Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

April 29, 2016

This week witnessed the annual reunion of the world’s largest manufacturing trade show. Many of the brightest minds in manufacturing technology gathered. These were people who are changing the way we’ll be doing manufacturing in the future.

I know many of them. It’s exciting to meet with all these people and share ideas, learn, grow.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet people changing the face of how we do mission work, how we serve the poor, how we bring other people to discipleship.

God meant for all of us to change the world around us for good. There are numerous stories of developing and using whatever talents we were born with.

While I was pondering this on the 9-hour plane ride home yesterday, I thought about all the people who sell themselves short.

While I was in the Customs line entering the country (30 minutes before I learned I had been accepted into the Global Entry program and could have avoided the queue, sigh), I saw a small group of maybe three older couples. All their faces were shaped into pictures of bitterness, sadness, negativity. Same with body language. My heart ached for such loss of life before their loss of life.

How many people do you know who blame other people for their lack of success? It’s never their fault, right? “They” are always against them. The “breaks” never came their way.

Can these people be reached with hope? The self-help gurus of the 80s and 90s certainly tried by using preaching skills. Get you all fired up and ready to take charge–until you got home and reality set in again.

Then read the New Testament and stories of the first and second century Christians. Here were ordinary men and women who turned their lives around and did extraordinary things.

It is so important that we reach people early in life with the message of hope. The message that despite any adversity they, too, can change the world around them. That’s called leadership on a personal level. Or mentoring. Or making disciples.

The Power of Changing Our Minds

February 22, 2016

I was so smart. I knew the best distribution model for an electronics product  we had developed in the late 80s. It didn’t work.

Great leaders don’t always know everything and pursue the course originally set with no deviation until the end. Al Pittampalli, a management consultant, witnessed so many leaders delaying decisions through endless meetings that he concluded what was needed from leaders was single-minded consistency and pursuit of a way forward.

Then he discovered he was wrong. The best leaders today obtain constant feedback by whatever means it takes to get it. They honestly weigh the feedback, painful though it may be, and are prepared to change course if necessary to achieve the desired outcome.

His work is documented in Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World.

The small group is reading through the book of Acts of the Apostles. Reflect on the number of times Paul says he wants to do one thing or visit another city and then he changes his mind and goes elsewhere. New facts enter the picture, he considers them, prays about them, and is not too proud to change course and go another direction.

Pittampalli writes about a therapist who was working with an overweight, depressed teenage girl. He asked her to fill out a simple evaluation each session so he could get some feedback. The evaluations were always overwhelmingly positive, yet by the third session he could tell that they were making no progress.

He noticed that the score for “helping me achieve my goals”, although 86 out of 100, was much lower than every other score. He asked specifically about that. She said that he had ignored her goal of becoming a Miami Heat cheerleader.

Ah, breakthrough. He went back and started acknowledging her goal. No, she didn’t become a Miami Heat cheerleader. She did organize cheerleading and fund raising for the basketball team at the agency that sent her to counseling, though. A clear win for the girl.

As for me, that company went out of business before I could get enough feedback to change–even if I had wanted to. But I think I’d have gone with the flow if another avenue had opened. But we needed immediate sales. The computer board was already almost a year old when they hired me. I had about six months before the technology would need updating.

My boss didn’t understand the dynamics of the computer business almost 30 years ago. You needed updated products every six months to a year. Kind of like today. My iPhone 5s was getting pretty obsolete after 18 months. Now I have a new iPhone 6s 😉

The key to leadership, and probably to achieving your personal goals, is soliciting–yes, even demanding–feedback. And then making adjustments based on it.

Only God Can Label You

May 13, 2015

He was a quiet kid. Kept to himself. Freshman trumpet player in the university marching band. Away at band camp before school even started. Probably his first college experience.

We were in the same cabin. I was also a freshman, first experience away like that, percussionist. We shared the cabin with the drum major. Head guy.

