Friday, March 26, 2010

Leaders aren't cynical...

cyn-i-cism: an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others

I just ran across this short but profound blog entry by one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller. In it he talks about how cynicism can hold you back in your leadership. But i would add that cynicism doesn't just hold back your leadership capabilities -- it has the potential to hold back your entire life.

If you are a cynical person (and i have struggled with this myself) i challenge you to kick the habit. Your life will be better because of it. Your story will be better because of it.

(See how a Donald Miller book literally changed my life...and my story)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

U of Notre Dame has culture...

Recently my friend/co-worker Derrick and i took a trip to South Bend, IN for a conference. While there we explored the ND campus on our bikes. Beforehand i was familiar with the rich tradition and reputation of ND including their academics, storied football program, and famous alumni. However, i was not familiar with the campus with the exception of a few famous landmarks:

the Gold Dome "Touch Down Jesus" which overlooks the Football Stadium
and a few others.

However, once i began to take a look around i was amazed by the campus. It was immaculate (pardon the Catholic pun). They have done an excellent job at establishing an intentional culture. From the buildings, to the landscapes, to the signage, to the athletic facilities, to the monuments, to the tradition. This place oozes with culture. I had only been on campus a few minutes and thought to myself: "If i had gone to school here i would be filled with pride."

The idea i appreciated most was how it must have been done with such intentionality. The trees, sidewalks, benches, lakes, buildings, lamposts, fountains, etc. all seem to have a purpose. It appears to me as the outsider that nothing was left to random chance. So even if it was accidental it is impressive enough to appear purposeful.

One of my favorite spots on the campus (that i was able to discover) was the Lady of Lourdes Grotto. What made it even more compelling and captivating was that we arrived there just before dawn and literally saw it lit by candlelight. It was a stop and "take it in" moment.

So, if you ever get the chance -- stop by the University of Notre Dame and take in the sites, sounds, and culture of the campus. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Good people aren't hard to find...

...if you know where to look. Recently i found some good people and they are at Granger Community Church in South Bend, IN. I checked out their website months ago and was consistently drawn back to see what they were up to. Then i started checking out their staff blogs and was compelled to pay closer attention.

At that point i found Mark Waltz, Pastor of Connections, who has a very similar position to mine here at Southland. Not long after that i discovered that they were having a one-day seminar that covered Culture & Communications so both Derrick Purvis, our Communications Director, and i decided we should go check them out in person.

My assumptions were correct -- there are some great people at GCC. Their staff & volunteers were very kind, competent and compelling. Most of my time was spent with Mark and he is exceptional at what he does. I was inspired and challenged with what he shared.

But of everything i have learned about GCC over the past few months the thing i admire most is the consistent encouragement and support they show each other. Whether it is through a blog, on Twitter & Facebook, or in person they exude a geniune care and respect for one another that is truly admirable. I appreciate that.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell -- a must read...

Only twice have I read more than 2 books by the same author. I completed 3 of Donald Miller's books which i recommend highly and more recently i completed a third book by Malcolm Gladwell and then immediately started a 4th book by him.

I do consider myself an avid reader but do have a tendency to bounce around. However, these 2 authors have captivated my attention and intrigue more than any other. They write in different genres so i dont really compare the two. Gladwell deals with scientific sociology and does so by examining case study on top of case study. His writing is extremely compelling and always leads towards a conclusion that changes the way i think or act.

Of the 3 i have read: Tipping Point, Blink, & Outliers the second on this list impacted me the most. Blink truly has changed the way i make decisions. In fact it has helped me in my decision making by convincing me to stick with my gut/blink reaction more than in the past -- which is saying something for a very analytical & methodical person like myself.

I look forward to completing his latest: What the Dog Saw. I'll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime grab your own copy of a Gladwell book. You will be "Glad" that you did.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The book that changed my life...

Recently i read Donald Miller's latest book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." This book literally changed my life. It is probably the perspective that i take towards life now that has changed more than anything -- but this new perspective actually changes my behaviors and actions.

The premise of the book (in my novice opinion) is that "Every life is a story. Whether it is a story worth telling and talking about, though, is up to you. People set out with grand dreams of changing the world, falling in love, doing something amazing. But the drift toward the merely acceptable happens almost without notice. That does not have to be your story."

That thought alone has stuck in my head (and Emily's too). What story are we writing for ourselves, for our marriage, for our kids, etc. Are we writing a great story? Is it a beautiful story -- or has it grown dull and uneventful? What i have come to realize is that our story is a CHOICE. Life (your story) is not something that just happens to you. It is something that you choose to make -- beautiful or ugly, lame or exciting, hilarious or sad, meaninginful or meaningless, full of risk/reward or safe, transformational or complacent. The amazing challenge is that you and i have a part to play.

And this is where my life began to change. Multiple times a day i would ask myself this question: "Am i writing a better story? A compelling story? A beautiful story? Or am i just letting life happen to me?" These questions began to become a regular dialogue between Emily and I. What story are we writing?

This book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" is full of much more inspiration and thought provoking content than just what i am able to discuss here -- trust me. It is the most profound book i have read in the past decade. Miller covers love, dating/marriage, commercialism, theology, etc. But for me, most importantly he uncovers the idea of "story" -- and an interesting one at that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Life Lessons from Bear Grylls...

Its not a mystery that i love the show "Man vs Wild" and am particularly fond of the host Bear Grylls. There is something about that show that is just inspirational for me (minus the gross stuff he eats -- which i would do if i had to survive).

One thing that i take away from the show is his motto of: "Commit to it - then go for it." Now i dont think Bear would say this is his motto necessarily but he says it often enough it has stuck with me. Whether he is plunging into unknown waters from 35' above, or swimming underwater in a dark and unnavigated cave, or eating the guts of a rotten camel, Bear commits himself to it and then goes for it. Not just halfway but all the way.

And that translates regardless of your role/position whether it be Parent, Spouse, Boss, Employee, or Christ-follower: "Commit to it - then go for it." Not halfway but all the way.

A second lesson i try to emulate in my life is his sheer passion and enthusiam for all the things he does commit to on these survival expeditions. He doesn't leap, or climb, or swim, or eat with dread and angst. He loves every minute of it. Imagine trekking across a remote and God-forsaken desert with only a urine-soaked bandana to keep you cool and doing it with joy. That's Bear and i appreciate that about him.

And that translates to real life too. Regardless of what you commit to in your role/position -- do it with a passion and an enthusiasm that is contagious. Go after it with a reckless joy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The "culture" of Southland...

I could take the time to talk about the culture of Southland - the amazing place where i work - or i could just point you to our Senior Executive Pastor's blog where he just did a great job unpacking it based on a recent visitor that he spent time with.

So head on over and read up. It's good stuff...and he's good stuff too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Are you...

"...making a living -- or making a life?" by Maya Angelou

This is a phenomenal quote. I really dont need to say much about it bc i think it pretty much stands on its own. However, i can't resist bc there is such a profound difference between the two. It is a great reminder to me to focus on the latter not the former. And not to just change my focus/perspective -- but to live it out.

Life is too short and too valuable to be about "making a living." Let's all strive to make a life - and an interesting one at that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

At Saul Good the Customer Service is All Good

On Monday night i had another great experience with exceptional customer service. Emily & I had dinner plans with the Stouts at Saul Good (a favorite of ours and theirs). Seriously, if you have not tried this place you really should. Excellent in every way.

When the food arrived, unfortunately Emily did not have her meal. So we waited and when the server returned we inquired about it. To her dismay she had accidently crossed it off when someone else had made an order change. So there we sat for a while waiting for Emily's food to be rushed to us.

While we waited both the Chef & the owner (Rob Perez - an amazing person & owner) stopped by to apologize and check on us. Emily's food finally arrived and we all enjoyed what we had ordered very much! Ex: Hawaiian Chix Sandwich, Tuna Salad Sandwich, Parisian Pizza, Argentinian Steak Pizza. All excellent choices -- especially bc Monday night is 50% off pizza during happy hour.

At the end of our meal we were given 2 (TWO) complimentary desserts and Emily's meal was not included on the bill. Now that is amazing customer service. Not just bc we got some "free" food, but the fact that Saul Good went above & beyond to let us know we were valued by them. Needless to say we left feeling great -- both as valued customers & friends, and also bc we had very happy stomachs!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pro Flowers -- they really are professional

Customer service is very important to me which makes sense considering the role i have here at Southland. For Valentines Day i decided for the first time ever, to order flowers online and have them delivered to Emily. I am usually a face to face transaction type of person especially when picking out something like flowers. I like to actually stop and smell the roses (literally).

In this case i decided to stretch myself and trust the "professionals" of the flower world -- Pro Flowers (there name says it all). Well, when the order arrived (20 Spring Colored Tulips) it looked awful. The petals looked like they had freezer burn and the green leaves were bent and ripped. A very sad, unhealthy, poor looking bouquet of flowers. What hurt the worst was that my wife was disappointed. I kept quite to see her reaction and it was the same as mine.

Soon after i emailed PF's customer service department and gave them the details of our disappointment and even offered to send pictures. They responded very quickly with a full and sincere apology and offered to replace FREE of charge -- no questions asked, no pics required.

Great customer service. Very professional. They even offered a free vase as well. I am happy to report that this second bouquet was all that we had expected from the first. Pro Flowers got it right and because of that they will keep my business and earned my respect and recommendation.

Quality customer service is always worth the effort.