Archives For March 2014

IMG_1037The NBA season is winding down and things are getting tense.  The Miami Heat tend to have more pressure than some of the other teams. They supposedly put together a dream team a couple of years ago in hopes of winning a championship.

Fortunately they have been able to win back to back championships the last two years. Prior to those championships, their star player, Lebron James, appeared to struggle at key times, i.e. the end of the game. He has been labeled as a bad closer.  Before he was criticized for not coming up big at the end of games with a clutch, game winning shot or play. Fair or not that was the word in the media.

Now I can’t say for sure, but is it the pressure?  We all play differently under pressure. Michael Jordan loved the pressure and always wanted the ball at the end of a close game.  He typically delivered.

But let’s look at the pressure in our own lives.  Perhaps it’s a job interview.  Some great employees are terrible at interview time.  Why? Does the pressure of getting the job hurt their chances?

What about your child who just had a stellar year on the soccer field. Put them in the tryouts for the next level and they have a bad showing. Is it the pressure to perform?

Is it the constant scrutiny? More than likely it is due to increased performance expectations? As a parent it’s a trap that we can easily fall into. Over the years I have watched parents become visibly upset when their child struck out in baseball, missed a shot in basketball, or missed a kick in soccer. As if our kids needed more pressure.

Pressure. You can’t escape it.  It shows up repeatedly.  And when it does it robs you of joy and takes the fun away from the event.

So what can we do to counteract the downside of pressure?

1. Learn to relax. If you miss the basket, will it matter in ten years. For Lebron it may, but not for you.

2. Lighten up with others including your kids. If will be much more fun and enjoyable. It will definitely make the ride back home more enjoyable.

3. Love the pressure. Be excited that you are the one in the position to score. You got the second interview. You have the ball with three seconds left. Relish the moment and make the most of it.

4. Learn from any failures. No one, absolutely no one is perfect under pressure all the time. Learn from it and move forward.

Be honest, where are you allowing pressure to hurt your personal performance?

Toxic WasteIt’s so easy to overlook culture. At times it appears to be like carbon monoxide.  You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s there.

The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.

Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of.  It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.

While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.

Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it?  God did. And He set the example for all of us.

At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities.  Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.

Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.

To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun.  Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them?  No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture.  We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.

Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church.  One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”

In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.

Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll.  I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker.  You will be glad you did.

Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.

Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.

We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!

IMG_0977A while back Carol and I wandered into Hot Cakes, a small cafe with excellent food.

We just went in for desert and it was very difficult to narrow it down to just one. So I settled for the Napoleon.

Let’s just say it knocked my socks off!

Satisfaction to the max.  As we left I was satisfied that I had made the ultimate choice.

A few weeks later and we were back in the same area, and thought “Why not?”  So back into Hot Cakes we went.

Keep in mind we probably only go there about once a year.  At any rate, I thought this time it was a no-brainer.  Get another Napoleon.  So I did.

But this time was different.  Not nearly the amount of satisfaction as the first one I had gotten a short time earlier.

It’s so easy to overdo a good thing.  That’s one of my weaknesses.

It reminds me of Peter up on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, James, and John. Peter was having such a good time that he suggested to Jesus that they all just stay there.  However, Jesus knew the euphoria would soon wear off. What would not wear off is their relationship with Him.

Satisfaction.  We crave it.  We make choices based upon what we think will satisfy us the most. But just like that it is gone.  We loved the desert, but an hour later it’s over.

We go to the theme park with the kids and they are on cloud nine…until we leave.  It’s at that point that we tell ourselves that we should have ridden one more ride or skipped another particular ride.  And then we slip into dissatisfaction.

Satisfaction.  When it arrives it tends to be short lived.  I love sinking my teeth into a meat lovers pizza. But moments later it’s gone.

New lawn mowers age, new clothes get old, and vacations go by quickly.  But when tomorrow comes there will be more choices.

Wonder what will satisfy me tomorrow.  Whatever it is it will likely be short-lived.  But that’s ok. My ultimate satisfaction is not meant to be found in things and stuff. It is to be found in my relationship with Jesus Christ. In John 6:35 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

That’s ultimate satisfaction!

What are you looking to for satisfaction?

iStock_000007680150XSmallEvery week I have the opportunity to play basketball with guys much younger than I.  Because I have played sports since I was a kid, there has always been some competitiveness inside of me.

As I get older I often tell Carol that I when I can no longer keep up on the court I will hang up my basketball shoes.  Now that will be a tough day. Right now my goal is to be able to play until I’m sixty. Keep in mind most of the guys I play with are in their late twenties or thirties.

Fortunately for me I was blessed with some speed in the game.  Actually it was speed not skill that often kept me on a team.

But the reality is as I age I will slow down.  And when the day comes that I can no longer keep up, I will stop playing.

Now think how uncomfortable that is.  How often does someone in the workplace approach their boss and admit that they are not keeping up? How hard is it to approach someone and tell them they are no longer keeping up?  I still recall the days in steel erection where some guys just could not keep up, and we had to let them go.

One day you and I will leave our jobs.  One day I will have to quit playing basketball.  One day you and I will have to stop driving our cars.

Those will be tough days.  But they are coming.  And yes, it will continue to be one of life’s most difficult questions.

Am I still able to keep up?

SurvivalWe’ve all seen it, at least we have noticed it in others.  That is, something small, or seemingly small, is tolerated until it destroys.

Let me illustrate.  I have watched people be rude in relationships to the point where it eventually ended a friendship.

There have been marriages which were destroyed over time by a controlling spouse.

And there have been habits, or little things, that others have tolerated or perhaps been unaware of that led to a downfall.

So which is it?  Are we good at ignoring, and thus tolerating the little things?  Or are we rationalizing, which any of us have done at some point?  Is it a big deal or is it no big deal?

Case in point.  A few years ago I was having a cup of coffee at Starbucks with a friend. While we were talking an attractive woman walked in.  No problem.  The fact is a guy can’t not notice an attractive woman.

However, the guy I was with did not simply notice the woman.  He turned around a complete 180 degrees in his chair to continue to look. Noticing is far different than staring.

Now that’s a problem.  I did not say anything, but I could see the handwriting on the wall.  That is not healthy.  Some would say, “It’s no big deal–guys do that all the time.”

Two problems.  That is rationalization and toleration all wrapped up in one.  The Bible says that “The wages of sin is death.”  In other words, sin or destructive habits must not be tolerated or rationalized. Because you will not like the end result.

That is sin’s ultimate end.  Death or destruction.  Over time I watched this guy’s marriage fall apart as he eventually went after another woman. As I think back perhaps I should have said something because I have been around lots of guys, but this was a first for me.  Most married guys tend to be a little more discreet.

Think about it.  Turning around and continually watching attractive women must have become such a habit that he no longer thought about it, whether I was sitting there or not.

Take inventory of your own life. What small things are you tolerating? Take action today before they destroy something tomorrow.

iStockValuesRecently I had coffee with a friend who had worked with Lou Gerstner, one of my favorite CEO’s.  Back in the 1990’s IBM was about to go under. They reported the biggest corporate loss of all time, and Gerstner was brought in to restructure and rebuild the company.

While initially IBM was forced to lay people off, today they boast a workforce of 400,000 and the company is thriving.  However, in the midst of the turmoil Gerstner fired the #1 producer in the company!

Why would he do that?  Because the employee operated against the cultural value of teamwork.  On a side note I totally understand.  At New Hope Church we believe people are hurting and living with a great deal of stress.  The church should be the one place they can come and be accepted and welcomed. If you have a hard time accepting everyone, then you would be uncomfortable in a leadership role at New Hope. One of our core tenets is a welcoming atmosphere.

Back to IBM.  After they fired their #1 producer what was the fallout? There wasn’t one.  The company never missed a beat.

Think about it.  The #1 producer was not indispensable.

As Seth Godin said in his book Linchpin, “Every day, bosses, customers, and investors make hard choices about whom to support and whom to eliminate, downsize, or avoid.”

In most fields tenure is no longer a guarantee. You must show up every day living out the company values.

Perhaps now you know the answer to the question, “Are you indispensable?”

iStock_000016667486XSmallFour of my kids have had various jobs and worked for different bosses.

Some good, and some not so good. So we have had discussions as to how you treat and respond to difficult superiors.

Years ago I worked in retail for a while, and from my perspective the manager was very different. I never got close and never really had a conversation with him. To be honest, my point of view may have been skewed.  However, my immediate boss in the jewelry and silverware department was incredible.

At any rate, the day came when the manager of the store approached me about taking on a large in-house project. Basically I would be doing him a huge favor. This was before bar codes and my job was to go throughout the store and essentially give every item an identifier according to the method of my choice.

It was all to be done manually and I could have declined. However, I gladly accepted the challenge.

All of us will be asked to do things that we may not be excited about, but if our manager or superior asks us, why not jump at the chance?  I once asked a guy who worked for me to take out the trash and he balked. Let’s just say that that did not go over well with me at all. At the same time I gained a little insight into his character.

Sure I understand human thinking.  Why make the boss look good? Why help him out? That’s basically what I was doing for my former manager. But I had no problem with that.

It’s so easy to be self-centered and walk away from projects that do not interest us. But you are better than that. Furthermore the project you walk away from may be the very thing that will aid in your personal development.

This week while others are complaining about the boss, have the character to perform well, take the initiative, go the extra mile, or display a positive behaviors.

What can you do today to set the mood for the entire week at work?

 

 

Romantic couple having breakfast in bedRecently I’ve come across some popular informational products on the web. Things like How to Get Your Ex Back and How to Pick up a Date After a Failed Marriage.

It just seems to me we should put that kind of effort into our current marriage.

So here is a short list of 20 things.

Obviously as you read the following list you will think of many more.  For instance, Carol likes to sum up the list with just two words: Be Nice.

Those two words are often found in short supply in many marriages. One of my professors used to always reference the old country song line, “You never know what goes on behind closed doors.”  How true that is. Marriage can look so good on the outside, but in reality the relationship is about to crash and burn.

The following list is in no particular order, however, #1 may be the most important.  At any rate, it is huge and I practice it on a regular basis.

1. Talk favorably of your spouse all the time.

2. Once you say I do, you must do.

3. Your spouse comes before your children.

4. If you are keeping a secret, you are not being truthful.

5. Love the one you are with (Success in marriage goes down with each successive marriage. In your first marriage you have a 50% chance of success, your second marriage 33%, your third 25%).

6. Don’t wait until it’s too late to ask for help.

7. You must get away with your spouse.

8. You can destroy trust in your marriage with just one stupid decision.

9. Always work to be who you want to be married to (patient, kind, etc.)

10. Trust can be rebuilt, but it will take lots of intentionality, changes, and time.

11. Do not underestimate the importance of sex.

12. The grass is greener where it is watered more.

13. Your sex life reveals a lot about your marriage.

14. Marriage counseling is cheaper than divorce.

15. Read books on marriage together.

16. Do life together.

17. Losing at love doesn’t have to be.

18. It’s easier to walk out than it is to work on your marriage.

19. Courting will keep your marriage out of court.

20. Summary: Be Nice.