Life

RLL 54: How Gratitude Changes Our Hearts

RLL 54: How Gratitude Changes Our Hearts

My best friend, David, and me—just doing what we do at his wedding rehearsal dinner back in October.

My best friend, David, and me—just doing what we do at his wedding rehearsal dinner back in October.

I’ll get this out right up front: I am a short, short human being. I am 5’3” inches tall (that’s 160.02 cm for my metric-minded friends, according to Google), roughly the same height as Napoleon Bonaparte (at least according to British propaganda from the era) and much shorter than many notable celebrities that are considered ‘short.’ Also according to Google, the average American male is 5’9” tall…which puts the average American man as a full 6 inches taller than I am. Half a foot. Shorter than average.

I get hobbit jokes all the time from my students, elf jokes every Christmas season from the whole world, and short jokes from my best friend (who is 6’4”) and his family pretty much always.

As a result of my short stature, I’ve always felt frustrated at many aspects of life that average height men take for granted: getting things off of high shelves, washing my hands in public restrooms (which for me results in getting water from the counter top on my shirt right at belly-button level), etc. But here’s the thing: it could be worse.

When my daughters put heels on, they really are almost my height!

When my daughters put heels on, they really are almost my height!

Over the past year, though, I’ve realized just how much I have to be thankful for, despite the fact that I’m roughly the size of a middle school student. And the more I focused on reasons to be thankful, the more thankful I’ve become. C.S. Lewis talks about a similar phenomenon in ‘Mere Christianity’ regarding how we treat others, and I believe the principle holds true for how we think of ourselves. Here’s what he wrote:

“When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less…[W]henever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.”

I believe this same idea also applies to how we think about our situations in life: if we constantly focus on the negative, then the negatives only seem to grow. If, however, we choose to focus on the positives, then the negatives seem to fade into the background.

They don’t go away entirely (after all, I still need help getting things off of high shelves), but they’re not as big of a deal as they used to be. And they can even turn into moments of light-heartedness and fun, such as when my children get to laugh as I jump up to knock something off of a store shelf and then catch it before it hits the tiled floor.

I’m thankful that I’m short, because it means I get more opportunities to jump than most adults get on a regular day.

When my wife and I visited Cameron Indoor Stadium this summer, It was fun to see just how much smaller our feet are than those of former Duke basketball players.

When my wife and I visited Cameron Indoor Stadium this summer, It was fun to see just how much smaller our feet are than those of former Duke basketball players.

I’m thankful that I’m short because not once in my life have I hit my head on a pull-up bar, a ceiling fan blade, or the top of a door frame (all of which my best friend has done).

I’m thankful that I’m short because the old “Jump, knock it off a shelf then catch it” trick made for a lot of laughs (and extra tips) when I was a bartender in college.

I’m thankful I’m short because when I played soccer in high school and college, I almost never got called for fouls because referees thought, “Surely that little guy didn’t actually knock that big dude over. He must have been diving.”

I’m thankful I’m short because it’s obviously how God intended me to be.

Action Step: This Thanksgiving week, in addition to just listing things we’re thankful for, I would challenge you to ask yourself how you might reframe your situation mentally (to learn more about ‘reframing,’ check out podcasts from both Bob Burg and Jordan Harbinger). In other words, think of something that normally bothers you or drags you down; then, examine how can you think differently about it so that it becomes an opportunity for gratitude.

(Bonus: For more info on how to do this, also go check out my friend Dr. William Findley over at BeliefHacker.com to learn how to #thinkbetter and #livebetter)

Beginnings and Endings

RLL 45: Beginnings and Endings

Happy Sunday, everyone, and I hope you’ve had an amazing week! Mine was quite busy (as usual), and I’m excited to share with you some of the experiences I had and also some of the lessons I learned.

My younger daughter and I, back when she was still too young to play in our local league.

My younger daughter and I, back when she was still too young to play in our local league.

Each fall for most of the last decade, one or both of my daughters has played soccer in our local church’s youth league, and I have been their coach. Yesterday, my older daughter got her first experience as a referee in the same league, and my younger daughter is now in her last season of eligibility before she ages out of the program. This is a time transition for them and for me, as they continue to get older.

Thankfully, yesterday I had an opportunity to be reminded of why I have spent so much time coaching youth soccer (and especially my daughters’ teams). Each season I tell the parents that I have three goals for our team, and none of them involve winning soccer games. You may ask why we play, if not to win; well, please don’t misunderstand me: I LOVE to win. At anything and everything. But when it comes to youth sports, winning is not the main thing. For me, youth sports involve the three goals I referenced above: 1) I want the kids to HAVE FUN, because if they do, they’ll continue playing and they’ll enjoy themselves at each practice and game; 2) I want the kids to LEARN something about the game, because then I know I’ve done my job at each practice and game; and 3) I want the kids to WORK hard, because then their parents are happy!

