It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then
conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? — Robert K. Greenleaf
“…more likely themselves to become leaders” – Isn’t that how you thought Greenleaf would end that sentence? I read it that way. We don’t naturally think of aspiring to serve – “moving up the ranks” to better position ourselves to serve.
Why write about servant leadership?
So much has been and continues to be written about servant leadership. The terms change and trend a bit differently over time. Of late, relational leadership has gained in popularity. This type of leadership is defined as “as a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good.”
I love that concept and style of leading, but servant leadership goes even farther. Relational leaders can focus on their particular team or tribe, in a mentoring, collaborative role…for the good of those leaders and the organization and client base. Servant leaders aspire to a wide reach. Not just leader to leader, but to permeate the whole of the organization with an ethic that everyone, at every level, matters. This is a huge aspiration but the gains are huge as well.
Marcel Schwantes has also written 10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science. In this piece Schwantes tackles the misconceptions about servant leadership as well as the many reasons why it’s the best form of leadership. I personally love this article because the evidence of the kind of company that prospers under servant leadership is undeniable. We know these organizations by their service – like Chick-Fil-A, Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, Ritz Carlton, FedEx, UPS, U.S. Marine Corps, and many others. Very persuasive.
Finally, I’d like to share General Stanley McChrystal‘s view of leading “like gardeners”. My husband is a gardener. Even after a long, tiring day at his regular job, he puts in the time necessary to tend the plants he’s growing. Bent over, on his knees sometimes, doing the work of nurturing them to reach their maximum fruitfulness.
“Regular visits by good gardeners are not pro forma gestures of concern—they leave the crop stronger. So it is with leaders.”
Employees and customers know the experience (or lack thereof) of the leader who truly attends to their needs. No drive-by visits here. No sprinkling of some corporate fairy-dust just by the sheer presence of the leader in the room, or the building, or on podcast/commercial.
McChrystal warns against the leader who becomes too important to personally serve his personnel or customers.
“I would tell my staff about the “dinosaur’s tail”: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”
Always in thinking of leadership, we are tempted to look to our own leaders…to measure them by the scale of excellence (seen above). The servant leader is servant first. Don’t get muddled up by checking off what your leader is not. Serve that leader, as you serve other personnel and customers. Serve. Serve by leading. Lead by serving.
“Servant-leadership is more than a concept, it is a fact. Any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.”
[Please don’t miss the links below…especially those not mentioned in this blog. Also please share examples (in Comments section below) of servant leadership you have experienced…or your own personal journey in becoming a servant leader.]
Happy Friday! We made it! You know those weeks where so much is going on it’s hard to process it all? I’ve surfed on top of the waves of this week…thankful for all the helps along the way. How was your week?
Always glad to hear your views on life, not only on the Friday Faves, although they’re fascinating, but on anything you want to talk about. Please share in Comments below.
Here are my Friday Faves. Enjoy!
1) Spring Flowers – Search “Spring” on my blog and you will find several posts on this incredible season. We’ve lived in countries where Spring isn’t as obvious as it is here, but Spring comes all over the world, in subtlety and in glorious spectacle. Where we are, trees are flowering, buds are popping, and leaves are unfolding. Oh the beauty of the earth! Love!
These guys give a bit of their stories and their counsel on what is required to build an online community and have a successful podcast. Great reading!
3) Organization – Fuzzy boundaries and project piles are part of my battle in life (work and home). Love to keep my options open, I guess. It requires all the discipline I can muster to finish well. When folks write about organization, routines, and habits, I take note. The best articles are those that are consummately practical – and encourage rather than condemn.Photo Credit: Flickr
4) Caring – In recent months, I have been increasingly aware of two health issues requiring great insight and caring – 1) Adverse Childhood Experiences and 2) Alzheimer’s Disease. A film debuted in 2015 titled Paper Tigers. Its focus is a high school in Washington state and how the staff and other caregivers began turning things around for traumatized high schoolers who deal daily with toxic levels of stress. These are the same kind of kids that too often get less care than more because they are difficult to engage.Photo Credit: Marshfield News Herald
Alzheimer’s Disease is a frightening disease as we watch someone we love change and diminish, both in their thinking and their function. As hard as it must be on the one who has dementia, it is also devastating to those who love that person. That’s what makes it so amazing when a son, for instance, takes the time and effort to honor a mom with dementia. Joey Daley, of Lima, Ohio, has taken on a video project to document their journey through dementia.
