What You Can’t Hear

Imagine building a life doing the thing that brings you the most joy.

You find a way to transform this joy into a career. You invest every ounce of effort into becoming world class at what you do. You receive global acclaim as the best of your age. Historians will one day look back on your contributions to declare you a history maker, an innovator, one whose creations changed everything.

Now imagine, the one thing you need to continue doing what you love the most was suddenly taken away. What would you feel? Sadness? Bitterness? Remorse? Grief? Anger?

This is exactly what happened to Ludwig von Beethoven. This master composer and conductor spent a lifetime producing music still enjoyed today. More than that. His work transformed all the music to follow. If you enjoy modern music of almost any style you owe Beethoven a bit of thanks. His work made that work possible.

By the end of his career, Beethoven was deaf. He lost the one skill that seems most critical to a musician and composer. I’m certain it was frustrating. There’s no question he experienced the common range of emotions one would expect with the loss of something so beloved.

But he didn’t stop. He kept writing and conducting. I think that’s the nature of passion. Deep passion won’t let a little thing likeability stand its way.

He was surrounded by musicians and patrons blessed by his work and they, in turn, worked to help him.

It would be reasonable to think his grief and bitterness could be heard in this final piece of music. No one could fault him if this symphony wasn’t as good as his last.

He was deaf.

But one more time he poured himself into his passion. With his music, He adapted a poem. This poem expresses exactly the opposite of what you might expect a deaf musician to feel.

“Joyful, joyful we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love.
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.”

“Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.”

This day comes for us all. The day when our abilities can no longer keep pace with our dreams and desires.

How will you respond?

It’s remarkable that this Sunday, this song, which Beethoven never heard, will be sung in some variation in churches around the world.

As your abilities fade, as skill, energy, and focus give way to the relentless march of time and age, remember this Ode to Joy. May you give in to your passion and produce something that blesses generations.

Whether you can hear it or not.


Truth Investment

Today you read and finished 3 John – let’s go to Philemon next. It’s only one chapter so you can finish the entire book in one day!

3 John 1


3 John 1:11, “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.” (NLT)


Faithful to the truth. That’s the theme of this short book. Will you be faithful to the truth? Will you support those who teach truth or will you follow the bad example of someone who seems to be something.

Leadership is an interesting quality. It seems when people discover someone is really REALLY GOOD at one thing we believe they have the authority to speak about MANY THINGS. We see this in sports and entertainment. Why would we assume that a man who’s spent his life training to make touchdowns has the expertise to tell us what car to drive? How does being an exceptional actor qualify you to speak with authority on political issues?

We all follow this pattern. Find someone who can do ONE THING really well and we’ll believe they can speak with authority about MANY THINGS.


It’s why it’s important to know the truth and test those who claim to speak it. 3 John 1:11 gives us the test. Does the ‘truth’ they speak line up with the ‘good’ defined by God? If it does they are worth following. If it doesn’t, run away.

The application here is practical.

  1. Know the truth, God’s truth. He’s shown it to you in His Word. So, get to know God’s word.
  2. Test those who claim to speak the truth. How? Measure their words, actions and the product of their choices by God’s Word.
  3. Support those who speak the truth. Stand with them. Share their message. Give to their cause. The truth is valuable. Invest in it.
  4. Learn to do ONE THING really well. From this one thing you will earn the influence to speak with authority about MANY THINGS.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us your truth. Thank you for your Word. Help me to remember what you’ve said, how you’ve said it and what I’m supposed to do about it. Allow me the privilege of supporting those who promote your truth. Give me the wisdom, resources, strength and endurance to invest in those who speak, live and produce the blessings of truth in others.

I love you, in Jesus name –

Choosing Nobility | 4 Principles that Grow Humility

It’s the kind of movie that would show up on AMC these days, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves“. This retelling of the classic tale starring Kevin Costner as a dethroned English Lord without an English accent and Morgan Freeman as a runaway Saracen was a popular movie in the early 90’s. Movies like this are why people go to the theater. The bad guy is easy to hate. The good guy, even though he operates outside the law, is easy to love. Peasants are challenged to fight for freedom. Kings are admonished to lead through service. And self-sacrifice is celebrated as the means to vanquish the enemy, save the damsel in distress and ride off into happily-ever-after.

