Category Archives: Relationships

Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising in our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

5 Friday Faves – Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia, Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover, a Low-Carb Surprise, Blindspots, and Taking Responsibility

Friday! This time of year, it’s squeezing out those last vacation days before school starts again (after Labor Day in Virginia). Many of our friends in other states have already shut down their summer as kids  returned to school this week. Can’t you just smell the fragrance of new school supplies? For us here, it’s still making hot August day memories with little guys.

While you finish your cup of coffee or break from work, let’s get down to this week’s Friday Faves.

1) Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia – A woman who has taught me much about living through hardship with grace is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is a writer, speaker, artist and advocate for persons with disabilities. More central than all of that is her deep faith and dependence on God…especially in the 50 years since a diving accident, at 17 years old, put her in a wheelchair for life. I discovered her through an old feature film and her autobiography – Joni: An Unforgettable Story. The testament of her life points always to a God who gave her the grace to “count quadriplegia joy“. She is an amazing woman empowered with His love and that of those by her side, especially her husband, Ken Tada.Photo Credit: Joni and Friends

In Awe of Her God – Joni’s Fifty Years of Counting Quadriplegia Joy

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

2) Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover – One of the feature films with the greatest impact on our family is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The stories are gripping; the heroes are the stuff of legend; the villains are loathsome; the music is spectacular. Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar, has finally given us an arrangement of one of the great themes: Riders of Rohan from The Two Towers (second film of the trilogy). You can hear the theme in context with the story here (music rises after minute 5).

Nathan’s arrangement is here…and all us LOTR fans loved it (126,000 views and counting).

3) A Low-Carb Surprise – Earlier this week, we had a big supper with friends. A regular event where we take turns bringing food to share. This amazing cook in the bunch made loaded mashed potatoes. Having just finished a sugar detox, I have minimized carbs in my diet for over a month. Those mashed potatoes were so yummy. Not really ready to dive into unrestricted carb eating, I’ve been doing something very different (and appalling for me). Substituting cauliflower for potatoes and rice. Here’s the surprise. I’m shocked to confess that cauliflower is actually good…enough. With a lighter carb load and other nutritious qualities as well. Last night I made Shepherd’s Pie with a cauliflower topping. I don’t food-process the cauliflower; just steam it and then either mash it or crush it a bit with a fork (to use as rice).Cauliflower takes on the flavors added to it. Just as with mashed potatoes, butter and a bit of milk completed the substitution. Cheese on top and…hello!

Still…the next time it’s my friend’s turn to cook, that mashed-potato queen, I will not be slow to take my serving. Low carbs, not no carbs.

YouTube Video – This Is Why Eating Healthy Is So Hard (Time Travel Dietician)

4) Blind Spots – Life coach and writer Martha Beck defines blind spots as psychological “aspects of our personality that are obvious to everyone but ourselves“. She even prescribes a way to discover them.

“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.

Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.”Martha Beck

As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.Photo Credit: Vimeo

Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.

For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response reveals a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am totally right in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications.

What do you think?

Seeing Your Emotional Blind Spots – Martha Beck

What’s Your Blind Spot – Jane Taylor

6 Career Derailing Blind Spots and How to Overcome Them

How Successful People Cure Their Blind Spots – Kevin Kruse

How to Watch Out for Blind Spots in Your Leadership – Lolly Daskal

5) Taking Responsibility – You may be starting to expect in pretty much every Friday Faves that you’ll see a guitar arrangement by Beyond the Guitar and a life hack by Benjamin Hardy. You could be right. This week, Hardy posted an article on taking responsibility – What Happens When You Take Full Responsibility of Your LifePhoto Credit: Lakenheath

He talks about the hazards of indecision. Taking responsibility for our lives means to make decisions based on where you are and where you want to be at some future time. Life isn’t meant to happen haphazardly. Yet, because of our fear of failure or insecurity about making good decisions, we default to not making the decision. Then we languish in our current situation, losing ground even…rather than taking hold of our life and moving it in the direction we believe it’s meant to go.

Commitments are important to make and to keep. When we commit to something publicly, we have even more impetus to do what we’ve said we will do. This isn’t shaming or guilting…this is operating as a mature and responsible individual. These kinds of commitments also grease the tracks for success in that expressed decision.

Making a commitment means you’re seeing it through to the end. It means you’re leaving yourself no escape routes. You’re burning any bridges that might lead to lesser paths of distraction. Your decision has been made. There’s no going back. You’ve passed your point of no return.

Where decisions are made in a single moment, commitment is seeing those decisions into the future. Especially when life gets difficult. – Benjamin Hardy

A friend made the statement “You fake it until you make it.” I’ve heard that spoken before but never by her. “Faking it” is something that doesn’t fit this incredibly wise and reasoned woman. What she further explained though brought the meaning. So what if we aren’t sure of ourselves in the decision. What if our desire is to commit to something but we aren’t sure we can actually follow-through. Then we “fake it”, or really, in her further explanation – “You walk the talk until the talk becomes your walk”.  Make the decision; execute the decision.

Make the decision you want to. Eventually, you grow into that decision through your commitment and personal resolve. Your goals are something you grow into.

This isn’t faking anything.

It’s living with intention.

It’s living with definiteness of purpose.

So what’s the challenge?

Publicly commit to something to TODAY.Benjamin Hardy

Thanks again, Benjamin Hardy…and Nathan Mills…and all of you have a safe and restful weekend. Live with intentionality, and be kind to yourselves. That kindness will splash out on others.

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Listening? Or Are You Silencing Voices?

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.

Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.

We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.

At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.

This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.

In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.

Leadership coach Kate Nasser posted a bold article on the workplace scenario of silencing employees.

She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:

  1.  Look unapproachable.
  2.  Have a thin skin and make it about you.
  3.  Do not ask for input.
  4.  Bully and berate others or their ideas.
  5.  Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
  6.  Ignore ones who raise issues.
  7. Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
  8.  Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
  9.  Take credit for others’ ideas.
  10.   Accuse and blame in public.
  11.   Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
  12.   Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
  13.   Pit one person against another.
  14.   Override every decision others make.
  15.   Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.

Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.

YouTube Video – The Power of Listening – William Ury – TEDxSanDiego

We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.

“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.”William Ury

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.

Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.

Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.

We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.

[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]

We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.

Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.

Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? – James R. Detert & Ethan R. Burris – Harvard Business Review

6 Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work – Glenn Llopis

7 Tips for Wooing Your Employees Into Loving Their Jobs, Again – Matt Straz

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – Journaling, What Ends All Marriages, Cell Phone Addiction, Trauma Healing, and Neighborhood Gelato

Happy Friday! Cutting quickly to the chase here, with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Journaling – Writing is a favorite outlet of mine. When I write, it’s like talking to a trusted friend. Everything is clearer after. Less frightening, too, sometimes. that’s what reflection does for you. Journaling has been a life-long habit of mine. In fact, I’ve told my kids that when the time comes and they go through all the stuff in the attic, they might want to read some of the journals. Although, I also warned that anything shocking they read, I’ve probably long since worked through (hopefully).

Productivity coach Benjamin P. Hardy strongly encourages journaling as a daily early morning habit.

Do you write or journal? It’s worth a try. You never know what you might discover through writing out what is bouncing around inside your head.

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Can Change Your Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

2) What Ends All Marriages –
Meg Marie Wallace writes a chilling piece on the one thing guaranteed to end all marriages. In her article, she talks about marriages that survived adultery and other betrayals, as well as marriages that didn’t survive. Then she gave what she saw as the difference.Photo Credit: Edvard Munch, Wikipedia

Those whose marriages didn’t survive were those who allowed their hearts to grow cold and hard toward their spouse.

“In order for marriages to thrive BOTH people need to guard with all diligence against hardness of heart. It has no place in marriage, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, hatred and bitterness.” Meg Marie Wallace

Left. Unchecked. We must guard our hearts if we want our relationships (marriage and otherwise) to thrive in hard places.

Read Wallace’s piece. We can take hope and take charge of those hearts of ours.

