When I started this series, I intentionally limited myself to seven traits of true success, you and I both know there are so many more.
This trait will either cause a leader to rise or to fall.
I’ve invested thousands of hours of my life as a people helper as a minister, therapist, and consultant and one of the themes that I have noted over the years is that people who live out this particular trait experience true success in life. Those who don’t, well let’s just say, don’t do as well.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with one of my mentors and a godly man that I’ve had to pleasure to co-facilitate with, Dr. H. Norman Wright. Now 90, Norm is still actively engaged in teaching and sharing things that he has learned over the years. Even at this phase in his life he exudes the biblical model of true success.
Before our conversation, there had been a very public fall from grace of a prominent evangelical pastor who had to leave the ministry because of an affair.
I asked Norm, “What happened?” There was a sudden, somber shift in his tone. He said, “it was an integrity issue.” He went on to explain that for men and women who do lack integrity or compromise their integrity the test will show up through the abuse of money, sex, and power. I will come back to the story of this minister pater.
When Norm shared this, I know intuitively that he was spot on, absolutely correct.
What is Integrity?
Take a moment and enjoy this little video.
One definition is integrity the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and being morally upright. True success, they type that endures is bathed in integrity.
Sounds honest yet lofty, doesn’t it?
Here is one of my favorite working definitions of integrity. Integrity is what you do when no one is looking.
If I could teach people one thing, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. It is doing the correct thing at all times and in every circumstance regardless of who is watching. You see it takes years to build integrity and only one poor choice to destroy it.
Over the years our culture has moved away from the strong Christian cultural influence into a more morally relativist world view. We have moved into a time when integrity is not talked about nearly enough. The predominant view, unfortunately, is “the end justifies the means,” has become the norm of so many people. Salespeople make great promises but many times under deliver, people inflate their resume’s, and CEO’s inflate their reports.
Amy Reese Anderson in her article “Success Will Come and Go, But Integrity Is Forever, “shares these poignant insights.
“I think Warren Buffet said it best, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.” If a person is dishonest, it will eventually catch up with them. It may not be today, and it may not be for many years, but it will catch up.
Here is a word of advice for you, if you are wanting to maintain and expand your personal integrity. Avoid those who are not trustworthy. Do not do business with them. Do not associate with them. Do not make excuses for them. Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of his life, you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life. You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty, such as the person who takes two newspapers from the stand when they paid for only one. After all, if a person cannot be trusted in the most straightforward matters of honesty then how can they possibly be trusted to uphold lengthy and complex business contracts?”[i]
If you do what is right, the consequences will follow.
Now back to the pastor I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Gordon McDonald is the pastor. He is a pastor who did the right thing.
Once his integrity breach was known, he fully disclosed his sin and immediately stepped down from his pulpit and entered a season of recovery. He received counseling, spiritual direction and had a group of other men to challenge him, nurture him, and make sure that he, his wife and family were moving through a highly accountable, restoration process. Through this process along with a very public recalibration of his life, Gordon McDonald was reinstated to ministry and is currently serving as the Chancellor of Denver Seminar. In addition to his work at Denver Seminary, he was the Editor for Christianity Today’s Leadership Magazine. Macdonald is also a successful author with over 12 published works.
One of his most profound, Ordering Your Private World, came about as a result of his recovery. In this classic work he gives powerful, poignant principles for maintaining and re-establishing integrity.
How is your private world, that world that only you are aware of? believe when we are working on guarding our private world be are experiencing real success.
Allow me to challenge you to take a look at this list, which comes off the pages of Ordering Your Private World, and do a little self-evaluation.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I am convinced that the inner realm of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I make a daily choice to monitor its state of orderliness.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I have courageously confronted the messiness of my ways of living and chosen to bring them under rigorous discipline.
If my private world is in order, it will be because, having faced up to what drives me, I listen quietly for the call of Christ.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I respond to Christʼs call to be a servant and form my life-purposes, my community-roles and personal identity around His fondest wishes for me.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I have made daily determination to see time as Godʼs gift and worthy of careful investment.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I have begun to seal the time leaks and allocate my productive hours in light of my capabilities, my limits and my priorities.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I have determined that every day will be for me a day of growth in knowledge and wisdom.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I seek to use all I learn in service to others, as Christ did.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I regularly choose to enlarge the spiritual center of my life.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I am unafraid to be alone and quiet before Christ.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I absorb the words of Christ into my attitudes and actions.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I have begun to pursue the discipline of seeing events and people through the eyes of Christ so that my prayers reflect my desire to be in alignment with His purposes and promises for them.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I have chosen to press Sabbath peace into the rush and routine of my daily life to find the rest God prescribed for Himself and all of humanity.
If my private world is in order, it will be because I have made a deliberate decision to begin the ordering process.
A couple of Scriptures to consider:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.Proverbs 3:3-6 NLT
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.James 3:17 NLT
What are three things you can begin doing to strengthen your own personal integrity today? What are the things you are doing to enhance your own true success?
What is one integrity area that you struggle with?
What do you do on a day to day basis to maintain your personal integrity?
I have a question for you. Do you tend to see the glass half-full or half-empty?
How you answer that question can reveal a lot about who you are and how you view life.
Thousands of years of human history has shown us that people who tend to experience real success have a more positive, optimistic view of life, themselves, and the world.
Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I hear the someone say that people need to be more positive, I can quickly go to an image of a flashy, loud, almost too good to be a true, slick, fast talker, whose primary motivation is to talk you into some deal. I guess I have been a little jaded over the years.
However, here is some excellent news. The type of cartoon character in no way represents a positive or optimistic person.
In this article, I will help you understand what it means to be an optimistic person. And one of the great things is that even if you don’t see yourself as an optimist, you can learn to become more optimistic.
Part of experiencing true success and understanding the power of optimism is to understand a little about resilience.
Resilience is the ability to cope with and overcome whatever life throws at you.
Need some motivation – check this out this video!
A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources such as strength, faith, effective relationships as well as other resources such as hope, optimism, and self-efficacy (their belief in their ability to act). When a resilient person takes a hit, personally or professionally, they tend to not only bounce back to normal but are able to move forward.
Being resilient is also an essential component of optimism.
Being resilient is also an essential component of optimism. Before we jump in, I think it is essential that we look at some basic definitions or optimism.
Sonya Lyubomirsky, UC Riverside shares the various types of optimism practically.
