I Blew It!

Have you ever gotten it wrong? Ever blown it? When was the last time you made a decision or acted in a way that turned out to be wrong? It didn’t bring about the desired outcome or it was actually counterproductive. Every one of us has, more than once. Now, when was the last time you acknowledged it? What did you do to acknowledge it? I had to acknowledge a failure last week which involved spelling out what the failure was and apologizing for a negative effect on a co-worker. That’s not fun.

Leaders Do Well to Admit When They Are Wrong

That heading is from a Dale Carnegie white paper called, “Recognizing Leadership Blind Spots.” Here’s an excerpt:

Everyone gets it wrong sometimes. That’s life, and making mistakes is part of it. How we handle situations in which we realize we’re wrong, though, says volumes about what kind of person we are. It takes high levels of honesty, integrity, and courage to admit when you’re wrong. Perhaps that’s why so few leaders do it. More than eight in ten respondents worldwide (81%) said that having a leader who will admit when he or she is wrong is important or very important to inspiring them to give their best efforts at work. Admitting when you are wrong demonstrates that the environment is safe for taking calculated risks, making mistakes and learning from them. And while good leaders will usually make the right calls, even the best will undoubtedly have opportunities to prove their reliability, trustworthiness and integrity by owning their mistakes.

I especially like the part about a safe environment for taking calculated risks, making mistakes and learning from them. John Maxwell says there are two kinds of people in regards to setbacks (mistakes):

  • Splatters; those who hit the bottom, fall apart and stay on the bottom;
  • Bouncers; those who hit rock bottom, pull themselves together, and bounce back up.

Mistakes are not usually fatal. In fact, mistakes are sometimes the best way to learn. Failing forward is how we learned to walk and communicate. We took a step, fell, got back up, took another step, fell, got back up, took two steps …

Different Kinds of Mistakes

Some kinds of mistakes bring a greater learning opportunity than other kinds. Some kinds of mistakes come from things we tried on purpose while others are more accidental. Mindworks.com calls these “Aha moment Mistakes”, “Sloppy Mistakes”, “Stretch Mistakes”, and “High Stakes Mistakes” according to the matrix below:

The lesson here is twofold. First, make sure your failures are not just the sloppy kind. Make sure you are failing because you are trying to find new and better ways to do things. Another quote from John Maxwell sums this up, “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.”

Second, again, own your mistakes. Analyze what went wrong. Talk about what went wrong with all the stakeholders. If someone was hurt in the process, be sure to apologize for those consequences. Also, and this is very important for creating an environment where your people want to learn and grow, forgive when others make mistakes. Because, we’ve all been there.

The Attitude of Gratitude

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to a group of new friends at Grace Community Church in Lathrop, CA. This is Thanksgiving week so I shared about Thanksgiving. It wasn’t about turkey and pilgrims, though. It was about the Attitude of Thanksgiving. Anyone who knows me at all, knows I’m a word nerd so here you go, the definition of Attitude is – “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.” I called it the Attitude of Gratitude. We explored two questions about the Attitude of Gratitude, Why? and How?

Why Be Grateful?

There are more reasons to be grateful then there is space to write about, but I shared four in particular:

First, The attitude of gratitude is good for you. Studies have shown that consistent gratitude is good for your mental health and physical well-being. Grateful people are better looking! Think about the most ungrateful person you know. Picture their face. Now picture a consistently grateful person. Who looks better? Grateful people have more friends because gratitude is attractive of positive relationships. Grateful people get more stuff because it’s way more fun to give to a grateful person.

Second, the attitude of gratitude is aligned with reality. The more we align our thinking and living with reality (some call it truth), the better our lives will be. This reality is that everything you have is a gift. I know you’ve all worked hard and earned your way. But, think of this question, how hard did you work to start your heart in your mother’s womb? Or, think of this question, how hard did you work to make sure your parents met? With everything that had to happen, the fact that any of us is even here is a miracle. Our lives are a gift, gratitude is the appropriate response to a gift. Your mama taught you that.

Third, the attitude of gratitude is the antidote to entitlement. We are living in a culture of entitlement (word nerd alert): “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” Entitlement is like a poison that withers people and cultures. It hollows them out and makes them weak. Entitlement is the epitome of ingratitude. Developing gratitude is the antidote. For the sake of ourselves, our children and our culture, we need to become a grateful people.