He sensed a weakness, I guess. I only thanked God that it was the trumpeter he picked on. Labeled him a nerd. I guess that’s worse than geek. He was merciless the entire week. 

The trumpeter? He kept his head down and never said a word.

Labels that others give us can really hurt. They can also misdirect our lives.

Label someone as fat early in their life, and even though they may get fit as an adult, chances are they’ll always feel fat. It’s really hard to outgrow the hurts of adolescence.

I think it was third grade when they gave us some kind of intelligence test. I was clueless. All I know is that my parents got called to visit the teacher. When they came back, I had a label–smart. I’m still clueless. I’ve been trying to disprove that my entire life. <smiles> But that resulted in lectures every time I didn’t get straight As until dad gave up on me while I was in college. I never played the game to get a grade. I’d learn enough from the class and then go off and  study what I wanted to study. (And, yes, I did get a degree. The department shut down the graduate program before I finished my master’s work, and I never finished that. No need to have a paper.)

Yesterday I listened to Andy Stanley talk to a group of 8th graders about labels. He warned them about letting other people label you. What great advice!

We are children of God. That is the label God puts on us. We don’t need another. It’s hard to overcome a label that someone in authority puts on you–even if it’s just the drum major. 

By the way, I recommend listening to Stanley every week. I listen to Bill Hybels, John Ortberg, Gene Appel (when they load his talks into iTunes), Stanley every week. I also listen to technology news and other podcasts that broaden my experience. I recommend finding your favorites and listen to something daily for your growth.

What Is God Like?

April 21, 2015

“He is an old man with a long, white beard.”

“He is angry, vengeful, and if we don’t do the right things to satisfy him, we’ll go to Hell.”

“He is so full of love that he blesses everything and everybody.”

“She is the creator giving birth to the universe.”

“He constructed the universe and developed all the physical laws that run it.”

None of these, of course, can be found in the Bible without the use of much imagination. Jesus said Father. John said spirit and love.

The old man and many other myths come from the Middle Ages and its particular blend of fears and incorporation of pagan ideas into Christianity.

We must be mindful of how we come to God.

If our emotions rule us, they will construct a God in the image of whatever prevalent emotion we may have: fear, sympathy, love, disinterest.

If our intellect rules us, it will construct a God of distance, impersonal, giver of physical and other laws.

We work out our relationship with God bringing our whole self before the Father pleading for wholeness in our mind, body, soul. We move, as Paul put it, away from childish ideas about God. 

As in all relationships, this relationship grows over time. We discover more and more about each other. We grow closer, then more distant. We correct each other (well, maybe we don’t correct God, but we certainly try, don’t we).

Take care what rules us. Every morning ask for God to rule our emotions, thoughts, and actions during the coming day.

Doing The Difficult Thing Adds Value

March 25, 2015

There are two types of organizations. Two types of churches. One assumes customers or members. Its leaders see their role as stewards of what is. Others believe passionately about their mission. Their products will change the way people live for the better. Their gift of spirit will lead people to better lives.

The first is easy. The second one often challenging. The first leads to the path of decay and organizational death. The second leads to energy, growth, kindling that passion in others…and others.

Seth Godin made his mark as a marketing guru in high technology. He wrote recently:

Of course it’s difficult…
Students choose to attend expensive colleges but don’t major in engineering because the courses are killer.

Doing more than the customary amount of customer service is expensive, time-consuming and hard to sustain.

Raising money for short-term urgent projects is easier than finding support for the long, difficult work of changing the culture and the infrastructure.

Finding a new path up the mountain is far more difficult than hiring a sherpa and following the tried and true path. Of course it is. That’s precisely why it’s scarce and valuable. 

The word economy comes from the Greek and the French, and is based on the concept of scarcity. The only things that are scarce in the world of connection and services and the net are the things that are difficult, and the only things that are valuable are the things that are scarce. When we intentionally seek out the difficult tasks, we’re much more likely to actually create value.

