Every leader has lids on his life. The issue is never whether you have lids. The issue is what you are going to do about them.
Lids that limited us:
Most of these have to do with character. If you are more concerned about keeping up appearances than cleaning up your character these lids can limit you.
Lids that did not limit us:
What lids exist in your life?
What character flaws do you have?
What is your attitude toward those lids?
Are you taking responsibility for lifting them?
Are you willing to allow someone else help you lift them
For the past 15 years I have been focused on growing myself and others in faith, character and leadership. Those three areas of my life are guiding lights for how I approach life. I have made a lot of mistakes over those years, yet I keep coming back to those three things.
As I reflect on leadership here are three things I believe we must be committed to in order to lead well. Whether you are a parent, spouse, employee, employer, student, teacher, athlete, coach, artist, musician, or just a friend, you are a leader. If you have influence with anyone else then you are a leader.
Leading is not easy, because in order to lead you need to have influence. In order to have influence you need to have a vision of where you want to go or the way you want things to be. If you want to increase your influence and leadership in this next year then these are some things you will need to do:
The best leaders do all of this with humility and persistence.
So what are you doing to get uncomfortable? What are you dissatisfied about? What do you need to disrupt in your life or the lives of those you lead? That is how Jesus leads us. When he wants us to grow he brings discomfort, dissatisfaction and disruption. Jesus is the greatest leader ever, so let’s follow his example. If you don’t believe me just read about him in the Bible. Lead On.
My first job was pumping gas, servicing cars and repairing tires at a local gas station. That’s were I learned how to make change without a cash register and how to fix a flat tire. My second job was at a local meat packing company. I was the clean up guy and had to dismantle and clean all the machines they used to process meat. That is where I learned how to have a system and follow a process in cleaning the plant. I also learned how to work alone and to not cut corners. I learned that people were counting on me to do my job so that they can do their job when they showed up in the morning.
My next job was at a local cheese manufacturing and retail business. I learned a lot working there, things like retail sales strategies, inventory control and customer service. I learned how to cut cheese samples and set up displays. I even got into some construction by helping to remodel an apartment for one of the children of the owner. During that time I got to interact with subcontractors and did work like drywall, floor tile, and general construction. I learned about working hard and doing it right the first time.
Soon after that I went to college and then started my career in banking. I started as an internal auditor for a Savings & Loan in Wooster Ohio. That was my first exposure to corporate America. I learned to pay attention to detail as I had to audit every area of the company and make sure everything added up. I also learned how to set goals and work on projects and be a team player. I learned how to manage my time and finish what I started. I also learned how to cut costs and work within a budget. I learned how to show respect to my boss and follow direction.
My next job was at a local community bank as a loan officer. I was in my early 20’s and this was my first job where I got to directly interact with customers. I learned a lot about finances, balance sheets, financial statements and tax returns. I learned about risk and how to manage that. I learned how to read people and their character. I learned about customer service and how to win over potential new customers. I learned how to serve customers and make them want to continue to do business with us. I was promoted quickly to a branch manager and did all kinds of lending. I continued to learn about management, customer service, lending, community service and economic development. I developed a passion for developing leadership skills in myself and others.
After 12 years in the banking industry I transitioned into the accounting world with a regional accounting firm. They created a new department for me to run which focused on enhancing profits and adding value to their clients. I did a lot of training in customer service, leadership, management and strategic planning. I learned how to interact with business owners and CEO’s. I learned how to win friends and influence people. I learned how to lead groups of business people and do public speaking and presentations. I got even more involved in community organizations and public relations. I learned about marketing and sales and what it takes to run a business.
Then I took all that I had had learned in all of those jobs and went to work at a local church. Those experiences have helped to shape me into the leader I am today. The things I learned in the workplace have helped me to lead the local church and continue to influence people and impact our community. Here are some of the things I believe are vital to leading with excellence no matter where you are:
Leadership is all about influence and we are either gaining or declining in our influence. There are a lot of things that are out of our control, but the way in which you work and lead is within your control. So no matter where you are working, what are you learning and how are you growing.
