Working on a Dream




Thursday, December 27, 2012

What would YOU do?

Is it OK to _________ ??????
When should I _______________?????????

Life is full of grey areas.
And grey areas generally mean, "using your brain." If you are like me, you have on more than one occasion thought, "What is the right thing to do in this situation? Unfortunately, many of us look to the TV; our group of friends or to society in general to figure out how we should act or if something is morally acceptable.  I know that for many, this is our default setting; but seriously, how do you make moral decisions in life and know that what you did right was the right thing?

Since life does not come with a manual and you do not have me to chaperon you around, I'll share with you something that guides me in my daily life.*
It is 3 questions that are contained in this helpful verse found in the book of I Corinthians. "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

Remember, the focus of today's post is helping you live ethically when you really do not know how. Therefore, a note about this verse is in order: this verse isn't as much about what to think more than it is about how to think. I like to tell people that living a morally upright life is more like a Treasure Map than a Road Map.  A road map is full of millions of details, destinations and drives while a treasure map is oftentimes sparse with a few landmarks and the famous "X" marks the spot.  The verse above is there for you when you are standing in between the landmark and the "X".   

Here are the three questions with a brief explanation:  
The first question you should be asking yourself is: "Is it Lawful?"
Here you will be thinking about if you will be breaking any laws (which not only includes the civil government's laws but God's moral law).  This first question is a bit tricky and is not something that you can just afford to gloss over. The reason is due to the fact that there will be times when our modern laws either do not match up with the moral law or worse, stand in direct conflict with them. This is why Martin Luther King Jr. taught that a "just law is a man made code that squares with moral law or the Law of God."

Next, follow up with this question, "Is it helpful?" You have to think about will what you are about to do uplifting?  What are your motives?  Will your action(s) benefit people? Etc. Think of yourself, your family & your community. This oftentimes, will help lead you in the right direction when making decisions.

Finally, ask, "Is it enslaving?"  Here you want to ascertain whether or not an act could become obsessive, out of control, or if over time you will become engrossed in something that started off innocent -but now has hooked you in.  This happens a lot by the way; you get involved with something that is at first innocent, then over the months and years, the tables have turned and now you are owned by a person, thought or substance.  This is why the Puritans used to say that sin is like a bait on a hook intended to lure you in. If you  bite, the hook will sink into your mouth, then you will get dragged to your death.

Above, you have three very helpful questions that will help you navigate the uncertain terrain of life.

*As a side note, if I was going to add in one more addition to the above, I would throw in the importance of surrounding  yourself with wise men and women that you can go to and discuss your dilemmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Best Christmas ...

The Christmas party was over.

Several of the men were sitting at a table reminiscing about the Christmas days of their childhood. The conversation turned to the best Christmas of their lives. As they went around the table, they noticed one man hadn't said anything. They asked, "Come on.. Frank, What was your best Christmas?" Frank said, "The best Christmas I ever had was when I didn't even get a present." The others were surprised. They had to hear the story. Frank began to talk...
"I grew up in New York. It was the great depression and we were poor. My Mother had died when I was just eight years old. My Dad had a job but he only worked two or three days a week and that was considered good. We lived in a walk up and we just barely had enough food and clothes. I was a kid and didn't really notice."

"My Dad was a proud man. He had one suit. He would wear that suit to work. When he came home, he would take off the jacket and sit in his chair still wearing his shirt, tie and his vest. He had this big old pocket watch that had been given to him by my mother. He would sit in his chair, the chain from watch hanging out, connected to the fob in his vest buttonhole. That watch was his proudest possession. Sometimes, I would see him, just sitting there, looking at his precious watch. I bet he was thinking of my mother."
"One year, I was about twelve, chemistry sets were the big thing. They cost two dollars. That was big money but every kid wanted a chemistry set including me. I began to pester my Dad about it a month or so before Christmas. You know, I made all the same kid promises. I would be good. I would do my chores. I wouldn't ask for anything else again. My dad would just say, 'We'll see.."
"Three days before Christmas he took me to the carts. There was this area where all the small merchants keep their street carts. They would undersell the stores and you could get a good buy. He would take me to a cart and pick out some little toy. "Son, would like something like this?" I, of course, would tell him, 'No, I want a chemistry set.' We tramped to nearly every cart and him showing me some toy car or toy gun, and me refusing it. I never thought that he didn't have the money to buy a chemistry set. Finally, he said, we better go home and come back the next day."

