About the Author
Read an Excerpt
We know of them, yet have not met them.
We've heard of them, but haven't seen them.
We chase them, and never catch them.
Who are they?
At one time or another, most of us have used the expression "keeping up with the Joneses." We're talking about a legendary family that has the world trying to keep up with them. They're mentioned in tweets, movies, newscasts, articles, blogs, books, and more.
They're mysterious. They seem to be everywhere, but no one appears to have actually met them. Why is that?
You have likely heard of them, too, but have you met the Joneses? We have, and we would like to introduce them to you. We think you'll be just as surprised as we were by who they are. Before we introduce you later in the book, we think it will help to provide you some history and background first.
McGinis vs. Jones
In 1913, Arthur "Pop" Momand highlighted the side effects of the American Dream that urges us to do things in order to impress other people and create a sense of social standing. His cartoon strip, Keeping Up with the Joneses, followed the McGinis family as they competed with their neighbors, the Joneses, in social status and the accumulation of material goods. Interestingly, in the twenty-six years the strip ran, the Joneses never actually appeared in the cartoon — a clever way for the author to show that the Joneses represented much more than just the McGinises' next-door neighbors.
They were the pressure of society given a name, and though the strip was comical, it dealt with an issue that has plagued humanity throughout our existence. This was such a big problem in the early twentieth century that the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" has endured in common usage for more than a hundred years.
Is this still an issue today?
While this phrase comes from a century-old idea, what it represents is a timeless part of our human existence. One of God's "top ten" even deals with the temptation to want more — to want what others have. But in modern days, we have elevated this desire to an art form.
Since the McGinis and Jones families first showed up on the scene, everything has changed. And yet nothing has changed. In one way or another, we persistently fall into the trap of trying to keep up with our neighbors. We simply keep changing their names and adding a few digits to their income levels.
The comic strip Jones family isn't around anymore, but we've traded those cartoon characters for newer, sexier, edgier, real-life models. From shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous to Cribs to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, millions watch their favorite stars' every move while trying to capture the latest styles and trends. The Rockefellers, the Carnegies, the Kennedys, and the Hiltons came before the Kardashians, and someone else will come after them. Regardless who grabs the headlines, the "Joneses" represent much more than a family — it's a force.
If you have ever compared your life to someone else's and found yourself trying to measure up to theirs, you have firsthand experience of the power this force has to change your perspective. When we imagine someone else's life as better than ours, what we have acquired or accomplished can somehow become dissatisfying — not good enough.
That's what we did.
After years of doing this, we found ourselves, like the Titanic, crashing into some totally avoidable obstacles. The captain of this now infamous voyage ignored several warnings that fateful evening. Similarly, we ignored signs on our journey that could have spared us our crash — and the aftermath. The Great Recession should have been a wake-up call; layoffs could have changed our course; a shrinking bank account might have warned us.
For appearance's sake, we were determined to stay the course and kept going full speed ahead — into a crash. Thankfully, we didn't sink. Instead, we found ourselves in a lifeboat taking on a lot of water.
We got a second chance. As we sat in our lifeboat, surveying the floating wreckage of our lives, we began to seriously consider how we got into such a mess. As we did, our answer in the form of a phrase emerged again and again: "Keeping up with the Joneses."
We weren't sure what to do with this "answer" or how it could help us, but we now know that God kept putting it in front of us as a way to answer our questions. He was our lighthouse; we just missed the signals He was sending as we sped along.
As we dug for a deeper meaning to understand how keeping up with the Joneses could provide answers for us, we discovered something very significant. It completely transformed us, and we know we're not meant to keep it to ourselves but to share it with others — with you.
If you allow it, it will transform your life, too.
You're Not Alone
We gave this discovery a name. We call it our "Joneses Moment," for it was at that moment we knew our lives would never again be the same. They would be better — much better!
We learned a lot on our journey. In the chapters that follow, we will share our deeply personal stories, including our driving motivators, where those took us, where we ended up, and the lessons we learned along the way.
We had been compulsively chasing something without really knowing what it was. We weren't pursuing a goal, a dream, or a passion. It was something more nebulous, easy to miss at first. After our Joneses Moment, we realized the same forces that precipitated our wreck were affecting many people that we knew. We wondered what we could do to help others avoid what we went through.
We discovered that helping others began with sharing our life stories. Personal life stories are powerful, and ours brought us to a realization that there had to be more to life. We are just like many of you — ordinary, hardworking people who discovered ourselves trapped in a race we didn't even realize we were in.
