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This morning, I decided to write while sitting at the “bar” (or counter) of the Starbucks where I usually write on Sunday mornings before church. I typically write while sitting at one of the tables against the wall. For some reason, it felt like it was a good day for a different perspective.
From my current vantage point, I watch three Starbucks team members behind the counter busily serving their customers. One young man is the barista. Another is emptying the trash, warming up pastries, and loading the refrigerator with milk. A young lady is at the register taking orders. They seem to be working well together to meet the expectations of their customers.
I’m thankful for the new perspective this morning.
A couple of weeks ago, we held a meeting in our office for our field specialists. They are the team members who make sure our products work correctly in the buildings where we are contracted to provide our products and services. During the meeting, one of the specialists indicated he wanted a chance to do my job for the day – kind of a reverse Undercover Boss scenario.
I’ve been mulling over this request for a few days. What would it look like to have someone shadow me for a day? How could I give them an appropriate perspective on my job without compromising my performance or the confidentiality that I must keep with some of the information that comes my way? What is a reasonable outcome of such an experiment? Would a “Boss for the Day” experiment be beneficial in the long-run?
Honestly, I had never thought of such an idea before I heard it two weeks ago. It’s a reminder to keep my eyes and ears open to the ideas, perspectives, and opportunities presented by others.
Are you a person of routine like me?
One of my Daily Stretch Affirmations is: I take time to try new things.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
I want to influence culture instead of letting culture influence me. Despite this intent, I've learned that I can't live my life with blinders. While I want to be influential, I need to be open to how I might be STRETCHED by the world around me - and that includes the culture.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This week, I was folding laundry while Leanne was working on grad school homework. While I was folding clothes and sorting socks, I turned on a new NBC television show, New Amsterdam. In the show (inspired by a true story), Dr. Max Goodwin (played by Ryan Eggold) takes over New Amsterdam, a not-for-profit hospital in New York City. Dr. Goodwin introduces himself to the hospital staff by asking a simple question: "How can I help?"
The rest of this episode (Pilot) introduces viewers to various characters and their stories while watching Dr. Goodwin repeatedly ask this question.
Believe it or not, this time of multi-tasking (folding laundry and watching television) had a profound impact on me.
I've always tried to be helpful - especially as a leader. But if I'm honest (which I try to be), I don't always think about what others need. I don't always ask how I can help. I sometimes become self-absorbed caught up in my own list of things I want to accomplish or attend to each day. I miss out on the real needs of my team members.
This is not good, and it's not the way I want to lead.
I want to have a "How can I help" mindset.
On Friday at the office, I repeatedly asked this question as I interacted with my co-workers and customers. It was refreshing. I felt a renewed sense of connection with my job, my team, and my mission. I rediscovered a new passion for my role as a leader in my organization.
As you head into the work week, I challenge you to ask this question at least once a day. And when you ask how you can help be sure to listen to the response. Then go do what you can do to help.
Leave your response below (or feel free to reach out to me privately). I'd love to help you!
Daily Stretch Affirmation No. 1
We live in a world of non-stop motion. During the day, fingers are moving across keyboards creating and sending messages around the world. Cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles are moving over the countless miles of concrete, asphalt, dirt, and stone that make the roads we travel. People are moving from one meeting to the next. At night, families and individuals are moving from one activity to the next - soccer practice, scouts, grocery shopping, dinner, homework, and the list goes on and on and on. We don't stop until we collapse in bed at the end of the day hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before we do it all over again the next day.
Wake up. Move. Move. Move. Move. Move. Collapse in bed.
We struggle to be still.
This is not good!
Statistics show that anxiety and anxiety disorders are on the rise. For example, a recent Stastista survey finds that 39% of adults surveyed are more anxious in 2018 than in 2017. Obviously, there could be a number of reasons for these findings, but I would argue that our culture of busyness and constant motion contributes to the anxiety we feel.
If there's any question that these results are short-sighted, I'd encourage you to think about your own experience. How do you spend your days? How often to you stop? How much time are you moving around (physically or mentally)?
I've written about it here before. I struggle with this. I typically get up at 4AM every day. I turn off the light around 10PM every night. And I'm in constant motion between 4AM and 10PM.
It's not healthy to live this way.
It's not the way we were meant to live.
There's a better, more healthy way.
Taking time to still yourself has three benefits that are sure to make your life better.
1. Being still gives you the opportunity for rest, restoration, and relaxation. We need these things. I've heard people say they can rest and relax when they die. This may (or may not) be true. I would argue that we need rest and relaxation so we can be more effective and productive now. "It's better to be busy than bored" isn't completely true. We need times of stillness to be the best we can be.
