Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Running Harder, Going Nowhere

December 5, 2016

Did you ever feel like you’re just spinning around in circles going nowhere?

Unlike the TV ad, I’m going to take this deeper.

There is a project management phrase we used to repeat–the faster I go, the behinder I get.

Sometimes we work hard, and good. We do good work. We follow the rules. People respect us. We have a good life–plenty of “stuff”.

And yet…We can’t get no Satisfaction.

Jesus was approached one day by a young man. “How can I inherit eternal life?” he asked.

You know the rules, follow them. “I have followed every one, faithfully, ever since I was a youth.” (Did we say he was a young man?)

We know he was rich. We know that he was a rule-follower. He probably thought of himself as sinless.

But “satisfaction?” He had none.

That happens to us, doesn’t it?

We really crave relationship. Above all, relationship with God (that’s the “eternal life” part of the question). But something blocks us. Sometimes we can’t put our finger on just what the problem is.

In this man’s life it was his stuff. Jesus advised getting rid of his stuff for the benefit of the poor. Then following. Following means developing a relationship of student to mentor. You learn from your mentor. You emulate your mentor. And you become like your mentor.

Are we having trouble following our mentor/teacher? Developing that learning relationship? Are we not getting that satisfaction?

Then we need help discovering what stuff we’re dragging along with us. Sometimes it’s just that we think we can do it all ourselves. Hint: we can’t. Each of us needs a guide to follow.

You don’t necessarily have to sell everything. That was the problem with this man. But you can use your wealth for good. For example, the Tijuana Christian Mission City of Refuge ministry is in great need of funds to make the last of the changes required by a recent law. It still needs to raise about $20,000 (US). Go to its Facebook page and donate. Thank you.

Finishing Well

November 21, 2016

She stared down at the finish line of the 40 meter sprint. She had made the sprint 6 times in under the time requirement. Missed one. There was just this one more try. Get in under the time and she qualifies to go to the camp to train to be one of the elite soccer referees in the country. Miss, and she goes back to youth games.

The signal beeped. She took off. The pain of so much running and so much stress started to enter her consciousness. Then she looked at the approaching finish line. Finishing strong. It was as much the way she finished as beating the time that guaranteed her success.

let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…  –letter to the Hebrews 12

Have you learned anything new today? This week? This month? This year?

John Kotter, in his classic leadership and management book Leading Change, talks about the many people he has seen in his consulting career who peaked at 35. They ceased to learn anything anymore. They grew comfortable. And the world passed them by. When change came, as it inevitably does, they were lost.

That is a big problem in our economy and country right now. We’ve had far-reaching changes in the type of work available, in the location of jobs, in new things to learn.

It’s not like it is the first time in human history this has happened. It happens in every culture, every geography, over millennia. Why do we think we can do the same things we’ve always done and expect different results?

Then there’s personal growth. When is the last time you really studied the Bible or one of the great thinkers of the tradition? Did your knowledge stop when your were 15? Do you still quote the same verses or sayings having long since forgotten the context or the reason?

How do you want to finish? Coasting to the finish line over the last half of your life? As for me, I wish to finish strong. Like the young woman in the story I led with. Like the “vast cloud of witnesses” at the beginning of the Hebrews passage, we were all rooting for her. But it was up to her to finish strong. There are people rooting for you.

Give Feedback Immediately

June 22, 2016

Just wait until your father gets home! — Old parenting joke

When your child does something out of bounds, when is the best time to give corrective feedback?

No, this is not a trick question. And I know that for some (many?) of you, it’s a shock to discover that your 14-year-old (or 2-year-old) can do something wrong.

Right! You provide the feedback at the time. If you wait, the feedback loses immediacy and impact.

Henry Cloud uses the example in his latest book The Power of the Other of a pair of mountain climbers. When is the best time to give feedback on a faulty foot placement? Before or after the slip and fall?

“Get behind me Satan.” Jesus to Peter

When Peter gave a wrong answer to Jesus, he received immediate feedback. In the course of three years, Peter received a lot of immediate corrective feedback. And he developed into a great leader.

Cloud uses the picture of a rectangle with four corners. He defines four types of relationships. Three are dysfunctional. The Corner Four relationships build you up, provide energy, and also sometimes corrective feedback when necessary. A true friend will give you the metaphorical kick in the butt when you need it.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

When I was editor-in-chief of a magazine, I routinely asked of people during my travels how I and the magazine could improve. What might be lacking? Where could we be going? Mostly I heard, “You’re doing a great job.” We like positive remarks, of course, but if you are looking for continuous improvement, then you need some corrective feedback. Maybe gentle, maybe a little harder to wake us up.  But it’s important.

One point–when you are looking for feedback beware the “skeptic” as defined in Proverbs. They are always critical of everything. They may or may not be helpful. Look for your Corner Four relationship, a friend or someone who cares about you. They know you and have a feel for what feedback is useful for your growth.

Oh, go buy the book, read it, digest it. Cloud will help you add depth to your relationships.

