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!

 

Take Back Christmas!

I think everyone would agree- Christmas is special.  Regardless of your level of faith, the holiday brings a wonder of warmth, family, and giving to others.  The feeling of Christmas is hard to describe.  For children it may be focused on the gifts, and with age, the focus shifts to family, friends and the gathering together of loved ones.  There is a special love that surrounds this most special holiday.

Christmas in the post-War United States

What is this love?

Where does it come from?

Why does it feel so good?

I believe that the wonder and that feeling of warmth and love is a glimpse of our Father’s love.  Unconditional.  Complete.  Without any strings or requirements.  Like the love of a grandfather.  An enveloping warm blanket.  No matter where you are in your life frustrations, this love seems to power through on Christmas.

There is someone who wants to distract you from all of this.  By making you crazy in trying to keep up with everyone else.  By trying to make you think that it’s all about the gifts.  By keeping you super busy so you will not have time to concentrate on what the holiday is really about.

He is the prince of the air.  The enemy.  He wants to steal your Christmas.  He is the expert in distraction.  He wants you to concentrate on the gifts and the decorations.  The chaos.  The commercialized and prepackaged Christmas.  He wants you to fret about your gift not being good enough.  He wants you to doubt and worry.

See this is all in his plan.  If he can get you to concentrate on the present- you will miss the eternal.  And he does it with glitter, gold, garland, lace, cashmere, and trinkets.  Christmas is sensory overload.  And I believe that it is not by coincidence.

So what can you do to win?

Take back Christmas!  Realize that your struggle is not yours.  Focus on the beauty of this holiday.  Slow down and don’t get sucked in.  Make it about Christmas day.  The birth of our Savior.  His warmth.  His love!

I pray that your Christmas will be a wonderous time of peace and warmth with your family and friends.  May he cover you in His AMAZING blanket of love and grace!  Merry Christmas!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Do The Work!

Years back, Kathy and I visited my Grandfather when he was sick in the hospital and his health was failing.  During this visit, my Grandfather was of good energy and he shared a quick snapshot of his life and some of his best life lessons.  One thing that he shared was that he believed that you really only have until a child is eight years old to mold them and teach them to behave and be a good and successful citizen.  After they reach eight years old, he believed, you now have a small person who has essentially figured out the world and changing them is very difficult.  Kathy and I were young when this conversation took place and we were in the process of raising our kids.  I am thankful for the advice.  While we were young, we took child raising very seriously.  We disciplined when it was necessary and taught our children to behave, get along with others and excel in their work.  We were not perfect but worked hard at it.  It’s not easy and you can get lazy sometimes.  But with children, you have to do the work!

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I have often said that it would be great if they gave you an Owner’s Manual when you leave the hospital.  But instead you are handed this amazing miracle of life all wrapped up in a blanket and off you go!  You may have some babysitting experience and you will certainly get lots of advice from your family on what you’re “supposed to do”.  And… you are likely equipped with the life baggage of knowing what not to do.  And you are way young and just trying to process everything and figure it all out.

You absolutely want the best for your kids.  That is a given.  So what does that look like in the inexperienced parent’s mind?

  1. Provide For Your Family:  I work really hard to give my children the things that they need.  I spend much of my time on my career and work really hard to give them financial security.  Is that what they need or do they need you to spend more time with them?  Is money the best thing you can give your child?
  2. Be Their Friend:  I want to spend every minute that I can with my child and I keep them connected at my side at all times.  Is this providing an environment where you are teaching, leading and parenting or are they really just filling a need that you have?  Have you noticed serious separation anxiety when you leave your child with someone else?
  3. Wrestling Buddy:  I want my boy to be a man and be good at sports so I love to wrestle with him.  Is this really something he needs or is it something you need?  Are you raising up a little bully by getting him “toughened up”?
  4. No Daycare For Me:  I don’t want my child to be watched by anyone else but me.  I don’t trust others- I have had bad experiences in the past.  Is this really a good thing?  Are there social skills that your child may be missing by isolating them from other kids?  Do they know how to interact with other kids?  Can they share toys and play with other kids?
  5. He’s A Good Kid:  My child is a good kid so it’s OK to give him what he want.  If he wants chicken nuggets every night of the week that’s OK as long as he is being quiet and not misbehaving.  So who is eventually going to tell them no?  Who is going to erect boundaries?  Who is the boss?  Too tired is not an excuse here.
  6. We Are Always On The Move:  My kids love visiting others and being up late.  They are used to eating on the run.  They love the adventure!  Really, kids like structure.  They need a schedule.  They want to know the rules and what is expected.  They need sleep.  They need to be able to process what’s going on.  They need calm and normal.
  7. I Never Spank My Child:  My kids don’t need punishment.  They are different than the other kids.  Are they learning that there are consequences for their actions?  Although you may be against spanking, are you teaching your children that bad behavior can lead to big trouble in later years?

Raising children is hard.  It is a full time job.  You must fight the urge to get lazy.  Children are like clay when they are young.  Yes, I believe they are born with unique characteristics, but kids need leadership, structure, direction and boundaries.  They do not do well in chaos.  They need to figure out what the world is all about and chaos does not provide the framework for growth and understanding.

Have you ever considered what a child learns in the first two years?  They are like little sponges.  So what are they learning?  Are they learning that there is order to the world?   Are they learning about authority?  Are they learning about consequences?  Are they learning how to interact with other kids?

I know this.  Good parenting does not come easy.  When done correctly, it will be the most fulfilling project you will ever undertake.  It’s a long and tiring process.  But just remember- you have to do the work!

So what do you think?  Do you have any good parenting advice?  Please press comments and tell us your story!  

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Ask the Experts!

Recently, Kathy and I were sitting on our back patio (lanai is the fancy realtor description) in the cool of the morning enjoying a hot cup of coffee and the fluorescent beauty of the morning.  The birds were wide awake.  We have a bird feeder and we keep it well stocked with a high quality seed mix that keeps them coming back.  We have generations of cardinals that are now permanent North Florida residents as well as a group of morning doves, mockingbirds, and a host of other songbirds that are regulars each morning.

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As I sat and watched the show, I began to consider the way the birds really love the morning.  I can remember times camping when the birds would start singing at 4 am.  My response- gosh guys go back to bed!  It’s way too early!  Yet the morning is a truly special time for the birds.  They wake and they sing for the morning.  It’s like they are screaming,  “You need to get up and see this amazingly beautiful day!” They are the epitome of the morning person!

The morning is their choice.  They could easily pick the afternoon or the evening.  Unlike our comfortable living, the birds live in close contact with the natural.  They experience the earth like no other creature, living outside and largely unprotected.  They are the experts.  And they choose the morning.

So what is so special about the morning?  Here are a few reasons I think that the birds choose the morning and why you should too!

The stillness and quiet of the morning.  The birds know that their song will really carry in the morning.  They know they really own the morning.  For us, the morning gives us stillness that allows us to rest, think and let our mind wander. The stillness provides insulation from the distractions and noise of the day.  We can let our minds sing- released from the bonds of obligations and schedules.  Are you singing in the morning?

The coolness of the morning is a great time to get your work done before the heat of the day.  The birds know that they can get their business done and wait out the heat in the shade of the trees.  The morning is a perfect time to plow through your work so you can shift into a lower gear as the day heats up.  If you get the heavy lifting done in the cool of the day, you will extend your energy and be more productive.  Do you run at hyper speed in the heat of the day?

The morning is a safe place.  The predators are still sleeping and the birds group together for protection.  The birds know these facts.  The morning is theirs.  The can relax a bit more than normal.  They have the numbers and they watch out for each other.  You can also own the morning.  Seems like only good things happen early in the morning.  Evil is asleep.  Do you get up early and enjoy the protection of the morning?

The morning is a time where we are refreshed and recharged.  The batteries are on full again! The birds are darting around with extra vigor.  If danger is present, they are able to make a quick get away with strength stored from the night of rest.  This rest is also powerful for us too.  The morning is the best time to exercise and do physical activity.  Your body is designed for this.  Are you taking advantage of this stored energy?

The morning screams of His perfect design.  The beauty of creation.  Diversity.  A new day and cleansing of the old.  You can see the vigor and playfulness in the birds in the morning.  They are out enjoying life and exploring the abundance of this earth.  The morning is a great time to reflect and begin anew.  Put yesterday behind and embark on a new day with discovery and adventure.  Are you taking advantage of the extravagant beauty and gift of the new day?

