It’s funny how we hunger and strive and long for a change in our lives. Whether it’s behaviors or attitudes or habits (breaking old ones or forming new ones), we can want or desire these things to take place, to see outcomes and results but what are we REALLY willing to begin DOING in order to witness some of those changes…???

After pondering this question for weeks now, I’ve concluded it’s all about getting some reps (as in repetitions, as in practice, as in doing something over and over repeatedly with methodical intentionality).

And here’s my thesis: it’s all about the contagious nature of that first step. That’s what I’m arguing. In the sea of new years resolution (goals, habits, disciplines) posts, this is where I’m staking my claim. 

My argument within this spectrum of conversation is this: to excel in something (or to outright change wrong behavior) you have to sample something first and then repeatedly after that and you WILL experience growth. 

In other words, and at the expense of sounding completely unoriginal, you have to begin practicing. And my argument is that once you do finally begin, once you try this different or new way of doing something, you will grow that aptitude, that competence, that ability or muscle. 

Here’s a short list of the things in my life I’d like to change, stop, or affect in some way:

  • Language… my words. Whether it be course language-cussing, innuendo (jokes) or even speaking more slowly
  • Anger… my temper. I’d like to get down on one knee and whisper at eye level with my toddlers rather than raise my voice, kicking and screaming in my own way (a literal adult tantrum if you think about it)
  • I’d also like to run a marathon, by the way, and as it turns out I’m signed up to do just that in about 4 months!
  • I’d like to practice more memorization (the Bible, poetry, public speaking)
  • I’d like to master a second language
  • And I’d like to learn how to use my voice (i.e. voice lessons for proper speaking and singing.)

And I’ve read blogs and I’ve researched and I’ve prayed and I’ve tried the little tricks and ticks (like wearing a rubber band and smacking it against your wrist when you cuss) and I think they’re really just gimmicks.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only real way to see progress is to get reps… TO PRACTICE!

I’ll give you two of the most immediate analogies that I see often: health and spirituality. 

The health one is easy: people want to look a certain way, feel a certain way or perform a certain way, but they prefer waking up one day and just arriving at that place. That is, unfortunately, not the world we live in. 

The thing with faith is just as unlikely. People claim, ‘I want a strong, confident faith and/or relationship with God’ but whether they are willing to commit to certain practices to get there is less certain. You don’t just wake up a fully formed foot soldier for Jesus. You intentionally commit yourself to the personal practices of prayer, scripture reading, meditation, acts of service, the list goes on and on. 

We are not magically transported to outcomes, we cannot skip steps.

What I do recommend we commit ourselves to is this though:

  • Start now
  • Start small
  • Start strategic

As you can see from my list above, this whole thing goes WAYYY beyond the basic diet and fitness realm. Getting reps is about every single little hope, goal or increment of change we would like to see in our lives. From augmenting old behavior to creating a completely new skill. The most obvious wisdom is that we merely have to start somewhere and begin to methodically practice.

So actually, more helpful than state the obvious, maybe we should talk about why we don’t just up and start practicing something one day.

Maybe we need to talk about the roadblocks of these dreams becoming realities.

One of my biggest influences within this conversation is James Clear, check out his website, newsletter and this post for some of his best notes on roadblocks.

But here are some of the major themes that I’ve read from him and others on roadblocks and goal failures:

  • no accountability
  • no readjustments/course-corrections
  • no connection to lifestyle change (e.g. goal: to run a marathon VS. goal: to build the lifelong habit of physical exercise)
  • not starting small enough
  • no plan, system or strategy
  • not enjoyable

This short list LITERALLY SUMS UP THE MAJORITY OF REASONS WHY WE FAIL. I would be willing to bet that we are within 99% of the most common denominators for us all.

This list sums up why we fail. But who has the answer on why we don’t start? That’s what I’m pushing in this article. I firmly believe that for something new to be formed inside you, it requires getting reps. So my one big idea is to get more reps this year and here’s how:

Start Now

It’s so basic but bears repeating: you cannot take on something new if you never start. I literally cannot emphasize this first, most basic, step enough. It’s like taking a food sample at the market-how can you know you like something, something sits well with you, something can grow on you until you try it. JUST TRY IT OUT! 

When you go once, that first step will be a contagious seed for trying more, going again, doing it right over and over again.

Start Small

You can see from the roadblocks list that this is one of the biggest inroads for failure, but when you start, it has to be bite sized pieces. I’m talking like:
Day one: put running shoes on and walk outside.
Day two: walk to the end of the street.
Day three: jog around the block.

One of my absolute all-time favorite idioms is K.I.S.S. (keep it stupid simple). It applies in so many areas of life and organizations and it applies here. If you want to see outcomes, keep it simple. 

Start Strategic

You gotta keep it simple but you also gotta keep it consistent. That’s where strategy or systems comes into place. 

This is where the James Clear stuff becomes so handy because he’s a big “systems” fan (I know, you’re not-that’s okay! It’s not a dirty word, trust me!). What he means by it is that you must forego goals for systems because goals are short-term and limit happiness whereas systems are lifelong and actually produce results. 

Do you have an attitude or behavior in which you’d like to see major change?

Do you have new habits or aspirations for adding to your repertoire? What are they and what are you willing to do, TODAY, to see some movement?

What have you seen work in forming new habits (or breaking old ones)?


Give Your Boss a Heads Up 

Give Your Boss a Heads Up 

Have you ever worked on a project only to have the CEO or supervisor come in and rip it up…?

Or you’re midway through the execution stage and your boss comes in and says undo these parts and do these parts altogether differently…?

It’s now happened repeatedly for me and I’ve resolved myself to never let it happen again. The first time it happened was when I was getting a second boss and the original one gave me a tip that, little did I know, would serve me for years to come. 

You see what my original boss knew was that what the incoming chief would need is constant, even casual, reports, anecdotes and news about how my area of ownership was going. Basic stuff really… how many people were being reached, how am I spending my time and what progress is being made. 

I didn’t do it so well. And so the microscope came out and the micromanaging came out and all of the pressure and anxiety that comes along with them. 

Another time more recently came when I was midway on a massive special events project that had the benefit of being seen by many while still largely under construction. As soon as the senior lead saw the progress, the notes and corrections started pouring in. 

It didn’t matter if it was incomplete or that we had so much more to do in order to put things into focus, the fact was: I dropped the ball in proactively painting a wonderful vision about what the final picture would look like and now I was hearing about.

All of this could have been prevented had I mastered the art of one incredibly vital skill: leading up with constant vision. 

What if I told you that a great majority of this could have been avoided, IF, I had only done 3 things really well:

  1. lead up
  2. lead up with vision
  3. lead up with vision consistently

An alternate title for this post was: “Speak the Vision or The Vision Will Be Handed To You.” The issue of having your boss(es) tear into your work can so often be avoided if they fully understand your process, timetables, actions steps and vision!

BUT, if you’re anything like me, you keep most of that stuff in your head-battling the day-to-day whirlwind, multitasking like a champion and forgetting to send a note to the big boss man/lady.

And here’s an early tip for you: CEOs and supervisors-driven by results and bottom lines-are very likely to fill in the blanks (unanswered questions) with their imagination should you allow those blanks to sit for too long! In others: as leaders we must consistently create and manage the vision or we’ll end up managing them and theirs.

So, if you’d like to see your influence expand and your impact land within your organization take to heart the following reminders:

Lead Up

I’ve noted this before as one of my premiere leadership lessons of 2016, but it bears repeating. We cannot buy the following lie: our position in the organization doesn’t matter, because we’re not the boss!

If you want to be considered for more responsibility and upward movement within your workplace, you must constantly be proactive in communicating to those who lead you. And not just communicating status updates, but wins, testimonials and progress too!

And allow me to dispel one oft cited excuse for NOT doing this, “well my boss doesn’t want to hear all that… better if I’m just left alone!”

If this is you, I would just challenge you to think about 2 things: 1, even if the boss is not requesting this sort of information, it may benefit him, you and your future roles at the organization because of the previously unforeseen value of such habits and; 2, at the very least, consider the benefit to the organization as the standards of excellence are raised all around you!

Lead Up With Vision

I mentioned it above but there are at least 3 things that should be included in this “vision”: 1, process-literally even your thought process and the beautiful picture in your mind; 2, timetables-goals and visions must be time bound and measurable (all S.M.A.R.T. goals are-duh); 3, action items-it’s basic: what you are doing now, what you plan to do next and what is the desired outcome (again, vision: start with vision, end with vision… it’s CRITICAL!)

…the final vision, the vision up to that point, it doesn’t matter so long as you continue to paint and hold up the picture for all stakeholders to see. 

