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

 

 

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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

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!

My Word for 2016

NewThe practice of choosing a word for the year is something I have done for the last three years under the encouragement of the leadership of a local church. The word has served as a point of focus in my walk with Christ.

My word for 2016 is New.

new |n(y)o͞o|

adjective

1 not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time

2 just beginning or beginning anew and regarded as better than what went before

We celebrate things that are new.

  • New Years are exciting.
  • New Cars smell amazing.
  • New Shoes look great.

As I thought about my word for this year, I was reminded that the Lord celebrates making things new as well.

We are given a new heart and a new spirit

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

We are a new creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

We follow a new command

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:34

We will see a new heaven and new earth

1Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea… 5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:1,5

I just listened to a sermon today that said God views each day with the same excitement that we view each year. His mercies are new each and every day.

I am made new. You can be too.

Why We Need Community

I love golf. I have been playing for about 22 years now and the game has taught me a lot. Golf is unique because it is an individual sport. I have been on golf “teams” but even then we are just the sum of our individual contributions. This tendency to try and “go it alone” leaks into my walk with Jesus and the consequences are unsettling.

Here’s the thing: Following Jesus is not an individual endeavor. The Church does not function well when we fly solo. I do not function well as a member of the Church when I choose to fly solo.

I need community. We all need community.

But first, what is community?

One definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

A second definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common

For our purposes, our definition of community is a combination and simplification that is best understood as “a committed group of Christ followers navigating life together.”

Seems simple enough, right? Yet I still struggle in isolation. We still struggle without community.

Why is that though? Why is it that I struggle when I am isolation? Why do I need community?

In Scripture we discover some answers to these questions –

  • Built for Relationship

So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Being created in the image of God truly means something. We carry His imprint whether we like it or not. The thing about God is that He is relational. His relationship with the Son and Holy Spirit was always there.

Just think, the idea of relationship always was.

As carriers of His likeness, we are wired for relationship. Relationship with Him and with others around us. The context for this relationship is found in a community setting.

  • Better Together

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10

Allow me to share an illustration most of us can relate to – Have you ever gone to a theme park alone? Ever been to a movie alone?  I have done both and I can honestly say that my experience was not nearly as fulfilling as any time I went with someone else. Life is a lot like that as well. When I go to theme parks, my motto is the more the merrier because it is so much fun to experience theme parks with a host of friends! We are better together!

A life lived in community is fun, but it also has some other very real benefits.

Consider this illustration – Have you ever witnessed a friend making a bad decision that you knew would result in pain/suffering?

You know what I am talking about. This person is convinced they are making a good decision and are blind to any alternatives. Or maybe you have been that person. I know I have. I know I have had the blinders on and when I crashed I inevitably said “well I didn’t see that coming”.

But you know who did? The people that knew me best. My close friends and family in many cases.

We all have blind spots. A community can protect us from those blind spots and help us to make wise decisions.

  • Community Needs You

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

When I was in Basic Training, I learned very early on that I was no longer an individual. The Army has a way of beating that out of you. Any action that can be perceived as an individual action was met with swift punishment. We always did things as a team. The smallest unit was a group of two and your partner was called your “Battle Buddy”. My battle buddy was a guy named PVT Addison. We both learned early on that we had to rely on each other. I needed him, and he needed me.

The Church is like that.

I need community, and community needs me. There are blind spots that I can clear. There are bits of wisdom and insight that I can share to save someone pain and suffering. And then there are wonderful experiences that we can celebrate together!

You are the same. People need you. You are valuable. Jesus can and will use you.

When the Struggle is Real

“The Struggle is Real”

Struggle

This statement has gained popularity lately, and is usually reserved for “First World Problems” or when something trivial happens that we need to make light of.

I admit, I’ve said it before and got a few laughs.

But what about when the struggle IS real? What are we to make of life when we cannot make light of it?

Life is tough. This reality is inescapable. There will be seasons when the struggle is real.

I have been through a few seasons like that. In fact, I am just coming out of a season like that. For a few months, I was just in a funk. I felt like the Lord was distant and there was nothing I could do about it.

Of course I knew this wasn’t the case, but I certainly didn’t feel it.

All of the Christian clichés in the world couldn’t help me feel better about my situation.

I was struggling. I was suffering.

Suffering is part of the Christian experience. Suffering teaches us lessons that may be learned through no other medium.

As C.S. Lewis says – “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In these moments of pain, suffering, and confusion we are driven to a greater reliance on the Lord. Our faith in the Lord is tested, and forced to grow.

We are forced to lean into the Lord and trust that He will catch us in this time. Allow me to share an analogy that helps me visualize this.

The Jump

I went skydiving last September with a handful of friends from my hometown. I was apprehensive at first, but the challenge was just too much for me to turn down. We all speculated on the drive down that our moment of greatest fear would be as we approached the door for our jump. As the plane begin its ascent, reality began to set in. I turned to my buddy Daniel and said “Well, at this point the fastest way down is going to be by jumping.” He agreed, and we both concluded that since we were strapped in, we pretty much had no choice at this point.

We had to jump.

Just think, here I was, attached to a stranger jumping from 15,000 feet into the blue Florida sky. I was relying on this stranger, and our parachute.

The Jump

Needless to say, I survived.

I have discovered that our walk with the Lord is a lot like this, especially in the realm of suffering.

The Lord often invites us to greater reliance on Him but sometimes He pushes us to the edge so that our only choice is to jump and discover our complete reliance on Him. The latter of these two options is certainly more difficult. It is nice to have the choice to acknowledge my reliance on the Lord as opposed to skydiving into His peace. Either way, the fact is that the Lord is really all I have.

I say all of that to make this point: when the struggle is real, it helps to consider that the Lord is likely using that to make you look more like Him.

That is the goal after all: to look more and more like Jesus.

Recognizing this purpose has not made my struggles any easier, but it has helped me to understand and even be grateful for the experience. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

It is my prayer that if you are in the midst of a trial, that you would jump. Embrace it as an opportunity for growth that could not be achieved any other way. Cling to the Lord and recognize that He is ALWAYS all that you have

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:50

Walking Wounded

BME 2015

This weekend I attended an annual event hosted by Better Man Ministries here in Central Florida. During the middle of this event, a local Pastor of a very large congregation was recognized for his commitment to advancing the Kingdom of God in his community. He was given a moment to share a few words, and he vividly stated what so many men in that room knew from experience:

“The question is not IF you will be wounded in life, the question is WHEN you will be wounded.”

After he detailed the tragic passing of his grandchild, and the suicide of his son, he then said this:

“The LORD permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves.”

What a powerful statement, by a wounded man who stood in front of thousands of wounded men.

The odds are good that you have been wounded. Some wounds deeper than others. I know I have. The thing about wounds is that they WILL happen and there is not much you can do about it. You may not be a follower of Christ, but the problem of pain and hurt in your life is no less a reality.

Some people believe and preach that as Christians, we are immune to wounds, but a quick glance at your past proves that to be false. A quick glance at Scripture proves that to be false. Scripture is littered with wounded men and women and we follow a Jesus that was the most wounded of them all.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Where do wounds come from? What is the source? How are we to deal with them?

Sources of Wounds:

Sin – As a follower of Jesus, I believe THE source of brokenness, loss, and pain in the world is sin. Now, this of course is the Sunday School answer so I will flesh it out a bit. Here are some examples:

Sin against You – Someone turns the sword on you, and wounds you. Abuse, neglect, rejection, denial, hate etc. The act of someone sinning against you that leaves a wound.

Sin against Yourself – You turning the sword on yourself. Destructive habits, addictions, poor choices and their consequences etc. Even if you deny the existence of sin, you cannot deny that some of your decisions have wounded you.

Loss – Broken relationships, death, crushed hopes and dreams etc. If you live long enough, you will lose someone close to you. If you engage in relationship, then there is a chance that it could end for no real reason. That happens sometimes and it still leaves a wound.

How are we to respond?

INVITE OTHERS IN –

Take a look at this story from the Gospel of John.

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29

You see, this amazes me. Jesus invited Thomas to put his hand into His side. He invited Thomas into His wound. He showed Thomas it was real. He was pierced but He was now alive.

We have to follow this model that Jesus put forward. Invite others in to your wound. Allow them to see that it is real, but you are still alive and moving forward.

BE VULNERABLE AGAIN –

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

Pain teaches us a lesson: “Do not repeat that action, because it hurts.”

This is why we only touch the hot stove once when our Mom says not to.

It is also why we are less vulnerable after a failed relationship. A failed attempt to love someone. Or love rejected. Our hearts and minds tell us: “Do not repeat that action, because it hurts.”

Apply wisdom when being vulnerable, but absolutely commit to being vulnerable again.

ENGAGE IN LIFE –

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Once wounded, our tendency will be to withdraw. That is what pain does; whether it is physical, relational, or emotional. We must fight this tendency. Engage in life. Engage in the battle to advance the mission of Christ. Engage in the gritty, messy, and broken aspects of people’s lives. Jesus stepped down into the muck of our lives, pressed on through wounds, and continues to engage us to this day.

As one wounded person to another, I encourage you to continue walking.

Keep Walking