I haven’t watched all the videos, but the ones I’ve watched have allowed us, strangers to their experience, to see inside their relationship in a difficult time. His visits with his mom are as sweet as any son’s would be…with dementia added. He knows, and we know, the days will become more difficult. I think we will see his love for her endure…
5) Frosted Strawberry Lemonade – Chick-Fil-A, a US restaurant chain, has this incredible refreshment blending ice cream with lemonade. I already raved about their frosted lemonade here. This Spring, there’s a seasonal addition to the menu. Strawberries added – enough said.
I had trouble getting my enthusiasm up for work today. This is highly unusual, because I LOVE Mondays. Even went to bed early last night; only to have bad dreams and restless sleep.
OK…so it happens sometimes. Shake it off and embrace the day, right?
I want to write about what happens when we love our job. Remember when that was? …if it isn’t that way for you today, don’t let this season bring you down, and your work down.
A friend shared with me recently that he has come to figure his worklife into decades. He makes strategic decisions based on where he is today in his job and what he hopes to be doing in the next decade. We all know the years go by quickly…so he got me thinking.
If I don’t love my job today, I really either need to do something to correct course, or, before jumping ship, think where I hope to be over the next several years.
This little video showed a number of employees doing their jobs well and with speed and finesse. It had a poignant touch for me because I have personally watched servers in North Africa make crepes, cut up fruit, and pour tea like the workers in the video. I miss that.
If you search online for loving what you do, you find lots of helps on how that works and how to make it happen (again).
Jeff Haden posted a helpful piece entitled 15 Revealing Signs You Genuinely Love What You Do. It’s a quick read and it will either encourage you that you really DO love your job, or, if not, maybe there are some simple steps you can make to change it up. Some of the signs are : You enjoy attending meetings. You think about what to say, not how. You help without thinking.Definitely something to consider…as are the other signs.
If you love your job, that is worth celebrating and worth protecting as the job or company changes. If you don’t love your job so much, then you have to ask yourself the question, is it time to look elsewhere or do you have capacity to do what it takes to restore joy to your job, as it is?
Benjamin P. Hardy writes about this in One Behavior Separates the Successful From the Average. What is that behavior? Initiative! We determine for ourselves how we shake out our day. Sure, there are going to be obstacles and difficult people and various struggles over the years. It’s always worth it for our own sake, to take back control of how we love our jobs. Exercising initiative, as Hardy suggests, is the way out…either out of the joyless season you’re in and stay in your job, or out of the job. Just don’t take the joylessness with you.
Beautiful day outside…hope the same is the case for you.
Here are my Friday faves this week:
1) Music Lessons – I was the worst student at music lessons. My mom was so determined that I would learn to play the piano. Seriously, I don’t even remember having a piano in our home…we must have, right? Dear old Mrs. Bowles taught me my first lessons. She and her husband owned a tiny general store in our neighborhood. She was ancient…and kind. I loved her but not enough to practice. Some weeks, my only time on the piano was our lesson. Do you think she could tell?
In the article he lists 13 scientific benefits of the many more derived from music lessons. Below, I’m posting his list, but don’t miss his brief and fascinating commentary on each one. Here’s his article.
Taking Music Lessons:
It improved your reading and verbal skills.
It improved your mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning.
It helped your grades.
It raised your IQ.
It helped you learn languages more quickly.
It made you a better listener, which will help a lot when you’re older.
It will slow the effects of aging.
It strengthened your motor cortex.
It improved your working memory.
It improved your long-term memory for visual stimuli.
It made you better at managing anxiety.
It enhanced your self-confidence and self-esteem.
It made you more creative.
All three of our children had piano lessons early in their schooling. They all did music through high school then took different paths afterwards. After her high school girl band and college chorale experience, our oldest plays piano just for her own pleasure now. Our middle, Nathan Mills, moved from piano to classical guitar and is now doing music professionally and giving lessons himself. Our youngest loves opera and is teaching himself the harp. Music lessons are definitely worth their investment…even beyond the music itself.
2) Final Fantasy – No, this isn’t some bucket list or deathbed wish. This is a video game. In fact, it’s a very popular one and has been around since 1987. This past week marked its 15th update. During our boys’ growing up years, I wasn’t enamored of video games, but I also never really sat down and got to know what they were about (my mistake). Final Fantasy is a good-vs.-evil battle game. Its musical themes are beyond beautiful. Our son, Nathan, has arranged many of the themes for classical guitar. Most recently, he has posted the Valse di Fantastica. As I’ve listened to this piece over and over, it makes me wonder at the times I kicked him off gaming to do something else more valuable with his time. Yet, the music stayed in his head and heart. I’m glad he’s kept the music…and here it is for you.
3) Grandchildren – These littles are so worth the wait. I say if you don’t have your own grands, then find some to love. Never enough love for children – tiny ones or those nearly grown. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay
Reuters posted a news story by Madeline Kennedy that touts the health benefit for seniors of occasionally caring for their grandchildren. Without going into the statistics, this German study reported that those who care for their grandchildren, on an occasional basis, actually live longer.
This and other studies (see article) point to time caring for grandchildren as benefiting cognitive function, as well as physical and mental health of the grandparent. These benefits could be enjoyed by caregivers not related to the children as well. Also a distinction was made that the study related to occasional care-giving (rather than full-time care) and depended on what was considered stressful or non-stressful by the grandparent.
In Mertz’s article on leadership ladders, he’s not talking about building or climbing ladders for our own success but for the success of others. What a lovely and timely concept! He prescribes four different leadership ladders – family, personal, organizational, and community. Read his piece here.
Within his article on leadership ladders, he references his 3 articles below. I read them all, and you will want to as well.
5) Smorgasbord on Success – OK, we all define success in many ways. Couldn’t think of another exact word – being effective, making a living, realizing a dream, leading well. I’ve been reading a lot lately about leadership and about business start-ups. This week has made for a bounty of discovery on these topics (including Jon Mertz above). I’m just going to post the links and you can choose what tickles your itch this week.
My biggest take-away is that if we’re willing to learn, apply what we learn, and push out of our comfort zone, we can make extraordinary advances in our work and workplace. I really believe that, no matter what our age or level. Here are some writers who say the same:
Empathy is no soft skill. In fact, it can be a rare commodity in today’s workplace where we are competing for jobs, customers, time with the boss…pushing for that edge which makes us stand out over the guy down the hall.
We have seen empathy in corporate culture. Amazon immediately comes to mind, as does Apple. These companies have studied the wants and needs of their customers and they have put that research into play in their service and products. Customer loyalty is a huge outcome of feeling understood and valued.
Empathy and sympathy are two very different human experiences and expressions. To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. [read more at Dictionary.com]
Our neighborhood is in the middle of a huge engineering project being done by our local electric company. The wires are being put underground thereby keeping our service from being interrupted by windstorms. Various technicians and contractors have come to each of our front doors to let us know, courteously and apologetically, what disruptions must happen to eventually provide this service. The sub-contractors, moving throughout the neighborhood, have worked quickly and quietly, keeping disturbance at a minimum. Their work will all be completed soon with 1) only what disruption was absolutely necessary and 2) with a high expression of empathy for their presence on our streets and in our yards.
Disruption devoid of empathy is no business process anyone wants in their workplace…no matter what the outcome or benefit. Unfortunately, when it happens (and it does), we put up with it for what comes out of it, and because we have no other choice… If we are not careful our own empathy for one another suffers. Mark that.
For years, the word and process of empathy had become so common, it became almost without meaning. Something just ordinary. Nothing special. Now, it’s rising in favor again…probably, seriously, because of how competitive businesses have become. Too often, we err in business with putting innovation and technology as goals and standards without considering the customer or colleague. Decision-making proceeding ahead of information-gathering and analyzing impact on those most affected is not the way up.
Marla Gottschalk says it well in her piece Disrupting Organizations With Empathy, “Forward thinking organizations hold great empathy for their potential customers. They design products that not only appeal to our emotions and senses, but address the problems we wrestle with in our daily lives. In each product, process or service — there is a little of us represented.
As long as we have empathy, I believe we’ll have innovation.
The same truth applies to the developing frameworks that support our employees. With empathy, we can achieve significant advances not only the way we work, but how we ultimately feel about our work lives. Whether we are considering leadership (See how empathy affects perceived leadership here), feedback, career development or work spaces — empathy matters.
Viewing work life from another’s perspective, can reap powerful results. We need to follow behind our employees and support their journey...Measuring our workplace problems is simply not enough to encourage healthy workplaces.” – Marla Gottschalk
I watched an episode of Chase Jarvis Live where Jarvis interviews Brian Solis – author of What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences and X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. Brian Solis is one incredibly smart individual, and what captivated me the most in that 45-minute interview? What he said about empathy: “What do you want somebody to feel after they’re done with you in every moment of truth?…Who am I really trying to reach? What’s a day in the life of their world? What could I do to have an impact in their world?…What does a relationship really mean? When you see the world outside [from their side], then you see the role you’re going to play…Empathy unlocks a whole new level of perspective…It’s not good enough to be good enough…or the best. You have to now understand the impact you want to have and the role you want to play in someone’s life and then who that person is and design for that. It’s so inspiring.” – Brian Solis
Marcel Schwantes lists empathy is one of the 10 leadership habits found in the world’s best leaders. Empathy is a discipline. It is hard skill that every leader and every person equipping themselves to lead must see and seek as valuable to leading well. Otherwise, the lack of empathy will eventually have a pervasive effect on the workplace and the service and product. Don’t let this happen to you or your team.
In the YouTube video of one of the episode’s scenes, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Spock are in captivity. The humanoid woman Gem is with them. She is unable to speak but has extraordinary empathic powers. She can feel the pain of another and take it into herself, thereby healing the other person, at a cost to herself. She is also learning from these three what genuine care and self-sacrifice are.
Not the sort of topic we often toss around in our conference rooms or strategy meetings. Still…if we want to offer the best and be the best in our organizations, the lessons are clear…as are the warnings.
On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.
I had nothing.
After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.
On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.
Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.
Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.
There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.
1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before
2. Map It All Out From the Beginning
3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately
4. Put “Creation Time” On Your Daily Schedule
Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.
Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.
I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.
The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.
Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.
My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.
Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]
There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.
My heart melts.
Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.
Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?
[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels
My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.
The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).
Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?
I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.
This is not a new awareness. Articles have been popping up for years on the negative emotional, physical and social impact of over-use of tech devices. As we’ve passed our devices on to our children, the warnings apply to them as well. Worse for them is the fact that their brains are still in development, as are their interpersonal bondings, awareness, and skills.Photo Credit: Flickr
Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.
But it’s even worse than we think.
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras
I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.
Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.
It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.
I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.
Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr
How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]
As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.
In his LinkedIn article, Barry Sanders talks about one of the characteristics of what makes a “best place to work”. This characteristic is “common purpose”. He writes:
Common purpose is essential to driving organization-wide adaptability, which is key to succeeding in today’s fast-paced business world. A shared set of values and goals across the organization allows leaders and individual contributors to achieve widespread alignment, manage uncertainty, and guide decisions in times of turmoil and change.
Without establishing common purpose, companies risk a lack of motivation, lower levels of commitment, less loyalty, and decreased alignment amongst their employees—not to mention negative Glassdoor reviews.
He also quotes from his CEO General Stanley McChrystal’s bestseller Team of Teamswhich gives this summary of the importance of common purpose:
“Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose…Individual SEALs have to monitor the entirety of their operation just as soccer players have to keep track of the entire field, not just their own patch of grass. They must be collectively responsible for the team’s success and understand everything that responsibility entails.”
When you can see the entire field, not just your patch of grass, your organization becomes more effective—and a better place to work. – Barry Sanders
I sure hope senior leaders get this message. Just communicating the purpose is not enough. That “patch of grass” must be given to that soccer player. He must own it and own his part of the entire field. Leaders who genuinely believe in and nurture common purpose cultivate a “best place to work” for their personnel.
