In almost four decades of leadership, I’ve made more than my share of errors. The error I’ve regretted the least is this one—Effective leaders give others the benefit of the doubt. This was one of my top ten leadership learnings I shared with young Arise worship interns several months ago.
I’m grateful that I had mentors in my life who gave me the benefit of the doubt. The best leaders gather all the facts before drawing conclusions. They postpone reaction and help team members learn from their blunders. Effective leaders extend patience and grace. They are slow to make a judgment about another’s motives. They choose to take others at their word and allow them to prove their authenticity and follow-through. Great leaders are known for looking for the best in another person or in a situation.
One of my strengths is discernment. Yet, people have proved my first impressions to be wrong. When I refused to act (or react) on my initial assessment of a situation or circumstance, I’ve watched immaturity and inexperience turn into exceptional leadership over the long haul.
Allow me to share four reasons why I believe effective leaders must try hard to give people the benefit of the doubt:
- I have a tendency to overestimate internal vs. external factors. – When someone makes a mistake or does something that disappoints us, I have a tendency to believe this is caused by their individual personality, and not their situation. We must learn to ask ourselves these types of questions: If I were in this person’s shoes, with their knowledge and experiences, would I act any different? What environmental factors may have influenced this person’s actions, which I may not be aware of? Our own self-awareness and other-awareness can help improve our ability to understand why people act the way they do. We may need to learn their story.
- My beliefs about people can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. – The results we get in life are often connected to our beliefs and expectations. When we expect a certain behavior or attitude from another person, we often experience that reality—both positive and negative. Giving the benefit of the doubt is an effective way to reverse self=perpetuating cycles of cynicism.
- It teaches me how to forgive myself for my own mistakes. – Making it a habit to give others the benefit of the doubt allows me to give me the benefit of the doubt.
- God asks me to give to others what He has given me. – We have these instructions in the Bible: “Don’t get bitter or angry or use harsh words that hurt each other. Don’t yell at one another or curse or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ” (Ephesians 4:31-32). The “normal” behavior all around me, (especially on social media) is filled with all of the “do nots” above—bitterness, anger, harsh words, rudeness, etc. It’s never been more evident than in the recent presidential election. However, I serve a God of the second chance. I want to be like Him.
Today, what will you do with those whom you have some doubts about? Whether a new employee, a client, a friend of your daughters, or a new President of the United States—will you give the benefit of the doubt? It just could be the best error you ever make.
QUESTION: What’s the natural go-to tendency for you? Judgment or benefit of the doubt? Any insight you care to share with other readers on why that is your propensity?
Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of funneling nearly four decades of leadership experience into 90 minutes. I shared ten things I’ve learned about leadership with ten millenials. They were Arise Worship Interns from across the world. I summarized them in a blog: Top Ten for Young Leaders. Then the requests started rolling in to unpack these top ten. So, here’s the fourth principle from the series: Leaders Cultivate a Servant Heart.
The best leaders are servants. They know that the way up is down. Great leadership is the opposite of what you tend to think. Leadership is not about position, power, prestige and supremacy. It’s all about servanthood. The way to the top is from the bottom in God’s upside-down economy. Instead of taking, we give. Instead of self-indulgence, we self-sacrifice. Instead of going to the front of the line, we go to the back. It’s the opposite of what our culture screams.
Connected most closely to servanthood, is humility. A servant leader has a heart of humility. They have the right attitude and are accessible and approachable. Popeye’s CEO, Cheryl Bachelder had a guest on her blog, Joshua Becker. Becker wrote: “Humility is the act of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive. It is the opposite of aggression, arrogance, pride, and vanity. And on the surface, it appears to empty its holder of all power. But on the contrary, it grants enormous power to its owner. Humility offers its owner complete freedom from the desire to impress, be right, or get ahead. Frustrations and losses have less impact on a humble ego and a humble person confidently receives opportunity to grow, improve, and reject society‘s labels. A humble life results in contentment, patience, forgiveness, and compassion.” Love it. These are the characteristics of great leaders. The way up is down. Learn from the greatest leader of all times: John 13:1-16 and Philippians 2:5-11.
