Photo Friday- Old Friends

I officially retired my gym sneakers today.  The soles are coming off the bottom so they are done.  They have been in my gym bag for at least ten years.  They have been reliable and comfortable which is about all you can ask for from a pair of shoes.  I have beat them up pretty good through the years.  They survived countless abuse on the treadmill, the elliptical machine, stepper and other exercise duties.

Kathy has tried to throw them away numerous times.  I have resisted because the shoes are like old friends.  They don’t have the best support or cushioning, yet they are soft, pull on easy and dependable. 

I have to admit that I have a bunch of clothes that are like this.  They don’t look great, but they are worn in, soft to the touch, and always there when I need them.  Kathy has actually ripped shirts off of me when she is over my friendship with a particular shirt that I am fond of.

Do you have friends like this?  Not clothes, but folks who have these characteristics?  

Friends that you have known for a very long time.

Friends that are easy.

Friends where you pick right up where you left off.

Friends that are soft and comfortable.

Friends that don’t care what you look like.

Friends that are always dependable.

Maybe you should let them know how much you appreciate them?  We lose track of time and sooner of later they may come apart like my shoes.  

My shoes provided me with a very long relationship, and it may be crazy, but I will miss them.  I bought a new pair and they have far better cushioning but they are stiff and not nearly as comfortable  Over time I will break them in and I am sure they will be fine.  But I will miss my old friends.  I am grateful for the many years we had together!  

The Always Right

Photo by Dominika Kwiatkowska on Pexels.com

There is a very damaging phenomena that has overwhelmed our culture and threatens every type of relationship. I’m not sure what the roots are here but the results are clear. What is this phenomena? We have become a society obsessed with being right.

Somewhere along the way we have reached the conclusion that being right is THE most important thing. Social media and the internet have fueled a nasty discourse where you can trash someone and get supported and rewarded with more followers. A healthy dialogue, where you can argue your side, should be a positive thing. But we have digressed to nasty name calling and truly outrageous comments. Reminds me of the childish level of “Your momma wears army boots!”.

In addition to the onslaught on social media the “always right” crowd has invaded business and personal relationships also. Does being right give you the license for character assassination? Can someone make a mistake or do something less than perfect and still be respected for who they are? Is the goal of this life to make sure everyone knows how intelligent or righteous or pure you are? Jesus called these folks “white washed tombs”.

The other side of this is that the need to be right all the time is a pure people repellent. Nobody likes a “know-it-all” or someone that is constantly correcting them or pointing out there faults. Relationships and marriages are nuked every day by folks continually dwelling on faults, relational mistakes and personality quirks to the point of a breakup.

I’m sure in the cases of the internet and social media, the electronic separation provides the “courage” to make stupid and outrageous statements. But I think the basis for this obsession with being right has been around since the beginning of man. Yet the source of this new increased obsession with being right may be a flawed value system, our competitive nature, and on a deeper level- our own selfish pride. Let’s look at each of these.

Value System
Often the “always right” crowd believe that they are either smarter than you or they are simply better than you. Again I think the internet and social media have a role here in providing nearly unlimited information about a subject. The problem is that you can easily find another argument to discredit your beliefs. Beyond the intellectual side, the always right crowd may feel that they are simply better than the other party. They may feel that they care more, give more, feel more, have less faults, think purely, and live an impeccable life. They may have developed a value system that is based on their superiority and their internally applied pursuit of perfection. Even if they are truly better, it does not give them the right to trash others or look down on others views, opinions, faults or shortcomings. Gossip fuels the value system of the always right. Talking someone down lifts up the person who is involved in gossip. The Bible says you need to remove the plank from your own eye before judging the splinter in others. Being right has become their value system and their identity.

Competitive Nature
We are born with a competitive nature. At the earliest age kids will fight for toys and treats. We tend to celebrate competitiveness in our society and some folks personalities are prone to seek out competition and aggression. Having a strong competitive nature exhibits itself in many ways that may not be immediately recognized. The self-induced need to be the best and perform to excess can be a sign of this nature. By seeking to make yourself first you are naturally putting others down. To admit to being wrong goes against the need to put yourself first. I have personally witnessed competitive folks squirm when they are cornered and have to accept that they were wrong.

