Weight

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure. While I can’t see it, I can feel it.

Weight.

Something pressing’s down on me. Many things, actually. And they’re not bad things. They’re good things. In fact, they’re God-ordained things.

Serving my wife, stewarding my kids, taking care of our home, investing into people, building the local church, growing kingdom businesses that influence communities, creating art that changes hearts.

Every one of these topics have high price tags of time, energy and money. And they each have severe ramifications if I make mistakes.

Legitimately.

And yet they weight me down.

So is the weight something I’m to be afraid of? To fear?

How about to avoid? That seems to be the most common advice I give myself. That’s the advice most well meaning people give. Avoid the weight. Look for ways to offload it. It’s unhealthy. It’s not God. If you’re not at peace with it, look for where you’re being disobedient.

But what if not giving myself to any of those things is the disobedience?

I’m also inspired by a quote form one of T.D. Jake’s famous sermons, The Weight of Glory:

The conduit from laity to leadership is discomfort.

What if the discomfort of my life is the very thing that qualifies me to lead? To stand in front of my family, my friends, my church, my businesses, and say, “Follow me as I follow the Lord.”

I’m inspired by the life and letters of the Apostle Paul, knowing that affliction is the gateway for glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

What if the very tactic of the enemy is to get me to believe the “burn out” lie? To subtly convince me to “take it easy.” To “quit” one thing or another “because it’s hard, and I’m so tired.”

If anxiety and burdens are the enemy of the first-world Christian, how can I consciously avoid lines like this in what most scholars believe is the first written text of the New Testament?

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28

I can feel the loving eyes of the Father staring at me as I complain about my circumstances. As I moan about one issue or another. About how hard I have it. The past several days, it’s been a minute by minute awareness. He’s checking me. Testing me.

•••

This past Sunday was the most frustrating tech Sunday at New Life. Ever. Four days before, our building was struck by lightning, so by Sunday, my tech department was finding more and more ghosts in the systems. Lights stopped working, lyrics stopped going up on screens, audio sends weren’t feeding. And I have no hair left to pull out.

Meanwhile, on stage, Jamie Wright was talking about victims of sex trafficking and how The Exodus Road is working covertly to rescue them.

Could God be speaking any more loudly to me?

•••

I think I’m mining gold now. I think I’m arriving at a divine conclusion. I feel God forging it deep within me. And I’m becoming profoundly certain of a heavenly truth.

The best way to keep from spoiling our position is to correct our attitude.

And what is my attitude to be?

That I live like a king. That pastors dream about having the “problems” I do. That since I’ve been given so much, much is required of me (Luke 12:48). Anything less than my very best not only belittles my calling and my position, but mocks the one who knew I can stand here and lead. And serve.

I’ve never met a grateful person who was burnt out.

Keep going today.

Don’t give up.

Tomorrow will take care of itself. You just be obedient today.

Souls are waiting on the other side of your obedience.

Ultimately, it’s obedience that the Holy Spirit is looking for (Psalm 40:6, 1 Samuel 15:22).

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Loss Judging

In the arena of business, I’ve met a lot of people who start off conversations by asking future employees or other entrepreneurs how much money they’ve earned. The discussion could include additional possessions, like cars, boats and houses, as if these are medals awarded for valor on the field of capitalist battle.

But asking someone how much money they made doesn’t give you an accurate picture of the whole story. So I prefer another question.

“How much money have you lost?”

Knowing how much money someone has lost not only reveals to me how much net worth they might have, but also the level of risk that they’re willing to live with. Further, if someone has lost a considerable amount of money, or has endured numerous life-failures, and yet they’re still sitting in front of me as a successful person, that tells me a great deal about their individual fortitude and personal character. They’re willing to put things on the line, pay the price if they go wrong, and work themselves out of the hole.

I call this loss judging.

Losing money, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, is never fun. It’s not something we like to brag about either. Who would? There’s certainly something to be said for steering clear of people who habitually tank institutions, organizations or themselves. But when considering a new hire or partnership, assuming the person has something to bring to the table, knowing what they’ve had to go through to get where they are helps paint a more clear picture of who they are.

The same assessment can also hold true in other aspects of life. Much of the time we write off people who’ve made poor decisions, finding themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. How many times have we passed homeless people who actually have degrees in a highly prestigious fields? And yet we give jobs to young 20-something’s fresh out of college, with no experience whatsoever, mind you, and a mountain of debt.

I judge someone who’s lost a loved one—as a different example—as someone who knows how to endure grief. They’ve had to stare mortality in the face and move on, most often at great expense. For those who’ve lost family “out of time,” meaning a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter, I have even more respect.

Perfect track records can tell you a lot about people, sure. But loss judging not only tells you who a person is, but who’ve they’ve fought not to be. It tells you they’re still in the game. That matters.

Not all loss is bad. And not all gains are good. Our job as leaders is to try and perceive the value of people sitting across from us so we all can move forward in strength. The more scars a person carries, the less your team may have to suffer.

ch:

Fashion Review: Vere Sandals

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Fashion Review?

I know. A bit tongue-in-cheek for those that know my wife dresses me. Out of sheer social necessity. But sandals? That’s something I know a thing or two about. Review, here I come.

I discovered Vere Sandals last week. They liked a vintage photo I posted on Instagram of my father-in-law in Letchworth State Park from the ’70s. Intrigued, I clicked on their profile and saw cool sandals-in-process pics. And then a pic of what looked a lot like the Finger Lakes. As a guy who grew up in the beautiful wine-country region on central NY, I can spot a tree-speckled horizon of waterfront property a mile away. Sure enough, their company location read “Geneva, NY.”

Wait, wait. Good looking sandals, hand made in Geneva, NY? And no, Geneva, NY isn’t code for some NYC burrow filled with migrant workers.

But they’re probably expensive.

So I jumped on their website and immediately went searching for a price point.

$34 for foamies, $54 for leathers.

Get out.

That’s as much, if not cheaper than what I pay for my Reefs (two pair annually).

OK, but they probably feel like crap.

Why am I so jaded?

Only one way to overcome this consumer bias. So I bought a pair of Men’s Louie Sandals in black and blue, size 10. They arrived at my PO Box a few days later.

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The sparse packaging was cool, and reemphasized the slogan I’d seen on their sight: “Made here. Made better.” Another personal touch was the hand written note from Mike. Not sure who Mike is, but he cared enough to just not stuff a receipt in the padded envelope. Nice touch.

I’m a smell guy, so the scent of newly pressed foam and needle-point-nylon wafted out of the envelope. My designer eye scanned the lines for imperfections, thinking somehow that handmade meant shoddy. Wrong. From the laser engraved heel emblem to the flawless trim lines, these beauties were well executed. Even the bright blue Vere logo on the sandal strap was understated but purposeful.

I happened to be on our sail boat in port (#1000Islands), so what better time to test them out? I flicked off my trusty-dusty Reefs from last season, and eased on the new Veres.

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First impressions were of pulling on a new glove. Fairly tight, but by no means uncomfortable. I forgot that I was coming from well-worn Reefs with a solid synthetic strap. The Veres have a woven strap that seemed to expand slightly with my foot.

I won’t lie, the tight fit scared me. Then I started thinking maybe I should’ve purchased 11s as the 10s left little room behind the heel or in front of the toe. The only problem was that they felt good. Really good.

I took a stroll down our dock, immediately feeling the subtle support built into the multilayers of foam. This was different. I also tend to walk slightly pigeon toed, so my heels wear to the inside of a sandal; but looking down, I noticed the sandal was staying right in line with my awkward foot-angle.

With a few passes in our marina, I started to wonder if I really needed all the extra real estate I always purchase with my Reefs. Because these sandals felt a lot less like sandals, and more like…

…my foot.

But with comfort built in.

In fact, they fit so well, I could actually feel that my right foot was bigger than the left (which it is). Where the left strap felt perfect, the right strap felt a little too tight. And for the first 24 hours of wearing them, I felt a slight rub on the inside of my right foot. It was annoying, but I reminded myself that: a) I’d come front a different style sandal, and b) they hadn’t broken in yet.

I posted a quick pic on Instagram, and a few minutes later @veresandals was talking back. More nice.

I stopped by a friend’s house in Rochester, NY yesterday. He immediately noticed the new treads and asked, “May I?” I acquiesced, and the moment his foot went in (also a size 10), he looked up surprised. “They feel great!”

“I know,” I replied with a smile. “They’re Veres. And they’re made an hour from you.”