The more we shared our stories and what we learned, the more we realized we were not alone as others, in turn, shared their own personal journeys with us. Many life stories later, we have heard how overspending, gambling, materialism, approval addiction, and many other things have been railroading individuals and families away from the lives they were meant to lead.
We've witnessed how low self-esteem and poor self-identity have trapped people into thinking they are not a good enough mom or dad, husband or wife, son or daughter — unless they could provide those special shoes, live in the right zip code, drive a certain car, or maintain a prestigious enough title. We've listened to story after story of fractured lives, struggling marriages, and hijacked dreams.
Many people have told us they are stressed and working too much, and their families hardly know them. They are never home, their marriages are difficult, and they are barely hanging on. Their lives are like running a marathon on a treadmill — they put in all the work but don't get anywhere.
Others tell us they have it "all" — everything life has to offer. Yet, deep down, they know they were created for more and want their lives to count for something more meaningful and have greater impact than just a collection of titles and possessions.
Still others don't have a clue who they are. They struggle each day searching for significance and acceptance. They try everything they can think of — social media, shopping, alcohol, drugs, new fashions, and more. No matter what they do, they can't seem to find contentment in any of it.
Some have passionately shared that they "hate" their life. They might have everything we think we're supposed to want: the home, the job, the cars, and all the toys. But they find themselves worn out from spending all of their time maintaining their possessions.
They have yet to learn that God is better than stuff.
This is exactly what God had shown us in our own lives — there was something better out there.
This is the same hope we want to help others discover. Not everybody hates their lives, but how many of us are really happy? How many of us are enjoying our lives and spending more time loving, giving, and experiencing freedom, rather than the opposite? How many of us are really content? Is true contentment even possible?
It's time to live our lives with a new perspective.
A New Perspective
For us, this new perspective comes from the Bible. It was here we uncovered that who we are does not depend on how well we do in the world; our true identities and reason for living can only be found in Christ (Ephesians 1:11 [paraphrased]).
We were running on life's treadmill as fast as possible and doing the best we could. We came to identify ourselves by our jobs and what we accumulated; we just thought that was how it worked. But now we know we had it backward. Our identity in Christ comes first — our role in the world, and everything else, flows from Him.
This changed everything for us, and it can for you, too.
What would happen if you weren't worried so much about titles, possessions, status, and keeping up? How would your life change if you focused on who you are, why you're here, and the difference you want to make with your life?
Think of the possibilities if you started living your life more intentionally, doing more of the things that matter most — and less of everything else. Could life be less hectic? What if you spent more time doing things today that could lead to a better tomorrow, instead of just trying to survive each day? What if you could live more simply, yet more fully?
Take a moment to imagine the decisions you would make differently if you experienced a shift of perspective like we are describing.
Before you think we are suggesting you sell everything, move to the wilderness, and live off the land, understand this change to the simpler, fuller life we are talking about doesn't require changing your location. It is about being more present right where you are because you know who you are and why you are here. It is freedom from keeping up with the Joneses, from living someone else's life, and from being caught up in the rat race. It is freedom to be more completely present with your spouse, your kids, and your community in a way that will make your life richer and more worthwhile. It is freedom from the Joneses!
We have witnessed complete transformations. Many have told us how they no longer worry about things as trivial as wearing the right brand-name jeans, are no longer compulsively seeking approval, and are content for the first time in what feels like forever.
As you continue through the pages of this book, you will learn how we have redefined our lives — and what real success looks like. We will lead you on a journey toward lives that are more intentional and authentic, lives that thrive rather than simply survive. We will have discussions about life and acknowledge that success is not measured by what we have — it is about who we are and what we give.
We call this journey a "Joneses Journey."
Sometimes a major life event gets people's attention. Other times, it's the accumulation of life's pressures all adding up. It's different for everyone — and very personal. Whatever your own journey looks like, only you can experience it for yourself. You are the only one who can discover the real you.
Some call it purpose, passion, calling, or a host of other things, but basically it's just this: You must learn who you are. You must learn why you are here. And you must decide how you are going to live your life.
We will lead you on your own Joneses Journey, ask you relevant questions, and encourage you to be brave enough to seek the answers. We will share our stories with you so you learn who we are and how we got from where we were to where we are today.
