hmm... thoughts

Run Your Moobs Off

Yes. I just went there. Seinfeld jokes never go out of style.

Moobs – Unsightly man boobies.

Forget all of that Biggest Looser emotional stuff about being fat. “I don’t want my kids to know their dad is fat. I want to live longer. I need a new strart.” Yada. Yada. Yada. That’s all just TV psychobabble to me. If it works for you, awesome. But that show just makes me hungry. I love that there is a commercial during the weigh-ins so I have time to refill my ice cream bowl.

One thing I hate about being out of shape is where all of those extra candy bars, slices of pizza, and cheeseburgers end up. The belly, the butt, and for me… my upper chest. Blech.

And since I have the kind of friends who aren’t shy about pointing out my moobs I figure it’s probably time to do something about them.

So the last couple of weeks my running mantra has been: Run your moobs off.

Sure. It’s a bit crass. And surely it’s not Oprah approved. But it’s silly and makes me giggle and work hard at the same time. Right now, I’m about halfway to my initial goal of running a 5K without stopping and with just 5 weeks to go… I have many more hours of running my moobs off to go.

No easy way out

Whether I’m around professional golfers or big-time Christian leaders– one thing has been clear: It’s not merely that they are talented. It’s that they took a little bit of talent, a golden opportunity, and out-worked all of their peers to become the best.

The same thing is available to all of us.

Some people look at successful people with jealous eyes. They think, “Surely, they just got lucky.” Probably a little bit. But they also took the good fortune of an opportunity and made something out of it. Whatever their specialty is they have worked harder and smarter than you have.


Whatever your goal is… there’s no easy option coming.

For me, right now, it’s to run this 5K. For you? I don’t know what your goal is. But I do know this one fact:

You’ll just have to run your moobs off.

illustrations management

The Innovation Gap

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~ William Arthur Ward

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” ~ Steve Jobs

I don’t pretend to know what today’s problems are for you.

But this much I do know–

  • The best ideas comes from those on the front lines. That’s the great joy of innovation. Today’s heroes count their riches while tomorrows heroes work all night.
  • Avoiding failure is a failure in itself. The trick to creating new stuff is to fail fast. Risk isn’t the enemy, comfort is.
  • Celebrate every milestone. A step towards your ultimate goal is still a step forward. Plus, moving forward will gain you momentum.
  • Every person has a creative mind. Don’t sell anyone short. Rarely are the best things innovated alone. Your best idea might come from listening to another person talk about the same problem.
  • Look at your problem from every angle. The best putters in golf walk all the way around their shot.
hmm... thoughts


  • Do you believe in yourself?
  • Are you proud of yourself?
  • In quiet moments do you have positive or negative thoughts about yourself?
  • When you are at work, how do you feel about your work environment? Does being there energize you or steal your joy?
  • When you are at home, how do you feel about your home environment? Does being there energize you or steal your joy?

For some people, their whole identity is wrapped up in playing Eeyore in the real life drama they star in. Each day is a disappointment and they exude a “why bother?” attitude.

Others play the role of Charlie Brown. Life could smack them in the face daily, their best friend could humiliate them, and their dreams could shatter– but they wake up with a generally positive life outlook on the next day.

Three things I’ve learned about this stuff that is worth noting:

  1. Anyone can choose to be an Eeyore or Charlie Brown. We all have equal potential to be either character.
  2. How people feel when they are at your home or office dramatically impacts the bottom line. However you measure success at your home or at your office will be greatly impacted by the positive or negative feelings people who are there feel about being there.
  3. A single person flavors the pot one way or the other. I’ve been in negative work environments where one person comes in and is the catalyst for the whole group to feel more positive about themselves. And we’ve experienced the opposite at home when one person has a negative outlook and it ruins it for everyone.

Sadly, many Christians perpetrate the lie that in order to really “get it” as a believer that you need to put on your Eeyore costume. I’ve visited churches where the whole staff has a loser complex. (Their success or failure comes from the same place of dissatisfaction and self-loathing.) And I’ve visited homes so positive they don’t even notice (or care) that they have roaches.

This makes no sense. Jesus didn’t die for us so that we’d wallow in our sin. Quite the opposite. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

What’s the point?

