Christian Living

A Fall to Grace

One day morning will dawn, your eyes will open, and you will awaken with the literal reality that the dream you had for yourself is over and it’s time to move on.

I can think to specific days in 2000, 2003, 2008, and most recently in summer 2011 when I rolled out of bed with the knowledge that I’d just crossed a line. The dreams I knew were gone. And I had to find new dreams.

In each case, those mornings felt like I’d just fallen from a place of positional power, security, and recognition. Even in going from one role to another– even if that new role was “better” than the one I’d left, it still felt like a fall.

Perhaps it is a guy thing? But much of who you are and how you think of yourself on a day-to-day basis is wrapped up in what you do, who you work with, and the people you do stuff with. When that’s gone– whether by choice or not– you experience this unmooring free fall feeling.

While other leaders have experienced ugly falls from grace I have never experienced that. Instead, in times where the things I knew are suddenly gone because I’ve moved on to something else… I’ve experienced something I can only describe as a fall to grace.

The free fall feeling of change always lands in the loving arms of a God who has nurtured and cared for me from the beginning. And those strong palms support my back as I try to get my bearings. God’s grace supports me, lifts me up, and the warmth of that palm reminds me that I’ll be fine.

To know Hope you must know Despair

Despair is not the enemy of hope. Frustration and anxiety may not be your friends but they are repeatedly wrestled on your way to hope. Over the years, plenty of people have called me overly hopeful– almost stupid hopeful. From my eyes I only know summits of hope because I have been in great depths of despair. In the darkness of that valley I’ve cried out to God, “What am I doing here! I can’t do this anymore. I hate every last step of this! AAAAHHHH!!!!” The echoes of those moments haunt me.

But when you’ve been there– when you’ve screamed in that valley and heard those cries echoed back empty? Then you discover that any step above that is a step towards hope.

But knowing hope, truly living a hope-filled, is a reflex against despair.

To know Faith you must know Doubt

It perplexes me that some have made doubt the enemy of faith. I would argue that you can’t know what faith is until you know what doubt is. Both are invisible. Both are real. And both are internal, silent motivators of our daily actions.

In putting both feet on either side of the faith/doubt teeter totter I desire balance while one always wins over the other. I’m either standing on faith or standing on doubt.

Falling into the arms of grace isn’t an action of doubt or faith. But the resolve that comes through pushing against doubts gravity to take action is a step of faith. That is what reassures me that grace truly will catch me.

To know Grace you must know Failure

One of my mentors, at each of these moments over the past decade, has asked me… “What are the things you are running away from by doing this and what are the things you are running to?” Even in roles where everyone has labeled me a success I know there were failures. I know there were expectations unmet. I know I expressed attitudes I shouldn’t have. There were many times when I worked on what I wanted to work on to the neglect of what others thought I should be working on.

Even on the road to success there are many failures you have to deal with. Being honest about that with myself and with others helps me discover what grace really means in my life.

Because of my failures I don’t deserve anything good. But good keeps coming my way. That’s not a reflection of my character or timing or anything else. But it is a reflection of the character of God.

Friends- I have no idea what is going on in your life. But I do know that we will all encounter times where we experience free fall. My encouragement? Fall into the receiving hands of grace.

Christian Living

Five ridiculously hard steps to a better you

Tim is right. There is a whole lot of lying for the sake of SEO in blogs these days. While there might be five easy steps to creating a Facebook page for your business, there aren’t five easy steps for everything.

Becoming a better you is ridiculously hard. I know it not from issuing advice but from walking through a few difficult seasons in my own life and finding success, happiness, and satisfaction on the other side.

