October 2009


This is an excerpt from a book I am reading by Seth Godin (Tribes).

Think about the charismatic leaders you’ve encountered.  They might be young or old, rich or poor, black or white, male or female, extroverted or shy.  In fact, the only thing they seem to have in common is that they are leaders.

I think most people have it upside down.  Being charismatic doesn’t make you a leader.  Being a leader makes you charismatic.

There are leaders with speech impediments and a fear of public speaking.  Leaders way down the corporate ladder and leaders with no money or obvious trappings of power.  There are ugly leaders too, so charisma certainly isn’t about being attractive.

It’s easy to give in to your fear and tell yourself that you don’t have what it takes to lead.  Mostly, people give up when they get to the charisma part of the checklist.  “I wasn’t born charismatic, not like those other guys, so I guess I’ll just settle for following.”

The flaw in this reasoning is that those other guys weren’t born charismatic either.  It’s a choice, not a gene.  Many of you have a vision for how things should be, but fail to act on that vision because you are afraid that you don’t have the mo-jo to get it done.  You are afraid you will come up lacking.  This is the birthplace of procrastination and the cradle for a lack of significance.

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I have a coffee mug on the window sill in my closet where I throw loose change at the end of the day.  It was just about full, so my wife emptied it into a larger jar.  No big deal, right?

Well once my four year-old daughter discovered my coffee mug was empty, she started acting faster than Congress with a bailout check.  Olivia ran into the living room, where I was watching football and muttered something about change and a coffee cup.  I had no idea what was going on.  She ran up to her room where I heard some banging around, her incessant rambling, and the sound of loose change pouring in to the floor.  Then she ran past me and into my closet.

This process repeated itself about 4 or 5 times until she finally came downstairs with her whole piggy bank.  That’s when I realized what was going on.  I walked to my closet to find her sitting in the floor, shaking out her piggy bank, and filling up my coffee cup.  Moved by her generosity, I told her that she didn’t have to give me her money.

Her reply was, “No daddy.  I have enough money and you don’t have any.  You can have some of mine.”

I almost told her to stop emptying her piggy bank and keep her money for herself, but didn’t.  Here was a simple, honest act of generosity.  Who am I to stifle that?  I thanked her for giving me her money and let her know how nice it was for her to give me something without me even asking for it.

Usually parenting involves taking the time to teach valuable lessons to our children.  Sometimes they are the teachers.

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Our culture is inundated with choices. Want a new TV? Look at how many models are available. Plasma, LCD, or LED… 19”, 60”, or anything in-between… 120 Hz, 240 Hz, 760i, 1080p, 1080i…LG, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, Sony, Panasonic…and where should we buy it?

Growing up, I had 5 television channels and two of them showed the same thing. Now, I don’t even know how many channels I have. I have to set up my “favorites” on my remote… more choices. If you still need evidence that the number of options available to us has gotten excessive, just take a look at the cereal aisle the next time you go to the supermarket. To make it even more interesting, take a four year-old who has just been watching Nickelodeon.

Not only are there a seemingly infinite number of choices available, but we are daily bombarded with marketing that tells us that there is an option out there somewhere that is just right for us – one that will make us happy. So you better make the right choice, or you’ll end up regretting your decision when you find a better option down the road.

The problem with having so many options and making so many choices is that it can easily lead to analysis paralysis. We want to make the right choice, but there are so many options and we don’t want regret our decision… so we make no choice. We procrastinate.

The same dynamic exists in our careers. I read an article a while back that said the anticipated top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t even exist 5 years ago. Think about that. As we have more choices in what to do with our lives, people are increasingly deciding to do nothing – at least nothing significant.

Here’s what I think. Instead of beating yourself up on where you will work, focus on what it is that you were created, gifted, and prepared to do. Guess what – that thing that you were created to do may have nothing to do with your current job, but that doesn’t mean you have to quit your job tomorrow. It just means you have to figure out how to incorporate your mission into your job. Or maybe, just maybe, you were meant to find significance outside of your professional career. What??? A life outside of work? Yep, the most important things you will do, the greatest significance you will find, and the most lasting legacy you leave will probably not be career-related.

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The family and I rented a cabin in Gatlinburg last weekend.  I remember when vacations were relaxing, fun-filled, and I never wanted them to end.  Then we had two kids.  Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything, but let’s just say by the time I got home, I had my fill of family togetherness.

The 3 ½ hour car ride started out with us getting stuck in road construction.  A short while into the drive, the fuse in the A/C adapter on the kid’s DVD player blew.  With no DVD to watch, Olivia started going through the bag that she packed on her own.  The first thing that she found was her harmonica… which she played for the next two hours.  It was cute for about the first 5 or 10 minutes.  The next 110 minutes… not so cute.  Then Amelia chimed in by crying for the last hour through the mountains.

We got to our cabin and unloaded.  The backseat of our car looked like the floor of a recycling center.  Apparently, Olivia had packed her emergency food reserve as well.  There were Reese’s wrappers, juice boxes, loose change, and various components of toys everywhere.  I don’t know how we missed this during the drive, but Olivia managed to eat a Halloween’s worth of candy during the drive.

Loaded up on sugar, we took the girls to a restaurant.  Olivia was like a squirrel after five cups of coffee.  So much for a relaxing dinner.

The next day, we went out to Cade’s Cove.  If you’ve never been there, it is about a 35 mile drive from Gatlinburg (through slow, winding mountain roads) and once you get there, it is an 11-mile one-lane loop.  People drive slower than a tranquilized sloth on this road.  I guess I’ve been in Atlanta too long, but I couldn’t resist tailgating the minivan in front of me that refused to use the turn-outs to let me by.  Twice they stopped in the middle of the road for about 10 minutes to take pictures of deer.  Deer!  Not bears or mountain scenery, deer – the same animals that you see all the time at home.

The next day, we went to Pigeon Forge where we decided to try the Jurassic Boat Ride.  I paid my 40 bucks and we climbed in the “boat” where we were taken on a ride that will induce nightmares for a 4 year old and had enough noise, special effects, and pitch-black darkness to cause a one year old to cry uncontrollably.  When the ride ended (10 minutes later) the parents all looked at each other as if to say, “Well, there’s $40 I’ll never get back.”

After we got home, Olivia kept talking about how much fun she had and how she couldn’t wait for our next vacation.  With all my frustration and impatience, it took a four year old to help me realize that it was all worth it.