Be Ready Before

In my garden are planted green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes. This is not the first year I have grown a garden. Nor is it the first time I have planted those three vegetables.

It would be safe to say those three are my favorite summer treats, fresh-picked from my garden plants.

Be Ready Before : PDF of this post

Audio of this post:

Tomatoes have some interesting characteristics. If left to themselves, they like to play in the dirt. The branches are not sturdy enough to hold themselves upright. As they grow longer and larger, they droop until they are lying on the ground.

On the ground they are tempting food for bugs, slugs, diseases, and rot. On the ground is not the best place for a tomato to raise its young.

Tomatoes are suckers for suckers. If left to themselves, a sucker branch will grow vigorously from each branch-pit. These suckers suck nutrients from the main stem, eventually weakening the whole plant.

Suckers will masquerade as worthy arms of the mother plant, but they secretly use up the plant energy, and the tomatoes are all smaller and weaker when they mature.

I know what the life-cycle of the tomato plant will be before I put it in my garden. I know about the weakness in the limbs. I know about the disadvantages of the suckers. Before the problems show up, I know they will come.

What to do?

Take care of the problem before it shows up.

All garden stores have tomato cages. I bought some a few years ago. One is put in place as soon as I plant the baby.

Also, I pinch off each sucker before it gets even noticeable to the untrained eye. With my thumb and finger as close to the stem as possible, my thumbnail removes the offending growth.

Neither problem has showed up yet.

But, the solutions are already applied.

If I carelessly wait until the problems are obvious, branches will get broken as I try to pull and push them into the confines of the cage. Suckers will have already weakened the mother plant and the fruit will be stunted.

Prepare for the realization of the promise before the gift is evident.

I purchased a single 4.5 inch pot of cucumber plants. Yes, plants. The chosen one had four plants growing closely together in the center of the pot.

In past years I have carefully separated such clusters aand planted each one at the proper distance from its neighbor.

This year I left them as they were and planted the quads in one nest of dirt.

As soon as they were nestled into their new home, I fenced them in using a tomato cage. Four plants, four legs on the cage. The only problem was that the cuke vines will grow longer than the cage is tall.

Eventually, the plants will need additional support. So, this morning I cut several long bamboo stalks and placed them around the outside of the cage.

The plants are only now reaching to the lowest rung of the cage. No vertical growth problem exists.

The solution is in place before the problem exists.

I have done the same with the green bean plants. An 8-foot tee-pee is ready for the growth that will happen.

In each of these situations, the promise is present: growth beyond what is currently seen.

Life is mirrored in the garden experiences.

We can easily compare habits to the planting of seeds and their growth into automatic responses in life.

Habits are planted in our lives through repetition of actions and responses to life events.

If you don’t want them to grow and mature into problems, remove them while they are young.

If it is a desirable habit, shelter it and provide a safe place for it to mature and produce good fruit.

We need habits.

Habits control our lives.

Bad habits, habits that hinder or hurt us, should be weeded out of our lives.

Yes, bad habits can be changed. Can be removed. Can be replaced with good habits.

And we can place protections around ourselves to promote healthy growth. I recently wrote about Core Values. Personal Core Values work as fences or cages allowing us to grow, but within the boundaries of the values system in place in our lives.

In your personal and professional life as you work toward goals and achievements, put in place the performance and behaviors that are promised in what you are planting.

Core Values

Excellence, consistency, patience, leadership, teamwork, joy, integrity, innovation.

These characteristics, these values, are the supports that will keep your work from problems, will keep you flourishing and producing quality work-products (fruit).

Work to develop the solutions – the safeguards – before the problems show up.

When you truly believe you will receive it, you act as if you already have it.

Happy Gardening!


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What Values are in the Why?

Every decision that has ever been made, began with a Why.

Every action that has ever been taken, began with a Why.

PDF: What Values are in the Why

Audio of this post:

Sometimes we are unaware of the Why.
Sometimes we misunderstand the motivating Why.
Sometimes we deny the real Why.

Yet, there is always a Why.

To be more clear, there are always Whys. Seldom is there a single Why.

Whys can be either simple or complex.

Example of a Simple Why:

I shave in the evening. Why? I want my wife to snuggle with me. It’s gonna be dark, she won’t see my face. By morning my beard will have sprouted again. What’s the use? Snuggle is more likely when I have a clean-shaved face.

Example of a Complex Why:

I’m writing this article/post. Why? I have made a decision to operate a blog. I can’t have a blog unless I write posts.

After reading and studying, and trying different frequencies of writing, I chose a once-weekly schedule – Tuesday mornings.

In order to have time for research, reviewing, editing, finding or creating a photo companion that fits the post, uploading to my website, check of appearance, SEO, scheduling for publication – even Thursday is late.

I’m home-alone on Thursday mornings. Perfect writing opportunity.