The most starling Vere discovery, however, came after a full day of use. I was sitting on the couch talking with Jenny when I scratched my foot. A second later, I wiped my nose (come on, you all do stuff like this too). But something was missing.

The horrid foot-stink.

I was literally so shocked (remember, I’m a smell guy), I buried my nose in my toes. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I looked over at my Reefs by the front door and could practically smell the cow manure stench they give off after a day’s use. Granted, it could be because the Veres are new; I half expect them to stink by week’s end. But every pair of Reefs I’ve ever purchased smelled the first day.

By the end of my second day, the right side strap-rub was all but gone. And that’s when I had to make the big decision. Do I take them to France with me or not? What footwear you bring overseas is a big deal if you’re a frequent traveler. It can often make or break your trip. Jenny was packing my suit case and saw me deliberating. “Take the ones that don’t smell,” she said.

And I did.

I’m sitting on the plane heading overseas wearing my Veres and packing my Merrel shoes. The deal is sealed.

My next pair of sandals will be Veres. And the pair after that. If they keep making great products, employing my neighbors, and valuing their materials usage (including disposal) like they do, I can’t imagine buying anything else.

Can’t wait to try their leather sandals—that’s next.

If you buy some, tell them Christopher sent you. I don’t get a thing from it, I just like being personable with a company that treats me personally. Then come back here and share your story.

Tread well,

ch:

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UPDATE: In the time it took me to publish this post, Vere got back to me via Instagram about why my feet don’t smell. Classy.

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Order

Life is built on a sequence of events played out over time.

I can’t buy my next guitar until I sell my present guitar. Which I just did.

(Enjoy, Mark R.)

I couldn’t write this post until I got here to Hawaii. Between the build up to Easter, the launching of our North Campus, and leading worship and speaking at Redline Conference, I haven’t had anything more to give a public. This post was conditional upon my last “posting” of service to another audience.

All this to say, I’m simply reminded that we can’t do the next thing unless we finish the present thing.

The next thing sounds wonderful and exciting. It’s a distant horizon, an unopened gift beneath the Christmas tree.

The present thing is familiar.

Overly familiar.

It’s old.

And not the vintage, old-timey old. I mean nasty old. The “dear lord, I’m so sick of this and I just want it to end” kind of old that demands a high level of something to tolerate.

Of…

Of endurance? Patience? Stamina? Fortitude?

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36 NLT)

The next thing becomes the sweetest thing only when the present thing is treated faithfully.

Said differently with some verbose alliteration, don’t rob your pending promise of its pleasure by prematurely parting with your present plan.

Stay with it, whatever you’re doing today. There is a very real reward on its way.

I’m off to dive on a plane wreck in O’ahu. Yes, rewards are worth being patient for.

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How Do They Get So Much Accomplished?

Aside from trying to answer my children on why I have more hair on my chest that I do on top of my head, one of the questions people ask me the most is, “How do you manage to do all that you do?”

While I’m always honored that my conduct is worth asking about, the question has a few inherent flaws. One of those is assuming that I’m faithful to all the things I need to get done. For every one thing someone sees, there are dozens more that need attention. And I carry that reverently, as everything worth doing has a person on the other side of it.

But with regard to the question itself, we need to make sure we break it down more accurately.

Reading It Right

Don’t confuse productivity with capacity and support.

It’s dangerous to compare ourselves to others. But analyzing peoples methods can often be thought-provoking, informative and convicting. So it’s worth investigating when you’re able to rub shoulders with someone whom you admire.

How Much Can You Carry?

It’s important to recognize that some people are born with a higher natural capacity to produce things than others. They have certain gifts and natural dispositions that lend to high output lifestyles. My senior pastor, Kirk Gilchrist, has a natural gift of leadership. I try and emulate it as best I can, but what I have to work for, he has naturally.

You can work toward having a greater natural capacity but, ultimately, capacity has to do with how you’re put together.

The greatest thing you can do to increase your capacity is allow yourself to be stretched. And this isn’t exactly a warm-fuzzy process. It will test the limits of your patience, stamina, stress thresholds, memory and relationships. This doesn’t mean you take on fifty things, just the next thing. This means that you’ll operate within your own natural capacity, not someone else’s, and then look to the next step that makes you uncomfortable, not the next thirty steps.

Who’s On Their Team?

Very often, we see what’s attributed to one person when in reality it was created by many people.

Most people who produce a lot have amazing support systems in place. Movies are great examples of this. The main actor or director usually gets the red carpet treatment. But sit through the credits of the next film you enjoy, and really think through all the faces that go with each of those names.

These key supporters allow producers to offer more than what they’re able to do on their own. This is a quality of leadership, and should not be confused with someone’s natural ability to create or carry something. One of the only reasons I’m able to appear to do all that I do is because of those who’ve partnered with me. Accordingly, it’s become of one of my personal goals to shower them with as much praise and recognition as I can. They deserve it, and so much more.

Be a Voracious Learner

The best that we can do is glean from people’s habits and try to apply them to ourselves where possible.

What time people get up and go to sleep, how they treat their bodies and what feed their spirits, what they’re reading, how often they take breaks, interact with others, deal with stress, they lead their teams, take criticism, delegate, craft, adhere to timelines and engage in the creative process are all examples of things we can learn regardless of our natural capacities or current support structures.

Forget productivity.

Monitor your capacity and honor your supporters.

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How I Use (And Don’t Use) Social Media

Before social media became a thing, we had email chat rooms, brought to you by America Online. I still remember my dad using a “street address and mail box” analogy to help me understand what a URL and @ symbol were, all to the static-laden interlude between hitting “connect” and hearing the famous words of one of my wife’s favorite movies.

(Bet that voice actor wishes he had taken the royalty option instead of the studio fee).

Where I once felt the rush of talking to an AOL user in a chat room, I now freely post text and images of my life before the better part of 2 billion people.

What happened?

Like everything, technology moves forward, which means feasibility, accessibility and integration does too. In short, things just get easier and more interesting.

After a few years of playing with all of the connectivity apps out there, here are the ones I use daily and why.

Instagram

Instagram is my go-to social media app for me. It’s what I like. Promoting family, adventure, music, life. It encapsulates the essence of a picture being worth a thousand words, and shamelessly ignores the trappings that have made Facebook the mess it is today.

Since 65% of humans are visual learners, its a seamless way to capitalize on our natural predisposition. I can scroll through dozens of images in a minute, learning what my friends or favorite retailers are doing, leave a comment if I want, or just double-tap the image (“like”) to let them know I was here.

Posting a picture a day has become a habit I love, because it forces me to look at my day with extreme visual appreciation. It’s helped me be intentional with valuing my contexts, and therefore, it’s made me a more appreciative person. And it’s brought me closer to considering other people’s joys and heartaches. It’s the closest thing I can handle to having God’s timeless and instant access to all of humanity.

Twitter

Twitter used to be my go-to platform (which now auto-populates from my Instagram posts, accounting for 90% of my Twitter activity). Twitter was especially attractive to me as I tired of Facebook’s decay to non-user commercialism and the irrational commentary from people who felt everyone should read their obscure opinions (which added little value to society). Twitter has, in large part, salvaged that, though it’s recent popularity in commenting on TV drama and pop culture is wearing on me (thus why I follow so few people).

The limitation to 140 characters means intelligent humans must be thoughtful about anything we say, and likewise limits the praising or ranting abilities of anyone commenting back. This makes for short, cunning dialog that doesn’t require much time. And even if someone says something unintelligent, they can’t say it for very long.

Facebook

The only thing I use Facebook for anymore is posting links to what you’re reading right now. If I didn’t get thousands of click-throughs every week because of it, I wouldn’t bother. But enough people still faithfully use Facebook to make meaningful connections that I recognize the value of publicizing my work there.

Facebook was a great idea, but between the maintenance it required (friend request management, comments, private messages, and the incessant app-blocking if you don’t want your page to look like a billboard for FarmVille), as well as the presumed familiarity if you’re a public figure, turned me off to the site’s time-sucking irrationality. I once had a Facebook follower get mad at me because I failed to write him when his wife died suddenly. I was genuinely grieved for this poor man, but astonished that Facebook had elevated presumptive intimacy to such extraordinary levels.

Everything Else

While there are plenty of other cool apps out there, most either seem like repeats (Google+ repeating Facebook) or irrelevant (LinkedIn, since I don’t need any more work, and don’t want to be linked anymore than I already am). The only other platform I tend to spend a lot of time cultivating is this one right here: my blog. I’ve made it a point to always respond to every comment.

In the end, my advice is to find one or two platforms that inspire you to be a better person without enticing you to disengage from the world around you, trading reality for life-lived-from-a-screen. Social media is a powerful tool, and it’s uses are only in their infancy, but tools should never trump people.

Live life with your eyes open, looking straight ahead, knowing that the most valuable connections are made with the people right in from of you.

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Make Sure You’re Liked By Who Matters Most

“I like you.”

Those three words sent chills down my 5th grade spine. It made me do crazy things, like circle “yes” on a ruled sheet of notebook paper that read, “Do you like me back?” and pass it through the hands of four friends to a blushing girl.

Being liked is powerful stuff. It makes politicians bend their convictions, and actors turn their heads.

But not being liked is just as powerful. In fact, the desire to be liked by those who don’t like you can be one of life’s most dangerous motivators. The more we try and appease the myriad of voices that sing our praise or ridicule, the more we tend to abandon our primary purposes. We become un-true to ourselves.

When All Eyes Are On You

As a pastor, I have the honor of wading into the arena of theology, and engaging—whether I want to or not—with everyone else’s personal pet doctrines. As a business man, I never run my businesses the way everyone else thinks I should, from employee to patron. And as an artist, I never communicate “it” quite the way everyone else would like me to.

No matter what arena you’re in, if you stand for something, someone’s bound not to like you. And if you have any ounce of humanity, you’ll at least think about how to get them to like you. I know I do.

Being liked isn’t bad; but trying to be liked by everyone is.

Because it’s impossible.

The transient nature of the human opinion is decidedly insecure. I believe it could be one of the sandy foundations Jesus talked about in Matthew 7:26-27:

But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Who Matters Most?

If being liked is an unavoidable goal of the heart—which anyone who says it isn’t, doesn’t have a heart—make sure you’re liked by the people who matter most.

I want my wife to like me. I want to know what she thinks. Her opinion matters a great deal. A thousand people can tell me I did a good job, but if she disagrees, then I did a poor job; similarly, the masses can say I was terrible, but her one word of affirmation can silence them all.

I want my kids to like me. Not loathe me. It doesn’t mean I don’t make the hard call, but it means that when I do, I do it lovingly. Part of my legacy is making sure their memories of me have integrity—that when they think back on me, they realize I was trying to model as much of the heavenly Father as I could.

I want to know what my closest friends think, my advisors, my pastors. I covet the “likes” of the wisest people around me. In a world where “like” is a cheap button-click away, I want the hard-won, deeply fought for, dig-deep kind of like that you can’t get from a screen, but you can only get from a look in the eye.

And most of all, I want my God to like me. I want my conduct to so much reflect his, that he notices himself in me.

Like of Love

The danger is that as we cater more to the opinions of people we have no relationship with, we actually suppress the value of the people who we do have relationship with. The very ones we claim we like are the ones we’re conveying deep disinterest toward.

In the end, being liked is merely the precursor to a far more innate emotional need: being loved. And being loved is more powerful than being liked, because real love is not as conditional on what we do, but more, who we are.

Make sure you’re liked by the ones you love the most. Everyone else can afford to be upset.

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The Reality of Raising The Minimum Wage

Here’s what happens when real businesses (not hypothetical ones) face a rising minimum wage, as just happened in the state of New York.

Being a business owner, I sit with four of my restaurant managers in a weekly strategy meeting. We all know our prices are already as low as possible in order to attract a much needed market share (ie, remain competitive), and to serve people in a struggling economy (ie, remain viable). Lower prices too much and there’s no business to do business with.

Which means our margins are tight.

Very tight.

So where do we account for the labor increase to our minimum wage employees? It has to come from somewhere. We don’t just pull it out of thin air like Washington does.

No matter what bureaucrats purport, businesses all make up for labor upticks in the same place: price point.

Which means the very people who got the apparent boost in their wallets are now charged more for the products they were buying before. It’s an endless cycle.

So why do it? Who’s the real winner?

Whoever’s collecting taxes.

ch:

Learn Like You Eat

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[Image from The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers]

Teaching people is a lot like feeding people. Since I’m familiar with the idea of feeding people in our restaurants, the analogy works well.

Some people hate your food. They don’t like it, and won’t have it again. Others didn’t like it before, but they were forced to see you a second time because a friend dragged them in. They actually hate your food so much, they’re prone to throw some back at you. Like a monkey that throws poop. Or a spitting llama.

