I Wrote a Book!

So after 3 years to write it,  2 years to edit it, 1 year of ignoring it off and on, and now 2 months of learning the publishing side of Amazon, I can finally say it’s here!

I Wrote a Book!

It’s called:   TwentySomething: Surviving the Ten Most Important Years of Your Life.

You can get it on kindle or paperback at Amazon. Here’s the highlights from the back cover.

How do I navigate the ups and downs of college? What kind of career do I want? How do I know if I should marry this person? What kind of faith or morals should I have in my twenties? Should I be investing or have a budget? What about the military? How do I deal with death and other negative emotions? Should I already have life and career goals? What kind of mindset and work ethic do I need to be successful? How do I figure all this out on my own?

These are the issues and questions that almost every young adult will have to work through in their twenties. My book offers advice based on my experiences both good and bad regarding the subject matter from a Christian perspective. My goal is to give twentysomethings a framework or friendly advice that they “just couldn’t listen to from their parents” and help them navigate some of life’s difficulties a little easier. Sometimes that involves brutal honesty from an outsider who is willing to challenge you to think deep and hard about life issues. Young adults will enjoy a few laughs as well as the refreshing honesty of another young adult trying to pay it forward and pass along some valuable lessons learned along the way.

Aimed at young adults aged 18-30 TwentySomething offers simple, yet profound advice based on the experiences of my life and passing along that knowledge in the form of “If I knew what I know now at 29 when I was 23, I would have saved myself a lot of grief/heartache/trouble, etc.”

The Backstory:

I got this idea while riding on a plane in 2016. I jotted down chapter ideas in my email and it grew from there. I would work on it occasionally and hammer out a chapter. Sometimes I would take months long breaks from it. Sometimes I forgot about it. I like the process of creativity, however inspiration is not always consistent. Throw in a busy life, and some of the chapters cover hard emotional topics, so it took a while to get it out of my brain and onto paper.

Then comes the practical side of being creative. Do I publish? Do I throw it away? Am I trying to monetize this? Does anyone really care what I have to say? What if people don’t like it? etc, etc.

In the end, it takes a long time to put the doubt and fear away and realize a few things. Being creative is a part of who I am. I must continually learn to not base my self-worth or sense of accomplishment based on what others think of me. Good or Bad. There will always be fans and critics of anything you create and put out into the world, whether it be music, books, podcasts, art, etc. So I’m going to continue to be creative and put my work out there for others as often as I can convince myself to do so. If other people receive joy or learn something from it, then great! If not, I will shrug it off and drive on with my life and continue to be creative.

All that to say, I’m extremely excited and proud to put this out there! I hope this book can help some young kids in their twenties to figure out some of life and help them be more successful. Go pick up a copy and check it out!

TwentySomething: Surviving the Ten Most Important Years of Your Life

Later,
Derek

Nothing else matters but the Gospel

This weekend I had the privilege to attend a conference at church. It’s aim was to get men to focus on God. To stop being fence straddlers and live for Jesus. Part of me was dreading it earlier in the week, and another part of me was encouraged. It was exactly what I needed in this busy time of my life.

Time for a confession: I imagine some of you may be like me. You’ve come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but you’ve gotten busy due to life and compartmentalized Jesus away. I’ll give Jesus this day or that relationship, but not my work friends. Or I’ll give Jesus this money, but that side income shouldn’t count for tithe because I want a new xyz.  I’ll work on developing this relationship because it’s easier than reaching out to new people. I can flirt with this sin because I can handle it unlike others. I can act one way with one group of friends but pretend God doesn’t exist with another group of friends. And on and on it goes. We rationalize it away in our mind.

I’m guilty. I’ve gotten complacent. I’ve gotten lazy. I’ll amen the sermon on Sunday, and be telling people where to get off at work the next day in no uncertain 4 letter terms. I’ll rationalize it all away with the best of them. “I’m still doing pretty good.” “I’ll talk to them about Jesus next week.”

Except I don’t.

When I get distracted and busy, I live like hell. Sure I’m a decent person, but you wouldn’t know from any of my actions or words that I’m claiming the name of Jesus. Then I let my failures beat me down and talk me out of witnessing. For FAR TOO LONG.

NO LONGER!!

