Obscurity

We’ve all been there. We’ve all shown up to a new place where no one knows us. They don’t even care to get to know you or what you have to offer.


Now the question is “what do you do?” Should you stay in obscurity? Do you create a platform for yourself?


Living in obscurity is rough. It’s a tricky part of life. No one wants to live in obscurity. I don’t know a single adult who would wish to relive their middle school years. However, some of us find ourselves living in obscurity anyway.


While it’s difficult, there can be beauty in obscurity. (Enter the motivational posters of “The journey is the reward”). Journeying through obscurity is not for the faint at heart though.


Over my 38 years, I can reflect and see seasons of nothing but obscurity. So the question is, is obscurity something everyone HAS to go through and endure? If so, what are the best practices to journey through the darkness well?


In 2007, I started a new job in a new state. When I arrived at my new job, I was ushered into a training lab. I went through my orientation. During my week of orientation, I wasn’t even allowed to see the area of the production plant where I’d be working. It was strange, for sure. When I arrived, the people I would be working with didn’t care that I was there. Several of them reminded me many times that ‘they had been doing the job longer than I’d been alive.’


I had positional leadership. My job was a leadership role for the team. Most of my team didn’t care about my title. I foolishly believed that my title would open the gates of influence and leadership. I thought that I would give instructions and these instructions would magically be followed.


That did not happen.


I had to make a decision early on in this job. I could put my hours in and appear to be a leader and collect my paycheck and never gain leadership influence or, I could go through the long awkward path of obscurity to gain influence.


It’s possible to create a platform of influence without selling out.


Following are the lessons I had to learn and relearn in seasons of obscurity. This journey is more like a dance than it is a hike.

3 Things to work on in seasons of obscurity:


1. Focus more on becoming than doing.
A person of character is a rare thing these days. Take responsibility for your actions, words and results. When you screw up, admit it.


If you say you can submit a report by the end of the day, do it.


Your actions should match your words and your words should match your actions. No one admits to being a hypocrite, but we all are. We all struggle at keeping our word.


Excuses may help us feel better about ourselves, but they leave us lacking. It’s tempting to focus on tasks and getting things done. This temptation leads to our business. The business will lead to burn out and cynicism.


Being a person of integrity means to become a whole person. It’s tempting to compartmentalize our lives. We want to think we can become a person of integrity at work without it affecting our personal life.

Compartmentalizing our lives can lead to voids in our lives. We can have the appearance of substance, but in reality, be puffed up without content to support it.


Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer”. Legend has it that clay potters would put an “I” on pots after they went out of the kiln. This was done only if they were to be whole and complete without void.

Become a person without void.


If you say you’ll do something, do it. If you say you won’t do something, don’t.


If you want to take your wife on a date, do it. Plan ahead. Do it. Date your wife. If you don’t someone else will.


Be the person others at work can trust.


2. Clean your desk/workspace each day.
It’s tempting to allow the craziness of your life to keep you from organizing your work area. Don’t let it.


Take 5 minutes each day to clean your crap up. File paperwork. Throw trash away. Leave your area clean, especially if you share a work area.
Schedule time to file emails away as well. Don’t “check your email”.

Checking your email leads to so many other distractions. If possible set times in your daily schedule to ‘file emails’. Filing emails is a push to read, respond to the email and file it away.

How many times have you checked your email and read the email. Then never actually responded or carried out a task listed in an email? As a result, you show up to a meeting and realize you showed up unprepared. You neglected to prepare, which is what the previous email explained. You didn’t bring a report. Submit a requisition request prior to the meeting or inform someone else of the meeting etc.


Organizing your space not only clears your mind and helps reduce clutter. It communicates something about your work ethic and responsibility.
You can’t gain influence quickly. You gain influence and leadership through the long game. Winning the long game requires consistency and responsibility.


3. Turn your focus on getting results.
So, there’s this harsh reality in the workplace. There aren’t participation awards. Mean people called ‘bosses’ do this ridiculous thing like holding others accountable. ‘Bosses’ give paychecks out for an agreed-upon pay. They actually expect results from that so-called work.


In a previous job, I had to attend weekly meetings. In my weekly meetings, my boss would explain our goals as a department. He would also share his expectation in regards to— safety, quality and production ratios.


I would show up week after week reporting how I was trying to motivate my teams to meet these expectations. I would list out all the excuses I could come up with. We had no parts. We didn’t have packaging to put the assembled parts into. It was too hot. Etc.


After a few weeks, I realized this wasn’t gaining any results so I did something different. When we would run out of parts to assemble, I would communicate to the people in the previous process what I needed. I’d ask for an estimated update on when we could expect pieces. I kept a report in my notebook and reported my responses to the issues of why we couldn’t hit our production ratio.


It’s so easy to play the victim role in the workplace. My boss is so mean, clients are unrealistic or the economy is changing, etc.


You don’t control the majority of what happens to you. You do control 100% of how you respond to those events. Focus on how you respond. Your response should be focused on gaining results, not making excuses.

A guy named Todd stopped me after one of our weekly meetings. Todd said very little, but what he said was full of wisdom. He told me that no one cares about how much I try to get results. I won’t get a ribbon for trying. He told me that I should report on what I’m doing to get results.
My area sub-assembled components. Individual stations completed the sub-assembled products for the next process.


I communicated to my team that changes would take place.
I started tracking individual results.


We would hold each other accountable to the expectations. Every Monday, I posted the updated results from the previous week. Each person’s name was listed next to their production ratio. Anyone that didn’t achieve the expectation had to report to the team. They would say what kept them from attaining the expectation. They would also explain what they were going do to meet the expectation in the future.


Things were uncomfortable and awkward on Mondays. Something happened though, Mondays become my favorite day of the week. Our team held each other accountable and knew what results were needed to improve.

Best practices were shared.

We accomplished goals.


Obscurity is challenging for sure. It doesn’t have to be a place where we get lost and forgotten though. These actions have helped me and so many others. I recently asked this question on social media and the input from everyone was so helpful, I had to add a bonus.


Bonus:
Embrace the season and wait. The waiting isn’t passive waiting, it is waiting with anticipation.


Think of sailing a ship. If you’re out at sea and your sails are down and the wind does come, how will you move?


The list above isn’t exhaustive. I do believe it can help you start the process of raising your sails to journey well through obscurity.

Photo by Edgar Guerra on Unsplash

Cellphones the new cigarettes?

We’ve all seen science fiction movies that depict our earth worse than we currently live in. The cities look more polluted. It’s almost a prerequisite that our computers and machines will be ruling us.


There’s an old saying, if you want an apple from an apple tree, the best time to have planted that tree was twenty years ago. The next best time would be now. Here’s the reality. We aren’t on this earth on our own. We aren’t floating through time and space on our own either. We have a connection. We have a link with other human beings. We have a connection to previous generations of humans.

We are also connected to future generations.

Have you ever wondered how small decisions impact our lives? What we do today does affect our grandchildren.


I’m sure our grandparents dreamed of what the future would look like. My grandparents moved from Chicago to north central Indiana. They did that for the sake of their future children and future grandkids. By my grandparents making the choice to move, it meant that I would grow up in the city or house that I did. What decisions did your grandparents make that may have made that currently affect you today.


My wife’s grandmother recently passed away. At her funeral, someone mentioned how many events she saw in her lifetime. My 38 years don’t even come close to seeing the vast advancements she witnessed. I believe my grandchildren will see the same amount of technology in their lifetimes as well.


I was born in 1981. The same year of the floppy disk. I graduated from high school in 1999. I know how to use a rotary phone unlike these guys.

Let’s also take the evolution of music for example. Throughout my 38 years of life, a person could listen to music on vinyl, 8 track and cassette tapes. Compact discs eventually became accessible and affordable. I can’t remember the last time I purchased a CD. I don’t know the last time I bought an album. I now pay $10 a month to listen to the music I enjoy.

I am confident that some of what we have become accustomed to is beyond their imagination. Our ordinary, everyday lives displayed as science fiction a few decades ago.


So let’s play a game. Fast forward 100 years. What do you think we’ll see? Here are my top 3 predictions of what we’ll learn in 100 years.

1. Cell phones will be the cigarettes of our generation.


We really don’t know the health impact of cell phones yet. We are pretty early in the life of smartphones. All the signals that are going from and going to our smartphones have to have some impact on our health. There are some studies already about health impacts. A Google search of ‘potential health impacts of smartphones‘ renders 10,5000,000 search results!


Will future generations look back and wonder what in the world were we thinking? How could we have seen this as ok?


I’m wondering if the French government isn’t onto something. They have banned cell phones at their schools. I spend at least one day a week at a local school. The cell phones rule the classrooms.


I used to work at a manufacturing plant. One of the biggest struggles I had with my team was over the use of their smartphones. I fired so many young employees during that time. One of the main reasons was because they couldn’t keep their phones out of their hands as production ran.

2. Plastic will be our generation’s black smoke clouds of the industrial revolution.


Single-use plastic is killing our planet. We have to realize this. Most of us reading this blog live in a world where we ship our trash off. Someone picks up our trash and removes it from our house. That trash has to go somewhere though.


Last week, I met the owners of a new company in our area. Reeden Company is creating sustainable solutions to replace single-use plastic options. Let’s face it, we use single-use plastic because it’s cheap. Sustainable solutions will be an investment for us.

Volunteers try to clear a dam which is filled with discarded plastic bottles and other garbage, blocking Vacha Dam, near the town of Krichim on April 25, 2009. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF

Our current reality was largely influenced by our grandparents. What kind of world do we want our grandchildren to live in? What kind of apple tree will you see in twenty years based on your investment? What are you willing to invest today for a better tomorrow?


3. Future generations will reject social media.


Social media as we know, will end. Facebook is only 15 years old. Instagram is only 9 years old. Snapchat is only 8 years old. Twitter is only 13 years old. I know it seems like we can’t survive today’s culture without these platforms. When will we stop caring about everyone’s approval and NEED to see everyone’s posts?