We will also share stories from others who have allowed us to do so here. We believe many of you will relate to one or more of these stories. Then, we will give you a chance to share your own Joneses Journey with us.
This book is a collaborative effort between the two of us, as husband and wife, and from time to time we take "turns" sharing our own stories. This being a deeply personal book, we feel it important that you, our readers, have the opportunity to read parts of our stories in our own voices. We each had such unique experiences, and we want you to get the full impact from our distinct perspectives.
We are thrilled to go on this journey with you and cannot wait to share the very important lesson we learned about the Joneses that just might change your life forever!CHAPTER 2
THE ROAD WELL TRAVELED
"A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it."
–Jean de La Fontaine
Road trips. Most everyone has been on one. For some they are the transportation method of choice for vacations, holidays, and family visits.
Road trips are one of those things most people either love ... or hate. For me, Bob, I have always loved road trips, although I'm not sure why. It could be the great memories I have of several trips our family took when I was a kid. Or perhaps growing up and commuting in Los Angeles's bumper-to-bumper car culture was such a daily grind that the freedom of driving faster than twenty-five is simply exhilarating.
Although my road trip experiences are positive, I will admit I didn't get as much out of them in the past as I do today. I had to learn how to enjoy them as more than just a transportation method. In the past, these trips were a mission to get from point A to point B as fast as I could. There wasn't much room for sightseeing, enjoying historical sites along the route, or stopping for any reason other than five-minute fuel and restroom breaks. Just ask our kids — they'll tell you, and they have the bladders of steel to prove it!
Looking back, I can see that much of my life was like these early road trips: I was always on a mission to get to the next destination as fast as I could.
I was constantly racing toward the next goal. The next achievement. The next promotion. In hindsight, I now understand why I was driving through life in the fast lane for so many years.
I was trying to keep up.
The Early Years
I grew up in a nice, traditional family with nine kids — okay, it was a huge family! Mom was one of fifteen siblings — yes, fifteen! She grew up on the family's working ranch in California. Dad was one of eight and was raised in a small farming town in Ohio. Like many in my parents' generation, there was a strong tradition of support for our military and post–World War II optimism driven by an expanding economy, new innovations, Baby Boomers, and the race to the moon. Patriotism ran high in our family.
My eight siblings and I are part of an even larger family group of around eighty first cousins. We often joke that our large families had more to do with raising field hands than anything else.
We all learned at young ages, with such a large family, that you had to do things a certain way. There were rules, structures, chores, and traditions. Working hard and following all the rules were mandatory. The strong work ethic we learned trained us to keep our noses to the grindstone and work hard — very hard! Success could be had if we just put our minds to it. For us, work became more important than a college education.
We were an entrepreneurial family and instinctively knew how to take an idea, add lots of hard work, and build something prosperous. As a group, we were very successful. Dad was a visionary and tried his hand at many ideas.
One of his six brothers once bought a single hot dog cart, which quickly became four hot dog carts. Soon his hard work became a thriving family business that grew into one of the top quick-service hamburger chains in America: Carl's Jr./Hardee's. Many other family members also proved successful in their professional lives, growing businesses from a variety of platforms.
For many years, Dad worked in his brother's business, and when we were of age, so did most of my siblings and many of our cousins. It became part of the family tradition.
You could say we were raised on what I call the four Fs: faith, family, freedom, and fries. And that order was strictly adhered to. Both my parents' families were devout Catholics, and we were raised as such. This provided me the strong biblical faith foundation upon which I stand today.
So here was this standard: successful, entrepreneurial, hardworking, huge family that builds thriving businesses.
And then there was me.
I had to work hard just to maintain a mediocre grade-point average, couldn't make the sports teams, and definitely was not the top pick for the girls. If that wasn't enough, I had a lisp I absolutely hated.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Who Are the Joneses Anyway?"
Copyright © 2016 KS Enterprises, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Joneses,
Chapter 2 The Road Well Traveled,
Chapter 3 Putting the Pieces Together,
Chapter 4 Our Joneses Moment,
Chapter 5 Designer Living,
Chapter 6 The Joneses Ladder,
Chapter 7 When Enough Becomes Too Much,
Chapter 8 The Source of Contentment,
Chapter 9 Think Differently — Live Differently,
Chapter 10 Metamorphosis,
Chapter 11 A Four-Legged Stool,
Chapter 12 The Antidote,
Chapter 13 NEED,
Chapter 14 Living Legacy,
Chapter 15 Upshot,
Author Contact Information,