Big Optimism: The deep feeling that things are going well and that this is a great time to be alive.
Little Optimism: General optimism about day to day circumstances, being able to make it through the day, meet your obligations.
Very Small Optimism: The lowest form of optimism, but the comforting belief that you will make it through the day.
Full Disclosure: Although being positive/optimistic is talked about as if it is one thing. It is entirely possible to be optimistic in some regions of our lives but pessimistic in others. After all, last time I checked, we are all human. Let’s take a look at the practical side of the idea of Optimism.
While feeling positive and optimistic can be a necessary but momentary state-like a burst of insight or a temporary feeling of joy, I’m referring to a more stable, enduring personality feature. This kind of optimism includes skills such as acceptance, resilience, flexibility and coping skills.
Dr. Caroline Dweck, author of The Growth Mindset, and Dr. Elaine Fox’s, Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain have written some keen insights into this type of optimism.
A closed-minded person sees problems, as setbacks rather than opportunities. An optimist, on the other hand, they to be more alert to opportunities, less risk-averse and tend to be “all in.”
Fox writes, “Dispositional optimism is not just about being happy and upbeat, however; it is more about having genuine hope for the future, a sincere belief that things will work out, a deep abiding faith that they can deal with whatever life throws at them. Optimists are not naive they don’t believe that nothing will ever go wrong, but they do have a deep-seated conviction that they can cope. Optimists have a natural tendency and faith to accept the world for what it is but have a deeply held belief that the way you deal with things determine who you are.
A considerable part of being an optimistic person is a proper understanding of being in control. The opposite of this is feeling like the future is hopeless can make a pessimist passive since everything they attempt seems to fail. In sharp contrast, an optimistic person believes that their actions matter and that they have active input into their outcomes. Being an optimistic, hopeful person is more than feeling good and upbeat, it is truly about being intentionally engaged with a meaningful life, becoming a more resilient person, and feeling in control. This, in my opinion, is significantly enhanced when one is actively engaged in their faith.
Here is a great, short lesson from a former astronaut
Practiced Optimism and Resilience
So, what are some of the benefits of learning and being a more optimistic person? What are some realistic expectations if you make a choice to become more optimistic?
Increased happiness and a sense of well-being. Optimistic people tend to be happier, partially because they perceive positive events more vividly and expect good them to occur.
Increased positive emotions and strengthened relationships. Because optimistic people generally have a more upbeat mood, an increased sense of personal vitality, and a strong sense of self. They feel they have some control over their destiny. As a result, the positive energy radiates out because positive people tend to be easily liked by others.
Less negative emotions. “The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do and that all of these negative things are their fault. The optimist on the other hand, when confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune oppositely. They tend to believe that defeat is just a temporary setback and that there will be a way to overcome or adapt positively. They think that they have what they need or know how to access help if it is required.
Improved health. Optimist, as a general rule of thumb, live longer and are less likely to die from accidents or violent acts because they tend to take active steps to protect themselves.
Improved performance. Optimistic, positive people tend to put more genuine effort towards their goals and dreams. In a nutshell, they tend to be more successful because they have commitment and tenacity.
Better coping skills which lead to increased resilience. As a general rule, optimists tend to cope better with adversity because they face it and on a deep level believe that they can rise to the challenge. One prominent person who comes to mind is Michael J. Fox who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991. He puts it this way, “Optimism and hope related to how we think and feel about the future. If we really believe that things will work out for the best, all setbacks become easier to deal with.
This can lead to a more vibrant faith that is able to find contentment and peace regardless of circumstances. The Apostle Paul said, “Not that I was ever in need, for I was never in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I have discovered the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
Would you like to take the free Learned Optimism Test designed by Dr. Marty Seligman, Just click here!
Partner Well “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.”
In a few days, many of my friends will be traveling to Franklin, Tennessee to attend The Tribe Conference, 2018 hosted by Best Selling Author and Entrepreneur, Jeff Goins. This conference is somewhat unique in that it is a gathering for writers, artists, and creative entrepreneurs to grow their craft, share their work, and get the attention their work deserves.
Unlike a traditional writer’s conference, this outstanding gathering brings together a wide variety of people of different ages, disciplines, worldviews, and skill levels who share a shared vision of impacting the world with their message. Besides, to great speakers and helpful workshops, the Tribe Conference is an outstanding place to network, partner, share ideas, and seek wisdom.
You may be asking: Why are you telling me about this John?
I am glad you asked.
The fifth component of True Success is to partner well.
Think about this poignant thought from Andy Andrew book, The Seven Decisions.
“God moves mountains to create the opportunity of his choosing. It is up to you to move yourself.”
You and I do not have the power to change our past, but we have the grace and the ability to change our present and our future by making the necessary choice today. One of the keys ways to do this is by seeking the wisdom of others.
You see there are two ways to learn in life, the first is knowledge which comes from my own self-study like reading books, attending classes, listening to podcasts and making my own pig-headed mistakes. Wisdom, on the other hand, is learning from others who know things and have learned the lesson that I might not have discovered.
Seeking wisdom helps us craft lives of extraordinary achievement. Change is inevitable, so we might as well accept the power and responsibility for making choices and partnering well.
So, how can we do this? Apart from being a life-long learner, attending conferences, reading and all of the other things one can do in the area of self-improvement you must choose your companions carefully. In other words, you must partner effectively.
There is a powerful proverb that speaks to this, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
A partner is a wise person, advisor, or counselor (not in the traditional way) who can provide needed insight, wisdom, or any practical help to help you achieve a specific goal, successfully complete a project, or fulfill a dream.
Unfortunately, most folks only seek a counselor or input from others when there are either “up to their eyeballs” with trouble or when they have a need that they cannot handle by themselves.
By having people in our lives who can provide insight, counsel, and advice we can receive numerous benefits.
Benefit # 1
You will have a much better chance of accomplishing your dreams, plans, goals, and objectives.
Benefit # 2
By getting honest input from others, you actually lower your risk.
I personally love the way the Amplified Bible describes this principle from Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no [wise, intelligent] guidance, the people fail [and go off course like a ship without steering]. But in the abundance of [wise and godly] counselors there is victory.” While this was a passage aimed primarily for the military, its implications are much broader.
Benefit # 3
Lessons learned in the school of wisdom have a lifelong impact.
When you go through tough times, and you will, then you will have someone to help you get through it. Someone will have your back.
