Being an Iron Sharpener

Are you a blessing to those around you?  Should you be?  If so, what does it take to effectively speak into their lives, encouraging them and helping them to live a thriving life?

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Those Who Have Helped You

God has designed us for community—we grow through our interactions with others, as iron sharpens iron.  Who are some of the people who have been most positively influential in your life?  Are you glad they took time to sharpen you and help you grow?

You Are a Valuable Resource

Perhaps we know that we should be building up others and helping them to grow in wisdom and truth, but we find it challenging to speak into their life effectively.  Or sometimes, we may think, “who am I to think I can help them?”  It is only when we recognize that we don’t have all the answers that we can be used by God to work His purposes in the lives of those around us.

Two Keys Make Up the Bridge

Think of a bridge over a wide river.  One bank represents the thriving life we are all called to live.  The other bank represents a person God has placed in our life.  We desire that our friend has the thriving life that he wants, the life that’s effective for the Lord’s Kingdom and our community.  In order to bridge the space between, we will need two keys.

Knowing the What

The first key is knowledge and wisdom of what a thriving life looks like.  Those wise men who have mentored us are a good resource for this knowledge, and of course the principle source of all wisdom is the Holy Scriptures.  As we read and study God’s Word, we learn what He is like and over time we see a clearer and clearer picture of what a Christ-life really looks like.

Knowing the Who

The other key is personal.  We must know the person we’re speaking to.  It’s fine to share general knowledge—in fact, what you’re reading now is this very thing: generalized knowledge shared publically.  But to really build up others around us and be effective in being the iron sharpening iron, we must have relationships.  And not just realationships on the surface, but real and deep relationships.  How easy it is to let our interactions with others remain shallow and casual, but this is not the thriving life we’re called to.  Instead, we must choose to take an interest in people, really value them for who they are, and listen to them.

Start Now

Tomorrow, ask God whom he would have you reach out to.  Go to that person and ask them about their favorite topic:  themselves!  Start with something like, “so how long have you worked here?”  “Oh, really?  Well how did you come to work here?”  Listen to what they share, and ask them follow-up questions.  You will be surprised how quickly they will go into detail about who they are and what drives them.  Don’t fake interest, really be interested and keep asking them to explain more.  In so doing, you will have discovered the second key—cultivating authentic relationships.

Be a Blessing

With these two keys, we can all become more effective iron-sharpeners, ready to be used by our Heavenly Father to affect His purposes. We will be more of a blessing to those around us, and as we all grow in this path, we help each other to live more of a thriving life!

Choosing Your Smile

Who likes smiling? Buddy the elf, of course, but is he the only one? How about you? Do you enjoy smiling and laughing? What I’ve recently realized is that in the past, I had waited for something external to me to cause me to laugh or smile.  And in doing this, I gave up the power to control my state of mind, not to mention the state of mind of those around me. Are you interested in enjoying yourself more, and being around people who are enjoying themselves more?


It’s a Decision

The more time I spend around successful people, the more I realize that success is a planned event.  Winners are not blown about by their circumstances or their feelings.  It’s not that they don’t have feelings; they simply use their feelings to inform their thinking, and then choose to move forward positively.

It’s a matter of what’s a cause and what’s an effect.  Kids are captives to their feelings.  As we grow and mature, we need to learn to control our attitudes and our disposition. Try this–be angry while smiling.  It’s very difficult! When you make a decision to view your situation as great, to have expectation that good things will happen, you exert influence on the situation.

Give to Receive

I find, with rare exception, that approaching someone with a smile and treating them politely tends to cause them to smile at me and treat me politely.  There are some people who are so negative, that event this won’t work.  Determine who these people are by taking the action above, and then consider avoiding these people in the future.  😀 But you know, a great majority of people, when approached with a positive attitude, will respond in kind.

Waiting to Feel Like It

I have missed out on positive and enjoyable interactions many times, simply because I mixed up cause and effect.  I didn’t feel like smiling and expecting my interaction to be positive.  Because I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t do it, and I didn’t experience the benefit.  I have since found that smiling and positive expectations are a decision, and I may choose to have them or not.

