Friday, May 27, 2016

You Can Learn More From Failure Than From Success

What is success?  If you try and define it, you might find that it's tougher to pin down that you first thought.  Is it making money?  Is it feeling fulfilled?  Is it making a difference in the lives of others?  Is it leaving a legacy?  Is it following a direction you believe is God-given?  The answer is that it's some kind of mixture of all these and much more.  But my point today is not to define success, but rather to ask an even better question. Why are we all chasing it so furiously?

It seems built into us that we want to chase success and run from failure.  But why?  What do we think waits for us with success? What do we fear so greatly if we fail?  These aren't just rhetorical questions.  Rather, I want you to ask yourself these questions and work to answer them.  Their answers will have deep implications for how you'll view both success and failure in your future.

Probably much like you, I've experienced both success and failure in my life.  I've been at points where I was well thought of, I've been at points where I was embarrassed to show my face.  I've been in seasons where I had savings in the bank and seasons where I cried alone in my car because I had no idea how I would provide for my family for the next week. I've been proud of the work I've done.  I've been embarrassed to be seen doing the work I had to do.  And through all theses seasons - and I'm sure there are more of both coming for me - I've learned many valuable lessons.  Let me share just one with you today.

You can learn more from failure than from success.  

Success teaches you:
  • This is easy.
  • The time to take risks is over.
  • Engage cruise control.  I've reached the top.  The journey is over.
Failure teaches you:
  • This is more difficult than I had planned for.
  • Next time I take a risk, perhaps it should be more calculated or executed more carefully.
  • I'm never going to arrive, but I can learn to enjoy the journey.

Although there are many keys to capitalizing on your failures, there is one that seems to stand out.  It's guarding your heart against bitterness.  I would go so far as to say if you allow yourself to get bitter about your failure, you truly have been beaten.  This is because bitterness says, 'It's their fault, not my responsibility.'  On the other hand, if you can choose optimism, even through defeat, you are primed to learn much more than you could ever learn through success.

So, am I saying success is a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  It's wonderful to aspire toward success - whatever that may mean to you.  I'm simply saying that failure is not fatal, and even more than that, some of your greatest opportunities for learning will come through your failure.  Fear failure less.  It could prove itself a valuable ally. 

*I am currently working on a book chronicling a particular season of my life that involved some success but many more failures.  In that season, God taught me numerous lessons about myself and about life.  My hope is that those lessons will be transferrable and inspiring to you.  My goal is to have this book ready for you to read in the first quarter of 2017.*

Friday, May 20, 2016

You already know all this . . . but you'd be a fool not to look again.

The Compound Effect is a great little book written by Darren Hardy.  It's an easy, quick read.  I read it in a week and that's just about a record for me.  So, you fast readers (or people without kids - haha) could probably read it in a day or two.

I'm a little torn on this one.  Not because I don't think it's good.  It's fantastic.  By far, the best book I've read in years.  My hesitation is not because the book lacks good content, but because the content is so incredibly simple.  Just yesterday, I texted 5 friends, who are great leaders, and recommended they read it.  Part of me felt like I was doing them a huge favor, another part felt somewhat embarrassed.  It's like I almost think they will read it and then call me up and say, "Well, I already knew all that."  But as the book's introduction states, "New or more information is not what you need - a new plan of action is.  It's time to create new behaviors and habits that are oriented away from sabatoge and toward success. It's that simple."

So, I'm holding onto this little book that's absolutely life-changing.  And believe me, I realize how overused that phrase is and I use it sparingly.  But this is a true example of life-changing . . . if you decide to engage your mind and actions. 

Here's the simple truth.  You are the sum total of every single decision you make.  I'm talking hundreds a day - most of them unconscious.  But that's one of the big problems.  You're living your life on auto-pilot when you should have your hands on the stick.  Each daily decision seems small - too small to matter, but each one does matter.  We can easily fool ourselves into believing "just one donut won't kill me" or "I can miss one workout and be fine" or "I can skip having that one more tough conversation at work that I really need to have."  They're all true statements.  That is, they are true if the "one" part is true.  But it's not.  If you make these statements and believe them daily, the truth becomes a lie and you are being sabatoged by the compound effect.  You see, the compound effect is like a law of nature.  It's always in effect. You can't choose to turn it on or turn it off.  You can only choose to leverage it for success or failure.  Tony Robbins said it like this, "Your decisions shape your destiny.  You future is what you make of it.  Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default."

It all boils down to success.  Not just financial or business success, but success in whatever is important to you.  I actually hate that the subtitle of the book says, "jumpstart your income" because it makes it look like it's one of those "do this and get rich overnight" books, which I despise. Truthfully, it's more like a "do this and get rich over a lifetime" book. And when I say "rich", I mean in every sense of the word, not just financially.  Besides the simple principle-based writing in this book, Hardy gives tons of practical advice on how to translate the ideas into action.  It's also packed with worksheets you can complete to get yourself on track with many things you've probably been on auto-pilot with.

The bottom line is that I belive this is not only a great read, but a very important one, for anyone who is looking to do more than just exist and be taken here and there by life.  I hope you'll take that step.  If you do read this, please come back here and share your take aways with me.  I would love to hear your success stories!  Enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2016

There's Always a Bigger Fish. Where Do You Fall on the Scale?

Let's not talk fishing, but levels of leadership.  Yes, there are levels.  Whatever arena you lead in (even just your own personal leadership) there are many levels.  Now, I'm not sure you can measure or classify them as easily as a 1-10 scale, but what I want to share with you today is that there are many levels of leadership, many levels of excellence, many levels of competence; and you'll never arrive at the top.  As they say, there's always a bigger fish.  If you're a fish, this is bad, because this means you'll eventually be eaten.  As a leader, this is great news, because it means there is always someone you can learn from!  This concept has been stirring around inside of me lately, but yesterday I had the privilege of spending some personal time with Blake Stanley from Mountain Lake Church in Atlanta.  The dude is a big fish and my time with him reminded me again of this point I want to make to you today.  First, though, let me share with you how I got to this understanding.

My first ten years in church leadership were in a mid-sided church that was doing some great things.  We were part of a decent sized denomination and the main "world" we interacted with, from a leader-to-leader standpoint were those from churches in our community and the district from our denomination. Now, here's where I got off track.  Even though I had a solid amount of networking and exposure to other leaders, my pond was relatively small.  And since our church was one of the largest and most influential in our small pond, I was usually a big(ish) fish.  Where I got into trouble was that I didn't realize there were bigger fish in bigger ponds.  Because my exposure and my pond were limited, I began to think I was a much bigger fish than I really was.  Of course, there was the issue of personal arrogance, which is a totally different (and serious) issue.  But, here, I'm addressing the structure and exposure problems that existed for me and do exist for many leaders.

Now, sure I had "exposure" to nationally known, high-level, leaders.  I went to conferences.  I listened to leadership podcasts, etc, but I never spent time in the presence of those big fish.  And if you've never spent time in the presence of the big fish of your world, you're missing a lot and you're stunting your own growth.  It's easy to hear a conference speaker, agree with what he says and fool yourself into thinking your agreement puts you on par with his ability and expertise.  It's just not true.  He's speaking there because he's got something most of the rest of us are lacking.  Embrace that lack and let it drive you to higher levels!

So, back to the levels and what I learned.  In my world, I began to see myself as a big fish (maybe an 8-9 if we're using that scale), but what I found out later on is that I only looked like that big fish in my relatively small pond.  I'll never forget the first time I was in an environment with some of the high level people from Life.Church.  It took about 10 minutes for me to realize that I was way out of my depth.  All of a sudden, I felt like a 4-5, not an 8-9.  And that was unsettling for me.  It was almost like I was having an identity crisis, as a leader.  Ultimately, though, it's become a good thing for me.  And ultimately, it will be a good thing for you if you can embrace the concept and do something about it.

In the last several years, I've had the great honor of speding some personal time with some very high-level leaders in my niche.  And every time I do, the light shines on areas I need to grow in and work on.  I'm so grateful for that.

So, if you want to be great, one thing you will need to do is find ways to get into the presence of those who are at a higher level than you are presently.  If you're a business owner, there's more than the guys in your regional chamber.  If you're a doctor, there's more than just your colleagues at your hospital. If you're a church leader, there's more than your denominational fellowship or your own city network. Recently, I wrote (here) about getting the right people into your life. You definitely should check that out. It will take this conversation deeper and there's a link to another article from Will Mancini that talks specifically about how to get into the presence of these higher level people.

Well, as always, it's up to you.  Swallow your pride.  Realize you don't know it all and surround yourself with the right people.  I'd love to hear how this step helps you grow.  Please share those wins with me, as you experience them.

Friday, May 6, 2016

5 Practices To Enlist The Right People On The Journey Of Life

If life is a journey, who's on that journey with you?  Easy enough question to ask, but much harder to answer.  I think we all, intuitively, know that we need people to do life with us.  We know that there are areas in which we are weak and need others to teach us, support us and even challenge us.  I probably won't get a bunch of push-back from that concept.  If you can't even embrace the idea that you can't do it all alone, you truly do have a problem.  It's called arrogance and it will absolutely destroy you.  But, if you're a rational person looking to lead yourself and those you love to a preferable future, this concept is probably not a problem for you.

The problem, I've found, is that most of us who know we need people to journey with us don't know how to enlist their help.  This used to seem like a mystery to me, as well.  But as I've experimented with this for years now, I've found several practices that can be extremely helpful in bringing the right people around you on your journey.  I hope you'll find these as helpful as I have found them.

5 Practices To Enlist The Right People On The Journey Of Life:

1.  Find + Ask 

Sure, there are people you can think of right now who "have it made" in your eyes.  Those may or may not be the people you want to identify as those you want on the journey with you.  Just because they have a great life or make a lot of money doesn't necessarily qualify them.  I know plenty of people I respect, who I don't need speaking into my life.  The key here is looking for the people who are now doing what you hope to be doing someday.  This could be someone in a career position you aspire toward.  If you're young and don't yet have kids, it could be someone you see as a great parent.  If you struggle to manage your time, you might look for someone who you believe is a great time manager.  If you are not understanding how to grow in your faith, find someone who is a few steps ahead of you and see what you can learn.  It could be anyone in any area of life.  Again, the key is to identify a person who is where you hope to be.  

Once you find them, you have to ask them to participate with you.  That sounds simple, but let me caution you here.  If you go about it the wrong way, it will get weird really fast.  I'm not talking about approaching a total stranger and asking, "Will you be my mentor?".  Almost everyone is going to say no to that.  First off, understand that most of the people you need on your journey are people you already know.  It's just a matter of you helping them see where they are strong and you're weak.  A little sincere flattery will go a long way.  I know I'm much more likely to give time to people who I know respect me.  It's just human nature.  

One more word of caution here.  If you are looking outside of your normal sphere (which is ok from time-to-time) be very careful about how you approach people you don't know.  Will Mancini recently wrote a fantastic article about that.  Please give it a read here.

2.  Lean into these relationships during non-crisis times

Ricky and Shawn are two guys I consider mentors of mine in the realm of personal health and fitness.  For a season, I actually paid for their services as coaches.  I'm not in a season of paying for their services any longer, but the relationship has been kept alive.  Since the season they have been my official coaches, I've texted both of them regularly just to check in and see what's up and how I can pray for them.  It's not super often and it's not real deep.  But the lines of communication are open regularly.  

Yesterday I texted them both asking for their prayers.  Although I've taken quite a bit of weight off in the last 18 months and have learned some new habits, I've felt myself slipping into some of my old, unhealthy, habits lately.  I told these guys as much in my text yesterday and they both responded super-positively.  In fact, Ricky said, "Hey, text us both every day until you get back into the right habits.  We don't mind."  Then not long after, Shawn send a few tongue in cheek pics to inspire me. Honestly, I was blown away by their responses.  That is really generous of them.  I would have been totally satisfied with, "You got it bro.  You're in my prayers."  But they offered so much more than that.  

Do you think it would have been the same if the lines of communication had been silent for the last 12 months?  I doubt it.  I doubt I would have even contacted them.  And that would not have reflected poorly on them.  It would have reflected poorly on me.  If you really care about your relationships, you'll keep the lines somewhat open.  

3.  Don't just take

How much more do I really have to say?  Even if you can't contribute to someone on the same level they contribute to you (which you probably can't), you can show your appreciation and gratitude in all kinds of ways.  If you think the relationship is there just for your benefit, any healthy person will intuitively feel that and move on.  Don't make this mistake.  Find non-weird ways to give back and show your gratitude.

4.  Take responsibility for your own growth

The relationship will get old really quickly if the conversation is the same every time.  To use the example above, how many times will I get the same response from Ricky and Shawn if I'm texting them saying I'm struggling with the same things every month for the next three years?  There comes a time in every arena of life where you need to just put up or shut up.  I'd encourage you to do one of the two - preferably put up.

5.  Understand when a season begins, changes or even ends

Whether you're talking about the relationship changing in nature or ending altogether, this can be awkward at best and painful at worst.  But, that does not negate the reality here.  There are people in my life who I used to be a mentor to who have become a peer of mine.  There are people in my life who used to be daily close mentors of mine who I'm just not connected with any longer.  There are all kinds of reasons these relationships change and even cease, but you have to discern where your relationships are and where they should go.  

Another wrinkle to this it that very often certain relationships seem to "go dormant" for a period of time - sometimes years. But, even in this phase, be discerning (see #2 above).  I've seen many dormant relationships come back to life and be twice as vibrant the second time around.  

In the end, this is all an art much more than a science, but these 5 practices will serve you well if you take them to heart and put some action to them.  If there are some additional ideas I missed, I'd love for you to share them with me. Leave a comment below.  Good luck on your journey!