Stop Listening and Start Talking

The Life Beyond Your Comfort Zone

One day last Summer, the point where I turned for home was quickly approaching while jogging the bike path.  However, on this particular day I decided to keep running straight past my turn.  In fact, mentally I decided I was going to run twice as far today.  That’s when it happened.

Immediately, my mind was inundated with thoughts.  Things like, “You have to turn for home, you can’t do it!….”If you keep going, you’ll have to run twice as far than you normally do….”You hurt, there must be something wrong.”  You get the idea.  My body was telling me, don’t do it!

A wonderful lesson began to unfold.  I kept running, straight, past my turning point for home.  Farther away from my destination.  And as I did, guess what happened?  It wasn’t any more difficult than my normal routine.  In fact, I felt twice as good when I ran down the homestretch and crossed the finish line at my driveway.  When all was said and done, I’d ran TWICE as far as my normal routine.  How is that possible?

This is what happened.   When my body began to tell me I couldn’t, something greater began to tell me I could!  Up until that turning point, I’d always listened to my body, but amazing transformations take place when we stop listening to ourselves, and start talking!

I’d like to report that I do respond that way everytime a similar scenario plays out, but sadly, I don’t.  How about you?

What’s the impossible thing you’re facing right now?  What self-limiting beliefs are holding you back?

Is it a lack of confidence?  Finances? Family?  An employer?  What is it?  Maybe it’s time to stop listening and start talking to yourself.  It’s a silly illustration, but one you’ll remember- are you the little engine that can or the little engine that can’t?

The apostle Paul said it this way,”…work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you…” —Philippians 2:12-13.  It’s not our wills that give us a problem, it’s something smaller than that.  How do I know? Because there is something far greater, working in us, namely God!  As Christians, we want to do God’s will.  We have the power in us, Paul says, we just have to work it out.  God is already doing a perfect job working in you.  Do your part, by using dynamite….that dynamite is obedience to his will.

Lets face it, our bodies lie to us!  They have a mind of their own.  They are like the animal who doesn’t want to work.  They lie and connive.  They cheat and rob us of all that God has for us.  They prefer the path of least resistance.  The only way to master them is to stop listening to them and start talking to them.

This isn’t a ‘no pain, no gain’ post.  Instead it’s an invitation to tune into your greater self and tune out everything that’s telling you it can’t be done, whatever ‘it’ is for you right now.  Chances are there is opposition because what you’re trying to do needs to be done and you’re the only one who can do it!

Just think, you were born at just the right time to be in the position to face the particular challenge you’re facing right now.  So lean into it with faith and stop listening to the opposition.  When you do, you may be surprised to find you’re capable of accomplishing twice as much as you think you can.

 

 

A PLEASURE YOU MIGHT BE MISSING OUT ON

Hold on a minute. You took a factory tour of G.E and watched the assembly line “Yes, and we also went on a tour of the Hershey Plant”, she replied. Check this out!

It all began with a school project. Interview three people who are specialists in their field. Share the interview as well as some of the principles, concepts, ideas and themes you discovered. Write three to four pages for each summary.

Interview one. Check. How can this be so much fun? Interview two. Same result. Interview three. BAM!

Some of you have already discovered how enjoyable this is in the form of a podcast or vlog. But have you ever thought of conducting one yourself?

Principle 1: If you want to be interesting, be interested.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned about interviewing.

Forget about yourself- Don’t show other people how much you know, when you’re conducting an interview. It’s not the time to talk. It’s time to listen. Let them tell tell their story and don’t constantly interrupt them. When you do interrupt, aim to clarify or probe deeper. Be ready to bob, weave and tuck your head. Throw out the script if the interviewee wants to lead the show. Often they will share something you hadn’t thought about asking.
Take notes- The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory. I found that when I interviewed over the phone, I was able to type faster than I could write, so I did. Get the bare bones down on paper however you see fit. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to remember everything. You won’t.
Review as soon as you can after the interview is conducted– Right now you are glowing and your fire is stoked, all the more reason to rehash your interview. Your interview isn’t finished until you write and reflect. Writing creates a permanent record.

The same concepts can be applied to your daily interactions with people. I went to school with a kid who was always asking questions. Back then I just thought he was annoying. Now I believe he was curious and wanted to learn. I don’t know where he is now, but he’s probably a millionaire.

Interview the next person you meet. Give this a try today. You don’t have to tell them what you’re doing. Just ask them some questions. What are their hobbies? Any vacations planned? What are they reading? Find out a little bit about them and see what happens. I can almost guarantee you’ll make their day.
Ask them to clarify things you don’t understand- Don’t just shake your head if you don’t understand. Ask them to clarify. If they name a book or movie and you miss it because you’re not paying attention, ask them to share again.
Process what you’ve learned- This could be the last time you ever see the person or the first of many encounters. The next time you see them you’ll know more about them. Ask them how their daughter is. You may be the only person who is taking any notice of their life and showing that you care.
If you’re going to see them again, be prepared to help them- Clip out an article for them. Recommend a book that will address some of their pressure points or buy a copy and give it to them. Share some Tomatoes from your garden or a packet of seeds. Buy them a card and share some encouraging words inside.

Principle 2: When you get interested, life gets interesting.

If your life has lost its flare, someone is not going to just show up and get interested in you. You need to take initiative. Talk with people who have accomplished things you’d like to accomplish. Talk to people who have a spirit you’d like to cultivate. For example, they are more upbeat than you are or humble. I found out a long time ago that laying around my house in a fetal position doesn’t solve anything. You are Christopher Columbus and their is a whole new world out there to find and explore.

Go to your local library and check out some of the books the people you interviewed are reading. Research their interests. When you broaden the range of your reading, you broaden as a person. You can learn something from everything you read. Don’t be afraid to cross-pollinate your thinking. A new concept you learn about while studying Electrical Engineering may help you better understand something you’ve been pondering for years. O.K, I may be stretching it right there. 🙂 Nobody ever got a good idea while reading a book about how to manufacture Crack.

Principle 3: When you get interesting, other people get interested.

If you love podcasts, why not start one of your own. Start small. There are plenty of free resources out there. If you’re going to do a vlog on Youtube, use your camera phone for now. Don’t worry about all of the details. Build the plane as you’re rolling down the runway. Keep your posts short. Many people today have the attention of a Fruit Fly. They won’t even look at your video if it’s over 10 minutes long, but they will if its as short as 1-3 minutes. Even three minutes might be stretching it at first.

Don’t worry about how many viewers you have. Don’t even look at the stats. In most cases you’ll only get depressed again and find yourself on the couch eating Ho-Ho’s and Ding Dongs. Don’t worry about the money, concentrate on saving the world one life at a time. You can probably figure out the rest on your own.

So if taking a factory tour of G.E or the Hershey Plant sounds about as interesting as having your eyebrows removed, you might want to reconsider. In the words of someone smart, “Your network is your net worth”. There’s a whole world of people out there who are waiting to hear what you have to say but before they listen, they want to be heard.

 

 

The Secret of Success

Many people may not realize it, but there is more to success than just winning. No matter how many wins we have, all of us can be a success. Here is why.

Coach John Wooden tops the list of college basketball coaches with the most NCAA Basketball Championships. Ironically, in Wooden’s mind, being successful as a team was more important than winning.

Most of us don’t separate winning from success. In fact, we equate winning with success. Here is why success more important than winning.

We can’t all win, but we can all be successful.

The truth is we don’t all have the same abilities. Not everyone is an A student. In fact, most of us aren’t.

Not everyone has the same physical capabilities. Although all Goats are animals, not all animals are Goats.  People can win and still not be successful, especially in their own eyes.

Yes, we live in a day and age where everyone is considered equal. But the truth is we are not all equal when it comes to abilities and gifts. Some are given much and some are given little.

For example, Wooden had some great teams. He led eleven of them to NCAA championships. Yet when asked which team he felt was most successful, he named his 1959-1960 team. That team barely broke .500 for the season and ended up with a record of 14-12.

Why then would one of the winningest coaches ever consider them the most successful team he ever led? Because they played the closest to their fullest potential!

Remember, we can’t all win, but we can be successful. That 59-60 team was not championship material, however, what they lacked in ability, they made up for with heart.

To Wooden, what really mattered was not if his team won, but if they gave 100 percent on and off the court.

Success is ‘the wonderful feeling we have when we know we’ve given our all’. -John Wooden

In Wooden’s eyes, the successful players weren’t the most talented ones, successful players were the ones who gave it their all.

In fact, part of the reason his teams won so many championships is because they trained hard and fast during practice. They often made more mistakes on the court because of their speed, but they often won because other teams could not keep up with them. They were so fast, because they had been trained to give their all.

Now think about your own tribe. Imagine if you encouraged those you lead to give their all.

If you’re a Dad, imagine if you taught your children to give their best on and off the court.

Imagine if you encouraged your employees to give their best and rewarded them accordingly.

Imagine if you were the best husband you could possibly be. Yes, that might take some effort and some intentionality, but imagine the rewards.

Imagine if you inspired someone to give their best and they inspired others to do the same!

There is a catch. If we’re going to expect those we lead to give their best, we should give our best.

Specifically, you need an overall plan. You also need to write that plan down. You can’t expect your team, be it family, employees or church members, to perform well, unless they know what is expected of them.

In the words of Andy Stanley, “Every family has a game plan, the problem is nobody knows what it is.

Getting back to you as a leader. You’re not going to give a peak performance unless you take care of yourself. Whatever you do, make sure you put your own oxygen mask on before worrying about those around you.

Find out what fills your tank, and then make a point of doing it.

Find a mentor to pour into you; many of them are excited to share what they’ve learned with you.

Carve out time to pursue your hobbies and dreams.

Read, read, read. Warren Buffet averages 500 pages of reading a day! In fact, the overall consensus is that people who earn the most, read the most.

Eat right, think right, and exercise. Remember, you are a role model. Set a good example for those you lead. As you get healthier and achieve greater success, they will follow your example.

We’ve all felt the disappointment of failure at one time or another. Maybe it was a wasted weekend or a vacation. Perhaps we’ve failed in a relationship or even on the job. Sometimes we may feel like we’ve failed our children or our spouse. There are all kinds of places off the court where there is a potential to fail.  But failing doesn’t have to last forever.

The good news is that we can end the sickening feeling we get when we lose if we simply change our definition of success.

