cockpit

Ride the Storm or Steady the Plane

Does anybody actually enjoy turbulence?  I’m willing to bet we’d all say no.  Years ago I took a flight from Chicago to San Antonio with terrible turbulence the entire trip.  It was the only time I contemplated using the barf-bag for its intended purpose.

We’ve probably all heard the captain come across a loudspeaker and say something like “Howdy folks, we’re lookin’ at some nice clean cruising up around 30’000 feet, but we’ve gotta wrangle a tough ride in order to get there.  So sit tight and we’ll do our best to get everyone comfy again as soon as possible.”  (Ok, maybe you haven’t heard that exactly, but you might if you flew out of the South.)  As long as we believe he’s looking for better conditions, we’ll cut him some slack and appreciate the safe landing.

Bottom line is, nobody likes turbulence, but we’re willing to endure it if we know it’s necessary and temporary.  In a manner of speaking, all leaders fly “planes”.

You may not have wings, but you have people, and they’re trusting you for the ride.

More than once I’ve had to key the handset and tell my team “we’re in for some turbulence”.  Maybe it’s a change in direction, an increase in expectations, a compressed schedule, a new system, whatever – it’s all turbulence.  And no matter how necessary and healthy the turbulence is, sometimes you just have to steady the plane.  Even the best get weary of nonstop jostling around, and a lull in the chaos is often all that’s needed to rejuvenate and refocus our energy.

While I’ve never struggled to make decisions that result in a bumpy ride, I DO have to remind myself to steady the plane.  It feels unproductive and boring, but it’s as necessary as the turbulence if we want to lead well and take care those we’re flying.

Are you naturally a turbulence creator or a smooth sailor?  Neither is wrong, but neither is perfect either…

JollyRoger

Being Good could be a Bad Idea

How many times have you been told to “be good”?  Especially as a kid.  We grow up thinking that conforming to this often vague concept is the pinnacle of human development.  At the very least, conformity usually avoids negative consequences.  But let’s face it, something inside us hates being good.  We hate conforming.  Yes, human (sin) nature plays a part, but I don’t think that’s always the strongest factor at play.

What if our drift away from “good” also represents a healthy desire to distinguish ourselves?

A desire to break free from the enormous bubble of mediocrity.  Misguided, desire can lead to the break down of morality.  But what if we harness it?  Certainly the desire to be unique can drive us toward something other than “bad”.

So much energy can be spent on trying to be good that we never stop to consider becoming great!

I’m guilty of using “be good” language on my kids, and on myself for that matter.  I’m trying to change that.  Plenty of modern evidence points toward the benefit of pursuing greatness as opposed to just the avoidance of wrong doing.  A more efficient use of energy?  A better strategy for success?  It’s a slight play on words, but an interesting shift in how we might think about the good, the bad, and the great.

Agree? Disagree? How have you seen this play out in your life? I’d love to hear your story!

Brain Food

Brain Food

I love to read.  It’s the most effective way I’ve found to gain and absorb new information quickly.  I’ve probably learned more by reading in the last 10 years than by any other method.  Charles Jones said “We will be the same person in 5 years that we are today except for 2 things: the people we meet and the book we read”.  Reading is powerful.

Most of the books I read are recommendations from people I respect.  Some in my industry (church), some in my craft (creativity), and some in my faith (Christianity).  Here are a few of me recent favorites:

 

Creativity Inc“Creativity, Inc” by Ed Catmull

“Creativity, Inc” provides a glimpse into one of the most innovative creative companies in the last two decades.  Ed Catmull, then goes beyond the honeymoon phase and gives a detailed strategy for creating and sustaining creative cultures.  Everything Pixar does is team-based.  If you work with teams, buy this book!

 

 

Platform“Platform” by Michael Hyatt

“Platform” was a recent recommendation by J Warner Wallace via my pastor.  I’m a hobby blogger and only write when I feel like it, so this book is a kick in the pants!  I’m only about half way through, but it’s already creating renewed passion in me to become a better blogger.  If you have anything to say or sell, this is an invaluable resource written by an industry veteran.  I literally cant wait to read the next chapter.

