Give it some gas

In high school I drove a hoopty, a 1978 Ford LTD Station Wagon. It was a tank. And I think it literally had the engine of a tank. Every morning I stopped on the way to school to get $5 in gas. And on Friday’s I got $5 in gas and a quart of 10W40. That car’s 4-barrel carburetor sucked gas into the engine so loudly you could hear it and you could actually watch the gas gauge drop.

In 1994, retro was not cool. And rolling into the Clay High School parking lot in that broadcast broadly my socio-economic reality. (We didn’t just look poor, we were poor.)  In truth I didn’t really care. Having a car– no matter what it looked like— was a luxury to me.

Lessons from The Beast

I want to share 3 lessons that The Beast taught me which apply to my life every day as I lead my family.

  1. Be happy for what you have not envious for what you don’t. The Beast is what I had and could afford. The crazy thing was that I was actually sharing it with my dad. Even though it was a piece of crap I don’t think I spent much time worrying about what others thought. And while I had friends who had nicer cars if someone thought less of me because of that car, I guess I just didn’t need friends like that. The same is true in adult life. I’m never going to have the nicest car or the best clothes or whatever. It’s not that I don’t see those things or even kind of want those things for my family. It’s that I invest energy in making the most out of what I do have instead of wasting energy on what I don’t have. The same is true with work. I could waste a lot of energy wishing we had x, y, or z thing at The Youth Cartel. Or, I could invest my energy in making the most with what we do have.
  2. Idling leads to stalls. If in doubt give it some gas. When I got to a red light… if I didn’t give it a little gas while sitting still, it’d stall. Heck, you could be driving down the road and it’d start to stall. The answer to both of those problems was GIVE IT SOME GAS. The same is true in life. I think human nature is to hit a resting point and just let things idle or when something doesn’t feel quite right to mash on the brakes and decide what to do after that. In our family, I feel like we coast a bit during the week so when the weekend comes, we hit the gas. Likewise, at work… I’m sure a lot of people are wondering if the Cartel is going to taper off and kind of go away. Ha! No baby, this month we are launching two brand new events for 2015, the Student Justice Conference and the Women in Youth Ministry Campference. Because hitting the gas is what we do.
  3. Get excited when it starts. You don’t drive an old car like my 1978 Ford LTD Station Wagon and not get stoked when it starts. In January of my senior year, right in the middle of a teacher strike, a nasty cold front brought sub-zero temperatures to South Bend for more than a week. And while my neighbors cute little brand new cars wouldn’t start, the Beast took two turns, winked it’s headlights, and roared to life. Sure it would have been awesome to have heat. But it started up and we were rolling when no one else was. In our house we celebrate starts. We get excited when one of our kids takes initiative to start something. Even if it’s their homework or a shower, doing it by yourself is a value to us. The same is true in how we work… we get excited when people start stuff. We don’t spend a lot of time wringing our hands about what we should do or shouldn’t do. If it’s aligned into what we’re all about, do it and let’s celebrate the fact that it started.

I’m not saying that this is a life philosophy. But it’s part of it. I’m a blue collar guy and these are blue collar things that permeate what I do every day.

Use what you have to your advantage. Keep momentum by giving it gas. Get excited when something works.

What about you? What did your first car teach you about life? 


When Great Ideas Overcome the Noise

When Great Ideas Overcome the Noise

Great ideas come into the world as quietly as doves. Perhaps then , if we listen attentively we shall hear, among the uproar of empires and nations, the faint fluttering of wings, the gentle stirrings of life and hope. Some will say this hope lies in a nation; others in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. Each and every one, on the foundations of their own suffering and joy builds for all.

Albert Camus, famous dead guy


How to become an innovator

Thomas Edison - The King of Chasing Stupid Questions
Thomas Edison – The King of Chasing Stupid Questions

“Well, there really are such things as stupid questions.”

This was a phrase uttered in my workshop last weekend. It was met with agreement among the crowd. But it struck me as an undermining of something core to the human experience.

Something deep inside me yawned at the cackles. And something else in me was a little bit offended.

You see, when we stop exploring stupid questions, and when we start mocking those who do, and when we think that exploring stupid questions is in and of itself a stupid proposition, innovation stops. And the dark ages begin collapsing in on us.

Innovation youth ministry

4 Outside of the Box Program Ideas for Youth Ministry

Outside of the box ideas wanted

Here’s 5 ideas that are outside of the norm for youth group. (Nothing wrong with traditional youth group, just sharing ideas.) My hope is that these ideas will spark you to create programs that your community actually needs as opposed to building your ministry purely on a combination of felt need & what you experienced as a teenager.

4 Outside of the Box Program Ideas for Youth Ministry

Church Leadership Innovation management

7 Ways to Build a Sustainable Movement

A flywheel is needed to build a sustainable movement.
A flywheel is a rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy.

Want to see change? Don’t start a church. Don’t start a business. Don’t hire a bunch of experts.

Those things are great. But they are a bit finite in their ability to affect macro-level-change in society.

Instead, start a movement of people.

And if you really want to see change, start a sustainable movement. As in, something that’ll go beyond you, outpace you, and grow bigger than you can imagine.

A sustainable movement starts with you and grows a life of its own.

It is possible. It is within your skill set. And it just might be what God wants you to do. 


Unleash your awesome for good

Such a beautiful portrait of what can be done for good when you really unleash your true self.

It makes me wonder… if you follow Jesus you were created for good works. (Ephesians 2:10) All too often we focus on the good works part and rush to do stuff. But maybe you’ll find what your good works are simply by leaning into discovering what you were created for? 

Can I get an amen?


Front-line innovation


Putting a flywheel on a bike to store lost energy? I ride my bike quite a bit, it’s the cheapest and fastest way I can get around town. This is a relatively simple solution for wasted energy of stopping for a red light.

Here’s what I know about innovation. It’s never come out of a big companies R&D department. Professional R&D departments are a waste of corporate dollars largely because there is a tie between desperation and innovation.

There are only 2 reliable sources of innovation, in my experience.

  1. Hungry entrepreneurs – Desperate for their next paycheck, backed against the wall, misunderstood and unappreciated, many of our best inventions came from these people.
  2. Front-line soft innovations – A core problem with companies who fail to create new ideas is that they don’t listen to the people doing the work. They might be friendly with them but they don’t truly listen to the solutions their front-line workers say they need every day.

What does that have to do with you? Everything. Our society is desperate for brand new freshly minted inventions. And those of us who manage people need to develop regular ways to listen to the front-line workers– elevating their ideas to the position where they can create the sof-innovation you need.