We all have people in our lives that are hard to get along with. It may be someone you work with, live beside or even live with. While we cannot change the other person or force them to treat you differently, you can change the way that you respond to them. You see, many times it’s the way we respond to bad behavior that drives even more bad behavior. This is hard to do because we all have emotions and sometimes those emotions can take over and take us down a path that causes more damage.
When we work on ourselves, we can change our attitude, our words and our non-verbal communication. Here is a simple communication rule that may help you make progress in those difficult relationships:
People who are hard to get along with allow their anger, frustration, insecurity and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them. The good news is that they don’t act that way all the time, even though it may seem that way. Eventually they’ll leave the safety of their negative emotions-even it’s only for a moment. They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer to help with something. It is in those moments that you need to recognize their best. Let them know the good you see in them. Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you. When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them to see what is possible in their lives. You give energy to what is right about them. Your love and attention creates an environment where they can choose to change and respond differently themselves.
It’s in those critical moments when they do something right that we can choose to be positive and re-enforce good behavior or be negative ourselves and destroy any glimmer of hope. Every person has some good in them, even though it may be buried deep inside them.
One of the promises in the Bible is found in Joshua 1:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Author Graham Cooke talks about this promise in his booklet called Drawing Close: See God’s Face and be Changed Forever. He says this:
“God likes to hide-in fact He invented the game Hide & Seek. In certain seasons, He will reveal Himself to us; in others, He will hide from us. God only hides because He wants to teach us to look for Him. We all want Him to be manifest in our lives, all the time, but God sometimes wants to hide and draw us deeper into his presence. If God is hiding from us-but He also promised never to leave nor forsake us-we can extrapolate one thing: God is hiding in plain sight, teaching us to look for Him in a different way. God is unpredictable but completely consistent. We always know where we are with God because He never changes, but we seldom know what He’s going to do next. Go will push us into places where we are not equipped to be. To survive and flourish there, we have but one choice: Seek God in a place of rest. Let Him carry us forward. God hasn’t called us to do the reasonable, the possible or the attainable. He has called us to do the outrageously impossible.”
That challenged me in a fresh way today as I read it. When God feels distant and we feel alone, we aren’t. He is right there in plain site patiently waiting for us to discover Him in a different way. He is constantly active in our lives, whether He is pushing us into a place we are not equipped to be or patiently waiting for us to open our eyes.
I love the thought that God hides so that we can seek Him and find Him in a fresh way. To me this speaks of being active in my faith. Not staying comfortably inside my box but pushing forward through barriers and obstacles. I love that last line about God not calling us to the reasonable, the possible or the attainable but the outrageously impossible. It’s only then that we can say Only God could have made that happen. Those are the times that we grow the most and our faith is increased.
If you are feeling stuck in your faith maybe it’s time to look for God in a different way. Start praying and asking God to show you that new way and then pay attention and be ready to get out of your box.
Last Sunday my wife and I went on a bike ride on the local Rails to Trails in Millersburg. It’s a great place to ride, walk or run because its mostly flat. We were with several friends enjoying the beautiful day. The local Amish also use this trail with their buggies because it’s nice to avoid the traffic on the main roads.
On our way back we came up behind a buggy that was going very slow. I was in front of the group and had to slow down, because some other people were coming the other way on bikes. We all slowed down as we got behind this buggy and then a young Amish man turned to me and asked what time it was. I didn’t have a watch on, so I couldn’t help him out, but this is what I said in Pennsylvania Dutch, “I’s bout site for gaya” which means it’s about time to go. With that I quickly passed him and headed on up the path. (I know just enough dutch to be a little dangerous.)
That was a brief encounter, but I haven’t been able to get that phrase out of my head. I don’t know why that came to my mind in that moment, but here is what I’ve been thinking about.
It’s about time to go. Most of us go through life living safely, trying to be as comfortable and happy as we can be. Our motivation is often for what is best for us or our kids. We can live selfish, private lives and never really have much impact or influence in the world around us. It’s so easy to get into our comfortable buggy and ride along the familiar trail and occasionally ask someone what time is it? Yet That’s not how God intended it. God never promised that life would be safe and comfortable. He did promise that he is good and faithful to be with us no matter where we are at. That should give us courage to go wherever he directs us.
God is telling us that it’s time to go. It’s time to step out of our comfort zone and push ourselves beyond our perceived limits. Now I realize that means something different to everyone reading this. For some it might mean having a difficult conversation with their spouse, teenager or adult child. Maybe it’s confronting someone at work and speaking the truth in love to them. It might be to give up some things you enjoy doing so that you can serve at church or spend more time with your family. It might mean not taking that job because it would hurt your relationship with your family. It could be to downsize in order to get a grip on your finances. It might mean taking your relationship with God more seriously and start reading through the Bible. It could be asking someone for forgiveness and admitting how you got it wrong. Whatever it means to Go for you, don’t hesitate, start today, find a new trail or speed up on the one your on. God loves us but he also doesn’t want us to stay where we are at, he wants us to grow in every area of our lives: Spiritually, emotionally, relationally and even physically. Where do you need to go?
Whatever it is for you “I’s bout site for gaya.”
I spend a good bit of time with people that are in the midst of personal catastrophes. Most are relational struggles, whether in a marriage, a family or at work. The health of our relationships are an indicator of the health of ourselves.
Whenever I am meeting with someone that is going through a relational struggle, I always try to bring it back to the person I am talking with. There is not much in life that we can control, but when it comes to ourselves, we do have a choice in what we do, think, say and believe.
For someone that has a broken relationship, it always starts with yourself. It is easy to look at those around you and blame their behavior, attitude or hurtful actions for why things are so bad. Yet that will never resolve the issue or change the circumstances. It always starts in your own heart. It starts with your own character. Your character is who you really are. It will reflect how much you accomplish in life and how well you love yourself and others.
Your character is the internal script that you follow in response to conflict, mistreatment, pain and even success. When that script is focused on yourself and preserving or getting what you want, the actions that follow will usually dig the hole even deeper or add fuel to the fire. Part of our character is the defense mechanism’s we have developed over the years in dealing with conflict and pain. It might be sarcasm, humor, withdrawing/silent treatment, yelling/escalating or even going into fix it mode.
Changing that internal script is hard work, yet it is the only way to work through a relational crisis. It starts by taking personal responsibility for what you contributed and how you have reacted. Then it involves the hard work of self-actualization, seeing yourself, your reactions, your character and your beliefs and where you are off course. This is hard work and will take the help of God and other people. It means being humble enough to ask for help and to admit your mistakes. When you get on your knees and ask God to change your heart and character, that is when the rough edges start to get smoothed out. It will take time, perseverance, patience and practice, but you can change.
Working on yourself is one of the most productive things you can do in order to be successful in life. Take the time and energy to get healthy emotionally, to work through the hurts and hang-ups from your past. Take time to grow in your faith and connect more with God and involve him in every area of your life. Take time to build trust with yourself and others and work on relational skills like listening, asking questions, asking for and extending forgiveness.
The best thing you can do for any relationship in your life is to be healthy emotionally, spiritually, relationally and physically. In a relational crisis the way in which you respond will either add fuel to the fire or add water to the fire. How you respond is a reflection of your character. The choice is always yours.
I have been reading a couple of books on the subject of prayer. Both are very good, one is an older book originally written in 1937 by Oswald Chambers called “If You Will Ask”. I am reading the 1989 edition. I am also reading a new devotional book by Mark Batterson called “Draw the Circle”. Both have inspired me and challenged me. I find myself praying differently, more often and more boldly. There are so many take-aways I could share, but I want to focus on one part of Chambers book entitled The Submission of Life.
He starts the chapter with this: “We are not built for ourselves, but for God. Not for service for God, but for God. That explains the submission of life.” Submission is one of the most difficult things to do and yet one of the most powerful things we can do. It seems odd that submission is powerful, but with true submission comes peace, unity and rightness with God. Chambers goes on to say this: “God is not concerned about our aims. He does not say, “Do you want to go through this bereavement, this upset?” He allows these things for his purpose. We may say what we like, but God does allow the devil, He does allow sin, He does allow bad men to triumph and tyrants to rule, and these things either make us fiends or they make us saints. It depends entirely on our relationship with God. If we say, “Your will be done,” we get the tremendous consolation of knowing that our Father is working everything according to His own wisdom. If we understand what God is after, we shall be saved from being mean and cynical.”