Here are five ridiculous hard lessons I’ve learned towards become a better me:

  1. You often have to say no to the wrong opportunity when you have no idea when the right one might come along. For me this has meant, several times, shoving off into the great Lake of the Unknown with no idea if I’d end up where I needed to or have the financial resources to keep going.
  2. Sometimes you have to do things you are dispassionate about in order to get to things you are passionate about. Sure, I probably look like I’ve lived a storied life. But I’ve had jobs I hated. And I’ve done countless things I hate in order to finance what I love. Walk around any art museum and you’ll see that most of those people didn’t become famous until they were dead. All of their life they did work they hated to pay for the work we adore after they are gone.
  3. Being the smartest person in the room is not nearly as important as being the hardest worker in the room. Some of my friends joke with me that I never sleep. That’s not true. But success has never come easy for me. Any success I’ve achieved has been the result of ridiculously hard work. And today’s success only got me here. To get somewhere else I’ll need more and more hard work.
  4. You can’t figure it out on your own. When I make big decisions on my own I usually make a mistake. But when I take the time to add plurality to my decision making process I make wiser , better informed choices. That’s a frustrating, personal, slow, arduous, and humiliating experience. It’s not that I don’t know what’s best for me. It’s that I’m so “in it” emotionally that I have a hard time seeing the bigger picture or asking the really obvious questions of myself. Left to my own, I make a decision and then generate a full-proof construction to justify my decision.
  5. Failure is not the enemy. Failing to see the opportunity in everything is. Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We consider them both genius’ but maybe they mixed their natural born intelligence with a unique ability to fail well better than their peers?
What are some ridiculously hard lessons you’ve learned on your way towards success? Let’s learn from the wisdom of the crowd by sharing a comment. 
Church Leadership

Christian Refugees

Photo by Takver via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Mid-City, the area of San Diego I live in, has long been a place where refugees start their new lives. Families have relocated here from war-torn African nations, fled the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia in the 1980s, or even escaped to here from extreme poverty in Central America.

People from all over the world end up here to start over.

Traumatized. Homesick. Hopeful. Confused. Off-balance. Grateful.

Assimilation is both one of their greatest fears and one of their great hopes.

Their lives are conflicted. Emotionally bouncing back and forth between hope and despair. They are here to seek a better life. But their hearts burn to go home and start a better life there.

You Find Christian Refugees Everywhere

There are lots of Christian refugees out there, too. People who grew up in church but fled somewhere along the way.

You find them involved in local politics. Or coaching your kids soccer teams. Or living next door.

They’ve fled the church. They’ve fled church culture and church life to seek a place where they could live out what they believed more than the church was comfortable with. All they wanted was to love God with everything they had and love their neighbors as themselves… but the church was hostile towards them. (Perceived or real) They didn’t fit the program. Or the mission. Or the pastor’s agenda.

So they fled. They left quietly, found community elsewhere, and settled into a new life.

They’ve rejected the abuse of the church but not Jesus. Disenfranchised but not disassociated.

But they miss it. A piece of their life is empty. Just like the refugees who play soccer at the park down the street from me, they always hold out the simplest hope that they can one day return home. Reunited with the people they love without the fear of danger.

When there is peace, they say– When there is something to return home to– they dream of returning.

Church leadership is at fault

Just like you can’t blame refugees leaving a country on the people fleeing, church leaders need to own the fact that they have caused a massive exodus from the church. Jesus tells us, his disciples, to call people to Himself. We need to quickly rectify our internal squabbles, give every person in our congregation a voice again, and go out to seek reconciliation with those who have fled.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

To make peace. We need to go out and make peace.

Church Leadership

What the Fall of Jim Tressel Has to do with Pastors

Jim Tressel went from hero to zero in 12 months.

Winning had bought Tressel respect in the state of Ohio. First at Youngstown State and then on the national stage at Ohio State.

As the success increased so did Tresell’s insulation from everyday scrutiny. In the eyes of fans and the administration he could do no wrong. Certainly there were warning signs everywhere. Most notably was Maurice Clarett. As a freshmen, Clarett help the Buckeyes win the 2002 National Championship. But was soon overcome by scandal, eventually being dismissed from the university. There would be others. But none were as vocal or with the national voice that Clarett garnered.

All the while Tressel’s name stayed out of the spotlight. Clarett was a bad kid from the wrong part of town while Tressel was the misunderstood golden child. This would be the response to every allegation to come. Tressel was unaware of the problem and offenders were dishonest, bad kids.

Off and on Ohio State players were punished for infractions of NCAA rules. But Columbus is a one-horse town and no journalist dared to take on what everyone was seeing– lots and lots of NCAA infractions. With all of the success in the football program there was lots and lots of money flowing. No one inside of Columbus was going to blow the whistle and risk their livelihood. Everyone claimed Tressel knew nothing.

The wheels began to fall off nationally during the 2010 season as allegations surfaced that some players had sold or traded some memorabilia in exchange for tattoos. Suddenly, the spotlight was on the program to discover what was really going on. 5 players were suspended for 5 games in the 2011 season by Tressel. This was quickly followed up by a self-imposed 5 game suspension that Tressel took. The spin was that he chose to do it this way so that the players would see that he was the kind of leader who took it on the chin when he got in trouble.

Fans of Ohio State bought it. (And even revered him more for his valiant leadership.) But the national media and non-OSU fans smelled the rotting corpse of a cover-up in the trunk of Tressel’s trophy room.

It all crashed down a few weeks ago as Tressel stepped down when tipped off that Sports Illustrated was about to publish their investigation which revealed systemic violations over and 8 year period. The article documents that Tressel wasn’t ignorant of all of the violations. Instead, he was often involved in the cover-up, and in some instances actually orchestrated inappropriate benefits for players and their families.

Even in his resignation Tressel maintain his arrogant posture. He pretended to fall on his sword and say his resignation was not an admission of guilt but to protect the reputation of the university he loved.

It won’t work. While Ohio State fans are living in denial. The NCAA will act and the punishments will be severe. There’s a good chance that the NCAA may actually shut the program down for 1-2 years as a result of the systemic problems. In all likelihood, since he’ll have to serve suspensions earned while at OSU at any future NCAA job, Tressel is out of college football for life.

It is a sad ending to anyone’s career. But was also entirely of his own doing.

Preventing Tresselgate as a Church Leader

We live in a time where church leaders are put on pedestals similar to that of Jim Tressel. (At least in Evangelical circles) People identify with their pastor so strongly that it’s not uncommon to associate the name of the church with the name of the pastor. People go to Rick Warren’s church, Bill Hybel’s church, Andy Stanley’s church, Rob Bell’s church, Joel Osteen’s church, Mark Driscoll’s church, John Piper’s church, etc. It’s completely ridiculous that we do that, but we do.

A dangerous double-edged sword. On the one hand the church benefits from the notoriety of their pastor. On the other the notoriety of the pastor is the largest threat the organization faces to its present reality and future success of large organizations. The net result is that the pastor lives in a protected bubble. That doesn’t mean he can do no wrong. It just means that if he does wrong everyone in his life is going to do whatever they can to keep that from the public since his failure impacts their financial security.

Practically speaking, how do we prevent Tresselgate?

