More Precious Than Life

I am continuing to read John Piper‘s book, Don’t Waste Your Life. Today I read a chapter entitled “Living to Prove He is More Precious than Life.”

It just so happens that I’m also embarking on a portion of my “being coached” adventure that necessitates me setting a stopwatch for every 15 minutes and then categorizing what I have done for the previous quarter hour… every 15 minutes, All. Day. Long. And I have to do this for 5 days in a row.

Want a way to self-examine yourself to see if you’re wasting your life? Write down what you do every 15 minutes from midnight to midnight for just one day in a row… let alone five! The feeling I’m getting right now is not one of wasting my life, but it’s also not one of using it to it’s fullest. As I look at my morning so far, it’s quite scattered, from taking care of myself and family to eating to returning emails and phone calls… it wasn’t until around 10:00 that I settled into doing one thing for more than 15 minutes. And it wasn’t until noon that I took a break to actually breathe and say, “where am I?”

Don’t Waste Your Life. How many of us are happy with the true quality our lives? Not the amount of income reported on our taxes, not the strength of our bodies, and not even the amount of time spent with our family watching “quality TV.” How can we “know” that what we’re doing is worth living for, or better yet, worth DYING for? This chapter I just read was all about sacrifice… and not sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, but sacrifice for the sake of something truly WORTH something. I liked this line toward the end of the chapter:

The greatest cause in the world is joyfully rescuing people from hell, meeting their earthly needs, making them glad in God, and doing it with a kind, serious pleasure that makes Christ looks  like the Treasure he is.

How true is that! And when compared to a life of being nice, obeying rules, going to church, and maintaining a good reputation, how much more EXCITING is that? Instead of going through life trying to squeeze everything in or make sure this gets done and that doesn’t, one can truly LIVE for something.

Mark Sturgell, my coach, encouraged me last week to boil my priorities down to 5 things. Here’s my initial list:

  1. Growing closer to God.
  2. Understanding myself.
  3. Growing close and caring for my family.
  4. Helping and encouraging others.
  5. Being free to live my life.

I feel a need to further refine those, and will walk down that road in the near future. The top several things on that list are kind of “defaults” for me, unfortunately, and I want to totally change that so that the things that are most important to me become things that actually get my attention. I don’t want to wind up at the end of life, or at the end of my 30’s, or at the end of this week, look back, and wonder…what was THAT all about? Did I accomplish ANYTHING worth while? The more and more I learn about what is important to me, the more and more I’m wanting to do what is necessary to become that person, to be that person, and to accomplish the things God has both asked me to do, and that I know he will empower me to do.

Piper discussed the way many of us live our lives as if the world is at peace, and not as if we are engaged in all-out-war against the devil, the world, and even our old selves. He called this an “avoidance ethic,” and it hit home with me as to the way I used to approach things like conflict, confrontation, vision, dreams, and just about anything important in life. (and still do both in weak, rushed, and lazy times of my life). I like this comparison he made:

Peole who are content with the avoidance ethic generally ask the wrong question about behavior. They ask, What’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with this movie? Or this music? Or this game? Or these companions? Or this way of relaxing? Or this investment? Or this restaurant? Or shopping at this store? What’s wrong with going to the cabin every weekend? Or having a cabin? This kind of question will rarely yield a lifestyle that commands Christ as all-satisfying and makes people glad in God. It simply results in a list of don’ts. It feeds the avoidance ethic.

The better questions to ask about possible behaviors is: How will this help me treasure Christ more? How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ? How will it help me know Christ or display Christ? The Bible says, ‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31). So the question is mainly positive, not negative. How can I portray God as glorious in this ation? How can I enjoy making much of him in this behavior?

What a challenge that is to me. Instead of avoiding conflict and pain, I can be pursuing glory and praise. Not my own, but of a cause far greater than my own. Throughout the chapter, Piper made references to the men who fought at Iwo Jima, their sacrifice, their losses, and their ultimate victory in the very face of defeat.

Oh, God, I don’t want to waste my life! I want to live a life full of energy and dedicated toward serving and displaying you, of bettering the world through the influence you’ve granted me, and by loving those you’ve brought into my life in a way that challenges them to respond to your call as well.

