Leadership

Inspiration, Leadership

Our “Dos” and “Don’ts” Define Us


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I almost quit.

 

10 steps out the door for my first workout toward a goal I have set for myself this summer (complete a duathlon), I was freezing. 38 degrees with 20-25 mph winds, and I was about to go running.

 

A few days before, I’d laid out my workouts for every day until the end of August. I’m not a natural planner, but I had a plan. I finished that work, and decided mentally my mantra for this endeavor: “I don’t miss workouts.”

 

So there I was. Just after 5 AM. Outside. In the dark. Listening to the wind whip about me. And I was tempted to quit—change the workout or make it up later. And then my mantra spoke up: “I don’t miss workouts.”

 

10 minutes into the workout it was still cold, still windy, still dark, and my face was already numb.

 

But no one else was up.

 

No one else was around.

 

But I was running; thinking about my goal; thinking about August and doing something I had never done before. I was filled with the adrenaline that comes from doing something difficult, something other people won’t do to accomplish something other people won’t experience.

 

Not because they can’t, but because they need a “do” or “don’t” to help them.

 

Our “dos” and “don’ts” define us; they set our limits; they stretch our aspirations and enable our accomplishments.

 

What “do” or “don’t” are you trying on for size? What difference is it making?

 

I don’t miss workouts.

 

I do duathlons.

 

Comment. Make it public. Do.

 

 

Inspiration, Leadership

You CAN Predict the Future. Will that Change Your Present?


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What if I told you that it is possible to see the future, even predict it?

If you could see the future, would it change your present?

You can see the future, but perhaps not in the way you think. Some of you will be tempted to stop after what I am about to say, but press in. Stay with it, because this is something that can make your life truly meaningful, truly remarkable:

The future is hardship.

I know, it’s not a pleasant thought. Stay there, though. Linger long enough to see past hardship merely as something to avoid. Consider that every relationship you have ever had was strengthened through it. Remember that every time you have grown more mature or able somehow, hardship forged you. Understand that the most effective you have ever been was likely in helping another through hardship of one kind or another, perhaps even one you had experienced yourself.

And considering, remembering, understanding that, how does it inform your present?

Too many move from here to “carpe diem.” While “seize the day” has its merits, it is fundamentally flawed. When we make our lives about making the most of today, we position ourselves “in spite of” or “against” the inevitable.

And often, we do it alone.

Friends, the future for every one of us is hardship, and that is why we cannot merely make the most of our days.

We must see into the future, and make the most of the days of others.

We must change our present not just for ourselves, but for everyone we can.

For the older among us: if you had known in middle or high school that the person across the room would attempt suicide at some point in his life, would it have changed your present? If you knew the young lady in your class would become a teen mom, or the kid you saw every day but whose name you didn’t know would be diagnosed with cancer in his 30s, would that have changed your present?

And for the younger among us, if I could tell you right now that one of the people you eat lunch with would be a widow 10 years from now, or that next year one of his parents would pass away, would that change the present?

Would it change what we talk about? What questions we ask? How we greet people? What we post on social media?

We are too often concerned about what divides us into our categories, and not enough concerned about what categories unite us. Difficult though it is to experience, uncomfortable though it is to share, hardship unites us.

What would it look like if hardship united us, rather than isolated us?

You can predict the future. Will that change your present?

Leadership

Want to Join a Social Media Revolution?


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I’ve been waiting to write this post for almost a year.

In April 2013, I had the privilege of speaking at TEDx Marinette.  The “idea worth sharing” I introduced that evening was “Lead Like They’re Dying,” which sought to change our leadership frame of reference.  Many of you who have followed this blog have seen and shared that video–if you are among them, thank you.  (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here to watch it.)

As part of that event, I also enjoyed the opportunity to address a group of students from local area schools.  In that session, I introduced the concept of #30forothers.  In short, I invited those students to join me in starting a social media revolution, and I’d like to invite you to join us also.

The concept is simple, and anyone can participate.  30forothers is a commitment to use social media for 30 days a year as a means to edify, uplift, and extol others.  You can view the 30forothers TEDx video below, or check it out HERE.  Use #30forothers on Facebook and Twitter; like the 30forothers Facebook page, and follow @30forothers on Twitter to see the encouraging tweets of others.

The intent is to highlight character, effort, and ability, or thank, admire, and appreciate people. More than anything else I have ever written or done, I hope this helps people.  I hope it helps you help people.  So many people need encouragement, a reason to hope, the feeling that someone believes in them.  We all have the power to provide that, and a means to that end is literally right at our fingertips.

