Communication – I want to stop taking the easy way out

This week I’m learning about communication in my business and sales coaching. Today I read an interesting statistic, that while I knew was “out there,” I had not seen in print. Communication is only 7% verbal, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language. Wow, no wonder I can’t get some thoughts across when my body and emotions aren’t on board with what I want to say, or when I’m trying to communicate something important to me with only written words (emails, blogs, facebook, etc.). It’s so easy for me – almost like it’s been built into me – to want to take the “easy way out” and send an email or hope for voicemail instead of requesting face to face meetings before getting into the meat of what I’d like to talk about.

Over and over these past few years, I’ve discovered many of these “easy ways out,” and I think in every case, it’s the wrong way to go. It may save face, but it does not challenge anyone (myself included), nor does it express the level of interest I truly want to share. If it’s important, I should do everything I can to share as much as the communication “process” with those I want to communicate with – verbal, tone, and body. It’s not always possible, but it certainly is more than I have made it out ot be in my past.

Destructive Path – A Lesson for Teens that is Supposed to be about Alcohol

I’m leading our church’s high school youth group tomorrow in a discussion that seems to focus on the “destructive path” of alcohol. I’m having a tough time with some of it’s arguments, as I feel they are a bit more of a fear tactic than a a logical progression of thought involving the Bible’s complete perspective on the topic, alcohol’s real affects (especially on young bodies and brains), and more than anything else, personal convictions. While there is something to be said about statistics and slippery slopes, there is much more to to be said about real-life experiences and thought out decisions based on values, priorities, and convictions. These are my thoughts on the lesson as I prepare to both teach it, and move from simply talking about the dangers of alcohol to the importance of personal decisions in every area of life, from alcohol and drugs to cheating, lust, and anger.

[Note: This is still a work in progress. There are definitely some areas I want to add to on personal convictions and hopefully a testimony or two from someone who’s walked down the wrong side of this path.]

The question of the week, according to the literature, is “Why is drinking such a big deal?” The answer? According to the book, “Drinking alcohol can lead to tragic consequenses.” Couldn’t I present this same argument for any number of areas of teenage life, from alcohol and drugs to speeding, driving without seat belts, and fighting? How many things in life lead to tragic consequenses, when abused? And I think that’s where this lesson leaves something out in it’s argument. In every-single-point, it’s “Alcohol can.” Alcohol can do this. Alcohol can do that. Alcohol can kill you, you know. I’m all for presenting facts, figures, and accurately used proof-texts to support an argument, but I sure don’t see any Sunday School lessons entitled “why is having money such a big deal… because it can KILL you!” No, when it comes to money, we know it’s greed and misuse (abuse) that lead to the tragic consequenses. Used correctly, money is a tool. I don’t believe alcohol is a tool, especially in the hands of children and teens whose brains are still developing, who are confronted on all sides by peer pressure and inexperience. I also do not, personally, believe it is taboo.

So I’m going into tomorrow’s lesson by texting all teens whose numbers I have with that very question… “why is drinking such a big deal.” Here are the answers I received:

  • It’s a big deal because it boggles the mind.
  • It’s a big deal because anyone can drink it, and it more than often makes for bad choices.
  • It’s a big deal because it’s often a way to “prove” yourself.
  • It’s a big deal because it has a lot of bad effects on your liver.
  • I don’t think drinking is bad. I think getting drunk is bad.
  • It’s a big deal because some people feel like they can “escape” their life for awhile and others do it cause it’s fun for the rush.
  • Teenagers think it’s a big deal because it’s portrayed as something fun and exciting and they get a rush because it’s illegal and they know it. They want to drink to get back at their parents, the government, and anyone who thinks underage drinking is wrong. For the most part they drink at parties because “it’s fun” or simply because it’s there.
  • Drinking for me is a big deal because so many bad things happen, like unplanned pregnancies, DUI, murders, domestic abuse, fornication… in other words many of the things that we all talk about as terrible have a root in alcohol. I know that “if you don’t get drunk then it’s ok” to drink, by the Bible even, but for me I’m against it 100% because, even if it’s controlled, it only takes one mistake to ruin multiple lives and that’s not a chance I will ever take.

It’s clear to me that a good portion of the youth I’m teaching either have an understanding of the fact that “alcohol is bad for me,” at least in the stage of life they are in at this time. The argument made in this week’s Sunday School lesson, while legitimately factual, is not where I feel we really need to focus with our group. I want to spend time covering it with them for the sake of those who may not have any experience or knowledge:

1. ALCOHOL CAN LEAD TO TROUBLE

Proverbs 22:29-30 – Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has red eyes? Those who linger over wine, those whogo looking for mixed wine.

As we go through this lesson today, I want to spend the time we spend on the points covered in your book focused on alcohol as it relates to you, your friends, and your peers. I don’t feel that these arguments are the same you’d make in a group of college students, for example, or with adults. The facts are still the facts, but what motivates people does change over time. In a book I look to often for facts and figures, Youth Culture 101 by Walt Mueller, he lists his own “top 10” reasons teenagers use alcohol (and drugs). I’ll list them here:

  1. Curiosity and Experimentation: “I’ve never met a teenager who used drugs and alcohol with the intention of getting hooked.”
  2. Peer Pressure: “My own conversations with middle and high school students indicates that pressure to drink alcohol is one of the most intense pressures churched kids feel from their peers.” True or false in your world? Give an example. “With a constant desire to fit in, be accepted, and be loved, teenagers who feel insecure and unloved at home are more susceptible and will give in to the pressure more easily.” (“it’s worth the risk”)
  3. It’s Fun: Boredom… cheap, easy, fun to do with a group
  4. To Look Grown Up: Don’t want to look like kids, it’s a rite of passage
  5. Availability: More than 60% of 8th greaders and more than 80% of 10th graders say that alcohol is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get. Parents providing, or not limiting access.
  6. Advertising: What message does advertising give to alcohol (Homer quote: “Alcohol – the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”)
  7. Pop-Culture Presence: Where do you see it here – what’s the pressure?
  8. Family Problems: Divorce, sepratation, absenct parents… discord, pressure, expectations, poor communication… sends teens looking for relief.
  9. Escape: Get away from stress and problems, even if temporary.
  10. To Cope: “Self medicating” to perform better? Take the edge off?
  11. Addiction: Experimentation, social use, misuse, abuse, chemical dependency

I’m going to give these items to the teens in the form of 3×5 cards (probably do two people per card so they can think through it together) and let them line up in the order they think the pressure to drink comes from. I’m curious if it will match Mueller’s findings.

Look back to the proverb we read. Does that make sense when it comes to drunkenness? What about the “happy drunk” who seems to be the life of the party? What about your friend who “doesn’t get drunk?” What types of trouble can you imagine – types of sorrow, conflice, complaints – come from alcohol abuse?

What do you think of this Shakespeare quote:

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! THat we should with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!

2. ALCOHOL CAN CAUSE LOSS OF JUDGEMENT

Again, I think it would be appropriate to put the word abuse between “alcohol” and “can” in this statement. Actually, if you did that, you could probably change “can” to “will.” Is it appropriate for us to kind of up the ante here and say it’s “a drop of” alcohol that will lead to that loss of judgement? That’s how that statement comes across to me. I think these teens can see through that. I’d think they can see that it’s a slippery slope argument… “you’d better steer completely clear of this, because if you don’t… you won’t be able to stop.” I don’t want my teens to be confronted with this type of argument, because in the initial stages, it simply may not ring true. If you accept the truth of that statement as “down the road” a bit and that keeps from doing anything, fine… but if you see past the statement to the fact that your initial experience with alcohol (or drugs, or sex, or whatever) may actually not have any of the “bad” consequenses anyone has warned you about, will it stop you? I’d rather my teens develop personal convictions for both this time of their life, and as they enter adulthood, based on more than just “I don’t want to go near it because it might reach out and hurt me.” Life is full of things that can trip us up and literally KILL us if we give them control, and alcohol is definitely one of those.

The book we’re using has a graphic that shows the different levels of blood alcohol content and the effect they produce on our brains and judgement. I went to www.bloodalcoholcalculator.org and plugged in some figures for my own weight to see just how much drinking it would take to get to these points (based on a  60 minute drinking timeframe). This is by no means an endorsement of “just one or two” but rather a realistic look at the “average” effect of alcohol on a brain like mine.

  • Euphoria (.03 – .12 %): 3 – 8 beers
  • Lethargy (.09 – .25 %): 6 – 16 beers
  • Confusion (.18 – .30 %): 11 – 19 beers
  • Stupor (.24 – .40%): 16 – 25 beers
  • Coma (.35 – .50 %):  22 – 31 beers

Wow, isn’t that a relief! I’d have to drink two 12-packs to put myself into a coma. Ha. What I find interesting is that the top level of “lethargy” is the same as the bottom level of “stupor.” The difference between (1) my body slowing down, losing coordination, and being obviously unfit to drive and (2) lapses in consciousness, possibility of alcohol poisoning, and loss of bladder control … the difference there can be quite negligable. I’m not totally sure what I learn from this.

Proverbs 22:31-33: Don’t gaze at wine when it is red, when it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and you will say absurd things.

To be honest… that Proverb (written by the wisest man that ever lived) sounds like it is spoken out of experience, doesn’t it? And how many things are there in life that, unfortunately, we will only learn by experience.

I can look back to a specific day in my life that built much of my own personal conviction about alcohol and drug abuse (and even use). I used to live behind a strip mall, and almost every day I’d walk over to the Hook’s Drug Store to buy a candy bar or can of pop. I remember walking over there one day, and up by the highway, seeing a mangled mess of a car surrounded by fire fighters, a couple ambulances, and a large group of people. I went over to watch, and for 10 minutes looked on as the paramedics worked to cut open the car to gain access to the person inside, barely hanging onto their life. Rumor circulated that the driver was drunk and had crashed right there in the parking lot, and that he probably wasn’t going to make it. It only became apparent to me later on that this entire event was staged as an effort to show the dangers of alcohol. For me, it worked. Scare tactic or not, it was a reality check I can still picture in my mind. I think before we develop almost any personal conviction, we need some sort of reality check like this. We need to look the substance (or the action, or the emotion) in the face and say, “I don’t want you. You are not worth it.” I didn’t put it into words until years later, but as I look at my life now and my view on alcohol, that image played a part in my conviction: “I will not lose control. I will not come close to losing control.” What that means to me, is very personal, and even hard to explain. But I know it, I live by it, and it holds personal value to me.

3. ALCOHOL CAN LEAD TO ADDICTION

That thought, that “loss of control,” leads to this final point as outlined in the lesson. When do you cross that line of controlling yourself and your actions and your actions controlling you? Is it a black and white line? Will you see it before you cross it or do you need to head it off way beforehand?

Proverbs 23:34-35: You’ll be like someone sleeping out at sea or lying down on the top of a ship’s mast. “They struck me, but I feel no pain! They beat me, but I didn’t know it! When will I wake up? I’ll look for another drink.”

I’m not totally sure what this verse has to do with addiction, other than the last portion, where the man who’s drunk out of his mind sets out to reply the journey he just spoke of. But is that what an addiction truly is? Does it have to go that far, that we are totally under the control of the substance, habit, or feeling?