3) Cell Phone Addiction – Jesse Lyn Stoner posted a powerful article, by Victor Prince, on the intrusion of cell phone technology in the workplace. The piece is Want Your Team More Engaged? Remove the Weapons of Mass Distraction . If we were honest, many of us struggle with this. I know I do. Take a minute to read Prince’s take on how to shake-up the workplace by confronting the distraction of our phones. I’m motivated. On both personal and professional fronts.Photo Credit: Andres Rodriguez, Flickr

4) Trauma Healing – After studying about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I’ve become more interested in trauma healing. Wanting to be equipped, I went to a training this week. The American Bible Society offers a course especially geared toward those who want to serve people who’ve come through terrible lossPhoto Credit: BPNews

or trauma (refugees, anyone with PTSD, persons with addictions, fill-in-the-blank). The training is designed to help meet the needs of all people no matter the religion or background. Only one section is specific toward Christians.

Through role-play experiences, storying, dialog, writing and art exercises, the course facilitators guide participants how to recognize and lovingly intervene with those who have come through trauma. I was surprised myself how helpful the exercises were in helping me with some losses I’m still recovering from.

The written guide is an excellent tool for anyone and can be purchased online.

Healing the Wounds of Trauma – Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill, Richard Baggé, Pat Miersma

5) Neighborhood Gelato – Don’t you love those shops tucked into your neighborhood where you know the people behind the counter and the products are always amazing? One of those around here is The 21Hundred, named for its location on John Rolfe Parkway, in Richmond’s West End. It’s a cozy, friendly place where neighbors gather and others drive over to join them. Payton and Robyn Wilson, the proprietors, serve up espresso, gelato, and other yummy treats every day of the week but Sunday. They treat all of us like return customers, even when it’s the first visit. Check it out if you’re a Richmonder. If you’re not, tell us of a neighborhood favorite of your own.

Have a great weekend and be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through.

Monday Morning Moment – Workplace Wisdom – From the Shallows Back Out Into the Rapids – 5 Resources

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The river of work is often a fast current – the movers and shakers are in the rushing waters. If you find yourself in the shallows how did that happen? Illness (yours or someone in your family), underemployment, qualifications issue, somehow just not the “flavor of the month”? Any or all of these situations could have prompted a detour out of the faster waters of your work.

Some of us thrive in the shallows. I want to learn how, now that I’m semi-retired. Still, the rapids call me  back…for many reasons.

If you, like me, are in the shallows and you are bewildered rather than refreshed by them, think why that might be.

The rushing waters are where the action is. They’re here and gone, but they carry along whatever is happening in the river.

Occasionally something interesting and important will pop out for you from the current – and you tackle it with excitement – and when you finish it, then it’s gone. Taken back up by the river as if it never visited the shallows, as if you never touched it.

The shallows are a lovely place to visit…especially when you’re exhausted from the rapids. Especially when you need a new vantage point…a new view of your work. The shallows provide that. Being long in the shallows is a strange experience…if you’re used to the rapids.

How does one push back out into the current?

OK…enough metaphor. Here are 5 super useful resources to help us push back into the running river of work…if that’s where we want to be. Choose which fits the most right now, and dig into the article:

1) Achieving Stadium Status – Why not have a colossal goal, right? Leadership consultant Skip Prichard posted a piece recently on How to Achieve Stadium Status. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He gives a hardy review of John Brubaker‘s book Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time. From the book, Prichard covers such topics as how to use affirmations, dealing with critics, rising above the noise, leaving our comfort zones, avoiding comparing, and not repeating others’ mistakes. Until you can read the book, catch Prichard’s article to get started toward the main stage.

Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time – John Brubaker

2) Bouncing Forward After a Big Fail – One of my favorite writers on leadership and the workplace is  Adam Grant . He takes a very different view of failure at work in his article When You Get Fired Or Fail Big, This Is How You Bounce Forward. Photo Credit: Pexels

Quoting Grant here:

“Most of the time, when someone fails, it’s not because there’s a bad apple spoiling the barrel. It’s because the barrel is a bad relationship.

In other words: It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s us.

That doesn’t mean shirking responsibility or failing to hold others accountable. It means realizing that in many of our struggles, the biggest problem lies not in individuals but in relationships.

It helps to remember that in most failures, relationships are a major factor. We just have to make sure we don’t pull the wool over our own eyes.” – Adam Grant

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

3) Addressing Team Alignment – Leadership trainer Jesse Lyn Stoner looked at how team alignment influences team performance. In her piece, Team Alignment is for the Birds, she had this to say:

 

Team alignment is often “leader dependent. Followers depend on the leader to make decisions on direction and tell them what to do.

Team members [in this scenario]. . .

. . . should not act independently.

. . . have little need to communicate with each other.

. . . are following the leader, with no idea where they are going.

We need teams composed of individuals who are able to make quick decisions on how to respond to what comes their way, who are able to use their good judgment to solve problems, who coordinate their efforts with each other, and who come up with fresh new ideas.

A compelling vision (that includes common purpose and shared values) is a more powerful way of unifying your team than trying to align them through structure, policies and procedures.

When a team is organized around a unifying vision, the vision becomes the glue that holds your team together.” – Jesse Lyn Stoner

6 Benchmarks of High Performance Teams – Jesse Lyn Stoner

4) Excellence in Execution – Strategy thinker Robin Speculand writes on what it takes to effectively implement change. In his blog (guest post on Skip Prichard’s website), Speculand talks about the role of the leader in driving strategy forward. To effectively execute change, leaders must demonstrate their own commitment to the strategy. How visible they are to the rest of the company’s employees attests to how valuable the execution of that change is to them personally. Speculand talks about how to carve out time and energy from a busy schedule in order to be fully available to those most impacted by the strategy change. Photo Credit: All Hands

Intriguing ideas, especially for any of you in the shallows. To be a person who executes well is a valuable employee. Don’t lose sight of that.

A Leader’s Role in Achieving Excellence in Execution – Robin Speculand

Excellence in Execution: How to Implement Your Strategy – Robin Speculand

Robin Speculand Presentations – Slideshares

5) Becoming More Likable – Work is not a popularity contest. However, likable people are just a whole lot more fun to work with than folks who insist on being controlling or contrarian. Marcel Schwantes lays out 6 qualities of folks we would all like on our teams…

  • Be curious and ask interesting questions.
  • Describe other people in the positive.
  • Make an immediate good first impression with your face.
  • Listen. Really listen.
  • Choose every opportunity to experience joy.
  • Don’t pass judgment.Photo Credit: Flickr

6 Qualities of Extremely Likable People, According to Science – Marcel Schwantes

Bonus: a Critical People Skill with Kate Nasser

A Critical People Skills Moment to Handle With Ease – Kate Nasser

When others ask you to change a behavior that rubs them the wrong way, what is your response? They will remember how you reply to this critical people skills moment.

Do you …

  1. Give a list of reasons why you do it?
  2. Ask them to explain why it bothers them?
  3. Suggest that they are being demanding, irrational, unprofessional, or childish for asking?
  4. Take offense and avoid these people whenever possible?
  5. Stop doing it?

Check out Kate Nasser‘s lightning fast read on looking seriously at the 5th response above. We want our preferences…we want things done our way. We want “me” to win, not “we” to win. Something to think about.

Let’s push out into the fast water of our workplace…we’ve had enough time in the shallows.

Monday Morning Moment – Community in the Workplace – We Need It

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Working on teams made for some of the highest performance years of my career. I used to think it was a weakness of mine that I didn’t thrive professionally if I wasn’t on a team. Looking back at seasons of life where my work required solitary focus as well as the times when collaborative effort was the expectation, the difference in quality of life and product was astounding.

We need each other. Author C. S. Lewis even observed that we are all “one vast need”. This thinking goes counter to our culture’s bias toward self-sufficiency and independence. In the workplace, our brilliance does not have to be defined as always being the lone ranger or the self-starter. How we work with others, and what we draw out of each other, in terms of value, creativity, and resource could be the difference in both performance and morale.

“When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable,” wrote Basil (an early Church father). When we live our lives independently, other people are poorer because they cannot benefit from our gifts: “what we have is unavailable.” Also, when we isolate ourselves, we are poorer because the benefits of others’ gifts are lost to us, so what we lack, we cannot get. There are good things in others that are “unprocurable” unless we interact with them…You are “one vast need” and must avoid the extremes of saying, “I am not needed,” or, “I don’t need you.”Art Lindsley

Community – and Why We Need It – Art Lindsley, C. S. Lewis Institute

Early in my career, people invested in my professional development and in me as a person. I had rich opportunities to work alongside both leaders and practitioners who shaped what I had to offer in the workplace. You have read about some of the teams I’ve had the privilege to be a part (here and here)… The work of those teams continues to thrive.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What we do together far surpasses what we can do individually.