"All the way home, I pouted and whined about the chemistry set. I repeated the promises. I said I didn't care if I never got another present. I had to have that chemistry set. I know now that my Dad felt guilty about being able to give me more. He probably thought he was a failure as a Father and I think he blamed himself for my mother's death. As we were walking up the stairs, he told me, that he would see what he could do about getting me the chemistry set. That night I couldn't even sleep. I could see myself inventing some new material. I could see the New York Times.. 'Boy wins Nobel Prize!"

"The next day after work, my Dad took me back to the carts. On the way, I remember, he bought a loaf of bread, he was carrying it under his arm. We came to first cart and he told me to pick out the set I wanted. They were all alike, but I went through them, like I was choosing a diamond. I found the right one and I almost yelled. 'This one..Dad!'"
"I can still see him, reaching into his pant's pocket, to get the money. As he pulled the two dollars out, one fluttered to the ground, he bent over to pick it up and as he did, the chain fell out of his vest. The chain swung back and forth. 'No watch.' In a flash, I realized that my Dad had sold his watch. He sold his most precious possession to buy me a chemistry set. He sold his watch, the last thing my mother had given him, to buy me a chemistry set."

"I grabbed his arms and I yelled, 'No.' I had never grabbed my Dad before and I certainly had never yelled at him. I can see him, looking at me, a strange look on his face. 'No, Dad, you don't have to buy me anything.' The tears were burning in my eyes. 'Dad, I know you love me.' We walked away from the cart and I remember my Dad holding my hand all the way home."
Frank looked at the men. "You know, there isn't enough money in the world to buy that moment. You see, at that moment, I knew that my Dad loved me more than anything in the world."

author unknown

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Do you have the heart of a Champion? Part 3: Resiliency

Fostering Champions by Robert Porter Lynch.

How does the champion reconcile the seeming conflict between maintaining trust
and integrity and working in a world that is constantly changing and requires frequent
repositioning of the alliance and all its attendant relationships? How does the champion
maintain integrity when the conditions that originally triggered the birth of the alliance are no longer valid? The answer lies in the champion’s tendency to be resilient.

Resiliency is like a spring: the more it is tensioned, the more powerful it becomes.
Champions can bounce back into shape because their spring-steel inner core of values and principles is not altered by circumstances. However, this inner core is surrounded by a flexible outer core of practicality which provides them the freedom to shift with changing circumstances, to be influenced by the insight and wisdom of others, and to avoid rigid thinking and obsolete paradigms.

Tenacity and persistence are always associated with successful champions. One
champion in our focus groups said it quite well: You cannot cut out too early; you must follow your instincts. When you get knocked down, you must get back up again. It takes more than ego to get back up – it’s beliefs, knowing you are right, it’s an intuition that what you are doing is worthwhile. Doing this takes an innate ability to deal with uncertainty and risk.

Champions often see their falterings in life as opportunity. They experience adversity as the door opener for regeneration. They see life as not about perfection but about
perfecting -- losing your spirit and gaining it back again. The losing of spirit becomes the breakdown that creates the opportunity for a breakthrough, the possibility to regain spirit at a higher level. Living in the status quo is to live too safely, without challenge and opportunity to achieve a dream. Therefore the true champion experiences adversity with a quiet smile, as a hidden treasure from which he or she can source new levels of experience, awareness, and energy. Seasoned champions have failed enough times to know that failure is only temporary; they tend not to let their personal identity be strongly influenced by their experience. One of our focus group champions, when asked to what he attributed his resiliency, stated: “I never take myself too seriously, and find failures are an opportunity to refine my sense of humor.” Adds Brian Ferrar: “I find humor absolutely necessary – both as an ice breaker and bonding agent, but also as a stress reliever.”

My thoughts on the above are as follows
Does this surprise you? It shouldn't.  Great leaders have followers for a reason.  And one of those reasons is, inside of the frame of every great leader is a heart that just won't quit.  I call it the Rocky heart.  You probably call it the person's name you most admire.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's OK if you are a Goat (as long as you're not a Tiger).

-A Story-

A starving and pregnant tigress comes upon a flock of goats and pounces on them with such fervor that she brings about the birth of her little one, as well as her own death. The goats scatter, but soon come back to find the newborn tiger by the side of its dead mother.

Tho goats adopt the baby tiger and it grows up believing it is a goat. He learns to bleat and eat grass, but the trouble is that grass doesn’t nourish tigers well, and he grows into a weak and miserable member of his own species.

