Lately I have been reading, among other books, The Wright Brothers by David McCollough. He is my favorite writer, as I have read all four of his presidential biographies on John Adams, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, and George Washington. The painstaking detail that McCollough employs in fleshing out these historical figures is breathtaking. His book The Wright Brothers retells a story that I thought I knew, but after a few pages I quickly realized I didn’t. And the detail with which he describes the Wright brothers clearly shows that these brothers were not country bumpkins who happened to get lucky. He vividly portrays two young men who had an insatiable curiosity and an indomitable work ethic that helped them gain victory over the sky.
The process they used to get a flying machine off the ground, and then learn how to perfectly control the craft, belies their simple exterior. Almost all of the people who came into contact with the Wright brothers’ experiments misunderstood them and underestimated them. While looking on their exterior, people could not see the countless hours they had poured over books on flight and the countless hours they had invested in trying to understand how flight worked. All people could see is two young bicycle shop owners who dared to do the impossible.
Their story applies to you as well. People cannot see what is on the inside of you; they can only see what is inside themselves. All people can see is what is on the outside of you—and they project onto you what they believe about themselves. They assume what is on the inside of you conforms to the paradigms they believe about themselves. They don’t know who you can become, and they may try to limit you based on what they perceive about you. Just like the Wright brothers didn’t allow others to limit them—in fact, they seemed delightfully oblivious of what others thought of them—you should not allow others to tell you what you can do.
Based on Proverbs 21:31 (MSG), here are three things you can do—like the Wright brothers—to achieve victory over anything.
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.
At the beginning of the year, I did an analysis of my year. I looked at how the past year stacked up. I reviewed my goals for the year and determined how I did. Not all were wins or losses: some goals changed during the course of the year. Based on my analysis, I had one win, four losses, and two changes mid-course. That wasn’t what I wanted to see. But I had to be brutally honest with myself. And figure out how to start over for the new year.
I didn’t like not making all my goals. But I had to be willing to admit that I didn’t make all of them. But that required that I be brutally honest with myself. I couldn’t just throw some darts against the wall and then draw the target around the darts. I had to acknowledge that I didn’t hit the target.
It’s never easy to deal with disappointment—or even outright failure. It’s tempting to brood about it. Or to ignore it. Or to deny it ever happened. I have lost count of the number of times that I have had to process what went wrong. And I know it’s no fun to have to admit that things didn’t work out. But disappointment and failure can be great teachers. If you are willing to be taught by them.
Based on my own experience, here’s how you can be brutally honest with yourself and figure out how to start over.
As you think through what you want to do differently in the coming year, it’s important to think through how you will change you in 2019. You can’t change your circumstances until you change yourself first.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity. Do not do that to yourself. If you want to have different results, you must change you first.
You will be the same person in ten years that you are right now—unless you change these three things.
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.
In my appearance on The Table podcast hosted by Bill Hendricks, we discussed Active Leadership, focusing on employee engagement. Specifically, we talked about
- What employee engagement is,
- My research into employee engagement,
- The power of Active Leadership, and
- The theology of Active Leadership.
You can watch the interview or read the transcript of the interview by clicking here.
I’d love to hear what you think!
||October 23, 2018
||Active Leadership Interview on The Table Podcast
||The Table Podcast
||Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, TX)
Lately I have had to deal with a lot of things that are outside my comfort zone. Sometimes I feel like I am being stretched beyond the breaking point. Even though change is uncomfortable, I realize it is still good for me. I just have to be willing to be gentle with myself in the process.
That does not mean that I should give myself a pass. I should not allow myself to stay where I am. I have to be willing to be molded by God into what He wants me to be. But I should also not beat myself up about where I am at now. I may not yet be the person I want to be, but neither should I castigate myself that I am not yet there. Change is hard, so I should not be hard on myself.
I’m sure you have found change to be hard. And you should not be hard on yourself either as you go through it. Allow God to work in you. Allow Him to mold you and shape you. It may not be comfortable at the time, but it will be worth it.
Here are three reasons why you should be gentle with yourself as you go through change.
Listen online to my interview on Intentional Living with Dr. Randy Carlson on Family Life Radio about my book, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew.