Keys to health and success

What is my contribution to the very thing I am complaining about?

(This question comes from the Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block)

At first this appears to be a question that increases the burden on the person asking the question, but in reality it may the be the most freeing lens to which to view the world.

The most helpless position a person can be in is to be a victim.

Answering this question no longer allows you to be a victim.

Until you have answered this question you have given power and control to your circumstances which you have no control of.

When you have the courage to answer what your contribution is to the very thing you are complaining about you have now identified something that you can control. You are no longer helpless. You are no longer a victim.

My mom had a theory when I was growing up that was helpful too. Hers was called the “Dumbsh*t Theory.” It basically said that some people are just dumbsh*t’s and there is just nothing you can do about it so don’t waste your energy on it. This is freeing also.

The two most important abilities you can develop for personal health and professional success

  1. The ability to identify what you have control of and what you don’t.
  2. The ability to only spend time and emotional energy on things you have control of

As you practice this and develop these abilities the more instinctively you will do it.

*Sorry mom for getting this out in the open.


Somebody needs you tomorrow

There are days I want to quit Young Life, but those days have been rare in almost 10 years on staff. Inevitably these times come out of being overwhelmed with the brokenness kids deal with.

It never takes more than a day to realize that ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

I don’t want to run from it.

I want to run toward the darkness and point people to the light.

You may have seen this video in the last few days. It hurts to watch. The tragic news is that the girl in the video took her own life after making this video.

I hope we can be people who love those that are bullied. I want those who are bullied to know they have value just for who they are. I want to have the courage to stand up for those who are being bullied.

I hope we can be people who love the bullies. I want to be someone who knows their stories so well that I might have an understanding of what is going on that makes them treat other people this way. I want to have the courage to help them realize the hurt they cause others.

There is enough need for healing, redemption, love, and hope that we ought to jump out of bed on Monday morning full of meaning and purpose.

 Somebody needs you tomorrow

***Bullying is not something that only happens in the halls of high schools and middle schools.

It happens in your work place too.

It happens anywhere power is misused.

Moments of “This is how it was supposed to be”

Matt at a Young LIfe Capernaum Club experiencing the Kingdom of God

“I am going to rap”

This sent me into a panic.

Matt and I were at a Young Life fall camp trip and they had just asked kids to sign up to be in the talent show. Matt has Down’s Syndrome and it is difficult to understand him when he talks, not to mention raps in front of 400 high school kids.

In all seriousness I was terrified that Matt was going to look like a fool. I was sure this was going to reinforce everything the world had already told Matt about his value and where he fits. I could picture people snickering as Matt put his heart out there in front of everyone.

My terror took on a whole new level when he asked me to, “lay the beat down for him.” I don’t really know what this means and I certainly don’t know how to do it.

I talked big Jesse into coming up with us too. Jesse is severely autistic and 6’5” tall and at least 300 pounds.

We were the first act and big Jesse and I started.

Step clap, step clap, step clap…..

Matt starts rapping…… You can’t understand a word he is saying but he is rapping with everything he has.

The room joins in. They have risen to their feet. They are stepping and clapping with us. They are cheering and Matt keeps rapping and keeps rapping and keeps rapping.

When given the opportunity to reinforce the worlds message to Matt and Jess they rejected that created a moment of “this is how it was supposed to be”

Four minutes later the room erupts in applause. Lucas Oil Stadium couldn’t match the decibel level that day.

 In that moment Matt and Jesse experienced the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God where those who go unnoticed in this world are made to be heroes

The Kingdom of God where the last will be first

The Kingdom of God where broken relationships are made whole again

The Kingdom of God where healing is found and restoration happens

The Kingdom of God where everyone has a seat at the table

The whole room experienced the Kingdom of God for those 5 minutes. I will never be the same because of it.

Much of our lives are made up of moments of “Surely this is not how God created it to be.”

 We have the opportunity everyday to join God in creating moments of “This is how it was supposed to be”

I want to be someone who helps to create glimpses of the Kingdom of God and invites others in.

Two ways to paint a room

This is how my mother-in-law paints a room

The first thing my mom does when she paints a room is puts paint on the wall. She doesn’t tape edges or move furniture or lay down tarp. She just starts painting. It may take two days to get the whole room done but you see progress immediately.

My mother-in-law doesn’t put paint on the wall until the second day. She spends the whole first day moving furniture, taping edges, getting her supplies ready and putting down tarps. It takes her about a day and half to paint the room but you don’t see progress until the second day.

By the third day you wouldn’t be able to tell the rooms apart but the process to get there looked very different.

Sometimes our stakeholders want to see progress. They want to see the paint on the wall. We are busy laying the right foundation for healthy growth in the future, even if there isn’t much to show for it in the present.

Neither way is better than the other. If you build your organization like my mother-in-law paints than you just need to be able to communicate well to your stakeholders what is happening now that will bear fruit in the future.

I paint like my mom.

I see the value in painting like my mother-in-law.


Learning Level

My grandparents sitting on their swing. Still learning. Still in love.