None of those three goals involves winning a soccer game, but if we do those things each and every time we play, then our season will be a success. These kids are 9-11 years old, so no one is winning scholarships or awards or anything like that; so winning games shouldn’t be our main focus. What we are there to do is to teach character through competition. We still keep score, and there is a tournament at the end of the season whose winner gets a trophy. So the competition is very real; but it’s also a great reminder that winning is not the ultimate end.

My younger daughter and I yesterday, on her last “First Day” of the season. Time flies!

My younger daughter and I yesterday, on her last “First Day” of the season. Time flies!

For anyone who is competitive, though, the temptation to “win at all costs” is always there: in youth soccer, in life, in business, and everywhere else. What I’ve found is that coaching youth soccer is as much about character development for myself (and the other coaches and parents) as it is for the children. How often have we witnessed parents yelling horrible things at each other or at officials, over a game being played by kids in elementary school? I know myself well enough to know that I have the potential to be that parent, if my emotions aren’t kept in check. That’s not fun to admit, but I do know it’s true. So for me, coaching the kids is about helping them, and it’s about helping myself grow.

What’s the point? Just this: we all need to continue to foster growth in ourselves, and one of the best ways to do that is to help others grow. It’s hard to expect children to do well if we are setting a poor example. And when we do mess up, it’s important that we set a good example in how to apologize, ask forgiveness, and try to make things right (and I had an opportunity to do those things yesterday, too; not something I’m proud of).

This week, ask yourself two questions: 1) how am I continuing to develop my own character? and 2) how can I help others grow as well?

As always, I’d love to know what you come up with! Also as always, please feel free to share this with anyone you think needs it! Come by the website and sign up to receive your free copy of my ebook called ‘(Extra)Ordinary Leadership: 10 Things Dad Taught Me Without Saying Anything’. Have a great week, and keep leading!

RLL 37--Lessons from Science Camp

RLL 37--Lessons from Science Camp

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you've had an amazing week filled with watching World Cup games and spending time with your family. Whether you have or not, I hope to encourage you a little bit this morning with three quick things I learned from Science Camp. On Tuesday and Thursday, I and some other teachers had the opportunity to travel a few hours south and help put on a STEM Science Camp, with the focus being on Marine Biology. Here are a few things I learned about leadership from science camp.

Bioluminescent Octopus

Bioluminescent Octopus

1) Kids are kids. The schools we went to this week are definitely some of the more rural and underfunded places that I've been. Having said that, the administration at each school and the students there were incredible: friendly, respectful, and (the students this time, not so much the admin) goofy. Kids are kids, regardless of what type of socioeconomic background they come from.

I was teaching about special adaptations of certain types of marine creatures (ones that glow in the dark, ones with specialized attack abilities, etc.), and we did that by first comparing different adaptations of sports balls, looking at size/shape/covering material/density of soccer, tennis, baseball, golf, football, and basketballs. Kids like to play games, and so to get to toss different balls around the classroom was a lot of fun for everyone. After that, they also understood the concepts of comparing/contrasting different adaptations for the various creatures.

Leafy Seadragon

Leafy Seadragon

2) Enthusiasm is key. Remember, these are 7th-12th grade students in a classroom in the middle of June. Not typically a recipe for anyone to have a great day. However, these students were engaged and attentive, especially when I showed enthusiasm for what we were doing. Again, we tossed a tennis ball, I juggled a soccer ball, I let a few of them spin the basketball on their finger, and then we did some more science work. But, as with any leadership venture, when I was enthusiastic, my students were enthusiastic. If I had come in and been dry and boring and monotonous, I can't imagine the students would have really had a great time either.

3) Relationships can begin with just a handshake and a question. First, let me say that I was encouraged by how the administrators at each school related to the students: they were encouraging, they were attentive, and they were genuinely concerned with student well-being. Second, that made me also want to form good, if brief, relationships with these students. As I wrote in my recent book Inverted Leadership, relationships begin to be formed with the first interaction. So for me that meant looking each child in the eye, shaking his/her hand, and then asking them to tell me their names and something important about themselves. Is it standard, bordering on summer-camp/cheesy? Certainly. But it also is genuine, if you look them in the eye and are interested in their answers. And this started us off on the right foot, setting us up for a great day.

Ok, there's three quick thoughts on what I learned at Science Camp. I hope you're able to apply some of these things in your world, whether it's at work, at a VBS this week, or elsewhere! Also, if you haven't yet gotten a copy, be sure to go by Amazon and pick up your copy of Inverted Leadership today! If you have gotten yours, I'd be grateful if you'd go to amazon and leave a review of the book. Thanks!