The F Word

When I was in high school I remember sitting frozen by the phone thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Would I be rejected?  

Would she laugh at me?  

Would she make me feel foolish?  

Would everyone hear about it and think I was crazy?

Was I overstepping my boundaries?

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Sometimes I just couldn’t pick up the phone.  I tried to overpower the thoughts that I had, but sometimes they just won.  I wasn’t good enough.  What was I thinking?  She is way out of reach for me.

I was strangled by the F word.  FEAR.

Now as I look back at it- what is the worst thing that could happen?  She says no.  There may be some laughter and maybe I was overstepping.  Yet, I will never know because I didn’t try.  The F word.

Fear is powerful.  Yes, I am a man and I have been afraid and ducked out plenty of times in my life.

When I should have moved forward.

When I should have taken the chance.

When I could have stepped out and made a difference.

What does the F word do?  Let me give you a few of the finalities of fear.

You Freeze:  Fear stops you from making a decision.  You stop.  And while you are stopping, the rest of the world is moving.  You loose your advantage.  You are now looking from behind.

You Miss The Boat:  Opportunities are an instant.  A moment in time.  When you decide to wait or you decide it’s too risky, the opportunity is gone.  Things change.  You can’t go back to that spot.  It’s gone, quite possibly forever.

You Determine The Outcome:  If you fail to act you know what will happen.  Nothing.  You have decided it.  Maybe that’s what you want.  Maybe the risk is too high.  But one thing for sure,  It’s done.  If you choose to risk the outcome might be good.  Choosing not to risk decides the answer.

Often the root of a failure to act can be traced to pride.  I never loose.  I always come out on top.  What would everyone think if I actually failed?

Yet failure is actually healthy.  It doesn’t feel good when you are in it, but I have learned some of my greatest life lessons through failure. So what do you really learn in failure?

You learn that the sun will rise the next day.  You find out that the people that really love you are still there.   You find out that the F word is mostly in your head.  You find out that faith is the thing that allows you to risk.  Faith in yourself.  Faith in your family.  Faith in a Father who loves you no matter what!  Fear is a product of the enemy.  An old scheme he uses to take away your power.  A way to neutralize you in the spiritual battle that is going on around us.

So what are you going to do?  Are you going to crumble and let the F word decide for you and make your final decision OR will you fight through it and go for it!  Do something risky.  Do something big.  Shake off the F word, have faith and trust in yourself!

So what do you think?  Have you had times when you were overcome with fear?  Have you failed to act because of fear?  What do you do the beat the F word?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

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It’s Just Messy…

We have a local group called Kaleid (short for kaleidoscope) that works to unite ministries, mission organizations and the Church (the big C church).  During our meeting on Monday night, we had an extended discussion about how to keep your ministry team together and strategies to avoid division and problems. 

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I know first hand that managing people is always complicated and often messy.  No matter how homogeneous your group, it’s still comprised of individual people with unique personalities, goals and expectations.  To add to the mix is the fact that these folks are volunteers.  No money or boss to pen you in.  This can be an environment where everyone has an opinion and they are truly convinced that their way is the best way.  A leadership nightmare.  Division in a volunteer environment is a real shame.  The goal gets tarnished.  It’s a cancer that can destroy the beauty of an effort to do some real good.

So what do you do?  You can’t let division ruin your work.  You have to lead.  Inevitably, some people won’t be happy.  You need to provide order and direction.  You can’t have everyone doing their own thing- it would be chaos.

Here are six keys to help steer through these waters:

Clear Goals/Direction:  Make sure that you clearly communicate your goals for the project and the plan to get there.  One trick you can use to make sure that they “get it” is to ask them to repeat your direction.  A head nod doesn’t always equate to understanding.

Humility and Sensitivity:  Volunteers will not tolerate a leader that is full of themselves or a tyrant.  You will look around and quickly be all alone. If you are used to being “The General” at work or home, leading a group of volunteers may be challenge for you.  You must lead with a tender heart and be sensitive to the needs of your group.   

Collaborate:  Seems like the buzzword today is collaboration.  Involving others to help provide engagement to the team and join them together for a common goal.  Sounds good, right?  Yet this can also be a disaster.  You must be skilled in how you manage the collaboration meeting.  Tell the group that this is not “decision by committee”.  You will retain the final decision but you want and need their input.  Let everyone talk but do not let anyone dominate the discussion.  Cut them off, politely, if they try to take over.  Use as much reasonable input from the meeting as possible.  Manage the folks that are sore if you don’t use their ideas.  Get the group buy-in.  It‘s critical.

Skillfully Allocate:  Take great care in dividing up roles, tasks, and resources.  Key in on gifts and passions.  Be on the lookout for overload.  Some folks have a hard time saying no.  Try to level out things as best as you can.

Feedback:  Provide a mechanism for feedback.  An e-mail address is a great way- comments@…  Most people won’t complain to your face, but will unload on an anonymous site.  I have received some great criticism this way.  Also, look for the discontented person- the grumbler.  Go ahead and approach them and hear them out.  Be aware that you may not be able to make everyone happy.  Do your best and let God do the rest.  The tension that the person is having may be God working in them.  Don’t always short circuit the struggle.

Have Fun:  If you are having fun while you are serving, it will help to deflate any tension that arises.  This may be very difficult sometimes.  Some efforts are really tough or emotionally draining.  If the work is exceptionally difficult, then your focus should shift to building a strong bond between the volunteers.  If you can build strong camaraderie, you will help to bridge the difficulty of the work.  Having a fun and rewarding experience will replace the inherent need for the exchange of a payment.  Make it fun and chatter will disappear.

Leading volunteers can be tricky.  Although similar in complexity, I would argue that it is more difficult than managing paid employees.  It’s unlikely that you will be able to make everyone happy.  However, leading with your heart is the key to keeping your group cohesive and effective!

What do you think?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on comments and tell me what you think! 

Living the Adventure

Last Sunday night, my wife and I went to a party at a friends house.  It was a cool night, at least by North Florida standards.  The house had a great outdoor patio with brick walls and garden areas.  In one corner of the patio was a firepit that turned out to be a very popular spot.  I settled into a comfortable couch next to the fire- I knew I wasn’t moving.  The only distraction was that the fire was a bit smoky.  I knew my jacket would need a wash when I got home.  I was comfortable and drifted away in conversations about books, travel and the restaurant business.

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After about an hour, my friend Ron joined us.  Ron was just beaming.  Ron is generally a positive and upbeat guy but today he was particularly aglow. 

“Ron you look great”, I commented.  He proceeded to update me on what he was up to.  He told me that he was painting (artist) again and that he was really enjoying it.  Ron told me that he has been waking up each morning and having coffee with Jesus before he starts his day.  He also told me that he was feeling good physically.  Ron and I often trade bad back stories as we both suffer from back pain from time to time.  Normal type chit-chat until he made this statement: 

“Joe, everyday I wake up and I look for an adventure each day.” 

He proceeded to tell me about a clerk that he friended who has children and is struggling to make ends meet and how he has been helping her and encouraging her.  He shared stories of how he has been buying the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff and giving away copies to friends and folks that he meets along the way during his adventures.  All along, I couldn’t help but see the delight in his face. 

Ron could easily stay secluded in his world.  Ron is semi-retired and lives by himself.  He could be lonely and bored.  But Ron chooses the adventure.  Ron knows that the world is built on relationships and service.  Ron is not afraid to make the introductions- he has seen how it works!  Ron is not satisfied to stay inside of himself.  He seeks the adventure.  And it has made all the difference.

So how can you live the adventure life?  Here are a few ideas:

Dump the Routine:  Look at ways that you can do things differently.  We are such creatures of habit and efficiency.  Yet, do you want to live an efficient life or a life of fullness and adventure?  Mess with your schedule a bit.  Leave early for work and relax a bit when you get there.  Try new restaurants, new music, new places.  Get out of the rut!  When you change things up you will see opportunities for new relationships, skills and service.

Slow Down:  When you are always in a hurry the world is travelling at the same speed.  Slow down and give yourself time to really see what is going on around you.  I guarantee you will be surprised.  I am often the worst offender of this.  I am so tuned in to speed and efficiency that it really hurts to slow down sometimes.  Yet, I know I have to.  When I am operating at warp speed, I am missing- not gaining.  Tunnel vision will not allow you to see the opportunities to enjoy life and serve others that are all around you.

Be Observant:  By learning to be observant, you will also begin to see opportunities for fun and learning.  You must learn to really look deeper.  Additionally, there are often clues that identify the need for service to others.  It could be a simple frown or some tattered clothing that gives you a glimpse of the trouble that exists.  These clues can be subtle and the ability to see within someone often takes some practice.  You will not always get it right and you may be rejected.  As you hone your skills, you will get better and you will begin to see the impact of careful observation on your life.

Take a Risk:  Adventure and risk go hand in hand, right?  We understand risk in terms of jumping out of a plane, yet we generally don’t get the connection between adventure, risk and relationships.  In order to be allowed into a persons life, someone has take the first step which involves risk.  Simple small talk will provide only the superficial- to get deeper you need to be prepared to ask the risky questions.  Yes, you may get rejected.  However, when the time is right, they will let you in.  And when they do it is beautiful– even if the story is messy.  Now you can serve.  Now you can make a difference.  Now your day has adventure!

Are you tired and bored?  You don’t need an expensive vacation to add adventure in your life.  The world is happening all around you.  Are you going to slow down, change things up, and look for opportunities to make a difference?  Living the adventure.  It’s waiting for you!  

What are some ways that you have found that have added excitement into your life?  Are you ready for some new excitement?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!