Pride
Last but not least. Our pride pushes us to build a case that we are right in every circumstance. If someone says or does something that we believe is wrong, we will often respond or react due to our own pride and what others would think about the situation. We are worried more about what others will think about US than about the OTHER person or the situation that you are in. We will actually trash others in the pursuit of being right in order to support how others view us. We are worried that we will look weak or supportive of a bad situation. We are worried that we may lose respect from our family or our circle of friends. We worry more about OUR image than the OTHER person’s image who we have determined is wrong. Being right doesn’t give you a free pass to destroy others EVEN IF YOU ARE RIGHT.

This is a complicated issue but it appears that the need to be right is growing. This need to be right can blind your behavior and result in doing things that are stupid and cruel clouded in a crazy righteous haze. We have forgotten about trusting the Lord to take care of things. We have forgotten about grace. We have forgotten to consider the relationship on the other side. We have forgotten about respect. We have forgotten to love first. All in the insatiable need to protect our image, win an argument, or exert power over someone else.

What you should do is question yourself. Are your motives to be right to help the other person to see a different perspective or are you simply correcting them? Are your motives to help them, not exert your power over them? Do I have their best interest in mind? Is this issue worth the discussion or should I just let it go? Am I presenting this in a positive and loving way? Failing to check yourself may allow emotion to overtake the situation and lead to serious regrets. And ultimately, placing the ultimate value on being right may make you 100% right but 100% alone.

So what do you think? Have we become so self-righteous that we can’t control ourselves with our comments? Is this something you have viewed personally? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me hear your story!

Photo Friday- Mountain Wisdom

A couple weeks ago I section hiked 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail starting In North Georgia and ending in North Carolina. The hike was amazing but it was physically challenging. There were many significant climbs that really pushed my body. I was ready for it mentally. I have hiked here before and I am in relatively good shape but the climbs here were especially exhausting.

While climbing out of one of the gaps I passed a guy who was going extremely slow.  Really, really slow.  I thought to myself, “This guy will never make it”.  And I kept heading up the hill.  This was a tough climb near the end of the day so I stopped SEVERAL times before the top.  While stopped and resting, this guy comes around the corner and passes me!  This went on several times.  I would blaze ahead and he would catch me. I realized that this was just like “The Tortoise and the Hare”!

I ended up introducing myself to the Tortoise and we talked a bit about his hike.  His plan was to thru hike to Maine.  We were similar in age but he had some health issues that required that he monitor his heart rate. He had a watch that kept his heart rate as he hiked.  When we both hit the top of the mountain, I was going to camp and bail out early from exhaustion.  He encouraged me to push on and join the group at a camp site about 5 more miles away.  I sucked it up and hiked on.  I pushed ahead and, true to the story, ended up arriving about 30 minutes before the Tortoise.

After contemplating what I saw, I realized the irony. The similarity to the story. The wisdom in going slower.  I am conditioned to attacking the mountain.  Attacking the task. Pushing really hard and getting it over with.  The way of an athlete and an overachiever!  But this method left me spent and exhausted.  I was burning too much energy going too fast.  The Tortoise was right.  So going forward, I began monitoring my breathing to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard.  This way I had power remaining in my batteries to go longer.  Attacking the mountain was NOT the best strategy.

I slowed my pace on the climbs and this made things much better.  In the end, the time I lost going slower was not really significant.  I was able to see more and keep the pain level contained which made things more enjoyable.  

This lesson really spoke to the way I’m wired.  I have always pushed super hard and this has been both good and bad.  I accomplished a great deal but at a cost.  This internal push has left me with a bad back, bad knees, countless missed opportunities and strained relationships.  If I had to do it all over again I would use more restraint.  Do a little less.  Save myself for the important things instead of wasting myself on the task. 

A great lesson learned on the trail- slow and steady wins the race!  

So what do you think? Do you have a similar story? Press “leave and comment” and tell me what you think!     

Who Am I?

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

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!

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.

nvgwp_hw1iw-joshua-jackson

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!

Punched in the Face!

You won’t really get away with it- they are watching you!

Kathy and I have been spending Saturday mornings serving at an inner city ministry giving out surplus bread and produce to the homeless and needy.  This has been our Saturday morning routine for the past seven years or so.  We completely enjoy serving and have helped to build a vibrant community that has taken the ministry far past the goal of just providing food.  This is a rough area.  An area of high crime and drug activity.  Shooting and violence are common in this neighborhood.

When we get set up, there is often a group of ladies who take cuts at the front of the line.  The men will often plead with us to do something about it.  These ladies are a tough bunch and have been fighting for their families for a very long time.  I get it.  Yet it is frustrating that they can get away with taking cuts. It causes unrest. Even when we speak up, they continue to do what they want and often ignore our requests.

After observing this activity and the reactions, I have figured out how they can get away it. If they were men, the other guys would take care of things. Right or wrong.

They would likely get punched in the face!

Respect and special treatment for women or other groups are not uncommon.  And there is nothing wrong with special privileges.

Unless you take advantage of the situation. 

Leadership often comes with some special privileges.  You may have the opportunity to be in the front.  First in line.  You may be able to avoid some unpleasant tasks or duties as a result of your position.  You are likely to be treated differently than the average person.

The key is how you decide to handle these privileges.  If you are a servant leader, you can’t differentiate yourself from your team.  The truth, in terms of servant leadership, is this:  You are part of the team and you just happen to be the leader.  You must stay in the trenches with your team.  You have to be willing to get dirty and do the work along side your people.  If you exalt yourself above your team and take advantage of your position, you have violated one of the key components of being a servant leader.

Special privileges with leadership must be used with caution.  You cannot hide.  They see everything you do.  Your heart is exposed by your actions.  Be careful.  Always.  They are watching you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen examples of folks taking advantage of special privileges in leadership positions?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Are You A Closet Control Freak?

Being in control is good. But at what cost?

1024px-Chess_board_with_chess_set_in_opening_position_2012_PD_05

The clinical control freak is someone who is abusive and will alter your life patterns at extreme costs. They will play with your mind, schedule and goals and do whatever it takes to fool themselves into the reality that they can keep everything under their control in order to manage their personal anxiety and other personality disorders.

But what if you are just a bit controlling? Just a closet control freak?

Oh I get it. The world is a dangerous place, right? There is danger and failures around every corner. The closet control freak can reason that they are just protecting their friends and loved ones from hurt and danger. But is it YOUR job to step up and protect everyone from life? Do they WANT your advice or your help? Do you think that is YOUR duty or is it just a mechanism to prop up your self-worth?

The control freak is like a repellant. Lets face it- nobody likes to deal with someone who has the need to control things around them. Even if they are right. We all have the desire to find out for ourselves.

This is not about judging whether they are right or wrong. The control freak would argue that they are just trying to protect others with their behavior. Trying to guide things so the outcome is good. Sounds good but not always truly sincere.

The root of the closet control freak is to avoid personal worry, anxiety and keep up their self image. See, the problem is insecurity or a lack of self-esteem. And the antidote is power.

By controlling things you can blank out the insecurity with power. You are in control. You are calling the shots.

What are some signs of the closet control freak? Here are a few:

Advice: You must give advice- cause you are the expert on everything! Giving advice seems like a good thing right? Unless its not wanted. Look back at repellant. Keep your trap shut. Unless there is imminent danger or something criminal.

Stall tactics: When something comes up that you don’t want to do -you stall. Wait it out until the other person see your “better idea”. Or just hope things change to your viewpoint. Stall anyways. Just in case, Forever. Super frustrating!

Better options: You feel like you need to give other options that suit you better. And you wait. Until. They. Choose something. That you. Like. Childish.

