I learned appreciation one summer when I was in college. I was working at a beautifully restored colonial home that had been converted into a four-star hotel and restaurant. Even though my main job was to carry guests’ bags to their rooms, my position was essentially a glorified gopher: I was supposed to do whatever anyone needed me to do. I reported to the innkeeper, Mr. Clarke, but I also had to do things for the front desk staff, the kitchen staff, and the bartender.
Dave the bartender was a burly, gruff, middle-aged man with intense eyes and pursed lips; he was harsh with his words and quick to find fault—and I never seemed to do anything quite good enough for his taste. But I still had to work with Dave.
Other than the interactions with Dave, I enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed it there so much that I decided to apply to work there again the following summer. While filling out my application the next year, I discovered that Mr. Clarke was no longer there—but Dave was. When I gave my application to the new innkeeper, he sought out Dave’s advice about whether or not to hire me. To my surprise, Dave gave him an enthusiastic recommendation. Apparently I had met Dave’s high standards, even though I thought I hadn’t.
Even though Dave had a difficult demeanor, he did his job well and he expected the same of others. After learning of his surprise endorsement, I began to cultivate an appreciation for Dave’s no-nonsense perspective. Even though he was hard, he was fair. He could provide an insightful assessment and not equivocate in his comments.
You may have a boss who is as difficult to get along with as Dave, or more so. But it is important for you to look past that. Being able to cultivate appreciation for your boss—no matter how difficult your situation may be—will help you improve your situation at work.
Here are three things you can do to develop an appreciation for your boss.
What makes you you? When someone says to you, “Tell me about yourself,” what do you say? Are you the profession you chose? Are you the organizations that you belong to? Or are you your ethnicity? What is it that you allow to define yourself?
Many people assume their identity stems from who they believe they are, and many take their identity from external realities. When asked what they do, they respond, “I am an architect.” Or “I am a dentist.” By responding that way, they allow their profession to define them.
Others define themselves by the organizations they are part of. They may say, “I am the NRA.” Or “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” I think it’s great to be part of organizations. God made people to be relational, so it is perfectly fine to be part of organizations. But when people allow organizations to define them to the point of giving them their identity, then that becomes a problem.
Then there are others who allow themselves to be defined by their ethnicity. They may describe themselves as Scottish, or Chinese, or African (all three of those ethnicities live in my house), and I think it’s great to be proud of your ethnic heritage. But when your ethnicity defines who you are, then you lose your identity to your national origin.
So how should you think about your identity? Here are three principles to guide your thinking in that context.
I’ve been asked many times throughout my career if I am a pastor. And since I am not ordained, I respond in the negative. But I am a minister. And for that matter, so are you. Because your business is God’s business.
What you do for a living matters to God. While God wants some of us to become pastors, He does not want all of His kids to become pastors. He wants some of us to be involved in the business world. By serving Him in business, we can be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) to those we work with, those we work for, and those who work for us.
God wants you to do your work so that others see Him in your work. You do that best when you conduct yourself as a person of integrity. God wants you to do the right thing even if no one is there to check up on you. He wants you to use, what Proverbs 16:11 (NIV) calls, “honest scales.”
Based on Proverbs 16:11, here are three reasons why “honest scales” are important in God’s business.
How’s your personality trajectory? Do you like the person you are becoming? Do you feel you are becoming more like the person you want to be? If not, it may have something to do with the people you hang around. You will become like who you hang around.
Think through what kind of person you want to become. And consider the people you hang around. To change your personality trajectory, allow yourself to meet new people. You will become like the people you surround yourself with.
Here are three key questions you must ask yourself in order to be aware of the influence that the people you hang around have over you.
About twenty years ago, I tried to get a nonprofit off the ground. I launched a new initiative in my community to kick start it. I spent a lot of time on the phone recruiting sponsors for the event. And I communicated with a government agency to have a public official at the event. And I worked with various media to garner attention for the event—before social media. After all that work, I thought, “This was too much. I can’t do this again. It’s too hard.” I decided I couldn’t stick with it.
