Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thank you!

My good friends and partners from International Leadership Associates, Cincinnati, OH and Joy Outdoor Education Center, Clarksville, OH honored me with a Balanced Cross! Wonderful metaphor and low ground experiential initiative to remind participants not only to find and create balance in one's life, but for a team to create balance! What does it take to create and maintain balance? How does poor leadership affect balance? What does micromanagement and workaholism do for balance?

Each arm of the Balanced Cross has a key practice of The Leadership Challenge - Challenge the Process, Inspire a Shared Vision, Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart. The fifth practice, Model the Way is in the center of the cross. Kouzes and Posner determined in their third edition of The Leadership Challenge, Model the Way was the first critical practice of good leadership. It is appropriate for this to be center of the Balanced Cross.

Thank you for the honor! Thank you for a wonderful association with ILA and Joy. Thank you for linking me to the five practices of exemplary leadership. I will do my best to continue to live these practices and Model the Way for others!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Manners Save Lives!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009, headline in the Charlotte Observer newspaper: “Manners help make a miracle - Southern politeness may have saved lives amid the chaos after Charlotte-bound flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River, says new book.” The new book, Miracle on the Hudson: The Survivors of Flight 1549 by William Prochnau and Laura Parker tells what happened from the point of view of interviewed passengers.

It turns out that over two thirds of the passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson River back on January 15, 2009 after hitting a flock of geese shortly after taking off from New York city’s LaGuardia airport were from the south. Manners saved lives!

First, I am amazed that this headline made it to the front page of a major newspaper! This is not what normally sells newspapers. On the other hand, are manners so unusual in today’s world that for them to appear and make a difference becomes front page news?

Manners are about putting others before oneself. Manners are about being a human being in other words being a joy to be around. Manners are about being our best. Manners reflect character.

Assuming positive intent, I’d like to think that manners are not out of style and they do make a difference in our lives. If manners can save lives, then let’s get busy! Begin with a kind word rather than a criticism. Give someone a smile rather than a blank stare or frown. Push your pause button and let someone merge in front of you at the checkout lane at the grocery or on the highway. Be the glimmer of hope of what is really important, giving rather than taking!

Great leaders model the way. Great leaders have great manners!

D. Elton Trueblood wrote, "We have made at least a start in discovering the meaning of human life when we plant shade trees under which we know full well we will never sit." Manners are the "shade trees" we can plant daily!

Finally, scripture from the book of Genesis states humankind was created in God’s image. Humankind bears the image of God! Therefore, I, of humankind, have the responsibility for caring and being worthy of this incredible creation! Let manners speak to God’s creation!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

To the Graduates of 2009, Are you a Question Mark or a Period?

First, let me remind you of the state of the world at this moment.

Our national unemployment in the United States is 8.6%. In some states, it is over 10%.

There are 24 conflicts going on in the world. The United States is directly involved in 2 of them.

30,000 children die everyday from a lack of clean water, disease and poor nutrition.

60% of the world’s population has no toilets.

If these sobering facts dampen the spirit of the day, my apologies, but the world needs you now to roll up your sleeves and help erase these negative facts!

My question to you on this day of transition and transformation, “Are you a question mark or a period?”

You might get some indication to your answer by how you reacted to my reminders. Did you react by thinking, “What could I do to help save those children from dying?” “How could so many people in the world not have toilets?” or “What could I do to help resolve conflict in the world?”

Or did you react with, “That is the way it is.” “Thank goodness, none of those facts affect me.” or “People are working that.”

Are you a questioner, someone filled with curiosity, someone who ponders, someone who wonders? 

Or are you someone who accepts things for what they are, someone who doesn’t like conflict, someone who is about themselves?

Are you a question mark or a period?

Nothing on earth has a harder road to travel than a new idea.

I remember back in 1995 when I was in charge of marketing for the organization I was working, we began looking for an overt benefit, a reason to believe, a unique difference for setting us apart from our competition. Our sales people were generalists, drive-by shooters and Lone Rangers who shot clients prices and moved on. We needed more accountability as well as more sales. We hit upon the idea of turning our sales people from generalists to specialists! We noticed sales people get into comfort zones. Comfort zones tend to be what feels good and what we know best. Comfort zones are our habits, both good and bad. We noticed some of our sales people were very comfortable calling on healthcare while others were more comfortable calling on industrial clients. Furthermore, we noticed they spoke the language of their favorite type of customer. We thought it was no brainer to have these sales people call only favorite type of client or customer in other words, sell in his or her comfort zone!

A great new idea and a third of the sales people did not like the idea and left the organization! We discovered people do not like change. The only thing people really want to change is his or her situation, not themselves!

You are going to have great new ideas. The world needs great new ideas. People around you will resist great new ideas. Learn how to get people on board with your great new idea by asking questions. Great sales people talk less than 25% of the time when he or she is before a client or customer. Selling a great new idea is not about telling. Its about asking and listening! Are you known as a listener or a talker?

It is not necessary to hope to persevere! 

I believe the opposite of love is fear. Fear is evil. Fear is what separates us from the people we love and care  about. Fear is what separates us from God and destroys relationships. Fear triggers our primal direction to survive, to remove discomfort and pain and to maintain pleasure and well being. Fear is life-sucking and creates a scarcity mentality as in: “I deserve this.” “I will not be denied this pleasure.” “It’s about me.”

Fear destroys hope. We forget that when hope is lost, people do incredible, unthinkable acts including speaking unkind words, abusing people they love and even the extreme - suicide bombings. 

While hope is a valuable asset, will is an unbeatable force. Love can drive will. The will of God is stated in the prayer that never fails, “Thy will be done.” It is also true of we humans. The will of the English people during World War II was what defeated Hitler and the Nazi’s. The love of freedom and from fear was the will that defeated Germany. The English will was at the heart of what brought the United States into standing beside England to defeat the Nazis.

Fear can also drive will. I am afraid it is the will of the Palestinians and Afghan Talaban that will not be defeated in current world affairs. 

If you don’t possess will power, how is your “won’t” power?

To teach is to learn twice.

At this point of my life, my two greatest teachers are my mother and my son. My mother soon to be 82 years young and my son, completing his freshman year in college are teaching me to love the unlovable, to practice patience, to listen rather than to speak, to ask more questions and give less answers, to seek to understand before being understood, to be compassionate, to be non-judgmental, to be in the moment. My mother is teaching me not to meet a stranger and my son is teaching me to find passion, recognize your gifts and talents and use them as God has given them to you. 

Who is continuing to teach you? After all, if you think you know it all, you have a lot to learn!

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Those of you who have no debt from college education, congratulations! I hope your lack of debt is due to hard work and not someone paying for your college. I learned a long time ago, that when you get something for nothing, that’s the value to the owner. If someone paid for your education, you need to be eternally grateful and look for ways to pay it forward! 

Some of you have some big bills to repay from your college. You can choose to view your situation in one of two ways. First way involves whining, “poor-me,” “this-is-not-fair” or THE MAN is putting it to me. Remember, to go after your education was a choice. The second way to look at your college debt as an investment in yourself.  Look at this approach as a gift to yourself that will generate big benefits. Consider this. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report in 2007, 19% of Americans over 18 years of age have attended college, but have no degree. Approximately 34% of Americans over 18 years of age and older hold college degrees. Only 8.5% of our fellow Americans has a post graduate degree. You graduates are a special minority. 

I would also challenge you to keep learning and apply what you learn. After all, a person with an education who chooses not to use it is as bad off as the person who has no education. Use your education to stamp out ignorance! Your continuing education is about going from an unconscious mind to a conscious awareness your ignorance. Remember the MasterCard tag line, cost of one’s education, priceless!

The heart of education is the education of the heart.

Your head is brimming with facts, stats, and how-to. What about your heart? In todays world IQ will not get you as far as your I will. I will is about heart as in I will serve others. I will be focused on giving rather than getting. I will practice the Golden Rule. I will collaborate well with others. I will listen to others who have a different opinion. I will practice critical thinking because it gets me out of my comfort zone into my learning zone!

If I were to ask you to name the actor who got an Oscar for best supporting actor last year very few of you could give me the name. If I were to ask you who was the MVP in last year’s Super Bowl, very few of you could tell me. If I were to ask you to name someone who won a Nobel Peace Prize last fall, I’d be surprised if many of you could tell me. On the other hand, if I asked you to name a teacher who inspired you, a person who made a difference in your life or someone you view as a hero, everyone in this place could give quick answers to all three! It’s about the heart, not the mind. 

Remember, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Experience is “compulsory education.”

I am an experience-based facilitator. I create learning labs for people to experience growth by moving out of his or her comfort zones. Its that old Chinese proverb; I hear. I forget. I see. I remember. I do. I understand. I like to add two additional lines; I facilitate. I learn. 

In today’s world, it's no longer about earning a living. It’s about learning a living. In this current economic time we are living in, experiences are compulsory education. Seek experiences to challenge your thinking, your ideas, your habits, and your beliefs. Remember Thomas Kida’s best selling book title, Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

Forget your mistakes, but remember what they taught you.

Fortunately, we are beginning to value mistakes and failure as great teaching lessons. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the surgeon to make a mistake as I lie on her operating table under the beam of her laser!

Peter Senge, best selling author of The Fifth Discipline, says the only learning disability is from not learning from your mistakes. 

So back to my original question. Are you a question mark or a period?

The biggest mistake you could make right now is to be a period!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Susan Boyle - Lessons Learned!

Susan Boyle has been the eye opening, heart stopping phenom courtesy of British television’s, Britain's Got Talent. A plain looking woman who has an ethereal quality voice that shocked the judges and audience. See

She sang, I Dream A Dream from the hit musical Les Miserables which seemed to be in sync with her personal story as it unfolded before and after she sang. Helen Fisher, anthropology professor at Rutgers believes "the audience’s reaction was due to “rush of dopamine” from the surprise pleasure of hearing her voice. “Novelty drives up dopamine in the brain and you feel good,” she said. (

Susan Boyle is a lesson in synchronicity and serendipity

Carl Jung created the word synchronicity to describe a form of connecting. Synchronicity occurs when two events seeming to be unlikely come together and create meaning. I find synchronicity to be refreshing and generating AHA! It also stirs hope and  a sense of wonder that many of us lose as we become older. Susan Boyle is synchronicity! Lesson: Expect the unexpected! Be surprised! Recognize the power of being open to possibilities. Nurture wonder!

Serendipity is a positive accidental discovery. You go looking for something and discover something else. Serendipity is often referred to ‘chance favoring an open mind.’ (Louis Pasteur.) Susan Boyle got the chance to sing before a large audience, one of her hopes and dreams, and WOWed her audience. We, the audience, were looking for something else, perhaps even hoping for a “negative” something else. Lesson: Susan Boyle’s performance opened our minds to being open to accidental discovery. Nurture being nonjudgmental! Be the Golden Rule!

Many times when working with groups, I begin the workshop or program asking people to be aware of three filters we have continuously turned on.

Phantom Rule or the-voice-in-the-head filter. This filter speaks, “Can't,” “that’s impossible,” “I/we have always done it this way,” “that’s not my area,” “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This filter keeps us from being open to possibilities, from learning and from stepping out of our comfort zones. To break phantom rules or to ignore the-voice-in-the-head can lead to some powerful break throughs for each us, for the people we love and for the people with whom we work. What did the-voice-inside-the-head say to you as Susan Boyle walked on stage?

Blinder filter. The Blinder filter is related to being mindless. The blinder filter keeps us from being truly present and totally engaged with someone else. Multitasking activates our blinder filter. Email, texting, Twitter and other social networking channels invoke the blinder filter.’ Activating the blinder filter is akin to going on autopilot. This maybe be useful in doing things, but hurts relationships and demonstrates bad etiquette. Thank goodness the judges and audience acknowledged the blinder filter and went on to give her three ‘yes’ votes!

Fun House Mirror filter. The fun house mirror filter is the distortion between reality and perception. The more out of sync our perception is to reality, the more problems we create in our own well-being as well as with others. Truth is reality. To ignore this fact, is live in a different world and suffer the consequences. Susan Boyle made many of us reexamine our perception and reality of appearance. Susan Boyle is a beautiful person! The reality is in her inner beauty.

Perhaps Susan Boyle’s greatest gift is not her voice, but the incredible lesson she has re-taught us during this time of crisis! Don’t waste the lesson!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brennen Manning - In Abba's Embrace

I attended a retreat in Charlotte, NC this past weekend led by Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel and several other books including his most recent publication, The Furious Longing of God from which this retreat was based.

Brennan is an alcoholic, Catholic, former priest, sinner... healed, humorous, engaging storyteller, vulnerable, lover of Abba and loved by Abba just as he is! Brennan invited and challenged all to recognize that Abba loves each of just as we are. He also challenged us to love one another just as we are. Leave judgement to Abba. Practice the two greatest commandments; Love the Lord with all your heart and soul; love your neighbor as yourself.

As so often the case, I came expecting one thing and what I got was different and what I needed. I was fed.

The retreat began Friday evening. Brennan suffered memory loss in this opening session apparently due to a significant loss of blood from a fall back in the fall of 2008. There were pregnant pauses and flat stretches of silence as Brennan tried to coax his memory to cooperate. Those of us in attendance pushed back and paused. I am sure many of us bowed our heads in prayer. I am reminded that Mozart once pointed out that the space between the notes was as important as the notes. I believe the space between Brennan's pauses were the needed quiet times to listen for God. "Let God. Let go" was my fervent prayer. Compassion reigned. The next morning Brennan was renewed, inspired and on! He humbly acknowledged his plight, asked for forgiveness and acknowledged the love he felt from all of us. Abba was at work among all of us!

Brennan reminded us of the poverty of our vocabulary, our misunderstanding, our missing of the profound. One example he gave was Old Testament scripture concerning fear of the Lord. The way we interpret fear in today's language and the way it was intended are different. The original intent, meaning and use of the word fear centered on silent wonder, radical amazement and affectionate awe. If we are afraid of God, how can we enter into a deeper relationship? Fear causes us to avoid. Fear prevents us from trusting. Greater our fear, greater is the loss of trust. Brennan recommended we deal with our fear by constantly and continuously praying, "Abba, I belong to you!" Brennan shared stories of the healing power of this prayer and the deepening relationship with God made possible with this meditation.

Brennan emphasized to those of us in attendance to see the good in one another and to affirm. The sign of authenticity for our love of God is the way we see and treat others. He reminded us what we do to others, how we treat others, is the way we treat Jesus Christ! Brennan used the story of Don Quixote and Dulcinea in the Man from La Mancha to help us understand the healing power of affirmation. Here is a radical thought. What if we each became professional lovers of God as demonstrated with Emmanuel, taking up all our time to affirm, heal and loving our fellow person to Christ leaving no time for judgment, hate or greed. We would share and give as we have been given! Thy kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven!

I am reminded how important it is to retreat, renew and reconnect... regularly! We need to make time to push our "pause buttons" and mute the busyness of our lives to examine our core values and beliefs, our purpose, our mission and relationships especially with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Time with Brennan Manning was true manna from Abba. If you get the opportunity to be led by Brennan, do not miss it!

Our retreat ended with the benediction...

May all your expectations be frustrated,
May all your plans be thwarted,
May all your desires be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child,
And sing and dance in the love of God,
Yours in Abba, Son and Spirit. Amen

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wm. Paul Young, author of the The Shack

It is not my intent to review The Shack, but I will quickly share my overview and take-away from Young’s fictional story. I believe the critics of The Shack forget this is an allegory and fictional writing. The critics get caught up in the details of his/her theology missing the central themes of the work which does not compromise the Gospels. The Shack has the reader explore the Old Testament view of God – God who seems angry, distant, rejecting and judgmental versus the New Testament view of God – God who loves, joyful, relational and present. Leave the personal theological details out of it and the reader gets a transformative opportunity to examine his/her journey of faith not only with God but with the Holy Trinity.

As for William Paul Young, this is a common man blessed to share a story of uncommon pain that may inspire others to understand the possibilities of God and how God works and heals in our lives. I had the honor of hearing Young speak at Montreat College, Tuesday, March 3, 2009. While his book, The Shack, is a story not be missed (continues to be on the NY Times best seller list after 40 weeks), the story of how The Shack came to be is as riveting as the book!

As Young tells it, The Shack was a fictional story he wrote for his children and God has taken it to share with His children! Young has the gift of storytelling. His style puts everyone at ease. He is humorous. He is humble. He is vulnerable. He is transparent. He has no secrets or hidden agenda. He is not afraid to take risk. His belief in the Holy Trinity is deep and strong, and he appears to listen to others on their faith journey without judgment. He lives the Golden Rule, something The Shack critics might wish to re-examine of themselves. Young claims to be an “accidental author,” who wrote this story for the people he loved which I believe turns out to all of us! He gives credit for the book’s success to Papa, his word for God, which I have to admit feels more relational.

Young told two stories during his 11 AM presentation. The first story was about how The Shack came to be starting with 15 copies printed at Office Depot to now over 5.5 million copies as I write this in just over three years. As Young humbly puts it, “This is a God-thing!” Amen! This grace-filled event has made him feel like he in his version of the 1998 movie, The Truman Show!

His second story, interlaced with how The Shack has affected people’s lives all over the world including Brazil, Australia and even mainland China, is a story about his mother, the new-born baby she saved in 1948, how that baby grew to be an Anglican Rector and how that Anglican Rector helped his mother to understand that Young’s portrayal of Papa in The Shack as a heavy-set Black woman was not heresy! You must hear Young tell this story in person in order to connect All the dots including your personal dots back to Papa, Christ and the Holy Spirit! These two stories took this listener’s breath away more than once and brought tears to my eyes. I walked away from Young’s talk more affirmed in my belief in Papa, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Do not miss the opportunity to hear Paul Young share his stories. If The Shack did not transform you, his personal stories will!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

TO: Mr Stumpf, CEO, Wells Fargo

Mr Stumpf-

The recent news of Wells Fargo going to Las Vegas to extravagantly celebrate its success was poor judgment and lacked thoughtful consideration. As a customer and client of Wells Fargo, I am deeply disturbed by the insensitivity of Wells Fargo to its customers, to our nation and to the world community at this critical time. I am glad you decided not to go, but this only came after an out cry from many.

Trust in our economic system, big business and the government is at an all time low. Trust will make or break any relationship. Joseph Campbell, author of the The Power of Myth, pointed out to Bill Moyers in June 1988 PBS interviews that the tallest building in the community is the keeper of the values and core beliefs of the community. In the 14th century, the tallest building was the church. In the 18th century, the tallest building was the government or palace. As we drive into America's major cities today, the tallest buildings belong to business, many of which are bank buildings! Wells Fargo needs to model-the-way in fiscal responsibility, economic justice and the use of power. At a time when many of our fellow Americans and citizens of the world are lacking the material essentials of life, extravagant celebrations lack empathy. Consider the BIG picture and the lives Wells Fargo touches directly and indirectly.

Let's be clear, Edward Deming defined the customer as anyone who relies on our work. Thus, Wells Fargo has external customers like me and internal customers who are the employees of Wells Fargo. I acknowledge, what gets celebrated gets repeated. Wells Fargo's employees should celebrate success. Choose to celebrate in such a way all served by Wells Fargo can feel good and perhaps share the pride. Overuse and misuse of power demonstrates self-interest. Please use your power with the nation and world's well-being in mind rather than just Well Fargo.

Be guided by wisdom. Act with humility. Choose to celebrate within the spirit of these times. Make me feel good about the company I keep as I write my checks to Wells Fargo.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Can you keep a secret?

Do you have a secret(s)? Why?

Do you stress over people discovering your secret(s)?

What would happen if your secret(s) was revealed?

How much time and energy do you use keeping your secrets?

Have you shared your secret(s) with God, Papa, Yahweh, Allah? How did that feel?

Have you shared your secret(s) with another human being? How did that feel?

The Double Secret Room

My current office is in a lovely old manor built in the very early 1900's. It has a double secret room! This room was where the home's original owner had his wine cellar during prohibition! To get to this double secret room requires knowing several things. First, you need to know which room in the house holds the doorway to the double secret room. You need a key to unlock this door. Upon entering the door, you need to know about two hinged shelving units and how they move! Upon completing this maneuver, you need to remove shelves that appear built into wall! Next, you need to know the secret compartment to open so you can reach in and grab the latch to slide the wall! All this complexity to keep this double secret room from being discovered by the unwanted!

Think about secrets you have. Do your secrets have complexities? It took a lot of attention to detail, planning and thoughtful construction to create this double secret room! Have you given your secrets lots of attention, careful planning especially around the "what if..." is your secrets are discovered? It took a lot more energy and careful measures to create this double secret room. What kind of energy and measures have you taken with your secrets?

Consider these quotes:

Our real sickness is in our secrets. Alcoholics Anonymous

Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets. Paul Tournier

You can not hide from your influence. Anonymous

Secret considerations

Life is a dance. Dance may involve partners. Dance may have an audience. No matter how you dance, with whom you dance, where you dance - everyone should dance! You can not dance freely when you have secrets! Life is a journey full of experiences. Secrets keep us from fully enjoying the journey and completely being immersed in life's experiences. Secrets isolate and prevent relationships from growing and developing. Secrets keep us becoming fully human, keeping us vulnerable and preventing others from helping us to heal. Secrets prevent life from speaking to us and prevent us from hearing what life has to say and offer to us. Secrets prevent us from loving ourselves, thus we are prevented from truly loving others. Secrets are rooted in our past and cause us to worry about the future thus prevent us from living in the now. Secrets prevent us from living out loud.

I am convinced the real evil in the world is what works to separate us from God and from our neighbors. Secrets are evil. Secrets thrive on maintaining separation.

Giving up your secrets

We only give up what does not own us. Anonymous

Who can you trust so may reveal and confess your secret? God, Father, Papa, Allah, Yahweh, is the beginning. What human being can you reveal and confess? When will you do this? What don't you want to happen from this revelation? What do you want to have happen because of this revelation? What are pitfalls, the perceived problems and the obstacles to making this confession? When can you start living a more full life?

Leadership and Secrets

If you believe leadership in a flat world is every body's responsibility... If you believe leadership in a flat world is about modeling the way... If you believe leadership in a flat world is about being relational... If your believe leadership in a flat world requires openness and transparency... then, can leaders have secrets?

Experience Keeping Secrets

Have you played the game Mafia? Go to for rules. Play the game. Debrief. How did it feel to be wrongly accused? If you were the "mafia" how did it feel to keep it a secret. How did you protect your secret? If you were the "mafia," how did feel to be found out?

Suggested Video

Secrets and Lies (1996) - (Maurice) Secrets and lies! We're all in pain! Why can't we share our pain? I've spent my entire life trying to make people happy, and the three people I love the most in the world hate each other's guts, and I'm in the middle! I can't take it anymore!

Suggested Reading

tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom ISBN-0-385-4851-8 Doubleday 1997 "Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others." page 164

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard ISBN-0-452-26756-0 Plume 1991 "For the master, surrender means there are no experts. There are only learners." page 88

Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May ISBN-0-06-065536-5 Harper and Row 1988 "Denial, repression and rationalization do not necessarily stop; they simply fail to keep the truth hidden." page 45

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Military Protocol, Political Correctness and Being Human

Cleveland firefighter John Coleman was suspended for giving President Obama a nod and wave after President Obama made eye contact and waved at Coleman during the Inauguration parade. 

Bandleader Pipe Major Mike Engle told reporters that it had been reviewed over and over with band members that this was a military parade and protocol and proper decorum had to be followed at all times. "Unfortunately, John chose to ignore that."

Did Coleman choose to ignore this directive? Did his being human touch his heart and he reacted with love? Was this the most loving thing to do? Does love win and take precedent over military protocol, proper decorum and directive? Was this the right thing to do? Must black and white rules and regulations be held at all times? Is life so serious we must remain serious under all conditions? I have more questions than answers. Author and consultant, Peter Block, reminds us questions tend to be more transformative than the answers. I'd ask you to "noodle" on asking more questions.

I am reminded of a story...

Two monks were walking along a road. They came to a swollen creek. A young, beautifully dressed woman was standing by the stream at a loss of how to cross the stream without messing up her dress. The one monk on upon seeing her dilemma, squatted down and told the woman to climb onto his back as he would cross the swollen creek and prevent her from getting wet. All crossed the river safely and the young woman grateful, climbed down off the monk's back. The two monks continued their journey. After a mile or so of walking, the one monk turned to his companion and said, "How could you have done such a thing as to come in contact with that women after the vow we took!?" The other monk paused and looked at his companion and said, "I put her off my back some time ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Stop. Think. Reflect.

Do you compare yourself with others? Are you a scorekeeper... consciously, perhaps unconsciously?

Do you hate to lose? Do you see losing as failure?
Are you always aware of your image - literally and figuratively and looking to be in the "best light."

Do you hate to look bad and berate people who affect your perceived image negatively?

Are you always looking to see who is on top?

Are you always looking to be rewarded? Do you hunger for recognition?

Are you always on the lookout for conspiracies? Do you buy in and support conspiracy theories?

Do you need to be in control? Do you have mirco-manager tendencies?

Do you have a Teflon coating? In other words, does fault never stick to you?

How does pride affect your ability to lead?

Do you lead with humility or do you lead with pride? What is the difference? Which enhances leadership and which hurts leadership?

Pride in These Times

Our culture is highly competitive. While competition can be healthy, pride can make competition unhealthy. Consider the paradox, competition breeds pride. Pride can destroy good sportsmanship. Aren't those asterisks after well known athlete's records related to pride? Aren't those well known disgraced business leaders and politician's downfalls connected to pride? How is pride affecting your relationships at home, at work, in your community and in the world?

I remember playing racquetball with a highly competitive individual lacking experience to play at my level. The longer we played the worse he played because his pride kept him from learning skills, techniques and rhythms of good play. Instead of failing forward, learning from mistakes, he fell backwards. It became painful to play with him. Immediately after we played, he wanted a rematch as soon as possible!

During these tough times, many of us are examining what and who got us into this mess. Pride maybe preventing us from seeing and understanding our role in this crisis. I believe there is enough blame to go around beginning with ourselves. The greed factor has played a trump card and as a result we have all felt the pain. We compare ourselves to our neighbors and we are always to looking to better ourselves even at the expense of others. We want what we want. We want it our way. We deserve better.

A question I continue to ask, "Whose responsibility is it to lead?" As I have written before, leadership is an act, a verb, a relationship, and a continuous possibility of growth and change. Leadership is everybody's responsibility. Leadership is accountability founded in commitment. Each of us has the responsibility to lead with our gifts, talents and passions. Each of us has the responsibility to serve humankind. Each of us has the responsibility to collaborate in creation.

The silver lining in this chaotic downturn of the global economy is each of us gets to mess with crisis. The Chinese language uses two characters to describe crisis roughly translated, dangerous opportunity. This is an opportunity to explore, evaluate, experiment and challenge our lifestyles. Are you taking more than you are giving? Are your needs and wants skewed? What are you doing to build trust in the community and in the world? Are you perpetuating fear?

Downsizing and rightsizing are dangerous opportunities to create better lives. Pride can keep us from dealing with this dangerous opportunity effectively!

Pride and Judgment

Pride and judgment are neighbors. Like pride, judgement separates and may prevent healthy, positive change. Judgment is supported by my way, my thoughts, my beliefs are superior to yours. Judgment has a monopoly on truth. Judgment hears what it wants to hear. Judgment speaks and acts with righteousness. Like pride, judgement does not listen well. Judgment's mind is made up, so don't confuse it with the facts. Judgement can also cause us to miss dangerous opportunity.

A greater opportunity is to seek to understand rather than judge. Be curious. Ask, "Please tell me more!"

Be curious, not judgmental. Walt Whitman

And while you consider the relationship of pride and judgment, ponder the relationship of pride, ego and greed. These three maybe the Ace, King, and Queen of downfall and destruction. This royal family play off each other. They have a common bloodline and heritage.

Pride and Character

Pride wants to be a stakeholder in our character. Adversity does not create character. Adversity reveals character. Pride does not care if it uses truth, twisted truth, little white lies or big, bold, hairy lies. Unfortunately, when you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself deepening the chasm between reality and perception. Speaking untruths and distorted facts is worse than speaking foul language.

When things get tough, the prideful morph into undesirables. During stressful times, the prideful seek to control, micro-manage and demonstrate unsportsmanlike behavior. Teamwork and community take a hit. Teams, groups and communities lack productivity and create unhealthy cultures. Good excuses for poor behavior and bad character will not sit well with others on the team, the community or the group. Don't let pride prevent you from turning out to be who you need to be!

Pride lands you flat on your face, humility prepares you for honors. Proverbs 29:23 (MB)

Pride and Humor

Pride takes itself seriously. After all, it's all about pride, never about others. Learn to laugh at yourself and not take yourself so seriously! I recall a co-worker who asked during a management meeting if an off site company-get-together could be counted as time worked. His supervisor quickly responded, "Brock, we already pay you not work! You want more?!" All of us around the table laughed except Brock. He shot back that he was underpaid, overworked and felt unappreciated! His unwillingness to laugh at himself became the beginning of his end with the organization. Pride caused him to perceive a comment as a threat! Pride lacks a sense of humor. Pride is always an ouch looking to avoid pain!

Dealing with Pride

Each of us needs to have a regular, ongoing heart-to-heart, face-to-face in the mirror. Recognize the pride factor in your life. What do you do about pride? Seek support, a person or people you trust, who will be honest with you, who model-the-way and walk-the-talk of being unprideful. The ultimate goal should be to learn to choose wisely how you will deal with pride. Learn to push your pause button and think through the consequences of prideful behaviors. Challenge yourself to be the best not just for yourself but for the team, the community, the group and the world.

Experience Pride

Broken Squares learning lab. The objective of this learning lab to create five same size squares, one in front of each of five participants using all the all the resources given to the five participants. The five participants sit around a table. Each participant receives an envelop with geometric shapes. No one is allowed to speak or write notes. No participant may take any geometric shape from any other participant. A participant may give another participant a geometric shape from his or her resources. Once five same size squares are created, one square in front of each participant, participants may talk.

Some key debrief questions include how individuals felt, what they noticed about themselves as well as others and what it took to succeed. This learning lab demonstrates success by what individuals give rather than what they take. How does this relate to pride?

"I can't be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can't be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be." Martin Luther King

My name is Pride. I am a cheater.

I cheat you of your God given destiny... because you demand your own way.
I cheat you of contentment... because you "deserve better than this."
I cheat you of knowledge... because you already know it all.
I cheat you of healing... because you are too full of me to forgive.
I cheat you of holiness... because you refuse to admit you are wrong.
I cheat you of vision... because you'd rather look in the mirror than out a window.
I cheat you out of genuine friendship... because no one is going to know the real you.
I cheat you of love... because real romance demands sacrifice.
I cheat you of greatness in heaven... because you refuse to wash another's feet on earth.
I cheat you of God's glory... because I convince you to seek your own.

My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
You like me because you think I'm always looking out for you!
UNTRUE! I'm looking to make a fool of you.
God has so much for you, I admit, but don't worry...
If you stick with me, you'll never know.

Beth Moore

Suggested Video

If Everybody Cared - Nickelback (music video, 2005) "If everyone shared and swallowed their pride, Then we'd see the day when nobody died"

'Boundin (Pixar, 2003) Jackalope - Pink? Pink? Well, what's wrong with pink? Seems like you got a pink kink in your think!

Chocolat (Miramax, 2000) Pere Henri (Hugh O'Conor) I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we *embrace*, what we create... and who we include.

Suggested Reading

egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability) by David Marcum and Steven Smith ISBN-10: 1416533273 Fireside 2008

How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living by Rushworth Kidder ISBN - 10: 0688175902 Harper Paperback 2003

Dangerous Opportunity by Chris Musslewhite and Randell Jones ISBN-10: 141343469X Xlibris Corporation 2004

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Joy of Joy

I am doing it again!

