Tensions

Tensions

One of the concepts I reference most frequently in client meetings has to do with tensions versus problems. It was introduced to me by Andy Stanley at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in 2010. One or more of our coaches likely reference it weekly in a client conversation.  It has become part of the holy canon of principles we apply.

For some, the idea of healthy tension may be an oxymoron. They believe that if they have a healthy organization, there won’t be any tension. Many leaders actually…

Stories

Stories

Americans spent over $10B at movie theaters last year. We are pretty aware of the fact that there is a diversion offered there that cannot be replicated anywhere else. With 2 hours and about 10 dollars, we can escape the mundane and get lost in adventure, intrigue, and romance. We can forget that the story we are living is likely much smaller and less interesting than the ones we are experiencing…

MasterClass

MasterClass

I had a simple principle that guided every day of my investment career:

I was just smart enough to know that there were a lot of people smarter than I am.

Now the brokers that called me from all over the country were used to talking to investment managers that thought they had it all figured out. The questions they usually posited were intended to stroke my ego and feed the misconception that I didn’t need their suggestions and that all my ideas must be the right…

Overflow

Overflow

My friend Bill told me about a vision God gave him for me.  He said that there was a free flowing river of God’s provision, freedom, life, and abundance.  I was standing right out in the middle and the water was washing over me.

He also said that the other picture he had was of him standing on the riverbank barely dipping his toe into the water.  

I think about those two images often.  

The contrast.

The embedded hope and longing.

The deep and powerful truth they hold.

Increasingly, the leaders I meet are exhausted, overwhelmed, and often discouraged.  They are not operating…

Narrow

Narrow

This story begins almost 20 years ago. A man with a wife of 11 years, a son of 10 years of age, and two daughters of 7 and 4.  The protagonist in this story is a banker managing a large investment portfolio (10 digits worth) with a carefully constructed spreadsheet of his future net worth (7 digits worth).

He is on track. Everything is happening according to plan. Numbers don’t lie, correct?  Well, at least they don’t, until they do.  Because the scoreboard our protagonist is trying to light up is the wrong one. This one is motivated…

Excavate

Excavate

Our kids enjoy a show called “Expedition Unknown” on the Travel Channel.  Every episode has the incredibly likable everyman Josh Gates taking us into the great unknown mysteries: the origins of Stonehenge, the Mayan lost city of Gold, and even the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant. 

He is often digging for and unearthing “treasure”. And I say that in quotations because what he typically finds looks more like a rock, a lump of clay, a shred of wood, or a piece of broken off something. Of course, once it is cleaned…

Biathlon

Biathlon

A biathlon requires athletes racing around a course totaling 20km at pulse rates of 180-190 beats per minute and then completely calming themselves well enough at four intervals to shoot a button-sized target 50 meters away.  

What the heck does the one thing have to do with the other?  

How were these things combined into a single sport in the first place?

The essential skills of both skiing and marksmanship were born out of necessity. They have played an important role in combat for centuries. For instance, in World War II, 50,000 skiing riflemen held off a Russian army that had them outnumbered 10 to 1. The History Channel…

Deviation

Deviation

I used to live a pretty button-downed life with a pretty button-downed faith. I felt like I had it all figured out. That I had God all figured out.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

God is unknowable. If you think you have Him all figured out, it isn’t God, it is some subset of who He is that you have landed on and defined. It is a portion of the unknowable God, but it isn’t Him.

A perfectly known and articulated life removes the specter of surprise, adventure, or discovery.  That is a subset of the life intended and not the abundant one we are all desiring to find (whether we have quit desiring it…

Crappy

Crappy

Before Sam Rockwell won an Oscar for his unforgettable performance as Officer Jason Dixon in “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri”, his favorite performance of mine was as the lovable loser, Owen, in 2013’s “The Way, Way Back”.

Owen had resigned himself to a pretty pathetic life as a slacker manager of a tired small town waterpark on the upper East Coast. Over the course of a pivotal Summer, he encounters the lonely and discouraged 14-year old Duncan. He offers to give Duncan a lift and tells him he can stow his bike in the back seat…

Underdog

Underdog

We love rooting for the underdog, right? Whether it is the 1980 U.S. Hockey team, the kids from Sandlot, or even the Goonies. We love it when against all odds, the unthinkable happens. When the one that no one expected to come through, does.

The bible is replete with these kinds of stories, like the Israelites escaping slavery or David taking on the giant Goliath. And then there is maybe the most likely a tribe of underdogs as the world has ever seen, the disciples. With all the religious elite….

Luxury

Luxury

I don’t remember taking vacations as a kid. I can remember some awkward visits to see some relatives in Dallas, sleeping on the floor, and going to an amusement park one day. I remember my dad taking me on a one-day business trip with him to a bigger city and taking in a new movie called “Star Wars”.

But I never really gave it much thought. I remember a distant memory of spending time on a deserted island and a trip to Hawaii, only to realize that I was blurring my recollections…

Contending

Contending

Cinderella Man is one of the great all-time movies about one of the great all-time stories.  It is about a mid-ranked fighter in the depression era America losing everything and then clawing his way back into the ring and into the championship fight. He is the ultimate underdog because everyone else down on their luck is identifying with his success.

In a way, he is not only contending for his family, but for every man and woman who is suffering.  When his wife Mae (who hates him fighting) shows up at their local parish to pray for Jim…

Escape

Escape

I was having a conversation with a wise, mature, and Kingdom-minded leader. I’ve known him for about five years and really gotten to know him through working with him and his company over the last couple.

He was talking about turning 60 and what he was feeling about this next season of his life.  He was contrasting what most of the people he knew were doing at his age with what he desired to do. They were planning increasing amounts of vacations to increasingly exotic places.

He isn’t.  Nor will he be.

Don’t get me wrong, this guy likes vacations…

Choices

Choices

Most leaders we talk with feel pretty captive to their circumstances. As if there were something cosmic or predetermined about their situation that is beyond them and cannot be altered. I certainly know that feeling. There is a good chance you have felt it as well. Maybe it is the predominant operating system you are under right now.

It is interesting how fanciful a series of books like “Choose Your Own Adventure” feels. The idea that by making a simple series of choices could result in a completely different story sounds preposterous when you apply…

Circus

Circus

I recently met with a friend of mine and he described his life as a circus.  

Can you relate?

I shifted to asking him about each of the three rings of that circus:

  • Professional

  • Personal

  • Spiritual

We are all spiritual beings and all of us have a personal life and a professional life we are trying to balance. Interestingly enough, when we surveyed over 100 business owners a few years ago and asked them about their needs and challenges, they not only described their lives as something akin to a “circus”..

Treasures

Treasures

A couple of months ago, I was part of a team that led 40 or so of us through a weekend to uncover much of that treasure. It is a weekend that I have been a part of at least a dozen and a half times. The progression of the weekend goes something like this:

Awaken core desires in the heart of a man...

So that he can find how perfectly those desires of his heart fit in an authentic re-telling of the gospel...

In order that the dissonance between the life he lives and the one intended might be revealed...

So that he might have the courage to walk backwards into his story and see all the broken and incomplete places...

True

True

You can know a lot of things about me.  Other people can know a lot about you.  And they all have value in terms of understanding. They are all pieces of the puzzle.

But unless you know someone at the level of identity...  

Unless you know their story...

Until you understand the unique role they were created to play, the gifting they carry, or the purpose of their life…

…you don’t really know them.

You don’t know the truest things about them. You are likely unaware of the things that mobilize, inspire, or encourage them to contribute greater and more. The things that prompt engagement, energy, and contribution. Without knowing…

Teams

Teams

What the heck is Stitch Fix and who is Katrina Lake?  Well, Katrina is the youngest woman to ever take a company public, and at 34 has an estimated net worth of $500 million dollars.  (Probably the only CEO to have her 1-year-old son ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange as well.)  She does know a thing or two about starting a successful business. In her world of venture funding, web platforms, data mining, strategic partnerships, etc., starting a business probably is a "team sport."

But for almost every other business I know, it’s not.

Most businesses I come into contact with started with just one person. One person making all the decisions, wearing all the hats…

Crazy

Crazy

My son-and-law and I were circling back to get our car parked quite a ways from the enormous crowd that had gathered at the Pearl Brewery.  We were talking about what a revelation that entire area has become.   We talked about the level of both genius and crazy it took to bring about that kind of change.  To have that kind of idea.

To see possibility where others see none.

To claim the opportunity missed or maybe just not taken by others.

Ironically, whether it is of a cultural, political, spiritual, or economic nature, most genius is first identified as “crazy”.  If you’ll remember from the famous Apple ad quoted above, some

Balance

Balance

One of the most important lessons college taught me was balance. It was all about aggressively multi-tasking. I was sleeping little and spending inordinate amounts of time going to class and studying, pursuing relationships, growing in my faith, having lots of fun, and working.  

Having very little experience in relationships and essentially none in terms of faith, these were both revelations that there were never enough hours to satisfy or explore the boundaries...