A FULL HEAD, HEART, AND BELLY

My head is full.  My heart is very full.  And my belly is pretty full too.  This is how I feel after an intense week of leadership development.

Last week, I spent my time at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL (just outside of Chicago) with 22 other Siemens leaders from around the world.  It was such an honor to be included with such wonderful company.  My peers came from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and we gathered for an exclusive leadership development course.

It will take a while for me to fully digest my experience, but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:

  1. Teamwork can take you far.  As part of the experience, I was put on a team with five other participants.  We had the opportunity to work together on several assignments throughout the week, and I’m happy to say we were successful because we learned how to work together making the most of the different talents and skills we each brought with us.
  2. Being present is essential to get the most of our experiences and conversations.  We spent a lot of time learning to listen, learning to be assertive, and learning to coach.  These things are not effective if we are not fully engaged with others.
  3. Not everyone has my behavioral preferences and personality tendencies.  I must learn to be aware of how others recharge and respond to situations.  I must also learn to adapt my behaviors to lead more effectively.
  4. Getting feedback from others is crucial to helping me grow.  Before I left, I had several people from my office give me feedback through a 360 degree feedback survey.  I also received feedback from my teammates throughout the week.  Receiving feedback from others isn’t always easy.  It requires humility, open ears, and a willingness to analyze, adapt, and accept.  The feedback I received was encouraging and eye-opening.  It provided an opportunity to look in the mirror and discover more about me.
  5. Transparency opens the door to team growth.  Within a few hours, my team shared aspects of our past that influenced our leadership and life up until this week.  The stories shared led to more stories.  The stories bonded us together in a way I hadn’t expected.  By the end of the week, I not only had a team of colleagues – I had a team of friends and personal cheerleaders.  I now have people in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States who I grew close to me.  I know I’ll be able to connect with them when I have a leadership issue I need to navigate.
  6. My leadership will only get better when I let others lead.  I have a natural tendency to take on more than I should.  I fail to delegate and to pass off leadership to my team, because I want to make sure things are accomplished at my standard.  If I don’t let others lead, I’m doing a disservice to them, to me, and to my company.  As I head back to work today, I’ll be looking for ways to let others lead.
  7. I’m excited for the future of my company.  In my 20+ years with the company, I have never experienced this type of training.  I had the chance to rub shoulders with the up and coming leaders in the company, and they have so many great ideas which will propel our company forward into the future.

These thoughts only brush the surface of my experience last week.  I left the week exhausted.  I’ve spent a lot of time in silence since I left the resort on Friday afternoon.  My head is full with ideas and questions related to how I will implement my learnings.

My heart is full, because I had the opportunity to dive fairly deep into the lives of several new friends.  The coaches along with my colleagues left me feeling valued and accepted.

My belly is full, because they kept feeding us.  Thankfully, I hit the fitness center four of the five mornings I was at the resort.  This week I will get back into a more healthy and normal routine.

If you want to STRETCH your leadership, you need to invest your time and energy (and maybe some money) into yourself.  This week was all about making that investment, and I’m so excited to move ahead with the new tools in my tool belt.

When was the last time you invested in yourself?  How did you STRETCH as a result of this experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

What Is Home?

April 25, 2016 — 1 Comment

home

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

Maya Angelou

This week, I’m not home.  I’m out-of-town attending a leadership conference in Chicago and then visiting my brother’s family in Milwaukee.

I’m away from my home in Pennsylvania.

But I’m returning to my home in Illinois.  I lived outside of Chicago until I was 8 years old.

Home is where the heart is.

Pliny the Elder

At least that’s what they say.

Home is where I feel a sense of belonging.  It’s where I feel a connection with my past, my present, and my future.

Home is where I feel safe.  It protects me from the storms of life.  It keeps me warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry in the rain.

Home is where I feel a sense of purpose.  Sure I need to branch out – to stretch – into the uncomfortable.  But my first purpose is fulfilled when I’m a home.

Home is the nicest word there is.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I feel at home when I’m in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania.  I feel at home when I’m in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.  I feel at home when I’m at my job in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.  I feel at home when I’m in Grove City, Pennsylvania (where I went to college).  I feel at home when I’m in Xenacoj in Guatemala.

I feel at home when I connect with others through my writing and speaking.  I feel at home when I mow the lawn.  I feel at home when I run the trails near my home or the treadmill at my gym.

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

Despite these feelings, places, and experiences, I still have an ache – an empty spot – for home.  When people pass away, others say “They went home.”  This sometimes sounds cliché, but I think there’s something to it.  We all have a longing for home that won’t truly be satisfied until we take up residence in our eternal home.  Until then, I’m hanging onto the glimpses of home I experience in this life.