Individualism is a fine idea. It provides incentive, promotes leadership, and encourages development—but not on its own. We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves. This is what is meant by “community”—the social glue that binds us together for the greater good. Community means caring about our work, our colleagues, and our place in the world, geographic and otherwise, and in turn being inspired by this caring. Tellingly, some of the companies we admire most—Toyota, Semco (Brazil), Mondragon (a Basque federation of cooperatives), Pixar, and so on—typically have this strong sense of community…Somehow, in our hectic, individualist world, the sense of community has been lost in too many companies and other organizations. – Henry Mintzberg

I agree with these authors and many others on the importance of community in the workplace. Right now my work is done in a very solitary environment. Thankfully, I have friends and colleagues who fill some of the void where I miss team. In times when our workplace lacks community, we shouldn’t wait on outside forces to alter our situation. We must take steps to create community. Brook Manville has written an excellent step-by-step process to embolden us in this effort. Missing community at work is just wrong, especially because we can do something about it.

Can major transformation really begin…almost spontaneously, with small acts by people who are not part of the senior leadership?…In his recent book Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block, an authority on workplace learning and performance, wrote, “Most sustainable improvements in community occur when citizens discover their own power to act…when citizens stop waiting for professionals or elected leadership to do something, and decide they can reclaim what they have delegated to others.”Henry Mintzberg

Rebuilding Companies as Communities – Henry Mintzberg, Harvard Business Review

Can we have community on every work team? Maybe not. Can we have community at work? Absolutely. Whether it is a core value of a company or not, we can create and cultivate community whatever our role is and wherever we find ourselves in the workplace.

Let’s get after it!Photo Credit: Vimeo, Belbin

Wisdom for the Teaming Masses – Brook Manville, Forbes

Saturday Short – a Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills

Belbin Improving Teams 2017 – Vimeo

Monday Morning Moment – Taking the Social Capital Challenge – 5 Steps Forward

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that experience of events converging and what was foggy before becomes crystal clear? I just had that kind of week. A series of non-random things happened that caused a chain reaction of a magnitude that launched me out of my  creative doldrums.

Here’s what happened.

Backtracking a bit, I’ve been thinking solidly for several weeks on social capital – what kind of resource that is and what it takes to have it (or restore it).

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. Simple English Wikipedia

I wrote about social capital twice – here and here. After posting that last blog, the following events had huge impact on how I’ve been doing life.

  1. The right book landed in my hands. Literally.

It was Jeff Goins‘ latest book that was just released. His 5th book and already a best-seller, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age came in the mail.

I tore into it and was so encouraged and empowered by his stories and counsel for artists, like him. No, not like him in the best-selling author part…but like him in the before “possibility-season” of his life.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.Photo Credit: Jeff Goins

Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons From My Latest Launch) – Jeff Goins

2) Significant conversations followed. After posting my last blog, a writer acquaintance suggested we get together. Ann Lovell is a seasoned writer and currently employed as a Communications Director. Not only that, she continues busy with her own writing and is editing the manuscript of another incredible author. We talked about writing, and she offered her help. That was huge for me and right out of Jeff Goins’ book. Then another author friend Kevin Prewett with whom I share workspace some weeks also gifted me with good and thought-provoking questions about my writing. So helpful. Finally, through one more conversation, I realized how my own focus had been more on guiding and encouraging younger  writers and artists around me without noticing my own craft had gone untended. That conversation, with our guitarist son Nathan Mills,   was much illuminating. This time I benefited from a younger artist.

Significant conversations all.