After eight incredible years at Joy Outdoor Education Center, Clarksville, Ohio, as Venture Out Director, I am leaving to begin a new position at Montreat College, Montreat, NC. People have asked, “Why would you leave a dream job?” or have commented, “I could never do that!” Perhaps e.e. cummings and Lord Byron said it best:

It takes great courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
e.e. cummings

The biggest risk in life, is to take no risk at all. Lord Byron

I came to Joy realizing I was not living my passion in my previous work. My father modeled the way for me when he left corporate America in his early forties to go into business for himself because he realized he was not living his passion. The roots run deep and the apple has not fallen far from the tree. I can leave Joy knowing I made a difference and have left Joy in better condition than when I found it. Unfortunately, the current economic climate has caused Joy and Venture Out some pain, but there are creative, innovative and resourceful people who will build upon Venture Out’s success.

We only give up what does not own us. Anonymous

What am I taking away from Joy?

I am taking away a better, more informed understanding of leadership and its importance. I had some incredible leadership teachers including Steve Coats and Steve Houchin from International Leadership Associates, Tom Heuer from Fifth Third Bank and Scott Steel from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center as well as the Joy staff and the many participants who came through over a 1,000 programs I was connected with through Venture Out. I learned to practice leadership as an act not a role. Leadership is about relationships and serving. Leadership is about creating nurturing communities in which people feel valued and can grow. Leadership is about vision and creating possibilities where others see or think none exist. Leadership is about battling the phantom rules or the little voice in the head that says, “You can’t do that,” “That’s impossible,” or “What will other’s think especially if you fail or look foolish?”

Don’t believe everything you think. Thomas Kida

Few people learn from success, but there is often much to learn from failure. Steven Miller

Leadership is about change. Being a leader means to be a change agent and to get out of one’s comfort zone. Leadership is about being humble, admitting when you made a mistake rather than always needing to be right. Great leadership has a powerful paradox, great follower-ship. Great leaders know their strengths, recognize their weaknesses and allow others to lead in their areas of strength.

If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less. General Shinseki

Children see the sand. Adults see the box. Steve Coats

I also learned much about trust. My two favorite questions to ask participants during a trust learning lab, “Are you trustworthy?” “How do you know?” Trust is at the core of every relationship. Trust is what is missing in today’s economy and with the people leading us. Trust is a priority needing to be restored NOW! When trust is high, fear is low. If we want to eliminate fear, trust must take firm root. It’s not enough that our money has printed, “In God we trust,” we must relearn to trust each other. We each must personally craft a vision as well as we must help our organizations and our country craft an inspiring vision. Martin Luther King demonstrated best in his “I Have a Dream” speech. We must trust our vision.

Trust is the ultimate value upon which to build a stable way of life. Dick Capen

Trust is the most significant predictor of individual’s satisfaction with organizations.
Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge

Where there is no vision, people perish. Proverbs 29:18

I have also learned that at times I take myself too seriously. Life is already too serious! I learned to laugh and play more. Lynn Watts and Amy Thompson were two who had infectious smiles and laughs that made work at Joy a true Joy. A fun workplace should not be an oxymoron! I also learned not to worry about being right. It is far more important to seek to understand before being understood as St. Francis so eloquently prayed.

Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.
Sir Isaac Newton

There are so many interesting ways to be than right. Robert Rauschenberg

The deepest need of the human heart is to be understood. Sean Covey

What am I leaving Joy?

I am leaving Joy and Venture Out! a better sense of knowing what value they can add to people's lives and to corporate teams. When you know your value and people acknowledge the value you deliver, you are well compensated emotionally and financially. Venture Out! has a much better business model and can make a more significant contribution to the Joy community.

I leave behind an incredible adjunct staff who became one of the most important groups in my life. Creative, thoughtful, hard-working, true believers of the Joy mission, keepers of the Joy values, dynamic servant leaders... are just a few of the many adjectives that describe this group. This group meets roughly five to six times a year on a Saturday to share, connect, support, learn and advise. Those Saturday's are rich. I always came away well fed! I will miss those gatherings!

I thank all the incredible people, too numerous to mention, who touched my life while at Joy. My work at Joy exceeded all my expectations and has enabled me to continue this work in a new setting.

I begin a new adventure in my life’s journey with a very willing partner, my wife. We look forward to new scenery, different lifestyle, a bit warmer weather, a closer drive to the ocean and lots of opportunities to carry on a ministry of helping people to be their best and live life out loud!

Carrpe Diem!

David Carr