I like this definition of alcohol addiction: “Addiction is the repeated involvement with any substance or activity, despite the excessive costs of this involvement, because of craving (intense desire).” The key portion of that definition, I believe, is the words “despite the excessive costs.” In other words, it’s worth the pain. It’s worth the side effects. It’s worth the risk that I will get hurt or killed, or that I might hurt or kill someone else should I make just a few wrong decisions.

Take a look at this quote by Denzel Washington, one of my favorite actors:

I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me.

Was it “worth it” to Denzel to competely remove alcohol from his life? Why? Why wasn’t a bit of social drinking with the risk for him?

WRAP IT UP

This is where I really wanted to wind up from this entire lesson. “Is it really worth it?” I don’t ask that just in the context of, “is it worth it for me to give into peer pressure” or “is it worth it for me to try just one?” I ask that in the sense of, Is it worth it for me to decide right here, right now, what I’m going to do with alcohol? Is it worth it for me to put into words my feelings of how it’s (1) not worth the immediate brain and body function risk, (2) not worth the long-term risks of addiction or the lifestyle.

The things we read today are something of truths. They are facts. They are statistics. They are true. But simply knowing they are true, acknowledging they are true, and even saying we “believe them” does not mean we will have the strength to stand when confronted with something uniquely designed to trap and defeat us.

Think about the areas of life where you’re confronted with something you don’t want to give into. It might be alcohol. It might be drugs. It might be the wrong boy or girl that’s trying to develop a friendship with you. It might be pornography. Or it might be something small that could LEAD to those areas. Is it worth it for you to take that “first drink” in terms of a first date, a first smoke, a first flip-through-a-magazine-in-the-grocery-store. Or will you say, here and now, that your allegience is with God, His word, and come up with a statement describing your feelings and commitment?

Productivity – Plenty of Room for Improvement!

“The journey IS the destination.”

Thank GOD that’s true.

As I venture through my coaching experience, there are areas that both excite me for the “simplicity” of what really needs to be done. There are also areas that could easily overwhelm me if I didn’t keep that quote from my friend Brian of the Daily Audio Bible in front of me on a regular basis. While life is full of deadlines, to-do lists, and hectic months of business transitions, babies, and coaching homework, it’s good to remember that this is not all just about “fixing” tomorrow. It is about realizing my potential for LIFE, both for my own fulfillment, and even more than that, what I can offer to others and glorify my Creator with.

Today I took a survey and came up with goals related to Productivity. As I ventured through this section, it pointed out many areas of my weekly habits that are quite lacking, and also pointed out WHY they are so. It’s not so much that I don’t know what I should be focusing on, it’s often that I let things get in the way that shouldn’t, or don’t make priorities “must do’s.” Instead, they become “should do’s,” and the urgent things that pop up each day somehow take precedence until the end of the day when I look back and say, “I didn’t do what I set out to do.”

So here are some thoughts from my journey through the Productivity section of my coaching experience:

DEFINITION OF PRODUCTIVITY:

Define what it means for you to personally be “productive” in your job. What is it essentially that you get paid for?

Just what is it i do to earn my keep? I definitely provide the go-to solutions for servers, databases, and software development. I also help design solutions for many other areas that my company supports. I do almost anything, and am able to turn parts of it over to others after establishing what needs to be done. But do I ever let go from the get-go of some responsibilities? Is there anything I’ve completely “relinquished” to the point that I may supervise, but not manage and head up? For instance, when it comes to support and hardware, areas I should and can delegate out, I am still on the front lines to determien what “needs to be done” and pick up / order anything we need to get it done. I do the bookkeeping. I do the sales. I find new clients and come up with new ideas and opportunities. I am the one in meetings. I know well the addage: “a man of many hats.” Is this good? Is it productive?

Wher is my greatest contributionb to C2IT Consulting? Where do I find the best return on investment for the time I spend working for the business? The more I think of it, it is in two areas: planning / growing the business and working with special technologies such as servers, database, and development. Just what does that mean? Why do I do everything (or at least initiate everything) when I specialize and provide the most value in specific areas? Sure, part of it is because I’m a 3 person (well, kinda… really just 2 at the moment) business. Are these things I need to let go? How would I do so? What steps do I need to take to do so?

So my definition of productivity… Doing what I am made to do. Doing what I am uniquely assigned with. It involves identifying those areas of my job that I should focus on and finding ways to either let go of other responsibilities, limit my involvement in them, or delegate them to those that work for and with me. As the business owner and president, I need to decide what I want to (and can) entrust to employees, what I must do myself, and what I can do in-house or farm out.

I believe productivity also involves setting asside specific times for tasks and responsibilities, especially those that are not in my realm of expertice, responsibility, or that bring value to the company. Things like bookkeeping, prospecting, and returning emails/phone calls… while these are necessary, key to growth, and even part of my day to day life, I find them often dictating my schedule and priorities each day. I cannot let them dominate or take over my days.

GOAL CATEGORIES FOR PRODUCTIVITY

After taking a survey looking at areas that I am involved in and whether or not those areas are, are not, or should be in my realm of responsibility, I came up with some categories for setting goals to grow and improve myself and the business:

  • FOCUS on areas of the business where I bring unique value to our clients and our company.
  • LIMIT my involvement and time in areas of the business that, while I am responsible for and must accomplish, do not bring as much value to the company.
  • REDUCE OR REMOVE my involvement in areas of the business that draw me from my responsibilities.
  • DEVELOP GOALS (specific, attainable, positive, etc.) for tracking what is needed to bring in an appropriate and growing client base.
  • Recognize my importance as the FACE OF THE COMPANY in sales, networking, and solution providing.
  • Compare C2IT’s offerings with local and non-local competition or comparable companies to DISCOVER VALUE AND ADJUST FOR WEAKNESSES.
  • Limit my time “at work” so that it does not dominate my personal life.