One day, a large male tiger pounces on the flock and the goats scatter. The young tiger, not being a goat, remains standing there.

The big male is surprised to find a young tiger living with goats, and when he enquired into it, the young one simply says, “Maaaa.” Mortified, the old tiger swats him back and forth a couple of times, but the only response coming forth was more bleating and grass nibbling.

The old tiger brings the young one to a pond and makes him look at his own reflection for the first time. He leans over and points out to him, See, you look like me. You’re not a goat. You are a tiger, like me. Be like me!

At that moment, the young tiger gives a tiger-like stretch, and then a small little tiger roar.
By Joseph Campbell

Something to think about:
-Are you living out someone else's dreams?
-Are you really being authentic?
-Is your life filled with intrinsic meaning?

God created you to be unique.  The point of the story isn't that the Tiger is better than the Goat; rather, like a fingerprint, you are one in a million.  
You are God's masterpiece.  Determine to live your life that way. The world wishes that you would and you will never be happy if you don't.  So go ahead, make some noise, let's hear you Roar.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
Ephesians 2:10

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Prayer for the Fallen: Sandy Hook elementary school

Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I'm sick of all of this
Hanging around
Sick of sorrow
Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be
Peace on Earth

Where I grew up
There weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you

And it's already gone too far
Who said that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt

Jesus could you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
No whos or whys
No-one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth
She never got to say goodbye
To see the color in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
That's peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Anne and Breda
Their lives are bigger, than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

Jesus this song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth?
This peace on Earth

Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

By U2

Fosting Champions. Part 2: Building Trust

Trust is the foundation of all cooperative enterprise;
and integrity is the basis of all trust.

Alliance managers see integrity as the ability and commitment to honor one’s word,
especially during times of adversity and often regardless of personal cost. For Gerry Dehkes, an alliance champion at Lucent, Integrity includes setting expectations and consistently meeting them. Doing both is important. Making sure that your counterparts will know (and be able to trust) that you will act in a certain way in a given situation.
Then meet or beat that expectation consistently. This extends beyond the individual to the rest of the people in the alliance partners organizations. Or better, in an old
Minnesota expression; ‘Under-promise. Over-deliver.’ View problems or barriers, especially early on, as opportunities to show your trustworthiness, meeting the expectations you've set with your partners. These have strong impact beyond the decision of the moment. They engender trust that later on you will indeed act that way, thus inviting reciprocal actions.

Alliance champions are the principals who set the tone for building the trust that forms
the foundation for the chemistry and culture of the trans-organizational interaction.
Every experienced alliance leader will comment on how trust is an essential ingredient of cooperation. Without it the venture will crumble, disputes will go unresolved, and passion will wane. Outsiders tend to describe trust as great chemistry, others see it as honesty. But champions tend to know that the trust they create, often internationally across wide cultural chasms, is based more on integrity than any other factor.

When trust collapses, communication is either halted or turns to threats, blaming, and
accusations, and at the same time decision making becomes focused on protection and
defense, not on innovation and creativity. Forward progress slows to a snail’s pace, or
worse, reverses. The champion who builds trust has a powerful advantage, because when analyzed in detail, that trust is shown to be simultaneously the glue that holds teams together during times of crisis and the grease that smoothes over rough interactions when cultures clash.

Brian Ferrar, alliance champion at Compaq recognizes how this bonding impacts the
relationship between champions: An alliance manager and his counterpart at the partner company are often closer than each may be to many of their co-workers because of the trust it takes to form the alliance. However, this bonding across organizational boundaries can be quite disconcerting to many insiders who see this as a serious breach of loyalty.

Inevitably, “trust also demands win-win scenarios and reciprocity to each other’s pet
projects and investments,” comments Gary Horning, alliance champion from NCR.

