Check out the new MattRagland.com


Hi everyone, I hope you’re doing well! If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted in a week, it’s because I’ve been workin’ like crazy to get my new self-hosted site up. I’m very pleased to tell you that MattRagland.com is now live, so please head on over and check it out! If you’re visiting from the Buffer blog, thank you for clicking through, if you don’t mind 1 more, your commitment would be the stuff of legend!

Thank you so much for reading all my ramblings and creatives for the past 4.5 months, your comments, thumbs-ups, and shares have all been really encouraging as I’ve jumped in to this. I’m really proud of the new site, and hope you’ll enjoy it too. The self-hosted option is so much better for content, sharing, and visual appeal.

As you can see, I’ve re-branded the site with the title “Life, Prioritized”. The focus is to explore and talk about how we make choices and decisions in our lives, and structure our time around the things we truly love and passionate about. All of my old content has been exported, so everything is there. Future posts are going to include interviews discussing how people have made the tough decisions to prioritize their families, new work, health, and more. I’ll still be delivering similar content to what I’ve been writing, but the focus will center around how people have made the choice of saying “this is important”.

From here, this is what you can do:

  1. Click through to the new site
  2. Update your email or rss feed by clicking the buttons on the right sidebar
  3. Check out my Resources page to read about the tools and services I used to build the new site.
  4. Explore the new site! Much of the content is the same, but I could really use your help in working out the bugs and broken links that occurred because of the export.
  5. If you have any questions or want to give me some feedback, please email me.

Thanks again for continuing to be a part of this community, I’m really looking forward to growing together!

– Matt

My 10 ‘Men’tors – #9, Darrell Sutherland


Darrell Sutherland is the head football coach at Bartram Trail High School, and the only coach BT has ever had. When I played for him for 2 years (2000-2001), I realize I learned a lot, and the way he led and coached impacted the way I would coach 7 years later.

Football is by nature a violent game played by large men. High school football not as much, but when you play in a hotbed like Florida, they’re plenty big and fast enough. The pressure to win is big, and can really wear on a person. Many choose to do whatever it takes to win, and pass that pressure on to their players.

What Coach Sutherland did, and has done for hundreds of young men since, is provide an emotionally safe environment for young men to continue to go out and play a game, and the coaching expertise to teach them to play it well.

This applies to almost anything we can do in life. Many of our jobs, relationships, even hobbies are under pressure, and people rely on the managers to get the job done. Do you transmit that pressure, or allow it to be transformed through your beliefs and coaching? In addition, we need to provide the support and instruction that helps others do their jobs well.

Here are 5 other lessons I learned from Coach Sutherland

You Need to Care about the Ones You Lead – Beyond our role as players, Coach cared about us as students and people. He checked up on our grades, helped us find tutors, and has been an active leader in the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes group since he arrived. He cared about the the whole person, not just what you could do on the field.

You Can be Passionate without the Vulgarity – If you’ve watched a college football game lately, you may have noticed there is a good amount of cursing coming from the coaches. Now, that’s just a way they get fired up, show their passion, and it works to motivate some players. I’m not going to get in to the morals of bad language, but I can respect a coach that can get his point across, and show his excitement without dropping f-bombs.

A Man Who Stays – I don’t know if Coach Sutherland has been offered other jobs, frankly, I’d be shocked if no one has tried to pluck him from BT. The guy has taken a small school in the sticks of Jacksonville to the playoffs 11 out of 12 years on the job, coached several D1 athletes, and headed one of the most successful offensive attacks in the state many of those years. Yet he has stayed. Stayed despite some personal attacks, other jobs, and probably more pay. He has stayed because his family is happy in their home, and because his job is important. Coach Sutherland has not fallen in to the routine of chasing the next job, the bigger role, and more money. And we all benefit from that commitment.

Stands for What He Believes – As I said before, Coach is a strong christian and active leader in the school’s FCA. He came under fire a few years ago for his beliefs, for praying with players, and whether or not that was his “role”. It was quite a process, but throughout it all, Coach Sutherland stayed firm in his beliefs. Another important aspect is that he also believed that he did not have the right to attack others in response. It would have been easy to do that, but he turned the other cheek, and kept living and coaching as he has been called.

