7 Reasons Why This Could Be The Healthiest Thing You Do in 2017

7 Reasons Why This Could Be The Healthiest Thing You Do in 2017

This new year I tweeted the following…

Yes, I was trying to be funny, but I was also DEAD SERIOUS.

The principle (in case you didn’t catch it) is that we are CONSTANTLY giving into our kid’s wishes (begging, pleading, whining and threats rather) just to make them stop!

In the car this equates to handing them a snack while strapped in their seats and when all their little crumbs and morsels reach critical mass, we have no choice but to head to the industrial strength vacuum place to settle it!

But that is not the worst thing about giving into their demands.

You see the thing I’ve learned about parenting so far is that it appears to be a constant battle of training… training and conditioning. And every time and every way you respond to your child when they are attempting to illicit a certain response trains them… trains them for good or for bad.

That will, believe it or not, have an impact on the type of human they become one day… no pressure…

By us giving into their demands while driving around in the car we were cementing something in their minds and hence their development: ‘every time we scream loud enough, they WILL give in and throw us a snack.’

It’s the same in any other area of our lives… if a co-worker, significant other, family member “screams” loud enough, eventually we’ll say “yes” when it would have been far healthier for everyone involved if we had said, “no.”

Your healthy “no” could be pressing in on any one of these areas, for me and my wife-our leadership-we understand the value of “no” in our parenting and the gift that will ultimately be to our kids.

In case you were wondering, here is just 1 major value of a healthy “no” to our kids in this illustration: delayed gratification… which instills patience, self-control and determines a person’s ability to achieve greater success in life.

Most importantly of all, however, it gives them perspective; a more realistic view of the future world they will inhabit, that they will not just be handed what they want, when they want it. We are not an earthly slot machine, God is not a celestial slot machine and the people they surround themselves with one day won’t be either!

Here’s the problem as it extends to our work:

Most of us run around overbooked, overstretched, overextended and overstressed and we keep saying “yes” to things, so we keep losing… and we aren’t the only ones either. I would argue that the organization loses big time too.

I don’t know what the moment will be, for you, to finally calculate the opportunity cost of your yes/no answers, but there was a critical time for me when the leadership team at my work gathered for a two-day offsite nearly 6 months ago.

You see as a staff one of the things we realized is that we did not have enough trust to finally be honest with each other and call it like it is (hence pushing each other and the organization forward).

So our boss led us through an exercise where we went around listing people’s strengths and weaknesses and took turns reading them out loud to each other. There were about a dozen people in the room so lots of things were shared, but when it came around to me here are some of the common things I was hearing: “takes on too much…” “fails to execute…” “distracted and unfocused…”

Hhhmmm, dang… I got the memo…

Much of this, in my reflection, had to do with the inability to say a healthy “no.” Which is fundamentally about prioritizing my month, week, day around the absolute most vital values of my job and the organization I serve.

Let me give you 3 reasons and 5 tips:

1. Say “no” because it will restore health in areas you didn’t even realize were backwards

You see, for me, I had to wait for years before hearing those comments from my bold and loving teammates that I had a problem and it was affecting my work product AND my legacy-and THAT was not okay. Don’t wait to hear from someone else that you’re not disciplined in your work. Do the tough work of reflection and get healthy in your work flow again.

2. Say “no” because it leads to focused action and better quality in your work

One of my single greatest learnings this past year was the term my supervisor would drill all day long: “impact over effort… impact over effort… impact over effort.” His point was simple: ‘Ben, I don’t care if you work from home or if you work 4 hours today… if it gets the results, meets the targets, goals are green and we are seeing the outcomes then GREAT!” But you can’t see those types of outcomes if your work is unfocused and tossed by the wind.

3. Say “no” because the strength of a well-placed “no” is equal to a 100 wishy-washy “yes’s” 

Just think of my story above, that is what led to my reputation as the guy who “over-promises and under-delivers”… no one wants to be that guy. So stop letting your “yes” be watered down to the point of meaningless because you didn’t have a firm grip on your priorities and values.


  1. Ask for more time when someone puts you on the spot and you need to make a decision.
  2. Every single employee on planet earth must have these 3 things in order to be successful in this life (in this order): vision (the why), goals (the what) and strategies (the how). These will HUGELY impact your ability to say yes/no and, ultimately, your outcomes.
  3. Schedule your values. When you’re done with #2 simply drop those values into your calendar on a monthly, weekly, daily and hourly basis.
  4. Tell someone, anyone, EVERYONE what you’re up to! That way you educate those around you, affecting what they would even approach you about in the first place! (And build in some accountability along the way.)
  5. Put in feedback loops and constantly reevaluate. Because anything worth doing is worth evaluating.

