3 Critical Learning Environments

success learn lead

I believe in lifetime learning. The best leaders I know are always learning something new.

If you’ve followed this blog long you know I tend to like simplification. Some would say over-simplification. I like information presented in an easy to understand and follow format.

So…if you want to be a lifetime learner…

Here 3 learning environments:

Learning by experience – This is where you learn by doing. It could be during success or failure. Life is a great teacher. You can’t necessarily avoid this one. It happens. You do get to choose your reactions to the experience you learn. Choose well.

Learning by influence – This is where mentoring takes place. It’s gaining insight through another person’s wisdom, often gained by their experience or education. You can easily avoid this one. Ignore help. Dismiss advice or constructive criticism. Or, you can welcome input. Find mentors. Glean from others. Let iron sharpen iron. Choose well.

Learning by education – This can be classroom or text book learning. It may be at a conference or seminar. It’s acquiring more academic knowledge. This is a choice too. Choose well.

That’s the three I’ve experienced in my journey. All three have been vital to shaping who I am as a person, pastor and a leader. I have learned I must be intentional if I’m going to continually be learning in each of these ways.

Which one are you missing most at this time? Do you need to better learn from your own experience? Do you need to find a mentor? Do you need to take a class or start reading more?

I’d strongly recommend you not miss any of the three.

Are there other learning environments I failed to mention?

How a Mentor Will Change Your Life

This is a guest post by Tyler Braun. Tyler is a writer and pastor from Oregon. He is the author of several books, including a book on mentoring and Why Holiness Matters (Moody), which is on sale for FREE this week only (ebook version). You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, www.manofdepravity.com.

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How a Mentor Will Change Your Life

We all want to achieve some level of greatness or significance with our lives. What we often underestimate is that this only comes through our engagement with others, not in isolation. We all need people behind us that continue to push us forward.

Only when you understand who you are, will you start living into how you were made to engage in your current context. I believe we were each made with an intense longing to have other people speaking into our lives. A mentor will help you discover who we are in a way you would not know in leading an isolated life.

There is no life-change without life-exchange.

For over a four year period I waited for an older and wiser man to mentor me. I assumed that if I waited long enough this person would give me a call and make my life better. The call never came despite desire and my frustration continued to grow.

Eventually I worked up enough courage to flip the script and asked someone who I thought would challenge me to be a better person. And sure enough, the time I spent with him changed my life.

Looking back I see the specific ways interactions with a mentor facilitated change within me.

Clarity Within Community

A lot of people have clarity of vision for their life, but they lack the relational engagement needed to see the full extent of the vision.

A mentor provides added perspective. You have blind spots—areas in life that you struggle to navigate well.

Personal clarity without the input of others often leads down treacherous paths.

A Nudge

Your life needs fresh eyes to lend perspective on where you are going astray. A mentor is not a babysitter or a parent, but they can shed light on areas of concern. A mentor—having navigated life further down the road—can give you the nudge needed to keep you walking the right direction.

The culture at large teaches that you should surround yourself with people who give positive vibes, but what you likely need is someone who is willing to give you the honest truth when you would rather ignore it.

Hikes Not Maps

I’m stubborn enough that I typically look for someone who will provide me with enough information for me to continue on my way. These information givers are like shopkeepers who provide maps.

The problem is what I need is a trail guide who can walk the paths rather than just providing a map.

You need a trail guide, not a shopkeeper. On a lonely trail, you need a hiking partner, not a map.

Plenty of people can give you the information you need to take the next step but a mentor will walk alongside you throughout the journey.

A Character Driven Life

In my weaker moments I’m often drawn to make decisions when my emotions are at their peak. Instead of taking the time to process through it all, the knee-jerk reaction seems to come naturally.

A mentor helps you sift through the emotions to make character based decisions. What are the principles and values that under gird your life? Those should drive your decisions.

At one point 6 months ago I was about to make an emotionally-driven, irrational decision because I sensed a need to make a drastic change in my life. My mentor helped me see how that decision directly contradicted a few things I believed to be true about myself.

A character-based life allows for short-term wins to translate into long-term sustainability.

Wings to Launch

The Millennial Generation has been described as “failing to launch.” The reasons for this are many and highly debated, but it doesn’t remove the truth that many people feel relegated to their current state—flightless with no wings to see beyond it.

This is right where a mentor can step in and help you navigate how you have been gifted and how those gifts can launch you toward the life you’ve been created to live.

Take the step. Make the ask. Get a mentor. It will change your life.

