February 2014

Take Intelligent Risks

there can be no great accomplishment without risk, Neil Armstrong, quote on riskSo, tell me, did you take any RISKS this past week? 
Inspire me with a story of a risk you took.
What did you do?
Why did you do it?
How confident were you when you did it?
How much risk was there?
Where did you find the courage and faith to take this risk?
What were you hoping to achieve through this risk-taking?

I posed these questions to a small group of leaders. Silence.....  Long, pregnant, uncomfortable, silence... Then a great discussion. About risk, vision, challenges, security and insecurity, fears, courage . . .

Six Ideas to Better Networking

It truly is - who you know, that makes all the difference. Networking is one of those vital skills you must have. And a GREAT NETWORK becomes the venue you need to make a difference. Here are SIX IDEAS to ramp up your networking.

Just do it.

Every week you need a certain number of hours of strategic networking. I can't give you a number. Some people need 2 hours a week, others may need 10 hours a week. It depends on how strong your network already is, it depends on how well you are using your network, it depends on how crucial networking is for your core work.

Irritating People: Six Lessons Worth Learning

The irritation you experience says as much if not more about you, than it does about them!
I had a little chuckle when I first read this quote by Carl Jung. Then I had one of those - immediate "ouch" moments. Followed by the "aha" experience. I searched a bit for an appropriate image. For so often, there is a Mutual Irritation going on. Here is the ouch and the aha lessons of the quote. 

Irritating people happen! They cross your path. They intersect with your life. They disrupt your day. You can't get away from them.

I Am Inspired by This Little Guy

Before I tell you what inspires me . . . and before you read any further, take a few moments, look at this image and reflect on these two questions.
ONE:  What do you see when you look at the image? In particular, what do you see in this little boy?
TWO:  What do you think it took, for this inspiring young boy to get to "what you see in this picture?

So STOP and reflect. Take as long as you need. Then continue on with the material below the image.
boy running with prosthetics, inspiring example of love, joy, courage

Here is what I see? I see
joy, love energy, excitement, enthusiasm, delight, vital optimism...

I see
courage, faith, hope, persistence, perseverance, an indefatigable spirit...

Too Many Precautions

Psychologist Alfred Adler says one of the chief dangers you will face in life is taking too many precautions about your life. Hmmm. Living with too much caution, care and concern. Obviously, you need to have some. But TOO MANY is the problem.

How many precautions can you really take to protect yourself?
Or to assess whether a risk is worth it?
Or whether to dare to love when your heart has been broken?
Or to safeguard your children from failure, pain and rejection/
Or... Or... Or...

We are a cautious people.
We want to hedge our bets and protect our assets.
We don't want to risk too much, dare too much, dream too much.

We don't want to go too far outside the comfort zone.
We don't want to dance to close to the edge.
We don't want to disturb the status quo too much.

So Which Way Is It?

change will lead to insightAt times it is obvious which thing comes first and which comes second. So we have the proverb, "Don't put the cart before the horse."

Other times, it is harder to know which comes first . . . for example, the chicken or the egg? Well, I suppose Christians would say God created chickens, not that he created chicken containing eggs.  But you know what I mean.

There are some times when we put one thing first and are quite sure we have the order right. Most of us assume that FIRST you gain insight. Then, after the insight comes the needed change. Insight leads to change. Insight is first, change is second. I won't dispute that. I will qualify it... with a major qualifier. For sometimes, it is the exact opposite.

A Leadership Lesson From Voltaire

Voltaire. Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position.Dead philosophers most of us no longer study have some worthwhile things to teach us. Voltaire is certainly NOT a philosopher to whom I regularly (or even occasionally) turn. Voltaire was militantly against the Christian faith. So keep that in mind as you read any of his thoughts.

That does not mean we can't learn from Voltaire. "Even a blind squirrel stumbles across a nut once in a while." Even an atheistic philosopher can stumble across insights and worthwhile perspectives. Here is one that I think worth remembering as a leader.

"Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position.
But certainty is an absurd one."

Here are three reasons why I think Voltaire makes a good case for living with uncertainty:

What is an Ounce Worth?

You are all familiar with the proverb: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
it is. Take a little time to be preventive of something bad so you don't have to spend a lot more time dealing with the attempt to cure, fix or repair what has broken. If you have ever had the flu and you didn't get your flu shot... you know what I mean.

Here is a version of the proverb that grabbed my attention: "An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory."
I love it. What a great comparison. It builds on a very simple leadership principle. That is - leaders are action oriented. Even better, leaders are those who do the kinds of actions that lead to results. 

Jeff Bezos on Leading Amazon

Jeff Bezos optimism vigilance urgenyThe Three Things You Need.
Here is a short mantra that Jeff Bezos gave to the team at Amazon in the early years. It is a mindset that great leaders must always keep before their people.

We are optimistic.
Every team needs to be forward looking, encouraged about the future, confident that the best is yet to be, full of vital energy that hard work + wisdom + a little serendipidy = success. We are optimistic.

The Top Ten Leadership Lessons From Jay Leno

Jay Leno leaves the Tonight Show on topFrom time to time I watch some of the late (and later) night comedians. I actually like several of them and dislike several of them. I never like crude jokes, but clever, witty, irony, puns... Jay Leno has always been a favorite. I like Letterman quite a bit as well. Leno just finished (for the second time) at NBC. I found myself reflecting quite a bit on the leadership lessons I saw in Leno, the leadership failures at NBC, and also the nature of change that is upon the networks when it comes to the younger generation of viewers. Which is where Jimmy Fallon comes in.

Book Suggestions on Increasing Your Productivity

Making Habits Breaking Habits bookIncreasing Productivity.
Here is a link to five recommended books to help you change your habits, shape your way of living and working, and move into greater productivity. This is a MAJOR theme for me in the first quarter of 2014. I am reading a lot of material on this  as I am teaching and coaching people in this.

Check out this post on Fast Company, skim over the book descriptions and see if anything interests you. All you need is to pick any one of them and you will find benefits from the ideas you learn AND implement.

Photo Jolts! Image Based Activities (Brief Review)

Here is a Shout Out or maybe a "Look Out" for 
Photo Jolts: Image Based Activities That Increase Clarity, Creativity and Conversation. I ordered this book right away after reading about it in a Zen Presentation blog. You definitely want to get the Kindle version of this one, due to the many links to outstanding images and videos. While I prefer reading most of my books in the paper version, using old-fashioned pen to do my thinking in the book, there are some books that are just designed to be super-charged in a digital version. This is one of them.

Atheism and Its Results (Bertrand Russell's Honesty)

The number of consistent, thorough going atheists in the world is a very small minority. In the United States, they happen to be a very powerful and vocal minority. In many cases they are antagonistic toward Christianity and committed to eliminating religious belief. So much for tolerance. So much for freedom of religion (they prefer freedom from religion). And really, so much for democracy.

Here are the CRYSTAL CLEAR words of one intelligent philosophical atheist - Bertrand Russell. He is ruthlessly honest about the meaning and implication of atheism.  He is also completely confused with his final "will to live." It comes from "A Free Man's Worship." I have provided the formatting for easier reading.

First the words of Russell. 
Then an explanation of the implications.
Finally a brief rebuttal...
and a word about Nietzsche.

One Man You Should Listen To

charles malikand I am willing to bet many of you have never heard his name.
He is Charles Malik. He held many high positions of leadership in his native country of Lebanon, as well as in the United Nations and a variety of organizations. He was academically trained as a philosopher and was theologically wise. Politician, humanitarian, scholar, intellectual, author, and witness - this was Charles Malik.

Here are excerpts from a longer statement from Malik. I gave it a little arrangement and formatting so it would be more easily read on the internet.

Amazon 100 Books to Read List

Amazon 100 Books to ReadIf you want to take five-ten minutes and have a little fun (for Book Readers that is), click on the link below (CNN Living site) to skim through a slide show on:

Amazon 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.
These books were picked, mainly on the criteria of - what is a fun read. You can move through the power point in about 5 minutes. I love lists of books to read. This one was a fun one. I have read about 40 of these. There were abotu 20 of them, which I never heard of.

I read so much for learning and my professional interests (leadership, spirituality, education, communication) that I don't spend as much time reading for fun. I came away with a few books to read (in my lifetime).

Nine Reasons Why You Don't Ever Lose Hope

hope springs eternal for those who believeI will let you in on what should be a poorly kept secret known and celebrated by all the saints.  No matter had difficult things might be, pessimism and despair can NEVER be the mindset for one who follows Christ. Here is why (and thanks to Peter Kreeft for this reminder, the stepping stones are his ideas, most of the words are my own attempt to describe these reasons for hope).

1.  No one knows the future except for God. To be pessimistic is to have too much confidence in your own negative view of the world and your own short-sightedness of Kingdom Affairs.

2.  Repentance is always a real possibility. That means forgiveness and change are real as well. Turn arounds (repentance) happen. We come to our senses. After walking in darkness, you can chose the light, the good, the true and the beautiful.

Ten Must Read Books for the 21st Century Communicator

Today is a BONUS post for anyone who is in the business of communication. Whether you are a presenter, teacher, trainer, preacher, writer, blogger - COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY. But not just any communication.

Good communication...
Great communication...
Sticky ideas...
Creative, compelling, memorable content...
Visually rich with images...

I believe the work of communication is harder then it has ever been. Fortunately, there is GREAT help available for anyone who wants to put the time and hard work in that is absolutely required to become an effective 21st century communicator.

It is this simple: The old ways of communication are increasingly less effective... and for some audiences, especially the younger ones - the old ways just do not work - period.

What, How, Why (and Endurance)

What gives you the power to endure and to persevere? What keeps you moving on when things are difficult and you would like to give up?

Victor Frankl, quoting Nietzsche says, "A man can eudure almost any how if only he has a why."

Here is a meager example to illustrate that profound thought. I spent two years working a very hard job, in very difficult circumstances, with a "boss" who was terribly dysfunctional, mean, angry and who "hated me." (The boss part lasted about 4 months.) Most days I did not want to go to work, but I did. Why? Well, that is the key. I had a "why" / reason I went to work.

Real Impact

Ths soul often grows best through loss. This is not in any way to romanticize or minimize suffering, loss and the pain that comes with them. Phil Vischer was the creative, innovative genius behind Veggie Tales. I loved watching these stories with my son when he was young. Actually, I liked watching them as he got older and felt too old for them.

You can read an interview with Phil as he talks about the growth his company experiened, and then the loss, the bankruptcy and the confusion that came with this. Phil reflected on the meaning of success and loss and how the soul encounters God in these unexpected, unwanted times.

Phil Vischer Veggie Tales suffering loss finding meaning

The Loss of Guilt

guilt guiltyI don't want to make you feel guilty.
That was the comment made by the speaker during a great seminar I heard. I immediately found myself wondering - why not? After all - I was guilty and I suspect most of the listeners were guilty. What do I mean - I was guilty?

Well, I was guilty because I wasn't doing the things the speaker presented as good, right and true. Not only that, but as moral guidance and more, moral imperative from an impressive source - namely the God of the Old and New Testament scripture.

Virtues and Tenets of a Profession

Here is a real interesting and useful model that gives one author's understanding of the VIRTUES needed for good work and then the TENETS (or best practices/ways) of good work.

On this website, there is a poster that has 7 Virtues and 15 Tenets (you can download it).
There is a pdf that has a brief explanation (you can donwload it).
And there is a video you can watch as the author talks about this model.

Well worth checking out. What may be even more useful is for you to think about your own core list of the necessary Virtues and the best Tenets that will help you do good work and be a good leader.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership  ConneXtions International


33 Things We No Longer Believe

Or Believe In, Or Believe in the Way We Use To

Peter Kreeft, in a book he wrote 20 years ago - C. S. Lewis for the Third Millennium insightfully and profoundly analyzes our contemporary world and culture. He provides a list of 33 values, beliefs, "things" that have gone "out of stye." These things are now considered quaint, primitive, relics of old religion that is ridiculous.

If we do use the language of these things, we have redefined them so that the "ancients" would not recognize them in their new forms. Truthiness is not Truth, even if it wants to borrow the term. Truthiness is lack of Truth... Truthiness is spin-doctoring so that truth is whatever you would like it to be. At one time we knew how to identity such things. They were not called "truth." They were opinions and interpretations. Worse, they were mistakes and errors. Worse still, they were heresies and blasphemies. But not today. Not for us.