What is one thing you know you need to stop doing/say “no” to today? What are your top 3 values in your current job and how many hours are you devoting to those 3 things each week?

What I Would Do If I Was Outgoing Barack Obama

What I Would Do If I Was Outgoing Barack Obama

Have you ever felt like you wanted to start something that matters?

Maybe you saw a need, witnessed a problem, realized a pattern and you were filled with some insane amounts of zeal like you would almost march right out and do something about it…?

I’m talking about fighting for a cause here. I’m talking about innovating solutions. I’m talking about creating change and magnifying impact… turning the ship around.

This has happened for me in the last 10 years more times than I can count. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything about it though…

First it was a website about fostering community for Millenials called “our generation”… that never happened.

Then, when that picture of the Syrian toddler dead on a mediterranean beach started circulating last year, it was an online petition to lobby the US government to do more-maybe send an aircraft carrier to the region for more humanitarian aid-nothing ever materialized there.

Most recently, while watching a kids animated film about storks realizing their true calling of delivering babies again, I thought to myself: I should one day create a global startup that rivals the current national and international adoption agencies…

More than anything I guess I’m just learning something pretty interesting about myself. But I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Now I want to talk about the outgoing president.

Last week I read two different news articles.

The first one was very stirring and motivating and I found myself yet again in one of those moments… as if to say: “what if we could do something about this…?!”

It was about inner city Chicago and where those community members are at after 15 years and over 8,000 deaths later.

It’s here for your viewing.

You see that’s how my brain works… I think: “maybe a privileged white boy from Southern California could have any degree of impact or influence whatsoever on a place 2,000 miles away that is riddled with a historical legacy of joblessness, drugs, crime, guns, police distrust, oh and a city plan engineered for segregation”

I just can’t help it.

Then I read another article over the weekend that, like so many others during this political season, speculated what Obama would get up to after he leaves the White House-being as young and healthy as he is…

The article really only does this for the first half and then addresses the president’s legacy on immigration the second half, but you can read it here.

I read THAT article and then all the sudden it hit me. I shouldn’t be the one to get involved in Chicago… HE would be perfect though!

You know… all that power and influence and to use every drop of it in turning those neighborhoods around, healing those communities, reconciling gangs and victims… or at the very least, managing to spare more 12-year olds from being gunned down while sitting on their front porch…

Look I’ve even come up with a 5-point plan for the president:

  1. Setup an “E-Z Up” kiosk right on the corner of one of the most notorious streets, sit at a table and take feedback-talk to the community. (He can work on his book during the down times).
  2. Get meetings with the most notorious gang leaders and drug lords-literally sit down with them for coffee and get them on board.
  3. Recruit all his old private sector business contacts-call in every single favor they ever owed him to start businesses of every kind so that young men can work legit jobs
  4. Anything that is built, developed or renovated would be with the hands and feet of the community members themselves (in community renovation projects, ownership is always paramount-if they built it, they’ll ensure it’s legacy.)
  5. Then, finally, partner with police to literally start over from scratch.

He could do all of this completely position-less. Doesn’t have to run for mayor or over take the ever-changing police chief there either.

But you see that’s all well and good for him and I may very well write the president a letter suggesting the implementation of this plan effective feb 1st.

But what’s it got to do with me?

See that was my critical turning point… if ever you find yourself saying, “if I was him, I would…” then the very short response must be: you can.

You see IF… YOU SEE IF… too many if ands or buts just might render a man useless and legacy-less. Don’t get lost in the land of “if.”

So here’s the 5-point plan I recommend for me, and for you:

1. Start from where you are

Do you know how often it is that I probably underestimate my current position, power and influence. I’m wondering how many of you do the same…? We all have an audience. Whether it’s our family, our work or our friends: our words are big in someone’s ears. Now how can we leverage that for all it’s worth?

2. Consider your influence and network for leveraging

I once read in a book that each one of us is 3 people away from reaching our entire city. And that was written BEFORE the proliferation of social media! I mean what if we truly went for broke on this…? And when I say that I mean “socially broke”… like reputation bankrupt-that we didn’t care how we looked or how many people unfollowed us, because for a time we were willing to do whatever it takes to turn the ship around.

