Adapt and Grow

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One of the things I admire the most about my dad is his ability to adapt. He has farmed all of his life, but he hasn’t done the same thing all the way through. Just in my memory he has raised cotton, hay grazer, wheat, milo, stocker calves, cattle pairs, feeders, and so much more, but never all at the same time.

I’ve heard him talk about trying to survive financially in the 80’s, and that he was doing everything he could to try to make money. The struggle made him better in the long run, but I’m grateful I was pretty clueless about it.

When we settle for a “this is who I am and what I do” mentality, then we miss a key element for growth–adaptation.

I think all of us would agree that new situations stretch us, and in turn, cause us to grow. But new situations are the easy example. How do you continue to grow when you’ve been somewhere for a while?

Continue to adapt.

I love leadership. I love helping students (and adults) grow in their leadership influence. I even have a pretty nifty framework to help introduce the concept of servant leadership. But even with all of that, if I stop adapting what I’m doing, then I will stop growing. And I never want to stop growing.

So, take a minute right now and think about your situation. What needs to be adapted? What changes need to be made? What adjustments do you need to address?

If you’re in ministry, what skill set do you need to strengthen? Organization? Time management? People skills? Teamwork? Beard trimming (looking at you, Youth Pastors)?

If you want to maintain a lifestyle of growth, then consistently be on the lookout for ways to grow. And grow.

Lying Street Signs

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Last week I talked about shared language. You can read what I wrote here (Unlock the Power of Shared Language) and here (Beware the Dangers of Shared Language).

Today, I thought I would share a story.

At my previous church, we had to find our own housing. Our salary was pretty minimal, so the cost of housing was a burden, and add to that living in a small town with few housing options, we were always looking for an opportunity to alleviate some financial burden.

One day at church a deacon approached me with an opportunity. This deacon was a wonderful man, had grown up in the community and moved back in retirement. He and his wife opened their home to us the first weekend we stayed in town, and undoubtedly supported us. He had found a potential house for us to live in for an incredible price.

The next step was for us to drive by and look at it. He gave me directions, with one problem. He told me the house was on Church Street. So, later that Sunday, after naps, we piled the family into the car and started driving around, looking for Church Street. It wasn’t where I thought it should have been, so we started driving to find it.

Let me insert something at this point. I love small towns. I grew up in a small town. I have lived in small towns most of my life. But, one of the downsides to small town life is street signs are not a necessity.

So, as we were driving around town, we had to hunt to find street signs just to see if we could find Church Street.

Can you see where this is going? I never found Church Street. Do you want to know why?

I didn’t share the language. Church Street, strangely enough, was the street with three churches on it. But it’s name was Washington Street.

Shared Language is a powerful thing. But makes sure the people to whom you’re talking share the language too. If not, bring them in and watch an ally be born.

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.

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