Why Every Fargo Realtor Needs To Blog About Special Assessments [and what every Fargo home buyer needs to be aware of]


One of the most frustrating things about my move to Fargo is special assessments.

I have about $45,000 worth of them to pay off, as a part of my newly built house.

Special assessments, also known as specials, can be confusing and frustrating.

So I wanted to write about them to help you because I figured by being helpful you’d avoid some of the stress I uncovered when learning about specials.

Not to mention very few realtors or real estate offices in the Fargo-Moorhead area are blogging about them. And they should be. They should be talking about special assessments because by educating readers, they’d fill their sales pipeline with potential clients by building trust and credibility.

If you’re a resident of Fargo or someone like me who recently moved here, you need to know about special assessments and how they impact you. Because they will.

What are special assessments?

If you live in a house, condo, or town home that is part of a planned, covenanted community, you most likely have to pay monthly Homeowners’ Association (HOA) fees and, at times, you will have to pay special assessments (referred to as specials. credit: www.answerthepublic.com)

Special assessment is the term used to designate a charge that your local government or municipality can assess against a real estate parcel for certain public projects. This charge is levied in a specific geographic area known as a special assessment district (SAD).

Pretty boring, right?

In West Fargo, specials are a method the city uses to pay for infrastructure improvements. Specials cover things like the diversion project, which protects Fargo from flooding, water main replacement, etc. The cost of these projects is divided among home owners in a geographic area.

It’s essentially a method of financing that’s legal because of the local law. Not all city projects are paid for in this way, just most of them are in West Fargo. Some infrastructure projects are funded through the city’s general fund or bonds.

What is the special assessment fund?

When you pay your specials, the money goes into a designated fund.

Think of a HUGE checking account with millions of dollars in it. These funds or accounts are set up for expenses incurred for capital projects.

But this fund is different and separate from your taxes.

Special assessments vs taxes.

Property owners, like you and me, often confuse property taxes and assessments.

They’re not the same. For instance:

  • Special assessment costs originate from a lump sum that’s divided over a period of time.
  • Taxes do not originate from a lump sum.
  • Taxes are deductible when you file your federal tax returns.
  • There is no tax benefit for specials.
  • Assessments, not taxes, are determined by local assessors.
  • Taxes are determined by school boards, town boards, city councils, county legislatures, village boards and special districts.
  • These jurisdictions are responsible for taxes, not assessments.
  • Your specials can also increase at any time, while your taxes may actually decrease (or vice versa). It’s crazy, I know.

If, like me, you feel your assessment is too high, then you need to discuss it with your assessor and work to contest your assessment amount through your locally elected officials. (a huge battle to fight, by the way)

What special assessments are tax deductible.

The short answer is none.

When you file your annual taxes, homeowners can deduct the cost of state and local real estate taxes on federal income tax returns. According to the Internal Revenue Service, property taxes are deductible only if they are imposed uniformly on all properties in a jurisdiction and based on the assessed value of a property.

Special assessments do not fit this criteria, however. There’s zero tax benefit with specials.

How are special assessments calculated.

While taxes are paid annually, through a monthly payment escrowed inside your monthly payment, specials are a lump sum divided over a period of time.

For me, my specials are in the amount of $45,000 and broken out annually over a 12 year period. $45,000 divided by 12 = $3,750.

That’s a lot of money. I pay that amount annually just for my specials. My taxes are completely separate…and similarly expensive.

My property tax cost is calculated differently and the annual cost is determined by your local school district, whereas specials are calculated by the cost of infrastructure.

Specials can make it tough when buying a home.

I’m not a millionaire.

Therefore I’m not flush with tons of cash to be able to afford anything and everything that I want to buy. Including costs associated with a new house.

When I was considering building a house, I knew that location was the most important aspect. Next, I knew that choosing a house with a great layout was key.

Then there were specials. I essentially had to tack on $45k in expenses (or whatever the specials costs were in that area) and plan accordingly.

Early on my journey to buy a home in Fargo, it sucked. I was priced out of homes in a certain price range because of special assessments.

And some of those homes that I was interested in buying are still sitting for sale, a year and a half after I moved to Fargo from Minneapolis-St. Paul. That’s sad because someone’s paying for them and somehow that cost is being passed on to you and me.

Specials can make it tough when selling your Fargo home.

A quick story. There was a house for sale in a neighborhood close to where I now live. It was newer, and really nice. A rambler with a lot of details that I loved.

But…the house had over $50,000 in specials on it. For me, that’s a lot.

Then, a competing house across the street hit the market. Same price, similar specs and just as nice. Only it had $20,000 in specials, instead of $50k.

If you’re a buyer which one do you think you’ll choose? The one with the lower specials, of course.

The point is this: special assessments can make it harder, or easier, to sell your place depending on the amount of your specials that are owed.

Specials are a part of life, plain and simple. While they’re annoying and costly, it’s pretty hard to completely avoid them.

Before you buy your home, or build one like I did, be sure and ask questions. Lots of them. No one is going to educate you or tell you about these points related to specials.

You’re going to have to take responsibility and educate yourself through a lot of research.

Blog about specials.

And if you happen to be a Fargo realtor, you need to be blogging because its one of the best and most economical ways to get customers and keep them.

I’d consider blogging about all kinds of topics, specials included.

And if you happen to be moving to Fargo or recently moved here from another area and have questions about specials, email me by clicking here. I’d be happy to give you some good advice and wisdom to help navigate these murky waters know as specials.


