Vision – Glimpses of the path

Back in college at Cedarville University I had this vision of my life taking the Bible to places it’s never been in ways it’s never gone before. In that glimpse, I figured it would be with a group like Wycliffe Bible Translators USA or JAARS or something like that. For years that dream lay dormant, even after I started listening and helping out at the Daily Audio Bible.

It wasn’t until last year, when the DAB began broadcasting in Arabic, that I realized I was right smack dab in the middle of all I was meant to be. I thought my dream had gone dormant, had been a tangent, or simply something I might support with my other resources. But there I was, part of an organization that’s taking the spoken word of God, anywhere in the world, to anyone that will listen…. even in ARABIC. That’s fresh ground, and I’m helping till it.

Today, I as reviewed some of the stats with Brian Hardin about how far this podcast has come in terms of terabytes, server counts, and all those other techy things, I’m reminded of how great my God is, how He loves to use my gifts and talents in a way that far surpasses what “I” would choose to do with them, and even how His sense of humor drives me to that place of knowing, without a doubt, that this journey I’m on is not a blind wandering but a trail worth following, a path laid before me, if I will only step up and follow it.

My Ecclesiastes – Motivation

The past year has been quite a journey for me, and I expect that the trip is nowhere near over. As I read the book of Ecclesiastes recently, I was reminded again about how even the wisest man who ever lived had to walk a path full of “wrong turns” in order to get to the destination. Solomon tested knowledge, pleasure, power, and a host of other sources for the meaningful life that his heart ached for, but in the end, here’s what he comes to:

Now all has been heard;
   here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
   for this is the duty of all mankind.
               (Ecclesiastes 12)

I believe that. Wholeheartedly. The search for “life” ends in God. There is nothing else that will fulfil, noone else who can validate us (me) to a place where it’s all “worthwhile.”

I’ve also come to understand my role in this life. Well, that may be a bit bold. Certainly, I don’t know everything about what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life or see the exact image of how I fit into the puzzle, but I see a good portion about how my uniquely created heart fits into the body of Christ. I’m learning what makes me “come alive,” and I’m going and doing that. I’m catching visions of what God is asking me to do, short and long term. That’s amazing. It’s something I’ve never experienced in life. It’s something I want to experience for the rest of my life. I never want this to go away again.

But… yeah, you knew what was coming, right? But.

But what I fight is the day-to-day. I’ve received some great coaching and mentoring along the lines of goal setting, strategic planning, and personal development. I know how to set goals that art attainable, measurable, and all that. I even find my life centered much more around that way of life than it used to be. It’s the motivation thing that gets me…

Motivation to…

…get to bed on time and get up early like I need to.
…make my followup and sales calls on a regular / daily basis, instead of letting them pile up
…make plans for big things that will never happen by themselves or with a single week’s worth.
…step up and let my voice be heart, even though it’s not as confident as I wish it was.

I even hopped over to Wikipedia, and it starts off right where I’m at:

Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. … Motivation may be rooted in a basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or a desired object, goal, state of being, ideal, or it may be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism, selfishness, morality, or avoiding mortality. Conceptually, motivation should not be confused with either volition or optimism. Motivation is related to, but distinct from, emotion.

I watched this documentary the other day about Seal Team 6, the guys that raided and took out Osama Bin Ladin. “Extremely Self-Motivated men,” this show called them. “Is there even such a thing,” I wondered? I hear that put in a variety of forms… Self Motivated, Type A, Driven…. all of those things. And that’s not ME. I don’t WANT it to be me, in fact. And in reality, I doubt it’s really anybody. Something is motivating those who seem to need no motivation other than a tap on the shoulder… self, pride, determination… something.

And this is my little ecclesiastical moment. I may not be searching for meaning in life, but I am searching for something… something that will drive me, motivate me.

I don’t want to figure that all out. I don’t want answer. But I want to understand my heart. I want to know it. To take captive the realm I have been given and put it into the service of the king.

