Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Thanksgiving Project

I received an email from a buddy of mine this morning. He started a blog called The Thanksgiving Project and invited some of his friends and family to post their thoughts about thanksgiving over the next couple days. Below is what I posted this morning:

Thanks for getting this idea up Kneil. This morning I was working through all the references in the New Testament that have the word Thank or Thanks in them when I got your email. I was sharing with my lovely bride (who I thank God for) this morning over blueberry walnut waffles (which by the way I also thank God for) and oatmeal (also...) how for the first time I noticed that in scripture nobody ever really thanked anybody else for anything. What they did do was Thank God for someone, or something and then let that person know. Look at the beginning of almost every single letter that Paul wrote. He doesn't tell the Philippians thanks for being such a great group of people. Nope, he let's them know that he is thanking God for them and what they are doing, or displaying or how they are growing...

Thank you cards were obsolete in Jesus's day. What wasn't obsolete though was letting somebody know that you were thanking God for them. I sometimes feel guilty when I don't send a thank you card immediately or remember to say thanks to someone. It's somehow rooted in this pride thing, or this sense of duty. I'm not supposed to give you thanks. Really. I'm supposed to give God thanks for you, and let you know it. That way it's never about what you did, it's about what God did, in you or through you and what He is doing. What I am being challenged to do is remember to let people know that specifically I am thankful to God, and then how.

I thank God for Kneil, and his leadership and sensitivity to start this blog.

I thank God for my wife, she has been an incredible inspiration for me this year as we've faced so much change and transition.

I thank God for the rays of sun that light up the table as I sit here and write and pray.

God is good. I am thankful for that.

How are you thankful to God?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Contrarian Thinking

Several years ago I attended the Willowcreek Leadership Summit. I remember it being one of the most impacting events I've ever been to. Great worship, great speakers and phenomenal impact. Tim Sanders, Marcus Buckingham and Jack Welch were all presenters.

Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church did an interview with the then President of USC Steven Sample. Steven had just authored a book called The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership. I've picked the book up over the past several years and picked on a chapter or two at a time. It's not one of those books that is dependent on the whole to "get." Each chapter alone presents some great thoughts.

Due to a situation I've been a part of lately I've picked it back up and thought I'd share some thoughts from the chapter called Thinking Gray, and Free.

Conventional wisdom considers it a valuable skill to be able to make judgments as quickly as possible and there are certainly instances where this is true. Think on this for a second. don't we generally subscribe to the assumption that a good leader has the ability to survey a situation quickly, assess and decisively make a determination as to the best course of action? The interesting thing is that Steven counters this with a look back at the battlefield tactics of some of the most notable military leaders of history. Napoleon, Washington all knew how to suspend judgment on important matters until the last possible moment. In fact, this chapter lays out that one of the most powerful leadership traits is the ability to learn to "think gray" while staying true to ones core principles. Rather than immediately categorizing a thought, situation, person, etc. as good or bad, true or false, black or white, friend or foe, a "truly effective leader...can see the shades of gray inherent in a situation in order to make wise decisions as to how to proceed."

Here's the definition of thinking gray: the ability to suspend the formation of an opinion on an important matter until you've heard all the relevant facts and arguments, or until the circumstances force you to form an opinion without recourse to all the facts - to which the author reminds us, happens much less frequently than one might imagine.

There are 3 dangers that he believes will keep us from effective leadership if we only have binary thinking.

1. When a leader forms opinions before it is absolutely necessary to do so, they close their mind to facts and arguments that may subsequently come to his/her attention.

2. Flip-flopping. We've all seen leaders do this. Flip-flop on a decision based on data rec'd from day to day, inevitably causing all sorts of mental and emotional fall out for those they are leading.

3. A well developed sense of thinking gray is the best defense a leader can have against a culture that strongly encourages a believe to act when we sense that our position is strongly believed in by others.

On this last point, there are numerous studies and experiments that show just how far human beings will go the wrong direction or go along with the crowd because they believe that it's what everyone else believes to be true. (Gees, just think about all the stuff we read about the financial collapse currently happening.) Err....financial situation we find ourselves in. Case in point. It's not that we should ignore the reality of what is happening but it would seem that the majority of the public are very quick to jump to conclusion with absolutely no informed opinion whatsoever. And in the absence of knowledge, a fool can do a lot of damage. (ooh, I just made that up.) Nice!