How to Accept the Apology You Never Received

Note: This is a guest post from Lisa Arends of Lessons From The End Of A Marriage.
In an ideal world, everyone that causes harm to another, either intentionally or unintentionally, would immediately offer up a genuine apology: accepting responsibility, acknowledging the pain, express empathy and remorse, immediately changing behavior and, if appropriate, making amends for the damage caused. But we know that rarely happens. And it never happens as quickly as we would like.Instead, we receive a “sorry” tossed out with little thought and nothing to back it up. We hear, “I’ll do better” and better never comes. We may find that in place of an apology, we instead receive blame and misplaced anger as defensiveness leads instead of empathy. The apology may be discounted by the excuses that accompany it. We may see an utter lack of comprehension at the pain that was inflicted.

Or we may just be listening to radio silence, waiting for an apology that never comes.

An apology that maybe we don’t even need.

photo 1-104


Why do we want apologies?

Children are taught almost as soon as they can talk to say “please” when they want something, “thank you” when they receive something, and “I’m sorry” when they hurt someone.

At the most surface level, we view an apology as a basic ritual of societal order that preserves a sense of fairness and responsibility.

Apologizing has become almost a knee-jerk reaction for many.

How often have you bumped into somebody or inadvertently cut someone off with your grocery cart and had the word, “sorry” out of your mouth without thinking? Even in such a minor interaction without much empathy or remorse behind the word, the apology still carries importance. When it is uttered, it acknowledges the infraction and its impact on the other person. When nothing is said, the other person feels invisible and insignificant.

At its most basic, an apology says, “I see you.” And a lack of an apology is a passive rejection.

What do we expect from apologies?

Pain wants to be heard; the need for our suffering to be acknowledged drives our need for an apology.

And the greater the perceived damage, the greater the perceived need for an apology. We all have an inherent sense of fairness, a balance of how things “should” be. When someone harms us, that balance is disrupted and we presume that an apology will make strides towards correcting that imbalance and restoring a sense of fairness.

We often see an acknowledgement of the slight and remorse for the actions as the keystone in the bridge to healing. As though once that apology is received, the remainder of the recovery follows. And so we wait.

Because we want to be heard. Understood. And the pain keeps screaming until it is recognized.

What are the limitations of apologies?

Apologies can never undo what was done.

They are not a magical eraser than removes any harsh words or caustic actions. When we imbue them with these special powers, we increase our expectations to a level that can never be reached.

photo 3-89

No apology will ever be good enough to abolish the pain and reverse the damage. Just as you cannot control somebody else’s apology, they cannot mitigate your suffering.

You can’t outsource healing. You have to do it yourself.

Do we need apologies?

An apology or a lack thereof is a reflection of the other person’s character, not your worth.

When somebody causes harm and refuses to accept responsibility, they are telling you who they are, not who you are.

When someone is too cowardly to admit fault, they are showing you their shortcomings, not yours.

And just because somebody displays an utter lack of empathy, it does not mean your pain is not real and valid.

When you wait for an apology, you are allowing the person who harmed you to continue to harm you. You’re letting them decide if you get to be okay again.

And is that really a decision you want to place in the hands of someone who lacks empathy and courage? If this person is still involved in your life and they are unable or unwilling to authentically apologize, take a good look at your boundaries.

Is this someone that you want to remain in your life?

How can you accept the apology you never received?

The most critical component of accepting an apology you never received is to eliminate any magical thinking you have about apologies.

They are no holy grail of healing. They do not have the power to erase what has happened. Once you realize that, it becomes easier to let go of the driving need for acknowledgement and amends. An apology is only required if you give it that power.

Your well-being should not hinge on somebody else’s shortcomings.

Their inability to accept responsibility is their problem.

Not yours.

Your healing is your responsibility. Accept it.

photo 2-4


If you’re having trouble accepting an apology you’ve never received, this online course can help.


About the author:

Lisa Arends is the author of the best-selling book Lessons From the End of a Marriage and a frequent blogger. Lisa inspires others through her blog, which is a space for those who have experienced the trauma that comes from the end of a significant relationship, and are seeking to move beyond grief and anger. Check out her blog. Be sure and check out Lisa’s online course, where she aspires to help those who feel victimized and stuck as the result of divorce. Learn more about her course, here. Continue reading

38 Nuggets of Wisdom Sure To Help You Better Navigate Life

I’m 38, and I love it.

I secretly love getting closer to my 40’s. I love it because I feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally than I ever have before.

That said, I’d like to share some nuggets of wisdom with you that I’ve learned over 38 years of life.

I’d like to impart some bite-sized-chunks of common sense that I’ve learned through trial and error, over 38 birthdays.

Some of the stuff I’ll share is prudent and good. It’s based on facts and experience. Some of what I’ll share is more personal preference.


38 nuggets of wisdom.

  1. You are more than the sum of your past. Meaning: don’t let your past define you. Don’t let those little voices in your head that scream with insecurity get you down. You are better than you think you are.
  2. You are worthy. If anyone ever tells you that you’re not, you have my permission to punch them.
  3. You are loved. No matter who you are, what you do, or what you’ve accomplished in life, there is someone who loves you. You are never truly alone.
  4. Have confidence, you are good at what you do. Carry yourself with your head held high. Doesn’t matter if you make a ton of money, or not, have multiple college degrees, or not, or have a brand new vehicle, or not. Have confidence in who you are and what you do.
  5. No matter how others treat you, treat them better. (and with kindness) People will undoubtedly treat you like dirt at some point in your life. Forgive them, and serve them with the utmost kindness.
  6. Be on time. This one I struggle with, but it’s still worth mentioning. If you schedule a time for a meeting, appointment, or time with a friend, be on time. One of the biggest signs of not respecting yourself, and others, is not respecting someone else’s time.
  7. Use good words. Ever watch a popular comedian that swears during his routine? It’s funny for about 5 minutes. Then it just gets old. Instead use words that encourage people, and uplift others. There’s no need to curse incessantly, and there’s no need to use words that cut others down. Use good words.
  8. Improve your strengths, not your weaknesses. Find out what your strengths are and focus on these. Do not try and be something you’re not. For example, if you’re not mechanical in nature, don’t try and rebuild your father-in-laws truck engine. You’ll fail. (he’ll write you out of his last will and testament) Instead, focus on what you’re good at.
  9. Work with a chip on your shoulder. Some of the most successful people I know, operate with a bit of an edge. They’re not jerks, but they’re not pushovers, either. They stand up to bullies, and they don’t let others push them around. They are direct. They say what they mean and mean what they say. They are great at resolving conflict in a straight forward manner, yet don’t lose their cool.
  10. Stand up for yourself. When someone says something you disagree with, tell them. If someone is pushing you around at work, then push them back. Don’t retaliate or seek vengeance, but for God’s sake, show some backbone.
  11. Exercise daily. I’m in pretty decent shape. But I wasn’t always. Take care of your body in your 20’s and 30’s, or suffer with the consequences.
  12. Drive a modest car. I once worked with a CEO of a billion dollar telecom company that drove a 1996 red Cadillac DeVille. It was a two door and in tremendous shape. He’d been driving this car to the office for over 20 years. He was the kind of CEO that would pick up an empty gum wrapper that was lying in the office parking lot. He was humble, yet hungry. The point: you don’t have to drive a 2016 Corvette to be relevant or important.
  13. You can’t learn by talking. When you’re busy talking, you’re not listening. And when you’re not listening, you’re not learning. You learn by listening. You build relationships by listening. You love by listening. This is one of the hardest skills to learn how to do, yet the most profound.
  14. Be an independent thinker. The best leaders I’ve had the privilege of learning from had the ability to think independently. Anyone can say yes and be swayed by peer-pressure, but it takes a truly independent thinker to consider all options when making decisions. Surround yourself with these types of people. Stay away from those who want you to simply say ‘yes’ to them, whenever they come calling.
  15. Be careful what you eat and drink. I don’t know of many good things to come from drinking alcohol. I’ve also don’t know of any friends, family, or colleagues to be super healthy by eating large amounts of sugar and other garbage. Before it’s too late, be careful what you eat. It’s harder when you’re older to reverse course, so set good eating habits when you’re younger to avoid this pain.
  16. Learn to communicate clearly. Most people I interact with don’t know how to communicate with clarity and consistency. This is very common, today. Most people, young and old alike, fumble with words and struggle to verbally share what’s important to them. It’s critical to learn the the art of listening then framing a response that affirms the other person, all the while effectively communicating your point. Learning to clearly communicate is just as hard as learning to be a good listener, but equally as important if you want to better navigate your life.
  17. Care about your coworkers. When you don’t care about others, it shows. People will know if you truly care about their well-being by how you talk to them and how you treat them. If, by your actions, you reveal to those around you that you’re a blatant narcissist, don’t expect others to trust you or include you in conversations. You need to care deeply about your coworkers and colleagues. After all, you’ll end up spending the majority of your life with them. Why not make this time purposeful, instead of pointless.
  18. Learn new things. Be willing to learn how to do new things. You may not be awesome at them all, but be curious. My grandfather was a curious dude. He knew lots about a lot and had many talents. He acted in community theater, he baked cookies, visited the four corner of the earth, flew in the Army Air Corp, and was a middle-school teacher. That’s a pretty broad range of things to learn. Be willing to learn new things.
  19. Listen to music. Here’s a sample of my iTunes library: Needtobreathe, Darius Rucker, Meredith Andrews, Chris Daughtry, Bon Jovi, Train, Shawn McDonald, and for King and Country. I listen to classical, country, rock, Christian contemporary, and good ole’ fashioned southern gospel. Some of it is awesome. But most of it inspires me. Music is beautiful. Music is storytelling. I love storytelling and so should you.
  20. Use technology. So many friends of mine don’t know how to use the basics of technology. From marketing automation software, to email, to iPhones, to apps. It’s all relevant. Don’t shy away from it. The world is only getting more and more reliant on technology. Embrace it. You’ll be glad you did.
  21. Make good decisions. King Solomon was the wisest King in the bible. He was also fabulously wealthy, built a majestic palaces, gardens, roads, and buildings. He accumulated thousands of horses and chariots, and became the wealthiest king of his time. He was an excellent writer, poet, and scientist. He made treaties and alliances that brought peace to his kingdom. But he was also one of the most foolish kings. He couldn’t control his lust and disobeyed God’s commandments. Instead of choosing to make poor choices, like Solomon eventually did, aspire to make good decisions. Walking the straight and narrow may be hard, but the rewards are totally worth it.
  22. Talk to people. It’s sad to me when I see couples, or people, at restaurants looking at their devices, rather than talking to one another. It shouldn’t be this way. Instead, take a break and talk to one another. Talking to people can encourage them, and help them. Listening to stories can be an incredible source of tremendous joy. Talk with people.
  23. Learn to say you’re sorry. Want to know how I learned this? By watching my father. Growing up, I saw how quick he was to take action by admitting he was sorry to others. I’m a big fan of resolving conflict through apologizing first in order to build a bridge. Instead of being divisive, bridge gaps through saying you’re sorry.
  24. Get invigorated. I work 60-70 hours per week. I love it. I love to work. I enjoy my calling. But sometimes I become burnt out and require a break. Even adults need a timeout. When you disconnect from email, text messages, and social media, something miraculous happens: you get inspired. Ideas start to swell in your mind, and your become invigorated. Don’t get me wrong, work does not equal a buzzkill of creativity. But all work, with no time to smell the roses, is truly a life wasted.
  25. Stop complaining. (especially to your boss) Pete Krainik, the founder of the CMO club, recently noted in an Instagram post that the best leaders don’t complain. Especially, don’t complain to your boss. Being labeled as negative, grumpy, or a complainer is a terrible title to carry. You don’t want that. Instead, rise above it and don’t grumble.
  26. Have empathy. perspective. Having empathy means you’re willing to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It means you’re willing to expand you perspective. Be willing to understand the other side of someone’s story, and be open to at least affirming them in their worldview. You’ll grow from this exercise.
  27. Give freely, and freely give. No matter how much money you make, give some of it away. You can’t take it with you when you die.
  28. Volunteer. One of the best ways to learn, grow, and give back, is by giving away your time through volunteering. Volunteer by helping others through mentoring, or by developing a MasterMind group, or by tutoring. Doesn’t matter what it is, just get involved and volunteer.
  29. Spend less time on social media. I don’t know about you, but every time I log into Facebook or LinkedIn, 50% of my news feed feels like sponsored ads. Instead, read a book. Either on a tablet, Kindle, or a physical copy. Read instead and spend less time on social media.
  30. Travel. I live in the Midwest. It’s great. But there’s a lot more country to see for those who live in the U.S. It’s a huge place, with tons of great sights to see. Great big things, built by even bigger dreamers. Go see it.
  31. Learn to play a musical instrument. It’s a goal of mine to learn to play the guitar. I don’t know when, or who will teach me, but I will learn how. Making music and playing music is a lifelong achievement that you can take with you for the rest of your life. Don’t hesitate.
  32. Don’t be stubborn. Too many people I know let relationships completely burn to the ground because they’re too stubborn to change, too stubborn to say they’re sorry, too stubborn to reconcile and heal. You’ll be on your deathbed someday and find yourself regretting being stubborn, assuming that’s how you live your life. Don’t do it. Instead, break free of this nasty character trait so you can truly live.
  33. Stay. If you’re married then this one’s for you. When your marriage is falling apart, stay. When you want to give up on your spouse, stay. When there is nothing left in your gas tank, stay. When you’re heart is checked out, stay. When your mind tells you to give up, stay. When every fiber in your body says to quit, stay. Quitters quit, and winners don’t give up. I know marriage is not as easy as black and white, or winning versus losing, but I know from experience that staying makes you a better person.
  34. Journal. I write in a my journal almost every day. I use the Penzu app and write something that’d I’ll remember, when I look back on a particular season of life. It’s one part therapy, and one part memory building.
  35. Take pictures, but not too many. One of the great things about smartphones is how you can easily capture moments in life. But the downfall to being engrossed by taking selfies every 5 minutes with your iPhone, and uploading them to Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook is you can miss the significance of that specific event. Take pictures, but don’t forget to make memories, too.
  36. Develop a bucket list. I have one. I created this list years ago to help me manage and achieve my life-goals. There’s incredible power in writing things down. Your subconscious mind activates some crazy things when you pen your goals. So develop a list of things you want to accomplish before you’re dead.
  37. Do stuff outdoors. Because I live in America, I have the privilege of seeing many things that are outdoors. Things like state parks, camping grounds, national monuments, and the like. Enjoy the creation of this earth. You won’t be here for long.
  38. Eternity. Despite what you may think, there is a Heaven and a Hell. There is life after this one on Earth. If you were to die today, where will you spend it? You have a beautiful soul. You will eventually be called to one of the two places where you’ll spend eternity. Seek the truth and find out how you can spend eternity in Heaven. Take a look at how a friend of mine talks about Heaven by watching this short video.

What are your nuggets of wisdom to share? What in your short life have you learned that’s of value?

The Four Words That Are Holding You Back (And the Four Words to Say Instead)

Note: This is a guest post from Lisa Arends of Lessons From The End Of A Marriage.

lisa arends divorce blog
It’s ingrained in all of us.

Inevitably, when I motion for a student to quiet down, I hear the response, “It’s not my fault.” (Or its synonym, “It wasn’t me.”)

It is a knee-jerk reaction to any pronouncement of culpability.

And rather than grow out of it as we grow older, we begin to pay others to tell us that it is not our fault.

We all like to hear that it’s not our fault.

When I first starting getting into health and fitness in the early 90s, I noticed that the industry advice came in two distinct forms – one voice said that you could transform your life and your body through willpower and hard work, while the other side spoke of reassurances that the excess weight or sagging muscle was due to no fault of your own (and often this burden shift would be followed up with a “quick fix” for the low, low price of only $19.95).

And I soon figured out that the second view led to increased sales.

Even as it failed to create the desired body.

Because we all like to hear that it’s not our fault. That someone or something else is responsible for whatever is holding us back.

Yet even though we all have circumstances that make certain goals more challenging, ultimately, you are the only thing holding you back.

You are ultimately the only thing holding you back.

I encounter people that tell me that they cannot lose weight because of some pre-existing health condition, like PCOS or hypothyroidism. 

“It’s in my genes,” is offered as a reason for the Type II diabetic or person afflicted with metabolic syndrome.

I hear others defend their lack of fitness by claiming they have no time because their family or job requires all of it.

They feel a freedom by stating that it is not their fault.

Yet really they are in chains of their own making.

I work out alongside people who use wheelchairs and people with artificial limbs. I have friends who alternate days at the gym with nights at the hospital as they are treated for their autoimmune disorders. I know women with PCOS who accept that weight loss will be harder for them even as they strive to work within the limitations of their disease. I work with single parents who problem-solve creative ways to exercise while the kids are at practice or asleep.

lisa_arends_blog_wheelchairI’ve never once heard any of these people say that the situation is not their fault.

And it’s no accident that they are constantly pushing the boundaries of their situations.

