I was Sideswiped…by Love!

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Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the death of my wife Sheri Dawn Voll (Valleau). Mostly it seems like another lifetime ago, however, periodically it seems just like yesterday. There are moments from that horrific day that will linger with me as long as I draw breath, but the raw pain that it once caused has been replaced by reflection and even a smile at the precious gift God gave me, even though it wasn’t for long.

I posted on my Facebook page last year that each December 1st would be “International Sideswipe Day.” This is a day to remember those whom we have lost, share our grief, and encourage one another that there is hope after loss. I was blown away at the responses I received. It can be overwhelming to hear the pain that people go through each day. Some of your stories took my breath away; you have faced so much and you continue to push forward. It’s simply inspirational.

Grief and pain are something that we have to go through. There is no sidestepping it. It can be lonely, but we need not be alone. Friends, family, and acquaintances cannot take away the pain but they can speed the healing. I have learned that encouragement, prayer, and a kind word can change the course of a person’s day…or even life. So, I guess in that way the gift of friendship and encouragement are even more important than being a pain reliever. Pain makes us alive, but comforting one another with love and compassion makes us truly human.

Yesterday I received all sorts of calls, texts, emails and FB messages from friends who wanted to let me know that they remember Sheri and the events of December 1. Their outpouring of love humbles me. And I realize that it is because of this love that I have been able to heal and lead others to a greater sense of hope in their personal nightmare. That’s why I was able to muster the courage to write “Sideswiped: Three Keys to a Fresh Start After Suffering a Broken Heart.” Each week a person or two will contact me out of the blue to tell me the difference it has made to them or a loved one who is going through deep waters.

So whatever you are going through, or however helpless you feel as you walk with someone through his or her “valley of the shadow of death,” please know that there is hope and you are the one that God has chosen to deliver it. Sometimes it’s in the form of a hug, a quick text or a gift of a book that might help them get unstuck.

Whatever you do, do something. You are needed. You are a part of someone’s healing no matter how broken you may feel yourself.

 

Power Up Your Reading and Retention Today!

reading

We have all heard the quote by Harry S. Truman “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” I enjoy reading, and often turn off the tv to curl up with a good book in the evening before bed, or read in the early morning while my family sleeps.

But one of my nagging frustrations is that I don’t retain as much as I should. I underline, make notes in the margins or ponder a really provocative idea, only to forget it the next day (or later that hour!). I have come to realize that I remember best what I have repeated. Let me explain.

When I read about a certain idea or concept I must cement it into my memory by talking it out with another person. The act of sharing what I have learned verbally is the rough equivalent of sticking that idea to the walls of my mind with crazy glue. And thankfully, I have a group of guys that I meet with weekly who act as a sounding board for each other as we forge through new material that will help us personally, professionally and spiritually.

For over two years the Burly Boys Book Club has met on Wednesday mornings to talk about a book we have been reading (or listening to on audiobook). We wake up to espresso and then challenge one another by discussing the concepts of a book like “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. In that book we were challenged that we cannot have multiple “priorities,” as a priority by definition is ‘one thing.’ So McKeown challenged us to get the ‘right things’ accomplished by pursuing what is essential in our lives (this is a process in itself-get the book, it’s worth it!). This was the catalyst for a lot of deep and meaningful dialogue between the five of us. And we took it to the next level by periodically asking one another how we are doing in the disciplined pursuit of less.

DO IT TODAY!

If you want to raise your level of learning and retention, blast a few texts or emails to some friends. Choose a time, place and a book that everyone can agree on. Then dig in together and grow.

Leaders are readers. But leaders who remember what they read are much more effective.

 

 

How to Find Clarity in the Chaos

fog

Have you ever tried driving in the middle of a snowstorm or dense fog? If you have, you know that with limited visibility you have to trust the road ahead. Scary!

Do you ever feel like your life is in a fog? Are you unsure and anxious about the future of your career, family or relationships?

Whenever I feel boxed in I remind myself of these four simple truths. They have worked for me, and I know they can and will work for you!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”

Proverbs 3:4-5

  • Trust in the Lord

One of the most difficult things for successful people to do is to trust someone else with the results. We tend to micro-manage, and hold on to things so tight that we suffocate any joy in the process.

Whether you are in a fog or not, the first and most important step to find clarity is to trust in God. This doesn’t mean you slack off or neglect your responsibilities, but it does mean that you continually remind yourself that the results of your labor are ultimately in God’s hands.

Bonus: When you trust you are able to rest.

  • Don’t rely on your own Understanding

You are smart…I know you are. That’s why you are reading this blog! But sometimes our intelligence gets in the way. We tend to grind and work the angles in order to make the big deal happen. What we fail to realize is that our understanding (visibility) is limited. There is only so much we can see.

On the other hand, God can and does see all.

It would be a good idea to ask for His wisdom and guidance today rather than simply relying on your education/experience.

  • Look to God in Everything

Everything means EVERY thing. There is nothing too big or too small to capture God’s attention. If it means something to you, it means something to Him. So in that area you are unsure of, look to God.

And when you look to God, this is His promise to YOU:

  • He will Guide you

While driving in a fog it can get very scary. Usually you would have visibility for miles around you, now you can only see a few feet in front of your car. But that is all you need to stay on track. You may not feel safe or secure, but in life when you are unsure of how to proceed, keep walking and God will guide your steps. He road may be filled with potholes, and the snow and slush may get deep, but He will see you through to your destination.

I have no idea where God may guide me later today, this month or this year. But I do know that like a flashlight guides a hiker in the woods, the Bible will direct my road ahead (Psalm 119:105). I may not know or see all the details, but I will get to the destination God has in mind for me.

Clarity in the chaos starts with trust in God today.

 

 

 

 

Three Keys to Avoid Wasting Your Audience’s Time

The greatest sin you can commit as a communicator is to waste another person’s time.

It’s simply not acceptable…and won’t be tolerated for long.

So whether you are speaking in the boardroom, at a tailgate meeting or in a packed auditorium, here are three ways to ensure that your audience hears, understands and then responds to the message you’re sharing.

 

Keep It Simple-

Unless you’re a rocket scientist talking to astrophysicists, keep the big words to a minimum. You may think you sound smart, but if no one understands, no one grows. And most times you just look arrogant rather than intelligent. The best communicators can take a relatively technical concept and boil it down to the essentials. Use metaphors to explain hard concepts or a visual aid that is memorable. Finally, ask yourself “Is this really important to what I am saying?” If not, hit a three pointer with the idea or illustration straight into the trash bin. Everyone will be happy you did.

Keep It Honest-

I have sat through talks where the presenter wasn’t honest enough to be believable. For example, I’ve listened to pastors who don’t seem to wrestle with temptation, business leaders who have never lost a dime or coaches who never dropped the ball when they played football. All of these examples are as unbelievable as the Loch Ness Monster. A better approach is to appropriately reveal rather than conceal weakness, in an effort to build a bridge to your audience. Then let them know how the principles you are sharing have made a change for the better in your own life. Then Voila! Heads are nodding, and the audience is with you!

Keep It Going-

An exceptional presentation, sermon or speech has a call to action of some sort. You want people to buy your product, embrace your idea or make a change for the better in their world. True communication is about transformation, not information. If you have a clear next step your message will live on in the lives of the hearers and the people they will influence. Great presentations not only stick, they spread.

 

We all waste time. Feel free to waste your OWN time on Netflix, Instagram or YouTube. But NEVER waste other’s time as a communicator!

Keep it simple, keep it honest, and keep it going. If you do this, you will hold your listeners full attention and keep them coming back for more.