So Embarrasing it Must Be True (1 Way to Test Your Calling)

So Embarrasing it Must Be True (1 Way to Test Your Calling)

Have you ever felt so isolated or rogue in a certain decision, direction, mission or calling in your life that it was almost embarrassing to speak it out loud…?

Out of the many proofs for Jesus’ resurrection there’s this 1 that is commonly referred to as “The Embarrassment Test.”

Basically it says that-at the expense of telling the story as truthful and precise as possible-an author of history will include even the most embarrassing details.

There are several facts surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection that would fall under this category including the following:

  • That a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious Elite high council-the same one that carried out the very execution of Jesus) asked permission to give Jesus’ body a proper burial.
  • That, after Jesus was arrested in the garden, and again thereafter when Jesus is brought to the temple (Peter and his thrice denial of Jesus), all of his disciples turn tail and run.
  • Finally, the fact that the very first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb are recorded as having been women!

And it’s this last one that gets special attention…

They say the fact that Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary were present there at the tomb to testify how Jesus was risen is such a ludicrous and embarrassing element to include in the story because of one key thing:

The testimony of a woman in 1st century Greco-Roman culture was considered WORTHLESS! In legal proceedings it was considered equal to that of a robber. 

Women (and their word) were considered morally and intellectually bankrupt in that time. So as it pertains to the proof: because this detail is a major part of the narrative, then it is unlikely that someone is simply making this up.

I’ll give a more personal illustration…

My wife and I love dreaming about having another child. We have 5 as it is and I don’t have to be sitting next to you as you read this to imagine what your face looks like right now…

I know what your face looks like because I’ve seen the looks and stares and comments every time my wife and I go out for a walk with the 5.

Some people literally stop and stare. Some people stop us and say something. Most people just ogle and whisper to themselves as we walk by.

It’s not mean or nasty, its by and large probably just awestruckness… people ain’t never seen a family of 4 or 5 before… apparently… these days.

And my mom reminds me: it’s not just that we have so many but how close in age they are (5 under age 6)… which I submit is true.

In our town, in our context, in our community and even in our family and friends my wife is straight up embarrassed to even utter a word about her dream for giving birth to one more baby.

The other day she was processing, as we have done a dozen times before, her hearts cry… ‘are we crazy… is this wrong… can I do this…?’

In this moment, driving on the 5 freeway in the carpool lane (obviously) I was reminded of the embarrassment test of history, and I told my wife:

You know how I know this is right? Because, unless God was calling us to this, unless god himself had planted this desire deep in your heart, you would have to be a mad, crazy, weirdo to propose carrying and then delivering another baby whilst caring for 5 others!

I went on to say that the voice that matters now (besides God’s) is mine. And that, as hard as I try, I cannot come up with a reason, a hesitation or even a strong doubt that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do this.

I went further still and I affirmed our calling as parents-that we are both gifted in our wiring as mother and father to these children… and so long as God is willing to grant another one to us, it will be for the purpose of growing them up in one stinking righteous household.

So if God’s voice is clear

And if my voice is clear

Then there is only one voice left… the collective voices of this world.

And friends, I’m here to tell you (like I told my wife that morning on the freeway) that this voice is the one that matters least of all.

(FYI: if you’re not married find that one trusted mentor, friend or family member who knows you, your strengths and at least some of your true identity.)

If you’re looking to test if a certain thing is true, right or believable just try and get a sense for how embarrassing it might be or rather how much easier it would be to just leave it out.

I like to think of it like this: it’s so wrong it must be right. (Otherwise the author or originator of the story would have left it out!)

Now change gears from my calling to yours…

You’re currently the author of your life’s story. Well God is more the author, writer and director of the grand story, but as an actor in that story you are given a choice for the roles you play and how you play them.

My challenge question to you is: do you feel like you are seizing the decisions, directions and overall grand mission that God is nudging along through his Spirit?

If God is calling you to something, you have an obligation to walk into it… even if it would be considered worthless or embarrassing through the eyes of this world.

