It’s Not My Fault…

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When my daughter was in elementary school she learned a painful lesson.  She had a friend who forgot their permission slip to go on a class trip to an amusement park. This was the last day that the teacher would accept them.  To help her friend, my daughter signed her mom’s name to the permission slip and the teacher saw her do it.  Obviously the teacher was upset by this and punished my daughter by not allowing her to attend the class trip.

When she got home and told us the story, we were very upset with our daughter, but she was absolutely crushed.  This was her end of the year class trip and now she was not allowed to go.  We realized that we could ask the teacher to let her go and tell her that we would punish her for her actions.  Or we could have blamed the school, the teacher, the rules or anything else other than our daughter.  We could have told them that she was under a lot of stress.  That she was only trying to help.  That the school should have allowed more time.  We could have come up with a million excuses for her action.  But we didn’t do that.

We held her responsible for her actions and she was not allowed to go on the class trip.

Oh, how times have changed.  We live in a new age where no one is responsible for anything.  It’s not my fault.  I have problems.  I am disadvantaged.  I’m not responsible.  I forget things.  I’m distracted.  It’s not important to me.  I don’t care.  You should take care of it for me.  Your taking advantage of me.  Your being mean to me. I need more time.  I’ll do it later.  I’m not smart enough.  I can’t remember very well. I just can’t do it…  

We have created more reasons for not doing the right thing than to actually do the right thing. We coddle both young and old into thinking that there is always a way out.   You can talk and excuse your way out of everything.  We have raised a generation that believes that everything is not their fault and encouraged them to use excuses and negativity as a safety valve when they get caught up in a bad decision.  

While I believe we should be sympathetic and understanding to social barriers and personal situations, I believe its time to return to responsibility.  If you make a poor decision, then you should be held accountable for the decision and the ramifications.  We are raising our children and creating a society that believes that their is no defined right or wrong. How messed up is that?  My daughter grew up in the inventive spelling and participation trophy generation.  We don’t want to hurt their imagination or their feelings.  Suppressing responsibility and delaying the truth.  This results in a rude awakening when the real world kicks in.

We can all make reasonable excuses when bad things happen.  We all have a past, personality characteristics and flaws that we have to overcome.  Some situations are complex with many characters and lots of moving parts. Certainly there are countless opportunities to place blame on others. Yet the true leaders of the world understand that taking responsibility is an essential characteristic of leadership.  Making excuses does not make you strong- it makes you a weak leader.  Your team will not respect you if all you do is deflect and blame others.  Accept your past, your flaws, and your situation and overcome them!  

Stay positive and believe in yourself and you can fight through any situation.  Take the time to think before you act.  Seems simple- but we can be so impulsive and ruled by emotion.  Ask for advice if you are unsure.  Sleep on really tough decisions.  Don’t take unnecessary risks. Your integrity is a priceless jewel- don’t risk it.  And in the end, If you mess up or things go badly, take responsibility for the outcome.  This is not always easy but you will be better for it!

So what do you think? Are we living in an age of no responsibility? Do you think we need to own up to our failures and mistakes? Please let me know by pressing “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

                    

Who Am I?

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If you ask people this rather simple question you are likely to get several answers from each person.  They may provide descriptions such as father, accountant, golfer, husband, believer, friend, etc.  These titles provide some of the identities that make up their being as they see it.  These descriptions are really roles in our lives.  Each of these descriptions are different and unique.  There are also descriptions that may be less role based.  For example, they might say they are compassionate, thoughtful, a leader, a listener, a perfectionist, a servant, etc. These responses would describe the characteristics of who they think they are.

All of this to say- Who Are You?

I believe that much of the value in our roles are based on what WE DO rather than WHAT WE THINK WE ARE.  We tend to tell ourselves that we value roles that we don’t really act out in our everyday lives.  YOU WILL DO WHAT YOU VALUE.  We have a way of filtering out our roles and identities based on the time investment in fulfilling each different role.  

If you value your role as a father, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.  

If you value your role as an executive, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.

If you value your role as as a friend, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.    

