Category Archives: Living Life with Value

The Hundred and Third Time is the Charm

I like stuff made out of wood or leather.  Why?  Both wood and leather show wear and age.  If they are made from good material they become richer with more character as they are handled and used.  And that makes them unique.  I suppose some of this goes back to the cowboy days of my youth.  My saddle wasn’t fancy but it was worn and shaped to my bottom.  There are stories to each of the scratches and marks in the leather.  What might have diminished its value for a potential buyer increased it for me.  It had character and it contained history and memories.  It has been close to a half millennium since I last laid eyes on it but I can still see and smell it when I close my eyes.

I had a walking stick that was invested with memories of hikes in both Europe and around America.  It was just beginning to get that “used” feel when someone stole it from me.  I miss that walking stick.  I bought another one that has potential but there aren’t as many memories soaked into the wood yet from my sweaty palm.  I plan on getting it there, but it will take some time.  That kind of wear and those kinds of memories can’t be rushed.  In some ways they can’t be planned either.  Planning will get one in the vicinity but serendipity creates the best memories.

Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you that sometimes my thinking is a bit odd.  Our daughter is visiting from California and wanted to go to the Louisville Slugger IMG_0079Museum.  So we took her earlier this week.  As you leave the tour area they have bins full of the nubs they cut off the end of the bats after they finish working them.  You are welcome to take a few if you like and I grabbed one just for a memento to remember the visit and the time with Barb and Susannah.  My thought is to hold it, roll it around in my hands, and generally handle it until it develops character and holds some memories of the time along the way.  I wonder how long it will take to get smooth and for the color to change from the oils in my skin.  I expect it to take years.  All the initial splinters are gone and I haven’t even had it a week yet.  Pretty good don’t you think?

You’re probably wondering where I am going with this.  Playing with my Louisville Slugger bat nub got me thinking about mastery.  I watch so many programs, seminars and trainings come and go in my professional life.  From my perspective we seldom stay with something long enough to get past the initial ideas or concepts to mine the treasure that can only come from time, use and getting through our sweaty palms and minds the character that comes from handling something over and over again.  It is easier to “get” a concept than it is for the concept to “get” you.  All too often we “get” the idea or thought being presented to us and because we “understand” the idea we think we have it.  I “understand” how to play golf but I am no where near being able to play it with consistency and skill.  Even if I have the ability, which is doubtful, I haven’t invested the time and focus to mastering the fundamentals that would allow for something approaching skill and consistency in the game.

Mastery can either be the foundation for innovation or for being stuck.  Think of the technically great musician who just doesn’t “move” you with their performance.  Then think of a musician like Ed Sheeran who has mastered his craft and uses his mastery to create incredible new sounds and musical concepts.  This is why the professional process world talks about continuous improvement.  The goal of mastery is freedom to innovate.

Mastery requires intentionality and focus over an extended period of time.  I am choosing two or three areas of mastery focus for 2020, looking for innovation and creativity to be released and enjoyed.  How about you?


coaching In one form or another Barbara and I have been coaching for over four decades.  For nearly thirty years most of it was in the context of Christian ministry.  We have also raised five children.  That is a coaching experience to be sure.  Parenting should be the most profound coaching role of all and, in fact, it is for good and sometimes ill.  I have been a Little League baseball coach, ad hoc softball coach, and coached in a variety of venues and circumstances.  In the last ten years we had a coaching business along with other forms of consulting as well as coaching clients for a personal growth and leadership development company.  I am currently working as a strategic consultant for a Fortune 100 company and am enjoying “coaching” in a completely different context along with all the challenges it presents.  To paraphrase a friend of mine we are all coaching someone even if it is only ourselves.

I have made some colossal blunders and still cringe a bit when I think about some of them.  Each mistake was a lesson, if owned and learned from.  Over the years I have developed a pretty healthy list of “won’t ever do that agains.” There have been times when I have known incredible successes, many of them much to my surprise and in spite of myself.  I still am often surprised when a thought or suggestion proves to be the key to unlock deep potential in another of God’s kids and I absolutely love it when there is relational energy that unlocks understanding in the one being coached and me as well.  To be sure there are some great principles and techniques but the coaching of the greatest value is creating a context in which the One who leads and guides us into all truth is alive and active in a relationship between the coach and the one being coached releasing the mystery and miracle of the Master coach of all.

I have some friends, one in particular, who are starting their own coaching “careers.”  I applaud them, and in fact encouraged one of my children to engage with a coach paying the money to do so.  That prompted me to start this series about coaching.  I have always endeavored to coach from a Biblical perspective.  One of the highlights of our coaching career was when Barbara and I contracted with the leadership development company.  There were four levels of training available through that program and by the time someone had completed all four levels they had a significant investment in their own growth and development.  Though the company was not a “Christian” company it was owned by a Christ follower and attracted other Christ followers.  In the course of completing the company’s programs others became followers of Christ.  We were engaged to coach those who had completed all the levels of the company’s training and were marketed as “Christian” coaches.  Our job was to ground our clients in the Biblical truth around what they had discovered in the “secular” program.

In both that journey and our journey through life, ministry and the corporate world we have discovered some concepts that can be helpful to others.  The purpose of this series of blogs will be to share some of those concepts with others.  Back to my friend who is starting her coaching career.  I was always looking for sources other than myself to recommend to my clients to re-inforce what we were exploring together.  This can be one of those resources.  One of the classic coaching questions is what success will look like?  Success, for me, in this effort will look like others (1) using the material to reinforce and underscore something they are working on in their coaching relationship.  (2) Questions from you and any other readers about specific ideas they would like to explore together.  (3) Others contributing their own thoughts so that the blog becomes a compendium of wonderful voices exploring and discovering life together.  In short, I will deem this effort successful if it becomes a vehicle for conversation for all who are in the search for healthy relationships with themselves, their neighbors and their God.

Here we go…..

Wisdom Shouts in the Streets

Years ago, as a young and highly dedicated follower of Christ, I was concerned by how much valuable knowledge I was finding from non-Christian sources.  I actually wondered if there was something really twisted in my way of thinking.  Why couldn’t I be satisfied with just the Bible, Christian books and good Christian based thinkers?   Finally I went to one of those thinkers for whom I had a great deal of respect.  After hearing me out he referred me to Proverbs 1:20 & 21, “Wisdom shouts in the streets.  She cries out in the public square.  She calls to the crowds along the main street, to those gathered in the front of the city gate.”  

Barbara and I have pretty much lived our lives in that advice.  No doubt I have my areas where I am pretty closed minded and set in my ways.  But for the most part I am still looking for wisdom wherever she may be found.  It is my firm conviction that where truth is found there another part of God is found for He said of Himself, “I am the truth…”  I am grateful to Him and His self-revelation in Scripture for it gives a touchstone by which to measure all else and the freedom to go out into the streets looking for truth.

I recently came across some of that wisdom in a TED talk (Shawn Achor Ted Talk).    A co-worker of mine suggested I listen to this so I did.  I thought it was great and wanted to pass it on to you as well.  This is good stuff.


Common Ground or That Which Divides

Several years ago a friend of mine suggested I read a book by Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, which I did.  It was a challenging read.  Last year, as part of my regular time with the Lord, both Barbara and I read his book, Free of Charge, an excellent deep discussion of God’s grace.  As a result of both those books I made the decision that Volf would be my mentor this year and that part of my quiet time will consist of reading others of his works.

I am currently reading Allah, A Christian Response.  With all that is in the news both within the United States and internationally, that seemed a natural choice.  In this book Volf is looking for the common ground between Christianity and Islam as a basis for conversation and dialogue.  As a part of his study he references those from both Islam and Christianity who refuse to find any basis for dialogue maintaining that the differences between the two are so profound that no meaningful conversation is possible.  Volf disagrees.

As I have been thinking through what I am reading I have been reflecting on a training I attended last year provided by my employer.  The company that did the training is Conversant and a good summary is a book written by the founders of the company, The Communication Catalyst.  The authors are Richard Rianoshek and Mickey Connelly.  I had the delightful experience of spending an entire day with Mickey along with another of my colleagues.  A fundamental concept of their approach to communication is that every human being on the planet has purpose (what we are for), concerns (what we want to avoid), and real circumstances.  Valuable conversations happen when we find a place of intersection in purpose, concern and circumstances.  When we focus outside the intersection very little of value happens.

My thought for today is then, are we looking for common ground or are we looking for that which divides?  Because, whichever it is we will find what we are looking for. There is no question that there are vast differences between the beliefs of Christianity and Islam.  But, then, there is also no question there are vast differences between you and me.  Still, you are reading this because there is some common ground between us, some place in which we intersect, and so you are willing to spend some of your precious time in conversation with me through reading this blog.  Maybe you are family, or a friend, or even someone who wants to see what kind of off the wall thing I am up to these days.  There is some kind of common ground.

There are also things that divide us all.  Even with Barbara and me there are things in us that divide.  In 42 years of marriage we have found a way around all that with our primary focus on the common ground but that doesn’t change the fact that there is still that which divides.  While not always the case it is all to often true that we make up our minds about something and then find the evidence to prove a choice we have already made.  If you decide that I am a “good” person you will hold on to the things I do that prove you correct in your choice.  On the other hand, if you decide I am a real snake in the grass you can find evidence to support that as well.

So, my question remains are you looking for common ground or that which divides?  What is the common ground between you and that co-worker who is getting under your skin? What is the common ground between you and your obnoxious neighbor, who by the way probably thinks you are the obnoxious one?  What is the common ground between you and your enemy?   Aren’t you glad that God chose to stand on the common ground He created for us all, transcending the divide between us which is far greater than any human divide could ever be and, in Christ, has reconciled us to Him?

What will you look for, common ground or that which divides??