Wisdom in Years — As Fast As I Could Write

wisdom road sign arrow

I met with a near 80 year old business leader recently. I’m not sharing his name. He’s not famous, but he is well-known in the region where I live. But, he’s been exceptionally successful. He’s made lots of money. And, as a result, he has tremendous influence and a very comfortable lifestyle. He’s a straight, candid talker. In spite of his success, he was exceptionally approachable and genuinely seemed to be a kind-hearted man. His benevolent activities in the community indicate that is true.

(As a side note, I’ve learned people such as this man are willing to share their wisdom if asked. They are often honored to do so.)

This man is still working hard today — hasn’t slowed down a bit — in fact, the day we met he was exploring a new business deal that will take an enormous amount of his time, but has huge potential for returns.

Knowing that I connect with community leaders — I feel that’s a large part of growing a church these days — several people suggested I meet with him. He’s very active in the region and therefore I knew he would have insight into how our church can be more involved locally. He is a believer, but does not attend my church.

I quickly knew I was in for a overload of wisdom. I couldn’t capture it quick enough. (Which is another reminder to always take a way to record notes when you have such a meeting. I’m glad I did.)

He was particularly interested in the next generation. He used the term “entitlement” several times. He feels we’ve perhaps spoiled our children too much and it is impacting who we are as a society. You’ll see those thoughts in our talk. We were surrounded by pictures of his family. I suspect he’s concerned for his children and grandchildren’s future.

I share some of his statements in our conversation without commentary — just as he shared them with me. My purpose in sharing is just to give you the opportunity I had — gleaning from a successful, self-made, community leader.

Here are some of the random notes I took away from our conversation:

A huge problem with leaders at times is the zeal axis and the wisdom axis aren’t aligned. By the time you develop your character enough (wisdom axis) you lose your zeal.

The older I get the easier I can see a bigger picture. I’ve learned a few things I wish some of our younger employees would hear.

I always try a team approach to an issue. I don’t like surprises. Worst thing in leading is a surprise. With a team approach there are fewer.

Don’t burn bridges. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them bad people. Don’t treat them that way. You may need their connection down the road.

I carve out the piece of someone I don’t like and love the rest of them. You can love them without loving that piece of them (that they may not even like themselves).

As a businessperson, I’ve had some of my best success dealing well with the least of these. Don’t consider others better than yourself and you’ll be rewarded eventually (for your humility).

There are no substitutes for hard work.

I quit hiring people who have “lifeguard” or “golf caddy” on their resume. I hire people who have worked at Wal Mart or Dairy Queen — places like that. I want to know you know how to actually work for a paycheck.

Many of the young people we hire today want all the quality of life benefits now, but they don’t want to earn it.

At what point did we become entitled to Spring Break? Or to better shoes than the mom has?

I believe every business leader owes it to their community to participate in making the community better. It makes you feel better. It helps the community, and the bonus is you actually get business out of it.

Every good thing that ever happened to me (apart from God’s grace) I earned. Every bad thing that ever happened to me (apart from God’s mercy) I earned.

You reap what you sow, generally speaking. As the old saying goes, “The harder I work the luckier I get.”

You may or may not agree with everything he said, but what stands out to you most? 

 

My Greatest Success in Life

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I was interviewed recently for a leadership podcast. One of the questions took me by surprise at first. I have been interviewed for this type of thing many times and so answers usually come fairly easily. They didn’t this time. At least to this question.

The question:

What has been your greatest success in life and what did you learn from it?

Greatest success? That goes contrary to my normal thought process. I don’t think I’m keeping a mental record of that. I guess I should more often. I didn’t have an easy answer.

The first answer that came to mind:

Apart from knowing Christ and being known by Him…

My greatest success has been failure.

And, in addition to that, the ability to get back up and try again.

Having had time to think about the answer I gave more — I’m sticking with it.

You see, I have had lots of failure. I’ve been on the bottom several times and, by God’s grace and through commitment and perseverance, I always climbed back.