3) A “Come to Jesus Moment” happened with my best friend. The one person in my life who has read all the blogs and has celebrated every high and encouraged me through every low is that husband and friend of mine, Dave. I am sometimes guilty of giving counsel too quickly (ok, advice…really. Unasked for advice. Dang it!). It’s much easier to look in others’ lives and suggest a small tweak than to face full on what totally needs rerouting in our own lives. In the last couple of years, taking early retirement and being too much on the outside looking in, I have time to come up with a prescription for anyone else’s problem. [Yes…guilty.] Not that I’m wrong, necessarily, but the situation is not mine. Most probably, Dave, or Nathan, or whomever it might be knows far more about where he/she is on that trajectory toward next steps than I could possibly conjecture. So here’s the “Come to Jesus Moment”. Over the weekend, Dave and I were talking about this season of life. We resonated together about lost social capital…those strong influencer groups with whom we once were a part and now not so much. In that brief conversation, when I would usually cheer on Dave to rally, the proverbial light bulb went off. Not just for him but for me as well. It is still possible to reclaim ground lost. Now was the time to act.

4) I applied for a job. I’d been toying with this for awhile. Until my dad died, I was making so many trips to help care for him, it seemed impossible for me to work anywhere. I would toss around options with family and friends (teaching ESL, hospice, school nursing), but nothing seemed to fit. Then for several months, I would hear of friends being hired into the coolest jobs and struggled to have unreserved joy for them. It was time for me to either continue with contentment in my current state of not working or take aim in one direction or another and do something. One job caught my eye. One job. I did the hours of updating my resume, pulling together samples of my writing, and crafting a cover letter. If I don’t get that job, I’ll apply for another.

5) I took the Social Capital Challenge.  A couple of months ago, I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on…weeks ago for a month-long challenge…and then did nothing.

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

Until today…

Today I created a written goal and posted it somewhere public.

I joined the Facebook page for The Art of Charm Challenge just now, and here was my first posting.

“Hello, everyone. I signed up for the challenge weeks ago. Even though its email reminders, baby to bigger steps, have been feeding my inbox, I wouldn’t even open them. Until today. Today I am ready. My goal is to have a manuscript with the art work publish-ready by the end of the year. My co-author and I had our first sit-down today, to share story idea and flesh it out some and to do the beginning photographer for the illustrator. Whew! There it is.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Jess_the_VA

I’m taking a deep breath…and we’ll see where this all lands. Whatever lies ahead, I’m so grateful for good counsel, courageous and creative friends and family, and clarity. It’s a very good Monday.

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – When Connections Are Lost – a Rant, a Resolve, and a Request – Deb Mills Writer

6 Things You Need to recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

6 Things You Need to Recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

5 Friday Faves – Writer Jeff Goins, Refugees, Community, Situational Awareness, and a Memorial

Happy Friday. Summer’s coming on hard here with temps into the 90s for the next week. Hope you get to play hard and rest hard over the weekend. Here are my favorite finds for this week. Enjoy!

1) Writer Jeff Goins – I am so excited about Jeff Goins‘ latest book. This is his 5th book – Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. It arrived 2 days ago, and I’m already deep into it.

Pre-ordering this book was an excellent plan, because the Barnes & Noble store near us is having to re-order already just 3 days into the launch. These books are flying off the shelves.

Why? Goins has already proven himself as a fascinating story-teller and wise counselor regarding creative work and turning dreams into reality. This book is a thrilling culmination of all that for those of us who want to put our work out there and make a living at the same time.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.

I’m so glad I bought this book early. Reading it is like having a successful and kind mentor guiding me through the next steps of my career. Whatever your passions, you will glean so much from Jeff Goin’s own journey and wisdom.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

2) Refugees –  We never want to lose sight of the plight of displaced peoples – of refugees. Photographer Steve Evans and writer Zee Jenkins put together a beautiful and riveting photo essay – Trail of Tears – Refugees in Greece. Take a look and remember this is happening every day.Photo Credit: Steve Evans, Life Force Magazine

3) Community – We need each other. Community is something we experience when we reach out to those around us to help in whatever way we can. Community is also receiving that help when we are the one in need.Photo Credit: Army

How do we teach and model community to our children? How do we raise them to be situationally aware and compassionate to those around them? Please share your experiences (in the Comments below) of what you’re doing to raise up children to be adults who are socially responsible…who genuinely care about those around them.