Fourth, the attitude of gratitude is a mark of obedience. The apostle Paul writes in two places in the New Testament of the Bible: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be Thankful.” Colossians 3:15. And, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. God’s commands always have a practical “why.” See the first three reasons for the attitude of gratitude for examples

How Can We Be Grateful?

I approached this question from three angles.

First, how can I have gratitude when bad stuff is happening to me? This is where the rubber meets the road for most of us. We all know about bad stuff happening in our lives. “Feel the burn” is a way of looking at the physical suffering of exercise as a positive thing. It means that our endurance is increasing. The physical suffering of exercise produces endurance that proves itself on the field or court when you perform. Seeing that progress of endurance and improved performance makes you feel good about the result like, “maybe there’s hope for me after all!” The same is true with character (check out Romans 5:1-5 in the New Testament, google it).

Second, how can I develop gratitude? Simply put, train your brain. Experts say we have 50K – 80K thoughts per day. Wow! fortunately our brains filter those thoughts so that we are often aware of only a fraction of them. The filter you have is either developed by your circumstances or you can adjust it yourself by what you think about. Your life gravitates in the direction of your most dominant thoughts like a flower grows toward the sun. We become what we think most about. You have the ability to choose what to think about. As the apostle Paul said, again, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” Try keeping a daily journal of what went well today and what you are thankful for. Study that journal on a weekly basis. That will help train your brain and adjust your filter.

Finally, how can I express gratitude? Use your words. Say “please” and “thank you” often. Use your gifts. When you use the gifts you’ve been given (physical or spiritual) it honors the giver. Finally, use your body. You had to be there yesterday to get the experience, but suffice it to say we practice expressing our gratitude to God for his goodness in the same way we express our excitement over our sports teams.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

LIVE2LEAD

I’ve written several times in this blog about cultivating an atmosphere for growth at work. I wrote directly about the Engager Dynamic called “Cultivate,” for example, in this post. Later the topic was “How to Make a Habit of Cultivating. There are also several posts that discuss personal and professional growth without “cultivate” or “growth” in the title. I’ve marked them with the tag “Growth.” This past weekend I put it into practice. A friend and fellow John Maxwell Team member hosted an event called “LIVE2LEAD: a half-day leader development experience” on Saturday. The event was a recorded rebroadcast of a John Maxwell Academy simulcast event from earlier in the year.

My friend, Arabella Whitlock (Arabellashope.com), was hosting the event and since I’m also a John Maxwell Team member I was not planning to bring any of my work team to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest even though I receive nothing for attending or bringing anyone. However, a few weeks before the event, one of my co-workers called me to her computer screen and asked me if I had ever heard about what she was looking at. She had the LIVE2LEAD event on her screen and said she would like to attend. At that point I changed my mind and made the event available to everyone on our leadership team at work free of charge to them.

Three people from the team were free on the Saturday and signed up. We met for breakfast beforehand which was a great team building time as well. The event itself was wonderful. Each of us had multiple growth take-aways that will make us better in life and at work. One of our people even won the big door prize (it was the one who first said she wanted to go) which was way cool!

I know Arabella is able to present the event until February 28, 2020. Check out her website above for more information. If you can’t do something like that, let me encourage you to cultivate a growth environment and provide growth opportunities for yourself and your co-workers. Our organizations can only rise to the level of our leadership.

A Rudder and Sail

Many years ago I was in a job I wasn’t sure about and living in a place I didn’t like that much. I was unsure about the future and while apparently feeling a bit melodramatic I wrote this little poem:

 

A cork adrift
Tossed by every wave and gale
“God’s Will,” he smiles
But Oh, for a rudder and sail!

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like life was just happening to you and there wasn’t anything you could do about it? John Maxwell puts it like this, “Most people don’t lead their life, they accept their life.” Sir Ken Robinson says it this way, “Many people spend their entire lives doing things they don’t really care for. They endure their lives and wait for the weekend with no real sense of fulfillment, with a general sense of tolerance for it, or not.”

Live On Purpose

Earlier this week I finished reading a book by John Maxwell called Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters. It’s all about choosing to take certain actions in your life that will lead to what he calls a life of significance. He defines significance as using what you have and what you’ve achieved to add value to other people. Maxwell believes once you’ve tasted significance, success will never again be enough.