God kicked my butt this weekend. I needed it so bad. I’ve gotten so distracted and lost focus of what really matters. The saving power of the Gospel is ALL that matters. Not my job. Not selling my house. Not my career. Not my four kids. Not my stress and anxiety. Not my marriage. Not my studies. Not my Army career. Not my money. Not my wants. Not my level of physical fitness. Not my Ego. Not my need for affirmation. None of those things matter. I’ve let all of those take 1st priority at some time and not kept God in focus. Sure those things are important to manage and attend to, but I hadn’t been putting God first for far too long. I had just let life consume me and I was barely treading water while my heart grew dimmer and dimmer from not focusing on God.

So I’m starting afresh. I don’t care about the outcomes anymore. I’m giving it all to God. I can’t keep trying to fix everything myself. Only God can do the fixing in my heart and yours. I’m not ashamed to claim Jesus as my Savior. I want to tell you about it as well. I don’t care if I loose my job, either my civilian or military career, my church friends, my work friends, or my family members. And trust me, being a husband and father of four children, giving my career,(my livelihood, my method of providing for my family) over to God was not an easy task. He wants it all. He’s waiting to meet you right where you are if you’ll just turn from your idols (no matter how well intentioned they are) and come to him at the Cross.

And yes, some of you who know me from different aspects of my life will scoff and say, “See, he’s no better than me. Those Christians are a huge hypocritical joke.” And you’re absolutely right. I am a hypocrite. I am a sinner. I am flawed. Massively. I struggle with sin. A lot. I fail A lot.  Only by God’s grace can I say, “Yes I’ve messed up a lot and majorly at times.” But I give that to God. I would point you to the cross and the gospel of Jesus. He came to Save and heal the sick. And it’s not a one time thing. God is continually working in us to make us better after he saves us. When you can finally put your Ego to the side and accept God’s forgiveness and learn to forgive yourself as well, it’s ok to be a flawed human and tell others about Jesus. I don’t think he would want a perfect person to tell about him anyway. It might come off as snobbish.

Acts 20:24 says “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”

May our lives point others to the gospel.

I am no longer ashamed. I will work to be bolder and share Jesus with others. I’m starting with admitting that online which is a big part of our lives and personas we present to others. I want to be authentic. So ignore and block away if you must, it won’t hurt my feelings. I will shake the dust of my feet and move on. I would love to talk with you about Jesus. The bible commands me to be ready to share. So I’m going to be ready. That’s scary for an introvert like me. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I urge you to seek out Jesus if you don’t know him in your life. Starting with these verses.

Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin id death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 10:9 – That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.

Romans 10:13 For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be Saved.

John 3:16-17 – For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.

It really is as simple as those verses explain. Believe it. Confess your sins and turn to Jesus. Have Faith the Bible is absolutely true. Even if you don’t understand it all yet. Learn to study it and live by the principles it provides. Find a Bible believing church and have fellowship.

If you have questions or want to talk, please reach out to me or others. I would be happy to do my best to answer them or guide you to better resources than just myself.

And Finally, if you are already a Christian, and you find yourself off the path, distracted, bogged down in the business of life, parenting, work, disease, hurt, and more. Find a way to get away from that all. Reset your priorities and focus on God. Start living the great commission unashamed. Our purpose is to glorify God. Not have comfortable middle class lives and cool church friends. Tell people about Jesus as if their eternal resting place in Heaven or Hell depends on it. Because it really does. We often loose focus and don’t consider the reality of hell and the eternal separation of God that it is. Read up on it. It’s real. All we have to do is tell others about Jesus. God will do the work and the saving. No need to worry about the hard stuff. Leave that to God. He can do amazing things in your life. If you’ll just let him.

I pray you will find the Love of God.

-Derek

Meet Benjamin Joshua!

On Friday January 27th, 2017 at 12:32am, My 4th child was born. Benjamin Joshua Creason. He is a pretty cool little kid and he is doing well. Both him and mom are back at home and settling  in nicely. Here are a few pics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many people know, I like to keep the names of my children a secret until they are born. This is usually for a few different reasons. Mostly its just fun and adds to the excitement.  For our 4th child, we chose to honor some soldiers with the naming  of our son. Here is the meaning behind his name.

Benjamin.  Benjamin’s 1st name was in honor of a fallen soldier named Seargent First Class (SFC) Benjamin Wise. SFC Benjamin Wise died January 15, 2012 from injuries sustained in combat days earlier. You can read a pretty in depth expose’ on him and his family and watch a 4 part video here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/local/2014/01/18/one-family-two-sacrifices/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I asked a friend of mine who knew Ben personally and had deployed with him to tell me what he meant to him.