If you value your role as a Believer, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.   

Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at your time and where you allocate your efforts to fulfill a particular role in your life.  By spending a large portion of your time in a particular role, you are placing personal value towards this role and thus you may be minimizing other important roles.  Realize that it is likely that you are choosing certain roles that give YOU the most value.  The roles that feed your ego and make you feel good.  In the midst of this you may be neglecting roles that are vitally important in your life.

I believe that it is a healthy exercise to examine where you are allocating your time and efforts to make sure that they are in balance with your goals and responsibilities.  We have a way of fooling ourselves believing that the role that brings us the most gratification or affirmation is our most important role!  Chances are you may be neglecting some other area of your life. This examination may lead to changes that will help to reduce regrets that will occur when your roles are way out of balance.

Take a quick and honest survey of where you are. You will be happy that you did!

So what do you think? Do we tend to perform the roles that bring us the most affirmation? Do you have an example of this that you can share? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

It’s the science stupid!

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Unfortunately, it has become quite fashionable to correct others and point to “science” as the basis for your argument and beliefs.  While using the word “science” is a broad characterization, I believe that the true message that is being conveyed is that you are stupid and I am more intelligent because I implicently trust the science.  

There are very few labels in life that are worse than calling someone stupid.

While the scientific method has resulted in great discoveries and has increased our knowledge of the way things work in nature, it is not foolproof and is subject to changing theories and discoveries.  The basis of the scientific method is really observation.  Changing different inputs and then watching and documenting the results to get an understanding of how things work.  And there are other factors to consider that tend to skew things and pollute the sauce and actually make the “science” stupid.

We are human.

One problem with science is that we tend to interject bias into our studies.  We want results to be a certain way to prove or disprove our theories and hypothesis.  I believe that it is really impossible to completely remove all bias due to the human condition.  We have opinions, feelings, emotions, aspirations, ego, shame, empathy and all of these characteristics are part of being a living and breathing human.  

There is art.

The portion of discovery that gets lost is the side opposite of the science.  This is the side that could be termed as art.  Often there is an element of intuition that goes against the math, the chemistry, the facts.  This intuition is difficult to describe and measure yet it is involved in nearly every great discovery.    

There is faith (or luck).

When a doctor finishes a medical procedure he will often end with a comment like, “Now we wait to see if this is successful.”  Even with all the modern medical innovations there is still the knowledge that, in the end, things may work or they may not.  I call this faith.  Others may call it luck.  Regardless of your viewpoint, there is a realization that even with the best data and knowledge, things don’t always end as planned.   

So before you sell out to science and call others stupid for their questioning or apprehension to get on board, consider that your “science” might be flat out wrong.  And by making your comments about their failure to believe the science, you are doing harm to both of you.  You are likely degrading them for their apprehension to go “all in” and you may actually be the “stupid” party to discount these common failures in science in your self-righteous haste! 

Photo Friday- You Have No Excuse!

Photo taken at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens by the author

I snapped this picture while walking with the twins at the zoo on the day after Thanksgiving. A beautiful flower, might be a golden rain tree, but exquisite in color and unique with its upright form. The zoo is a great place to see and appreciate the diversity of life. It is also a bit depressing to me to see these magnificent animals in cages for a lifetime of display. I am sure that they would all choose freedom in lieu of a life of protection and easy meals.

I believe that the incredible diversity and breathtaking beauty of nature points directly to the Creator. If everything was based on mere chance and natural selection, I believe we would see certain species dominate and we would miss the huge display of thousands, really millions, of unique species, crazy colors and beautiful shapes and designs. Chance would not result in this level of diversity.

When the scientists were mapping out the human genome, one of the lead scientists had an “ah ha!” moment in which he recognized that someone designed the DNA. It’s like seeing a precision machined part and recognizing that this part could not just occur naturally. He saw the fingerprints of the Creator. He recognized that it was too intricate and precise to happen by chance. He was an atheist before this discovery but this “ah ha” moment completely changed his viewpoint.