3. Gather survey data

I’ve shared this before, but I work for a church. The man who started that church nearly 30 years ago literally set up a table outside local grocery stores and asked every single person 2 questions: “do you attend a local church?” (and if the answer was “yes” he said, “great have a nice day!”) If the answer was “no” he would ask them what it would take for them to attend.

Nearly 30 years later the church is in an exhaustive and groundbreaking review of all our strategies and processes currently used to reach people. What did nearly every single team (involved in the review process) come up with for today’s solutions in reaching folks? “Hey maybe we should survey some people?!”

Look, the principle is real straight forward: when you’re stuck in a rut and you wanna affect change you gotta make appeals for fresh vision.

4. Build new relationships above all

One of my most fundamental leadership learnings from 2016  was the value of sitting across the table from someone. Around the church we merely call them ‘coffee dates.’ We, all staff, are strongly urged to keep a healthy flow of meetings with people (hah, imagine that-a church that’s in the “people business”)… newcomers to the church, prospective volunteers, current inner-core leaders.

Fewer things have served as a greater platform for leadership maturity than sitting across the table from someone-building trust through simply knowing one another personally and elucidating character growth opportunities by listening to challenges and struggles.

This sort of interpersonal relationship building forges bonds, recreates communities and cements legacies.

5. Make sure to take someone with you

Finally, and this is no news here, but, as leaders: who we are and what we have is worth multiplying. There’s always someone who can learn and grow by watching you lead. Keep an eye out for who that is… could be someone who is already “just there” or could be someone you must intentionally invite along. Whatever the case, we are losing the art of apprenticing others and, if we aren’t careful, we’ll lose it all together.

What cause are you dragging your feet on getting mobilized about? What change do you see needs to be affected and what is one simple thing you can do to turn the ship one minor degree?

Work Ethic (And How To Hear From God)

Work Ethic (And How To Hear From God)

Have you ever sat there at your desk or workspace, in the car taking calls, in the kitchen while toddlers swirl, tug and scream… wherever the physical places are that you take up work and thought:

What is the point or real value to this tedious and redundant work… Here I am day after day chipping away at this seemingly rote behavior and what’s it all for?

There once was a man who understood the answer more profoundly than most. He was a 17th century dishwashing monk, his name was Brother Lawrence and I only learned of him very recently. But I’m very glad someone pointed me in the direction of Brother Lawrence.

He is best known for the published work “The Practice of The Presence of God,” which only served to present the way this remarkable man lived his very simple life all for the love, devotion and worship of God.

Ironically, it is said that Brother Lawrence, born Nicholas Herman, came to faith whilst in the military. Standing one day in the open field, gazing upon a barren tree-he realized its deciduous nature was a metaphor for human beings-capable of death and new life… it reminds me, squarely, of my last post by the way…

Here is a great snippet from the above link that represents a mantra for how Brother Lawrence lived his life, in which I would LOVE to emulate…

Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.

Anyway, the point is, the memory of this humble man could not have come at a more opportune moment for me as I dwell on purpose, focus and renewal for 2017.

For the week between Christmas and New Years I felt in a scramble to somehow artificially create some spark or revelation about the new year.

The truth is: I felt at a totally unoriginal loss of God’s voice, direction or newness.

And then it happened 2 or 3 days after New Years, where things were coming into focus and it was only THEN that I realized:

‘how hilarious it is… that we somehow believe that God’s revelation is dictated by a holiday or a ticking clock or a year-end or really any of our amusing human expectations.’

The revelation centered around three things, and it’s how, at this point in my life, I’ve learned to acknowledge God’s voice:

a word from a friend/mentor

The whole reason I’m even talking about “Brother Lawrence” is because of Jerry. While praying with me the other day, Jerry mentioned Brother Lawrence as, “the one who washed dishes if only for the love of God.”

Instantly, rather distractingly while he was still praying, I thought, ‘whoa, what the heck is he referencing right now?? Is that an author or a book I need to run out and purchase right now?’ There was just something that, in a brief utterance, struck me immediately about a person writing about washing dishes for Jesus that convicted me in that moment.

In other words, it spoke to me. It spoke to me in the way that the comment intersected with a personal need. I believe that is probably how God operates when he speaks. In fact, somewhere else I was reading recently that if only we could stop acting like we need to somehow drum up the activity of God and instead join the work that he is already actively creating on his own, we would be just fine.