God isn’t checking in with us to see if his plan is ok. God sees all things and knows all things, therefore he knows what is best and how to work all things for good. When we fully submit to his will we can stop worrying about everything in the world around us and focus on how we are responding to the things in our lives. We can look to what God wants to do in us. Listen to what else Chambers says:
“The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women, or they are making us more captious, more insistent on our own way. We are either getting more like our Father in heaven, or we are getting more mean and intensely selfish. How are we behaving ourselves in our circumstances? Do we understand the purpose of our life as never before? God does not exist to answer our prayers, but by our prayers we come to discern the mind of God, and that is declared in John 17:22 “That they may be one just as We are one.” Am I as close to Jesus as that? God will not leave me alone until I am.”
When I read that I said Wow outloud. Prayer is really about getting to know God, becoming more intimate with him and understanding his heart. The more we pray the more we change. God wants to be one with us, but that can only happen if we submit to His will and His ways. The more time spent in prayer the more clear our purpose in life becomes. What would happen if we would start praying for God’s will to be done in our lives, for us to become one with Him and see as He sees and think as He thinks. What would happen if we would do what He says and be obedient to His will. God’s will is that we become one with Him as Jesus was one with Him. To become more like Him in all our ways.
I was listening to a podcast interview with author and speaker Rory Vanden, talking about his new book Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success. I bought the book today and plan on reading it right away.
One of the stories he talked about was about the difference between cows and buffalo.
In Colorado they have both cows and buffalo. One of the unique differences is how they react when a storm is heading their way. Cows will see a storm coming and will turn and try to run away from the storm. The storm usually catches them and they actually run with the storm and suffer along the way. The Buffalo will see a storm coming and will run right at the storm. They end up running right through the storm and only encounter a short time of suffering and discomfort.
Most of us act more like cows than buffalo. We try to avoid the storms of life by running away from them. Our natural response is to escape and run in the opposite direction, when we really should run right at the storm.
When we run at the storm we are facing reality and are doing the hard thing. But by doing the hard thing we minimize the pain long-term by making the difficult decision now.
So if your in the midst of a storm, turn and face it. Don’t allow the fear of the storm to make you turn tail and run. Have the hard conversation, ask the tough questions, set the firm boundaries, say no and run right through the storm.
The only way we can do this is with the help of God. If you are running from a storm, ask God to give you the courage to face that storm head on and the wisdom to know how to run through it.
For the last several years I have been running and exercising on a regular basis. I ran half marathons, ran the Warrior Dash (a 5k with obstacles) and ate healthy food while maintaining my weight and general fitness. Then I stopped back in December around Christmas. I decided to take a break and it led to a prolonged time of no exercise. I gained 15 pounds and regressed physically. I also lost my motivation to restart, for some reason I couldn’t get back into the habit of running and working out. I even made some bad choices in my eating habits and didn’t care.
The reason I share that is because that is what happens to lot’s of people with habits that are helpful. We can drift, stop and get out of sink. It is very difficult to start up again even though we know we should. We know we should read our Bible, we know we should eat better, we know we should exercise, we know we should date our spouse, yet the reality is we don’t do it consistently. So how do we get restarted with the healthy good habits that help us grow spiritually, emotionally and physically?
First you need to make a decision that you will start. Don’t underestimate the power of choosing to start doing something. You will never get healthy spiritually, physically or emotionally without choosing to start. Five years ago I chose to get healthy and started working toward that.
Next you need to develop a plan. For me I joined a local fitness club to get back into working out. I made a commitment and paid some money to help keep me on track. I also talked with some of my friends about what I was trying to do and asked them to hold me accountable.
Lastly you have to actually do something. I not only joined the gym, but the next day I drove there and worked out. Now I am planning my weeks and including times that I can stop and workout. You can choose, plan and learn all you want, but if you don’t do something you will never change.
Once I did that first workout my motivation came back and now I am excited about getting back into shape and am already starting to look for a race I can sign up for to give me something to shoot for.
If you have an area of your life that you want to change or get back on track, make the choice to change, talk to some people that can help you and hold you accountable and put a plan together and then go start. Choose, Plan, Do it.