Wooden always told his players to hold their heads up after a game, regardless of the results. He believed if someone were to see one of his team members after a game, they shouldn’t be able to tell who won or lost based on the player’s attitude and body language.

How can we hold our heads up after a loss? We can hold our heads up if we know that regardless of the final score, we gave it our all.

As always, please feel free to leave your comments in the box below!

 

Get It Down

A Simple Strategy to Take Your Leadership to the Next Level

As you travel through life, you’ll find that some of the simplest strategies are most effective. Here is an example.

A plan isn’t dynamic until it’s written down. 

Let me give an example.

Most of us have a plan, the problem is we haven’t written it down on paper. For example, you may have a plan for your family, but I can almost guarantee you’ve never taken the time to write it down. The result is nobody knows the plan but you. It might be the most brilliant plan ever conceived, but you have to record it so that others have a blueprint.

This important principle occurred to me while working on post grad work. The classes I take require a final project to put in words the lessons learned throughout the semester. While the papers are very time consuming and difficult, they serve a purpose.

Here are some of the benefits:

  1. They allow you to go back and refresh your thinking.
  2. Others can study and glean what you’ve learned.
  3. They serve as a blueprint so that your team can pursue the intended goal.
  4. Your plan has the potential to out survive you! Others can read and profit from it long after you are gone.
  5. You can go back and tweak your plan without ‘reinventing the wheel’.

These are just some of the benefits. I’m sure you can come up with even better ones. If you do, please be sure to share them in the comments section.

Plans are nothing new. Jesus himself said, “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” Jesus realized the importance of doing research before starting a project. In the words of an unknown author, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

One of the things that sets great leaders apart from leaders in general is that they realize the importance of putting their thoughts on paper.

For instance, a friend I grew up with was a contractor’s daughter. There was one rule if she wanted to build something. The first thing she had to do was draw a picture of her intended project. Only after she had done so, would her father buy the materials to build. That’s a great lesson for all of us!

Rather than rehashing your thoughts everyday about your intended project, what if you took a couple of minutes or hours and put them on paper? Better yet, why not record them in a document on your computer? If you did, you would be taking a step many people never do.

One prophet in the Old Testament came to understand the power of this principle. Habakkuk writes, “The LORD answered me: write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it” Habakkuk 2:2.

Habakkuk, you see, was living during perilous times and the future seemed so uncertain that God told him to record the description of a better future to encourage him during the days between. Preserving a copy of your preferred future allows you to persevere when trials come. It ensures that you will be encouraged in the days to come as well as the team you lead.

Some people lamented that Walt Disney never lived to see Disney World, until someone came along and reminded them that Disney had indeed seen it despite his death.

Maybe it’s your Last Will and Testament that needs to be recorded. Imagine if you died today and there was no plan in place for spouse and/or children? I realize not many of us want to think about that, but it needs to be addressed.

One pastor friend I know wrote a book for each of his children to give to their future spouses. In it he recorded bits and pieces of their lives as well as their likes and dislikes. Unlike many others, their spouses had something a whole lot more reliable to depend on than trial and error.

How about an autobiography? It may never get published, but your future family might enjoy it. Now that I’m older, I have lots of questions I would have loved to ask my grandparents. It may even just be in the form of a personal journal.

Which leads us up to journaling? Admittedly, I’ve only dabbled with this for years, other than blogging the last two years. However, I still believe it has the potential to be life changing for some. You could even make a template on your computer or write one out to reference while you write on paper.

Questions might include

What was my biggest win yesterday?

What did I learn?

What are three things I’d like to accomplish today?

Are there any areas I’ve been neglecting?

What have I been learning from the scriptures?

Of course these are just some ideas to get you started.

Your plan and/or strategy may even become a book one day. Stranger things have happened. Personally, as a creative writer, everything I save on my computer stands to be a potential work. You never know, but the things you write today may be a seed for a larger work in the future!

With that thought in mind, always think of your initial writings and ideas as rough drafts. At first, just focus on writing the bare bones. For example, if you’re writing a blog post, just write down some of your key thoughts and flesh them out as you go along. This will alleviate writer’s block and help you overcome the inertia of staring at a blank page.

Next, file your final rough draft in the drawer for a day or two before rereading it and correcting mistakes and adding to it. In the meantime, your subconscious will go to work and make the process much easier when you write your final draft.

Beware of perfection. Everything worth developing in life takes time and effort. Your first attempts may be lack luster, but with time that will change.

In the meantime, while you’re working out the cobwebs in your thinking and writing, make time to regularly think about your future and write your thoughts down on paper. As someone once said, “The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory.”

Ultimately, writing is a lever that makes the hard lifting of thinking a whole lot easier for you and those you lead.

Do This To Increase Your Influence

Sooner or later, you are going to feel unloved. Here’s what to do if you ever do.

Everyone has a favorite subject and it’s not English! It’s themselves. Most people you meet are tuned into W.I.F.M FM otherwise known as ‘what’s in it for me?’

I recently talked with someone who had someone do them a ‘favor’. My friend needed a custom made detail for his new home. One of his friends volunteered to supply the lumber and do the work as long as my friend assisted him. Before the first board was even selected, his friend reminded him how much the lumber would cost to buy and even stated up front that he was expecting some kind of return in the future!