Lead Up With Vision Consistently

The key to all of this is timing. Everyone knows the following truth to be a reality: when we are not PROACTIVE we’ll reap the drama that comes with being REACTIVE. So when it comes to leading up with consistent vision, it must be early and often. 

I know as well as anybody how hard it is to think of, what may seem like, ‘petty little status reports’ to the boss when we are in the thick of it… honestly, who has the time?!

But allow me to paint a final picture:

A) would you rather be the leader who is continuously rewarded with: the responsibility of vision and point person project management because you have a proven track record of being entrusted OR;

B) would you rather be continuously micromanaged and set back at the every whim of your higher-ups…?

The choice is yours, but I hope you’ll join me in this everyday challenge to lead up consistently well by communicating vision and wins as often as you can. 

I’m curious, tell me about a recent run in with your boss and what you learned from it…?



Square Up… Face The Reality Of What You Say You Believe (Everyday)

Square Up… Face The Reality Of What You Say You Believe (Everyday)

Have you ever known someone who says one thing and does another? Yeah, we all know that person and we have all been that person!

At the core I think we have a fairly serious issue with hypocrisy-especially as people of faith. And I think that’s a bit of a problem. It’s a problem because it:

  • Hurts our credibility (lacks authenticity)

  • Harms our message (loses trust)

  • Halts our progress (long-lost influence and followers)

Jesus actually said it long before we all experienced it, long before it was a colloquial phrase, but there was a group of people-religious elites and insiders -who Jesus reserved that word (hypocrite) for the most. Here’s one of many things he said on the matter:

So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. Matthew 23:3

Actually this entire chapter in the book of Matthew is reserved for Jesus’ thoughts on hypocrisy and I’ll include a few more zingers… just for fun:

  • 4 “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” DANG.
  • “Everything they do is for show.” ANYONE? ANYONE?
  • 15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell[f] you yourselves are!” WHOOPS!
  • 23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.” OUCH!
  • 27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” YIKES!

All of this… FROM ONE CHAPTER. And finally, one more from Matthew 15, just because it’s another of my favorites; it says this:

‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.-Matthew 15:8

That last one is one of my favorites, not because I like to use it as a weapon against others, but rather because it so often describes me… 

I serve at a church that is filled with literally every sort of person.

Gay, straight, black, white, asian, latino…

Alcoholic, heroin addict, homeless, mentally ill…

Every weekend I greet these people-that’s my job actually-literally I am charged with leading the team of greeters… I am the CGO… the Chief Greeting Officer.

But more than that,during the week I sit and talk with them, pray with them and try to direct them to services and programs for their daily needs.

And then sometimes I just sit with them in the church service-especially our Saturday night service at 530pm.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching the message from the front row immediately beside my friend Kristen who apparently suffers from some form of schizophrenia and speed addiction.

You see, I’ll be brutally honest with you right from the get go: when I meet these people on campus, one of my very first gut reactions is:

What are the smoothest and quickest ways I can dismiss this individual (and escort them off the lot)…?

It’s horrible that I think this way, I know. Fortunately, most of the time, right after that thought I have another one that creeps in causing this excellent tension. I believe this thought comes from years of hearing Bible stories, going to church and finally reading the Bible for myself. The second thought sounds more like this:

Don’t you understand these are the VERY people Christ came to seek and to save? You have a prime opportunity and indeed mandate to love them, welcome them and serve them in the best way possible. Remember that. Now go…

Another time I sat on the steps of the building which lead right up to the worship service, with a transgender prostitute. Literally. And no, that’s not my assumption or my categorization of this person it was merely the reality of where our church community is located and the types of people we meet and serve.

I sat there with him/her and again thought to myself: 

Holy crap here I am sitting with this person filling out a prayer card while people are already pouring in to attend service-it’s kind of a scene…

I was obviously worried about how it looked to others. I was thinking about the perceptions of those other folks who just come a little more “cleaned up” to church. Honestly, I was also worried about this individual making it up the stairs into the church service… I mean God forbid someone comes to church who might actually need to be there!

Once more the tension crept in with a voice saying:

This is my son, this is my dearly beloved child… love them, welcome them, serve them as I have served them and as I have served you. 

In short, this church, this community, this neighborhood has forced me to square up with what I say I believe more than anything in my whole life (2nd possibly only to raising small children!). 

I’ve been fortunate enough to have these belief system gut checks on a nearly weekly basis. Can you say the same thing? If not, what do you need to do in order to surround yourself with opportunities of greater dissonance like I’ve described above?

You see that is precisely what I would expect from the mindset of an authentic leader: someone who has a worldview forged through experiential friction, unlearning and practicing what they preach. 

You say you believe something. Okay, cool. Have you tested it?

And my hope in writing this is that it would not be so easily interpreted as an issue solely for the religious few. As leaders, that’s a mistake we cannot afford because hypocrisy is an issue of delivering. It’s an issue of follow-through. It’s an issue of authenticity, trust and influence. 

“Recovery” (And 7 Things that we ALL Can Learn From The 12-Steps)

“Recovery” (And 7 Things that we ALL Can Learn From The 12-Steps)

At the church where I belong and work we have arguably one of the largest faith-based recovery group in the country…

On average over 300 people come to “Lifelines” every week on Fridays for what, those familiar with the 12-steps, would call a “meeting.”

Partially this is because our city, Costa Mesa, is one of the national capitols for group homes, recovery organizations, sober living institutes and treatment centers. 

It’s also because our church (and our Lifelines Director!) have done an incredible job of welcoming people and developing people who are looking to turn their lives around. 

But my point is not to toot our own horn here. My point is to speak about recovery from a general learning stance and how I firmly believe the 12-steps are a necessary work for every person, definitely every leader. 

And rather than unpack all 12 steps, there is one that I wish to focus on… step #4:

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

I find myself utterly fixated on the beauty and power of this statement. I love this statement and the potential that working the 12-steps carries for several reasons… I figure I will just list them and let you decide:

  1. First, I just like the word… recovery. It suggests something about our mutual state. That truly all of us from birth are in the midst of recovering from a harsh entry and ensuing reality. Whether you were raised in a perfect cookie-cutter home or your life was total chaos-everyone’s in it… just very few admit it.
  2. After having met dozens of people in recovery, those working the steps, I am convinced that they are literally a cut above the average person-BECAUSE they have agreed to undergo this process. Now whether they fail or succeed-I don’t know. But I don’t care… because how many of you would say yes to that step listed up there?!
  3. I love all the steps and the process as a whole because it means asking questions and processing things that the average person could go their whole lives and never grow through. One could just sit at work, staring at a computer screen everyday for 8 hours for the rest of your life and never change, grow, evolve. 
  4. The steps are not about “SELF-improvement”… the program places chief emphasis on two big ideas: 1, a higher power and; 2, community. The first step is declaring powerlessness, the second?… It’s that someone else has the power (i.e. God). And the program takes special utilization of the word “we”… why? Because the founders new the power of accountability and fellowship in the face of foolish isolation. 
  5. I love people who have agreed to treatment and the 12-steps because they have submitted: “I have a problem and I want to get better.” In short, these people are honest. I just think so few of the rest of us would dare to be so bold. Yeah, so you’re not addicted to booze or heroin-so what. What about that anger problem… that passive aggressive streak… that fear… that anxiety… that unresolved issue… are you even a little bit interested in how you got there and how you might change or learn from it?!
  6. Now on to this particular step. I love it because it’s ruthless. It says: ‘rip through me… the moments, the memories, the scars, wounds and brokenness… so I might wake up to the realities around me’
  7. In step #4 you’re literally supposed to take an event or circumstance then break it down into: effects; feelings and finally; self-examination. GOD, HOW PAINFUL IS THAT?! I mean how many of us seriously and completely ever even go down that road?!

If you’ve ever thought: “man, maybe I need therapy or counseling” then look no further than the the 12-steps. All you need is a book and a mentor/someone to facilitate (and they do NOT have to be a paid professional-that’s the beauty). 

I’ve said it before, but one of the things I believe that makes a truly great leader is self-awareness… the 12 steps is merely a tool to take that point to a whole other brutal level. 

It is a brutal experiment but it’s a WORTHY brutal experiment because it leads to growth. And growth leads to new life. 

That’s the beauty of self-awareness: it’s honest, introspective, surgical BUT doesn’t end there. All of that should lead to decisions, action and progress. 

I’ll put it to you like this: if you’re a leader and you haven’t committed to this discipline either daily in a small way or generally in a systematic way then you’ve skipped one of the great and mandatory “passages” of leadership. AND you will never fully reach your potential NOR can the organizations/people you lead until you do. 

To use one of the MANY great AA credos I’ve heard over the years, “you can save face or save your ass.” In other words: you can keep faking it, remaining “surface level” or you can change and grow. 

What will you chose to do… today, in your relationships… your workplace… your family… your cringe-worthy habits…?