Posts Tagged ‘Work’

When You Find Yourself In Complacency

January 26, 2017

So you wake up. Who knows what wakes you up. There you were happily asleep and Pow, there you are, wide awake.

It happens in the middle of the night.

It happens when you’re in an organization.

You were lulled into complacency. The pot has not yet boiled (see yesterday’s post). You have time. Just like the “good guy” in those 1930s short movies. You pull the girl off the railroad track just before the train comes.

But there is no girl. No train. Except metaphorically.

You can rescue yourself. Can you rescue the organization?

That is the question.

What do you do?

1. You can bail out. You wake up. Look around. See the signs.  Think you’ll be better off elsewhere. There you go, searching for a new adventure.

2. You can close your eyes. Ignore the signs. Slip back into the comfort of the known. And slowly…die. If not physically, then spiritually.

3. You can decide to try to change things. Become an idea monster. Every morning you awake. Brew that cup of coffee. Grab your notebook (you do have a notebook, right?). Write 10 ideas. Every morning. You talk to people about doing things differently. Find some people who are awake. Build a coalition. Go for it.

Me? I went off for other adventures. Sometimes you just can’t find that coalition. Sometimes the “supreme leader” just doesn’t have the skill or stomach for change. Or, they have a different agenda. Then it’s time to forge your own trail.

That light in the tunnel. It could be a train coming at you. Or…it could be the light out. The light to a better 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.

Living Within Your Gifts

October 25, 2016

Jesus was concerned with the state of  our hearts. Paul taught that, as well, but he became focused on how we live in community. I think maybe he obsessed on it.

Part of living in community is for each of us to work within our spiritual gifts. He talked about it in letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians.

Have you ever tried something for which you are neither well prepared or particularly talented in. You tried playing the piano (thanks, mom) but you have no particular feel for music. You tried management, but your heart was really in doing the work more than organizing others to do the work.

What happens when we are living out a role for which we have not gifts?

  • Our stress levels go up
  • We begin losing friends
  • We cannot sleep well
  • Worry is our constant companion.
  • We work harder and longer, yet it’s never enough
  • People tell us we don’t laugh like we used to
  • We catch ourselves blaming others as things go wrong
  • We begin to sense a distance developing between ourselves and others

Some people have the blessing of knowing early what their gifts are and what they want to do with them. Others of us struggle through our 20s and even 30s. Maybe our experiences are laying a foundation for later, but we haven’t found that calling.

Then, we find work and role that for which God created us. And we do it.

  • We have joy in service–for that’s what it feels like
  • We have joy in learning more and more about this new role
  • We attract people rather than repel them
  • We may work long hours, but it doesn’t seem like work
  • We can see success and progress even when it looks like we may fail
  • We take responsibility for our own work

Are you unsure of just what your giftedness might be? There are many self evaluation “tests”. I’ve taken a number over the years. I know my Myers-Briggs profile. I’ve had others as part of employment processes. You can go to Google and find evaluation sites.

Or maybe you know, because what you are doing is a joy. That is a great blessing.

Three Ingredients Of Innovative Life

October 21, 2016

Infants contracted childhood leukemia. It was a terrible disease. They would bleed profusely. Doctors gave a series of powerful chemicals. One would work for a week or two and then stop. The next–same thing. And through all four known drugs.

A young doctor hired into the program to study and treat the disease. He observed and asked questions. Then he had an idea. It was so revolutionary that he was criticized for several years as an evil and stupid doctor. He said, “Why not give them all four drugs at the same time?” Take them as close to death as possible with these very toxic drugs that also, by the way, were the only known way to kill the cancer cells. Nurse them back to health. Repeat. Once a month. Every month. For 24 months.

In 1965 Dr. Emil Freireich was ostracized from the medical community for trying this. By the early 1970s it was the standard of treatment.

Malcolm Gladwell wove that story into his talk on innovation that concluded the Dell EMC conference I attended this week. He was one of two headlining speakers who are both among my favorite writers–the other being Kevin Kelly. But I only have space for one today.

We all have reason to exercise our innovation genes. Whether turning around a failing company. Or turning around a failing ministry. Or maybe just living a more fulfilling life. Here are three thoughts from Gladwell’s research.

Sense of urgency

Freireich was watching infants and children die. Every day. And he wanted a treatment–now.

Be disagreeable

OK, not in the normal sense we use it, but in the way psychologists would use it. As well as the apostle Paul. This means that we do not need the approval of others to proceed with where we’re going.

Growth mindset

When we wake up in the morning, we don’t expect the world to be exactly like it was when we went to bed. We expect some changes and deal with them.

The Lord’s Expectations For You

October 4, 2016

The Lord helps those who help themselves. –???

The most famous Bible verse. Except…it’s not in the Bible. At least not that way. But it is true, nonetheless.

Take the story of Paul on his trip to Rome.

The sailors took one day of good weather as a sign and left a safe harbor to continue on their way hoping to make it to Italy before winter.

We do a lot of that hoping, right? We think we see a sign, but we don’t see the signs. We confuse praying with intention for God to bring someone or something into our lives with wrapping hopes into prayer. We forget that it does no good for God to bring something into our lives if we are not prepared for it. He could bring me a client, but if I have not prepared myself with expertise to help that client then it is all for nothing.

So, like any good drama (and Luke does a really good job of telling the story in Acts 27), they get just far enough away from the safe harbor to be committed to continuing when the wind changes. Instead of gentle southerly winds furious winds from the northeast blow in.

The ship is driven helplessly for two weeks before the wind. Without their GPS (which I suppose they left at Crete), they had no idea where they were. Let’s stop a second. Think of it. Two weeks on a small ship, winds howling, waves crashing, without eating because of the fear.

Then Paul tells them to eat something because they will need their strength. He tells of an angel from his god who appeared to him. He was told that everyone on the ship would be saved. That must have gotten a laugh.

They saw land ahead. One last hope. The prepared the ship to run aground on the beach. Oops, there was a protective reef. The ship hit that. Broke apart in the waves.

Can you imagine being in a wooden ship that is breaking apart? The wave are so high and strong that they could destroy a ship. And now you have to jump in.

But every person was saved. Everyone made it to the beach. Did God lift them up and miraculously transport them to the beach? Noooo. Some swam. Some grabbed planks of wood and floated in.

The Lord did help those who helped themselves. He puts us in a situation. He expects us to act.

I’m in that situation now. I bet you are, too. Or have been.

That is our  spiritual discipline. Studying and praying, we prepare ourselves for the times God puts us in a ministry or other situation and says, “Go for it.” And we are ready to go to work.

Collaboration-It’s a Good Thing

July 8, 2016

They were sitting on the couch intent on their iPads. Chatting away about the project. My grandkids, that is, ages 9 and 7. They were building something in Minecraft, together, connected through iCloud. But also connected by voice.

Collaboration, it’s a good thing. Sometimes technology enables us to collaborate to build better things.

In my other profession, the one that pays the bills, I research companies and industries involved in a building and using a variety of technologies. But it always gets down to people. And how people interact.

Many companies foster silos. People exist only within their department or division or within their product group. They seldom share information or ideas. Many may not even know people in another division.

I’ve seen other companies where there is an attempt to bring people from a variety of functions together, but collaboration is hampered by what we call politics. The trust level in the company is not high. A person may be reluctant to say something out of fear that the comment may be taken out of context, spread to higher management ranks, and they may suffer career repercussions.

Once upon a time I led a department that designed machines to solve specific customer problems. We needed lots of ideas. White boards were a new thing. I bought a bunch. Put them in every cubical, office, and conference room. I told the engineers, sketch the problem on your white board. As you wander through the room to get coffee or whatever, look at the whiteboards. Talk to the other engineer. Maybe new ideas spring up.

We designed some pretty cool machines.

What are you building? Technology? Relationships? An organization?

Sensitize yourself to the atmosphere of the office or organization if you’re geographically spread. Are people sharing ideas? Are people receptive to ideas from others? What can be done to encourage collaboration?

One of my favorite quotes from the cartoon character Bugs Bunny was when somebody wanted to tell him something. “I’m all ears.”

Ah, the beginning of collaboration.

When You Stop Trying So Hard

May 27, 2016

“Stop trying, relax, and just slip into the pose.”

There are Yoga poses that just don’t work well when you try to force your way into them. Then you just relax, especially your abs, and just ease into the pose.

Try this. No, really, try it. Stand up. Keeping your back as straight as possible, bend over and touch your toes (or shins, or knees, or thighs…).

Now back at the standing position, relax your mid-section. Consciously. Maybe think about bringing your belly button back to your spine. Now try it. Don’t force it. Just bend.

(Honestly, all this came to me last night when I was talking the class into one of those forward bend poses that seem to stretch everything.)

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Matthew 5, 6, 7. This includes the Sermon on the Mount. Remember how Jesus concludes? “Be perfect just as your Father is perfect.”

Now, think about the group of people Jesus continually sparred with–the Pharisees. How did they try to be “perfect just as your Father is perfect”? They tried…hard. They built rules on top of rules to explain how to live in every situation in every minute of every day. It was a full-time job just working hard to be perfect.

Then Jesus comes along. He reinterprets all the laws making them impossible to achieve. Then he says, be perfect. Hold on there, partner. Perfect? Impossible!

Yes, that’s the point. You don’t get to a relationship with God by your hard work at being perfect. Stop trying so hard. Relax. Then turn your attention to God and let God do the work.

Like Yogi Berra supposedly said, “You can hear a lot just by listening.” Just by slowing down and ceasing the impossible task of trying to be perfect, we open a space for God to actually come in. And, since our focus is off ourselves, now we can hear God. And respond.