How does the alliance champion build this trust?
Some lessons from the field exemplify how such trust is created (see below):

Act Inconsistently in what they say and do 69%
Seek Personal Gain above Shared Gain 41%
Withhold Information 34%
Lie or Tell Half Truths 33%
Be Closed Minded 29%
Be Disrespectful to Employees 28%
Withhold Support 16%
Break Promises 14%
Betray Confidences 13%

Maintain Integrity 58%
Openly Communicate Vision & Values 51%
Show Respect as Equal Partners 47%
Focus on Shared Goals not Personal Agendas 38%
Do the Right Thing Regardless of Personal Risk 36%
Listen with an Open Mind 33%
Demonstrate Caring Compassion 22%
Maintain Confidences 15%
*Source: Manchester Consulting, 1997 – survey of executives at 215 companies

Building trust starts and is maintained at the highest leadership positions.
If leaders do not forge the bond of trust, it is highly unlikely to be found within the middle echelons.
Coincidentally, there is a very high correlation between trust, relationships, and control.
As trust and relationships increase, the needs for command and control diminish, replaced by coordinative interaction. This matters to leaders as they face today’s compression of time and increase in speed, which force faster decision making, and today’s complex interrelationships which force slower decision making. Knowing how to manage this dilemma and balance these forces requires adroitness and a deep level of trust.

Is the creation of high trust worth the effort?
Successful alliances provide very strong evidence that high trust is the catalyst of very high performance, greater innovation, creativity, synergy, expansion of possibilities, enhanced problem resolution, faster action and implementation, lower litigation costs, and lower transaction costs. These all result in dramatically improved financial performance. Corporations cannot afford to forsake the champion’s role in developing trust across organizational boundaries.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Black Feather

Ever hear of Occam's Razor?
Its basic tenant is, "the simplest explanation is usually the right one."
Many use Occam's Razor as a means to slice through a problem / situation in order to eliminate unnecessary steps.

Today, I would like to apply Occam's Razor to conflict. Jesus said, "If you have an issue with someone, the best way to handle the difficulty is to simply go to them." Face to face. Toe to toe. Heart to heart. It's a rather direct approach.
It's a rather gutsy one too.  The genius is found in its simplicity.

Just think for a moment just how many other ways you and I handle conflict:
-The Ostrich approach (ignore it).
-The Bursting a blood vessel approach (do you really need an explanation?).
-The Big Daddy approach (cover it up).

Possibly the most dangerous approach is the "Black Feather" approach.
Below, I will share a short story that illustrates this powerfully.

In a small German village, a woman differed with her minister and became so angry that she began spreading ugly rumors about him around town. As fate would have it, she eventually became ill and called on the minister to pray for her. He came gladly, and she asked his forgiveness of her gossiping. "I will grant you forgiveness," the minister said, "but there's something you must do."

"I'll do anything," the woman said.

"As soon as you get well, go pluck the feathers from a black chicken and put them into a basket and bring them to me."  When the woman got well, she did what the minister asked her to do and presented the basket of feathers to the minister.

"You did well," the minister said. "Now take this basket of feathers and scatter them in the corners of the marketplace and from the towers of the church. Scatter them throughout the town. Then return to me."

So the woman did.

She walked from one end of town to the other, scattering the feathers. Then she returned to her pastor. "I have done as you asked," she said.
"Very well. Now take your basket and collect all the feathers. Make sure not one is missing."
"But that is not possible!" the woman said with a choking cry.  "The wind has carried many of them away.

"So it is with your words," the minister said. "While I have gladly forgiven you, do not forget that you can never undo the damage your untrue words have done."

reasonable person will see that out of all the alternative options, the direct approach is certainly the best.  It is also the toughest --let's be honest, nobody is running to the front of the line when it comes to conflict resolution. One of my favorite quotes is Thomas Watson's, "What fools are they who, for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath." This is precisely what happens when you and I choose to let things fester within our hearts by not going directly to the source of our conflict. In a real way, it is like we gladfully go to the shelf, pour ourselves a glass of destruction and drink it straight down. Your life will be better off if you put that glass down and get direct when handling conflict.  When you do, you will switch that old glass of wrath for a fresh goblet of peace. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Foster Champions

Everyone has a favorite book, something that has changed their life after reading it. Today, I have the honor to share with you something that has inspired me in a way that few other writings have. The article is by Robert Porter Lynch (President of The Warren Company) and found in the book titled, "Leading Beyond the Walls."

Courage enlarges, cowardice diminishes resources.
In dangerous straits, the fears of the timid aggravate the dangers that imperil the brave.

Champions are probably the most influential factor in creating a synergistic relationship that achieves a mighty purpose. Without at least one accomplished champion, the chance of successfully sustaining, nurturing, and transforming an alliance is virtually nil. Cooperation beyond the walls is in many companies considered an unnatural act; therefore alliances are often perceived as foreign entities. Alliances are essentially start-up companies and must be led by champions who are at the same time entrepreneurs, risk takers, visionaries, and results-oriented managers. Unless an energetic, visionary leader is in place, the parent corporation’s immunal rejection response will kick out the alliance before it’s had a chance to become established.