I love the mornings.  I always have.  My mom never worried about waking me up, I was always the first up and out the door.  I remember being mesmerized as a kid by the beauty of the morning.  I still love everything about it.   How about you?  Can you break the love affair with your pillow?  The experts know the secret.  Give it a try- you’ll see!

Do you follow the experts advice?  Do you love the mornings?  Click “Like” if you do!  If not so much- click on comments and tell me your story!

Entertainment Expense

While vacationing recently in Costa Rica, Kathy and I had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful B&B in the central valley near San Jose.  The innkeeper was a remarkable elderly widower who was strong in her faith and equally strong in her wisdom on life. Each morning Kathy and I would enjoy our conversations about life, love and living out our faith in a way that was honoring to the Lord. 

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One morning during our stay, our host commented about the incredible damaging power of the tongue.  She shared that she had been convicted lately about talking about others in a negative way and she shared about the damage that comes along with this kind of conversation.  I completely agreed with her.  Gossip and talking about others behind their back is a very easy thing to do.  I shared that I thought that talking about others can actually be a kind of entertainment- the act of talking about others and their problems can actually be fun for some and a source of enjoyment. 

My comments actually knocked her back a bit.  She commented on how my characterization of “entertainment” was especially painful to her as it seemed to hit the mark.  She pondered the description and we revisited this topic a few times during our stay as a result of my description of damaging talk and gossip- entertainment.

So what do you think?  Do you know some folks that seem to enjoy gossiping and talking negatively about others?  What can you do when you are confronted with someone who wants to rope you in?  Here are some ideas:

Respond With The Positive!  If they are focusing on merely the negative- then respond in a way that would honor the person.  Regardless of the discussion, there are always positive aspects to the story.  Bring up the good and stay out of the mud.  You will see that most gossips just won’t get any enjoyment out of the positive.  By focusing on the negative they are really lifting themselves up.  Be a person who builds up- not a person that tears down.

Confront Them!  If they are speaking out in a way that is damaging for no constructive purpose then call them out.  There are folks that really don’t realize they are being negative or damaging- they are so used to gossiping they really don’t see what they are doing.  Help them to see that speaking out has power and can be extremely damaging. 

Walk Away!  If you have friends engaged in damaging conversation and you feel uncomfortable about the discussion, then have the courage to leave.  Even by sitting in silence- you are participating.  If you are not comfortable with confronting the issues or if you are not familiar with the situation, the best choice may be to leave the conversation.  You will not regret walking away- you will regret being included if the cruelty spreads.

Think Before You Talk!  I am convinced that some peoples mouths just run faster than their heads.  Take a minute to really consider what you are about to say.  Thinking about something is far different than speaking it- and that expands even further when it’s to a group of people.  If you have to say “don’t repeat this but…” you probably need to think about it a little more before you say it.  You could be reading the situation wrong, you may have bad information, you may be misinformed.  Always default to keeping you mouth shut if you are not sure what to do.

Remember that you are a leader.  Others are watching you and learning from you- both good and bad.  Character and integrity are time sensitive.  They take a long time to gain yet they can be lost in an instant.  Don’t loose something that you will really regret later.  If you are uneasy about the conversation, then you know you should not participate.  Stay out of it.  Go find your entertainment elsewhere!     

So what do you think?  Do you find that you get “roped in” sometimes?  Do you have some tricks to avoiding gossip?  Click on “Comments” and share or hit “Like” if you agree!        

Different Is Good!

Yesterday Kathy and I went on a hike through the Cahuita National Park along the Carribean coast of Costa Rica.  We had a guide who had an amazing eye to pick out wildlife far off in the trees.  The diversity of life that we saw was remarkable, yet everything fit together and you had the feeling that it all belonged together

Why do we always strive for things to be the same?
This park is located along the Carribean coast near Panama.  This area was settled by turtle hunters from the Carribean islands about 150 years ago.  These settlers have roots in Africa so they do not look the same as either the indigenous natives or the native Costa Ricans.
The lore is that the Costa Rica Carribean coast is more dangerous because of these Carribean natives and widespread drug influences.  Well, we were approached by the Rastafari peddling their stuff but this is not much different than any Carribean beach town.  So why is there so much talk of this area being so dangerous?  What is the reason that there is this fear and apprehension about this area?
Because they are different.
Costa Rica is not immune from discrimination.  The native Costa Ricans complain about the Nicaraguans as well as the African Carribean people.  A wise lady told us that she believes that the discrimination is based on money.  The Costa Ricans feel that they have these illegals and others costing the country money, much the same as our current conversation in the U.S.  I think this is part of it.  There is a self centered element in nearly every discussion and this logic is consistent here.  Yet, I think there is more to this.
I think much of the struggle for diversity is based on fear.
We want things to be the same.  We want things to be like us.  Anything else brings a sense of discomfort.  We like things vanilla.  We like security and the predictable.  Yet, this is not the design.
Nature screams diversity.  The design of everything from our Creator is abundant, rich, and diverse.  So what can we do as leaders?
Fight the urge for conformity.  When choosing your team, make some bold choices.  Choose the ones that are not like you, or the ones that don’t fit the mold.  If you are analytical, choose the artist.  If you are an introvert, maybe the conversationalist.  A diverse team will always be superior.  This is the design of nature.  Different is better.  You will see!

Christmas Aftermath: Sifting Through the Rubble

I have to admit: I get pretty frustrated with the Christmas season as it has become. 

The commercialization and extreme excess of the holiday is overwhelming to me.  I want a quiet day in which we can just relax and reflect on the importance and meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of the season- the birth of our Savior and the indescribable and outrageous gift that Jesus is to believers.  What I experience is generally far from quiet and spiritual.  The gift giving and preparation for Christmas is overwhelming.  It seems like an abomination of a religious holiday.  And it is.  But the key word here is religious.

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My friend Brian shared a Christmas revelation with me this morning.  He was also a bit frustrated with the events of the day.  He felt like he was not giving the Lord the focus that He deserved.  Then the Lord spoke to him and reassured him:  It’s OK to celebrate.  It’s OK to have fun.  It’s OK to exchange gifts.  Go ahead- have a day of celebration.  I am still God and I still love you!

My experience Christmas day was also the typical day of gift giving and excess, yet there were sweet times with family and friends.  In the midst of the chaos of the day, I was able to connect with them  in a deeper way.  And through the time together and the gift giving, I was able to receive the feeling of being truly loved by them.  So, like Brian, I was given a glimpse of the Father’s love for me.

My take away from this years Christmas is this:  Christmas is a bit out of control, yet it’s good to celebrate, to appreciate others and enjoy the sweetness of the season.  I must be intentional to connect with family and friends and enjoy the opportunities of the Christmas season.  Rather than getting frustrated and trying to change things, I need to embrace the good of the Christmas season and let God take care of the rest.  The correct response is gratitude and worship, not frustration and guilt!

So going forward, I must focus less on the excess and commercialization and focus more on the amazing opportunities of the Holiday season.  Opportunities to reconnect, mend or deepen relationships.  Opportunities to show my love for my wife, family and friends.  Opportunities to appreciate the incredible and amazing blessings that the Lord has provided to me and my family.  For me, this revelation is my greatest gift this year.  And my response must be like the shepherds in the Christmas story:  To bow and worship the Savior King!

Merry Christmas!  

So what do you think?  Click on comments and share your experiences and thoughts on the Christmas season!

The Cliff

We have been going through some legal issues at work regarding a project that we built several years back.  The process of dealing with this has been very time consuming and stressful.  Watching the legal system in action has provided me with a better understanding of the close relationship between lawyers and insurance companies.  Unfortunately, what I have observed has not been flattering for either party, and I am still trying to sort out the dynamics of the relationships and connections.  I’ll leave this for a potential post later…

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El Capitan- Wikipedia

So, during the process of legal maneuvering on this case and through a very strange and unusual turn of legal events, we reached a point that could have resulted in a real catastrophic event.  We felt like we were on the brink of disaster- ready to go over the cliff!  The events leading up to this point were crazy, but what happened next brought on the point of this post.  In the very darkest moment, when all parties could see the horror of where we were heading, they all got serious and settled the case.  Up to this point it was really just going through the motions- letting everything just run its natural course.  When it got to the point of becoming a nuclear event, then and only then, did we see real action.

This is not the first time I have seen this happen.  Why do we do this?  Why does it take something terrible and catastrophic before we properly address an issue that isn’t just going to go away?  Have you experienced something similar?  Do you have something that could look like the cliff if you fail to take it seriously?

It could be an addiction?

It could be your finances?

It could be an inappropriate relationship?

It could be your health?

All of these and many more situations have the potential to really blow up in your face.  Here are a few strategies that can help you can avoid the cliff:

  1. See things for what they are.  If you find yourself trying to manage a bad situation instead of seeking a final solution you are playing with fire.  And you will likely get burned.
  2. Keep your lights on high beam.  Look down the road and try to see where you are heading.  Consider the future consequences if you fail to deal with the situation now.
  3. Avoid rationalization.  If you find yourself making excuses for what is occurring, its likely there is something that you are trying to bury.
  4. Don’t isolate yourself- get help.  Seek out a friend that you trust who can give you advice and walk with you as you address your issue.  You may also want to seek counseling or engage a professional who is experienced in dealing with your problem.
  5. The longer you wait the harder it will be.  The deeper you progress in your problem the more difficult and complicated it becomes to get untangled and free.  Face your issue and deal with it.  The sooner the better.

Once you go over the cliff your life will be changed forever.  You will have to pay some serious consequences for your actions or inaction to deal with your problem.  Are you ready to face your situation?  Is there someone that you love that is heading towards the cliff?  Maybe this is your call to help them!

Why do we wait to be confronted with the cliff before we decide to take action?  Please click on Comment below and give me your take!

Time Bandits

One of the most common recommendations of financial planners is a yearly review and rebalancing of your portfolio.  This rebalancing is very important to maintain a diversified investment mix.  What typically occurs is that some investments will grow faster than others and this will result in having too much of your resources in one area.  This skewing is often difficult to notice unless you are disciplined and review your portfolio on a regular basis.  The insidious aspect of this skewing is that your best performing investments may actually put you out of balance and you may be tempted to increase your allocations in this area.  However, this can be dangerous or even reckless as it will actually defeat the benefits of diversification.

We should also do a yearly review of where we put our time and resources in our life plans.   A review and rebalancing of your life allocations can reap big rewards.  Here are five strategies for your annual rebalance:

  • Find a Quiet Place– Seek out a place where you can think and reflect on your current allocations.  This may require that you go off by yourself and spend a day away from your family.  You must remove the distractions in order for you to do an objective life review.
  • Make a Time Line– Write out your typical schedule each week.  List each day and then list what you typically do each day.  Calculate the percentage of time for each item and make a list of the items in the order of percentage value.  You may want to actually write this out “real time” during an actual week to get an objective view of what is really consuming your time.
  • Write down Your Goals– Make a list of your goals.  Divide your goals into long, medium and short terms.  Color code and group your goals- personal goals, family goals, marriage goals, faith goals, career goals, etc.
  • Analyze Your Data– What is the data telling you?  Are you controlling your life or is your life controlling you?  Are you making progress on your goals?  Are there “time bandits” in your day?  Often we are putting too much time in areas that are really not important to us.  We are out of balance!
  • Make Changes– Strategize on areas of change and look for synergies.  For example:  Although you may be compelled to be at work for a large portion of your day, you may be able to include one of your other goals during the same time period.  You can exercise at lunch if you need more time in this area.  You can network and seek opportunities for long term, professional goals.  You can seek personal development training at your present employer to improve your skills.

Although you may feel that you are obligated to your schedule and responsibilities you can make changes.  Consider any components of time that you can exploit – early morning, late evening, drive time, etc.  Develop a plan to include components of each of your goals and track your progress.  Turn off the noise on a regular basis.  Dedicate a portion of your week to reviewing progress by turning off your phone and computer and completely unplugging to allow time for you to recharge and reflect.

Rebalancing is essential in examining how we are allocating ourselves to align with our goals.  When we get busy and obligated, our plans and goals can end up on the back burner.  It may be time to make some tough choices on your time allocation.  Can you rid yourself of some of your “time bandits” and make some real progress on your goals?

Do you have any suggestions or strategies that you have used to rebalance your life?  Please respond below!