3 Tools to Combat Insecurity

If we’re honest, we all deal with insecurity. That internal voice that speaks, and often screams “you’re not good enough”. Often it’s without serious consequence because we’re able to justify our inadequacy…nobody is good at everything. However, when insecurity attaches to something we’re supposed to be good at, it can be absolutely crippling. This is why insecurity can be dangerous, especially for leaders. Unchecked, insecurity injects a paralyzingly poison leaving us crippled, unable to move forward, and sluggish to make even the simplest decisions.

Unfortunately, unless you’re dead there’s no way to avoid insecurity.

Which is why the tactics of defeating it are so important. Here are 3 concepts that will help you maintain the upper hand next time you’re slapped by insecurity. They’re not silver bullets, but paired with discipline they can be extremely effective.


 

1. Stop the Comparing – at least twice a year I have to take a Twitter hiatus. After months of subconsciously comparing myself to the rich and famous, insecurity begins to whisper “You’ll never be as good as that guy”. There is no benefit in comparing ourselves to someone else. It requires mental discipline. Safeguards within our mind that signal “Danger!” whenever we flirt with comparison.

2. Acknowledge Your Limits – Matthew 25 gives us the parable of the master & the talents. Notice after receiving the report, the master responded the same to both servants who’d doubled their masters money. Regardless of how much they’d initially been given, what mattered was what they DID with it. We all have natural limits: economics geography, intelligence, education, opportunity. Often there’s no way to overcome those things. What matters is what we do with what we’ve been given, without regard to its magnitude.

3. Focus Your Energy – It’s popular to be well balanced. We enroll our kids in every program available, pack our schedules to the brim, and buy toys for every pastime imaginable. For what? Jack of all trades and master of none? Confidence is born out of success not involvement. This may not be entirely universal, but I would rather be amazing at a couple things rather than “good” at a bunch of things. Determine how you’re naturally wired, focus on becoming excellent in those areas, and empower those things to be your front line defense against insecurity.

These 3 have served me well on many occasions, but they’re not the only options. What tools have you developed to combat insecurity?

Leaders Give Up

At the end of this month I will have been in full time ministry for 8 years.  Eight years longer than I thought possible in my 20’s.  In that time I’ve realized that leadership in ministry isn’t all that different from leadership elsewhere.  I’ve lead Marines as a squad leader, teams as a project manager, and staff & volunteers as a pastor.  Each one required its own approach and skill set, but some things have been exactly the same.

Leadership always requires something from the leader before it ever gives anything back.

Here are 5 things leaders give up:

1.  AGENDA:  Squad leaders train war fighters to accomplish the mission.  Project managers align teams to maintain profitability.  Pastors encourage and enable people to carry a message.  There’s no room for a personal program that detracts from the main objective.  In each case, the leader gives up his own agenda for the sake of the bigger picture.

2.  LEAVING EARLY:  Andy Stanley says “Speed of the leader, speed of the team”.  It’s hard to ask big things from people if the leader isn’t personally willing to sacrifice.  This could extend to showing up late as well.  Either way, longs hours are part of the game.  Everybody wants to go home, but leaders give up the right to leave early.

3.  VENTING:  As a lance corporal I would say “bitching is how I cope”.  That worked as a lance corporal.  However, as an NCO I learned something different: “only bitch up hill”.  Leaders have the power to influence the emotional and psychological tone of the team.  No matter how bad the situation, leaders give up the right to vent frustration on those they lead.

4.  SIDES:  During group conflict it’s human nature to choose sides.  It’s a survival mechanism; none of us wants to be alone.  Choosing sides as a leader, though, jeopardizes the big picture which is getting EVERYBODY going in the same direction.  While it’s absolutely necessary to address the conflict, leaders give up the luxury of choosing a side within their team.

5.  TROPHIES:  Great leaders absorb criticism and deflect praise.  It’s easy to get that backwards. Most team failures usually point back to leadership, and good leaders know this.  Conversely, none of us achieve success entirely on our own, we always have someone to thank.  Lone-wolf leadership was debunked years ago.  Great leaders hold accolades with an open hand and give up the trophy.

Can you add to my list?  What have you given up as a leader?  (Hint:  Parents, you can make a colossal list!)

“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!

Dear younger self – part 1

I read one time that most people struggle to define themselves during their 20s.  Finally figure out a few things in their 30’s.  Really begin to capitalize on their knowledge in the their 40’s.  And realize the maximum return on their intellectual investment in the decades that follow.  I can only speak toward 2 of those decades, but from my perspective, it seems pretty accurate.

Frankly, I’m hoping this will be the last decade I look into the past and have to admit I knew absolutely NOTHING.

So as 40 looms ever closer, I thought I’d jot down a few things I’ve learned in my 30’s that were epic fails in my 20’s.  Here comes the awkward…

1) Being the leader doesn’t mean I get to be a butt-hole

Yes, yes, I know.  It’s hard to believe, but in fact true.  Somewhere along the line I came to believe that being a leader meant trampling those I was leading.  Whether it was a completely rude approach to a legitimate issue, or just a narcissistic stab at personal servitude, I was in it for myself.  Sadly, this was no more evident than with my family.  During my many loud and aggressive rants, I would often notice the sympathetic glances of onlookers directed at Karrie and the kids (just McKenzie and Mason at the time).  And in true form, I’d play it off as insignificant and bask even more proudly in my great “leadership ability”.

With heavy incredulity and a weighty sense of embarrassment, I gladly leave those days behind.

Not that my baggage doesn’t ever get the best of me, but when it does I recognize it for what it is – a character flaw.  I’ve learned that leadership has more to do with giving up certain rights rather than bankrolling them.  And while it’s an ongoing process, the impact so far has been significant.  My kids are happier, my wife feels more secure, and from time to time folks might even say I’m enjoyable to be around.

Got a similar story?  What was it that made you begin the change?