One of my favorite quotations is attributed to Philo of Alexandria: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Let’s remember that.

I hope you’ll join us.  I hope you’ll make someone else’s day today.  I hope you’ll share this concept with everyone you know.

Let’s start a social media revolution!

Faith, Leadership

This is true of you…


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You are awesome. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Capable of amazing things.

I want you to know.

This is true of you whether or not you felt like it when you woke up this morning.

This is true of you whether or not anyone else has ever said so.

This is true of you whether you are married or single, big or skinny, old or young, gay or straight, black, white, or anything in between.

This is true of you whether you have hundreds of friends or not very many.

This is true of you when you hate yourself, and when you love yourself. It’s true when you fail, and it’s true when you triumph. It’s true when you can’t see a way forward, when you are scared, and when you want to quit.

Don’t quit.

Because you are wonderful.

I want you to know.

You might also like: Why You Mustn’t Give Up

Leadership

Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life


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“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Opportunity, reaching a milestone, kicking a habit, expanding your horizons…  You have unique gifts, talents that few others possess, experiences only you can learn from…  You are the only you in all the world.

So what’s stopping you?  What is the barrier between you and your goals?  What ideal self is “out there” somewhere, but for your decision to pursue it?

What if you looked back on this day one year from now and said, “That was the first day.  That was the day I decided, and now here I am.”

Why do we wait for special days—anniversaries, birthdays, New Year’s Day—to make the decisions we ought to make, to pursue the goals we ought to have reached a long time ago, but for some failing, have yet to achieve?

What’s stopping us from making today the first day of the rest of our lives?

I think we all have our different reasons, but the one we share is deceptively simple, because we don’t think about it enough:

For many of us, today is not the first day of the rest of our lives because that isn’t enough.

 

Whether or not we actively realize it, reaching our goals or kicking our bad habits or establishing new lifestyles simply isn’t enough, because most of us can do those things all by ourselves.

We can make today “the first day of the rest of our lives” all by ourselves.

And, in this instance, that is not a good thing.

Sure, it is a positive when we attain a milestone or make a positive change, but it is better when we bring others along through accountability, inspiration, or example.

 

As leaders, our line of thinking should be, “Today is the first day of the rest of someone’s life.  How can I come alongside their process?”  Or, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  Who can I bring with me so that it is the first day of the rest of their lives also?”

The difference between individual success and leadership is simple: involving others.

 

So what is stopping you?

 

Leadership

The End of the ‘Open Door Policy’


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“I have an open door policy.”

Managers and leaders use this phrase to convey that they are available for their people, willing to help them.

This, however, is a lazy saying.  In essence, it means, “If you come to me, I’m willing to take time out of my busy schedule to accommodate you.”  It makes an offer, but no more.  It communicates that the initiative rests with the employee.

How many managers and leaders say things like this, but fail to demonstrate it with their actions?  Even if they are available and well intended, this phrase is still passive.

And this is why we should retire it.

Instead of an open door policy, managers and leaders must cultivate a culture of conversation.  They need to live out a rhythm of intentional interactions with their people, asking good questions, and offering to help in specific ways that clear obstacles or provide advocacy.  In this way, their availability and willingness to help is demonstrated, not simply offered.

It is the difference between policy and culture.  As leaders, we should never prefer policy when it is possible to shape culture.

Don’t have an open door policy; have a culture of conversation.

 

You might also like:
Phrases We Should Retire

Leadership

Before the Funeral…


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Most people are praised most consistently, most ardently, at their funerals.

I do not understand this phenomenon. In fact, I am against it. I cannot fathom this one thing: why we honor those most cherished among us primarily (sometimes only) in grief.

Why is this?

Do we not take the time to think about what we appreciate about others until they are gone?

Are we not brave enough to tell them?

Do we lack the habit of seeing the best in people day to day?

Do we avoid the moment as too awkward?

But these questions diagnose. They are the wrong questions.

Because the question we should be asking is, “How would the world I influence be better if everyone I know, everyone I meet, felt the full force of my attention and acknowledgement of them?”

It looks different for everyone–some give words, others a listening ear, still others eye contact or empathy. But we all give something, or, at least, we can.

We can.

And we should. Because our worlds would be better if we did that.

And THE World is the sum of our worlds.

Sure, I’m altruistic, but I’m not naive. I don’t think being current with people, or giving some tribute to another will change the world, but I do think it would make the world better.

Or at least it would make yours better.

And mine better.

And maybe someone would be inspired by that.

Maybe someone would find courage from that.

So what do you have to give?

Who needs to hear from you or receive from you?

I do.

We do.

Don’t wait. Don’t regret. But don’t do it because of that. Do it because you know what you can give, because you believe in the effect you can have.

I do.

We do.

And for us to influence our worlds, we need you to influence us as a part of yours.

courage

Courage.


I first watched this video because it was linked to a post by my friend Kelly.  I resonated with it not so much for the music or for the video, but for the lyrics.

Brave.

Don’t run.

Stop holding your tongue.

Let your words be anything but empty.

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live.

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.

Show me how big your brave is.

One of my greatest causes in life is to give other people courage.  People are afraid of all kinds of things—afraid of their past, afraid of the future, afraid of dying, afraid of being alone, afraid of what others think of them, afraid of failing…  it seems like so much of what we do is driven by fear.

And yet “perfect love casts out fear,” and the thing God says to us more than any other is, “Do not be afraid.”

I wonder if we are afraid because we don’t feel like we are loved.  Because if you feel like someone loves you, like they will stay no matter what, like they are on your side forever, then all of a sudden it doesn’t matter as much how many times you fail, or that you aren’t as smart or pretty or whatever as someone else is.

But that never should have been the standard to begin with.

You see, part of the reason I want my life to be about inviting people to courage is because I believe with everything I am and have that the whisper of greatness was spoken into every single person who has ever walked this earth; that before the beginning of time one who knew your name before anyone ever uttered it set a light in you that was meant to shine forever.

Too many of us have forgotten that.  Too many of us think that courage is dancing in a town square or jumping out of an airplane or zip lining.

No, courage is living your life the way it was meant to be lived.  Courage is hearing that whisper and doing what it says.  Courage is a lifetime, not one time, which is why for some among us, courage is as simple as getting up this morning.  For some, courage is living today because what they really want more than anything is to die.  For some, courage is a first or second or third day without the drug or the drink or the person or the job or the life they had imagined.  For some, courage is just making it through today.

But courage is also fighting the battles with and for others while we fight our own.  It is taking the time to listen or help or encourage.  It is realizing that if we are courageous in this moment, then it is not just for ourselves.

Courage looks a little different from everyone.

Courage looks a little different for everyone.

But it always leads to a life of significance.

Mine looks like this: someone reading this will write me a note; it might be right away, it might be months from now, but it will start with something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know who else to reach out to…” and I will say, “It took a lot of courage for you to reach out like that, and I will help you in whatever way I can…”

So if you are that person, know that my courage is waiting for your courage whenever it is ready.

And whether you are that person or not, I’d like to know what your courage looks like.  I’d like to know what you’d do if you were not afraid.  I’d like to hear your story of what happens when you exercise courage, and I’d like to see you be that way again and again and again.

Leadership

In Praise of Moms as Leaders


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In Praise of Moms as Leaders

Most of them don’t see themselves as anything special.  They know what they are doing is important, but they don’t feel good at it; they feel ill-prepared or under-prepared, if they feel prepared at all.  They remember their mistakes more than their successes.  They work harder than anyone else, yet receive minimal appreciation.  But they persist.  And succeed.  Incrementally, they make a difference, eventually accepting the appreciation and thanks of those for whom they sacrificed.

Moms.

No better leaders, servant leaders, exist on the planet.  Moms, you deserve to see yourself this way.  You deserve to know that we see you this way.  You deserve to know that when we walk into your homes, we don’t see dirty dishes or a floor that needs vacuuming or a kid that you can’t get under control.

No, instead we see leadership.  We see investment and a willingness to do things that no one else would do, things no one else can do, just because it is the right thing to do.  Legacies are the product of situations—each moment you handle, each behind the scenes action, whether noticed by others or not, creates your legacy.  All the pride you have in the ones you have helped to grow, to learn, to succeed—all that they have accomplished they owe, in large part, to you.

To your leadership.

Some of you know the great relief and satisfaction of having this acknowledged.  Others of you wait for that day, not expecting, but hopeful.  Whenever it comes, though, know that we notice and appreciate you as you wait.

Know, too, if you are a Mom not by blood but by choice, if you are a Mom because you have chosen to be the one who opens your home or goes out for coffee or mentors after class, that you are included in this.  You lead just as much, serve just as well, and we love you because we choose to, because you chose us first.

So hold your heads up, Moms—you don’t hear it enough and never will, but your leadership is the model that has made us who we are, and we cannot thank you enough.

We stand on your shoulders, and we love you.