Think of his comment about raising money relative to your church or non-profit. I am. It is condemning of the approach I took over in my ministry. Buffeting from project to project. No real stability or plan for growth. No real involvement from the larger group. No commitment to the hard work of a sustaining ministry.

What is scarce these days is attention. I wrote yesterday about distraction. We have so much information–24-hour news channels, 24-hour sports, the Internet, apps, check Facebook every couple of minutes–when do we have time to put our attention, our focus, on what’s important?

What sort of leader are you? Do you need a kick start? Take time to focus our attention completely, if only for 30 minute time slots, on thinking about the long, difficult work? Or just slide along becoming ever more comfortable in a state of distracted disinterestedness?

Getting Fit For God’s Work

November 13, 2014

This spring began a season of stress and frustration. A business deal with which I was uncomfortable from the beginning went rapidly downhill over the winter. By spring, I was looking for a way out.

Travel is not always that bad. But when you combine personal travel on top of business travel, it means there is no time for pause. For rest and reflection.

On top of that, my soccer responsibilities grew and became frustrating in some regards and just plain hard work in others. And I had taken on responsibilities at church during a lull period in my life. Well, that lull went away 😉

As a result, my ability to work out decreased. My ability to sit still and focus during meditation withered. Still, I accomplished much.

The climax was three plus weeks of being home only three days — getting home from a business trip only to take a family trip. Most of the time I could not exercise. At my age, you deteriorate rapidly.

I noticed the first week back. Attempting to run daily. Back into my Yoga routine. My muscles ached. Constantly.

But the next week was much better. By the third week back into routine, I was running better, practicing Yoga better, feeling tight and fit.

It is no wonder that Paul often invoked the images of physical activities, of athletes, in his spiritual development messages. You have to work at it. And if you take some time off, your spiritual muscles will ache and protest until you get back into the habit and start feeling fit spiritually.

Read the letter to the Romans. Don’t stop and analyze each verse. Just grasp the broad strokes of what Paul is laying out. He is teaching us about spiritual development. First we were away from God living in our lives as we saw fit (sinners). Then something happened, some consequence of our actions impacted us. Then we saw that through Jesus God’s grace was available to us. We accepted, Gods grace was poured out on us, and we began to live the with-God life basking in the Spirit.

Just as we work at getting back into physical shape, we can also fall out of Spiritual shape. We work at it through study and prayer and practice and find that we have renewed our strength in God.

Perception and Reality

October 13, 2014

“I liked it better out there. The skies are always blue. Here, the skies are always gray.”

Talking with an acquaintance the other day.

Of course, she returns to Ohio in the changing seasons. We get a lot of cloud cover from fronts and changeableness. Some geographies have pretty much the same weather year around.

But is her observation the reality? Is your observation reality? Or maybe your perception creates your reality?

Supposedly this story came from Carl Sandberg, but I heard it through Earl Nightingale.

Seems a farmer was standing by his field leaning on a fence post contemplating the crops and the weather when a stranger drove by and stopped. “What sort of people live around here?” the stranger asked.

“what sort of people lived where you are from?”

“Well, they are lying, cheating, miserable people.” “I expect you’ll find the people around here the same way.”

Second stranger comes by. “What sort of people live around here?” “What sort of people were there where you’re from?” “Well, they are honest, hard-working people.” “I expect you’ll find the people around here to be the same.”

The point, of course, is that our perceptions often cloud our view of reality. Just look at politics. If you are hard-core whatever, you’ll interpret all events through that filter.

When you can throw that filter away and see reality, then you can start to grow.

That’s one goal of meditation. To calm the mind and begin to focus just on the moment. Only as things are.

Traits for Success in Life

September 23, 2014

Part of my daily morning routine is scanning some news and a variety of blogs using Feedly on my iPad. One blog I’ve followed for several years is Lifehacker.

