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


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.


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.

Faith, Leadership

Why Honor Is Greater Than Forgiveness

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I originally wrote this in 2011 as a note on Facebook.  Today would have been my dad’s 65th birthday, so I thought it appropriate to revisit it today.


I just don’t care enough…

What other people think of me.  I’m going to be the one who speaks out loud, who says too much, who pushes “send,” who gets people thinking, who gets people talking, who invites people to touch their lives by touching mine.  I’m not excited about putting this out there for public consumption, but I’m going to do it anyway, because that is what I do.  I refuse to live with the notion that even one person could benefit from something I think or say, and I failed to say it.  So whether this is for you or someone else…

My dad’s birthday was last week.  As of this year, he has passed more birthdays posthumously than he did living.  He committed suicide when I was 5.  It was an ignominious act for which I struggled to forgive him for much of my life.  It yoked my then 24 year old mom and 2 younger sisters with a tremendous weight, part of which I bore though it was not mine.

But over many years, as I have thought about forgiveness, I come to a full realization that forgiveness, though difficult, is, well, comparatively easy.  What is difficult is honor.  Forgiveness inspires us, but honor amazes us.

Many of you know the hymn “Amazing Grace”—Amazing is the right word.  Here’s why: It’s comparatively easy for God to forgive—He’s in the right; He’s holding all the cards.  But He goes beyond that.  He honors us, gives us grace, prepares a place for us.  It’s crazy, really.

But you know this more intimately than that.  Even if you don’t believe in God, you know this.  You’ve been wronged.  You’ve felt pain inflicted deliberately by another.  You’ve felt hurt by someone who, because they did not intend, would not acknowledge.  You know what it is like to have someone who hurt you not be sorry for what they have done.

And you know what it feels like not to be sorry for what you have done, too.

It’s hard to forgive when any of those things happen, isn’t it?  Crazy hard.

But honor.  Think about it.  Honor for someone who isn’t sorry, who doesn’t think they did anything wrong, who protests their innocence or ignorance, who remains unwilling to acknowledge the mere possibility…  honoring that person goes beyond forgiveness.  It’s harder.  You don’t see it very much, but you remember it when you do.  Because it’s extreme.

Because it’s God-like.  It gives us a glimpse—dim, yes, but a glimpse—of what that honor bestowed on us will look like, what we are capable of because of the Spirit that dwells within us.

But then we feel guilty.

Because we fail to practice this.  We don’t live up to it.  We “can’t,” not with that person, at least.

But we can.  It just isn’t fully up to us.  Wasn’t, isn’t, meant to be up to us.  I can’t honor on my own.  I want to hold a grudge, to be pissed off, to lament and pout and cry and wish I had all the things that growing up with a good dad would have afforded me.  I want to put my fist through a wall and turn it all to anger (oh, and I used to…) so I don’t have to feel the grief and pain of memory and forgiveness and honor.  So just for the record—I didn’t do it.  I couldn’t have.   Not possible.

The truth is, honor surprised me as I was writing the words that follow.  I intended to forgive (again), but I couldn’t.  Because it wasn’t enough somehow.  I’ve been doing that for years.  I had to honor.  In my novice way, incomplete and still somehow holding all the cards, I must, we must, honor.

So here’s the poem I wrote my dad.  I’d love to hear from you if something in it is for you.


It comes when I expect it

And when I least expect it

It has marked me now

The loss

I know its touch

I hear its voice

It settles with me

Ignored at times for some distraction

Though not forgotten

For far too bright the light that shines


Making plain my shadow

A reminder to my heart

Of how I would have loved you

How I would have basked in the light of your prime

What I would have given

To have your life

A shield for mine

To see your steps from just behind

To see a way

To know a time


How you would have beamed with pride

At the toils and trophies of my life

And how I would have loved your smile

Yearned for it with all my might

I would have been your prince

I would have seen you king

My children

The glory of your line

So many apples for your eyes


And were our lives not filled

With happier times

And if golden memory failed to shine

Eclipsed by a reality of something less fine

Still you would be enough for me

I think so


I do not know

I did not know

I will not know


And maybe you were prescient

And maybe I naïve

(How I wanted to believe)

I have forgiven myself only moments

And lonely moments conceive

The reign of an ill-fitted crown

Bequeathed before discovered means

Worn askew

But I have straightened it for you

In spite of everything, it honors you


I honor you


Why “Under Promise and Over Deliver” is a Bad Mantra

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You’ve heard it a million times: “Under promise and over deliver.”