2) Safeguarding Your Marriage – Infidelity or unfaithfulness in our marriage relationships is not just about sexual betrayal. Infidelity can happen when we allow our hearts to become more bonded to someone or something else more than to our own spouses. Dave Willis defines infidelity as “broken trust or broken loyalty”. He has posted a tremendously helpful article entitled The 9 Forms of Infidelity in Marriage (Hint: 8 of Them Don’t Involve Sex). Willis is a pastor,counselor and founder of Stronger Marriages. Single or married, you will benefit from his article because too often we “fall” into infidelity by letting ourselves be deceived in thinking it’s nothing. Safeguard your relationships!
3) Being Different – Matt Damico has written an excellent piece for Christ-followers. It is The World Needs You to Be Different. If you are reading this and you aren’t keen on the teachings of Jesus, you may already think that Christians are a quirky lot of people. What Damico says in this article is to call us to the rhythms, the routines, the practices of the church that work a peculiarity in us that’s a good thing.
Piano scales make a pianist. Hours behind the wheel make a driver. Weightlifting reps make muscles, and lots of miles make a runner. Routine and repetition aid us in so many ways, yet a lot of us seem allergic to similar habits in our weekly church worship gatherings.
But just as these individual habits do something to us, so it is with our congregational habits: they’re making us into something. God willing, they’re making us the right kind of peculiar.
We’ll bear fruit in this life when our roots are firmly planted in the coming new earth. As C.S. Lewis said, history shows that “the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” One of the main ways this happens is through the rhythms and repetitions worked into our weekly gatherings.
So, as your church gathers for worship this weekend, appreciate anew what’s happening, how the strange rituals — the “rhythms of grace,” as Mike Cosper calls them — are making you more faithful and more fruitful. – Matt Damico
4) Hard Seasons – I’m not going to wax on here about hard seasons – we all know what ours are. I just always want to keep Syrian refugees on my radar so here’s a photo piece that dramatically displays their reality…in a way that has stayed in my mind all week.
Then I also wanted to share a piece by Aaron Brown. I know his family. He grew up in Chad where his father was a physician. His reflects on a very difficult time and its oddly positive impact on his life…renewing his hope after the very difficult year of 2016.
5) Small Beginnings – In the Bible, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the people, “Do not despise small beginnings.” They had the huge task of rebuilding the Temple, and Scripture tells us, this great work began in the mundane but extraordinary act of Zerubbabel picking up the plumb line. Any beginning may seem small and inadequate for the grand vision that stretches in front of us. However, we never know when the small explodes into wonder.
Chip and Joanna Gaines (HGTV stars of Fixer Upper) have an incredible story of small beginnings which grew into a huge, phenomenally successful business. They started out flipping houses as a young couple and often had just the cash in their pockets. Now they have their own TV show, a real estate business, home goods store, and “The Silos” – a refurbished commercial venue in Waco, Texas.
Another example of small beginnings is pastor and author Tim Keller. Just this past week, Keller announced he was stepping down from the senior pastor position of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He pastored there for almost 30 years and it now is a multi-site 5000-member church. [This is a planned succession and he will be teaching in a seminary.] A friend of mine here in Richmond “knew him when”. Years ago, before his NYC church role he was her pastor, in a small church near here – West Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Small beginnings…
Whether you are examining a small beginning as a Christian or from a different worldview, there is excellent counsel to be had…both in Scripture and in articles (such as those linked below).
Just yesterday I was trying to encourage a young man about what he viewed as a small beginning in his career. Not sure I made sense at all. Then today, my husband emailed me this great article – about the exact same subject.
the power of choice (“you stop playing the victim to external circumstances and take responsibility for your life – the private victory“) and
the power of context (“In everything you do, there should be collaborative and synergistic elements. Of course, there is work which is your work. However, that work should be embedded within a group of others and toward something much bigger. – the public victory”)
Hardy’s full article is excellent (even includes components of the assist we get from brain plasticity which I wrote about earlier).
You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become. Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. – Mike Torres, Refocuser
Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.
Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.
I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.
When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.
How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.
1. Change is mostly limited to those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!
2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse) the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.
3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.
4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.
5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.
6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.
7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.
8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.
9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).
10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.
How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.
As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.
Standing outside this morning in the cold, I watched another incredible winter sunrise…and another Friday dawned. Hope you’re finishing your week strong. Either way, we can put this week to rest.
Here’s my list of 5 favorite finds this week (with a few fun bonuses at the end). Enjoy.
1) Civility – More than just polite discourse. In 1997, Burgess and Burgess, of the University of Colorado, wrote a substantive piece on the meaning of civility. They could have been writing about our current political and social culture. Read their piece for particulars in using fair and honoring processes in attacked difficult problems. Watch Senator Marco Rubio’s brief and inspiring challenge to the US Senate recently.
I’m surprised myself at how soothing this music is when showcased in such a different setting…arranged by this guy who plays both guitar and videogames with skill…and heart. Have a listen:
3) Unwanted Heirlooms – As far as stuff goes, we are in an unprecedented time. Two generations, the Boomers and their parents, are both downsizing, and their children and grandchildren aren’t interested in their stuff. It poses an odd and interesting puzzle for all involved. This week, I came across a helpful article by Richard Eisenberg entitled Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff. He talks about the dilemma for our minimalist children who prefer Ikea and Target over the dark and bulky furnishings of the past. Then Eisenberg gives a quick-read list of to-do’s for dealing with unwanted heirlooms.Photo Credit: Pinterest
I’m pretty sentimental about stuff of my parents that has endured through time, but one day we’ll need one of those estate handlers who just carry off everything. NOVA Liquidation is one such enterprise. Susan’s Selections is my local favorite.
There is definitely an entrepreneurial opportunity here for some. Like you craftsmen who repurpose old pieces. Or those who deal with reclaimed wood and vintage furniture – another local favorite being Wellborn Wright. I would love to see some of these old heavy armoires turned into doors or facades for walls or faux fireplaces.
Tea rooms should abound in our country. There are so many beautiful things from another era…and people who love to sit places, with their tablets or laptops open, and drink coffee/tea – not just in minimalist coffeeshops but in places that surround us with beauty….that’s where all those sets of china cups and saucers should go. Wish I had the revenue to open such a place. Just went to one this weekend….lovely!!!
4) Film Spare Parts – For those of us who love science and also long for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who were brought to the US by their parents illegally, this is the film for you. Spare Parts is a 2015 film, starring George Lopez, Marisa Tomei, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s derived from a true story of four high schoolers, all undocumented from Mexico, who try to change the course of their lives…through a science project. It is funny, poignant, and informing. [See trailer here.]Photo Credit: To the Flixes
Whatever our politics, this film makes us think…and possibly reconsider. [See DREAM Act.]
It reminded me of another film that was a favorite of mine last year – McFarland USA (view trailer here).
5) Life Callings – What does this mean…calling? For me, it is the God-given passion and preparation to be the person and do the something for which we were created. Our lives can change course over a lifetime…several times even…but there’s a driving force that we never want to dull by what seems like necessity.
Paul Sohn posted a piece this week with 10 provocative and resonating quotes on calling. Don’t miss it. In fact, here are three of his quotes to get you started:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Frederick Buechner
“Calling means that everyone, everywhere, and in everything fulfills his or her (secondary) callings in response to God’s (primary) calling. For Luther, the peasant and the merchant— for us, the business person, the teacher, the factory worker, and the television anchor—can do God’s work (or fail to do it).” – Os Guinness
“God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Gustaf Wingren
That’s it for this week. Have a safe and refreshing weekend! Please use the Comments to reflect on these finds or share your own.
Buzzfeed Video – Moments Only Arab People Understand – I really loved the video below – so reminded me of our years in the Arab world. Miss the people – their great hospitality and the cultural nuances. [We still have Arab friends here…but being their guests and neighbors in their culture was an amazing experience. Hopefully theirs is the same here.]
❤️ VALENTINE'S DAY LIP SYNC —> Love Songs Of The Decades 🎤Thanks to Costumes By Margie for helping us bring these love songs to life!______________________NEW vid every FRIDAY!Like + Comment + Share 🙂 CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNELhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UChsxlTvqB3T5C1a_AQudB7ALike us on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/kristinanddannyFollow us on Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/kristinanddannyFollow us on Twitterhttps://www.twitter.com/kristinanddanny#KristinAndDanny
What a lovely surprise! Ceremony interrupted by voice from the back, bride turns around and her eyes are full of tears. 🌂🌂🌂 Via: Liquid Media Video Production Youtube ☑ Like IPost, get more awesome videos.