Champions exist in a perpetual state of enlightened dissatisfaction, always looking for a new idea that will improve upon the current state of affairs. Typically, they have a long history of pursuing new ideas, attempting breakthroughs, and challenging the accepted.

Champions cannot command because their authority is not positional. Their authority
comes from their vision, their energy, and their ability to touch the hearts of those who believe their vision is the reality the organization must achieve for more than its future survival, that vision contains the organization’s thrival. To be effective the champion needs a track record of success. Yet down deep, most champions are idealists; therefore they often tend to become overly optimistic. Thus it is not ironic that the hallmark of real champions is not how many successes they have had, and they will have had many, but rather how they have dealt with failure. Failures should be the
learning experiences that temper their idealism sufficiently to make them effective. Often the best champions will have at their side a seasoned realist or skeptic to provide balance and practicality to their idealistic vision.

Not surprisingly, many champions are entrepreneurial at heart, which enables them to excel with broken tools and inadequate resources, under adverse conditions, and with minimal organizational support. Their extraordinary results come from a blended potion of vision, persistence, ability to learn from mistakes, a willingness to take risks and possibly fail, and an abiding commitment to the greater good of all.

Breakthroughs are the way of life for champions, whose challenge of the status quo is
often regarded as unreasonable, are interested in creating new pathways, and love to
discover that which others have overlooked. Gary Horning, an alliance champion at NCR advocates: “the champion must be very reasonable, recognize the realities of the future, and see issues and solutions from diverse perspectives.” Yet more conservative managers often will be blind to the verities of the champion’s vision and new operating schema, thereby branding the alliance champion as unrealistic, or worse.

When operating the truest sense, champions are the passionate pioneers, the discoverers, the learners, the ones who will never accept mediocrity and are even willing to destroy what they’ve built in order to build something greater.

Champions are omni-directional, in that they know the necessity of navigating the halls
of power, and at the same time are willing to jump the chain of command or network the bowels of the organization. Although champions think of organizations as networks, not hierarchies, they also somewhat grudgingly, but patiently acknowledge the realities of the corporate ladder, without giving it their blessing.

What is often perceived as their neglect of protocol causes champions to be slightly
offcenter from corporate norms and to have offended traditional corporate sensibilities more than a few times in the pursuit of a worthy cause. Typically an alliance champion is not initially anointed from above. Instead he or she seizes the high ground and then asks for support. The motto of the champion is: “’tis better to ask forgiveness after the fact than permission before.”

Because champions operate on the organizational fringe, they are often isolated and
neglected. However, wise corporations with a heavy investment in alliances learn to nurture their champions, and to empower them once they independently emerge. Top managers create more successful alliances when they “recognize” champions rather than when they “select” them ...

THE END OF part 1:
Stop back soon for PART 2, as I will share the 7 qualities a leader of the future must understand in order to manage champions effectively.

Sneak Peak:
1. Building Trust
2. Maintaining Resiliency
3. Working for Co-Creative Change
4. Building Alliance Teams
5. Problem Solving and Ongoing Negotiations
6. Practicing Transformational Leadership
7. Gaining Top Rank Support

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Burn the Ships!

Ever hear the phrase “Burn The Ships ?” 
It comes from the year 1519, when Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez convinced over 500 soldiers and 100 sailors to sail from Spain to Mexico, along with 11 ships to take the treasure in Mexico on the shores of the Yucatan.  
Cortez had a clear and advantageous goal: 
Seize the great treasure located on the Island. 
The problem was that those treasures were guarded by the fierce Aztecs.
The same Aztecs that were the super power of their time.  The question begging to be asked is, “How did a small group of Spanish soldiers arrive in a strange country and overthrow a large and dominant empire that was in power for over 6 centuries ?”

Apparently, Cortez was a master motivator as he planned a brilliant, but risky strategy that provided his army with the fire to overthrow the Aztecs and reap their booty.
In the midst of the night, Cortez called his men to "up the ante" by asking them to do something inconceivable and totally out of the ordinary. Standing before his mighty men, Cortez shouted these 3 words:
Burn the Ships!   

