About Brian

Follower of Jesus. American. Soldier. Servant Leader. Writer.

A Few Thoughts on Life and Leadership

A Note on Elephant Consumption

What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I believe this to be true-ish. You may have heard this before. This is the metaphor for accomplishing a large task. I want to make one key change to the idea.

So, what is the best way to eat an elephant? One (high quality) bite at a time.

Why the difference? Because we often lose sight of quality in our steps towards a larger goal. I think it is important to prioritize better before bigger.

In my occupation, I work with a lot of young adults who have very bright futures outside of what they are doing right now. In some cases, they choose to perform at a high level where they are. In other cases, they do not. This is a missed opportunity. A low quality bite of elephant.

In my own life, I have large goals but I know that I will never reach them if I accept mediocrity in the interim. I am a firm believer that our habits eventually catch up to us.

Focus on cultivating great habits.

Focus on quality every step of the way.

Managing Expectations

Do you know where disappointment comes from? It comes from the difference between reality and our expectations.

Unmet expectations.

I think a critical responsibility of a leader is to manage expectations.

Now, please do not think I am an advocate of setting low expectations. Quite the opposite, but here is where I have seen some people struggle.

High expectations do not equal realistic expectations.

The people you lead and the people you serve come with a set of expectations. It is your responsibility to effectively understand and manage those expectations.

How?

Here are a couple tips –

  • Consistent Communication
    • A consistent flow of information helps you maintain control of expectations.
    • Nature abhors a vacuum and people do too, so in the absence of information they are left to their own conclusions, assumptions, and biases.
  • Honesty/Transparency
    • A bad situation does not get better with time.
    • In my experience, people have appreciated my honesty and transparency in leadership.
    • Again, this helps remove any assumptions or biases from developing (and getting out of control).
  • Practice Empathy
    • Put yourself in their shoes and consider what their expectations might be. This can help you in many ways, but most importantly you can anticipate their needs and perhaps move to meet them.
    • Just ask yourself, “If I were in their shoes, what would my expectations be?”

Pessimism = Rust / Optimism = Oil

Let’s say your team is an engine, and as a leader you are a mechanic. Your job is to make sure the engine is taken care of so it can perform at the highest level.

So you coach and monitor progress. Try and hire the best people, set high expectations and enforce them.

When things are great, the engine runs fine. You can even step on the gas a little with no issues.

Then one day you notice performance declines unexpectedly. You take a look at the engine and notice some corrosion has occurred. You see some rust developing.

In teams, rust is pessimism. And pessimism will DESTROY teams from the inside out.

As the leader, you need to address pessimism when it manifests. Pessimism is a consistent negative outlook. In this sense, it differs from negative feedback.

Pessimism tends to show up with a lot of complaints and few solutions.

To combat pessimism, I recommend the following

  • Model optimism
    • Do not allow the snowball of pessimism to turn into an avalanche by continuing to pile on. You have to think differently and teach your team to think differently (especially in the midst of negative situations).
  • Address honest concerns quickly
    • Often times pessimism comes when issues/concerns are not addressed.
    • Trust and confidence are lost when a member of your team brings something to your attention repeatedly and you take no action. This is very discouraging.
  • Push for solutions/create buy in
    • When a problem is brought to your attention, push the person bringing the problem for a solution ESPECIALLY if it is a complaint
    • In some circumstances, you will have to handle the problem
    • However, in other circumstances you can create buy in by allowing your team to pursue a solution. Often times, the best solutions come from those closest to the action anyway.

Stick-To-Itiveness

If you had a choice between a person with higher intelligence or greater self control, which would you choose?

I hope you would choose greater self control. Someone with a high level of self control is more likely to have an asset sometimes called “Stick-To-Itiveness”.

Persistence. Discipline. Determination. Optimism. (Some may say a little stubborn).

This is a quality I want on my team in large quantities because these individuals are more likely to get things done.

History is filled with examples of individuals with this uncanny ability to just keep moving forward and now we read about them.

You know what we don’t see in history?

People who made a difference because they consistently quit.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

– Brian

 

 

Advertisements

Random Thoughts: 2017 Part 1

It is currently July 9th which means we just recently passed the half way mark for the year. 2017 sure is moving fast!