2. Being still gives you the opportunity to deepen your relationships with others. In our busyness, we typically spend little time going deep with the people in our pathways. We ask people how they are doing, and we become satisfied with their "Good" answer. We're okay with this answer, because we're trying to get to the next thing or our brains are occupied with other thoughts.
3. Being still gives you a proper perspective on God. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10)." When we are in constant motion, we leave little opportunity to connect with God, to contemplate God's impact on our lives, and to develop an appropriate understanding of God.
Jon, I get it. I understand that constant motion and busyness are not the best for me, for my relationships, and for my faith. But I can't help it. The world is moving, and I have to keep up with it. My job requires constant motion, and my family requires constant and complete attention. What to I do to create time for stillness in my life?
I'm glad you asked! Here are three ways you can be still today.
1. Say "No" to something on your calendar. Bob Goff quits something every Thursday. If you are struggling to find time to be still, it might be time for you to quit one of the things on your activity list. If you want to intentionally make time to be still, you have to intentionally prioritize your calendar to make it work.
2. Start your day with time to be still. We all have morning routines. We wake up and do things to get ready for our day. Try adding five or ten minutes of stillness at the beginning of your day (you can always increase this time later). Put away distractions (like your phone or tablet), and simply be still. When you start your day with stillness, the rest of your day will be transformed.
3. Practice hourly, daily, and weekly sabbaths. I've written about this before. Take a minute of Sabbath every hour (set a reminder alarm on your phone or watch). Take an hour of Sabbath every day. Take a day of Sabbath every week. The concept of Sabbath was created for you an me. Sabbaths give us the opportunity to be still - to get away from the crippling busyness of our lives. Sabbaths help you re-calibrate, and they will change your life forever.
I take time to Still myself.
You can do it!
The discipline of daily affirmations took a major hit in the early 1990's when Saturday Night Live aired several episodes of "Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley" starring former SNL regular, Al Franken. In each episode, Stuart Smalley offered self-talk in a way that came across as weird and even delusional. Since then, many have shunned the practice of daily affirmations as unnecessary and crazy.
Recently, the discipline of daily affirmations has gained traction as authors, speakers, and leaders have shared their affirmation success stories. For example, Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answerman (now Mindset Answerman), has spoken quite a bit about his own practice of daily affirmations on his weekly podcast, The Cliff Ravenscraft Show. Episode 521 provides a small glimpse into his daily affirmations specifically related to money and wealth. On his blog, leadership mentor, Michael Hyatt, alludes to his use of daily affirmations to help train his brain in an article titled "How to Beat Your Brain and Succeed."
A couple of weeks ago at my Friday morning men's group, the topic of daily affirmations came up. Actually, the topic came up through a YouVersion study plan we were working through together (Crash the Chatterbox). I had been thinking about incorporating daily affirmations into my morning routine, so I asked the group if any of them practice daily affirmations. One of the guys in the group shared his daily affirmations with the group. I promptly "stole" them and added my own to the list.
I printed them out and taped them into the front cover of my daily planner. I'm still working on making this a regular discipline in my life, but I can already tell the positive self-talk is actually a real good thing for crushing my doubts and encouraging me to use my gifts.
Today, I'm sharing seven of these affirmations. These are affirmations specifically written to remind me to Stretch on a daily basis. Here they are:
My daily affirmation list will continue to grow and transform as I live my life and encounter new challenges and opportunities. I'm thankful for this new discipline in my life.
Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.
Jim Rohn brings up a great point about daily affirmations. Words are meaningless unless they cause real action and change in our lives. I would encourage you to share your daily affirmations with someone, and ask them to hold you accountable to taking action on the words you say to yourself everyday. Also, ask them to observe you and give you honest feedback on what's working, what's not working, and what needs to change when it comes to your daily affirmations.
OK! Now it's your turn. Stretch yourself today by creating your own list of daily affirmations. When you're creating this list, think about the things you want to keep doing, and think about the things you want to change or implement in your life. You can do it!
I have the opportunity to interview many young engineers, HVAC technicians, and project managers. After listening to their stories and their explanations for why they are the best for the job, I ask them if I can give them a few suggestions for getting ahead whether or not they join my team.
If they say "Yes" to my question, I tell them these three pieces of advice:
Too often people are too pround to ask for the help they need to get ahead. They don't want to appear as if they don't know what they are doing. Humility is necessary if you want to get ahead.
"How can I do this better the next time?" This is a great way to learn more for your future endeavors, and it's a great way to establish a connection with someone. When you ask for feedback, you demonstrate a curiousity that is sure to produce results (as long as you follow through on the feedback you get).
Don't wait around for someone to give you another project or task. Be proactive. A hungry spirit will give you opportunity beyond your wildest dreams.
These are the questions I have used to grow (or STRETCH as I like to say) in my career. It's not rocket science, but you're sure to launch your career and your life when you incorporate these three questions into your regular routine.
The next semester of the Stretched Men Group is getting ready to start, and men are getting ready to STRETCH their marriages, their parenting, their careers, their faith, and their lives.
You don’t want to miss the opportunity to be part of the Stretched Men Group!
The Stretched Men Group provides a safe, transforming environment to help men like you take steps forward. Here are some of the ways the group has helped other men:
One man started praying for his ex-wife.
One man started taking his family back to church.
One man changed jobs.
One man had a tough conversation with his wife that transformed his relationship.
One man had a difficult conversation with his co-worker that led to a job change.
One man tackled a pornography addiction.
One man started reading his Bible on a daily basis.
One man reached out to his estranged sons.
One man took his marriage and sex-life to a whole new level.
If you’re looking to STRETCH and experience this kind of change in your life, you should join the next semester of the Stretched Men Group. For more information, go to www.stretchedmengroup.com. Once you are there, you can request a FREE, no pressure informational call with me to see if the Stretched Men Group is right for you.
Don’t wait too long, the spots will fill up fast.
Later today, I’ll be dropping my daughter off for the start of her junior year of college, and my wife and I will be entering the empty nest. (Last week, we dropped our son off for his freshman year of college.) While I’m sad to say goodbye to my kids knowing their return home will never quite be the same, I’m extremely excited by this next step in our journey together.
Many people talk about the empty nest with negativity. People imply that life is almost over when the kids leave the house. Or people wonder out loud about how spouses will handle each other without the barrier and distraction of children.
The empty nest doesn’t have to be a scary thing. In fact, there are things you can do today to better prepare yourself for the empty nest.
When you take these steps, you too can enter the empty nest with enthusiasm, hope, and excitement. Don’t wait for the kids to say goodbye, take action today to get ready for the empty nest!
To get you up to speed without all the details, Bill Hybels, who started Willow Creek Community Church and led it to become one of the biggest mega-churches in the United States, retired “early” a few months ago following growing allegations of sexual misconduct, affairs, and mistreatment of women.
When reports initially surfaced several months ago, the leadership at Willow protected Hybels (and themselves) while discounting the accounts of several women who accused Hybels of inappropriate actions.
Over the past week in the wake of a tenth woman coming forward with specific details of Hybels’ misconduct the elders and lead pastors at Willow resigned finally apologizing to the women who had been hurt by Hybels (and the board’s previous discredit of their testimony) and to the congregation for poor leadership and even misleading. And they called on Hybels to apologize and state the truth about the accusations.
While we were on vacation, we ran into a couple who go to Willow Creek Community Church. When we spoke to them early in the week, the elder board resignation had not yet happened. It was interesting for me to listen to them as they blamed the women (Nancy Beach and Nancy Ortberg in particular) for the recent problems at Willow. They seemed to have the same mindset of the board prior to their resignation. (We did not see them again, so I don’t know if their perspective changed following Wednesday night’s resignations.)
On the way home from Arizona yesterday, we “ran” into famous baseball pitcher, Randy Johnson, at the Phoenix airport. (I actually spotted him from across the security check-in area. I’m pretty sure he didn’t see me.) It’s easy to get excited when we run into someone we consider famous like Randy Johnson, Lynn Swan, and even Bill Hybels (these are some of the “famous” people with whom I’ve crossed paths).
I’ve had the opportunity to hear Bill Hybels preach and speak in person, and I’ve been to Willow Creek several times for small group leadership conferences. I’ve also read a couple of books by Bill Hybels. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church have had a profound impact on many, many people. Thousands of people have been introduced to Jesus as a result of Hybels and Willow. And Willow Creek as been a model for many, many churches across the country and around the world.
This is good on one hand, but it is also scary on the other hand.
I don’t write about these kinds of topics very often. I honestly am afraid to say something stupid (maybe I already have in this post). But I’m supposed to be stretching myself and others, so I think it’s important for me to explore my thoughts on topics like this from time to time.
Here are a few things that scare me and/or stretch me about the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek Community Church situation:
I’m not an expert by any “stretch”. I don’t know the intimate details surrounding the Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church situation. I’ve read some of the news articles and opinion pieces (New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Relevant Magazine). I’d encourage you to read for yourself and STRETCH yourself to think about how you can and should respond. I’d also encourage you to watch this video of Willow Creek Elder Missy Rasmussen: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/100031181-132.html.
Stretching is not just about growing our brains by filling them with more information. Stretching is about challenging our minds and hearts and about taking actions that take us out of our comfort zones. Stretching also happens when we pray. I’d encourage you to pray for Bill Hybels, Hybels’ family, Willow Creek Community Church, and the women and their families who have been impacted by this situation. I believe God works in the midst of our messiness, and I believe God will work in this situation.
If you are a pastor or are in church leadership, I’d encourage you to talk about this. Even if your church or ministry is in a healthy place right now, you can learn and grow.
I certainly don’t have all the answers related to this situation. I’d love to read your thoughts. I’d encourage you in your thoughts and comments to seek to be productive and healing. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
This is a question I’ve been asked over and over again.
It’s a humbling question. And to be honest, answering the question with action has actually scared me.
I’ve made excuse after excuse, and I’ve put off hosting this kind of event…until now.
That’s right! I’m pleased to announce I’ll be holding my first book signing event this summer.
Here are the details:
Rooftop Reflections Book Signing
August 18, 2018
10AM – 1PM
for more details and to RSVP: rooftopreflections.com/booksigning
This will be an opportunity to get your own signed copy of Rooftop Reflections and to help further ministry to widows and orphans in Guatemala.
The past two days, I posted a list of the first 20 books I’ve read in 2018 (click here to see part one of the list and click here to see part two of the list). Here’s the next group of books on the list:
The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work by Jon Gordon – I’ve read one or two other books by Jon Gordon, and I really like his writing. He uses storytelling to teach business, leadership, and life principles. This book shows you how you can change a lot by removing complaining. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni – This is another book I picked up at our local library for 50 cents (or a dollar). I read this book while I was camping in the Poconos over Memorial Day weekend. I really enjoyed this book that has a similar feel to the Jon Gordon book above and the previous Patrick Lencioni book I read earlier in the year. If you want to be an extraordinary leader, you just may want to pick up a copy of this book. [Note: I read the hardcover version of this book.]
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller – Everybody talks about this book, so I decided I should give it a try. Gary Keller (of Keller-Williams) describes the remarkable difference we can make when we resist the urge to dilute our attention. Honestly, I struggle in this area. I’m too spread out in my focus, and this book was a great reminder of the importance of narrowing our focus. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier – I have the opportunity to coach at home, at work, at church, and in my on-line endeavors. This book was an important read for me. I truly want to help people succeed, and this book packs a valuable punch by teaching a structure that will help you get the most out of your coaching conversations. [Note: I read the audible version of this book.]
No Fail Meetings: 5 Steps to Orchestrate Productive Meetings (and Avoid All the Rest) by Michael Hyatt – When I heard this book was coming out, I immediately pre-ordered it. I knew this book at power to change the way I lead and participate in meetings. (My second book on meetings this year.) Michael Hyatt didn’t disappoint in this concise explanation of how to make meetings more productive. [Note: I read the hardcover version and the audio version of this book.]
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter – The Hamilton Craze has been sweeping our country for the past year or two. I saw In The Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s earlier musical, and I knew I wanted to know more about Hamilton. This book provides a unique look into the story of Hamilton, the man and the musical. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown – I’m a big baseball fan. When I saw this for sale in the used book area of our local library, I knew I had to pick it up for my own reading pleasure. I really enjoyed getting to know more about Jim Abbott, about his career, and about his life and struggles as told throughout the pages of the book. Abbott overcame unbelievable odds and obstacles to make it to Major League Baseball. [Note: I read the hardcover version of this book.]
Why Suffering?: FInding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale – When I was in college, I had the honor of hearing Ravi Zacharias speak at Intervarsity Urbana missions conference. I knew I was listening to someone with a lot of wisdom. I’ve experience some suffering in my life, but I’ve honestly been very blessed as well. This book gave me a refreshing perspective on suffering. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning by Derek Melleby – My friend, Sean McFeely, recommended this book when I told him about Isaac’s “Year of Discipleship”. We read this as our sixth book, and it provided practical reminders for high school students getting ready to transition to life and/or college. [Note: I read the paperback version of this book.]
Due to the overall length of this material, I will be breaking it up into a few posts. Stay tuned for the continuation of my 2018 reading list. I’ve read one or two other books, but I’ll wait until I get to book number 40 before posting the next post in this series. Stay tuned!