 

My Schedule Serves Me, Not The Other Way Around

 

Image Goes HereGOAL: PLAN EACH DAY IN ADVANCE, AND REVIEW IT BEFORE IT’S OVER

GOAL SUMMARY: I’ve been impressed lately with several days where I’ve “got a lot done.” Yet it seems that the moment I have a success story like that, it’s followed by another day of flipping back and forth between projects that really aren’t that important, and losing track of things I “have to get done.” I think a lot of the problem is that I truly don’t understand what has to get done each day. I’ve developed habits of letting others priorities become my priorities without checking them at the door to see if they “mesh.” A couple weeks I shared my version of what I saw the big picture solution: “My first priority must be scheduling my priorities.” While I think that is an important initial step, I think there’s another step that I’ve got to get control of, and that is simply Identifying those priorities. What truly IS it that needs to get done this hour, this, or this week? How do they fit into the bigger picture?

I’m confident (and being repetetively reassured by my coach, Mark Sturgell), that we’re going to get around to that whole thing of prioritizing these goals, which in turn will help me prioritize the steps I need to take to accomplish those goals. In the meantime, I want to start gaining control of at least my daily schedule. I’m not too sure I jive with the concept of simply “scheduling my priorities,” because there is always something else that can pop up and take over my schedule… or is that even true? What is key is to identify those things that truly are priorities each day (even if I get them wrong for a while, that’s ok) and sticking to the fact that I must accomplish them… not necessarily before everything else, but definitely in spite of everything else. So with that, I am embarking on the path to achieve the goal of planning every day in advance, and reviewing it before it’s over.

GOAL:

Plan each day in advance, and review it at the beginning and end of the day.

TARGET DATE:

Saturday, 10/1/2010

TODAY’S DATE:

Friday, 9/24/2010

REWARDS FOR ACHIEVEMENT:

  • Each day will be a success because I have identfied what is truly important and have accomplished it.
  • I will stay on top of tasks and not let them drag out until the end of the day when I must either rush through them or let them slide to another day.
  • I will better be able to say “no” to spontaneous appointments.
  • I will gain motivation, drive, and efficiency because I know what needs to be done.
  • I will be able to work in flexibility for the unexpected, give it some time, and know that “it’s ok,” because I’ve planned for it.

CONSEQUENSES OF NON-ACHIEVEMENT:

  • My priorities will continue to be second to others priorities imposed on me.
  • I will start and end each day unaware of whether or not I succeeded in what I set out out to do.
  • I will not be able to keep track of what I have accomplished over time and how it has led me to where I am.

AFFIRMATIONS:

  • I am a success. I set goals that are important to me and do what is necessary to achieve them.

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I will not have an understanding of what my priorities are to be each day.

  1. Go day to day for now. You’ll learn.
  2. Eventually: identify longer term goals, get them down on paper, put dates on calendars, and work that into eacy week/day’s plan.
  1. Practice Practice Practice.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I will not have the time at the end of the day to plan tomorrow.
  1. MAKE TIME. If you get to the end of the “work day” and have not accomplished this, work late, and then suffer some sort of consequense to accomodate for the impact working late has had on my family.
  2. Rather then doing it at the end of the work day, do it at the end of the actual day.
  1. Schedule 15-30 minutes at the end of every day to “wrap up and plan tomorrow.”
  2. Develop a daily checklist, including a hard-coded (not penciled in every day) MUST DO of “plan tomorrow.”
  3. Come up with a consequense for not achieving this goal, share it with my wife, and face it any time I do not prioritize planning tomorrow.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

“Emergencies” will pop up.

  1. Develop a method of determining if something is truly an emergency.
  2. Plan for emergenices. If they do not occur, use the time for some other “should do” items on my list.
  1. Make up a list of questions to ask before adding an item to the “must do” list for each day.
  2. Set aside time toward the end of each day to either deal with that-day-emergencies or fit in other things that have already been bumped back by emergencies.
  3. Delegate more emergencies to others.
  1. Mon, 9/27/10
  2. Mon, 9/27/10
  3. Fri,
  4. 10/1/10
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I don’t have a “system” that works for me.