Educators work with students based on learning levels. I am going to butcher these numbers but my understanding is that when a child is learning to read they should be choosing books that they can read 85%-93% of the words on a page. Anything below 85% is frustration level. They aren’t really learning anything when the book falls within frustration level because it is too difficult.  Anything above 93% is boredom level. They aren’t learning anything in this level either because it is too easy.

Our lives work on learning levels too. We try to lose 20 pounds but don’t make progress so we give up (frustration level). We try to get up an hour earlier everyday to read but fail and give up (frustration level). We have been doing the same routine of spiritual disciplines (or lack of) and get frustrated that our lives feel stagnant (boredom level).

It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter what life stage you are in. We will always have our learning level. If you ever think you have learned something you should be ready for something new. There is always an 85%-93%.

God works in learning levels too.

He is always calling us to one step beyond where we are now. Not 5 steps. Not to stay where we are. 

The bible says that we are all being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory.

We are being transformed. It is a process.

Bonus: What are you asking of people in your life? Are  you asking your kids to do things that are in their frustration level? Are you calling people you supervise to one step more or are you allowing them to be content with who they are? Do you know your Young Life kids well enough to know what their life learning level is and customize your content for them or do you just have ‘one size fits all’ conversations?

Don’t miss it the learning level concept translates to everything.

Trying to make life work

There is a story of a woman in the bible who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had been to every doctor in town and spent all that she had but instead of getting better she got worse.

Who could blame her for going to every doctor in town to try to get better? In fact she would be crazy if she didn’t try to get better. She was trying everything she could but instead of getting better she got worse.

In many ways we are just like her. We are desperately trying anything we can to make life work but instead of getting better we get worse. Just like this woman you can’t blame us for trying something. Our lives feel broken and disconnected. They feel less than what they could be. Less than what we were created for so we trying anything to make it better. We try success and popularity, sex and partying, money and security. But we are left empty and striving for something more.

The temptation is to look down upon those who are ‘making bad decisions’ but let’s be honest they aren’t really any different than me, they are simply trying to make life work just like I am. I’m just better at hiding my bleeding.

Eventually the woman in the story weaves her way through the crowd and touches the edge of Jesus’ clothes and immediately her bleeding stopped. It is possible for us to be healed too.

Living into your story

People live into the story you tell them.

If you tell others that they are worthy of being trusted they will live into that story and they will be trustworthy. If your actions communicate to people that they are not worthy of being trusted they will live into that story too.

When people know that you believe in them they live into the story that says they should be believed in.

We are often taught that we should start out strict and then as people earn our trust we can loosen up. I disagree. There are exceptions but for the most part I want to lead (and parent) in a way that leads with the assumption that you are worthy of being trusted.

(Daniel Pink has a great book on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation called Drive. Worth reading.)

Some people see this kind of leadership as soft. I disagree. Leading in a high control/low trust culture is actually very easy. You simply exert your authority and others follow or get out. You don’t really lead you just hold people to something. This works as long as you can see everything and instill enough fear into your followers. People will often meet but never exceed your expectations for them. If they can get away with it they perform well under your expectations.

In high control/low trust environments people work to appease you and nothing more. This is clean and easy but it is not best. There is a lot of black and white in this environment.

Annie and I intentionally parent our kids in a relatively high trust/low control way. It would be much easier to exert my authority more often. People would probably look at us with more respect when we are out in public because our kids would be well behaved. As long as we are around our kids would do the right thing.  I hope our kids are learning to do the right thing because it is the right thing and not because it keeps mom and dad happy, even if people look at us funny.

In a high trust/low control environment people will work for something far more important than satisfying you. 

They will often exceed any expectations you had for them. They will live into a story that says they are capable of great things. It may be a little shocking to them at first because they are not used to this but eventually they will come alive and live into what they were uniquely created for.

Your job as a leader changes but it doesn’t become easier. Instead of setting one standard for the whole team (family, company, classroom etc) and holding them to it you work with each individual to help them discover their giftedness. You support them, equip them, listen to them, model for them, ask them questions, invite them into something greater. You spend a lot of time talking about why and allow others to figure out the best what. Every person in your organization will have different expectations but that is okay because they aren’t doing it to meet your expectations anyway. There is a lot of gray and a lot of uncertainty. This is messy and challenging but it is best.

We spend way too much time reminding each other how messed up we are. We tell each other a story that says we are not worthy of being trusted. We create accountability groups, which are really just another name for sitting around telling each other what failures we are. 

God says something different and we need to join him in reminding each other of that.

You are his perfect creation, fearfully and wonderfully made by the God of the universe.

You were made in his image.

You are God’s masterpiece created to do good works.

 We should have reminder groups not accountability groups.

We need to sit in circles and remind each other of who we really are and then encourage each other to go live into that story.

I want to tell people a story worth living into.

I want to be a high-trust low- control leader.

Every night when I put Nick to bed I say, “You are God’s Masterpiece,” and then I ask him what that means and he says, “God made me just the way he wanted to.” He’s right.

God also made you just the way he wanted to.