Once again, the ancient advice from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4, verses 9&10, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
Benefit # 5
By having other people as counselors and advisors, you will be able to have victories and accomplish things that would otherwise be lost.
The old advice once again validates this principle. Once again from the 4th chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes verse 12, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
Five pretty significant benefits of having a team of people to act as your counselors, advisors, or as your board of directors.
By a board of directors, I am talking about a small informal group of men and women who have skills, expertise, connections, and understanding that you do not have. They are out there, I promise you. Some are people that you know right now and others you will meet down the road.
On a personal note I have a great team, some I spend a lot of time with some I stay in touch with. This team is made up of family members, accountants, my publisher, who was previously an old friend, a couple of best-selling authors, a couple of minister friends, and a young friend who is a marketing master.
How about you? Do you have a board of directors, a team of people who you run ideas by? I hope you do, and if you currently do not have such a group, begin to think and pray about forming one, sooner than later.
Failure to do so has some pretty dire consequences.
Consequence # 1
Your plans and purpose could do a face plant and fail.
Consequence # 2
You have a higher risk of financial loss and possible humiliation.
Proverbs 13:18 puts it this way in the New Living Translation, “If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored.”
If you are needing to begin building your own personal board of directors/advisors, make it your goal to seek wisdom.
Choose your partners, your advisors with care.
Right now, in your journal or on a piece of paper do these three things.
1. List those people in your inner circle, those who have or have had a positive influenced your life, including family members, friends, colleagues, and others.
2. This next part will be tough. By each name put an arrow to indicate the direction the person is leading you. The up arrow means they challenge, encourage, energize, and set a pace for you. The down arrow means they do not challenge, inspire and drag you down, are consume too much energy, and keep you off course.
3. Do you notice any particular patterns? With whom do you spend time with, the ones who energize or the energy vampires? You will become who you hang with.
Hey, I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave me a comment.
I will miss my friends and partners at Tribe 2018. This week I will be headed downrange to the Florida Panhandle and to a couple of places I spent a lot of time at in my youth, namely Mexico Beach and Panama City Beach. Part of my mission, my manifesto is to equip people to manage stress in extreme environments, and I will be performing my mission as a Stress Counselor for the FEMA Staff. I covet your prayers for this deployment.
By the way, I have a special price on my book The No Fear Entrepreneur, it is available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobooks.
To get where you want to go in life, you have to make a decision. That decision will be something like, if I want to improve my situation I must change ___________.
You and I are our own life managers, and hopefully, your long-term objective is to actively manage your life in such a way that it brings about great results. You, apart from your relationship to God, are the most essential resource for making your life work. You and you alone are responsible for running your own race.
The Buck Stops Here
One of the most important things that you can do to reach your goals in life is to adopt President Harry Truman’s famous line, “The Buck Stops Here!” Truman was a no-nonsense man, when he made up his mind on something, there was no turning back. He refused to gaze into the mirror of self-doubt or second-guessing. He was a leader who made tough decisions and stuck by them.
One of his toughest decisions was to use the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Second World War. By his own admission, this was the most difficult decision of his life. Truman had served as a Battery Commander in the Field Artillery in WWI and understood the devastation that artillery could cause.
When he made the decision to drop the most destructive weapon ever unleashed on mankind, he weighed the cost of continuing a long and costly war with Japan or using overwhelming force to bring about the end of WWII.
He counted the cost, made the decision and never went back on his decision.
Agree or disagree with Truman’s decision, his “The buck stops here,” is an attitude you and I have to have to experience the life we want to experience.
This attitude means that I am accepting responsibility for my past. It also says that I am taking responsibility for my future, my success in life.
After spending much of my adult life as a professional counselor, I know that some you reading this have experienced horrible traumas such as sexual abuse, accidents, and war. And while many of these traumas have a life-long impact, you can still have significant choices in the outcomes.
We cannot always control what other’s do to us, but we can control how we will deal with it. You can choose to be a life-long victim, and that will be your life story. Or, you can choose to move from being a victim to becoming a survivor to ultimately becoming an overcomer. Being an overcomer does not imply that you will never have any more issue to deal with as a result of some of the trauma in your life, it means that you refuse to let them control your life. It says you refused to be defined by your diagnosis.
Jerry’s PTSD Story
Last year, while I was deployed to Puerto Rico and a Stress Counselor for FEMA employees, I met Jerry (not his real name). Jerry was working as a truck driver delivering commodities to some of the hardest hit communities in Puerto Rico after the hurricanes of 2017.
I first heard about Jerry from come colleagues who work for an agency that was also deployed to Puerto Rico, and the hearsay was that there was a Viet Nam Vet who had PTSD and was probably out of control, or close to it. They wanted to know if I could check on him.
My third night, in Puerto Rico, I hung around the dining room of T.S. Kennedy and met up with Jerry and his driving buddy Tom. I introduced myself as the Stress Counselor for FEMA Employees, and he asked if I was there to check him out. I said yes I was.
He was a little guarded at first, but after noticing some familiar jargon, he asked if I was a vet and if I was what branch and what did I do. I told him that I was a retired Army Chaplain and immediately his guard went down.
After a few minutes of sharing some stories, I asked how his “pop-ups” were doing. “Pop-ups” is a term some vets use for flashbacks. He responded, “I feel like I am playing “Whack a Mole,” but thanks to medication, prayer, Bible reading, God’s grace, and other tools in my toolbox, I am winning the game.”
Needless to say, as a people helper, I was relieved to hear those words.
Over the next couple of meals that we shared he told me a little more about some of the experiences that were at the root of his PTSD, and while he is drawing 100% disability from the VA, he is able to work.
Without going into any detail, Jerry’s story was not unlike some of the horror stories that I have heard from fellow vets, law enforcement and other men and women who have experienced the moral injury of some type of personal trauma. The incredible thing about Jerry is that he has refused to be sidelined by this diagnosis.
One night over some pretty stout coffee he told me something like this. “For years I choose to live a disordered life, I played the hand that I was 100% service connected Disabled Vet, which I am. As a result, I became lazy and more depressed then one day it hit me. I do have PTSD, but that diagnosis does not determine how I will live my life.
Something happened when I made that decision. All of a sudden, therapy and the other treatments that I was receiving from the Veteran’s Administration began to work; also, the doctors changed my medication, and I went into a Vocational Rehabilitation program and eventually got my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License).”
I asked him about what life was like before he made the decision to move on to manage his PTSD. He chuckled and said before I started making arrangements to get better I just slept, stayed legally drugged up and didn’t do a whole lot of anything. But look at me today, I still have PTSD, but I am managing it. Because I am handling it, I am spending my time in Puerto Rico getting things like water, food, medicine, and supplies to our friends and fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.
We had a couple of more opportunities to visit before I headed back to the Mainland.
What was my take away from Jerry?
I think my best take away from my time with Jerry was the fact that along the way he’d learned the truth: I am responsible for my past and my future.
You see, while Jerry had little or no control over what happened in Viet Nam all those many years ago, he came to the realization that if he didn’t engage in life, he would spend his life on the sideline.
In my final conversation with him, he told me with a great deal of appropriate pride that he was helping save lives by delivering life-sustaining goods to the survivors of the Hurricane Maria, he went on to say something like, “I am glad I made a choice to learn how to manage myself so that I could help others.
Jerry, through his own, personal choices, plus his faith in God helped him move out of self-pity into a person whose vocation and life purpose is to help others.
What about you?
If you are not where you want to be in life, it is entirely on you. Why our culture likes to play the blame game, people who are actively engaging in life, and are overcoming past setbacks are those who realize that I am the one responsible for where I am and where I am headed while on this earth.
Until we choose to make that decision that we are going to embrace the journey that God has for us, there will be no power to move forward.
By taking responsibility for our life, we have hope.
Here is an excellent thought from Andy Andrews book: The Seven Decisions (which I highly recommend).
From this moment forward, I will accept responsibility for my past. I understand the beginning of wisdom is to take responsibility for my own problems and that by taking responsibility for my history, I free myself to move into a bigger, brighter future of my own choosing.
Never again will blame my parents, spouse, boss, employees, or team members for my present situation. Neither my education nor lack of one, my genetics, past traumas, or circumstantial ebbs and flows of everyday life will negatively impact my future. If I allow myself to blame these uncontrollable forces for my lack of success, I will be forever caught in a web of the past. I will look toward the future.
The buck stops here. I accept responsibility for my past. I am responsible for my future, my success, and my legacy.
You are where you are today-mentally, spiritually, emotionally, financially and physically because of the decisions you have made. If you are unsatisfied with where you are you have two things going for you. The first is you can choose to change your thinking, and you will change your life. Second, you can ask the Lord to lead you into this exciting phase of your life. It all boils down to managing your thought life.
Here are some things to consider:
To begin with, you need to take a personal inventory of your life.
On a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being utterly miserable and ten being Awesome-rate how you feel you are doing in each of the following categories; physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, professionally, and with your family.
At this point, you might go to a default feeling of being a failure, but don’t let that happen. Instead shift your thoughts to something like this, which comes from Andy Andrews book, The Seven Decisions.
“My mind will not dwell on the problems of the past-
It will live in the solutions of the future!”
When you begin to see your failures as opportunities, you start to free yourself from the fear of failure.
Recently, I was watching A Night at the Museum 2, and there was Amy Adams, one of my favorite actors portraying Amelia Earnhart, one of America’s aviation pioneers.
Amelia Earhart, what a powerful legacy of a woman, a person who experienced some extraordinary events all because she was willing to take action.
Here we are in 2018, and it seems that ever so often there is a new story about this woman who disappeared in 1937 while attempting to cross the Pacific. That has been over 80 years, and she continues to be in the news. What is it about this woman that continues to amaze us.
I think it was her quiet confidence.
In the early 1920’s, while aviation was still in its infancy, a group of daredevil pilots, called “barnstormers,” were touring the U.S., giving small-town America a glimpse of the promises of aviation. They would typically land in a field near a town, and for a few cents per head do some aerobatics and show off their skill. After landing, they would offer a short 10-minute ride in their biplanes for anyone who was daring enough and had the money.
On one cold, December morning in 1920, Amelia Earhart purchased a ticket for her first airplane ride, and the rest is history. While the ride only lasted about 10 minutes, it completely altered the destiny of her life: a seed was planted, Amelia was determined to become a pilot. She didn’t care that there were only a few female pilots. Through hard work and very challenging conditions, Amelia chose to show up, do the job, develop the skill set and become a well-respected licensed pilot.
Her initial claim to fame was the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean. While many pilots both male and female admired the historic flight of Charles Lindberg, few dared to face the seemingly insurmountable odds of a long and dangerous trip across the Atlantic. Earnhart’s commitment to both her dream and her craft, not to mention her steely determination lead her to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
What was it that set her apart?
Not only was she a competent pilot during her time in history and though her skills were highly polished, that was also not what set her apart. Instead, it was her confidence, her willingness to go after her seemingly impossible dream, and her belief that she believed she could that was the thing that made her unique.
Amelia Earnhart’s accomplishments were extraordinary for her time, especially considering that men so dominated her field.
Over the years there have been numerous studies done regarding the gender differences regarding confidence. One of the most exciting studies done by Cornell University showed that men generally tend to overrate their abilities and performance while women generally tend to underestimate both.
With this in mind, I want to take just a moment to encourage you to show up and take action. One of the keys to succeeding in any endeavor in life is to be present and to be prepared, and to actively, engaged and to develop an open mindset.
Choose to shift into a “growth mindset.” Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options—a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes.
A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With the right motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration you must believe you can become better at almost anything. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure personally. That individual tends to see set back as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.
As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I think God is active in time, space, and history and that He has an aggressive, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us the truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.
You can overcome the fear of failure by understanding those old triggers and turning them from energy-sapping vampires into life-motivating power that will help you accomplish your dreams.
Amelia Earhart maintained an open mindset. Moreover, even though she perished pursuing her dream, she is remembered as a woman who took action.
How about you, what action do you need to take to embrace the life that God has for you?
So many entrepreneurs and ministry leader fail to build their business/ministry because they are trying to do too much. The primary reason they experience frustration, as opposed to feeling a sense of accomplishment is a lack of focus.
Dr. Tom Barrett
“Focus is the birth canal through which dreams become a reality.”
While many people tell me they are multi-taskers, the clinical research suggests the opposite. As a business person or ministry leader, your success or failure will be a direct result of how well you maximize your strengths, your passion and how precise you are on your “Why.” Your strengths are those activities you naturally enjoy doing and would do them for free your entire life if neces-sary. This is how every great entrepreneur in history made their success: doing what they loved and loving what they do.
One of the most significant focus stealers is what James Clear calls half work.
“We live in the age of distraction. It is idiotically easy to become distracted between what we should be doing and the choices that society and social media bombard us with.”
Here is a classic example:
You begin working on a project, with the intention of knocking it out of the park before the close of business. After about fifteen to twenty minutes for some completely irrational reason, you random-ly check your phone. For no apparent reason, just like the flashing brain stealing tool in Incredibles 2, you surrender your conscious mind and before you know it you are checking your FB likes, see-ing if anyone has uploaded come cool Pinterest pics, or if you Snapchat or Instagram account has had any hits. Since you are already there, you might as well check you Messenger Inbox, and text a friend.
So, how can we become more focused?
I think the first thing to do is rot be honest and start today. Anthony Robbins says, “One of the reasons so few of us achieve what we truly want it that we never direct our focus, we never concen-trate our power.
In my work as a management coach, I like to ask my clients five simple questions.
1. What makes you come alive?
2. What are your core strengths?
3. Where do you add the most significant value?
4. What is your mission, your why?
5. How will you measure your life?
6. What is holding you back?
I hope you will take a moment and reflect on these questions.
Did you know that many entrepreneurs and ministry leaders start off with a great plan, product or idea only to do a face plant down the road?
While there are many great stories and articles about why startups fail or succeed I want to spend a few minutes sharing some insight on some of the attitudes that can lead to failure and how to avoid them.
Years ago, I was talking to a friend who was also the pastor of a very dynamic congregation, and I asked him, what were some of the potential pitfalls for business and ministry leaders?
Without missing a beat, he said, “Money, sex, and power! Use them in a manner that glorifies God and builds people up, and you will be successful in all that you do. Use them in a self-seeking, abusive way and eventually you will be brought down!”
With this in mind, I want to help you avoid some of these attitudes that lead to failure.
“Survival Driven” (Seeking Money Before Adding Value)
Being driven by survival is a significant reason why some entrepreneurs fail. If your primary motivation is money and to acquire wealth rather than to create and increase the value to people’s lives through a product, service, or an idea, then you have gotten off to a poor start. If this is your sole goal in being in business, I would suggest you do some serious soul-searching.
Several years ago, I had a client that appeared to be a very successful businessman. He had the right cars, the right house in the upscale neighborhood, a beautiful wife, and kids. It seemed like everything he touched turned to gold. He was a money-making machine, however, at least to me, something didn’t seem quite right.
You see, he looked good on the outside. But there was a problem. All was not as good as it seemed.
He had grown up in a fairly average, middle-class family, but wanted more. As a young adult, he discovered that he was a smooth talker that could be very persuasive. Over the years, he honed his skills and developed a very successful business.
That’s when the cracks begin to appear. Unknown to anyone else, he had a severe gambling problem, which over the years eventually lead him down a horrible path. Finally, because of shady dealings, broken promises and a significant tax debt his world came tumbling down. He lost everything.
In my opinion, he was so focused on image, on success, or at least the appearance of success that he completely forgot about the accurate measure of success.
His focus was on surviving his appearance of being well-off, and unfortunately, he forgot that real success comes in adding value to people’s lives.
When you seek to add value, it helps keep your moral compass pointing in the right direction. The purpose of owning your own business should not only focus on the accumulation of wealth but the creation of value-added products and services that will help make the world a better place for all. Wealth is a result of consistently providing solutions to the problems of humanity.
Before we go any further, let’s define success. Many people have the wrong understanding of it.
For Christians, success can never be measured by money. When people say to me, “That man’s worth ten million dollars,” that tells me he’s wealthy, but it doesn’t prove he’s successful. In some cases, it could mean the opposite. For instance, if Mother Teresa, whom I consider a tremendous success, confessed she was hoarding a million dollars, I’d think she was a hypocrite. The money would prove her a fraud, not a success.
The measurement of success is merely the ratio of talents used to talents received. What you are doing with what you’ve got, plus who you are becoming. Are you a growing, maturing Christian? Whether you work in business, or in Christian work, or as a day laborer, professional, or academic, if you are a maturing Christian, using a large percentage of your talents, you are successful. Be glad.
The person doing the most with what he’s got is indeed successful. Not the one who becomes the richest or most famous, but the one who has the closest ratio of talents received to talents used.
An unsuccessful person, on the other hand, is one who didn’t use the chances he or she had. He could have developed himself, he could have contributed to life, he could have become a mature Christian, but he didn’t.
How about you? Are you actively using the talents, gifts, and resources God has given you to enrich other people’s lives/
List three ways you are using the talents, gifts, and resources that the Lord has provided.
As you review this post, what are one or two areas that need some work. Once you have written these down, use the power of prayer to allow the Lord to help you tap into ways to expand those talents, gifts, and resources.
A bit of ancient wisdom
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not depend on your understanding. Seek his will in all that you do, and he will show you what path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
Unfortunately, the rates of Suicide continue to go up. Equally unfortunate is the Church’s impotent response to this crisis.
Today, September 10, 2019, I discovered that a young pastor, Jarrid Wilson, took his life after a long struggle with depression.
While people around the world are responding to this news with shock and sadness. Many are sending love and prayers to both the family and the impacted churches.
Unfortunately, and this really gets me upset, are the number of people who are suggesting that suicide is a straight ticket to hell. Well, the answer to that is NO! in my opinion.
This article is long, but I want to encourage you to take some time to read and reflect.
God bless Jarrid’s family and church in the days ahead. He is in a state of completed healing today.
According to the National Institue of Health’s 2017 report, Suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S.
Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall, claiming 47,000.
Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among 35-54-year-olds.
There were twice as many suicides (47,173) in the U.S. as there were homicides (19,510) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Leading Cause of Death Report in 2017.
Tim Clinton is the President of the American Association of Christian Counseling, and one of my former professors authored a timely and sensitive article which, in my opinion, addresses suicide from a Christian behavioral perspective with compassion and clarity. This next portion is from an article he published a few years ago.
Some have described suicide as the permanent solution for a temporary problem. From my perspective as a Christian Mental Health Professional, suicide is not permanent and solves absolutely nothing. I believe that one of the unique things about being human is that we are not like other creatures because we are created in God’s image, and therefore, we are immortal beings with responsibility and accountability beyond our existence on this earth.
A Biblical Response to Suicide
A biblical understanding of God and life inspires hope while it diminished despair. Every human being will suffer whether a child of God or not. A believer’s knowledge and love for God gives hope that suffering is never without a purpose. So rather than curse and blame God for the troubles of life, we choose to live by faith in Him.
All too often in the church, believers are unresponsive to their brothers and sisters who struggle in their faith, and sometimes too busy to involve themselves in the lives of their neighbors. It is the responsibility of mature believers to be sensitive to the needs of those around them and to encourage and to support those who are struggling gently. In doing so, they assist others in carrying their burdens (Galatians 6:1-3) and so fulfill the Law of Christ which is to love God and one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). The church can be a safe place where people can talk about their problems, build trust, and learn from each other. Isolation, whether initiated by someone who is struggling or by those too busy too care, only heightens the possibility that thoughts about and attempts at suicide will occur.
When a person is struggling with despair, depression, a break-up, and indeed when someone admits to having thoughts of taking his or her own life, then professional help is needed. It is the responsibility of the caring friend, not to carry the burden alone, but to take action to make sure that the friend gets help quickly. (http://timclinton.com/articles/17/suicide/).
Myths & Misconceptions about Suicide
Myth 1: People who talk about suicide won’t do it.
Fact: Nearly everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide.
Myth 2: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Fact; Most suicidal people are neither psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed, or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
Myth 3: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
Myth 4: People who die by suicide are people who are unwilling to seek help.
Fact: Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months before their deaths.
Myth 5: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You don’t give suicidal morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true-bringing up the subject and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Talking about suicide – Any talk about dying, suicide, or self-harm, such as “I wish I’d never been born,” If I see you again…” and I’d be better off dead.
Seeking out lethal means – Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death – Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (There is no way out of this). The belief that things will never change or get better.
Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, share, guilt, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others – Withdrawing from friends and family. Increased social isolation.
Self-destructive behavior – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
A sudden sense of calm – A sudden send of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has decided to attempt suicide.
Increased drug or alcohol use.
Posting thoughts on death, dying, or suicide on social media.
A notable increase in anxiety and agitation.
An inability to sleep or sleeping all the time.
Notable changes in mood.
Suicide Prevention Tips
Speak up if you are worried. If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you are wrong? What if the individual gets angry? In such situations, it’s completely natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help-the sooner the better.
When talking to a person who is suicidal
Be your self. Let them know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
Be sympathetic,non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts about killing your self?” You are not putting ideas in their head; you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it is okay for them to share their pain with you.
Argue with a person who is suicidal. Avoid saying things like: “you have so much to live for.” “Your suicide will hurt your family” or “Look on the bright side.”
Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, tell them if they suicide they will go to hell, or that suicide is wrong. This is not the place for this type of discussion.
Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy! A life is at stake, and you may need to speak to a medical or mental health professional to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussion secret, you may “Have to break your word.”
Offer ways to fix their problem, or give advice, make them feel like having to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how wrong the question is, but how badly it’s hurting and your friend or loved one.
Blame yourself. You can’t fit someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.
Respond quickly in a crisis. If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide or death, it’s essential to evaluate the immediate danger the person is might be. Those at the highest risk for suicide soon have a specific PLAN, the MEANS, to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.
Suicide Prevention Tips
Speak up if you are worried.
If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you are wrong? What if the individual gets angry? In such situations, it’s completely natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help-the sooner the better.
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide or death, it’s essential to evaluate the immediate danger the person might be in. Those at the highest risk for suicide soon have a Specific Plan, the Means to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and the Intention to do it.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
Do you have what you need to carry out your plan. (pills, gun, etc,)? (MEANS)
Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
Do you intend to take your own life? (INTENTION)
Levels of Suicide Risks
Low – Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won’t attempt suicide.
Moderate – Suicidal thoughts. A vague plan that isn’t very lethal. Says he or she won’t attempt suicide.
High – Suicidal thoughts. A specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won’t attempt suicide.
Severe – Suicidal thoughts. A specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will attempt suicide.
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to the emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potential objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.
Offer help and support.
If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you cannot be responsible for their choices. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.
It takes courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts of ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust – a friend, family member, pastor, or counselor to talk about your feelings and get the support of your own.
To help a suicidal person;
Get professional help. Do everything that you can to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or local Crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the individual to see a mental health professional, their family health care provider, and emergency room, of a local treatment facility.
National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255, or Text 838255
Veterans Crisis Line Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press, or text 838255
Follow – up on treatment. Check-in on your loved one to make sure they are doing what the provider recommended.
Be proactive. People contemplating suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you have to be more active in offering assistance. Saying, “Call me if you need me” is too vague. Don’t wait for them to call you, instead call them, drop by, or take them out for coffee.
Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating, plenty of sleep, getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes a day. Exercise, of any time, releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
Make a safety plan. Help the individual develop a set of steps they can take during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary or a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person’s doctor, therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
Remove potential means for suicide, such as knives, pills, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to use prescription medications, keep them locked away or give them out only as needed.
Continue your support over the long haul. Even after the crisis has passed, remember, your help is vital to ensure that your loved one remains on the recovery track.
For more information check out these links:
My closing thoughts.
The church’s response to suicide has historically inept and at times utterly dismal. In the middle ages, the Church had accepted the doctrine that salvation comes only by good works, and when a person committed suicide, because he/she did not have the time to receive last rights, would be forever tormented in hell. In those days, people who committed suicide were denied church funerals and burials, and their families were banished or this disgrace. The Protestant church after the Reformation did little to correct these errors but instead continues many of the same practices. Thankfully, both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have since amended their doctrine.
Even with all of these changes, many Christians still operate with an ungracious, Middle Age’s mentality. Only a few years ago, when Rick Warren lost his son to suicide, a majority of people displayed grace, mercy, and compassion. A small, and ignorant group of “Christians” were way out of line in their judgment of both Rick and his son who died by suicide.
I believe when a person is in a suicidal mindset, they are literally out of their normal mind, I am not saying they are crazy or insane, but they are in a desperate, hurting place where their thinking is distorted. Even in that state, the grace of God is present.
What are we in the Church to do?
Given the state of our culture, it’s not surprising. People seem more isolated than ever before, despite — or perhaps in part because of — being more virtually connected. Loneliness and depression are epidemic and rising, and the mediating institutions of communities, like families, churches, and civic organizations, are struggling. Social ties are fraying at an astonishing pace. Click on this link to see the CDC’s most recent updates on the alarming rise of suicide in America.