While it’s easy to laugh at this kind of story, we’re all guilty from time to time. While we may not verbalize our thoughts to the people we help, the insinuation is as clear as day.

Now to take this full circle and bring it back to feeling unloved. If you are unloving to others, don’t expect to be loved in return. Unfortunately, that’s the way it works in this world.

I promise, if you haven’t already, you’ll have a season where you expect every one to come knocking on your door. Call it a pity party or whatever else you want. But it will happen. Remember, it’s human nature. But you don’t have to be unprepared when that day comes.

Imagine if you went to work this week and did nothing but sit and wait for pay day. It might work for George Costanza on Seinfeld, but the truth is you’d probably be fired before the week is over. Why? Because you have entered a spoken or unspoken contract with your employer. You will produce a product, and in return you will receive a paycheck.

It’s not a lack of love on your employer’s part, right? It’s because of the contract. You’ve both made an agreement.

The danger of feeling unloved and expecting love is that you stop loving until your needs are met. You see it all the time.

A spouse will go out of their way to meet the needs of their spouse because their needs are being unmet.

An employee stops going the extra mile for their boss because they haven’t received a raise in two years.

Your child stops obeying because their closet door hasn’t shut properly for two years but she watches you keep up on all of your projects.

A friend never calls anymore because they haven’t heard from you in 6 months.

When relationships go South it’s usually because someone’s needs are not being met.

So how do you keep your loved ones from feeling unloved? The truth is sometimes it is very difficult. However, one way is to find out what their needs are and meet them.

Meanwhile, while loving others is a constant job and you’re not always guaranteed success, you can take control of how loved you feel.

The way you do that is to love others, especially the unloveable.

Now that doesn’t mean you should neglect your own needs. That’s not healthy and it’s a good way to destroy your mind, will and emotions.

Jesus said it this way, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” Matthew 22:37-40.

Notice the command is simply to love without any kind of payback.

But there’s more. Earlier on, Jesus says, “Give your gifts in private, and your Father who sees everything, will reward you” Matthew 6:4. Does Jesus mean to suggest that if we do something publicly, we’ll lose out on our reward?

Jesus is revealing a simple yet profound truth. We don’t need to hang onto our rights and expect payment if God is our heavenly Father. That’s the way most people respond, especially children, but we don’t need to.

The day we realize just how loved we are, we stop expecting love and simply begin to love more. God pays particular attention to people who depend on him for their own needs and go around looking to meet unmet needs.

However, don’t go out and meet the needs of everyone and their brother if you’re not meeting the needs of those in your closest inner circles.

The people closest to you are in your life for a reason and there is never a good reason to overlook their needs, especially if they appear to be unloveable.

Imagine if everyone was a good neighbor, not just to the people next door, but to the people in the same house!

My grandmother used to always tell us kids that we’d be sorry someday for mistreating our siblings and other family members. How did she know? From her own experience.

While you’re at it, remember that the type of love talked about in the bible is not an emotion. It’s an action. Warm, fuzzy feelings sell a lot of Hallmark cards, but people can’t see how you feel about them until you show them.

So what if instead of trying to be a best friend to everyone in the world, you focused on your family?

It may be in the form of a phone call to let them know you are thinking of them the next time you are working.

It might mean finishing one of the jobs you started on the ‘honey do’ list. Or it may mean starting a job that’s been waiting.

You could start a college fund for your daughter. Don’t wait until you’ve got a lot saved, if you do, you may never start.

Bring home some flowers.

Volunteer to help your son with his homework.

The truth is we all can get so busy trying to save the world that we have no energy for the most important people in our lives. In the meantime, if every one would take care of their own, it’d be a lot nicer world. And if you’re wondering about the people in the world who have no family or friends, always remember God cares a lot more about them than you or I ever will. Should we make it a priority to help them? Absolutely, but not at the expense of those who God has entrusted to our immediate care.

“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers” 1 Timothy 5:8

The Secret Of The People Who Influenced You Most

Two Invaluable Sentences

Who was one of the most influential people in your life? I’d be willing to bet that person used the following two phrases often.

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One of the most influential people in my life was a construction foreman. His name isn’t important, what is important is the fact that he knew the importance of these two phrases. He might not have always verbalized them, but his actions and attitude showed he was familiar with them. He was always willing to serve and if I didn’t need his help at the time, I knew I could depend on him to help in the future if necessary.

I’m going to guess that the most influential people in your life have been people who were willing to help you. Perhaps they never vocalized their offer, but you knew they’d assist you in any way possible if necessary.

Inexperienced leaders, on the other hand, are more concerned with what their followers can do for them. In their eyes, those under their leadership should do everything in their power to help them.

Jesus knew that and turned that whole way of thinking upside down. He emphasized serving others, not being served. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. (Mark 10:45) NIV.

Let me illustrate. In the movie Glory, Matthew Broderick plays the role of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, during the Civil War. Without spoiling the plot, Shaw was not a great leader to begin with. He was more concerned about himself and his legacy rather than the welfare of his men. A transformation begins to take place during the movie when he realizes his mens feet are raw due to poor footwear. You’ll have to watch the movie, to find out what happens….but here’s a take away.

The most influential people in our lives are the ones who know our needs.  Not only do they know our needs, they meet them.