PRODUCTIVITY GOALS

CATEORY GOAL PRIORITY
Focus where I bring value Set aside a MINIMUM amount of time each day (will vary by day based on schedule / location) to work on business planning, proposal and presentation preparation, opportunity exploring, and custom development (as needed). Also examine “spec” projects and decide the amount of time to give them each week. Only go below this minimum if specific criteria is met (define that criteria). 2
Limit time spent on other responsibilities Set aside a MAXIMUM amount of time each day (varies by day) to work on regular responsibilities such as support, bookkeeping, phone calls and email, prospecting, and sales calls. Only go above this maximum if specific criteria or emergencies arise, and if they do, compensate elsewhere. 1
Reduce or Remove time spent on areas that draw me from my focus Create job descriptions for all positions, even if multiple job descriptions are held by a single person. 4
Develop goals and baselines for bringing in clients to maintain and grow company Implement the “4 point” sales system to maintain steady work on sales-related tasks, and record information so as to track information about suspects, prospects, and turning them into clients. Develop goals for revenue from new clients, how many clients / how much work is needed to meet that revenue, and determine the work necessary to attain that. 3
Increase my value as the face of the company Write a monthly newsletter to key clients, vendors, and decision makers with information about C2IT happenings, usability tips, IT happenings, specials, new opportunities, new clients, etc. 5
Compare to competition to find value and fix problems Find 3 comparable local businesses and one non-local and compare their offerings and pricing via their websites or phone calls. Local: one smaller, one similar, and one relatively bigger. See how we compare, what we offer that is unique, and where we might improve. 6
Limit time “at work” Develop an “on call” schedule and routine for handing emergencies. Work this into job descriptions. 4

FINAL THOUGHTS

My exploration of productivity shows me several things. One that really shows up is something that I think leads to some dissatisfaction with days when I work hard but “accomplish” little, or when I just can’t decide what it is I need to work on that day. I don’t fully know what I should be doing, don’t have it planned until the moment hits, and don’t see how it fits into the bigger picture… not just of “growing the business,” but meeting my personal and professional goals so that I can attain the dreams that TRULY motivate me. I need to get specific about how these goals and time spent working on them fits into those bigger pictures, and then keep that motivating information in front of me on a daily basis so as to consistently be reminded that what I am doing each moment matters.

Affirmations – A Discussion with Youth

Tonight I’m once again leading the youth group at our church. Tonight we’re going to talk about Affirmations. An affirmation is telling yourself, in times of doubt, that which you know to be true at other times. This takes some forethought, of course, because that time of doubt when you need that nugget of truth is not the time to go discovering it. Tonight I’m going to talk with the youth about some of the affirmations we may already hold (positive and negative) and work with them to develop a couple on a note card they can take home and put on their bathroom mirror or something.

I love this popular youtube video about the young girl who knows all about these statements of truth. Even if this is prepared for video, the fact that this girl has these statements memorized and can recite them with passion and emotion makes me say “Bravo, parents. You’re doing well.”

I’m not a big fan of making statements about who you want to be and feeling that just because you say it sincerely of often enough that it will become reality. I am a fan of dreaming, and am also learning even now how to take those dreams, crystallize them into goals, and see them come to be reality.

But if something’s already true, why do we need to put it into a verbal sentence, much less write it down, and even less than that, put it somewhere we see it every day? The fact is, “statements of truth” are proposed to us every day. Whether it’s the massive amounts of stories on the news telling us that “my future is insecure” or “school is a dangerous place.” We get these messages from parents, who while they are trying to teach us invaluable lessons about manners and maturity, often fail to affirm us as we grow up. Instead, we hear as a child, “don’t touch that” or “stop talking so much,” which in turn, later in life turns into “I’m a clumsy dufus” and “I don’t have anything to say that so-and-so would like to hear.” We are surrounded by negative statements about ourselves, and they DO affect us. The exercise of examining ourselves, finding what is true, and then putting it into words we either repeat often or see often is invaluable to combatting this negativity that is pounded into us every day.

Here are a few affirmations of my own… the first I’ve had drilled into me every time I view my facebook profile for over a year, and the others are relatively new, and a joy for me to read.

  • I am an adopted son of God, brave and courageous.
  • I am a success. I set goals that are important to me, do what is necessary to achieve them, and finish strong.
  • I am a loving husband and involved father, who places my family above all other relationships in life.

I as I looked at these last week, I saw some of the negative statements that I was either brought up to believe (intentionally or not) or came to believe through past experiences:

  • I am a disappointment and a failure. I have nothing to offer.
  • I am too tired and busy to figure out how to accomplish this goal.

So in the youth group tonight, we’re going to work on some of these statements. We did this in a round-about-way a few weeks ago when we watched the video “God’s Chisel” by the Skit Guys. The statement of truth that day was something like, “I am God’s original masterpiece.” How true, yet how often we believe otherwise.

The Bible are filled with affirmations. Affirmations by psalms men like David about their true self, and affirmations about who God is, even when He seems anything but. Just a few examples:

  • Psalm 131:1-3: O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
  • Proverbs 16: 3: Commit your work to the Lord and then your plans will succeed.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

There are many verses that while not directly “affirmation statements” are very true and appilcable, and could easily be turned into such. For example (source):

  • I can see the Kingdom of God because I am born again. John 3:3
  • I don’t worry about everyday life. God knows my needs and meets them because I make His Kingdom my primary concern. Matthew 6:25-33
  • Jesus shows himself to me because I love him. John 14:21
  • Because Jesus died for my sins, I am no longer separated from God. I live in close union with him. Romans 5:10
  • The fruit I produce brings great joy to God, my Father in Heaven. John 15:8
  • God’s power works best in my weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

There are many more affirmations-from-verses on this source site, and I’ll include them following the end of this post.

