The Every Day Leader: Getting off the TREADMILL of Life

Do you remember watching the ‘Jetsons’, the cartoon about the future?  Meet George Jetson…Jane, his wife… his son Elroy…daughter Judy. And the most famous of them all the dog named Astro.  I have not seen the cartoon since I was a kid, but I will never forget the scene during the credits where Astro pulls George while he is on the treadmill.  George ends up going around and around the belt because he cannot keep up. Remember that?

Figuratively, we all get caught up in the treadmill of life.  We may jump on it thinking WE have control of the pace,  but eventually it gets going so fast that we simply can’t keep up. We can do it for a while but eventually, we wear out. 

The breakdown in our lives begins to show  in how we respond to others.  It shows in our decision-making.  It shows in our words, our actions, and even our health.

We must choose to change, to readjust, to intentionally go in a different direction.

Leaders  choose to control their schedules.  They choose to say no to some things in order to say yes to others.  They choose to schedule themselves on THEIR calendar knowing that if they don’t take care of themselves they can’t take care of others.  Leaders choose to ensure they have time for those in every area of their lives not just their teams and family.

What speed are you at?  Are you keeping up the pace or is your foot beginning to slip?  Are you afraid to slow down, enjoy the day God has given you and take care of yourself?

Only YOU can take that ownership…no one else will do it for you.  Quite the contrary, if you are willing to do things, others will ask and let you….and the pace just keeps on picking up. Learn to say “No”, learn to delegate, and learn to ask for help.

Be intentional to evaluate your schedule weekly and even daily.  Learn not to over commit. Learn to take care of YOU.

When we are our best selves, we are better at caring for others in our lives, we are better leaders, managers, and problem solvers.  We are not too tired or burned out to invest and influence another.

Everyday leaders control the speed of their lives.  They know that when they do, they are more equipped to make a difference in the life of those around them and those they lead!.

 

The Every Day Leader: Courage

I remember watching the Wizard of Oz as a kid.  I was fascinated with the many different characters and the yellow brick road – the journey to Oz.  No one can forget what each character was in search of. What Dorothy was looking for made perfect sense to me, she simply wanted to go home.  Who wouldn’t want to get home? I can relate with her on most days!

What the others wanted was a little harder for me to grasp at such a young age.  Didn’t everyone have a heart and a brain? As a six-year-old, courage was the one that seemed a little different. I simply thought of it as being something you needed every now and then for the big things you  might face.

As I grew older I found those same things the characters sought are still things that many of us seek today.

 Many of us chase our roots, instead of home, trying to find where we really came from and how we belong.   Everyone has this innate need to feel and be a part of something.  If we don’t have that sense of belonging we continually search to find it.

Like the scarecrow, we know we need a brain and often seek after higher education – many of us becoming eternal students. 

How many of us search diligent trying to fill the emptiness we often find in our hearts?

For many of us we hope we have courage at the exact time we need it!

Courage is not just needed for big things but is really something we need each day!

If you are struggling, it takes courage to keep going

Courage is needed to take the first step

Courage is needed to hear your own voice in the crowd

Courage is needed to take a stand

Courage is needed to think and speak for yourself

Courage is needed to stand up for yourself and not listen to lies

Courage is needed to follow your dreams….

Courage is so much more than something needed in a time of crisis, and is required for more things than I could have ever imagined as a kid.

I now also realize that courage comes with understanding.  It comes with knowing who you are.  There are many times in our lives we have to be intentional to be courageous. 

It takes intentional courage to step our of our comfort zone.  It takes intentional courage to be a catalyst for change.  It is what we, as every day leaders, must be willing to pursue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Every Day Leader: Reaching out to a messy world

This morning before the sign was flipped to the “open” position at our nonprofit agency, I had already spent ten minutes on the phone with a grieving father, and another twenty minutes with a mother who spoke only through the sobs of losing her adult son.

The sadness, the guilt, the loss…it was more than either of them knew what to do with, it was all-consuming. For years addiction had consumed their son and virtually destroyed their marriage. Now, here they are talking to a stranger, thanking me for caring for their son, knowing that we had befriended and helped him during his time of need. Immediately following that conversation I moved to another with an older gentleman, at the opposite end – facing the winter season of his life, who had lost all of his family relationships from mental illness and bad decisions.

Struggling. Lonely. Searching. Longing for life to be different, and yet, feeling there is not much hope of it actually being different. He was wanting, more than anything, to simply have someone just willing to talk with him.

In both of these situations, life took unexpected twists and turns. Life got messy. All of these folks walk their journey alone, feeling like they don’t belong.

I wonder how many others walk it alone?

How often do we assume everyone is okay and that they have someone to rely on? If we realized how many people we see each day that are alone and hurting, would we be more willing to reach out and care about them?

I wonder if we only knew, would we act differently? Would we take more time out of our busy days? Would we take the time to speak and truly care how someone is – to make eye contact and see the hurt? I wonder how different our world would be if each of us lived this way.

Next time you see someone, no matter where you are…take the time to care.

Isn’t that what we all strive for, to know that we matter to another? Our business, our non-profit, our life…we strive to know that what we do matters, that we matter. I know that when I take the time to simply listen, to care, and to pray for those who are hurting, it is in those moments, I know that my life matters.

As Every Day Leaders, it is the little things we do each day that can leave a lasting impact. May we never forget that every moment really does matter!

The Every Day Leader: Finding Meaning

Work. We all have to do it; in fact most of us will spend 35-40% of our day working. I recently read a quote that read: “life without meaningful work is meaningless”. I have been thinking about this quote all week, it has made a huge impact on me.

Are you just going through the motions each day?

So many people work at jobs that they are not passionate about. Can it still be meaningful? Can any job be meaningful?

No matter where we are or what we are doing we can intentionally choose to find meaning. As we do this we are not only impacting those around us as an every day leader, but we are also enhancing our own lives! We begin to embrace every moment that has been given to us. Our lives take on a new meaning because we know we are being used to make a difference. This happens in our jobs, at home, wherever we are.

As every day leaders I believe that when we are intentional we begin to think differently. Our eyes are opened to the many places and ways that God can use us to make a difference.

It starts with us.

It starts with a willing heart and an attitude of wanting to make a difference, to make our lives count, to have purpose in each day.

The Every day leader chooses to find meaning in their work and have purpose in their lives. Living differently, seeing life differently, choosing to make a difference.

The Every Day Leader: Finishing Well

I have known my friend for years, full of life never without a positive word to say.  As long as I have known him, he has always lived  a life of intention.  The older he got, the more he longed to use his life to impact others.  He was not a leader by position.  He did not have money or power or even prestige. 

But, he was an every day leader that has had an impact on my life.

Today, he looked so different.  The life is gone and his body is struggling as he battles cancer.  Yet, I know without a doubt, that my friend has peace.  He has peace where he is going and how he has lived his life.  Did he make mistakes?  Absolutely.  Yet he did not let those mistakes dictate how he lived.  He understood the secret to learn from the past and celebrate the journey, but not allow it to define him.

Every day leaders must make those kinds of choices each day.  We are all given one life.  Each day we are alive we have the opportunity to make a difference, to use our lives in such a way that we can end the race knowing we have given it our best.  We will be able to say that we understood that every moment God has given us matters.

Moments matter

It is up to us how we choose to live them.

Have you ever met someone who had a great deal going for them in their life, but when you got to know them they were consumed with bitterness or anger or maybe even apathy?  Once you get to know them, you quickly learn that being around them is not something you want to engage in…at least for a long period.  They have not learned the secret of embracing life, running the race with endurance, and making the moments count.

We all have that choice to make.  If we are not intentional to make that choice, we will one day realize that life has passed us by and we really did make a choice.  It just ended up to be the choice of passivity, the choice of coping instead of choosing.  Ultimately it is the choice of living life or allowing life to pass by.  One day we will be at the end of the race.

What choice are you making?

I am thankful my friend chose to be an every day leader.

The every day leader, living a life of intention.  Making choices to embrace all that life has to offer and being intentional about finishing well.

 

 

 

 

 

The Every Day Leader: Learning to move

It sounds easy to be an every day leader.  We know it doesn’t mean that we are signing up or inheriting a long to-do list. It just means we are changing how we think and how we live.  We begin to see things differently. We begin to be proactive, to be a person of influence rather than sitting back and letting life pass us by. 

 All that is required of us is to simply start

start right where we are

Start today

 We often mean well, but we get sidetracked.  We think we are going to be intentional in how we think and live; we want to do something, yet we don’t. Instead, we let life get us busy.  Too busy.

To do anything in life we must first move. We must be willing to take that first step. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take that first step. Be willing to use the gifts and talents we have been given to make a difference.  It is doing what it takes to lead and succeed.

 

The first step starts with making a decision. It is standing up and saying, I am ready to do something to make my life count, to change the course.  It may mean to stop doing the same things as you did before, getting the same results that don’t work.

It may be to refuse to be stuck in the mud one more day.  It is not letting others dictate to you where you will be, who you will be, or what you will be.  It is standing up for who you are, believing that you have what it takes to succeed, and doing what is best.

Do you see the first step?

It all starts with a decision to move.  It means we don’t have to see the top, the whole picture, the end of the road, or anything else. We just need to be bold, make the choice and start somewhere.

Now is the time, now is YOUR time. Take that step!

 

Take the step:

when it is uncomfortable

 when it is unpopular

 when you are scared, do it afraid

 when others say you can’t do it

 Refuse to live where you are today.

 Everyday leaders lead where they are.  They intentionally take that first step, even if they can’t see beyond the landing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Every Day Leader: Beep. Beep. Beep…

Beep. Beep. Beep……

I won’t look… it can wait.

My thoughts immediately wonder… what if it is something important?

The temptation often proves too great and I look at my cell phone to read the text. I can be sitting in a meeting, maybe even lounging with family and I hear it.  I am wondering who it is, what is going on, and whether it is something I need to respond to.   I am immediately distracted and my attention is immediately divided.  Today’s generation of kids – my kids– are a generation that have their cell phones on them at all times…. It is like it is an extra appendage!

I wondered… when in the world did I become the same way?

Is undivided attention something that is a thing of the past?  Do we even remember how to be totally engaged with others anymore?

Where are you?

What are you doing?

Are you focused?

Do you pay attention?

Each moment you are with another, are you engaged? 

Are you present? 

Are we talking with them and actively listening?

What kind of life are we really living?

Be present NOW.

As everyday leaders it is up to us to purposely live with others.  To think with them, talk with them, to listen to them, to love them, and to let them KNOW we care.

What does this look like?

It means savoring every moment you have, without being distracted or multitasking.  It means that those you are with know you care enough to give them all of your attention. It is being intentional and behaving in ways that show that moments matter. 

Every day leaders, intentionally engaging in the moment to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

 

 

The Every Day Leader: The hardest word to say

We have all heard it.  We don’t want to disappoint.  We think we have more time than we do.  We have many things we want to be a part of, yet, at some point if we don’t learn it, it will have devastating effects on our lives

Two little letters, but a HUGE impact…

There are many times we may even have the “N”  just about to roll off of our tongue, yet in the moment when someone asks, we can’t seem to get the single word out.

As every day leaders there are many things for us to be a part of that are all good things.  We may want to help a coworker, employee, volunteer or even a friend.  We may sit on the board of a very good non-profit.  We want to do our very best on the projects or assignments set before us.  The list goes on.  Perhaps deep down, we have a check in our spirit knowing this is not a wise decision.

I know.  I find myself in this place more times than I care to admit.  Sometimes it is because I don’t want to disappoint, I want control of the finished project,  or maybe it is because I  think it is a good way to spend my time.  Perhaps I may even think I can learn from it and be better.  Yet, when I am not willing to say no there are consequences…..I may miss the opportunity to spend my time doing something that is a better use of my time.

Time is one of our most precious resources that no matter what – we  all have the same amount of hours, minutes and seconds in every day.  It is not something we can buy or ever get back.  When I am intentional to think about these concepts, I am more apt to say no.

The bottom line is that every moment matters.   Each moment is a moment for something that we choose.   A moment we will never get back. 

How about you?  Are you intentional to choose how you spend your time?  If we really stop to think what is really important in our lives, we may find it easier to say no – even to the good things, so that we can have something even better.

Every day leaders, choosing to spend our time in such a way that we make a difference; willing to say no, for the opportunity to say YES.

The Every Day Leader: What are you chasing after?

“A man without a decision of character can never be said to belong to himself. He belongs to whatever can make captive of him.”  John Foster

We all chase after something. That something may or may not be good for us or but there is always something that has our attention.

Sitting on the porch I watched our one and half-year old dog sit as close to the edge of the porch as possible. Up until recently she would run after whatever was walking by, regardless of my words of warning.  Now, as she is growing older she is finally beginning to get it.

She must practice self-control.

Some of us chase after fame, fortunes, and the next BIG thing. Some chase after the next technology gadget, fast cars,  or a new position.

As adults we may no longer chase after every whim, as we once did in our youth. We may not even chase after all the tempting things that come our way but, we still are chasing something.  Sometimes,  those things we chase are not always healthy for us and we need to show more self-control in all areas: emotionally, physically, mentally, financially, or spiritually.

Are we showing self-control when it comes to our physical needs? it may be we are not eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, or we put ourselves in situations or environments that increase our stress levels. Be intentional to live healthier and reduce the stress in your life.

Perhaps we need more self-control in the area of our finances: how we earn, save and spend our money.  It may mean being willing to work and do our very best at our job and holding off on the latest and greatest gadget or other things that we are chasing, until we have saved up for it or have a plan to pay for it. Be intentional to save for a rainy day.

How about our time? Are we managing our time well in order not to scramble at the last-minute?  When we don’t prepare or are always late we send the message that we didn’t care enough to be prepared.  Be intentional, prepare, be on time and lead so that others want to follow you.

What about our decision-making. Are we stuck in the mud when it comes to making the hard decisions? During times when decisions are especially difficult it is wise to seek the counsel of those you trust. A snap decision is never a good idea, rather make your decision based on facts, many counselors, and intentional thought.  Be intentional to get out of the mud.

Are we showing self-control in our relationships? Relationships, whether they are: business, friendships, or family, take lots of work. Choosing to invest in others takes time; it takes getting past the small talk.  It means showing up as a friend, a mentor, a confidante and not being distracted. It means being present and engaged with the person who is with you and taking time to ask questions about them. It means not thinking of the next thing you are going to say but rather listening to what is being said.  Be intentional in your relationships, practice active listening.

John Maxwell reminds us that when we are leading the person we must first lead is ourselves.  If we cannot control our own lives, how can we expect to model and teach others?  How do we lead a life of intention and influence those around us when we are unable to practice self-control first?

How are you at self-control?

I love that every minute we live is another opportunity to start fresh.  Do you have some areas you need to improve in? We all do. Take the first steps and identify the areas you need to work on.  Set some goals.  Start out with small things, celebrate the small successes and milestones.

Our willingness to practice self-control makes us better leaders.

The Every Day Leader, Living a life of intention; Choosing to be self-controlled in our own lives and modeling it for others.

The Every Day Leader: Around the Table

Yesterday I blocked out an hour for a lunch meeting.   The hour lunch turned into a two-hour lunch, then into a three-hour lunch.   The same was true for my lunch the next day. In fact it seems when people stop and take time to break bread together something profound happens.

The time is never wasted.

There is something magical that happens around a table, whether food is involved or simply just a cup of coffee. When you intentionally meet with someone over a meal or coffee, relationships change.  The acquaintance becomes someone you get to know, a current relationship often grows stronger and trust starts to develop.

When I was kid, I watched my parents model this.  No matter what they were doing, if someone stopped in for coffee my parents stopped and made the time to sit down and build that relationship.  It was how neighbors kept in touch.  It is how you knew what was happening with your neighbor.  It was a different way of living back then.  Today, neighbors don’t usually stop in for a cup of coffee; and we are often too busy to invite them to.

Relationships are still built by gathering around together and one of the best way to do that is around the table. 

Every day leaders have to be intentional to seek to invite others into fellowship.  We have to be willing to take the time to build relationships. If you are in the business world it is important to connect with your employees and clients. In the non-profit world it is important to get to know those that partner with you, volunteer for you, and support you in a variety of ways is vital to your success. As individuals we can intentionally reach out to a friend or neighbor and invite them to come and sit around the table for a bit.

When was the last time you took a break from your busy day and met someone for coffee?  Maybe there is someone you know who is merely an acquaintance and you would like to get to know them better.  Perhaps it is one of your employees that you sense is struggling. Maybe it is someone who has helped you bring your dreams to life. A simple cup of coffee around the table, or the simple act of breaking bread can change that relationship forever – it will bring connectedness.

We as people long to feel cared about.  We long to feel connected.  We want those around us to really know us, more than just our name. Remember the TV show ‘Cheers’?  It was the place where everyone knew your name, just as the theme song pointed out.  Something each one of long for.

Every day leaders intentionally seek to build relationships around the table. They intentionally invite and break bread and add value to others.