The way they discover our needs is by watching and listening.

One particular way they listen is by asking questions, which leads us to the two transformational phrases. Before we look at them, there’s one more type of leadership we need to look at.

First there are reciprocal relationships. These are easy to monitor and you can easily predict when they are ‘headed south’. The kind we’re talking about are based on performance. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. I jump through the hoop, you give me a prize. I obey, you give me a treat.

This type of relationship is quite prevalent, especially in the working world today. How do you know when they’re beginning to sour? Somebody stops keeping their end of the bargain.

If you’re leadership is reciprocal, your influence begins to wane the minute you stop keeping your end of the bargain and/or others do the same.  With reciprocal leadership, you see, people get really good at keeping score.

Second, there is redemptive leadership. Redemptive leaders serve their people despite their performance.  Their aim is to redeem the people and organizations they are part of.  They understand that transformation takes time and they realize the importance of serving their people over the long haul. Rather than commanding people to obey them because of their title, they earn the loyalty of their people through continued service.

Here are the two questions they ask.

1. Is there anything you need? Quite often after we ask people to perform tasks, a long period of time passes during which their is little or no follow-up. During that time, you assume the person is having no difficulty whatsoever because they are achieving the intended results. In the meantime, that person may feel that although they are getting the results, you could care less about them. They may begin to believe you are more concerned with the results than you are with them as a person. Asking them if there is anything they need reminds them that you care and provides an opportunity to help them if necessary.

2. Please keep me informed. Surprisingly, most people do not need your help. When you volunteer your services, they will tell you things are going well. However, while they may not need your help at the time, it’s comforting for them to know that you are willing to help them in the future if they need it.

Again, maybe the people who were most influential in your life never asked you these two questions (verbally). However, you knew they were willing to help you if necessary.

So, are you a reciprocal type or redemptive? Don’t beat yourself up if you’re part of a system where every relationship is reciprocal. Being reciprocal is a necessary part of every relationship. If you don’t believe me, stop providing your family with food and a warm place to live.  Or go to the super market and try buying a banana with pocket lint.  Reciprocity is king in the consumer world.  However, reciprocal leadership, while vitally important, is not the whole deal.

It’s not surprising, but when people know that you care, their performance soars. Of course, that’s not the reason you care for them, however it’s not a bad bonus.

You know the saying ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play”. Not always true. The people you serve will perform at their highest potential when you are absent because they know that you love them. To do otherwise is unloving on their part.

Maybe, just maybe you are serving others and looking for ways to serve them better. Great! In the meantime, just because you serve others it doesn’t necessarily mean they will serve you. People can be plain selfish, especially bosses.

Rather than embracing their reciprocal leadership, continue to serve them. Jesus said no matter what, don’t look for other people to serve you, you serve them!

When we stoop to the level of others, everyone loses. Despite how you are received, continue to serve.

The most influential people in your life were people who you knew were concerned with your well being and willing to help you whenever necessary.

Are you meeting the needs of others? Do others feel like you have their best future in mind?

The Best Advice My Doctor Ever Gave

The Cure for a Critical Spirit

Have you ever felt like there’s a lack of justice in the world? I bet you have. In fact, you may be feeling like that this week.

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Many of us feel like things should be different in the world. Things should be more fair, easier. Often, we feel like we’re the only ones who are right and everyone else is wrong. Eventually we decide something must be done.

In fact, we can get to the point where we begin finding fault with everyone. This includes our spouses, our children, co-workers, the people at church, including the pastor. Before we know it we’re the only ones in the world who are right and everyone else is wrong.

I’ve got some news for you. It’s harsh.  Before you hit the unsubscribe button, please understand that although it’s painful, it actually turns out to be good medicine.

When you’ve got a problem with everyone, chances are you’re the problem.

I’m even going to go out on a limb and expound a bit more. I’d be willing to bet that you’re feeling it right now. Maybe you’re feeling it in the form of a strained marriage. Perhaps your child isn’t talking to you or things are a bit strained at work.

What happens is God uses other people as mirrors to help us see our own faults. He wants the faults of others to remind us of our own need for Him. That’s not to say we should get out our faultfinders and start waving them around others like the people at the airport security. The reverse is true. When we find ourselves finding faults with others, especially our loved ones, He wants us to be reminded how much we need him.

When we start seeing ourselves and our own need for grace and stop focusing on how others need to improve, an amazing shift takes place.  All of the ice around us begins to melt and we’re able to get back in the game.  Frozen relationships thaw.  Icebergs in our own hearts begin to melt.

You can’t go through life looking through a magnifying glass and see the big picture at the same time.

Imagine if you held up a newspaper article about an inch from your face and tried to read it. For that matter, try holding anything one inch away from your face and reading it. Unless you have really unusual eyesight, it’s impossible.

Focusing on details, especially faults, is not a bad thing. But if you want to see the big picture, you have to step back and take it in.

We know we shouldn’t go through life focusing on everyone else’s mistakes and sins, but if we’re not careful, it’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if we’re creative. Maybe you’ve been doing this for so long you don’t even realize it. Relax, it’s human nature.

Maybe you’ve even been praying for those people and asking God to change them. Wonderful!  Or you’ve been wondering “Will they ever get it?” Or “Don’t they realize how this is effecting our relationship?” In your most desperate moments you may even be wondering if they’re going to heaven.

