as trivial as politics.  However, based on some of the anger that I am seeing displayed, it’s fairly evident that you are in a deep panic.

If you’re anyone else reading this, I plead with you to stop being fearful as well.  Fear just isn’t going to solve your problems.  Fear almost always causes poor decision-making.  And likewise, it’s a terrible reason to vote.

In fact, neuroscience research from a few years ago suggests the following remedy when gripped with fear: neutralize the situation.

This means not being a fearmonger.  It means avoiding people who are overly pessimistic about the economy. It means tuning out media that fan emotional flames.  Unless you are a day-trader, it means closing the web page with the market ticker.  It does mean being prepared, but not being a hypervigilant, everyone-in-the-bunker type.

I don’t know about you, but I hate fear.  It robs me of friendships—new and old.  It robs me of critical-thinking skills.  And it robs me of joy.  Like any thief, I want it out of my life.  It’s my hope that you will eventually want fear out of your life too.

In relation to the current election, kick fear to the curb before you hit the voting booths.  If we keep fear around, it will build up strength and make us believe we have fewer choices than we actually have.

So be courageous.  No vote submitted from a position of courage is ever a wasted vote.  Not yesterday. Not now.  Not ever.

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or on AL.com here.

Trump Clinton

Tuscaloosa: A Rally for Peace and Unity in our City

A dear friend of mine, Pastor Fred Schuckert, has diligently and humbly met with several leaders around our city in order to promote peace and unity.  Here is his call to action that he asked people to share:

I met this morning with Schmidt Moore and a handful of other pastors concerning the rising racial tensions related to the deaths of young black men by police officers in various cities and also the senseless killing of policemen in Dallas.  We talked with our mayor and police chief about having a prayer gathering for peace and unity in our city.  They were in favor of this, including the mayor and police chief of Northport.

At 7:00 this Sunday evening, July 10, at Government Plaza downtown, we will be having a “rally for Peace and Unity in our City.”  If it rains, we will meet at Bethel Baptist Church located at 3003 25th St, Tuscaloosa, AL ·

We are inviting the whole church in our city to participate.  Please share this with other Christians you have contact with in the greater Tuscaloosa area.

We are very fortunate to have outstanding governmental officials and law enforcement in our city and county. We want to pray for them as well as for the families of these young black men and police officers who have been killed.

Please help share Pastor Fred’s message.  Like, share, and retweet.

Photo Credit: http://www.harrison-const.com/

Photo Credit: http://www.harrison-const.com/

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or at AL.com here.

How Long-Distance Couples Decide Who Has to Quit

Long-distance emotional stress affects military spouses or newly married spouses quite often.   It also affects couples who have a spouse that has received a dream job offer in a distant city.   If you and your spouse work with employers that are hundreds and thousands of miles apart, then you have a pretty arduous decision ahead of you: determining which one of you has to quit.

This can be very difficult because both spouses may love their jobs; however, spouses need to love each other more than their jobs.  Firstly, seek to see if you can just transfer within your current company.  Secondly, if this is not possible or takes too much lead-time, then you will have to quit.  This does not have to be an immediate resignation, but you definitely need to get the ball rolling in that direction.

It’s been a while, but my wife and I have been in those shoes.  When we got married 5 years ago, I ended up being the spouse that moved.  That certainly wasn’t the only option we had, but it ended up being the best option for us long-term.

Have you and your spouse ever been in this situation?

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or at AL.com here.

Kissing

Originally posted on my LinkedIn back in August 2015.

How Data Can Improve Your Prayer Life

In most areas of life, you would never rush to your leader with a huge request without first collecting data.  There are three reasons for avoiding this.

First, your leader might actually grant your hasty request.  Unfortunately, this can create additional issues if the request doesn’t solve your problem or if it births extra problems.

Second, your leader may deny your request because the results seem unclear or unsafe.

Third, your leader may deny your request simply because you already possess what you need.

Things don’t have to end up this way.  The results of prayer can be so much better than this.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe prayer is foundational—whether in scarcity or in abundance.  I wholeheartedly believe in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 when it says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

At the same time though, I agree with Matthew 6 when it says, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

Instead, God is a God of data.  A God of information.  And he wants us to be that way too.

This is particularly true when praying for loved ones or for your community.

For example, James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

If God wanted us to pray for one another without information, he would have nixed any recommendation for confession.

Access to personal confession isn’t always available, but prayer is still required.  This is particularly true when praying for large groups of people.  In this situation, you may need to rely on survey data or sampling data to get an idea of what burdens need to be given to the Lord.

Without reliable data, our prayers lack precision.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think God needs our prayers to be precise to answer our prayers.  God is all-powerful and all-knowing even when we don’t communicate well with him.

Instead, the precision is for us.  If we aren’t precise, it makes it difficult for us to know what’s truly going on.  For example, we might feel we have a need for an immediate financial rescue.  If we aren’t precise, we make it difficult to see the possible answers that God may have for us.

Sure, we may notice a pay increase.  That’s fairly obvious and upfront.  But if we aren’t precise, we may not realize that we have a leaky faucet in a guest bathroom.  We may not realize that we have a streak of jealousy that’s causing us to buy unnecessary purchases.  We may not realize that God may simply want us to be patient.

So I plead with everyone who is reading this.  Seek the data in your lives.  It’s the key to deeper communication with each other as well as with the Lord.

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or on AL.com here.

02 Prayer with Text

There Are Only 3 Types of Homeowner Personalities

Every neighborhood has them.  Every friend group has them.  They’re everywhere like gnats in the summer time.  But can you quickly identify the three types of homeowner personalities if you encountered them? Have no fear.  The answers are here.

The Nit Picker Personality

NaggingThis is your former roommate.  Don’t you remember him?  He was always complaining about how your apartment was not as good as someone else’s.  It was quite annoying while you were in a lease together, but now you’re stuck together in the same poker group.

Things haven’t changed too much except the item of ridicule isn’t an apartment anymore—it’s a house.  Ironically, your old buddy is in the house of his dreams—from two months ago.  Ever since moving into the house, he hasn’t said a positive word about the place.

End Result: He will take the negative-equity hit and move into a “better” house.

The Delusional Personality

DenialThis is the lady that sits next to you at work.  She and her husband live in a house with a mortgage that consumes way too much of their monthly take-home pay.  And that’s not including electricity, maintenance, and other house-related things that cost money.

Unfortunately, they won’t sell the house because they are holding on to hope the husband will get another high-paying job again.  He got laid off 3 years ago and has never really fully-recovered.  Don’t worry though.  That doesn’t keep them from using debt to give off the impression that everything is still okay.  After all, the kids are in amazing school district where they are now.

End Result: She will eventually be punished with a foreclosure.  To make matters worse, her husband cheated on her with a neighbor down the street.

The Contented Personality

contentmentThis personality is rare.  It is so rare and silent that you simply may not have noticed it.  The person is the assistant manager of your favorite local fast food restaurant.  In fact, he or she comes home smelling like fries every single day.

Despite the smells, this person makes the best of every situation.  He or she may not have all the perks imaginable, but that doesn’t stop creativity from happening.  He or she is quietly becoming a millionaire right in front of your eyes.

End Result: This person will not move very often, but when he or she does move, it’s with a purpose.

Follow me on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or on AL.com here.

Why the Black Lives Matter Movement Needs to Die

“…good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” 
– Albert Camus, Philosopher

Photo: New York Times

Photo: New York Times

The Black Lives Matter movement needs to die. There I said it. Now that I’ve gotten that over with and depending on your view, the shock or gratitude is sinking in. Before you label me an Uncle Tom or Don Lemon, I’ll explain why I think the Black Lives Matter or BLM movement needs to die. I’ll start by saying that I do NOT believe that cops should target minorities, particularly black people, with extreme prejudice. Nor do I believe black people deserve to die at the hands of police officers when our hands are in the air, our backs are turned to the officers, and our disposition poses no immediate threat to ourselves or others. There has been too much damage done to the BLM movement at this point to salvage its name, but its aims should be taken up by new leadership under a new name and better organization. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I have identified many problems that highlight why this current incarnation of a millennial pseudo-black power movement is doomed to fail.

The first problem I have with the Black Lives Matter movement are its methods. Marches by African-Americans in the present day no longer have the same impact as they did when the civil rights leaders of the 60s marched to display to the world the frustration and pain of a disenfranchised people desiring for their voices to be heard. Honestly, when was the last time a march led to any meaningful change for the black community? As a people, we protest far too often to be taken seriously when we gather to march from point A to point B.  It seems like every time the wind blows and our feelings are hurt, we need to march. We march for current issues while also marching several times a year in cities across the country to commemorate other historic marches that were actually successful in their goals. We have essentially become a people prone to anger parades with rage-filled hearts and bitterness on our tongues.  The problem is no one lines the streets to view what has unfortunately become a pageant of ebony frustration.

Our marches no longer invoke change and no longer invoke others to aide our cause. The marches are often juxtaposed with riots and looting, though the “formal BLM protesters” will say that they weren’t involved in the rioting aspect of a protest, as seen in the Baltimore protests in 2015 when a CVS was burned and looting occurred. Some in the movement point to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote which says, “A riot, is the language of the unheard.” Counter to this, further study of Dr. King reveals that he was speaking of an understanding as to why some in the black community rioted during the Civil Rights Movement, but he himself held firm to non-violent tactics. If the BLM movement wants to be viewed as progressive and wants its tactics to be seen as constructive rather than destructive then it must divorce itself of those who loot, riot, and leave the ashes of small-businesses in their wake. The only image the country should see are the tear-stained faces of mothers and the trembling lips of fathers who have lost another child to a system that routinely discriminates against people of color.