Leadership: What Do You Look For In People

December 11, 2015

When you are building a team for your business or task at church or for community service, what do you look for? A warm body? Particular skills? Relatives?

There has been a consistent theme to my reading and conversations this week. It has been around people.

Andy Stanley says that you should look for who before what. Look for good and talented people first. Then figure out what to put them to work at.

Google looks for curiosity.

An interview I heard on the radio with the head designer at Go Pro talked about learners. When asked about her own learning, she said it’s the people she hires. They are learners. When they learn something new, they want to teach it.

Chuck Price, leader at Campus Crusade and a friend, says to hire character. You can teach skills. You can’t teach character.

When I’ve hired or brought people into  teams, I look for a basic skill set. I want people who can teach me something. I’ve learned the hard way to not hire people with agendas. Especially when that comes with weak character.

Family and friends? Be careful.

Personality also counts. It depends a little on how customer-facing they will be. But still, they must fit in with the team. Avoid people who are negative, arrogant, or, on the other hand, weak and timid.

Hiring is a major decision. It’s game changing. Make a wrong hire and you can destroy an organization, business, or committee.

Take is seriously. Make it first priority when you have to hire or are building a team.

I like the philosophy of these characteristics: Character, Curiosity, Learner.

Training for the Race

October 22, 2015

Paul loved sports metaphors. He talked about training for the race. Running the race.

Our house in my youth was a sports house, and football was the main one. I rememeber growing up with the Cleveland Browns on TV (I’m from Ohio, there was no Bengals). Dad was a big Notre Dame fan. Into adulthood, I watched the Browns every Sunday of the season. I “lived and died” with the Browns, as the saying goes. (They were good back then.)

Twenty-five years ago I started refereeing men’s soccer matches on Sunday afternoons in the fall. I didn’t watch as much football (and the Browns stopped building good teams–which continues unto today). I find watching soccer from Europe more entertaining in the few times I have that I can watch TV.

I’m thinking about the sport, though. What sort of team sport is it where the important stats are how many players are not injured during the game. NFL football has become over the past 20 years or so a “war of attrition.” The team that manages to avoid the most injuries has the best chance of winning the championship.

Yet during this time of changing the rules and equipment of the sport to promote the “Big Hit” which the NFL has done, the sport became the most popular team sport in America. Young men spend their entire lives training for a profession that is designed to cripple them. After a career of about six years, they retire before age 30 crippled for life.

Boxing is another sport where equipment allows the Big Hit but it has been supplanted by mixed martial arts where guys (and increasingly girls) beat the crap out of each other for the entertainment of millions.

When I started this stream of thoughts, I had no idea where it would lead. It began with an observation.

We could go two ways. One would be the usual condemnation of people who even thought supposedly civilized are not that far removed from the Roman crowds who cheered on fighters who fought to the death in the arena.

Then I thought about the goal we are training for. Because we should be in training right now. Paul didn’t think we ever stopped training and running. Paul Simon wrote a song using boxing as a metaphor for a wasted life. What is the metaphor of our life?

Are we training for the wrong life? For a wasted life? Or a full life?

Thinking and Doing

October 14, 2015

Seth Godin is a marketing consultant. He’s written a few books and has a blog. The blogs are short pieces these days. Usually pithy. Recently he wrote on opportunity and left a few good suggestions.

You can learn a new skill, today, for free.

You can take on a new task at work, right now, without asking anyone.

You can make a connection, find a flaw, contribute an insight, now.

Or not.

We like to complain about lots of things. Work. The boss. The church. Leaders. Not getting ahead.

Godin reminds us of simple things that put the responsibility right back on us.

Today, Jon Swanson wrote on his 300 Words a Day blog about reading. And doing. He read a lot about running. Then he started running. He didn’t read any more. He ran.

He thought about Jesus who said you can sit and listen all day, or you can get out and do.

Preparation is good. Your 15 minutes a day in your chair reading the Bible is good. Your other reading is good.

But, in the end it isn’t good enough. It’s like the athlete preparing for the contest and never entering the competition.

You can do it. Godin says take responsibility for yourself and get up and do. Swanson suggested that there’s a time for preparation and then a time for doing.

What are you doing today?

We Need To Make a Contribution

August 26, 2015

This is the moment — this is the most important moment right now. Which is: We are about contribution. That’s what our job is. It’s not about impressing people. It’s not about getting the next job. It’s about contributing something.”                                                                  — Benjamin Zander

I used to say of my parenting goals that I wanted to raise independent, healthy people who contributed to the common good of our society.

Don’t know how much it was because of me, but they both turned out that way.

My fatther was in many ways a servant. That may be the only thing I learned from him. Probably for different psychological/emotional reasons. But still I desire to serve. I want to contribute good things wherever I go.

Living in this time of a Narcissism Epidemic, the number of people who think it’s all about them rather than about contributing is astounding.

So many wish to retire and do nothing. Or maybe one little thing at church. When they have a lifetime of experience and skills that could be used to contribute to someone’s life or a worthwhile organization’s impact.

