Rise Above Mediocrity – 5 Steps to Create Your Masterpiece

When we create in life the world is changed.

Jeffrey Steele, singer/song writer, leaned back from the microphone to hear about a hundred voices gain strength as his faded, still strumming his guitar.  He smiled and listened as they sang his lyrics back to him in a hushed voice:

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was trying to do

The song made famous by Rascal Flatts was written by Jeffrey Steele. He sang it at a YMCA benefit at Puckett’s with BWSC in Nashville last Sunday night. I saw in that moment how his creativity, in this case, his song, his creation, filled him with joy as he heard others sing his song back to him.

When we create in life the world is changed. We are fulfilled as we hear the world sing back our song. Reflecting on the satisfaction in Jeffrey Steele’s smile I thought of the times when I have been most creative in my work; the design of new systems, authoring, leading new teams, taking a step of faith.

Yet, honestly, in the workplace rarely is individuality and creativity expected or encouraged. Yes, with Apple and other standouts we recognize it in product design and function. But in professional service companies and many other organizations we seem to reach only to the expectation of the client or leader, rarely do we dare go higher.

We must learn to encourage the creative in our work. Creativity rises above expectations to bring something new to life.  It brings something new or something old in new way. A creative solution can deliver profit and new products by finding new paths that take fewer resources and less time. New paradigms are an act of creation.  When we each work with creativity something unique from our God-given ability and our life experience is birthed. Michael Hyatt frequently says it so well; we each bring our unique experiences and gifts to every endeavor.  In so doing something entirely new is added to the world.

Here are five steps to bring about your creative ability in the workplace:

1. Live beyond your chosen profession. Realize you are not defined by your profession. No profession or career can capture all the diverse talents,temperaments, and soul of each person. David in the Bible was not just defined by his Kingly role; he was creative; a psalmist, a lover of God, a warrior, and architect.  He was a renaissance man!

2. Live beyond the expectations of others. Many including those most close to us do not know our future, just our past.

3. Live beyond the expectations of the current task. Many of our endeavors require a modest effort to succeed but when we imagine something better with extra effort we can produce greatness.

4. Live above the routine. Routine and habits have benefit but if taken to extreme they stifle the creative. Change your routine by doing something you normally would not do to recharge your creative energy.

5. Live beyond the natural. Many times I have been prompted by The Lord to take a slightly different path than the expected, and following His supernatural lead, extraordinary opportunities and life experiences have been birthed.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your life, in your career, or in your family?  How is your workplace allowing creativity in your work?

Your Worth

On what will you base your worth?

On what will you base your worth?

Worth the price.  Worth the payment.

What is your worth?  What is the payment given for you?

Worth is defined as “good or important enough to justify payment“. Worth may justify payment of an employees salary.  Worth may justify the love and labor by parent for child.

Is your worth defined by what others think of you? And what if others see no worth in you?  What is your worth then?  Is your worth affected by the performance you give others?  Is your worth affected by how you look today versus how you looked 20 years ago?  Is your worth affected by others’ words?  Is your worth affected by their thoughts?

Worth the price.  Worth the payment.

Many would say in the marketplace your worth is clearly defined.  They would say your worth to the company is the sum of the revenue you earn and the value of your relationships.  Each reduce down to money.  Essentially, they say your worth is defined by money. Human captial.

But marketplace Christians are required by love to see others through the eyes of the Lord.  Marketplace Christians have a higher report than the balance sheet.  At Christmas we are reminded that:

In the fullness of time God sent His Son to redeem us (Galatians 4:5).

A Son that would later redeem (pay) for the price of our sin with His life.  A life cannot be defined by money. Why did God do this? Why did He give something so precious to Him?

Your worth.

The Pandering CEO’s Guide to Censoring Christmas

imagesDear American CEO

In your wish to maximize year-end profit please remember to quietly refuse any reference of Christ or Christmas in your workplace this holiday season.   In order to provide maximum sales of your products nothing must offend your customer’s experience in your stores.  Offending customers may limit traffic, create bad press, and reduce revenue.

Further, offended staff may reduce their productivity.  Remember, as the leader of your company, it is most important to keep your staff on task.   Unity is king!  Do not indulge your staff with opportunity to express any “spiritual” significance during the most important shopping season of the year.  They must together carry the message of “holiday” to help bring a successful close to the fiscal season.

I have learned effective ways to keep this holiday season focused on the almighty dollar.  They are lessons I’ve learned from CEO’s that came before me.  I am willing to share them with you because I see you have what it takes to carry them forward.  You have strictly compartmentalized your faith.  Monday through Saturday is for business.  Church is for Sundays.  Stick with that and you could gain the whole world!

Anyway, here are some lessons I’ve learned from CEO’s in my Christmas’ past:

  1. Forbid the word “Christmas”:  This word is associated with “Christians” and those that do not share their faith may feel slighted.  We want to include everyone in on the “holiday” alternative.  So, by all means no more “Merry Christmas” in the workplace.
  2. Replace the annual “Christmas Card” with a “Holiday Card”:  Most people won’t care or notice.  Again, we want to be friends to all and not slight others that are different from us.  This acceptance really shows love better than making people uncomfortable, right?
  3. Send an email to your staff explaining the “appropriate way” to communicate:  You are the leader and must communicate your vision to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays”.  They will follow your lead.  Remember, it’s for the unity of the team!
  4. Donate to a “Humanitarian” Cause:  Show your goodwill to all by donating to a cause that does not offend.  Stay away from groups that take stands against non-traditional lifestyles.  Stay away from donating to groups like the Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, etc.
  5. Remind everyone the private nature of “faith”:  This is the key to convincing them all.  It’s certainly ok for your staff to have “faith” so long as they don’t share it.  What’s that saying?  Oh yeah, “Preach Christ everywhere you go, and when necessary, use words.”  Use that and you’ll get their heads nodding like a Santa Clause Bobble Head doll!

Happy Season!

Why Grace in the Marketplace?

Forever 21 prints John 3:16 on the bottom of every shopping bag (photo credit Los Angeles Times).

Forever 21 is a clothing store that was founded by Don and Jin Chang, Christians who moved to America from Korea in 1981. The small store they opened in Los Angeles in 1984 has grown into a mass business consisting of hundreds of locations across the globe.  They are lights for Jesus Christ in the marketplace.  On the bottom of each bag, shoppers will find “John 3:16,” the popular Bible verse that reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  This is one example of marketplace grace.  What is your example?

I wanted to write this blog to show how simple it is to follow the Lord in business.  More than a blog about leading  I wanted to offer examples about being  a follower of Christ in business.   I wanted to encourage you to be fully the Lord’s disciple in your own personal marketplace whatever your position and whatever your profession.  It’s where you are now that needs His Grace.

How do you do that?  By bringing the Spirit to the workplace as well as your soul and body.

The problem with the current business environment is that there is very little spiritual aspect to it.  There seems to be little difference in the workplace between people who know the Lord and those who do not.  The unspiritual personal behavior makes up unspiritual organizational behavior. Business vision, purpose, and strategy are articulated in secular terms.  Very few business leaders articulate business operations with a worldview that has been shaped by knowing Christ.  This leads to a “dumbed down” version of what the marketplace could be.     Christians sit silent in meetings when the Holy Spirit desires to speak through them.  As a result, our meetings can become discussions of numbers only.  We chart the progress of our organizations but the purpose of our organization remains unknown. It is all empty when compared with a business that seeks to fulfill and articulate a God ordained purpose.

The premise is that a God who changes people for the good can also change businesses for the good. If indeed the  Lord has transformed you into a “child of the Light”, then as He leads you in business, you will create products and businesses of the Light.

The solution is for you to be a child of Light wherever you are called.  I propose that you place your work into the Lord’s hands and ask Him to lead you in every part of it. The Lord has entrusted you with a position of economic influence, whether you are the CEO of an entire company or simply the CEO of your own desk.  He waits on you to give your work back to Him so that He can write a supernatural story through your life.

The benefits of allowing The Lord to lead you in the workplace are firstly, the Lord’s.  The purpose of all that we do is to bring glory to God.  The Lord will shape whatever you give him for His good purpose.  He will shape your story into His story and the success that follows will be beyond what you can hope or think.  It will be much greater than you could have accomplished without Him.

The benefit to you is that you will be fulfilled in your work as you do it for the Lord.  Our life becomes so much larger as the traditionally “secular” environments of your life give way to the Spirit and become part of your spiritual walk.  It will make your natural  and mundane 8 to 5 workday become supernatural in purpose and joy!  The greatest moments of my work life have been when I have worked hand in hand with The Lord.  So many of my testimonies of His power and grace come from the workplace.  He is waiting for that relationship with you as well.  My hope is that this blog encourages a new resolve in you to follow Christ into your marketplace.

So, follow in the footsteps of many other successful entrepreneurs and follow Christ into the marketplace.  See what God can do through you!

A Story of Moving From Two Sides – His Perspective

How do you make a tough decision to move?

My wife Melanie and I wanted to write this and the following post together.  The post is how to make a tough move easier.  We each will take our turn, this post is David’s perspective. 

Deciding To Move

Months preceding the decision the pressure would build.  My wife, Melanie, and I would go for long walks and discuss what we should do.  We knew through comments made from my boss that the company wanted us to move again.  This time about 1,000 miles from Destin, Florida to the corporate headquarters in Kansas.  I had in over a decade and a half with the company and enjoyed my role.  Moving would mean another promotion and all its benefits but this wasn’t the first time we were faced with this decision.

We had moved from Wisconsin to Florida to open up a new office four years earlier.  The startup was a great success. A phenomenal team was built after we came to Destin by faith not knowing anyone.  We started in Florida on a cardboard desk with 1 laptop and the office grew to 10 staff and a $10M contribution per year to the company. But it was also one of the most difficult personal decisions we had ever made together.  Both our families, support structure, and grandparents to our three girls were in Wisconsin when we moved 22 hours away to Destin.

Now, four years later it looked like it may happen all over again. We had great friends in Florida.  We were very involved in ministry.  I wondered how a move would affect our girls?  How would it affect our marriage?  How would it affect our extended family?  What would happen to the team?  On what basis should we make this decision to move or not move?  How should we make this decision?

How To Make Tough Decisions

How do you make the toughest decisions in life?  It seems that every few years we are faced with extraordinarily tough decisions.  Perhaps you are too.  Tough decisions seem to have equally weighted benefits and costs making the path forward uncertain.

Barry Perez, leader of Harvestime Ministries gave me this advice as I asked him how I decide between two very difficult paths.  He said to use the analogy of the “The Three Harbor Lights” to make tough decisions.  It guided me through the decision to move.

There are lights along the channel as a ship comes into harbor. If the ship is on course the lights will line up behind one another and appear to be one. If you see multiple lights, you’re off target. The ship’s captain will then re-position the ship so that the lights appear to be one. In decision-making, if we can get “three lights” lining up, we may in fact know God’s will for our decision.  Below are the three lights to line up when weighing your tough decision.  If they line up you may be on target with your direction:

The Light of God’s Word.  Your decision should not contradict God’s Word or His promises.  If the decision involves a change that would make you compromise your integrity, your faith, or your obedience to the Lord it may be an indication it is not the right decision.

The Light of the Holy Spirit.  Your decision should have a peace or excitement within you. This is an indication of your inner witness from the Holy Spirit.

The Light of Circumstances.  The circumstances of your life should point to the need for the decision. God will work through us and speak to us through our circumstances.

Lining up your decision with these three lights may help you identify what is the right decision for you and your family. Do these three lights make sense to you?  Have you based a decision upon “The Three Lights”.

Rise Above Mediocrity – 5 Steps to Create Your Masterpiece

When we create in life the world is changed.

Jeffrey Steele, singer/song writer, leaned back from the microphone to hear about a hundred voices gain strength as his faded, still strumming his guitar.  He smiled and listened as they sang his lyrics back to him in a hushed voice:

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was trying to do

The song made famous by Rascal Flatts was written by Jeffrey Steele. He sang it at a YMCA benefit at Puckett’s with BWSC in Nashville last Sunday night. I saw in that moment how his creativity, in this case, his song, his creation, filled him with joy as he heard others sing his song back to him.

When we create in life the world is changed. We are fulfilled as we hear the world sing back our song. Reflecting on the satisfaction in Jeffrey Steele’s smile I thought of the times when I have been most creative in my work; the design of new systems, authoring, leading new teams, taking a step of faith.

Yet, honestly, in the workplace rarely is individuality and creativity expected or encouraged. Yes, with Apple and other standouts we recognize it in product design and function. But in professional service companies and many other organizations we seem to reach only to the expectation of the client or leader, rarely do we dare go higher.

We must learn to encourage the creative in our work. Creativity rises above expectations to bring something new to life.  It brings something new or something old in new way. A creative solution can deliver profit and new products by finding new paths that take fewer resources and less time. New paradigms are an act of creation.  When we each work with creativity something unique from our God-given ability and our life experience is birthed. Michael Hyatt frequently says it so well; we each bring our unique experiences and gifts to every endeavor.  In so doing something entirely new is added to the world.

Here are five steps to bring about your creative ability in the workplace:

1. Live beyond your chosen profession. Realize you are not defined by your profession. No profession or career can capture all the diverse talents,temperaments, and soul of each person. David in the Bible was not just defined by his Kingly role; he was creative; a psalmist, a lover of God, a warrior, and architect.  He was a renaissance man!

2. Live beyond the expectations of others. Many including those most close to us do not know our future, just our past.

3. Live beyond the expectations of the current task. Many of our endeavors require a modest effort to succeed but when we imagine something better with extra effort we can produce greatness.

4. Live above the routine. Routine and habits have benefit but if taken to extreme they stifle the creative. Change your routine by doing something you normally would not do to recharge your creative energy.

5. Live beyond the natural. Many times I have been prompted by The Lord to take a slightly different path than the expected, and following His supernatural lead, extraordinary opportunities and life experiences have been birthed.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your life, in your career, or in your family?  How is your workplace allowing creativity in your work?

Is Work Without Faith Dead?

The phone rang. I answered it in my Freeport, Florida home looking over the palms and brown grass of February. It was the leader of our company calling from Africa. “Dave, I am here following some leads for new work in Uganda. Maybe this is the way we can give back to the community like you were talking about”. My heart leapt and my spirit soared.

Water For a Village

For years I had searched for a way to directly connect my faith to my work. But how when I was not the owner of the company? My mind raced and I realized my Paster and Father-In-Law, Billy Ferg of Living Faith Ministries had a long-term friend and Pastor in Kampala, Uganda. “Mike, my Father-In-Law has a contact there, let me get you his number”, I replied. Within 24 hours, Mike, EMR’s founder and the Uganda Pastor had met and forged a great relationship. It would result in a new water well built on the church property funded by the company. The health of the community and lives of women in the village would be dramatically improved for the better.

The experience came on the heels of a new mission and branding vision by the CEO. The CEO and leadership team had identified “Improving the Lives of Others” as our corporate purpose. To see the affect of the new brand so quickly effect our actions was amazing. The impact on the lives of others in Kampala, and we the staff, was astounding. Immediately I called my wife Melanie and began to tell the story of how we were a part of something great.

Living Water for a Company

Few of us would define the meaning of life in terms of money. Relationships, experiences and opportunities provide the meaning in our life. Yet, so many of the elements of business planning and metrics do not quantify this meaning. We methodically plug along with annual reports, budgets, business plans, but do not report or plan for the meaningful experiences in business. If we measure only money in business then we are not likely to be defined by something great. It’s just too flat of a life. It doesn’t interest me.

The most exciting moments in business for me have been when I have followed the leading of the Lord in the marketplace. It is when the work place contained, “Living Water”. James 2:17 says, “faith without works is dead”. The inverse, then, is also logically true. “Works without faith is dead; therefore, a workplace without faith is dead.

You are the CEO of your own desk. How can you bring faith to your work? What are some examples of great things you have seen accomplished by work following faith?

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