In the first chapter of the book of Romans, the scriptures declare that we have “no excuse” to deny the existence of the Creator. His work is breathtaking, delicate, massive, complicated, and orderly. He created as an artist works to create unique beauty for pleasure. He made our world both practical and beautiful. Without the artist touch, everything would resort to simply plain and practical.

I have witnessed beautiful flowers growing up through the debris next to a pile of trash in the inner city. I have heard birds singing in a burned out forest. The beauty of His work will overcome the ugly and our abuse of the land.

He hasn’t put His brushes down. The Creator continues to amaze with each and every sunset.

Don’t you see him?

He’s calling you to spend time with Him. Walk with the Him in the cool of the morning. You have no excuse. He wants you.

YOU are his greatest masterpiece!

No Regrets Monday- Dreams or Responsibility?

This is a quick series of short Monday posts reviewing some of the regrets that folks commonly have when they reach the twilights of their lives. Enjoy!

“I wish I would have followed my dreams instead of doing what was responsible and expected of me.”

When I was in about middle school, I took a standardized test that was supposed to help me determine what my career choice should be based on my current likes and dislikes. I think it was called the Army Test. This was your typical fill in the bubble type test and it went through a bunch of questions where I would chose the item that suited me and what I enjoyed doing. At the end of the test, the results came back with two career choices- Home Builder and Forest Ranger.

So these may seem pretty normal except my father owned a construction business. I was already doing the “Home Builder” thing. I remember being a bit disappointed about this choice. I felt like- duh? What good was that answer? Yet, in retrospect, it may have reinforced my choice to pursue construction as a career.

Even as a boy, I had always loved the outdoors. I loved to fish and spend time in the woods so the other choice also seemed to fit. I also remember pondering that the Forest Ranger path would result in a much lower wage. Seemed like the only responsible choice was the Home Builder.

I don’t dislike construction, but I still feel that pull of the outdoors and the wilderness. In fact, getting out into the woods is my “go to” way to recharge. My way to cope with the stress and the monotony is to disappear into the woods into its breathtaking beauty:

Where it is quiet.

Where I can think.

Where things are in perfect order.

Where I can breathe.

Where I can recharge.

Construction has been good to me but I sometimes wonder about what may have happened if I had taken the Forest Ranger route. Maybe I would be more relaxed. Maybe I would have smiled more. Maybe I would have been more excited getting to work each day. Maybe my relationships would have been better. Maybe the forest is where I really belong.

The real risk in life is sometimes doing what your heart is telling you- not your head. Yet we often equate risk only to money or expectations. But life is more than just money and what other folks expect of you.

There is a reason we dream. There is a reason to the connection. I can’t go back, however, what I know now is this. Do everything you can and in our power to follow your dreams!

No regrets!

So Who Are You Really Thankful For?

Kathy and I have been serving in a new homeless ministry (new for us) near our house for the past few months. Tuesday during a discipleship study at the mission while discussing thankfulness, I reached a conclusion regarding this subject.

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We all have things that are blessings in our lives. Our families. Our jobs. Our home. Our security.  Our things.  While many of these may be connected to to us due to choices we have made as we have lived our lives, the root of the blessing is the same.

We need to thank the Lord as he is the originator of all that we have.

This may be a great discussion for the thanksgiving table among your family. Do you really think that YOU originated all of these blessings or was it just luck?  The miracle of life, our amazing bodies and intellect, our strength and courage, our ability to love one another and take care of each other, the amazing and unexplainable things that have happened to all of us. Could luck really result in the what you have and your many blessings?

If that is the case we should call it Happy Luck Day!

As you go around the table and share what you are thankful for, ask your family who brought you this thing that you are sharing? Where did it come from? And where did this holiday (pastor called it by its original definition- holy day) come from?

By definition “thank you” is a response to a person.  You don’t thank a tree.

Everyone loves Thanksgiving. Everyone has things in their lives that they are thankful for. Our job is to remind them who is the author of all of these blessings!

Happy Thanksgiving!

So what are you most thankful for?  Do you understand who is the author of those blessings?  Click on “Leave a Comment and let me know what you think!