That’s at least one way he speaks… if we are only willing to be patient and put ourselves in a position to listen.

a word from a movie

The next place I met with God, heard his voice, felt that conviction was after my wife and I went to see the movie La La Land. In short, it’s a musical about a struggling musician (Ryan Gosling) and a struggling actor (Emma Stone), who must fight to keep their dreams alive.

At this point I’m starting to see the constellation of aha moments that I’m chalking up to the actual voice of God. My conviction, what I now believe God was speaking, was patience and faith in the midst of waiting for action and next steps within doing God’s work.

Do you think it’s strange that God could use a ridiculous blockbuster film to speak to you? Well he was fond of using burning bushes, donkey’s, fire and all manner of natural forces… why couldn’t he use a hollywood movie? He will use ALL means by which he intends to fulfill ALL ends.

a word from a podcast

Next, rather I should say first, as this was earlier than the other two occurrences (but it’s funny how the first one doesn’t come into focus until it has been reinforced by 2-3 other things, moments, messages), was a podcast called Robcast (by Rob Bell).

In it Rob interviews Scott Reynolds, one of the key writers on the show Dexter, who shares his amazing slog of years at an L.A. bookstore before finally earning a position with a team of writers and then years still before he got his big break writing for Dexter for 7 seasons.

Now… now, this is not tenuous, this is not thinly veiled… this is thematic. And you cannot underrate God’s voice in the thematic.

And so yet again I’m hearing: patience, presence, take delight in the work that is in front of you, take nothing for granted, devote yourself to the very worthy work that you’ve already been given.

a word from my brother’s chosen profession

Finally as a connection-almost a thread that was woven between all of the above-I walked away from the film that day thinking of my brother David.

Dave has worked very hard to land a steady job in the film industry working in animation and effects, but his aspirations lie much bigger within the creative realm… directing.

And it was David, who saw the film too and we debriefed the meaning of the film, who made me think of the directors chair (you know that vaulted, boom directors chair typically with that guy sitting in it wearing a hat, glasses and headphones around his neck… whose never under 40 years old.)

I wondered to myself: ‘how many directors are there currently under the age of 50?’ I’m guessing not many. And for my brother David, just 28 this past December, how long of a road does he have yet ahead of him to get even close to a role like that?

Here I am thinking I should be the boss and run the world before I’m 30. What kind of wasted energy and thought leadership have I expended not fully devoting myself to the task and day at hand when so many others are patiently toiling?

But one of the key things in all of this is:

I almost missed it.

If I had not been paying attention, if I had not (very recently!) been trained to know who I am and what God’s word says, if I had simply be going my usual foolhardy speed in life… I could have missed it.

I’ve said it before, but one of the hallmarks of a strong leader is being a life-long learner.

Learn from my wrong behavior and attitude: don’t miss what God is speaking to you…

What connections can you make in your life right now that you’ve been avoiding or numbing, turning down the volume on? What do you feel God may be speaking to you by any means necessary?

Theology. (What’s Your Knowledge of God?)

Theology. (What’s Your Knowledge of God?)

It is said that more and more people, when asked about their belief system or religious association, are resonating more with the category of “none” than anything else.

You can read for yourself the full definition and statistical analysis of what I’m referencing, but it’s clear: more and more people just don’t find a personal connection with any sort of religious tribe or a personal savior God.

And it’s in the face of this growing trend that I would like to submit what is, potentially, a radical idea…

I personally believe that every single person living on this planet has been given two things as testament to the reality of God:

  1. An innate understanding… I believe that God is naturally revealed inside us. I think that being created in the image of God suggests that a piece of his character, identity, DNA… his “stuff” is literally hardwired into every single human being.
  2. An external natural order… I believe that if you look at the natural world around you, the “heavens and the earth” you cannot help but see the wonderful and awe-inspiring, oft-times inexplicable, characteristics of his created order (this planet, the universe, nature, etc).

Therefore, and here’s the zinger, anyone who claims that they do not believe (e.g. atheist, irreligious, “nones,”) is in a denial with what’s naturally inside and outside themselves that I cannot fathom.

He. is. all. around. us.

He is from within and from without.

And yes-there are a few verses I would like to include here in support of this theory. One from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament…

First check out Deuteronomy 30…

11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

This scripture is pretty heavy and pretty wonderful. In the modern Bible it’s kept under the paragraph heading “THE CHOICE OF LIFE OR DEATH.”

It’s given to the people of Israel right as they are on the doorstep of inheriting their promised land. Moses, hand-picked by God and one of the most incredible leaders of all time, is about to die and Joshua is about to take over the reigns.

It’s that very last sentence-verse 14 that struck me. To me it’s just like, ‘yeah, we don’t have to pretend that God’s law, i.e. God’s way of living life as prescribed in the Bible, is some sort of inane outlandish concept.

If you really look at it, if you look at his “law,” again-the Bible, and take it as a whole contextual work-cover to cover-it makes insane sense as instruction for living your life.

In other words, ‘the message is very close at hand, its naturally on your lips and in your heart’… if you read it, you would see.

Though every human was born capable of doing tremendous harm and wrong. It is the paradox of life that we are also fully aware of what is good, right and just. It’s close at hand. So the question I want to probe very early on here is:

Why are we in denial of this reality?

The next passage comes from the New Testament Book of Romans

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.[i] 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 2For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Again, I get the potentially radical and even “off-putting” nature of this passage, especially how it starts out… I mean the title heading for this section, “GOD’S ANGER AT SIN”…seems like your classic ‘fire and brimstone’ picket-sign-preacher message, but that’s not my main takeaway from this scripture…

Paul is writing here to an audience of “nones” from thousands of years ago-sure, but an audience of “nones” nonetheless (hah). What’s so relevant about this Roman audience is that they were just as “secular,” this city just as “filled with new ideas,” as any of ours today.

So I think this fits for our conversation here on multiple levels:

  1. It’s the precise audience I’m talking about for today. The labels and categories have changed, just like modern language has changed, but other than this-all things remain the same. It’s one of my favorite adages when it comes to the Bible, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”
  2. It speaks to this concept that God is revealed all around us; He as a personal, relational and tangible messiah and He is present and revealed.  Again I’ll say:

How can we deny this?

The first passage was written to believers. To religious insiders and God-fearers. So I will speak to those, here and now, for a minute:

Ask yourself: why have people  so increasingly associated with the word “nones” rather than with the name of Jesus… is it because they find his innate character within and without themselves so repulsive that they can’t help themselves but say, ‘ew, gross, no thanks, pass’…?

Not likely.

I would argue that they have us-our tribe, our culture, our church and our practice of our beliefs-as the repulsing agent.

Instead of being this stunning and immaculate bride of Christ, instead of being this irresistible community (that Israel was meant to be; that the Church was meant to be!), we reek.

And we need to set to work figuring out how we rectify this situation-by better working in and through culture JUST as Christ did by the way.

The second passage speaks to those outside the church and it is therefore why I turn to you next. If you are reading this and you find yourself in line with these inclinations (would rather be classified a “none” than be classified a “christian” or God forbid an “evangelical”), I would challenge you with this:

Why is it really that you have opted out of this message that is ‘on your lips and in your hearts’? What is the reason, for real, that you have chosen to reject ‘his eternal nature and divine power’ daily that engulfs us on all sides in this natural world?

I ask these questions because I would argue that you arrived here not out of a casual default, a gradual slide or drift. But rather an intentional decision. And at the root of every decision is a very personal motivation. So I say again: what’s your motivation? Or what’s your influence?

And I don’t probe this way for my sake. I ask for your sake.

I’ll end with this story…

I can remember as a child, probably around 10-years old asking my mom while lying in bed one night, “what about all the people around the world who may never get a chance to read a Bible or meet a Christian… how will they come to know Jesus?”

My mom responded by saying something to this effect, “the Bible says, ‘that even if there were no people around, even the rocks would bow down and worship.'” Of course I never took the time to look up what she was talking about, obviously, I was only 10.

But later I did. And it looks like she was talking about this passage right here:

“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”39 But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” 40 He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!
-Luke 19

My challenge is not to convert you through the internet. My challenge is, however, for you-those who are dechurched (left the faith) or those who are unchurched (have never believed anything)-what is the real and true cause of your disbelief?

And if you cite “logic” as your answer, I will just give you this one proviso: you have only done half the work of discerning belief because relationship with Jesus always has and always will be about the head-to-heart connection.

If you would be so kind (operative word here!), please leave questions you have, challenges you have, push back, reasoning you have in the comments section. Forward and post on friends sites who you think need to read this… lets start a conversation or continue one.