You might not have the ability/power/opportunity to change anything about where you live or work today. But you always have the power to change the flavor of the pot with your attitude.

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.
golf management Marketing

3 Qualities of Successful People

Photo by SearchNet Media via Flickr (Creative Commons)
I have a lifelong obsession with golf. It started in 2nd grade when my parents scraped together enough money for a starter set and a series of playing lessons at a local par 3 course. Even though neither of them were serious players– I guess they thought I’d enjoy it. And I did. A lot.

Don’t read that the wrong way. I’m not a country club kid. I’ve never belonged to a course where I got my own locker or had an account on file with the restaurant.

Instead, I grew up playing city-owned munis and family-owned courses. In middle school, my first membership to the local golf course cost my family $50. That also included an annual pool membership, ice rink membership, and anything else the Mishawaka Parks Department charged money for. I didn’t grow up playing with kids named Chip or Trevor. We were more of an Adam, Mike, and Tim kind of crowd. But golf was my obsession. All summer long, every day, I play 27, 36, or 45 holes of golf.

Here’s what I learned about success in golf that translates to life: We don’t have equal access to success

One fact that I love about golf, especially professional golf, is that anyone can become a professional in 7 days. Unlike any other professional sport on the planet I can start on Monday as a nobody and win a million dollars on Sunday. Just about anyone can enter a qualifier. And if you manage to qualify you are in the same tournament as the card carrying professionals on Thursday. And if you make the cut on Saturday, then manage to win on Sunday– they will hand you a big check and a Tour Card for the rest of the season.

Fat chance trying that in baseball, football, or basketball.

But that almost never happens. While there are several PGA Tour members who rose from poor backgrounds to earn their card on Tour I can’t name a single person who is currently on Tour who started as a Monday qualifier and turned a good 7 days into a career.

It can happen, but it is nearly impossible.

Instead, if you look at those who made it, you’ll see that their success is a combination of 3 qualities.

  1. Talent – Talent is the constant. Talent is the difference between learning skills well enough to be pretty good and being a winner. Over the years I’ve played with and coached hundreds of people. But when you walk the course with a person who has a natural talent for the game… it’s amazing. Most amazing is that these players can rarely describe to you the mechanics of what they are doing. They just try stuff and it works.
  2. Ambition/hard work – Talent isn’t enough. I’ve met plenty of talented players. Each high school team of 12-15 young men had 3-4 players with enough talent to take them to the next level. But if they aren’t single-focused enough they won’t advance in the game. An ambitious person never stops practicing. They putt in their living room. Hit wedges in their backyard. Keep a 7-iron and a bag of balls in their trunk to practice between meetings. They play 9-holes before work and chose vacations with great practice facilities.
  3. Environment/resources – This is the X factor. This is the difference between a good local golfer and a professional. They have access to amazing resources. In most cases, their family has invested in them from a very young age. They played in expensive junior tournaments. They have great equipment. They have great coaching. And it results in opportunities to get to even better tournaments, more finely tuned equipment, and the best coaching.

You can be pretty good, above average, with two out of the three. But you’ll never be excellent. There are millions of guys putting their clubs in their trunks right now who have endless talent and ambition but aren’t in the right environment with the right resources to make it to the next level. And this weekend will be full of guys who pull up their Mercedes at a country club, with access to the best environment and resources and absolutely no talent for the game.

I don’t care about golf. What does this have to do with you or me?

We each have something we were created to be amazing at. There is something in our lives that we have talent, ambition, and resources to be the best at.

Identify that thing… no matter how obscure the niche`… and you’ll find the success you know you deserve.

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 management

Success Secret: Serve Your Way to the Top

Photo by Kris Haamer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” John 21:17-19

The path to success in life, ministry, relationships, career, and darn near everything else is paved with service. (Gasp, probably pain and suffering, too!)

I’m sorry it has to be that way. It’s not my fault that this is true. Blame the other Adam.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Genesis 3:17-19

Back to the John passage. Did you notice what Jesus said Peter had to do to show that he loved Jesus? Feed my sheep. That’s grunt work. That’s work without honor. That’s work that isn’t sexy. That’s not the cover of a magazine or leads to a book deal or getting invited to speak at a conference.