Dismiss: You can justify dismissing things that are not important to you, yet, may be important to others. You truly believe that you have the ultimate objective view. If you don’t value it, then its not valuable? Really?

Mechanical Control: You don’t like others to drive, fly, or steer anything. You have serious bouts of fear. You are not in control. You have trouble relaxing when someone else is at the wheel. Are we all bad drivers except for you? Is this really our problem?

Reject- Not Compromise: You will feel that you cannot sacrifice what you know must happen. Save everyone from disaster. Anything less leads to worry, anxiety or fear. Winner take all. Seriously?

Perfectionism: Things must be perfect. If someone see something that is bad or out of place- then it is a personal failure. I can’t have a dirty house or a bad golf game. Really? Nothing is perfect under the sun. This is textbook insecurity. Right?

I get the control thing. We can get accustomed to being in control. And we don’t want bad thing to happen. But what do we sacrifice? Is it worth it? Remember the repellant. Can you keep your mouth shut? Can you stop the manipulative behavior? Can you let others figure it out without your “help”? Can you just relax and let it happen?

Reality check. The world will keep spinning without you! Find your value somewhere else and realize that you matter without the efforts to control. Your hard work to change or manipulate people or the outcomes will rarely have any influence on them or the outcomes. So why do you do it? Why do you think that you have to control anything? Realize that its your “go to” response. You have likely been doing it for so long that it has become second nature. But you need to fix it because nobody else can. It’s your anchor. Face the issue and the world will change around you. Really! I promise.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with my comments or am I out of bounds on this?  Click “Like” if you agree or click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Talker or Doer?

Are you a silver-tongued leader?

photo-1416339158484-9637228cc908

I’ve met a bunch of people in leadership through the years.  Some were gifted motivators.  They knew how to communicate a goal and guide to the finish.  They had the ability to paint the picture.  A great gift to be able to help folks see the finish line.  Yet sometimes this was all you got.  A picture and a story.

Then I have met some great leaders who are really in it.  These are the folks that might say less but are next to you in the battle.  They realize that talk won’t always get you there.  They are willing to really help out.  Get dirty.  Get into the fight.

The rub lies in that the talker is often seen as the better leader.

I really hate this.  The talker uses his mouth.  The doer uses his hands.  But classic leadership will tell you that you don’t have the time to be a doer.  You shouldn’t get bogged down in actually doing the work.  If you’re a leader -you are worth more.  Your ability to motivate and direct is more important.

Messed up thinking!

While I agree that you should not get bogged down doing tasks that should be delegated, many leaders feel that it is below them to jump in and help out.  They are the boss.  It would make them look bad if they were seen actually doing the work.

I can’t be a used car salesman leader.  I personally have a hard time trusting and believing someone who talks too much and doesn’t really want to pitch in and help out.  I realize that there is value in motivating and directing yet by only using these two tools you are forgetting the most powerful tool.

Serving your team by actually working along side of them. 

Here is a question to ponder- What do YOU create?  Do you actually produce things as a leader or is your day filled with walking and talking?  Do you produce or do you talk?

My opinion- we need more doers and less talkers!  What do your think?  Let me know by clicking on “Leave a Comment” and let me hear your opinion.  Talker or Doer?

 

 

 

The Office Whisperer

We’ve seen the horse whisperer and the pet whisperer. What about the office whisperer?

The horse whisperer has a way to talk to a horse and connect with them. Reassure them. Calm them down.

The pet whisperer has the skills to find out how a pet is stressed. Find out the things that are causing problems. Trying to make things better. Provide a better quality of life.

AFRICA 2009 - WESTERN PROVINCE 174

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

The office whisperer has other intentions. They often want to discuss people. They want to gossip! Not to improve. Not to help you. Not to make things better. To put themselves forward.

Scheming. Controlling. Divide and conquer.

There is nothing that is good that comes out of a whisperer. Nothing.