This little video went viral and you’ll understand why. Beautiful!

4) Situational Awareness – This is a life skill that fascinates me. In fact, I wrote about it in detail here . Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It came to mind this week when I saw this fascinating video below about things we can easily miss if we’re not alert to our surroundings. Watch Evan below.

Hopefully it didn’t just make you uncomfortable. Hopefully it made you think how we might not just be aware of a threat or a crisis, but that we might intervene early enough to change the situation. To get avert the crisis and to get help for that person in trouble.

A friend of mine lost a brother to suicide. His was a terrible impulsive final act and his family will grieve for a long time. What about those who show signs of depression or deep sadness? Maybe we can help there as well. It’s tragic when the family has to fight alone for the life of a loved one. I don’t have answers here, but we all have community agencies who can help us.

5) A Memorial – The news cycle is fast and fickle. We hear news (usually bad news) and then while we’re still coping with the fallout, media moves on. We forget too soon, even when that’s not our desire. Today is my older brother’s 71st birthday. Robert died suddenly 10 years ago. His online memorial is here. Today, I remember him. Also today, I want to remember 17y/o Sarah Harmening.Photo Credit: 11 Alive News

I did not know her at all until a bus accident in Georgia sent many to the hospital, and her life was gone. Still, the little I know of her made me want to pause and remember her with you. Below you will note her journal entry, written on that bus sometime before that accident. As she herself wrote, I believe with her that, in her life and in her passing, “God is going to do incredible things”.

Photo Credit: Facebook – The Alabama Baptist Newspaper

Breaking News: Multiple Huntsville Church Passengers Injured in a Bus Accident Outside of Atlanta

Another terrible incident that was short-lived in the news cycle was the slaughter of 28 Egyptian Coptic Christians last week. Again, in this moment, I want to memorialize them and…remember them.

Gunmen in Egypt Force Coptic Christian Pilgrims Off the Bus and Kill 28 – Declan Walsh and Nour Youssef

Don’t Look Now, But… – this is a hard read about the ambush and killing of these Egyptian Christians. This article found me and I’m glad I read it although it was disturbing. I don’t know if all the details are true, but this is true: 28 lives were taken and bear remembering.

This Friday Faves was not as light-hearted as most are. Still it’s what continues to resonate in my head and heart going into the weekend. Be safe out there, pray for one another, and let’s be kind to those around us…we never know what a difference that can make.

Bonuses

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes – Carey Nieuwhof

Mom: Let’s Stop Drinking the KoolAid – OK…this is a rant on our focus on nutrition for our children – which is a good thing until it becomes an all-consuming thing. Good article wherever you stand on this.

YouTube Video – Real Life Trick Shots – Dude Perfect

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Outpouring of a Thankful Heart

Photo credit: Womensministry.net

Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.

Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.

This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.

Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us.  A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.

Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.

For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.

So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).

  1. Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
  2. 1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
  3. Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
  4. Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
  5. A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
  6. Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
  7.  Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
  8. A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
  9. Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
  10. A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
  11. The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
  12. Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.

I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.

Worship with me to the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (sung by the David Crowder Band):

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:

O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.

Hallelujah!

How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.

Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.

Lyrics to Come Though Fount as performed by David Crowder Band

Story Behind the Song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Counting Your Blessings – 21 Inspirational Bible Verses – Bible Reasons – Fritz Chery

Come Thou Fount – Wikipedia article – interesting notation of the various lyric changes/additions

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount – A Faithful God to an Unfaithful People – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – I Wanna Go Back – David Dunn

Did Robert Robinson Wander…as He Feared? – Dan Graves

You Tube Video of The Aeolians of Oakwood University singing Come Thou Fount, with directors Dr. Lloyd Mallory and Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand Don’t miss this!

Blog - Aeolians - cassmacenterprisePhoto Credit: Cassmacenterprise

Monday Morning Moment – When Connections Are Lost – a Rant, a Resolve, and a Request

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Here written is a cautionary tale…one with a happy ending to follow.

Across my professional and personal life, I’ve experienced a great wealth of teams, affinity groups, communities and networks. Real flesh-and-blood people gathered passionately around products or services. People who trusted and enjoyed each other, who used their influence to do good. People who expanded both their influence and ability to do good by holding doors open to others with like vision.