So this is what we’re going to review at church tonight with the youth. We’re then going to take some steps to make our own affirmations, based on facts of truth we know about ourselves, Bible verses, or a combination thereof. We’ll “supercharge” these affirmations by writing them down, saying them, and adding emotion to otherwise bland statements of truth. This site describes these superchargers well.

Affirmation Mirror work

Perhaps the most powerful way of using affirmations is to state them whilst looking in the mirror. Some of the most important messages you have received have been from people looking you straight in the eye. By looking yourself in the eye as you state your affirmation you magnify the importance of the message to yourself.

Written Affirmations

A great way of keeping your affirmation at the forefront of your mind is to write them down, leave notes or cards around so that you notice them throughout the day. The AffirmIt! program uses mobile technology to text powerful messages to you with the goal of keeping your mind focussed on your intention. Another idea is to write your affirmation down many times (10-20), this helps imprint it on your mind.

Say Affirmations with Passion

Say your affirmations with passion, the higher your emotional state as you say them, the more effective they are.

Sing or Chant Affirmations

One of the most effective ways to use affirmations is to sing them! The mind is much more accepting of affirmation messages when they are sung.

I’m going to include myself in some of these exercises. Even though I know some of what i want to remember, it still lingers on a sheet of paper buried in a notebook. I’m looking forward to putting in on a 3×5 card and placing it around my home, and then encouraging others in my family and circle of friends to do the same.

More Affirmations from Scripture

  • I can see the Kingdom of God because I am born again. John 3:3
  • I don’t worry about everyday life. God knows my needs and meets them because I make His Kingdom my primary concern. Matthew 6:25-33
  • Jesus shows himself to me because I love him. John 14:21
  • Because Jesus died for my sins, I am no longer separated from God. I live in close union with him. Romans 5:10
  • The fruit I produce brings great joy to God, my Father in Heaven. John 15:8
  • God’s power works best in my weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • Through the energy of Christ working powerfully in me, I teach others His truths. Colossians 1:29
  • I have been saved, not by works, but grace, so that I might do good works. Ephesians 2:9-10
  • My faith makes me whole in spirit, soul and body. Mark 5:34
  • When I call out to God He answers me. He tells me things I wouldn’t know otherwise. Jeremiah 33:3
  • Because I place my hope in the Lord my strength is renewed. Isaiah 40:31
  • As I follow Jesus…..as I walk with him, I have peace. Luke 24:36
  • Because I obey Jesus I remain in his love. John 15:10
  • The cross of Christ is my power. 1 Corinthians 1:17
  • My God meets all my needs. Philippians 4:19
  • God is my refuge and strength …. always ready to help me in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1
  • God gives me strength when I am weary and increases my power when I am weak. Isaiah 40:29  Continue reading “Affirmations – A Discussion with Youth”

Making Rain

I am heading to a meeting for a networking group called Rainmakers tomorrow morning. It’s been a few years since I’ve done anything specifically geared toward networking… what I’d often look at as meeting new people I might have a chance of doing business with in a kind of random, haphazard social setting. The last group I was part of seemed to evolve into simply a social setting with little emphasis on trading referalls and trying to help each other, and from those that I’ve talked to that have used Rainmakers, it is much more deliberate and focused.

I am looking forward to this meeting. It is actually another step in the first goal I set for myself as part of my business/sales/life coaching process, and it’s fulfilling to see that the day is right around the corner. I still don’t know what will come out of it or what exactly to expect from the meeting tomorrow, but since that is out of my realm of control, I have decided that I am ok with not knowing, and coming up with expectations for myself instead of what I will find there. Such is the purpose for this writing. I have some key questions about mysef I want to have written down. Not written down so as to have cue cards, but written down so as to actually knowing the answer I want to give, and then being able to personalize that answer should I be given the opportunity to tomorrow. And from what I have heard from the leader of the group, I will have that opportunity.

So here we go. The first set are preparing myself for questions I will probably be asked, even though I have a goal to keep talking about myself to a minimum at this first meeting; I want to learn about the group, learn about the people in the group, and present myself as a person interested in discovering more about the people that I meet, along with their respective businesses, niches, and forward looking views.

Who are you?

I’m Chet Cromer, husband of Erin and father of Colton (4) and MaKenna (brand spanking new). I live out in the country about 25 miles southwest of Plainfield, but spent most of my early years growing up here and in Mooresville. I’m in a season of change in my business, as we encounter some opportunities to both find and server additional customers. I enjoy helping others develop their full potential, be it in their personal life or as a business owner and forward thinker. I enjoy doing outdoor work, spending time with my family, and working with youth in my church and local schools.

What do you do?

This one’s a bit easier now that I’ve written about it.

I help organizations reach their full potential by harnessing the power of technology and information available to them. I provide unique solutions to unique problems that integrate the complete technology system: The network, servers, PC’s, existing applications, and ultimately, unique software solutions.

That’s still a pretty long answer, but it’s thorough enough for now. The word unique is still overused, but this covers most of it. We aim to piece together the technology puzzle. We consider some of the key pieces to that puzzle to be:

  • Existing hardware and software
  • Already accessible data
  • New hardware and prepackaged software
  • Personally designed software
  • Handcrafted websites
  • And possibly most importantly, links between all of the above. So many pieces of the puzzle come to us as disconnected pieces. We aim to “see to it” that our customers are fully empowered with the technology available to them, including any special links we may be able to develop between these pieces of the puzzle.

What type of clients are you looking for?

I am looking for forward-thinking businesses with a willinness to step back and look at where they are and where they want to go, and how the technology they currently have is either helping or hindering them from getting there. We are most effective at discovering and providing solutions when permitted to work with various layers of staff, which enables us to get the big picture all the way from management to employee to the customer.

To discover opportunities with a potential new client, we like to sit down and talk about the items mentioned above, and then do a survey of what is both already available, what may be accessible with little effort, and what else may be needed that is affordable and cost-effective to add. We look at hardware, software, networks, and even non-technology items to help our customers develop a framework for what’s possible, not just what’s out there right now.

What types of clients do you already have?

Our largest base of clients are franchises from one of the nations largest privately owned businesses, Enterprise Holdings. While Enterprise itself is a huge corporation with over 65,000 employees, we work with their privately owned franchisees, who may have anywhere between 10 and 300 employees. We help these much smaller companies utilize the relatively small amounts of information made available to them by the coporation and leverage it by creating custom designed reports and tools for efficiency and access to data they could otherwise not obtain.

We also work with a variety of local clients, both brick-and-mortar, as well as web-based. We provide both basic IT support and services, as well as server and network support, custom software and web development, and forward-looking IT planning services.

We have developed a reputation as great “connector” between business-data and geographical information. For example one of our customers has employees constantly travelling throughout the state of Indiana (and soon, additional states) handling service calls and tickets based on a map-based “ticketing” system. These employees no longer have to come into the office each week, no longer need to report in each day on where they are or what they’re doing, and are able to utilize their unique software solution for almost everything they do each day.

NOW…. ON TO THE GOOD STUFF… Perhaps I should think through some of these for myself, but I think dealing with the first few things is enough for my pre-thought-out answers.

How’s business been for you over the past few years?

Have you found ways to cope or even capitalize on the economy?

How can I learn more about you and your business?

What’s your family like? What do you do when you’re not working?

What keeps you awake at night?

What’s a day in the life of <insert name here> like?

What’s your favorite part of the week?

Wow… this whole planning, goal setting, and future looking stuff is really enjoyable. It’s easy to get excited by it, but also easy to get discouraged because “nothing” has happened from it yet. But “nothing” is not the truth. There may not be money from it in the bank yet, but the attitudes and habits that are beginning to change ARE productive, WILL produce results, and I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to this meeting tomorrow, and can now print out this post and put it in my action plan as it’s taking care of some other tasks I needed to accomplish.

Social Development – Goals and Priorities

Below are initial Goals and Priorities for the Social Development Section of my Action Plan. These are developed from my Social Development Self-Evaluation and Where I Am Now thoughts, and are idea-generators for real-life goals I may pursue. I still haven’t figured out how to totally prioritize these or “pick” which I will work on first. I suppose that I do that very thing in the last column, but still, with all the goals I’m setting in a variety of areas of my life, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Oh well. I’ll just have to pick one anyways, I suppose.

This entire process of setting goals, while it takes time, really helps crystallize. Now I just need to make it an actual priority to make a goal an actual priority instead of wading around all this work!!!

Category Goal Priority
Become comfortable with incomplete thoughts   3
Gain Confidence in unfamiliar group social settings Place myself in unfamilar group social settings. Go into the event with a good answer to the question “what do you do” and be prepared to meet new people with 2-3 specific questions on a personal level. 1
Keep / Guide / Place conversations on the intended / relevant topic When leading a discussion, have an outline of key points / direction to take discussion. Review the outline immediately following the discussion and make notes on successes and areas where improvement is needed. 4
Become more familiar with relevant current events Find a relevant news source for local, and national news and review it on a regular basis 5
Become more famliar with events in the industries of my clients Pay attention in conversations with clients about their large customers, new technologies, or industry happenings, and then set up Google Alerts for these items. Review the items once a week, forward interesting information to clients to display interest, and make notes in their client file. 6
Develop conversational skills that incite responses Intentionally ask questions that do not have a Yes/No answer. For close friends, develop a question other than “how are you” that will incite a genuine response, and also develop my own genuine response to that very question that will stimulate conversation. Possibly, even consider the question at the beginning of every day, affirming how I am, who I am, and what I am here for. 2

Social Development – Where I Stand Now

Much has changed in my social life over the past four years. Through some events and crises in my life at that part of my life, I was confronted with a side of myself I’d never really wanted to know – immaturity that showed up through self-imposed isolation, avoidance of confrontation, and even dishonesty through lack of true communication and openness. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like now if that year had not occurred, and while it was not centered around social relationships, they were impacted tremendously.

Throughout most of my life, my closest relationships have consistently been within the realm of my local church. While this is still true in many cases, the fact that I see these people on Sundays no longer defines the breadth of the relationship. Most of my close friends, be they from church, a shared ministry, or a common interest/activity, are close because they are actually my friends, and not just because I see them on a routine basis. I now find myself frequently making lunch appointments with no particular agenda, not even to “catch up.” I now have friends who just like to be with me, and I with them.

As I went through the social development evaluation, a few things did become apparent to me. I think  I’m generally a decent person to be around, but there are still situations and times where I “shut down,” or “crawl into my shell.” As I looked at the times these occur, they seem to be in places where I am not 100% comfortable with my opinion or what I have to say. I seem to be completely fine as an uninformed person in the conversation where I’m learning or questioning, and also fine when I AM informed, have an informed opinion that I can support to offer, and so on. Where I’m not comfortable, however, is when ideas are bouncing around, and I simply don’t fully know where I stand, or I can’t keep up fast enough to fully have a developed and explainable thought. I don’t seem to be comfortable with my spontaneous self.

