The Last Page to the Next Chapter

IMG_1893During a recent meeting in Colorado, I filled the last page of a special Moleskine notebook.  I’ve written in many a notebook, but this one was unique because it chronicles my thoughts around the structure of my job, my decision making process in leaving that job and the launch of a transition plan to the next job.

The vast majority of pages are filled with notes from meetings I’ve had since leaving my last job.  Since I had been deeply engrained in one organization, in one profession, with one audience for over two-decades, I have spent this transition time learning.

My goal is to meet with three people daily (Monday-Friday), including two new introductions per week.  I have met with business leaders, community leaders, non-profit execs, pastors and friends – a broad network developed over two-plus decades of service.  During these coffees, lunches or office visits, I asked a couple key questions, “What do  you see going on in the market?” and “How do you see God moving in the world?”  Understanding the connectedness I was having through these times, I also asked, “What words, phrases or ideas can I listen to on your behalf?”

I’ve learned a ton about work and feelings and stories and faith and life.  Here are a few of the best quotes written down in that Moleskine:

  • Seek Him and He’ll have something for you.
  • (In the job hunt) Be patient but urgent.
  • (In your next job) Find a good “horse to ride.”
  • The entrepreneurial business does not grow because the entreprenuers want to do everything.
  • We all want to lead with spiritual capital. (If you are in business) Lead with economic capital and then give them Jesus.
  • Quoting Mike Martin, the founder of current day CRISTA, “The greatest time save of all is prayer.”
  • God honors the truth…Don’t promise something you can’t deliver.
  • You cannot screw up God’s plan for your life.
  • Can you imaging having a conversation with  yourself ten years ago?  What would you say?
  • Don’t live into fear.
  • Culture most despises people that use to have power and whines because they no longer have it.
  • God has invested too much in me to let me go.
  • Instead of seeking relief, seek God’s glory.
  • Get before the Lord, and ask, “Where are you taking me?  Help me to be gracious getting there.”
  • Don’t put too much pressure on next decision.
  • Unforgiveness will lead to temptation…Careful.
  • Block out time for silence, solitude and careful reflection.
  • In the next thing I should be totally alive in my gift.
  • Get a group of people with which I can get real, won’t judge me and won’t talk to anyone…Whiney Baby Group.
  • If you stop leaning, you start to rehash.
  • Transitions are always messy – small or big – but always messy.
  • Every entrepreneur thinks they can do every job and do it better than everyone else.
  • Don’t sell yourself beyond who you are.
  • Paint a bull’s-eye on what you are going after.
  • Focus on value I bring to the organization.
  • Be a wingman on the things that connect people together.
  • Have a day away monthly.
  • God says, “I love you and I am proud of you.”
  • Oh, the places you will go.

Such good stuff.  Thank you to all of those who have been willing to meet with me.  I’ve had over 110 meetings since mid-January.  Two of those meetings have been scheduled 15-minute meetings, that both turned into 45-minute times together.  Most have been a in 90-minute chunks.  Only two people have turned me down, all others have been gracious, helpful, available and all in with me.  I am blessed.

This is one book that I will reread over and over again.

Now onto the next Moleskine.


I Am Bent

imageI see this tree each morning.  It stands across the street from our house.  As I enjoy my morning cup of coffee, study and journal the sun rises against it’s profile.  It is magnificent.  Absolutely beautiful.  The curve of it’s trunk provides such a unique canvas for the reflection of the increasing radiance sun.  I love that tree.

This picture is taken from the east, looking west.  The tree is decidedly bending to the north.  Now as a member of the Northern Hemisphere, the health, warmth and energy of the sun is found primarily, and at it’s strongest, to the south.  Why is this tree reaching to the north?  This is not a healthy move on it’s part.  It should be reach for the sun.

Missing in this equation is the majestic Evergreen that grew on the south side for decades.  The broad, tall and thick Evergreen shaded its neighbor.  Each year this deciduous tree would grow, bloom and drop it’s leaves.  It would work to reach around its neighbor, stretching to the north trying to get a bit of the sun.

The Evergreen tree had to be removed this last year as a part of a sewer project.  That leaves it’s deciduous neighbor in the open with all the sun it could ever desire.  It also has exposed a decided bent that under the expanse of the Evergreen was inconspicuous.  The bend of the deciduous tree and the impact of the Evergreen is now evident.

Everyone is “bent” like this deciduous tree in some way.  It may not be as pronounced, but each of us have been impacted by our “neighbors”…

  • the friend that may have asked why you eat so much at lunch,
  • a verbally abusive husband,
  • the coach that said you were too small to play,
  • the investor that said, “That just won’t work.  You can’t do it.”
  • the girlfriend who started seeing someone else before you were broken up,
  • the boss that questions your ability to get the job done,
  • friendly joking that seems to have a message and jab,
  • the parent that never seems satisfied with your efforts,
  • a Friday night when no one is responding to your texts,
  • sexual abuse, a rape,
  • jokes about your height (small or tall), or
  • when your best efforts are not only unsupported by criticized.

Of course, this list could go on and on.  As you read this list it may have brought up your own memories and experiences.  We forget a lot in life, but unfortunately we don’t forget these moments.  I’m sorry.

Here’s the good news, that “giant Evergreen,” whatever it may have been, is gone.  You are fully exposed to the sun.  That “bent” that remains is never fully going to go away, but if you reflect from it correctly, it will be part of what makes you beautiful, unique, wonderful and something of which to write a blog post.

Changing a Light Bulb

There aren’t many household projects I can do with efficiency and excellence, but I can change a light bulb, baby!

I confidently change a light bulb.  I easily remove the old, used-up, tired one.  I dispose of it properly (or at least it seems proper to me).  I determine what kind of light bulb is needed…wattage, socket type and other intangibles.  Purchasing that bulb is where I really shine (word purposefully played), pulling out my credit card and swiping it.  Then, being “tallish,” I can stretch to just about any standard ceiling height.  I reach out to screw in the new light bulb.  It all crescendos when I walk to the wall and flip the switch, usually up.  There is light…almost 100% of the time.

It’s a win.  I’ve done it before.  You could say, I’m proficient.  And when it is done, it is done.  There’s no on-boarding, orientation or development plan.  It is on.

I may like changing a light bulb because it is so different from actual leadership and especially the leadership of people.  I’ve done that a lot.  I’ve actually led 1,000 times more people than light bulbs I have changed.  Yet, I feel much more proficient around glass and electricity.

I enter the work of leadership confidently, not unlike how I approach a light bulp.  Yet, it isn’t long before self doubt creeps in.  Doubts like, “How can you lead others, you can’t lead yourself.”  “You don’t know what you are talking about.”  “This work is hard, just talk Changing a light bulb.PNGthem about the Seahawks?”  Add to the equation the person is always older, younger, more attractive, deep, more simple, stronger, skinny, loveable plump, taller, shorter, faster, slower, more intentional, creative and free or simply just a better leader than me.  Always.

The unworking light bulb is easy to define, the unworking leader is more difficult to define.  There is no blood test…and I’m guessing an actual test would more involve a stool sample.  It feels like that kind of work.

As you work through the crap you will find that most of these leaders will most of the time think they are shining bright.  They are dim, not only to the illustration but in their noggin.  Unfunctional light bulbs sit in a dark rooms.  They are in the dark.  So are most unfunctional leaders.

Yes, I’m confident in changing a light bulb, but it is still a stretch.  I need to use all my height.  I may need a chair or ladder to effectively get after it.  Even if you are confident in leading leaders, it will be a stretch.  It is a stretch every time, just as changing a light bulb is a stretch every time.  There will be times that your stretch will not be enough and you’ll need to bring in tool.  Keep yourself safe, by bringing in tools, i.e. assessments, advisors, actual numbers.

While the changing of the light bulb ends and you can flip a switch and the work is done, that is never true in leadership of people.  If you are truly leading your people, you will never be done.  They will graduate from the training, complete the course, hit their goals and you will then have the golden, blessed opportunity to challenge them to a new level of leadership.  The work of leadership is never done.

Would you ever choose to sit in a dark room rather than change the light bulb?  No.  Engage with your leaders.  Don’t let them sit in the dark.  It’s difficult, long-lasting work, but light will only come to your organization, team, neighborhood, community or world through people.

And when it gets tough and never seems done, go home and change an actual light bulb.  Remember your proficiency.

Most Important Sunday of the Year

Yesterday was one of the most important Sundays of the year.  “You are off a week, Mason.  Not yesterday.  You mean a week ago…Easter.”

I’m actually talking about yesterday.  The Sunday after Easter.  I guess you could include the Sunday after Christmas as an important date in any church’s operational year, as well.

The target of any church is to gather their largest crowds for the traditional Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas.  They print up flyers to congregants to hand out to friends, coworkers and neighbors in the week before.  Direct mailers are sent out to the neighborhood.  The church buys advertising.  For the service it’s self, it is no holds bared.  There is an orchestra, special lighting, free donuts, breaking glass and maybe even confetti.

The hope for after getting that crowd in the doors and delivering a quality experience is that these “ChristEaster” visitors would find the church as a place of hope, healing and help.  Many will even raise the hand or come forward to show their commitment to Jesus.

That is the target and goal for Easter Sunday or the Christmas season.  It is not an end point…or at least, I hope not.  The goal is that these recently converted or introduced would become regular attenders.

This then, make the Sunday after Easter one of the most important Sundays of the year.

Did yesterday look like the most important Sunday of the year to you?  It usually can be quite a let down.  Where is the orchestra?  What, no snacks?  Why aren’t people geared up?  Often times, if not most of the time, the pastor who spoke on Easter morning isn’t even there the following Sunday (“They need to take some time off after the busy season.”)

This post is obviously too late for this year, but it’s not too late to change b a mindset.  To understand that the church does not exist to just get people to an event, click a “counter” and fill the place.  It’s about changed lives and while that happens in a moment, it also happens as a process.

Everyone needs a day off, but take it in a few weeks.  Let your new friends make connections in the pews before they have to see a change in the pulpit.

It may not be Easter last Sunday or this coming Sunday but the reality of Easter still lives.