Tradition tells us that after he said those fateful words, he added this:  "If we are going home, we are going home in their ships". When those men torched the ships, they did something that no one had ever done before and Cortez knew it. He knew that by eliminating the option for failure, his men would fight like they have never fought before and that the commitment level would be raised to an all time high. The result? Cortez and his men conquered the Aztecs and had succeeded where others had been unsuccessful for centuries. 

This story is about commitment.
It has been said that commitment is the foundation of success. Think about it, has a single accomplishment ever been achieved without first committing to it? Leadership guru Peter Drucker rightly said, "Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans." Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers echoes this sentiment about commitment when he stated, "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence..." 
Did you know that Jesus, like Cortez, asked for total, unwavering commitment from His followers?  "No man, after he puts his hand to the plow and looks back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)  The basic meaning of this passage is that you have to be "all in" when you commit to following Jesus. 

No matter the cause you are fighting for; the path you have chosen, or the direction your life has taken -somewhere along the line you had to make a commitment. A line in the sand had to be drawn. Ships had to be burned to the ground and a stake firmly planted deep into the soil. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why you should "SWEAT the Small Stuff."

I remember a popular book that made waves a few years ago titled, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff." I am sure you have seen this book, since it has targeted every potential audience known to man:
-Don't Sweat the small stuff for men.
-Don't sweat the small stuff for women.
-Don't sweat the small stuff for cats and dogs.
-Don't sweat the small stuff for the criminally inclined.
-Don't sweat the small stuff for angry pre-teens.
If you have not seen this book at Wal-Mart (or a garage sale), at least you have heard the phrase being passed off as a witty spot of advice.

If you are like me, you have drank down that philosophy so quickly you did not bother to taste its poison ingredients. Today, I'd like to set the record straight on the dud of an idea that we are all so eager to embrace. See, the stark reality is that the so called "little things" in life will make or break you. They do so because it's the small stuff that actually makes up the BIG stuff.  Consider the minuscule Mosquito that is ever so small, but always ends up making a large impact.  In a similar manner, overlooking the seemingly unimportant details will come back to sting you.

Take this for instance:
Did you know that Abraham Lincoln's bodyguard, John Parker, left Ford's Theater during intermission to join Lincoln's coachman for drinks in the Star Saloon next door?
This small oversight left the President unguarded sitting in his state box in the balcony.
Seizing this BIG opportunity, Booth crept up from behind Lincoln and at about 10:13 pm, aimed at the back of Lincoln's head and fired at point-blank range, mortally wounding the President.

Taking a momentary break from guarding the president = small stuff.
Assassination of the 16th President of the United States & forever altering the course of human history = BIG STUFF.

The reality is that all successful men & women have figured out this paradox and by doing so, have learned one of life's greatest lessons. This is what Ben Franklin was getting at when he said, "Would you live with ease, do what you ought, and not what you please." Uber wise Franklin understood that sweating the tiny details -usually the overlooked & neglected items- would propel a person to a heightened level of success.

Take a moment and reflect on one or two successful people that you know; now ask yourself if they subscribed to what I am arguing for in this post? Of course they do.
They sweat the details, they are painfully aware of the minute and they understand that in order to be good at the BIG stuff, they have to first be great at the small stuff.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
-Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Poem dedicated to my son: "For the Child that could not Stay"

The children of the world, we think of everyday
But what about the ones, who
In this world
They could not stay.
Though loved and cared for from the start,
their Mommies and Daddies were forced to part.
Gone, but not forgotten, the memories never fade
Of Heaven’s little angels, for whom their souls we’ve prayed.

The tiny little babies, seen on a screen then gone,
the little ones born quiet without a yell or yawn.
The strong hearts somehow stifled, so early on in life.
“How could this happen to us?” cried parents filled with strife.

An empty crib, a silent room, an unused swing, a sense of gloom.
Reminders of the lives they’ve lost.
They’d bring them back at any cost.

Yet, somehow in the darkness, we
Find warmth in a light we cannot see.
And through our tears, our hope’s restored.
We know our child is with the Lord.

As seasons go by and birthdays are missed,
we’ll cherish the children, who’s foreheads we’ve kissed,
But, always remember the angels above,
Who showed us true heart ache,
Yet taught us to LOVE.

Written by Kali Anderson

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lincoln: A man of Conviction

I just walked out of the fantastic movie titled, Lincoln.
I'll save you the suspicion and just tell you that not only was the movie great, I slowly walked out of the theater mumbling that "he" was great...and I don't mean Daniel Day Lewis' stellar performance. 
I mean the 16th President of these United States of America.