Other people enjoy your food, and really appreciate being at your establishment. But you’d never know it by the way they talk. Nor do their faces give anything away. They’re a hard read with no kickback. The only reason you know that they like your food at all is that they keep coming back. But even this could be because of neophobia.

The people you really want to see are those that down-right love your food. They walk in with wide eyes, they eat on the edge of their seat, and always ask you for more. If you’re a buffet, they’ll bankrupt you; if you’re a fine dining locale, they’ll bankrupt themselves. And then die of fat cancer. (Hopefully they tell all their friends about you before they die).

•••

I do a considerable amount of teaching. And imparting, demonstrating, coaching, counseling and mentoring. In fact, as a pastor and a geek, I’m in the business of passing on everything I know and everything I do—it’s a prerequisite for the position. And while any one of us in key places of teaching others could be and should be spending long hours perfecting our craft, there’s something to be said for asking our students to perfect their craft.

Of learning.

To me, the “eaters” that are the most frustrating are actually not the first group I listed above. People that hate my instruction are at least being honest with me. As long as we can get past their personal attacks, we usually end up having a decent and civil dialog in which they express they don’t want to hear anything I have to say. And I don’t want to share anything with them (citing the pearls before swine algorithm), so we’re cool.

And the third group is certainly not the segment that frustrates me the most either. Eager learners? Frustrating? Come on. That’s like being upset that the state fair just have you 100 free VIP tickets to see REO Speedwagon with all your friends.

The people that are the most confusing, most disconcerting and most draining are those that you can’t tell if they’re excited to be learning from you or not. They showed up, which is a good thing. But you’re fairly sure they’re thinking about baseball while you’re talking. (Which is great if you happen to be a baseball coach. Not so much if you’re teaching them about marriage, audio mixing or writing technique).

You’re probably going to learn something today. It may be by accident, it may be because you’re paying to be in a class. But either way, the chances are that one person or another will be involved in the educating process, intentionally or not. So try this on for size:

• At least act like you’re interested. If you’re not interested at first, sometimes the acting bit influences your reality, especially when a bad attitude is getting the best of you.

• Take notes. Copious note takers are the quintessential markers of eager learners. Having a notebook says, “I came prepared, expecting to learn something worth writing down, and because I’ve written it down, I’ll most likely look at it again.” Fewer things tell a teacher that you value their knowledge and experience than taking notes does. (Oh, and be sure to look up occasionally too; nothing makes a teacher curious as to whether or not you’re drawing pictures of ligers than zero eye contact).

• Ask genuine questions about the situation. Not edgy questions, not baited questions and not barbed questions. Ask honest questions that you’re interested to know the answers to. The best teachers are those who love dialog. So resist the urge to sit there stiff and mute, and say something.

• Thank your teacher twice. Once when the lesson—accidental or otherwise—concludes, and a second time a few hours later. I spent a few hours pouring into two different guys yesterday in two different meetings, one on media arts, the other on his life-course. Both guys were thankful for the meetings as they left my office, but by the end of the day, both had sent me a meaningful text message, thanking me for specific aspects of my investment. Guess who’ll be getting follow up meetings with me.

•••

You have learning opportunities all around you. It might be an argument with your wife, where you look eagerly to see if you’re wrong, take a note on something she’s asking you to do, and followthrough with a text later in the day, thanking her for what she revealed in you. It might be a run-in with a boss or a co-worker. Or maybe you’re in school and recognize you’re not on the edge of your seat, and you never even thought about thanking your professor.

It’s your proactive response to these moments that dictates how much you value the wisdom and life experience of others. You just don’t owe it to your teachers, you owe it to yourself. Because it’s you’re own time you’re wasting if you don’t appreciate them.

Eat up,

ch:

Why Teams Always Do Things Better

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There’s an old adage:

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

I’m pretty sure there’s another one. At least there is for me:

Anything worth doing well is worth doing as a team.

And maybe better still:

Anything you want to do well, you’d better do with a team.

Last night, the team pictured above rallied to put on one heck of a show at Indian River High—the largest campus in our county. The event was one of our youth ministry’s LIFTED events, which mixes music, worship, drama, dance and video to support a Gospel message, concluding with an invitation to accept Jesus.

Here are a few reasons I resist doing things without a team:

They’re Smarter Than I Am

When things go wrong and systems fail, I want to be around people that are smarter than me. Or, at the very least, will look at things with different eyes. This allows problems to be treated with new solutions that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

We had a few unforeseen system integration audio issues during set up last night; work arounds came much faster because ideas were shared quickly and freely. We checked one another’s work and talked through some of the more complex signal paths. Because the teams trust each other and are not threatened, even people not on the audio crew were getting involved and doing their best to serve and troubleshoot.

Humor

When the pressure gets high, you need people around you who can make you laugh. The only other release for pressure tends to be rather destructive: you allow it to mount until you snap. And people or things usually get hurt.

Keeping things fun, even in highly stressful scenarios (and I’d argue especially in highly stressful scenarios) is absolutely critical. Dedicated, hard working people who have a lighter side, and know when to augment situational tension with a bit of levity are crucial for letting teams reset and keep things in perspective.

Humor is also a great way for you as a leader to let your team know you’re not drowning in frustrations when things go wrong. At one moment last night when things were especially difficult, I just decided to start dancing. No music. No beat. Just my moves (which are in themselves hilariously pitiful). It made people laugh and reminded us all to keep the main thing the main thing—our core message: we’re here to share the Good News of Jesus with teens.

Ownership

At the end of the day, saying, “I did all that,” gets rather boring. Not because you’re suffering from a lack of ideas, but because you have no one to share it with.

Doing things together means more people are taking pride in what’s happening. And people that do things together end up building stronger bonds because of the process.

This sense of community not only makes the end product more vivid and colorful, but it’s essential in spreading whatever core message you’re attempting to promote.

•••

Doing things as a team says to history, “We were here. We had something so important to say that we needed many voices to say it with.”

May history never forget us and the future never forsake us.

What are some of the favorite teams you ever worked with? What made them special?

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Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

PRESS RELEASE:
For release on Tuesday, September 10th.
For additional information or interview, contact Rebekah Berthet or Candy Shaw: (315) 788-0825

WATERTOWN, NY - Christopher Hopper signs a copy of The Sky Riders for fans at The Vault in New Life Christian Church

WATERTOWN, NY – Christopher Hopper signs a fans book at The Vault in New Life Christian Church. Photo by Joseph Gilchrist.

Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

CLAYTON, NY – What do vintage airships, giant birds, floating cloud cities and steam-powered engines all have in common? If you guessed local author Christopher Hopper’s new steampunk epic, then you’d be spot on. The Sky Riders, Hopper’s seventh novel to date, hits digital and physical bookshelves today via Amazon.

“This is really exciting for me,” says Hopper, a resident of the Town of Clayton. “From right here in the 1000 Islands, I get to publish my novels worldwide, all because technology has made it easier to reach fans.”

Formerly with traditional legacy publishers like Thomas Nelson Inc. and Tsaba House Inc., Hopper is one of the growing body of writers who’ve jumped ship to self-publish. Bowker Identifier Services reports that there are over 235,000 self-published titles now for sale, a 287% growth surge since 2006. And with entities like Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace—both Amazon companies—self-publishing for digital and print has become more accessible, and more lucrative. Bookstats reported that 2012 sales figures of ebooks hit $3.04 billion, which gives Hopper even more reason to be excited.

“Where you’d only make between 8-15% with a legacy publisher,” says Hopper, “my lowest royalty bracket with self-publishing is 30%, and my highest is 70%.”

While some ask Hopper about the readers he’s missing out on by abandoning the traditional publishing route, he’s quick to correct them. “I was missing huge amounts of readers with traditional publishing, as they were mainly targeting book stores. Today, I have instant distribution to millions of Kindle and Nook readers, and sales up are up over 300% from my legacy publishing days. The bottom line is that I’m reaching more readers with less work than ever before.”

Thinking of self-publishing your own title? Not so fast. “It’s a lot of work,” admits Hopper. “But outsourcing exterior and interior design, for example, as well as shopping for editing services, can help people where they might be weak.”

If you’re still wondering just how to self-publish through something like Amazon, Hopper has an answer for that too. He published his Handbook to Publishing Your Novel ebook last December.

From where Hopper sits atop his floating cloud cities in his fictional world, the future is bright for readers and authors alike, and the return is anything but make believe.

The Sky Riders is available locally at The Vault in New Life Christian Church, as well as online at http://www.christopherhopper.com. •