A new bridge and an old story

There is a new flyover bridge opening in Las Vegas tomorrow, 12 July 2017. It’s set to open at 10:30AM after a small ceremony. It’s been a large undertaking and is predicted to be the second busiest intersection in the state of Nevada. We’re all looking forward to it, but having it open reminds me of a story.

In high school,  I read in the paper (What? You didn’t read the newspaper every morning before school?) that a new bridge was to open in downtown Las Vegas. It was a big deal because even today it stands as the busiest interchange in Nevada connecting Northbound I-15 to Northbound I-95. It’s the crowning noodle of the Las Vegas Spaghetti bowl.

The newspaper said that it would officially open at 3:15AM.

At 2AM the next morning, I woke my brother who I shared a room with and told him to get dressed. Without asking any questions, he hopped up and within a few minutes we were sliding out the basement window and out the sideyard. We started the truck up without any lights and headed downtown.

It was so early in the morning that it took only 15 minutes to get downtown. When we arrived, the bridge was still barricaded and they were doing some last minute cleanup. We drove in circles up the I-15 then back down Las Vegas Blvd just killing time and trying to time the opening.

After about ten passes, we finally just pulled over to the side of the road and waited. Of course, this was before cell phones so waiting was no easy task.

Finally at 3:30AM, some workers unceremoniously walked over to remove the last barricade blocking the new bridge from use. As soon as it was pulled to the side, we came flying through as the first civilians to use the bridge.

As we drove by, we rolled our window down and hollered “Thanks!” Sure we snuck out in the middle of the night but what can I say? We were well-mannered rebels. In fact, from the maiden bridge crossing we went to breakfast and then straight to seminary.

So from now on, as you exit the I-15 to head to Summerlin and beyond, you can remember that we were the first ones to test that bridge out and be sure it was safe for everyone. You might even call it the Brian Bridge. You don’t have to, but you might.

The Light of Truth

Note: This is a portion of a talk I gave at the Shadow Mountain Stake Conference held June 2017 in Las Vegas, NV.

I’ve learned a lot about mirrors in the last little while.  It’s my sons fault. We were reading a book together about how things work. We got to the part about mirrors and it really caught my attention. I want to share a couple mirror facts with you tonight.

So let’s talk about mirrors and reflect on them.

How was that for a dad joke?

As you know, most mirrors are smooth pieces of glass. One side of the glass is painted with a shiny metal. The smooth glass allows light in and the shiny metal bounces it back giving you a reflection.

But did you know, for instance, that mirrors do not work in the dark. Of course you know you can’t see yourself because it’s dark but it’s not just you. The mirror is off.

Think about that. If you were in a dark room, even with some superpower night goggles that gave you night vision, you would not see a reflection of you in the mirror because there is not light to be returned to you.

That just gets crazier the more I think about it.

One other more mirror lesson I recently read that will become the basis of what I want to talk about this evening.

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The Roaming Lines of Life

 

A friend described this graph as “Poetry, in data.” So much can be told from these six roaming lines. A few observations of my own.
 
1) enjoy your friends while you’re young, but don’t base your self-worth or life choices on them. Few of them will be there in the long run.
 
2) children grow, and eventually go. Remember to enjoy the high part of that appropriately slide-shaped blue line.
 
3) Remember the widows and the widowers. “The faith of widows is legendary in scripture….To the family and friends of widows, God knows of your service and He may judge your works by how well you assist the widow.” – Earl C. Tingey

Two Sides of Red Rock

I’ve been flying for work quite a bit lately. Each time as I return to Las Vegas, I’m happy to see the desert floor stretching out below because I’ll soon be returning to my home and family.

I’m not sure how many different pathways a plane can take to McCarran Airport, but I’ve noticed a few approaches.

I love coming in from the East because you can see Lake Mead and the many directions it reaches out into the desert.

I don’t like coming from the Northeast because usually you have to fly around the city and come in from a different direction. After a long flight, that extra fifteen minutes is like salt in a wound.

This last week, I flew in from a convention in San Jose and we came right near La Madre Mountain and the natural jewel of Las Vegas, Red Rock National Conservation Area.

I took this picture out of my window as we came in on the flight path:

Here was my thought: One side of that mountain is just a…mountain. It looks like all the rest. The other side is a beautiful and endeared natural wonder.

I’m not a geologist, but from what I understand, it was the Keystone Thrust Fault, and it’s movement during the Laramide orogeny period 66 million years ago that roughed up this part of the desert Southwest and exposed the vibrant, and young, red rocks. And now it shows a view like this:

As we continued our descent to the airport runway, I was thinking to myself “This is not unlike people. Sometimes it’s the jarring movement of change that will expose us, set us apart from others, and help us become our most beautiful self.”

We live in a great world. I wonder what is hiding inside each of us.

 

Real World Betterment Results

Just about one year ago, I sold my company. Because I believe in the product, and the future growth, I rolled a lot of the value over into the new company. To be wise, I did take some chips off the table as well.

A dad sleeps better at night when debt is gone, the rainy day account is funded, and you take an opportunity to help others.

When all of those items were checked off, I looked around for a new way to invest wisely.

I have been trading stocks in Robinhood for some time. I enjoy trading stocks, and I still think this is the easiest way to do that, but I needed something more automatic.

I had also been invested in The Lending Club for a few years by this time, but things have been changing there. The defaults are high, and the loans are riskier. I’ve slowly been removing all funds as loans are repaid. It looks like I’m not the only one who has seen those results.

After doing some research, I ended up going with Betterment. The app and service is a robo-investor. You commit money to the service, set your risk levels and goals, and the computer algorithms will do all the work of buying, selling, and holding. In many ways, it’s a modern take on an Index Fund where you ride the whole economy instead of living and dying on specific stocks

I also appreciate the Tax Loss Harvesting, which was useful at tax time this year.

