Thursday, December 1, 2011

Be, Do, Have


This year has flown by so fast!  As the year comes to a close, naturally it becomes a time of reflection and a time of planning.  I look back on the year to reflect on the events, accomplishments, relationships and failures that I've experienced.  One of the ways I reflect is by popping the cork off our Answers and Blessings jars and reading the little slips of paper inside. Within these jars are the answers that we've written down to specific prayers and the blessings we've received of which we never asked.  It is a great reminder of God's involvement in our lives.

Another end of year assignment is to prepare my goals for the next year. I try to keep my goals simple, but specific.  They are centered around three major categories: Be, Do, Have.  
  • Who do I want to Be?  This does not imply that I want to be someone else, but rather means that I want to be the best ME that I can be.  For example, Godly man & husband, caring son, constant learner.
  • What do I want to Do?  This includes accomplishments, trips or activities with and for my wife and family.
  • What do I want to Have?  This is not what you would think.  It is not necessarily possessions, but it can best be described as what life looks like when I am BEing and DOing the things that I listed.  For example, a few things that I have for my 2011 list were: thriving business, satisfied clients, fulfilled & motivated employees, etc....
For each of those subcategories, I list specific actions that help me fulfill my be, do, have's if I am intentional and mindful about doing them.

Do you take the time to reflect on your year and plan for the next?  If so, what advice would you offer to someone on how to do it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Living Beyond the Dash

We have all likely experienced the passing of some family member or friend.  We've attended their funeral or memorial service which usually begins by stating when they were born and when they died.  At the grave site, their whole life is summarized by this simple little "-" between their birth and death date.

Perhaps you've heard someone speak of the concept of the "dash" or making the most of your dash, also known as making the most of your life. When you spend time in a cemetery, you realize just how short this life really can be.  We don't know when the day will come, but we do know that there will be a day that we will die.

You're probably thinking by now that this is going to be yet another post about making the most of your life. Well, not really.  If you're reading this, you're likely one who has already read, heard, or reflected on what you can do to make the most of this life.  So, I would like to take a couple more paragraphs and challenge you to live beyond the dashLive a life so invested in others that even with your physical passing from this life, there is a legacy that is lived out in those who you have invested your time, emotional and relational energy.

To live beyond the dash, you have to first embrace a period of introspection and reflect on a couple of meaningful questions:
  • Who am I, why am I here, what is my purpose/passion or what do I want to do with my life?
  • At the core, do I just want to "exist" or do I want to exalt others?
If you can get your mind around those questions, then consider the following for ideas on how to live beyond the dash.
  • Look for opportunities to encourage someone daily
  • Volunteer with a local non-profit organization - preferably one that aligns with your purpose/passion.
  • Mentor someone
  • Give sacrificially to a cause you that you believe
  • Babysit for a single parent
  • Adopt a child
  • Visit an ICU waiting room at a local hospital for a couple of hours and see how you could serve someone there (Big ears, long arms, or a shoulder to cry on)
  • Visit the nearest nursing home and engage a resident in conversation
  • and the list goes on..........
The point, the life that lives beyond the dash is a life that is "others focused".  Can you do that? YES, you can!  Will you do that? Only you can answer.

Would love to know your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Landmarks Along the Journey

Image from: sandysandmeyer.wordpress.com
For most road trips that I've been on, it has been all about the final destination.  We get in our car and take the shortest possible route that gets us to that final destination in the shortest amount of time.  We only stop when "nature calls", to eat, or refill the gas in our cars.  Many times, to be most efficient, we try to do all three at once.  We start at point A and drive like mad to get to point B - leaving everything in between a blur never noticing any of the history-rich landmarks.

The same can be said about our life.  For many, point A & B are waking each day and going to sleep at night and just as a road trip, everything in between is a blur.  There are so many landmarks in our day that are full of rich and meaningful experiences if we will just be intentional, mindful, and present in the moments of our days.

Yes, life is a journey.  Life began at our birth and this physical life will end with our death.  But, what are you doing to enjoy the journey, to savor the relevance of life, or to add value to someone's life?  I have found that the margin in my life has become really thin with business, school, and family.  If I am not cognizant of the journey, I am really going to miss out on so much beauty along the way.

As I thought about ways that I could be more intentional, I've come up with some questions that I ask myself on a daily, but mostly weekly basis.  I encourage you to consider doing the same or similar.


Pick a day each week and on that day ask yourself the following question about your previous 7 days:
  1. Did I have any meaningful conversations, relational events, service projects, or "landmarks" occur this week?
  2. Was there anything that made me "come alive" this week? What was it about it? Is there a pattern developing of answers to this question as the weeks/months pass?  (Don't ignore this pattern)
  3. Big or small, how have I made a difference in someone's life this week?
  4. Big or small, how has someone made a difference in my life this week? (thank them)
  5. How can I be intentional about enjoying the journey over the next week?
What are you doing to enjoy your journey?  Would love to have your suggestions.  Please share!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Last Thought on Change


Me: Then and Now
I've just spent the week visiting my mother in Mississippi.  While visiting this small town, just as other times, I bump into people that I knew from my childhood.  I tend to project upon each person the same attributes, qualities, and personality that I knew they had when we were kids.  All too often, I believe that we do that to everyone we've known.

As I pondered that thought, I revisited my last post on change, "That Same Man in the Moon".  The point of the post was to remember that even though that same moon that I've looked at my whole life has remain unchanged, I have not.  I have changed considerably.......and so has everyone else.