 

 

Knowledge“Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer

“Knowledge of the Holy” has been prescribed reading for our church this summer.  I’ve heard from so many that their concept of God is being challenged and reshaped.  Mine is too!  Ultimately, none of our mental constructs will ever fully describe God.  But Tozer, as he often does, does a great job shrinking the gap in our understanding.  It’s written in a slightly older style, but one that marries language and truth in a very readable package.  For Christians, the concepts contained here will challenge and stretch you, but in a very rewarding way.

 

I’m always on the look out for great books.

What have you been reading lately?  Tell me why you love it!

Gut-check

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Somebody once said “The greatest enemy of future success is past success”. Boy, isn’t that true. We can round the final corner, dig deep into that last stretch, and before we know it we’re still taking victory laps long after the crowd’s gone home. I suppose it’s risk management. We work so hard for victory that the thought of having to turn around and start again paralyzes us. Even though success is often a long cycle between concept, action, evaluation, adjustment, and finally victory – we tend to feel the most good about ourselves at the end. So we milk it.

You don’t have to look far for examples. Hollywood C-listers still riding that blockbuster from a decade ago. People in their 40’s still living their high school glory days (Uncle Rico, anyone). As a parent, I’ve tried a few things on my teenage kids that worked great when they were 6…not so much now. They’re all a product of relying too heavily on the power of past success.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the Bible, it offers some solid advice on the subject. Philippians 3:14 says “I press on toward the goal…” Not a shove or a slam – press. A steady advancement in the direction of the ultimate goal. God knows some days it’s slow. Other days it practically moves itself. Speed isn’t the point. Consistency is. So unless you’ve reached your ultimate end goal, and I know I haven’t, this isn’t the time to let up.

With whatever resources you’ve been given…press on

No matter how afraid you are of failing…press on

Whether you’re riding success or failure…press on

And whether you feel like it or not…press on, press on, press on

Dear younger self – part 2

Success is the product of making consistently more good choices than bad.  You can over-complicate it, but essentially it comes down to the law of averages.  Make enough of the right choices, while avoiding the wrong ones, and eventually you’ll be successful.  Ironically, what we sometimes call a right decision may not be. It appears right in the moment, but when tried in the fires of time and circumstance, proves an imposter.  As someone who appreciates a system that can be replicated, this irony isn’t helpful.

As a young man, success was elusive.  I wasn’t born with incredible intelligence.  I didn’t possess a crazy amount of personal drive.  I was more of a loose cannon than many of my peers.  And I was far more concerned with what I projected than what I was.  So if I could climb in a tricked out Delorian and offer my young self some advice, this is what I’d write on the cocktail napkin…

  • Deliver more than what’s expected
  • Surround yourself with people who make you better
  • Honor your conscience
  • To hell with being cool
  • Be sincere and authentic
  • At all costs, live in your passion
  • Everybody matters…everybody
  • Show up early
  • Integrity is more valuable than any amount of money
  • Follow people worthy of being followed
  • Be worthy of followers
  • When necessary, be willing to look stupid
  • Respect age

As time goes on, so inevitably does the list.  What would be on your napkin?

Dream Crusher

I was reminded yesterday morning of just how much we as a culture abhor disappointment.  We’ve developed a hyper-sensitivity toward this brutal enemy that brazenly denies us our hopes, dreams, and fantasies.  And when do our collective defenses rise quickest?  When disappointment threatens our children.  Take for instance the recent story of a young boy at a Texas Rangers game.  In case you haven’t heard about it, here’s the short version:

Three-year old attends Rangers game with parents, ball flies into the stands, three-year old wants the ball, adult couple near him actually catch it, three-year old breaks into a sob, adult couple is villainized for not allowing the three-year old to make the catch.

From what I read, the parents of the three-year boy took it all in stride.  The father actually defended the couple when interviewed by the press.  However, the TV production staff was not so reasonable.  Between the commentator, producer, and camera operators the televised case was made that these ball snatching grown-ups were despicable people…because they dared disappoint a child.  Furthermore, it appears there was an expectation for the couple to surrender their trophy!

I don’t want to overreact, but to me this is a serious problem.  We’ve begun a systematized attack on one of the greatest educators in the natural world.  How many lessons can be learned simply by the harsh reality of an unrealized desire?  Isn’t that what drives us to work harder?  When disappointment exists without dilution it becomes the catalyst for greatness!

Take it away, especially in children, and they never learn to push through, dig in, take the bull by the horns and triumph.

I believe a parents removal of childhood disappointment often has nothing to do with the child and everything to do with the parent.  We struggle emotionally with our kids letdown – the pouty lips, quivering chin, huge tears.  It tugs at our heart strings and we respond by eliminating the sad situation.  This not only removes the child’s sadness (and by extension ours), but it also makes us the hero – “Mom & Dad, the great deliverer of dreams”.  It’s easy to see why the cultural pattern has developed.

We can all probably agree that culture is unlikely to change.  Which makes it all the more difficult for parents to be the champions of reality.  We’ll need tougher skin, concrete values, and plenty of love and encouragement to dole out when disappointment invades our families.  No doubt it’s tough, but the long term pay off is huge, and someday, I believe the next generation will look back and be grateful.

“Never Again” moments

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A couple years ago I read the book “Never Again” by then recently retired Attorney General, John Ashcroft.  You probably remember the enormous amount of airtime Ashcroft received in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks.  His memoirs chronicle the pressures, expectations, and responsibilities of a national leader during a time of national crisis.  As the title suggests, the events sparked in him a resolve to never again allow our heads to remain comfortably in the sand only to have them ripped loose by those who would do us harm.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never have to face the kind of pressure that Mr. Ashcroft did post 9/11.  However, I can clearly remember at least twice that I’ve had “never again” moments.  Both had significant impact on how I operate to this day.  So with complete transparency, here are my “never again” moments:

ONE:

People generally don’t volunteer for the Marine Corps infantry, but being quite young and even more naive, I did so enthusiastically at age 20.

In March of 1995 I shipped off to boot camp, endured the psychological roller-coaster, learned to push my body more than I thought possible, and eventually claimed the title “Marine”.

Exactly 10 days after graduation, I arrived strong, but still naive, on the door-step of the Marine Corps School of Infantry located in a random corner of the desert at Camp Pendleton, CA.  Little did I know that up until then, I’d only toyed with the idea of pushing myself.  SOI, as the school is called, would prove to be far more demanding than boot camp ever aspired to be. I’ll spare the gory details and jump to just 3 weeks before the end of school and our final 25 mile “hike”.  Believe it or not, even with the automobile under regular manufacture for decades, almost everything in the grunts inventory is considered “man-packable”.  Even after 6 months of rigorous daily exercise, a 25 mile hike with over 100lbs of gear still kicked my butt.  By mile 23 I was spent…physically, and psychologically.  So when the platoon leader decided to loop back around our last 1/2 mile “just for motivation”, I succumbed to the pressure and warbled out some weak, whiny complaint; after all it was mile 23!  It was then that another senior Marine walked past, jammed his finger in my chest, and said “you’re a Marine, this is what we do, so suck it up!”  Wow, what a wake up call!  At the time, I was tired and embarrassed, but those few words were more powerful than anything else in my early days as a Marine.  So with new resolve, a little humiliation, and an increased sense of pride, I “embraced the suck” and completed the event with more grit in my teeth than ever before.

On that day I resolved to never again be the one who needs to be pulled.  It’s a resolution that has played a huge part in shaping who I’ve become…and all because of one “never again” moment.

TWO:

In August of 2006 I made the transition from project manager to full time ministry.  Eighteen months earlier I had received a performance review that not only landed a very nice raise, but also the respect and admiration of my bosses.  Within 6 months of that review, we’d taken the first steps toward joining a church staff full-time, including all the interviews, meetings, phone calls, dreaming, etc.  Once that started, the energy I’d previously dedicated to my current job, shifted to my future job.

Fast-forward to 6 weeks prior to my last day where my boss had no clue I was leaving.  He called me in and, with great irritation, pointed out that my performance had slipped significantly.  I was no longer functioning at the level I once did, and it was hurting the company.  He went so far as to suggest that I was either looking for another job or had already found one.  Of course, at that time I came clean with my plans, apologized for my lack of discipline, and met my second “never again” moment.

On that day I resolved to never again operate in a way that makes someone regret my involvement.  Whether it’s a project, an event, or a job – my desire is to finish well and with integrity.

I know I’m not the only one with “never again” moments.  If you’ve got a story to share I’d love to hear it!