One of my friends Torrey said she only remembers this routine.

Wake up.

Grab her cell phone.

Open Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and see what she missed out on while she slept.

As a result, Torrey deleted all her accounts. She now has more mental space and the ability to focus throughout her day.

Will employers force employees to leave smartphones at home instead of at work?


Social media will go away completely. Future generations will learn to break from the addiction we can’t seem to shake.


I am extremely hopeful about our future. I believe that we are one generation away from greatness. Imagine if we as adults can model how to use technology with balance and boundaries. Future generations can build on our example.If we as adults can model how to use technology with balance and boundaries, future generations can build on our example and use technology to plant, cultivate and prune a culture that will embrace our full potential.


What seemingly simple decisions can you make today that will empower future generations? What simple decisions could you make that will plant the seed for a tree that your grandchildren will benefit from?


Don’t hope for it.


Don’t wait for it.


Do it.

Photo by Dexter Chatuluka on Unsplash

D I S A P P O I N T E D

We’ve all been there.  A new chance or opportunity arises and we start to hope.  We dream. We love thinking about the possibilities. We take the chance.  We apply for the job, share our feelings with the girl, put our name in the hat for a promotion –and we wait.  If you’re a person of faith, you might even take a season to pray about the possibilities. You might also use the phrase, “it’s God’s will…”  So you apply. Pray.

There is a part of life that happens to everyone. No one likes to talk about it.  We all put on our happy faces and pull up our big boy or big girl pants (a phrase no guy should use outside of this blog).  

And wait.

Then the door is shut and we’re told no.  We didn’t get the promotion, new job or the girl doesn’t want to go out on a date with us.  

One of the biggest hurdles in moving forward when we are disappointed is the mental game we have to play.  We dreamed up all the possibilities. We thought of what our life would be like if this or that happens and then we are left lacking.  We are left realizing, not today. That possible job isn’t God’s will. You weren’t chosen.

The underlying hurt of disappointment is the reality that you weren’t chosen.  No one comes out and says that, but it’s the truth. The company or girl chose someone other than you.  That reality is painful.

It can be crushing.  It can derail us, but it doesn’t have to.  

As I reviewed my 38 years of life, I realized there had been several moments that could have crushed me; however, I learned a life lesson by watching my mom.  She continually moved forward in spite of being disappointed time after time. If anyone should have given up, it would have been my mom.

Her father died when she was just 2 years old.  Her mom died when she was 6 years old. Her aunt and uncle raised her.  The man she married (my dad) divorced her after admitting he had been having an affair (if not multiple).  My mom worked several jobs at one time to provide for our family. Watching her resolve, I’ve learned several lessons that have helped me in my times of disappointment.  

It’s easy to say it doesn’t have to derail us, but in reality, it’s difficult to live out.  So how can we keep the disappointment from crushing us or wrecking us?

1.  Don’t let it crush you.  

Sounds simple, but you can mature.

My friend, Lynn, said that she pauses so that she can respond, not react.  There is so much wisdom in Lynn’s words. Respond instead of reacting. It’s not easy or natural, but it’s the mature thing to do.

How often have you sent back an email “REPLY ALL” and added a few names or maybe even put a person’s name in the BCC line (nice move, the original audience will never know)?  You react and in bold all caps unleash your reaction through the email. And even worse, actually clicked ‘send’ without reading through it. That’s a reaction.

Take a moment.  BREATHE. Decide how you WILL respond.  One of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn and relearn is this.  The way I leave a situation and how I behave, is how someone is going to remember me.  So, if I react and unleash a fury of insults at them, ten years later that’s exactly how I will be remembered.  

In the Hebrew Scriptures, there is a guy named Joseph.  Joseph’s life is one disappointment after another. His brothers want to kill him, but they settle by selling him into slavery.  He’s falsely accused and thrown into prison. In prison, he helps a friend out, but ultimately he’s forgotten. His perspective on life is life-giving for sure.  Instead of allowing the pain and hurt of disappointment to crush him, Joseph decides to move past the disappointment. He chooses to remain helpful. When he’s finally called upon to help Pharaoh, he doesn’t unleash his fury of hurtful words and ‘burn any potential bridges.’  He remains humble and useable.

I think we see someone’s real character once they are told no.  It’s easy to act mature or act like we have it all together. It’s more of a challenge, however, to remain that way once we’ve been told “no”.  

2.  Learn from the process and move forward.  

Evaluated experience is how you mature and reach potential.  John Maxwell says, “Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”  

I’m not sure what you need to learn from or what your specific experience might be, but I want to point you down the right path.  (Kind of like Obi-Wan or Yoda pointing Luke Skywalker in the right way or like the Fairy Godmother helping Cinderella.) Here’s the thing that guides realize in this process.  Guides might have some experience that might help you. Part of that experience is that you have to evaluate your experience.