We've all experienced great joys and sorrows, victories and losses, new friendships, influential books, jobs, etc.  There have been many catalysts of change in our lives - good and bad.  Very few, if not anyone remains the same.

So, whether you're seeing someone from your childhood or a friend you've not seen in a couple of years, realize that more than likely they've changed.....just as you have changed.  They are not the same person they were.  Use that chance meeting as an opportunity to know a new person - a changed person.  You just might be blessed by the new friend that they become.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

That Same "Man in the Moon"

Last night, I was outside staring up at the moon and took note of the Man in the Moon.  I thought of how, as a child,  I looked up in amazement at the beauty of that same moon - that same Man in the Moon.  And that's just it, it is still that same Man in the Moon...BUT...I'm not the same man that I was at that age.

Isn't it amazing that we can look back to our childhood, the way we thought and acted, and unequivocally state that we are definitely not that same person.  I think of my college years when I experienced tremendous growth physically, emotionally, and spiritually; but yet, I am not the same person.

Twenty-two years ago I moved to Austin, not knowing anyone, and began a new chapter - a new road on this journey of my life. I grew so much as I struggled to work out my finances and to understand what I really wanted to do with my life.  And yet, I'm not that same person.

On and on, year after year, I can look back and see what has transpired the years before - sometimes even months before, and conclude that I am not that same person.

So, what's the point of this little thought?  Glad you asked. :-)

The point is:
If we're growing - we're changing.  Daily growth leads to life change.

We are not the same person we were as a child.  We are not the same person we were ten years, five years, or even one year ago. I find myself changing on a weekly basis, albeit ever so slightly, but still changing.

My wish is that we can all say, "the person that I was when I woke up this morning is a better person that is going to bed this evening all because of change, growth, experience, conversations, etc."

Do you find yourself to be a slightly different person than you were last week?  Please share your thoughts.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

C.H.A.N.G.E. - Courage Having A New Goal Emerge

The end of the year approaches so quickly.  Most people started the year with goals in mind for 2011. How are you doing with your goals?

As you think about your goals for this year, this might be a good time to reassess, reevaluate, and even CHANGE your goals.  So many times, we set our goals and just leave them static for the whole year, even when we know we're not going to complete them.  If a goal is no longer relevant or does not support the overall direction that you're now moving, why keep it as a goal?

Be courageous!  Let the new goals emerge as you continue your journey. Just like the title:  C.H.A.N.G.E. - Courage Having A New Goal Emerge.

What new goals are emerging in your world? Write them down, pray over them, and get to work!

Change is good.  This morning, I was thinking about my goals for the year and how quickly the year has passed.  Don't let this year come and go without continued focused intentionality on your goals.  That requires making sure your goals are relevant and having a renewed focus to finish the year strong.  There is still plenty of time!

What goals do you need to change?  Let's finish the year strong!

Would love to know your thoughts. Share here!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts Matter!

Image from: Metalsucks.net
So many times, when we think of the things we want to change in our life it usually revolves around things that we want or activities and jobs that we want to do.  Those are fine and good, but then you end up one day wondering, "Who am I?", "How did I get here and why didn't things turn out different?"

The missing ingredient in this recipe of life's journey is thought.

Of the many universal laws, one that I firmly believe, is the Law of Reaping and Sowing.  This law is made up of three points:
  1. You reap what you sow.
  2. You reap later than you sow.
  3. You reap more than you sow.
So, what does this have to do with the subject, "Thoughts Matter!"?  Everything. We all want a great lifestyle (defined differently for each of us). We want to do great things.  But, we've never really been taught that it all goes back to our thoughts.  Let's look at our thoughts with respect to the law of reaping and sowing.  It progresses as follows:
  • Sow a thought, reap an action.
  • Sow an action, reap a habit.
  • Sow a habit, reap a lifestyle.
If you want to be a great leader, then read books on leadership, network with other leaders and get their input.  Really THINK about what you read, people with whom you network, and advice that you get.  Think about your thinking.  As you dwell on these thoughts, you will begin to notice (with intentionality) that your actions will begin to change. Your habits will begin to change. And finally, your life will begin to change.

I think therefore I am. ~Descartes  Think about it.

Share your thoughts :-)  Click here to comment.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Freedom Isn't Free

Image from encorecareers.

As July 4th approaches, thoughts of our country's history always comes to mind.  Images of the Revolutionary War, George Washington, or the Constitutional Congress are visualized.  Or maybe words like patriotism, independence, and freedom come to mind.
    The past few days, I've thought long about the price of freedom.  In our country, we have taken freedom for granted.  Freedom on any level is achieved, earned, or given by someone.  We have forgotten that there is a price for freedom and someone had or has to pay for that freedom.  Think about some of these freedoms and the costs to obtain them:

    Freedoms noted in the U.S. Constitution:
    That wonderful document did not give us freedom.  The U.S. Constitution was made possible because of the sacrifice of the founders and patriots of this nation.  Many great men and women, starting at the birth of this nation and continuing since, have paid the price with their very lives so that we can enjoy "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".  If you have served or are currently serving in the military, thank you so much for your service!

    Financial Freedom:
    Anyone who is financially free has been given that opportunity or earned it.  Some may have inherited their fortunes, but those fortunes were still provided by the long hours of hard work and sweat of a relative or friend.  Someone has to pay for it - it just doesn't happen.

    Spiritual Freedom: Not to be confused with religious freedom.  Religious freedom is addressed in our great constitution.  Spiritual freedom is living out one's relationship with their creator in the light of grace and mercy.  For Christians, that price was paid by the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ.

    Those are just my top three freedoms for which I am thankful (in no particular order).

    I would love to know the freedoms for which you are thankful this holiday.  Please share by leaving a comment here.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Spoken Words Matter

    Image from thefreeman.net
    You've probably heard that "common sense is the least common of all our senses".  So many times we're given simple advice that is really just common sense, but we still need to be reminded it.  This week's post most likely falls into that category.

    Years ago, a mentor of mine encouraged me to do a study in Proverbs, a book in the Bible, by writing out every verse that contained the words: tongue, lips, or mouth.  He asked me to reflect on those verses and let them speak to me about the importance of the words we speak.

    The words we speak are very similar to money.  Money is not good or bad, it's how we use our money that determines it's attribute.  So it is with our words, they are not determined good or bad until they are passed through the filter of motives.

    I will not pretend to have this subject conquered, but I have to revisit this study periodically as a reminder how my words can build great leaders or lay a path of total destruction.  And I am the one responsible for what comes out of my mouth.

    The following are just the verses in Proverbs (NIV) that contain the word "tongue".  Read one or two of them each day for the next week and just see if you find any pearls of wisdom or enlightenment about how words matter.

    Do you think words matter?  Would love for you to comment.


    Proverbs 6:17
    haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
    Proverbs 10:19
    Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
    Proverbs 10:20
    The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
    Proverbs 10:31
    From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced.
    Proverbs 11:12
    Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.
    Proverbs 12:18
    The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
    Proverbs 12:19
    Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
    Proverbs 15:2
    The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
    Proverbs 15:4
    The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
    Proverbs 16:1
    To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
    Proverbs 17:4
    A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.
    Proverbs 17:20
    One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.
    Proverbs 17:28
    Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
    Proverbs 18:21
    The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
    Proverbs 21:6
    A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.
    Proverbs 21:23
    Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.
    Proverbs 25:15
    Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
    Proverbs 25:23
    Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.
    Proverbs 26:28
    A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
    Proverbs 28:23
    Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.
    Proverbs 31:26
    She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.


    Friday, June 3, 2011

    People's Stories Matter


    Break from ATV's for quick pic
    Anticipating the Memorial Day holiday, my wife and I decided to use the time to go on vacation for a week to Costa Rica.  (I did not anticipate that I'd have to take a midterm exam before the holiday break was over.)  This vacation provided a much needed mental break, but also served to give my wife and I some uninterrupted time away together.  Running our company together keeps us extremely busy, but now with the added time required for grad school, there's not much time left for us.  This trip also taught me some deeper things about myself, as well as others.

    I had not prepared for this trip at all.  Antoinette had taken care of all of the details - flights, hotel, transportation, etc...and she did a great job putting that all together!  When we arrived at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, we had to wait for 3 hours for our shuttle to come pick us up and take us to Manuel Antonio.  We decided to wait just outside the airport where everyone catches their transportation or crosses the street into the parking garage for their own car.

    As we exited the airport to sit on a bench outside, we were bombarded by a dozen men asking us if we needed a taxi or help with our luggage.  They couldn't understand why we were coming outside without catching a taxi or leaving the area, so they'd check with us multiple times to see if we wanted a taxi.  As we sat down on a bench, up walks "Freddy" to explore further about our travel plans and transportation.  Freddy was difficult to communicate with as he knew little English and I knew even less Spanish.  Immediately, I was struck with the wonder of what was Freddy's story and began wondering if the week would involve any meaningful conversations with others, because of the language barrier.  If you know me, you know I like to learn people's stories.

    Over the course of three hours, Freddy and I would engage each other in sporadic short questions about one another and then try to figure out what each other was saying.  Freddy is in his mid-50's, a father of 5 children (he showed us their pictures) and would come to the airport to work for tips as he would offer to help people with their luggage.  As I watched Freddy, I saw a hard-working and kind gentleman that was liked by all of the employees working outside at the airport.  At one point I went to buy Antoinette and I bottled waters, so I got an extra one and gave it to Freddy.  I then witnessed the beauty of community when Freddy took a couple of swallows of water then offered the bottle to those around him to have a nice cold swallow as well.  Freddy serves those around him selflessly.
    Enriquez w/ Ant & I

    My experience with Freddy made me realize that the week could hold endless possibilities in encounters if I was intentional and creative about it.

    So over the course of the week, I was able to learn the stories of several people on this trip, both Ticos and Americans.  Some whose stories that will have a lasting impact with me like Enriquez, Maday, Ivania, Alex, Alexander,  Joe & Heidi, Josh & Shauna, and others.

    Even with language barriers, showing interest in someone's story will always make them come alive and will open a whole new level of understanding with that person.  The main thing this trip has taught me is that if you want to really know about someone:
    • Be intentional
    • Show genuine, authentic interest in them
    • Listen, Listen, Listen
    • Ask probing, but not nosey questions about them
    • Be grateful for their time
    When we take our eyes off ourselves and invest the time and effort to get to know others, a whole new level of community opens up.  The walls that people typically exist behind are replaced by a vulnerable beauty that is drawn to the surface from authentic meaningful conversation.

    Who will you engage today in authentic conversation and listen to the beauty of their story?

    Would love to know your thoughts and ideas regarding authentic conversation.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Have You Written Your Passionography?


    I've been asked about my passionography assignment and if I would share it.  The passionography is the result of self-examination and surveys of others about yourself.  The following are what served as inputs to ponder while compiling a passionography:
    • Understanding of your personal strengths
    • Your personal skills
    • What is important to you
    • Strongly held beliefs that are aspects of your personal faith/values
    • Survey of what others think that you feel is of importance
    • Survey of others of how they view you as a leader

    From: faithoncampus.com
    With all of that input, you then begin to formulate your own personal passionography with respect to your leadership outlook.  As you will notice, the first paragraph is what I used as input into my leadership manifesto.  This is a very personal document and serves as a compass to revisit in order to reset my direction.  

    Think of the passionography as saying, "This is who and why I am"  The leadership manifesto says, "This is where I'm going and how I'm going to go about it"  The two together are like a map and a compass - they work together to guide you on your journey.

    If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to comment or shoot me an email at jgriffin@seniorsguide.net.

    My Passionography

     Importance of Leadership

     Everyone is a leader in some way, but not everyone accepts the responsibility of leadership.  Leaders influence and inspire – in both negative and positive ways.  When we accept the responsibility to be influential and inspirational to others, it is then that we are stepping out of our comfort zone of complacency and self-absorbed egos to put our focus on others.  How can one possibly think they can influence someone else without first understanding those they desire to influence?

     Personal Impact of Leadership

     I have been blessed by having influential leaders in my life.  Mrs. Cain, my high school chemistry teacher that told me that I was good at a lot of things, but she’d love to see me narrow the focus to be great at a few things.  Tony Gossett, my first mentor, made me memorize chapters 6-8 of the book of Romans, to understand human struggle and the opportunity to have quality in life through a real and growing relationship with God.  John Yancey, my second mentor, challenged me to write out every verse in the book of Proverbs that was related to the use of our lips, tongue, mouth, or spoken word teaching me to power of life, death, success and failure that our words can have on ourselves and others. Michael Woolstrum, my current mentor (at various times in the past 12 years) has taught me the value of selfless living, high work ethic, and focus on others.
    The life and legacy that I see in these people has influenced and inspired me to want to grow in personal and spiritual maturity.  I could only hope that my life can influence and inspire at least one person as much as they’ve done for me.

     Personal Leadership

     I love God and love people, but understand that many do not feel that same way.  I’ve met many people who “don’t know and don’t care” about God, but seem to have a love and care for humanity.  Meanwhile, I know others who love God, but somehow miss the mark when dealing or caring for people.  I am not implying that my love for God and people is perfect, but I’d like to think that I am intentional and authentic when relating to another person.
    I want “to leave the world a better place”.  I want to achieve great things and help others do the same or surpass those achievements.  I want people to have a choice to know my God in a real and personal way.  I want to help people discover what makes them “come alive” and find ways to incorporate that into their life’s journey.
    What does this have to do with leadership?  Everything.
    Jim Elliot, a missionary killed in Ecuador while trying to evangelize the Waodani Indians, said “Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”  (Shadow of the Almighty, by Elisabeth Elliot)  For some, this quote takes on the meaning of bold, in-your-face Bible thumping evangelism.  For me, the quote takes on a different meaning when paired with this quote often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.
    I do not want to simply be a road sign declaring how many miles one has traveled or how much farther they have to go.  I want to be a tour guide for many on this journey called life, providing maps of navigation through the tough terrain of disappointment and grief and celebrating on the summits of the mountains of blessing and peace.
    There is nothing more rewarding to me, than to see the miraculous change in a person’s eyes when they’ve encountered God in a real and personal way.  My hope is that intentional servant leadership and success will open the doors that will permit me to introduce others to my creator and the ultimate servant leader, Jesus Christ.

    What are you passionate about? Please share.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Unfamiliar Waters

    Image from pixdaus.com
    The new semester is already three weeks old!  Marketing and Economics are behind us.  The new semester includes Critical Thinking and Managerial Accounting for the first 10 weeks, then we'll have five weeks of Organizational Behavior and Change (four hours each session).

    Critical Thinking is taught by Dr. Werner.  I thought the Leadership Series was a good catalyst to help me get back to introspection, but Critical Thinking is causing more introspection.  The class requires a lot of reading during the week, but this reading is difficult for me to just gloss over.  It is rich with meaty information that I'm constantly asking myself, "What do I do with this?  How can I apply this?"  Dr. Werner does a great job of facilitating the class discussion and is very intentional about bringing everyone into the conversation.  It has only felt like we've been sitting a few minutes when we realize that the two hours have passed.

    Accounting has been very fast paced as well.  Dr. Peoples definitely loves to teach and brings a sense of excitement to the classroom - which is hard to do with this subject.  The problem sets have been moderately challenging so far, but I can tell they will be getting more difficult very quickly.

    At this point, I'm realizing that I'm drawn more to the subjects that help me to not only understand others better, but also myself.  This is truly unfamiliar waters.  I've always been a people-watcher and have always been fascinated by what made "others" tick, but now the focus is also on what makes me tick - how I think.  As I dive deeper into the critical thinking literature, I'm starting to see the areas that need to be tweaked or even overhauled.  I'm once again at the metaphorical crossroads, but this time it's in the form of a shore or pier, as seen in the picture above.