The second reason I believe the BLM movement has failed is because there has been a cacophony of voices in the media and in the general public that sees the movement as doing more harm than good. Fox News in their usual bigoted vitriol describe the BLM movement as a hate group. Right-wing zealots screamed bloody-murder when Beyoncé vaguely represented Black Power during the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show. And Donald Trump has only increased the animosity by promoting violence at his rallies where protesters have been expelled and violently struck for disrupting Mr. Trump’s speeches. The unmerited bias is to be expected by those whose ears are attuned to the dog-whistle politics that promote discrimination between the races. However, the BLM movement’s protesters have grossly underestimated the followers of the GOP’s leading candidate and have disrespected the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

True, Senator Clinton’s husband did more harm than good to the black community with his failed incarceration policies, but at the same time there is a time and place to be heard that doesn’t distract from the overall message that the BLM movement wants to make. The phrase “you know a leopard by its spots” is also applicable when considering why some in the movement choose to protest at Donald Trump rallies. Donald Trump promotes bigotry and misogyny, no change could come from protesting there as all in attendance are fervently for the very things the BLM is against, and the attendants have shown time and time again that they will react violently against Trump protesters.

The protesters have also interrupted Bernie Sanders, and one can simply google Bernie Sanders and Civil Rights Movement to see that he has a history of promoting equal rights before most of the young BLM movement protesters were even born! These tactics only serve to bring negative attention to the BLM movement when all of the headlines read ‘Protesters interrupt the rally of (insert politician here) and below the caption is an image of 4-5 black people frozen in time with their mouths open and their brows furrowed with rage. This should NOT be the image the public associates with the BLM movement.

The BLM movement has also been damaged in the media because of its name. I know the name means well, but it has been distorted and bastardized to the point that police departments and unions across the country have come out in full force against the movement. Politicians and the ignorant public alike have even started “all lives matter” responses even though the BLM movement was never about black supremacy or Black Nationalism but about championing the equality of black lives.

Perhaps the gravest issue with the Black Lives Matter movement, which also relates to its name, is the amount of violence that blacks perpetrate against other blacks. How can the BLM movement expect America to respect the sanctity of a black life, when we often don’t respect the lives of those with the same skin color? Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and Birmingham: these four cities have a rampant problem with black-on-black homicide. Weekends with low murder counts are celebrated in Chicago, a city of a large black population in which the poor black population is destroying itself every week. The BLM should equally throw its weight behind promoting black people respecting the lives of other black people with the same fervor they expect it from law enforcement. Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks is quoted as saying, “”I dealt with a best friend getting killed, and it was [by] two 35-year-old black men. There was no police officer involved, there wasn’t anybody else involved, and I didn’t hear anybody shouting ‘black lives matter’ then.” The BLM movement must raise its voice in equal volume and outrage over black-on-black crime as it does over white-on-black crime.

Sad to say, it may all be too late as the BLM movement has already aligned itself and championed those who don’t do the cause any justice. Remember Michael Brown who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer? His story sounds like a rallying cry for the movement, but if you are to study the events leading up to his shooting and death, you’ll see that Michael Brown wasn’t behaving as a productive citizen in society. I won’t go into all of the details here, but I say this to make the point: if you’re going to make someone an angel, make sure they don’t have any demons in their past. A lot of people don’t know that Rosa Parks wasn’t the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, but a woman by the name of Claudette Colvin was. The NAACP and other civil rights leaders refused to use her as a symbol of injustice due to the fact that she was pregnant by a married man. If you are striving for equality, make sure the faces of the movement can withstand the public scrutiny of their private lives.

This brings me to my last point on a need for the immediate end to the Black Lives Matter movement, and it’s the fact that the movement lacks real leadership. If you research the original leaders of the movement, you’ll see the names of two people who were born in the early-mid 80’s. In order for this organization to be successful, the leaders of the first civil rights movement will need to help beyond lending a voice to thousands of screams. Dr. Cornel West, for example, is a participant in the movement, and young African-Americans gravitate to him because he’s Ivy-league educated, charismatic, highly intelligent, and most importantly, he’s black too. The problem is Dr. West has really done nothing substantial to advance the goals and message of the Black Lives Matter movement. The true leadership needed already has a structure but has been silent in recent years when it comes to major civil rights issues concerning black people.

The NAACP should be at the forefront of the fight with their senior leadership leading the charge, pressing corporations and big business for their support in the fight for equality, and simultaneously promoting non-violence in the black community.  The movement doesn’t need Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson as the nation as well as the black community has grown tired of their voices and their insistence to be the token voice of an entire people. The message is important, but those currently leading the BLM movement have no vision for getting there beside hashtags and marches. Walking and tweeting can only promote change so far, it will require senior leadership and support from benefactors with deeper pockets than the frustrated college students who want change but can’t afford what is necessary to accomplish real change in the 21st century.

I don’t have all of the answers on how the movement should be led, what its defined goals should be, or even what name if any should be used when calling for the sanctity of black lives to be upheld and respected. I do however see that this current incarnation does not work, it has failed black people, it has failed in the media, and its name has been distorted to the point that some view it as hateful. Regardless of who leads the movement within the black community, there is still work to be done.

The Civil Rights movement didn’t end with reforms in the 60s and 70s, nor did it end with the election of the nation’s first “black” President, President Barack Obama. The Civil Rights movement will not be complete until the words of this country’s Declaration of Independence apply to all citizens, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The journey to equality is complicated and will be paved with trials and complications, but we must press on. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” Problem is, I don’t think the Black Lives Matter movement should be knocking at the gate.

Marsalis Jones is a frequent contributor for the topics of film and politics.

 

While Family Sleeps, Increase Your Skills and Abilities

night-owlChances are very likely that if you are reading this, you are not doing so right after midnight.  If you look at the time stamp of this posting though, you will notice that, in fact, it was posted right after midnight.

That strange time frame is not by accident.  I intentionally try to get postings like this done while my family is asleep and doesn’t care what I’m doing.  That’s no slight on my family, but they primarily want me to care about them while I’m with them.  And deservedly so.  However, many major things for my family and for myself would never get done if I didn’t make the best use of the inconvenient times of the day.

For example, my entire household is asleep by 8:30pm central.  In most places, that’s still considered early, and it is considered early for me too.  So when the family sleeps, I get to work.

  • Business school homework and assignments
  • Church projects that can be done from home
  • Literature of the non-fiction , uplifting variety
  • Family budgeting and long-range planning
  • Catching back up with missed emails and calls
  • Decluttering, reorganizing, and doing laundry
  • Laughing aloud with friends on social media
  • Heroically rocking our toddler back to sleep
  • The list goes on, and on, and on, and on

While it may seem a bit overwhelming, I’ve naturally become more effective at the above activities simply because I perform them regularly.  As the old adage goes, “we become what we practice.”

So that’s my story.  What are some tasks that you would like to become better at or more intentional about?

Leave a reply in the comments section, and please hit subscribe.

Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or AL.com.

Debunking daylight savings time myths

Well, it is that time of year again.  Daylight Savings Time (DST) starts this Sunday morning and along with it starts the hysteria of DST myths.

For people who are easily frustrated by nonsensical behaviors, this is a particularly tough time of year.  However, with a little bit of myth-busting, this time of year can be a very refreshing change of pace.  Let’s review the following to see just how little effect DST has on the environment around us.

 “Makes the Days Are Longer”

This is wrong, wrong, and wrong.  In both connotations of the word “days,” this is an incorrect statement.  Firstly, a day is always 24 hours no matter how you slice it.  Secondly, daylight hours in our region flex from minimum of 10 hours at winter solstice to a maximum of 14 hours at summer solstice.  This is dependent on position relative to the North Pole not on whether the clocks are set a certain way.

“Makes Bedtime Shorter”

This has less to do with the time change and more to do with the fact that you just simply more active in the warmer months than the colder months.  For instance, going to the movies is much more popular in the warm months than the colder months.  Going to the movies takes up time that you would normally be at home sleeping.  So blame the movie theater not your clock.

“Makes More Difficult to Wake Up”

Well, if you’re getting less sleep in the summer, then likewise, it will be more difficult to wake up when you need to wake up.

“Makes People Crazy”

Again, people are not sleeping due to lifestyle decisions not the clock.

Those are just a few of the oft quoted wives’ tales that spread like wildfire this time of year.  Hopefully, this list gives you enough info to extinguish that wildfire in your life for good.

Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben_Baxter or AL.com.

Sunrise by Alex Indigo (Flickr)

Choose Your Coworkers Wisely

Coworkers can be a blessing, or they can be a curse.   Nothing is more crucial than having the right mix of people around you to make your day more productive and more fulfilling.  But how do you make sure your coworkers are a blessing and not a curse?

Well, if you’re going to spend over 50 percent of your waking day at a workplace, you really want to vet your potential coworkers as much as possible before you start working with them.  Once you accept a job offer or a department transfer, you’re often stuck with your decision for an extended period of time.

So talk to potential workers, scan online reviews, read about the company culture, and ask your potential boss as many questions as possible.  If you do all of those things and still have a warm and fuzzy feeling, then you should feel pretty comfortable about signing the dotted line on a job offer.

From there, all you can do is pray and hope for the best.

This post was previously written by Ben on LinkedIn.

Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben_Baxter

Types-People-You-Work