That’s really where this all boils down to. S.D.G. Solo Deo Gloria. All Glory to God. That phrase captures it for me as a barometer, because when I measure what I’m doing against it, I can see the difference between what’s driven by my own pride and selfishness and fear and what’s driven by an all-out-craziness to see God’s name lifted up.

I want to keep that in front of me, all day, every day. In the back of my head and right in front of my eyes. I must. I’m not sure what will “work” for me, and perhaps a life of dissatisfaction with my own status quo is not a bad thing. On the other hand, God is doing great things, and He’s doing many of them right around my little realm, and that’s exciting to watch right now. Not because of me. Not even necessarily through me. Often in spite of me. But certainly around me. I am so thankful for eyes to see, and I pray for a heart to continue to follow, chase, and one of these days capture that wild goose called “what motivates chet?”

While I’m hear, I searched my blogs for posts I’ve made about motivation, and there certainly are a few. Here are a couple links…

Perhaps you were born for a time such as this.

Have you ever had one of those days when the puzzle pieces just fell together? We had one of those today in our household. It’s not one of those great days of revelation, but rather some slow and steady things that have been simmering for some time but just hit 212 degrees and have started rocking and rolling.

I wrote the other day about vision. About how I’m coming to learn that vision is not something you do, but something you have. In the world that I live in, mans plans of any sort are secondary to those of my Father in Heaven. And while His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts, He does want us to be able to follow him. I think I used to to believe that if you just looked hard enough, you could find God’s will. But I don’t believe that anymore; as I read in a book earlier this week, we can’t find God’s will; it must be revealed.

A few months ago, I started a set of strategic business planning and entrenprenurial leadership coaching with Mark Sturgell of the Performance Develop Network. PDN has been there for me quite a bit over the last year, and will be with me as we head in the future, regardless of where we head. As part of that process, we spent a good bit of time talking about identifying vision, mission, and values, and how those will be constant roadmarkers for me, my business, and my life as I move into the future. Through that process, I realized that a great opportunity for us to work within will be specific types of associations within some specific industry areas. I made a few contacts, had a few phone meetings, and then the summer got busy. I lost touch with a few of the people I wanted to meet, and admit I was a bit discouraged, although I knew I’d “try again” sometime.

Sometime happened a couple days ago, when I knew I just had to knock out an old to-do list. As I made calls and wrote emails, I connected with the guy I’d lost track of in May, who remembered me and also couldn’t remember how we’d lost touch.We spoke for about 30 minutes about a vendors association that serves two particular other associations; the very ones I’ve wanted to get involved with, but have been pursuing as individual organizations instead of the association as a whole.

All that to say, in about a month we may well be participating in our first convention-type meeting with both the vendor association and the association that represents around 50 small busineses around Indiana that we want to pursue. It just so happens that this particular year, there will be a special joint convention and there will be member businesses from around the entire nation there as well. Everybody from Indiana. Several from around the country. Right in my back yard. And exactly where we felt we needed to be, but didn’t know how to get to.

Anyways… we also had a great experience with the vet and our new horse. He got a good bill of health and while we have some things to work on, it’s just another nail in the confirmation coffin that God has been leading us down this path, and that we have been following Him. We wander a lot, we lose the trail, but He is faithful to bring us home.

The last thing that really pulled this all together was how we started reading Esther on the Daily Audio Bible today. The story about a woman who clearly had a very specific purpose in a very specific place at a very specific time. Had she not stepped into her role, no matter how frightening, overwhelming, and crazy-big it seemed, the people of Israel – Jesus’ anscestors – would have been wiped off the face of the Earth. There’s a verse somewhere where her uncle Mordecai encourages her, “perhaps you were made for such a time as this.” That is an encouragement to me. I may not save a nation from annihilation. I may not cure cancer. I may not even find a specific role with this association; but I feel God leading us this way, it fits with everything we’ve discovered and have sought, and it’s like my Father is telling me, “Go For It. You Have What It Takes, and I Have Your Back.”

