Regretting that you didn’t start earlier is a great distraction from moving on your dream today, and the reality is that today is earlier than tomorrow.
Do you suffer from the paralysis of analysis? Are fear and lack of focus and holding you back? Here is a path you can take to get moving again.
You are going to Get Your Stuff Together startin now!
Step # 1 – Get off your duff, quit making excuses and be brutally and totally honest about what you want. And aim lower! Get your stuff together! You see you will never write the perfect book. There will never be a perfect race. There will never be a perfect idea. There will never be a perfect relationship. And you will never be a “perfect Christian,” apart from the finished work that Jesus did for you on the Cross. There will never be a perfect meal, dessert or car. There will never be an ideal solution. Why? Perfection does not exist on this side of heaven. So, what are you and I supposed to do? Aim lower, destroy perfection and get something done. (Jon Acuff; Finish) If you and I tend to set the bar too high, we will do a complete faceplate every time! We will haul off and do nothing and then either blame the world, our parents our ourselves, make excuses and limp off into the sunset. There is no way we can win squat if we hold ourselves to entirely unrealistic expectations. So, lower the bar. If you are a nonfiction author like myself the odds of you becoming a Delia Owens, James Madison, Rachel Hollis, or Dr. Gary Chapman are pretty slim. So, aim lower! Here is a hint that helped me last year when I launched my latest book, The No Fear Entrepreneur, I found a smaller niche. And what happened, on launch day it was the #1 Best Selling Kindle, Paid, Christian Books-Christian Living-Professional Growth. I had to get myself in a category where I could excel. Congrats! You survived the first point, I think the most challenging thing to do is to start!
Other things to help Get Your Stuff Together to Move Forward?
Step # 2Simplify Your Tasks. The quickest way to do this is by getting more reality-based about how you invest your time. How about this, rather than spending time on the latest time-saving app, get a small notebook, and jot down how you spend your day. Work on tracking your time use for about a week, and you will begin to get a clearer idea of how you spend your time. As you keep this simple record, you will begin to discern the ebbs and flows of your days. By the end of the week you should be able to have a more unobstructed view of how you use your time then you can begin to make some gentle, user-friendly adjustments that will give you more time to do the things you need to do in the nooks and crannies.
Step # 3 Get Your Mental Health Stuff Together. Did you know that by doing just a little bit of self-care and self-management you can significantly enhance your mental health at absolutely no cost to you? As a professional counselor for over 35 years, I have a couple of gems for you. Often one of the best ways of dealing with anxiety-producing situations is to stare them in the face and rip their mask off and see them for what they are. If you fail to do this, you might work yourself into a hissy fit and tie yourself into a useless pile to twisted knots. This is the type of approach to use when there is some type of kinetic response is required. This type of anxiety means that you either have to stop doing something or start doing something. Another strategy, which may not feel very intuitive, maybe to hit the pause button and do nothing. I use this illustration when I am teaching people how to manage their thought life. Let’s say it is 3 minutes until quitting time and you receive a short email from your boss, it is somewhat ambiguous, short, and he/she wants to see you first thing in the morning. Now you could get pretty worked up over something like this and even to the point of losing your appetite and missing sleep. DON’T The other option – you could sleep on it, pray and meditate on it and see what happens. There is a high probability that it is harmless.
Here is a little story from an obscure Old Testament Passage. 31 After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath rescued Israel. He once killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad. Judges 2:31 NLT What is the lesson here? Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Trust God.
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?
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
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.
In my previous article, I asked a question about your definition of success.
In this article, I want to share some thoughts about success from a biblical perspective.
A key part of God’s design is to create and bring an increase. These are vital factors to understand as you build your business/ministry.
From a faith perspective, success is not measured in fame, money, prestige, or how many toys you have. It is measured by how many lives you touch.
These can be lives you touched personally, through the profits of your business, the developing of your gifts, talents, and temperament.
It is rooted in the art and hard work of diligence.
Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave. Proverbs 12:24 (NLT)
Become a person of excellence.
Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people. Proverbs 22:29 (NLT)
Assume responsibility and manage details.
Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds. Proverbs 27:23 (NLT)
Strive for trustworthiness and dependability.
Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter the presence of your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Psalms 15:1-4 (NLT)
Treat your customers, associates, and coworkers like family.
Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold. True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life. Proverbs 22: 1&4 (NLT)
Develop a long-term perspective.
Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. Proverbs 24:27 (NLT)
Be alert for opportunities to expand your business/ministry
She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings, she plants a vineyard. Proverbs 31:16 (NLT)
Manage risk well.
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have! Romans 4:18(NLT)
Make your assets work for you.
Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! Matthew 25:21 (NLT)
Surround yourself with wise counselors.
Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers. Proverbs 11:14 (NLT)
Make decisions based on biblical principles.
O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT)
Ask the Lord Jesus to be your CEO.
Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
No matter what type of fear you may be facing, no matter what type of decisions you need to make, one of the most important things you can do is realize that the Lord wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to be involved in your life, your relationships and your business.
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 3:5-6 (NLT)
Consider buying my new book, The No Fear Entrepreneur
Is it ok to be successful? Now and then I love to ask people this question. As a person of faith, I am always amazed how many Christians have a tough time answering that question without qualifying their answer. Many of my more secularly minded friends were less likely to try and qualify their answers. I will talk about that in another article.
Second question; How do you define success?
One of the leading fears I discovered while working on The No Fear Entrepreneur, was the fear of success. I had heard about this, and have had my challenges with this fear.
The Difference Between Fruitful and Unfruitful People
One of the significant differences between people who are fruitful and those who are unfruitful toward a goal. Any little win or small victory seems to fire them up and push them toward their goals and dreams.
People who fear success focus on their lack of success. Any slip-up or misstep seems to fuel their fear of success. They read the blackmail of fear which says something like, “You will never measure up.” This leads them to think, “See, I cannot do this, I am hopeless, I will never amount to anything.” As a result, they lay their life, hope, and dreams on the altar of fear.
While this may seem odd to many, it is a form of self-sabotage that can make things fearful. From getting hired, messing up a relationship, or missing opportunities that come your way, we can sabotage our plans.
Key Thought: Kill Fear
To kill fear, you must identify it, call it by its name, and cut off its fuel source. Rather than passively feeding the fear, you need to get crystal clear about the dream God has given you and make sure you are adding fuel to the fire of your dream!
The fear of success is very much like the fear of failure. Both prevent the individual from achieving their dreams and goals. Many people get so accustomed to this mindset that they convince themselves it is okay to never think about getting ahead in life.
Here are a few of the behaviors of Success-Fearing People:
You do not complete your projects at home or work.
You talk about what you’re going to do more than what you do.
You work as a chicken with its head cut off on several projects at once, not focusing intensely on any of them.
Your vision board has the same things on it that it did three years ago.
The one consistent thing you do is second-guess yourself. Distraction is your middle name.
You don’t think your work is ever quite good enough.
And the BIG giveaway –you are on the verge of “success,” and things start going wrong.
If this sounds like you, I bet you are asking, “What can I do about the fear of success?”
The above list represents the classic symptoms of someone who struggles with the fear of success. It’s not that you don’t want to be successful, because you have probably been working your tail off and spent many a night thinking, dreaming, and strategizing. The truth is, if success doesn’t come quickly to you, on an individual level you might not want to succeed or feel you deserve to. These thoughts hide in your subconscious mind and, over time, may have been put there through a variety of life experiences. The good news is, you don’t have to stay in this life-sucking, dream-stealing state. You can change.
To help alter our perspective the Scriptures offer plenty of warning about trusting in riches and the dangers of success. It speaks as often about the positive side of success and the importance of using our gifts, resources, and mind constructively for God’s glory. Psalms 1:3 (NLT) says, “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
Did you get that last part? The Lord has ordained each of our lives for specific accomplishments. The fear of success can and will hold us back.
Be ready for my next two posts, one on Wednesday and one of Friday