If I run into obstacles, I still have the week-end. If I wait until Monday, whatever I have will have to be used.

I’ve made a public commitment to my readers, my family, myself, my former students, my Facebook Friends – myself.

I know, I already listed me. But a personal promise is weightier than some others. True to myself is BIG.

This endeavor is my opportunity to pass on to another generation, to another audience, to my legacy – what I have learned, how I have learned, from what I have learned – my life speaking from the podium of a technological classroom, pulpit, stage, radio broadcast.

What if – unknown to me – somewhere, someone is in desperate need of the ideas, instruction, promises – hope that I create with my life and my efforts. I may never know. But I can dream. I can create. I can offer my 70 years of partnering with life. Listening, watching, experiencing, continuing to run the race, falling, stumbling, standing up again, gaining knowledge and understanding and wisdom. Elder Wisdom.

If it is not shared, if it is hoarded, if it remains silent, it is gone when I am gone.

Why used to be straight-forward.

“That’s the way the Roberts men do.”
“That’s the way it’s always been done.”
“Because I said so.”
“So you can eat supper.”

And the thing gets done.

Hoe 5 acres of corn.
Harvest 5 acres of cucumbers for the pickle factory.
Walk 3 miles to school.

Because it had to be done.

Tired? Of course!
Hungry? You bet!
Did that matter? No!

Sometimes it was about what not to do.
“Don’t touch my radio!”
I didn’t. Why? Because Dad said not to.

Some decisions are made because it is the most practical option.
Some Whys satisfy an emotional need.
Some Whys gratify an ambition.
Some Whys are directly connected to a talent or skill that you have developed.

There are good Whys:
Charity, Compassion, Love, Citizenship, to make something better for yourself or someone else, to earn money to meet personal and family needs…

There are bad Whys:
Greed, Selfishness, Revenge, Hate…

Good Whys produce good emotional results.

Whys always come from a value system deep inside a person.

Those values have settled in over the years of growing up and getting educated. Home, school, church, and government combine to promote certain values within society.

Justice, Liberty, the Rule of Law. Those are values at the very core of American society.

Core Values operate best when they are known, when they are spelled out.

But, even when they are not knowingly part of decision-making, they still are present and involved.

There are many websites and services that will assist you to discover your Core Values.

Core Values Link 1 Here.            Core Values Link 2 Here.

Know your Core Values and use them to simplify decision-making.

You probably will have 4 or 5 in your list.

Make a poster of the list and put one in your home and where you work.
You will eventually have them memorized just from frequency of use.

When you have a decision to make, check your Core Values and evaluate the options. Stay true to your values.

After your Core Value list is completed, list your whys for a particular decision or option.
Attach one or more of your Core Values to each Why. Keep a written Journal of this process.

If you are married or have a family, include them in this process.

Knowing your Core Values is still important – maybe more so than in times past.

When you make a decision based on Core Values and someone (like a child) asks Why? You have a concrete answer – your Core Value.

My Core Values are:

Worship – I answer to a Higher Power for the use of my talents and opportunities.
Excellence – Do it to the best of my ability or don’t do it at all.
Integrity – Live the principles I profess. Do what I say I will do.
Respect – Treat others as I wish to be treated. Value life. Be compassionate.
Teamwork – Be an active member of the team; recognize the team’s accomplishments.
Innovation – Find and use new ways, new ideas, new knowledge.
Joy – Life is good, embrace it; focus on the good, the beautiful.
Service – Do for others who need help.

I applied my Core Values in the decisions I made in the Complex Why narrative above. If you are unsure how each provides guidance in my examples, send me a Comment or email.


Let me know if this article makes you think.

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What impact would it have on a business if its core values were posted for all customers to see?

Send your list of core values to me. Comment about your experiences in deciding on your list.

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Lazy Lake to River Rapids

I recently wrote, jobs are started by taking one step into the task. Jobs are completed by taking one step at a time toward the goal, then another, and another…

PDF of this post: Lazy Lake to River Rapids

I realize that the way you are right now is more comfortable than the unknown of change.

But life is all about change. It is impossible to live without changing. Physically.

Intellectually, you are designed for greatness.

Yet, emotionally, change is uncomfortable, and hard to achieve.

Floating on a Lazy Lake takes little effort and presents few challenges.

So it is in life.

The A-B-Cs of change, as noted in a recent article, are Acknowledge, Behold, and Create.  (Read that article here: ABCs of a New You link)

The Next Steps in your Journey, still using the alphabet pattern: D-E-F-G.

  • Decide: You must make the decision moment by moment to continue creating your new reality.

Change is a battle with yourself. Your habits are comfortable, and deep. It is important to use the Behold step to keep your goal in front of yourself. Pictures, plans, charts, routines, and schedules help you to remember what you have Decided to Achieve.

Repeat the decision regularly, in thoughts, out loud, and to family and trusted colleagues.

  • Effort: The work of change is not a one time metamorphosis that leaves you a new person. The effort must be consistent. It does get easier, though, as you achieve the desired changes.

Progress toward your goals will not be automatic at first. Schedule your effort into your current routines. Post the routines on walls, mirrors, in your planner, on the refrigerator. Enlist the support and companion-effort of your spouse or child.

  • Fortitude: Keep up the battle, Never Give Up.

Persistence, sticking to the decision, fortitude when the going gets tough – taking one more step when you’re tired or discouraged – those are the actions of a champion.

Read about other champions who have successfully traveled the path of change and accomplishment.

Shooting the rapids of a rock-strewn, turbulent cataract requires courage, and usually, a competent guide at the helm. At least until you have acquired the knowledge and skills of the guide.


  • Give: One of the most important laws of the universe is Service to Others. Giving. Helping others.

He who would be greatest among you will be servant to all. Matthew 23:11

Find someone that you can help achieve his or her goals for change. Become a cheer leader for another person working for change. Talk, share, encourage one another. Your end goals do not have to be identical, change can be the commonality on which to build your partnership.

Write about your journey. Perhaps starting with a blog or journal that can be later compiled into a best-selling motivational book that others will use to spur themselves on to a better life.

Podcast your experiences, successes, failures.

Writing and podcasting are external devices that will help to keep you going, push you to follow your plan for change. Accountability is an important component of change. When others are watching, listening, cooperating, expecting to hear progress reports on your journey, you will be more likely to persist.

Not Alphabetical

Decide, Effort, Fortitude, and Give should not be considered sequential. The behaviors and skills presented here in this order, are not bound to stay in alphabetical order as they are put into use.

The Alphabetical Device is designed to make the steps more easily remembered.

Life tends to become more of a white water river rapids adventure than a lazy lake float once you make the decision to change. Get ready for the ride.


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How to Begin

I stood there, looking at the Bahia grass waving at me in the afternoon breeze. Seven hours of school had already passed. On a normal day I would be on my bike riding home.

But not today. Today I had to begin mowing, or else the lawn would not be ready for the weekend.

Listen to audio of this post:

Click the link for a pdf of this post:  How to Begin

In a fit of enthusiasm and wonderment at the opportunity to earn $30, I had put my name in for the job of mowing the property occupied by our church and school. It was about three acres.

Three had seemed like such a small number when the job was being considered.

Three now seemed an impossible number.

My little Sears push mower with a Briggs & Stratton engine, at 22 inches wide, seemed as reluctant as I was to rev up and get started.

How many rows of 22 inches would it take to complete three acres?

At the young age of 12 I had never mowed any lawn larger than the meager patch of grass of the lawns in the trailer park where we lived. Four passes of the mower, and that job was completed.

I surveyed this job. I wanted each pass to be as long as possible. With trees and bushes and buildings, few long, straight paths were visible.

A few minutes passed, and no path through the grass had yet been made. Mockingbirds seemed to be mocking me. Blue jays jeered at me. Could I actually do this job?

Finally, I yanked on the starter rope and the machine eagerly jumped to life. The pistons pumped, the blade whirred.

In contrast, the boy stood immobile. Where to start?

With my fingers gripping tightly the handle, I finally stepped forward and heard the satisfying sound of grass being chewed up and then spit out the side chute.

I took another step, and enjoyed the sounds again. Resolutely, I pushed across the field.

I didn’t look behind to see what I had done. I fixed my eyes on the other side of the field and guided the machine to the target.

At last, I stopped, turned my grass-chewing tool 180 degrees and looked back at where I had started.

One pass.

I had successfully completed one pass in that vast sea of waving grass.

This was a job I could do, I reasoned.
If I can do one pass, I can do two, then three, then… And the job will be done!
One pass. That’s how a job is begun.

And that’s how a job is completed.
Every task! Every challenge!

Jobs are completed by starting.

On that day, long ago, I had begun the first of many experiences that taught me the value of One.

What is the Power of One?

It is you.
It is me.

It is one person at a time seeing what needs to be accomplished, and taking one step toward the goal.

  • Befriend one person who is alone.

  • Write one word.

  • Speak one word.

  • Make one change.

  • Set one goal.

  • One.

  • I can do One.

  • You can do One.

  • One day, Today.

  • Begin with one.

Each of those lines above represents one of Life’s gold nuggets.

Each is the beginning of a true vein of gold in a goldmine worth millions of dollars.

Fears and doubts will jump out and try to scare you and discourage you.

  • The task may seem too large.

  • The reward may seem inconsequential.

  • You may feel inadequate, overwhelmed, busy…

    Change is scary.

    One step is scary.

Find one friend that will be your cheer leader.

Find one friend for whom you can be the cheer leader.


When the task is worthy, when you are called, take that first step.

Mow that first pass.

If you are usually alone, ‘screw your courage to the sticking place,’ walk up to another loner, and say, “Hi! Can we talk?”

Your Power of One may be all that others are waiting for. But even if not, you will be changed by the effort.

Each change that you go through, prepares you for bigger things.

The Power of One becomes Two. Then Exponential change begins, which is amazing!

About a year after I began this three acre mowing job, I was offered a five acre job. I took it. And today, I am married to the daughter of the family that hired me. What if I had believed the job too large and had turned it down?

Step out.

Start the journey today.

Work in your goldmine.

One pass.

Experience The Power of exponential growth.

Go for the Gold!


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ABCs of a New You

Accept, Behold, Create

Changing one’s attitude is not complicated, but it requires hard work.

Click link to Download & Read a PDF of this post: ABCs of a New You

Or Listen to this post:

Step A: Accept the idea that a change is needed.

His mother worked with a former student of mine. When the mother continued to complain about her son’s behavior and grades, my former student encouraged her to enroll him in my classroom, saying, “Mr. Roberts can help him.”

He had chosen to hang with the wrong crowd at his middle school. His attitude was disrespectful. School was a bore. His grades fell almost off the alphabet. His mom was rightly worried.

Those four things are connected: hanging crowd, disrespect, boredom, bad grades.

There was nothing wrong with his brain capabilities. In fact, he was quite intelligent. But crowd and boredom and attitude combined to interfere with his academic achievement.

He had been kicked off the basketball team. That punctuated his bad attitude.

He really was behind in his academic skills and understanding. His choices during the past school year had determined that would be the case.

I have seen it over and over during my work in schools: Bad attitude results in bad grades which removes privileges. Then the student chooses to rebel against the loss of privileges with claims that the loss was the reason for the poor attitude, poor grades, poor respect.

Looking at it from the correct sequence takes courage and the willingness to admit, “I’m the one to blame.” “My choices caused this disappointment.” The school, his teachers, his parents – all warned him of the consequences of his choices.

Loss is always a disappointment.

But loss is always the result of poor choices.

To reverse the disappointment, and future losses, start making better choices.

Step B: Behold (Look at)

For the student I began telling about, acceptance and encouragement from the other students and the teachers gradually won him over. The influence of the other students who were eager to participate in class activities and work toward excellence, rubbed off on him, slowly but surely.

It really is true: Birds of a feather flock together. It is also true that you can change the flock you hang with and become like the new birds.

Choose which birds you want to be like, and join their flock.

Keep what and who you want to become always in front of your eyes – keep looking at the goals.

Write a description of the person you want to become.

A written list of characteristics and abilities is important.

Include attitude words like, happy, eager, proud…

Include behavior descriptors that you want to achieve, like, leader, successful, high-achiever…

Search on the Internet for ‘positive attitude words’ and ‘positive behavior words.’

Add to your list the ones that resonate with you.

I encouraged my student to make his new choices visible. “Write one word from your two lists on a colorful Post-It Note and put it on the mirror, on the wall, around the house, on the TV screen, in the kitchen,” was my Prescription.

The Bible tells us, By beholding we become changed. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

My student found pictures in magazines that he could cut out and the whole class helped him post them on his desk, computer, and around the classroom.

This exercise can be thought of like the carrots used to keep work animals moving forward, incentives for you to reach a little farther, try a little harder, work a little longer.

Step C: Create a new reality.

Creating begins with thoughts.

See the pictures and notes and change your thoughts.

Change your thoughts and change your life.

We think about the things that occupy our time and attention. Music, movies, video games, social media – the more time we spend on those activities, the harder it is to choose something better.

Change begins with a choice.

Replace those things in your life that are moving you away from your new goals.

Choose to spend more time with books, nature, exercise, helping others, gardening. Learn to draw. Learn to write poetry and stories.

Read a book.

Instead of watching a movie, read a book, maybe even the book that was used to create the movie.

Get a list of books that everyone should read by age 12.

Or a list of books that everyone should read in their 20s.

There are lists specifically for men and for women.

The habit of reading is critical to creating the ideal You.

Change the music you listen to.

It is a known psychological fact that we like the music with which we’re familiar. We’re familiar with the music we listen to. So changing music preferences is simply a matter of making the choice and acting on it.

I recommend Classical Music. Many studies have been done documenting the brain benefits of classical music.

Amazing Benefits of Classical Music

Brain Boost from Mozart Effect

Everything in life begins with a choice.

What you choose to put into your brain/mind determines your attitude.

Yet, your attitude can strongly influence the choices you make.

Don’t leave it to chance. Choose. Be the master of your attitude. Use your attitude to improve your life.

My student got his act together, graduated from 8th grade, and will soon enter college.

You, too, can achieve success.


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