In our society, it’s increasingly difficult for individuals to be spiritual, mentally and emotionally healthy.
And Christians are not immune. I think of Rick and Kay Warren’s son, Matthew. And my friend, Wisconsin Pastor Bill Lenz. Thank God the church is starting to wake up to the problems of suicide and mental illness. But only beginning to wake up.
The time has come, for the church to have a serious conversation about mental illness, about reaching out to those who struggle with mental illness, providing pastoral care and appropriate mental health referrals for them and their families so that they can genuinely feel integrated into the Christian community.
And that integration is essential. When a person who has a firm inner conviction of God’s love for them and his healing mercy and feels supported by the Christian community, that person is going to have a significantly lower risk of suicide, even if they are struggling with a serious [mental] illness.
And then, what can churches do? Be aware, he said. The person next to you in the pew may be struggling. Pastors and church leaders: Pray for your members who are suffering. And vice versa! Open the door to support groups for those who struggle with mental illness or their family members — much like we would for anyone struggling with a physical illness. If leaders lead — even with small steps — the congregation will follow.
I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I am proud to say that several of our churches have very robust recovery, and faith-based psycho-education courses. In my church, Sagebrush Community Church, I occasionally teach short-term classes on Depress as well as Stress and Anxiety. A few years ago, I helped my home church, as well as a couple of other area churches, develop a referral list of both competent Christian Counselors, as well as others who were faith-friendly. The last time I checked, between Sagebrush, New Beginnings Church, and Copper Pointe church, three churches that I have assisted over the years, there are probably between 1000-1500 people getting direct help from outreach ministries of these churches in my city. I know many other churches are doing exceptional work in helping individuals and families who struggle with mental illness, addictions, and recovery. I applaud their efforts and hope and pray that other churches will pick up the banner and spread the word that we are all broken people and that Jesus offers us love, hope, and forgiveness.
Next to Jesus Himself, life is the greatest gift God has given us. And as his children, we have to do all we can to help our brothers and sisters hold on to life — and to Jesus.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 New Living Translation (NLT)
Feel free to comment and even email me your thoughts.
Why is it that some people succeed in starting a new business, ministry opportunity, or creative enterprise and others fail?
If you read or listen to motivational books you learned the importance of knowing you’re why, identifying your passion, developing a business plan, understanding your niche, having goals with measurable outcomes, and having a tribe.
While every one of these is a requirement to pursue your dream there is one vital ingredient missing in the formula. That key component is grit or hardiness.
While anyone can develop hardiness, researchers have identified certain characteristics.
According to the research of psychologist Susan Kobasa, three elements appear to be essential when we look at hardiness or grit to exist: challenge, personal control, and commitment. Kobasa called these the three ‘Cs.’
Commitment. They have s sense of purpose in their life. They are committed to their dream and do the work necessary and tackle challenges head-on. Part of the reason hardy people are able to stay in the game and persist in their coping efforts is that as a group they are committed to an active, engaged stance towards life. They feel that their life has a purpose (whatever shape that may be), and that purpose motivates them to actively attempt to influence their surroundings and to persevere even when their attempts to influence their surroundings don’t appear to be working out. A person who has no purpose in life –no motivation and no commitment –will not be able to lead a resilient life. On the other hand, resilient people find meaning in their activities even when faced with significant adversity precisely because they are committed to finding that meaning; towards taking an active, problem-solving approach to life.
Challenge. Individuals with grit have a sense of purpose in life see problems as challenges and they devote time, effort and energy into solving them
They are connected to their dream, their mission and tackle things head on. People with grit remain involved in an endeavor despite stressful circumstances such as changes in the marketplace, business systems, and the economy. People lacking grit tend to pull back from their dream or opportunity and drift into isolation or alienation. People with grit view stress as a challenge that they can potentially overcome if only they can understand it properly. Their habit of looking at challenges to be overcome motivates them to address the causes of their stress in positive ways.
I remember one of my Battalion Commanders used today. “Men we don’t have problems we have opportunities for growth and excellence.
This active approach to life challenges may be contrasted with the more common approach, where stress and challenges are viewed as an unfortunate, overwhelming or even paralyzing force that overwhelms rather than motivates.
Personal Control. People who are gritty believe they are in charge of and responsible for their lives and that they have the power to change it. If they don’t have the skill set to do something they will go out of their way to get them.
As a group, people with grit people tend to accept challenges and to work to overcome and master them. Even when true mastery of a challenge is not possible (e.g., when a situation is not possible to control), gritty people work to find what possibilities do exist for mastery and pursue them. When faced with the loss of employment, a hardy person would seize upon opportunities for exploring new employment options rather than become depressed and demoralized.
How about you? Do you consider yourself a person with grit, are you someone who exemplifies hardiness? Later this week I will share 8 signs that will reveal that you do have it and on Friday I will give you 8 ways to develop it.
I love what St. Paul said in the New Testament book of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Author’s Note: Due to security concerns, the names and locations in this story have been altered.
In the Summer of 2016, I was on a short-term deployment to the central sub-Sahara as a part of a stress assessment team. During my stay, I made new friend James.
James and I had visited several times during my TDY, and today he was going to take me to a small Lebanese restaurant. I always enjoyed time with a kindred spirit. James is a career diplomat who is filled like an overflowing cup with joy and excitement about life and his various assignments. James saw every job as an opportunity to learn about the people and the local culture.
As we enjoyed our hummus, tahini, tabbouleh, shawarma, cucumbers and yogurt, and pita bread, he began to tell me about his administrator, Nicolette.
As he told the story of her journey, my jaw dropped in both bewilderment and amazement.
The Great African War, began in 1998 and ended with a peace treaty in 2003. Between 1996 and 2006, 5.4 million people had died. In the years since 2006, there had been and continue to be rebel flare-ups in the eastern part of her country.
During these dangerous days, there was indiscriminate killing, destruction, rape, mutilation, and every other type of corrupt behavior people can do to each other. Men and women were hacked to death. Women and girls were raped, beaten, and forced into sexual slavery. Children were kidnapped, and many were trained as soldiers. Sadly, this is still a widespread occurrence in many African countries.
This is the palette for the story Nicolette shared with me that morning.
Around 10:30 there was a muted knock on the heavy armored door of my office what was a converted guard station. As I opened the door, there was Nicholette and a translator. I rapidly exhausted what little French I knew, she and the translator smiled as we sat down and began our session.
She was a humble, gentle woman of faith who was wearing the bright, bold, traditional colors called a pagne. Despite the wars, oppression, corrupt government, and challenging history of this part of the world, these dynamic, colorful designs show the strength, resilience, and optimism of the people of this region. On this day she also wore a matching headscarf. Her outfit helped me see some of the inner strength this woman possessed.
She began to share her incredible journey, with the help of her translator.
Nicolette lived in the southeastern area of her country, and up to this point had managed to survive most of the carnage that was going on around her. That is until her husband was killed. As the violence once again began to flare in her region, Nicolette faced a crucial choice—stay and take her chances and live in fear, or leave and hope for a better, safer place to raise her children and make a life for herself. She had an almost impossible God-sized dream.
After much prayer and planning, and with the encouragement of her church, she made a courageous choice to begin an 800 kilometer (500 miles) trek to freedom and safety.
Nicolette, like so many others in her country, was about to become a refugee. Over the next several months, she and her children began their long walk to safety. Some days they traveled with other refugees. Other times, when they heard that military or rebel patrols were in the area, Nicolette and the children would go into the bush. On some occasions, villagers or relief agencies would provide food; other days she had to count on foraging skills, she learned as a little girl living near the jungle.
As she moved into the portion of her story about coming into a large regional city, she began to tear up and shared how humble and grateful she felt about arriving in this safe town. After walking 800 kilometers, she and the children reconnected with family members who had made room for them and welcomed them with great joy and relief. Her initial dream was accomplished. Like Moses and the children of Israel, she survived her exodus with the combination of hard work, the grace of God, and the kindness of strangers. She and her children finally enjoyed sleeping in real beds, eating regular food, enjoying the company of family and friends.
She felt blessed she had taken the risk, pushed through the fear, and made it.
She soon began looking for work. Within a few days, she interviewed and was hired as a medical assistant in a facility that treated girls and women who’d been raped, mutilated, and disfigured in many cases by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Nicolette was not trained as a medical professional, but the nurses and doctors at the facility noted that she had the gift of mercy and was a great listener and encourager. She told me she had listened to hundreds of hours of stories and had prayed with and encouraged hundreds of girls and women during the time she worked at the facility.
Nicolette shared how vital this part of her life was to her. She believed God had led her and spared her to be able to protect her children and to help others. She found a great sense of completeness while providing much-needed encouragement and support to others in this season of her life.
But there was a cost.
As God led her through the circumstances of her life, she moved to the country’s capital and found stable, well-paying work as a for the U.S. Government
In the past couple of months, more than 200 people had been killed in the eastern part of her country. Also, there was the almost never-ending political pressure that is an everyday adventure in this nation.
As we continued our time together, I felt it was time to ask, “How can I help you today?” She replied, “I have been having great difficulty sleeping and concentrating at work at home.” I absorbed her words, intonation, and nonverbal cues to discern what she was trying to tell me. After a short pause, I asked her to share her story with me. For the next several minutes she brought to light some of the parts of her journey, her work in Goma, how her faith had grown, and how much better her life was today.
Her mood and eyes suddenly became sad and tearful. She began to tell me about the flashbacks and memories she was currently having. She thought she’d put these behind her. As she continued to share her burden, I gently asked a few more questions. She told me that with all of the rising political dissent and the troubles in the eastern part of the country, she was afraid war would break out again.
It was evident she was dealing with some PTSD issues. But with the status of mental health in this part of the world, we needed to look for some practical things she could do until there could be an appropriate referral.
I asked her to tell me more about her faith and how it had helped her. I shared a few things about PTSD and how to manage it. At this point in our conversation, I shared some information on post-traumatic grow and how we have choices in how we deal with trauma. One of the truths I shared was the importance of finding meaning in the traumatic event. I also mentioned a phrase that intrigued her: “Don’t waste the pain.”
As Nicolette opened up, she began to articulate how she believed it was part of God’s plan to take the long walk, to work in the hospital with all of those girls and women, and to hold the job she has today. During the questioning, I hoped she would be able to see how the Lord was leading and guiding her through all the ups and downs she had experienced.
It was an almost miraculous moment when I watched the light bulb turn on. Nicolette sat up straight, with a hope-filled, determined look as a smile slowly revealed itself. She said, “I get it. God was there all along, He is with me now, and will be with me in the future.” She went on to tell me how much better she felt. With that, our session ended. Over the next several days she checked in a couple of times to tell me how much better she was doing.
What motivated her to take the risks that she did for herself and her children? What big dream did she have to help her find the faith, courage, resilience, and grace to make this trip happen?
First, like many ordinary people who accomplish incredible things with their lives, she had the almost impossible dream of relocating her family to a safer place to be a better provider for them.
Second, she developed a plan with options to make it happen. She worked her plan and was prepared for the possible adversity that lay ahead. Looking back, she noted, “I learned many lessons as a child that would teach me how to provide for my family in the darkest of days.”
Third, she trusted God and served others. And while there is some residual pain as a result of this arduous journey, she is a stronger, more faithful servant of God for taking the trip.
She continues to enjoy working with James and the rest of her team. She is also actively involved in her church and ministers to girls and women in her community.
I will never forget the enduring strength of this incredible lady. When I have fears or troubles, I will remember her godly example.
Nicolette’s motivation, her God-sized dream gave her the courage to push through her fear and provided for her family.
As a follow-up, James emailed me several months after I’d returned to the States to tell he how much Nicolette appreciated the time we shared and that she was doing fine.
That same spirit lives in you!
Here are some proven things you can do to make it happen: Know your “why.” Nicolette’s “why” was to give her children a chance to grow up in a safer place to have a better life. Expand your “dream.” Her dream was to get to a safe place. Write it down. Everyone has dreams for their future. It might be to write a book, start a new hobby or venture, or to make some life changes. A great way to bring a more concrete feeling to these dreams is by creating a dream board, also known as a vision board. A dream board (or vision board) is a visual tool that serves as a guide to your goals for the future. It is a visual representation of your dreams and your ideal life. Making your unique dream board can be a chance to explore your own goals and dreams and exercise your creativity.
Share your why and dream with people you trust. The accountability will be an excellent source of help and encouragement. Nicolette did share her plans with a few friends, who agreed to pray with her.
Get a coach, mentor, or accountability partner to help you develop a plan.