Monday, March 20, 2017

Traveling with the worlds smallest computer

I am on a four day business trip. I make a trip like this several times each month. Travel is the middle name in my life. I basically fly to work, rather than drive, even though I did that too, as I drove myself to the airport and parked my car there for a few days. I am not complaining only explaining so that you understand I travel - a lot. And I have a screen for every length of a trip. In my life, you want to take just enough technology to get by while on the road. Just like you only want to take enough clothes and no more. While I am allowed 32 kilos of baggage on this trip, I am traveling with a small carry on instead. Why in the world would I need 70.4 pounds of baggage for a four day trip?? One pair of jeans (which I am wearing!), one suitcoat, two dress shirts, three socks, three underwears, two sets of work out clothes, sneakers, and two phones and one external keyboard and some cigars to enjoy along the way.

The reality is that the phones constitute the world's smallest computers, and I have both an Android and an Apple device on this trip, which gives me a total of three SIM cards and phone numbers and data plans as I am on this four day trip. Honestly my phone can do every single thing my computer can, and the only constraints are storage and (the worst of course is) the small screen. Otherwise, the upsides, are the diminutive size and weight of the phones, and that you are not required to whip them out as you go through security.

For a short intense face to face business trip which will have limited sit-and-work-from-a-screen time anyways, the trade off is clearly in favor of the worlds smallest computers. I will let you know in another blog on the way home IF, I regret this decision in retrospect and why.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Radiation burn

What a week I had recently, six flights in three days and according to those who know, I am in danger of radiation burn, or over exposure. But that has been the case for a number of years now, although I will admit these last few days have been turbo travel. Business travel is really dangerous the health and well being of the business traveler. However there is no other way to get from A to B in these time frames.

It is a hurry up and wait life. So you need to maximixe all the opportunities and moments along the way to either be very productive or to be very in the moment and just be. Yet it needs to be said that the connections made possible by this turbo travel are not trifling. They are connections and opportunities and high potentials to change the world. The timid don't take these options, too difficult they argue, too taxing they say, too dangerous and the cost too high they posit, and the moments are gone. 

Sometimes you simply have to go big or stay home. I often would like to stay home, but I would rather make the big impact, complete the chance to change everything, to matter. Staying home is overrated.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The seduction

The humble-brag of the modern world is busyness. I have been taught this my entire life it seems. It is how I found myself working insane hours for decades in my previous vocation. There may not be a worse method for measuring your real significance in life.

Dan Rockwell says, "The seduction of feeling important because you’re busy trivializes leaders." I would go further by stating that the seduction of feeling important by the level of your busyness trivializes everyone.

If I am important simply because I am in demand, needed, busy or sought after then I have chosen the metric of activity to be my metric, rather than the importance of what I am doing, or the actual productivity of what I am accomplishing. Activity and productivity are not the same metric. 

Nor do I want to simply be more productive, in order that I can do more. I want to be more productive so that I can do the important in less time or with less effort, in order to have margin and space in life to do the most significant things, like thinking, sharing my life with key people, enjoying the moments, and having less pressure on every deadline of my vocational work - not in order to add more and more to my plate. Think of it as having a properly balanced cycle of enough. Enough work to change the world, only enough tasks to do it well, and enough resources to not have to worry  overly about paying the rent and eating.

I am important and significant because of what I choose to do, not how many pies I have my fingers in, or am needed to complete. Be significant not busy!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

A little more permanence in life?

Having lived most of the last 23 years abroad, I am not sure how you would classify us culturally or emotionally any longer. We are such a mix of so many different experiences and countries and cities and languages over the course of our lives. We are Westerners passport-wise, but we live very small and unusual compared to practically anyone we know from the West. 

We drive the oldest cars, have the smallest apartment, live like poor church mice in a poverty stricken part of town, yet we spend and give amazing amounts of resources each year to the work and ministry that we are involved in and enjoy. None of this is said with any pride, because someone gave us all those resources to begin with, and we do not view them as ours to spend on ourselves. And most of the time I am 100% ok with living like this, except when I am not.

Lately I am not. Honestly I have been really weary of eating off the plastic table that we have been using for the last five years. We would have been using it longer than that but the two places we lived previously came with actual tables to eat on. And for some reason, maybe after spilling my coffee a million times did me in, or perhaps it was just how amazingly ugly this picnic table has become, but for some reason, I wanted a real table to eat on. I have to confess, it is the one piece of furniture that my parents have that I am jealous for, a huge beautiful wood table. It has such a sense of permanence to it, longevity to it, and they have had it most of my life!

Of course our apartment is way too small to have a table like the one my parents have, but I have been hankering for a table for a long long while now. One with some weight to it, some "we are gonna stay here a long time" feel to it. Now the first wall I had to climb was to get Brenda to agree to spending a dime on anything for us. That took me over a year. Finally she capitulated as she finally got the sense of how important this was to me, no matter how irrational. But getting us to both agree on which table to get, oh my that was a serious wall to climb. We would go to a furniture showroom and she invariably would want to buy the cheapest one there. That is precisely why we have been eating off a plastic table for years! I would invariably want the most well-made one, regardless of the cost. I was wanting something with some substance!

Well long story short, we finally moved a table into the apartment today and got rid of that horrid old plastic thing. Sometimes, you need a bit of permanence to shed that "I am living out of a suitcase" feeling. Here is a pic of the long negotiated piece of furniture in question.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Getting there before you leave

Arriving 30 minutes before you leave

Only in the Balkans do I think such a thing would ever be possible, but seriously, this happened this morning, as we departed Istanbul at 09:00 o'clock local time and we arrived in Skopje at 08:04 local time on the same day. There are many local factors that contribute to this phenomena, in fact I am surprised that some Balkan president hasn't made an arbitrary decision to just put us on Eastern Standard time!

The photo above shows the scheduled departure time and the scheduled arrival time.

I think too that there are other times we should get there before we leave. 

  1. In our spiritual walk. In my 35 years of ministry, I find that most Christians state that they are citizens of heaven, but fully embrace the world and living in the world, and I hate to say it but it is true, living like this is our real home. If indeed we are citizens of heaven, then we most definitely need to behave, live, and experience life as if we are already there. We should get there before we leave. It would change a great deal about our lives I think, were we to have this posture and attitude.
  2. In our vocations. Instead of just barely showing up when we eventually arrive, why don't we get there before we leave? Frankly it would make us much better employees. We would be fully engaged in the tasks that we have been charged with, and the value that we have agreed to deliver. It would make us far more valuable to our employers!
  3. In our relationships. An ounce of prevention is supposedly worth a pound of cure, and arriving before we depart would be perfect. It is the relational idea of certainty and dependability. I give my lovely bride what she needs even before she realizes that she needs it! That is arriving before you depart! That is looking ahead, so that your relationships can have all that they will need in order to thrive and grow. It is arriving before you depart.

I bet you can think of other areas where this metaphor will be helpful.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Why do we resist?

Why do we delay and resist the most difficult parts of our work lives? I mean apart from the fact that they are the most difficult parts and not easy to accomplish? 

I am usually wonderfully and pleasantly surprised when I finally bite the bullet and do what needs to be done. In fact I would argue that the sheer difficulty can greatly enhance the satisfaction of accomplishment. I mean if it was easy, anyone could do it, right? The fact that YOU find it difficult, can possibly mean that the task is beyond most other people's abilities period and that it would never get done if it depended on someone other than you. It could also be that this task is simply outside of your wheelhouse, but when you get to my stage of life and work, you have largely weeded out those kinds of tasks from your schedule and life and have past them on to someone who can do them better or more easily.

No I am talking about the most excellent parts of your skill set, I am talking about the difficult work that sets you apart from everyone else. I am talking about the type of work that demands your best self fully present and on point, work that few others could effectively do, perhaps because of your training or education, or geographical position in the world, or your position and responsibilities in your organization. This is when you need to hit a home run! 

But I often delay and procrastinate these kinds of tasks, because they are so demanding and cost me so much, or take me far outside of my daily normal schedule which I treasure and with which accomplish so much on a regular basis. These super hard ones, disrupt that flow, and perhaps part of the action of turning these pivotal moments into successes, is to allow the disruption to create something new and wonderful and to relax and permit myself to let my normal routine go, so that upon occasion I can do something spectacular, instead of the simply great work that I strive for each day. I just finished one of these kinds of work events and I am flushed with how awesome it went. So once again, why do we resist?

Like Amelia Earhart said, "The most effective way to do it, is to do it."
What really important and difficult thing are you putting off?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A thinking day

This is the one task that needs a certain ambience. I found the perfect situation for that in my travels today. Through a series of fortunate events, I had a few hours free and unstructured at the Naples Italy airport on a sunny warm afternoon.

I found a place to sit outside and enjoy a nice Honduran while contemplating the universe. Not really . . . the contemplating the universe part, but everything else was planets aligned! I worked on a number of high priority thorny situations and made a few notes, but this afternoon was 95% tech free. I can't focus on the thinking part if I have tech in my hands. It always seem that other work floats to the surface if I have tech in my hands, and this was a strictly amazing opportune moment to do the hardest work - thinking.

Now you can't wait to have such a perfect situation present itself (although I find that you can usually create a potential environment to do some hard thinking), because thinking is too important a task to relegate to pristine moments. Granted pristine moments can make them all the more powerful and productive, but this is a task that needs regular exercise. Like most things in life, if it is not scheduled and practiced it never gets accomplished.

So what were the results today? I resolved an apprentice/internship thorn that had been sticking me in the butt for almost a year. There is now a plan and steps to get to the goal. I made progress on the ongoing dilemma/opportunity (its both) that I have with my dad. After the two deaths in our family this past year, there is just me and him and I need to make more/new space in life for him and his needs and honestly just to enjoy these later years of his life with him and make some great memories.

That is it. But those were two huge buggers that have been gigantic weights on my plate for far too long. Reserve your thinking time for the most important matters. Oh, and I spent a good long wonderful half hour just mentally reviewing and cataloging all the people, relationships, structures and opportunities that I am grateful for, that make all this worth doing. After "the perils of travel" this was the best kind of chance and change. Go think!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The perils of travel

The perils of travel

We were finally all on board the airport shuttle, running a little late but doable. As the doors to the van close I see a Turk standing in the smoking area finishing up a cigarette and watching us! He gets the drivers attention as we were driving away. So we stop, back up, and open the doors to let the latecomer get on.

But wait! He runs back inside the hotel and gets his suitcase. Three times! And finally we have all three of his large bags loaded and he runs back into the hotel and disappears. And we wait and we wait and we wait until they finally unload all his luggage and leave for the airport.

We finally leave! Yet we don't make it out of the parking lot before we turn around! And pick yet a different family of three.

Fast forward an hour and a half after two complete security checks (where I was certain I was going to have to take off my underwear) and I finally get on the plane. Window seat. And then I have an extra large man come and sit in the middle seat! He poured out of his seat into my seat. Long story short I was sitting crooked the entire time to Italy. I am pinched between extra large man and the window!

And of course since we came from Turkey and not Western Europe, and since we had about 25 African men on the plane, security, customs, and passport control were completely anal, to the point that some of the Italian men started fighting each other and the police had to come break it up, it was a madhouse.

All in a normal day at the office. And some people are jealous of this, I kid you not. Not to mention I left out the Italian train station story, the pick pocket, the 12 beggars, and taxi ride from hell.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Constraints 2 Psychic Prisons

This week while I was talking to one of my key clients, he was sharing with me some of the things he has been learning in his PhD studies about organizational development. One of the metaphors used to describe organizations was "psychic prisons". I took that to mean that it is psychic in the sense of mental, not in the sense of psychotic (though if you work for certain kinds of organizations I imagine that it could also be psychotic!). I thought it was an exceptionally rich metaphor.

As I have been headhunting some new employees for The Leadership Development Group, one of the most interesting phenomenon that I come up against, is the inability to find leadership guru's who can think about funding models or salary models that are outside of the traditional employer paid exchange of time for money. They are literally in a mental prison, for all practical purposes incapable of thinking about a different funding model or a different way of receiving compensation for value given.

But this metaphor is also rich when applied to the other areas of our lives. Most of us live in a psychic prison concerning our life work, or the impact that we can make, or the significance of what we can do, or how we might simply change the world with the time, talent and treasures that God has already given us. Many of us live in psychic prisons spiritually as well. The limitations of our understanding, or the boundaries of our theology, or the constraints of our past experiences, become the bars of the cells we find ourselves in. We seem to struggle indefinitely with our lack of imagination, the confines of our narrative that we tell ourselves about ourselves and about our work and about our God.

However, logging the hours does not have to be a part of the psychic prison. Logging the hours is what my language students have to do to speak beautiful Spanish or Russian. Logging the hours is what my pastors have to do, to deliver beautiful sermons on Sunday. Logging the hours is what you and I have to do to hone our crafts and be the best that we can be. Working hard and logging solid hours is not part of the prison, it is a treasured gift, that we might do something magical in the world with the gifts and abilities and resources that God has given us.

The most beautiful thing about being a Christ-follower is that we have been given essentially a get out of jail free card! Don't you think it's time that we got out of our psychic prisons, no matter what they may be, and start to live this one wild beautiful life that we had been given to the full extent of every possibility?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The fastest way forward

"The fastest way to move forward in life is NOT doing more. It starts with STOPPING the behaviors holding you back." Benjamin Hardy

This axiom is stated by many leadership leaders, like Marshall Goldsmith, Michael Hyatt and others. However the very nature of productivity is often about doing more, not less better. That is where Gregg McKeown stands out with his excellent book on Essentialism. But most people, including my clients, want more, not a better less. The majority of people I meet and know, it seems to be almost impossible to overcome FOMO. More is more. 

But it is not. The more I add more, the more I diminish the quality of every single beautiful thing I am working to create or produce. Friends, that is less, not more. Quality and quantity are not the same. If you want to change the world, or create a masterpiece, or provide clarity, or be the best at anything, you have to dial it in, focus, intensify on less and less. Think of it as purifying the finished product, concentrating the final result, strengthening what gets accomplished, and amplifying the outcomes. Most people get stuck eternally at mediocre because they can't stop doing all the things that are sabotaging their stated goals or purposes. And if you can't stop eating french fries, you can't get to and stay at an ideal weight. As Bob Biehl says, "Either you live a life of discipline or your live a life of regret."

Less is more. It is more focused, it is deeper, it is purposeful, it is intentional, it is satisfying in ways more can never be. It is simpler, clearer, cleaner, more pure. It is a design of success. It is a way of organizing everything toward the goal. It is singular, exceptional and remarkable. If you do this, it is the fastest way forward. It is not Facebook or Twitter or TV or Netflix. On Thursday evening a young lady showed up at our door selling TV packages, and it was all about more and more channels. When I finally got her to stop her spiel, I pointed out that we do not have a television in the house. But she did not believe me and pushed her way into the living room to have a look around for herself. Magdalena pointed out that she had never been in a home without a TV.  I am not necessarily prideful about not having a TV, I am frankly much more flabbergasted and appalled that there aren't others who don't! We say no to the intrusion of TV, so that we can say yes to people, events and focused productivity that matters. Honestly people, TV never matters.

Stop. Say no. Frequently. Most of the time. Far more than you ever say yes. It is the fastest way forward.