The problem with, “It’s not my fault,” is that it so easily slides into “And therefore there’s nothing I can do about it.”

And the two declarations are vastly different.

It is not your fault if you have been cursed by faulty genes that cause your body to grasp onto every fat cell for dear life.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It is not your fault if you suffered at the hands of abusive or negligent parents who failed to give you the tools to excel in adulthood.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It is not your fault if you have been exposed to trauma, bruising and damaging your very core.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It’s not your fault if your brain struggles with anxiety or depression.

(And what are you going to do now?)

It’s not your fault if your spouse cheated or abandoned you.

(And what are you going to do now?)

In all of these cases (or in any limitations and struggles you have in your life), you can spend your energy on blaming the fault-carrier. Others will help you, either for pay or for free. After all, it’s easy to point fingers at others.

Because then we are absolved of any effort.

Of course, we are also guaranteed not to make any progress.

Because the last time I checked, reps of reciting “It’s my hormones,” had a dramatically lesser effect on fitness than reps on the weight machine.

And assigning liability to a screwed up family of origin is inherently dissatisfying because they’re too entrenched in their own drama to absorb yours.

And calling your cheating ex an ass won’t help you get off yours to build your new life.

So rather than focus on what happened, focus on what you can do now.

Replace “It’s not my fault” with “It is my responsibility.”

Rather than point fingers (or waste your time and money on those that help you pass blame), use those fingers to grab your own bootstraps.

lisa_arends_blogger_bootstrapsNobody else is going to do it for you.

Your future is your responsibility.

Your well-being is your responsibility.

Your happiness is your responsibility.

And if you don’t accept that responsibility, that IS your fault.

It is my responsibility to…

Shift my attention from what happened to me to what I am going to make happen.

Focus on what I can do.

See my limitations as my starting point, not as excuses to never start.

Be realistic with my goals.

Set a limit to the amount of energy I expend on placing blame. That energy can be put to better use.

Surround myself with people who believe I can.

Ask for (and accept) help when I need it.

To refuse to allow somebody else to define me.

Communicate my needs clearly and calmly.

Manage my emotions so that they do not control me.

Establish and maintain appropriate boundaries.

Speak and act with kindness. Towards others and also towards myself.

Believe in myself and act in accordance with that belief.

And what are you going to do now?



About the author:

lisa arends blogger 

Lisa Arends is the author of the best-selling book Lessons From the End of a Marriage and a frequent blogger. Lisa inspires others through her blog, which is a space for those who have experienced the trauma that comes from the end of a significant relationship, and are seeking to move beyond grief and anger. Check out her blog. Be sure and check out Lisa’s online course, where she aspires to help those who feel victimized and stuck as the result of divorce. Learn more about her course, here.

5 Types of People To Keep at Arms Length

“People inspire you, or they drain you. Pick them wisely.” – Hans F. Hansen.

Wise words, wouldn’t you agree?

If you take a quick inventory of all those in your life, you’ll naturally be drawn to those who inspire you. Conversely, we naturally tend to keep our distance from those who cause drama and conflict.

And then there’s the personality types that you could do without. These are people in your life where you have to set boundaries. Boundaries that are ultimately drawn to prevent getting hurt.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s there are certain types of people that need to be kept at bay. Specific individuals that need to be shown tremendous kindness and love, yet not allowed too close because their destructive tendencies will only get you emotionally burned. 

Here’s a list of those top 5 types of people that all need love, but need to stay at arms length.


People who are hyper-critical.

Everyone knows someone like this. (at some point we’ve all most likely been this person)

The hyper-critical person is someone who criticizes everything. They’re critical of all your everyday activities from your bank, to your auto mechanic, your job, and those they work with. The hyper-critical isn’t content with what they have, and every problem that needs solving has to be solved their way or nothing at all. If someone else suggests a method for accomplishing a specific chore, the hyper-critical person considers them the enemy and gets pushed away.

And there’s nothing wrong with good ole fashioned, honest feedback. Nothing at all. That’s how we grow; by receiving feedback that helps us understand our failings. But action needs to be taken with people who engage in perpetual criticism. Perpetual criticism is different than honest feedback, as long as it’s given with care. When criticism doesn’t offer some sort of solution, and fails to be constructive, then you need to consider establishing boundaries around this person. Don’t get rid of them, but you definitely need to think about how to quickly disassociate yourself from them. Bad things come from those who are hyper-critical.

People who are impatient or easily frustrated.

Individuals who become easily frustrated at things or display signs of great impatience are dangerous because this type of personality is typically narcissistic in nature.

You can spot a narcissist a mile away, assuming you know what traits to look for. A narcissistic personality is one which people have traits that cause them to behave in upsetting ways. Their ability to function in relationships is limited, and areas of their life suffer, such as their professional life and personal life. 

Here’s how to spot someone that’s impatient, or a potential narcissist.

  • They’re conceited and always talk about the conquers of their battles.
  • They’re always talking about who they know, and what they’ve done.
  • This person is often times boastful.
  • This person often monopolizes conversations.
  • They belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior.
  • When they don’t get what they want, they stomp their feet in anger like Rumpelstiltskin.  

Those who are impatient or easily frustrated are also the folks who get themselves in trouble because of their penchant to leap before looking. These are family members who burn bridges, colleagues who make perpetual hiring errors, and friends who constantly make poor investments. Making fast decisions and failing quickly is one thing, but being impatient when your goals are being obstructed is cause for concern. Impatient people hate being held up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s intentional or not. 

Love those who are easily frustrated and impatient, but do your best to keep space between you and them. 

People who are passive-aggressive.

You’re the sum of the five people who you interact with most.

