Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Do the things that count! Don’t be busy for the sake of being busy!

I will be the first to admit that I’m a doer that uses that metric to measure other people or organization’s value. Clearly the more you do the more valuable you are to your organization and to others! The difficulty is that being busy for the sake of being busy doesn’t equate to making a real difference in a person’s life or seeing a community go from being marginal to becoming healthy. So how do I find a balance between being a doer and doing the things that count?

I can remember being part of a group of pastors that shared the same church facility for worship. One of the pastors wanted us to meet together and just hang out. The other pastor and myself were somewhat critical of having another meeting if it didn’t have a purpose and actually accomplish something of value. The pastor who was leading the group was offended by our comments and ultimately made a statement that struck me about me being a doer and how I was too quick to judge others. I have to confess that I’m a doer and I do value my time and want to see worthwhile things accomplished if I’m going to be part of another meeting.

So it is important to step back I believe and evaluate what you are doing, how you are doing it and the why of doing it. The difficulty with multi-tasking becoming the latest fad and doing more is that we forget at times what we are really about. I know that in the past quantity was always more important than quality. I can remember between college and grad school when I worked as a concrete guy doing curb and gutter for a large contractor in the SF area. What mattered was how many linear feet output was accomplished each day. Yes the overall quality mattered but we would never waste time to be concerned with cosmetic blemishes when we had poured 3-4,000 feet.

It’s too easy in today’s context to no longer see people as people but as numbers that you process and make sure they accomplish the task before them. The difficulty comes when this model for business, doing church or neighborhood work is derailed because of one individual that has been ignored or hurt by being too busy to care about or the product produced was substandard. The bottom line has to become people not products or possessions. Do I care enough to stop, look and listen to what is really happening around me? Do I pretend that everything is ok when in all actuality it isn’t and I have been too busy to stop and help?

I still think it is important to keep track of what you do but more importantly to see that the things you do actually matter and make a difference in someone’s life! I know that I personally don’t like being viewed as a number or a statistic.

Do the things that count!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Equality doesn't equal justice!

I think most of us hear the phrase, ‘IT’S NOT FAIR!’ probably a dozen or more times a day.  The difficulty is that I was fortunate to have a great family setting that gave me advantages that I didn’t realize in life till I saw how others had lived without many or any resources. So what has to happen for more people that have been blessed to share their resources so others can experience the best life possible? (You don’t have to be a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet to make a difference!)

I believe that America is the land of opportunity! I have learned so much from many of my families that have next to nothing yet are very capable in raising their kids and teens to understand basic life lessons. It’s so easy to make excuses and say it’s not fair or just moan and groan all of the time and end up stalling your life. My hope is to see justice prevail where there has been inequality and injustice. It’s not fair that a child is born into a family where the dad is in prison and the mom is a druggie. It’s not fair that a drunk driver takes away a kid’s mom and dad!

One of the key life lessons I’m learning over the last decade is being an advocate for those that can’t stand up for themselves. I became my dad’s advocate as the ravages of Dementia had its’ impact on his ability to think and act clearly. He was in a rather expensive senior complex where his monthly fee was determined by his care level. I was taken back when the individual that assessed him had never visited him, talked to staff or me about what his care actually required. If I hadn’t been there my dad would have been overcharged $500 a month for care he didn’t need nor received.

I’m around so many kids and teens that come out of real poverty. This isn’t about income but about being raised in a context where you haven’t been taught the basics like respect, morals, social skills, learning habits and then to do something as simple as say thank you. I know that someone who has been read to as a baby will grow up becoming a life long reader and learner. I know that someone whose mom is a substance abuser will struggle in life with many things that the kid had nothing to do with.

The opportunity that is before us is to recognize what we have that we don’t need and be willing to intentionally share that with someone who has a real need. This picture so aptly displays how fairness, equality and true justice can be a world apart! I married someone who is actually rather short so she would be the one that would need not one box but two boxes to see the game. So I understand a little what it is like to help someone see the action.

Justice can only happen when I’m willing to take my eyes off of my situation and see the circumstances of those around me that need real help. The difficulty is that I can be preoccupied with what I believe to be important matters but totally miss those that are standing next to me because I can’t see them. I had a conversation with a good friend who truly didn’t believe that someone in Phoenix might actually go to bed at night hungry? Yes, there are people on the street that would love to get help and have a better life.  The difficulty is that it is so easy to be busy with doing good things around you and totally miss those that are struggling in life and need your friendship and a hand up not a hand out!

Time to share your box so someone else can see the game and get involved!

Do you remember your first job? Mine was a life changer!

One of the great joys in my life is helping teens and twenty-somethings get their first job. Regardless of anyone’s take on the present economy getting a job regardless of your education or past experience isn’t easy, especially for first timers.  This last week I was so proud of a few of my teens that have gotten their first jobs at Wal-Mart. There are so many in the unemployed ranks that getting a job for someone without any experience isn’t easy and can actually be rather terrifying.

So the usual path to your first job comes back to your friends who have a job and your willingness to volunteer and gain leadership experience. My passion in life is to see at risk youth get opportunities to discover that life can be awesome when you own up to your situation, stop making excuses or blaming someone and choose to be a learner and lover of your own life. Volunteerism becomes a great pathway for teens and adults to gain vital experience in life where you can give of yourself in helping others and ultimately help yourself.

I will never forget my first job! It was working at Brock’s Ice Cream in Yuba City, California. I had a group of high school guy friends who were employed there and helped me become part of the team that actually oversaw the operation of Brock’s Store. Mr. Brock was a rather trusting individual that allowed a group of teens to literally run his store between doing inventory, making real ice cream and most of all doing clean up. The four of us were given keys to the store and oversaw both the hiring and training of new employees. I doubt Brock understood the impact this had on each of us and our futures.

The dynamic of helping at risk youth get their first job does come back to something rather simple like manners and respect. I have a close friend who is manager of the Starbucks I frequent. Joseph has been great at coaching a few of my teens about doing interviews and understanding how vital it is to dress like you want the job, have great communication skills, show a real interest in the job and then have common sense to share your life passion.

The challenge that most teens don’t see is that there are probably ten or maybe even a hundred other teens or older adults competing for this position.  Discrimination is a fact of life so if you are a guy applying at Starbucks or a nice restaurant you will have girls that are much more attractive and suitable for the job so you have to go above and beyond to show you are just as capable.  Racism does exist in the work place so if you are one of my African American teens applying for a job at a Hispanic McDonalds it won’t be easy to get hired. Yes, you can get hired but to work in an environment that is totally different from your background requires a special type of person to rise above the circumstances and discover that you can make yourself fit!

So if you are an employer reading this post please step back and consider how you can better position your company to help first time workers have a great experience. If you are a seasoned worker please think how you can be that bridge for a teen that didn’t have the greatest home life and is a little timid when it comes to applying for their first job. What I believe is just as important is for everyone to go back at some point, soon I hope and thank your first boss for giving you an opportunity to understand basic life skills! I will always remember Brocks’ Ice Cream and the life lessons I learned at fifteen! Thanks Brock!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Give! It's the only way to live!

Is your life defined by your possessions or by what you have given away over the years? Status symbols and branding have defined many over the last few decades. I know that for some owning a BMW, Mercedes, Lexus or that classic Mustang means you have arrived. Do you want to spend the rest of your life accumulating stuff only to realize on your death bed that what mattered the most wasn’t your possessions but your family, friends and your passion in life?

Why is it the case that those with less usually are those who are more willing to give, show compassion and make real sacrifices? Don’t get me wrong I have some very generous friends who have means and are awesome examples of being great stewards! Yet, the reality is that people become givers because they have experienced hardship in life where they have received grace and new opportunities.  I’ve heard the typical byline of how people that have means have arrived to this position in life. They choose to drive the same clunker car, have chosen to live in more of a shack type house and not a mansion and are usually unwilling to help but give lots of advice about becoming savers and not spenders.

So what has to happen for a person who is controlled by their lusts of bigger and better cars, houses, computers or smart watches to actually notice a neighbor, a friend or partner at work? I’m around two types of people, those with very little and those with much. All of them have to figure out what defines them and how they choose to live. The choice is to learn about being content with what you need in life instead of being controlled by your wants. My wife spent most of the day yesterday with a family that has gone through more hardships than 10 families. Yet, their heart isn’t to complain but to do their best and still choose to be givers with their hearts open to share their resources. 

So what inspires someone to transition from being a taker to becoming a giver? It takes being touched by someone who shares his or her life without giving a lecture on tithing, earth stewardship or carbon footprint? So what will define your life as you near your last day? Fancy play toys or lots of friends who you have given your life over the years?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stop comparing and start living!

What causes any of us to be so insecure about our passions in life that we have to look at what others are doing before we can start living? Don’t get me wrong it is perfectly fine to do some observing but this must not stop you from discovering your passion in life. The opportunity is to learn hopefully when you are young that life is an amazing gift that brings an unique path for each of us to follow. The difficulty is that real leaders aren’t fearful of becoming trailblazers.

The most exciting part of your life journey is seeing it unfolds before your eyes where you are able to love your life and not be jealous of those around you.  Yet after running a few marathons over the years it is so easy to always be looking back to see how close the competition happens to be or what’s worse is to attempt to catch up to a runner that is too far ahead. The focus of my running isn’t to beat anyone but to push myself to continue to enjoy the course and finish. One of the marathon sages, his nick name is the Penguin, would tell us that everyone lies about their times so just enjoy the race and actually take longer but enjoy it.

I want to enjoy my life and not waste any more time comparing myself to anyone. What has to happen for me to love my present life with a great future instead of looking in the rearview mirror all of the time? It’s so important to become a dreamer that isn’t afraid of trying out different life choices to grasp your life focus. It’s sometimes tiring or scary but the sooner you start this journey the sooner you will stop comparing yourself to those around you.

Start living and learning about your life passion and make a difference!