Albert Einstein is usually credited in saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  

Be honest with yourself.  Are you continually doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results? Are you changing jobs, schools or environments but not changing your behavior and habits?

My friend, Nick, wisely said on a recent Facebook post that he stops and thinks about why he is disappointed. He thinks about who he’s disappointed in.  Is it someone else or is he disappointed in himself?

In the process of moving forward, I’d encourage you to ask those questions.  Be honest with yourself. We tend to lie about ourselves making ourselves out to look better than we are.  The problem with that is that it hinders our progress.

In my own life, I see my years as “Before Maturity” and “After Maturity”.  There were so many situations where I kept myself from maturing because it felt better to blame others for my disappointment.  I would unleash a fury of insults or backhanded compliments towards others who left me disappointed.

I used to explain away my brash vulgar way of speaking as ‘it’s just who I am” or “if you don’t like it, too bad”.  I would make myself out to appear better than I was in situations.

Have you ever walked around with your zipper down?  That’s just what it felt like. Everyone else could see my downfall but I couldn’t see it myself.  I just needed someone to tell me. I needed a helpful guide who would say to me, “Hey Jackwagon, your zipper is down!”.

Disappointment happens to us all.  There is no shame in admitting we are disappointed.  There is shame in lying to ourselves to make others look bad and ourselves look better.  

At the same time, I realized for me to be disappointed means that someone had to be the ‘bad guy or lady’.  I was never going to allow myself to be the bad guy, so the other person became the bad guy.

I would explain situations away like, “They can’t accept me for speaking the truth” or “I guess they’re too weak to have someone challenge them”.  

I’d encourage you not to do that.  Avoid that at all cost. The sooner you can be honest with yourself and eventually others, the sooner you’ll be able to indeed move past the moment of disappointment.  

Evaluate your experience.  If you are a manager that struggles at retaining great employees and you’re disappointed because of the employee turnover, maybe it’s not the company, pay or the employees. Perhaps the issues lie with how you lead.  It could be in the way you communicate. Maybe the problem lies with you.

3.  Take a moment and mourn it.  

Growing up, I was taught by either society or my mom’s example to put one foot in front of the other no matter what might have caused my pain.  While I admire this trait, especially watching it lived out by my mom, in my life this was coupled with not processing and not allowing my emotions even to approach the surface.  I would bury them in business, productivity and ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

If I walked away from a situation and was disappointed, I believed that I didn’t have time to mourn the pain of that moment.  Life was moving forward and so should I.

The problem was that I was carrying around a load of bricks that I didn’t realize.  It was as if every time I was disappointed, I picked up a brick and put in my backpack of life.  After a while it got heavy. Others saw it in my life. I didn’t however.

It wasn’t until I was 27 years old that I realized I had this backpack.  I was talking with my counselor about all the times I had been let down or disappointed.  He pointed out the weight of those moments.

Allow the decision that left you disappointed to affect you.  Process it, journal it and move on. Set a deadline and after that time, mentally move on.  

Several years ago, I applied for a job I really wanted.  The job was within the same organization I was currently working in but in another department.  The decision makers seemed to be excited about me applying for it.

After applying and interviewing twice, I waited to hear back from them.  

After about three weeks, I finally heard back.  I didn’t get the job.

My response must have caught the person on the other end of the desk off guard.  He was shocked that I didn’t react. I merely responded, “thanks for the opportunity.”  I genuinely meant it. I was disappointed, but I realized there was nothing else I could do.  

He asked me why I responded the way I did.  When I asked him, “Would throwing a fit or whining change your mind?”, he laughed and said ‘no.’  

Afterward, I processed with my wife and some wise friends.  My wise friends helped me to feel the moments. I tend to push forward and find the next hill to climb.  Even after an expensive counselor, I still have a habit of doing that. My friends slowed me down and allowed me to process the entire situation.  

The beautiful thing that happened was that my friend suggested that I put a deadline of when I wanted to move on.  I threw out a random date. After that date, anytime I began mentioning anything about not getting the job, MIke would stop me.  

Let’s go back to my friend, Nick.  He tracks the root cause of his disappointment.  Has something from his past risen back up to affect him?  Is he currently dealing with something that he can work through?

To indeed move on, we must identify who and what we are disappointed in.  I’d go as far as to say you should name a person.

4.  Don’t stop dreaming.  Take the next chance.

You might ask,  “If we are all going to be disappointed, why should we even try?  What’s the point of trying if we are only going to be let down and have our feeling hurt?  Shouldn’t we grab Ben and Jerry’s and dive in and eat our way to ‘happiness’?” As tempting as that sounds, I don’t believe it’s the best option for any of us.  Sure diving into our favorite vice might allow us to feel better, but is that how we mature?

Diving head first into your favorite vice might result in you being dependent on that vice to function.  You might end up only being able to fit into sweat pants as a result of eating all the things. You might binge drink on some New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon and find yourself out of a job, friendless, etc.  At least you’re ‘happy’ right?

