February 27, 2014

You don't have to be in charge to lead.

People will gather.  People will talk.  Your friends will arrive and be friendly.  Then the meeting will begin.  Even if there's someone in charge with an plan, people will continue to talk.  About their own agendas.  Toward their own goals.  Goals which are not necessarily in line with the leader's, or those of the collective group.  Everyone has to get their own thoughts expressed so they can breathe the sigh of relief, assuring themselves they did their parts.  Until the next person says his piece and it conflicts.  And the next person who is not on the same page as either of the first two.  The tangential thoughts scattering throughout the room will spear into others, flying with them into the nethersphere of inconsequentiality.  Two words I just made up.

This is the effect of a group with no focus.  No direction.  No real leadership.  The group may have an agenda, a vision, a desired purpose for the gathering.  Even with these essentials, with no one to inspire or to lead, where will this train end up?  Off the tracks, in a ditch; an organism with so much potential lying on a side with its wheels turning in the air.  Doing nothing.  Whether the yearbook committee, the youth group ski trip planning team, or another group in which you two will involve yourselves, it doesn't matter.  Are you on paper as being in charge or one of the many who arrived to see what's up?  This too doesn't matter.  You can focus their thoughts, narrow their direction, lead them toward their goals.  Do this with a confident humility.  Realize that not everyone will understand.  Or like it.  But there will be a few who see it.  A few who you'll touch, at first.  Focus on them, listen to all, and keep pushing ahead toward the goal.  More will see the value you bring.  More importantly, they will see the results the group has achieved.

Like all other useful and valuable skills, this will take practice, strength, and determination.  It will take a thick skin at times.  It will require you to close your mouth, listen, then speak up confidently. It means putting in thought beforehand, maintaining objectivity during, and applying careful consideration after a gathering, maintaining your humility throughout.  Your dedication and perseverance will find themselves rewarded with a great book, memorable trip, or successful project.  And you'll enjoy it that much more knowing you helped work to make it that way.

Wherever you find yourself, use your gifts to lead.


Your mom did this the other night and I am proud of her for it.

February 26, 2014

Assertive Humility

There are two types toward whom people gravitate.  One is the kid, good at whatever it is his particular group does.  He can throw a wicked fast ball, knows all the greatest super heroes, thinks of the most creative games with his friends.  He's good at these things and has the self-assurance to go along with them.  With actions that speak, "I'm good at what I do and I know it, but this doesn't make me better than anyone else."  No arrogance, just great ability paired with confidence.  People dig it.

And the other?  The girl who recognizes her mistakes, realizes her shortcomings, boldly takes responsibility, makes amends then objectively moves on.  Without a whine or a bid for others' approval, no fishing for compliments along the way, she avoids wallowing in timidity or overcompensating with bravado.  She gives a nod to her imperfections but has the self-assurance to admit confidently and sincerely when she's come up short.  A recognition that "I mess up at times, I know it, and now I will be judged for my response to adversity."  No self-pity, just great humility, working to learn from her mistakes, paired with confidence. People respect it.

My girls, it will be hard work, but can we be both types?  If so, we can inspire so many more.

February 25, 2014

Lift your attitude or crash into a boat - your choice.

"Attitude", the LSO (Landing Signals Officer) called, as the pilot allowed the airplane's nose to drop too low to make a proper arrested landing.  With its nose not high enough, a tactical jet's hook will not touch down at the right point - just prior to the arresting cable - for the hook to catch the wire and for the plane to stop in what little runway remains.  This problem is typically not due to some unforeseen, last minute, force upon the jet preventing its nose from rising, but an issue that goes back approximately 45 seconds prior, when the pilot should have controlled his airspeed, altitude, rate of descent, and heading such that he could fly the thing "hands off". An airplane not appropriately trimmed and "on speed" will always have issues while flying the ball.  Even so, and with just seconds before touchdown, the pilot has a choice to make: input a small nose up correction to put the aircraft in the proper attitude, or risk missing the wire and having to go around to try it all again.

We've seen this exact scenario play out so many times in our own lives, even when we don't step anywhere near an airplane.  We don't like our boss, or a coworker, and while we might have been able to prevent a situation by correcting our own attitude in previous engagements, we let the problem fester. The tension becomes tangible at work and affects us at home. We treat our loved ones poorly because we can only focus on the evil who is that coworker.

We don't see eye to eye with our parents, but we refuse to see our own fault in the matter, or we're afraid to bring up an issue that may be difficult to deal with.  The problem continues too long until it hurts the relationship.

Our kids will just not stop crying.  Or asking for things.  Or demanding our time.  How is this a problem?  It leads to bitterness because we can't do, or watch, what we want. And it's clearly all their fault.

So what's the problem here?  Our terrible bosses?  Possibly.  Our horrible parents?  Unlikely.  Our overly needy kids.  Nope.  It's our own attitude.  It's managing our own expectations.  It's realizing that seldom is anything perfect and that we either need to change our situations or change how we look at them. How many times have you expected to leave work early on a Friday, get yourself mentally ready, and find yourself staying until you can "only" leave 30 minutes early?  It ruins what should otherwise be a normal weekend. And yet because our expectations aren't under control, we ruin it for ourselves. Nobody ruined it for us.  Not even the boss, that heathen, who made us stay.  Our parents (for most) aren't out to get us and neither are our kids. Most of the time, problems with coworkers aren't caused by the other one having a directed vendetta against us.  Whatever the situation, difficult as it may be, our own negative outlook will only make the problem worse.  For ourselves.

Like the pilot who should have made his airplane right before he even started his turn to land, we need to make the decision to get our perspectives in order before we leave for work in the morning.  Before we engage with our parents.  Or, to avoid the frustration of a Saturday morning sleep-in cut short by miniature people, before we go to bed Friday night.  Managing our attitudes and expectations toward our lives, and maintaining positive outlooks will only help us navigate difficulty and more fully enjoy the sweet times in life.  It's not easy, and so many times it never will be, but it is fully under our control.  My attitude is always my own, and only my own, to affect.  It's one of the few things we all have in equal proportions.  Changing it early on will always be beneficial.

And when we mess this up and find ourselves cursing our bad positions, we need to pause, add in a small nose up correction, and lift our attitudes before we crash and burn.