The funny thing is, thise times that I don’t feel like being positive, but simply decided to smile and decided to expect good things, I often have found that my circumstances change, becoming more positive, and resulting in a more enjoyable time. As I enjoy this improved interaction, I naturally begin to smile and feel positive about the situation.

Adjusting Our Habits

How did I miss such a simple and now seemingly obvious truth? Waiting to be happy, depending on your circumstances, causes your emotions to be blown around by the winds of your circumstances.  Conversely, deciding intentionally what your outlook will be will tend to bring you more positive interactions, resulting in a more enjoyable experience and a naturally positive outlook.  Simple, right? then why do we miss it?

Likely this isn’t the first time you’ve heard that it’s good to be positive.  In fact, when you last heard or read this idea, it probably made you feel positive for a while.  But guess what? All that is is being influenced positively by positive circumstances! If that’s all you do, the positive outlook will only stay until a negative circumstance comes!

Instead, make a decision that you will choose to smile and be positive, even when your circumstances make you want to feel otherwise.  Acknowledge that you’re facing a tough situation, pick yourself up, choose to smile, and walk forward into your next successful moment. And as you do, enjoy the benefits of your thriving life!

New Habits for a New Life

Is there any area of your life that your wish was better?  Perhaps it’s a relationship that you would like to be strong and positive, but today is less than great.  Or maybe you are carrying a few more pounds of belly fat than you’d like.  Maybe your financial situation is a struggle, and you dream of days where you can go shopping for shoes and clothes without feeling guilty.  Whatever the area that you’d like to improve, there’s a simple and extremely effective recipe for attaining the thriving life you imagine.  It’s simple, not always easy, and requires faith and perseverance, which is why few people employ it.  Consequently, few people enjoy the harvest, and remain wishers.  But not you! Read on to hear how this timeless principle can work for you.


WHO knows?

The first step toward developing success in your desired area is to find someone who already has success in that area.  If you want a strong and healthy marriage, think of people around who have great marriages.  Offer to take them out for a cup of coffee and ask them what they do to keep their marriage healthy.  If you want to live healthier and get in better shape, find someone who’s already doing it and ask what they do each week to get healthy and fit.  This person is your WHO.

WHAT habits?

Ask questions of your WHO in order to discover the WHAT that will get the results you want.  Many great books are available as well, which contain excellent information on the things you need to get from where you are to success in any given area.  Again, make sure the author has credibility in the subject at hand (the author should have success himself in the area he’s giving you advice in), and study to identify exactly what you will need to do to succeed.  Hint:  this will involve doing something different than what you’ve been doing.

Now the key

Ok, we’ve done the two easy parts, now all that’s left is the hard one.  Finding credibile sources is relatively straightforward.  Reading and asking questions of your experts to determine what to do is pretty simple too.  And many many people do these two things, and yet do not achive the results they want.  In many cases, it is for the simple reason that they did not stay the course.  You see, there must be consistant right action for period of time, a period during which the results of the new habit are not visible.  Take a new workout regimen for example.  How much different do you look after your first workout?  Sweaty, I know, but I mean after your shower!  Not much different.  What about after three workouts? Four?  Fifteen?

Right action, repeat, right action, repeat

You see, you may have a great workout program that will move you exactly in the direction you want to go.  If you sought advise from a credible expert to obtain the program (e.g. you have been following the ThriveFit regimen), your program is perfect for you.  But if you look back during week two to check your results, you’ll likely find little but disappointment.  You’ve been working hard, you’re supposedly doing the right things, but you still weigh ten pounds too much!  What gives?!  You think, “All this hard work, all this study and dedication, and I’m not getting any closer to my goal!  I should just give up and stay where I am.  At least then I’d have more time to relax and watch TV or something….”

Don’t Give Up!

And here is where we separate those who succeed from those who only dream and wish that things were better.  I’m all for dreaming of a better life, and I encourage you to do so.  But I would further challenge you to take your dreams and find a WHO, who will tell you the WHAT that you need to reach your dreams.  And finally, I challenge you to commit to doing that WHAT cosistantly, persistently, for a long period of time.  Do not be disuded by the non-winners and non-experts who try to take you off course.  Understand that your results will come in time, and have faith in the process.  Two paths are before you today:  right action toward your desired result, or life as usual.  Which will you choose?