And we’ll be perfect enough.

He Came To Serve

March 24, 2016

Can you imagine being only a few hours away from trials, beatings, and execution–and knowing it was coming–sharing a meal with your friends? And doing the servant’s work of washing their feet?

I’ve had communion in the Upper Room (or where they think it is). It was a most memorable experience.

In my religious tradition, we celebrated Maunday Thursday. Even as a kid I liked to play around with words, so I’d drive Dad crazy playing on “Monday Thursday” themes. Even today, I have no clue as to the word Maunday. But the celebration or remembrance–that is important. It’s actually a discipline of worship and celebration to remember Jesus’ last meal with his closest disciples and the meaning of taking Jesus into my life.

My wife, on the other hand, never even heard of Maunday Thursday. They remembered Good Friday and had a service that day. Those Baptists–what can I say?

I find remembering the celebration a spiritual moment. Sacred, if you will. I find myself somewhat annoyed when parents give it to their little kids simply because it’s the thing to do rather than with a feeling of the sacred. Rebel that I am, I kind of think that the Catholic First Communion at around 7 is pretty early. (Good thing I don’t make the rules, I guess.)

What really stands out isn’t communion–the bread and wine. That was somewhat common except for Jesus’ new meaning. But the foot washing. By the host. That was radical.

We gloss over that in our remembrance. Up until the end, Jesus came to serve. And he told us–we also were called to serve.

I just finished reading (again) Bill Hybels’ book Holy Discontent. This book contains stories about people who experienced something that caused them to change their lives and go serve.

Do we think about this enough in our Lenten devotions to move from the disciplines of remembrance and celebration to the discipline of service. Certainly Jesus pointed the way.

Success Is (Not) Cheap

January 26, 2016

“Success is Cheap” screamed the billboard.

OK, they were trying to say that if you went to that school, the price is low for the success you’ll surely receive.

This is not a “growth and success” blog. My friend Jim Pinto wrote one of those (as well as columns for my magazine) for years.

Pursuing spiritual disciplines is not really a success or failure sort of thing. We may not achieve perfect study, worship, prayer, and so on, but it’s the work that is the reward.

There is probably a definition of success for these future college graduates, but it won’t come cheaply.

Success requires work. Work that is unseen by the crowds. Preparation. Study. Repetition. Grunge work.

Then success comes–maybe in the form of accolades–and people say, “Wow that all happened overnight.” No. Things don’t happen overnight.

Cheap? Is investing years of your life mastering a subject matter cheap?

I think of the preparation of people in the Bible put there for our edification. Joseph prepared and was ready when his time came. Daniel, same thing. Study, prepare, be ready to act when called upon. Jesus. Peter. John. Paul. Barnabas.

The marketers were trying to get attention. But don’t buy into it. Even beyond my usual philosophy that you get what you pay for, success isn’t cheap. It requires work, dedication, discipline.

God’s Grace Is Better Than Rules

January 5, 2016

One thing about rules–everyone can have their own set. And feel good about it. A set of rules that we say we’re following places us apart from other people. And at a higher plane. We feel closer to God.

When I scan the news of the day, I see self-described “Christians” or people the news media enjoys calling “Christians” doing all manner of bad or evil things all justified by saying that they are following their set of god-given rules.

Maybe that is a reason Andy Stanley likes to say that calling yourself a Christian is pretty meaningless since it’s so hard to define. Jesus-follower, though, that is very well defined and hard to do.

I’ve been deep in study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He shows his anger and disappointment in those early believers because they slipped back into being rule followers instead of grace accepters.

Very early in the journal of the Acts of the Apostles, Mr. Jewish Christian himself, Peter, is shown by God that the Gospel and God’s Grace are available to all. Forget the rules that set Jews apart from everyone else. The Gospel breaks that all apart.

Grace is sufficient.

My heart breaks when I see people who think that they are following Jesus overcome with anger and hate and drawing up rules that set them apart from others.

That is the very attitude that has driven so many people I know away from the church and made them suspicious of the Gospel.

It’s easy to see why. Would you rather join a group that is suspicious of outsiders, bound up with rules, and shuns or even hates people who are different–or join a group that is welcoming, laughs and smiles a lot, sings, helps people in need whoever and wherever they are?

Every once in a while step back and look at the groups you are a part of–church, small group, service organization. See it with the eyes of an outsider. Is it welcoming? Is it helpful? Does it reveal God’s grace to others?

If not, it’s time to either work to change it or to say good-bye and find another group.

We teach new soccer referees that the profession is the only one where you are expected to be perfect from the first minute you set foot on the pitch and then improve!

Sometimes we treat people coming into church the same way. You need to be perfect according to our rules before you come–and then get better!

Grace says, join us first. Discover grace. We’ll get better together.