News of the Pope’s resignation yesterday sent the world into shock, and yet it seems to me that it’s one more incident in a quitting epidemic that’s becoming commonplace in my corner of the world. For the past year, it’s seemed that everywhere I turn people are moving on. Time to change jobs, time to move on, time to retire, time to get anywhere but here. I certainly don’t begrudge people making decisions that better their life (and leave their current places for people who will blossom in the spaces they leave behind), but it brings up an interesting question.
What do you do when your leader leaves?
I recently read a saying that great leaders don’t create followers, they create other leaders. I think this is true,
and the truth of how good a leader they were can be seen in how the“troops” carry on once they’re gone. If the strength of any organization is in the individuals, then these are the times when you see if the previous leader created wise, competent, individuals that can keep flowing with the spirit of the organization or mindless drones that have to be led by the nose everywhere. And surviving this “sink or swim” time after a leader leaves brings to light two very important facts:
1. Leaders are meant to guide us, not carry us. Internal motivation is the driving factor that should be
moving every individual everywhere, regardless of the circumstances. Did you know that you can still flourish under a lousy leader if you’re motivated enough to seek knowledge and opportunity on your own? It’s true. If a person has a mindset that they are only going to do what they’re told and will never do one thing more than they have to, even the best leader in the world can’t make them succeed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that following is the fastest road to failure. If you don’t eventually find the strength and courage to stand on your own then you’ll never get further than you are right now. Sure, leaders set the standard and hold us accountable to it, but it’s our responsibility to rise above the minimum.
2. Our actions do affect others, and they have a right to react to that, for better or for worse. This is a sticky one. Of course, you should do your very best all the time. Giving your all will help you succeed and it will help the people around you as well. But you also have to realize that we live in a community, so if you decide to shirk
your responsibilities, do the bare minimum, or skip out, then people will react, and they have a right to. Sure, sometimes you have your reasons, and they might be very good reasons. Sometimes you need the grace and mercy of others to get through tough times. Just make sure you don’t make a habit of being a “drama queen” or somebody who’s life is fraught with problems, or you create unnecessary hardship for yourself. And while I’m on the subject, that brings up an interesting third point:
3. You never know when you might have to recross a bridge someday. When I started my career, I moved from one division of my agency to another. Three years later, they consolidated the divisions, and all of my old colleagues moved in my office. I was shocked – I never expected that to happen, but it did. I was also very glad I left with a sense of humility and gratitude to them for helping me start my career. So whether you stay, go, or leave it alone, it’s wise to remember that you reap what you sow, and not all paths are linear. You never know where you might come back around – or when someone might come back around to you!
So what does this all mean. How do you survive when your leader leaves? By relying on your own strength, and the strength of those around you. That’s why it’s important to have internal motivation – so you can keep things running even with a significant absence. That’s why it’s important to be accountable not just to your leaders, but to everybody around you – to form a stronger community that works together efficiently. That’s why you mind your manners and always give your best – to help others and shine that light of hope that even though it might be dark and confusing, there is hope and that hope will help you as you find new leaders for the next chapter.
People come and people go, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to learn from the leaders you have and realize that they are helping to form you into a stronger person that’s able to stand – no matter what.
That’s all today. Take care and have a good week.
There are a lot of vacancies in my life these days, it seems. Both of the pastors at my church left early last year. One of my colleagues resigned to take a job in another division of our agency, and my boss recently announced that she's retiring this summer. I've been asked the question "what do you want?" in their replacements a lot in recent months, and my response is always the same:
I want someone that's not afraid.
What does that mean? People ask. Afraid of what? Well, frankly I want people who aren't going to be intimidated by the hard work it takes to be a pastor, or a program assistant, or an administrator. I want bold people that are committed to doing their best. I know lots of people have sky-high expectations of perfection and struggle with "putting their feet back on the ground," but I'm content with effort. If you're doing the best you can and your effort is sincere, that works for me. I can be patient with a learning curve as long as I see that you're making a sincere effort to learn and to grow from what you are into the best you can be.
Simply stated, I want people with internal motivation. I want people that WANT to be their best and to bring life to that job description. I want them to be alive and not merely surviving. I want people that are bold enough to make it more than anybody expects.
I don't think that's too much to ask. Let's be honest, we all know that there are two primary motivators in life: faith or fear. Everything we do, every decision we make, is either to gain a reward or to avoid consequences. That's it. They've preached that since my college days, it hasn't changed in a decade and a half, and I doubt it will ever change. All of human history is a testament to it, and I think it's obvious that the people motivated by faith; the people that believe they achieve their dreams and make their corner of the world a better place, usually accomplish more than people that simply try to fly under the radar and not get attention or change things.
It all really boils down to the internal motivation factor too. Let's face it, making the best of life and achieving your dreams is hard work, and a lot of people are so scared of failure that they never get started. It does take a bold person to stick their neck out and risk losing their head - but fortunately, this is largely figurative. It took me a lot of years to learn that fear isn't fatal and even more years to realize that it's usually the thing that gives us the wisdom to keep working until we succeed.
Did you know that my first published book was a failure? I couldn't get that thing off the ground if I taped it to a 757. I don't know why, but all of my efforts to get an inspirational writing career going flopped. But I loved to write and wasn't ready to give up so I prayed, and thought, and studied up on writing, and realized that I could have a second chance if I worked smarter and was patient in my efforts and timing. I switched to writing fiction (which I like much better anyway) and decided to give e-publishing a try. It took me 7 years to get that second chance, but I just knew in my gut that I shouldn't give up so easily and I came to see that the traditional path wasn't right for me anyway. The rise of ebooks has been a golden opportunity, and I believe my failures as an inspirational writer helped me to grown and learn about writing better and the publishing business so I was able to take this opportunity offered by the rise of technology. I was rejected a lot - more times than I can count - but I forged on, believing that I was building up and getting ready for just the right moment. As frustrating as it was to work, fail, wait, work more, fail more, wait more for all those years, it prepared me for the right time, publishers, and opportunities when our paths finally did cross.
If you want to succeed at having a well balanced life, you have to get your spirit right. You can't live by fear. Nobody achieves success by the way of avoidance. If everything you do is to get out of things, you will live in bondage to others. It's like the quote I read on Twitter recently said: If you aren't living your dream, you could become part of a nightmare created by others. That's true. The winds of fate are a poor life course guide. You often get caught up in the turbulence of other peoples' drama and problems and wind out in places that benefit them 100% and you none.
I see a lot of fear in the world and people around me, and it scares me. Perhaps people would be less jealous and depressed if they made a conscious decision to be bold and live their life to the fullest instead of being afraid of it and dodging everything that looks like work and responsibility. Stop despising the day of small things and open your eyes to the fact that victory comes through sincere dedication to master these small building blocks to a bigger life.
Sure, I'll agree that there are times when other peoples' decision affect your life. I didn't want any of these people to go, but I've learned from life experience that people are going to do what's best for them, and they should. And while it's not fair for your life to be bumped around, it happens. We live in a comminity and that's a side effect of it. Balance and peace come not from dodging the storm, but through going through it knowing that it can bring an abundant new crop if you are willing to seize the opportunities that blow in and plant things and ways for the situation to be beneficial. That's why I want people around me that aren't afraid. That's why I want people around me that have that internal motivation to make life the best it can be. Sure it isn't perfect and there will always be things there that we don't want, but if you're committed to doing the hard work to reap the rewards and put things in right balance, then it will lead to better days.
So what's it going to be? Are you going to seize life, or are you going to let it seize you?
That's all today. Have a great weekend.
I’ve often said that when you first tell people that you want to be a writer, expect a lot of blank stares at best, and a reaction akin to announcing that you plan to become a serial killer at worst. That is, until you get published. Then everybody will know you and proudly proclaim that they knew you “back when.” They’ll completely forget all the times they said “why do you want to do that?” or “didn’t you graduate? Why not go back to school instead if that’s what you want to do?” Or any other number of “helpful suggestions” that included doing anything but that.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have support. Of course, those closest to me wanted me to succeed at making my dreams come true, but let’s face it – your inner circle is usually pretty small. Most of the people you know won’t be in it, and they certainly won’t understand the things that are most important to you. In fact, even those in your “inner circle” will eventually lose their enthusiasm for your personal pursuits if they don’t see results face, and often. It’s unfortunate, but peoples’ attention spans are usually much shorter than God’s timing. Most people don’t have patience to stay the course, especially in a culture where everything is instantaneous and available with the click of the mouse or the press of a button. That’s why I believe that internal motivation is perhaps the most important element in pursuing your authenticity and purpose in life.
What is internal motivation? Basically, it’s the determination and inner drive to see things through to the end, no matter what it takes. I’ve said before that God will only reveal purpose to you, and for that reason you simply can’t rely on others to hold you up and carry you through the finish line. They have their hands full with their own lives and frankly, they are probably overwhelmed with keeping up with the day to day grind of reality. You must have strength within you to stay the course and be determined to see things through all the way to the end, no matter how many battles or struggles you must endure. There path to purpose isn’t a straight line, but rather a winding highway. There will be progress and setbacks, trials and errors, success and failure, as you wind through the journey. Some people will be with you for all of it, some for part, but remember that they are also taking their own journey’s. We all only have so much emotional energy and must dedicate it to those things that matter most. And let’s be honest, what are you more concerned with: Your own life or somebody elses’? That’s not being selfish – it’s just the way it is. We must attend to our own obligations and priorities first and foremost.
Likewise, there are also people that don’t want to see you succeed. This usually isn’t personal, even though it feels like a very real attack on who we are. It’s really smoke and mirrors for their own insecurity. I believe we all have these “emotional vampires” in our lives that can find the dark cloud in any silver lining and discourage us from doing anything that causes us to rise above where we’re at. Their security is in making sure that you (and often, everybody they know) stay inside the convenient box they’ve put you in for their own comfort. You must realize that this box isn’t your problem. Do yourself a favor by dealing with these toxic relationships quickly and efficiently, and moving on. In fact, that might be the very thing that makes them realize the right thing to do so they can get on with their own lives. Doing the right thing and refusing to accept other peoples’ problems is often the best living testimony we can provide to the world.
Yes, the journey to purpose can be a lonely one at times. There are journey’s we must take alone and things we must discover on our own. The good news is that we are never really alone. The Lord is always right there with us, to ensure that we stay on the right path. He will always do His part as long as we do our part by following the prompting of the Spirit, but sometimes what is right isn’t what looks or seems right. That’s why it’s so important to be internally motivated. These promptings are usually very personal, and we have to be able to stand up to scrutiny, discouragement, and sometimes even attack to see the victory. But as I’ve said so many times before, the reward is well worth it. There’s nothing better than realizing you are uniquely and wonderfully made, and being content with who you are.
Next Time: Contentment – The Secret to Joy.