Integrity – This trait really integrates all of the others. Coach Sutherland has taken all of his beliefs, experience, successes, failures, and passions, forming them in to the whole man he has become. I’m sure it’s been a wild ride at BT, he came to us from Virginia, and made his home in Northeast Florida. He is a pillar of the community and someone people could rely on to take care of their sons, teaching them about more than just football, but life.

Thanks again Coach, it takes a while for your ex-players to integrate all we’ve learned, but I know there are many like me who feel the same.

So Coach Sutherland, please keep coaching, leading, and teaching. We need it!

10 ‘Men’tors is a series of posts I’m writing to recognize the men who have impacted me through their involvement in my life. Read the others here

Be Heard!  Who has been a mentor in your life? What kind of impact have they made in your development? Please share in the comments, but mostly make sure they know how much their mentoring means to you!

Motivated by Love


John 14:15 says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Okay- now what? Should I learn every law in the Bible, write them down, paste it up on my wall and make sure I do my best to follow them every day?

  • Sometimes the focus will become lack of obedience, leading to a negative outcome.

-You may look at that list and think well I didn’t do this, this, this or that today and be left in a state of guilt and despair.

-Next, you may think well I can do better and push yourself into obedience out of obligation. You may wind up having an obligation to obey the law based on some notion that your obedience will justify blessings. Obedience to justify the blessings of God doesn’t seem like it would be pleasing to Him.

  • The way I see it- the cross has already justified my blessing.

Ultimately- God’s desire is to pour out his blessing on you, and the desire is based on nothing you do but out of unwavering love for you. We are only able to live in the fullness of God’s blessing by embracing a journey of recognizing His love for us. You might look at it as a journey of full-on acceptance of grace.

Elyse Fitzpatrick writes, “the plain truth is that my love for God (and hence, my obedience) will grow as I cultivate my comprehension of his vast love for me. If we neglect this key by focusing too narrowly on ourselves, our success or failure, then we’ll become mired down in guilt or pride, neither of which will stimulate loving obedience.”

It’s not that I think I can do whatever I want because I am already covered by grace. This is true to some extent- I am covered; my past, present and future sins were bought at the price of the cross. But if I were to do whatever I wanted and essentially live in sin that would cheapen the cross. My recognition of God’s love for me brings me into the greatest love story of all time, therefore motivating me to obey. I am not out to obey because of fear, guilt, or a mindset that my obedience will somehow bless me. Of course, I will continue to struggle- because my love is imperfect.

  • My love is weak and wavering

I am only capable of a dim understanding of the love displayed by Jesus on the cross. I am still vulnerable to Satan’s lies and I will be until the day I die. It is only at the moment of entrance into the heavenly presence of God that we are perfected for all time. But God, who goes beyond all of that- all of my mistakes and persona’s, God who knows my innermost thoughts looks at me with perfection and calls me His beloved. “He patiently and gently draws us back into His loving arms and reassures us of His overwhelming compassion, mercy, and grace.” –Fitzpatrick.

When I recognize the depth of my depravity and realize my complete inability to do anything on my own; I don’t feel guilt or failure anymore. But I am able to look at my Savior with such awe because he chose someone like me to be broken, to be a little lost for a while but then be rescued. He redeemed me. The blessings in my life leave me in awe of the obedience of Christ on the cross and motivate me to pursue God out of love.

“If we intently focus on how we’ve been loved, irrevocably, eternally, freely, and without merit, if we contemplate how our obedience (or lack of it) doesn’t faze his love one whit, then we’ll find within our hearts a growing desire to obey. Why? Because love like that changes people.” –Fitzpatrick

Thank you for reading, Laura Ragland

If you’d like to continue the conversation post in the comments or tweet me here, you can also find me on my site Confessions of an everyday, ordinary sinner.

Find Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Comforts from the Cross on Amazon.

Off the Grid


Hey Everyone,

I’ll be away from my blog from April 25-30, attending a Men’s retreat in Arizona. In my absence, my sister Laura will be guest posting, so be on the lookout for that! Laura is a talented young writer, majoring in English and Creative Writing. I know you will enjoy her essay.

As for me, I’m looking forwar to a few days unplugged. It will be nice to dwell in the desert canyons, living simply and focusing on the little things that matter. I do believe I will come away with good writing, whether or not it’s worth sharing is still to be seen. Maybe another handwritten post?

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys their weekend. Look for ways to bless others and help, whether in your face-to-face interactions, or online. You have knowledge and love to share, don’t miss it!

My 10 ‘Men’tors: #10 – Jon Gordon


Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be writing about men in my life who have been mentors to me. It’s a diverse group, and I did make a stipulation that I needed to have me them in person before. Today we’re kicking off with author & speaker Jon Gordon

I first met Jon over the phone. I was interviewing him for Florida Lacrosse magazine, talking about his memories of playing Cornell, advice for young lacrosse players, and his current work. Before and after the interview, we spoke about varying topics, the most memorable for me being how he started as a writer. Jon had several different jobs and lead roles in companies, including owning Moe’s Southwest Grill franchises in Northeast Florida.

But he felt he wanted to write, despite success in other fields, and told me about his beginnings.

He talked about his first book, The Energy Addict, and then his breakthrough book, The Energy Bus. Jon was the first person outside of my family who I told about my passion for writing, and he genuinely encouraged me to follow that passion.

That was in 2008. Since then, Jon and I speak semi-regularly, whether on the phone, through email, or even twitter, he has continued to be an encouragement to me and my work. I remember a conversation we had about writing, and he asked how mine was going. I confessed I hadn’t done much of it lately, too much of this or that.

“Well, do you still want to write?”

I said I did.

“Start small then, just write 20-30 minutes a day, whatever comes out, just get it on the paper. The rest will come.” 

Months later, I put together an ebook of short essays I had written, and sent it off to Jon. He was generous to read it through, and offer some comments, suggestions, and praise for the piece. His willingness to give me feedback was humbling.

Jon returned the favor, and sent me an advance copy of his book Soup, asking me to read it over and offer feedback before it went to a final draft. It was really cool to feel he trusted me with a piece of his work, and valued my feedback. Sure enough, when I sent in my notes, he thanked me, and a couple made it in to the final draft.

I haven’t spoken with Jon in a while, life for both of us has been quite busy, his more so than me. Jon is a sought-after speaker and continues to write, while spending time with his wife and 2 kids. But I know that if I reach out to him, he’ll check in when he can and answer my questions.

What I learned mostly from Jon is the value of connections, relationships, kindness, and how much an interaction can mean to someone.

Maybe the dozen times we’ve talked over the years hasn’t been a burden to him, but he didn’t have to return my calls and emails, or initiate praise, or offer advice on writing. But he did.

As I continue to write, and even more importantly as I prepare for the summer at Rockmont, I realize even more the value of these connections we make with each other. You may not feel like you’re doing much, but your attention and kindness can mean the world to someone else.

Don’t miss that opportunity.

You can learn more about Jon at his website, then follow him on Twitter.

Saturday Shakedown: Music, Film, and Reading


I hope everyone is having a good weekend, we’ve had a great start here in NC. To prove it to you, here’s a great shot from our community dinner last night, and one of my favorite pictures in a while.

Click to embiggen, and check out the dogs!

What am I listening to this weekend? Great question, thinking about the beats that drive my writing today…

  • Public Enemy – Harder than You Think
  • Barr Brothers – Beggar in the Morning
  • Blind Pilot – Half Moon
  • Alabama Shakes – Hang Loose
  • Of Monsters & Men – Mountain Sound

Friends, I don’t know about you, but there is so much to enjoy these days! Spring is in full effect, so get outside and enjoy the beauty of this earth, wherever you are. Swim, paddle, run, surf, hike, play, just do something and use that body!

If you do find yourself looking for some new material to listen/read/watch, consider the following:

Make It Count“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all”

 

My Favorite Articles:

The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers – Great read on CopyBlogger, which includes some of the most helpful blogging advice on the internet.

Top 20 Motivation Hacks – If you haven’t read about Leo’s personal transformation, do so here, and the check out the post on how he motivated himself to do it.

The Secret to Your Next Creative Breakthrough – I’m going through this in some ways, making the choices and prioritizing what I want to do. Jeff puts it all together nicely.

Applying the Nature Principle to Your Life – A guest article by Richard Louv on the North Face blog. Richard talks about the future of jobs in green business.

Let’s Bring Back Repair – A guest post by Story of Stuff author Annie Leonard. We live in a society of replacing, rather than repairing, our possessions. Annie talks about the impact on the earth of this mindset, and offers resources to help us do a little repair of our own.

Get Inspired!

Inspiration Squared

I hope everyone has a great weekend, whether it’s work, play or relaxation you’re engaged in. Be present in the moment and take it for all it’s worth!
See you Monday morning.

How to Develop Good Habits (and not drive yourself crazy)


We all have habits we would like to change or develop. Patterns of acting, eating, exercising, learning, or creating. Even worse for us is the maybe the lack of certain habits or patterns we wish to have, along with bad habits, like biting our nail (guilty).

But rather dwell on our bad habits, let’s make temporary peace with the shadow sides of ourselves and talk about developing good habits, patterns, and practices. Now, this isn’t a a sure-fire, 21 days to mastery post. That doesn’t really exist. The real nitty-gritty of worthwhile patterns takes longer, but we can definitely begin moving in the right direction!

My quick list of 5 habits I would like to develop (in no particular order), and why.

  1. Eat healthier – It’s good for me, I feel better, and have more energy.
  2. Play the guitar better – I like to play around people, it’s fun, and I love music.
  3. Read more – I always have loved reading, simply would like to read even more.
  4. Write diligently – I feel that I can write well, and have a story to tell.
  5. Dedicated time for Bible reading & prayer – It’s a lifeline for me, the most important, yet often neglected, practice in my life.

From my experience, all of these habits are not like snapping your fingers. They are difficult! I also experience that worthwhile habits are not the easiest to develop, as I’m sure you have as well. Humans, all the way back to Adam, look for the quickest way to success and happiness, usually at our own downfall.

I’ll quickly break down my own reasons for not developing these healthy habits.

  1. I like sugar, processed food tastes good, and it’s easy to prepare (or lack thereof)
  2. My fingers hurt and I don’t sound like David Wilcox after 10 minutes
  3. But Modern Family is so funny! As Jim Gaffigan says “You know why I like the movie more than the book? NO READING
  4. I’ve been writing for 3 months and no book deal? Screw this!
  5. It’s too early/late, the weather is too nice/bad/rainy/snowy/hot/cold, I haven’t had coffee/food/tea/ice cream, any of the above excuses will do. And of course… because I’m afraid of what I’ll be asked to do.

So that’s it. I would encourage you to do the same for your own hopeful habits. I think most of us are closer than we think, and the last steps to take are the most difficult. They are the steps that put you out in public, make failure possible. You’ll be sitting in Subway with a veggie sub, explaining why you’re reducing your meat consumption by 95%, heading towards 100%. You’ll be talking about how you turned off your TV satellite at the beginning of football season. Or the creeping terror of talking about your faith.

And then I will be overcome with guilt for my relapses, as you may be.

STOP IT

Let’s make a decision to move towards our true selves. If you would, make a short list (I find I become overwhelmed by all my inadequacies), and break down why you want to make each one a habit, and what holds you back.

Next, decide on incremental ways to turn your hopes in to habits. Maybe start 1 at a time, and go for a month with regular practice. Don’t try and do everything at once! For me, it’s to play the guitar for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Next month, I’ll give up a TV show a week, and read for an extra 30 minutes.

Most of the time, when I can break the cycle of a bad habit or passive attitude towards development of a good habit, it loses power over me!

Just as important is to realize that when you slip, that the slip does not define you! You cannot give that action the power to whisper in your ear “See! You’re not good enough to make this change! You’ll always be the (fill in the blank badness) that everyone knows you are!”

Yes, it happened, you slipped. I fall down daily (in a spiritual sense, but sometimes physically too), and need to be reminded that my failings do not define me. I can think “Yep, that happens” and move towards wholeness and my true self.

Now it’s your turn. Join me! What are the habits you would you like to develop or break? I encourage you to find someone to help hold you accountable and check-in on your progress. And let me know in the comments, Google+ or Twitter!

Have a great day.