My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.

Billy Graham

What does home mean to you and where do you find it in your life?

This post was inspired by a fantastic video about bringing humanity to the homeless.  I hope you’ll check it out below.

10 ESSENTIALS FOR OVERCOMING THE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE

Stress happens.

How you handle stress matters.

My post today initially started as an explanation for a recent reduction in my weekly blog posts, and it turned into an all-out focus on handling the stress we face in life.  I’m not going to change the initial part of the post as I think it helps provide a window into the stress I’ve been experiencing recently.  I don’t know what stress you are dealing with lately, but I’m hoping today’s post will help you as you face life’s challenges.

What is on your goal list?

Are you giving attention to the goals you really want to accomplish?

You may have noticed a recent drop off in the number of posts I am releasing each week.  There’s a reason (actually, there are a few reasons):

  1. I’m working on my next book project.  A good percentage of my normal writing time is currently focused on this project.  With a busy work and family schedule, I have to be intentional with my time.  And in some cases, this means I have to give up something to get something else.  Once I get through this book project, I hope to post more frequently.  Until then, I’m learning to be content with a post or two per week.
  2. I’ve had a few “distractions” in my life lately.  Without going into too much detail, these distractions have been related to my job, my home, my family, and our upcoming missions trip to Guatemala.  Most of these things are great, but they have required a significant portion of my regular bandwidth.  For my job, I’m preparing to visit Chicago at the end of the month for an exclusive leadership development workshop.  The pre-work for this workshop will ensure I get the most out of the experience which will team me up with leaders from Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.  For my family, we are navigating the college selection process for the first time with our oldest child.  We are supporting our son as he works on his Eagle Scout project.  And we’re running between various activities at the track, the concert hall, and elsewhere.  My parents are also going through some health challenges and life transitions.  And our family is trying to put the finishing touches on our plans to go back to Guatemala this summer.  (You can support us here or here.)

Life is about choices.

If you are a “Go Getter” like me, you have to come to terms with this fact:  You can’t do everything.

Sometimes you have to let go of the good, so you can focus on the great.  And sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the things on your personal agenda, so you can focus on the things that come your way in the course of life.

As I’ve faced some of the recent challenges (and “distractions”), I’ve dealt with some anxiety, some sleepless nights, and some emotion.  To put it simply, I’ve experienced stress.  Stress is a normal part of life in today’s world.  Unfortunately, many of us don’t know handle ourselves when the stress levels climb.  As I work through my the stress in my life, I’ve developed a list to help me deal with the stress.  I’m hoping this will help you when you deal with stress.

10 Essentials For Overcoming the Stress in Your Life

  1. Eat right.  Eating junk only drags you down.  When stress happens, our eating habits are the first things to be compromised.  Junk in equals junk out.  Put the good stuff in to help you overcome the stresses you are juggling.  Eat regularly.  Balance your intake with proteins and plant-based carbohydrates.  Drink plenty of water.  Avoid excess sugar and caffeine.  Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
  2. Exercise.  When we get too busy, we often forget to take care of ourselves physically.  Regular exercise is paramount to dealing with an abundance of stress, and it’s essential for building you up for the future challenges you will face.  Regular cardio and strength training gives you more energy and helps build your immune system.
  3. Get sleep.  I struggle with this one.  We all need different amounts of sleep, but most of us need far more sleep that we actually get.  The past few months, I have returned to taking a nap or two on the weekend.  These short siestas help restore my energy levels to better handle the challenges of the upcoming week.  Try going to bed earlier (I’m preaching to myself now).  Turn off the electronics and the television.  Read a book.  Drink a warm glass of milk.  And head to bed early.
  4. Get fresh air.  Too often, we get stuck in the office all day.  Our only fresh air intake happens when we walk into the office at the beginning of the day and when we walk to our car at the end of the day.  Use your lunch time to take a quick walk or to visit a local park.  Breathe in the fresh air.
  5. Practice gratitude.  When stress levels begin to elevate, we tend to become more negative.  We forget to appreciate what is going on around us.  Find a way to practice gratitude.  Start a gratitude journal, and write in it every day.  Write down two or three things you appreciated about your day.  You’ll be surprised to see the impact of this discipline on your stress levels.
  6. Plug into a support system.  You may need a little help from your friends.  I’m in three or four groups that encourage me through tough times.  We all need a this kind of support system.  I meet with 13 other men on a weekly basis.  I meet with a small group of entrepreneurs every other week.  I meet with a group of families twice a month.  And I meet with a group of fellow managers every week at my office.  These meetings are essential to balancing the stresses of life.  These groups have been a place for me to let out some of the emotion I am dealing with and to calibrate my responses to whatever is happening in my life.  If the stress levels continue to rise, I’d highly recommend professional counseling.  Several years ago when I was going through a very stressful time in my life, I met with a counselor for several weeks.  These sessions helped.
  7. Stay connected with those who are closest to you.  Stress impacts our relationships with those we love.  In order to counterbalance this natural tendency, it’s imperative that we find ways to spend time together so we can connect.  My wife and I practice a weekly date night which helps.  Plan ahead for time away from the normal routines and pressures of life.  My wife and I are planning a trip to Vermont in June to celebrate our 20th anniversary and to simply connect away from home.  If you have children, date them too.  Take your son or daughter out for ice cream or for a bike ride.  Time together with those we love builds better relationships and builds a foundation for dealing with the stresses of life.
  8. Stay grounded in God’s word.  Don’t underestimate the power of God’s word in overcoming the challenges of life.  God’s word encourages, teaches, and reminds us of truths we must remember when life gets challenging.  One of the verses that came back to me recently is Philippians 4:6-7:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  9. Pray.  My prayer life has increased recently.  Pray for God’s intervention in the challenges you are facing.  Pray for wisdom, peace, and joy.  Pray for those who seem to be coming against you.  Pray that God would use the challenges you are facing now to help others later.  Stress often leads to bitterness, so we must pray that God would change our hearts.
  10. Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Keep going.  Don’t let the stress stop you from moving ahead.  Learn.  Take one step at a time.  And keep stretching!

I feel better already.

How about you?

How do you handle stress?  What do you do to overcome stress in your life?  Why do you think it’s important to address our response to stress?

If you are looking for additional help in handling stress, I think the 7 Week Stretch Challenge could help.  Sign up below:

TAKING TIME TO INVEST IN THE NEXT GENERATION

Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.

Simon Sinek

I volunteer on Sunday night as an adult leader at my church’s high school youth group, and I have a confession:  I don’t always enjoy it.  I sometimes feel out-of-place.  I sometimes feel like I’m the “old guy.”  And I occasionally wonder if I’m making a difference.

(How did I become the “old guy”?)

This weekend, I was talking to my wife about some recent thoughts and observations regarding my role.

Without fail, I end up having a few conversations each week with students.  These conversations confirm my initial decision to volunteer with this ministry.

Students arrive at youth group with all kinds of baggage.

  • They are stressed out, because they have a big project, paper, or test due in the coming days.
  • They are exhausted, because they are super involved in sports, music, or other activities.
  • They are lonely, because they don’t have real friends.
  • They are insecure, because they don’t have a secure and stable home life.
  • They are confused, because they are flooded with conflicting messages at home, at school, and especially on-line.
  • They are struggling, because they don’t fit in, they got involved with an unhealthy habit or relationship, and they are afraid to ask for help.

I can’t solve their problems, but I can be there to listen.  I can give them feedback based on my experiences.  I can be there to be a positive example in their lives.  And I can be there to let them know they are valued.

In my discussion with my wife, I was reminded of the importance of plugging into those who are younger.  If you are reading this, you more than likely have experiences and wisdom to share with others.  You have the opportunity to become a mentor, an advocate, and a cheerleader for those coming behind you.

If you want to leave a legacy…if you want to be stretched, be intentional.  Invest in those who are younger than you.

When you do this, you’ll discover:

  • There is hope for the future.
  • The next generation is full of promise.
  • The youth of today can actually teach you.
  • You can make a difference in the lives of those who are younger than you.

If you feel like you still have a long way to go (and we all have a long way to go), seek out a mentor for you.

I have a renewed respect for those who invested in me.  I think of my youth leaders.  I think of my teachers,  I think of my bosses.  I think of my parents.  I’m guessing they had similar concerns about my generation, and yet they continued to invest in people like me.  They listened to me.  They encouraged me.  They pushed me forward.  They loved me, and they helped me feel valuable.

Now it’s my turn!

And it’s your turn too!

Who invested in you?  How are you investing in the next generation?

For other related articles, check out:

 

 

 

TOP POSTS AND COMMENTERS March 2016

Top Posts for March 2016:

  1. 5 Ways To Represent Well
  2. 5 Lessons I Learned By Studying The Life of Joshua
  3. When The Waves Grow Fierce Around Me
  4. Help Us Build A House (Or Two or More) In Guatemala!
  5. Ice Breaker – Easter
  6. 7 Reasons I’m On Snapchat
  7. Video Blog: Table Topics – Spring and St. Patrick’s Day
  8. 101 Ice Breaker Ideas
  9. Commitment to Prayer
  10. 6 Essentials for Finding Meaning in Your Life

Top Stretched Commenters of the Month:

If you are a blogger, share your top post in the comments.  Which STRETCHED post was your favorite this month?  And why?