I’ve found this part of my life is already being worked on in several areas. One of the simplest is a kind of strange one, but it has worked for me. I’ve come to phrase this to myself as “not being comfortable in my own skin.” I seem to take myself to seriously, to think I have to have a conversation under control to participate in it. I’ve since taken up making funny faces, or at least smiling, to get a reaction out of certain of my friends, or just to respond to their own smile or funny face. I want to laugh more. I want to hug more. I want to simply be comfortable with who I am, where I am, right here and now.

The primary weaknesses I noted were in areas where I’m unfamiliar, yet there is an unspoken expectation (to me at least) to have something to say. Things like a networking group, or a small group discussing politics, or even teaching a subject where the subject matter to be discussed doesn’t totally match up with my own beliefs or thought process. I also see difficulty in transitioning / guiding conversations to a substantial topic that needs to be discussed or kept on topic but just won’t come up or stay focused.

I do find that through the past several years, I have developed strengths in reaching out to my friends. Whether it’s through things such as inviting them to / buying lunch, thinking and purchasing a book for them, sharing my own undeveloped thoughts before they’re fully figured out… so much has changed in this area that I haven’t taken much time to look back on it over the past several years.

I’ve come to believe in specific delegating; of empowering people by both letting them come up with ideas and then be the catalyst to turn those ideas into actions. I’ve been told I am an encouraging writer of notes, and that my teaching / discussion leading skills are both down to earth, practical, and try to focus on a key concept or two.  I also believe and enjoy helping others crystallize their own thoughts, perhaps offering suggestions here and there, but not doing their thinking for them, even if they don’t “get it” right away (or ever). I enjoy positions of leadership where I can facilitate conversation and discussion, but not necessarily drive it.

As previously mentioned, my escape from social situations I don’t want to be in is to shut down, to isolate myself. I may not necessarily appear unfriendly, but at the same time, I stop seeking out conversation, and I move into short-worded answers that don’t toss the conversation back to the other person/people.

One specific instance in which I’ve seen my social skills improve as I would like them to is in my church softball league. Over the years, I’ve gone from simply playing my best and doing what I’m told to tryin to encourage my other teammates, shouting what’s going on or needs to be done, and even making a few bad base-coaching decisions resulting in outs or my own being yelled at, but I keep going now. I’ve chewed out members of my own team for discouraging remarks they’ve made, and also talked to them in a more controlled setting to try and help them not only see where they’re tearing the team down, but also ways and opportunities they have to put that influence to good work instead of bad. There is still work do be done in following up in some of these areas, but I feel I am becoming more consistent in my ability to say what I think without constantly pre-evaluating my thoughts as to how it might come back and hurt my feelings.

What Do You Do? (Part 1?)

One of the projects for my Sales Action Plan is to identify my business’ niche. What we are specifically here to do, and who we are specifically here to serve. I’m tired of answering the question, “What do you do” with the generic answer of “I do IT work,” or, “I do anything computer related.” While deep down I think I know my passions in the industry and what our company is uniquely positioned to do, I have never put that down into words. Now is the time. In this post, I want to do some writing to answer the question, “What do you do?” I want to describe our Ideal Customer. I want to crystallize our unique place in the land of business, IT, and solutions.

What Do You Do?

I’m going to start general, and move to specific. For several years, my business card has described our business’ offerings as “Data Driven Software and Web Development, Networking, and IT Support.” While that’s very true, and possibly even appropriate for a business card, it hardly answers the question I’m seeking to answer. Those may be the end products and services we provide, but I want to be able to tell someone what we have to offer them: what problems we can solve, what ideas we can transform into reality, and what efficiencies we can turn into profit. So here goes…

I help organizations transform ideas into reality by harnessing the power of the information and technology to create unique solutions.

Too Vague and too wordy.

I want something that is more specific than ideas/reality and “unique solutions.” While there are a variety of technologies and industries we have worked with in the past, I don’t think specifically naming them is appropriate, but perhaps listing them here is:

  • Corporate / Franchise relationships through reporting, data transfers, and remote access to information via the web.
  • Map-based information that incorporates geographic information unique to the organization, such as a route.
  • Integrating 3rd party products including Microsoft applications via software hooks and customized programming.
  • Creating and implementing networks that provide anyone-who-needs-it access to whatever-they-need, including VPNs, Remote Access, etc.
  • Maintaining secure and up-to-date computer systems across an office network connected to the internet.
  • Harnessing the power of available information such as public info on the internet, data available through third party applications, downloads from private sources, or even data stored in other applications / documents that can be linked / read into another application.
  • Facilitating communication between computer systems in a sometimes-connected environment (unreliable internet, employees with cellular access roaming the state, etc.).

I take an organization’s ideas that seem roadblocked by technology and develop a unique solution incorporating data-driven software, unique network designs, and already-available hardware and software.

That seems a little more specific. It’s kind of long-winded, though… also a little negative – a lot of people aren’t roadblocked by the technology; in fact, they may not even see it’s full potential. That’s where I like to step in and say “yes, that’s a great idea… and we could make that work. It would look like this.” I like to discover their ideas, how they want the system to function within the realm of their way of doing things, and then provide a solution that is efficient, fast, useful in the scenarios in which my customers find themselves, and better than other solutions out there, especially solutions that can be bought off a shelf for a lower price.

I help organizations reach their full potential by harnessing the power of technology and information available to them. I provide unique solutions to unique problems that integrate the complete technology system: The network, servers, PC’s, existing applications, and ultimately, unique software solutions.

That’s getting somewhere. Some things I like in that are:

  • I like the word help. I am not someone you throw a problem and money at and out pops a solution. We work with our customers, discovering the real problem / need / want and then working with them to provide a solution that not only solves the problems and meets the needs, but that also fits into the way they do business.
  • Reach their full potential“. I like that because I also enjoy helping people reach their full potential in my personal life. I like seeing those who think they don’t have what it takes step into what they long to be – teachers, leaders, fathers.
  • I also like the word harness. I don’t feel that my company invents everything we do. We don’t do everything from scratch. We take much of what is already there and put it to work. In fact, that’s a catch phrase I’m thinking of… “We put your information to work.”
  • I like the phrase “provide unique solutions to unique problems.” It’s kind of vague, but emphasizes the way we treat each customer as its own entity, not as something we need to fit into a box WE define.
  • I like the word “integrate.” I think we do a lot of that – putting things together, finding puzzle pieces that will make a solution work without reinventing the wheel ten times over.

I see a few problems, too.

  • I think I may be over-using the word unique.
  • I think the list at the end is a little long. Perhaps useful as additional explanation, but probably would draw the focus away from everything else if someone had to keep track of all that.

Well, that’s a lot further than I was earlier today, or even earlier in the past six years. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this, but this has been good. I’d welcome your thoughts, criticisms, or ideas.

Mental Development

“Don’t go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This Ralph Waldo Emerson quote has been a favorite of mine for many years. Up until now, though, I always pictured it as me venturing forth into some great unknown, some grand mission outside of my little “realm.” It wasn’t until the past month that I’ve begun to see that the place where there is no path is actually many parts of my own life. I am in a time of transition right now, with work, with family, and above all else, in my personal life. I have entered into a coaching relationship with a brother named Mark Sturgell, and for the past month, have been learning that the dreams in the back of my head MATTER, that goals I might want to achieve CAN BE DONE, and that it’s not MAGIC. It is requiring a lot of hard work, but I’m already seeing the benefits in my confidence in who I am, who I was made to be, and what I was made to do.

One thing I’ve found over the years, and it’s rung true this past month, is that writing things down really crystallizes them for me. So I’m thinking of using my blog here to share, mainly with myself, some of the things I’m learning. Writing them down with a pen on a sheet of paper gets me started, but putting those thoughts into complete sentances, clean tables, and even before the public eye pushes me a little bit more.

Today I finished up a self evaluation on Mental Development. The mission here was to examine myself, to find strengths, potential strengths, and even weaknesses, in my mind, and in the way I think. I enjoyed this section, and will jot a few things down here that originally found their way to pen and paper.

Where I Stand Now

After completing a short survey and looking back on some past achievements / mental strengths, I was instructed to write a narrative form of “where I a stand now” as far as mental development. I was to use my imagination and enjoy my time. It was actually quite fun. Here’s the result:

It is apparent to me that I love to learn. Whether it problem solving at the office, developing a solution to a problem not fully identified, or finding better/best ways to get from one place to another, I love not just the solution, but what I experience and learn in the process of discovering that solution.

I seem to not necessarily be an idea man when it comes to original ideas and big dreams, but I can wade through the muddle of a project or even another life and find nuggets that both crystallize the concept and also make it seemingly doable. I enjoy and am good at getting to the heart of a matter, whether that means wading through personal opinions at a meeting or finding quotes that capture an idea in a book or conversation.

I enjoy being taught. Not just in the traditional lecture or discussion form, but in any way that brings me new knowledge and understanding. I can manage a lot in my head, but I do let it get a little too crowded at times.

I truly enjoy sharing these learning experiences with others, be it in a “eureka” moment or simply taking a big concept and finding where it hits close to home. I love seeing others come to realize that they too have what it takes to make their dreams become reality.

Mental Development Goal-Setting

The next step of the Mental Development process was to develop some goal categories, and after that, some goals to fit into those categories, and after that, to prioritize them. This got kind of tough, but in the end, it was extremely practical, doable, and encouraging.

CATEGORY GOAL #
Getting from Start to Finish Identify and implement a project-based method of finishing tasks that works for both personal and business areas of my life 5
Proactive Self-Improvement
Spend one hour a day, Monday – Friday, on my Sales Action Plan, and listen/read to my sales / self-improvement audio files at least 6 times per week. 1
Intentional and Purposeful Reading Plan
Spend time every day (30 minutes?) reading. Develop a place to keep 2-3 different books on different subjects so they are accessible to the points of time in my day when I have time to read. Schedule time to read as well. 2
Quality Family Time Make time each week to have adult conversations with my wife and talk about what is important to us, and learn how to set goals together, accordingly. Read to my children each day. 1
Develop and Exercise Writing Skills
Create a blog or journal entry each day on something relevant to my day. 4
Develop and Exercise Speaking / Teaching Skills
Find an opportunity to teach a group on a regular basis. 3
Seek Opportunities to Teach / Mentor / Train Individuals
Develop relationships with 1-2 specific men in my life, and seek out 2-3 specific youth as well. Make a point to add something to their life each week. 6
Develop Methods to Retain what I’ve Learned
Blog or Journal a small summary or tidbit from each day, before the day is gone forever. 4

I’m not sure if those are “good goals.” In fact, I have already have times that I have doubted they are. They seem too vague, or not related to mental development, or this, or that. But as I’m learning… If they are meaningful to me, that is what matters. And these are meaningful, stimulating, and enjoyable activities for me that would add to my life. I don’t have a clue how they’re going to “fit in” to everything else that is already going on and all the other areas I’ll be setting goals, but I think looking at these as things I can choose from down the road, or even right now, makes it all a little more doable and exciting.