Taking a musical metaphor (with a bow to Zander), a band or orchestra is only good when each part contributes to the whole. That band or orchestra is only outstanding when every member contributes excellence.

Want to live a fulfilled life as a disciple of Jesus? Try making a contribution. Contribute to someone’s life. Contribute to an organization doing the right thing. 

Make a contribution…and live the free life.

You Have To Use It

August 17, 2015

“What good is it if he never used it?” Oxford student to his professor regarding Nietzsche on Inspector Lewis on PBS Masterpiece Mystery.

Nietzsche was most likely insane from syphillis during much of his life. Like some insane or “sub-threshhold” people, he could see into the human soul. He looked deeply into the 19th Century European soul and found darkness.

He also wrote about Das Übermensch, translated into English most literally as the Overman but popularly as Superman. He talked about the Will to Power. But he, himself, was not very powerful. He was sickly. 

Hence the comment by the student.

How many people do you know that know a lot but do little with it. I didn’t finish a formal engineering degree, but I used to work alongside many who did. Having enough knowledge to finish a degree did not make some of them an engineer. 

There are people with Masters degrees or Doctors degrees in various disciplines whose heads are filled with stuff. They go to leadership meetings and seminars. They can quote leadership stories. Tell leadership anecdotes. They couldn’t lead a group of children to a candy store.

There are people who can quote Scriptures for every circumstance. Do their lives reflect that they are disciples (by the way, my tradition and belief system is a follower of Jesus, but I observe the same problem with followers of Islam and Judaism)? It’s a human problem.

I am going through another cycle of studying the Proverbs. There are so many about accepting wise counsel. But also I read today that you can even tell a child’s character by what he does.

What good is it to say you’re a Christian and memorize reams of Scripture, and then your actions betray you as not a follower of Jesus?

Save Yourself

August 3, 2015

My dad used to have a phrase, “It’s like the blind leading the blind.”

Did you ever follow a leader who had no clue?

OK, you can quit laughing–or cringing.

Did you ever seek help from someone only to discover that they needed more help than you? It’s worse when they offer advice. Then you realize they need to live the advice first.

I often listen to “Coffee House” on Sirius XM when I’m driving. The channel features acoustic music. Since I play folk guitar (when I get it out), the channel is appealing.

There’s a song that keeps repeating in my head:

You’ve got to save yourself…so you can find a way to save…someone else.

This wisdom is ancient. Yet, we still need to discover it daily. When I’m tempted to open my mouth and interject in a conversation, there is a pause. In that pause, I reflect on how much I resemble just what I’m about to contribute.

Sure, you can learn a lot by reflecting upon failures. But I wouldn’t listen very long to business advice from someone who has taken multiple businesses into bankruptcy.

Similarly, I respect people who may not have it all together, but they have been living out the struggle for years. They know how hard life change is. Yet, you can see the change in their lives. I listen to them. And meditate on their words. And reflect on their lives. And contemplate how that change would look in my life.

These may be Celtic saints from my current reading in the Celtic Daily Prayer book. They may be people I’ve met over the past few years, months, days.

Don’t go theological on me. Just consider the practice: If you are seeking, seek those who have “saved themselves”. If you are “saved yourself”, then you need to “find a way to save someone else.”

Jesus put it, “Go into all the world making disciples….”

Making Process Better But Destroying Goals–Leadership Lesson

July 10, 2015

Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal . Making something great is the goal. I see this over and over again in other companies: A subversion takes place in which streamlining the process or increasing production supplants the ultimate goal, with each person or group thinking they’re doing the right thing—when, in fact, they have strayed off course. When efficiency or consistency of workflow are not balanced by other equally strong countervailing forces, the result is that new ideas—our ugly babies—aren’t afforded the attention and protection they need to shine and mature. They are abandoned or never conceived of in the first place.

The quote is from Creativity Inc., Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way of True Creativity, by Ed Catmul, president of Pixar and Disney Studios.

It’s Friday leadership day. I’ve been reading Catmul’s book on leadership. It is a fascinating look into the creative process of Pixar–and into leading a creative organization.

How many of us have been involved in a project or organization where people (leaders) keep refining the process and then refining some more, and then they lose sight of the overall goal.

I certainly have seen this in business. And in church work. And in non-profit work.

What’s the goal?

Usually it concerns wowing the customer with a product whose quality and timeliness goes far beyond customer expectations. 

Didn’t we just see Toyota do that recently when they took the eye off the goal of pleasing customers?

How many Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlaps have you seen trying to cut a company to prosperity? This “Rambo in Pinstripes” destroyed Scott Paper, Sunbeam, and who knows how many other by his terrible management.

A leader works tirelessly to assure everyone affiliated with the company or organization or committee is firmly focused on the end goal. They never forget whom they are serving and what quality consists of.

Another part of what Catmul is talking about is fostering new ideas. Don’t let the process drown out creativity.

I recommend this book for leaders and creative types (who should be all of us).