Who’s your Neighbor?

Do you consider yourself to be a friendly person?  Would the people who see you, whether at work, as you leave your house, or at the supermarket, speak of how you sought them out in friendship and treated them great?  Do you routinely smile and greet those you pass on the street or in the hall, or is your daily focus primarily on yourself?


Two Ignore, One Helps

Jesus was once asked by religious leaders who he considered to be his neighbor.  He responded with a familiar parable, the story of the Good Samaritan.  In this parable, we learn of a man who is beaten and robbed.  A few of his countrymen see his helpless condition, yet pass by on the other side of the road.  In contrast, a Samaritan, who is naturally an enemy to the Jewish victim, yet seeks him out, takes him to a doctor, and even covers the expenses for the man’s care.

We often hear this parable as a nice story, meant simply to induce us to be kind.  But remember back to what question Jesus was actually responding to when He told this story.  He was asked who his neighbor was.  Understanding this context gives a deeper meaning to the story than the simple truth that we are to be kind.

Look for Needs

The people of Jesus’ day, much like most people in our day, tended to happily exist in their own small sphere of influence, engaging with people who were like them and who they were familiar with.  Through this parable, Jesus shows clearly that we are to intentionally seek out others, others who may not be very much like us, in order to meet their needs.

The Greatest Need

What is the greatest need which many of our neighbors have?  For any who do not know Christ personally, who have not been washed and cleansed through faith in Christ, their greatest need is salvation of their soul.  Without atonement, mankind is separated from God’s good presence, and any who perish without Jesus will face eternity without Him.  The need for salvation is so widespread, little recognized, and of utmost importance that, if we are looking, we will see it everywhere.

This is the condition of many people we see and walk by each day.  The strangers who we’re ignoring are desperately in need of the truth, the truth that we know.  But someone needs to tell them.  Not only that, but most people aren’t particularly receptive to ideas unfamiliar to them being expressed by strangers.  So what can we do?  We share the gospel with them as a friend.

Be a Friend

Friendship doesn’t come instantaneously, but it can be cultivated in a relatively short period of time.  Start simply by adopting the habit of greeting and smiling at the people who cross your path each day.  You’ll quickly find that a great many people are eager to engage with you, particularly if you’ll ask them open-ended questions about themselves.

As you cultivate friendships with your neighbors, be listening for what they value.  Do they desire wisdom? Or perhaps peace and something solid to rely on?  Or maybe they’re contemplating what happens after death because of a recent loss in their family.  Remember that when you have Jesus, you have the truth and the life that our world desperately needs.  Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, share the truth, and let Jesus call out to the people in your life using you as His mouthpiece.  To God be the glory!

Your Surroundings

Imagine I had a very valuable and powerful computer, capable of extraordinary things and able to make me healthy, happy, and wealthy.  What should I do with this incredible machine?  If I asked you who I should have program it for me, who would you recommend?  Should I allow random coworkers, family members, or friends to load whatever content they want into my computer?


Your Incredible Mind

Guess what—you do have a very powerful computer that can get you anything you want in life.  It’s called your brain!  Scientists are continually amazed at the incredible complexity and capability of the human mind.  And, just like a computer, your brain can be programmed.  In fact, your brain is being programmed whether you realize it or not!

The problem with most of us is that we are simply not intentional about what we allow to program our brains.  We often let the foolish words of well-meaning people invade our minds and keep us from growing to the heights we’re capable of.  One may try something great, fail, and accept failure as part of his life.  He then spreads his bile to those around him, discouraging others from pursuing their dreams, simply because he has failed, given up, and accepted defeat.

Filtering What Goes In

You have a choice.  You can spend time around the failure of a man described in the previous paragraph, letting his rotten ideas and programming spoil your mind.  Or, you can intentionally limit your time around such people and develop a filter for the junk ideas they spew.  Turning positively, you can seek out successful people, people who have achieved what you want and are seeking to improve themselves further still, and allow them to speak positive ideas into your mind.