There is a reason they are whispering. They don’t want others to hear what they have to say or more importantly- what they are doing. The message is generally caustic. You don’t make a positive comment in a whisper. Think about this. Really. It’s like acid. It burns!

The purpose for whispering is about power. Period. You can comment below if you disagree. I wish you would!

Closed door meetings are fine and needed. There is a time in management when you need to close the door and discuss issues with staff. But how often do you find yourself whispering? I think that when you whisper you are really showing your cards. You are posturing. You are manipulating. You are trying to gather folks for your position. You are whispering to make your point. Why do you it? Why do you whisper? Please- really thing about this!

When I close my door it’s primarily to avoid the noise. Yes, I have to discuss things in private with folks occasionally. And that’s OK. But when I close the door, I don’t feel like I need to whisper. When you whisper you are delivering a secret. A special, often strategic message. Don’t bite on this. When the level goes low- think! Why do I feel like I need to whisper? Why can’t I talk in a normal tone? Who does this benefit? There is usually a reason for the whisper. Adults generally get rid of this when they leave the playground. Right?

Remember what your Mom told you- if you can’t say something good about someone then don’t say it at all! There is a time to discuss performance and management issues in a closed door setting but this should not need to be a daily event.

It’s really good advice from your Mom. Don’t whisper. Listen to your Mom!

So what do you think?  Do you know someone who regularly lowers their voice.  Do you agree with the me that whispering is a sign of a problem?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Community Doesn’t Just Happen

nvgwp_hw1iw-joshua-jackson

Photo Credit- Josh Jackson- CC Public Domain

One-on-one communication is on life support…

We have reached to age where we will e-mail or text someone who is just a few feet away.  We avoid the phone call because it takes longer than a quick text.  Skip the pleasantries.  Get to the point.  Get your answer.  Move on the next issue.  Right?

This is certainly great for efficiency.  You can get more done if you can quickly get the information that you need and move on.

Yes, I am guilty.  My phone message suggests you e-mail me as I am often on the road or in meetings and can’t take calls.  The phone conversation takes a commitment to set aside some time to chat.  Some time to catch up.  Some time to see how someone is doing.

We are so programmed for efficiency and our workloads have increased to a point that the conversation comes at a cost.  You will loose some time connecting with others.  You may not get as much accomplished if you take the personal route.  You may have to work harder to accomplish things if you choose to be personal instead of impersonal.  Communicating personally is a choice.  You can choose to pick up the phone or walk to their office and get your answers along with an update of how they are doing or what’s going on in their lives.

Building Community Takes Work

In order to build community you have to communicate one-on-one.  You have to engage others.  You have to share and be vulnerable.  You have to be real.  This doesn’t just happen.  It takes work.  You have to be intentional.  Here are some ways to help develop stronger community:

Be Available.  In order to connect with someone you must be available.  Leave your door open.  Make it easy to find you.  Answer your phone.  Be available for meetings or questions.  This seems simple yet our fast paced work can make this simple thing quite difficult.

Ask Questions.  Show interest in others.  Find out interests, hobbies, passions, and gifts.  At the appropriate time, ask deep questions.  Find out their story and the issues that they are struggling with.  Share things that you have in common or your struggles.  Forget what you need.  Get to what they need.

Be authentic.  Let them see who you really are.  Don’t try to impress or be cool or be the know it all.  Don’t spend your life as an actor.  You can’t connect with a phony.  You’ll be connecting with air.

Take the time.  You won’t connect with the folks around you until you commit to putting down the work and make the effort to make the connection.  Don’t make excuses.  If you are introverted, it will take effort to do this.  Yet, you must make the effort and spend your valuable time connecting with others.  You have no excuse.

Building community takes effort and a commitment.  If you are in a leadership role, you must model this for others to see.  You must schedule opportunities to connect.  You must make it mandatory to do things in a personal way.  It won’t happen unless you make it happen.  We are social beings.  We need community.  Make the effort.  You will be glad you did!

So what do you think?  Have we reached a tipping point in communication?  Do you see the connection in personal communication and community?  Click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me what you think!