Switchfoot and Hope

31 07 2017

“Hope deserves an anthem and that’s why we sing.”

(Jon Foreman)

Kath and I attended a superb concert last night.  Switchfoot came to our town and played Meadowbrook Theatre, a venue at my alma mater, Oakland University, in suburban Detroit.

She was blown away.

So was I.

The band was superb.  Tight.  Didn’t miss a note.  Engaged from the opening “Hello Hurricane” to the final encore “Dare You to Move.”

I’m not a kid anymore.  That was four decades ago.  But I was a kid last night.

I first heard of Switchfoot, an alternative band from San Diego, about fourteen years ago.  Their album “The Beautiful Letdown” put them on the map in a big way.  Indeed, their performances of “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move” from that breakout album at the concert’s end capped the night brilliantly.

Today, I listened to interviews with the band’s co-founder, front man Jon Foreman.  When asked what Switchfoot’s music is all about, Jon answered, “Hope deserves an anthem and that’s why we sing.”

Odd, I came into their music in a big way after I passed the half-century mark.  I’m fifty-three and rock and roll for me means Led Zeppelin.  And more Led Zeppelin.  (Factoid: Jon Foreman was a part of a Led Zeppelin tribute band in his teens.  Factoid no. 2: During the middle section of “Bull In a China Shop” last night, lead guitarist Drew Shirley launched into the solo from “Whole Lotta Love.”  It was spectacular.)

As I’ve gotten to know Switchfoot’s music, I’ve become very uncomfortable.  Hope is a theme.  So are themes like “live life fully, unafraid and without regrets” and “is this who you want to be?”

Ouch.  A little too near the heart and conscience

Check them out.  They’re raw and real, all flawed humanoids trying to figure life out.  It’s all spelled out in the music.

 

Recommended Resources:

“Where the Light Shines Through” (Switchfoot)

“Fading West” (Switchfoot)

“The Beautiful Letdown” (Switchfoot)

“Fading West” – Film (Switchfoot)

 

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(Written for homeless kids in San Diego)

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35 Years Ago This Evening

29 07 2017

I remember July 29, 1982 like it was yesterday.  Thirty-five years ago, I stopped at a donut shop to visit a friend and picked up the Detroit Free Press.  I read of an airplane crash.  11 people dead.  And one of them, an iconoclast Christian musician named Keith Green.

Quickly, I grabbed the newspaper and went to the house of a friend.  It was probably about 9:30 at night.  And he was in bed.

“Keith Green is dead.  You have to see this.”  He was awake immediately.  We began reflecting on the profound impact this now deceased twenty-eight year old Christian musician had on us.

Keith Green was what we label as an acronym: WYSIWYG.  “What You See Is What You Get.”  He was intense to a fault.  A friend of mine, a recording engineer, met Keith once.  He said he was so intense he was scary.

Keith was a seeker.  And eventually he latched on to Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus became his guru.  And then his master.  He never looked back.

Keith was not easy to deal with.  He was impulsive, impetuous and his intensity–so says his longtime friend, Randy Stonehill– could often give you an Excedrin headache.  He was immature at times but dead earnest with what he knew was truth.

I was first exposed to Keith’s music as a young Christian disciple.  His in-your-face lyrics both challenged me and made me wither.  The same could be said for multiplied thousands of people who came under his influence.

Keith, thank you.  You have no idea the effect you have had on me for thirty-seven years.  Add to that multiplied millions of others.  May your tribe explode in growth.

Suggested Resources:

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green (Melody Green & David Hazard)

“Your Love Broke Through:  The Keith Green Story”

 

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Worry, Hardwiring, and Useful Anxiety Hacks

28 07 2017

Worry.  We all wrestle with this, some with success, others not.  The lyric “and every morning I wake up and worry What’s gonna happen today?” comes to mind.  But you don’t have to be an Eagle to understand this.

There’s a reason we worry.  And no, you’re not weird.  You’re wired—note the rearranging of three letters.  Yes, you and I are wired for anxiety.  It’s in our brains.  It’s a matter of anatomy and physiology.  Some worry and anxiety in our lives do not make us neurotics.

There is a small part of our brains called the amygdala.  Some thinkers, like Seth Godin, call the amygdala the “lizard brain.”  The amygdala is what keeps us alert to danger.  It generates the “fight or flight” impulse in the face of real or imagined threats.  That is the hardwiring.  We have an amygdala for a reason.

But what do we do?  Anxiety is not particularly pleasant.  How do we manage this in a world that is changing and unpredictable?

I’ve learned a few things.  Still learning others.  Here’s some things that I’ve found helpful.

  • Most of what we worry about simply never happens. One study puts the number of things that never happen at 85%.  Think about that.  If you have like twenty negative anxieties you’re brooding over, on average only three of them happen.
  • Human beings are made remarkably resilient. People survive job loss, friend rejection, illness, financial calamity, relationship adversity—including breakup and divorce, every day.
  • People generally think about themselves. They’re usually not thinking about you.  Therefore, it is fruitless to imagine all sorts of awful mental scenarios.
  • Worry and anxiety about what may happen is quite often worse than actually experiencing the thing you fear.

What helps you get the upper hand on worry?

 

Suggested Resources:

Why We Are Wired To Worry And How Neuroscience Will Help You Fix it: Stop Stressing, Reduce Anxiety, Feel Happy, Finally! (Sharie Spironhi)

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life (Richard Carlson)

 

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Feel for the Other…Then Act

27 07 2017

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

(Harper Lee)

 

Suggested Resources:

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Karen Armstrong)

The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (Simon Baron-Cohen)

 

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Sound People Investing

26 07 2017

This summer I’m learning about financial investing, the market, economics and how emotional volatility affects judgment in one’s investment strategy.  A basic investing principle is that you find companies that are undervalued, whose stocks are priced below what they’re worth, and then buy their stock—which is ownership in the business–leaving a margin of safety for market fluctuations that occur inevitably.  (Disclaimer: This is not financial advice and I am not an expert.)

Many of us are situated in life in a way that allows us to have input into the lives of others.  This may be because of our positions in the workplace, an organization, a group of people and our families.

I’ve had the privilege for quite a few years to be asked to mentor people in their personal, spiritual and professional self-development.  I don’t ask for this—it’s always a case of being invited into someone’s life and business.  I don’t take it lightly.

I’ve learned some things after doing this a while.  My recent learning about sound financial investing has stimulated my thinking about the kinds of people we do and don’t invest in with our time, talent, energy and money.

What then are indicators of strong value in another you’re seeking to mentor?

  • Strong work ethic. Two of the finest guys I ever worked with happened to be brothers raised on a farm.  During the six month time I mentored them, they both carried multiple jobs, including the farm, and each worked ninety to a hundred hours a week.  They weren’t looking to outsmart the work.
  • Bias for action. They deliver on their word and aren’t all about planning to do something.  They actual follow through.  They ship.
  • Character. They are true to their word and apologize when they fall short.  They’re not trying to live two, or three, or four, lives.
  • Intelligence. They can think on their feet, whether well-educated or not.

There are other value indicators.  Add some of your own. What kinds of qualities other than these do you find motivates you to invest in another?

Now, what are indicators of weak value in those into whom you intend to pour your life and learning?

  • Liars.  No brainer.  If they have trouble telling the truth, your investment is already at risk.  Your name is attached.  Bill Hybels, minister of a very large church in suburban Chicago, says that if you find someone on your staff who plays fast and loose with the truth, “Fire them.  Fire them immediately.  Fire them.”
  • Lack of initiative. A former colleague and I had a discussion many times over the question, “Can you really motivate someone who will not motivate themselves, is not a self-starter?”  We both concluded, having managed lots of people over the years, that you can’t.
  • Sloppy communication habits. I once lived in a region where someone in business could make a ton of money simply by answering their emails and phones and text messages promptly.  A common attitude with a lot of business people who live in the area is less than diligent about this. There are some forms of financial want that are avoidable.  This is one of them.  If people are slipshod about basic courtesy and good business sense in the matter of prompt response, move on.  Your time is too valuable.  If you’re in business with them, you’ll go broke.

There are other signs of potentially poor investments.  What are some you can name?

There is a place for charity and for giving people a second chance.  This post is not about that.  The market goes up and down and people have good days and bad.  This is about well-established habits of engagement with life.

Invest carefully.