In what ways has a mentor changed your life?

Catch Phrases Heard On the Way to the Finish Line

running alone

I am a runner. I mostly run just for my personal health and pleasure, but I’ve run in quite a few races. I’ve even run a marathon and numerous half marathons. I’ve learned, however, that distance is relative. If a 5K is your milestone, that’s a long race. I have a friend who runs the 100 mile races. Crazy.

One thing I’ve learned, however, is that, if you’re pushing yourself, at some point along the race, you’ll struggle. It will go from being “fun” to being a challenge. I’ve also discovered that without those stretching moments, there wouldn’t be near as much thrill of crossing the finish line.

Here’s something else I’ve observed. There’s a common language among those struggling the most.

Run any distance race and you’ll hear the frustration out loud.

I’ve heard things like:

  • I can’t do this.
  • This is harder than I thought.
  • I’m not a runner.
  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • This is crazy.
  • I’m never doing another one of these.
  • I’m in pain.

But, I’ve never met a runner, who crossed the finish line, who didn’t receive the thrill of victory…even if it was only after they threw up in the trashcan nearby.

The completion of a dream…a goal…a challenge…feels great after the finish line.

Are you ready to give up the dream?

Don’t quit too soon. You don’t want to miss what’s next!

Farmer Super Bowl Commercial: Reflections

I couldn’t get past the “Farmer” commercial during the Super Bowl. My grandfather on my mother’s side lived in Kansas. He died when I was young, but I’ve always lived somewhat in his shadow…he was a hero of mine. Everything I knew about him was captured in that commercial. If you missed it, or want to see it again, watch it now.

A good friend…and a great leader…Jason Cummins sent me his thoughts on the commercial.

Here is a guest post from Jason reflecting on the commercial:

The Super Bowl was last night, and as always, my wife and I looked forward to the commercials. However, I’m not one to go online and view them ahead of time. I feel the precise broadcast time establishes context, and thus is an important part of the overall experience.

As we entered the second half, I was a bit disappointed. No croaking frogs, dive-bombing pigeons, or office linebacker sightings. Rather, Madison Avenue seemed content to reflect our culture’s status quo…a preference for short-term gratification over long-term reward.

Then entered what will be referred to today as simply, “The Farmer” commercial. Narrated by one of my all-time favorites, Paul Harvey, the ad immediately transported me back to my childhood, riding on the bench seat of the family roadster or huddled around the single, family radio in my grandparents’ house.

But it wasn’t merely the voice that made the commercial so powerful. Rather, it was the verbal content and the accompanying deep, pictorial images. Americans respect farmers, and the farmer was extolled for his virtuous characteristics. As I rewatched the commercial this morning, I pulled the five following traits from the rich narrative. These resonate with our souls, for deep down, we respect them, desire them, and want to be led by those who embody them:

1. Disciplined work ethic. He is willing to get up before dawn, work all day, finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then work another 72 hours. He isn’t afraid of hard work. He is hard work.

2. Selfless. He attends school board meetings, applies first aid, and willingly attends to the needs of others before himself.

3. Competent. He can shape an axe handle, shoe a horse, or make a harness out of scrap. He knows his trade and confidently, yet humbly, goes about doing his work.

4. Compassion. He sits up with an ailing colt and splints the leg of a meadowlark. He heart is attune to his surroundings, and he is willing to do something about it.

5. Character. He plows deep and straight and will not cut corners. He will choose the harder right over the easier wrong. He works for good.

And then the commercial concludes with, “To the farmer in all of us.” Much like a good class, the ad not only made us think, but it also made us feel. And in the process, it reminded us of important characteristics we should all aspire to emulate. May each of us live a little more like a FARMER today.

Who do you think of when you watch that commercial?

7 Ideas that May Help You Attain more Success

Road to success

You want to achieve more, but for some reason you can never seem to reach your goals.

Is that your story? I hear it often. You’re in good company.

Here are 7 ideas that will help you attain more success:

Clear vision – Where are you leading your life? Many times you don’t get there because you never really decide where you want to eventually be. It’s hard to hit an undefined target.

Discipline – Are you putting in the needed effort? Those who wait for luck to kick in or hope for the easy way to victory, seldom discover what they’re looking for in life.

Embracing other’s help – Do you know you can’t do it all alone? The most successful people do.

Letting go of past hurts – Offering forgiveness frees you from needless bitterness and anger that slows you down and keeps you from being completely emotionally healthy.