I recently heard Rick Warren tell a story about Dan Cathy. Dan is President and CEO of the restaurant chain that his father, Truett Cathy, founded. Dan was in southern California checking on some new Chick-fil-A restaurants their company was building near Saddleback Church, where Rick is the founding pastor. These two stopped at a construction site of a new Chick-fil-A.
Here’s how Rick tells the story. “We were looking at the building. While we were there we were hungry so we went next door to, I think it was a Taco Bell. It was some other fast food in competition with Chick-fil-A. We’d been out, our hands were all sweaty and dirty and we went in the restroom and washed our hands. Then I watched Dan take out extra sheets…This is the CEO of a chain of restaurants. I watched him pull them out and I watched him hand clean the sinks of the Taco Bell bathroom we were just in. I looked at him and said, thank you for doing that Dan. He said, “Rick we teach our staff to always leave any place they are better than it was when they found it, whether it’s our place or not.” I thought nobody in that Taco Bell and nobody at Taco Bell Corporate will know that the CEO of their competition just cleaned their bathroom… for free.”
Wow! The heart of a servant. The greatest leaders model going down on their way up. The finest leaders resist an entitlement mentality. They help others become successful. They serve others. Even the competition. Even when no one is looking. And if any one does notice, they say, “My pleasure.”
P.S. For previous blog posts on the topic of servant leadership, click here.
QUESTION: What is one thing you can do this week to better demonstrate servant leadership in your setting? I’d love to know if you are willing to share it in the comment section below. Thanks
Last month, I got a really good deal! I purchased a Lifetime Pass to any National Park in our nation. And I only had to invest ten bucks. What a deal!. It’s normally a twenty-five dollar entry fee per car into each individual park. What’s the catch, you ask? You just have to be mature like me. At least age 62.
But more importantly, 100 years ago today, August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service, a new federal bureau responsible for protecting the then existing 35 national parks and monuments, as well as those yet to be established. On this Centennial Celebration of our national parks in the United States of America, there are now 397 of these unique national treasures, comprised of nearly 52 million acres of land.
While visiting the Olympic and Mt. Rainier National Parks last month near where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, I was once again overwhelmed by the beauty of our country. I felt fortunate to experience and photograph these wonderful natural places that have been saved for all of us to enjoy. My wife and I’ve visited many of these “crown jewels” that visionaries like President Wilson, President Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and Stephen T. Mather preserved. These forward-thinking leaders created these places “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Their consideration for the environment and for future generations have given me and millions more the pleasure of seeing portions of our country as pristine, unchanged and unspoiled as they were long ago. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
On this memorable day, I’m challenged to also be a forward-thinking leader. I must examine myself. Am I just thinking about myself? Do I only plan for today or even for just my lifetime? Am I setting up the next generations for blessing and success? Am I investing my life to leave the world around me a better place or am I just a consumer, taking all I can get? Will my grandchildren have more to enjoy or less to enjoy because of my decisions today? On this Centennial day, I invite you to join me with this honest inward look.
QUESTION: What are the intentional ways you are attempting to be a forward-thinker? I’d love hear from you in the comment section below.
For More Naturescapes by Dennis from additional National Parks, GingerichPhotoArt.com
You will be known for something. Your brand is what people think of you. You have a personal brand that is shaped by what you do and say, how you look, and what you post on social media. Will you determine your brand or let others determine what you are known for?
This topic is one of the top ten learnings for leaders that I shared with ten young millenials attending a worship internship this summer at our church. I was impressed by your responses to those top ten and the number of requests for me to elaborate on each of them. So, here’s number three.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of hearing Larry Linne speak at a large community-wide National Day of Prayer event. Afterward, I bought his book, “BRAND AID: Taking Control of Your Reputation—Before Everyone Else Does.” It’s the best resource I know on this topic. It’s superb!
Here are a few things I remember when I heard Larry speak and underlined when I read his book. They’ve become a conscious part of my day-to-day practice. Hopefully, you will be as inspired as I’ve been, and be intentional about this part of your life.