Watching Lincoln shifted my mind to his stark resemblance of the biblical Moses.
Steady, earnest, full of resolve, witty, long-suffering. Full of the moral conviction that made you feel honored just to stand in the same room as him. Ready to die, and ready to live for the man. He was truly remarkable.

As the movie comes to a climax, we find ourselves right in the middle of the famous vote for the 13th Amendment. Below are the results:

The House passed the bill in January 1865 with a vote of 119-56-8.

We can conclude from the number above that 119 men voted for the 13th Amendment.
56 men voted against it.
That leaves the 8 as a mystery (that is, unless you are a history buff or just walked out of the movie, like I just did).

The 8 stood for abstentions. And if you are like me, you had to look that word up:
Abstentions, Noun:
1.An instance of declining to vote for or against a proposal or motion.

2.The fact or practice of restraining oneself from indulging in something; abstinence.

Don't miss this.
Eight men stood idly by, choosing not to vote.  These men now live infamously in our history as cowards.  Unlike the rest of the voters, whether you liked what they stood for or not, at least stood for something.  "Cowards", Julius Caesar said, "die many times before their actual deaths" and  Abraham Lincoln has been quoted to say, "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men"  

--Honestly, I had to sit and ponder my existance a little after the movie ended.
All great works of art should have this affect on a person by the way.
I had to ask myself if I would have been the type of man that would sit by, display no courage, and when the time came to vote .... Do nothing.
Not a yes.
Not a no.
Just letting my responsibility evaporate like the fog on an Autumn eve.
I can only pray that God gives me the strength to pass the tests He sends my way.

I just walked out of the fantastic movie titled, Lincoln.
It was about a man with superior moral conviction.
It was about a courageous man that let his life count, unlike those 8 men defined by their cowardice that chose not to vote on the 13 Amendment.

A Prayer:
Lord, I admit that when times are easy, I am full of vigor and ready to stand for righteous means. But oftentimes, when the spotlight is turned off of me or when the cost is high, I shrink away.  Simultaneously forgive me and enthrone me with your strength I pray. Amen.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Proclamation: By the President of the United States of America.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

-Happy Thanksgiving-

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'll pass on Christmas too (at least for now).

Anthony's Pondering: --Why do we Struggle?

I've been thinking about how we all struggle in life.
For many, the struggle will shrink us up and fold us into pieces. In a real way, our struggles will be the things that define us.  If we let them, our struggles will be the end of you and I.

May I offer another perspective?
Perhaps, a less popular outlook, but one that is often dismissed when we struggle in life.

We all know how a kite just sits on the ground when there is no wind. The very thing that breathes life into the motionless dead kite is the wind that opposes it.

The struggle offered by the wind, is the very source that lifts the kite into the atmosphere of greatness, isn't it?

Consider this possibility: Maybe, just maybe God blew a wind of struggle your way in order that you may rise? Reflecting on difficulties, the times when I've felt that I'm losing everything is exactly the time I'm getting acquainted with myself. Remember, the strongest metal goes through the hottest flame.

In Proverbs we read, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

I believe the above author knew just what you and I need during times of struggle; trust in God. Not leaning on our own strength, but on something much BIGGER than ourselves is the key to finding new heights when we face the struggles of life.

Like the kite that sits idly without its primary source of power, the wind, you and I will lay dormant when we try our best to breathe life into our sails. The Bible tells us that Jesus Himself "learned from His sufferings" and guess what? If He had to learn through suffering, I am betting that  you and I will too. 

--God sends struggle our way to bring us to new levels in our faith.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Son

A Story:

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Viet Nam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier.
The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.
A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.

The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears.
He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection On the platform sat the painting of the son.

The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."
But the auctioneer persisted, "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"

Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids! "But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
"We have $10, who will bid $20?" "Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters." "$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?" The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel.
"Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!" The auctioneer laid down his gavel, "I'm sorry, the auction is over."
"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.
Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

God gave his Son 2,000 years ago to die on a cruel cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is, "The Son, the Son, who'll take the Son?" Because you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.

*author unknown

Monday, November 12, 2012

"No U-Turn's": My story of Commitment & Friendship

It's been over 10 years since I walked out of college.
Lord, it seems just like yesterday...
So when I found myself talking with my friend Russ a few nights ago, needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do.

We threw out old college stories like friends tossing a baseball back and forth to each other.  "Do you remember this..." , "Do you still that...", "I can't believe..." and on and on. 

As our conversation came to a close, Russ said something that made time stop for me, he began by saying, "I'll end with this story..."

-Then he told me the following:

Around the turn of the 20th century, a group of missionaries became known as ‘one-way’ missionaries. When they departed for the mission field they packed all of their belongings into a coffin and bought one-way tickets because they knew they’d never return home. A.W. Milne was one of them. He felt called to a tribe of headhunters in the New Hebrides. All the other missionaries to this tribe had been martyred, but Milne found favor. He lived among the tribe for 35 years and never returned home.
When tribe buried him, they wrote the following words on his tombstone,

When he came there was no light.
When he left there was no darkness.

I know why Russ ended with this story. Because it is a story that every person needs to heed. It needs to sit within them and stir them.  The story has to be told to people so that they can pause, perhaps for hours or even days and consider their lives. The wise author of Ecclesiastes said, Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun. It is vitally important for you and I to live with the perspective that A.W. Milne lived with. Because when we do, people will pass on our legacy like they did his.

When I was in college, a group of my very closest friends all signed a poster I had up on my wall. It was a poster that had a picture of a "No U-Turn" allowed sign on it.
Russ was one of the guys that signed it.  10 years later, there still are No U-Turns allowed. Not for Russ. Not for me...

Friday, November 9, 2012

The hot water bottle & the doll

This is a story written by a doctor who worked in Africa :

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive; as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).We also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in.

Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates) ... And it is our last hot water bottle!' she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa
it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles.

They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
'All right,' I said, 'put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts Your job is to keep the baby warm.'

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough,mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten -year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. 'Please, God' she prayed, 'Send us a hot water bottle today It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.'

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, 'And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?' As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say 'Amen?' I just did not believe that God could do this.

Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home.
Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle?
I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children.. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored.. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend.

Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the ... could it really be?
I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle. --I cried.
I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, 'If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!'

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, 'Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?'

'Of course,' I replied!

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it 'that afternoon.'

'Before they call, I will answer.'
(Isaiah 65:24)

Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive.
There is no cost, but a lot of rewards. Let's continue praying for one another...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 Steps to Successfully Leading your Next Meeting.


You are about to lead your first important meeting and you desperately want to do your best. Sitting in this meeting, you will be surrounded by your peers, senior advisers, the guy that writes your checks and the woman that hired you.

You feel a tremendous amount of pressure. You doubt yourself.
You find yourself re- thinking, re-editing and re-evaluating.

As the meeting begins, you step up to lead and find yourself frozen.
Everyone is looking at you...or better said , staring a hole right through you.

We have all been there.
Fortunately for you, today's post will equip you with a winning presentation strategy.

Follow these simple steps and watch people's frowns turn upside down.

Step 1:  Gather all your supplies.  You will need different colored markers, a monthly calender, a 3-month calender and a large sheet of white paper.
Got it?  Good. Let's move on...

Sharpies = Check!
Monthly Calender =Check!
3 Month Calender = Check!

Step #2: You want to be as clear, concise, and logical as possible. So, be sure to have all your dates filled in, your details filled out and all of your potential questions answered.  By potential questions, I am referring to the items that your audience will be concerned with. One thing I always do is slip to the other side of the table and imagine every possible detail that the person or group will be thinking. This helps me be as thorough as possible in my presentation.

Step #3: Do not battle your notes.  I have seen this over and over.  People think they struggle with public speaking but they are really struggling with sloppy notes.  It is imperative that your notes are clean, easy to read and logical.  The last thing in the world you want to deal with is hieroglyphics while leading a meeting.

Step #4: Be sure to have a nice visual aid. I love love love having a huge sheet of paper where I can have a strategy map in full view.  I have been using strategy maps for a few years now and I love them.  I always separate each main item with the details in their respective field.  This lets people see and understand how much is involved in whatever you are proposing.  It also allows you to go over each section and ask for volunteer help or assign someone to the task at hand. 
Trust me, you want to utilize the strategy map.

This is my strategy map for our up-and-coming Christmas party at Church.

Step #5:  Always ask if anyone has any questions. 
Then, end with a quick summary of the main points and action steps. 
Finally, give everyone an accountability date.  (A time where people will be held accountable to accomplish whatever task(s) they committed to.)

There you have it!
Follow these 5 simple steps and you will be on your way to leading the best meeting of your career!