Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

I have exciting things coming in 2018 that I can’t wait to tell you about but for now let me leave you with this question…

Are you a leader people love to follow?

As 2017 comes to a close, we all find ourselves at the wonderful intersection of looking back and looking forward.

(Don’t miss that part by the way-looking back. There’s learnings and lessons and all the good with the bad; you’d be a fool if you didn’t devote a serious portion of your thought life and let all of that inform you goals, hopes and dreams for 2018).

As you look back and look ahead, I want you to ask that question and I’ll be doing the same.

To get you started, I want to give you a surprisingly beautiful picture of why, of all the questions, this should be the question for you in 2018.

And I want us all to be reminded of our legacies in this picture. That’s what the end and beginning of each year builds anyway-our lifelong legacies.

It happened early this month watching (for the first time) the mid-century classic White Christmas with the wife and kids.

There’s this opening scene on the front lines of WWII and if you know anything about the film, of course, the guys break out in song.

It is the content of this one old Hollywood musical classic that is haunting me… and it goes like this:

We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go

Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe

We’ll stay with the old man wherever he wants to stay

Long as he stays away from the battle’s fray

Because we love him, we love him

Especially when he keeps us on the ball

And we’ll tell the kiddies we answered duty’s call

With the grandest son of a soldier of them all

I mean part of it is a satire because they only wanna follow him so long as he steers clear of any danger, and yet we all know that part’s not the picture of real life-hence the satire.

Real life is a battle; you’ll face foes both spiritual and natural-this was true in 2017 like it’ll be true in 2018. The defining moment for every leader is the repeated facing of decisions through conflict. Those who fought in WWII and any conflict since then would assuredly attest to this.

So if you can take the satire for what it is, then it’s: “We love him… we’ll follow him wherever he goes…”

That’s influence you cannot buy.
That’s a leadership built on love.
That’s a legacy of fear-no-evil followership.

The romantic side of me loves the military allusion and respects the character required to attain the rank of General (who this song is devoted to).

The Jesus-follower in me understands the fundamental difference between leadership by power, force, merit, rank or even pay and leadership by humility, compassion and peace-brokering martyrdom.

Which one inspires you more? Which one would you give your life for?

You think the disciples felt that way about Jesus? I bet you they did. Every last one of them followed him all the way to their own gruesome deaths. All for the leader they loved.

Can and will your people say the same? Your kids… your staff… your team… your employees… your church?

Man I sure hope so.

And because I know I’m not there yet, I want to be willing to have the passion, grit and discipline to do the things necessary to get there… starting today, tomorrow and 2018.

What are some of your hopes for 2018?

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Have you ever had something in your head that you needed to get out? Some vision, idea, program, talk, training, “how-to” guide… some thing you needed to move from abstract constellation of thought into a clearly outlined, usable thing?

When I was transitioning from my last church job my supervisor-a man whose analytical genius is always bent toward better execution-suggested that I write down a general who, what, when, where, why for my successor. 

When we would check in for our weekly 1:1s, a greater and greater percentage of our time was devoted to passing the baton (of information and how-tos) well.

During our time together he would drive me deeper and deeper into cataloging the most important standard operating procedures held under the 2 or 3 major hats that I wore. 

I will never forget what he said one day toward that end. He said very simply, “we need to get what’s in your head out.”

As basic as that might sound it triggered something in me…

For starters it made me think: what are the hundreds of little things I do each day that no one knows about, that’s not in writing somewhere, that no one told me to do, but it effectively gets my job done. 

And while, at the end of my transition time, I did not produce a list with every one of those hundred items, I was able to produce the broader strokes of my past deliverables. 

The second thing my supervisor’s comment triggered was a an affirmation of this blog actually. 

The whole point behind this writing discipline was two-fold: 

1, as an external tool to inspire, influence and ignite something in others and;

2, as an internal tool of recapping all that I had learned in the past year-a sort of personal development journal for the sake of never forgetting all the amazing takeaways.  

Herein lies the first principle of what I will call Standard Mental Operating Procedure Extraction or SMOPE for short:

(1) SMOPE requires a pause in our daily mental activity so that we may become more conscious of what’s behind our daily decisions and actions. 

The answer to my rhetorical question above (have you ever had something in your head that you wanted to get out?) is: of course you have. Everyone has…

I just think that most people sell themselves short on this level of thought life and ideation.

Most people will go about their work and leadership never having given a second thought to why it is they do a certain thing the way they do!

And that is a fundamental component of principle #1: it’s not pausing to think about what you just decided or did, it’s pausing to reflect how or why you did it that way. 

I should back up and give some definition 

SMOPE is the standard operating procedure of your mind. You do it, almost unconsciously, every single day… you plan, you act, you execute.

And there is most certainly a very particular mental model or procedure you use that you could go your whole life never thinking about distilling or bottling that very good thing in order for your very good “way” to ever go beyond yourself.

This brings me to point number two…

(2) SMOPE is all about extending your legacy beyond yourself. 

Whether it’s in the example I listed above about a simple job transition or it’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company working through a major succession, the difference between good and great is extension beyond yourself. 

Why is this so critical-the ability to pass your excellent mental methods of success and growth? Here’s an example from both the church and marketplace context. 

Take the multi-level marketing example. Say what you will about them, the bottom line is this: you have a product or service that, assuming authentic quality, you can spread like wildfire through multiple tiers of people leading others and multiplying their methods. 

In other words they train and equip those below them to achieve similar results.

Now whether it’s multi-level marketing or just any scalable business where you include the large-scale training of people, there was someone along the way who distilled and bottled what was in their head.

The companies and organizations who have the best ability to do this will also continue a proven legacy that goes beyond any founder or CEO.

The church belief and process of discipleship is no different. This example is one of the most deeply held beliefs of our organization.

Jesus did it; Jesus commanded it and it is essentially the one central model, method, vehicle-whatever you want to call it-way to spread the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection and grow the church. 

Now, even though there may be no two churches alike in what they will call their discipleship process or system, the point remains the same: Jesus took what was in his head, heart, spirit he spoke about it, he lived it and he invited 12 other men along to see, do and multiply. 

The churches and faith-based organizations that create a plan for discipleship (and actually work their plan!) will also experience a proven legacy that extends across the generations. 

There’s another thing you should know about SMOPE.

(3) SMOPE is the ability to move from unknown, unformalized, unstandardized (however, not random) thought life to a clearly outlined and action-oriented system of organization.

This is the crux of the issue. It’s one thing to pause and intentionally think about the why and how behind your decisions and actions. It’s another thing entirely to distill and bottle that product into a clear and scalable tool.

This third principle and step is really where you will live. While it is truly an ongoing discipline to begin holding every thought captive (and training your people to do the same!), the main gear and life-cycle of this process is slowly and intentionally taking the mental operating procedure and putting it into tangible malleable material. 


Closing Thoughts:

As 1 of the top 5 fastest growing restaurant chains in America, Chic-fil-A just opened it’s 2000th restaurant… that is not a typo. That is not an extra 0. TWO THOUSANDTH location. 

I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me (and I know there are chains with more locations in the world), but I sat amazed when I read this in a Business Insider article weeks ago! And I’m still talking about it so there! 

I mean how many reference points can you have for thinking about a scaled, legacy-oriented thing like that. 

And it’s not like someone said one day, ‘well this whole selling chicken thing is going well, how about we open another store and go on ahead and let the managers of that place just do whatever they see fit in their own eyes’

NOOOOO they said, ‘here’s what makes us great now go and do the same… cause we took the time to distill and bottle that sucker!’

Consider a more personal example: maybe you’re a high level leader or maybe you know a high level leader (that’s all of you!) we have a tremendous opportunity to make sure that the following conundrums recieve an excellent response…

What was that marketing method he or she used in a down market?

How was it that he/she filed that year during tax season?

What did he/she always do with that one difficult customer?

How did he/she deal with litigation in this one case?

That high level leader and, who knows, maybe the executive team who worked with that leader for years-they know the how and why behind their standard operating procedures but shoot, does anybody else outside their own brain space?!

Action:

Regardless of your position in the organization, take a step today and catalog, record, WRITE DOWN the why or how behind a few things (just 1 thing even!) that you do well within your scope of responsibilities… you have no idea; it could just be the thing that gets distilled and bottled to over 24,000 locations in 74 countries (Starbucks)…

 

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 breeds 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. â€ŞThe 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!

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?

Where Do You Go For Answers? 

Where Do You Go For Answers? 

I once had a text message exchange with a friend and former restaurant co-worker about why he didn’t believe in God.

Having been raised culturally Jewish, now in his twenties, Jason would probably associate as agnostic or the ever-growing “none” category. And one of his statements was so succinctly telling (it did literally fit in the form of a text message after all).

He said: “what reason do people have left to believe when we now have the Internet?” In essence he was saying: the quest for knowledge and information is over! The questions of life can be so easily discerned from the click of a button and a simple google search!

No more need for an out of touch, out of sight, out of relevance God when we are now living in the wildly proliferated Information Age!

I thought to myself: holy crap that’s so true for people isn’t it… When it doubt, when facing a crucial intersection in life, when down on purpose or understanding go to google, not to God.

And then just look at this headline that proves EXACTLY what I’m talking about…

People don’t want to go to God to find the right candidate;
People don’t want to consult the bible to discern what makes a great leader and;
People DEFINITELY don’t wanna go to church to hear what some windbag preacher has to say… So what do we do…?

We Google it.

Google after all is not just a proper noun (the name of a search engine tech firm) it’s a verb!

You know what else is a verb and a noun? Faith. We have it and we do it.

Or at least that’s the aim… What of my greatest fascinations and really convictions is the divergence between those two things though: having it and living it. 

As a person of faith, as a Christ follower I’m shocked and awed by my relative inaction and lack of faith practice and I see it as a historical epidemic as well.

From the time of the 12 disciples right on into today, we Christians seem to oscillate between flashes of brilliance and acts of outright lemming-like foolishness! 

You see where we go for answers matters because we will always act on the information that we find. The article is timely once again: we Google how to vote and then… We vote… We vote Donald trump right into the highest office of leadership in the world. 

Craig Groeschel is fond of emphasizing that leadership is so much based on how we think. Pretty basic really: how we think will determine how we lead. He puts it like this:

Think higher (for this determines who you become)
See broader (determines where you can go)
Care deeper (determines what you can be trusted with)

Basically the way we think determines the way we act and the way we act determines how we lead!


I would contend that we need a more developed, nuanced and overall higher context way of thinking in order to lead well and honor those we influence especially in this “just google it” era we are living in.


Take this last weekend for example, my relatives were in town from Texas (yes, very conservative politically) and we engaged in a lively political dialogue. It was fun, for me at least, because I don’t claim too many political allegiances; I’m content to consider all angles and remain in process AND more importantly I hope to give others the space to do the same. 

However it was clear that my uncles angle on every topic was, for lack of a better word, shoveled.

Do you know kind of what I mean? Kinda like, ‘holy cow are you aware that every single thing that flies out of your mouth seems like a canned response that one or two news sources sold you?!’

Now am I saying that I’m smarter or better because I get my news from literally 100 different places and I don’t necessarily couch myself on either polar end of the political spectrum? 

No.

Hers what I’m saying:

Be a Learner (a life long learner)

Kinda messed up of me-I know, but I encourage you not to be “that guy” (my uncle): like it’s an oversimplified, open and closed case lined with narrow-mindedness! 

Be filled with passionate convictions yes absolutely I highly recommend it… In some areas…

So long as there’s still a place for humble learning and the admission of “having not arrived” in other areas (that will, after all, only serve to authenticate our points of passion when we do speak up!)

Consider Gods voice and the truth of his word

(This approach is ALWAYS going to be more trustworthy than mere knowledge and information alone… Remember you can live your whole life, go all the way to your grave with a full head and an empty heart, but is that REALLY how you want to be remembered?)

Here’s one thing I’ve always said about the Bible: what was true for people thousands of years ago (our struggles, our emotions, our decisions and our predicaments, even our hopes and dreams) is true today.

There is nothing new under the sun. It’s just the Bible has more authoritative and exclusive truth to offer than Google or any other source for that matter. It (the Bible) is “God-breathed“… why wouldn’t you at least test it out for yourself?!

Take meaningful action on what you find 

How you think determines how you act and how you act determines how you lead and how you lead determines, literally, how others live. 

Don’t believe me or think that too dramatic? Look, this blog is about impact and influence. If you still don’t believe that people have the ability to change (due to the leadership of someone else) then consider this story…

My wife and I had the privilege early on in our marriage to travel the world on service “mission trips.” We shared plantains with remote villagers in the jungles of Peru, we saw poverty and a war-torn nation in Sri Lanka.

It was all learning by immersion.

(SIDE-NOTE: this by the way is one of the most potent forms of learning-when, seeking better knowledge or understanding, you venture across your yard, across your street and across the country or globe to see for yourself AND THEN make judgment claims.)

This is also why I refuse to listen to another white person wax on about their opinions or deductions about why we have a problem in inner city Chicago, Harlem or DC until they’ve been there, done that.

They could have read every academic book and listened to the most scholarly pundit but until they’ve actually sat down with someone in that place, then I’ll continue not trusting them any farther than I can throw them.)

In our travels we also saw discarded, forgotten and neglected babies and children. We knew from early on that we would like the chance to adopt one day.

We had babies of our own while getting licensed through the county for foster care and adoption and one day we got a call. Though we could have never known it then, less than two years later that baby girl would be legally our child. 

Now remember my point : be a learner then act on your learning and you will change a life.

For us as leaders of a family…

we saw.
we learned.
we said yes.

And now a baby girl whose mom was on meth and whose dad had 27 criminal counts against him has at least the potential of a better life. 

Don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself