Working on a Dream




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Atrophy: Everything is Falling Apart!

Atrophy (n)
1.  A wasting away of the body of of an organ or part, as from defective nutrition or nerve damage.
2. Degeneration or decline as from disuse.
3. A decrease in size, a wasting away, deterioration, or diminution; to waste away, wither or deteriorate.

I live in the Rust Belt

Like most of the North East, Western Pa. was once the home of powerful Steel Mills.
I can vividly remember going to my Nonna's house and looking outside the backseat window at the massive brick buildings that stood erect. 
Buildings that once represented the epicenter of American power were now mere ghosts of a distant past. That is until about 10 years ago when the buildings were totally torn down...

I am sure that in your own town you can associate with atrophy.  It is hard not to see atrophy at work.  As time passes, everything succumbs to decay.  Our bodies, great works of art and breathe-taking structures all over time ... break down and decay.

With this in mind, it is important to know that leadership is to help an organization prevent atrophy.  Below I will explain how atrophy develops and how it can be prevented. 

-Organizations have a life-cycle like the Bell Curve-

Notice when decline starts? 
Right after the highest point in the curve! 

The reason is because when an organization reaches this point they have the most money, the most resources, Etc. 
The effect of success shades the leadership from considering the natural process of atrophy.  I know this sounds a bit unnatural --but it is true.

Consider your own organization...
Q:  Do they spend the vast majority of their time, energy & resources preserving the past?
If the answer to the above question is YES.  Then your organization is in trouble!

Correcting Atrophy:
If you are wondering how you can avoid atrophy, the answer is that you will never truly remove atrophy from an organization. 
This is why great leadership is required to continually challenge & reinvent the business so that it can stay fresh and continue on in the future.  And guess what is the best way to keep people out of the rut in the first place? 
By consistently reminding your team of atrophy! 

I leave you with this inspiring illustration from nature:
A Salmon will fight its way upstream for one ensure that another generation continues.  It fights the current in order to spawn a new generation.  After all of this, the Salmon dies.  I am not sure if the Salmon does this by instinct or knowingly feels that its own death is near, but what I do know is that atrophy is taking place and that Salmon gives everything it has for the next generation.

May you and I do the same in the space God has placed us. 
Especially in His Church.

“And of the children of Issachar,
which were men that had understanding of the times,
to know what Israel ought to do..." 
I Chronicles 12:32

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anthony, Christen & Charlie @ the Park! 2011

The height of Charlie's life involves two things
Treats AND Running in the Park.

Recently we combined the two and created ...


Above, Christen is "laying down the law" with Charlie. 
Notice how attentive he is to her.

Next, I walk over to Charlie and gently remind him that if he does not listen to Christen's instructions he will go back to the farm that I bought him from for $5.

Charlie responds by giving me the cold shoulder!
He then calls my bluff and asks me for a treat...
He is strategic. 

Above:  Charlie chooses a different approach by pretending to listen. 

Above:  Charlie loves to explore his surroundings!

Below:  Charlie returns with the L. L. Bean chew toy ready to enjoy some Milk Bones!

After a long day at the park, Charlie comes over to me and asks me to bend down to his level.  He then asks me, "to hold the chew toy up to my face and start slowly moving it back and forth." 
As I do this, he quietly chants, "You will bring me back here tomorrow..." 
He does this over and over until I remind him about that farm he came from again.   

Charlie is 7 years old and I can still see the puppy in him!
He is a joy to my heart and has provided insurmountable therapy for Christen and I.

"To his dog, every man is Napoleon;
hence the constant popularity of dogs."
~Aldous Huxley

Friday, August 26, 2011

Anthony & Christen's 5 Year Anniversary: Part 2 "The Breakfast!"

Each morning Christen and I woke up to a 4 course gourmet breakfast!
 The start was a freshly brewed cup of coffee
with homemade coffee cake filled with tangy Rhubarb

Fresh warm buns were served each morning with a choice of jam!
(I chose my favoirte...Apricot!)

We were served fresh fruit every morning. 
Below is a bowl of watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe!

Someone looks happy!

Sadly, I do not remember the name of these specialty pancakes.  But my taste buds do remember being tantalized!!

Christen chose the egg dish.  It was filled with Feta Cheese, Spinach, and Tomatoes! 


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Anthony & Christen's 5 Year Anniversary: Part 1 "Grape Arbor Inn"

It was like yesterday when Christen and I stood at the altar of our church and said, "I Do."  Over the past 5 years, our lives have taken some twists and turns but we remain more in love than ever.  This past week, for our 5 year anniversary, we went up to the Bed and Breakfast "Grape Arbor Inn" in Erie, Pa. 

Below are some of the highlights from our trip!  Enjoy...

The above picture is the sitting room in the Master Suit!

Erie is home to some great wineries.
Lush grapes were right outside of our room...yum!

