I’m taking 48 friends to the British Isles next week – here’s how you can participate


Next Thursday, Mary and I and 48 friends leave on the 12th annual Travel with Friends trip. We’ll visit incredible sights in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, and France.

In the past, we’ve traveled to  Europe, Peru, North Africa, Israel, Baltics, Greek Isles, and other destinations. These trips have been life-enhancing and life-changing.

These annual trips are open to everyone. In October I’ll announce the 2024 trip.

If you’d like to keep up with our experiences on this trip,  join our Facebook page. Every day we’ll post pictures and commentary about our adventure.

To sign up, click here – Travel With Friends – McMinn


Benjamin’s first building project (spacial recognition and vision). 


Over the weekend my eight-year old grandson had a major learning experience. For years I’ve been working with him on spacial recognition – one of the markers for intelligence. Spacial recognition is the capacity to imagine or visualize in one’s mind the positions of objects, their shapes, and their spatial relationships to one another. It develops in the posterior parietal cortex, an area of the brain often associated with planning movements and spatial awareness.

Architects and engineers must master spatial recognition to know how objects will look like in space and how they will relate.

So this weekend I asked Ben to design a cardboard fort to be built in our sitting room. I explained what an aerial perspective is (also called a birds’s eye view) and gave him a pencil and blank sheet of paper. He studied the room – as it was – and then began to sketch out what it could look like in the future. 

An hour later he presented his plan.

After a trip to Home Depot to buy moving boxes and duct tape, we built his plan. When we finished I asked, “Ben, is this what you had in your mind?” “Yep,” he replied.




I then took advantage of that learning moment to explain to Ben what vision is. I said: “Ben, all things are created twice; first in your mind and then in the physical world. Your fort, this chair, this box-cutter, this house…were first “seen” in someone’s mind, and then someone made it. So vision is a “picture” of something that currently doesn’t exist but can in the future.”

I hope the idea found purchase in his mind and will continue to develop throughout his life.

How might this apply to us?

Do you have vision for your life? For your job? For your children? Can you visualize in your mind something that currently doesn’t exist. It could be a physical object (build a garden in the backyard), a mental discipline (learn Spanish), a relational quest (making five new friends), a financial goal (get out of debt). All these initiatives must be created first, in your mind, before materializing. These thoughts have one thing in common: they are ideas about the future and how it can be better than the present.

We often ruminate about the past and try to negotiate the present, but neglect thinking about the future. Spend the next 60 minutes thinking of ways your future could be an upgrade on the present. Write down 15 alternatives, cull them down to two or three, develop a plan and then head to Home Depot (metaphorically) to get the supplies and start building.  

The value of reflection

My two favorite words are initiate and reflect. People who take initiative are leaders; they get things done and get ahead in life. People who reflect are good learners. I’ve written a post on initiative. This one’s on reflection. 

The meaning of reflection is obvious. It means to think deeply and carefully about something. To mull over. To marinate in. To slow soak. To meditate about. To consider again what you have experienced and  learn from it.

I believe it’s the key to learning, discovering, creativity, excellence, and insight. It’s among the most neglected disciplines of 21st century society.

Let’s apply it to two areas of life.

We don’t learn by reading. We learn by reflecting on what we have read.

While speaking to a group of executives, I asked the question, “How many of you have read Jim Collins’ book Good to Great? 

A majority of hands shot up.

I then asked, “Can anyone recall just one of the many basic principles presented in this great book?


I gave some hints – “Remember the Hedge-Hog affect, Level 5 Leaders, ‘Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus…’” 

A few people nodded.

I have no doubt that most of the group had, indeed,  read the book. But to no advantage because they had not taken the time to reflect on what they had read.

We don’t learn by experiencing life, we learn by reflecting on life – by taking the time to make sense of life’s experiences.

I had lunch with a friend who had recently been fired from his job. His dismissal was preceded by months of stress and strain. He felt bludgeoned. 

I empathized with him and offered my heart-felt condolences. Then I asked, “What have you learned from this painful chapter of your life? 


He hadn’t learned anything. 

What a waste. Instead of emerging from the train wreck having learned valuable life-lessons, he just escaped hurt and slightly bitter.

Every day, take time to reflect on what you’ve read, heard, and experienced. It will be time well spent.

Choose to be an optimist

I recently bought a bottle of wine that had an odd name – Pessimist.

It’s a blend of red grapes from Paso Robles California.

On the label the winery attempts to explain the name by quoting a trite phrase,  “A pessimist is never disappointed.” (I think the same could be said of an optimist.)

It’s a lame name and anemic explanation. 

In this post, let’s focus on optimism. 

Optimism is a general disposition that expects the best in all things. Synonyms include anticipation, confidence, elation, enthusiasm, and expectation. 

I like the balance implied in the term realistic optimist. Be a realist about the present and an optimist about the future. 

We must embrace reality otherwise we live in wishful thinking and naivety. So identify and embrace what is— both that which is good and bad—and then be optimistic about how to deal with reality.

Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope. Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair.

Martin Seligman, a noted psychologist who has spent his career focusing on theories of well-being and positive psychology., says: “Each of us carries a word in our heart. For some of us the word is ‘yes.’ Yes, we believe we can succeed. Yes, we can learn. Yes, we can make a difference. Others carry a ‘no,’ with all the negative baggage that accompanies it. We must realize which word we carry and how it enhances or inhibits our lives.” 

What “word” do you harbor in your heart?

Fortunately, being an optimist or pessimist is a choice we make. It’s not a genetic pre-disposition over which we have no control. Choose to be an optimist. It may take time and effort to reprogram your thinking, responses, and behaviors, but it can be done. 

Winston Churchill was the consummate realistic optimist. Here is an excerpt from a speech he gave before the British House of Commons on June 18, 1940. After the fall of France to the Nazis, many in England felt defeated and a sense of resignation and impending doom hovered over the populace. While acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Churchill, nevertheless, spoke a message of hope and optimism that actually promoted a firm resolve and determination in the hearts of his countrymen. 

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.” 

Back to the wine. I was disappointed in the Pessimist. It lacked tannin, it was one-dimensional and fell apart about 45 minutes after popping the cork. I suppose I’m pessimistic about Pessimist.