Here’s a Great Investment Tip

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I’m not talking stocks, bonds, or guitars (my preferred financial investment strategy).

In 2018 I bought a One Line a Day Journal. The premise is simple: you journal about a sentence every day for a year, then repeat the process for 5 years.

I bought the journal in 2018, but didn’t start using it consistently until 2019, and I’m about to finish up my 2nd year with it.

Here’s what I’ve learned from using it *almost every day (and making up the days I miss).

  1. Perspective helps tremendously. I love tracking data, and so this October when I was dealing with frustrations, I was able to immediately see where I was mentally in 2019 and found some footing to move forward. It’s hard to explain, but trust me–the journal paid for itself in that moment.
  2. I have a terrible memory. They say that time rounds off the edges, and I believe it. I don’t want to remember every pain I walk through, but it is nice to be reminded things weren’t as rosy as I think they were.
  3. It’s exciting to see progress I’ve made. In 2019 I started practicing The Miracle Morning, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m looking forward to January 2021 as I read the thoughts I had as I began my journey.
  4. I now have a documented (brief) history of 2020. In March and April I will be reminded of the shutdown and how I grew during that time. I will also, hopefully, be grateful we’re not in the same boat!
  5. One Line a Day takes hardly any time at all, so if I miss a day or two, it’s easy to remember and make it up!

I generally don’t try to make broad, sweeping statements, but if you’re not journaling already, this may be the single best investment you could make for yourself 5 years from now.

Head over to Amazon and check it out!

Here’s a Secret Super Power

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I think evaluation and forward progress may be my love language. If I can sit down with someone and evaluate something we’ve done together with the intent of making it better, then I’m able to live in my happy place.

But, if I’m going to be honest, as much as I love evaluation, it takes effort. Simple evaluation (i.e., self criticism) comes naturally, but true evaluation requires more brainpower and energy.

And I think this is true in leadership. if we want to grow, we need to learn to evaluate truthfully and effectively. But it’s a difficult habit to build and maintain.

So today, here are three reasons why I think evaluation is worth the effort:

  1. It makes the mistakes worth the cost. Have you ever done something perfectly the first time? No? Yeah, me either. If I fail to evaluate, the chances of me making the same mistake again are significantly higher. So doesn’t it make more sense to spend time evaluating and deciphering how to eliminate the mistake and replace it with something better? The best mistake launches us toward growth. Evaluation helps the transition.
  2. It helps me remember what we did. I have a terrible memory. In youth ministry, I pull off annual events, but so often they are separated out by 12 months. So when I sit down to plan the next one it’s been at least 9 months since I thought about (10 or 11 if we’re honest about my own planning process). So, when I write out an evaluation, it helps me remember why I made the decisions I made, it helps me remember the mistakes I made, and it helps me remember the great idea I had that would have been lost otherwise.
  3. It makes the event better the next time. This is the greatest benefit of evaluation for me. Whether it’s an annual event, or a regular weekly happening, my effort produces greater results when it’s paired with evaluation. I have an event coming up in March that we did for the first time last year. Because I spent time evaluating, when I start to take steps to plan based off the evaluation I did, I know the event will be even better.

Alright, so how do I evaluate? I work through three questions (but not the three questions you might think). They are simply this:

  • What We Did
  • What Worked
  • What to Do Differently

That’s it. Bullet points are my friend, and they will be yours too. Take 10 minutes today and evaluate something. It could be a project you just finished, an event that concluded recently, or fixing a Thanksgiving meal. Unleash the power of evaluation. I think you’ll be glad you did.

We All Need a Little Reminder

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Have you ever wondered how people used to make maps of shorelines? Seriously, was it a boat and a compass? Then, with the ability to take pictures from miles above, was there ever a shore line that was just wrong until we had the right perspective?

And so went my random thoughts this morning. Do you ever find yourself dreaming solutions about things you have zero experience with? I’ve never mapped out a coast line in my life.

Sometimes those distractions keep us from focusing on what requires focus in front of us. Sometimes we need a reminder of the foundational things in life.

It’s been a while since I talked about the three questions (you can read all about them here), so instead of trying to figure out how to map a coastline, let’s revisit the name sake of this blog.

I love the simplicity of the three questions. Teaching students (or adults) to embrace awareness-willingness-leadership as an approach to influencing situations around them opens the door for possibility.

This past weekend I taught the three questions to a group of student leaders and made a statement I hadn’t made before. I learned early on that not everyone naturally sees the need in a room (awareness). Some people, even if they have good hearts, are missing the natural ability. So, my challenge to them? Stick close to someone who naturally asks the first question.

This makes sense, right? If I’m trying to watch what I eat in order to lose weight, it’s easier for me to make good choices if I’m with someone else who is trying to do the same thing. My healthy eating decisions get more difficult, however, when I’m around people who are less than intentional.

The same is true for us as leaders. If you have a hard time simply acknowledging the need of the moment, find someone who handles it naturally and allow them to help train your mind to observe.

At the end of the day, it’s very difficult to influence change and raise up other leaders if we are unable to acknowledge what needs to be done around us. Spend some time today honing your awareness.

Can Dissatisfaction Be a Good Thing?

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I’ve been reading through a John Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” with a group of friends. In this week’s reading, we came across a line I thought was interesting.

“Dissatisfaction is a good one word definition for motivation.”

John Maxwell, 5 Levels of Leadership

Maxwell’s words resonated with me. I want to always be getting better. Last week I talked about Routines and Ruts. I think dissatisfaction provides the traction to get out of ruts in our lives. As we feel ourselves getting comfortable, often dissatisfaction proves to be the nudge we need to get out of a rut.

But, in our discussion yesterday, a friend asked a great question as a followup: how do you stay healthy in the midst of dissatisfaction? In other words, if we are dissatisfied all the time, don’t we eventually become someone people avoid?

I think, as leaders, we have to celebrate the wins. We have to learn to enjoy the moment. But in balance with a healthy sense of dissatisfaction.

A football team (do you remember football?) plays one game per week. A single win does not make a successful season, but can instead lay the foundation for growth and progress.

In High School, I never once had a coach come in the day after a win and say “good job guys, let’s take the week off after that one.” Instead, we celebrated the win in the moment, but remained focused to progress and grow.

The same is true for us as leaders, especially in ministry. We may remain dissatisfied, but until we learn to celebrate the victories along the way, growth will evade us. If we are always dissatisfied, though, we become jaded and our leadership influence takes a hit.

So where do you land on this spectrum? Is there something you need to celebrate? Is there some dissatisfaction that needs to start brewing? Take a leadership step this week.

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The Calm in the Storm

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I went on vacation last week. So, naturally, when I got back in the office yesterday, I was met with a whirlwind.

Things I should have finished before leaving were staring me in the face, as well as new “opportunities for leadership growth” (read:issues to be addressed). It was a full day.

But, the final 30 minutes proved to be the most productive. After spending the day checking things off my to do list, brainstorming, writing, catching up, fielding grounders, I was able to sit down at my desk for 30 minutes to wrap up the day, uninterrupted. Because everyone had gone home.

The calm in the storm provided some much needed clarity.

The same is likely true for you. You’re facing all sorts of challenges on a constant schedule. The COVID interruption (or disruption) has likely made you feel like you’re pedaling a 10 speed bicycle in 5th gear–coasting downhill is the same, but having to cover the same ground you covered pre-COVID is twice as much work.

Find the calm in the storm. Find the moments where you can take a breath. Maybe it’s early in the morning, or late at night after everyone has gone to bed. Maybe it’s the first 30 minutes in the office before everyone else shows up, or the final 30 minutes after everyone has left.

Maybe the calm in your storm isn’t about your schedule as much as your location. A sunset, sunrise, quiet lunch, or challenging podcast may be exactly what you need to feel refreshed.

Wherever (or whenever) your calm may be found, pursue it. You need time to catch your breath. You need a break from the chaos. You will be healthier for it. Your family will be healthier for it. Your leadership will be healthier for it. Trust me.

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