There’s a great scene where Robin is talking with Maid Marion. Marion asks, “How is it, that a once-arrogant young nobleman has found contentment living rough with the salt of the earth?” Robin Hood responds, “I’ve seen knights in armor panic at the first hint of battle. And I’ve seen the lowliest, unarmed squire pull a spear from his own body to defend a dying horse. Nobility is not a birthright. It’s defined by one’s actions.”

This is a beautiful idea. Nobility isn’t about our station, income, position or power. It’s about our choice to use the influence we have for the benefit of others.

Recently the Lead Change Group released a book called, “The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution…One Person at a Time.” Click the title to visit the download link at I had the privilege of being one of the 21 authors involved in this project. The heart of the book is this idea that leadership doesn’t come from where you are, but from who you are. Leadership isn’t about your position. It’s about your choices.

Humility is a quality common to character-based leaders. That’s the focus of my contribution to the book. Like Robin Hood, the character-based leader recognizes that leadership isn’t a birthright. It’s defined by one’s actions.

As you take a look at the book and consider what it means to be a character-based leader there are 4 principles that can help you grow in humility.

See the Need – I’m never more aware of how little I have than when I’m surrounded by multimillion dollar homes. I’m never more aware of how much I have than when I’m standing on a trash dump in Mexico watching teenagers build a 16×20 wooden shed someone will soon call their home. You can’t make the noble choice to be humble if you don’t see the need right in front of you.

Know Your Stuff – It’s not about the size of your bank account or level of education. You’ve got to know what you know, know what you have, and know how you can use it for the benefit of others.

Make the Time – I know you’re busy, but let’s be honest, busy people make the world go ’round. Busy people move things forward. When you need something done don’t waste your time expecting a lazy person to do it. Ask a busy person to get it done. Better, recognize that you are that busy person and serving someone else, helping bring their dreams to life is an investment of time worthy of your attention.

Ask the Question – In every situation, with every interaction, on every project, job, and in every relationship there’s one great question that can help cut through all the clutter. “How can I make this better?” As you walk through your office, how can you improver the spirit of those with whom you work? In your neighborhood association, how can you be a better neighbor? In your community of faith, what can you do to move that message forward? Spit and polish don’t make the car run, but they sure make it worth taking the picture and pinning up the poster. What spit and polish can you add into the lives of others? How can you make it better?

Humility isn’t thinking highly of yourself of lowly of yourself. True humility isn’t thinking of yourself at all. Make the noble choice – serve someone else.

Mark 10:45




Getting from Here to There

Great relationships. Financial success. Effective leadership. Overwhelming happiness. Biblical godliness.

All of these words have one thing in common. I wish it were something exciting or sexy. I would love to inspire you in 140 characters or less so you could tweet and retweet the answer all around the world. Or maybe I could write a book about it. Go on a speaking tour. Market the newest self improvement formula to give you a life worth living. You might read or listen and come to that deep ‘aha-moment’ that inspires you to action. What if we could bottle success, brew happiness or bake up the cookies of effective leadership? I’m certain everyone would buy in.

But that’s not how life works. The answer is so much more mundane and so much simpler than all of that. Great relationships, financial success, effective leadership, overwhelming happiness, Biblical godliness – all of these things are achieved by getting from here to there.

It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s not an instant transformation. It’s a purposeful path. It’s knowing where you are, where you’re going and how you intend to get there. It can easily be summed up like this:

You are who you are today because of the choices you made yesterday. Who you are tomorrow is determined by the choices you make today.