The question that remains is: what is it… what is that God-sized, God-breathed, outside this world mission, vision or calling that is beckoning you?

If you’re enjoying this blog; please repost and share! Thanks!

 

I Ran a Marathon, So Here’s What I Learned

I Ran a Marathon, So Here’s What I Learned

This may be some of the most important writing I’ve ever put down, let me just start that way.

A couple of weeks ago now I ran my first full marathon-it was a terrible and tremendous experience that I am still a little “mental” about even now weeks later, but I thought I would share my takeaways with you.

I do firmly believe that these learnings will serve you all he days of your life in an incredibly profound way. In your leadership, in your relationships, in your darkest hour, the following 5 takeaways will mark you if you take them to heart.

What I want you to understand about what follows it’s that everything I’ve written below is as true for life as it was for the marathon. I’ll say again: it’s as true for YOUR LIFE, as it was for me in this marathon experience.


  • As much as I try to get around it, chose the right attitude about it, I simply can’t deny the fact that I’m resenting myself for not committing to my goals…

I had two goals going into the race: 1, to not take any walking breaks and 2, to finish by 4 hours. I failed to see either of those goals through.

As of now, I won’t ever run that race again and so that was my chance. There’s a lesson here about going for broke because there’s “no looking back”-that’s the mentality I should have had on the last 3 miles of the race.

Literally that’s where I fell apart, that’s where I walked the most, that’s where I picked up the extra 8 minutes-finishing 4:08:59 officially… I feel like I will be forever staring down those extra 9 minutes.

So here’s the 1st principle:

Honor your commitments so you don’t have to ever look back.

  • It hurts but I wasn’t hurt.

As a runner in this type of game, at least in my mind, I was expecting some kind of injury toward the end, just one misstep that would have me really really uncomfortable-like beyond the normal stiffness-and this would be the true mental battle of finishing well or finishing at all.

An injury like something pulled, something popped, something even chaffed badly enough to forge through.

The truth was far less complicated than that: yes, I was sore and stiff, but I was not injured in any way. My discomfort was marginal.

I walked simply because I didn’t want to run anymore. I just wanted to stop. I was having almost a toddler tantrum. That day I learned something very serious about my mental toughness.

You are tougher than you think. You are tougher than even you body tells you or your circumstance tells you or whatever input you’re being given; don’t always buy the input or at least question where the input is coming from.

  • You can’t do this thing alone.

I knew that I would want some people to come out and support at some basic, self-deprecating level, but I grossly underestimated my fundamental emotional need for moral support that day.

In addition to the $100 entry fees, I would have paid people to be at several strategic locations to cheer me on and give me that emotional boost. And I would have been counting on them.

Actually I would have liked to be surprised by some and counting still on others. At a marathon, at really most any organized race, there is this fabulous league of volunteers who hold out mini water and Gatorade cups and they cheer and hoot and holler and it’s pretty cool.

And then you even have your fellow runner standing next to you (perhaps the few unlike me with headphones buried in their ears), which brings a certain emotional solidarity and camaraderie-and seriously even this one can’t be underrated because when you’re pacing, you stay around some familiar faces for quite a time.

But still I needed more. And that’s what I realized about myself… I desperately needed people to be there…

…at mile 19 right before “the wall” and then truthfully at the middle of every mile till the end of the race… mile 22, mile 23, miles 24 through 26 and don’t forget the .2

You can’t do this race alone.

  • Expectations are not reality. If I could somehow insert an audio loop of that phrase repeating over and over again in your head right now, whilst simultaneously getting louder and louder each time, I would.

I ran and I trained and I sweat and I prepped and I practiced-mentally and physically! I told myself all the things I would need to know, I trained really as much as I could, but nothing prepared me for the unexpected turns, distances and feelings that lied ahead.

Why? Because by and large expectations-good, bad or otherwise-will never match reality. So what’s the positive learning?

Always expect the unexpected. 

  • Find a mantra and like a psycho repeat it to yourself (out loud if you’re able). 

Talking to myself, out loud, with headphones in was literally the only thing that made me cross that finish line at a “run” rather than a walk (which to me was the image of actual failure-to pass the finish line walking).