To make things even more uncomfortable, God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers for the other person. In fact, sometimes it seems like things are getting worse. That very well could be.

Remember, at the end of the day, you can’t change anyone but yourself.

Let’s illustrate. Say you’re praying for the person in the cubicle next to you at work. You don’t just pray for them once, but quite often, especially when you are upset with them. This has been going on for months, but nothing has changed.

Maybe God isn’t looking to change someone else, maybe he’s trying to change you. Maybe when God allowed that person to criticize you last week it was so that you would change. Maybe the reason God gave you the kids or the spouse He did is because He doesn’t want you to change them, He wants you use them to change you.

Maybe God isn’t trying to change someone else, He’s trying to change you!

That may sound really harsh, but the truth is its good news! When all of the finger pointing stops and we focus on changing ourselves, wonderful changes begin.

Your constant criticism of others isn’t a reflection of them it’s a reflection of what is going on in your own heart. In the sarcastic but true words of a pastor/friend, “Prayer doesn’t change anything, it changes you!”

Of course we all know prayer can change lots of things. However, my friend may be onto something. Our prayers are meant to remind us that God wants to change us.

Whenever I find myself condemning others I ask myself this question. Who am I to exact a price for a penalty that has already been paid for in full?

God may never change the people around you, but if he does He may just begin with you. The great news is you don’t have to wait! You can start right now where ever you are.

You can’t change the way others act, think or speak but you can change the way you respond.

The teenaged child who’s rocking your world right now and pushing the boundaries is a gift! Rather than wishing away the next five years, what if you simply start responding differently? What if you continue to tell her that you love her, despite her bad behavior.  Better yet, while she’s misbehaving.

God loves you enough to not leave you the way He found you! He is not only in the process of changing you, he wants the transformation to be as extreme as the difference between night and day. If you’ve been critical of others it’s not because you’re a fiend, it’s because you are growing and learning what it feels like to be effected by other people’s bad behavior.

The sooner you accept the diagnosis that you’re the one with the problem, the sooner you’ll become a Dr. who’s able to help others.

“I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” Luke 5:32 NLT

Can Church Help You Live Longer?

3 Key Connections That Affect Your Health and Well Being

Are you part of something bigger than yourself, or are you trying to do life on your own? Believe it or not, your answer to this question may even affect the length of your life!

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I’ll be the first one to admit, I have no problem being alone. In fact, I even went to a concert by myself one time because nobody else wanted to go. Being an introvert by personality has its perks, but over the years I’ve come to the realization that we’re all designed for connection.

In fact, the apostle Paul says the church isn’t like a body, it is a body. Made up of members with diverse gifts who work together interdependently. That means we depend on each other for overall life and health.

Consider this illustration. Whenever any part of the body is separated from the rest, it shrivels and dies. Gross, yes, but true.

How about you? Are you actively involved in a local body of believers? If not, here are three things to look for.

1. Connection to the head. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and others. One of the primary ways of loving God and others is spending time with them. Daily. You’re deceived if you say you love God and others but you’re not carving out time to spend time with them. You’re even crazier if you say you love God, but can’t stand people. Jesus put loving God and others on the same plane. So as you consider a church to attend, there should be evidence that the people there love God and others. Remember, a body disconnected from a head cannot live for very long. However, if a body is to be healthy, it must stay connected to the head.

2. Members connect with each other. You remember the song, right? The thigh bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bones connected to the foot bone. Common sense. People cannot stay healthy unless they are connected to others. The more members connect with each other, the healthier the body.  You can have a pile of body parts but they’ll have no value unless they’re connected to one another.  Likewise, you can have all of the gifts in the world and still be lacking if you are not sharing with others. Good luck if you’re looking for the perfect church. Just like every other organization, the church is made up of imperfect people. Rather than finding fault with every church you visit, why don’t you find a place to plug in and make a contribution? Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what’s wrong with the church and start focusing on what’s right. Again, healthy bodies are made up of members who connect with each other regularly in meaningful ways.

3. Healthy churches exercise. Specifically, they are on mission. Jesus left us with the command to ‘make disciples’. We do so in three ways. 1) As we go. 2) Teaching them to observe everything that he commanded us. 3) Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Ironically, while he gave us these specific instructions, he did not give us specific methods. Why? Because though our message never changes, our methods do. As you consider a church, the methods are not as important as the mission. Mission trumps methods every time. Church members can be connected to the head and each other, but if they are not on mission, they are not healthy.  While we’re at it, part 2 (teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you) is the great omission of the Great Commission.  I’ll leave you to think about that.

Meanwhile, another metaphor Paul uses to describe the body of Christ is an army. Again, there is no such thing as an army of one.

Let me say this as lovingly as possible….If you think you can carry out your earthly assignment on your own, you’re wrong. That was never God’s design regardless of how talented you think you are. He has designed us to need and love one another. Until you find a group of like minded people to connect and serve with, you’re going to be miserable. In fact, according to research, there is a good possibility that if you don’t connect with something bigger than yourself, you’ll be dead within the next two years!

A word for….

Pastors.  If you want to revitalize the church you lead, begin by focusing on these three areas. Help people to connect with God, each other, and the mission. If you’ll focus on those three areas, your church will grow healthier.

