This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.
Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.
That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.
On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]
In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”
[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]
Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…
For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.
This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.
Four little words that brought clarity.
“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.“ – Elisabeth Elliot
Weekend! Sometimes the end of the week just pours out so quickly it splashes right into the weekend. Friday Faves on a Saturday, y’all.
1) Celebrating Fall – In this part of the world, Fall has arrived. For many years, we lived in countries where seasons were subtle in their changing one into another. The rewards were the lush foliage and flowers of the rainy season and the deep textures in the seeming sameness of the desert. [I miss those places now as our American Fall was missed in those years.]
Fall is just peeking out now around the corner of Summer…even as the sturdiest of bushes push out their last summer blooms.
An East Tennessee friend of ours, Pam Archer, laid out a Fall palette for us at The Colorful Cottage. It’s like turning the pages of a magazine taking in festive and inviting entryways into homes…and into Fall. [Click through all the pictures at the link above.] You can almost smell pumpkin spice and a fire in the fireplace.
…and before long, the full glory of Fall will be briefly and wondrously upon us.Photo Credit: Deb Mills
2) On Being Forgiven – This week I offended someone. It could be that offending people happens many times over, without me knowing, but this time…I knew. He made it very clear…and he didn’t forgive me.
This was a stranger…a business person we were contacting to do a service…After several messages left on the company voicemail, the last one got a quick call-back. He didn’t like my choice of words nor my tone…and essentially told me I could look somewhere else for service.
Gulp… I tried to explain again and said I was sorry several times over. He refused to understand my side of the situation. We don’t slam down phones anymore…but. That conversation and hang-up kept me up for hours. I felt terrible and then mad and then terrible again.
A two-minute conversation full of accusation and misunderstanding was rough on me and rough on him, too, maybe. We secured another company to do what we needed, and the gentleman above may remember me as a demanding and unyielding woman for a few days. Our conversation may make it harder on the next person who calls, and for that, I am also sorry.
The marvel is what a wonder in life it is to be forgiven. When people apply grace. When margin is extended for failure or unintentional misspeak. When we are given the benefit of the doubt. When a choice is made not to be offended. When a cheek is turned. When a harsh response is withheld. Even when we feel completely justified to do otherwise.
Forgiveness – that incredible experience of not getting what we might have deserved; that generous letting go of an opportunity to have the upper hand; that treating another person just as if they hadn’t wronged you. This is not doormat behavior…this is giving grace.
Kelly Delp‘s piece this week On Becoming an Outsider reminded me of times when we lived overseas. Day after day, person after person dealt gently with our offenses… We were foreigners; we didn’t know; we were forgiven.
It wouldn’t hurt, maybe, if we treated each other a bit more like foreigners… in a good way, of course.
3) Old Trees – Tall trees that have stood sentinel for decades upon decades deserve our gratitude and respect. In our backyard, we have had two giant oaks shade us in summer and drop leaves and acorns all Fall. Now, one has died. Some sort of blight. Just seeing it without green leaves in summer seems so wrong alongside the healthy sister tree.
So…it must be taken down…sadly.
Honestly, it was just such an excellent tree service company…and the way they took down that tree carried a measure of respect as well…I could have been imagining, but I don’t think so.
“Dust to dust” came to mind as that massive tree was chipped (branches) or hauled off (trunk) and the stump ground to mulch.
Grateful for that tree…and for the one still standing in the center of the yard.
4) Signage – Signage is a form of communication, either in words, symbols, or images. As new drivers, we all learned the importance of attending to signs to keep ourselves and others from harm. We read labels and note landmarks. Signage can communicate much more than the literal messages. Take the signage below as a for instance. It’s in a local church building. What does it say to you?
Everywhere you looked in and around this building, signs pointed to community – how folks could serve God and serve one another and with one another. This isn’t my church (I was there for a meeting), but the signage was so engaging and empowering.
Another sign that finally moved me to action was the sign below. Several of these have been placed around our city because of the daily presence of people begging at intersections. It seemed a hopeful “No worries. Your city is watching out for the homeless.”
This week, I called the number on the sign. It was our county’s social services division. The voicemail instructions were helpful and as promised I received a call back later in the same day. That was when I discovered this phone number was meant to start the process for homeless to get “in the system”. The person answering my question was honest and forth-coming. If someone was homeless (or would be in 3 days), if they called this number, it would start a process whereby he/she could get housing…as to when? Days, weeks…
This sign, its agency, and the church community above (and others like it) have the skills and desire to make good happen. Then there might be a place to sleep for that one begging …sooner.
5) a Pile of Books – Truth be told, I didn’t get nearly far enough on my summer reading list. We always plan an annual get-away to the beach for a few days, once the high season is over. A few of these books will be coming along.
One in particular will definitely make the cut. In this season of life, I seem always to be culling one thing or another from our stash of wonderfulness. Thinning out some of our books, I found Calvin Miller‘s Walking with Saints – Through the Best and Worst Times of Our Lives. Flipping through the pages of this old book of Dave’s I realized it was one that needed to be read sooner than later. It was a Christmas present, bought in Cairo, by a little boy who loved his daddy and loved to draw. That gift inscription alone means it will stay in our stash of stuff for the next forever.
Do you have some books on your must-read list? Please tell us about them in Comments below. Also, do you have books that have made it to be a sentimental favorite? Those stories are meant to be shared as well.
That’s the 5 this week. Hope your week was full of new and old favorites. Enjoy this first weekend of Fall…either for real, or through the images and stories of those of us who have the sweet experience of this season. Blessings.
Quote: Why does “Mid-Century Modern” sound so cool when describing architecture or furniture? It was made in the 1950’s. I was made in the 1950’s. Next time someone asks me my age, I’m gonna say, “Mid-Century Modern.” – Jody Ohlsen Collins
Quote: One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now. –Paulo Coelho
Friday! A holiday weekend is upon us here in the US. Labor Day on Monday. Where we live that means this is the last weekend before public schools start their Fall session. On this hot, thunder-stormy weekend, the last sweetness of summer will be savored.
Here are my five faves of the week:
1) Tavern Music – My heritage is a mix of Scottish-English. I’m thinking, because of that, tavern music might be part of my family’s DNA. When Nathan Mills arranges and plays a tune reminiscent of Celtic music, he might come by the joy of it quite honestly.
Hearthstone is an online video card game set in a tavern. The theme music has very much a Celtic feel to it. Beyond the Guitar was actually asked by someone on the Hearthstone creative team to do an arrangement. Here it is for your enjoyment.
2) Kindness – Author Peter Economy has written a couple of pieces on kindness – one on kindness quotes and the other on the impact of kindness when expressed by our leaders.
“There is something incredibly appealing about leaders who place themselves on the same level as their employees without losing their authority as leaders. Tapping into kindness and small (and big) acts of showing your appreciation for your team allows those around you to know that you care–leaving them feeling like their work matters, and encouraging their engagement and loyalty.” – Peter Economy
I find my tendency is to think I am kind but that kindness is not necessarily executed in a way others experience. It’s worth a few moments to consider how we think of kindness, what it means and how we could actively and intentionally express kindness at work or wherever else we find ourselves.
“Today is National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people. (more in 2018) These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.” – Jeanne Barney
4) A Film and Its Book – A strangely titled little book continues high on my top 5 books for recreational reading. It is:
This year marked the debut of the film of the same name (aired on Netflix in the US). I’m so thankful Netflix picked it up otherwise we might have missed it altogether. Such a lovely film, true enough to the book, and a feast for the eyes. Several actors from our beloved Downton Abbey are part of the cast. You will love it…trust me.Photo Credit: Battle Royale With Cheese
5) Signs of Fall – This week has been hot and humid, but still there were signs of Fall all around us. Pumpkin spice has entered all of our coffee shop experiences again. Our young ones are back in school. The geese have taken wing for distant places again..
Photo Credit: Max PixelAnd Dave’s garden has the messy, overgrown beauty of late summer. Last blooms pushing out and flowers turned to seed for the birds to eat and scatter. Early brown leaves and surprise buds that couldn’t wait until Spring. Welcome Fall, my favorite season of the year.
Happy Friday! One of those weeks that so rapidly entered history. Lots of travel and family and birthdays and then work, of course. Will go right to the faves before the clock runs down. Hope your weekend is long and lovely.
1) The Fortnite Phenomenon – Not a gamer myself, but when the game Fortnite comes up in conversation with men and boys of all ages, it’s easy to see what a phenomenon it is. A multi-player battle game (with elements of construction as well), Fortnite is free-to-play and wildly popular right now in the gaming universe. A unique component of the game includes avatars who break out into dance. These dances are emulated by player fans, and you would recognize some of them because of boys, in particular, master them as they master the game. These dances have become part of Nathan Mills‘ (Beyond the Guitar) classical guitar repertoire. His YouTube channel subscriber numbers have more than tripled since his first post of Fortnite Dances…and views of his videos are in the millions. Enjoy the latest…as the commenters clamor for Fortnite Dances #4.
2) Back to School – That time of year is back. So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.
As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]
How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even the most woefully unprepared ones…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.
3) Clean Comedy – So just this week I discovered Dry Bar Comedy. It showcases stand-up comedy that is actually family-friendly. No profanity. No sex. No mean putdowns. The first act (on video) that I caught was Leanne Morgan, a gorgeous Southern woman who puts her arm around our experiences of being female at all ages. Hilarious!
Another clean comic (not with Dry Bar) who I adore is John Crist. His tour this Fall brings him to Richmond, Virginia, and we have tickets. Crist is a preacher’s kid and uses that church experience as fodder for many of his routines. You can see his videos on his website or YouTube channel. Don’t miss him…high energy, so funny.
4) God’s Heart for Justice – For the next six weeks, I’m digging into a study on God’s heart for justice through the International Justice Mission. I bought the book, but if you sign up for daily emails, you can glean great good just in that content and the resource videos.
It’s too easy to turn a blind eye away from the injustices of this world – human trafficking, poverty, racial and religious oppression… Arise focuses on the Biblical definition of justice and the mandate for each of us in turning the tide on it…until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs. We too often are numbed by the immensity of the problem, when, in fact, we can swing the pendulum toward justice… Each one of us can do something. Sign up for daily emails and discover your place in God’s mission of love for those most vulnerable.
That winds down this week. Hope yours was stunning – full of meaningful work, real rest, family and friends, and deep conversations. Be gentle with yourself and each other.– some of those people in our lives. #Friends #Community
For several years, we had the great privilege of living and working in Cairo, Egypt. My husband directed a Middle Eastern Studies program. I helped him oversee the comings and goings of bright, energetic 20-somethings. When the work, heat, or press of city life became too much, we would escape to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Usually the resort town of Ras Sudr was our quick and quiet get-away, where we could take a weekend just to clear our heads with blue skies and salty sea air.
Dave was finishing his time in this director role and would take a short sabbatical in the US. We would then return to Egypt, this time for a regional consulting job, guiding the expansion of these study centers.
We were tired, and a consulting job was a dream, with the prospect of just giving a hand to other directors – not nearly the intensity of being responsible for so many young people.
Driving the long road to Dahab, through the calming desert of the Sinai, kids in the backseat, Dave got a phone call.
Whoever it was on the other end, (Dave hadn’t called him by name), the conversation, from my side, was warm and affectionate at first, and then serious. As they talked, visible goose bumps rose on Dave’s arms. Goose bumps on a hot deserty day in Egypt?! I knew no one had died from his side of the conversation, but something huge was clearly being introduced by the caller.
When the call ended, I got the details. Dave spoke quietly so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by a call that could change the course (and geography) of our lives. The person on the other end of the conversation was his dearest mentor – a man for whom he had the deepest respect, even love. On the phone call, he had asked Dave to consider not taking the job of consultant but to take a job with him where he would have even more leadership responsibility. Supervising many more than a couple of dozen 20-somethings in one city. This job would require him to provide leadership to about 100 people spread over 6 different countries AND we would have to move from our beloved Cairo.
Thus, the goose bumps.
Dave did walk away from the “easier” job of consultant to take on the much larger, scarier job his mentor asked of him. We did eventually break the news to our children that we would be moving away from Cairo to a whole new country of possibilities and friendships. It was a stretching move for us (more so than our original move to Cairo), and it was a job and situation we would never have aspired to…were it not for this mentor…this multiplier of leaders.
I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit. Her presentation centered on a more recent book Rookie Smarts. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.