Something remarkable did happen because of the person running next to me, I was walking and this guy about my size and stamina was jogging but just this slow and steady pace, so slow it was barely above my walk and I thought to myself, ‘maybe I should try that’… And so I did.

Mind you I had already totally caved on whatever “pace” I was aiming at before so whatever level I was attempting before this point was already near a crawl, but there was something about this guy’s slow and steady march that I decided to try it on.

And then for no reason at all I just start repeating to myself out loud:

‘just stay right here… just stay right here… just stay right here…’

I’m just telling you folks: this was the moment… this was the emotional (spiritual) breakthrough for me.

This was the moment when my entire life would be served by this one lesson. I said to myself, ‘slow and steady, just small short little steps, just keep trotting, that’s it, that’s it…’

In that moment I was coaching myself, in that moment I was the encouragement, in that moment I was two people: the one running and the one talking to the runner.

My biggest regret is that literally this second person didn’t come out earlier, just 2 miles earlier even and then who knows what happens to my finish time goal. But that’s still not the point, the point is the life lesson:

There is immense power in the mantra, with some positive self talk you can do almost anything. 

One week later and I’m still having a hard time thinking about the race because I did not meet my goals. However, there are pride points too…

I finished just in time to make an appearance 30 minutes later at my new church job. 3 days later it was my 9-year anniversary, a reminder really of what that marriage has produced… FIVE KIDS!

And to have trained and finished a race at this point in my life was actually the whole purpose to begin with.

And then someone said something to me recently that shook me to the core that hopefully gives you equal pause: my unmet goals were still within the plan of a totally sovereign God so dwell on that instead.

I think my ultimate realization is this:

In life, in leadership, in work, you can have an unmet goal and still achieve your purpose, but it’s critical to keep the bigger learning and mission in mind.

Please repost and share if you think there’s someone who needs to read this, thanks!

I Went to Jail Last Week (Fostercare and Freedom)

I Went to Jail Last Week (Fostercare and Freedom)

Last week I had the very unique privilege of visiting the birth mom of our most recent foster baby at the OC women’s correctional facility.

It was an experience I’ll never forget because of the sights and sounds, but really because of one moment in particular…

I was sitting at one of the visitation windows (with the concrete stool and phone-just like the movies) with my back to the glass looking at the view.

It was a very small box of an outdoor gated yard. I don’t think it’s used for anything (though it has the look of a prison yard break area), because although there is a high-rising gate, there is no doorway to enter from the building into the yard.

Stretching high above this outdoor area you can get a view of the face of the correctional facility. It’s a grey, non-descript, concrete, dreary looking facade with only slits of what must be windows cut at various places into the concrete… I am assuming these upper corridors are were the inmates are actually housed.

A place with no windows and no doors… a concrete mass as tough and hard as rock itself… from this vantage point you get the feeling like the building can’t breath…

Well imagine the people housed within it.

And that was my epiphany in this moment-sitting there with my back to the visitation window:

this place is the physical manifestation of no freedom.

For most people reading this you probably think, ‘duh there’s no freedom… it’s a prison… that’s the definition and essence of a prison…’

You may even be thinking: ‘architectural success!’ (If you’re particularly out of touch with humanity), but I assure you in that moment all the freedoms and privileges that I have been granted were suddenly thrust into penetrating pellucidity.

The week prior my wife had made the visit and came back shook to her core.

For starters, she had no idea what to expect… from parking to paperwork to grumpy prison guards, dirty, worn and cold passageways all the way down to the moment that she would meet our little foster baby’s momma.

The woman, for starters, was white. (Our foster baby is black). And from there, a list of subtle facial features and personality traits that spoke to the very hard worn path this woman must have walked. That we know she’s walked-from her own admission, court filings and the testimonies of social workers, etc.

The experience was harsh. And it’s safe to say that after a very trying couple of days already for Rylee (sick kids, sick herself, massive scheduling conflict with her husband) it was the straw that broke the camels back.

