“Asking questions is the first way to begin change.”Kubbra Sait
When was the last time you took time to get to know someone?
I’m not talking about a two minute exchange of name, occupation, and a few other surface level pieces of information. I’m asking about sitting down for a longer stretch of time and having a conversation that goes deeper.
In our busy, hectic, me-focused world, we too often brush by opportunities to get to know others.
I’m guilty of this, and I’m guessing many of you are guilty as well.
Yesterday afternoon, I had an hour long ride with an Uber driver on my way back home from Bethlehem, PA (why I was in Bethlehem in need of a ride home is a whole other story). An hour is a long time to spend with someone you don’t know (at least that’s what I was thinking when I first sat down in the passenger seat of the car). I could have popped in my earbuds and listened to podcasts the whole time. I could have simply kept my mouth shut and enjoyed the scenery out the window. I could have wasted the opportunity to get to know the Uber driver I may never meet again.
Instead, I decided to talk to my driver. I decided to ask him questions and to listen to his story.
“Curiosity is the process of asking questions, genuine questions, that are not leading to an ask for something in return.”Brian Grazer
My driver’s name was Mohammed. He is 26 years old, he is from Northern Pakistan – near Afghanistan. He came to the United States four or five years ago. He now calls Nazareth, PA is home although he is living in a one bedroom apartment near Lehigh University where he is currently studying political science. He plans on going to law school after he graduates from Lehigh in another year and a half. To help save money, he attended community college for his first two years of college. That’s the surface level stuff.
As our drive continued, we began to broach deeper topics which included the differences between living in Pakistan and living in the United States. We talked about his family (he is one of seven children). He shared about his love for Pakistani food (particularly lamb and goat). I learned a little bit about his childhood about the fears associated with living where terrorism was a “regular” part of life.
Closer to my home, we began to talk about faith and religion. He asked me about my religion, and I then learned that he was a non-practicing Muslim. He was raised Muslim, and he is now in the process of reading the Koran and trying to determine his own path regarding this faith.
Before I knew it, we were pulling into my driveway. I think we could have talked for another hour or two – maybe longer.
The conversation was sparked by questions. We both asked each other questions as we drove on the highways and back roads to my home.
Mohammed and I are obviously very different – in our age, in our upbringing, in our faith. It would be easy to linger silently and uncomfortably because of these differences. Silence only leads to ignorance, and ignorance leads to stagnation and often conflict.
If we want to see positive change in this world, we must seek knowledge. In order to get knowledge, we must speak up, we must ask questions, and we must listen and learn to the answers we receive.
I’m so thankful for my Uber ride with Mohammed yesterday.
Imagine a world in which everyone asked questions to truly gain understanding. Imagine the change we would experience.
Change starts with you and me. Change starts by taking off our me-focused blinders. Change starts when we take time to listen and learn.
When was the last time you took time to get to know someone?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”Jesus – Matthew 7:7 (NIV)
“The hottest place in hell will be reserved for those who said nothing during times of trouble.”Martin Luther King Jr.
I saw this quote at the end of a Rotary email I was reading yesterday afternoon. Then my wife and I went on a date last night and saw Harriet, a new movie about Harriet Tubman. The meaning of this quote echoed through my mind as I left the theater.
Harriet recognized she was living in a time of trouble in which slavery was alive and well and human life and freedom was not recognized as an equal right. Instead of enjoying freedom in Philadelphia once she escaped her own slavery in Maryland, she dedicated her life to helping others find freedom. She took action risking her life for the freedom of others.
The quote and the movie begs these questions:
These aren’t questions to brush over.
It’s easy to keep wearing our blinders – to keep our eyes and ears only on things in our “perfect” and “controlled” world. If we keep wearing our blindfolds and our earplugs, we can’t be accused of failing to act on what we didn’t see or hear.
It’s time to remove the blindfolds from our eyes and the earplugs from our ears. We are called to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.Micah 6:8 (NIV)
Perhaps it’s climate change, and we need to be more like Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old Swedish teenager who is speaking up and taking action to bring attention to this trouble.
Perhaps it’s violence and life, and we need to be more like Shane Claiborne, the 44 year-old Philadelphia social activist who is taking action to end gun violence and to broaden the perspective on what it really means to be pro-life.
Perhaps it’s injustice being done to those in areas of conflict, and we need to be more like Bob Goff, the 60 year-old San Diego lawyer who is taking action around the world to help kids and women who are being impacted by conflict.
Imagine with me for a minute. Imagine how different the world would be if we began to really see and understand the trouble going on around us and if we began to take action to end the trouble we found.
