Fail in Order to Succeed

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Success often arises out of the ashes of failure! We avoid failure like the plague. It seems like a good idea. Yet, the avoidance of failure may keep us from taking risks. Risk taking is the fertile ground out of which success grows.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

In 1984, I boldly launched out into ministry. I moved to Miami from Indianapolis – a distance of 1,250 miles. From there I planned to do mission work in foreign nations. My greatest strengths in God were my faith, bible knowledge and prayer life. I had read of the great men and women of faith who had likewise left all behind to be missionaries in foreign lands.

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The Lost Diamond & Regret

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Nearly a decade ago, I dreamed that I stood on top of a hill holding three diamonds in my hand. A sidewalk went down from the hill with many steps. Suddenly, one of the diamonds fell from my hand. As though in slow motion, I watched it bounce down this sidewalk to the bottom and into the grass.

I fixed my gaze upon this diamond, hoping to recover it. I thought that if I focused my eyes upon it and the final resting place that I could easily recover it. Rapidly, I descended the same steps. I kept my eyes upon the exact spot, confident I would find it.

Upon arrival, I knelt and meticulously searched for the diamond in the grass. Much to my surprise, I could not find it. I did, however, find a few dollars which I picked up. After a long time, I gave up. Disappointment filled my heart and then the dream ended.

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Comparison and Competition: Enemies of Leadership

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“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

We all do it. We compare ourselves with others. Some of us are more skillful at hiding our attempts. Sometimes we  seem to grow out of it a little bit as we go through life, but often it lurks just below the surface. Given the right circumstances, it reappears with lightning speed. It never really diminished. It merely hid for a season.

Comparison appears early in life. One of the first things a parent tells of their newborn is their weight and length. It builds from there. School and sports arrive quickly along with the accompanying comparisons. We are indoctrinated. It is ingrained. Who can possibly escape this vortex or the gravitational pull of the incessant questioning of: Who is better? Who is bigger? Who more beautiful?

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Financial Death by a Thousand Cuts

Only the Foundation
of My Aunt’s House Survived the Tornado (1974)

The first time I heard the phrase “Death by a Thousand Cuts” my imagination ran off with a graphic image of someone literally bleeding to death drop by drop. I had a great aunt who almost died from such a fate.

In April 1974, a tornado hit her house in Indiana. She lived in a two story farm house about 30 miles east of Indianapolis. The tornado made a direct hit and her house vanished. Only the foundation remained. Moments after the tornado passed, a neighbor drove down the road and wondered aloud, “Where is Mary Hawkins’ house?”

He parked his truck and surveyed the damage. Across the road from the former house, he heard groans and found her in a barren cornfield. The tornado had thrown her about 200 yards away. Someone found her bathtub a mile away. My brother found a letter bearing her name and address 15 miles away while hunting for mushrooms a few weeks later.

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Traveling the Risk Road

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“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood … and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” These famous lines from the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken describe our lives on a regular basis. Daily and weekly we face choices. Often these paths seem little different, yet upon examination one is shown to be traveled less than the other.

In leadership, it is good to take the road that others avoid. Leadership is a trait that is developed. There are a few who are “born leaders,” but even these must develop their character or in the end it will go to waste as they will eventually fail and fall. About 95% of all leaders were developed by being mentored by another or by being thrown into a crisis situation. Many of these did not show potential early in life, yet they developed into remarkable leaders.

As I develop leaders, the mantra which has emerged is “get them in over their head.” The concept is that if things are too comfortable, a person will not develop. Getting them into situations where they are forced to step up or to face their own deficiencies is a good thing even if they fail! Continue reading

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Wisdom’s Tuition

dumbass no more

For years, as I have mentored young men, I have joked about a book that I’d like to write entitled Dumbxxx No More: 501 Stories from My Life for You to Not Repeat. The book has yet to be written but the response is 99% positive. The only negative one came from a pastor who feared laughing at the word “dumbxxx.” He just did not know what to do in the moment.

“Knowledge is Power” goes the saying. While this is true, my observations of 4 decades as an adult is that there are a lot of  stupid knowledgeable people traversing our planet. Let me explain.

There is a powerful “commodity” that you can add to knowledge that amplifies it ten-fold. It is Wisdom! There are a lot of people who have great knowledge but demonstrate significant deficiencies in the realm of wisdom. Continue reading

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Stepping Out & Taking the Plunge

Zdub rock jumping

I stumbled upon a marvelous leadership principle by accident some 10+ years ago.  I was reading The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. He stated the the single most important thing that we can do to develop leaders is to get them in over their heads. At first, I was surprised. I took a few minutes to ponder this unexpected thought. It challenged my thinking and my style.

Up until that moment, I had focused on protecting those I led. In short, I was a helicopter leader, which meant that those I led were stunted by my myopic style. Suddenly, a different seed had been planted in my mind. It germinated and grew to a thought that attracted me. Had I really, unintentionally, kept young men from developing? Yes, I had! Continue reading

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