Several months later, I was talking to a nonprofit leader about that experience. When I told him that I abandoned the idea of starting up the organization, he was surprised. He said, “It took me three years to get this organization up and running. Why would you think it would take you less time than that? Why didn’t you stick with it?”
At the time I didn’t realize how long it took to start a nonprofit organization. I had unrealistic expectations about how quickly I could get it going. Once I quit, it would never be as easy to keep it going as it would have been, had I not quit. I had already had a successful event. I had already gotten the attention of media. And I already had a connection with a public official’s office. When I quit, all that work I had done was lost. And it would have been even harder to start after that.
Don’t quit too soon. It’s important to stick with it. Watch out for these three things that will make you want to quit—and here’s what you can do to overcome them.
Have you ever seen barnacles attached to a ship? These little crustaceans latch onto a marine vessel and hold onto the ship to feed. While they may seem harmless enough, they cause many problems for the vessel. Similarly, you can have things that become attached to your mind over time. You may not be aware of them at first, but eventually they can cause you many problems.
People who work on a ship understand that it’s important to remove the barnacles. In the same way, it’s important for you to get remove these things that have become attached to your mind.
Here’s what you want to prevent becoming attached to your mind, how they are similar to barnacles, and what you can do to clean those things from your mind.
The thoughts that fill your head will affect how you live your life. How you think will determine not only how you act, but also how you see the world. What you think will define your outlook and who you will be.
You may not even be aware of the thoughts that you meditate on. They may come into your head and you may not even realize what is in your mind. But what takes residence in your mind will affect who you are and what you do.
The Scripture says you should take every thought captive and compare it to what Scripture says (2 Corinthians 10:5). So it’s important that you think about what you think about.
Using Philippians 4:8 as a template, here is an eight-point checklist for considering what you consider.
In the movie The Matrix (1999), the character Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) shares insights with his protégé Neo (Keanu Reeves) about what it means to be free and what it means to be captive: “Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”
[Spoiler Warning: In this dystopian world, humans created artificial intelligence that took over the planet and subjugated humans as their source of energy to power the machines. Neo is one of these people who was oblivious about his captivity, but Morpheus offers him the opportunity to escape the captivity and understand what is truly real. Neo accepts the opportunity, and Morpheus proceeds to explain to him what “the matrix” is and what he can do to defeat it—as the fate of humanity depends on him.]
In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo:
The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. … It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Like The Matrix, we are all born into a world where our mind is imprisoned. Like Neo, we must learn what “the matrix” is and how we can defeat it in our own lives.
Here are three things you must do to get yourself free from “the matrix” you were born into.
When you think of the attributes of successful people, what do you think of? Do you think of someone who is a winner-take-all negotiator? Or someone who ruthlessly pursues what will enhance their life? Or someone who desires to win at all costs?
While those characteristics may be the world’s standards for success, God has a very different standard. God doesn’t value a kind of success where you are the only one to win. God values a kind of success where you help others win. Because when others win, you win as well.
Psalm 41:1 (ESV) says
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.
To be truly successful, here are three characteristics from Psalm 112:4 and Psalm 116:5 you need to develop in yourself.
God wants you to be someone who is comfortable with your own identity. You should be who you are. And more importantly, you should not be who you are not.
While it may seem obvious on the surface, that is not the norm with most people. As Henry David Thorough wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” They don’t know who they are, so they don’t know who they should be. They try to fit into molds created by other people, only to find that they don’t fit.
That is a sad way to live. In fact, that’s not really living. That’s just existing. And it doesn’t allow God to use the one life that you have to the fullest.
Life is meant to be an adventure. God wants you to trust that He knows how to fully actualize you. But that requires putting total faith in God to help you reveal who you are, and not try to fit someone else’s mold for you.
Oscar Wilde reputedly said to “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” While that may seem funny, it can be uncomfortably insightful to many. Because it requires that you must first know who you are.
If you have tried to fit into the molds that others have made for you, then here are three things you can do to step into your own identity.