Give it Away!

One of the principles that I have learned as I have gained experience and wisdom is that the answer is often hidden or the opposite of logic. This realization has led me to second guess my observations and solutions and this has been very enlightening as I examine the issue from several angles and often get conflicting solutions.

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Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

As I have coached and built-up leaders through the years, I have used this second guessing as a test on how I look at leadership and management styles and their effectiveness. For the most part I have concluded that, barring abusive behavior, as long as they are effective then their style is usually acceptable. People are somewhere between very tough to impossible to change. You work with what you got.

The outlier to this theory is how we give power to our leaders. I believe there are some pretty rigid rules in how you build a powerful leader. Much of this is common sense, yet few really follow the rules here.

The source of the power that exists in the leaders of your team comes from you! If you see a person as a weak leader, its is often a result of not being given the power and authority to do their job. You have to give it away. This narrative of weak leadership may actually be the voice in your head giving you the authority to meddle in their affairs and undermine their authority.

There are many damaging actions that thwart authority and lead to a weakened leader. Here a a few of the biggies:

Chain of Command: When you do not respect the chain of command you are undermining the authority of your leaders. If you continually direct people downstream of others you are sending a message that their leaders instructions are not important. Although you are the “big boss” and you can do whatever you want, this disregard for the authority of those you have placed in charge is damaging. Very damaging. Don’t do it.

Micromanagement: Getting in the weeds on issues and overanalyzing is damaging to authority. Accept that mistakes will happen. This is the only path to growth. Stay out of the weeds.

New Ideas: Don’t shoot down new ideas because they are not yours or they involve risk. Be receptive to new ways of doing things. This is empowering your leaders to think. To be relevant. To make a difference.

Hiding your Leaders: Celebrate and promote your leaders in the business world. Some folks will be fearful that by promoting there leaders they may loose them to another company. I say that hiding them will lead to the same result. Promote your leaders. It will strengthen your organization.

Limiting Decisions: By limiting the authority of making decisions you are also limiting their power. Give them the authority but make sure they know they own it. They will have to clean up the mess if it goes bad. This is also a path to growth.

Too many times we deduce that weak leadership is the result of a character flaw or the limited abilities of the leader we manage. The truth is that their power comes from you!

You can either build them up or tear them down. It’s your choice. If you want a strong organization you need to give your power away. Let it flow downward. Will there be problems if you let go? Yes- always. However, you will have a group of strong leaders below you and this will be a huge advantage in cleaning up the mess.

Wind them up and let them go. You’ll be happy with the results!

Your Fooling Yourself!

Do we deceive ourselves into thinking that we ARE what we are NOT?

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The mind has a way of legitimizing and reinforcing our behavior. We think that our motivations are pure. We are acting in a righteous way.  For others.  Not ourselves.  We are selfless.  But is this really true?

We also have a way of running an interior narrative that reinforces this reality.  We can truly convince ourselves that we value something when the facts actually completely contradict this belief.  The complete opposite of what we think.

The difference is reality and reality is found in action. We will DO what is important to us.  You can’t fool action.  You can tell people that you value or care about something, but what are you doing about it?  If you are not acting it’s just talk.

Folks run their mouths about helping the poor and donate absolutely nothing. The environmentalist drives a Suburban. The wife says she loves her husband but spends more time talking to her girlfriends and keeping up her super mom image. The husband who says he is a devoted dad but spends his weekends playing golf.

Examine your action VERY carefully.  What do you do?  What are your actions?  Day in day out, what is your true motivation?  You may disguise it as altruist, charitable, for others- but is it really?  Often, its really all about you and what you truly care about.

The way that you look to others.
Your image.
Your reputation with others.

There is a passage in the Bible that talks about praying loudly on the corner and praying silently in a private place.  The public display is all about you.  You have received your reward.  The private display is the only pure motivation.

Is your action about the return?  Even what looks charitable or caring?  What I GET for my GIVE.  Will I get something in return for my actions?  Will people think i’m just so amazing for what I did?