On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines the terms “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:
“The first type [diminishers] drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum [the multipliers] are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman
Have you ever been in a job where you felt your wisdom, understanding, experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.
[Sidebar – It’s not like diminishers are evil people. Possibly, their focus is so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. I believe if ever they have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives, they could change their habits and disciplines…especially those who become accidental diminishers – in video at minute 28:35.]
This mentor of Dave’s was/is a Multiplier. For much of Dave’s professional life, this man has “popped in” and pressed my husband to reach farther than he might have in his career.
I want to be this sort of leader myself – this one who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.
Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under our watch in the workplace, we want to offer the best leadership possible. We can all fall into habits over time that diminish others. Forging disciplines that keep us from doing so is wisdom. Note them from Liz Wiseman’s book:
Wiseman also talks about leaders as change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.
“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.” – Liz Wiseman
Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thanks also to that unnamed mentor and multiplier in my husband’s life…and to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.
Read Wiseman’s book. [If you watch this video, you will want to buy the book…if I haven’t already sold you.] I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.
Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.
Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.
The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.
In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:
Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
Give them a way to know how they are doing
Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
Make sure they know you care about them
This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.
For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.
6 Basic elements of leading people:
1. What: Be clear about what you want them to do.
People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity. This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential. Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly. Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.
[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]
2. Why: Make sure they know why it is important.
Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important. Make sure that is clearly communicated. If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.
This is often neglected. Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important. Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important. However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment. The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important. This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job. He calls it irrelevance.
3. How: Make sure they have what they need to do the job.
When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it. This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding. It may be knowledge. It may be connections to other people. There may be a training need. Or it may be capacity. Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them? Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task. Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are. This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.
[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]
4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.
People need to know what a good job looks like. At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day. What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them? Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?
5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.
Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities. The leader must take responsibility for driving this. The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time. This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.
Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing. This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work. This is where coaching and accountability happen.
6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.
Relationships are key to leadership. You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead. There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this. If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive. On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them. Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going. Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly. If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.
Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.
[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]
What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.
Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.
[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]
Check this week as done. For us around here, it’s been a week of great highs punctuated by distinct lows. How amazing that we can pray through and lean in to God and each other for the lows…and celebrate the highs, in quiet and in company. Life is good and real.
1) Solitude – Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude is something that comes easy.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal
According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.
The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana
[My husband who often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally.]
Rana talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – “We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”
“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.” – Zat Rana
Looking at Benjamin Hardy’s culture wall got me thinking of the truths that keep me going at work and at home. Coming up with those sayings or mantras, as a team, or family, would be an excellent exercise…and then making the art happen would flow naturally out of that. It doesn’t have to be 20 pictures, like Hardy’s. Even one is a good start.
[Sidebar – Guitarist, YouTuber Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, in his videos, often features a “nerd shrine” with striking wall art. I wonder what a culture wall would look like in his studio.]
3) Like a Mother – Serena Williams – American tennis champion Serena Williams made it to the Wimbledon final this year. She didn’t win but she played #LikeaMother. The expression “like a mother” brings all sorts of images to mind…and makes for marketing genius… Two examples are a Lysol commercial and one by Gatorade, the latter featuring Serena Williams.
Here’s to Serena Williams…including a couple of interviews where she and husband investor Alexis Ohanian describe how they met.
4) Our Children – Writer Frederica Mathewes-Green could have been a buddy of mine in college. In those days of the Vietnam War, we were those conflicted ones who wrote our high school sweethearts away in the military and we vocally protested at the same time. The Roe v. Wade decision was very new and felt very progressive to all of us, in those days…the “make love, not war” crowd. I was young and being pro-life or pro-choice wasn’t even on my radar…until after that court case divided us into mostly two camps. Mathewes-Green has written the most definitive piece on abortion and the legacy we are leaving our children in the article When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.
“Whatever your opinion is on abortion, I ask you to read this article. Fresh eyes. Mathewes-Green was around when that court decision was made. She was also feminist, as were so many of us in those days. She is still very pro-women…pro-human.
We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.
Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.
A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.””