To hear that? From my Creator? Why do I fear? Why am i hesitant? I choose not to be. I do not need to live in those lies, those half-truths… We know where we’re going, and we are going there… now.

So anyways… another rock on the pile. God is faithful. Our stories matter. Mine. Yours.

Vision, Confirmation, and a Galloping Horse

Galloping Horse Hooves

My wife and I have been on a bit of a journey over the past 3 months. It has not at all been a thrill ride, an adventure we would have chosen, or a path we would have chosen on our own. But it has been good, and looking back, I believe we have “walked with God.” He’s taught us patience, hope, trust, clarification, and even boldness and courage. As a tribute to God’s faithfulness and my lack of memory, I want to get some of the story down here.

Last May, Erin went off a Women’s retreat in Tennesse modeled after Captivating by the folks at Ransomed Heart. I stayed at home with the kids and she and a friend made the 300 mile, 4 day trek down south. There really was no sign of what was just beyond the horizon. These retreats are awesome; I go to one of the men’s retreats (Called Wild at Heart Boot Camp) each year with a group in Southern Indiana. They are about so much more than just song time and teaching… true healing, discovery, and brother and sisterhoods are built. I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for much of anything, and was excited that Erin was able to go. (I don’t know if I ever told her this, but I’d been praying that she’d be able to go for years).

While down there, she thinks during a prayer time, Erin had something of a vision. She really doesn’t remember all of the details, because it wasn’t all that “deep” at the moment. It was of her, on horseback, looking down at the feet of a galloping horse. That was really all she remembers now, or at least all that I remember that she remembers.

On the day Erin was to come home from her trip, the dominoes started to fall. I had some friends out to ride our horses on that Sunday, and Alpine, our quarterhorse, went CRAZY. He’d had a bad day a few weeks before, but some medicine took care of it. This was much stranger. Kicking the barn, squeezing into places he shouldn’t, even stepping on one of the girls when he should have been acting much calmer. Because of the past experience, I got in touch with the vet, and she had me bring him in. On a Sunday. In the evening. You know it’s important when that happens. The vet did a number of physical and blood tests and couldn’t really find anything, so I brought Alpine home with some very specific things to watch and an intestinal track to work on keeping clear with some very nasty medicine. If something like this happened again, we’d have to make the decision we knew we’d have to make.

Later that week, Erin told me about the vision. One thing that was noticably missing was the face of the horse she was riding. It wasn’t in her perspective… were we to believe that Alpine would fully recover and run again, or was this some other horse she’d later gallop with. We. Did. Not. Know.

But we prayed. We accepted that God’s plans are not ours, nor are his ways our ways. But we prayed for healing. We believed, in fact, that it would come. I shoved medicine through Alpine’s mouth through a cake decorating tool because it tasted so bad for him. We had to watch him very carefully, had to be home a lot more than normal, Erin even dug through his poop looking for rocks, which we thought he may have been eating and had blocked his system.

I don’t know how much later it was… a couple weeks, maybe, and it happened again. Thankfully, Erin was home this time. We ran Alpine into the vet, and this time, while examining him, the vet found a rapidly growing tumor on his spleen, right in the way of his intestinal tract. So many things suddenly made sense. The rock eating was because the cancerous tumor was attacking his blood system, and causing him to crave limestone for it’s calcium. It also explained all the licking he was doing on his stall bars (for the iron). It explained the weight loss, the constipation, and EVERYTHING. It was a sort of closure, I guess. We knew what it was time to do. We had some options for how to do it, but we knew even then what our path was to be.

We loaded Alpine up that very night, hauled him up to Purdue, and donated him to their veterinary school. Students, veterinarians, and others will learn from our horse about a rare cancer that may someday be more easily discovered or effectively treated.

So that chapter ended. We were obviously terribly sad, confused, even a bit lost. But I don’t think we felt let down. I don’t think Erin’s vision had lost it’s intensity; if anything, it was a sign to NOT give up; to keep our eyes open, to watch for what God WOULD do.

About a month later, we started looking for horses. Well, really, Erin did. I just reviewed the wish list every now and then to try to rule out the ones that involved me driving truck and trailer all around our good state. Occasionally we’d fine one we wanted to inquire on, and it would either already be sold, have something that turned us off, or be something to keeo our eye on.

There was a time when Erin had her “really like” list down to 3 horses. One was pricey, but possibly worth it. Another had a very good recommendation, but was a long way away. And the third was close, but relatively unknown and a little bit “normal.” Erin went to see one of them and really liked it… but was it worth the money?

She prayed for God to make things clear to her. That very night, the expensive horse and the far-away horse were reported as sold. So… another prayer answered, and we set up an appointment to go see Stormy, a Morgan / Paint gelding about 20 minutes from our home.

Erin fell in love with the horse. Colton fell in love with the horse. His comfort level was such that he did some things with me on horseback he’s never done before. The horse was the size Erin had been wanting, had the temperament we wanted, and was close. A little pricey, but possibly doable… We had a week of vacation coming up so told the girl (she’s 19 I think) that we wanted to take some time and would get back in touch when we returned. There was no peace about rushing it or making a decision right away, but much peace about relaxing, and letting God lead us.

We didn’t talk about Stormy much over vacation. A little, but not a lot. I felt like, and later did, ask God something like, “Is this for us?” and “Can we have him?” I didn’t really know the questions to ask, but I asked anyways. No clear answer, just “follow my lead,” essentially.

When we got home, Stormy’s owner emailed Erin to see if we were still interested. Yes we were. And I don’t remember exactly what, but now things really started moving in our hearts. “This might be it,” we said. We could see God leading us in this direction.

The last issue was price. We’d just spent several thousand dollars between vacation, putting Alpine down, and have a yearly hay bill coming up. We didn’t have the money in the bank to pay for the horse. So we started praying about that. Yes, we own a business. It’s profitable. There’s some money we can pull from it, and it IS money that we have a right to. It’s not borrowing, stealing, or cheating. It’s our business, created in part to make money, and it’s been a long time since we took anything “extra” from it.

A dollar figure stuck in my head was about 2/3 of what the girl was asking. I didn’t want to insult her, but I had no peace about just agreeing to the price she’d said or even the knocked down price she gave us. So Erin said I could have the job of negotating. I sat down with my email, wrote out my note with the how much and the why we could afford, and told her if this didn’t work out, we wouldn’t take offense and might try to come back in a few months if the horse was still available.

She took the offer. As is. Exactly what I felt was what we should offer.

And in 2 days, we go to pick up our horse. There’s still a vet-checkup to be done within a week to make sure everything’s all good. Who knows what might come up. But as we’ve walked this path with God, He’s been continually faithful. Not to what we thought He “should” do or probabably “would do” or what he “ought to do” to make us happy. But he has remained faithful to His character, and to those who love him.

All of this comes back now to Erin’s “little” vision while on her retreat. Of her, on horseback, galloping over a field… running, playing, even frolicking. What could easily be written off as a dream or indigestion has so much meaning to us now as we’ve walked this path. It provides confirmation, assurance, confidence, and peace.

What would happen if God wouldn’t have worked this out as He did? Well, to be honest, I have no idea. He didn’t work it out as we initially believed and hoped he would. Our horse of 5 years DIED. He’s GONE. Stormy won’t replace that horse, those memories, or Alpine’s place in our hearts. But he is a reminder of God’s goodness, his love, and his constant care for OUR hearts.

Walking with God is so much different than I grew up knowing. It’s so much more than trying to please him or hoping He’ll bless our attempts. It’s about watching, learning, and observing the plans of one much greater than ourselves. Vision is not about seeing the future. It is about opening our eyes to what is already around us, and admitting we can’t see it all (or even dream it all up) on our own. Vision, while so often treated as an active action we must perform or come up with, is much more of a passive observance of One who’s bigger plans are so much greater than our own, and it’s truly a thrill ride of a life to live.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” [This is] the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”—Isaiah 55:8–9

My first "napkin" of new directions

I’ve spent the last several weeks doing some research over some new avenues I’d like to explore with my company. Well travelled roads that I’ve travelled with some long term clients, that I have long believed have a place in “the market.” I’ve been encouraged as I’ve done so, because not only have I heard “I think that idea would work” from every person I’ve spoken to, I’ve also seen the “buy in” in their eyes as they start dreaming along with me. Niches it could fit into. Opportunities it could create. Small changes here or there that would make a huge difference in it the value of the product we have to offer.

So today I sat down with a whiteboard and started compiling my notes. Started dreaming “on paper.” It’s both enjoyable and invigorating to see an idea beginning to develop, a plan beginning to emerge, and “the next step” beginning to make itself known.

I have much to owe to the men who have taken time over the last month to sit down with me and work through both details and big ideas of this concept. They’ve helped me see that now is the time to get moving, and that this is something that I don’t necessarily have to “perfect” before I take it to market. In fact, perfecting it in the market is going to be a huge piece of what we have to offer because it will allow our customers to have a big say in the final product, even though the core components already in place, either in code or in concept.

So what is that “next step?” I think it’s a few more days of doodling, whiteboarding, and connecting some dots to the design of the system. To start drawing out some core components and identifying places of value, based on the conversations I have had with industry insiders such as Jerry H., Bryan H., and even John H. (Funny, they all have the same last initial.) I’ve got some people interested in helping with this project, both in the design, the initial development, and possibly, even the monetary investment / funding. There is much to do, much to learn, and much to risk. But the rewards – by no means primarily simply “money” – are great. Doing what I love. Working for people and organizations that I can truly enhance. Building a future that is both exciting, flexible, and somewhat stable.

Did I mention doing what I love? Achieving things I dream about, big and small?

The sales things I’ve been learning about over the past 2-3 months are hitting home in big ways, giving me confidence that “I can do this.” While I’m sure I’m nervous, I am not afraid. Even though I may fail, I will succeed. The battle, if I can call it that, is long. But I am committed to fighting it through the end, enlisting others to fight it with me (and for me in some cases), and coming out… champions.

 

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.

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.

Night Vision

This is an extended excerpt from a newsletter I received yesterday from The Noble Heart. It’s an excellent picture of walking with God through the dark times.

Night vision.  It feels like night vision is required when looking into our own life or the life of another.  We can make out the shape of some things that seem to be significant in the discovery of who we are, but they remain fairly dim and undefined or can disappear altogether.
 
I remember several late evenings (actually early mornings) getting up and walking into the kitchen to get a pain reliever for a headache.  I would leave the lights off hoping not to wake my wife and avoiding any other reasons for my head to hurt.
 
As I would walk through the dark living room, I would sometimes catch a glimpse of a pair of shoes or the vacuum cleaner with my peripheral vision.  As I tried to focus directly on it, it would often disappear.  As soon as I looked straight ahead, I would see it once again.  Why?

The retina is composed of two different types of cells – cone cells and rod cells.  The cone cells are your “day eyes” because they require a great deal of light to activate them and they are blind during periods of low-illumination.   These cells enable you to see color, shape, and contrast. 
 
Your “night eyes” are your rod cells.  They produce a chemical substance called visual purple, which makes them active in darkness or periods of low-illumination.  They enable you to distinguish black, white, and shades of gray, and to distinguish general outlines.

Alright, here is where I’m going with all of this – the principles of night vision.
 
First, we must give our eyes time to adapt to low levels of illumination.  It takes approximately 20-30 minutes for the rod cells to produce enough visual purple to activate and enable you to distinguish objects in dim light.
 
Too often we want instant clarity and when it doesn’t come, we stop looking – we walk away from our search.  Clarity always come in degrees and over time.  It takes time for the eyes of our heart (Eph. 1:18-19) to adjust to the often dim light over our story.   “People’s thoughts can be like a deep well, but someone with understanding can find the wisdom there.”  (Prov. 20:5 NCV)  Deep wells are always dark.
 
Secondly; in dim light, we must keep our attention on an object without looking directly at it.  Looking directly at an object focuses the image on the cone region which isn’t sensitive at night.  To form the image on the rod cells we need to look slightly to the right, left, below or above an object.  The visual purple in the rod cells blacks out in four to ten seconds and you lose sight of the object, so we must move our eyes swiftly so fresh rod cells are used.  We must pause for a moment at each point because our eyes can’t see while in motion.
 
The human heart and the work of God is vast, complex and mysterious.  When we focus on one aspect of our heart or life for a long period of time to the exclusion of others, it often becomes imperceptible.  Looking around an issue, question or desire often allows it to come into focus.  We must continue to scan the landscape of our life and God’s heart.
 
Thirdly, confidence plays a very important role in our use of night vision.  Normally we use our eyes when there is plenty of light and we see sharp outlines and bright colors.  When we are in darkness, objects are faint, have no sharp outlines and have little or no color.  We must believe what our eyes tell us.  We gain confidence by practicing these principles of night vision.
 
As we are willing to delve into the dimly lit recesses of a person’s story and glory, offering what we see, we will become more comfortable and skilled with our night vision.
 
“Now we see a dim reflection… All that I know now is partial and incomplete…” (1 Cor. 13:12) 
 

Visioneering, by Andy Stanley

I’m reading a book by Andy Stanley called Visioneering. Excellent book about not just leadership, but finding out who God made you to be, and what He made you to do, and how to get from “here” to “there.” Right now I’m reading all about that “wait and pray” phase that so often is right before the “give up because it must not be God’s will” phase. This post is a place for me to jot down quotes, thoughts, and things I learn from the book.

The basic building blocks of a vision:

  1. A vision begins as a concern.
  2. A vision does not necessarily require immediate action.
  3. Pray for opportunities and plan as if you expect God to answer your prayers.
  4. God is using your circumstances to position and prepare you to accomplish his vision for your life.

And some quotes and lessons as I go through the book.

CHAPTER 1 – A VISION IS BORN

  • We’ve forgotten who we are and where we came from.
  • “Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be
  • A dream is not a vision. “Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be… Vision is a preferred future.”
  • “Nehemiah’s vision didn’t begin as a vision. It began as a concern, a burden. A burden for his nation and its people… So what did he do? Nothing. He did absolutely nothing. He didn’t steal away across the desert int he night. He didn’t fabricate a reason to leave Persia. He didn’t even share his burden with other concerned Jews. But neither did he allow his daily responsibilities to distract him from the burden that had gripped his heart… He chose to waitWhat could be and should be can’t be until God is ready for it to be.

CHAPTER 2 – PRAYING AND PLANNING

  • “What can you do to keep your dream alive? Nehemiah did two things. He prayed and he planned… We see what we are looking for; we often miss what we don’t expect to see… Prayer keeps us looking. Prayer keeps the burden fresh. It keeps our eyes and hearts in an expectant mode.”
  • Dreamers vs. Visionaries: “Dreamers dream about things being different. Visionaries envision themselves making a difference. Dreamers think about how nice it would be for something to be done. Visionaries look for an opportunity to do something.”
  • “Think about this. If God could sway King Artaxerxes to finance the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, he could certainly change the heart of those who stand between you and the vision God has given you. Humanly speaking, there was no way int he world King Artaxerxes was going to support Nehemiah’s vision. But prayer takes us well beyond human possibilities…Vision normally precedes jus about everything necessary to bring it into the sphere of reality.”
  • “New visions die easily. And understandably so. There is little to go on. Praying and planning willhelp you keep your vision alive…When your vision dies, part of you dies as well… Pray for the people who could help you launch your vision. And while you wait, plan! Develop a strategy. Dream on paper. Find the one or two things you can do and get busy.”