  1. Start from scratch
  2. Start from the day-planner in the RAC plan, and customize it for myself.
  1. Start using RAC planner
  2. Convert RAC planner to Excel so I can modify it
  3. Add / delete / change items as needed.
  1. Thu, 9/23/10
  2. Mon, 9/27/10
  3. Fri, 10/1/10
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I won’t know if “it’s working.”

  1. Include time at the end of the day to review the current day.
  1. Review each day before planning tomorrow. Include a Yes/No box on the daily sheet to answer if i succeeded what I set out to do today.
  2. Make a list of accomplishments to remind myself that I am getting better.
  3. Share what I have done each day with my wife or a friend.
  1. Mon, 9/27/10
  2. Mon, 9/27/10
  3. Fri, 10/1/10
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I’ll lose focus.

  1. Utilize affirmations and daily accomplishment list.
  2. As I discover bigger goals, remind myself of them.
  3. Include a place to journal some thoughts for each day.
  4. Include some remdinders at the bottom of each day’s sheet.
  1. Fri, 10/10/10
  1. Fri, 10/1/10
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

Others I work with will not “get it” or “allow” me to live by my priorities.
  1. Share changes I’m going through with them, either verbally, or perhaps as a memo to customers detailing changes coming down the road in terms of planning availabiilty, focus of business, etc.
  2. Get over it. I can’t make everyone happy. My priorities do not “automatically” take second place to someone else’s.
  1. Write memo to customers, perhaps in the form of a monthly newsletter.
  2. Share changes with employees and family.
  3. Share accomplishments with family and friends.
  4. Keep affirmations, goals, and priorities in front of my face.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

xxx

  1. xxx
  1. xxx
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

CONCLUSION

This is very much a work in progress, but I believe it is doable. I believe it is necessary. And I believe it will make a significant, even tremendous, shift in the way I spend my time each day, along with the attitude I have before, during, and after my day.

GPS – Paint and Decorate our Bedroom

 

Image Goes HereGOAL: PAINT AND DECORATE OUR BEDROOM

GOAL SUMMARY: We’ve lived in our home for about 9 years now. While it’s definately our “home,” there are still quite a few things that remain unfinished, including such things as actually throwing an alternative color coat of paint and some wall decorations in our bedroom. I have often been frustrated by how hard it seems to keep the place clean and “home-sweet-home-ish,” and have even wondered if I’ll ever get the motivation to paint it because of all my clothes and other things that wind up tossed around various parts of the room.

But now I’m wondering if perhaps one reason it’s not as clean and enjoyable as I’d like is because we haven’t started on some basics. So here we go, a GPS about painting a room. This one is being done by both me AND my wife, so we’ll see where this goes. Hopefully “picking a color” does not become an obstacle because I know the solution… “let Erin choose.”

GOAL:

Paint and Decorate our Bedroom

TARGET DATE:

October 31, 2010

TODAY’S DATE:

September 13, 2010

REWARDS FOR ACHIEVEMENT:

  • CHET: Our bedroom will feel like more than just a place to lie in bed. It will be a bit of a “sanctuary” for rest and relaxation.
  • ERIN: Our bedroom will be a place to unwind.
  • CHET: We can finally hang stuff on the walls, including nice curtains that match something.
  • ERIN: Our bedroom will be pretty.
  • CHET: NEXT STEP: New flooring!!!

CONSEQUENSES OF NON-ACHIEVEMENT:

  • ERIN (with about a 10 millisecond delay): We’ll still have ugly white walls.
  • CHET: The bedroom will continue to be a clutter collector because we haven’t done anything to make it “ours,” even though we’ve lived here 9 years.
  • ERIN: We won’t have a comfy place to unwind.
  • CHET: I won’t have reason to fix the sticking door or install new flooring.

AFFIRMATIONS:

  • ERIN: We have a nice bedroom. (such a forward thinker she is!)
  • CHET: I make quick work of projects once I get started on them.
  • ERIN: We care about the comfort of our home.
  • CHET: I love my wife enough to give in on the little things in order to accomplish bigger things.

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

Time to paint, taking into account our already crazy lives.

  1. Send Colton off to a babysitter all day on a Saturday.
  2. Let Colton help (uhhhh… Erin?) and do it while MaKenna naps.
  3. Spread the work out over several evenings.
  1. Pick a date.
  2. Find a baysitter.
  3. Get everything we’ll need before that date.
  1. 9/13/2010 (DONE)
  2. 9/25/2010
  3. 10/2/2010
  1. October 9
  2.  

 

xxx

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

Don’t have the money to complete the job right.

  1. Divide the task into steps (paint, get curtains, get pictures, etc.)
  2. Get the money from savings
  3. Work it into the October budget
  1. Budget and set aside Septmeber money for paint.
  2. Budget and set aside October money for wall decorations.
  3. What we can’t afford, budget and set aside in pieces in the following months.
  1. 9/18/2010
  2. 10/2/2010 or 10/16/2010
  3. 10/31/2010
  1.  
  2.  

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

Can’t agree or decide on paint colors

  1. Let Erin decide on her own.
  2. Erin provides several specific examples and then we choose together.
  1. Erin gets paint samples.
  2. Chet and Erin decide
  1. 9/21/2010
  2. 9/25/2010
  1.  

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

The room is too cluttered to paint on paint day.

  1. Thoroughly clean room weekend prior to painting, and then touch up the day before.
  2. Lock the door until it’s time to paint.
  3. Hire a maid service.
  1. Get boxes out of room.
  2. Put all clothes and clutter away.
  3. Dust and vaccum furniture, walls, and windows.
  4. Keep room mostly clean until paint weekend.
  5. Touch up cleaning night before painting.
  1. 9/25/2010
  2. 10/2/2010
  3. 10/2/2010
  4. 10/3 – 10/8/2010
  5. 10/8/2010
  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  

How is it that things this “simple” take so long to do? Perhaps it’s because it’s not really that simple. Looking at all these steps that are going to be required reminds me that while this may just require a few hours actual painting labor, the work leading up to it could be quite involved. Lots of little things to get in the way, discourage us, or distract us. Now what do we do, transfer all these must-do dates to our family calendar? Suddenly the family calendar is dominated by dates related to painting. But I guess that’s ok, because if it’s important enough to do, it’s important enough to plan.

So there we go… Joint GPS #1 is in the books. And no fights, yelling, or even arguing ensued. Yay us!

Financial Development – Where I Stand Now Narrative

This week I’m looking at the “financial / career” development piece of my life puzzle. There’s a survey I have to take at the beginning of the section, and as I did that, I found myself with quite a few strong strengths, and quite a few weak weaknesses. There were a few things in between, but on the edges, things were either great or completely absent. For example, I’m extremely well insured via life insurance, but to be honest, my will is severely lacking (some might read that “non-existant.”) My family and I are getting better and better at budgeting each month and even longer term than that, but my business is run more through the monthly flow of cash. I know the basics of where and when that’s coming each month, but the changes I’m going through right now are going to require more than that.

I seem to be fine, even good, with making decisions when a problem is handed to me that needs to be solve, or when I can simply “do the math” and make a decision right then and there. What seems to be lacking are those more “off in the distance” types of things, like what do I want my financial picture to look like when I’m in my 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond. I’m fine with saying my wife and family will need X dollars if I die, but if I’m still alive, don’t I need to have a plan for THAT too? The thing is, if I’m still alive, then it’s got to be some of what I want to make of it, I can’t just give someone the money and let them make the decisions as to what to do. This would be further evidenced by the lacking of a good will, long range budgeting, etc.

On the other hand, though, when I look at my past achievements, I see that it is possible for me to do great things with money. Things like give $10,000 to charity in a year, all while paying down over $30,000 in debts over the course of a few years and starting my own business from a shoestring. We’ve accomplished great things! But so many of them didn’t require planning. They were decisions that needed to be made, and while good decisions were made, they weren’t really thought out for the long haul, even though they affected it greatly.

So as I look at that, I see the benefit that this concept of goal planning is going to have on my financial picture. If I see what’s possible, it opens my eyes to how much better things could be if I really thought through what we could do with X amount of dollars.

One thing I dearly love is giving money away. Some of the cooresponding items on my dream inventory are things like:

  • Give away 90% of my money and live off of 10%, instead of the other way around.
  • Buy someone else a home.
  • Host an exchange student.
  • Do ______ on the side, without having to worry about the income it brings in.

These dreams excite me. They motivate me. As I start to look at the financial decisions I make now in light of those dreams and important things, it makes me realize that they won’t come to be unless I plan for them, unless I prepare myself for them, and essentially, make them happen. Sure, I wholeheartedly believe that God directs my paths, that He provides for me, and that He will open up the doors of my life. But I also believe He wants me to push those doors open, to try the locks and see where He’s at work, to take the risk (and even experience) of failure in order to achieve the greater things He has planned that will only come about through experience, trial and error, and hard stinking work.

So this is an area of my life I see much opportunity, and even much victory in the past, but that victory was more often by God’s grace and circumstance, instead of my own investment in what he’s given me. I don’t want to be the servant who, when Jesus returns, gives Him back His resources and says, “here, I kept it safe for you.” To follow the servant who brought back 10-fold (or was it more) is going to take smart investing, hard work, and risk taking. I may even have to risk it all, even lose it all, but I can still trust that God is faithful through all of it.

Toward that end, I am writing down the following goal categories for financial and career development:

  • Increase my ability to give a greater proportion of my income away.

  • Prepare for the long term future (death, old age, what I want from retirement)

  • Become debt free

  • Invest and Save on a recurring, increasing, and significant basis.

  • Consider and consider steps towards other careers I’d like to pursue, even as part-time or volunteer positions

  • Plan ahead for business finances, including what we’ll get, spend, and have on hand.

  • Build an increasing revenue stream through my company that does more than just pay me for the hours I work: Residual income, products developed, services provided via those producdts, etc.

CATEGORY GOAL #
Give away an increasingly higher proportion of my income Find out exactly what percentage we are currently giving away each month (currently it’s $ based, not % based) and increase it by 1% over 2 months. From that point forward, make it a specific percent of income. 3
Prepare for the unknown long-term future Write my will. 1
Become debt free Create an amortization schedule for my last credit card (even though it’s at 0% fixed interest forever) and seek to pay it off in 2 years. 6
Open my eyes to alternate careers Find a good book about the career of Christian counseling. 5
Plan ahead for business finances Created a “dream” and “bare minimum” budget for C2IT starting from the point I’m at right now for the next 12 months. 2
Build residual income Start a NING site for Fleet and Home-Service businesses with the expectation of building them a custom ticket management solution. 4
Give away an increasingly higher proportion of my income Read the biography of R. G. LeTourneau 3

Where I want to get to with my business

I spent the last 90 minutes out on my deck… first doing some reading, and then doing some pacing, talking out loud, and the occasional pullup as I talked through some real stuff. And I realized some things:

5 years from now, I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing right now. In fact, I’d rather not be doing what I’m doing right now, RIGHT NOW. But as I think this through, I believe this is a transition period, not just for the sake of income, but for the sake of transitioning my company to what I want it to be, and to do.

It all seemed to start with some “I want to” and “I don’t want to” statements, such as:

  • I want to care for my own products, not someone elses. 
  • I don’t want to be fixing servers, repairing firewalls, or rebuilding spyware infected computers as part of my business.
  • I want to create “core” solutions and customize them to different markets/niches, and then maintain them. Not administer them. Maintain them. Take care of the customers, and the product.
  • I don’t want to be doing service calls, help desk calls, or “whatever you need IT” calls for products not related to the core of my business.

My initial thought is, well, that’s changing most of what I do each week! YES! I spend so much time each week chasing problems and developing quick little fixes that I don’t have the time or the energy to focus on the solutions I can provide to solve the bigger problems I know about, but simply can’t develop effective solutions to.

As I thought this, I came up with some more.

  • I don’t want to just be a software development company either.
  • I see several core products – 2-3 for starters, maybe 4-6 in the future – that I want to build, “niche-ify,” and then provide (sell/market/network) to various areas.
  • I want to develop a network of support that can support these products, both by recommending hardware and other IT services that don’t “fit” into what we do.

So what are these core products? These core “concepts” I’d like to develop? Here’s what’s on the list right now. One of these is brans spanking new from over the past few weeks, but especially today:

  • A ticket management solution for fleet and home-service focused businesses.
  • A knowledge management solution for connecting churches to public schools.
  • A goal management solution to provide electronic goal planning and organization, calendaring, task management, delegation.

Each of these “ideas” fits into the bullseye of what I want my company to do. Develop a core product, that can then be customized to various industries. I also notice that each one ends in “management solution.” This seems important. It’s the core of what we do, I think. We take “pieces” that the customer already has and help them organize, manage, and take care of them. Each of these solutions can further be focused to specific industries as we develop them. For instance, I have a client interested in a ticket management system for their contracting company that would be rather basic, but still specific to that industry in terms of work flow, billing, etc. I also have a specific geographical area interested in the knowledge management solution, a “way” the information would flow, and specific pieces we would build into it and then who we’d “market it” to.

And the goal management solution? This is one of the coolest. It’s something I think I need for myself on one level. I am making up all these goals and seeing others that need to be made, but simply putting them on a “list” one page after another doesn’t work for me very well. I need what I’m starting to call a list of “goal dependencies” for each goal, so I can see what it depends on, and what depends on it. I also need it to integrate into my calendar, my task list, and several other areas so that I can actually integrate my goals into the way my daily life works. I see this product as being marketable not only to goal-minded individuals, but also to business/life coaches, planning committees, high school sports coaches, corporations, and to anyone who wants to look at the big picture, break it down into bite size pieces, and then see what’s necessary to accomplish those bite size pieces, and so on and so forth.

As I look at these, I see an already-successful side of my business, that while not a huge portion of the business, is quite significant. I am the “IT Consultant” for a nationwide association of franchises of a large corporation, and I provide them a backoffice management solution that takes data “available” to them from the corporation and turns it into useful reports, tools, and other stuff they can actually use to run their business. This data is not easily available to them because of it’s format and where you have to go to get it, but I’ve developed a system that automates the capture and processing of that data, and then makes it very easy for them to get – to the point of it showing up in their mailbox every morning! This established line of business already brings in over $50,000 per year, and while it’s market is limited (even shrinking), it is a success story that I have accomplished in this line of work. It is very low maintenance on the daily side, solves numerous specific problems for our clients, and is well worth any money they spend on it.

I have another project right now I’m bidding on that is a customer and job-based image management solution. This one will take the “problem” of thousands and thousands of pictures taken on high-res cameras and automatically resize, store, and secure them so both the company and it’s clients can access their data when and where they need it. Again… they do their job, and we take care of the storing, managing, and presenting of that information back to them. They don’t have to worry about filing, resizing, organizing, or “taking care” of all that data.

These ideas motivate me! They drive me! Why? Because they fit into what I want to do with my life. I want to be free to take 2 weeks of vacation without worrying that one of the 20 servers I “maintain” will go down. I want to have systems in place that take care of themselves, and yes, while they’ll need maintenance and continual development, they don’t need babysat. That’s what I feel I’ve turned in to, and it explains both why it’s hard for me to justify raising rates to levels I’d like to across the board, and why I’m not satisfied. I’m tied down, I’m primarily doing maintenance and fix-it work instead of core solution development and then niche-ifying it.

So these are big-level goals for the company. There is a transition piece to it all, i’m sure, but that transition has to fit into the big picture, both for the company, and beyond that, for my life and those involved. I want to provide meaningful, useful, and ongoing products that are both self-maintaining and profitable, and that can be continaually added to to provide additional value to my clients and added markets to my company. I also want to keep things focused enough that they don’t become so generic that aren’t specific enough for specific applications. That’s why I like the idea of a “core product” that can then be further developed for specific industries or niches. It creates not only additional opportunities for us to reach specific “groups” beyond single user accounts, but also allows us to build onto what already exists for better pricing for future products.

That’s it for now. Had to get these thoughts down. The goal planning system is especially interesting to me right now, because I need some sort of scaled down version of it for my own life, and I want to integrate it with my blog, with my calendar, with the tasks I do each day, and with the relationships I build.

When did I become a leader?

“When did I become a leader?”

I had that question asked to me via text message last night by a teenage friend of mine. I had mentioned to her about how a little prayer ministry she was championing didn’t have anybody except little old me show up this past week while she had been away. “But I don’t want people doing something just because I want them to do it,” she said. “I want them to want to do it themselves!”

How common is that desire in the heart of so many people. We find something we are passionate about, we bring in some others and they seem to love it too, but the moment we take a break or miss a meeting or ask them to step up for themselves, no one shows up. And immediately, at least for me and (I think) my friend here, we get kicked into this “well maybe it’s not such a great idea if no one else really wants to do it” mode.

I pulled a thought from Andy Stanley’s book, Visioneering, out for my friend last night. Leaders see what should be, and what could be, and they go after it. They see things well before others do, whether it’s a need that they can meet, a problem that they might be able to solve, or just a passion they can set their heart on, and they go after it. They inspire others to come along side of them, and even if those people don’t totally “get it” right away, they care enough about both the concern and the person whom is concerned about it to make it important to them, too.

So what do we do when suddenly, one day, nobody shows up? When they forget? When their passion begins to fade? When we suddenly look around and realize we’re the only one doing the work again, and it feels like we’re just dragging others along on our ride, or that perhaps they’re trying to get off? Do we quit? Find something new? Go all introspective and wonder, “was it really meant to be?”

I tried to share with my friend that just because others forget, doesn’t mean it’s not important to them. Yes, they may have some growing to do to make this a priority in their life, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want it to be a priority. And that’s when I told her those words… “you’re that leader.” Essentially, you started this, like it or not. You initiated it. You’re driving the ship. Others want to be on that ship, and they may specifically look to you in the upcoming weeks to see how you’ll handle a week off, and a week with a bit of a let down, now that it’s past. Will you let go, and demonstate to those around you that this really wasn’t as imnportant (not just to you) as you made it out to be? Or will you press in, invite them back, and act like what you are doing is important enough to do, regardless of whether or not it’s a priority to anyone else.

BECAUSE IT IS.

You’ve seen what could be. You’ve seen what should be. What needs to be. And you’ve gotten a hint of how to make it be. Whether that means praying before a service for freedom to express yourselves in worship, holding hands to gain courage to lift your hands while singing, or walking up to an “old person” and asking them why they frown and stick their hands in their pockets when they’re singing “joyful joyful we adore thee,” you’ve found something that you feel needs to be changed. And there are others there behind you, both itching to see what you care about succeed, and at the same time a little apprehensive to jump in with both feet because they too, are afraid of being let down again.

When did you become a leader?

When you discovered what should be, thought about how it could be, and invited others to join you to make it be. In other words… When you started leading.

I loved hearing that question last night, and even more now that I think about it. So many “leaders” get there because that’s what they want to do… “Lead.” They become leaders because they want followers, not because they’ve discerned a passion on their heart and choose to follow it wholeheartedly, regardless of their following. Wholehearted people attract others, because most of us are wandering around with empty hearts, half-filled hearts, or hearts filled with false truths and lies that we’d just love to see replaced with a truth that inspires and motivates.

I’ve found one of the main things that causes me to want to follow someone is just that: their ability to motivate and inspire me. Not with some fancy idea or great sales pitch, but with a life that is 100% authentic and sold out to a cause bigger than themselves. They do what they do because it’s important. To them. To their understanding of life. To their understanding of eternity. What they do now matters for eternity, and they “get that.” Whether people follow them or not, they know what is important, and they go after it, abandoning all else that might hold them back.

So to my good friend who may be a little discouraged or let down that nobody except little old me showed up last week, I hope I can reassure you: What you are doing is important. Others want to do it as well, and you are an inspiration to them to the point that they’ll do it.

Each of them will come around or they won’t, but they’ll have to do it in their own way. You, on the other hand, can only determine the actions of one person… and those decisions you make to stick with it or go find something new to do will greatly affect the influence you have over others… because they (we) are watching you.

You have what it takes. God is jealous for you to the point that He wants your whole heart, and won’t let you live a life where you share it between Him and others. He wants to be your portion, your strength, and the motivation that drives you each day.

Leadership: Grow and Learn

How can I be a godly leader? That’s the question of the disucussion I’m leading on our church’s high school youth group tomorrow morning. This is the third lesson in a series of four, and I haven’t been present for the first two lessons, nor do I have the materials to look back and see what they covered. So first things first, I want to walk through down the road of where we’ve been so far. After that, I want to pose the questions, “should we all be leaders,” and “is leadership something we should all aspire to?” While I believe we all have circles of influence, I don’t think that being known or visible as a “leader” is a sign of a more mature or more important person. In fact, I think it’s good to ask, “what good is a leader without any followers?” I think this YouTube video shows that while leadership is of course important the initial step to “get the ball rolling,” it is by no means all that is needed to get a movement started.

What are the different roles portrayed in this video?

  1. The leader (the “nut”).
  2. The first follower (he’s a little “nutty” also).
  3. The second follower and his friends (now this is getting popular).
  4. Those who jumped in once it became popular (now we have a movement).
  5. Those who jumped in once it became unpopular to sit in the dwindling crowd.
  6. Those who never left the crowd on the ground.
  7. The camera man.
  8. The YouTube poster.
  9. Me.
  10. You.

Which role do you typically find yourself in? Are there any “unimportant” roles in the starting of this movement? Would it have gone anywhere without the leader? Without the first follower and his friends? Would it have received millions of views on YouTube without the camera person and whoever posted it to YouTube?

So the question in today’s lesson is “How can I be a godly leader?” Is is “assumed” for some reason that we all need to strive to be leaders in one way or another? Why or why not?

I believe that, while we may not all start movements with our leadership, we all have influence. And that makes us potential leaders. Regardless of the amount of change we may cause, we affect those around us. Whether it’s our peers, our brothers and sisters, or people we don’t even know that look up to us, we all play an important part. And that’s what today’s lesson is really about… stepping into the roles God has for us to play. Whether they are big, small, or somewhere in between, they are all important. So instead of just asking, “how can I be a godly leader,” I want us to really seek the answer to the question, “how can I step up into the role God has for me?”

1. USE WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU

  • What are some facts you’ve heard of about Timothy? He was young. He was mentored by Paul. He was a young pastor.
  • Read 2 Timothy 1:6: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
  • What’s the purpose of “fanning a flame?” To keep it burning, to cause it to grow. What are ways we do this with real life fires?

2. DON’T BE AFRAID

  • Read 2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
  • Why might Paul have been reminding Timothy of these things?
  • What are some excuses why we don’t lead, or step into the roles God has for us? Are we afraid that He has “too big a part” for us to play?

3. LIVE OUT YOUR FAITH

  • Read 2 Timothy 1:8-12:  So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
  • Is there something that is precious to you that you’re still “ashamed” or “shy” to share with others? You don’t need to share what it is… but let’s admit it, there are things about us that we know are unique, even special, but we can’t explain them… we can’t explain them in a way that we think others would “get.”
  • What would it mean to be ashamed of your faith? Why do you think Paul mentioned it twice in these verses?

4. STAND FIRM

  • Read 2 Timothy 1:13-14: What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
  • What’s it mean to “hold on” to something, to “guard the good deposit?” Does it mean we just store it in the back of our brain, or is it more active than that? What does it look like in real life?

WRAP IT UP

Is there such a thing as a “born leader?” Who are some people you think might be born with this as part of their nature? What are some of these “qualities” that you’re saying they’re born with, then? I think almost all of these qualities are developed, not simply given to someone in their genes. Unless a person steps into their role, their “story,” and exercies and builds their leadership “muscles,” they’ll go unused, and will never amount to what they were created to be, or do.

I read a definition of leadership this week that I think is worth repeating:

Leadership is the process of helping people accomplish together and what they could not do as individuals. Leaders are people who get leadership going.

Remember the video from the beginning? What did it say… “Leadership is overrated.” and that the leader got the focus off himself as soon as he had others walking with him. Leadership is not about who’s the leader and who are the followers. Leadership is about stepping up into the role you can play, playing it, and then being pround not just of your participation, but of the end result.

I think we as a church, and even as Christians in general, often overrate leadership. Just count the programs that start but never get maintained or finished strong. Count the “leaders” that have a dream but never gain a following because their dream is just their own, not something anyone else would like to follow.

So, to go back to the video from the beginning. Do you want to be part of something great? Then I think this might be some great advice:

The best way to make a movement is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in. Being a first follower is an underappreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark. There’s no movement without the first follower.