I imagine a world where human life is valued – every human life from conception to the grave. I imagine a world where people take care of each other. I imagine a world where there is unity and collaboration. I imagine a world where people are more open to God because of how His people have shown them His love.
God, help us all to be alert to the trouble going on in our homes, in our communities, and in our world. And give us the clarity and the courage to take action.
“If your habits don’t line up with your dream, then you need to either change your habits or change your dream.”John Maxwell
I was on a more consistent writing streak until I hit two weekends in a row of travel and I failed to write a blog post. This weekend, I’m back home, and I’m excited to get back to writing!
We all get derailed from time to time. In other words, something or someone comes along that interrupts our routine or our habit.
“Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have.”Dale Carnegie
Sometimes a break in routine can provide the refreshment and inspiration we need to keep going. And sometimes a break in routine totally throws us for a loop or even causes us to go down a completely different path all together.
The opportunity to get back to writing today is just what I needed. It has given me the chance to tap into a part of my brain that isn’t used during my work week. Writing has given me the opportunity to slow down and to think. And hopefully, writing today provided encouragement to someone reading this post.
What do you do when you experience an interruption in your routine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
This is the day the Lord has brought about.Psalm 118:24 (NET Bible)
We will be happy and rejoice in it.
“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”Oprah Winfrey
Work has been pretty intense lately. I’m in the process of helping my department finish out the fiscal year. In addition, this is also the time for annual performance reviews. On top of that, we are concentrating on building our staff to address the growing workload.
I’m pretty serious about my business, and sometimes the stress and seriousness of my job is worn on my face. In other words, my eyes can show the fatigue I’m experiencing in my leadership role, and my mouth shows a frown more frequently than a smile.
Last week, I had the opportunity to do something different. I traveled to Grove City College to participate in their annual career fair. At the career fair, I met so many bright students who are preparing to leave their mark on this world. I was able to share with passion and enthusiasm about the benefits of working for my company.
I also had the opportunity to connect with engineering teaching staff. We discussed ways to help students be better prepared to enter the working world. These conversations included the possibility of sponsoring a senior design project and the possibility of teaching as an adjunct professor.
I came back home exhausted from the travel, but I also came back exhilarated by the experience and the conversations with students, business leaders and recruiters, and college teaching staff.
On Friday afternoon, I was sharing my experiences at Grove City College with a co-worker when she stopped me. She said, “You are smiling! You are so happy! When you started sharing about your experiences and future opportunities your face lit up!”
Her words left a mark on me.
Too often, we go about life failing to find and follow the things that really light us up. We operate under a sense of duty or even under a sense of desperation. We miss out on living life to the fullest, and we miss out doing the things that make us smile and make us happy.
Work is a four lettered word, but it doesn’t have to be a four letter word in a bad sense. Our work is an opportunity to live out our passion, to bring glory to God, and to impact the world.
I have heard it said (and I’ve even said it myself) that work isn’t called fun for a reason – it’s called work. I think we may be missing the mark when we fall into the trap of repeating this and believing this perspective.
Our work should bring us joy. It should be something that brings us a sense of satisfaction and a sense of purpose.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.Colossians 3:23-24
When we re-position our perspective on work, we will rediscover our passion and purpose for our jobs. When we work for the Lord, we find passion and pu-rpose that matters.
What happens when our job is challenging? What happens when we are discouraged with our job? Mel Lawrenz provides some excellent insight:
“Do you have a difficult and discouraging job? Many do. Genesis 3:17-19 tells us that our work sometimes is not like tending a nice garden, but working the difficult, stubborn fields full of thorns. If you feel sometimes as though you slog through your job just to put bread on the table, know this: there is dignity in accomplishing just that.”Mel Lawrenz, Work in the Bible—Thoughts for Labor Day Weekend
Sometimes a difficult and discouraging job can also be an indication that we need a change. It may be time to find a new job all together, or it may be time to find something else to add to your work. In either case, I think it’s healthy to take time to learn more about what lights you up.
This is where I would recommend experimenting with different types of work. I’d also recommend talking to those around you – they will tell you things about yourself you never realized. They will be able to see your face light up when you land on the right thing.
As you head into this new week, I want to encourage you to consider your current job. Does it light you up? If so, great! Keep at it!
If your job doesn’t light you up. Begin to ask why. Begin the process of figuring out what does light you up. Once you’ve figured that out then take the next step to make it happen. In my case, I’m beginning the process of writing a syllabus or two for courses I may teach as an adjunct professor.