“Ben was what I would call, the personification of the quiet professional. He was my team leader in the scout platoon way back when, and he never really yelled much. At times I wondered if shit hit the fan if he’d be any good, but he was, much more than others. When he decided to go SF (Special Forces), he didn’t make a big deal out of it like most others, he just did it. If people saw him working out or rucking afterwards and asked him why, he just said he was training for selection. He didn’t lie about, but he never boasted about. He was one of the smartest people I know. He got 18d (Special Forces Medical Sergeant) which is retarded hard, and his language was Mandarin Chinese, the hardest language to qualify for. Even when I saw him in passing up in Washington, he remembered everything about me. He genuinely cared about people. I’ve had leaders and friends I’ve looked up to, and every single one has failed me. But he never did, and he is still my role model as a leader, soldier, and father. End state: smart, empathetic, quite professional, good God fearing man.” – SFC Joshua King

My Response to Josh was that he “Sounds like an awesome guy. Everything we could hope and strive to be as leaders ourselves. I’m bummed I never had the opportunity to meet him.” Josh agreed as well and stated, “Yah, if I ever had a boy, he’s what I would want him to grow up to be. Doesn’t necessarily have to be in the military, just have that work ethic and personality.”

SFC Benjamin Wise had earned the following awards and medals.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze star Medal, the NATO Medal, three Army Commendation Medals , three Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, four Iraq Campaign Medals, three Afghan Campaign Medals, Global War on Terror Service Medal, two Overseas Service Ribbons, three Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Badge. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin’s first name is in honor of a great fallen warrior. An American Soldier, through and through.

Benjamin’s middle name is Joshua. This is in honor of my best friend Sergeant First Class Joshua King. I have known Josh since we were both in kindergarten. We grew up together, although most often far apart by many states. We always stayed in touch through the years and visit each other often when we are in the same town for a few minutes at a time. I got the opportunity to be his best man at his wedding. During my toast to him and Luana, I got to explain a little bit of how Josh’s leadership has been an example to me. Now I can expound on it some more here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend Josh joined the Army right after high school. He is still in and serving proudly. He has deployed 3 times to Iraq and is prepping for his 4th deployment. He has also been a Drill Sergeant and earned his Sapper tab. He recently was promoted to Sergeant First Class (E-7). While I was off at college earning my undergrad, he was working his way up through the infantry gaining experience in Iraq.

Josh is a super fun and easy going guy. He’s a no nonsense get the job done kind of guy who loves to be silly and crack jokes along the way. He embodies two aspects of character that I strive for. Bravery and the Never Quit mentality. If you ask Josh, he would probably deny having these traits. He would just say that he’s doing his job and embracing the suck. Josh continues to go when called for deployments. He is an 11B which is an InfantryMan. For those of you who don’t know, the Infantry have the hardest job in the Army. They get to do what other people don’t want to do or wish that they could do. He’s gone to Iraq 3 times. He’s fought in many battles. He’s lost fellow soldiers.

Josh has also completed some very tough schools in the Army. He became a Drill Sergeant and passed Drill Sergeant school. He passed Sapper school. He has attempted others schools such as Ranger school and Selection (Special Forces) and not quite achieved those goals he has for himself. This aspect is where I have learned much from him. I have had many conversations with him after he failed a high speed school such as Ranger school. I asked him, “How do you deal with failure? Especially when you wanted it so bad and trained so hard for it? Josh’s answer was simple. He said, “You give yourself a day or two to completely mope around, feel sorry for yourself, be sad, be mad, whatever. Then you get up the next day, and get back at it.” The mindset was simple. Experience setback, even major life or career setback,  get over it, and get back up and go again. I have watched Josh experience this a few times for a school that he really wants. It has been devastating to him at times. But I also saw him get back up and go to work the next day and do his best to achieve the next tasks that are given to him. That is the essence of the never quit mindset I spoke of. To get back up each day and start again. No matter how good or bad the previous day was.

Josh is also the bravest guy I know. None of my other friends joined the infantry and did 3 tours in Iraq. Josh would just say he was doing his job and got to shoot cool weapons. But it takes some courage inside of you to volunteer for a dangerous job like that and then to go out and do it over and over again. His willingness to serve and his ability to go do a very difficult job was one of the reasons that 8 years later, I went and enlisted in the Army myself. I hope to honor his bravery by doing the best that I can and learning to exhibit a never quit attitude during the hardships I face in the military. He is an excellent Non-Commissioned-Officer (NCO) and a leader as well a great friend to get to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both SFC Benjamin Wise and SFC Joshua King are great men who love God, their families, and their brother’s in arms. They exhibit extremely high class character traits that I hope and strive to achieve in my personal life. In naming my son after them, I hope to honor them and remind myself to teach my son how to embody those character traits as he grows into a man.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. -John 15:13

Later,
Derek

Goals

So it’s a new year. Which means a new round of goals. No, not silly resolutions that you don’t take seriously. It’s time for you to sit down and spend a few minutes (if not hours or days) and think about what you want to achieve and what you actually can achieve.  Here are the guidelines I used for last year and this year.

  • Your goals must be specific.
  • Your goals must be measurable.
  • Your goals must have a time limit.
  • Your goals must be your own.
  • Your goals must be in writing.

I used the following categories and tried not to put more than 5 or 6 goals in each category.

  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Career
  • Family
  • Financial
  • Social

So I did this for the first time last year. I sat down and wrote out my goals at the beginning of January for the entire 2016 year. I tracked them in a spreadsheet and marked them off throughout the year as I achieved them. It was an interesting experience. I learned that some of my goals I listed were too easy, some were too vague, and some were too difficult to achieve. Sometimes I would look at my goal list every week, and other times I would forget about it for a few months at a time. I started with 26 goals for 2016. When I did my final calculation I realize that 2 of them were too vague and I ruled them out.

For 2016 I completed 14.1 of my 24 goals. Only a 58% completion rate. While you might not think that is good, those are completed specific goals. Not pipe dreams of “Well maybe next year will be better…” or “I wish I could do X,Y,Z…” Those are things I chose to pursue and accomplish. Many I did accomplish. A lot of goals that I didn’t complete are partially completed and some of them have become more specific goals for 2017.

Some of my completed goals for 2016 include the following:

  • Completed a 3 month workout program and exercised 6-7 days a week. (P90X3)
  • I got a raise.
  • I submitted a warrant officer packet.
  • I taught my kids specific skills.
  • I took 3 trips with my family.
  • I saved a specific amount of money.
  • I obtained my CEH certification.

For 2017 I have created 17 specific goals across the above mentioned categories. Some categories have less and some have more than last year. I’ve tried to balance them with what I forsee my situation being in 2017 to include variables such as a new baby, active duty time, moving, etc.

A few of my goals for 2017 include the following:

    • Obtain my CISSP certification.
    • Commission as a Warrant Officer.
    • Read 10 fiction books and 5 non-fiction books.
    • Tweet 30 times a month.

Those are just a sample of them. Some are more serious, and some are less serious. I would encourage you to do the same. People who are successful have goals. Not dreams. As the saying goes, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” So get out there, work hard, set some goals, write them down, track them, and crush them! The only thing holding you back from being successful is the person in the mirror. So get after it!

Later,
Derek

Money

So after a few blogs on politics, let’s change gears. Let’s talk about money. Something everybody knows something about. Everyone has an opinion. Many people don’t want to deal with it or understand it. But just like knowing how to change a flat tire, or change your oil, if you have some basic knowledge you can be ready to deal with pop-up emergencies and keep your money working for you like a well-maintained engine. Ok. Enough car analogies.

So the basics:

I like money. I want/need more of it. How do I get it? How do I manage it to be successful? Here are 5 simple tips that are easy to say, and hard to implement.

  1. Live on less than you make.
  2. Don’t borrow money.
  3. Save Money.
  4. Prioritize your spending. (Budget)
  5. Give money.

1. Live on less than you make.
You’ve probably heard this before. But it makes sense. If you live on less than you make, it allows you to follow principles 2 and 3. This is easier said than done. But principle 4 is required to succeed at this step. You’ll have to adjust your lifestyle to match your income. This can be a hard pill for some people to swallow. The “I deserve” mentality that people have, and that creditors market so heavily can be deeply ingrained in people. Like it’s a foundational doctrine in their life. If you have ever spent time oversees in other countries, you can often realize that you don’t necessarily need all that stuff to survive and be happy. You can adapt to your income environment. If you don’t like the level of lifestyle that permits, then go out and change it! You can go work harder and earn more money.  My first tech job started at $14 / hour in 2008. That’s just over 29k annually. That wasn’t good enough for me and my growing family. So I worked harder, earned promotions and moved to better paying jobs. I don’t want to brag, but I make good money now because I continue to work hard and improve myself. Thus companies value me more and pay me more. No need to blame the economy for your income. Your work ethic can overcome a crappy economy. I am proof of that.