Feeding sheep means arguing with stubborn animals all day. Feeding sheep means you get bit. Feeding sheep means that you step in doo-doo. Feeding sheep means you occasionally have to scare off a predator.

And yet…

On Peter, the one Jesus told to grunt it out by feeding sheep, Jesus also said “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)

If you are into church history you know Peter was a key leader in the early church. While he wasn’t perfect he indeed fed Jesus’ lamb from that moment until the moment he was nailed to a Roman cross himself. He served his way to the top of church leadership.

Note: My list of verses above is just the beginning. There are lots. And there are many good books which can give an exhaustive word study. But the point is clear, Jesus flipped the script on how to be a leader.

Universal path to success in any organization

Photo by Christian Paul via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Do you want to know how you lead people and change any organization?

People ask me all the time: What’s the secret?

You serve. You grunt it out. You get bit. You are faithful to the task you’ve been given. You master that task. You own that task. You serve that task. Just like a shepherd you keep your head up on the task in any circumstance. Just like a shepherd you always keep an eye on where you are leading the next day. You take responsibility. You take the compliments and the criticisms to heart.

Ultimately, you meet the needs of the sheep. You serve the owner. You put the rights of the owner above the rights of yourself. You keep the abuse in mind but you don’t let that own you. In doing that you win hearts and earn influence from the top to the bottom.

It’s not magic. It’s not a secret. It’s taught in the Bible!

Note: Church staff– you have rights. See this post, Labor Day Remembrance for Youth Workers.

Alternate path to success in any organization

Photo by Vearl Brown via Flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s not going to be popular to mention this, but it is worth mentioning. There is another path to success. One that is faster in accession. And one that is definitely easier. But it’s not as the servant-leader.

It’s as the lion.

In truth, many of the most successful “leaders” in the world are not servant-leaders. (The Christian world is, sadly, filled with lions.)

They didn’t get to their position in life by serving their way to the top.

They got there by brute force.

And they keep it when they kill, destroy, and intimidate day-to-day.

They travel in packs which devour prey.

We kind of turn our noses up at this style of leadership. But it is entirely functional. What’s more interesting is that plenty of people are drawn to this style of leadership. It’s quite popular in the Evangelical world!

(There’s a third animal-styled leader. That’s the hyena. He mocks and steals his way to the top. But that’s for another day)

The heart makes the difference

What’s different between servant leadership and lion leadership?

  • The weakness of lion leadership: The pride knows no loyalty. You only have power so long as you can keep it. One day, another member of the pride will take leadership from you.
  • The strength of servant leadership: Loyalty runs thick and deep. When you have served your way to the top, people will be loyal to you, even to a fault.

Choose to serve

Let’s be obvious. Each day, those of us in leadership, must make a rational choice. Do we want to serve or do we want to use our muscle to create a pride?

My advice, while it might not be the fastest way to get things done, ultimately Jesus asks us to choose to serve.

Christian Living Church Leadership

The new corner office

Photo by bitsnpixels via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Perhaps this recession really has taught us some things?

I’ve noticed some trends softly changing in the past 2-3 years that are enlightening a cultural shift in our work-home-success life quotient. And they are encouraging.

Here’s a few things I would label under “the new corner office.(Things that todays worker use to label that “they’ve made it.”)

  • No fear of self-employment. You’d think that a serious downturn in the economy, a tightening of credit, and exploding health insurance costs would scare the bejeezers out of people starting their own business? That’s just not happening in my circle of friends. And these new businesses, self-ventures, and new careers are all doing pretty well.
  • Working from home, working remotely, and location independence. Within the workforce, I think these are becoming status symbols. Kristen works from home as much as she likes. I like to work remotely about one day per week. And I know plenty of people who don’t even live in the same state as their company but work remotely permanently and just come in when needed. The net result for the company is that employees are actually more productive and the company needs less/different work space. The way technology is now… there’s a whole breed of worker growing less and less dependent on the traditional work environment. It’s a win-win.
  • Choosing “right job” over “big pay” jobs. [Note: I’m not talking about unemployed/unemployable recent college grads holding out for dream jobs that don’t exist at their level.] Plenty of people in my world have left jobs they pursued for years for something that was better suited for their personality/gift match. In many cases, that means they are pursuing a new career that pays less but feels right over a job that pays more but sucks the life out of them. That’s awesome for everyone.