A beautiful bird feeder was the home of some fallen grapes!

Now this is relaxing...I am just laying on the hammock breathing in the fresh air.

The sign for the Grape Arbor was on all through the night.

The bedroom was totally decked out in Victorian Style.

Check out the stairwell leading up to our room. 
Do you see our friend "Purrelli"? 

Heading into the Grape Arbor!

The Grape Arbor Inn has made the Erie News on more than one occasion. 
After our stay, I now know why.

My hope is that Christen and I are back in front of this sign again soon!

--Did I mention that this was a Bed AND Breakfast? 
Tomorrow the wonderful breakfast we ate will be on display as I write Part 2 of our five year anniversary.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Picture of True Loyalty

Above is a heartbreaking photo of the love shared between Navy Seal Jon Tumilson and his trusted canine Hawkeye during the funeral service last week. 

-If you have a pet that has touched your life like Hawkeye, share this on your FB page-

Monday, August 22, 2011

Character & its Shadow

"Character is like a tree
& reputation like its shadow.

The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."

-Abe Lincoln

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Breaking News: The $50K Hockey Shot Lesson!

Boy Makes $50K Hockey Shot,
But It's The Wrong Boy!

Pat Smith and his twin sons, Nate and Nick, were at a charity hockey game Thursday when he purchased three $10 raffle tickets for a chance to hit a near-impossible hockey shot, with a $50,000 prize. One of his sons hit that shot -- but as Pat told organizers the next day, it wasn't the one whose name was on the ticket.

The Faribault, Minn., arena was in a state of pandemonium after Nate Smith sent a hockey puck from center ice into the goal -- the 3-inch puck traveled 89 feet down the ice and into a 3.5-inch hole in a board laid over the mouth of the goal.

There was just one snag: Pat Smith had written Nick's name on all three tickets. The identical twins, 11, had agreed that Nick was the best choice, because Nate had only recently had a cast removed from his arm. But Nick didn't want to stick around at halftime, and he told Nate to take the shot if his name was called.

That's just what Nate did, sending a wobbling shot down the ice.

Here's a report on the shot by CNN:

"The puck fluttered and me and the linesman are like, there is no way this is going in," Cale Politoski told KEYC TV of Mankato, Minn. "It was going straight down the net and the linesman said, 'This has a chance,' and it went straight in."

Both of the twins were shocked. Pat Smith says that in the excitement, he went along with the swap -- but he didn't feel right about it the next day.

"I just felt I had to do the right thing," he told ABCNews Monday. "I just think that honesty is more important than any prize or money you could get."

I have heard it said that, "Christianity is not what you are in the light but what you are in the dark."  Meaning, your true colors come out when no one is watching or would ever find our if you did something wrong.  The above story illustrates a powerful conviction to do what is right regardless of the consequences. 

5 Elements of a Great Church (I Thessalonians 1:6-10)

When I was a little boy, I still can remember anxiously waiting my homework papers being returned to me.  My eyes immediately would travel to the top right of the paper looking for the glorious gold star.  That gold star meant a lot back then because it represented a job well done.

Did you know that the Apostle Paul gave out Gold Stars too?

If you read the 1st chapter of I Thessalonians, you will notice that Paul is handing out the proverbial Gold Star to this church for several reasons.  In my sermon this past Sunday, I highlighted those reasons and challenged the congregation to be the type of church that if Paul were to come by and visit, he would be forced into handing out the glitter

-Below is a summary of the sermon I preached this past Sunday @ Northminster:

5 Elements of a Great Church (I Thessalonians 1:6-10)

1. They imitated the right people (Paul & the Lord)
-I Peter 2:21 teaches us that Christ set the example for us and that we are to follow in His footsteps.  Paul's life pointed past himself to the Lord (I Cor. 11:1). In my own life, I like to tell people that my goal as a believer is to follow the Leader.

2. They served as examples to others
-The reason people could look up to this church is because they spent their time admiring the right people.  Look, everyone of us is a follower in life, the key is to mirror the people that love the Lord and challenge us to be better people. 

3. They are evangelistic in their efforts
-In verse 5 we see that this church went from "receivers of the word" TO "proclaimers of it."  This means that this church felt the need to reproduce.  It was not enough for them to sit back and soak up all of Paul's teachings, they went out and found ways to share the gospel with others.

4. They are a serving church
-I love how in verse 6, Paul commends them by stating that they were "converted from idols serve the living God"  This little device is to teach us that when God saves you, He not only saves you from something (sin, hell, etc.) but He also saves you to do something.  A great church will get savvy and find ways to impact their culture by serving.

5. They are an expecting church
-In verse 10, Paul commends this church because they are an expecting church.  They eagerly await Christ's return and because of this perspective, it changed the way they lived on earth in the meantime.  The immanent return of Christ will change the way you live right here, right now... it did then and it does now. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Dysfunctional is your Team?

