Who Else Wants More Out Of Life?

Photo by gfpeck

Photo by gfpeck

Put In. Get Out.

“You get out of it, what you put into it.”

Have you ever heard this little phrase before? A friend reminded me of this saying several weeks ago.

This quote is so true, AND, it’s a truth that applies to just about anything and everything in your life.

The problem I see is that most people want to coast through most things in their life. They want to put in as little as possible. They want everything handed to them on a gold platter because they deserve it, but they aren’t willing to work hard and go after it.

Now, I’m all for achieving maximum results with minimal effort. Working smarter not necessarily harder is my mantra. But there are going to be areas of our life that we’re just going to need to put the time and energy into in order to get anything meaningful in return.

The amazing thing that happens, though, is putting yourself out there doesn’t necessarily mean that all your energy is zapped out of you. Putting yourself out there can actually be an energizing experience.

Instead of thinking yourself as a battery being drained of power, think of yourself more in terms of an alternator or generator. Energy is put in and energy is released. It’s a win/win all around.

Areas To Put In

Do you want to have a deep walk with the Lord? You’re going to need to spend a lot of time in Bible reading and prayer. You need to be actively involved in your local church. You need to have a missions mindset.

Do you want to have a great relationship with your spouse and children? You’re going to need to put a lot of time and energy into those relationships. You need to get home in time to have family dinner around the table. You need to schedule date nights with your spouse. You need to love and nurture your kids.

Do you want to be a superstar employee in your workplace? You’re going to have to put in a little extra time and energy into your position. You need to grow in your leadership skills. You need to take on some projects that will take you and your organization to the next level.

You get out of anything in life, what you put into it.

I’ve Decided To Put More In

I can confidently proclaim this truth, because I’m learning it through firsthand experience in another organization outside of the four walls of my current church position. You see, almost a year ago, I joined a volunteer group in my community to learn and grow in the areas of leadership and communication. Yes, I’m putting quite a bit of time and energy into this group, but I’m also getting a TON out of it, too. I was even voted on (probably more like drafted!) to become an officer in the group. Being a part of this organization has been a real blessing in my life. Has it been easy? No, not really. Has it been worth it? Most definitely!

So, what do you want out of life? Do you want to just coast along and go with the flow? Or, do you want to really dig in and grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and musically? For me, personally, I pick growth, every time.

You get out of life what you put into it.

Question: What are you willing to put into your life in 2014?






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The Lost Art Of Pruning: How Cutting Out Dead, Unnecessary Stuff Can Lead To A Better Life

Photo by Pictoscribe

Photo by Pictoscribe

Taking Care Of The Fruit Trees

When I was a kid growing up, my family had a bunch of fruit trees in our yard. We had a few different types including apple, cherry, and even a pear tree. I remember my dad having this old, green tank sprayer which he attached to the back of his riding lawn mower. Then, he would drag that sprayer around and spray the fruit trees a couple of times a year in order to control the various insects that liked these fruit trees.

He not only sprayed the trees, but he also took time to prune the trees back. He owned this really long, telescoping pruning rod with a little saw and limb slicer. I believe he normally did this at least once a year, probably in late fall after the growing season was over.

Why Pruning?

The goal of pruning is to produce strong, healthy, attractive plants. There are a number of reasons to prune your trees:

  • Pruning for safety. An example of this would be pruning back low hanging branches that may injure someone.
  • Pruning for health. An example of this would be pruning out all the dead, deformed, and diseased branches in a tree.
  • Pruning for aesthetics. Sometimes trees grow into strange, uneven shapes. You can use various pruning techniques to make trees more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The pruning practices for tree growth can just as easily apply to our own lives as well.

Pruning Principles For Life Growth

As time moves forward each day, month, and year, we grow in our personal lives. Stuff gets added into our home schedules. Work responsibilities increase. We may even add more children to our families. Our kids add-on more extra-curricular activities. Our churches add more ministries and associated events.

For some reason, our society seems to think that more is better. So, more and more stuff gets loaded on our plates, or we just plain get handed more plates to spin.

We start looking like gnarly, unhealthy, odd-shaped trees!

The safety, health, and aesthetics of our lives are now in jeopardy. We are life accidents waiting to happen. These increasingly busier lives are completely unsustainable. Something has to and will give at some point.

We get sick so that we’re forced to rest. A project at work that normally would be a slam dunk falls apart, and our job is now in question. We receive a bad report from the doctor so that we’re forced to slow down and examine our lives. Our children begin rebelling because we never get to spend quality and quantity time with them because everyone has way too much going on.

So, then what happens? Everything comes to a complete standstill – our lives, families, work, and church engagement – as we deal with the crisis.

We stop. We fix the problem (or, so we believe, anyway). We resume all the activity all over again. Nothing really changes, though.

An emergency crisis takes place next year, and we begin the cycle all over again.

Something has to change. We need to take out our pruning shears and saws and cut out the dead and unnecessary stuff in our lives. For our own health, safety, and maybe even aesthetics, we sometimes need to cut back to the bare essentials to have a life that works. The end result is a life that has been properly maintained and prepared for stronger growth in the future.

Assuming you have some downtime this holiday season, I would encourage you to take some time to examine and prune your life for a better year in 2014. We have the potential to grow stronger, faster as a result of the trimming back.

Questions: Is your life out of control? Are you spinning way too many full plates right now? Have you taken the time to fully assess where you are? What needs to be pruned out of our life? What are the core essentials that need to stay in place?

What Should You Do When You’re Waiting On God For Your Next Move?

Photo by mikevazzovski

Photo by mikevazzovski

In The Waiting

Waiting (definition): The action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.

Do you enjoy staying in one spot for too long? Do you relish delaying action while you wait on someone or something to change?

Personally, I hate waiting. I’ll admit it. I’m a time nut, and waiting around for something to take place would seem to be a total waste of time, money, and energy.

So, why does it always seem like we need to wait around all the time?

We must wait until we have a clear direction to move forward in a career change. We must wait for medical treatments to work the way they’re supposed to and finally heal our body. We must wait patiently to declare freedom from debt while we keep chunking down extra money month after month on our debt load. We must wait anxiously and prayerfully as our children move through a rebellious period in their lives.

What Now? That Awkward “In-Between” Stage

So now, we’re waiting around for God’s next move for our lives. We’re in that awkward, in-between stage that no one enjoys. What now?

Well, we have at least three choices to choose from in our response to this in-between time period.

Choice one: we can get mad and frustrated with God. We can mope around and get into a “funk” because God won’t answer our prayers immediately. God’s not on our time-table, so we’re going to pack up our toys and go home, so to speak. We become disillusioned with God. We disengage from living the Christian life, at least to the extent God intended for us.

Choice two: we can get impatient with God and strike out on our own. We attempt to force a change to take place. This is usually when we make poor choices and bad stuff happens to us. We go into massive debt that will be difficult to get out of later on. We marry the wrong person. We take a job position that is a poor choice for our gifting and personality. We end up driving a relationship wedge between us and those we love.

Choice three: we can assume an attitude of patience with our Heavenly Father, recognizing that He knows all things and that He knows what is best for us as His children. We can take on the attitude that God wants to use this in-between time to shape us in to the man or woman He wants us to be.

Becoming The Person God Intends You To Be

Do you know why God hasn’t taken you from where you are currently to where you would like to be? Most likely it is due to the fact that you are not yet the person He needs you to become in order for you to be successful at the next level.

Your ultimate focus in this period of waiting should be becoming the person God intends you to be. He wants you to grow up. He wants you to become more mature in your walk with Christ. He wants you to shed sinful habits that are holding you back. He wants you to learn patience. He wants you to become “a better you” as a result of the waiting.

James 1:2-4 tells us, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

In these times of waiting on God, we are being tested. The purpose according to James is two-fold. First, the testing of our faith should produce endurance. Second, our new-found endurance should produce maturity.

During these times of waiting on God, simply allow Him to shape and mold you into the person He wants you to become.

Questions: How patient are you during these periods of waiting on God? Have you ever considered that God is wanting you to focus on becoming a more mature believer as a result of the waiting? Do you have any personal examples of God radically changing your life as a result of one or more of these times of waiting? If so, I’d love to hear your story.

Is It Possible To Change People’s Attitudes?

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Photo by Ryan Hyde

We’ve Always Done It This Way

I was having a recent discussion with a church staff member who has been encountering change resistance from some volunteers under his leadership. He acknowledges that these volunteers are good people. They desire to minister to others. He is convinced, though, that their style of service needs to adapt to the next generation. Unfortunately, these volunteers are too “old school” for the church’s current needs.

I believe every generation probably struggles with the attitude of “ … but, we’ve always done it this way.” All of us can get set in our ways. We can get hung up on one way to do something. We can become resistant to any kind of change.

Leaders are (supposed to be) change agents. We are the ones who must show and lead the way to those who follow us. The problem we sometimes run into, though, is when our followers don’t want to follow in the change path.

The questions then start. Why is this person resistant to change? Do they not understand the reasons we need to make these changes? Are they just set in their ways? Is this all my fault? Did I try to make too many changes, too quickly? Am I bad leader?

Changing People Is Hard

The reality for all of us who lead teams is that change is difficult. No one likes change. Everybody enjoys their comfort zone.

So, what do we do? How do we change these people?

Is there a training program you can implement? Is there a magical, inspiring speech you can give that will light a fire under these people? Can you give these volunteers a 5-point plan to accomplish the change you want?

Yeah, probably not.

Growth Is The Answer

The answer that this staff member mentioned to me is that you can’t change followers who are resistant to change. Realistically, it’s not possible.

But, you can grow right past them.

You can grow as a leader. You can facilitate the growth of the followers who have captured the vision you want to accomplish. You can grow your base of followers by adding people to the team who see and believe in the vision you want to accomplish.

If this kind of growth takes place, then what? What happens to those who continue to resist the change?

Well, there are a few possible scenarios in a situation such as this.

One, they keep hanging around, and you end up working around them with your other team members. Two, they observe the growth happening around them, and they finally decide to go with the change. Three, they end up quitting because they don’t like the change. Four, you end up letting them go.

Changing people’s attitudes is difficult, if not impossible to achieve. As a leader, don’t get stuck focused on a bunch of people who won’t make the changes you’re looking to make. Focus, rather, on growing past them.

Questions: Have you encountered similar situations in your organization? How have you dealt with this problem?

Why You Should Stick With One Change Before Trying Something Else

Photo by marsmet546

Photo by marsmet546

Change Is Good, Right?

We live in a world full of change. It would seem in our modern era, constant change is our new norm.

In fact, I know some people who love changing things up in their lives, their homes, their ministries, and their work, simply because they love change so much. They can’t sit still in one place for very long. They change for the sake of change.

While I believe change can be a positive force within our personal lives and organizations, we need to be cautious on creating a constant churn of change. Too much of a “good” thing could end up having a negative impact over time.

Do changes need to be made on an occasional basis? Yes, especially in this super-fast paced, crazy, modern world we now live in. But, I do think we need to exhaust all the possibilities of one change before moving on to something else. Massive changes always take longer to take root and establish themselves then we think they do.

So, if you really want to grow and develop something, then don’t go with the following approach: make a change, give it two weeks, don’t see much progress, scrap that change, and then move onto something else. This is not the best plan to grow yourself, a ministry, a business, a church, or any organization.

Cranking Down On The Flywheel

In his book Good To Great, author Jim Collins talks about the flywheel effect and its impact on taking an organization from good to great.

A flywheel is simply a huge, metal, heavy disk mounted on an axle. Because of its size and weight, if you can get the flywheel moving fast enough, it will produce a tremendous amount of energy to keep an engine moving faster and more efficiently.

To get that flywheel moving at first, though, takes a tremendous amount of energy. You have to push and push to get it to finally make one revolution. Then, you push a little more, and it makes a second revolution, and then a third one. Each revolution gets a little easier because of the weight energy stored within the flywheel itself.

All of the sudden, after several difficult rotations of the flywheel, momentum takes over. You can’t pinpoint the exact moment when it does, but there will be less effort required to keep the flywheel moving.

This same principle can be true in our personal lives, businesses, churches, or organizations. When we’re in the beginning stages of making massive changes, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of time and energy. We’re going to have to push our flywheel really hard. We may want to roll over and give up. But, if we know these are the correct changes to make, that this is the correct path to go, then we need to keep pushing with everything we have. If we have enough strength and patience to keep going, then over time, the flywheel effect will take place, we build momentum, and the massive changes we desire will take place.

The key to accomplishing the flywheel effect, though, is don’t stop. Many people and organizations do not have the patience to be persistent with their current change path. They push for a little while, don’t think they’re making any progress, and then give up and try some other change path. This doesn’t work. Simplicity, consistency, and persistence are the only ways to effect any kind of long-term changes in your life or organization.

Questions:  Are you in crisis mode to get something going and growing? Do you have the tendency to change things too often in order to stimulate growth? After reading this post, are you going to approach change differently?

Leveraging The Power Of Systems For A Successful Life Or Organization

Photo by Aristocrat

Photo by Aristocrat

What Are Systems?

What does Prestonwood Church, the human body, the United States Government, Apple, Inc., and even the Starship Enterprise all have in common? They are all composed of numerous systems.

When I speak of systems in this post, I am primarily defining these as coordinated methods, plans, schemes, or procedures.

For a comprehensive definition of systems check out Dictionary.com.

Systems often share common characteristics, including [Source: Wikipedia]:

  • A system has structure, it contains parts (or components) that are directly or indirectly related to each other;
  • A system has behavior, it contains processes that transform inputs into outputs (material, energy or data);
  • A system has interconnectivity: the parts and processes are connected by structural and/or behavioral relationships.
  • A system’s structure and behavior may be decomposed via subsystems and sub-processes to elementary parts – and process steps.

Systems Are All Around Us

Systems are everywhere. Some are the natural creation of God. Some are the invention of man. In the end, though, we couldn’t survive without them. Here are some real-life examples.

Human Body: God has created our physical bodies with their own unique systems – nervous, respiratory, digestive, muscular, skeletal, urinary, endocrine, and reproductive.

Transportation: our streets and highways have clearly defined rules and systems in place that include signage, stop lights, right of way, vehicle speeds, highway entrances and exits, and so on.

Government: city, county, state, and federal each have their own unique, established systems. For example, our federal government is composed of three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial. And, within each branch of government, there are organizational sub-systems in place in order to maintain as smoothly a flowing government as possible.

Business: businesses are composed of numerous systems including customer service, lead generation, purchasing, hiring, shipping, accounting, payroll, collections, and custodial.

Why Systems?

Well running systems are important to the health, vitality, safety, and growth for both individuals and organizations.

Consider your own physical body systems that I referenced above. Each system works independently and interdependently. If just one of these systems is functioning improperly, it impacts the other systems in some way. For example, the urinary system removes waste from the body. If this one, seemingly small system is not functioning properly, waste builds up in the human body and begins to shut down the other major body systems. Not good.

Also, consider the most successful organizations. Why are they so successful? Why do they run so smoothly and run large profits? Because they have incredible CEO’s? Yes, leadership is important. But, the greatest organizations have established great systems that propel the organization forward, even in the absence of the best leaders.

Show me any thriving, energetic, growing, productive person, family, business, or organization, and we should be able to uncover multiple, excellent systems in place. Great systems running in the background of our personal and professional lives simply and efficiently allow this to take place.

Got Systems?

How about you? Do you have systems set-up in your personal life? Do you have established systems in your work environment? If you lead an organization, have you ever given much thought to your current systems? Who put them in place? Were these intentional or purely accidental systems that evolved over time?

After reading this post, take this opportunity to evaluate your personal, business, and organizational systems. Perform a whole systems audit. What’s working great right now? What systems could use an overhaul?

It probably seems like a lot of work on the front end, but the end results will be worth that hard work. Take the time now to fix or create systems to propel your life and work from okay to awesome.