Overall, I highly recommend the service to investors of all level. In addition to general investing, they also offer IRA accounts to save for retirement.

I also created a small investment account for each of my kids. They love to open the app and see how the investment has grown. I have a standing offer to them: for every dollar they invest, I will match it. It’s been a fun lesson in patience and waiting.

At the time I started with Betterment, I wondered about real world results. I wasn’t able to find much out there so I thought I’d chronicle my own experience here each year to help others.

Dark Blue is investment total, Light Blue is total value with earnings

April 2017 (One year): Earnings Percentage 12.2%

November 2017 (1.5 years): Earnings Percentage 17.4%

 

 

Two apps for a more productive Sabbath

Here are two app suggestions that can help your Sabbath Day become more of a delight today.

Journaling

Day One is my favorite journal app. You might take some time to record the way that you’ve been blessed in your life, and your current struggles. Both will be beneficial to look back on later in life. Journal writing is my most rewarding habit.
Link: iOS app

Temple and Family History

Many struggle with family history work because they aren’t sure where to start. The best place to start is in the temple with a family name. “Take a Name” is a new app that makes it very simple. Log in with your Family Search credentials and it will scan your family history and show you family records with available ordinances. With just a few taps you can reserve, print, and take to the temple this week.
Link: iOS app ,  Android app

The Sabbath is a Delight

Finally, to remember why we observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, here is a talk from Russell M Nelson that teaches it so well, and reminds us of the blessings.

 

A guidance for happy living

The first time I went to Japan, my trip had a rough start. I flew across the Pacific ocean in seats too small and landed in Tokyo at about 4PM. I was eager to get to a comfortable hotel for a shower and a place to lay down.

In my usual “I’ll figure it out as I go” approach to travel, I made my way to a train station and saw this board. (pictured) It was confusing, overwhelming, and it didn’t direct me at all. I knew where i wanted to go, but didn’t know how to get there. There was nothing I could have done for myself at this point. I needed some help. 

With the help of some free station wifi, 4 Japanese school kids that spoke broken English, and shadowing some American businessmen who had a guide, I eventually made it to my hotel. (Also pictured.)

In a similar fashion, I know where I want to be in this life and after I pass away. Like many of you, I want to be considered a good and righteous person here on Earth and then return, with my family, to my Father in Heaven when I’ve left this earth. I believe these things are possible, but I need help in knowing how I can achieve these things.

My favorite scripture is Doctrine and Covenants 82:8-10 which reads:

8 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you;
9 Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.
10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

This scripture reminds me to be thankful for the commandments and direction that we’ve received from scripture, prophets and promptings. I know what I want to become so the more direction I can receive, the better.

Some people see commandments as limiting or controlling, but I don’t. Like Elder M Russell Ballard , I believe “commandments are a guidance for happy living.”

Oct 2016 General Conference: One week later

It’s been a week since LDS General Conference. It makes me sad that the world has so much going on that can push the messages from our lives so quickly. It takes a conscious effort to not let that happen. Of all the lessons that were shared, it’s these lines that have stuck with me the most:

“Let us remember that our children and grandchildren measure our love by how much devoted time we give them.”

 

“We engage all three members of the Godhead as we pray. “

 

“We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing… If we must compare, let us compare how we were in the past to how we are today—and even to how we want to be in the future.”

 

“And the worst kind of sin is premeditated sin, where one says, “I can sin now and repent later.” I believe that this is a solemn mockery of the sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ.”

 

“When an opportunity comes to share your thoughts about the gospel and the lessons of life, stop everything, sit down, and talk with your children and grandchildren.”

 

“Without sacrifice, a person may find it hard to forgive himself or herself, because of a lingering consciousness of something withheld.”

Thomas S Monson: Fifty-three years of service

I love this picture of Thomas S Monson as he was sitting in the congregation of the old tabernacle. It was taken in 1963 just moments before he would be sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and invited to the stand. While others sit unaware and eager for the meeting to start, he feels the heavy responsibility beginning to fall on his shoulders.

Thomas S Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a man I sustain as a Prophet, gave his first talk as an Apostle at age 36. (The same age I am now. I can’t imagine.) He was the final appointee of David O. McKay to this Council. In his first talk he declared “I pledge my life. All that I may have.”

Fifty-three years later, he continues to keep that pledge.

 

Using Social Media Wisely

When I was in Cuba earlier this year, it was interesting to see how little technology was available to the residents there. Everything in Cuba is about 50 years in the past. However, one night we were walking the streets and there were hundreds and hundreds of people in this park with tablets and phones lit up. It is one of the few places in the country that wifi was available so people would come there each night and video chat with family in the US and also check Facebook, Instagram, and learn more about the world outside of Cuba. It was interesting to listen and watch as they connected with family and friends via technology.

Below are a few thoughts I have about social media, and how we can use it better.

I enjoy seeing good posts from family and friends.Though lately I’ve been surprised what people, who I know to be good and kind, will attach their name to in the sharing of posts and other items. I feel like we should be able to rise above it. Even with difficult topics, we can share our positive thoughts or the way we’re hoping to be part of the solution. Rather than just be an echo chamber, I’d love to see more thought out and personal messages from people I know to be good people. Social media certainly needs more of it.

David A Bednar wrote that “it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families.”

Kids understand this easily. I think youth leaders, priesthood leaders and parents should be active on social media as well. It’s one more place to teach and inspire and care. Don’t be a social media sponge or stalker but instead be active and an influence. Did you know all of the church leaders are on Facebook and Twitter? Find all their profiles here.