Brand Creation in Thirty Seconds – Larry tells of his high school philosophy teacher who said, “People will spend the first thirty seconds when they meet you forming an opinion about you. Then they will spend the future of their relationship with you trying to find evidence to support their initial opinions.” Managing the first thirty seconds of a relationship is one of the most powerful brand management strategies in existence. Co-author Patrick Sitkins is a research expert in branding and digital marketing. His research shows people typically develop first impressions based on dress, posture, fitness level and modern (not too modern) styles. Very interesting to ponder.
Brand Creation in Four Minutes – People will spend around four minutes learning about you via your Internet footprint, prior to meeting you. 78% of decision-makers look up salespeople before meeting with them. The Internet amplifies what we say and do, many times before people meet us in person. I love this line from the book, “As in an echo chamber, what you say there doesn’t stop when you close your mouth. It reverberates and has a life of its own, for better or worse” (p. 60-61). Ask yourself before posting on social media, “How will this impact my brand?” Social media is the word of mouth of today. Try typing your name into your search engine of choice and you will know your personal brand that others see.
Brand Creation in Two Years – Your online presence (or lack of it) will help you or hurt you. Depending what kind of work you are in or what your long term goals are, it’s very important to be strategic in building your brand. I’ve experienced first-hand success as I’ve turned my hobby of photography into a self-supporting part-time business that has developed it’s own following. It takes time and consistency to become trusted and credible. Linne writes that it’s often at least a two-year process. As a pastor in the same community for thirty years, I can tell that it does take years of consistency and visibility to build high levels of trust with people outside the core of your church.
Linne’s book is chock full of specific steps and practical principles that will help you be strategic in building your brand. There’s even a section on repairing brand damage. A few weeks back, I left those young millennial interns with Linne’s sobering reminder: “Your personal brand is only as strong as your behavior, and every moment counts.” We are watching that truth unfold every single day with a certain Olympic swimmer on the 2016 USA Team in Rio, Brazil. It can take years to grow the reputation of a champion, but it only takes minutes to become a chump. Your actions and attitudes today will determine your brand tomorrow. Have a great day!
QUESTION: What would you add that I might have missed? Love to hear it below!
A couple weeks ago, ten worship interns from Arise Worship returned to their homes—multiple states, three countries. During the eight weeks they were at Cape Christian, I had the opportunity to attempt to inspire these young millennial leaders toward transformissional living. I shared ten things I’ve learned about leadership. You can see the list in a recent blog post. I’ve been asked by many of my readers to say more about each of these learnings gleaned from four decades of leadership. Here’s the second of the ten: Leaders Build Teams.
Great leaders build teams that build great organizations. It’s a very rare occurrence to see an individual single-handedly build a healthy organization. When you peak under the hood of a great running business or a non-profit, you’ll usually see some high-octane, well-oiled teams at work. In fact, if you see a business that isn’t growing and succeeding, it is frequently due to a leader who has not gathered and established teams around her or him. I truly believe, a leader is at their very best and doing some of their most important work when they are raising up other great leaders through building teams.
Here’s a 3D approach I’ve used to build teams:
DISCOVER—Train yourself to look for other leaders. My high school principal shoulder-tapped me and asked if I had ever considered becoming a pastor. I hadn’t. But I did. And I am. Over 37 years now of fruitful ministry. Principal Glen Roth had trained himself to look for leaders.
When you are looking for team members, seek out people different than yourself. Creating a team means bringing together people with different skillsets and varied personalities to work towards a common mission. It’s important to understand what each individual team member’s strengths are and put each person in a place to shine. The whole team will get better. A rising tide raises the level of all the boats in the harbor.
And, I’ve always tried to train other leaders on the team to keep their radar on so they can spot potential leaders and team members. They rub shoulders with people you don’t know. The best leaders are always team players. At every level in an organization—building a team—should be of high importance.
DEVELOP—Leaders grow leaders. It takes intentionality. Leaders collaborate and help others become winners. Whether its formal or informal, pouring yourself into less experienced leaders is necessary to build a strong healthy team. It might be easier to do it yourself than to show someone else how to do it. You might even be able to do it better than anyone else on the team. But keeping leadership only for yourself, will ultimately hinder the growth of your organization.
Bill Hybels, states it powerfully in his book, Courageous Leadership, “When a leader develops not only his or her own leadership potential, but draws out the leadership potential of scores of other leaders as well, the kingdom impact from one life is multiplied exponentially. It produces far more fruit than any single leadership achievement could have. The impact of that leader’s life will be felt for many generations to come.”
DEPLOY—Allow others under your leadership to actually lead. Offer real-life opportunities. Not micromanaging, but coaching them. Give clear boundaries. Invite their input. Provide them with appropriate authority. Let them know you have their back. Assure them it’s okay to fail. You are there to support them. You are there to make sure they get some wins under their belt. You are there to help build their confidence. You are there to inspire and equip them to be effective leaders.
The bottom line is, an organization, a church, or a business can only grow as much as you have growing leaders who are growing other leaders. As long as you are growing leaders, you can keep growing your organization, your business or your ministry. You can’t do it alone. If you really want to be the most successful leader possible, you must discover, develop and deploy other leaders around you.
QUESTION: What would you add to this topic based on your leadership experience? I’d love to know. Use the comment section below.
This week, ten worship interns from across the globe, left our church campus and returned to their homes in Australia, Canada and the United States. During the two months these Arise Worship Internship millennials were with us, I treasured the opportunity to inspire young leaders toward transformissional living. I had the privilege of funneling nearly four decades of leadership experience into ninety minutes one morning. I shared ten things I’ve learned about leadership. You can see the list in my last blog post.
Since that blog post, many of my readers asked me to share more about each one of those ten. So there will be ten blogs to come. Here’s the first one: Leaders are Learners.
As a young leader, Dr. John Maxwell provided me this axiom: leaders are learners. For many years, I subscribed to his Injoy Life Club –monthly leadership teachings on cassette (some of you young leaders will have to Google that word). Later, I added to my growth plan, Defining Moments, monthly talks or interviews by Bill Hybels. Those were on CD. Later it was DVD’s. For decades, I attempted to read at least one new leadership book per month. I attended a two or three day leadership conference and/or a one day workshop at least once per year. These were my biggest leadership growth habits for dozens of years.
Many years in a row, I sat down and wrote a growth plan for the year ahead. What would I read, listen to or attend? Who would I try to learn from? Understandably, as a pastor, I wanted to learn from the best teacher. So a heavy dose of my reading included the Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus. As a pastor who was starting and growing a young church, I knew I needed leadership skills and inspiration in large doses. So I read inspiring stories of great business leaders and church leaders. I studied how-to books. I learned from other great churches, a few years ahead of ours. I sought out mentors from near and far.
In more recent years, I intentionally developed another passion, my long-time hobby—photography. Same thing. Books, online videos, websites, blogs, photography magazines, and studying the work of other photographers have consumed most of my leisure time. I created more free time. I stopped watching television. If my wife is watching one of her few favorite HGTV home makeover shows, I’m sitting beside her with my laptop, learning from other photographers or processing my own captures.
More than any of the above methods of growing my leadership skills, is an even more important one. Consistent face-to-face contact with other inspiring leaders. King Solomon wisely stated, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). For the last twenty years, I’ve met weekly with a group of several other like-minded growing pastors. I’ve learned so much from them. They might have even learned a little from me. They’ve taught me, encouraged me, challenged me, stretched me, supported me, laughed with me and cried with me–over lunch on Monday’s.
As I’ve grown my love of photography into a fully self-supporting hobby and business, the most important component of that development is my investment in a five-day hands-on photography workshop at Glacier National Park in Montana. Led by professional nature photographer, Joseph Rossenbach, that experience was epic in thrusting me forward. I learned so much. Even the five other learners were teachers for me. Iron sharpens iron. Invaluable technical skills and business acumen were transferred into my life that week.
Over the decades, things have changed. But they haven’t. Now it is Kindle, Mp4’s, You Tube, Vimeo, podcasts and webinars. But still, growing organizations are led by growing leaders. You are never too young or too old to learn. Young, middle age or older. All of us are potential learners. Leaders must be learners.
QUESTION: What keeps you a learner? What is the most effective way you learn? Please share it in the comment section below. Thanks!
This week, I was honored to speak to Arise worship interns. I love inspiring young leaders toward transformissional living! These millennials, span from age 17 to 31. They come from around the world (Australia, Canada and the United States). They are with us at Cape Christian for eight weeks. Then, they’ll return to their varied settings to lead. So, I asked myself, what would I have wished to know from a seasoned (aka “old”) leader when I was that age? I funneled nearly four decades of leadership experience into ninety minutes. They eagerly listened and took notes.
Here are the things I shared with these young leaders. They are in no particular order. Ten things I’ve learned about church leadership in nearly forty years:
- Leaders are Learners—Growing organizations are led by growing leaders. Read books and blogs. Listen to podcasts. Attend workshops and webinars. You are never too young or too old to learn.
- Leaders Build Teams—Great leaders build teams that build great organizations. Train yourself to look for other leaders. Discover, develop and deploy them. The best leaders are team players. They collaborate and help others become winners. Leaders grow leaders.
- Leaders Determine Their Brand—You will be known for something. Your brand is what people think of you. You have a personal brand that is shaped by what you do and say, how you look, and what you post on social media. Will you determine your brand or let others determine what you are known for? The best resource I know on this topic is the book Brand Aid. It’s superb!
- Leaders Cultivate a Servant Heart—The best leaders are servants. They help others become successful. They have the right attitude and are accessible and approachable. The finest leaders resist an entitlement mentality. Great leaders love to celebrate the success of their team and help others rise above them.
- Leaders Error on the Side of Grace—Effective leaders give others the benefit of the doubt. They gather all the facts before drawing conclusions. They postpone reaction and help team members learn from their blunders. They extend patience and grace. And when they are right, great leaders rarely point it out to their followers.
- Leaders Leverage Their Influence for Good—The most influential leaders inspire us without even being aware of it. They lead by example. They pick up trash and everyone else feels compelled to join them. They don’t use their leadership power to get perks and privileges. They use their influence to bless others and gain maximum impact.
- Leaders Know Character is Critical—I look for six C’s in leadership team members: Calling, Character, Competence, Commitment, Conflict resolution skills and Chemistry. Character is the most important of all. It will take you higher than you imagined or lower than you ever wanted to go. Excellent character is indispensible for outstanding leaders.
- Leaders are Big Picture Thinkers—Top leaders see what others don’t see. They paint a picture that allows team members and followers to see why, what they do, is important. Great leaders learn to fly above the immediate hill or valley and get a bird’s eye view of what is best for the organization over the long term.
- Leaders Must be Persistent—Great long-term results always come out of perseverance. Overnight successes usually happen through years of persistence by someone. It always looks easy after its been done. But there was nothing easy about it. Jim Collins writes about the “flywheel effect” in Good to Great. He’s exactly right. You can only live your vision with stick-to-it-ness. Persistence is mandatory.
- Leaders Must Keep Their Priorities in Order—As a leader in a large church, there are hundreds and hundreds of people that I try to bring with me on the journey. But the most important? My own family. My ministry won’t matter without them. My ministry won’t matter without my physical, emotional and spiritual health. I reminded the young interns to set personal boundaries and keep their lives in proper perspective and balance. I ended by sharing what I learned three decades ago from Rick Warren—divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually.
These ten are for young, middle age or older leaders. All of us are learners, correct? I have more to learn as well. What would you add to this list? Please share it in the comment section below. Thanks!
I read a blog recently by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. He was writing about how tired he is of hearing business leaders complain about hiring Millennials—young adults born from the early 1980’s to around 2000. I’ve heard similar. People in my calling. Pastors, church leaders. Lamenting that these “kids” growing up these days have horrible work habits and tendencies to be self-focused, isolated, lazy and incapable of working with others. There is no hope for the future, some have said.
I totally get it. Every generation has a few things that make them uniquely different. I’m a Baby Boomer. We are different than the Silent Generation. Different than the Gen Xers after us. And now, the 20 somethings are unique. They communicate with different devices than I did at that age. They have different expectations of employment than I did coming out of college. They didn’t do some of the hard work I did growing up on an Oregon farm. But doesn’t every generation grow up with different experiences? I certainly didn’t have some of the work experiences my 87 year old father and 95 year old father in-law had. Lencioni asks, “Why is that we seem to be fascinated with this new collection of human beings, as though they come from another planet?” I couldn’t agree more.
The longer I am in leadership in an organization that has a multi-generational staff and quite a few young interns, the more I realize how enduring some needed virtues really are. Instead of stereotyping people by their generational label, I agree with what Lencioni highlights in his new book, “The Ideal Team Player.” He says there are three simple, timeless and observable virtues that are reliable predictors of whether someone of any age will be a good team player in the work world.
1. Humility – this is the first and most important virtue. I’ve seen arrogance in every generation. I’ve seen humility at all ages. Humility is a timeless virtue. Yes, we have plenty of celebrities and cultural icons on very tall pedestals. Yet, every society yearns for humility. I know plenty of young millennials who are as tired of self-indulgence and narcissism as the rest of us are. I’ve experienced these young adults as super capable of caring for others more than for themselves. I’ve watched them truly enjoy the success of a team more than their individual achievement. Many of them possess the much-needed virtue of humility.
2. Hunger – Lencioni writes about the critical virtue of the desire to work hard, to go above and beyond what is required for something worthwhile. In most places, paper routes and lawn-mowing businesses for teens is a thing of the past. Yet, hard work and sacrifice is alive and well among some of our teens and young adults. As in all generations, a few are slackers but I’m often amazed at how dedicated and committed many in the millennial generation really are. I love working along side of them.
3. Smarts – This is Patrick Lencioni’s catch-all term for a person who has common sense about people and awareness of how one’s words and actions impact others. We can all point to plenty of millennials who rarely look beyond their smart devices and only communicate through abbreviations and emojis. But I know plenty of teens and young adults who want interpersonal connection and are capable of embracing it. They are great communicators and sensitive to the needs of others around them.
I agree with Lencioni when he challenges the older generations to recognize there are plenty of millennials among us who are humble, hungry and smart. They are the ones you want to find for your team. They will place a high priority on teamwork and they will help take you to the next level of excellence in your ministry or work place. Take some time today and let a millennial know how much you appreciate the virtues you see in their life. There is hope!
QUESTION: What additional virtue have you seen in the millennials around you? Share it in the comment section below.
I love this story from the Bible. It’s from Genesis 12 and it’s about a guy named Abraham. Abraham is 75 years old, and has lived in this particular town all his life. He’s got a nice life, nice family and he knows everyone in town. He’s comfortable!
So God comes to him and says, “Abraham, I want you to leave your hometown, and I want you to travel to this land that I’m going to show you.” God didn’t even reveal the end destination – He just told Abraham to get moving. The Bible says that THE NEXT DAY, Abraham loaded up and moved. As a pastor, I can’t help but share with you a principle that I see in this story, in fact, I see it all throughout the Bible.
The blessings of God always follow obedience and risk. Let me say that one more time… the blessings of God always follow obedience and risk. In other words, we obey and risk first, then we’re blessed.
As I reflect on my past thirty-seven years as a pastor, two significant steps of risk and obedience come to mind. Leaving the comforts of a known situation and moving our family a thousand plus miles away from our nearest family to a new city to start a new church with two other couples was one of those times. It was God’s call. It took obedience. It took risk. Blessing has followed.
The other memorable call and then the step of obedience and risk was purchasing land for the new church. Three city blocks, 48 individually-owned pieces. Land-owners spread across two continents, three countries, three provinces and twenty states. Experts reminded us it had never been done and couldn’t be done. We were cautioned that someone in the center will hold out and ruin the whole project. Huge risk. Next to impossible. But obedience. Risk. A decade of persistence, perseverance and prayer. Twenty-five years later, we are enjoying our beautiful 14 acre campus that blesses the families of our entire community every day of the year.
Here’s how we normally think… “If God would give me a raise, then I would be generous.” But it doesn’t work that way. “If God would give me some financial blessings, then I would obey the Bible and do that 10% tithing thing.” That’s not how it happens.
We obey God, even when it’s tough, even when it’s hard, even when it makes us uncomfortable. That’s how faith works.
Abraham went on to become the father of a great nation – the Jewish people. He was famous, blessed and important. God blessed him with a family. In fact, the Bible says that all the people on the earth would be blessed through Abraham. But none of that happened until after Abraham obeyed and risked everything to start on an unknown journey.
My life is filled with blessing because I’ve repeatedly obeyed and risked. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude at God’s faithfulness and blessing the past decades. But the exhilaration of soaring in God’s blessing has only come when I’ve been obedient and taken a risk.
QUESTION: What one thing is God is asking you to risk? If its too personal to share, please share a story of the past where you are experiencing blessing because you where obedient and took a risk. Thanks!
Nearly three decades ago, as a young pastor just launching a church, I read Dr. John Maxwell’s book “Be All You Can Be.” A chapter title got my attention: “Failure is Not Final.” The first paragraph was new information for me as a young leader. Dr. Maxwell said, “on the average, successful people fail two out of every five times they attempt something and unsuccessful people fail three out of five times.” That’s not a lot of difference, is it?
My hobby is photography. I’ve been intentionally upping my game in recent years to turn my photography into a self-supporting hobby. I have a website where people purchase my images for the walls of their homes and offices. I sell a line of my naturescapes on greeting cards in three gift shops. I was recently selected as the Resident Artist for our area tourism bureau. At the end of the three-month assignment, I will be paid a stipend after the marketing department chooses at least 15 (but not more than 20) images I’ve captured. These photos will be used for their world-wide advertising to potential visitors.
I’m just a week past the half-way point of the three-month resident artist appointment. I’ve taken 2,348 photos so far. However, I’ve only selected 150 photos that I believe are good enough to submit to the tourism bureau for review. That’s just 6.4% of the total. Another way to look at it, 93.4% of my photographic efforts have failed entirely. And, if I take another 2,000 photos in the last half of the residency period, I might have 300 photos to submit. But they are going to choose only 15 or 20 at the most. That’s only .03% to maybe .045% of the images captured. Does that mean more than 99.9% of my images are failures?
Recently, I read that Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired, said, “95% of [all] results in creativity are failures.” He was addressing the creativity used in art as well as science and technology. So, it looks like my numbers are pretty close to normal. However, I don’t consider over 4,000 deleted images as failure. Photography is a passion, and making images brings me joy. I enjoy telling a story, trying to depict a scene in the best possible way, the science of color and light, the art of photography, and don’t forget playing with camera equipment. Every bad image teaches me something new, reminds me of something I forgot or gives me a picture of something the could be improved.
I’m reminded of an old Nike commercial featuring basketball legend Michael Jordan. In it Michael says, “I have failed over, and over, and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” Here’s a link to the commercial. It’s worth watching!
I’ve been told that I am talented as a photographer. I’m not sure if I believe all that much in talent. I wasn’t born as some photographic savant. It took me years and years of reading, a lot of experimentation, taking a class or two here and there, a five day workshop with a professional and countless failures to get to where I am today. And there’s a very long road ahead of me.
Here’s what I’ve been learning since back in 1987 when I first read Dr. John Maxwell’s book. Concentrate on success and not the failure. Treat failure as a friend. View failure as a moment. Change what needs changing. Successfully fail. Never quit because of failure. Keep swinging the bat. Keep shooting the ball. Failure is important. Failure is necessary. Failure is not final.
QUESTION: What additional things have you learned from failure? Our readers would love to learn from you. Share it below. Thanks!