2. Don’t borrow money.
Do everything you can to avoid debt! I wish I had learned about this sooner. Often times the largest part of you monthly outgo is to debt payments. Student loans, cars, mattresses, etc.  When I started earning more money, I realized I wanted to be done with debt. Me and my wife had about 30k each in student loans! I was tired of so much of my monthly income going to Sallie Mae or Visa. I’d rather spend that money on my family or save it for something cool like a vacation or motorcycle. It took over 7 years, but we paid it all off. We paid off the last 45k in two years alone.  Not having stupid payments has really allowed me to do principles 3,4, and 5 much more efficiently. I’ve learned, I’d much rather save up for something and pay cash, then finance it and deal with the stress of payments, and interest. You really can do it!

3. Save Money.
This is another common sense thing people “know”, but don’t do. When you save money, it makes dealing with “emergencies” way less stressful. I know my property tax is due each year in December. So instead of waiting till December and going, “ah, crap!” I put $30-$50 a month in an envelope for that throughout the year. Then when the bill comes due, I’m ready for it. This year, I over budgeted and had $50 left over after paying that bill. I haven’t decided if I wan’t to leave it as a head start on next year’s property tax, or use it for something fun. But it’s my choice and I have that flexibility because I saved for it. Novel concept I know. But it works and it’s awesome! Same thing with car tires, car registrations, vacations, kids baseball season, etc. You can plan ahead and save money for these things. Saving money in 2016 has allowed me to cash flow a roof replacement, and cash flow a vacation to DC and NY. I was also able to plan ahead for Christmas presents so no credit card was needed for that either. I’ve got some active duty time coming up in 2017 and I know my income will be much lower compared to my civilian job. Guess what I’m going to do? Complain? Well probably a little bit, but I’m already planning for that and starting to save money so it won’t be a huge strain to deal with the change in income. I haven’t talked about 401k’s and Roth IRA’s yet. Those are both excellent tools to save for retirement. I’d highly recommend learning about them and using them to save money long-term. I’ve really enjoyed learning about investing over the last few years.

4. Prioritize your spending. (Budget)
Uh oh. I used the B word. But it shouldn’t have such a bad rap. It shouldn’t be feared. This is the single most important tool to be successful with all these principles. Having a budget is not difficult. Yes it does take time. Yes you will make mistakes. Yes you do spend that much money at QuikTrip. But it gives you so much visibility into where your money goes and your spending trends. It really allows you to analyze past performance and use that data to plan for future months. I’ve been using budgeting software for almost 4 years now. I switched about 18 months ago to YNAB (You need a budget) software. I love it. It has allowed me to be successful in paying off debt and saving money as well as realistically planning for the month ahead. I recommend using a zero based budget. I plan for each month individually. I adjust throughout the month (subtracting extra money from gas to add to groceries envelopes for example) and then reconcile all the envelopes at the end of each month to correct any over-spending. This is fixed by taking the money from another envelope vs a credit card. I also use envelopes to save for bigger expenses. I have a house maintenance envelope, and a car tires envelope that I put money into. Not every month, but when I can I contribute money into it. Especially if I know I will need new car tires in 8 months, I make that a priority to contribute to that envelope so that when it comes time I already have the $500 or so that I will need for new tires. No emergency! Just a normal errand to run that I have the money to do. This also equals less stress. Rinse and repeat, scale up and down as necessary for your money goals. It really does work. You just have to do it. Over and over and over again.

5. Give Money
This is another part of money I’m starting to really enjoy. Managing my money better has allowed me the opportunity to give more. I am able to support causes and organizations that I want to. I was able to double my Christmas budget from last year and give people more gifts. Being able to help people out by giving money is very rewarding. It’s often more rewarding that accumulating more stuff. Give it a try.

So there you have it. My 5 money principles for success. Have I mastered them all? Nope. Do I still make mistakes? Yep. Has being intentional with my money allowed me to be successful? Absolutely. I’m a huge budgeting nerd, so if you have questions feel free to ask me. I’d love to talk money ideas with you and help you be successful with money as well.

Reference material and helpful links:

ynab.com

everydollar.com

mint.com

https://www.daveramsey.com/baby-steps

Intentional Living

 

Later,
Derek