You can fool yourself into thinking all of your actions are for others.  Pump yourself up. But you are lying to yourself.  Examine yourself closely.  Are you doing it for your image? Or for your pride!

Do it in private.  Do it for someone who doesn’t think you are amazing.  Do it for someone who doesn’t even show ANY appreciation for it.

If not- you might be simply fooling yourself!

So what do you think?  Do we tell ourselves a story that may be completely false?  Can we truly fool ourself?  Click on “Leave a Comment and tell me what you think!

Boring Freedom

I have always liked the 4th of July for what it is.  A day of celebration of family, good food and a reflection on how we have been blessed as a nation.  A day at the beach or the pool is usually in order.  Relax and watch the waves or spend some time on the boat enjoying family and friends.  Nothing really spectacular or unique or cool.  Some fireworks and good food.

The 4th is the celebration of freedom, right?  We all enjoy the gift of living in the United States and probably take freedom for granted.  Freedom is an amazing gift but like any other good thing it can be abused.

I feel like we are losing our grip on the simple and boring.  We do not celebrate this kind of thinking as a country anymore.  If you have simple and wholesome values, you can actually be ridiculed now for being boring and normal.  The fringe is what we celebrate.  The unique and sometimes even outrageous.  If you are a quiet and average American you are not cool.  So what is so wrong with normal?

We have become a nation that is obsessed with freedom for the edges and the fringe.  And what we have lost along the way is innocence and a respect for the simple and good.  This obsession over cool and edgy has been the breeding ground for a generation to grow up too quickly. The self-indulged “right” to express yourself however you want. The change of a complete generation’s life goals from “raise a nice family” to power and money.

We have transformed as a nation into one giant, never ending, self-centered argument. We have lost the ability to communicate.  We only yell at each other.  We’ve completely lost any vision to see the other side.  In this noise, there is no celebration for the boring people who go to work each day and try hard to raise a family and maintain some semblance of normalcy and reality for life.  Trying to shield our children from the nonsense.  This celebration of the outrageous.  The “big show” going on around us.

I think we need to get back to our roots.  Review our values.  Be frank about what we have created.  Review our commitment to the next generation.   Can we do it?  Or is the genie out of the bottle?

This 4th of July, I celebrate freedom for everyone including the boring people.  They want the opportunity to live without being cool or edgy.  Just have a great day with family and friends and be thankful for the blessings.  Nothing spectacular.  Nothing epic.  Just another boring 4th of July!

What are you living for?

Kathy was browsing in a gift shop near our home last week and struck up a conversation with the lady clerk. This is not an uncommon thing for Kathy. She has a gift of being able to connect quickly with people. This lady was originally from Columbia (South America not South Carolina) and she has been in the United States long enough to really “get” our culture.

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We are so arrogant here. We are convinced that this is where everyone in the world wants to live. We have such great opportunities to make money and it is a safe place to raise a family. These things are important and special, but they are not everything. I believe we have sacrificed some really critical things along the way. We have made choices that have warped our culture. Unconsciously, in our pursuit to be the best, we have changed the way we live, our goals, and our priorities. And I am also guilty.

The lady began to share about her family and her life back in Columbia. She aligned with Kathy’s experiences from Costa Rica. Emphasis on family, friends, relaxation, community.

She shared, “In the U.S., you live to work and back home we work to live.”

Whether intentional or not, we have placed WAY too much emphasis on work and making money. Our lives are wrapped around our work and our careers. Not the other way around. This may not be your choice. You may feel like you want to work less and live more, but can you really do it?  Can you really shift your focus away from making money?

Will you be able to pay your current bills?
Buy the things you want?
Can you really live with less?
Can you really do it?

Our culture has raised the bar on expectations so high that we run crazy hard just to try to keep up. Building bigger barns. In the meantime we have lost community. Lost our connection. Our ability to really LIVE together and enjoy life. We’ve lost our focus on taking care of each other.

Where are you?
Are you living to work or working to live?
Can we go back?  Do you know how we can get back to where we came from?
What needs to change?  What is messing us up?

Click on “Leave a Comment” and lets share ideas!