“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
Her article frames this Friday Fave. Why “our children” as the heading? When I read Mathewes-Green’s article, she reminded me that our children or our children’s children may judge these decades very differently than our culture has – these decades of thousands of babies not delivered alive. Definitely, if those not delivered alive could speak…those silenced by their own mothers (out of desperation with no one offering to help them in life-giving ways)…if they could speak, we might see things differently today. Thankful for women, like Frederica Mathewes-Green, who provide a call to reconsider and a platform for the voices of all our children.
5) Food With a Friend – Don’t you love surprise visits with a friend, now living states away? When I got Nikki’s text to meet up for a lunch this week, it was like a healing balm on my heart. She suggested a restaurant new to me: Mezeh Mediterranean Grill.
How have I missed this yummy place? All the food memories of our years in the Arab world mixed together in a big bowl. Pretty much my experience that day.
Add a long conversation between friends (including one other who joined our happy table)…and it was like Heaven here in Richmond, Virginia. Any such happy occasions come to mind for you this week? Hope so.
Scalability refers to a company’s ability to increase its production profitably. – Merriam Webster
This is a new concept for me. Isn’t that like growth or profit? It’s like waking up out of a deep sleep and terminology in the workplace has changed. Is scalability the same as reproducibility?
What if profit comes out of something beyond scalability? Or at least is it possible to be successful without changing who you are as a business? These questions pop up for me when I hear the word scalable.
[Hang on, you faithful readers…not a usual topic for me, but what I learned was highly satisfying…hopefully for you, too.]
Sometimes learning about a new concept is enhanced by reinforcing what it is NOT.
Following you will find quotes from three business leaders who talk about the positive nature of things that don’t scale or reverse scale.
We write about reverse scale extensively in the book. What is it? It’s a practice of recognizing the value of not scaling…. We’re conditioned by our business culture to believe that unless the idea is big and capable of rapid scale then it has little value. Can we take a step back and reconsider this dogma? Could we assess value even if our idea helps only one person or if it only transforms us? True sustainability lies within the answers to these questions. If more of us answered the call to action on the supposedly “small” ideas then imagine the kind of social problems the world could address.
We tend to think “more” and “bigger” will always be better, that somehow they will allow us to finally breathe easier when we arrive. The problem is that it’s often an illusion because we never really arrive at the place that’s just out of reach. Scale demands that every single person in the chain focus on what’s next and on finding someone to do the thing that’s now ‘below’ them in order to move themselves up. Anything less than that and you will lose the race for scale, because someone else is more focused than you.
Reverse scale could also be called human scale. It is in the smallness of one on one relationships that we find meaning because we’re not insulated from the pain and sorrows of these connections. We tend to lose this when we’re so focused on scale and growth. – Shawn Askinosie
This guy, as you can tell, has no interest in blowing out the roof on profits. He wants to deliver a quality product with the help of a small company of people who he wants genuine relationships with…and he wants margin to focus on his definition of what really matters in life. Cool, huh?
Investor and thought leader Paul Graham is also one who advises entrepreneurs to Do Things That Don’t Scale. The infographic below was inspired by his article. His ideas are almost revolutionary in today’s high-pressure workplaces, yet his thinking is also that of some of the greats, including Steve Jobs , co-founder of Apple, Inc.
Paul Graham elaborates (read his whole piece; the following speaks to a couple of components):
The question is ask about an early stage startup is not “is this company taking over the world?” but “how big could this company get if the founders did the right things?” And the right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time.
You should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users, but also to make them happy…Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. And you in turn should be racking your brains to think of new ways to delight them.
A lot of startup founders are trained as engineers, and customer service is not part of the training of engineers. You are supposed to build things that are robust and elegant, not be slavishly attentive to individual users like some kind of salesperson.
Delighting customers scales better than you expected.
Recruit users manually and give them an overwhelmingly good experience. The unscalable things you have to do to get started…change the company permanently for the better. If you have to be aggressive about user acquisition when you’re small, you’ll probably still be aggressive when you’re big….and most importantly, if you have to work hard to delight users when you only have a handful of them, you’ll keep doing it when you have a lot.
I am enthralled by the thinking of these men. They have started me thinking about the whole idea of scaling…and also doing the things that don’t scale but still have tremendous value.
Check out the two further articles below which also support the strong foundation, in any size business, of a work culture where people matter first and then the product/service rolls out of that.