Choose Your Associations Wisely

Success always requires hard work and sacrifice.  You can decide to accept your status quo as it is now and fill your life with distraction and entertainment.  Or, you can get around people who challenge, inspire, and motivate you.  The company you keep and the advice you follow will create the path and future of your life.  Will the path you’re on today lead to a thriving life?

Are You Busy?

We are busy people.  If you’re like most of us these days, you fill your plate to overflowing with activities, work, fun, family, church, sports, and many many other things.  Often, these things bring benefits to our lives, although they can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed.  Worse still, we’re not always too accurate in our estimation of how many hours a new commitment will require, and this can lead to a schedule packed full of activities that might not quite line up with our dreams, desires, and priorities.  Is there any way to gain control of our schedules?


Money and Time

Just as it is with money, time often gets away with us.  Without intentional planning, the loudest cries for our attention get our time and money first, leaving other, more important priorities lacking.  A telltale sign of this is when we fine ourselves saying, “Oh, I’d love to do something like that, but I just don’t have the time!”  It doesn’t take too much reflection to realize how preposterous this statement is.  As if any person is given any more or less than 24 hours each day!  We all make choices each day how we will spend our hours.  It’s ok if you don’t want to prioritize a fitness regimen in your life, but don’t fool yourself by saying you don’t have time to go to the gym.

Be Real with Yourself

Think of it this way:  you, just like the rest of us, have 168 hours each week.  Typically, work will consume something like 45 of them and if you sleep 8 hours a night, that’s another 56.  So, how will you spend the other 67 hours?

Just as with budgeting money, budgeting our time will help us elevate our highest priorities first, and let the things that matter least fill in the gaps.  Instead of spending 24 hours watching TV this week, why not reduce it to 20 and invest those 4 hours into growing your marriage or relationship with another important person in your life?

You Can Have It; Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of wistfully wishing for things we’d like in our life, but failing to take any action in pursuit of those things.  What do you really want?  Can you make a decision today to spend three hours next week pursuing it?  Maybe all you can do during those three hours is some research.  But guess what?  The following week, you’ll be armed with the info you need to take the next step, then the next one, on and on until you reach the place you want to be.  The journey to success may be long, but what’s that to you—you’ve got time!  😀

What Are You Pouring In?

In my garden out back of our house, I planted tomato, pepper, and squash plants this spring.  I did not plant only a single seed of each, but many seeds of each type.  What would you think of me if I say I am disappointed today that I have no apple trees, cactus plants, or strawberries growing?  Would you think me foolish?  What if I went further to say that I am frustrated that so many tomato, pepper, and squash plants are growing?  Surely then you’d think me strange, right?


What Are You Growing

While we might think this sort of behavior foolish, we tend quite often to act this way when it comes to what we plant in ourselves.  We desire to have good things happen to us, to have a life full or rich relationships and success, but how can these things grow if they haven’t been planted?  Take this past week for example:  how much time did you spend around positive, excited winners?  Did you learn things directly from leaders or mentors of yours by listening to their wisdom as they poured their experience into you?  If not, how can you expect the plants of success to grow?  There are no seeds to even start with!

Conversely, how much time in the past week have you spent letting negative messages pour into your head?  Have you listened to others around you complain about things they don’t like or blame others for the situations they find themselves in?  Have you spent many hours letting the TV be your teacher?  Are the shows than you watch filled with positive messages of overcoming difficulty through persistence and teamwork, or are they overly-sexualized sitcoms that display selfishness, destruction, or belittling others.  If the latter, what do you think these seeds will grow into within the garden of your mind?

Understand the Connections

Our lives are in much more of our own control than we often realize.  Wise men make the connection between what’s poured into the mind today and the situations we find ourselves in tomorrow. Will you take the step of intentionally pouring in an shielding yourself from the bad?  Put distance between yourself and the habits of the masses, and watch your life of success grow and flourish!

What’s the thread?

What’s all about?  Perhaps you noticed last week the feature of the ThriveFit training program and took a moment to learn how an Olympic lift can help you get in great shape and look and feel better.  Maybe you scrolled down to see the previous week’s post about eternity and what God has planned for His children.  After that, you clicked the ThriveWealthy tab on the top menu and downloaded the free cashflow planning tool, including instructions for getting your finances in order.  Are these topics related?  What connects these seemingly unrelated ideas?

oven mitts!

You’re not an ice-cube tray

The threads that connect these aspects of life are at the very core of our mission here at TotalThriver. A prevalent notion in our culture today is the idea that we exist as individuals with different compartments, which are separate and distinct from each other.  For example, a man may delude himself by thinking, “Sure, I’m harsh and unsympathetic at work, and sometimes I take advantage of my employees, but that has nothing to do with my relationship with my wife and kids.  Who I am at work is not who I am at home.”

Contrast this with the wisdom of God’s Word.  In Proverbs 23, we read:

6 Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
Or desire his delicacies;

7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
He says to you, “Eat and drink!”
But his heart is not with you.

This is a teaching given throughout the Bible–that the heart is where our behavior and actions originate.  Similarly, Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Address the real problem

All of us want to thrive in life–and particularly those of you who’ve come to this site to find tools and resources to do just that.  But the first step in moving forward is to recognize that our “less than thriving” behaviors in the various aspects of our lives are rooted in our heart.  The man who mistreats his employees has a heart problem.  And this problem of the heart will manifest itself everywhere in his life.

To insist that poor behavior in one area in life has nothing to do with other areas of life is dangerous because it refuses to recognize the real connections within your own person.  And without clear understanding of the cause of a problem, no true change can be made.

What are your “unseen connections?”

Take a moment to consider personally, “what aspects of my life have I been neglecting?”  If your life is a wheel made up of five spokes (physical, financial, spiritual, relational, career), which spoke is deficient and giving you a wobbly wheel?

Try to seek out the connections between parts of life where you aren’t thriving and the negative effects that they produce in other areas of your life.  Do you hate your job?  Do you then come home angry and fight with your spouse?  Or perhaps you’ve not exercised in months, and notice that you just don’t have the energy level to care for your family that you once did.  By identifying the negative results that you most dislike and connecting them to their causes, you’ll find the motivation to make the investments of time and energy needed to thrive in one area, bringing success in both areas.

The bonus

That’s what’s so great about starting to understand how these areas relate–you improve the area that needs improvement, but you get a bonus in other areas.  The clearest example of this is the area of fitness.  When you spend time exercising your body properly, you’ll notice an improvement to your physique.  But you get a bonus benefit in your work life, as you have better energy levels and can be more productive.  And you’ll likely notice an improved relationship with your spouse, as your frustrations have been taken out on a barbell instead of your lover!

The connections between these areas of life are complex and seemingly infinite.  Some, like the examples above, can be understood and generalized.  Others are known by God alone.  Yet as we understand more and more that our behavior and the results of our behavior stem from the heart, we work to thrive in each area to the satisfaction of ourselves and the glory of our Maker.

Who’s Programming You?

We are all given a limited amount of time in this life, and we all want to make the most of it.  But how intentional are we about who we spend our time with?  For good or for ill, the people we spend the lion’s share of our time with will impact who we become.  Are your associations building you into the type of person you want to be?

a formal affair

Anyone Bringing You Down?

It’s been said that your income will be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  I contend that often your habits, worldview, and maybe even your physique will also tend to mirror that of the people you let into the moments and hours of your life.  If you’re a part of a group of successful people, over time you’ll tend to build yourself into a successful person too.  If you hang around with losers, you’re well on your way to becoming one.

Observe the Words

A good way to distinguish successful people whom you’ll want to model from the kind of people who’ll bring you down is to listen to what they’re predominantly talking about.  Are they more positive and encouraging?  Or do they spend a good deal of time speaking about others negatively?  Is their conversation about future goals they have, and the means they’re planning to accomplish those goals?  Or are there frequent diatribes of blame:  I’d be better off but for what so and so did; If I weren’t so unlucky, I wouldn’t have all these problems.  A person who you want shaping your character will be speaking positively about future events more than he’ll be speaking negatively about past ones.

Avoid Pride

One quick disclaimer before you think I recommend sitting in your own personal ivory tower looking down on all the poor untouchables down there: there is a distinction between choosing to be part of a toxic circle of friends and spending time with people in order to evangelize, mentor, or disciple them.  The former is hazardous to your future, the latter is vital.  Only make sure that you’re spending enough time with strong leaders that you are strong enough yourself to influence a weaker group, rather than being influenced by it.

Can I Do That?

But where can I find a group of strong and godly leaders?  Why would they want to hang out with me?  I have two answers to this point—a short term and a long term answer.  First, you already know a few winners, and I think if you’ll spend a few moments considering it, you can think of few high-quality people in your life who’d answer your phone call.  Start there.  As you intentionally work on those relationships, you’ll be exposed to other winners naturally, and better than that, you’ll actually start to see and recognize the qualities of good leaders in those around you.  And one great thing about strong, godly, successful leaders is that they absolutely love to help people like you who are looking to grow themselves!

Own Your Time

Limit your time around negative people.  Particularly if your core group is of this sort, you’ll have a hard time keeping your distance, but you must gradually ramp down the time and replace it with time with positive role models.  If your negative group is family, you’ve got an even more challenging task.  But you must do it—for your good and ultimately theirs.  Get strong enough over time by being with winners that you’re capable of being around the weaker group and influencing those people positively.  And finally, recognize that you can create boundaries with people—even if those boundaries make people mad.  In fact, if your boundary makes a person mad, they’ve just identified themselves as the kind of person that you definitely need to set boundaries with!  A winner will respect others’ boundaries, and even if he feels slighted, he’ll approach you in a gentle and respectful manner, because that’s how winners behave.

Simple, Not Easy

Today’s lesson can be a tough one to live, particularly if the discussion of “toxic groups” brings the names of a few close friends to mind.  But just as the flight staff tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child, the best way to help your negative friends is to become a real leader yourself.  We’re here for you along the way, as is our Father in heaven.  Follow Him first and you’ll never be last.

Mortals Only — Part II

Several weeks ago, we shared the shocking news that yes, even TotalThriver members will one day face their mortality.  Since death is one day closer today than it was yesterday, we highlighted the importance of getting good life insurance in place.

Today, we’ll explore another aspect of financial planning related to caring for your loved ones after you are gone:  estate planning.

I’ll get to it tomorrow…..

Though not always the most glamorous or delightful topic, getting a will in place is a vital part of any good financial plan.  Even though we all know that death will catch us some day, we seem to be in denial that that day is actually coming.  According to a recent survey conducted by, nearly 60% of American adults do not have a will (

Obviously, getting your will in order doesn’t benefit you–you’ve got to be dead to use it!  But it does provide great benefit to your family and other loved ones.  Some people think that drafting a will for themself is unnecessary, because, “of course, everyone knows that I’d want to leave everything to _______.”  The problem is that the one person who makes the call–the judge–doesn’t know you!  So, the only way to make sure that your antique rifle collection goes to your son and not your crazy old hunting buddy is to write down your wishes.  Otherwise, your son may have to spend thousands of dollars in court fighting for what’s rightfully his.

Get it done right

The best option for getting a will done properly is to consult with a local attorney who specializes in estate planning.  If you live in the Omaha area, I can personally recommend Lynne Timmerman Fees, an experienced professional with great qualifications.  Find out more about her practice here.

Although hiring a professional is the only way to be assured that your will is done properly, sometimes using generic forms can be a cheaper alternative.  Places like can be a good stepping-stone for recent grads or families struggling financially who need to get a will in place but can’t afford an attorney right now.  Of course, if this is you, just keep following us at TotalThriver and we’ll have you in a strong financial position in no time!

Demonstrate your love

In closing, although estate planning is not particularly glamorous, it is an essential part of your financial life.  To ignore the fact that you need a will is to do a disservice to your loved ones, and create legal battles for your money and property in the months and years following your death.  Won’t you take these steps today to love your family well?  The small investment of time and money you’ll make today will pay large dividends when they’re needed most.