Recently it ran a post based on a TED Talk that I had not yet heard about results of research into traits of successful people. From Lifehacker:

Lecturer Richard St. John traveled around the world for ten years to conduct face-to-face interviews with successful people like Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, James Cameron, Matt Groening, and even Dan Ackroyd. The list of successful, influential people he interviewed goes on and on. After analyzing everything he’d learned, he come up with these eight traits:

Passion: Love what you do.
Work: Really hard.
Focus: On one thing, not everything.
Push: And keep on pushing yourself.
Ideas: Come up with some good ones.
Improve: Keep improving yourself and what you do.
Serve: Serve others something of value.
Persist: Because there is no overnight success.

Somehow I think that most of us could have compiled this list with a little reflection. Contemplate on these virtues. No matter where you find yourself, isn’t it great to meet people with passion for what they do? Those whose orientation is to serve others?

But think of the trait of constantly improving yourself. This is a lifelong journey. Never stop growing. Never stop improving.

Like this list? Have others? Let me know. This is a great list to put in a journal or on a card by the computer to refer to occasionally just a a check up on how we are progressing on our journeys.

When Confronted With Reality

August 25, 2014

Colin Dexter wrote a series of detective novels based on the character “Inspector Morse.” They were adapted by BBC (and shown on PBS as part of the Sunday Masterpiece Mystery summer series) and then used as the source for the latest series “Endeavor” showing Morse as a young man.

Morse puts the pieces together, comes to a logical conclusion, then discovers he’s wrong. Unlike Sherlock Holmes who was always right, Morse is seldom right–until the end.

He figures it out, discovers he’s wrong, puts the pieces together again with the new piece of information, and then he’s wrong again. This continues until the final few pages.

I just spent a half-hour this morning fruitlessly searching for the source of the observation:

There are two types of people when faced with reality: those who bend the facts to fit with their preconceived view and those who adapt themselves to the new facts.

Which are you? Do you even recognize that in yourself? Can you change if you need to?

I am instinctively like Morse. I will adapt to a new reality. It may take me some time. I may have to digest the facts. Sometimes it’s a shock to discover that you’re wrong. Or that you’re not the center of the universe.

Some people seem incapable of adapting. They tell themselves a story of how things were. Convince themselves of that version of reality (which wasn’t real). And continue on.

Is there any way to deal with such people when they remain obstinately convinced of reality the way it exists in their imagination?

Probably not.

But if that person is us, then we eventually need to come to the realization that we’ve interpreted the facts wrongly and that it is us–not the facts–that need to change.

It says in Proverbs “A fool returns to his folly.” The book was written to be like a mirror held up to our lives where we see that we are the fool, and that we need to change. I’m not sure we can change someone else, but you might ponder these questions. Where is it in our lives that we hold on to a view of reality that is wrong? What can we do to open our eyes and see?

Just Stubborn or Unwilling to Grow

May 22, 2014

A trait in successful leaders is the willingness to continue growing as a person. It’s something we should all work at our entire lives.

I think about all the people who came to Jesus for advice and went away sad because they could not do what he advised. Just think, the person best fitted to help people grow, the person filled with the Spirit of God, gave personal advice and often the other would walk away sad.

I’ve come across people–leaders–who seem to have no capacity for growth. Some don’t even seem to acknowledge that there is even any room in them for more growth.

Just had dinner with a man from Scotland. He said he was from up north, not the south like Robert Burns. His comment reminded me of the famous line in a poem, which I will not give in the vernacular, that went Oh what a gift he gives us, to see ourselves as others see us.

Do you ever, like me, walk away from a situation thinking, God, what a jerk I was? I’ll reflect and swear I’ll change. Which I don’t enough. I’m just a work in progress.

So, I wonder. Are some people just stubborn? They refuse to listen to others or acknowledge the need to change? Or, when the Clue Train stopped, did they just fail to accept a delivery?