Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Influences You?

I have been leading our management team in a conversation about Who influences you? We have pretty much determined that all of us are influenced by others, in one way or another. To ignore that fact is like ignoring gravity. It is still there, whether we believe it or not.

Some people influence us negatively. Those are the people who either purposefully draw us away from our passions and pursuits, or who unintentionally suck away our energy because they haven't got control of their own lives and personalities. You know the ones in your life: when we see them coming we want to duck and hide.

We walk a fine line when relating to these people. We want to have an influence in their lives and to encourage them to excellence, but the price we pay in time, emotional energy and resources to do that is sometimes more than we are willing to pay at a particular time. It is a precarious place that we find ourselves in.

Then there are those who are positive influences in our lives. Those who inspire us to greatness, who push us to be better. They come alongside of us and combining with our lives, together we become a sum greater than its parts.

These are the people I want to be with. These are the ones whom I purposely interact with and seek to be in relationship with. These are the ones who make my life what it is.

They don't take, they give. They don't allow mediocrity, they challenge to excellence. They don't steal our joy, they inspire.

So who influences you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Text Message Connection

A conversation took place yesterday among the leaders of the organization that I work for. The discussion centered around how technology has caused our society to become less relational and more task-oriented (even more multitask-oriented).

Many problems and challenges were discussed, and while we weren't seeking to find answers to the challenges we put before ourselves, we did begin to look at possible solutions.

Probably the most salient observation that came from our team was that the key to reaching our culture, and especially the generation under age 30 was through relationships. We found ourselves seeking to answer the question, "How can we demonstrate the importance of relationships in the digital world?"

Here are some of our conclusions: we can model good relationships; we can take the time to invest in other people; we can even use technology as a tool to begin conversations and build on relationships.

I purposely did not put out an exhaustive list of possible solutions because I'd like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this issue of relationships in our digital world?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Micro-Management and Creativity

I recently heard a person being interviewed saying that micro-management by their boss stifled their creativity. An interesting thought, that I would like to pursue here.

Just about all of us in the work force have had encounters with micro-managing bosses, supervisors and managers. I know that some jobs require close supervision. Safety, deadlines and certain seasons dictate the need for closer than usual oversight.

But micro-management is not reserved only for the workplace. I have led music teams and at times found myself a bit too controlling, justifying my actions by saying that I wanted a song to sound certain way. OK, give me a pass there as long as I don't abuse it. But what about our children?

Do we as parents micro-manage our children's lives because we have these big plans for them and we feel that the best path to achieve those plans is through our control?

I am NOT for simply allowing our children to do as they please, without any guidance or instruction. But I am for having Godly, parental insight and wisdom to discern talents and creative leanings and to gently steer our children in those directions. To simply push them into our pre-planned direction will likely stifle their creativity and perhaps warrant rebellion.

A friend and colleague who has spent many years as a brilliant high school orchestra teacher shared with me that many of his most talented students stopped playing their instruments after they graduated because they were forced by their parents to practice and play from a very early age, and in reality they really never enjoyed it. (Of course there is the argument that some exceptional musicians have thanked their parents for making them stay devoted to their craft as children.)

But what about allowing a child to lean towards a certain tendency they may exhibit? Many times we as parents feel that we have our children's lives figured out, regardless of their creative leanings.

I would like to suggest that we apply the insight that our Creator has given us to help discern and identify the creative tendencies in our children, and encourage them in those directions. Yes, practicality and common sense need not be discarded, but encouragement towards a God-given creative impartation may be the ticket towards our children's success. Just be careful that don't micro-manage that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't Throw That Away!

I recently read this interesting information about Americans:

The average U.S. household throws out nearly a quarter of the fruits and vegetables they buy. For a family of four, that adds up to about $500 each year, according to a study by the University of Arizona. (MSNBC.com 7.23.08)

Having seen first-hand some of the poverty we conveniently forget about here in the United States, and also having traveled several times to India, a country with its own share of poor people, I find myself wondering if our prosperity-driven, abundance mentality needs a good dose of "other-side-of-the-world" (or even "other-side-of-town") reality.

We have to face it: we Americans tend to be a bit wasteful. If you don't agree, read this:

Americans' total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to wrap around the Earth six times and reach halfway to the moon. It is estimated that this year 222 million tons of waste will be generated by Americans.

I hope I am not offending you, but rather inspiring you to think beyond our neighborhoods, workplaces or churches. There are many people in the world, most of which live in developing countries, who just don't have very much. How could we cut down on what we throw away in order provide for the poor? Would the $500 that the average family throws out a year in fresh fruits and vegetables be given to those who could use it to buy their own fresh fruits and vegetables?

I remember my mother telling me as a child, "Don't waste your food. There are starving kids around the world!" Maybe it wasn't such bad advice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Are You Working On?

As I come into contact with those whomI have relationships with and seek to influence them to be creative, I like to ask the question, "What are you working on?"

I meet with a friend every two weeks for coffee (a gifted writer and aspiring author) and at some point in our conversation I ask, "What have you written?" Although we do not have an accountability agreement where he knows I will ask him this question, he knows that sometime before we drain our Venti cups (Ooops, gave away where we meet!) he will be challenged by me. Sometimes he verbalizes a thought he is working on. Other times he brings his notebook and reads me a few passages from the novel he is pursuing.

Just as I challenge him, he in turn (along with others whom I keep the creative carrot before) challenges me to make sure I am living in creative mode myself. (In case you are wondering, I am in the middle of recording my next CD project, which will be available later this year.)

My goal is to stimulate creativity, and to encourage people to express themselves using the Creator-inspired gifts they possess. It is common for "artists" to create, and then to simply look at, read or listen to their creation, resting on what they've done instead of moving on to new expressions of their gifts. To them I say, keep creating!

When worship leader/songwriter Dennis Jernigan was asked how someone could know they are a songwriter, he responded, "You can't keep it inside. You have to write songs." So my question to you is, "What are you working on?"

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