I keep all my notes in a program called Evernote. I’ve been doing it for years so there is a lot stored in there. After finishing the book, I started looking through my notes and I ran across something I wrote a year and a half ago. I have reproduced those notes verbatim below. The graphic with this post is something I created in Powerpoint to represent what you will read here.

Quoted Notes

Yesterday (April 5, 2018) I listened to three podcasts that all had a similar theme – being intentional (having goals, living on purpose, etc.). I took this as being from the Lord.

  1. One was by “Z” who wrote “13 things you have to give up to be successful,” It was called “The Ultimate Productivity Cheat Sheet.”
  2. Two were Morris Invest podcasts. One was with David Hoyt who used to work with John Maxwell. It was called “Men and Limiting Beliefs: How to Make a Change.”
  3. The final was with Ken McElroy of Rich Dad renown. It was called “The ABCs of Real Estate Investing.”

David, in particular, sparked this idea. He talked about 10 buckets of life where he works to be intentional. I want to think about it in terms of several (may not be 10) points where my life connects to the world and how I can be intentional there.

Last night I had dinner with Suzi at Baja and asked her about 3 top places she would like to travel. She doesn’t know this was part of me thinking about being intentional as a husband. She said she would like to visit the Holy Land, Sweden, and Peru or Chile or Uruguay or Paraguay.

Follower: My connection to Jesus as a disciple (learner and imitator) – pray, memorize, transformational interaction with others

Husband: My connection to Suzi as a protector, lover (warrior poet) – initiate fun (travel), complete house projects, hear and remember what she says about everything (Focus attention), take a stand for her

Father: My connection to Joshua, Justin, Juliana, Jordan, and Janessa as a teacher and guide and reflector of God’s image – don’t flare up (patience), be fun during work, not preachy but share openly my motivations, advocate for them

Son: My connection to Mom and  Dad as an honorer – more frequent contact

Brother: My connection to Steve and Dan as a friend and supporter (as well as to their children). This extends to Tom and Becky and their families as well – initiate contact, stay up to date on their lives

Friend: My connection to (List) as a rememberer and channel of God’s love – initiate contact to show I’m thinking about them.

Steward: My connection to Wealth as a conduit to my family and the Kingdom – work on new job, engager dynamics, real estate investing

Colleague: My connection to Work as a Listener/Learner/Teacher – Leader – continuous learning about the job at hand (at this writing it is the 3 KP regional projects for Xanitos)

Neighbor: My connection to Community (larger or smaller) as a contributing member/Leader – Community involvement, get to know my neighbors

I have spent most of my life in a passive mode (“A Cork Adrift”). Leaders are prone to taking action. What actions do I need to take to be intentional about strengthening these connections? I need to set some goals for each connection and develop the skills necessary to reach those goals. Each day I must take action on developing these skills and reaching the goals.

The List above has 9 connections. They seem to break down into three levels of closeness (?), Intimate, Immediate, Infinite.

Update

Ten days after writing those notes I published my first Engager Dynamics post and have consistently posted every Monday since. My hope is that some of what I share will be helpful to you. I’ve changed jobs since then. We’ve purchased one rental property. I’ve become a certified John Maxwell speaker, trainer, and coach with a license to train on the DISC model to improve workplace relationships.

We haven’t yet visited any of Suzi’s places but we did make a road trip that was important to her earlier this year. I haven’t done as well on some of the others but I will get better. The point is I do have a rudder and sail and so do you. I hope this encourages you to take action and make a difference in your world.

A Lesson About Growth From a Rubber Band

How many uses can you think of for a rubber band? Holding your newspaper together (which is the first common use of rubber bands outside of factories), holding long hair out of your face, shooting your friend from across the room, a reminder around your wrist, a tool for “snapping” yourself when you want to break a bad habit, bundling pencils together, ranchers know how they can be used on their young male livestock, you get the idea. There are almost as many uses for a rubber band as there are rubber bands.

Now, what is one thing every use of a rubber band has in common? The rubber band has to be stretched for it to perform any of it’s useful functions. That’s why John Maxwell calls one of his 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, “The Law of the Rubber Band.” It says, “Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be.” Not only does growth stop when you lose this tension, but, In the words of Abraham Maslow, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, then you will probably be unhappy the rest of your life.”

The problem with stretching is that it’s uncomfortable. If fact, if you haven’t stretched in awhile, it can be downright painful whether we’re talking about muscles or personal growth.

Sometimes You Stretch Yourself

One of the first things athletes do before any kind of exercise is stretch. Many companies have their employees stretch before the work day. Of course, they do this to warm up and loosen muscles to prevent injury and allow for strengthening. In personal growth it means we set goals that are just beyond what seems possible. We set “stretch goals.”

We’ve all heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, right? What does the “A” in smart stand for? Achievable. Does that sound like a stretch goal? Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ proposes a different kind of goal in a white paper called, “Are SMART Goals Dumb?” He proposes H.A.R.D. goals. In his model the “D” stands for Difficult. It means, “I will have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone to achieve my goal.” Now we’re talking about stretching. Rabbi Nehman asks, “If you won’t be better tomorrow than today, then what do you need tomorrow for?”

When was the last time you set a goal that required you to learn something new and leave your comfort zone? How else will you become all that you’re capable of being? You don’t want to end up on the wrong end of Maslow’s quote, right?

Sometimes You Get Stretched

Do you remember the toy called “Stretch Armstrong?” He was the super-hero you could stretch to 4 times his size. Mr. Armstrong, however, never stretched himself. He got stretched. Life can be like that. We can get thrust into situations that force us to stretch.

Three days after the Presidential election in 2008, seven people from the company I was working for at the time got laid off. I was one of them. If you remember the economic situation at the time, it was pretty tough. People weren’t hiring. One thing led to another and in a few months my wife, 3 of our children, and I were living in China and I was in a role I never would have imagined. That role led to me being acting director of an international school the next year. I had never lived overseas before. I had never worked in education before. I got stretched.

Albert Einstein said, “The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” He’s right. Living in China was not on our radar screen at all prior to us moving there. But, the growth we experienced, personally and professionally, during those two years is something we wouldn’t change for anything.

Becoming all you can be requires growth. Growth requires change. Change is uncomfortable for most people. I recommend being intentional about it. Believe it or not, it’s more comfortable than getting stretched. Start small. Set a goal to try something you’ve never done before by the end of the month. Once you’ve tried it, reflect on the experience. Did you enjoy it? What did you learn? Another quote from John Maxwell is, “Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.” Unless I reflect on and evaluate an experience, I won’t learn from it and grow.

How Your Comfort Zone May Be Hurting You

There is a story in the New Testament about one of Jesus’ disciples named Peter who walked on water. As the story goes, the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee one night in high winds and rough waters. Jesus, who had stayed behind to dismiss a crowd and spend some time alone, came to them walking on the water. When they first saw him they were terrified, thinking it was a ghost. When Jesus reassured them he was not a ghost, and that it was he, Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” So, Peter climbed out of the boat and walked on the surface of the water for a bit. That’s what I call getting out of your comfort zone!

When Your Comfort Zone Helps You

I wonder what might have been going on in Peter’s head during that conversation. Everything in him would have been telling him to stay in the boat. Sure the boat was in high winds and rough waters, but inside the boat was the safest place to be. In that moment the boat was his comfort zone. He was a fisherman who spent most of his career in a boat. Rough waters and high winds were nothing new to him. “Stay in the boat!” is what I’m sure that voice inside his head was screaming.

A comfort zone is defined as “a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.” There is a part of us, sometimes called the “little voice inside our head,” that is very attuned to anything that threatens to disrupt our comfort zone. That’s what was screaming at Peter. When the things that threaten our comfort zone are dangerous, that little voice is very helpful. It keeps us from harm. Maybe you can remember a time, for example, when “something” told you not to do business with a certain person and you found out later they were a crook. Hooray little voice!

When Your Comfort Zone Hurts You

The problem with that little voice is that it’s programmed, not intelligent. By that I mean it reacts the same way to anything that might alter the status quo (comfort zone) whether the change would be good or bad. In the case of a challenge that might lead to great things, that little voice becomes an internal “saboteur,” that could destroy your future. It can’t tell the difference between good change and bad change.

Peter ignored his internal saboteur initially and got out of the boat. I say initially because the story continues. It goes on to say that when Peter saw what he was doing and then saw the waves, he began to sink and Jesus had to grab hold of him and pull him up to safety. We all know what happened. Peter was doing something extraordinary until he listened to his internal saboteur who said, “Look at the waves!” That’s when the extraordinary thing began to crumble.

The End of the Story

Now, let’s give credit where credit is due. Peter got out of the boat, which is more than many of us can say about the challenges or dreams we’re contemplating. What is your “little voice” saying to you about those challenges or dreams? “You’re not ready.” “You wouldn’t know what to do.” “You’ve got responsibilities.” “You can’t be serious.” Is your little voice helping or hurting? Only you can decide.

The twist to the Peter story is that the situation confronting Peter was, in fact, dangerous. In that case, his little voice was attempting to keep him from harm. Peter got out anyway. What he learned about himself and about his relationship with Jesus in those moments, could not have been learned any other way. What do we make of that?

Just after grabbing hold of him, the end of that story is Jesus saying to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When it comes to the challenges or dreams you’re contemplating now, what will be the end of your story?

What’s in the Box?

We have four people in our house who will order something on Amazon or through some other online source from time to time. So, you never know when a box or package may show up on the porch. When you see a box on the porch and you’re not the one who ordered something, the response is almost always, “Ooh, what’s in the box?” You get really curios really fast.

Curiosity is defined as “A strong desire to know or learn something.” It is the driving force behind innovation and creativity. Some of the smartest and most influential people have had these things to say about curiosity.

“I have no special talent, I’m only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Albert Einstein

“The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” Albert Einstein

“Creativity is Intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein – Curiosity is the fuel of creativity

“Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” Sir Ken Robinson

“The most important thing a teacher can do for students is to keep their curiosity alive,” Ken Robinson. [see his TED talk on the subject. It’s the most watched TED talk of all time]

“The future belongs to the curious, the ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it, and turn it inside out.” Unkown

If all this is true, I wonder why more of us aren’t more curious.

Semper Gumby

Several years ago I worked with a team that adopted the slogan “Semper Gumby.” Borrowing the Latin word “Semper” from the U.S. Marine’s motto meaning “Always,” we added “Gumby” to fill out the meaning “Always Flexible.” The idea first came up as a joke after a client had asked for yet another change in the program of services this team was offering. We later came to realize that the nimble flexibility the team provided this client was precisely why they did business with them. They saw flexibility as a differentiating strength.

Making it Personal

The first year we lived in China, one of the veterans of overseas living said to me, “to be successful living in Asia, you have to be willing to live with ambiguity.” He was right. I learned that the more of my western expectations I was able to let go, the more I enjoyed the experience of living there and the more I learned. Put another way, the more flexible I was, the more I was able to grow. We saw some people who came to live and serve who lacked flexibility. Their brittleness quickly became brokenness.

Ambiguity and Flexibility are similar in meaning. Ambiguity means, “the quality of being open to more than one interpretation, inexactness. Flexibility means, “capable of bending easily without breaking; ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances.”

Microsoft developed a list of education competencies, one of them is “Dealing with Ambiguity.” They define that as: “Can effectively cope with change; can shift gears comfortably; can decide and act without having the total picture; can comfortably handle risk and uncertainty.”

If you’re familiar with the “True Colors” personality types, the above definition sounds like an Orange through and through. Our youngest son is an Orange. Ambiguity is his friend. He just returned from a three week trip to Europe with two of his high school buddies. They planned the trip almost as they went. He loved it.

Only 27% of the global population are Orange. Well over half of us have a personality type that prefers a more steady, measured approach to life. We don’t necessarily welcome change as a friend. On the other hand, most of us would acknowledge there are things we would like to get better at. We would like to grow. There is a well-known saying, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying” that has a lot of truth to it. Jack Welch put it this way, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

What Can We Do?

When you get up in the morning, or when you’re about to do something strenuous, what do you do? You stretch. Stretching loosens your muscles so you can use them without damaging them because they become more flexible.

The same thing is true with our minds. We can stretch them to become more flexible which will allow for growth. One simple stretch exercise I’ve done with people involves a mug. I pick up a white mug that has a logo on one side. I show it to the person or group across from me and ask them to describe it. From their point of view it’s a white mug with a handle on the left. When they’re done describing it, I disagree with them and describe the mug from my perspective. I describe the logo and the fact that the handle is on the right. You get the idea. We’re both right, it’s a matter of point of view. To expand on this idea, try using your imagination to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Imagine what it must be like to be (fill in the blank).

Stretching means getting out of our comfort zones. If you’re an analytical type, read some poetry. If you’re poetic, do some math!

In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John C. Maxwell writes about “The Law of the Rubber Band – Growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be.”

Let’s stretch!

A Mile Wide

We used to live in the great state of Nebraska. It’s a wonderful place with wonderful people. We loved our years there. The Platte River runs through Nebraska. Altogether, including tributaries, the river runs over 1,000 miles. We had the chance to visit a riverside cabin with some friends on one occasion and we went “boating” on the river. I put quotes around the word boating because you can’t boat on the Platte in the conventional way. It’s too shallow. We skimmed the surface of the river on an air boat. It was so fun, fast with quick turns, a great time. The Platte river reminds me of the saying, “A mile wide and an inch deep.”

Although the Platte is beautiful and we had a great time, the saying “A mile wide and an inch deep” is derogatory when talking about people. It means the person may know a little about a lot of things but they don’t know much about any one thing. Or it means their knowledge or intelligence is superficial, shallow.

Another saying about water that’s used of people is “Still water runs deep.” That sounds like something you’d rather have someone say about you, until you look up what that saying originally meant. “Quiet enemies are more dangerous than shallower, more visibly turbulent enemies, so beware.” It’s come to mean something more positive like “a person who seems quiet or shy may surprise you by knowing a lot or having strong feelings.” This whole water/people saying thing has me thinking about the relationship between being still or quiet and being deep.

There is also the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” So, quietness alone is not the indicator of depth.

Shallow or Deep

A deep person is someone respected as having profound insight, knowledge, and wisdom while someone with superficial understanding who is gullible is considered shallow. If Gallup conducted a poll, I wonder how many people would say they wanted to be known as shallow. Among leaders, especially, I’m sure they would prefer to be known as deep.

The question is, can someone become deeper? The answer is yes. No one is born deep. Anyone who is respected for their insight and knowledge was once a kid in elementary school learning to read and write just like the rest of us. They grew deep over time. How? Here are three things we can do to grow deeper.

Ask Good Questions

Sir Francis Bacon said, “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” Looking at it from another angle, Charles P. Steinmetz once wrote, “No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions.” Good Questions are usually:

  • Purposeful – you ask based on what you want to learn about the person or the subject, not random or trivial
  • Open – they invite your conversation partner to talk rather that answer with a simple “yes” or “no.”
  • Focused – they ask only one thing at a time
  • Followed up – they begin in more general terms then become more specific to increase understanding

Here’s a post and a couple websites to explore good questions.

Listen

It doesn’t do any good to ask good questions if you don’t listen to the answers. Right? It is sometimes amazing how many people don’t get that.

It is said that LBJ had a plaque on his wall that read, “You ain’t learnin’ nothin’ when you’re talkin'” Putting the point a little more eloquently, the Dali Lama said, “When you talk you’re only repeating what you already know. But, if you listen, you may learn something new.”

Knowledge, wisdom, and insight come from learning. Learning happens when you listen. Feel free to check out a few previous posts on listening. Scroll down on that page to the category “Listening.”

Reflect

Asking good questions and listening are only two of the essential steps to growing deeper. We should take the time to reflect on what we’ve heard/learned. Earlier I mentioned the still water and wondered about a connection between quietness and depth. Here it is. We should take time to be quiet and let things marinate in our minds.

One of the greatest leaders of all time, Jesus, apparently made a habit of getting alone. In John’s gospel he writes, “Jesus, … withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” What would we do if we followed that example? I’m sure Jesus prayed. That might not be a bad idea. He probably also reflected on the interactions of the day. We could take time to think about what we’ve learned, perhaps connecting the dots to other knowledge.

An important element of reflection is quietness. Sometimes just listening to the quiet allows the “back burner” of your mind to make connections and suggest insights or understanding to your conscious mind. These flashes of insight, as they’re sometimes called, can be very exciting and are the stuff of being deep.

With water, the depth causes the quietness. With people it’s the other way around. Quietness contributes to depth. It’s difficult to be quiet and still in our culture with all the electronic devices and social media. But it’s worth it. Try to schedule some daily time to ask questions, listen, and reflect in quietness. You’ll feel yourself go deeper.