This year has been filled with excitement and stress largely centered around wedding festivities.

Exciting stuff and later this year I will be a married man. I am sure this will bring about many blogs full of many more random (and not so random) thoughts.

Anyway, here we go –

Dead or Alive

I have been out of balance lately. Competing priorities do this to me all the time. Just life I suppose. However, we do have a choice. Life can happen to us or we can engage and shape it back.

I did a mental exercise recently where I sought to identify what I need to prioritize based on what makes me come alive. What I DO often, reflects certain themes about the desires of my heart. The things that make me come alive can be broken down into these categories.

  • Competition
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Coaching

What makes you feel alive?

When you answer this question I believe you are gaining a glimpse into God’s design for you AKA your purpose.

IF this is even remotely true, then why don’t I lean into this more?

Answer: I don’t know, so i have decided to devote the rest of 2017 to investigating this further and I encourage you to do the same.

 

Answer the question, What makes you feel alive?

Accountability

I shared this thought with some people I work with recently and want to capture it here. We all have a strong sense of justice. Right and wrong. Especially when we are wronged. We all desire a strong sense of accountability for the person who is not carrying their weight so to speak.

In the context of this story (at work), I was discussing individual accountability as a feeder element into the success of a team.

The decisions of the individual impact the entire unit. I thought about why people don’t care much about this. I mean, the people who are not carrying their weight. In some instances it is lack of accountability from their leadership, but in many cases I think it is the belief that the consequences are insignificant. I am convinced that although the consequences may not be readily apparent, they are nonetheless significant.

Here is the bottom line: you cannot escape your habits. As a result of this truth, you ultimately cannot escape accountability for your actions. Personally, professionally, spiritually, etc. The decisions you make consistently, whether good or bad, will have a direct impact on your life at some point.

Just consider that the decisions you make now, even if the consequences or benefits are not readily apparent, will be ultimately realized at some point. That is to say, you will be accountable.

Titles and Tunes:

  • If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas
  • The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias
  • Even If by MercyMe

Enjoy!

-Brian

Life Lessons on the Golf Course (Part 1)

(I learn a lot on the golf course. I chronicled some of those lessons in a previous blog: The Greatest Game Ever Played. I expect this to be Part 1 of an ongoing series as I draw more life lessons from my time on the course.)

 

I got up to the short par 4  #7, selected an iron off the tee, and proceeded to hit my shot down the right side of the fairway. I then approached my golf ball safely in the fairway, only to find that this fairway was overrun by invasive weeds everywhere (where I come from, we call it crab grass).

There was evidence that the greens keeper was fighting the weeds, but in this particular battle, he was losing. The weeds had overwhelmed the fairway to the point of no return. At this stage, the course is better off to tear up everything, replace the soil, and replant the natural fairway grass.

How does this happen? How does something get so far out of control? The answer on the golf course is simple: lack of routine upkeep. The lack of small investments over time. Skip a ground treatment here and there. Let a few patches of weeds run wild, think that you can take care of it another day. Then, BOOM, it is too late and the only option is a complete excavation of the turf. The sad thing is, the routine maintenance over time probably costs less than the project to redeem the turf. All of those delayed investments over time finally catch up resulting in disaster.

We see this in the real world as well. This principle is alive in our lives. The principle of compounding decisions. Consider compound interest in the world of finance and investing. Compounding is considered one of the most powerful forces in the investment world (if not the most powerful!). Small investments over time can grow to large sums. Small debts over time can grow to large sums as well. As you can see, this sword can cut both ways.

On the golf course, the poor maintenance compounded over time resulted in disaster. On great golf courses, great maintenance over time results in exceptional conditions.

The Compounding Formula

Decisions + Repetitions ^(t) = Results

(t = Units of time. Days, months, years etc)

The only components of compounding are your decisions and the consistent repetition of those decisions over time.

The principle can be applied positively or negatively, working for us or against us.

How do we ensure this principle works for us?

  • Prioritize and Plan
    • Nobody plans to fail. But failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail. You have to intentionally decide what is most important and build from there. Prioritize. We would be wise to heed this advice: “You do not prioritize your schedule, you schedule your priorities.”
    • What does this look like practically? In relationships, it means dedicating consistent quality time to the relationships that are most important to you.
    • In health, it means scheduling and following through with exercise and other healthy habits.
    • In your finances, it means establishing (and actually following!!) a budget.
  • Count the Costs
    • What would it cost you to skip a workout? Miss an important event with a loved one? Spend a little beyond your budget?
    • Well, the answer in the short term is… probably nothing. One instance is not going to set you back. If you miss a workout, you are probably not going to the hospital the next day for heart disease. Miss an event with a loved one and they will probably understand. Charge a little extra on the credit card and you can probably get by.
    • However, this is what lulls us into a false sense of security. The consequences of missing one instance are not immediately apparent so it makes it easy to skip more.
    • This is not how the principle works though is it? Missing one instance can begin to compound… against you. Then all of the sudden… decades of poor decisions may result in catastrophe in a key area of your life.
    • The cost to you in the end may end up being so much more than the tiny cost of each instance over time. And just like the golf course fairway overrun with crab grass, you may find yourself in a position where a complete excavation of the turf is your only option.
  • Consider the Future
    • Just think if you decided to leverage this principle now, what that could mean for your future.
    • In relationships, it could mean a thriving marriage and a healthy family.
    • In health it could mean more energy, avoidance of preventable diseases, and a higher quality of life.
    • In finances, it could mean financial freedom and the ability to bless others in need.

I encourage you to take some time and evaluate what decisions you are making repeatedly over time.

The compounding formula is real, make sure it is working for you.

Journal Entry: October 9th 2016

October 9th, 2016

In some ways, I have allowed politics to become an idol. Maybe THE idol in my life right now. I follow it incessantly, yet hardly pray for my country, or open my Bible. I KNOW the truth, and the truth is that my country is not what I want it to be. Our values are not what I want them to be.

But doesn’t that miss the point? Is God not sovereign?
The answer of course is yes, but my idolatry and obsession over this election means that I am living more like it is a “no”.
Humbling indeed.

Both of our primary candidates are so deeply and fundamentally flawed. I recognize we are all deeply and fundamentally flawed, but can you recall a time where both candidates are such a far cry from anything resembling submission to the authority of God? This troubles me, but probably not for the right reasons as I think about it.

It troubles me because it means that the America that I have in my mind, that I believed would be present in my future, is fading rapidly. This America had strong Judeo-Christian values, was proud of what it meant to be an American and all that came with that.

This identity is dying and it breaks my heart. But it also means that (selfishly) my life will be harder. Prosperity will be threatened, my values will be of the minority and maybe even censored before too long.

So what are the right reasons for being troubled by this? Obviously the moral decline of our leadership is indicative of the moral decline of our nation. Wayward morality always has consequences. History has proved this time and time again. Heck, you don’t even need the Bible to see it but I believe Scripture provides the most coherent explanation.

Say what you want about the Founding Fathers, because many say they weren’t Christians. I don’t argue that here, I will say that they did view the world with a moral framework. There was a starting point, a foundation of morality that they looked to for inspiration and guidance.

We are losing this framework. We have no foundation or starting point to look to. And like a house without a strong frame or a body without bones, we fall in on ourselves.

There will be suffering and more suffering. Physical, psychological, social, economic. This is probably the saddest part of this, but also the greatest opportunity because suffering forces us to ask some pretty big questions.

What is the purpose of this?
Why do I suffer?
Is there any hope?

It is here that I return, because the answers to these questions, and the example of our lives is where the Church is indeed Salt and Light.

Salt prevents decay. Light shines brightest in the darkness.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

Random Thoughts: #TourDeDC2016

Last week I visited our nations capitol, Washington DC. I toured the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress, various museums, monuments, and the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Visiting these various locations prompted so many thoughts (some random, some deliberate) that it has taken me some time to process through them all. Here are some of the main takeaways.

America: Scarred but still Great

I knew there was a reason that I rejected the notion that America was never great. This statement has been a common refrain by many who reject the mantra of Donald Trump when he says “Make America Great Again”. They simply state that “America was never great.”