 

Recommended Resources:

A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring (John Wooden & Don Yaeger)

Mentoring 101 (John C. Maxwell)

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson (Mitch Albom)

 

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The Necessity of No

25 07 2017

“The most basic boundary-setting word is no.”  So wrote Henry Cloud and John Townsend in their bestselling book, Boundaries.   Some people excel at saying “no.”  My wife is quite proficient at it.  Me?  Not so much.  But I’m learning.

I know a minister who requires those he’s going to marry to read Boundaries.  He said this book is the most important book to him outside the Bible.  And to prove it, he asked a prospective groom—to whom he’d assigned the book quite some time before—if he’d read the book.  This was Wednesday.  The wedding was on Saturday.  “Uh, no.  I haven’t gotten to it.”  “Well, you better get reading or I won’t marry you guys on Saturday.”

He read the book.  It’s a big deal.

One of the go-to sentences we use a lot these days, especially with those close to us when we cannot say yes is “they’ll just have to figure it out.”  We are defaulting to this more and more, with good reason.

If you don’t know how to say no to people, you are like a painted target.  Those who have a poor sense of boundary and propriety hone in on “really nice people” like an F-15 locking on to a target in war.

If you don’t learn how to say no, you will have a life of varied chaos.  You will allow yourself to be taken advantage of.  You will enable irresponsible behavior.  And with such enabling behavior comes burnout and a loss of self-respect.  I know.  I’ve been there more than I’d like to admit.

People say yes to all sorts of requests for lots of reasons, some good, others not.  Sometimes we say yes because we are generous people who want to help.  But if one’s tendency is to always say yes to some appeal, it’s unlikely that the motives are pure and good.

We often say yes because we feel guilty saying no.  We say yes because we want approval.  We say yes because we’re afraid our egos will suffer if we do otherwise.  We say yes because we are anxious.  Most of all, we default to yes because we lack a clear sense of self.  Edwin Friedman calls this self-differentiation.

When we say no.  When we are not quick to step in when someone has gotten into a jam, with all the attendant drama, we not only hurt ourselves, we hurt them.  There is something healthy and ennobling about letting someone “figure it out.”  It is in solving the problems of life, especially the kind we’ve brought on ourselves, that we grow.

So here’s a challenge.  Starting with small steps, begin to know when to say no.  And then say no.  One of our favorite forms of no is “I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.” If your default setting is to say yes, you probably need to work on changing it to no.  Take a step back and be brutally honest with yourself.  “Will this really help them or is it just sparing me pain in the shortfall?”

 

Suggested Resources:

Friedman’s Fables (Edwin H. Friedman)

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (M. Scott Peck)

 

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Don’t Waste My Time!

24 07 2017

“Just as theft of money is theft, so is theft of time.”

                        (Mesillat Yesharim, ch. 11)

Yesterday, I was cranky.  I’m not usually that way.  But by morning’s end, I was in a sour frame of mind.  Frustration, kvetching, it was all there.  My wife thought it was funny.  She doesn’t get jalapeno from me often.

Why?

We went some place expecting one thing and got another.  As we get older, we’re a lot more sensitive to having our time wasted by others.  We wasted our time, an hour and a half gone.

Employers are well-aware of how much time is wasted in office and factory.  Web surfing, prolonged breaks and lunches, endless chatter around the water cooler.  There are stats on the web that give big estimates of time loss.  They’re not flattering.

Time is that limited commodity that cannot be replaced.  Our time is finite.  We all die.  If someone takes my money, it can be replaced.  But that lost ninety minutes yesterday is gone for good.

For reflection:

  • Do you chatter on endlessly either not answering when you’ve been questioned or filling the air with needless details? You’re wasting someone else’s time and energy.
  • Are you fully engaged in the tasks at hand or do you dilly-dally around in a half-hearted way, not giving your best effort and focused attention?
  • Can you challenge yourself going forward to answer questions simply and directly?
  • Are you able to refrain from giving unsolicited advice or when asked advice, padding it with lots of verbal filler?

In business, those who can sum up and not waste the boss’s time and energy will find favor much faster than those who spend precious minutes in needless circumlocutions.

Point of this post is not finger pointing.  I have been lousy at stewarding the time and energy of others.  I’m looking to change things up.  Time cannot be replaced.

Care to join?

 

Suggested Resources:

15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs (Kevin Kruse)

Time Management Hacks: 10 Ways to Do More With Less, Change Your Daily Habits, Increase Productivity and Accomplish More (Thomas Westover)

 

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