Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Continuous improvement.

I think one of the most remarkable and admirable people in American history is Dwight D. Eisenhower 34th President of the United States. For two decades, the lives of thousands, sometimes millions, of people and the fate of great nations hung on his decisions.

As Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, Eisenhower oversaw the greatest amphibious assault in history, organizing the largest air and sea armadas ever assembled and commanding 160,000 men in the momentous Operation Overlord.

After the success of that mission helped bring the war to a close, Eisenhower dreamed of going home to a happy and peaceful retirement. Instead, he went on to serve in five more globally pivotal positions: Head of the American Occupation Zone in Germany, Chief of Staff, President of Columbia University, Supreme Commander of NATO, and President of the United States of America.

One of the things I have admired and stands out to me about Eisenhower in all that is written about him is his relentless pursuit of improvement and the building of character in himself and by example to those around him.

"When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Continuous improvement. Chipping away at problems through daily perseverance results in breakthrough improvements again and again over the years. It is not easy but the habit of chipping away relentlessly does produce results and success.

As we know, Eisenhower achieved great successes. But whether he was navigating setbacks or achieving triumphs, he led with perseverance.  His dedication to principle and his bounding vitality could inspire people to lofty visions, while his humility created a feeling of friendship and intimacy even with those he had never met. These qualities and more won him the affection, loyalty, and admiration of those who served both under him and over him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Inspired to win

During any sporting event, it’s only natural that the focus be on the athletes. And yet in the 2014 Winter Olympics, when Canadian freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau stepped up at the start of his gate, those watching the event were not only paying attention to him, but also to his older brother Frederic cheering him on at the bottom of the hill.

Many Canadians remember from Alexandre’s gold medal win at the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010, Frederic has been a big inspiration for Alexandre in large part because Frederic suffers from cerebral palsy, a congenital physical disability that impairs physical movement.

When Alexandre finished his run down the mountain and realized that he had defended his gold medal title, he immediately found his brother in the crowd and helped him over the security barrier so that they could celebrate together Alexandre’s consecutive gold medal win.

In speaking of his history-making achievement, Alexandre was very clear about the role his brother played in helping him to get onto the podium at Sochi:

“It’s crazy the motivation that he takes and every step is very hard for him. In life, I have an easy path and I need to go out there and do the best I can just out of respect to him. He lives his dreams through me. [Two gold medals] is the least I can do; he’s my every day inspiration.”

Alexandre’s story is not just a wonderful reminder of how we should be grateful for all the things we might take for granted. It should also inspire us to be a “Frederic” in someone else’s life.

Who are you cheering on today and inspiring to be their very best self?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds Hebrews 10:24

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More than sugar water

“All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”    C.S. Lewis
Life can be confusing….it is always moving….changing. 
There are more unknowns than knowns. There are more variables than constants. There are more possible outcomes than anyone could predict, no matter how smart they are.

We also have an overwhelming amount of information each day telling us what to buy, who to look like, or what to wear to make us current and culturally relevant.  It is easy to focus on these things but today’s trend is tomorrow’s "has been".

I think part of the reason we look for the “latest” thing is we are longing for something that makes a difference something that lasts.

There is a great story told about how Steve Jobs got the president of Pepsi Corporation to leave his very prestigious, secure, and extremely well-paying job to come work for an up and coming company called Apple. He asked him to meet, gave him his pitch, and told him of the need. However, the Pepsi executive wasn’t willing to leave behind his future of power, prestige, and money. Not willing to accept a “no,” Jobs looked at him and said, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”  John Sculley left Pepsi and came to work for Apple.

I think we all have a desire to make a difference with our life and invest in things that really matter. In fact, God encourages us to think about our life from the standpoint of eternity, to ponder and invest in the things that are eternal.

My pastor in college, Dr. Al Jackson, said something almost weekly that constantly rings in my ears to this day, “There are only two things in existence on the earth that will last forever, the Word of God and the souls of men.”  If this is true, and I believe it is, then it matters how we invest our lives in these two things every day.

Paul said it this way in Colossians:

 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2 (NIV)

In fact, it’s when we lose sight of the eternal things that we often lose our way in life, becoming solely focused on the here and now. Time passes, and before long, you realize – like John Sculley – that you’re simply making “sugar water.”

The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (The Message)

Photo credit:  Patrick Roos https://www.flickr.com/photos/10044465@N00/350440294/

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Generous Life

Whether positive or negative, our actions have consequences. Yesterday’s bad choices cause us to spend today repairing the messes we’ve made, whereas the wise choices of the past position us to take advantage of today’s opportunities. (Note the choice equation: Bad choices = equal smaller world and less freedom. Wise choices = equals larger world and more freedom)

Success is based on the seeds you sow, not the harvest you reap. If you sow wisely and diligently, the harvest is automatic. Sow daily in the lives of others, by encouraging and serving and helping, and your investment will compound over time.

This is what most of us think:

Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous.

In fact, it actually works like this:

Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful.

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. Galatians 5:13 (The Message)

sources: John Maxwell “Are you busy building sandcastles”, Seth Godin “The Generosity Boomerang”, photo source; http://www.generosityfactor.com/

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Go beyond....

Why should any phenomenon be deemed impossible? The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. -  Physicist, Sir James Jean

I believe we are a "great thought", a great thought of God, created in His image.  We have been given the ability to do great things to go beyond what we can think or imagine…..but there is this voice…..a voice inside telling us to be careful, take it slow, to compromise.

Do you hear it?….this voice saying to focus on the easy things first, do the Twitter update, the Facebook post, another spreadsheet, do another email before you create something valuable.

This voice in our head is responsible for lengthy meetings, mediocre products, the constant rationalization of everything we professionally or personally produce.

Where does this voice come from? It is likely created from a combination of things...teachers, friends, family, books and other things we've consumed.

Our task today (and everyday)…. quiet the voice. Focus on the things we really believe in.

The voice wants to be heard but it’s our choice to listen to it or not.....it is time to tune it out, be who God created us to be....to go beyond and change the world.

Stuck is a state of mind, and it’s curable. - Seth Godin

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.