So to sum up this rather long blog. The goal is that Thinking Gray should be used with the "weightiest" of issues. Practice this with the small decisions and get yourself in the habit of suspending judgment until all the facts are in.

Practice: Be as open to embracing, enthusiastically, a new idea as you are to rejecting it. Suspend judgment. Think gray.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Too good to be true (the overnight millionaire scam)

[This is a repost from Seth Godin's blog .]

You probably don't need to read this, but I bet you know people who do. Please feel free to repost or forward:

Times are tough, and many say they are going to be tougher. That makes some people more focused, it turns others desperate.

You may be tempted at some point to try to make a million dollars. To do it without a lot of effort or skill or risk. Using a system, some shortcut perhaps, or mortgaging something you already own.
There are countless infomercials and programs and systems that promise to help you do this. There are financial instruments and investments and documents you can sign that promise similar relief from financial stress.


There are four ways to make a million dollars. Luck. Patient effort. Skill. Risk.
(Five if you count inheritance, and six if you count starting with two million dollars).

Conspicuously missing from this list are effortless 1-2-3 systems that involve buying an expensive book or series of tapes. Also missing are complicated tax shelters or other 'proven' systems. The harder someone tries to sell you this solution, the more certain you should be that it is a scam. If no skill or effort is required, then why doesn't the promoter just hire a bunch of people at minimum wage and keep the profits?

There are literally a million ways to make a good living online, ten million ways to start and thrive with your own business offline. But all of these require effort, and none of them are likely to make you a million dollars.

Short version of my opinion: If someone offers to sell you the secret system, don't buy it. If you need to invest in a system before you use it, walk away. If you are promised big returns with no risk and little effort, you know the person is lying to you. Every time.

[This post reminds me of another one that I commented on by Seth a few months ago. Here. ]

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Frantic Family?

Great new book by Patrick Lencioni.

The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family addresses the chaos that reigns in many of our homes and how we can tame it using some of the same strategies designed to create healthy companies.

I just got off an interview with Patrick and Daniel Harkavy with Building Champions and I wanted to share some of the stuff that Patrick talked about.

In assessing his life he realized that to be authentic, he needed to make sure that he gave as much thought, attention and intentionality into building and maintaining his family as he did all his endeavors. That's challenging because most of us are so intentional with other areas of our lives but leave our family and our parenting to chance because we think we can. Ultimately, I guess, we really can. We can go on auto-pilot with our marriages and our parenting if we want to. I certainly hope that's not the choice we make, but it is an option.

The better option, I believe is to bring intentionality and meaning to how I lead my family.

I thought this was also a very powerful statement. "Long term, sustainable success for most business leaders means that they have to have a great foundation at home." I work with leaders and pastors every day. It's amazing to me how much thought and passion these men and women put into their ministries and their businesses but when asked about their family or their marriage, they don't have a strong plan if one at all. The one interesting thing I heard Patrick say is that he believes this has been the "little black secret" of the business community. He's had an incredible outpouring of questions and interest in this topic specifically and what's encouraging about that is that it seems that a large number of people, leaders and pastors alike, want to see change in this area.

So here are the The Three Big Questions. (This isn't an excuse to skip buying the book! Click
here and by it.)

  • What makes us unique as a family? How are we different and not generic?
    This begins with core values/convictions. What are your strategic anchors? What is our life situation like? What are the variables that play into this?

  • What’s your families #1 goal (rallying cry) right now? As I look at the next 6 months, what is the #1 single biggest priority in our lives right now? I want to look back in 6 months and be able to say, “We spent our time doing not only the right thing, but the best thing!”

  • How are you going to use the answers from the above 2 questions to affect your life? What do we need to do today to keep it alive? (the book has a lot of suggestions on this point.)

I don't usually post like this but it's a topic I'm passionate about. For those of you that know me, I spend an incredible amount of time and energy on my own fitness and health and I was convicted as to how much time and energy I spent being intentional in my marriage. Just having a date night once a week isn't enough for me. Writing down and having our vision and values hanging on the wall in the kitchen isn't enough for me. I want to raise the bar in my own life and family.

Visit The Table Group

Read a different description of the Book

Buy the book