Ice Breaker – Joke

April 1, 2016 — 13 Comments

ICE BREAKER Joke

Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

It’s April 1st, which means it is April Fool’s Day.  This is a day for jokes and pranks.  Today”s Ice Breaker question is inspired by this “important” holiday.  We all need laughter in our lives.

Question:  What is your favorite joke?

My Answer:  I love corny jokes.  In fact, many people call me the King of the Dad Jokes.  Is that a compliment?  Here’s one of my favorite jokes:

Q:  What time do you go to the dentist?

A:  2:30 (Tooth-hurty).  Get it?

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

101 ICE BREAKER IDEAS

To get a FREE copy of 101 Ice Breaker Ideas (an eBook by me), sign up below:

We are the Stolpe Family (Jon, Leanne, Hannah, and Isaac).

familyIn 2012, I (Jon) made my first trip to Guatemala to build a house with a team from our church.  My life changed forever.

The following year, I brought our family back to the village of Xenacoj to serve the widows and orphans here.  We went back again in 2014 to build two more homes for two widows in need.

I have a BIG goal – to one day build 100 houses in Guatemala.  This will only happen one at a time.  Each house provides a stepping stone for families to survive and thrive.  When a family can sleep in warm beds protected from the elements, they are better prepared to face the challenges that exist in everyday life in this village.

This summer, our family is going back to build another house (maybe more).  And we could really use your help!

We are raising $5,000 to pay for a house, to pay for 5 beds, and to pay the final lodging, food, and in-country travel expenses we will incur while we are in Guatemala for two weeks.

Here is a breakdown of the costs:

– House ($2,000):
– Concrete Floor $ 400
– Roof $250
– Masonry Half Walls $500
– Front Wall $500
– Back Wall $600
– Right Side Wall $200
– Left Side Wall $200
– Doors and Windows $250
– Electric (Lights and Outlets) $100
– Beds ($100 each x 5)
– Remaining In-Country Expenses ($2,500)

(If we raise more than $5,000, money will be used to build additional houses in Guatemala.)

In order to finalize the financial end of our project, we need these funds by the end of May 2016.

These funds will not only help me reach my goal.  They will change the lives of a widow and her family forever.

Thank you so much for making this happen.  Your generous donation of any size is greatly appreciated.

To donate to this important cause, click here.

One more thing, could you please share this post with your friends and family?  Thank you!

6 ESSENTIALS FOR FINDING MEANING IN YOUR LIFE

What is the meaning of life?  This is a question people have been asking themselves for ages.

Meaningless.  Meaningless.  Chasing after the wind.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes 1:2

Too many of us go after things in life that really are meaningless.  When we step back and look at it from a different perspective, we realize that we had our ladder leaned up against the wrong wall, and we’ve been climbing to the top only to realize that we were climbing against the wrong wall.

This week I received some tough news that reminded me that this life is fleeting – it’s short.  And we will endure problems, trials, and illnesses, and we will eventually come to a realization that a lot of the things we are pursuing in life really don’t matter when it comes down to it.

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to mean something.  I want to pursue things that matter.  I don’t want to waste my time doing things that won’t add up to a hill of beans.  I want to be intentional with how I live my life – on a day by day basis and on a moment by moment basis.

Our perspective changes as we go through life.  We see things through different lenses along the way, and sometimes I think that we go through trials in life to re-calibrate us – to reset our vision.  I think this might be happening through my experience this week – in the tough circumstances that I’m wrestling with in my own mind.

What are your priorities and what are you doing about them?  Do you know them?  Have you stopped long enough to pay attention – to really process the priorities that you have in your life? 

Is it work?  Is it achievement?  Is it notoriety?  Is it fame?  Is it your family?  Is it your faith?  Is it financial freedom?

All these things are okay, but are they really your priorities?  Have you stopped long enough to really analyze what matters most in life?

Once you know your priorities, it’s important to map out how you’re going to get there.

What are you going to do?  How are you going to change your life to live in light of those priorities?

I cannot answer that question for you.  This is a question you need to answer for yourself.

I just finished listening to a new book, Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, and they challenge readers to consider writing their own eulogy.

What would you want people to stay at your funeral?  If this is what you want people to say, how are you living your life to prepare for this?

I don’t know how everything is going to work out with the situation I’m facing, but I do know I have the opportunity to really analyze my priorities and shift some of my perspectives.  And just maybe I will come down from the ladder that I was climbing on to make sure I have it positioned against the correct wall.

This is the challenge I leave you with today:  Is your ladder leaning against the correct wall, or are you chasing things that are meaningless?

Live a life that matters.

Pursue your priorities.  Carefully consider your priorities.  Gain new perspective, and live your life with intention. 

More importantly, what I’m learning through this experience is the importance of relationships.  You can pursue all kinds of achievement and accolades and everything, but the reality is the relationships that you have with others matters so much more than those career positions and promotions, those super-large portfolios, and those trophies.  Take time today to connect with those who matter most in your life.  And then repeat every day for the rest of your life.

If you want to find meaning in your life:

6 Essentials for Finding Meaning in Your Life

  1. Look in the mirror.
  2. Determine your priorities.
  3. Live intentionally in light of your priorities.
  4. Plug into key relationships.
  5. Above all else, seek God first.
  6. Repeat for the rest of your life.

What is the meaning of your life?  Knowing this, how are you living your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

101 Ice Breaker Ideas

March 25, 2016 — 1 Comment

101 ICE BREAKER IDEAS

Nearly every Friday for the past several years, I have been asking Ice Breaker questions her at Jon Stolpe Stretched.

Along the way, I’ve had many people reach out to me to thank me for the idea to use in their small group or for their special mixer event.

Today, I want to give you a useful resource.  I’ve assembled 101 of the top Ice Breaker questions just for you in FREE 8 page e-Book – 101 Ice Breaker Ideas.  To get your copy, sign up below:

What’s your favorite Ice Breaker question?

4 WAYS TO DEAL WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S BAD HABITS

I don’t have any bad habits. They might be bad habits for other people, but they’re all right for me.

Eubie Blake

We all have habits.  Some habits are good, and some habits are bad.

Do you chew your fingernails?  Do you chew with your mouth open?  Do you tap your fingers when you are nervous?  Do you smack your lips?  These are bad habits.

Maybe you have a bad habit and you don’t even know it.

My guess is others probably notice when you have a bad habit.

I have a bad habit (actually I have many bad habits).  I didn’t realize it until my wife and kids said something to me.  Apparently, I make a noise sometimes while I’m eating.  I don’t do it all the time, and I don’t think I do it most of the time, but I can see how it would be annoying (or at least amusing) to those around me.  It’s like a quiet “Hum”, and it seems to especially happen when I’m eating soup.  The first time my kids and wife said something to me about this bad habit, I had no idea I was making that noise while I was eating.

There are many things in our lives we don’t notice.  This is why it’s important to have people in our lives who will speak truth and who will call us onto the carpet when there are things in our lives that we need to adjust.  Telling other people about their bad habits is not an easy thing to do.  It takes thoughtfulness.  It takes tact, and it takes some courage to tell somebody they have a bad habit that needs to be addressed.  To help you address the bad habits of those around you, I have some ideas to make it a little easier:

4 Ways To Deal With Other People’s Bad Habits

  1. Look in the mirror.  Take time to analyze what habits you may have.  You may be surprised to learn that you have the same bad habit you are trying to address in someone else.  It’s important for you to address your own bad habits first before you work on someone’s bad habits.
  2. Be kind and thoughtful.  Make it your mission to be positively constructive.  Don’t destroy or rip apart someone when you address their bad habit.  You want to be honest, and you want to be kind.  Address others as you would want to be addressed.
  3. Offer to help.  Overcoming a bad habit is not easy.  A little help can go a long way in eliminating long-held patterns in our lives.  Ask if you can remind the person whenever you seem them falling into their old habits.  If the person is receptive, you can ask them how they are doing when it comes to breaking their bad habit.  Get involved in creating a reward of some sort that rewards the person as they reach milestones in overcoming their bad habit.  Be part of the solution.
  4. Remove yourself from the situation.  If the bad habit is irritating you so much and the person doesn’t seem receptive to change, you may need to remove yourself from the situation.  There’s a gentleman at the Starbucks where I go every Sunday morning to write who makes a loud coughing sound every couple of minutes.  I don’t know if he knows he’s doing it, but it drives me crazy.  I distracts my train of thought as I’m writing.  I don’t have a great platform for telling him about the habit, so I must learn to deal with it or move to another location for my writing.  (This week, I went to a different Starbucks, and my writing time was more productive.)

What is one of your bad habits?  What advice do you have for dealing with the bad habits other people have?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

For other interesting articles on habits, check out these links below: