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A Day in the Sweet Spot

Yesterday was one of those days where I left the office feeling excited, energized…tired, but in a good way.  As I was walking to the parking lot to drive home, I pondered why I was feeling so refreshed after a long day.  I realized I’d spent most of my day smack dab in my sweet spot.  A few years ago, I read Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life.  The message of that book was about finding the things that make us unique-things only we can do that further God’s plan.  It stuck with me and I began paying more attention to the parts of my work and personal life that make me feel made for something unique in His plan.

It’s in those days when I know I’ve been right there in that inner circle of what I was made to do…where I serve others well…that I know true contentment.  All is well with the world.  My soul is at peace.  And it makes me wonder why I don’t fight like mad to make sure I’m there more often.

How do we make sure we’re spending time focused on the right things?  I made a list of some things I think help me:

1. Understand what really fills us-God gives us passions for a reason.  And when we’re clear on what our individual gifts are, and using them to His glory, there’s no better feeling in the world.

2. Learn to say “no”-This is harder for some than others, but in order to make space for what we do best, we have to be willing to pass on some things.  No matter our title, there are certain tasks each of us has to get done, but the only person who will ensure we’re finding time for “sweet spot work” is ourselves.

3. Stretch our comfort zones-Sometimes, it’s not until we tackle a new challenge that we learn a part of it fulfills us.  In order to grow, we must stay challenged and not allow ourselves to get too comfortable.

4. Help others around us live in their sweet spots, too-Imagine a team of people working together where each found time to live in their unique sweet spots.  Yes, there’d be some amount of ‘”grunt work” for each that still has to get done, but there’d be a spirit of passion and unity that’d be unstoppable.  We can be aware of the talents of others and encourage them to make time to fit in those sweet spot moments in their own lives.

How do you make time for your sweet spot?

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How Much is “Enough”?

There’s a great scene with Sandra Bullock and James Garner in the movie version of Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood that always gets me.

Sidda: Daddy, did you get loved enough?
‘Shep’ Walker: What’s enough? My question is, did you?

As we search the stores for that perfect gift or perfect card this year for Father’s Day, I wonder if we should pause a moment to think about what will speak love most to our dads.

Truth be told, my relationship with my dad lives near “nonexistent.”   I was always different from everyone else in my family.  And as I grew older, the gap grew wider.  These days, though we’re only 90 minutes apart, the emotional distance is more like “other side of the world.”

Earlier this week I saw a tweet from Adam Roth that said “Any thought that makes you feel that you have to earn or “work hard enough” today for God to be pleased with you is a spirit of Fatherlessness.”   It hit me in the gut and has stayed in my mind for days.  Enough that it could be another blog post, but not today.  What it did do is cause me to evaluate where I am with that relationship right now.

I bought a Father’s Day card that says “I’m praying God opens up a new door for us. A new beginning of grace, respect, forgiveness-and the understanding we both long for.”  To be honest, I don’t feel it.  But I know we’re called to do things even when we don’t feel them.  And while it’s true that I wasn’t loved enough, I know God can make miracles happen, even when we don’t have the ability to see it.  It may not change anything, but I’m thankful my heart is open to the possibility.

But you know, God is so good in knowing what we need. He knew that my flesh and blood dad couldn’t give what my heart ached for.  So He gave me an adopted dad who could.  Had it not been for this man, I’d be a shell of the person I was meant to be.

Today, I’m lifting up Dads.  Those who try. Those who fail. Those who give of themselves, and those who are learning to.  Those who know that life is made of memories they help create. And those who understand that when it comes to love…there is never enough.

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Two Words That Can Change History Pt. 1

Imagine the Possibilities

“What” and “If” are two little words that, on their own, keep sentences moving.  But put them together…and suddenly the world is ripe with possibility.  Radical possibilities that could change us completely, and alter the course of history.  The idea is so big that I can’t even put all my thoughts in one post.  I’ve been stewing on it all weekend…dreaming about it at night…contemplating while driving home from work.  I tend to believe when that much thought occurs about something, it’s for a reason.

We all have our own ideas and dreams, but I’ll share the “what if’s” that have been stirring my heart these past few days:

  • What if every child in the world never had to wonder if they are loved?
  • What if we lived each day thinking about the legacy we’ll leave behind?
  • What if we continued city-wide weekly volunteer days, even after a catastrophe has passed?
  • What if we always gave each other the benefit of the doubt?
  • What if you began to realize a life-long dream, no matter the cost?
  • What if we thought more of wealthy people who use $100k to buy clean water for poor countries, rather than buying a new Bentley?
  • What if you truly believed it’s easier to forgive than hang on to anger?
  • What if our government was once again something worth believing in, instead of a constant source of discord?
  • What if each person chose a day when they’d love openly and unconditionally? Imagine the ripple-effect.
  • What if your “Bucket List” became “Business as Usual?”

Can you feel it?  Is your heart beating faster?  Is your mind running wild with ideas of what these things would look like?   What has to happen to move these from “what if” to “happening now?”

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The Power of Recognition

There is something special that happens when you see people lifted up for their accomplishments. Most people are truly happy for those who have been recognized and it creates a sense of community not easily broken.   It also generates much excitement as people think about the possibilities in their own lives.

Lately, I’ve witnessed several different examples of public recognition that not only make my heart swell with pride and happiness for the recipients, but also gain more respect for those giving the recognition.  As I was sitting in a Business Review meeting yesterday, I watched as one leader continually put the focus back on members of her team–she was ultimately accountable for success or failure, but made sure those in the room knew that her team was making it happen.  I found myself shooting emails to several people who’d been bragged on in the meeting, and each person replied with joy, knowing that they had been recognized.  And today, we had our quarterly All-Employee Meeting where annual performance and core values awards were given out.  I teared up as I watched several of my coworker friends be lifted up for their hard work, perseverance, and innovation.  The room was electric with the happy hearts of those who’d been awarded and those who got to be a part of the celebration.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned having been both the giver and receiver of recognition:

1.Hard work Does pay off-It doesn’t take a genius IQ, a magnetic personality, or living at the office to be seen as someone worth moving up the ladder.  But getting in the trenches, showing people you want to learn, and treating others as you want to be treated are surefire ways to get noticed.

2. Being true to who you are Will set you up for success-Sucking up only gets you so far.  Sure, it can work, but only to the person you’re sucking up to (meanwhile no one else can stand you). Being real is harder, but in the end frees you up to live out your goals.

3. Recognition breeds loyalty-Mark Schoenwald, our President at Thomas Nelson, is one of the most authentic, people-focused, consistent leaders I’ve worked for.  He makes time to connect with people, is an open and consistent communicator, and makes it a priority to never miss an opportunity to brag on others. I’d follow him most anywhere because he’s earned my respect in spades.

4. Recognizing others lifts you up too-It takes confidence in yourself as a leader to step out of the spotlight and give credit to others.  And in doing so, you earn respect and credibility.

Make it a point today to lift up someone publicly.  You will make their day, and that will make yours.

“Don’t worry when you aren’t recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”-Abraham Lincoln

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