Imagine a world where more people were working in their areas of passion. Imagine a world where people did work that brought light to their faces. We would have more people finding happiness. We would see an impact on the world – a world illuminated.
Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.Henri Nouwen
Last week, I was on a call with a couple of other colleagues from Mexico and the United States. We get together virtually once a month to encourage each other and to help each other navigate the leadership gantlet we all find ourselves in as leaders in our company.
During the call, one of the leaders confessed she was so consumed by her work that she had absolutely no life outside of work. She shared she was somewhat jealous of me, because of the active life I lead outside of my job. She has been an employee of the company for 25 years, and her work has become her identity.
It’s not uncommon for men to ask this question whenever they run into someone they don’t really know. What do you do?
Maybe you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a preacher, an engineer, a businessman, an entrepreneur, a manager, or something else.
Here’s my initial answer to this question. I’m a husband, a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, an engineer, a manager, a leader, a writer, a speaker, a philanthropist, a Toastmaster, a Rotarian, a Pennsylvanian, an American, a friend. This list could go on.
What would happen if these things were taken away from me? How would I define myself?
When we define ourselves by our activities, our careers, our titles, our positions, our geographical homes, etc. we limit ourselves. This is not who we really are. We are more!
Recently, I saw Overcomer, the latest movie from the Kendrick Brothers. The movie encouraged me to look at my identity from a better angle. In the movie, one of the characters is encouraged to read Ephesians 1 and 2 to see who we really are through Christ.
Here’s what I discovered (or rediscovered) as a result of this exercise:
When your identity is found in Christ, your identity never changes. You are always a child of God.Tim Tebow
Let me ask you again. Who are you? How do you identify yourself? What defines you? Better yet, who defines you?
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.Washington Irving
Many of those close to me know I like to play the “Hot Seat Game” with people. The game works best when there is a small group of people has some type of relationship with each other, and it’s important for there to be a commitment to confidentiality when a small group decides to play the “Hot Seat Game.”
In the game, an individual is put on the “Hot Seat.” The rules of the game permit anyone else to ask absolutely any question of the person in the Hot Seat. And the rules of the game also permit the person in the Hot Seat to please the fifth (or not answer) any question.
Typically, the “Hot Seat Game” starts with pretty basic questions: What’s your favorite color? Where were you born? How many pets have you had in your life?
From there the “Hot Seat Game” gets a little deeper: What are your biggest weaknesses? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Have you ever done anything illegal?
Finally, the “Hot Seat Game” can go right to the jugular: How is your spiritual life right now? How is your marriage? What is your biggest personal struggle with sin? And here is my favorite: When was the last time you cried and why?
I have witnessed grown men break down in tears as they have answered this last question. They’ve told stories of losing loved ones, of dealing with divorce, of missed opportunities with children.
I’m not a big crier. I just don’t cry all that often. I cried when I lost my grandparents. I shed tears when I we had to put our family dog to sleep. And I’ve admittedly shed a couple of tears at the end of a television show or a meaningful movie – like It’s A Wonderful Life.
I think lots of men are afraid to shed tears or they simply don’t know how to let down their guards – to expose their hearts.
As I reflect back on times when I have cried, I realize the tears actually brought relief. They gave expression to the grief, the stress, the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the thrill, the euphoria that I was experiencing at the time.
Yep. It was just a couple days ago when I had a small river of tears flowing down my left cheek.
The past few weeks have been an extremely busy, stressful, and exhausting time in my life. I have been battling a variety of challenging situations at work, and Leanne and I have been working together through a couple of tough transitions at home (don’t worry…our marriage is rock solid).
When I made it to Friday night, I suppose I was a bit more fragile than I realized. Leanne and I went to see the new Kendrick Brothers movie, Overcomer. The movie tells the story of a basketball/cross-country coach and a cross-country runner who are both struggling with their identities. Leanne and I both agree that the movie was fairly predictable, but we also agree that we would see it again (and again). The messages in the movie were pretty powerful.
At any rate, towards the end of the movie, tears started flowing down my left cheek. In a way, it was a sacred moment. The emotion evoked by the movie provided a place to release some of the other emotion from the past few weeks that had been bottled up inside me – emotion unexplained in words.
Crying is cleansing. There’s a reason for tears, happiness or sadness.Dionne Warwick
Crying is cleansing. I like that. Life can be so challenging, so diverse, so amazing and so difficult at the same time. Our tears help to wash and polish our lives. They bring definition and meaning to things we simply cannot express in any other way.
So here’s my question for you:
Figure it out for yourself. Write it down. Ponder this experience. Reflect. Then feel free to leave a comment if you are willing to share.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.Aristotle
In April of 2018, I started a streak.
I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps that day. 12,721 steps.
The next day, I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps again. 12,806 steps.
Then, I did it again for three days in a row. 13,515 steps.
The streak continues, and today I hit a significant milestone – 500 DAYS IN A ROW! (I have 14,460 steps as I type this, and I’m getting ready to go on a walk with Leanne.)
That’s right. For the past 500 days, I have walked at least 10,000 steps every day.
Some of those steps have taken place on a treadmill. Some of happened in airports throughout terminals and even around baggage claim carousels. I’ve walked in my basement. I’ve walked in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Guatemala. I’ve walked in rain, snow, sunshine, moonlight, and complete darkness. I’ve walked inside and outside. I’ve walked in extreme heat and extreme cold.
I’ve kept the streak alive one step at a time.
Walking every day has given me the opportunity to think, to listen, to enjoy God’ creation, to talk to other people (in person or on the phone), to learn, and to find money (I’ve probably found over $20 during these walks).
The Proclaimers recorded a song that is fitting for today – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles):
But I would walk 500 milesCharles S. Reid & Craig M. Reid – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door
500 days of walking is just the beginning. I don’t know how long the streak will last, but I know it has been a great benefit for my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I will walk 500 more!
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:11
What habit do you need to start today? What habit do you need to quit today? And what habit do you need to do again tomorrow?
When I was a child, my parents measured my growth by marking my height on the door frame of one of the rooms in our house. I could see growth happening, because my mark kept getting higher on the wall. I eventually passed my mother. Then I passed my father. And eventually, my mark on the wall was over 6’5″ above the floor.
When it comes to my height, I stopped growing many years ago. But this doesn’t mean I stopped growing. I still pride myself on my appetite for personal growth. I read books. I listen to podcasts. I watch educational videos. And I hang out with smart people. I participate in these activities to make sure I keep growing.
Personal growth doesn’t happen by accident. If you want to grow (or STRETCH as I like to say), you have to be intentional.
Today, I’m excited to announce the release of Dan Black’s new eBook, The Little Book of Personal Growth.
In the short book, Dan unpacks the meaning of personal growth, and he provides a road map for helping readers create their own plan for personal growth. The book outlines the five stages of personal growth. Then Dan unveils the ten core benefits of engaging in regular personal growth. He discusses the components necessary for personal growth.
Dan does a great job recognizing that we have different learning styles. He describes nine methods readers can use for their own personal growth. And finally, he walks readers through a simple step-by-step process for developing a personal growth plan that will take you to higher heights on your personal growth chart.
(Please note: I received a preview copy of The Little Book of Personal Growth for free as a gift from Dan Black in exchange for my pre-purchase of his new eBook and for my agreement to participate on his launch team for this book. I was not required to provide a favorable review. I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life and your personal growth.
Also to note: There are affiliate links in this post. Should you purchase The Little Book of Personal Growth by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase. These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala. Thank you!)
I talk to young engineers and professionals all the time. They want to know my story, and they want to know what they need to do to get to the next level. It’s important for everyone to have a plan and goals for their career. For many, this means they are looking for the next promotion.
What do I have to do to get promoted?
It’s a fair question everyone must ask themselves, their co-workers, and their management, if they want to achieve their career ambitions. Over my 20+ year career, I have moved from an engineer to a project manager to an operations manager. Each step on the journey has required patience, persistence, and plenty of planned actions.
Today, I will help you identify six actions you should be taking today if you want to move closer to the promotion you desire.
Did you sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge yet? Sign up below!
I took time to read this book between Christmas and New Years, and it provided a few great insights and ideas for me to pursue as I seek to clarify my beliefs, values, and priorities.
While I’m still wrestling with Smith’s assertion that the pursuit of personal inner peace is the ultimate goal of man. I deeply agree with the thought that we can make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us by clarifying our beliefs, by confirming our governing values, and by intentionally managing our time.
The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?is a quick read that will challenge readers to fill the gaps they may have in their beliefs, values, and time. Personally, I was challenged after reading The 3 Gaps to write my own personal constitution, to define my governing values, and to practice the discipline of daily planning. If you are looking for a book with practical advice to help you stretch, you should consider picking up a copy of this book.
(Please note: I received a copy of The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? for free as a gift from Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence. I was not required to provide a favorable review. I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life.
Also to note: There are affiliate links in this post. Should you purchase The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase. These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala. Thank you!)