    I've got a choice.  I can sit on the shore and continue to watch the sun rise and set, see incredible reflections off the peaceful still waters, and enjoy the calm.  Or, I can step off the pier into the boat and row out to deeper waters away from the illusive security and stability that the pier may bring.  To stay on the pier means to accept status quo and try to be satisfied that I've already learned and grown so much.  But, that's impossible!  As I continue to visit my manifesto, I know that the only way to do what I've felt compelled to do with my life is to jump right in and face whatever the deep waters may bring.  Every day there is a choice - create some internal ripples by rowing out a little deeper or turn around and head for the shore.  I choose to go deeper!

    It reminds me of some of the lyrics from the Steven Curtis Chapman song, "Dive":
    ...
    And like the rain
    I have been carried here to where the river flows, yeah
    My heart is racing and my knees are weak
    As I walk to the edge
    I know there is no turning back
    Once my feet have left the edge
    And in the rush I hear a voice
    That's telling me it's time to take the leap of faith
    So here I go

    Chorus:
    I'm diving in, I'm going deep, in over my head I want to be
    Caught in the rush, tossed in the flow, in over my head I want to go
    The river's deep, the river's wide, the river's water is alive
    So sink or swim, I'm diving in

    In case you're interested, here's his video:

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Leadership Manifesto

    As noted in the last post, the first semester is over and today begins the next chapter.  We ended the leadership series by writing our first leadership manifesto.  This is the culmination of introductory exercises in self-discovery of strengths, values, passion, and the journey.

    I am sharing my leadership manifesto to allow those who know me or interact with me to hold me accountable to these values and declarations.  You have complete permission to ask me how I'm doing at any time with respect to these declarations and to provide loving correction if you see me veering off course.

     Introduction

    Everyone is a leader in some way, but not everyone accepts the responsibility of leadership.  Leaders influence and inspire – in both negative and positive ways.  When we accept the responsibility to be influential and inspirational to others, it is then that we are stepping out of our comfort zone of complacency and self-absorbed egos to put our focus on others.  How can one possibly think they can influence someone else without first understanding those they desire to influence?
    As I have reviewed all of the previous papers that we were required to write for this seminar series, I’ve pondered what I am now to do given what I’ve said is important, given what I view is leadership, and given the journey I’ve traveled so far.  This manifesto will summarily declare these things and provide my personal “marching orders”, answering my recurring question, “What am I supposed to do with this?”
    My Leadership Manifesto
    Intentionality Matters:
    Nothing of great value in our lives happens by accident.  I will not accomplish great things, cultivate deep relationships, or gain in-depth knowledge by waiting for those things to happen.  I must live with intentionality and purpose.  The foundation for my manifesto must be based on intentionality.  Every decision, every activity, every moment must be as intentional as possible.  Based on what I’ve discovered about myself in this leadership series, I am daily revisiting the question, “Am I now who I have always been or is this just a mask I’ve donned for the theatre of life?”   I have to be real with myself.  I cannot just exist – I must live.
    Trust Matters: 
    To effectively lead, I must walk on a foundation of trust.  Trust provides freedom and empowerment.  Trust gives me the freedom to control the way I conduct myself with others and allows me to not worry about the reactions of others.   Trust empowers me to be intentionally vulnerable as I build authentic relationships, but diplomatically bold when facing conflict or issues that need to be addressed.
    Growth Matters: 
    "Don't be afraid of going slowly, be afraid of standing still."
    Eastern Proverb
    We’ve all heard that we’re either growing or we’re dying. I am committed to personal growth – spiritually, intellectually, and physically. 
    I will intentionally seek God daily through praying, reading, and journaling introspectively to gain insight, wisdom and discernment.  If I am to be a “light” in this world, I need to understand that every light has a source.  Daylight’s source is from the sun – John’s light source is from the Son of God.
    I will intentionally seek out mentors who will challenge me to see different perspectives, to strengthen relevant skills, to aid in self-discovery, and to expand my sphere of influence.  
    I will intentionally pursue resources that will challenge and help me to grow intellectually.  This will come in the form of mentors, relationships, online reading, books, classes, and seminars.
    I will intentionally block out time, weekly, for regular exercise to provide an outlet of stress release and to stay healthy and active for as long as I live.
    "A leader who develops people ADDS - a leader who develops leaders, MULTIPLIES!" -John Maxwell.   “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live.” -Norman Cousins.
    I am not just committed to personal growth, but also to encouraging growth in others.  I will be a servant leader to my wife, extended family, and friends.  I will be a cultivator of authentic revelation and discovery in each relationship.  I will intentionally encourage each relationship to discover their gifts/strengths and incorporate them into their personal journey.  I will intentionally be discerning in my relationships and always look for ways to add value and enrich others lives.
    Today Matters:
    “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future; faith is the courage to dance to it today.” -Peter Kuzmic. 
    “Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.” -Doug Ivester.
    The choices I make today sow into the person I will become tomorrow.  I will make the most of each day while creating margin in my life for a balanced approach to the declarations of this manifesto.  I will continue to dream, but I will act on those dreams today.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Chapter one is now finished......

    image from behavioradvisor.com
    Chapter one of the MBA journey is now complete. Five chapters to go!

    Last night, we had our final class in the first leadership series and we took our economics final exam.  Amazing that 15 weeks have flown by so quickly!

    Our time in leadership concluded with another world cafe.  As people shared their ideas, I was enjoying listening to those that normally do not speak up in class.  I was amazed at the vulnerability, transparency and authenticity from which people spoke - sharing part of their journey or just sharing what they're wrestling with right now.  Last night's class time began with four learning teams, but I felt that by the end of our class time, we were finally one big cohort team.

    image from winterpark.gov
    This journey we're all on together has challenged me to intentionally pause during the day and attempt to consider different approaches to my day, challenges, encounters, relationships, etc.  We all find ourselves in the weeds of our work, the tyranny of the urgent, or just in the moment all too often.  But during the intentional pauses of my day, I'm visualizing getting on a hot air balloon to rise above the madness into the peaceful and quiet solitude of the heights.  From there, I am finding clarity of thought, reminders of purpose, renewal of energy, and new perspectives.

    We also concluded our economics class with our final exam.  Afterwards, some had gathered just down the hall from the class to talk.  Matt and Ramon convinced us to go to undergraduates' end of year "Midnight Madness" where they served free breakfast to all the students.  It was great just hanging out with others from our cohort as we end this first semester.

    So, chapter one is closed.  I know the elements of chapter two, but what will ultimately be written in this next chapter is yet to be seen.  The thought of that is both scary and exciting, but I'm ready to turn the page and keep reading!

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Week 14: The Umbrella of Trust....

    Just when one thinks it doesn't get any better than this - it does.  Our team has crested, yet another summit.  We've climbed the mountain of "Journey" this week and found TRUST at the top.

    This week, we were individually assigned the task of comparing our journey to a movie of our choosing.  We were then asked to meet within our teams and openly share those journeys with one another while taking the time to really pause and reflect on each one's journey.  Our team met on Saturday for dinner and spent 6.5 hours on this exercise.  Each one's journey was truly unique.  There was intentional vulnerability in the discussion - from the sharing of the journey, the ensuing discussion, and insight from the team.  I continue to learn more about each person - and I am amazed and blessed by their journey.

    Humor me for a moment and imagine that our team has just climbed Mount Journey and reached Trust Summit.  We're experiencing a new beginning of a new day together as the fog of self (ego, fear, control) is burnt off by the morning sunrise (vulnerability).  There's this brisk air of excitement of the new day....clarity, hope, inspiration, openness, respect.

    Last night in our leadership class, each team was asked to summarize what we've learned so far in this leadership series with respect to living out our values, faith and ethics in leadership.  Our team came up with "The Umbrella of Trust" - see picture to the left.

    We all have the umbrella, but we also have to be intentional in its use.  When the rain comes, we can either do nothing and get drenched and soggy with the elements of the storm or we can make the choice to open the umbrella and experience covering.  The elements we depicted in the picture were elements of self and of others - ego, fear, "in the box", conflict, etc....  We viewed the umbrella of trust as enabling each of us to navigate the storm - not necessarily get out of the storm.  When the umbrella of trust is open, the catalyst or enabler of the benefits of trust is intentional vulnerability.  Trust and vulnerability enable openness to feedback, respect, reconciliation, inspiration....all of the list in the picture above.  This whole concept is still forming in our minds....who knows, there may be more to come on this.

    In our Economics class, it was a night of critique and rebuttal presentations.  Each team's SWOT analysis was given to another team to be critiqued.  That critique was provided back to the original team so that they could put together a rebuttal.  Last night, each team was responsible for two presentations - 1) Critique of another team's paper and 2) Rebuttal of the critique on their own paper.  Similar to the night we had marketing presentations, I enjoyed watching each team present as it gave people who normally do not speak up in class a chance to talk.

    All of the presentations were good.  The exercise provided the opportunities to give constructive criticism and feedback to another team while receiving similar criticism and feedback on your own paper.  Some winced, squirmed and showed forced smiles as they fought back the temptation to defend themselves, while others graciously nodded their heads with understanding.  It is always hard to hear criticism, but I believe, as a whole (not just our team), our cohort is developing a trust for one another that we ultimately understand that we're all trying to help each other.  We're not here to try to make someone else look bad, but rather, we are encouraging each other to finish strong in this MBA marathon.

    Thank you team #2 for graciously receiving our critique and thank you team #3 for taking the time to read and critique our paper.  I had to open my umbrella of trust many times during the evening, but I'm so glad I understood my choice to do so.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Week 13: Passionography and Critique

    I left very early last Tuesday morning to drive to MS to visit with my mother.  About an hour into the journey I discovered that I had left my computer at home, so I was not able to get a jump start on my leadership assignment.  This week we had to list our strengths, values, skills, and enlist others to provide us with a list of what our top 5 things they most important to us.  Before I left for MS, I sent out my requests to friends, family, and employees for their feedback on those top 5 things and also requested a short paragraph on how they view my leadership. More on that shortly.

    Normal vision
    Same view with macular degeneration
    Forgetting my computer was at first irritating, but in some ways liberating, as it helped me to spend much more time with Mom on this trip.  This was a tough trip for me as I could tell that my mother has declined since my last visit.  She has dementia and macular degeneration.  The short-term memory loss, declination of her eyesight, and recent changes in her medications have made her more anxious - which is understandable.  It's hard to understand what a person sees with macular degeneration, but I found a good example that helps me understand it better as shown in these pictures from Wikipedia.  In the past, Mom relied heavily on my father to keep her medications straight, to help her navigate when in public, and even cover up her memory issues.  With Dad's passing, my brother keeps her medications straight, but she is not wanting to leave her home much because of her sight and her memory issues.  Thankfully, I was able to convince her to go out to dinner one evening and on another day to visit with her sisters (one of whom has advanced Alzheimer's).  All in all, I'm glad I was able to make the trip and have some quality time with her.  Time went by so fast that I missed visiting her sweet sweet neighbors that are the same as family to us, so I'll have to be more intentional on my next visit.

    While in MS, Thursday evening, I had a conference call with my learning team where we discussed our Economics assignment.  We had to critique another learning team's paper and be prepared to turn in that critique this Monday night.  We struggled collectively with the balance of not wanting to be too critical of the other team's paper, while making sure that we were objectively holding them accountable to the criteria that we all had to write our papers.  It was a very productive call and I felt compelled to share with the team just how much I genuinely appreciated them.  For the next few minutes, the rest of the team was sharing with each other their same sentiments.  It was a very nice ending to our phone call that evening.

    From: kamyabology.com
    Upon my return to Austin, I had to catch up on the work that I couldn't do without my computer.  As I began to read through all of the feedback that others had provided for the passionography assignment, I was humbled and appreciative by what I read.  I found this assignment to be one of the more difficult papers that I've had to write so far.  My main struggle was making sure that I would be true to myself and write exactly how I felt and thought in the paper rather than what I would think is expected.  After mulling this over for almost 5 hours (yes, seriously), I came to realization that there were no expectations on this assignment (except to complete it).  I, then committed to write straight from my heart and see where the paper goes.  After all, this class isn't intended to mold us into any one particular shape, but rather, to allow us to discover who we really are individually and then free us to live it out loud.  An hour and half later, the paper was finished.

    This evening's leadership class was quite introspective.  We were put into groups of three with other team members and that allowed us to get to know a couple other people that we don't normally interact with regularly.  We took the time to write out specific milestones in our life that were pivotal moments for us on our leadership journey.  I was astounded and inspired by the transparency the two people in my group.  We each ran out of time while telling our pivotal moment, so I hope to hear the rest of their story soon.  As exhausted as I was physically going into this evening, I find that I really come to life in this class.  I absolutely love this class!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Week 12: Friction....the good kind

    
    Image from school-for-champions.com
     What's the bear's problem in the picture? 
    He didn't read or heed the warning sign.
    This is the pivotal moment that I feel that I'm at right now.  All of the reading that we're doing for the leadership series class is really causing several paradigm shifts and basically creating a lot of friction inside.  I've got two choices: 1) Ignore the warning signs that appear on the billboard of my mind - warning me of the dangers of status quo; or 2) Listen, embrace, explore, evaluate, and adjust what my current realities are regarding my strengths, leadership, and general approach to dealing with people.

    I choose #2.

    Because of that choice, two words that keep challenging me this week.  The first word is "intentional".  It has been a theme in conversations with friends this week and was the theme within the bible study group that I participate.  I can choose #2 from the choices above all day long, but I have to be intentional about it.  I can't just take an intellectual journey, but need to be intentional about digging deeper and looking for opportunities to change and/or apply what I've learned into my daily walk.

    The second word is "friction".  As I try to embrace the things that I'm learning, it is causing growing pains.  Lots of friction inside, as I begin to remodel this metaphorical house.  It's a good friction though, not the typical friction that would connotate conflict with others, but rather it is conflict within myself as I confront the reality of who I am versus who I REALLY am.  This has lit a fire inside, that is a purging fire - transformational.  Deep, yes, I know.  But, that's the best I can do for this week to explain it, so chew on that a while.

    This week's reading assignments have been about "calling", "vocation", and "self-deception".  During the week, we read Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer.  The writer is very poetic, deep, and transparent.  I didn't love the book, but was definitely challenged by some of the content.  We complemented that reading with chapter 38 from the book, Business Leadership: A Josey-Bass Reader, Joan Gallos (editor).  But, the book that has really captured my attention and is causing the most friction inside and resulting in noticeable change outside, is the book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, Arbinger Institute.  I can't seem to put that book down.  It is well written in the same type of style of The Goal by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt.  I have typically considered myself diplomatic, easy to work with, open to criticism, and having a genuine concern for people.  This book has made me reexamine myself and challenge me to completely embrace the concept of living "out of the box".  Read the book!!

    I hope that I am not conveying, in any way, that this is an easy process.  Because, it is not.  However, I am absolutely loving this journey and would not trade it for the world!

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Leadership.....

    What a week!  It seems that most people that I've talked to this week were having especially busy weeks with their work and home lives.....OH, and we also had to study for our second economics test (joke intended as if it were an after thought HA).  As it turned out to be a busy week for us all, our learning team had another person from the class to join with us in our study session this weekend for the test.  Then, two of us decided to join his group the next day to continue the study.  That time studying together proved to be priceless and I think we all did well on the test.

    Leadership Study:
    Image from theadblog.com
    Last night I took the Strengths Finder survey online and got my report.  This survey is like the typical personality type survey where you answer questions by choosing one option over another.  There were 177 questions and I made myself answer the questions immediately without trying to over-think them. I asked my wife to read the report first to give me her first impression of it before I read it.  I always find the type of personality/strengths tests both annoying and intriguing.  Annoying because I don't like to be "categorized" or put "in a box", but yet it is intriguing, because I found that it was right on the money with 95% of how it attributed me.

    Additionally, I enjoyed the reading assignment for the class far more than I thought I would.  Because of the busy week, I didn't read the books until today.  I took a long lunch and read.  When I got to the book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by Arbinger Institute, I read the first five chapters as assigned and found that I didn't want to stop.  The story is engaging and you naturally want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

    Photo by Cammie Wilkerson
    Tonight, we spent time learning what others' strength attributes were and roamed the room interviewing one another about those strengths.  I found that completely fascinating.  I really appreciated the transparency of the discussion, not just from Dr. Ford's facilitation, but from my cohort.  A portion of our time dealt with the subject of vulnerability including a great video of Dr. Brene Brown discussing the value of vulnerability.  I shared with the cohort that I have always felt transparent and have not been resistant to being vulnerable, but still, the video challenges me to ask myself if I really am vulnerable or can I be more vulnerable.  I highly encourage you to check out that video...http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

    As I reflect on the week and this evening's classes, I find myself, as usual, appreciating my learning team, but the experiences of this week and the discussions in class tonight make me appreciate the total cohort that we're  on this journey together.  I think that appreciation started a couple of weeks ago when the individual presentations started, then last week with group presentations.  During those two weeks, I heard people speaking in class for the very first time.  Now tonight, we just went a little deeper together in class.  From someone that gets energy from learning about others and knowing their stories, this evening has supplied me with lots of energy.  So to my fellow cohort members, thank YOU.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Week 10: Time Flies....

    Image from blavish.com
    Preparation:
    Spring break....what spring break?  Actually, spring break couldn't have come at a better time.  While most undergrads were probably speeding off to home or vacation, our learning team was using the time to finish our marketing class project paper, presentation, Facebook project paper, and economics paper.  All were due on our return from spring break.
    I don't want to sound like we worked the whole time on the project, but we all did spend a lot of time on our projects.  We each found some time to "detox" for a few days during the "break".  Some went to SXSW, one went away to Houston, and my wife and I went to Dallas for a few days.  But, the break was needed for the rest and to catch up.

    Reflections and Expectations:
    Image from xvmercy.wordpress.com
    It's hard to imagine that our first class is coming to an end.  Preparation for tonight brought our team closer than we've been yet.  We're now working with much more understanding of each other's strengths (and weaknesses) as well as digging deeper on getting to know each other.  One evening we all met at Maudie's on 360 to have dinner together before we went to work on our projects.  Had a great time having each person share with the group one thing that no one would know about them.
    In our last meeting together on Sunday, we met for 6 hours to finish our projects.  We experienced the whole roller coaster ride downward, feeling the pressure to finish the projects, and peaking with multiple times of laughing at one another.  I'm really enjoying our team.....each and every one of them.  I believe this time together has helped put our team puzzle together.  (Ramon, that picture is for you....since you love puzzle pics so much)  :-)


    Class Time:

    Tonight was the last night for our Managerial Marketing class.  Since the class time ran out last week, four people had to do their individual presentations this week.  Once they finished, we went right into each group's presentations.  The four group projects involved: San Disk, Best Buy, NFL, and the State of Texas.  It was obvious that each team had put a lot of work into their presentations and I enjoyed seeing their team dynamics, style, and creativity.  All the teams did well with their presentations and I was equally proud of the performance of our team's presentation.  We then reviewed our Facebook projects and I'm happy to say our team won the "Likes" contest this go round.  We created a page for people to share their top 3 things they'd like to do before kicking the bucket.  Even today, another person joined the page and shared their bucket list.  We are going to leave the page up so visitors can continue to enjoy reading and even be inspired by others' bucket lists.   And with that....Managerial Marketing has come to a close.

    Economics:  Similar to the marketing class, we had our economics project paper due tonight.  Each team's paper will then be critiqued by a different learning team and then we will be given an opportunity to address that critique.  So, this should be an interesting few weeks ahead.  Tonight, we continued to cover the structure/characteristics of monopolies, monopolistic competitive, and oligopolies.  The highlight of the evening for me was when we got Dr. Estrada laughing so hard he couldn't continue explaining the concept of the Sweezy Oligopoly for  a couple of minutes.  It's always good to see your instructor laugh heartily!  The laughing was good, because the tension in the room was high as most seemed anxious about the test next week.  This test will primarily be on theory, so there's no problem sets to work through like we had for the last test.


    Personal Thoughts:
    During our two weeks between classes, I decided to invite a guy from one of the other learning teams to lunch.  I figure, if I'm going to be spending the next two years with these folks, I'd like to eventually know everyone's stories.  And wow, what a story he has.  We spent about 3 hours talking and I appreciate his transparency.
    After our economics class, three of us stayed behind to ask Dr. Estrada a few questions about the test.  On our way out, I had a good conversation with another member of the class and I've asked him if he'd share his story in a couple of weeks over lunch.
    My wife, Antoinette, and our dog, Dudley, for his 15th b'day.  
    While I am proudly biased towards our learning team, I am still reminded that our cohort has a lot of bright and talented people that I look forward to getting to know in our remaining time together.  Each person not only has a story, but a different perspective they bring to the cohort - perspectives that are valuable.
    Most importantly, I am so thankful for my wife being so supportive in this journey.  I've spent a lot of time in books, researching on the internet, and writing - even during our time in Dallas - and she has been nothing but understanding.  I can't convey how important that has been.
    Lastly, for the benefit of my learning team.  Here's the reason I was a little late for our last prep meeting together.  This is our dog, Dudley, and it was his 15th birthday and YES, we did give him cake (specially made for dogs) and ice cream.