5 Ways To Be a Class Act Who Gets Noticed In A Crowd

Photo by Steven Depolo

Photo by Steven Depolo

The Great Divide

I work with a lot of different people. I work with ministry volunteers, I work with church staff. I even work with a few volunteers and organizational people outside of the church world. I work with busy professionals. I work with retired people. Old, young, busy, healthy, or maybe even sick. I’m sure we all have dealings with a wide variety of people.

Not all these people are on an “equal” level, though, in their respective ministries or organizations. There is often a great divide between those who are just part of the crowd and going with the flow, and those who stand out from the rest of the crowd.

The people who always stand out in mind are those who have special, unique qualities. Here’s a listing on my top five ways to stand out in any crowd of people and get noticed.

5 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd

  1. Be early. When I first typed this, I wrote “Be on time,” but honestly being on time should be the minimum standard. The sad reality is that not very many people are even on time to their commitments. At the very least, we should all be on time to appointments and activities. Being early is what can set you apart from everybody else. And, being early can even score you some face time with leaders.
  2. Keep your word. Communicate. Be dependable. Our culture is becoming increasingly more and more convenience oriented. People will tell you one thing on one day, and then change their mind a few days later completely based on what is convenient for them in that moment on that particular day. Keeping your word, though, doesn’t depend on convenience. It depends on character. Be a man or woman of character, not convenience.
  3. Be prepared and do your best work. If you want to be noticed in the crowd of people and even within crowds of other leaders, then you must show up prepared. You need to know any and all material backwards and forward. You need to research. You need to study. You need to practice. Throw yourself into your preparation 100%. Give it your all. You’ll stand out because most people just go halfway.
  4. Have a great attitude. While you’re showing up early, keeping your word, and being prepared, come in with a great attitude. If you need to “fake it until you become it” then so be it. People are attracted to positive attitudes, not negative ones.
  5. Be proactive. Look around. Look ahead. Are there possible problems that can and should be addressed sooner rather than later? Can you be part of the solution? Express your concerns, then offer great solutions that work.

Questions: So, do you think you stand out in a crowd? Are you early to your commitments? Do you keep your commitments, even when it’s inconvenient to do so? Do you show up prepared and do awesome work? Do you have a great attitude? And finally, are you proactive at offering amazing solutions to problems?

Do you have additional ways to stand out in a crowd? What has worked for you in your own unique situation?

Why You Should Become A Writer

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Writers Make Their Mark

Great minds read books. Great minds also write books. If you think back across history, many of our most memorable historical figures were writers.

From Biblical history, I think of Moses, King David, King Solomon, and the Apostle Paul. These men were some of the greatest minds of their respective eras and wrote the majority of the canonical Bible.

Outside of Biblical history, I’m reminded of the respective geniuses of people such as Plato, Homer, Plutarch, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Tolstoy, and Mark Twain.

Why Are Writers So Great?

Writers are, for the most part, highly analytical thinkers. They think about the era in which they live. They consider their place in history in a big, multi-cultural world. They bring a unique perspective to life in their time and place in this world through the lens of culture, family, religion, upbringing, and political leanings.

Writers are typically very disciplined. Some of the greatest writers carve time out of their schedules each day to write. They understand that they need to just show up everyday and write something. One day it may only be 100 words. Another day it may be 1,000. The key though is to keep plugging away at this writing thing. There will be times of great productivity and other times of drought. Great writers discipline themselves to show up each day and pray for inspiration to produce an amazing product.

Because writers tend to be so analytical and disciplined, we can get a view of their world at the time of their writing. We are in essence looking at a snapshot of the mind and the times of the writer in their era.

Clear writing is also evidence of clear thinking. Great writers know what to omit. They understand that they need to edit and re-write to bring clarity to their writing. Of course, not all writing is this way (for example, journals), but the majority of final product writing has been written, edited, and re-written several times.

Why Write?

There are a number of great reasons to be a writer.

One, writing helps clarify your thinking. I know that when I tend to struggle with problems, I find myself journaling and perhaps even writing blog posts on subjects I’m wrestling with. Writing is a great way get all your thoughts out of your head and investigate possible solutions.

Two, writing can instill self-discipline. Setting up a time each day to write can bring discipline to other areas of your life. I know this has been true in my own life. It takes effort to wake up early in the morning and tackle a project such as writing first thing. But, I love it. I enjoy the discipline and process of writing. I look forward to my alarm going off at 4:30am so I can start writing.

Three, writing can leave a legacy to those you care about it. Whenever the Lord decides to take me home to be with Him, my immediate as well as extended family will have a lot of “me” to sift through. I’ve written 2-3 blogs worth of material. I’ve written several journals. I’ve written one e-book to date. If my children want to know the “real Larry Jones,” then all they need to do is read my writing. I can’t think of a greater gift to give your children and grandchildren: a peek into your mind through your own personal writing.

Four, writing could lead to a different career path. I believe there’s a growing trend to hire good writers for any number of positions. In the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, we read the following:

“If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off” (p. 222).

Questions: So, are you a writer? Have you ever considered becoming a writer? If you are a writer, how long have you been a writer? What tangible benefits have you discovered by being a writer?


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How To Increase Your Peak Performance

Photo by itupictures

Photo by itupictures

The best way to increase your personal peak performance is to focus time and energy on your unique abilities during your golden hours.

What Are Your Unique Abilities?

What makes you, well you? Why does your workplace pay you the big bucks? What specific activities make you (or could make you) a superstar at work? Have you even really given it much thought?

For example, if:

  • you’re a professional pitcher for a major league baseball team, then you get paid for throwing strikes and keeping batters from making hits and scoring runs in order for your team to win games.
  • you’re a car salesman, then you get paid for selling and leasing a lot of cars in order for the car lot to turn a profit.
  • you’re a CEO of a major company, then you get paid for leading the employees to make your company a lot of money.
  • you’re a nurse at a hospital, then you are paid to help patients get well quickly and enjoy their stay as much as possible.
  • you’re a teacher at an elementary school, then you are paid to help students learn the concepts they need to know over the course of 10 months in order to move from one grade level to the next.

Whatever unique gifting you possess that makes you indispensable at work, then you need to focus on developing those specific gifts to higher levels of peak performance.

So, in our examples above:

  • the pitcher needs to practice high performance pitching (and related activities) regularly and consistently.
  • the car salesman needs to study and practice the best and most current sales techniques.
  • the CEO needs to be reading, studying, writing, and reflecting on his leadership skills in order to grow in his abilities and lead his company to the next level.
  • the nurse needs to develop her bedside manner and stay current in the medical field.
  • the teacher needs to develop his teaching, motivation, and disciplinary techniques in order to move his students to the next level.

Whatever unique abilities you possess in your career, you need to focus on growing these abilities during your “golden hours.” This is how peak performers beat out all the competition and become the best in their field.

What Are Your Golden Hours?

The concept of “golden hours” are your peak productivity hours each day. For the vast majority of people, these best hours will most likely be in the early morning. But, there are many people who just can’t handle the early morning routine. They’re more night owl than early bird. I know several people who will never be morning people and who actually do their best work at midnight!

In my own five daily rituals, I attempt to accomplish my top three between the hours of 4:30-7:00am. These top three rituals (journaling, Bible study, and writing) require the most quiet time and concentration. Since I have a young family, it doesn’t happen every day for me, but I try to get this time in as best I can. In the remaining hours of my morning at work, I focus on the priority activities for which my church pays me to accomplish. These early and even mid-morning hours are when I am my most productive and creative.

Again, you know you. You know if you function best first thing in the morning or late at night. And, if you’re not sure, simply experiment. Try out one week in the early morning hours, and then the next week, do the midnight thing. Figure out which week you were more productive and go with those golden hours. Leverage that time to accomplish your priority activities with excellence.

Questions: Do you know when your “golden hours” are during each day? Have you ever experimented to determine when you are most productive? Do you know what specific skills you possess that makes you invaluable to your employer? Do you have some type of scheduling plan in which you’re doing your most important work at the very best time?

How To Balance Consistency With Creativity

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The Hobgoblin Of Small Minds

When I was in college, one of my music professors would say the following quote to his students on a regular basis:

“Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

It wasn’t until sometime later that I discovered he was actually misquoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, who stated in his essay Self-Reliance:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

This is about on par to misquoting the Bible on the topic of money – “money is the root of all evil” versus “the love of money is the root of all evil.” But I digress.

I am a super consistent person. Always have been, and I’m pretty sure I always will be. That’s how I’m wired. I’m not sure, though, that people would classify the majority of my consistent behavior as “foolish.” But, I can see the need to regularly evaluate any consistent life behaviors.

I don’t want to foolishly pursue consistent behaviors, purely based on the desire to be consistent. I want to make sure my behaviors are effective as well. If they’re not, then that would be foolish to pursue on my part.

Consistency Vs. Creativity

The challenge with the characteristic of consistency is that it can be misrepresented as boring and not very creativity. When you are locked into a pattern of consistent behavior, then you can lose a great deal of creative possibilities.

Let me give you an example.

In the pursuit of renaissance living, I practice my musical abilities on trumpet, four to five days a week. There’s my first consistent behavior. In my daily practice, though, I have the tendency to practice the same routine, the same exercises, the same songs almost every day. There’s my second consistent behavior. I have two different levels of consistency going.

I think the first level is good. The idea of setting and maintaining some type of trumpet practice time each day is good for me. I need to make music on a regular basis. Where I run into trouble, though, is on the practice routine, itself. I tend to get stuck in a rut of consistently practicing the same stuff, over and over again. This second level of consistent behavior is stifling my creativity.

How Do You Balance The Two, Together?

It can be challenging trying to balance these two behaviors of consistency and creativity. In my trumpet practicing example above, I have found that I need to purposefully seek variety in my daily routine. This helps me avoid that second level of consistency that is dampening my creativity.

So, I’m becoming more proactive in looking through my music library and finding different songs in different styles to play through. As I pursue more variety in my practice time, the creativity is beginning to flow! I’m getting new and different ideas.

I believe the balance between consistency and creativity works in this way. First, the consistency part should focus on doing the specific activity, whatever it may be, on the regular basis. So, carve out a consistent time each day, five days a week, to practice your renaissance activity. Then, within that consistent time frame, be proactive in pursuing variety within your routine time block. Change things up. Get creative.

How do you balance consistency with creativity? Do you have any additional ideas? What have you found to be helpful in your own life?


Self Reliance

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