The first step toward reducing politics and confusion within your team is to understand that there are 5 dysfunctions to contend with.  Below, I will summarize one of the most successful and helpful leadership books written recently; Patrick Lencioni's "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team."

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust:
This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible. Lencioni says that the leader of the organization must go first when it comes to building trust.  In this sense, the leader resembles a domino; and by the leader showing vulnerability, everyone else will follow suit.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict:
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions and what I like to call, "active passivity" ensues.   

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment:
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, this creates an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees -particularly star employees- disgruntled and give them enough incentive to start looking elsewhere for work.  This leaves your company waning as your top talent has left the building. 

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don't commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team. By this point, many just give up, the fire that roared inside has turned into a tiny spark and the company how has a situation where everybody is performing their jobs without any real direction. 

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results:
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren't held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.  This is the final nail in your coffin.  If you find yourself in this category, I would suggest bringing in an outside consultant as your organization has proven it cannot have the type of open and honest conversations it needs to thrive.  Generally speaking, major revamping will take place in order to restore health to the business. 

If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Ecclesiastes 4:10

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Short Story: Welcome to Hell.

I once heard a story about the difference between Heaven and Hell.

A man dies; he’s met in a kind of divine foyer by an angel and taken to a huge room with a long table, covered with plates and bowls heaped with delicious food. There are people sitting all along both sides of the table, but they look angry, frustrated — and famished. Suddenly the man notices that none of the people have elbow joints. They’re all desperately trying to feed themselves, and they can’t reach their mouths. The angel says, “This is Hell.”

Then the man is whisked by the angel to another room that looks exactly the same –long table heaped with food; people down both sides, no elbow joints...but these people look happy and well-nourished.
This is Heaven,” the angel says.

Then the man looks closer,
and sees that all the people are feeding each other across the table.

The point? Much of life is about perspective. 
It has been said that life is not about the cards that you are dealt; rather it is how you play the cards that you have been dealt.  God has placed you here on earth for a reason.  And if you are reading this post, then you can assume that you still have one.

-May you find it.
-----May you thrive.
-May you live. 

May you welcome people to heaven on earth... 

I John 3: 16-17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Potenial is in the Eye of the Painter.

The above painting is by the famous French painter Rene' Magritte.

--What do you think about it

When I see this picture it reminds me of one word:  Potential.

The artist's subject is an egg, but this is not what is showing up on his canvas.  He is seeing beyond the egg to what the egg will one day become.  It takes a special person to see potential in others. 

I know this to be true because I can think of a handful of people that have invested themselves in my life that had to look beyond the big fat egg named Anthony standing right before them.
I can say with 100 percent certainty that without these key individuals seeing down the road to the (almost) finished product of the Anthony you all know today ... I would resemble more of a Pigeon than an Eagle.

 "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others."
2 Timothy 2:2

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Leading in a Team: 1st WHO; then What.

-Luke 6:12-16-
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

-Disciplined people: “Who” before “what”-

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, writes about how important it is for leaders to have the right people surrounding them before they engage in a task.  Jesus did this in the passage above and so should you. 
-Below is a summary of Collin's teaching on the subject.

-You are a bus driver-
The bus, (whatever you are trying to lead) is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you're going, how you're going to get there, and who's going with you.
Leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.
If you are a leader, your first move is to take a good long hard look at your team and then make decisions.
Ryunosuke Satoro:  
"Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I'll take 1 Leader to go minus the Manager, Please...

People don't want to be managed.

---They want to be led---

Whoever heard of a world manager?
World leader.   Yes.

Educational leader.
Political leader.
Religious leader.
Scout leader.
-----They lead.
They don't manage.

The carrot always wins over the stick.
Ask your horse. You can lead your horse to water, but you can't manage him to drink.

If you want to manage somebody, manage yourself.
Do that well and you'll be ready to stop managing.

---And start leading.

A message as published in the Wall Street Journal by United Technologies Corporation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An Unstoppable Force

There are books and then there are books that are the equivalent of placing landmines in your brain.  ------An Unstoppable Force is one of those books. 
The obvious point of this post is to challenge you & suggest ...wait, to urge you to go and buy this book. 

--Don't believe me? 
OK, then believe this...

"The Church is God's agent  for redeeming the earth to Himself.
We are called to engage in battle for which Jesus Christ died. 
Matthew tells us that the kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, and forceful men take hold of it. 
Jesus reminds us that the church will crash against the very gates of hell. 
Paul describes us through the imagery of soldiers of light, dispelling the kingdom of darkness   ...     Friction is what hinders us, slows us down BUT traction is what helps us get going and enables us to launch a movement!"

-Excerpt from An Unstoppable Force

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Eyes to See a New Future

The future belongs
to people who see
they become
-Ted Levitt

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
-Ephesians 3:20