Trusting more than you doubt – You can pray or you can worry. You can’t do both equally well. The more you worry, the less likely you are to take a risk. And, you can’t achieve the thrill of victory without a lot of risk.

Becoming an even more generous person – Your level of generosity demonstrates your level of contentment. Generous people naturally feel more successful.

Loving principles and progress more than policies or procedures – Structure is needed and good, but the best structure advances progress not curtails it.

Which of these do you need to consider in order to help you attain more success?

4 Illustrations of Faith in Practice…

faith

Illustration One:

“Make yourself an ark of gofer wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside. And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him. (Genesis 6:14, 22 HCSB)

Illustration Two:

The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. (Genesis 12:1, 4 HCSB)

Illustration Three:

As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people! ” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-20 HCSB)

Illustration Four:

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me! ” So, leaving everything behind, he got up and began to follow Him. (Luke 5:27, 28 HCSB)

What is God currently asking you to do by faith?

More importantly, what will your faith look like in practice?

12 Challenges for the New Year

Challenge Defined

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 – 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.

Let the past go – As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it.

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.

Remember other people exist – Don’t be selfish or always command your way.

Admit mistakes readily – Sincere humility is an attractive quality.

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

Protect your heart – “Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also.

Take a new risk – The adrenaline will fuel you for future success.

Think and act eternally whenever possible – It will build the most lasting rewards.

Would you add a challenge for a new year?

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

Three Steps to Setting Achievable Goals

calendar, blue target

In my previous post, I talked about resolutions in a light-hearted manner. Many say they don’t make them, because they don’t work. The news media doesn’t help. Every year I see the same reports telling us how many people don’t keep the resolutions they make. No encouragement there. So, I shared some broad resolutions that are more life directions than actual resolutions. (Read that post HERE.)

I know this, however, seldom do we hit a target we haven’t yet identified or located. So, if you want to improve in certain areas of your life, you need some new direction to get you there. You’ll have to make some changes in what you are currently doing.

Call them goals if you want. That seems to be a more popular word these days, but decide a few areas in which you want to see improvement, then put some goals in place to help you get there. Making positive lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but it really does start with that simple of a process.

To help you get started, here are…

Three guidelines I use for choosing achievable goals:

Quantifiable – Make sure you can make the goal measurable. Don’t say you want to lose weight. Decide how many pounds you want to lose. Don’t say you want to read more. Say you want to read one book a month…something like that. You want to read your Bible more? Then set a goal to read one chapter per day. Not…save more money…but save $50 per pay period…etc.

Reasonable – Set a goal you can actually attain. Otherwise you’ll give up easily. If saving $50 per pay period is completely unreasonable, then decide the reasonable number. It probably should be some stretch to make it worth celebrating later (which is a key component in goal setting), but make sure you can do it. Losing 10 pounds per week is going to be tough…perhaps even unhealthy…but two pounds per week…pretty much anyone can do that with a little discipline.

Motivated – Pick goals you are passionate enough about to put the energy and discipline in it to achieve success. Do you REALLY want to lose weight? Do you TRULY want to do better with your finances? Is reading your Bible ABSOLUTELY a goal worth pursuing? Your degree of motivation will likely determine how committed to achieving the goal you remain.

If you think through setting quantifiable, reasonable and motivated goals, and then you consistently practice them for a month, or two, or better yet three…you’ll be we’ll on your way to successfully completing them. And, the satisfaction from that will be worth celebrating.

If you are really serious about this process and want more, read THIS POST on writing a Life Plan.

Do you set goals (or resolutions) for the new year?

20,000 Days and Counting: An Interview and Giveaway with Robert D. Smith

20,000 days

This is an interview with Robert D. Smith. Robert is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting and a consultant to numerous best-selling authors, speakers, and entertainers. For over 30 years, he has managed the career of New York Times best-selling author and in-demand speaker Andy Andrews. He recently took the time to answer some questions about his debut book and the concept of getting the most you possibly can out of any 24-hour period. The book was released today, and you can learn more about it HERE.

Early on in 20,000 Days and Counting, you introduce the concept of measuring our lives by days instead of years. Can you explain how and why you started doing this?

I started several years ago when I put my birth date into a countdown clock widget on my computer just to see what would happen. It worked the way I thought it might—it showed how many days had passed since the day I was born. And I was astounded. The number was just under 20,000.

Seeing the sheer magnitude of the amount of days you have spent on this planet is truly powerful. It can be a game-changing experience for your perspective on the ways you spend your time.

As people, we almost always overestimate what we can do in the next year, but dramatically underestimate what we can in the next 24 hours. When you become aware of each day, it’s amazing what you can achieve. If this has gotten curious as to how many days you have been alive, I set up a simple calculator here that will show you.

So if we’re in the habit of underestimating what we can do in the next 24 hours, how do we start taking better advantage of the time available to us each and every day?

Something most of us struggle with is waiting for motivation to hit us. We’re waiting to start the next big project until an epiphany suddenly appears.

The reality, though, is that motivation is a myth. Everyone always says they need a little motivation to be more productive when it’s actually the opposite that’s true—increase your productivity, then the motivation will follow.

So how can we start working without any motivation?

Ah, see starting is the hard part. My secret for getting started is focusing on the results. I always think back to a high school teacher of mine who would always say that simply starting a research paper meant you were half finished. You can be halfway to the finish line…just by starting! I love that concept!

I always feel more excited, more pumped up, more motivated after the work has begun. Once you get past that initial nervousness and hesitation of actually starting, you can really get going.

There was a major figure in psychology, William James, who had this same sort of idea as well. He believed that we don’t sing because we’re happy; we’re happy because we sing.

What made you want to base your book, 20,000 Days and Counting, around this concept of counting your days and making the most of each one?

The whole thing started like I mentioned earlier, when I found the countdown widget that told me how many days I had been alive. I wrote an e-mail about the concept of counting my days to over 40 of my closest friends. To my astonishment, every single one of them wrote a lengthy reply full of amazing insights.

About two years later, I began writing out some of these concepts in more detail and was encouraged by some friends to publish a book. Despite my best efforts to say no (I’ve been a behind-the-scenes guy my whole life), I eventually caved.

You talk a lot about living each day as if it’s your last in the book. How do we overcome what has kind of become a cliché and actually apply that to our lives?

Living each day as if it’s your last is a concept that is thought of in the wrong way 99% of the time. Most of us here that phrase and start thinking about all the “bucket list” things we would try to cram into one day. But it’s not about the specific actions you would take; it’s about having a specific mindset that creates a sense of urgency and importance in you every hour, every day.

We have a tremendous ability as human beings to only get serious about life once we know it’s about to end. What “living each day as if it’s your last” is really about is creating that sort of intense urgency well before you near the end of your life.

To create that, you need three things—a sense of your purpose, a sense of awareness that your life will be short, and a sense of gratefulness for the life you have been given. And I aimed to give people those three things with 20,000 Days and Counting.

Thanks for sharing Robert!

To help launch the new book, I’m giving away 4 autographed copies of 20,000 Days and Counting.

Want a copy? All you have to do is:

1. Share this post on Twitter or Facebook
2. Comment on this post. Any comment will suffice, but you might share one thing you have an “urgent sense” about in your life right now. It can be anything. A change. A dream. A relationship. Anything.
3. Make sure I have a valid email address.

I’ll give it a few days, see how the comments are going, and choose four (4) random winners.

If It Worked…I Resolve…

resolve

I don’t make resolutions. They say they don’t work anyway. No one keeps them. So, I guess I won’t. I mean, why try something others say you can’t do? In fact, I read a news report that said a third of all resolutions are broken by the end of January. So, with those odds, better comply with the news. It’s what everyone does. Right?

But, if I did…if I did make resolutions…I’d make some worth keeping. I might even call them goals…or benchmarks…just to feel better about them.

But if I chose to defy the odds…or the popular culture of debunking resolutions…it might go something like this…

I resolve…

To pray more than worry, so I can trust more than doubt.

To choose the healthier food choices when available, and keep unhealthy snacking to a minimum.

To allow my time spent reading to compete against…maybe even win…with my time spent watching television…since I often say “there’s nothing worth watching” anyway.

To value rest and exercise as a vital part of my day, since I know how both impact my productivity and overall attitude.

To keep a close reign on my tongue, saying only those things which bring value to people and make life better for them.

To speak the truth in love, but never be ashamed of the Gospel.

To forgive easily, knowing that a grudge causes me as much harm…or more…as the person I am forgiving.

To use any influence God should give me for His glory and not for my own.

To seek wisdom from those who seek progress, more than from those who only seek to complain.

To speak words of affirmation and encouragement to those God intersects with my life, knowing the value such words have had in my life…often at just the right time.

To enjoy the abundant life, knowing that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.

To guard my heart above all things…for it is the wellspring of my life.

What would you resolve…if you actually resolved…and if these things actually worked?

In my next post, I’ll share three steps to set goals you can actually achieve.