Archives For Leading Thoughts

I was recently visiting family in south Florida and saw this sign.

Alligator warning sign

It seems the wording could be better, but it’s good advice, especially the part about alligators “mistaking a hand for a handout!”

As a new year approaches what’s the best advice you plan to remember from 2013? Share your advice in 1 or 2 sentences as a comment on this post or tweet/FB post using #BestAdvice2013. I will compile all the comments and post them the last week of 2013.

If you would like your Twitter name included when I publish your best advice, then be sure to include it with your comment.  Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom!

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Reagan Splitting StatueThis Thanksgiving my family is facing several new frontiers. Some are exciting, others are terrifying.

  • In September, I left a full time position with a church to build my consultancy.
  • My wife is one semester away from finishing her degree.
  • Our oldest daughter finds out next week where she is accepted to college.
  • Our teen-age daughter has been diagnosed with a tumor in her hip. She is scheduled for a very invasive surgery in February.
  • Our pre-teen sons are immersed in Minecraft and routinely go by the names Steve and Enderman. They also know how to use the Force to split public statues as pictured above.

All-in-all these experiences are my NORMAL right now, and I am thankful for my normal.

I like what Ali Polin said recently on her blog, “Your normal is someone else’s WOW!”

It’s true. You’re everyday routine of pushing forward and overcoming obstacles may seem less than stellar to you, but to someone else it’s amazing.

I remember meeting an older couple who had lost two of their children in separate tragedies. Many couples divorce in the wake of loosing a child, but somehow this couple not only stayed together but provided a loving and healthy home for two other children. Normal for them was not punishing their living children with the grief of their deceased children. WOW!

I have a friend who is only a year older than me, but he is fighting stage 4 cancer and may not live to see Christmas. Throughout his fight for life his faith has amazed me. He wrestles with fears and doubts, but he expresses such a trust in his family and his God. Normal for my friend is spent managing his pain and waiting for the inevitable. WOW!

What’s normal for you right now?

What difficulties are you facing that make you feel deficient or defective? What’s got you doing your best to just make it one more day?

Despite the challenges you are facing in this season, I know there are elements of your NORMAL that make others say, “WOW!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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JFK CollageThis year my wife and I were able to visit three sacred places with our children: Ford’s Theater in D.C., the Lorrain Motel in Memphis, and Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

All three places are preserved just as they were on those ill-fated days when Lincoln, MLK and JFK met their premature deaths by an assassin’s bullet.

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In one of the pictures above you see my oldest son standing on the actual spot where Kennedy was shot. There is an “X” painted on the road.

On that spot a 46 year old man died who was born in Massachusetts, attended Harvard, served in the Navy, was elected to Congress, the Senate and then the Presidency of the United States. On that “X” his life ended.

As I took that picture of my son, I couldn’t help but think, “Where is my “X”?”

The place, the spot, the moment in which my life will come to an end. I am confident that God knows that exact spot. It may be somewhere I have tread a 1,000 times or it me be 1,000 miles away from everything I’ve ever known.

I can’t live my life constantly thinking about the “X”, but I dare not live my life forgetting about the “X”.

I can only do my best to live honestly, purposefully, selflessly, nobly before I reach that fateful spot.

President Kennedy said it best, “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

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Growing ComplexityChurches are social institutions.

As a result, the more people who join a church, the greater the complexity of social management. Churches often overlook this fact and mistakenly believe that growth will make all things better.

I’ve been a part of pastoral teams in which we believed the magical elixir of growth would solve our problems. I know first hand what it’s like to ride the wave of growth from under 200 members to over 500 and then back down to 250. I know the sting of realizing the atrophy had nothing to do with a crisis. We simply grew beyond our ability to manage the growth.

Growth always brings with it a greater level of complexity. This is why growth is a goal, not a solution.

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Crying IndianRemember the PSA commercial with the crying Indian? Or the ad that said, “This is your brain on drugs“? How many kids felt overwhelmed by Smokey the bear telling them, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.“?

These are examples of successful ad campaigns that significantly impacted public opinion on the topics of littering, drug abuse and wild fires.

Leaders and communicators attempting to change the thinking of people, can learn from these effective PSAs that learning is a campaign.

To often communicators think of learning as a single lesson or speech. While history is full of famous speeches, the truth is those immortalized speeches were part of a larger campaign.

  • Before the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus traveled throughout all of Galilee and Syria.
  • Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” came after four years of civil war.
  • “I Have a Dream” was preceded by the March on Selma and “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” plus dozens of rallies.

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BecomingNo matter how much you accomplish in life you will always have to work at relationships.


The next time you’re struggling in a relationship, don’t ask what do they want me to do? Ask, who do I need to be?

Be present.
Be considerate.
Be forgiving.
Be loving.
Be understanding.

If you haven’t been growing to become, then all the doing in the world will not help your relationships.

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problems and solutionsI have been guilty of wanting success in order to overcome my problems.

  • I want to make enough money, so I can eliminate my debt.
  • I want to have enough time, so I can be with my family.
  • I want to make the right connections, so I can help more clients.

My thinking for too long has been, “If I can succeed, then I can solve my problems.” In essence I have been looking for enough success in one area to solve my problems in another area.

Recently, my thinking began to change after a conference and a conversation.

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books in trashIf every book in your personal library is still worth reading, then you haven’t expanded your learning very much over the years.

There are books I no longer read and truthfully no longer agree with because I have changed my thinking about their content.

Learning goes deep in our identity, and it is very difficult to change our thinking once we have found a lens through which to satisfactorily interpret the world around us.

But I have discovered that true growth requires a broader understanding of learning beyond my current lens on life.

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closed church doorsMy local electricity provider does not advertise how to contact them for service.

They assume that if you want power you will “get in touch.” It’s not that they intentionally hide their contact information, they just don’t actively engage the community with the information.

The temptation that comes with offering a product or service that is extremely valuable is that you begin to expect people to come and find you.

When I lived in Cincinnati, I patroned a pizza company who always advertised their phone number in clever ways. The number was on all their print media – napkins, pizza boxes, flyers, billboards. Their commercials rehearsed the one number to call for pizza no matter where you lived in the city. They even put the phone number in their Twitter name.

The difference between the pizza company and the power company is the power company provides something so valuable they assume you will find them when you need them.

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toll boothCriticism and Cynicism are both expressions of doubt.

In a recent conversation with a client I was presented with an idea and asked if I thought the idea would work.  In that moment I had my doubts but what I did next determined whether I shared my doubts as criticism or cynicism.

I asked the client to explain their understanding of the product offering. Once I listened to my client’s explanation and responded from my knowledge of the subject, I was able to express my doubts critically instead of cynically.

Criticisms is doubt informed by curiosity and a knowledge of a subject matter.

Cynicism is doubt resulting from ignorance and antiquated ways.

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