I’ve gained my greatest lessons from life through the hardest times of my life.

And, something tells me I’m not finished learning.

I’m not sharing that to boast about anything in my life. I share it to encourage you. You may feel discouraged today. You may have just about lost all hope. You may feel a complete failure — like the best of life is past for you.

It’s not! You can stand strong again. By God’s grace — and through commitment and perseverance.

That’s almost always the story of people of success. You often only see them when they’re standing, but you didn’t see the times they fell. 

Your greatest success in life may be your ability to endure through the hard times — even through failure — get up and move forward again. 

3 Problems with Being Too Nice as a Leader

Mister nice guy

I was talking with a leader recently. She’s an incredibly kind and gentle person. She’s smart, hard-working, and loyal. She’s a relational leader and usually brings out the best in people, so she’s had success in leadership. She is currently experiencing problems in a new position and asked for my help.

In talking through the specific situation, it quickly became obvious that she has one weakness and it is currently effecting her entire team. It’s a common weakness among leaders. At times, most of us will struggle in this area.

Her weakness?

She is being too nice!

Granted, that doesn’t sound like it could ever be a weakness. And, it has made her well-liked in the organization. She’s incredibly popular. And, she likes that. But, it also has made her team less successful than it could be. And, she knows it.

Currently, a few team members are taking advantage of her niceness by under-performing in their role. She hasn’t challenged the problems, even though she knows she should. She’s losing sleep over it, but doesn’t know what to do. The relational leadership in her, which is a positive about her leadership style, is not working with these team members.

Perhaps you’ve seen this before in an organization. Maybe you’ve been on either side of this issue. If this is your situation, you have probably even thought or said things such as, “I gave them an inch and they took a mile.” 

I am not suggesting one become a mean leader. That would be wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be Biblical leadership. I am suggesting one become a wise leader. Wisdom learns to guide people in the direction that’s best for them, the leader, and the entire team or organization. In the situation above, I advised my friend to take off her “nice hat”, at least temporarily, to address the few people causing the majority of the problems that are impacting the entire team. As hard as it will seem at first, in the end it will be a blessing for the entire team…and my leader friend.

I have learned people accept the what better if they first understand the why…so then I shared with her why I feel her default niceness is causing current problems for the team.

Here are 3 problems with being too nice as a leader:

It’s bad for the leader – The leader ends up stressing over the wrong things. Instead of worrying about the big picture, the leader is focused on a few problems with usually only a few people. The leader feels unsuccessful, even like a failure at times, as the team achieves less than desired results.

It’s bad for the organization – The team suffers because a few people mess up the system and progress for everyone else. Those on the team who wish to do the right thing lose respect for the leader. Others will follow the example of those taking advantage of the leader and lower their own performance standards. The organization loses.

It’s bad for the person taking advantage of the leader’s niceness – Enabling bad behavior is never good for the under-performing team member. It keeps him or her from identifying their full potential and from realizing personal success. They may be a superstar if they were given structure and held accountable to complete their work. And, they may never improve…and sometimes the best thing you can do for that person…certainly the team…is help them move on to something new.

Leader, have you become too nice as a leader?

Are you allowing problems to continue out of a fear of not being liked? There is nothing wrong with being a relational leader. That can be a great style of leadership, but part of developing any healthy relationship involves conflict, tough conversations and difficult decisions.

If you are not careful you can become everyone’s friend, but nobody’s leader.

Leading is hard…some days harder than others. The sooner you handle the problem (and the problem people), the sooner things will begin to improve on your team for everyone…and the sooner you can get a good night’s rest.

Gaining Wisdom from a Fool

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Having wisdom doesn’t mean you have made all wise decisions. In fact, it could mean the exact opposite.

Wisdom often comes from painful experience. Hard times. Failure. Disappointment.

My son tweeted recently “@NateEdmondson: I’m always encouraged by the wisdom of @RonEdmondson.”

Am I bragging by sharing that tweet? Maybe, but it was also a great reminder to me.

Some of the greatest wisdom I have gained has come from some very foolish decisions I made in life. Many times you could have easily called me a fool. Hopefully I’ve learned from those times and can share my experiences with others. But, they are foolish times in my life where I hope my sons are learning some of their wisdom from my bad decisions.

The Bible is full of this concept? Take for example Solomon, supposedly the wisest man of all times.

Those who know his story know he made many mistakes. Read 1 Kings 11:1-4, as an example. Then read Ecclesiastes 10:1-3, 8-10 It’s almost like Solomon was saying, “I’ve learned a few things…take it from me…” Solomon was full of wisdom, given to him by God, but much of that wisdom, especially towards the end of his life, apparently came through experience.

Life experience, good and bad, has a way of smoothing out the rough edges of a person’s life and over time gives a person wisdom. Sometimes the “wise old man” (or woman), didn’t get that way by living a perfect life, but by learning from the times of imperfection.

So the point or this post…there are two:

Be willing to learn from people that have failed greatly.

Be assured that their wisdom today can protect you from making some of their same mistakes.

Allow others to learn from your times of foolishness.

How has the foolishness of others…or your own foolishness…shaped your life?

(For those who may ask, I bought this picture from iStock, so I don’t know the guy. If he’s your grandfather, I don’t mean to offend, but he posed for this picture sometime…of course, probably not knowing it would be used in this post. I was simply looking for the picture of an older man. I am sure he is a very nice man, but I bet if you could find him, you’d find a man that would agree he’s learned a lot from his mistakes in life.)

5 Ways Physical Health Impacts My Total Life

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I recently starting writing periodically for Pastors Today through Lifeway’s blog. This is one of my first posts.

5 Ways Physical Health Impacts My Total Life

One would have to be living under a rock to not know we have grown larger as a people in the United States. Obesity is a growing concern in our nation. And, few in the church have bothered with the issue or even seen it as a problem. We have no problem addressing issues such as greed or guilt, but seldom do we approach the word gluttony. Yet, in my opinion, and experience, how I feel physically almost always impacts my spiritual life.

In Joshua 14, Caleb was 85 years old and “just as strong” as when he was called to mission. Somehow, to me, that seems to be a better motivation than learning to navigate the rocking chair and television remote. I’m not trying to be funny—and certainly not cruel—but I do believe as much as it depends on me, I should take care of the body God has given me. And, as a pastor, I have taken it personally to lead my church in total transformation: caring for their body, mind, and soul.

I haven’t always thought this way, but shortly into my thirties I began to get heavier. I had always been called “skinny”, but suddenly the candy bars began to catch up with me and my stomach approached near “Pillsbury Doughboy” proportions. It didn’t take long to realize that my new physical form was impacting me in every other way. Since then, for about the past 15 years, I have disciplined myself to be healthier. I have experienced remarkable difference. At 50 years of age, I feel better and am more productive now than I was in my mid-thirties.

Here are 5 ways physical training helps my total life—not just my physical life but my spiritual life as well:

My mental capacity increases. I can focus better when I’m in better physical shape. In fact, if I want to work on a major project requiring extra brain power, I always spend an hour in the gym first. I don’t know all the chemical reasons exercise jars the mind, but I know the impact.

For the rest of this post, please go to the Lifeway Pastors Today site by clicking HERE.

Learning to be Content with the Fences of Life

Jeune veau dans un champ

The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. Micah 7:11 NIV

Driving down a country road I saw something that reminded me of an important principle in life.

I passed a field full of cows grazing. Close to the road was a large metal gate covering the entrance to the field. At the gate was a little calf, seemingly trying desperately to get through the gate on to the other side of the fence.

It appeared to me this calf had seen some grass that looked better outside the fence. Sure enough, I looked and there was a patch of the greenest grass any calf could hope to find. Just feet outside the gate.

In the meantime, all the other cows appeared to patiently graze among the grass within the fence. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the calf would have gotten past the gate.

It would obviously be unsafe. A calf…wondering in the road by itself…I would have probably felt inclined to stop had I seen it in the road. Innocent of the ways of the world. Helpless. I would have feared for its safety. And, I’m sure it would have missed it’s mother when the time came for milk. This calf had no business outside the gate. No business at all. Anyone knows that.

But, then the calf reminded me of how I am at times.

Just being honest, I’ve struggled most of my life with patience…contentment…being satisfied where I am now and waiting until God does something new. I have often thought the “grass looks greener on the other side”. It’s hard for me to be patient within the fences of life at times.

In that discontentment, I often find myself testing the boundaries…the fences…God has placed me in life…trying to create my own “opportunities”…only to find out later that what God had for me was best. A God-ordained wait is always purposeful. His fences are always for my good.

Have you learned some those hard lessons in life?

Have you found out that what you thought you so desperately wanted wasn’t really worth it once you got it?

Oh, thank God for boundaries. Thank God for fences.

Thank God for unanswered prayers.

Thank God for all the trouble and heartache He has kept me from…because I have surely brought enough on myself…by keeping me within the fence.

Lord, help us to find our contentment in life in You! In the fences you provide.

12 Ways to be a Winner This Year

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It’s not too late to make a resolution.

Do you want to be a winner this year?

Here are a dozen suggestions:

Walk with someone through their personal trial.

Share love with someone who did nothing to deserve it.

Forgive someone who hurt you the most.

Display character when no one is looking.

Provide hope to someone who has lost theirs.

Embrace courage when fear is dominant.

Practice patience in your most frustrating situations.

Find joy in the midst of sorrow.

Receive grace when you don’t deserve it.

Believe and invest in someone others have rejected.

Reject apathy when everyone else is throwing in the towel.

Share Jesus with one whom knows Him not.

What ways can you share to be a winner this year?

A Dozen Challenges for a New Year

Challenge Defined

I posted some of these last year…but feel some of actually applied again…and I changed a few of them.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else – God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens – God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others.

Start embracing today – Let the past go. You can keep hoping your life away, but when you learn the secret of contentment today can become a great day, in spite of the challenges it holds.

Find real community – Granted, you’re most likely reading this online, but our lives aren’t meant to be as isolated as an online world encourages. Find opportunities to engage with real people…in person…with no technology in the way. (This may be as simple as turning off your television more frequently.)

Accept God’s grace – It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it.

Live free of grudges and bitterness – The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness.

Live with an eternal perspective - You’ll laugh more readily…even in the midst of life’s greatest tears, because you’ll always have hope. (Of course, make sure your eternity is secure.)

Admit mistakes quickly – Sincere humility is an attractive quality.

Give generously – Giving opens the heart to contentment. And, there are many needs around us.

Lower unrealistic expectations – Many times our disappointment in others and ourselves is because we placed unrealistic expectations on them…and ourselves. There has only lived one perfect person. (And, it’s not you…or me.)

Take a new risk – Fight your fears and go for it!. The adrenaline of walking by faith will fuel you for future success.

Record your life – This, like every year, is going to be an exciting year…full of surprises…some good and some not so good. Start a journal of your days. You’ll enjoy reflecting back this time next year. (It may even prove to be therapeutic.)

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

7 New Year Resolutions that could Change the World

2014

In the new year…let’s resolve.

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life.  And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving…it might become contagious…and we might just change the world.

7 new year resolutions that could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check. It will require discipline…but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good. It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling…in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good…mostly to us…more than “them”.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger. This is true in every relationship…but especially in marriage. Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others.

Let’s resolve not use Facebook as a forum to bash others. Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook…rant-free even…where we stalk…I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people…real people…may actually see what we write. And care. (This includes Twitter too.)

Let’s resolve to exercise our patience muscle. Wow! I put this one in the middle so that maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need…we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality…and Christ’s strength…we can keep getting better.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us. This one alone would change the world. What if we placed into our schema that other people matter…just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak. It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. But, it guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change we need is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others…including other believers…others might want to hear our Gospel.

What resolve do you propose?