Landmarks and Memories

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Sometimes I wonder if everyone operates the same way I do. Today, let’s find out.

When I drive by certain landmarks and have a memory come to mind, it is generally something I was listening to at the time. As a result, I can drive by a windmill and remember the song that was playing, or under a bridge and remember a conversation I was having. Or, on a tractor, drive by a fence post and remember the point of the story I was at in an audiobook. Crazy, right?

But one place in particular is different. There is one spot between where I live and where I grew up that every time I drive by it, I feel like a 7th grader again.

Honestly, I do not know if the memory comes from that long ago or not, but it’s a spot where over time I have assigned a specific feeling: the feeling of awe at finally having arrived–being an athlete. It was undoubtedly one of my first early bus rides, but the emotion remains. Every time I drive by that spot, I feel optimistic, energetic, and old.

I may not know you well, but I’m going to guess you have something like that. It may be a spot where you fell in love. Maybe it is a note you keep in a safe space. It might be bigger, like your old car from high school, or your very first instrument. Or, maybe, it comes with a person. You think about the first person to encourage you to push for something more, or the first person to point something out to you.

Whatever it may be, I want you to think about this: you are not the same person you were in that moment, in that memory.

I am not a 7th grader anymore, though my wife may accuse me of acting like one from time to time. More than that, I had no clue I could ever become the person I am today.

Again, I would venture to say the same is true of you.

We change over time. We mature. We grow. We make mistakes. We get things right, and we grow some more.

Take a moment today and celebrate that you are not who you were in that memory. You are something more, something better, something different. And, if you’re not better than you were then, take a step today to correct that.

Where We Are With 3 Questions

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About 2 years ago I stumbled onto what I consider a pretty simple concept. It actually happened on a Sunday I took off, and was the result of evaluating a story I heard. Kind of crazy how things like that happen.

The bottom line is this: about 2 years ago, the 3 questions were born. This entire blog revolves around these three question, so click here to read a more in-depth explanation. But, as a refresher, the 3 questions are:

  1. What needs to be done?
  2. What can I do?
  3. Who can I get to help?

Today, I thought I would share where I am with these three questions. I have spent the last two years teaching these questions to my student leadership team, taking time after each mid-week program to evaluate how they did at answering the 3 questions. One of the key things I learned this year was the redundancy of asking the 3 questions.

Growing up I ate the same thing for breakfast about 90% of the time. My dad would make a batch of waffles at one time, and I would eat waffles every morning. There’s a rhythm in eating the same thing every day.

There’s also a rhythm in answering the 3 questions. It takes discipline, focus, and a desire to make a difference.

For working with teenagers (and I’m guessing the same would be true for adults), the challenge is finding a way to keep the  3 questions fresh. After all, not everyone wants waffles everyday for breakfast.

So, this summer, on our leadership trip, I plan to sit down with a couple kids and re-evaluate how to implement the 3 questions. Even this is the 3 questions in use (what needs to be done-evaluation, what can I do-evaluate, who can I get to help-student leaders who have put the questions into practice.)

The bottom line is this: when I ask myself (and answer) the 3 questions, my leadership grows. It may not be flashy. It may not be exciting. But I see results. The 3 questions lead to leadership results. But everyone’s context is different.

There’s not much application today other than to say: learn to ask and answer the 3 questions. Your context may be different than mine, but I still believe whole heartedly you can expand your leadership influence when you regularly invite people to help you accomplish what needs to be done.

 

Here’s to New Adventures

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Here’s to new adventures.

Our summer schedule starts in 10 days. By June 1, I will be halfway finished with our church trips for the summer of 2018.

Over the next 2 1/2 months, I will help lead a trip with kids to a place I’ve never been even to visit, I will experiment with a concept in a new environment (different from the one it developed in), and I will send both my daughters to camp for the first time.

It’s going to be a crazy 12 weeks, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

What new adventures are you taking this summer? What steps are you taking to step out in leadership? How are you going to challenge yourself to grow this summer?

Lessons from the Farm: Owners and Hired Hands

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As a teenager growing up working for my dad on the farm, I started to realize there were some differences in how we viewed the operation. I worked because I had no choice (and got paid for it). My dad, on the other hand, approached the farm with a different mindset.

Welcome back to our Lessons from the Farm series. For the month of April I have been blogging about leadership lessons I learned from the farm. If you’d like to catch up, click here to read one of my favorite posts from last year, or click here to read some from this year. You can also subscribe to make sure you don’t miss a post.

Now, back to the difference between my dad and I.

I was able to work and make some money on the farm when growing up. In fact, I learned the value of keeping track of my hours, what a long work day looks like, and so much more.

But can you guess what I never did: I never lost sleep wondering if the farm was going to make money. I never made a decision on what revenue stream to pursue. I really never worried about whether or not a rain was coming.

My dad, on the other hand, did all of that and so much more. Why? Because he was the owner and I was a hired hand. There’s a difference between the two.

Today’s leadership lesson is simple: as a leader, people around you are not going to be as invested in the success of your leadership, ministry, organization, or business as you.

This does not mean the people you lead do not care for you. In many cases, actually, the people who surround you could be your biggest fans, but because they’re not the owner, their approach is different.

Similarly, you have arenas where you are a hired hand. You encounter situations every day where you are not the guy in charge, and your attitude is different as a result.

So, how do you manage this tension? You begin to give away ownership. At the core of the 3 questions, we learn to invite other people to become owners with us. Actually, inviting others in makes all the difference in the world. Granted, they will not likely become as invested in your success as you are, but their perspective will begin to change.

When I moved back to work on the farm in 2009, I was obviously not a teenager anymore. Over the course of my time back on the farm, my conversations with my dad began to change. I slowly moved from a hired hand to an owner mentality. He invited me along to influence decisions, to give my input, and to help guide the direction of the business. My success was tied in to the success of the farm.

Great leaders find a way to move people from hired hands to owners. You can do it, too. Find someone you trust and invite them to take a little more ownership. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. Chances are someone did that for you along the way, and it changed the way you think. Return the favor and invest in a hired hand.

Time to Stretch

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Last week I took a group of students on a trip and stepped out of my comfort zone.

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone who talked about his having to learn to excel at programming for events because he couldn’t play an instrument. During that conversation I realized the opposite was true for me.

I got my first guitar in 7th grade. I formed a “band” in 8th grade, and have been playing in some capacity ever since. Music has always been part of what I do in Youth Ministry programming.

In other words, I have never had to learn how to effectively program, meaning I found a growth area–something I wanted to add to my leadership toolbox.

Let me take a moment to acknowledge programming is bigger than running a game. It’s the total package. Programming builds the total experience. But, for me, I’ve got to start somewhere.

As I was preparing for our trip last week, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try to do something other than music in our programming. In the fall, I attended a conference where we played “Extreme Bingo”. I downloaded the file from Download Youth Ministry, and tried to prepare myself for what came next.

At the end of the night, “Extreme Bingo” was a blast. I had a student leader take the role of number caller, and we played 5 rounds. The kids had fun. I had fun. The adults had fun.

My thoughts today, however, are not about how I did it, but that I did it. I recognized an area in my leadership that needed growth, and decided to challenge myself to do it. I have not arrived as a master programmer, nor will I ever, but I have taken the first step to improve.

So much of leadership boils down to knowing where we excel and where we fail. I do not have to be the best at any one area, but I have to be willing to try and willing to bring in people to help.

So, what about you? Where are you stretching yourself to grow? What do you need to add to your leadership toolbox? If you were to sit down and self-evaluate, what risk do you need to take? Are you willing to take it? Who can you bring along to help you take the risk?