And my wife is one tough cookie mind you… she’s the same one that, while in college, did a home stay with an, I’ll say “complex,” family in Compton (while she lived in LA for a whole semester).

If that weren’t enough training and exposure to the context of how others live, she spent another stint living alone in Uganda where she spent her days tucked in crammed vans, riding on the back of motorcycles with foreign men and going to the bathroom in a whole in the ground (literally).

The prison and the people had rattled her.

Whatever Rylee’s expectation was, I had enough data points to go on for my visit the following week.

And not only that, but during the past 3 years a combination of working in our particular neighborhood of Costa Mesa while being a large church facility, has drawn in a very wide array of people from the street.

Some addicts, some mentally ill, some just merely transient. Over the years I’ve sat with them and prayed, sat with them and tried to find local services, sat with them and said, ‘no, sorry we can’t give you any money.’

But more than that, sitting with all those people I have this collection of faces-toothless and scarred and dirty and worn that have probably given me a unique insight into this mostly unseen community of people.

These folks… they’re not free. Not any more or any less than baby’s momma who’s locked up isn’t free.

Here’s my point: freedom is given and it is chosen. How we use the freedom we are given determines the future boundaries of that freedom. It can run unfettered or it can be restrained to a drop. It’s all a matter of how we invest the freedom we’ve been given.

And of course I would argue-using a Biblical worldview-that all freedom comes from God. The closer we are to him and the closer we pursue His suggested way of life-the closer we are to the purest form of freedom imaginable.

But most of us, not just these folks listed above in the more extreme examples, like to fiddle around and throw away our God-given freedoms.

Here are some ways I think we toss our freedom to the wind and some things that all leaders must be aware of in their own self-leadership:

  • We are free to chose our identities and yet they somehow are never fully committed. While we are not free to chose our race, gender or ethnicity we are totally free to chose the core convictions that form our life legacy. All leaders who wish to lead themselves well must understand that those 3 (race, gender, ethnicity) are only the foundation for everything else to build on.
  • We are free to chose the way we exercise our calling and yet most of us never really pick up our gifts and use them. How many of you even now-reading this post-resent 40 hours a day/5 days a week? Is that a joke?! Do you know what that amounts to over years, let alone a whole lifetime?!
  • We are free to channel our time, talent and treasure for the good of others yet most of us seldom ever do. Whether it’s allowing our finances to flounder into eventual garage stockpiles, endless goodwill clothes runs or even eating out 20/30 days in the month… whether it’s sharpening our God-given talent into weapons for world change… or whether it’s the ultimate irreplaceable commodity-our time. Turning all of these things into overflow so we can radically bless people outside ourselves seems to never make it onto the table.

  • We are free to build a family around a radical vision (much bigger and more complicated than to ‘ensure our species goes on’) yet most of us are content to let our kids grow up on the ‘non plan plan’
  • We are free to pray for and visit those who are sick, naked, hungry or imprisoned and yet we will go our whole lives before lifting one single finger.

The ball is in your court. What freedoms are currently being wasted in your life… or at least strongly under-invested? I would love to hear about your honest processing in this!

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Recently I was reminded of one of my most profound learnings from 2016… the danger of abdicating. (And the power that exists on the other side of abdication… walking into the fullness of what you’re called to do.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of abdicating is someone leaving a throne room in some far off distant land or time.

And in truth, that’s probably because we relegate the term to those sole sources of history or literature where, in fact, someone is giving up or renouncing their power.

Therein lies the gist of the dictionary definition, but honestly the more I look at this world the more enthralled I become with its meaning, significance and potential.

Ab*di*cate

To formally relinquish power, office or responsibility 

[Latin abdicāre, abdicāt-, to disclaim : ab-, away; see ab-1 + dicāre, to proclaim; see deik- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

ab′di·ca·ble (-kə-bəl) adj.
ab′di·ca′tion n.
ab′di·ca′tor n.

It’s like to ‘disclaim’ away your power, office or responsibility.

As people we love to bail on our jobs & responsibilities, in so doing we forfeit the very essence and power of leadership.

The reason that this word carries such weight with me is not its Latin linguistic origins, it’s because of the word’s origins in the Bible.

Like most good ideas, this concept of calling… of vocation… of purpose and meaning comes from the Bible. The concept of what we are called into, which is fundamentally about identity, has a rich and extensive biblical reference.

And I will be your Father and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty -2 Samuel 7

I mean seriously? At first glance, we kind of take all that for granted… ‘oh yeah sure we are his children… right he is our father… what a cute little so-called family…’

Like nearly so many references in scripture I fear that the terms are almost too familiar so they are in danger of becoming too garden variety, generic or watered down.

Quick identify recap according to this foundational biblical truth: if we are his sons and daughters and he is our Father and he is also Lord Almighty-that is to say: supreme king, ruler, the sole universal source of power and authority-this means that we are his heirs, we are his inheritors, we are his princes and princesses.

We are called to co-rule, co-create, co-reign…. great power and authority has been vested in us.

So you have an identity… you also have a power… that means you have options… leverage that power or abdicate that power.

I’ve already sought to establish from day 1 of this blog that all people are leaders… leaders of themselves, leaders of their children, leaders of their household, leaders of employees and organizations. If you are a leader of some thing then great power has been vested in you.

Will you leverage the power or abdicate the power?

I figure we abdicate in 3 major areas…

1, we abdicate in our marriages

Here’s what I know:
We abdicate in the way that we don’t pray for our spouses.
We abdicate in the way that we don’t make sex a priority.
We abdicate in the way that we put other things (kids, work, hobby) ahead of our spouse.

First, notice that I strategically use the word, “we” in each of these… I’m guilty in every one of these areas. And they are ordered pretty closely as well. Prayer is always the 1st and easiest hold out. Who has time to pray?

Or if we do it is “all day… as I’m driving and walking and cooking and working”-yes that is a good and wonderful thing in the life of a believer when we can be in some sort of constant prayer, but it’s also not the same as a devoted, concerted, set apart prayer discipline. And that’s what is needed in covering our spouses with prayer…

Prayer for protection against the enemy.
Prayer for what troubles or ails her.
Prayer for wisdom, guidance, purpose.
Prayer for grace and mercy. (Hello-Kids!)

Sex. Yep, sex… Some how, some way, God smiled upon my wife and I by sending a small handful of couples into our lives really over the last 4 years who have stressed the importance of intentional intimacy as the bedrock foundation for all else in the lifeblood of a marriage.

And that’s simply the truth of God’s gift of sex: it is the forging of all other securities. This physical intimacy breads all the other intimacies needed: emotional, spiritual… even financial!

I mean think about it, you can’t (not in good conscience) come together in this intimate fashion, with things drastically at odds in those areas, but even if you have felt recent tension in one of those areas, the coming together from 2 to 1 has an absolutely mysterious and powerful effect on bridging those gaps of where we were missing each other… emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially.

2, we abdicate in our vocation

We abdicate in our calling.

This abdication has two levels: 1, when we carelessly throw aside key aspects of our job description-our actual functional calling-we abdicate. And 2, when we refuse to carry the Light of the World with us into our individual sectors and industries we abdicate spiritually.

But when you think about it: both are bad witnesses. 1, when we show a lack of care for our work product, what does that say about our character->our heart->our God?

And of course 2, when we don’t seek to emulate Jesus in the way we act, talk and treat others while at work, what does that say about our faith being a worthy endeavor for others to inquire about…?

3, we abdicate in our parenting

It’s sad you know because recently at a group book study, when I was reminded all over again-the power of this word, I realized that our abdication has a certain unwieldy multiplying effect.

Take for example refusing to have the tough conversations with your children… hearing them, understanding them, spending time with them when you walk in the door.

Well when they-only a few years down the road-begin acting up and lashing out, how long before we finally conclude (based on even the counsel of good people) that they just need professional counseling or therapy?

(*Disclaimer: I’m not saying that therapy is bad for kids, teens and adults… of course it has its place! I’m talking about here the concept of preventable bahvior and character lapses due to OUR abdication as the primary developmental leads in the home!)

That would be a primary abdication that breeds a secondary abdication. We dropped the ball on seeing them, listening to them, sharing in process with them and then to compound that abdication we shipped them off.

Therein lies the cyclical nature of our abdication in parenting.

Abdication breeds abdication. Abdication multiplies abdication. Abdication supports and confirms more abdication!

Anytime we do not invest the time, effort and energy on the front end of things, we succumb to the assault of abdication.


But there’s a flip side because just as our abdication has a multiplying effect for weakness and loss, when we seize our God-given identities and authorities the power that comes with THAT has a radically multiplying affect too!

Where have you recently abdicated and sense the need to lean back in?

Leaving Well…

Leaving Well…

So I know this post was supposed to be about leaving well, but it turns out I had to write about something much more important: what I’m leaving with

You should consider both things, don’t get me wrong, but I think anyone can leave well. It takes a leader (as a learner) to know the blessing and benefit of what they leave with.

I’ll explain… 

At the end of the month I have a job transition and the truth is that long before this transition was eminent I knew full well that I would carry with me countless (and newly acquired) skills. However, more than that, I would take with me a deeper sense of character and relationships into the next thing. I want to share about two of those things below but first…

After nearly 3 years at the Crossing Church (a Non-denominational, Evangelical church where I worked since August, 2014), I will be leaving at the end of April to take up a new position at the church I first came from that summer nearly 3 years ago (Watermark OC Church).

It is a decision that has been weighed and measured and is still very bittersweet as we have built many relationships over those years. Relationships with staff, relationships with families and relationships with some of the most amazing volunteers and leaders in the whole world.

There are two more relationships that, while they have ended in an hourly work sense, have made an incredibly enduring impact on my life, my leadership, my view of the world, even my view God.

The first relationship is with the mission and vision of this church organization.

Which, ever since 1988-when it would have been far more radical even that it is today-has remained the same potent mix of belief in the command to reach those outside the church and actually living that command within every church program, ministry, message and person.

I have often described the mission and vision of this place as intoxicating or addictive. It’s the type of purpose or motivation that will make you want to forsake every other thing in your life to pursue. It’s that way not just because it sounds good on paper, but because the church actually lives it out.

For the past 3 years I sat in a room with fellow staff members and celebrated all that God has done and all that we witnessed-small moments of people making a subtle turn in their lives along with truly unbelievable stories of complete life transformation.

And I’ve alluded to this reality before but the proof is in the pudding as far as the types of “all people” who are welcome at this place… for starters, nonbelievers. 

From there every other type of “atypical” person you wouldn’t expect to see at church. Homeless, drunk, addicted or in recovery, gay, straight, black, white, Latino and Asian-we’ve baptized them all, we’ve sat next to them all and we’ve suggested that they all deserve the grace of God in their lives.

But it’s one thing to say and it’s another thing to do, we all know that axiom to be true, but this church-because of the mission and vision that has driven it these nearly 30 years-is the real deal.

The second relationship that has forever marked me is this church’s founding and senior leader-Tim.

It’s difficult to synthesize and communicate the ways in which Tim’s leadership has impacted me as a person, pastor, leader because I’ve watched him as closely as I could over these past 3 years and there’s so much you can learn from a person like Tim-himself an insatiable life-long learner.

The first thing though is just how entirely flat-out obsessed (possessed?) he is about playing a part in seeking and saving those who are lost.

I’ll give it to you mathematically first, but it is a universally known fact (on staff) that Tim’s given 24-hour day looks a little different than yours or mine.

For starters he invests only 5 hours in sleep.
He wakes up at 3:30am he invests 2-3 more hours working out… everyday, literally everyday.
From then on, he invests in the people and work of the Church.

I know that, for Tim, its an all out assault on seeing the mission and vision realized (i.e. to see people say yes to Jesus in every way and phase of their lives).

He takes morning meetings with newcomers and new believers as early as 6am, back to back to back 2-hour staff meetings throughout the day and he goes and goes and goes because he believes with the core of his being that living every ONE day-investing those hours in the things and people that matter most-is the highest call of any person on earth.

I’m not trying to make him out to be some sort of mini-messiah or Jesus Jr. I’m just trying to show you that the depths of this man’s care for the lost and his grit to introduce them to Jesus have now formed a piece of my own DNA and I’m forever changed because of him.

And I have a feeling I’m not the only one, by the way. Because the other thing I’ll say about Tim is that it’s all about tenure-which I wrote about a couple weeks ago, but his commitment and resolve (and I do mean RESOLVE, because being a pastor ‘aint the easiest job around… well it is, if you don’t mind knives in your back and forces of darkness on your shoulders) for the better part of 3 decades to stay the course is, to me, one of the most remarkable legacies I’ve ever heard of (and it’s filled with the new lives of people).


And while I could site loads of big conceptual things from this relationship that have marked me, I will descend to what may seem like the smallest and seemingly most insignificant example. I want to end by talking about pieces of trash…

Yep, pieces of trash. One of the things that Tim always instilled in us staff was an owner mentality. And employees who think like owners-they don’t wait for janitors or gardeners to pick little remnants up here and there, they don’t assume its someone else’s job; they pick it up, because they have an owner mentality.

I share this example for 2 reasons: 1, to illustrate the high levels of character that Tim is spreading through his example and 2, to explain what leaving well really looks like…

Because you may be familiar with the data on employees who over-stay the “two weeks notice” industry standard… it typically doesn’t work for most people… they become well… useless.

And even as my impending transition ensues and that little voice inside my head says, ‘that piece of trash doesn’t matter, you won’t be here next month anyway…’ I know what I must do in the face of what is truthfully a character challenge.

The high call of character is to answer that voice by doing the right thing. ‪The high call of character is to answer that “morally flexible” voice in your head by doing the very thing you doubt matters enough. ‬

So I know this hasn’t been the typical, take these 5 pointers/self-help blog post but I guess I would say if you are preparing to transition in your workplace begin thinking about what you’re going to take with you and I’m not talking about staplers or quality pens or severance.

I’m talking about the personal, emotional and spiritual leadership skills, takeaways, competencies and yes especially relationships-good, bad or otherwise-that you will take with you to the next stage, place and people that will serve and guide you there.

I’ve told people repeatedly over the last month that this transition is bittersweet. Bitter because of the transition from the people I love. Sweet because I have the utmost in hopeful expectation of what I get to leave with and take to the next chapter of ministry that God has ahead of me at Watermark. 

Thanks to all sincerely for taking the time and thanks for your support!

Coaching For Tenure: 5 Things My High School Coach Did That You Should Too

Coaching For Tenure: 5 Things My High School Coach Did That You Should Too

The other day-completely out of the blue-I met some random guy at a birthday for toddlers who knew my High School volleyball coach, who is a coach himself in the region and had nothing but good things to say about my former coach.

Then, literally, that night I got a text message from that very same coach-my coach from High School!

So he was just reminding me (and I imagine maybe over 300 others) about an upcoming alumni volleyball match, but I responded and then we had a back and forth over the next hour…

It was the weirdest and coolest thing and it got me thinking about rock solid, tenured coaches… and what makes a great coach.

The first confession I have (besides to humbly confess being a totally hopeless glory days guy) is that I have a huge respect for people who have committed to their calling, piece of work or particular endeavor really for any length of time over 10 years, but when you start getting into the 20+ category I’m just kind of awed.

To do something, to do one thing, do it well and do it for a long time…to me, this is one of the ultimate tests of legacy. And this applies to all given commitments: work, family, faith… over time we may become legacy leaders in them all. 

Having that chance encounter with an old coach, mentor, leader made me think of his traits… I’m hoping they are transferable for us all.

So what made Conti so good…?

He cared about character and integrity…

It was apparent to me that Conti’s main objectives were not necessarily success, winning, producing or even championships. His aim seemed to be deeper than that… he was up to something-almost like he was trying to get at something-he was a miner of character.

To this day (after 10 years!) I have no idea what his religious affiliation is, but he is one that I would put in the category of: he seems more Christian than some Christians I know. 

While I’m not laying out some form of “he was just a really good guy” moral relativism, what I will say is: you could see his heart, you could see the value he carried and his consistency in it all makes you think, geeze if only so-called ‘Christ-followers’ were as much a shining example in the world just imagine what kind of influence we could garner

The beauty of this principle is for 99% of my readers-who are not clergy by the way, who don’t work for an ostensibly faith-based organization-is that from wherever you are, you can make the intentional decision to let your standard operating procedure reflect huge amounts of character and integrity. (Which, by the way, can be an explosive platform for having faith discussions!)

He made us work our freaking tails off…

At the time I seldom ever enjoyed it, but it resulted in a section championship our senior year amongst many many other intangibles. We had 6am weight training, work in the sand in the afternoon in the off-season. And when season was in high gear it was 3-4 hour practices each afternoon/early evening. It was sprints, it was strict enforcement, it was limit-testing, it was challenging and competitive, it was a brilliant environment for testing and building grit.

I’m not a fan of over-working folks and no one is a fan of forcing people into burn out seasons, but the principle here is this: when you build the discipline and grit of ‘go long’ seasons you carry a certain resilience and character that will inform every other area of your life.

He was, and is now, simply tenured…

He’s worked for my alma mater for 22 seasons now that has produced 6 sectional championships (runner-up in another 7) and 2 state championships. But its what’s behind the facts and figures that make him the man and coach he is today: consistency and commitment… above average amounts of it I would say.

The attribute this makes me think of is follow through. As I’ve mentored men over the last couple years it’s actually been one of my favorite mantras of real manhood. I’ve tried to inspire in others the basic principle which is simply that a defining character trait of real men is keeping their word and seeing things through.

Being where you say you’re going to be, keeping commitments, showing up consistently well over extended periods of time. That’s a legacy to stand on.

Great leaders have excellent follow-through… it’s the hallmark of a tenured coach, mentor or people developer.

He kept his cool…

I don’t ever remember him becoming emotional in any kind of ill-tempered way, he never raised his voice above what a mid-game, high intensity moment required.

I have come to learn (as I’ve worked under great leaders and, conversely, seen the negative tendency inside myself) that all great leaders and coaches have a tremendous ability to remain unemotional.

And I do not mean that they don’t have or express feelings. I’m talking about crossing the inappropriate bounds of becoming angry or impatient (and hence partial, irrational… perhaps even nonsensical!); this includes the passive aggressive in us all too.

Conti wasn’t that way… In fact, what I have also learned about myself over the years is that I want to appease people through my achievement and performance. 

I, like maybe some of you, have a chronic fear of somehow ending up in my supervisor’s cross hairs of rebuke or criticism, because I did something wrong. And one of the few times that I ever I got called out on that team was when I became too emotional in the middle of a game-lashing out at another player for their mistake.

Great leaders are emotionally strong this way. Not guarded and impenetrable, but they don’t ‘go red.’ I think you get the metaphor, but actually it was a personality inventory that I was reminded of recently… it explains the processing pathway of all people when faced with pressure or stress. Everyone has different pathways and stages of arriving at an emotional level. It’s just some people flash much quicker and more directly to ‘red’… as leaders we can’t let that be us.

He took the long view…

He clearly must have understood that his job was about developing minds and young men far more than any win or championship, because even in our most rivaled and playoff losses it seemed like he had something else in mind.

It was never just about the game, it was never just about winning. It was about the journey, the development and the learning. When we showed up to practice late, we’d have a punishment but we’d also have a principle… Coach would say, “do you think when you get a real job one day they’ll just let you come in whatever time you like…?!” That was about developing us into young men, it was about preparing us for future realities. When you take the long view, it’s understanding that all this work on the ‘here and now’ is really an investment in the ‘then and there.’

I’ll put it this way: our legacies as ‘people developers’ is in the small moments. The pressing ‘here and now’ stuff in the traffic of everyday life is never just about that moment. It always has the potential to build into something much bigger, broader, deeper.

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.

Tips:

  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?