  1. Leadership Transparency- I’m all about elder rule in a church. And I’m all about staff teams largely governing their day-to-day operations. But elder meetings should not meet behind closed doors with no ability for anyone in the church to intimately know what’s going on, ask questions when appropriate, and foster a sense of transparency. Likewise, the elders should be congregationally selected and scrutinized as overseers of the congregation and the staff. (The staff can’t pick elders– That’s illogical for their role as overseers.) And their meetings should be open to the general public. Just like municipal boards they should have open and closed sessions. But reserve closed sessions exclusively for personnel and legal matters.
  2. Whistle blowers protected- In most secular work environments there is some level of protection for staff who blow the whistle on inappropriate behavior. The #1 reason this got so big at Ohio State was that no one in the athletic department blew the whistle on Tressel’s years of stuff going on. (The SI article documents this well.) There is no protection for church staff. If little things get dealt with without fear of reprisal they don’t escalate to big things later. A little bit of money miss-spent, a little bit of power abused… that’s just life and can be dealt with. But not dealing with it creates a snowball effect that will one day destroy the entire mission.
  3. Time off from the platform- Early in my leadership development a mentor taught me that leadership prowess wasn’t determined by what happened when I was there. She measured my performance as a leader by what happened with my team when I wasn’t there. We need to create that environment in the church today. It’s great to have figurehead leaders who are amazing communicators. But if those people are truly leaders of a movement of God, they will be measured by their ability to put others in their place. Andy Stanley had a nice-sounding sermon a few years ago built on the premise, “What do you do when you are the most powerful person in the room?” The answer to that question is to be like Jesus and disperse the power to your disciples… and then step away. The power of Jesus’ church isn’t central leadership. It’s that it’s empowered every person to be a priest with direct access to the Father! We need to affirm the priesthood of all believers and get our leaders off the platform.
  4. Don’t believe the hype about yourself- I don’t believe any church leader wants to be on a pedestal. Any “powerful” church leader I’ve ever met is wholly uncomfortable with the reverence they receive. It seems to me that gross failures happen when the person starts to believe the hype about themselves. Fundamental to the problem is that many of these people are the most successful people they know. God blessed them and it just happened. If you find yourself on a pedestal do whatever it takes to find some friends where you are an absolute nobody. It’ll do your soul good.
  5. Cheaters never prosper- Eventually, whatever it is that you are hiding will be public. Plausible deniability never works for long. The best thing you can do is to operate a clean program… even if that means you win less.

What are other ways you think church leaders can prevent Tresselgate from destroying their ministry?

Culture Television

Take it like a man

Last night I watched an hour-long interview with Jesse James. (West Coast Choppers, ex-husband to Sandra Bullock)

Pier Morgan, who conducted the interview, did his best to find an excuse that Jesse could latch onto as to why he had behaved the way he had.

  • Was it because your father beat you?
  • Were you lonely when Sandra was away working on movies?
  • Were you trying to maintain an image of being a bad boy?
  • Do you blame the paparazzi for shining light on the situation?
  • Were you using drugs?

Down the list Mr. Morgan goes, trying to find a psychobabble-worthy reason why this man had cheated on his wife.

Jesse’s answer?

Here’s a summary of what he said during the interview: It was my fault. I take 100% responsibility. It’s no ones fault but mine. I’ve hurt her. I’ve asked for forgiveness from her. She has given it. I was a horrible person unfit to love anyone and I’ve had to learn to love myself. My upbringing didn’t lead me to this, I made my own choices.

The level of honesty displayed was refreshing. No spin. No softening the blows. Just take it like a man because you brought it on yourself.

When asked if he thought that discussing this stuff and writing about it might hurt Sandra’s feelings he acknowledged that it might, but that she understood he was just out to promote his book. Who admits that?

Dealing with Failure

Dealing with failure is part of life. It is unavoidable that you will mess up. It probably won’t be as blatant or as messy or as public as Jesse’s affair but you will have to deal with the ramifications just the same.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I need to fail well. Hiding from mistakes, oversights, and outright bad things I’ve done doesn’t help anything. It just makes it worse.

I had a mentor early in my career that taught me how to talk about my own failures in a team setting.

  • Lead with the failure – Don’t bury it in agenda. Come right out and say it because it’s the #1 agenda item.
  • Follow up with how it happened – Don’t just gloss it over, explain how it happened in as much detail is needed. Others might learn from how you got to your mistake.
  • Tell us how you’re fixing it – If you don’t know than ask for help. But you better have a plan for how you’ll fix it or else your silence is giving the team the most logical solution…
  • End with apologizing/taking ownership of the mistake – Don’t weasel out of it. Don’t accept someone else’s apology. Own that mistake, learn from it, and move on.

In short, while failure may display a lack of character which defines you for a moment, dealing with failure well displays the type of character that can define you for a lifetime.

What have you learned about dealing with your mistakes?

youth ministry

Over-communicate with your leaders

Want to avoid confusion with your team? Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

I define a leader as someone who takes people somewhere they would otherwise not go on their own.