Hard work is now and will always be the grease that makes the machine of success work for 99.9% of workers. At the same time, these new trends seem to show a desire for a simpler life. The new mantra seems to be, “I don’t mind working hard for the right things.

social media

Measuring Success in Social Media

I laugh when I see the term, “social media expert. Let’s be honest. It’s an emerging field and the only thing that makes someone an expert is that they have labeled themselves as such and they read Mashable and Seth Godin.

With that in mind, I’ll just point out that for the last two years I’ve gotten paid to handle social media. I don’t know if that makes me an expert in the field, but it does mean that I’m employed in the field. (And I read Mashable and Seth Godin just for good measure.)

So, how do I measure success?

False positives

  • Size of following. Having 25,000 followers on Twitter or 10,000 fans of your Facebook page doesn’t mean jack.
  • Contest excitement. I love hosting contests as much as the next guy, but hosting a big contest doesn’t mean jack.
  • Being active. Utilizing the tools of social media is important, but just showing up doesn’t mean jack.
  • Atta boys. [Or atta girls] When you first get started everyone in your organization will be excited, but that doesn’t mean jack.
  • Sales or lead generation. This may make the boss happy, but in most cases it doesn’t mean jack.

True positives

  • Engagement. Are your followers, fans, subscribers listening to the stuff you send out in a measurable way? Do they click on links you recommend? Do they comment on stuff you post? Do they open the emails you send? Having a large following is only as valuable as your ability to engage those people. Otherwise, your just another message they are ignoring. I’d rather have 100 engaged Twitter followers than 25,000 who ignore me. What to measure: comments, likes, open rates, click rates, number of clicks, mentions on fan/followers feeds.
  • Users who contribute. Is your effort a two-way conversation? Traditional marketing is about pushing a message. Social media is about pulling a response. It’s shocking to me how many organizations have large followings but only push. And they wonder why they think their social media efforts are a waste of money? They are! What to measure: Submissions, Facebook messages, Twitter direct messages, unsolicited or solicited ideas.
  • Repeaters. This post is the perfect example. When I press publish on this blog post, my own network will draw a couple hundred visitors. But this post will be read several thousand times in just 7 days. How did that happen? Repeaters. What to measure: Facebook shares, Twitter retweets, add-to-this analytics, trackbacks, blog posts about your content/product/service.
social media

Social Media Tip: Be Consistent


Want to know a secret about social media success?

If you want to succeed long-term in social media you need to be consistent in how you use social media. For more than 10 years I’ve been active in some form of what we now call “social media.” Chat rooms. Message boards. Listserv. Forums. MySpace. Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. I’ve seen fads come and go. I’ve seen rock stars emerge and fade. I’ve seen high profile people take interest and then lose interest. Social media is a bit of a revolving door. Something gets popular, attracts the masses, people get bored, someone invents something better, the hype begins again.

But yet there has always been this thread of people that has remained consistent throughout. There’s a lot to learn from these people if you want to be successful.

Some of us have just chugged away. We’ve never gotten uber popular. We’ll never leverage what we have to make a fool of ourselves like @aplusk did on Twitter. But in the meantime, we’ve utilized these tools to meet people, share ideas, and establish ourselves along the way.

The best way to succeed is to be consistent like Warren Buffet and not up and down like Donald Trump. Stick with winners. Be consistent. Be disciplined.

What does consistency look like for social media?

– Make yourself consistent by using the same handle. (social media name on a web platform)

– Use the tool the same way, most times. (maintain your blog post consistency, tweet frequency, use Facebook in predictable ways)

stick to your genre. (totally OK to expand your horizons. but don’t be so general that no one cares. if you’re a mom blog, don’t post gadget tips for work. if you’re a gadget blogger, no one cares about your kids soccer game.)

– don’t be a jerk. (unless your online persona is one of jerkiness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people in real life and thought… they were so much cooler on their blog.)