…and I got to be a part of all that. It was an incredible life…and I want it back.

This is not to say that my life is lacking. That’s the rub. Life is amazingly good right where I am…wait for it…but, (such a small word that screams discontent, right?). There is something that has faded, and it can for you as well, if you’re not aware and nurturing it. Don’t let it happen because it’s too valuable.

What I have discovered over the last year is that the wide-reaching, lively connections in my work and personal life have been lost…or, for sure, diminished. This is what I’m determined to correct.

You know that odd experience when you lose a phone conversation (either because of passing through a cell service dead zone or you hit the disconnect button). You or the other person continues talking for a bit not realizing the other person is not listening…has left the conversation (intentionally or not intentionally)…and once re-connected, if you’re able, you have to awkwardly figure out where you left off.

Lost connections are jarring because they interrupt a process of communicating, collaborating or cooperating together on something of value.

Human capital is when you are connected to different individuals who have the capacity and desire to do good together (in creating or innovating – a product or service). Social capital – that of teams, agencies, or other communities working together – is an even larger, richer commodity than individual human capital.

I wrote about social capital previously here.

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. The more money a person or a society has, the easier it is to do things and the better off people are.Simple English Wikipedia

Photo Credit: IResearchNet

Through a variety of circumstances in recent years, I have lost some social capital. Reflecting on this real situation has been very helpful and motivating for me personally.

Jon Acuff, in his book Do Over, talks about the importance of not burning bridges when we leave a job or affiliation. I’m a bridge-builder not burner, but bridges can break down, through neglect or vision change and resource realignment.

At times, the sheer force of too much change can cause connections to be lost. Repeated change can lead to chronic states of transition, and we, in those situations, can find ourselves floundering, not sure really what or whom we call team or community.

There’s the regret and the resolve.

After years of living in many countries and working in various roles, we seem settled here in Virginia, at least for now. Still, in the past few years, we have experienced many changes here in work and community affiliations. Change can be so exhausting. It can either galvanize relationships or cause trust to sag a bit…and tempt us to circle the wagons.

I’m resolved to find my way out of this…even at my “old age” and in my semi-retired status…In other words, I have the opportunity AND the resolve.

Just now I’m reading a somewhat dated but still fascinating book on social capital. Written by Tara Hunt it has a curious title: The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Hunt took that title from a commodity in Cory Doctorow‘s sci-fi novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. In Doctorow’s futuristic setting, “whuffie” was the currency and it was gained by being “nice, networked, and/or notable”. A little simplistic, but I do appreciate Hunt’s 5 principles of building social capital (this in the work world, but it can be applied in other situations as well):

  1. Stop talking and start listening.
  2. Become part of the community you serve and figure out who it is you are serving. [It isn’t everyone.]
  3. Be notable and create amazing experiences/remarkable products for your customers.
  4. Embrace the chaos. Don’t overplan. Learn to be agile. Recognize everyday magic.
  5. Find your higher purpose. Social capital only gains in value as you give it away. Figure out how you are going to give back to the community and do it…often.         – Tara HuntPhoto Credit: Pixabay

7 Ways to Increase Your Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt – Fast Company

As I keep reflecting on re-building connections,  social capital is now a goal. It may look very different these days than before, but what’s most important is getting back in the game.

Jordan Harbinger, blogger and podcaster for a website called The Art of Charm, has issued a challenge that intrigues me. This social capital challenge is what I need right now. Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

The challenge itself is designed to take a month, and I’ve been sitting on it a month already. Reading books and articles on the topic and avoiding the first challenge – settling on a written goal of improving my social capital (and sharing it publicly).

Next time I write about social capital, it will be with the challenge ON! Here’s my request: it would be so helpful for me (and others) if you shared your experiences or thoughts in this area (via Comments below or in a private email). Don’t let the phrase social capital put you off. Remember it just means working/networking with groups toward something that benefits others. I’ve known the great value of that and want to figure out how to invest like that again.

Let’s shake up the world…for good…together. Game on!

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – An Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Deep Connections Like These Will Make You Very Influential – Ron Carucci

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter