Are You Growing?

One Simple Way to Tell

What if there was a simple way to guarantee you are growing? Strange question, right? But the fact you are reading this blog, tells me you think about this sort of thing. Wondering if you’re growing is part of what it means to grow.


Remember when you were younger and you wondered about this sort of thing. Maybe there was a door in your bedroom closet and you measured how tall you were every so often. At that time you wanted to measure your physical growth. Maybe you looked forward to the day when you were taller than your Mom or Dad or Sister or Brother. Chances are, you haven’t measured your height in a while. At some point you felt as though you’d reached your final height, so there was no longer any need to measure.

Have you ever wondered if the bible has anything to say about growth? The answer is yes. Plenty.  It even talks about how Jesus grew.  Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Jesus grew physically, in stature; he also grew in his ability to apply the things he’d learned, in wisdom; and he grew spiritually and socially. That’s a lot of growing. However, none of this growth occurred over night!

Impatient people, on the other hand, are constantly checking to see if they have grown. They’re like the child who asks their parent to measure their height once a week.

Photo on 4-7-16 at 9.16 PM

Chances are, as an adult, you no longer measure your height. However, you are always measuring your growth in other areas, be it finances, leadership ability, or fitness, just to name a few. And when you do, you always end up feeling lousy because there is a perceived lack of growth. Let me state the obvious. Chances are you haven’t grown much in the last week or month because….well, that’s not the way growth happens.

Mature people realize growth takes time and they measure accordingly. What if rather than measuring every day or once a week, you began to measure monthly? Or annually? See the difference? It’s not that successful people don’t take the time to reflect on their growth, they do. The difference is, mature people realize growth takes time. So when they measure, they look back over longer periods of time while reflecting. They ask themselves, “How have I grown since this time a year ago?”

Growth takes time. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical fitness, spiritual maturity, social or intellectual growth. As a mature leader, part of your job is to realize this principle and to help your followers to understand it better. Encourage them to commit to the long haul before they bail out. Explain to them that growth takes time, but the results are worth it. Teach them to set small and large goals.  Challenge them to commit for six months to a year.  Emphasize the importance of journaling and records.  Both are great ways to record important information for later reflection.  Stop measuring their growth so frequently, that’s only a recipe for frustration.

Besides measuring too often, immature people compare their growth with that of others. When they want to feel good about themselves it’s easy to compare themselves to someone who is floundering. If they’re really delusional, they compare themselves to a star in their field. Big mistake. That’s a recipe for depression and heartache. Mature people take responsibility for their own growth or lack thereof. We’ll never reach our potential as long as we’re trying to measure up to others.

Mature people also measure themselves by God’s standards. They realize they’re responsible for how they live despite the actions and direction of their peers. They make it a point to seek God’s will for their lives and to follow his leading. When in Rome, they never do as the Romans do.

There was a man in the bible called Asaph who knew how to truly measure his own personal growth. In Psalm 73:24 he said this to God, “You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny!” The exclamation is mine. You see, it’s not that Asaph never got depressed. He did. Quite a bit, in fact.   However, whenever Asaph faced a set back and needed encouragement, he always reflected on God’s activity in the past. Why not take a few moments to stop reading and do that right now?

Feeling better? Good. When we stop to reflect, God’s goodness in the past reassures us of God’s goodness in the present and in the future!

So if you want a simple way to guarantee you are growing, don’t compare yourself to the person you were yesterday or last week. If you want a true estimation, compare yourself to the person you were six months or a year ago. When you do, you’ll be amazed! And while you’re at it, don’t compare yourself to others. That’s only a recipe for pride and/or depression.

I guarantee if you look back on the person you were a year ago, you’ll see that you’ve grown. Maybe not in every area, but probably in more areas than you realized.


How To Manage Distractions

When you have two children, you can play man to man.  More than two and you have to play zone.  As if that’s not difficult enough, there’s a new challenge.


Remember the pastoral days before cell phones?  Just you and nature or whoever happened to be in front of you.  You could change your oil in peace or bake a cake without being dinged.

I’m so glad cellphones weren’t around when I was a teenager.  It was bad enough not having a girlfriend, let alone worrying if I was going to get dumped via text.   My zit production was bad enough without that kind of stress looming over head.

Back in those days the only ones who had cell phones were C.E.O’s.  And the phones they had were the size of bread loaves.  When did we all become C.E.O’s?

While those days aren’t gone, something has changed.  There came a day when we found that we could do lots of things at the same time.  We could drive and talk on our phones or read a text.  We could read a book to our child and look up the latest deals in the market place when and if necessary.

But it’s more than our phones now.  There are distractions everywhere.  Go online for a few minutes and there a thousands of different rabbit trails.  They know what you like based on your searches and advertise the items in the margins.  You can go online today to find out what the weather is going to be and end up buying a kayak!

By now, perhaps you’re beginning to realize the dilemma.  There are so many alluring exits in our daily travels that we’re having a hard time reaching our destinations.

Here are some thoughts on focusing.

F: Find a system that works for you.  Personally, I’ve found that when I lock my cell phone in my car for hours on end, I can’t be distracted by it.  While that might sound harsh, find a system that works for you.  Go cold turkey.  Start by taking baby steps.  If hours on end sounds too long, lock it away for an hour or two.  Whatever you do, find what works for you.  Turn off your notifications.  Silence it during sleeping hours.  Once you find your system, tweak it and change it.  Learn from your mistakes.

O: Opt out on being part of the crowd.  We all want to be loved.  The problem is we can’t love everyone at the same time.  Oprah says she’s got a lot of money.  And because she has lots of money, she gets a lot of requests from people who want her money.  She says that while she can’t give money away to everyone, she can give away some here and there.  You’re not Oprah.  You only have a limited supply of time and energy.  Don’t try to keep everyone happy.  They’ll find you sitting in your cubicle drooling all over yourself.  Opting out of the crowd doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough for those you love to devote yourselves to them in such a way that they know they are your number one priority.  Don’t be a cellphone zombie.

C: Craft a vision for you and your family.  Part of the reason we’re so distracted is we don’t have a long term vision.  Take some time and try this exercise.  Begin by imagining what you want your children and/or family to remember about you.  Many people do this.  What do you want your epithet to say?  Then ask yourself what you want your grandchildren to remember about you.  Then your great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.  If that doesn’t help, ask yourself what you want to remembered about you one thousand years from now!  Once you can answer that question, the distractions will melt away.

U: Use your phone to create.  In the world of production, there are really only two types of people, producers and consumers.  My personal vision is to ‘create good things, beautiful things, in the lives of others and their families’.  The problem is it’s so easy to just consume all of the good and beautiful things other people have created.  You don’t have to write a novel or write a blog to be creative.  Start small.  Text your spouse during your break and tell them you love them.  Call one of your friends on FB who appears to be struggling.  Post something that is going to add value to the lives of your followers.  Start by making one call a day or one post.  Encourage one person.

S: Soar.  As you begin to take back parts of your life, your whole life will improve.  Don’t go through life being distracted left and right.  Focus on the moment.  Wherever you are, be all there.  By taking a few minutes or hours to take a bird’s eye view, you’ll develop an Eagle’s eye focus on what needs attention.  Reflection and observation are two of the most powerful tools to help you get back on track and start flying toward your dreams again.

Nothing can undermine your effectiveness quicker than distractions.  The good news is that the more you begin to focus, the more your distractions diminish.

Some people put blinders on their horses to keep the horse focused on the task at hand.  It’s not cruel.  It keeps the animal on track and focused on the task at hand.  I don’t know about you, but I need blinders sometimes.  There have been too many days when I haven’t experienced a sense of satisfaction because I’ve been distracted.  How about you?




What To Do Now That You Took A Risk And Things Are Looking Ugly

What Winners DO When Things Go Wrong

Although I enjoyed my job most of the time in High School and college, there were times I didn’t.  While everyone else was enjoying their weekend, I was schlepping crates of milk from the back cooler and stocking the shelves.  In the process, you had to pull all of the old milk from the back of the shelf and put the new stuff in the front.

Sometimes I stocked the Frozen section.  Nothing is more embarrassing than having zits and wearing a red smock and being seen by the other kids in your class, while filling shelves with frozen pizzas.  Usually they just snickered and kept walking.  Occasionally they’d acknowledge me with the wave of a hand.  I might as well have had a big ‘L’ tattooed on my forehead.

Soon after I stopped working for Grand Union in 1995, they offered an incentive.  It wasn’t much, just a couple thousand dollars, but as a young college student I could have used it.  It would have been fun to take the summer off and sleep in until noon everyday, all the while having disposable income.

But then there’s foresight.  That moment when you decide to keep moving forward come sink or swim.  It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff in the world of success.  Be it determination, fortitude, call it what you want, there’s something to setting your course and pressing on.

I decided to do that recently.  The path I was on was pleasant and fulfilling, yet I decided to strike out for new territories beyond my comfort zone, professionally.  Again, there was no buyout.

But there was buy-in.  I bought in to the idea that it was something God wanted me to do.  That was enough, always has been.  Sometimes what doesn’t look good on paper, makes perfect sense otherwise.  Sometimes the best thing is a change.

However, when the newness and excitement of your adventurous decision wears off, you’re left to figure out what you have to do to get out of the quicksand you’ve jumped into.

In my case, there were new hours, new days off, new people.  At times I felt like I was in a video game looking for shortcuts and secrets.  Occasionally there were hidden treasures, but most of the time there was a lot of struggle.  It’s a real challenge when you go from total competence to relative incompetence.

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about right now.  You struck out in a new direction and sometimes you find yourself looking back over your shoulder.  You think about going back to the place and time where things were predictable.

Here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned 60 days into my new journey.

It’s going to be o.k!  If you’re like me, you need to know that right now.  One time I went camping with my Dad and his friend for the weekend.  We rode on the back of their motorcycles and pitched tents.  We were young and it was pitch black the first night.  Us kids were alone in the tent and the darker and later it got, the more sure we were that there were bears outside the tent getting ready to eat us.  I’m older now and I’m not scared of bears.  A lot of crumby things can happen, yes.  But you have to keep fear at bay and your faith intact at the same time.  Imagine how the men and women of the bible must have felt while going through their heartaches and trials.  It’s going to be o.k.  I promise.

Learning is fun!  When you attempt new things, you learn new things.  Your circle grows and so does your knowledge.  You meet new people and they teach you new things.  Sometimes what to do and other times what not to do.  You learn their stories and fears and insecurities, philosophies, viewpoints and more.  In some cases, they share exciting and innovative life strategies with you.

Your circle of influence grows!  As you meet new people, you’re impact grows.  Likewise, these people help you connect with their friends and networks.  The choice is yours, you can remain living as a big fish in a small pond or you can become a small fish in a big pond.  There used to be an old pond down behind the farm I grew up on.  It was full of Catfish.  The problem was they were all stunted.  None of the fish were over 4 or 5 inches long.  Sure you could catch a ton of them, but nothing huge.  They were so small because they had no choice but to remain in the small, overpopulated pond they lived in.  A pond with limited supplies of food and opportunities for growth.  You’re not a fish.  The choice is yours when it comes to pursuing new ventures.  You don’t have to stay in the pond, there are oceans out there!

Your confidence will grow!  Remember the first day of school?  One poor kid I went to school with peed his pants every day before he got on the bus.  He’s been dead now for many years now.  He crossed over the median on a highway into oncoming traffic while being chased by the police.

New places, especially school, can be frightening.  You have a new locker that’s hard to find and you pray everyday to crack the combination and find all of your classes.  In the hustle and bustle your books sometimes get knocked out of your hands and lie sprawled out all over the floor.  The good news is that as time goes by, your confidence grows.  Slowly but surely you learn your way around and the new sights, sounds and people become familiar.  Relax.  You learned new environments in the past, and your going to assimilate with your new environment.  One of these days you’re going to be able to give the new kid on the block a tour and show him the restroom so that he can put on fresh pants.  Or not.  Point is, as your confidence grows, you’ll be more likely to embrace fresh opportunities in the future.   The more you do, the shorter the learning curve becomes and the more potential you have.  The lessons and experience you’re gathering now will prove helpful in the future.

Your appreciation for the world we live in will grow!  You’re going to find out that wherever you go, there are new people to meet and new places to see.  And if you stay positive, you’ll find beauty all around you, no matter where you go.  The good news too is that wherever you go, God is the same.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And he’s created an amazing world.  Whenever you get discouraged, just look up and when you do, you’ll find out that the view of the sky is the same no matter where you go.

My Dad used to take us fishing with Fibber McGee, a friend of his and when we asked Fibber why we weren’t catching as many fish as he was, he always said the same thing, “You have to hold your face right!”  I remember wondering what he meant for years, he’d never tell us.  Then one day I realized what he was saying.  It was a flash of lightening.  He was saying, “Whatever you do, keep a great attitude!”  You have to believe before you receive.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I do know this.  Regardless of what it is, if you keep the right attitude and stay positive, things are going to turn out just fine.  It all goes back to the Law of Reaping and Sowing.  Keep planting good seed and good fruit will follow!

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”.  Galatians 6:7