Who Gave You Permission?

Core values are your fixed position. The consistent and reliable way you respond time after time. They are your north star. Whether you are aware of them or not, core values will always show up in your actions and decisions.

You need a line in the sand.

When I was younger and starting a career I didn’t have a line in the sand. I was too busy trying to impress my boss, my co-workers, and the people I served. I would do whatever they wanted. My mission was squashed day after day. I was miserable. I felt like I couldn’t say “no.” And I really couldn’t. I didn’t know what I stood for.

I didn’t know my line in the sand.

One of my favorite presidents and historical leaders is John Adams. He was the philosopher and idea man behind the American Revolution. After becoming the second president of the United States, Adams revealed the values he used as guiderails. He wrote, “I must study politics and war, so my sons may have liberty to study painting and poetry, mathematics and philosophy.” Adams knew why he did what he did. He was grounded in his daily decisions. When his back was against the wall he knew the response he would make time and time again.

You and I need lines in the sand. Core values are lines in the sand.

Core values are your fixed position. The consistent and reliable way you respond time after time. They are your north star. Whether you are aware of them or not, core values will always show up in your actions and decisions.

When I got serious about my mission, I knew I needed to discern my values. Here’s what flowed out of me.

I value…

Excellence

Self-improvement

Truth

Optimism

These are the values which guide my decisions and actions – no matter what. These show me when to say “yes” and more importantly, when to say ”no.”

You might be asking, how do I discern my values?

Make a list

Here’s the way to start. Find a comfortable place, get a note pad, and start writing words that you believe describe you. Some words might be “courageous, stubborn, helpful, loving, compassionate, driven, faith, excellence, commitment…”

Spend time with this and write what comes to mind. You may even want to think about positive words others have used to describe you.

Choose 3-5 Words

Once you have your list, go back and highlight three to five words that resonate deeply with you. These are words that warm your heart and put fire in your belly.

Only choose three to five words. These are characteristics and habits that you will live by when your back is against the wall.

Will they last?

These values will need to be your line in the sand. You’ve got to ask yourself, “Will these things I’ve chosen to guide my decisions last when it gets hard? Or will I respond oppositely?”

If your core values don’t work when you have to make a hard decision they’re not values, they’re wishes.

You’ll know if your values are right the first time you need to say “no” to someone.

Have fun with this exercise. I’m here to help. Let me work with you as you get a clear handle on your life mission and core values. Schedule a free 30 minute consultation with me.

Keep Your Head When Everyone is Losing Theirs

The measure of manhood may well be keeping your head when everyone around you is losing theirs.

In 1895, Rudyard Kipling wrote the timeless poem, “If.” The first stanza implores us to “keep our heads” when everyone around us is losing theirs.

“If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs
…”

Did Kipling have a time machine? Did he somehow travel to 2020 and quickly escape back to the nineteenth century to write this warning for future generations?

If there is any word which describes 2020, “insanity” would be at the top of many lists. This past week has been no exception. It’s been exhausting, frustrating, and painful at many levels.

Someone has said, “elections have consequences.” All too often the personal consequences are dire. I stayed up way too late Tuesday night (I’m embarrassed to say it was actually Wednesday morning). I thought if I stayed awake I could somehow influence things. So Wednesday I was stressed. My jaw seemed clenched all day. I was so lost in my own thoughts and in such a fog that I found myself ignoring conversations and meaningful interaction with my own family. I found myself glued to the news cycle and talk radio. I kept refreshing my social media for the latest developments. The more I listened and watched the more pain I experienced. I know better. You know better. THIS IS NOT HEALTHY! I was getting sucked into the insanity.

Finally I had to make a decision. It was like facing my addiction all over again. Is this how I want to live? Is this what I want to consume my precious time and relationships? I took action and changed my mind. It’s been a better week since then.

This is what has worked for me, maybe these will help you.

  1. Turn it off. I broke the chain of the 24 hour news cycle. I turned off the TV, the radio, and I set a schedule for when I interacted with social media.
  2. Pick it up. I picked up a book that always inspires and heals me and I read.
  3. Connect. I spent time with a mentor. I reconnected with my friends. And we didn’t talk politics! We encouraged and cared for one another.
  4. Go outside. This week in the northeast has been beautiful. High temperatures and sunshine. Go walk, play, get some vitamin D.
  5. Refocus. What happens next nationally is really out of my hands. I like control but I can’t control this. But what I can control is how I respond. I chose to respond by getting refocused on my “Why.” I choose to double down on my purpose and mission for life. When I focus my mental energy and my actions on what I want to achieve, the noise of insanity vanishes.

Your life is yours to control. You make the most important decisions of your life. You are the constant. You can either be pulled into other people’s insanity, or you can chart your own course.

Kipling ends his poem with this stanza:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

The measure of manhood may well be keeping your head when everyone around you is losing theirs. Live well.

Surrendered Leadership

How bad do you need to be for history to classify you as a scoundrel?  Paul Martin, in a Huffington Post article, cites some of the worst historical scoundrels like Daniel Drew, the Fox sisters, and Hetty Green.  These folks, and others like them, lived unscrupulously at the expense of others.

Now, how bad do you need to be for the Bible to identify you as a scoundrel?  That’s a whole new level.  But that’s exactly how Phinehas and Hophni are described (1Samuel 2).  They consistently robbed people; slept with whoever they wanted; disregarded authority; and ignored God.  Their story may not raise many eyebrows until you know that these two men were leaders.  They were part of a family that had been committed to serving God and God’s people.  But nothing they did reflected their position as leaders.

Leadership is hard.  If you lead, you get this.  As a country we’re tough on our leaders – from the government to the church and everywhere in between.  We certainly expect our leaders to be people of character and integrity, and we should.  But we also have the propensity to knock leaders down.  We want them to be the best, but we quickly look for their flaws and cheer when those flaws are well known.  Leadership is not for the faint of heart.

And that’s precisely why those who are leaders – especially spiritual leaders – need to pay attention to the details.  While Hophni and Phinehas were disregarding their character and position, God was raising up another leader to replace them.  Samuel was still a young boy but God was shaping him into the kind of leader both God and the people needed.  God gives us a hint of the kind of leader Samuel could be – “those who honor me I will honor but those who despise me I will disdain…I will raise up a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind” (1Samuel 2:30-35).

When it comes to spiritual leadership God looks for a particular kind of person – one that wants what God wants.  Wanting what God wants has a way of shaping our character and increasing our integrity. When temptations challenge our moral fiber, leaders after God’s heart trust God’s strength.  When moral failure happens, leaders after God’s own heart seek forgiveness and restoration.  Spiritual leaders don’t ignore or dismiss their actions they come to terms with the call and grace of God.  God raised up Samuel to do what was on God’s heart and mind.

Whether you are a Christian leader at work, in your home, with you kids, or at your church – God is inviting you to do what is on his heart and mind.  Phinehas and Hophni reveal the destruction unsurrendered leadership creates.  Don’t be a scoundrel!  Seek the heart and mind of God, surrender yourself to God’s purposes and lead well.