Trouble

I have a friend whose grandfather served in WWII. He’s an amazing guy. My friend stayed with my cousins in England during a semester abroad and learned the Air Force base where he was stationed was only a few miles up to road. They took her there and showed her around. During one of their visits to America, I got to have dinner with Grandpa. Listening to him tell his stories I was blown away by this Guy. He was a B-17 pilot shot down on his 24th mission (you might recall the Memphis Belle is famous for being the first to complete 25 missions), when he told his crew to abandon over occupied France.

Me and My Cousin Lee on Boxing Day

I asked him how he was able to make the decision to bail out of a plane with three of four engines working. He was a 22 year old guy at the time charged with the lives of 14 men. “There was no decision to make. I saw other planes go up in flames with less damage than ours. I saw were in trouble and did what we had to do.” As a 22 year old at the time myself, I was astounded.

After he jumped, he landed in occupied France and was picked up by the French resistance. Eventually he was captured by the Germans as POW and placed in Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland) of The Great Escape fame. While he was not a part of the Great Escape, he was there with the guys when it happened. To top it off, when the war ended American tanks rolled into Stalag Luft III to liberate the POWs and who popped out of the top of the tank but General Patton! By the time Grandpa turned 25, he had endured life and death decisions, imprisonment, and the help of some of the most famous people in the War.

I read Psalm 46 this morning where the psalmist declares his gratitude for God’s presence in the midst of trouble, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Ps 46:1-3) For the psalmist, as for Grandpa, the difficulties of life are from outside threats. Drought induced famine threatening his ability to eat. Enemies who want to take over his city and kill him.

B-17 Bomber World War II

I’m tempted when I hear stories like Grandpa’s or read texts like Psalm 46 to think how easy my life is in comparison. In real ways this is true. I am not a soldier in war. My problems with food result from its abundance not its scarcity. No enemy force is plotting how to conquer San Luis Obispo, CA.

Still, I find courage in my life from hearing about Grandpa’s service in the War. I am heartened by knowing God is ever present in times of crisis. External trouble is easy to see. Internal conflict is just as real. I have fought battles and wars against depression and doubt about my worthiness. I have been imprisoned by false stories of shame, inadequacy and rejection. I have endured times in my marriage when Lisa and I both wonder if we can keep going anymore. I have questioned my calling and career path often. I have felt alone.

But I know I am not alone. I know men and women struggle with these same internal struggles everyday. Men, anxious about if they are strong enough, brave enough, successful enough enough to be loved and respected. Women, feeling guilt about whether they are pretty enough, love their kids enough, do enough for those around them. People who feel alone, secretly believing no one feels fear, hurt, and anxiety like they do. Women sometimes share their struggles. Men often believe we have to keep our hurts, fears and anxieties secret for fear we will appear weak.

We live in a world where being human everyday is hard. Many of our lives our are like 22 year old Grandpa–flying in the plane of our lives, one engines out and in trouble. The only option is to see it and take action. The great lie is we are left to face these difficulties alone. We think if anyone knew the truth, we would be attacked, ostracized or ditched.

But we are not alone. We have each other. Shame researcher Brené Brown, in interviewing hundreds of people, has found the most courageous thing we can do is find someone we can trust and be vulnerable with them. Whoever you think has it all together has as much going on in their life as you do in yours. No one needs to share everything with everyone, but we all need a couple confidants with whom we can be terrifyingly honest.

We are not alone. God is present. The psalmist calls him his “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In The Lord of the Rings, the Elf Queen Galadriel gives the little hobbit Frodo a gift in his quest that is too large for him. “And for you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Earendil our most beloved star. May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.” The light of Earendil is imaginary in a story. I have found time and again God’s presence to be a true light when all others go out.

Grandpa survived his plane getting shot down, capture and imprisonment during WWII. At every step he was not alone. He had his crew, a French stranger to guide him, fellow POWs and his God. We are not alone. We have our confidants, temporary guides like coaches and therapists, our fellow travelers in life suffering alongside us and our God.

What challenges are you facing?

I Don’t Know

I would offer these words readily if I returned to the pastorate today. I remember a radio show (kids, that’s what we listened to before podcasts!) when I was in college where people called and asked the host their questions about the Bible, theology, spiritual living, etc. The host then drew on his command of memorized Bible verses, theological training, and spiritual insight to give them the answer they need to their questions. My friends and I came away impressed with how much this guy knew. At the time I thought, “That’s who I want to be. A guy who has all the answers to people’s burning questions. What can be more spiritual than that?”

As a young pastor myself, I often felt the pressure to have the answers. Congregation members come to pastors with spiritual questions relating to the challenges they face in their lives. Sometimes they want to know what the Bible says. Sometimes they want to know what it means. Sometimes they hope it justifies their decisions. Sometimes they want it to condemn the actions of others. And on it goes. One thing you can be sure—there’s always a question behind the question. And I felt compelled to have the answer.

In preaching sermons I always felt I had to answer the questions around difficult passages of the Bible. Truthfully, it’s common to spend hours studying the Bible and to come away with more questions than answers. But when I stood up Sunday morning, I believed I had to present the answers rather than the questions. From time to time, I would hold Q&A sessions with our college group—my own chance to play Bible Answer Man. I saw it as a chance to hear what issues were on people’s minds. And it was a chance to show my theological knowledge and build my credibility.

As a business leader at Lisa Leonard Designs over the last seven years I have had the privilege to travel around the country and around the world. I have talked with many fascinating people from different countries, religions and walks of life. I’ve heard a whole different set of questions than anyone asks in the Church.

I’ve taken an even bigger journey into the inner recesses of my own heart and soul. I see how badly I needed to prove myself as a pastor—to me and to everyone around me. I’ve mined the cavernous voids inside me driving me to possess the answers and solve people’s problems. My insecurities prevented me from the deepest levels of honesty with myself and therefore with others. This limited my ability to show up with others. My need for approval prevented me from uttering the honest truth. Three simple words. I don’t know.

Worst of all, my need to be a Pastor with all the answers prevented me from being a guy with honest questions. In studying the Bible, I was often so concerned to find the answers I rarely took time to understand my own questions. When the Bible doesn’t readily make sense, questions open up possibilities. Answers shut it down and make the text manageable again. In listening to people, I was so focused on coming up with the answers, I didn’t take time to listen to their questions. I missed the chance to ask how they see their own situation. Or to ask what they think they should do. Or to even to challenge them to sit with their own question a while longer. During Q&A, perhaps I should have turned the table and asked the students questions to help us learn from each other.

A mentor tells me in ancient Jewish schools the question at the end of the day differs from our dinner time conversations today. It’s common to ask our children, “What did you learn at school today?” The question around the Jewish table was, “What questions did you ask today?” The idea being, the quality of your learning is based on the quality of your questions. Today I try to live my life and run our business by asking more questions and having fewer answers.

If I were to return to the pastorate, I would ask more questions and offer fewer answers. As a CEO, I strive to ask questions and admit I am not the omni-competent leader. As a dad, raising young men, my favorite conversations begin with Matthias’s questions. Sometime he needs advice, but usually he needs a listening ear and guidance to work out the issue himself. I am trying to ask more questions these days.  Most of all, I hope have gained the humility to simply say, “I don’t know.”

Just Be Yourself

Stephen_David_Leonard

Well, we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out
And show ourselves when everyone has gone
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They’re the faces of a stranger
But we’d love to try them on

                                  – Billy Joel, The Stranger

“Just be yourself.” Common advice offered for interviews, going on a date, and attending a function with new people. It sounds simple enough. After all, what’s more natural than being yourself? Who else would I be?

The animated film Rango explores how hard it can be to “just be yourself.” In the film Rango, a chameleon, accidentally ends up in the town of Dirt, a western outpost facing a water shortage. Rango begins as a household pet (and aspiring actor) accidentally lost to his owner while driving down the highway. Unsure of who he really is, he decides to turn away from conventional wisdom and becomes someone else. He is a chameleon after all. Rango changes his skin from suburbanite house pet to tough, brave, and ready to tumble drifter who defeated a gang of seven brothers with a single bullet. At least that’s the story he tells. Rango’s success in avoiding a shoot-out with Bad Bill and ridding Dirt of the terrifying Hawk by inadvertently pulling down a water tower on the Hawk’s head is part improvisational skill and part accident. But the incidents earn him recognition and he is named the town sheriff by the mayor Tortoise John. The town of Dirt needs a new sheriff–someone to protect the townspeople against thugs like the Gila monster Bad Bill, the town Hawk and Jake the Snake.  Rango takes up the role as the town’s tough sheriff and acts the part.

But Rango illustrates how hard it can be to “just be yourself.” Finding himself thrust into a new environment, he feels the pressure to fit in. He’s lost and does not have a good sense of who he really is. He has the chance to try on a role providing him a place in society, the admiration of people around him and a sense of identity for himself.

I relate to Rango. Many times I’ve found myself in situations where, like Rango, I felt like the outsider and wanted to fit in. I’ve spent a good portion of my life battling the advice to “just be yourself.” In many ways I haven’t known who myself is. In a desire for the approval of others, I often identify what others value and step into roles I think will allow me to fit in.

Stephen_David_Leonard_ Kindergarten_Just_Be_Yourself

As a kindergartner I remember being terrified of recess. The other kids played together, but I didn’t know how be a part of the games. I stood scared by the big tree in the center of the playground, when Jenny rode up on her metal tricycle, looked me in the eye and said, “Fill her up!” Like Tortoise John with Rango, she handed me a role, so I took out the invisible gas hose and started running the station. Before I knew it, every kid in the playground needed gas from my station. Suddenly I ran a gas station for kindergarteners’ tricycles! I had a role and I played it to the hilt.

Stephen_David_Leonard_Pastor_Just_Be_Yourself
Eager to show the depth of my faith after college I attended seminary and became a pastor for ten years. In the church world I was commended many times for my spirituality, Bible knowledge, and devotion to the Lord. I leaned into the role and again found my place on the playground—preaching sermons, counseling and providing organizational leadership.

Stephen_David_Leonard_CEO_Just_Be_YourselfA few years back, as Lisa’s business grew, I stepped into a new role. I became the CEO of a growing internet company. I discovered my abilities to create marketing campaigns, negotiate deals and lead a company to consistent growth over time.

In these roles and more I have enjoyed certain success. Like Rango, my success came in part from my knowledge and skills and in part by accident. Like Rango, I’ve spent a great deal of energy trying not to be found out, hoping no one would realize how hard I find it to be myself because I lost a clear sense of myself back on the playground in kindergarten.

Over the past couple years I’ve been getting acquainted with the real me again. I’ve worked hard to take off the role of the gas station owner with adoring tricycle riders gathered around. I work to lay aside my pastoral persona. I am learning being a CEO and entrepreneur does not define who I am.

Eventually Rango is found out. He is no sheriff. He hasn’t lived the stories he’s told. He isn’t brave. He’s a mere household pet, lost by his owner and unsure who he is.

While wandering around lost and confused, Rango meets the Man with No Name who tells him, “No man can walk out on his own story.” Rango then discovers Dirt’s mayor is the real villain, purposefully withholding water from the town. Knowing he has the truth about the water crisis, Rango returns to Dirt to confront Tortoise John and his henchman Jake the Snake to rescue the town. He arrives this time, not in the role of a brave sheriff, but as a scared chameleon in his own skin who has to be himself. In discovering himself, Rango finds real courage, genuine friendship and the life he’s always longed to have.

No one can walk out on their own story. I have tried to shrink way from who I really am to be the person I think people want me to be. I have tried to act the part of others’ stories. But I am learning to show up, not in a role, not donning the mask of a persona, but as a scared chameleon in my own skin. My goal today is to do the hardest thing I can–just be myself.

 

Grateful

Stephen_David_Leonard_Lisa_Leonard

Today I’m grateful for my wife Lisa and our marriage. I have not always been. I have always loved Lisa. We’ve talked many times about how we think we have a good marriage. Still, I am not generally a very grateful person. I take a lot for granted in my life. The closer and more dear something or someone is to me, the more I tend to assume them.

Many times I’ve met with coaches, advisors, friends to whom I complain about the lacks I feel in my life. I haven’t accomplished the professional position I hoped for. I am not on the career track I want. I haven’t attained to the financial status I desire. I haven’t made a big enough contribution to the world. And on my list goes. The reverberating theme: I haven’t done anything worthwhile with my life. My life doesn’t count for much. I don’t count for much. Many times my counselors have told me how I have much to be proud of and grateful for. A beautiful and amazing wife. I’m raising two incredible boys. I’ve grown our business. And more.

No matter how many times they tell me, I haven’t heard them. I discount every treasure, every accomplishment and every person I value.

This past year has been a year of intense lows and highs. Lisa and I struggled in our marriage as never before. We each struggled personally as never before. Our business went through intense challenges and challenging successes. Our boys hit junior high school and the early teen years (if you’ve experienced this unique stage of parenting, you know what I’m talking about!). 2016 was a hurricane.

As 2017 opens, I find myself at peace. Grateful. For the first time, I see the true treasures I have in Lisa and our boys, David and Matthias. The relationships I assume the most—those are, in fact, the most valuable.

I am thankful for Lisa and who she is. I see her more clearly than I ever have. She is thoughtful, caring, and works hard for our family and our company. She is a savvy, practical person in business and life. Her creativity inspires me and blesses many. She’s grounded. She loves me. I could have lost all of that. I am grateful for her. To have partner in business and life.

Lisa and I accomplished great things in 2016. We hit goals with the business about which we’ve dreamed for a long time. We finally got the kitchen remodeled after 6 years of talking about it. We went places and saw things we never dreamed of seeing. But for all that, our marriage is our number one accomplishment of the year. We helped each another gain ourselves. We gained a better family for David and Matthias. We gained one another.

Today, I am grateful.

Wiping Tears Away

David_On_StairsOver Christmas David sprained his foot. He was crying and it took us a few minutes to figure oru the real problem. Just that night he had been climbing the stairs at his grandparent’s house during a family gathering. When your child has special needs (David has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome), you notice when they suddenly ascend the stairs. On their own. Five times.

We celebrated of course. Then, one barely noticeable slip on the last step, while holding his auntie’s hand and he was in tears.

We know David’s cry for pain pretty well. One of my nightly dad-rituals is to put the boys to bed. I enjoy spending the last few minutes of the day with the kids—reading, talking with Matthias about life, a moment to tell them I love them and am proud of them (something I think dads should tell their kids regularly and often). After I put the boys to bed, I often sit with David, patting his tummy when he has major reflux and gas pain. He has a distinct “My tummy hurts and I don’t know what to do” cry. I know his cry that comes from pain.

David_ER

David in the ER

Once we saw swelling on his foot, we took him to the ER just to be on the safe side. David can’t talk, so knowing what he’s feeling can be a challenge at times. We weren’t sure whether it was a sprain or a break, so off we went, middle of the night, for X-rays.

David_Foot

David’s Foot X-Ray

 

That was the night I learned about the FLACC Pain Scale.  Here’s the official explanation:

The Face, Legs, Activity, Cry, Consolability scale or FLACC scale is a measurement used to assess pain for children between the ages of 2 months and 7 years or individuals that are unable to communicate their pain. The scale is scored in a range of 0–10 with 0 representing no pain. The scale has five criteria, which are each assigned a score of 0, 1 or 2.

I don’t know why we hadn’t heard of this in 11 years of caring for David, but there is was on the wall of David’s room in the ER. Being bored, I read. I took in what it said.

“Lisa, check this out. I just read this pain scale for kids who can’t talk. Listen to this and see if it

sounds like David when his tummy hurts sometimes,” I said. “‘Face, Frequent to constant quivering chin, clenched jaw.’”

“Yea, David clenches up his face like that a lot.” Lisa said.

“‘Legs—Kicking,’” or listen to this, “‘legs drawn up.’ Doesn’t that sound like David?” I asked.

“It does.” Lisa answered.

“OK, check this out, ‘Activity—Arched, rigid or jerking.” I read.

“Whoa. They have arching on there?” Lisa said.

“I know. And listen to this. Cry, Crying steadily, screams or sobs.’ And ‘Consolability—Difficult to console or comfort.’ That’s totally David.” I said.

“That’s totally David,” Lisa agreed.

“That’s ten out of ten on this scale.” I told her.

It’s one thing to experience your child’s pain. It’s another to read an objective scale that uses the same words you’ve used a thousand times to describe your child’s pain. Drawing up his legs, arched and rigid, screaming and sobbing. These are our words, spoken inside our home. There they were on the chart.

But you also have to understand. This is just the way it is for us. We don’t think about it. Honestly there’s times we feel annoyed instead of compassionate. I’m not trying to sound like a monster, I just want to be clear that we’re not saints either. It’s real life.

Hugging_David

What I do think about when David is sobbing in my arms during our post-put-the-kids-in-bed ritual is our relationship as father and son. I hold him tight (he’s STRONG for being so little!) to help him regain control of himself and I pat his tummy. Sometimes, he’ll grab my hand and motion for me to do it. After medication, time, and pats, he calms down again.

The last thing I do is wipe the tears from his eyes.

One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible points the kind of Father God is. Becoming a dad and understanding David’s pain has put the verse into living color for me. The Bible says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

This is the world we live in. Today there is pain. Not just for David, but for me and for you, those we love, and those we don’t even know. I don’t always understand the pain. Sometimes it seems like God doesn’t notice and isn’t doing anything about it. Then we read that God’s story—and thus the story of the world—will include a day where there’s no “mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And God wipes the tears from our eyes.  That’s what God is doing. That’s the true story of the world. That’s who God is.

The last thing He will do is wipe the tears from our eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Not Alone

You_Are_Not_AloneTalking with people recently I’ve heard a theme. It keeps popping up. I heard it in the call with my friend about his marriage. I’ve seen it on Facebook. It came out in a friend’s email about making scarey changes in her life this year. We’re all struggling. We’re tempted to feel alone.

I feel it at times. Making resolutions, pursuing dreams, investing in others–these things are risky and vulnerable. It’s easy to think people won’t understand. It’s tempting to dismiss our loved ones by putting words in their mouths without ever talking. It’s simpler to keep to myself than to let you in.

I have voices that tell me I can’t do it. I have voices that tease me. I have voices that tell me no one cares. I bet you do too. It’s opposition. It’s fear. It’s sin and the devil. It’s resistance. It’s a pack of lies. The lies may be your own that you tell yourself so you can avoid success. The lies might be from someone else to “protect you from failure.” But they’re lies.

Whether you are struggling in your career, in your marriage, with your finances, your health, your relationships, or any other area, you are not alone. Others share your struggle and others will root for you. Let them. And lean into the struggle.

Waiting

Matthias_10YearsWhat do you do when you have to wait? Our son Matthias has grown up waiting. When your brother has special needs, it’s part of the package.
Matthias_David_Babies
Matthias has grown up in a story that is inextricably linked to his brother. He has spend too many hours in doctor’s offices waiting for David’s appointments. Waiting with us for results. Waiting to proceed to the next waiting room. He’s listened patiently to the story of David’s birth and the way that has shaped Lisa and I over and over again.
Matthias_Riding_Daddys_Shoulders
In spite of the waiting—maybe because of it—Matthias lives a life that redeems time.
Matthias_Dress_Up_Restaurant
He is an artist. He’s drawn for as long as I can remember. He spends so many of the hours waiting coming up with ideas and drawing. He’s the first in our family to publish a book. OK, it was self-published, but still!

A couple years ago he decided to make a book for Lisa for Mother’s Day. He created a Superhero A-Z book. For each letter of the alphabet, there are three superheroes. Drawn. Colored. Named. Original superheroes. Each has their own backstory. I remember him working on it in waiting rooms and hospital cafeterias. He had nights sitting awake in bed working to meet his deadline.
Matthias_Drawing_at_Pub
“Dad, I’m really worried that I won’t finish in time. I have so much work to do to finish for mom.” He told me night after night as I put him to bed.

“It’s OK kiddo. just keep working on it a little at a time. I think mom will understand if you don’t quite make it.” I said. (His first big project and I was already teaching him to blow off deadlines! What a terrible father!)
Matthias_At_Home
Matthias turns 10 today. He is creative. He is imaginative.  He is dedicated to his art. He thinks, he draws, he writes. Every day. Everywhere we go, he’s got his bag with paper, pencils and pens at the ready just in case he has to wait—he’s ready. He is  loving. His book for Lisa was a work of love. He loves his brother—even looking for him at school (they inhabit afferent parts of campus), and being protective of him with other kids. He is sensitive. He cares about the people in his life. He is kind and respectful and knows how to talk with adults.
Matthias_Photo_Bomb
I am proud that Matthias is my son. I celebrate his step into double digits toward the pre-teen years even as I grieve the loss of our little boy. I can’t wait to see the man he will become. Happy birthday Matthias.

Do You Struggle to Pray?

Do You Struggle to PrayI struggle to pray. Even when I do pray, I often find myself easily distracted and struggling to believe God really hears me. Feeling anxious at work, I pray and it comes out something like, “God…ugh…you know the situation…help.” Seeking the Lord’s direction for my life sometimes amounts to, “I don’t even know where to start Lord…please lead me.” Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t every prayer, but the more anxious, tired, or overwhelmed I am, the harder prayer becomes.

Because of this, the conclusion of the letter 1 John recently grabbed my attention afresh. Here the apostle recites his purpose in writing—that those who believe will know they have eternal life. The result? That we’ll know the Lord hears us when we pray, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) Confidence. That the Lord hears. We have our requests. So, what does it look like to live and pray like this is true?

Interestingly, Jesus utters these same words in prayer in John 11. The setting? His friend Lazarus has died and Jesus thanks the Father that He always hears him, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me…” (John 11:41-42). Then Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the grave—resurrection from death to life. Confidence. That the Lord hears. Jesus has his request.

Jesus was confident his Father was listening and would hear him. Jesus knew he had his request—Lazarus resurrected to life. Jesus knew he could depend on the Father to empower him in carrying out his calling. It meant he could be bold and demonstrate his trust in God without fear. It’s too easy to look at Jesus and the way he lived his life and dismiss what he did because he’s God. But consider this: Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus from the dead. God the Father did. Jesus prayed. In confident dependence, Jesus asked for God to raise Lazarus. Because God hears Jesus, He did it.

Doesn’t this beg the question, what would our prayers be like if we truly believed that God the Father heard us? What if we took God at His Word in 1 John 5:14-15.

What would be different about my praying if I had Jesus’ confidence that the Father hears me?

The content of my prayers would likely change. Jesus’ prayer for Lazarus’ resurrection was to reveal the presence of the Kingdom of God in Jesus as the source of true life.

The motive of my prayers would also change. Jesus’ prayer was to glorify God by showing the Father sent him, not to show off his power to raise people from the dead.

Indeed, the shape of my life would change. Jesus prayed this way because he knew the Father always heard him. This is simply one example of the depth of Jesus’ relationship with the Father.

Confidence. That the Lord hears. We have our requests. That, John tells us, is a result of knowing we have eternal life in Him. This year, I want to live into that truth.

Question: What do you find challenging about prayer?

What’s Your Mindset?

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Can you change your abilities? Consider these questions:

  • Can you change your intelligence?
  • Can you change the kind of person you are (personality)?
  • Can you change your talents?

 Most of us have been taught to believe we cannot change our Intelligence, personality, or talents. As a result, we either:

  • Live under the burden of proving our abilities. OR
  • Give up before we ever try.

 The book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D Professor of Psychology at Stanford University (formerly Colombia and Harvard—in other words, she knows her stuff!) challenges us to reconsider.  Dweck’s research shows that our intelligence, personality, talents are not fixed; rather, we can grow our abilities. The issue is not ABILITY, but MINDSET. A friend of mine recommended this book to me this past year. As one of the most helpful books I’ve read this year, I wanted share it with you.

Mindset is our beliefs about our abilities. Dweck identifies two mindsets that we adopt.

People with a fixed mindset believe their basic qualities— intelligence, personality, talents —are fixed traits. They document their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They believe that talent alone creates success. They’re wrong.

People with a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

The issue is the story we tell ourselves. The fixed mindset story focuses on judging. When faced with challenges and obstacles, the fixed mindset says, “This means I’m a loser,” or “This means I’m a bad husband.” or in the face of success it says, “This means I’m a better person than they are.” “This means my partner is selfish.” The result is either not to try at all (Don’t do it. Don’t take a risk), or only to try when you know you’ll win (You have to win. Prove yourself. Everything depends on it.).

The growth mindset story focuses on learning and constructive action. When faced with challenges and obstacles, or even successes, the growth mindset says,  “What can I learn from this?” “How can I improve?” “How can I help my partner do this better?” (Go for it. Learn. Improve. Pursue your dream.)

For many of us, this is the time of year when we start thinking about next year and our hopes and dreams and goals. Your mindset will play a major role in the way you envision and plan for the year ahead.

After reading Mindset this year, I have decided to risk and grow in a few specific areas.

  1. I started a blog
  2. I have sought coaching in my leadership and life
  3. I am trying to grow as a write and speaker

I have decided to grow. I invite you to join me. Buy Mindset and read it this year. Then identify some areas of growth and risk for you!

What opportunities do you have for learning and growth this year? Share your thoughts and lets inspire one another!  

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Today I Write

Today-I-WriteToday I’m writing because I committed to writing. Today I’m writing because I want to do this for real. Today I’m writing because I can’t let a day like to day go by without putting words on a page. I’ve read too many things lately about fear, resistance and the willingness NOT to write.

I’m tired of avoiding what I really want to do. I’m tired of being a victim of my willing lack of effort. I’m tired of giving in and giving up.

Today, I’m at my computer putting words down on the page so that It (fear, resistance, victimhood) don’t get me. Maybe it will inspire you to do the thing you’re avoiding. Maybe not.

Either way, today, I write, because I committed to writing.