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.

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:

Unexpected Happens Fast

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These two photographs were taken within about one mile of each other on Rt. 12 North yesterday.

One moment the roads were wet from a light rain, grass on both sides of the road; the next, visibility was reduced to about 200 yards and traffic was moving at 20mph.

Life has a way of changing gears on us.

Fast.

But there are some practical steps for navigating its turbulent conditions:

1.) Get intel from those who’ve gone ahead of you. Jennifer called me just as I was taking my normal route home from church. “Don’t go the back way. It’s bad.”

Being old does have its perks; and the perk of being young is the blessing of listening to people who’ve driven the road ahead of you.

“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” -Proverbs 15:32

2.) Respect good equipment. The snow tires on my front-wheel drive Matrix are killer. But I tend to delay changing tires out. For a time-sensitive guy like me, it’s a hassle. An inconvenience. But getting in an accident it a bigger inconvenience. Fortunately for me yesterday, I put my snow tires on two weeks ago.

And I was three cars behind a snow plow.

While the oncoming lane had two inches of snow to navigate, I had smooth sailing.

Preparing yourself emotionally (by measuring your responses and keeping everything in perspective), physically (by taking good care of your body while you have the opportunities), and spiritually (by actively growing your faith in God) can often be the difference between making your destination and sliding off the road.

Learn to follow people better equipped than you are; you may move a little slower, but success is usually guaranteed when compared with the alternatives.

3.) Pray simple prayers. The late Elizabeth Austin – by far the most spiritually mature woman I’ve ever know (and the most successful evangelist to ALL the nations I’ve ever heard of) – used to tell me her most spiritual prayer ever was, “Help!”

We can have all the wisdom and preparation in the world, but without a relationship with Jesus we’re bankrupt in a snow drift just waiting for a tow we can’t even afford.

(Praise God that He’s quite good at pulling us out, too).

I think that was the secret to the success of the people mentioned in Psalm 112:7:

“They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.”

What things in your life have helped you prepare for and cope with the unexpected storms of life? (You could be a real blessing to someone by sharing).

Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing. ch:

Placenta Marketing

One of the things you learn early on about communicating in other countries – especially as a keynote speaker – it’s many anecdotes just don’t translate.

Especially your clever acronyms or Christianese scriptural devices.

Likewise, some marketing ideas ought to be left in their country of origin.

Jenny texted me this pic with a caption left to the imagination. (Keep in mind she just gave birth).

Before you go announcing your next big idea, or spouting of your new opinion, do everyone a favor and remember who you’re speaking to. Effective communication begins with intentionally acknowledging your audience.

Mothers around the world will thank you. ch:

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