1) Summer Reading – Summer lends itself to reading just for the sheer joy of it. Longer days. Breaks from strenuous outside work or play are perfect for picking up a book. Reruns of TV programming are no draw when you can just open a book to another world. What’s on your reading list for this summer?Photo Credit: Max Pixel
Writer Ryan Holiday has his own list to share. I wouldn’t call it your basic beach novel genre but lots of variety and heady content. Don’t be put off by some of the language (sigh…) or the politics. In recent months, I’ve learned a lot in our current political culture… helpful in understanding people and making a difference in a divided world.
2) US Supreme Court – Speaking of a divided world, this was a huge week of happenings in the Supreme Court of the United States.
[The Roberts Court, June 1, 2017. Seated, from left to right: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Standing, from left to right: Justices Elena Kagan, Samuel A. Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil M. Gorsuch. Photograph by Franz Jantzen, Supreme Court Curator’s Office.]
Then there was the announcement by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that he will retire. The news should be full of tribute toward this justice and his contributions to Americans, both liberal and conservative. What is instead at the forefront is the joy or anguish, depending on our ideology, regarding who will take his place on the bench? Appointment of the Supreme Court justices was one of the reasons Americans voted as they did in this last presidential election.Photo Credit: Twitter, The Senate Majority
A big week indeed.
3) Patreon – You’ve read about Patreon on my Friday Faves before, but today I wanted to praise the impact it can make on an artist’s career…the impact you can make on an artist’s career. Patreon is a crowd-sourcing platform, for folks like us to extend support to a creator or artist. If 10s and 100s of us give $1 or $100 per month, we can supplement the income of someone whose craft inspires us. Someone we want to see more of…and enjoy the beauty of his/her creations on a more regular basis.
So how does an artist arrange, memorize and perform a classical guitar piece and then videotape, edit, and publish the piece every couple of weeks (sometimes weekly)? And still provide for his family?
Cue Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. Before he became part of Patreon, his art had to take a backseat to making a living – he taught guitar in a middle school and did hours and hours each week of private lessons with students. Thanks to the support of over 300 patrons, he was able to leave his middle school job. He is not completely supported by those of us who love his work, thus he continues to have private students, but he is able to create.Photo Credit: Patreon, Beyond the Guitar
Listening to his music on Spotify and watching his videos on YouTube are free to us all, thanks to those who support Nathan on Patreon. As patrons, we have various levels of perks, depending on our support. Perks at the lowest level of support include access of his Discord chat channel which allows us to engage with Nathan as well as other patrons, many of whom are also artists, scientists, and various other cool people.
Depending on the level we can get discounts on his sheet music, patrons-only live streams with Nathan, a private Skype guitar lesson, and at the $100/month level of support: an arrangement of a song of our choice. As I write, he is doing a live stream for us patrons as he begins arranging his next song (you’ll see that arrangement posted here next week).
4) Redeeming Loneliness – Blogger and mom Rachel Macy Stafford has posted a piece on the loneliness of being rejected or excluded. It resonated. By the way, if you haven’t felt the sting of rejection or exclusion, don’t be those people who do the deed…unwittingly; unaware. Take time to read the whole but here is part.
It’s together for each other that we find strength to ask, learn, and never fold up and disappear.
If that’s not life’s highest lesson, I don’t know what is.
Let me remember it now, especially now, when the world’s collective pain is so deep, so wide, and so heavy.
But there is hope …
Because what we can do individually to heal the world’s collective pain is quite miraculous. We can half the pain by being one person’s person.
With one invitation, we can take someone From outsider to insider From outcast to beloved member From unknown neighbor to coffee companion From wallflower to life-of-the-party From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.* – Rachel Macy Stafford
5) Echoes of Time – Growing up in a small town, driving down country roads was a part of the experience. Old houses with tin roofs, stoops where children shelled peas in summer, and noisy screen doors that let you know of comings and goings. Since adulthood, I’ve lived in cities. The images of the past are comforting and stir memories of grandparents – sitting on their porches, watching for us to pull up the driveway for a visit.
We definitely had a family lexicon – sayings that were part of our family culture that our adult children still remember and may use themselves today.
