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!

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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!

Five Tips For Parents (Without Time Machines)

Gosh- if only we had a time machine.

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A place where you could go back in time and fix things that went wrong. I love some of the movies that do this. Back to the Future. Hot Tub Time Machine. Somewhere in Time. The Terminator. Go back and fix the wrong and change history.

But for now with raising kids you get one chance. ONE CHANCE. So don’t screw it up!

I certainly could have done better. More books- less sports. More one on one. Put more emphasis on the “soft side” of life. Better faith leader. More time less work.  I had MANY unflattering moments where I lost my cool, lacked self-control or did something incredibly stupid that I wish I could have taken back.

The problem is that you can’t start over. They can’t unforget things.  We can’t change time like the time travelers.

But we did do some things right. And these things had an impact on our kids lives. They really made a difference.  And it helped form the way that my children see the world. We were not perfect, but have some things that went well.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Hard Work: The only place a child will learn (at least in the U.S.) to work hard is at home. My father taught me that lesson and we did our best to teach it to our children. You need to work to get what you want. Nothing will be handed to you. You have to work for it. This requires sweat and effort. Get your kids off the couch and make them work. If they understand what hard work looks like, they will be a contributor. They will be a good citizen.  They will be able to make a difference in the world. It’s your responsibility- not theirs.

Value of Money: The best thing we did for our kids is to have little money.  This was really a circumstance- but it had great power.  They did not get everything they wanted. They understood that wants are not needs. We raised them in a very modest lifestyle that allowed them to see that money is earned and not picked off a tree in the backyard. Kathy would gather the pennies and roll them and take them to the bank. They knew about the value of money. They learned how to save.  I don’t know how you can raise children in an affluent houshold and get this message across.

Good Grades: We instilled a culture of excellence in school work. I did not give my kids the choice to go to college. Why in the world would you do that? Ask a child if he wants to continue the seeming misery of school work? Seems like most would take the easy route. That’s not parenting. We had our own grading system and we rewarded good grades and good reports from school. Just like the workplace- right? Why would you NOT do this for your kids?

Tradition: We always worked to create things that were uniquely ours. Family traditions. We created traditions that were only ours. Don’t overlook the power here. Children love this. They crave structure and predictability. They thrive in it. Create a rhythm to their lives. Give them something that is uniquely for your family. Even silly stuff. They will remember even the smallest details. Make it your family’s own. Big power here.

Competition: We encouraged our children to compete in sports, arts, activities and other areas. The world will make them compete. By sheltering them or ignoring this fact you may be setting them up for failure. Competition can be ugly and daunting for a parent. But YOU need to get them ready. This is your job.  No one else will do this.

There are more to this list but this is a few majors. The point is- you have to be an active parent. It’s not an easy job. But you can’t jump in the time machine. You can’t change it once it’s done. Don’t have regrets. Do the very best you can. Push your children. They are not your buddies. They want instruction. They want structure. Give them what they need to thrive. You can’t go back. No “do over” here!

So what do your think?  I know many would love the time machine but we can’t go back. One time.  One chance.  Do you agree?  Click on “Leave a Message” and tell me what you think!

Photo Friday: Majesty

 

Wake Up Sleeper!

Salt Lake

Last weekend I made a quick trip to Salt Lake City to ski with a friend from work.  The schedule was to fly in, ski two days and fly back.  A quick trip.  I have never been to Salt Lake City.  Along with that, I had not experienced the breathtaking beauty of the Wasatch Mountains.

We had a little time on Monday before our flight so we had the opportunity to visit Antelope Island which is an island located in the Great Salt Lake.  It was a cold morning and it has snowed overnight so the area was blanketed with a light covering of snow.

The views were fantastic!  Although the island had few visitors, we did notice visitors taking pictures of the amazing scenery.  The best word I could come up to describe what we saw is majesty.

Majesty is a unique word.  It describes something large.  Something powerful.  Something a bit overwhelming.

When I see something that I would call majesty, I think of the hand of the Creator.  The potter and the clay.  The architect and builder of our amazing planet.

There is a verse in the Bible that says that we have no excuse to be ignorant of the hand of the Father.  Creation screams His name.  I cannot believe that all of this beauty was created by chance or by accident.

I asked my friend if he felt that looking at the mountains each day would dull this feeling of majesty.  He quickly told me no.  He believed that the mountains and the beauty would never get old.  They would retain their power over anyone who looked their way.

So the key is to look!  Look for His hand.  Look at what He made.  Look at what He does in your life.  Look at the way He blesses you.

An accident, good luck or chance?  Can’t be.  Chance does not have this order.  Chance does not have this variety and beauty.  Chance does not produce majesty.  Chance is not this good.  Not even close!

LOOK and wake up sleeper!        

So what do you think?  Can you see His hand in creation?  Do you think this world was created by chance?  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?

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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!

I No Like

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I have a friend who says this. He doesn’t have have the greatest command of our language but I completely get what he is trying to say. I no like.

The saying goes surround yourself with the best and the brightest. There is a reason for this. If you want to have a great organization, you have to surrender things. Give it up. You have to admit that you are not the greatest at everything.

If you have done well you are obviously talented. You are probably exceptionally good at some things. But you are not good at everything. You have to leave room for others. Admit the fact that you can’t be best at everything.

Surround yourself with the best and brightest.

The rub comes here. You may not even like them. They are likely different than you. They may even intimidate you. They may make you uncomfortable.

It’s OK. You don’t have to like them.

Leaders will often surround themselves with people that they like. People that are like them. It’s natural.  People that make then feel good. What is the result?

One-sided decision. One-sided management. One-sided solutions. And a leader that is sitting there scratching their head. What went wrong? Why are we struggling?

The fact is that diversity is power. You can’t win without it. You need people that are not like you. You need to challenge yourself to understand them. We are wildly different- and it’s for a very good reason.

If you want to feel good, then surround yourself with people like you. People that agree with you. People that are wired like you. People that make you comfortable. People that you naturally understand. But realize this.

It’s really all about you– right? What makes you feel good. What make sense to you. What you are comfortable with.

Don’t do it! Stretch yourself. Listen and learn. Uncomfortable is the way you learn. We should never stop learning. Never stop. Never.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with me?  Or am I full of it!  Let me know what you think!

Community Doesn’t Just Happen

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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!