Giving up isn’t the best option for you.  Giving up might protect your heart from being hurt or let down.  C.S. Lewis said it best.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”-C.S. Lewis

To advance in life, humanity must dream.  It must pursue possibilities.

Dream again.  

In the pursuit of making his dream come true, Thomas Edison seemingly failed to invent the light bulb.  Time after time his attempt to create the light bulb failed. It wouldn’t produce light. The prototype wasn’t successful at holding the light.  Finally, however, he made a prototype that kept the light. It was ultimately successful. Thomas Edison was asked how it felt to fail 1,000 times.  Edison replied, ‘I didn’t fail to invent the light bulb, the light bulb took 1,000 steps to invent.’

Human history is full of leaders who should have given up.  They were disappointed many times for sure. Let’s look at Abraham Lincoln for example.  He lost eight elections, failed at business more than once and was heartbroken when his fiance got sick and died. He should have given up.  Human history, however, wouldn’t be the same if he did. We are better off because of his pursuit of greatness.

What will human history say because of your pursuit of greatness?  

Don’t allow disappointment to crush you.  Take steps to mature. Take steps to move past it and improve human history.  

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Edited by @Tammy Oswalt

Flossing changed it all.

It’s that time of the year again, January, which means everyone is bragging about what goals they are going to accomplish by this time next year.  Can we take a moment and acknowledge that it’s going to be 2020 next year? It seems like just yesterday that we were singing along with Prince about partying like it’s 1999.

Most of us have quit our New Years Resolutions by now.  January 17th is Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day.  But maybe this is the year that is different for you.  

A leader I admire, asked me a question recently, “who did I want to be in 2020?”.   It took me off guard for a moment. I had to think that through. When I asked for clarification, he pushed in a bit more.  Who do I want to be? Do I want to be a healthy person in 2020? Do I want to be a great inspiring leader in 2020? Do I want to be a loving husband and father in 2020?  

I kept shaking my head each time he asked.  I had no idea where this was going. He pushed in a bit more on me.  He asked me what systems I’d created to make sure I’m all those things in 2020.  

I told him I work out four times a week when I can fit it in my daily schedule.  I also listen to podcasts and read books several times a week. I love my wife. I serve her. I date her.  I provide for my sons. I hang out with them, etc.

He pressed the conversation a bit more.  This leader asked me to honestly evaluate the systems I have to see if those systems would help me become the man I want to be in 2020.  

During my evaluation process, I realized I had goals.  I even created habits that helped me accomplish them, but I had not established a system that would help me achieve the kind of person I wanted to be 365 days from now.  

Let’s use my workout routine for example.  I workout at least four times a week when I can fit it in my daily schedule.  

That’s not a system.  It’s a statement.

So, the system I’m establishing starts with the kind of person I want to become by 2020.  I have an ideal weight. I have the ideal body fat percentage I need to be healthy.

Now the system I’m creating around my habits moves to the next stage, which is evaluating my current patterns.  When I recognize a ‘bad or ineffective habit,’ I need to change that pattern in my daily routine.

For this, I reached to a past lesson I learned while working at a manufacturing plant.  To reduce production defects and improve customer satisfaction, we initiated a system of quality checks after performing the tasks required in an assembly process.  Some quality checks were referred to as a “point and call out” check. The associate would point at a bolt, fan assembly or whatever and verbally confirm ‘full seated’ or ‘not cross-threaded.’  Yes, a person might feel foolish for saying these things, but the reality of the situation was that we needed to improve our quality record drastically. This meant we needed to change our methods radically.  

With my own routine right now, whenever I am tempted to eat a donut instead of an apple or when I’m tempted to skip leg day (NEVER SKIP LEG DAY!), I verbally remind myself who I want to be in a year.  I want to be the healthiest 38-year-old husband and father for my family. That little verbal reminder resets my system.

A decade ago, I started on a journey of becoming the healthiest person I can be.  I was encouraged to start with the smallest habit I could control that would help create the system.  I evaluated my life and my routines looking for the smallest thing I could change to improve.

Every night I floss my teeth.  If I skip flossing my teeth, I feel horrible because I’m not taking the best care of my teeth.  One of my friends who is a dentist reminds me all the time that ‘teeth are treasures, not tools.”  Every time I skip flossing, I hear Emily rattle that little saying off. So, I floss every night. Ten years ago, however, I didn’t have that habit.  Flossing was the habit I decided to change in 2007.

Once flossing became a habit, it was then considered part of an established routine.  I now needed to focus on creating other habits. The idea of working out however in a new gym was a bit intimidating.  The concept of not eating ice cream each night seemed foolish.

So, I decided to pair new habits with already established patterns.  Every night while flossing, I reminded myself I wanted to be a healthy person, a person who weighed 100 lbs less than I did at the time.  That simple verbal reminder triggered me to lay out my workout clothes and shoes before I went to bed.

When I woke up, (an old habit) I visually saw my workout clothes.  I’d remind myself of the kind of person I wanted to be. I’d get dressed (an old habit) but I’d wear workout clothes (new habit).  I’d go to work (old habit) and after my shift I’d change from my work uniform into my workout clothes and go workout. I had a very set schedule.

I paired working out with the end of my work shift.  

This routine is the system that works for me.  It’s called habit stacking. I partner an old habit that I already have as part of my life and when I accomplish that already established task for the day, it triggers my new habit.  Instead of hoping I can fit a new pattern in, I simply a attach the new habit to the end of the old habit. I made a system that helped me accomplish ‘good habits.’

At the same time, I created a system that made accomplishing ‘bad habits’ more difficult.  I used to eat a bowl of ice cream each night… not joking. I loved it too. I would take ice cream, peanut butter, chocolate, maple syrup and mix it all together. I would eat my bowl of ice cream while watching The Biggest Loser.  

Once I started on the journey of losing 100 lbs, Heather and I made the intentional decision to make eating ice cream more difficult.  If we wanted to eat ice cream, we’d have to go out to a restaurant to eat it. One time I tried to reduce the amount of TV I watched during the day.  I unplugged the TV and would only plug it in if I knew what show I wanted to watch.

Creating a system that allows effective or ‘good’ habits to be made and wrong or ineffective habits less accessible is critical to your success.  

This system might be foolish to some, but this routine is what started me on the journey of losing 100 lbs.

Now, like I said, this system is a system I’ve created over the last ten years.  I am not done creating this system either. When I get frustrated because I want results faster than what I’m experiencing currently, I remind myself that ten years ago I couldn’t see my feet… among other body parts.  I tell myself that I was completely unhealthy. While I might not be the healthiest person I can be, I’m not what I used to be. Each year I change one or two habits that help me become the healthiest person I can be.

This year I’m changing the times that I eat.  I tend to snack late at night. So, this year I’m not eating food past 8 pm.  

Who do you want to be in 2020?  

What systems do you have in place now to help you become that kind of person?

What already established habits could you partner new habits with to create a system that would help you accomplish those tasks?  



Professor Shoelace…

A few years ago our oldest son had an issue. A shoelace issue.  He learned to tie his shoes at a young age, but every time he went somewhere, his shoes kept untying.  I thought for sure I could teach him again how to tie his shoe. I sat him down, again and again, showing him “the correct way” to tie his shoes.  He never really got it, so I decided to do some research for him. I would help him out. I did a quick Google search and found thousands of entries on how to tie shoes properly.  I kept instructing Shad to double knot his shoes because that’s how I learned to live my life without having to tie my shoes every two seconds.

 

One Google search result intrigued my interest the most, Professor Shoelace.  He has a Youtube channel! That makes him official right? I quickly realized maybe I don’t know everything about tying my shoes like I thought I did.  At the time, I was running long distances training for a 25k race. I had issues all the time with my feet hurting through my longer runs. Professor Shoelace had tips about lacing and tying my shoes that would keep my feet from hurting.  

 

Professor Shoelace instructs people that if you need to double knot your shoes, then you’re not tying your shoes correctly. Shad and I were watching this video together and Shad laughed at me.  I felt attacked by the Professor.

 

Shad and I kept watching his Youtube channel and I kept learning new ways and methods to tie and lace my shoes.  

 

I quickly realized that I had minimal knowledge of how to tie my shoes.  I thought for sure I was going to be proven correct when I did the Google search.  I wasn’t really interested in learning to tie shoes. I was more interested in finding information that showed how right I was so I could show Shad how smart I was.  That’s not what happened.

 

I confused my ability to accomplish a task with reasonable success as knowing all there was to know about tying shoes.  The reality is that the world we live in is changing. Just because we can accomplish something, doesn’t mean we know all about that particular topic or issue.  

 

I believe we are on the verge of amazing potential in our culture, but potential doesn’t necessarily translate into improvement or success.  The definition of potential is having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. So the question is, how do we evolve into something in the future that is great?  Teachability is the key to improvement.

 

Industries that have made America what it is today are changing.  They must change. Careers are changing. If we genuinely want to reach our full capacity of potential, I believe it starts with how teachable we can become and remain.   I have written about my thoughts in previous blog posts about how I think organizations can work among the different generations represented in our workplaces. We must realize why we do what we do.

 

I’m convinced that if we as leaders were to remain teachable, we’d reach our potential and inspire others around us to do the same.  There’s no shame in admitting when we are wrong or when we don’t know all the answers. In the organization I lead, we define teachability as the willingness and ability to relearn something we believed we already knew.  

 

I think the most effective way to become and remain teachable is when you teach others what you know.  At RE.THINK we have a mantra, “You don’t know jack until you teach a 3-year-old ____.”

 

No matter if that task is tying a shoe, potty training or disciplines like cleaning up after yourself or putting clean dishes away.  We might know something, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have to learn or relearn some things along the way. The most effective way to become and remain teachable is to teach someone who has less experience than you that same task.  

 

The culture we live in is changing around us. No longer can we simply say that we know something and never adjust to the changing climate around us.  We must remain flexible and teachable. I believe that will lead us to the best days ahead!

 

 

What are some areas of your job that you believe you know?  

 

What is one task that you could relearn to help you become and remain teachable?  

 

What are some of the changing climates of your job that if you relearned could help you become more effective as a leader?  

 

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash

3 lessons I learned by eating lunch with 5th and 6th graders

When Heather and I decided to start a church in a community where we didn’t know anyone, one thing we knew we wanted our church to be recognized for is adding value to the community.  The summer we moved to Merrillville, I sent an email out to all the principals of each school in the Merrillville School Corporation. One school, in particular, responded. It was Merrillville Intermediate School.  The Principal from Merrillville Intermediate School, Kara Bonin, and I met and started to explore and discuss what it would look like for a brand new church that didn’t even exist at the time to partner with her school.  We discussed what it would look to add value to the staff, students, and teachers.

We started out small yet intentional.  In fact, we are still in those beginning phases.  We started out by bringing snacks for teachers and partnering with the Crossroads Chamber of Commerce to provide gifts for new teachers in the corporation.  We met again after that first school year and started to explore the idea of doing something more intentional.

Kara and her staff identified a handful of 5th and 6th-grade students.  Every Wednesday I drove the five minutes to MIS and had lunch with these students.  The drive might have only been five minutes, but for some reason, it seemed to be worlds apart.   My typical day usually consists of message prep, meeting with adults, casting the vision for what God has given us for RE.THINK and other ‘pastoral duties.’  Each week the distance I felt started to diminish. I walked in thinking I would add value to these students but whoa, I quickly realized how much they would add to my own life.  

Below are the top three ways these students added to my life.  

#1.  The times they are a changin!

I quickly realized that the world and culture these students are growing up in is not the same as the world and culture I did.  

Let’s take video games for example.  Yes, I grew up with video games in my house.  I’m not that old, even though my hair has migrated.  That doesn’t mean I’m that old. There’s no comparison between my Nintendo NES System and an Xbox One X.  The graphics, type of games and the ability to connect with people around the world to play a game together are just a few of the cool differences, and the list could go on and on.

 
The fact that this generation of students has information at their fingertips in their smartphones is also a major difference than when I was growing up.  Think about this, they are walking around with more technology in their phones than was used to propel the first man to the moon and back. Some parents trust these twelve and thirteen-year-olds with that amount of technology unchecked.  A small amount of guidance and parameters go a long way in this area for these students. I had the luxury of not having social media when I grew up. My mistakes are not documented as theirs are. This generation of students has been called the most arrogant generation because of the access to information and at the same time the most insecure generation due to the lack of adult influence in their life.  


#2.  Consistency matters.

Knowing I was going to meet with these students every Wednesday, seemed intimidating at first.  I said “no” to several meetings on Wednesdays from 10 am until 1 pm due to this commitment. In the beginning, I thought I was missing out on ‘good leads’. I also thought that I was missing out because I said “no” to several people in our church that wanted to have lunch on Wednesdays.  After a few months, I quickly realized that holding this commitment forced me to become more efficient in my other responsibilities.

I enjoyed my time with these guys.  They may be crazy at times but think back to your fifth and sixth-grade years.  I can guarantee you did some crazy things. I did, that’s for sure! I walked out of MIS each Wednesday feeling more alive than I did walking in.  

The complexity of most students’ lives these days sobering.  I grew up in an era that divorce and mixed families weren’t the norm.  What was unusual for me growing up, now seems to be the norm. It’s encouraging when you realize the power of a positive, consistent voice in the life of a teenager.  

#3 Every child/ teenager needs six things in their life to mature into their potential.  
Every child needs love, stories, work, fun, tribes and instructional words over the course of their life.  As adults, we need these as well.

Love…helps us understand that we are accepted and known.  
Stories…help us understand that our story is part of a larger story.  
Work… helps us contribute to something using our giftings and abilities.
Fun…who wants to go through life bored and grumpy?  Not me!
Tribes…everyone needs a group of friends they can be their true selves with. Instructional words…we all need guidance along the path of life.                                      See It’s just a Phase by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy


Each week I realize that these fifth and sixth-grade students need to understand those six crucial elements in life to mature.  It’s difficult for parents, teachers or pastors to provide and communicate these six elements on a consistent basis by themselves.  Together, however, we can teach them over the course of time. I think the future looks amazingly bright if we can get this right.

Wherever you’re reading this, I hope you sense the HOPE that is behind this blog.  I find so much hope in the potential of this emerging generation. They might need guidance, but so did we, right?  I wonder what will happen when community leaders, business leaders and you and I start to add value in the life of students as we realize the times they are a changing, consistency matters and every child/ teenager needs six things in their life to mature into their potential.

 

Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Underdog

One of my favorite narratives of all time is the story of the underdog.  Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised in a small Indiana town or the fact that my entire life I have felt like an underdog, struggling with dyslexia, my dad who has been MIA since I was born or the fact that I am built to withstand high winds.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have been a Cubs fan my whole life or a Notre Dame football fan. My sports teams usually have been underdogs for sure.

 

A few years ago, we were in the midst of a transition in our lives.  If I had to be completely honest, I was afraid that I was going to fail in my venture while in the midst of this transition.  It seemed like I was failing left and right. My wife and I had made the decision to move on from our positions with an organization that we had grown to love.  It simply was the right time to move on for the sake of our family and for our careers. As we explored the next several career options, doors were shutting left and right it seemed.  

 

I remember moping around wondering why God was seemingly holding me back from what I thought was my next season in life.  I wrestled through the thought of “am I really this big of an underdog?” I’ve kept a journal since I was 17. Don’t judge me.  It’s a journal not a diary! I’ve never written “Dear Diary…”. In that journal, I’ve told God “I don’t think you’ll ever be able to use me because I’m not qualified.  My chances are too slim. My reputation is pretty much screwed because of the decisions I’ve made in my past. I don’t have enough resources or the right connections.” These statements that I continually believed and told myself literally arrested my potential.  

 

Maybe you’ve told yourself some of those same statements.  If so, I want to give you permission to allow yourself to believe that you are significant.  You can be used to make this world a better place. You have the potential to be used for good.  Someone had to literally give me permission to believe that God wants to use me in order for me to believe it.  If you feel like you’re an underdog, if you feel like you’re not qualified enough or your reputation is screwed because of the decisions you’ve made in your past (even if your past is the last few seconds), you are not alone.  

One of the wisest women I know asked me a question during those ‘moping’ seasons of my life.  She asked me, “Why not you? Why shouldn’t you be considered for that job? Why shouldn’t you be considered for that promotion?  Why shouldn’t you be used to change this world for the better?” As I sat across the table from this amazingly wise woman, I couldn’t come up with any legitimate excuse.  So, I had to challenge this thought pattern that had been part of my life for as long as I could remember.

 

If you google parasite cuckoo bird you’ll discover something remarkable.   The cuckoo bird lays an egg that if undetected will kill the future potential legacy of the native bird and eventually may kill the parents of the native birds.  The cuckoo mamma bird lays her egg in the nest of a neighboring bird. The cuckoo egg hatches and kills the other eggs in some Survivor-style TV show. The parent birds have no clue what happened to their actual offspring and can only think of feeding the cuckoo bird.  If they don’t realize that the cuckoo toddler bird isn’t their real offspring, they will feed this bird nonstop exhausting themselves to the point of death. They will kill themselves trying to feed this bird that isn’t even theirs to feed.

 

Being told we are underdogs can kill the potential in us if we aren’t careful.  If we don’t detect the lies in our lives such as we aren’t qualified enough, our chances are too slim, we don’t have a good reputation or that we don’t have enough resources, we’ll kill the potential in our lives.  

 

At this point in the blog, we usually would go in one of two directions.  I could tell you that everything you need to succeed is already in you. I could tell you that you’re good enough, smart enough and doggone it, people like you.  I could tell you that God has put some amazing potential in you and that all you have to do is pray and seek Him.  That is usually how this goes, but I actually think there’s a different path.  Maybe there is the potential of a third direction. What if God does have an amazing plan for you full of potential?  What if you actually had to respond to God’s leading? What if you need to challenge the cuckoos that have been dropped into your life throughout the years?  Without challenging these parasites, we’ll never live up to our potential. Those cuckoos in our life will keep us from reaching our potential!

 

Cuckoos will usually look like a label that someone gave us.  Some of the labels might be ‘loser, fat, not good enough, wrong, bad person, slut, failure, punk or fired’.  Whatever the label, I’d encourage you to examine that label and compare it to what Jesus says about you. In spite of the label you might carry, Jesus found you worthy of giving His life for you.  

 

God has something amazing for you in store.  He created you on purpose for a purpose. You will need to respond to His leading though.  Life transformation usually doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a series of decisions that allow God to move in our lives to transform us.  It might need to begin with you verbally declaring that you’re worthy or reading a portion of the Bible each day to grasp what God says about you.  It might be that you need to identify the cuckoos in your life and decide to challenge them. Whatever it is, I would encourage you to do something starting today.

 

Several years ago, I was on a trip and had to rent a car.  When the I got to the rental place they gave me an upgrade.  The car had GPS and I was in a parking garage with a very weak signal.  After the attendant showed me how the GPS system worked, I entered the address and expected the entire list of directions to be given to me at once.  I was frustrated because I couldn’t get all of the directions at once in order to determine if I should trust the given directions. The GPS system told me “the map will appear when the car is in motion.”  I had to trust to a degree, but I also had to put my car into motion. The same principle can be applied to my own relationship with Jesus.

 

I don’t know if I’ll ever receive all the directions to my relationship with Jesus at once.  It most likely is going to happen as I follow Jesus a little bit at a time. As I continue to follow Jesus, I identify more and more cuckoos in my life that don’t compare to what Jesus says about me.  As I identify them, I have to determine whose voice I’m going to follow.

 

Photo by Dan Chung on Unsplash