Ruddy emphasizes the importance of family mottos: “The words we hear repeated as children become our internalized voice as adults,” says Suzi Lula, a parenting expert and the author of The Motherhood Evolution: How Thriving Mothers Raise Thriving Children. “They reaffirm family values and serve as a real compass for kids as they get older. You’re doing your child such a big service to say these things to them now.”
I have racked my brain to think of things we had as family mottos and couldn’t come up with any…which really bummed me out. I am sure we had some… Dave would counsel “Deal with it, or die to it”…when we fretted over what someone said or did to us. I would go to the wisdom vault of Disney films at least for this one:
More than that, we would look to Scripture for our family’s values. One we still quote to ourselves on a regular basis is:
“Do not grow weary in well-doing; you will reap a harvest, if you don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9
When our kids were older, I would remind them of our “Audience of One”…not sure they remember that but it was to call them to mind of not needing to please people but more to honor the God who loves them already and no matter what. [Do you remember that, Kids?]
“Redeem the time” was/is another family value of ours…
2) God of War – One of the perks of being a patron of Beyond the Guitar is to be privy to his creative process through livestreams of his arranging. I know very little about how one can take a grand orchestral piece and recast it for a single classical guitar – retaining its power and beauty. What I do know I learned from Nathan, as he does it time and time again. This week’s video is his arrangement of themes from the God of War video game – God of War 4 Meets Classical Guitar – click and enjoy.
3) Adam Grant Podcasts – Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has a podcast now. Like all his work, it is brilliant. Well-researched, practical, fascinating. This week, I listened again to Work Life: The Problem with All-Stars where he asks the question “How do you make your team better when you’re not the biggest star?”
Photo Credit: TEDAdd Adam’s podcast to your list. His book Give and Take continues to be one of my favorites and go-to wisdom texts.
4) John Newton & Friends on Controversy – John Newton was an 18th century English clergyman who had a dark past (as a slave ship captain and even experiencing slavery himself). He wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. He understood controversy too well.Photo Credit: Flickr
Below are quotes from a longer letter Newton wrote to a minister who had sought him out for advice. This man was preparing to write a scathing article addressing the orthodoxy of another minister.
“I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself.”
“Consider your opponent: As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.”
“Consider the public: There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God….Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit…Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”
“Consider yourself: [Writers of controversy] either grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value…What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made? …if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.” – John Newton
There is something unwholesome in us that loves controversy – the exposing of another’s behavior or character different from ours. I’m not saying that “truth coming out” is not a good thing…it is… However, we must guard against what we do with that. We can stir up controversy, dance all around it, and the world remain unchanged [except for being more divided]. Unimproved. Just a lot of hurtful talk…and then nothing. We can do better…we can be better.
5) Old Books – This past weekend, after several days of heavy rains, our basement took on water. In our storage room, cardboard boxes, filled with treasures from Mom’s estate, were water-damaged and had to be discarded. That didn’t pose a problem to the many pieces of glass (decorative and tableware) Mom had given to each of us.
I peeled off wet cardboard and newspaper, washed them, and will either repack, use, or give away.
The old books packed not well enough were another story.
It made my heart sad…and then glad with memories still of those dear old books. Not saying that I had memories of them…but the sweet memories of the people who held onto them. My Mom and her four brothers (all gone now) grew up in the Great Depression. At least three of them (Mom and her two older brothers) loved to read. I know this because I watched Mom, the hardest worker I ever knew, take breaks not to watch TV, or nap…but to read. My uncles left books behind in our home, their names written inside on the title pages. The dear old book above is the 4th edition of an 1855 publication of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I will keep it still, though terribly damaged from age and this past week’s rains. Why? Inside are bits of paper that my Uncle George kept place with. Bits of paper he wrote quotes on and notes to himself. This old book brings him near to me…this old World War II Navy veteran who married but never had children, this elegant man who I idolized, this kind man who loved his little sister…my mama.
[So Kids…when it’s time, and you find this book, just throw it out. It gave me comfort for a season.]
These were my favorite finds this week. How about you? Any discoveries you would be willing to share? Just respond in Comments below.
This is Memorial Day weekend in the US. Rain is predicted here so not sure if we will grill or not. Hopefully we’ll see the kids and grandkids…we will keep putting our basement back together…and we will remember the great sacrifices of those in our military – living and dead. Thank you for your service.Photo Credit: Military