But why?

Is it so that our customers or stakeholders won’t be let down by our actions or products?  Perhaps because we worry about our ability to deliver?

Both are poor reasoning, and suffer from a lack of confidence.

Most people, if asked, say they pride themselves on their ability to follow through.  Most also rate themselves as having high ethics.  The same is true of organizations.

So why all the under promising?

Aren’t most of us more impressed by service providers who stake a claim and make good on it than we are by those who set us up for limited, or uncertain, expectations and then exceed them?  (Isn’t it possible to exceed limited expectations and still be average?)

Even if some among us are not, I submit that individuals and organizations leave a telling advantage on the table by failing to make more of their promises public.  If a person or organization takes pride in the ability to follow through, and consistently proves this ability, doesn’t it make sense to capitalize on it?  Don’t our customers and stakeholders want to know up front what to expect, and that the reputation of the organization and its representatives is such that excellence is all but assured?

Consider the same phenomenon in your personal relationships.  If someone asks you to go to the movies, and you say, “Yes, I can go to the movies with you in a month,” does it strengthen your bond further by calling them next weekend and saying you can go?  I’m sure many will find that example absurd, yet we do it as representatives of our respective organizations every day.

It is time to retire “under promise and over deliver” and replace it with “promise, then deliver.”

This realizes a competitive advantage if individuals and organizations are reliable, and strengthens relationships by doing not less or more, but exactly what we have promised.  If we can do better than our initial promise by delivering early or at a lower cost, great, but to limit what we promise for fear of failing if it is part of our core business is fatal.

Someone will no doubt argue that under promise and over deliver works if you cannot control the outcome.  Fair enough, but isn’t it more transparent to say so, then follow up with a firm commitment after you have checked with the others who will help you make it happen?  Again, a personal parallel: how many parents, upon being approached by a child for some permission, reply with something like, “Let me talk to your mother”?  The child, will, of course, persist, but the promise will not be forthcoming until the issue has been ratified.  Is business all that different?

It needn’t be.

Promise, then deliver.


Identity is Destiny Pt. 1

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“Identity is Destiny” is one of my favorite sayings. I like it more as I grow older and realize with ever-increasing intensity how much I control, and can not control. I have come to understand that the more comfortable I become in that tension, the more meaningful my life becomes. By extension, the more meaningful my life becomes, the more influence I can exert on others.

I’ve been reflecting on Father’s Day for a few weeks now. I used to hate Father’s Day. For years, I went out of my way to spend it by myself, reeling from the pain of fatherlessness for as far back as I could remember.

Now, though, I have established my own family, and Father’s Day is perhaps my favorite day of the year.

As I examine it, I realize more and more fully that this transformation has everything to do with embracing my identity to shape my destiny, and that of my family, with intent and confidence. Though it is ever difficult, I am first–a fatherless son learning to father. I am failing, and succeeding. Ultimately, I am first, but the many who follow will find it far different work because of me.

As I tried to capture that thought, and the notion of somehow growing up husband and dad, not just son and brother, being ultra-responsible and more mature than my years in every arena I’ve ever entered, it came out as a poem I’ve titled “That Man.” The essence of it for me is embracing identity, some of which we create, and some of which we accept.

That Man

I have always been that man
In ways I did not understand
In ways I did not plan
And though I did not intend
I have always been that man

I am that man
In ways I understand
In ways I plan
And I intend
I am that man

I will always be that man
In ways they will understand
In ways they will plan
And they will intend
I will always be that man

While these are nice thoughts, they do not become my identity, my destiny, without…