Do you have great relationships? Congratulations. Yesterday (and many of the days before) you made wise choices that led you down the path to healthy relationships. How are your finances? Are you in debt up to your eyeballs, living pay check to pay check? Do you control your money or does your money control you? Whatever the condition of your finances, it didn’t happen overnight. Will you be financially healthy in the future? Certainly there are unexpected twists and turns. But getting from here to there is about putting one foot in front of another. It’s about choosing a path and taking it. What choices will you make today that will bring a healthy financial future?

And the same is true for effective leadership, overwhelming happiness and Biblical godliness.

You are who you are today because of the choices you made yesterday. Who you are tomorrow is determined by the choices you make today.

Whatever you’re looking for – I’m guessing you’ll find it. Discovery is a question of how you get from here to there.

“Choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

What’s the Big Idea?

Colossians 1:28

Seth Godin says a tribe is any group of people, large or small, connected to one another a leader and an idea.

Everyone’s part of a tribe. Most people are part of several different tribes. There’s the business you’re in, the church you attend, your kids little league team, your neighborhood association and your gym. That’s just to name a few. What tribes are you in? Are you a participant in your tribes or a leader? Are you an instigator? Are you connecting with people who share your big idea and challenging them to move forward together to bring that big idea to life? How do you find your big idea in the first place?

The idea behind your tribe is your mission. It’s your vision. It’s that thing your group feels compelled to accomplish together. How do you identify your big idea?

Your big idea is an expression of who you already are.

Maybe you’re a 30-something year old biker with preschool kids or a 20-something college student who plays guitar. You could be a 48 year old business leader sandwiched between teenagers and aging parents. Your big idea starts as an expression of who you already are.

Your big idea is a statement of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Identify who you are. Decide what you want to do. If your tribe is filled with athletes the goal is likely to win. Marketing tribes want to sell. Political tribes elect. Church tribes…you get the idea. The statement isn’t likely complicated, but clearly identifying what you’re trying to do together is key. You see this on little league teams. Some parents want their kids to win. Other parents want their kids to learn and enjoy the game. Different statements will eventually cause players – families really – on these teams to break up the tribe. It may get personal, but it doesn’t have to. The reason for the imminent separation is natural and easy to identify. These families may have opted, for a time, into the same tribe, but as they play it becomes clear they’re not really sharing the same big idea.

Your bid idea is a method for how you bring your big idea to life.

If your tribe is a baseball team it doesn’t do much good to practice soccer. If your tribe is a rock and roll band your mad skills with a tuba aren’t likely much help. The method you choose to accomplish your big idea should be an expression of who you already are based on the statement of what you’re trying to accomplish and how you intend to bring that dream to life.

This is how you become a leadership instigator. Identify your people. Challenge them with the big idea and move forward together.

The Beauty of Being Right

I love a good story. Some of my favorite stories have nothing to do with the valiant hero rushing in to save the day. Sometimes leadership finds it’s fullest expression, not in the perfect prince, but in the simple beauty of being right.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle developed one such character who still influences modern story-telling today. Sherlock Holmes was the brilliant detective with the skill to deduce who-dun-it using only his powers of observation. He famously said, “Remove the impossible and whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

In spite of his brilliance and skill as a detective he had a variety of character defects that made him, how shall we say, a challenge to work with. He was arrogant, abrupt and often rude. His interpersonal relational skills left a lot to be desired. He had a stunning lack of personal hygiene. He was addicted to opium and his hyper-intelligence kept him always just on the edge of madness.

Several characters in modern television are based on Sherlock Holmes.

  • There’s Dr. Gregory House – the genius, infectious disease doctor at Princeton Plainsboro in the TV show, House.
  • Dr. Cal Lightman, the man who specializes in deception detection, on the TV show Lie to Me.
  • On the lighter side there’s Shawn Spencer, the fake psychic-detective who uses his keen power of observation to solve crimes in a decidedly Holmesian manner on the TV show, Psyche.
  • Don’t forget Monk, the obsessive-compulsive detective, and the Mentalist also.

I’m certain there are others I’ve left out. The influence of Sherlock Holmes on our culture is undeniable. We seem to be fascinated by the highly intelligent, borderline dysfunctional people who achieve remarkable success, not through the skill of their leadership or the force of their personality, but because they are right.

It’s difficult to overstate the significance of being right. We all know that nothing builds momentum like success. It’s hard to deny that being right is a leadership force multiplier. Nothing grows success like success. In spite of all the idiosyncrasies of all these characters, regardless of the fact that they rarely hold the position of power or authority, in the end, people, often reluctantly, give in to their will and their way. Why?

Because they are right.

However you lead, whatever your position, take time to be right.

God Bless,

The Leadership Illusion

You’ve seen the illusion, now read the original article @

The Parent Trap

Recently I’ve been plagued by a question. It has to do with my kids. I have four children. My daughter is my oldest. She’s nine. The rest are boys; six, four and nearly two. They are great kids. I love being a dad. With each passing moment I’m reminded of the fact that we are drawing closer and closer to the teenage years, that lovely time of life when boundaries are tested, strings are slowly cut and children cross the threshold from being kids to being adults. I’ve seen first hand how difficult raising teenagers can be and not too long from now I will experience this beautiful mess for myself.

Some people approach this time of life like Mark Twain. He said, “When a child turns twelve you should stuff them in a barrel, seal the lid and feed them through a knot hole. When they turn 16 you should plug the hole.”

See here’s the challenge – and it leads in to my question – I’ve seen horrible parents raise incredible children and I’ve seen incredible parents raise children who relentlessly reject everything about their own heritage. So I have to ask…

Is the quality of my parenting measured by the character of my kids?

It seems like the obvious answer would be ‘yes, of course’. You always judge a business by the product they produce, so if family is your business then your children are the best barometer or your skill as a parent. Unfortunately, experience doesn’t demonstrate this to be true. Kids who grow up with great privilege make wrong choices. Others who grow up with every odd stacked against them become exceptionally successful. Our children are not a product. They are people. Therefore, our success or failure as a parent can’t be solely determined by the content of their character. Their must be something more.

So I look to Scripture. Like many things, it seems we’ve gotten our measurement of success backwards. Today we judge parents by their kids. In Scriptural times kids were judged by their parents. Consider Solomon. The Bible identifies Solomon as the wisest king Israel would ever know. During his reign the nation was unified and experienced almost universal peace. Silver was so abundant during the reign of Solomon that they stopped counting how much of it they had! Can you imagine being such a successful leader? The Bible tells us that political leaders all over the world sought out Solomon’s wisdom on everything from economics to agriculture, from political prowess to social justice. To suggest that Solomon was successful is a massive understatement. Yet when Solomon sits down to write his book of Proverbs (wise sayings), how does he start? Does he give his resume? Does he tell of all his great works? Does he mention the fact that his kingdom is greater and more successful than his father’s before him? No. As he begins his magnum opus on all things wise Solomon states simply, “The proverbs of Solomon, the son of David…” Solomon was king, the most successful king Israel would ever know, yet in his time of greatest triumph he wasn’t identified by his works. He was identified by his father.

Scripture does this a lot. The history of the Israelites after Solomon is not nearly so joyous. The kingdom splits and one king after another rises to take the throne and attempt to lead both Israel & Judah. Do you know how each king is evaluated? Either they walked in the ways of their father David or they didn’t. From one generation to the next everything was measured by the example of their father David. But there’s more here than that – it’s difficult to illustrate the number of times God looked to the leaders of Israel and said, “I will bless you…because of my servant David.” By this time, David was long gone, yet his influence remained. WHY? Because he was a great parent? NO. Because he was a godly man. The Bible calls him a man after God’s own heart.

And that’s the answer to the question.

We can’t judge the quality of our parenting by the character of our kids – it’s not an accurate measurement. Kids are not products to be produced, they are people to be led – to be influenced. If the quality of our parenting is measured by the character of our kids then God must be the worst father ever. And we know this simply is not true.

Listen to this – God wants to free you from the pressure that as a parent you are not enough. It’s true. He wants you to understand something. As a parent, YOU WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH. You can’t attend enough games or watch enough recitals. You can’t discipline enough. You can’t be gracious enough.  You can’t write enough checks to guarantee your child a successful, happy, holy life. As a parent, you will never be enough. So stop trying.

Stop trying to be a great parent. Stop trying to meet every need. Stop trying to give every gift. Stop trying to enforce enough rules. Stop trying to be cool enough, relevant enough or hip enough. You will never be enough. You simply CANNOT be God for your children.

When my daughter was first born she had some respiratory problems and spent 7 days in ICU. Once she got home we had to give her IV antibiotics through a pique line in her head. There was one evening I was holding her and considering the future I had planned for her when I was struck by this one thought – As her father I want to protect and provide for her, but there are so many things I simply will never be able to do for her. I will never be able to protect her from a broken heart. I will never be able to save her from the lies of cruel people. I won’t be able to keep her from making foolish choices. I can’t do these things for her, but I know the God who can. So I resigned myself to this one thought – I can’t guarantee my children a successful, happy or holy life, but I can give them an example to live up to. I can be like David and provide an example worth imitating. I can strive to live in such a way that when future generations look back they can hear God say, “I will bless you…because of my servant Chad.”

There’s a world of Scripture to back up this style of parenting.

  • I Corinthians 11:1 says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
  • Philippians 3:17 says, “Brethren join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “These things you’ve heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.”

It begs a follow up question – Do I have a life worth imitating and what does a life like that really look like? Scripture answers that question too:

  • Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such there is no law.”

Did you catch the last phrase of that verse? ‘Against such there is no law…’ In other words, you can’t get enough of these things. More than that – you can’t give enough of these things! Am I, as a father, as a man, as a leader living a life worthy of imitation? Is what I’m producing in my life and the life of others characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control?

This is the challenge of parenting:

  • Too much LAW and children REBEL.
  • Too much GRACE and children become entitled or spoiled.

How, as  parent, do I know when it’s time to lay down the law and when it’s time to give grace? There is a fine line between DISCIPLINING and COACHING.

  • Discipline is about right verses wrong.
  • Coaching is about choosing good, better or best.
  • Discipline calls for justice and judgement or grace and mercy.
  • Coaching calls for patience and self control.
  • Discipline calls for discernment.
  • Coaching call for wisdom.
  • In moments of right versus wrong we DISCIPLINE.  When correcting bad behavior we DISCIPLINE. These times are always crystal clear. My kid just lied about something. It’s time for discipline. My child was caught cheating on a test. Spanking, grounding – pick your punishment, corporal or capital, a wrong must be righted. My teenager ignored curfew. Car keys are lost. Discipline is always about teaching a child the difference between RIGHT & WRONG.
  • COACHING is always about teaching a child the difference between good, better and best. Should my child play sports or music? How should they spend their time, more on academics or building significant friendships? Choosing baseball over piano isn’t about right verses wrong. It’s about good, better or best. How is your child ‘bent’? What are their natural abilities, interests and experiences? Where do they excel and how? There’s no right or wrong here, simply good, better or best. As a parent how can you draw the best out of your child?

There is certainly more to parenting than this.

  • Luke 15 tells the story of the Prodigal Sons – I say ‘sons’, plural, because both sons in the story are far from the heart of their father. One son rejects the Father and rebels against the example he set. The other son ‘religiously’ tries to earn the love of the Father by always obeying every rule. Though, for all those years, he continued to live under the same roof as his father, he becomes bitter and as estranged from his father as his younger brother.

I’m struck by the fact, in the story of the Prodigal Sons, that never once is the parenting skill of the father questioned. Instead the father is shown as an example of patience and love; grace and mercy; justice and judgement. He is a picture of God our father. I wonder if you’re the rebellious son or the religious son? Either way you’ve become estranged from your father, not because you have a bad dad, but because of your bad belief and bad choices. Like the father of the Prodigal Sons, God stands ready to receive you by His grace into his family and will celebrate when you come.

God is a perfect father. He has shown us what to do, told us what to do and now he is saying to every parent – now go do it yourself. Stop trying to be a great parent. Start becoming a godly example for your children to follow. You can’t be God for your kids, but you can be exactly the father or mother God designed you to be.

God Bless,

BTW…Ezekiel 18 talks about this is as well. Give it a read and let me know what you think.



What Do You sSee?

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “What gets measured is what gets done.”

The attitudes and actions you reward today will become the habits and character of your team tomorrow. The inverse is also true. The attitudes and actions you ignore today will become the habits and character of your team tomorrow. What those habits are and the character they define is largely up to you as the leader.

It makes the art of the atta-boy an important resource in both your strategic and tactical leadership development tool chest.

For most leaders, there’s a great temptation to get caught up in the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’. While ‘why’ may motivate, ‘what’ points the way. More than this. ‘What’ defines those values that set us apart from other organizations. McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A both provide fast, affordable food in a family-friendly atmosphere, but the ‘what’ behind their ‘why’ sets them apart from one another as clearly as the clown that represents one and the cow that represents the other.

Many leaders see themselves as visionary masterminds driven to fulfill the destiny of their dreams. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s this drive and vision that separates leaders from followers. But at the same time it’s is easy to forget that old cliche’, “A leader without followers is simply someone taking a walk.” It means that every leader has a responsibility to those who follow. It’s not enough to point they way. An effective leader will meet people where they are in order to take them where they should be.

Some people drain. Some people energize. Some people get it, others don’t. Either way, part of the leader’s job is to meet the follower where they are and try to take them where they should be.

There are only two ways to motivate this kind of change. You can beat people with a stick or prompt people with a carrot. Certainly the numbers of ways to accomplish either of these is limited only by the scope of your own imagination, but whatever you think up to motivate people toward growth will always fall into one of these two broad categories.

I’ve heard it said that people don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. In other words, we interpret life through the filter of how we think. We respond to each situation and circumstance based on our own worldview. Or said another way, “What we see is often what we get.” The glass is half full, not because the resource hasn’t been fully allocated or because we’ve already begun using it. It’s half full because that’s simply how I see things. My boss expects the impossible, not because the task is challenging but because I undervalue my own skills, underestimate my resources and simply can’t see how I can possibly achieve the outcome they want. So the old cliche’ again too often rings true, “What you see is what you get.”

The leader’s challenge is to meet people where they are and redefine their worldview. One carrot we’ve used successfully to reshape the worldview of our team has the added value of involving the entire team while challenging everyone to go above and beyond the call of duty when working with others, whether they be other team members, customers or potential clients.

We ask team members one question, “What do you sSee?” Yes, the double ‘s’ is intentional. If what you sSee is what you get then challenge everyone to look for and provide ‘Service with a Smile that Exceeds Expectations‘. On a regular basis, we recognize and reward one team member who’s been sSee(n) providing service with a smile that exceeds expectations. But there’s more to it than reward and recognition. The leadership or management team may provide the incentive, but it’s the team itself that offers up the names of team members worthy of the honor. The leader gives out the atta-boy, but only because the team has recognized the attitude and effort of the team member receiving it. As often as you want to reinforce the value, one team member directly benefits and becomes the example while all the others are challenged by the idea and constantly looking for the value you’re trying to train. Slowly, methodically, it changes what people sSee. It causes a subtle shift in their worldview that challenges them to look beyond themselves as they are challenged to serve beyond themselves.

Try this carrot with your team and see if the way they see things begins to change. Ask them what they sSee and challenge them to look for ways to provide service with a smile that exceeds expectation to one another and your clients as they look for others who are doing the same.

If what you sSee is what you get then begin finding ways to reshape the way your team sSee’s themselves and those with whom they work.

  • What are other ways you meet people where they are and motivate them to move to where they should be?

God Bless,