Leading My Kids to Be Mentally Tough Without Breaking Their Spirit

One of my parenting goals is to raise my kids to be tough-minded. Life is hard and one factor to living a good life is having mental toughness, grit, to get you through the hard times.

I don’t think mental toughness is just an innate personality trait. I think it can be developed.

Of course, doing it wrong could wound your kids. Too much roughness without balancing it with softness could be a bad thing for them.

So, here’s my approach to develop mental toughness in my kids without breaking their spirit.

Encouragement – My kids know their parents are their biggest fans, believers, and supporters. We don’t tell them “you can do anything,” because that’s not true and sets them up for disappointment when they find out that they, in fact, can’t do anything. We *do* tell them they are capable and smart. Most importantly, we repeat one phrase super often…”You can do hard things.”

Tempered praise – Unrestricted praise of children is not good. My kids hear “great job, bud” from me almost every day. But they do not receive gushing, over-the-top praise when they do something well. Why? Because that’s not going to happen in adulthood. Their boss will not throw a party when they mark a task off their todo list, so don’t set that expectation in childhood.

Consistent discipline – We are a household that disciplines. That means we use a mixture of timeouts, restrictions, and spanking. But discipline alone isn’t enough; it has to be consistent. If you threaten to take away a toy, you’ve got to follow through. If an infraction gets a spanking one day and a timeout another day, your kid won’t be able to match behavior to consequences, which is exactly what discipline is supposed to do.

Accountability – One thing I’ve noticed is that, with the onset of ever-present phones, kids are getting away with more nominally bad behavior because their parents just aren’t paying attention. Without paying attention, you can’t hold your kids accountable to behavioral expectations. When they grow up, they will be blind-sided by the level of accountability in adulthood.

Grace – Maintaining consistent discipline does not mean having a household devoid of grace. Grace doesn’t mean withholding discipline. Grace, in our household, means unfettered affection, love, and belonging despite any level of poor behavior. If a kid lights the house on fire, they’ll experience consequences, but they’ll never feel like they are on the “outside” or that their relationship with their parents is damaged.

Over-the-top affection – We are always careful to be tempered in our discipline and our praise of our kids. However, there is one area where we never hold back: affection. Most parents, I think, are good at showing affection to their kids. It comes easy. Those stinking kids are so freaking precious! Just keep pouring it on. There’s no such thing as too much love in a home.

Our New Podcast Format at TrainedUp

TLDR, we’re relaunching the TrainedUp podcast as a daily (Monday-Thursday), episodic show with one guest per week talking about a single topic each day.

I’m working on a new podcast for TrainedUp for 2019. We’ve switched up the format and, since it’s a little nontraditional, I’d like to explain why we are designing it this way.

To me, there are three primary pillars of a podcast that make the difference in whether I listen to it or not.

  1. People – Do I like the people on the podcast? Are they relatable or respectable or knowledgeable or approachable or easy to listen to or wise or experienced? You get the idea. The host and guests are pretty important.
  2. Content – Does the podcast cover something I’m interested in? Is it relevant to my life or work? Do I find it useful or helpful? Is it entertaining?
  3. Format – Does the format match the people and the content? Is it too long or short for the person of the topic? Is it mind-numbingly deep or too shallow to be helpful? Is it published so infrequently that there’s no connection between episodes?

When we launched the Thriving Ministry Teams podcast in early 2018, it was an experiment. It was our first foray into this content type and we had no expectations for what it would be or become. What we did expect is to learn a ton…and that’s what happened.

What we learned from our podcast in 2018

Running the podcast last year taught us a bunch. For one, we learned that Kevin is awesome at running a crisp podcast, but his time is already pulled in other directions with managing our marketing endeavors that it’s hard for him to run a podcast, too.

Second, we learned that a podcast with just he and I as the only hosts quickly runs out of topics we can discuss with any level of authority or experience. We haven’t been in ministry long enough to talk weekly about ministry and still be helpful to people.

Third, we really wanted to be able to go deeper on topics. Since we are limited in our experience, the only way to go deeper would be to include guests on our podcast.

What the new podcast format looks like

We stopped running the podcast last year due to time constraints, mainly. So when we decided to relaunch it for 2019, we decided to switch up the format, too.

Here’s the gist of the new format. It’s deeper, includes a different guest each week, and runs about an hour each week. However, we’re breaking every guest interview into four episodes that roll out daily, Monday thru Thursday. Each episode will focus on one topic and run about 15 minutes.

Every week will have a high-level theme or topic, but each episode will be a focus on one question that the guest is answering. This has a few benefits. First, it’ll allow us to spend a more time with each guest. Second, it still allows us to keep content brief. Third, it lets people easily listen to the topics or questions that most interest them. Fourth, you can still listen to the whole interview if you’re interested in the whole thing. Fifth, it keeps the rhythm consistent and syncs to most ministry leaders’ weekly schedules.

It’s definitely more work to split one interview into four episodes, but I think the work is worth it for audience friendliness.

We rolled out the first episode yesterday with Aimee Scott, currently our Customer Success Manager at TrainedUp.

7 Small Habits I’m Trying to Build in 2019

Listen to the Bible, books, and podcasts at 1.5x speed. I have a goal of reading a certain number of books and the Bible. The only way I’ll get that done is by listening while I work out.

Go to sleep at 10pm and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep. This is the habit that will support my workout habit. Asleep at 10pm means awake at 5am without too much difficulty.

Stick to an intermittent fast and time restricted eating. This is going well and it’s easier than I expected it to be.

Take time to put the kids to bed slowly. I’ve always struggled with this, not because I’m in a rush or distracted at night. It’s because I’m wore out! Those kids are nonstop energy and by bed time I’m super ready for them to be in bed and quiet. I’m going to try to slow down and make more time at bed time.

Keep all notifications off on my phone except text messages. I’ve been doing this for a couple months, so the habit is mostly set already. It’s a good one for my focus, presence, and mental health.

Keep all social media apps off my phone and stay logged out in Safari. Again, I’ve done this one for a while and it’s very helpful to keep me from mindlessly picking up my phone in a moment of boredom.

Open an ebook on my phone when I’m bored and want to read something. I’m working at getting better at this. I still tend to read the news instead of reading a book. Books are better.

Intermittent Fasting Update: 2 Weeks In

Here’s the original post with all the details about what we’re doing, why, and what we were expecting to experience.

Benefits so far are: lost 8 pounds, better sleep at night, more focus during the day, no more afternoon doldrums with no energy, and saving money on food. Also, one thing we didn’t expect is that we don’t have to think about 2/3 of the meals we used to think about. That means less planning and talking about food. Win!

Erica has lost 4 pounds, but she was already pretty skinny and now she’s worried about maintaining her current weight (not losing more) and still fasting. She loves the other benefits of intermittent fasting, but doesn’t want to lose more weight.

We’ve been fasting 18-20 hours a day for two weeks now.

My original plan was to fast for 16 hours a day, essentially skipping breakfast every day. After a couple days, 16 hours a day didn’t feel like it would have much impact on my health or weight.

After that, I stretched my daily fast to 2pm, skipping breakfast and lunch and opting for an early-afternoon snack, which usually consisted of a beef stick or jerky and a cup of coffee with cream…still all under 250 calories or so…low carb, of course.

By the way, after an 18 hour fast, coffee with cream tastes like heaven.

For the last week I’ve been stretching the fasting portion of my day to 20 hours. That means I fast from 8pm to 4pm, drinking only water or black coffee during that time. Then I eat a snack at 4pm and a big-but-lean dinner between 6pm and 7pm.

I allow myself a full 1,500 calories at dinner, but take no wheat-based carbs (bread/pasta), limit starchy carbs (potatoes/corn), and load up on protein, veggies, and fats. I try to have an even portion of each of those in a meal.

1,500 calories in one meal is pretty big and I always feel very full, especially as my stomach has been shrinking. A 1,500-calorie meal full of lean, whole food looks and feels like a feast, which is incredibly satisfying. 1,500 calories at McDonalds doesn’t feel like much, but 1,500 calories of good food is a banquet.

My 2019 Eating Plan: Intermittent Fasting, Time Restricted Eating, and Prolonged Fasting

Like most people, I’m overweight.

I’m also one of those normal people without a particularly fast metabolism. When I eat a calorie-restricted diet, I lose a little, but then my metabolism adjusts and my weight loss will plateau. After a week or two of plateaued weight, I quit and hit the hot wings…hard.

In the Fall of 2018, I stumbled across a Joe Rogan video about intermittent fasting. It was pretty intriguing. Here’s the video (28 minutes long). Skip past the video for a brief written explanation of intermittent fasting and its benefits.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

I did more research on it and learned a lot more. Intermittent fasting, or IF, is regularly fasting for short periods of time. There are different kinds of fasts, so to clarify, the kind of fasting applied in IF is a zero calorie fast, but also excludes zero calorie sweeteners. No foods or drinks with Aspartame, Sucralose, or other artificial sweeteners, either. You can drink water, black coffee, and tea. That’s it.

The “intermittent” part of IF is usually set to a minimum of 16 hours. This is important because your body starts to adjust where and how it accesses calories for energy expenditure at around 16 hours. All of the processes in your body, every movement, every breath, and even every thought takes energy to make it happen. Calories are they fuel that’s burned for that energy to be available for those processes and activities.

After 16 hours of fasting, your body starts to shift slowly. Since the calories from your last meal have been used already, your body will seek calories from other places. Your body stores calories in a couple places. One of those places is your fat stores.

In other words, after 16 hours of fasting, your body will start to pull calories from your fat. That means you’ll lose fat. Yay!

To be clear, it doesn’t look like fat burning efficiency jumps immediately to 100% after 16 hours. From what I’ve learned, it simply starts at 16 hours of fasting. And I’d imagine that 16-hour target is pretty general and most people will not start right at 16 hours. People with a naturally faster metabolism will start sooner. I imagine my body will start later.

Such is life…

Why Intermittent Fasting Is Appealing To Me

There’s a lot of reasons that past diets haven’t worked for me.

  1. I get hungry and grumpy. My body never quite adjusts, so my moods swing drastically more when I’m just reducing calories on a 3 meal/day diet.
  2. I get caught in situations where sticking to a healthy eating regimen is hard, like when you’re invited to a friend’s house for dinner. I live in the South where not eating what’s on your plate is rude.
  3. I have to exercise immense willpower to choose healthy food over delicious food.
  4. Reduced calories on a 3 meal/day diet kills my energy levels and leaves me tired all the time. That means I’ve never been able to have a solid workout routine while on a reduced calorie diet.

The appeal of IF is mainly the following.

  1. I don’t have to decide what to eat so much as deciding to continue not eating. That’s a simpler decision for me.
  2. When I go to a friend’s house, I don’t have to worry about what they’re serving. If I’m in a fast during that time, I can just say, “I’m fasting right now” and people get it.
  3. IF proponents say that fasting won’t kill energy levels, which means I should be able to continue the workout regimen that I established in 2018.
  4. I should be able to get a little more flexibility in what I eat during my eating window. I don’t think bingeing is allowed, but I won’t have to be quite as restrictive when I do eat.

Designing My 2019 Eating Plan with Intermittent Fasting

When I started making my plan for 2019, I knew I wanted to make intermittent fasting part of it. After all, I’ve tried lots of other eating plans and nothing has worked…aside from that one year when I was also severely depressed and had no appetite…which, if you think about it, was most closely related to an intermittent fast.

Since IF is so simple, it doesn’t take much design or planning. In fact, all you have to “plan” is to plan to do nothing related to food for a minimum of 16 hours a day. Eight hours of that is sleep. Four hours of that is post-dinner satisfaction. So the other four hours to cover is the morning, which is just skipping breakfast and eating a late lunch.

Simple enough…

Time Restricted Eating, The Other Part of the “IF” Equation

If you are fasting for 16+ hours daily, that means you’re only eating during a short, specific window each day. That’s the essence of Time Restricted Eating. Since you are only taking in calories during a short window of time, your body can run its food processor more efficiently. Your body isn’t processing the last meal still when you put new food into the system.

The other benefits of Time Restricted Eating are:

  1. I should save some money by simply eating fewer meals, even if those meals are generally a bit larger than a typical calorie-restricted diet. After all, eating three 500 calorie meals is more expensive than a single 1500 calorie meal. It’s the same energy input for your body, but one meal is cheaper than three.
  2. I’ll save time throughout the day by not spending time eating. I typically spend about two hours total eating breakfast and lunch. That’s two hours I’m reclaiming every day when I choose to eat fewer meals.

I’m Curious About Regular, Prolonged Fasting

Most of my research has been around IF, but prolonged fasting is also something I’m interested in. Apparently, prolonged fasting has some amazing health benefits.

A prolonged fast is considered any fast that lasts longer than 24 hours. Many people fast once a year for a week or more as a cleanse or a spiritual commitment. The longest water fast, when you only drink water and nothing else, is over 380 days.

Some of the purported benefits of prolonged fasting are:

  1. Significant fat loss without muscle loss
  2. Decreased inflammatory responses in the body, like arthritis or migraines
  3. Increased mental focus
  4. Prolonged ketosis, where your body is burning fat cells for energy exclusively
  5. Increased production of stem cells
  6. Increased immune system response

These benefits aren’t entirely proven…at least not all of them. However, fat loss without muscle loss, prolonged ketosis, and increased mental focus are very real benefits.

So, that’s my 2019 eating plan. I’ve already begun the IF regimen and I’m looking for a chance to commit to a prolonged fast in a safe way and at a time that I can maintain the fast. Since we’re doing a good bit of travel in the first half of the year, that might be tough.

Technology Predictions that Will Impact Churches in 2019

Here are some high-level predictions for 2019 regarding technology and how I think those shifts will impact churches.

Snapchat Juke

Snapchat will roll out a new feature that will tempt churches to think it’s worth investing in, but it won’t be worth it. I think that feature will be focused on identity and/or community-building. Churches will see it as an opportunity to reach people, but they will be wrong.

Social Media Exit…SMEXIT?

The Great Social Media Exodus will continue and churches will lean more on messaging tools to build community instead of social networks. Messaging tools like chat rooms, forums, and email were the original social networks, anyway. They offer some privacy, safety, and controllability…all things that people and community leaders find valuable.

Facebook Unravels

Facebook’s privacy and legal woes will result in diminishing ROI on Facebook ads, leading churches to look for greener pastures for their advertising dollars. I hope evangelism training as a growth tactic will make a comeback, but I’m not optimistic about it.

Tik Tok Makes Eyes Roll

Tik Tok will continue to grow among “the youths” and Student Pastors across America will discover it, much to the chagrin of the other adults in their lives. Elders, deacons, adult volunteers will be rolling their eyes as the student pastor highlights the top posts every Wednesday night. The people over at Stuff You Can Use will make a free youth group game based on the Tik Tok concept.

Event Planning? Really?

A better event/get-together app will launch and capture massive mindshare among young millennials and older Gen-Zers, possibly even as part of Facebook Messenger or Instagram, but not built into Facebook proper. Churches will think they can get more people to show up with this new app. They might be right, but who knows…


TrainedUp will launch two new products and an international training initiative, delighting churches and missions organizations around the world. Everyone will be surprised when everything rolls out with no hiccups.

My Plans for 2019

I like making plans for the new year. I think it’s fun and motivating. I don’t think I’m more likely to accomplish New Year’s Resolutions than any other goal throughout the year. I just like to do it.

I used to smugly say that I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. If you’re a no-resolution kind of person, that’s okay. No hate from me.

But now I like it. I like having something new to start the year with and strive for. A full year feels like it’s long enough to set some ambitious goals and I tend to dream a little bigger.

How I Make Resolutions

When I make a New Year’s Resolution, it’s not always constrained to that year. Some of my resolutions are goal-based and I hope to hit those goals long before the end of the year. For example, I’d like to lose a certain amount of weight this year. That definitely should not take a year.

Some are longer than a year. For example, I’d like to thru-hike either the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. Neither of those will happen this year, but this is the year I set my eyes on a big hike. That means this year I’ll be working toward that big hike by making several smaller multi-day hikes.

For all of my New Year’s Resolutions, I start softly in October or November. This year I’ll be setting an exercise goal, related to my weight loss goal, and I started that exercise routine in October. I like to build habit and routine as momentum heading into the new year. I feel like this gives me a better chance of making it to Easter with consistency on habit-based goals.

Finally, I don’t talk about my specific goals for the new year. I used to, but I don’t anymore because I’ve read that talking about your goals isn’t helpful unless you’re working with an accountability partner who has some authority to help you accomplish your goals.

Apparently, if you talk about your goals before you accomplish them, you get the pleasant chemical release (dopamine?), which disincentivizes you from continuing toward your goals. The dopamine acts like a reward before you’ve earned it.

My Goal Categories This Year

The areas where I’m aiming to improve in 2019 are:

  • Health: exercise routine, eating habits, and two specific goals related to amount/volume of exercise completed in 2019 and a goal weight
  • Growth: book and Bible reading routine, number of books read this year, and learning a specific new skill I’ve been meaning to learn for a while
  • Business: revenue and profit margin growth, customer count growth, and launching a specific initiative aimed at international missionaries
  • Fun: travel-related goals, hiking and camping goal, and blogging/vlogging goals

When it comes to my health goals, I’ve already established the exercise habit, but the eating habits will be harder for me. My growth goals are more straight forward and can be planned with a calendar. My business goals are completely interdependent on my team, which means my business goals are really leadership goals. My travel and hiking trips are already planned and paid for the entire year, so those will be happening unless God intervenes.

What About You?

I’d love to hear how you plan for the new year and what your goal categories are. And if you’re documenting your progress online, share a link so I can follow along.

Camping in Palatka, December 2018

We spent the night at my brother’s camp south of Jacksonville. Great place, 700+ acres of dense woods and fire roads, two cabins, and a firing range. My first time shooting a bow and arrow, can you believe that?

Margot spent the night in a new place for the first time in a while. She slept well, which was a major encouragement for us since we’ll be traveling a lot this year and she’ll be sleeping many new places.

The boys got to play with their cousins and roam the woods looking for trouble…exactly what boys should be doing. The cherry on top was the slumber party in the bunk room with their cousins.

What comes after social media is dead?

It’s an old trope now, but social media is getting old. People are leaving social media and choosing alternatives. The social media migration is happening.

When we jumped on Myspace, it was because our friends were there and it was cool. The same was the case for Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, et al. We wanted to connect with people we already knew.

Social networks are less social now, provide less value, and some say they’re even bad for you. Increased social media engagement is directly linked to more loneliness. So if social media is bad and people are leaving, what comes next.

We’ve already seen several waves of people leaving social media. Sometimes people leave because of privacy concerns and sometimes it’s because they’re trying to kick an unhealthy addiction.

I’m not leaving social media, but my participation is slowly waning. I haven’t used Instagram in months. Facebook has been relegated to checking once a week. And Twitter is, well, I’m still using Twitter a lot.

When I see people leave a social media platform, I often wonder what they’ll do to stay connected to people. Those 1500 friends on Facebook aren’t going to email you updates to their life. The people you follow on Instagram aren’t going to send you text messages with pics.

Then it occurred to me. People leaving social media aren’t taking their online social graph with them. They’re deciding to go without the constant connection to hundreds of people. They’re opting for direct connection with a handful.

Instead of social media, they’re just messaging their friends. Some are using plain ol’ text messaging while others are using apps like Messenger or WhatsApp.

That direct connection to a handful of people is enticing. Honestly, there’s fewer than 50 people who I really care enough about to want to know what’s going on in their lives on a semi-regular basis.

Why would I fill my head with random life updates from people I don’t care about? It seems like a basic question that we’ve been asking since Twitter was Twttr, but it’s still the best question.

Like most people, I use messaging more than any other digital networking tool, but messaging isn’t enough for me. I want to share and document my life, for myself later and for my family now. Messaging doesn’t scratch that itch.

The next thing for me, as social media begins to fade, is to go back to my blogging roots. This blog is another attempt to regain ownership over how and where I share my life and who I share it with.

I have ideas for what I’ll post here, but I think it’ll form on it’s own as I go.