A simple tour of DC proves this to be false.

Washington

The Washington monument. Created to honor our very first President. A man who, when given the opportunity to expand power, chose to relinquish power back to the people. This principle, the idea that the government belongs to the people, is great.

img_3272

Abraham Lincoln. A man who fought for the idea that all men are created equal and managed to keep our nation intact as it sought to dissolve. This is great.

img_3300

This photo is front the entrance to the Holocaust Museum. A museum dedicated to remembering the millions of lives that were exterminated by the evil Nazi regime.

When confronted with evil in the world, the United States fought to destroy it.

And succeeded. This is great.

img_3288

Finally. Arlington National Cemetery. Countless rows of head stones with the names of honorable Americans. Many of whom died in combat securing the very freedom we have to proclaim that our country was never great.

The free air that we breathe is because of their sacrifice.

This is great.

Our Nation has its scars. A past full of things that caused deep pain and sorrow for many. But don’t you? What do you expect from a nation full of people that have pasts full of things that have caused deep pain and sorrow? We are scarred, but this does not fully eliminate the collective greatness of our Nation. Our scars do not define us. Just like your scars do not define you.

The Rest of DC:

  • DC was surprisingly quiet despite it being election season. I anticipated more but was actually pleasantly surprised.
  • Uber is the way to go when traveling around town
  • Clean city! As someone who understands custodial operations, I appreciated this aspect
  • Knocked off another MLB park while visiting. Enjoyed watching the Nationals play the Braves.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Brian

The Gospel: Watch, Hear, Experience

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and His redemption of our sins. I read this. I know this. I have said this and I believe this. But, what does it look like? Jesus arrived on the scene in human flesh 2,000 years ago, and has appeared in various mediums of art for the last 2,000 years. We have depictions of Him all over the world. What does the Gospel look like? What does it sound like today?

Change gears for a moment:

I appreciate artistic expression and I believe this is a manifestation of God in me. In all of us. The Creator of light, sight, sound, hearing, flavor, taste, colors and everything in between left his imprint on us. Being created in His image means so much more than appearance.

The art of communication is my preferred medium (those that have experienced the horror of me singing or observed my drawing skills will back me up on this). This art is increasingly robust in the Christian faith and with the technological advances of the last decade, we have access to SO MUCH great content. I have included some of my favorites below! I hope and pray you enjoy watching, hearing, and experiencing the Gospel in a whole new way!

John 3:16 – The Story of Love

G.O.S.P.E.L.

The Story of God

Comment below with some of your favorites and I will be sure to watch, hear, and experience the Gospel again!

Random Thoughts 2015 – 2016

Wow. So much has happened in the last year. One thing that has not happened is much publishing of blogs. I have been writing consistently, just not publishing. I figured returning with some Random Thoughts from the last year would be a good start

Glacial River Meets Saltwater 08142010 f v2

Salt Water:

Election season is upon us (and has been for the better part of a year) and I can’t help but think that our current situation is like being thirsty and only having salt water to drink. An overwhelming majority of Americans say that the country is heading in the wrong direction, but the leading candidate promises to continue (if not double down on) the enforcement of policies that push us towards our current direction. The insurgent candidate is so loathed by the power brokers within his party that they are actively undermining his success, likely ensuring defeat. Both instances are strange indeed.

Note: drinking salt water when thirsty will kill you.

Pokemon Go:

I will admit. I  have been participating in the Pokemon Go craze. As if my generation needed another reason to look down at our phones. I suppose this craze is a little less selfish in nature but it also brings back nostalgic memories of the elementary school days when “gotta catch em all” meant going to Books A Million and buying packs of Pokemon cards hoping to catch a holigraphic Charizard. All I know is, many Pokemon hoarders wiser than I are making some decent profit on their stash of cards.

Titles and Tunes:

Here is what I have been reading and listening to lately –

  • Crisis of Character by Gary J. Byrne
  • Unconditional Love by John Joseph Powell
  • The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
  • The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
  • Testify by NEEDTOBREATHE
  • Clear by NEEDTOBREATHE
  • Love Will Take You Places by Danny Gokey
  • Even When it Hurts by Hillsong

Enjoy!

– Brian