Parents.  As a leader in your family, your primary goal is to help your kids connect in each of these three areas. It’s important, especially if they’re not old enough to decide themselves, to provide an atmosphere where they have repeated, and continual, opportunities to connect with God, others and the mission. If they’re struggling in one of these areas, that’s a good place to start.

Leaders.  Don’t think for a minute that this doesn’t apply to you and the organization you lead. If you’re a Christian and you’re more concerned with your employees productivity rather than their soul, somethings wrong. When’s the last time you sat down with a struggling employee to help them rather than demand better performance. Maybe God has allowed their poor performance so that they get the care they need.

It would be wonderful if our lives ran like finely tuned Swiss watches. The reality is, churches, organizations and families have their fair share of problems. However, rather than being discouraged by the problems you’re currently facing, look at them as opportunities to improve and succeed. Take some time to diagnose each of these three vital connections.  The feeling of accomplishment you feel, will far outweigh your current pain.

Blue Light, Reading Retention, and the Art of Empowerment

With the transformation of seasons, what’s on your radar these days? Though these three subjects might seem random, there is a common denominator to tie them all together.

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First, when I mentioned Kmart, what did you envision? When I think of them or Walmart, I think light. In most cases, you can go there 24/7 and the lights are on. Without even closing your eyes, you can see that kind of light.

The same is true with computer and cell phone screens. They are light sources. Not only that, from what I’m told they both emit blue light. That’s not a bad thing, first thing in the morning, when you wake up. After all, that’s the kind of light the sun provides up until early afternoon. It lets your body know that it’s time to wake up and get moving.

Do you see the problem? If you’re constantly looking at a screen all day up until you go to bed, it’s effecting your sleep patterns. Maybe you’ve wondered why you can’t sleep lately. That may be the problem.

Now if you’re sleeping just fine, great. But if not, you need to make some changes. What if you limited your use to late afternoon/early evening. That wouldn’t mean you have to go without mental stimulation. You could listen to your podcasts or music at this time. Use it as a chance to improve your listening skills. You might even start getting ready for bed earlier and winding down. Light a candle, turn off cell phone notifications, etc. If you’re not getting it done during working hours, extending your workday is only going to make things worse.

The fact is, if you don’t tell your body what to do, it will tell you what to do. Erecting some walls will help you give your life some more definition.

I’ve been painting with oils lately and every day is a learning experience. While there are places in a painting where blending is required, paintings are really powerful when there are sharp distinctions and contrasts. Blend too much, and you end up with mud. The same is true in life, if you don’t make distinctions, you’ll end up with a muddy canvas. The good news in life and oil painting is that any mistake can be fixed. Instead of going through the motions and not expecting much from life, change your mindset. Changing how you think, changes what you do and life was meant to be more than a mudslide.

From Blue Light to Reading Retention

As a leader, one of the best ways to grow is reading. Not just anything, but subjects that will help you tackle some of the challenges you’re facing right now. Instead of trying to fix everything, pick the area that needs the most attention. Guess what? As you begin to attend to the areas in need of attention, your whole life will improve.

In fact, reading is a great way to spend the time you were spending on the computer and phone every night. As the adage goes, ‘Readers are Leaders!’. Not only is it effective, it’s one of the least expensive ways to educate yourself.

But obviously if you’re going to spend lots of time reading, it makes sense that you’re going to want to retain what you learn. Filing a book you’ve read for future reference is wonderful, but to really take your leadership to the next level, it will pay to work on your reading comprehension and retention. Then your powers are more than within arms reach, you’ll have them stored in your memory whenever they’re needed.

If you want to retain what you’ve read, stop highlighting so much and jotting notes in your margins. These aren’t bad practices by any means for future reference, but what you’re really telling yourself subliminally is: I’m not going to remember this, so I’d better write it down! There’s a better way.

Instead of highlighting and taking copious notes, write a question at the end of each chapter. Not just any old question, but one in which the required answer is a summary of the whole chapter or important ideas. As you go through the book, go back and answer the questions you wrote down. If you can’t, it’s obvious you’re not mastering the material. I discovered this idea while reading an article by Scott H. Young.

Do you see the progression from blue light to reading retention. There’s a difference when you mindlessly surf and when you make it a point to distill the information you are learning. If that sounds uncommon, it should. You aren’t looking to be just an average leader, you’re looking to go the distance and to go the distance, you have to stand out from the crowd.

Beyond Blue Light and Reading Retention to The Art of Empowerment

You may not realize it, but you are a very powerful leader! That’s not just flattery, it’s the truth. However, your power is of no value unless you use it.

I’m not an engineer or the son of an engineer, but I do know that power companies have vast reserves of power for the taking. As you can imagine, this power is worth a fortune. However, their power is worthless unless they share it with others.

But people have to pay for it. Of course! It’s a beautiful thing. You can purchase something that cost someone else a fortune to produce for a small investment.

Now of course there are two ways of looking at this. As a leader, you have vast reserves of power. That’s why they say you’re ‘in power’ as a leader. However, unless you share that power, it’s of no value whatsoever. Think about that.

SO what are you doing to give away your power? The tendency  is to keep all of your power and do everything yourself. Like they say, if you want something done right, do it yourself. But that’s not how leaders do things. Maybe your Dad or Mom said that, but if you take a moment and reflect, were they influential leaders?

The second way of looking at this is to look at it through the eyes of someone who serves a leader. If you’re a leader and you have no leader, there is a problem. Any way, although servants may not pay their leader with money, they do end up paying them. Their payment may take the form of respect, service, dedication and more. These things are just as valuable if not more than money.

So be like a farmer and fork out your power like manure and you’ll have a huge harvest. They more you shovel out, the greater the return. Yes, you need to have discernment, but in most cases the people around you are dying to be part of something bigger than themselves. So empower them to actively use the gifts God has given them and your influence and impact will soar!

The Thread that Runs Through Blue Light, Reading Retention and the Art of Empowerment

So what do blue light, reading retention and empowerment all have in common? Stewardship. At the end of the day, you’re in control when it comes to going the distance in your own life. You’re in control of your body, your mind and your leadership gifts. So why not maximize them for the glory of God? They’re all gifts. Use them well and God will give you more. In the meantime, what question do you need to write down that’s going to help you remember the key idea in this article? Please be sure to share it in the comments section below!

How To Be an Olympic Leader

Why Faster isn't Always Better

Do you ever feel like life is moving too fast? With the end of summer fast approaching and the oncoming of fall, it’s easy to feel like you’re in ‘squirrel mode’. Time to hurry up and start packing things away and getting organized for you know what. But faster isn’t always the answer.

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There are actually three options.  To begin thinking about them, imagine a highway.

The Fast Lane You already know what this one is for. It’s the one you get in when it’s time to cover some ground. For some it’s not fast enough, and they feel the need to go faster. The posted speed limit is just too slow. Without getting into character issues, there are some who can travel in this lane with skill without jeopardizing their own life or the lives of others.

The Slow Lane This lane if for those who are not in much of a hurry. You reach your destination in this lane, it just takes a little longer. In fact, in some cases this lane allows you to take more in on your journey. People in this lane are often referred to as ‘Sunday drivers’ in upstate N.Y. where I live.

The Middle Lane This lane isn’t just for those who are looking to go a little slower than drivers in the fast lane or a little faster than drivers in the slow lane. This lane also allows you to navigate between the fast and slow lanes.

I’ve used this simple illustration to point out a few truths about leadership and winning. Top leaders realize that none of these lanes are any better than the other. In fact, they all have equal value. What sets strong leaders apart from the pack is that they realize when it is time to accelerate and when it is time to let up on the pedal.  They’re not afraid to use every lane when necessary.

Some are not so fortunate. They learn the hard way about the value of discernment.

The problem is there isn’t always a highway to take your team from point A to point B. It’s often more like a side road with twists and turns. A great leader knows this and understands when it’s time to slow down and when it’s time to speed up.

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Yes, some of you can negotiate S and hairpin turns faster than others, but in general, you’ll do well to take the time to slow down. In the long run, you and your team will be all the better for it.

I was once in Mustang 5.0 with a friend and his brother heading into a sharp turn doing about 130 miles per hour!  My friend and I begged his brother to slow down, but he wouldn’t.  We both knew the turn couldn’t be made at the speed we were traveling, yet his brother was out of his mind.  Miraculously, the car remained upright when it spun in circles as we flew off the road and came to a rest.

Sometimes as a leader, you can make the mistake of trying to impress others by how fast you drive. They won’t be so impressed if you crash and burn and injure everyone on the bus with you.

Not only do good leaders possess competency, they also possess character.  Your character is just as important as your competency. You can lose your competency and get it back. Neglect your character and you’ll never live it down. Why not slow down? Be the leader God designed you to be. You’re not going to impress him or anyone else by constantly acting outside of your giftedness and integrity.

Psalm 78 says of King David, “So he fed them (Israel) according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands”. The world of leadership moves fast and it requires both character and competency. If you have to forfeit either character or competency, you’re not being the leader God made you to be. You don’t have to cut moral corners or burn yourself and others out to make a difference in this world.

Again, no lane is better than any other. Each one serves a purpose for a time. What is important is knowing which lane to use at any given time. So how do you know?

You know you’re in the wrong lane when you lack character. Loss of character doesn’t just occur in the fast lane. It can also occur in the slow lane. For example, you know it’s time to shift into a faster lane but it’s not convenient.

You also know you’re in the wrong lane if competency is an issue.  In some cases you may not be using your full competency and God is telling you it’s time to change lanes.  Or you may be trying to appear more competent than you are and God wants you to slow down and get the skills you need.

Before you go off into the mud, why not take a few minutes to reflect? What lane are you in right now? Is this the right lane for you and your family?

Again, some leaders have more character and competency and they can travel fast, but that doesn’t mean you can. When was the last time you let your heart catch up with your mind?

In the rush to reach your dreams and goals, it’s so easy to put the pedal to the metal and hope for the best. However, you need to use sound judgment. Every move you make, the people you lead are watching. More importantly, God is watching.

If you’ll start thinking of leadership as three lanes instead of just one- the fast lane- you’ll be on the road to achieving more than you could ever imagine. In no time at all, you’ll even pass the wrecks of those who thought they needed to get there faster. While nobody wants that, it’s a sobering truth. Leadership from the heart requires both competency and character. The choice is yours.