All-too-often, as I look back on my life in leadership, my tendency is always to get a mile ahead of my team because I have under-communicated the basics with them.

Why are we doing this? What’s our intent? What do we want to get out of this experience? Who are we targeting with our ministry? Why are you serving? How can we accomplish our goals? When is the best time to do this? On and on.

Every once in a while I’d get this feedback: “I know you have a reason for everything we do, and you’ve given us all the information about what we are doing, but I am not understanding why/how this is going to happen.” When I was young in leadership I somehow too this as a compliment. But now I see it for what it is… a weakness I need to address.

When my team lacks focus and drive to execute the vision– That’s my fault not theirs. I tend to communicate the vision too little and the share details too much. In the moment, the logistical details seem more important than the over-arching vision. But in the end, you need both.

You will have leaders who are OK knowing stuff as they go. But to really take a ministry somewhere you need to execute along the way to accomplish the vision.

3 Ways I combat my tendency to under-communicate

  1. Give people the big picture often. Before each ministry cycles starts, (school year, calendar year, however your church does it) schedule a meeting with key leaders to go over the plan. When I do this I present a white paper for the year as well as the teaching calendar, event calendar, and a description of a discipled person. In other words, I start with the end in mind and show my team how we’re going to get there together. In youth ministry, at about the same time, I host a parents meeting and go over the same information… plus some other stuff like cost of events, permission slips, etc.
  2. Put your pedagogical statement out there. It feels cheesy to think about, and I totally stole it from Doug Field’s youth ministry classic, “Purpose-driven Youth Ministry,” but I think it’s useful to put the purpose for a ministry, in writing, on everything you do. Even better, when I am teaching a lesson and there is a handout for leaders, I also like to give them a quick sentence about what we are teaching. “The main idea of tonight’s lesson is that students will learn ______.” This puts your leaders on the inside, thinking of your teaching strategy right alongside of you, and values their intelligence/abilities.
  3. Get stuff to people early. This is the one I wrestle with the most because you’ll always have some people who feel like they need every detail when you can only provide the big picture. Such as, I have volunteers who want small group questions 1-2 weeks in advance so they can think about it in advance. The problem is that I can’t give that because I rarely actually work on the talk until 24-48 hours before I teach it. But I can tell them the passage and the main idea of the lesson. And usually, that’s enough. The same is true for events and trips. I need to give them the information early enough where they can rearrange their schedule and jump on board to help. If I forget, or am lacking, in that then I should expect them to bail on me.
youth ministry

You aren’t going to change

On Evolution, Biology Teachers Stray From Lesson Plan

Researchers found that only 28 percent of biology teachers consistently follow the recommendations of the National Research Council to describe straightforwardly the evidence for evolution and explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology. At the other extreme, 13 percent explicitly advocate creationism, and spend at least an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.

That leaves what the authors call “the cautious 60 percent,” who avoid controversy by endorsing neither evolution nor its unscientific alternatives. In various ways, they compromise.

Read the rest

Here’s the kicker to the article: (read carefully)

But Dr. Moore is doubtful that more education is the answer. “These courses aren’t reaching the creationists,” he said. “They already know what evolution is. They were biology majors, or former biology students. They just reject what we told them.

No doubt this article will make a lot of Christians chuckle. As a whole we aren’t big fans of evolution, nor are we fans of the compulsory indoctrination of children to the theory.

In truth– we should cringe at what this reveals about our condition in youth ministry. We do the same thing.

Just like schools can’t get biology teachers to teach evolution the way the government requires, we often refuse to change the ways we minister to students. Just like America’s biology teachers, we can read study after study or attend seminar after seminar… but we are ultimately going to teach the way we want to teach using methods we want to use. To quote the article, “They just reject what we told them.

If it was good enough to reach us, it must be good enough to reach today’s teenagers. Right? Wrong.

