I Challenge You to Grow!

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Stagnant, tired, outdated, irrelevant. These indictments are a death toll to today’s leader.

So how can we avoid the trap of losing touch, the worst nightmare of a leader?

Tackle something big.

The only way we grow is when we get pushed out of our comfort zones and force ourselves (or get forced) to do something that seems larger than we can handle. And that’s the point. It is bigger than us. We will need help, we will need to stretch and grow in order to accomplish the goal.

I have been in a bit of a rut with my training lately. I am still going to the gym 3-5 times a week, but I haven’t been pushing myself to grow. I am just maintaining.

Or more likely losing ground.

Then I did a few workouts with some younger guys. I wanted to show them what I was made of. I dug deep, kept adding weight with full reps, and left my heart out on the gym floor. Now I sit writing this article and every muscle in my body is sore. But it isn’t the sore that is a sign of a strained or torn muscle, it is of a trained, stretched muscle in repair mode. In other words, this kind of sore ensures me there will be muscular growth. Every ache reminds me that I challenged my muscles. And it makes me smile.

You may be in a job where the work is similar each day or there are consistent patterns throughout the year that you have grown accustomed to, and may even feel like you have “perfected” that particular process or event.

You haven’t!

Don’t give in to the lie that you have reached some sort of ceiling in your workplace because you haven’t. There is always something that can be tweaked, improved or even axed in favour of something that is new and will serve your customer or client base more effectively. You can always reach higher.

If you are doing this consistently at work and still need more growth in your life, tackle something daunting at home. Like an improvement project that is both mentally challenging and physically rewarding, such as painting that room or building that addition on the deck. You have no idea where to start? Go to YouTube, ask the guy at the Home Depot in the lumber section. These guys know what they are doing and will take time with you. Whatever you decide to do, consult an expert and learn the right way the first time.

For me, I have embraced writing. It is a pain in the butt sometimes, but it is also extremely rewarding and I have grown in leaps and bounds in my clarity and confidence as a Christian leader because of it. Sure it’s hard, but anything worth putting out there (like that new deck) is going to require a bit of sweat equity.

So if you have been flat lining for a few months or years, it’s time to break out of the rut.

I challenge you to grow.

You can do it, and others will thank you that you did.

Now I’m off to paint the inside of our house. I guess writing isn’t so hard after all!

Over the Hill?

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Do you feel old? Perhaps you think your best years are behind you?

When I was a kid, forty seemed like a lifetime away.

Forty years old. Wow. That was old.

I went to a few birthday parties for friends’ parents where plastic pink flamingos were strategically placed on front lawns, helium balloons proclaimed ‘over the hill,’ gifts of adult diapers and Metamucil were exchanged and birthday cards mocked something to the effect of ‘being a dinosaur.’

At those parties I just remember eating cake and thinking “I can’t wait to hit double digits.” Ten was a pivotal age for a nine year old. Ten was a big boy.

Fast-forward thirty years and here I am, an over-the-hill dinosaur (without the pink flamingos thankfully!)

And yet, I don’t feel old. In fact I feel better than I did when I was thirty. I can run longer, lift as much and I’m wearing a size smaller jeans. Bonus!

There have been some changes that I don’t like. My hairline is receding and could use some reseeding, and lines are developing on my forehead and around my eyes, mostly from laughing at dumb jokes (including my own). And I ache a lot more from old injuries in my lower back and knees. But it hasn’t slowed me down. I feel as if I’m just getting up to full speed.

In the book of Exodus a man named Caleb gives us all a stellar example of aging with grace. He had been faithful to God for his whole life and now eighty-five years old, he asked his friend Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, to give him his inheritance of land. This inheritance came with a catch-he had to fight for it and displace the people who were living there already. And most ironic part about this whole story is that rather than asking for the land that would be most easy to conquer, he asked for the hill country (14:6-15).

Fighting on uneven ground is never easy. You are always at a disadvantage, fighting an uphill battle. Was this a hill Caleb really wanted to die on? Yes. This grizzled man of God wanted to fight another battle up a hill rather than be written off as “over-the-hill.”

I am not afraid to get older, because I know that as long as I keep dreaming and doing, God will give me the strength to be more than a conqueror.

So today, if you are feeling old, tired and sorry for yourself, look no further than to the example of Caleb. That is what I am choosing to do.

My best days are yet to come.

And so are yours.

 

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness

In Seven Men, author Eric Metaxas gives a brief, yet thorough look into the lives of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson. Some of the men are well-known by almost everyone, while others have been forgotten or lived on the fringes of society. The common thread among them all is their devotion to God and a legacy left by their acts of sacrifice.

Each chapter is devoted to one of these men, and they are easily readable in one sitting. This is a fantastic book to study and discuss with a small group (that’s what my book club is doing right now!). This is definitely a winner and provides a wealth of real life illustrations on the importance of character in leadership.

Open: What Happens when you Get Real, Get Honest, and Get Accountable

One of the most powerful and effective ways to stay on track personally, professionally and spiritually is to have someone trusted to walk and grow with. The writer of Proverbs tells us that “iron sharpens iron” and I have personally found that the greatest source of growth and strength for me has been a few accountability partners who are willing to ask the tough questions of my ministry, marriage, family and thought life. Craig Gross and Adam Palmer have put together a very practical and easy to read book that gives compelling reasons why accountability is necessary and how to start an accountability group/relationship.

This book is not earth-shattering in it’s information or scope, but it isn’t intended to be. It is written to motivate and compel the reader to seek out accountability for a lifetime in order to be the very best one can be. Craig Gross definitely practises what he preaches as the founder of xxxchurch.com, the accountability software X3 Watch and X3Workshops, the online sessions to overcome porn addiction.

No man is an island, and “Open” is a great reminder of this. Now open yourself up to accountability and take your personal life to new levels of honesty and freedom.

 

Breaking News

Seeing things as they really are

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I generally like to listen to talk radio or peruse news articles online before work while I eat my breakfast. It’s a routine I have become familiar with. I like to be “in the know” on current events around the world. But I have taken a break from the news for now. I can’t take it anymore. And I think you may want to consider doing the same for a while as well for a perspective reset.

Here’s why:

The “news” is a breeding ground for fear, worry and anger.

Terrorist attacks; environmental Armageddon, political infighting, economic meltdown and violent weather warriors such as tsunamis and earthquakes are just a smattering of the headlines in the first few pages of the average newspaper or online source.

Is it any wonder that people are experiencing fear, anxiety and worry to such chronic degrees?

In Alberta, my home province, we have experienced a monumental shift in the energy sector in the last several months. This area has been the driving force of our economy and has guaranteed well paying jobs for thousands of people in years past. Only a year ago a barrel of oil traded at $100. Now it’s around $30. That is a significant drop.

And as a result people are losing their jobs.

And their houses.

And their toys.

Most of all they are losing their hope and courage.

There is a lot of doom and gloom. And many Christians I know have started to allow the media outlets to influence the way they think and feel on a daily basis.

There is certainly more fear, and much less faith.

Has this economic turn taken God by surprise? Did this meltdown catch him off guard? Absolutely not. He saw it all coming. And the same God we trusted in the good times is the same God who will guide us through the difficult times. His power and reach are not limited by the policies of a certain political party or unseen economic forces. History shows that quite clearly.

In the book of Revelation the Apostle John is exiled on the Isle of Patmos, an old man left to rot and die. The Roman Empire was strong and opposition to the Christian church was beginning to heat up. John must have wondered, “Where are you in all of this God? Have you left the building?” He gets his answer in a vision recorded in Revelation 4:2 where he sees into the realities of heaven and comes away with a sharpened view of what is happening on earth. New Testament scholar Darrell Johnson explains that the throne was representative of the control center of the universe, a seat of power and authority. John may have wondered if this throne was occupied or if maybe the Roman Emperor was seated there. Instead, he sees clearly that it is the Lord God Almighty on the throne. He is in control of the whole universe.

Since that time nations have risen and fallen, economies have grown and dwindled, and politicians have come and gone.

But God is still on the throne.

And He will get you through whatever you are facing today.

So maybe take a break from the news and see things as they really are. It’s a surefire way to replace your fear with faith.

 

The Blame Game

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“I take full responsibility. I’ll own this mess”

These aren’t words we hear a lot, are they?

Most of the times when things go wrong in a relationship, at work, on a school project our natural tendency is to say, “It was their fault.” At the most we might own a sliver of the blame, but only because it was prompted by the other person. “They made me so angry!” or “I couldn’t finish because she was late” or even “I didn’t reach my goal because I didn’t have the energy-the kids took it all from me.” And on an on we make excuses, pointing as far away from us as we possibly can.

Blame is a natural reaction. In fact, it is one of the first reactions in human history. The Bible records that when Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God confronted them, and what did Adam do? Did he own up to the fact that he gladly ate the fruit? Did he protect his wife in her time of need?

Nope.

He threw her under a bus, and he even threw God under the bus. ““It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12).

Notice Adam’s words. “The woman.” Not “my lovely wife” or “Eve” but instead “The woman.” He distances himself from her. Just a few minutes earlier they were complicit in eating the fruit together now he tosses her to the side in order to make himself look good. Then he has the audacity to say to God “YOU gave her to me.” In other words, “Listen God, had you not given her to me none of this mess would have happened in the first place.”

How charming.

And yet we are all cut from the same cloth, all of us are from Adam’s gene pool whether you happen to believe the Genesis account of creation or not. You know how easy blame shifting can be, and how it is as natural as breathing itself.

Who or what are you blaming for the disappointments and missed opportunities in your life? Was it your spouse, best friend or boss who doesn’t see your full potential? Is it your circumstances or lack of resources or low energy? Is it the addiction you have that someone else led you into?

Quit blaming others and own your mistakes. You will never get ahead by blaming others when the one who needs to change the most is you.

So, if you have already blown a New Year’s resolution take a good look in the mirror and own the fact that it isn’t the cheesecake’s fault that you can’t eat well or your parent’s fault that they didn’t teach you enough about money. Own the responsibility. You need to make a change between your ears before there will be a change in your life this year.

Then dust off and start again. A new you should have nothing to do with a new year, and everything to do with a new way of thinking…every day.

When you own the responsibility, you will find you have just taken the first big leap towards a change for the better that is applicable to all areas of your life.

 

 

 

YOUR Action Plan to Write a Book in 2016

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Last year I made it my goal to write the story of losing my wife Sheri in a car accident. The book became known as Sideswiped, and I finished writing it in September and released it on November 21. What I set out to do in January 2015 was accomplished by the end of the year, but not without a LOT of struggle.

Let me assure you, it was worth the struggle.

That’s why I want to encourage everyone who has ever said, “I’d like to write a book someday” that NOW is the time. Don’t put it off any longer. Make 2016 YOUR year of the book!

One of the biggest lessons that I learned along the way is the need for accountability and a learning/supportive community in order to lend a helping hand or a well-timed kick in the pants when needed. Here are three “communities” who helped me.

1) The Burly Boys Book Club. This is a testosterone infused book club that meets each Wednesday morning to talk about issues that affect our lives under the guise of reading a book together. These guys knew I was writing and always asked me about my progress and about my marketing ideas. I made sure that I had some forward momentum built by every Wednesday or else fear the consequence of friendly harassment.

YOUR Action Plan: Build a team around you for weekly accountability. This can be as few as one person or as many as 5 or 6. The point is to make sure there is someone who will encourage you when you hit a wall and remind you why you need to keep going…long after you have forgotten your “why.”

2) The North Pointe Writers Group. This group started just over a year ago with a few people from our church who wanted to blog and eventually write a book. In this monthly meeting we read a 500-word excerpt or short story to be reviewed and constructively critiqued by the group. The first few pages of my book was written for and reviewed by my peers at the writers group. Their input was invaluable and gave me the confidence to move forward.

YOUR Action Plan: Start to share your work. One way is through a blog where you can share excerpts of your book or writing about random thoughts. The main point is to put yourself “out there” where people can read what you have written. This is an important first step in becoming a better and more confident writer. You can also look online for writers groups in your area through www.meetup.com.

3) Kary Oberbrunner and Author Academy Elite. The final push for me to write my book was through a webinar hosted by author and entrepreneur Kary Oberbrunner featuring Author Academy Elite, his writing, publishing and marketing guide for authors. There is so much information out there on how to write and publish, and I wanted to make sure that I had someone to guide me through the process, answering my questions, and helping me to avoid unnecessary cost and heartache. I can say with full confidence that being a part of a tribe of published and soon-to-be published authors has been inspiring and taught me more than I could ever have learned on my own about the writing and publishing process. Most importantly, Kary teaches each of his authors how to market their book. This is a MUST. I have come to realize that marketing is as difficult (if not more difficult) than writing a book. Now I am proud to say that I am an Author Academy Elite author, and I am about to start working on my second book.

YOUR Action Plan: Sign up for the next AAE webinar with Kary. He will talk about the features of AAE in a no pressure format. It made a difference for me and can for you. What are you waiting for? Click the link! AAE Webinar

 

How to Beat Writer’s Block (Pt 2)

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This is the second in a two part series on How to Beat Writer’s Block and Get Into the Zone in your writing.
Hear me out. YOU are reading this because you know you have something to say. You have a story in you that needs to get out. You can’t afford to get stuck…and there are MANY that need the message you have to share.
So let’s break you out of the rut, punch writer’s block in the gut, and ship some solid material in the next year!

Here are some things that I currently do to keep my writing going.

1) Unplug. I shut off all of my notifications/messages/emails on my computer and make sure to hide my phone. Go the next level and turn off wi-fi. I know I won’t die if I am disconnected for an hour or two from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (really, I tried and I’m still alive). You can do this by using Focus view in Word or going full screen in Scrivener (this is the program I am currently using). You can also use the app Anti-Social to block out distracting websites during times when productivity is key.

2) Coffee. Need I say more? Even the smell of a fresh brewed coffee wakes me up and the warmth provides comfort, but it goes to the next level when the caffeine hits my system. One cup helps me focus without the jitters. Perhaps you are a tea drinker or even Red Bull, whatever you have beside you, make sure it is something that you enjoy. While it’s true that Hemingway liked his alcohol, even he would never drink and write. This is probably good advice for everyone!

3) Music. It has been proven by smart people that the brain is stimulated by classical music and from white noise, such as the din created by a coffee shop. If I listen to anything with lyrics I’m drawn to the words and it slows down my creativity. However, while listening to my classical playlist on iTunes or from the sounds of Focus at Will (a paid site with several styles of music that supposedly boost your concentration) or Coffivity (Coffee shop sounds, totally free) I can blast through a writing session much better. I have used all three and they help me increase my writing productivity. Plus, earbuds shut out the distractions.

What do you do to push through Writer’s Block? Let me know. I’d love to incorporate some of your ideas into my writing process.