Naturally, you should desire to interact with those who are direct, and willing to talk through conflict, rather than avoid it. Those who are passive-aggressive don’t possess this quality. I’m not one to say things like ‘get rid of people‘ but those that are passive-aggressive need to go. Don’t surround yourself with them. 

Passive aggressive types have great difficulty receiving feedback, and passive aggression is deadly in the workplace as well as in life. Vulnerability through the sharing of feedback is needed, especially in the workplace, in order for growth and progress to happen. You can’t be vulnerable with passive aggression. 

People who over promise and under deliver.

These are the people in your life that say they’ll do something, but don’t get it done.

The people that commit to one thing and most times don’t deliver. These are yes-men, the ‘A’ types in your life, the sales people, and the ones that rarely take a step back to examine a problem before diving right in. Usually those who over promise are hiding. They’re hiding behind insecurities, and are simply trying to impress everyone around them instead of being an independent thinker. 

Think about a task or a project that you recently handed off to someone. Why did you give this task to them? You trust them. You believe in them. You know they’ll deliver. These people in your life are the ones who you can count on. They’re committed. 

Surround yourself with those who have good critical thinking ability, while passing on those who are simple yes-men.

People who are bullies.

Want to know the best way to identify a bully? Watch who and what they laugh at.

Bullies are arrogant. They don’t laugh at themselves. They instead laugh at others, and they rarely self-deprecate. If somebody makes fun of others but isn’t self deprecating, they’re a taker and not a giver.

Ever hear a loud-mouthed talk show host make a self-deprecating joke? Probably not. Bullies make great television and radio personalities, for sure. I keep those at arms length who can’t laugh at themselves and have zero friends who aren’t objective about themselves and others.

There’s an entire myriad of problems that’s associated with this type of person. Bullies tend to protect others on the condition that others submit. Bullies also use force, threat, or physical manipulation to abuse and dominate others. The behavior of bullies is often repeated and habitual. If you have friends or colleagues who are bullies, I’d keep my distance if I were in your shoes. That’s an unhealthy relationship. 

Are you one of these people?

As I was writing this, I was really challenged. There were a number of times that I had to stop and do some introspection.

Do I display character flaws that need correction? Am I any of these personality types?

Are you? What do you need to change in your life in order to become better?

9 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy [Including Presidential Elections]

Americans love their politics. I’m no exception.

I love political election seasons. I love watching the ridiculousness of presidential campaigns, the craziness of our countries delegate process, and I enjoy watching highlights of various political races from around the country.

And it’s important. Politics, I mean. It’s important because who we elect impacts the future of how our municipalities govern its citizens.

But politicians and our political process won’t make you happy. I am constantly surprised at how many people I know feel that government should help them by creating a false state of happiness.

Our nation’s political system was never derived from the need to satisfy someone’s lack of a fulfilling lifestyle.

And in this tumultuous season of presidential elections, I’m learning about the things I need to give up in order to be happy. (politics included)

So I created a list of 9 things that will make your life a lot easier, when you give up on them. These are things we typically cling to, concepts we feel should serve us because we embrace them. It’s time to let these things go and ultimately be stress free.


1. No one likes a Cliff Clavin. (give up always being right)

I hate being wrong. When it happens, I feel foolish. I can’t stand the notion of not being right, and having this result impact my credibility. I’m sure you can relate. Often times when we end up being wrong about something in a conversation, we’ll sacrifice that relationship by attacking the other person just be right when it’s clear as crystal that we’re dead wrong. The feeling of always having to be right often times comes from pride and a sense of ego. To truly be happy, you need to give this up. Embrace being wrong. Instead of having your family or coworkers label you as a ‘Cliff Clavin’ (which is not a compliment) set aside your pride and be willing to be wrong. (Cliff was always right, and never wrong) The outcome of this act is joy in the humility of the moment.

2. Surrender. (give up your need for control)

In order to find happiness, you’re going to need to relinquish control of everything that was never in your control in the first place. It’s called surrender. Surrender is the act of giving up the need to control everything around you. To find joy in your circumstance, you need to learn how to give up controlling life and controlling people. It’s hard, I know. I tend to be a control freak with certain things, and choosing to allow others to freely work or live is difficult. Letting go of life, and trusting God with things is proving to be my biggest challenge. But when I do, I learn to freely live. When surrender happens, and when I choose to trust through surrender, I learn the valuable lesson of what it means to live intentionally. Psalm 118:8 says “It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in humans.” Learn to live without restriction and without control through the action of surrender.

3. Give up on blame.

Quick story; I used to work with a person who’s only goal in our meetings was finding blame. This person was rarely about finding solutions, and more about who we can burn at the stake. It was stressful to work with them. Our team dreaded meetings with this person because their only goal was to find fault. (our team even began avoiding including them in decisions) In the book Difficult Conversations, the author says “blame inhibits our ability to learn what’s really causing the problem and to do anything meaningful to correct it. Blame is about judging and looks backward.

Finding blame in a situation is not helpful. The goal should always be to find contribution. Contribution is about understanding and looks forward. If you have someone on your team, or in your life, who’s only aspiration is to tattoo someone because of some sort of failing, then maybe it’s time to get rid of them, or at very least keep them at arm’s length. There are a lot of gray areas in life, and life isn’t always black or white. That said, it’s not always 100% someone’s fault for every situation. Give up finding fault and blame, seek something more productive.

4. Give up living a defeated lifestyle.

This is one I’ve struggled with until very recently. It’s one of the most dangerous mindsets to live in. Many people I meet struggle with a self-defeating attitude. And they’re only hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted mentality. The trick is to not let yourself believe everything your mind is telling you. We have so much more hope than what’s in our minds, and what’s on this earth. Our minds are incredible tools that are capable of awesome things like feats of ingenuity and amazing acts of inspiration. But our minds can also be our worst weapon against anything that’s good, righteous, and praiseworthy. Focus on these things, and avoid an ethos that robs you of being better than the sum of your thoughts.

5. Stop complaining.

Some of the happiest people in the world, go home smelling to high heaven at the end of each day.” – Morgan Freeman, Bruce Almighty.

Impoverished kids without shoes in Guatemala have the right to complain. Children in the Middle East that live in fear because of the constant threat of violent attacks from terrorist groups, have the right to complain. Those who are homeless, poor, or disabled, definitely have the right to complain.

The fact that you don’t get your McDonald’s happy meal in three and a half minutes is nothing to lose sleep over. The fact that your little Tommy or Tammy isn’t getting enough playing time on their hockey team, or soccer squad, doesn’t give you the right to lament about it. Nor do you have the right to criticize your boss or coworker for not choosing your idea over theirs. I hate labels, and I’m cautious of labeling perpetual complainers as narcissistic, but there’s truth to it. Most perpetual complainers are selfish and utterly miserable inside. Nobody can make you unhappy, and no circumstance can force you into a state of misery unless you let it. Give up your constant need to complain, and instead spend your energy on learning how to be grateful.

6. Stop trying to impress others.

I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Don’t try to work to impress others. You’ll undoubtedly fail because you’re going to miss someone’s expectations, somewhere along the line. Stop trying to be something that you’re not just to make others like you, and ultimately impress them. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, and the moment you take off all your masks, is the moment you’ll be able to accept and embrace the real you.

7. Give up on your fears.

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t really exist. Fear isn’t even an emotion; rather it’s a false sense of being created in our minds. Fear is meant as a tool to be used by the devil himself to render us weak and useless. In the book, Outwitting the Devil, by Napoleon Hill, the author has a direct one on one conversation with the devil himself. In it, Hill uncovers that the devil’s two most powerful weapons to weaken and destroy humanity is fear and addiction. Fear because of the aforementioned, and addiction because it weakens the mind of independent thought. Give up on fear. And a fearless, independent thinker can accomplish awesome things.

8. Give up on the past.

Recently I made a trip to Palm Beach Florida. While there I met an awesome couple from New Jersey named Karen and George. They were enjoying life after a year of terrible tragedy. George was hit by a truck while crossing the street, and flipped over the vehicle that struck him. He could’ve been paralyzed, or even killed. The worst thing that happened to George: A snapped Achilles tendon and some skin grafts to help heal the ankle wound. Talking with them both was extremely inspiring. Despite their crappy accident, and the hassles they endured, they chose to give up on the past and are look forward to the future.

Giving up on the past is a hard task, especially when the past looks so much better than the present, while the future appears incredibly frightening. But you need to let it go. The past is a distant memory that will never change your current situation or help you overcome adversity that lie ahead. Learn from it, but seek to live in the moment you’re in now, and plan for the future. Stop punishing yourself with the what-if’s of the past and instead embrace the instant that you’re living in now, and be present in everything you do, while enjoying life.

9. Give up on stuff.

This can be hard to grasp so let me explain.

If you have a garage or spare bedroom (or multiple spare bedrooms) resembling an episode from the hit television show Hoarders, I think it’s safe to say you have attachment issues. Being attached to stuff, to material possessions, means you’re trying to fill some sort of void in your life that’s most likely the result of an unmet need, or wound from your past.

When I moved to Fargo from the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, less than a year ago, I got rid of a ton of stuff. (and I’m definitely not a hoarder, so for me to get rid of a bunch was even more impressive) I got rid of stuff because I was downsizing into a small apartment, for a temporary period of time. In this moving experience, I realized that this life isn’t about me or stuff. It’s about people and relationships. It should be about connecting with others to share the good news, rather than what new toy I picked up on Craigslist.

I know too many people that have tons of stuff, like hunting gear, cars, jets-skis, houses, knick-knacks, and entire buildings of crap, that live a shallow existence. I can never seem to have a deep and meaningful conversation with them because their life is made up of inanimate objects rather than the ability to encourage others through something of substance.

There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, and living with the wealth of things, but the minute you choose things over people, equals a life of emptiness and void. The moment you detach yourself from these same things, you allow yourself to live at peace and in freedom. Free from the confines of possessions that tie you down.

What are some things you’ve given up to be happy? What’s been a driver of joy in your life?

How To Avoid Being Robbed Of Lifes Joys, One Struggle At a Time


Life has never been easy for me.

There’s never been an ‘simple-street’ that I got to live on.

My journey on this earth has been one challenge after another, and it often times seems like one monumental conflict.

Can you relate?

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.

Tourette Syndrome

When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS).

Tourette’s is a neurological disorder that involves uncontrollable repetitive movements or unwanted sounds, called tics.

Some tics that are common to those with Tourette’s are repeatedly blinking the eyes, shrugging shoulders, or blurting out offensive words.

Ever see the Rob Schneider movie, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo? There’s a scene where he goes on a date with a lady that’s afflicted with TS. It’s actually a hilarious scene, but definitely not for little eyes, if you know what I mean. This scene will give you an idea of what TS is..albeit a bit skewed.

TS isn’t catchy, or dangerous. I got because someone in my family has it. It’s a genetic disorder. And it sucks.

Because I was diagnosed with TS back in the 80’s, there was very little knowledge about the disorder. Many of those in my life were incredibly ignorant about what I was going through. (my family excluded; they were amazing)

I was labeled a “trouble-maker” and “weird” by school counselors, and mercilessly picked on from the age of seven through middle school. (the harassment died down the bigger and older I got)

TS is a part of me. I embrace it. I don’t run from it. I also don’t have any super-crazy symptoms that you would notice, today.

But if you ever notice me doing a weird motion with my face, I promise I’m not chewing on lemons.


If you’ve ever watched the movie The Goonies, you’d undoubtedly remember Chunk. He was the main character’s best buddy, and he was also the resident chubby kid.

I resembled Chunk’s body-type from about eight years old until I turned twelve. At twelve, my body leaned up and I’ve been the same, semi-fit shape ever since.

As you know, kids can be cruel. Not only was having Tourette’s tough, but I was overweight as well. It’s like having two strikes against me for the kids who enjoyed making fun of others.

I got into fights (just a few), struggled with depression, felt lonely and sad. I was suicidal and a very angry young man.

Being overweight was nothing short of terrible, coupled with having Tourette’s.

A brush with death

To add to the messiness of life, I then almost died in horrendous skiing accident in December of 1994. I was skiing over Christmas break with my brothers and was attempting to keep up with them.

Trying to keep up with my brothers was my first mistake, as they’re both much better athletes than I am.

In my feeble attempt to chase them, I decided to hug inanimate object, while traveling at a high speed.

I was rushed to a regional hospital where I was immediately thrown into surgery.

While on the operating table, my blood pressure dropped and my heart stopped.


I had lost so much blood because of internal bleeding that my heart was fighting to keep beating. I didn’t know any of this, of course, as I was sedated during surgery, but found out afterwards.

Post surgery, I’ll never forget the conversation with the doctors. I remember the doctors giving me their grim prognosis. They told me that I may not walk again, and probably wouldn’t run again due to the injuries. (I fractured my hip, shattered my pelvis, and broke my tailbone)

Life was not awesome in my teens.

I’m also not sure which was worse: being diagnosed with a weird, neurological disorder, the consequences of being overweight, or being paralyzed for a period of time.

The encouragement of your experience

During all this, I heard something incredibly profound.

I heard a pastor say “your experience is your testimony.

This is one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard. The meaning of this nugget of wisdom is simple: your journey in life, however tumultuous, is a period of time that when shared, can encourage others.

My life-experiences have shaped who I am, today. I’m proud of them. I’m grateful for them, despite the pain.

But my story, and yours, shouldn’t be be kept a secret. The intent is to share them, with the appropriate persons and under the right situation.

The trick is to use your experience as a tool to encourage others to rise above their current pain and become better.

Not finding joy

It’s hard to find joy when you’re in a heartbreaking season. There was a time that I was miserable, going through what I did.

You might have a lot of unhappiness in your life. The idea of joy in your everyday routine may seem like a distant memory.

You might have a physical ailment that’s limiting you. You may be suffering from some rare physical condition that’s not ideal. Or you might have a terrible addiction, or be in a marriage that’s completely dead.

Perhaps you’re living through a time of financial or professional stress. Maybe you’re about to become an empty-nester as your child goes off to college only to be faced with the reality of having to get reacquainted with your spouse after years and years of putting the needs of your kids first, and your marriage second.

Whatever you’re going through, there are definitely plenty of reasons that can keep us from finding joy.

You have 2 choices

As humans we were created with a thing called freewill.

Whatever your circumstance, you have the power of freewill, which is the ability to make choices that affect your overall mindset.

When faced with these times, we have 2 options:

  1. Let your circumstance consume you with fear, anger, and self-doubt.
  2. Choose to use your current condition to as a stepping stone to something bigger.

When the doctors gave me my grave outlook, I was angry. I was so angry. But within a year, I was running, jogging and playing soccer. The joy I found took years to find. I had freewill and made the decision to change my mindset, and as a result, the joy came over time.

With my Tourette’s, instead of avoiding people in public for the fear of ridicule, I chose to walk with my head high and chest out, with a sense of God-given confidence that no one could shatter.

I was determined not to let what I was going through define me or keep me down.

What’s your mindset?

Or are you depressed and playing the victim? Or are you willing to approach life differently by choosing joy, instead of being defeated?

Is your choice to simply say ‘I can’t‘, thus self-defeating yourself before you get started, or is your decision one that finds joy in a mindset that lives in confidence that you can accomplish anything through the power of your Creator.

It’s okay to be emotional

Let me add a disclaimer here, so you don’t think that what I’m saying is some kind of always-be-positive-mantra from a Joel Osteen book, or a Deepak Chopra meme.

It is more than okay to be emotional, when facing a difficult period in your life.

In the book, The Emotionally Church by Peter Scazzero, he’s very clear about grieving. Grieving is a natural part of our DNA as humans. It’s how we were created.

Grieving, and more importantly grieving your limitations, is normal and should be celebrated.

It is okay to allow grief and sadness to be a part of your emotional journey, in order to get through hard times. You need to allow this to be a part of your emotional process.

But you can’t live here forever.

Bitterness, anger, and generally treating people around you like a jerk, is not part of the healing process when experiencing hardships.

And perhaps that’s you. If you’ve spent a period of time in your life, whatever the length, being mean, letting bitterness, anger and frustration rule your emotions then you have some apologizing and reconciling to do. I’d encourage you to do some introspection and then create a list of people that you need to reconcile with, because chances are you’ve allowed your feelings to hurt those around you.

Again, it’s okay to be emotional and extend yourself grace. We are often our worst enemies when it comes to self-criticism. So go easy on yourself, and instead have a plan to grieve, and then eventually you’ll heal and be able to successfully move forward.

Don’t rob yourself

In life you’ll encounter trials. You’ll have moments where you simply want to give up, because you’re facing insurmountable odds. Times where the joy may seem like complete darkness.

But it’s not. Joy is present. It always is.

What are you facing today that is requiring a mindset change, and a good dose of joy?

What joy can you find in your life?