Truth + human behavior = no change

  • I could overwhelm you with evidence that your communication methods are ineffective. And you wouldn’t change.
  • I could show you longitudinal research proving that your programs don’t deepen a students walk with Jesus. And you wouldn’t change.
  • I could prove, from your own experience, that other methods of teaching Biblical truth could deeply impact your students. And you would not change.
  • I could show you study after study that shows that the way you do youth ministry reaches a decreasing percentage of students in your population. And you wouldn’t change.
  • I could point you to studies which show how certain types of strategies affect long-term change while others seem like they affect long-term change but ultimately don’t. And you wouldn’t change.

That’s not how change works. You and I don’t change for rational reasons. We say we do. But we don’t.

You can’t expect change from people who won’t acknowledge their failure.

Some of you will read that list above and say… “But if you showed me that evidence, I’d change.” No– you probably wouldn’t. You might say you will. But if I come back to you in six months you’d fill my time with excuses.

  • This is a big organization, it takes time to turn the Titanic. (True, but it sank in just a few hours.)
  • I couldn’t convince leadership to make any of those changes. (Um, and they call you a leader?)
  • We already had a plan when we learned those things, but we are planning on implementing them this summer. (Really? I bet if the internet broke in your building you’d get it fixed today.)
  • I want to do things differently but we run this ministry as a team. (Consensus is the way to go. Just ask the federal government how that’s working for them.)

Change is intrinsic. That’s why extrinsic evidence is often a waste of brain cells.

You won’t change who you minister to until something changes in your heart. You won’t change how your programs work until something changes inside of you. Your behavior won’t change until you take the time to internalize who you are, what you believe, why you do this, and count the cost of change.

Take a moment to read this from Alcoholics Anonymous. They deal with the same problem every day. Change starts inside of you!

Each of us in youth ministry is faced with the same challenge. We are called by God to help adults form meaningful connections with adolescents. And we are called to go and reach students with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Will we continue to do things the way we have always done them and watch the church reach 8% of the population. 7%, 5%, 2%… 1%. Or will we snap out of our trance, look in the mirror, and make the changes in ourselves needed to reverse that trend?

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:14

Church Leadership Good News

Cultural Engagement Strategy


Photo by Stuart Boreham via Flickr (Creative Commons)


Have you ever opened your eyes underwater? You know, without goggles?


All of the underwater world is a blur. Sure, you can see stuff but you can only see things nearby and its nothing like what you see on a National Geographic special.

Then someone hands you a set of goggles and you go back underwater. It’s an entirely different experience. If you are shallow enough and the water is clear, you can see the bottom. You can see fish and rocks and plant life.

The difference is quick and obvious.

This is the same experience I feel that most people in full-time church ministry go through. They are underwater in the culture they live in without goggles on.

Most churches are failing to reach the culture because they lack a strategy to engage the culture they live in.

The staff needs goggles so they can actually see what is happening, not just 5 feet in front of their face and fuzzy, but all the way to the bottom!

Any ministry professional can do the math. Add up the amount of people who are actually attending the churches in their community, divide it by the population and you can see that the Gospel is not winning. In most communities you’ll find less than 10% of the population goes to any church more than once a month. In the most reached communities you’ll find about 30%. (Go ahead, spend the 30 minutes to do so with your zip code if you don’t believe me.)

That’s an F for the church. The church is underwater in the culture it is supposed to thrive in. Jesus calls us to reach the whole world (100%) with the message of the Gospel and we’re at 3%-30%. Not awesome.

It’s no wonder why…

  • Christian colleges and seminaries focus little on engaging culture. I’ve visited a fair number of them and most of their students describe their campuses as a bubble. (Meaning they don’t engage the community around them very well.)
  • Churches are notoriously insulated from culture.
  • Churches tend to hire people who have spent the vast majority of their adult life either in a Christian college, a seminary, or the local church. All places which are notoriously bad at engaging with culture.

The result is an “us vs. them” mentality. It’s a simpletons philosophy of cultural engagement.

And it isn’t working.

I once visited a church that had the following truism painted in big letters on the wall of their foyer. “Through you we have access to every single person in our community.

That is true. But if we aren’t teaching people how to engage with those people in a meaningful way it’s empty access.

I believe that people working at churches across the country and around the world are good people. They are in ministry because they want to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. (e.g. The right reason for being in ministry.)

I believe that the vast majority of people who are frustrated in their ministry calling are frustrated because they feel stuck… a ministry life isn’t what they thought it was… and that frustration will be eased if they stop focusing their time on running programs for people who come to church and start focusing their time on reaching people who don’t come to church.

5 Steps to Creating a Cultural Engagement Strategy for Your Church

  1. (observe) Lock your church staff out of the office for a week and each of them visit 10 parishioners at their places of work. (More on this idea)
  2. (engage) Implement 3 of these 10 ways your church can be good news to the closest public school to your church office.
  3. (engage) Implement 3 of these 10 ways your church can be good news to the neighborhood your church building is in.
  4. (strategy) Schedule a 2 day off-site retreat with your entire staff and leadership team to share what you’ve learned in items 1-3, and create a strategy which continues to foster engagement between members of the church and the community the church ministers in. (Cover my travel and I will facilitate this retreat for free, if your church will commit to doing items 1-3 beforehand.)
  5. (implementation) Take whatever steps are necessary to become a church wholly focused (Maybe possessed is the right word?) on meaningfully engaging the needs of your churches immediate area for the sake of the Gospel prevailing.

Before people will hear Good News you have to become a church which is Good News.

management maturity mistakes Notre Dame

You’ve got to finish

My little football heart got broken last night. First, San Diego State gave up a touchdown with 50 seconds left to giveaway a victory to #25 Missouri. That would have been their best start in 30+ years. Then, a few hours later, Notre Dame gave up a silly trick play for a touchdown to lose to Michigan State.

In both cases, it was about finishing the game. Both teams were sloppy. In one game, a lack of tackling discipline cost them the game. In the other, being over-aggressive cost them an embarrassing lose and landed them on Sportscenter for all the wrong reasons.

For those of us who lead, both games were a powerful reminder for finishing.

In life, just like in football, your last play leaves a lasting memory. No one cares how well SDSU or Notre Dame played on Saturday. We’ll only remember the embarrassing finish.

Do you have a strategy for finishing a project well?

hmm... thoughts

Lessons from a Fail

Photo by Cake Wrecks

Have you ever had a colossal failure in your work? The type of failure that you just want to look around at everyone and yell, “Jenga!

I had one of these recently. A project failed so badly– I felt like the kid who struck out in the last inning with a man on third.

Here are a few things I try to take away from a failure:

  • Failure is statistically interesting. I’m a highly emotional person in my decision-making, but I am also typically emotional when the data backs up my theory. So when something crashes and burns that means that my data was bad. And that’s interesting.
  • Don’t cross that idea off the list just yet. One of the things I’ve noticed in companies/individuals who are failures is that they give up on a good idea to quickly. “We tried that before and it didn’t work.”  That’s a phrase you hear from people who are so afraid of failing that they are only looking for snake oil. Maybe the timing was wrong? Maybe the execution was bad? Maybe your location/placement was bad?
  • Working harder rarely significantly impacts my results. My instinct is… when the plan is going bust to just work harder and longer. But experience has taught me that holding onto a failure instead of letting it just fail is an energy burn. A failure is a failure no matter how hard I work.
  • I need to study the fail in order to get away from the anecdotal reasons to the real reasons for the failure. That typically means I have to beat some stumps and dig through some data before I can really learn from the mistake. It might end up being something simple… and it might be something complex. But until I put on my forensic glasses I’m just not learning anything.
  • A failure doesn’t make me a failure. This is where playing sports teaches you about redemption! There is a good chance I’ll be in the exact same situation again another time… not learning, recognizing, and adapting from that previous failure… that’s what makes me a failure.
  • When a project completely failures to deliver, despite my ability to adapt the plan, sometimes this reveals a God aspect. At the end of the day I can work as hard as I can or plan my best plan but if it isn’t meant to be I need to be OK with that in recognition that I’m not the author of my life.