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invest in others

The Overflow

There is one line in a piece of ancient writing you’ve likely heard quoted, “my cup runneth over.”  You may not have afternoon tea in your world but if you did, it’s not likely that you would want your cup to be filled to overflowing.  That’s just not proper etiquette. Because I’m curious about words, I did a little research on this idea of running over or overflowing.  In the original language, it’s the word saturated.     

Across a large part of Texas in February, we experienced rain and more rain.  The ground was fully saturated and then we had a full day of even more rain.  I live in a home that backs up to a a sweet little golf course pond.  When the pond gets full, there is a spillway that carries the over flow into a creek just a few yards away.  On this particular day, the pond was full, the spillway was carrying water as fast as it could into the creek, and the creek was directing the run off into the nearest river.  At the same time, the rivers we’re filling the lakes and reservoirs all over the area.  The rain continued and for a few hours the golf course flooded as it waited for all the canals to catch up with the rate at which rain was coming down.  

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Saturated.  Things were saturated that day and as a result everyone benefited, not just the pond.  The creeks were filled, the rivers were filled, the underground reservoirs were filled, the lakes were filled.  

As I was looking at this poem King David wrote a lifetime ago, it struck me that a cup that overflows, overflows for the good of everyone else.  That’s not a statement that reflects how great our life is, although that’s typically how we use it.  It’s a statement that reflects how much we are impacting, improving, investing, and pouring into the lives of others.  

It’s just a little different perspective on a very familiar phrase.  Where’s the overflow of your life going?  Who is benefiting from it?

Become a Life Improver

Good and great leaders look strangely similar.  They both know what to watch for; what to measure; what data to collect.  They both have systems and reports that produce efficiency.  They are clear on their vision and purpose.  They dress the same and come from similar places.  However, you won’t hear good leaders talking about how they develop people, that’s where great leaders stand apart from the crowd. 

Great leaders give special attention to developing people.  

Morgan Wootten, a high school basketball coach with an impressive record (forty consecutive seasons with at least twenty wins; five national championships; and number one ranking in his region in twenty out of thirty-three years), never planned to coach.  His ambition was to be an attorney.  He first started coaching a fledgling team of orphans when he was in college.  This is when he realized he wanted to invest his time in children, not in court cases.  The first year he had a student who was stealing and constantly being picked up by the police.  Wootten took the boy under his wing.  He was straightforward with him about his future.  Beyond the straight talk, Wootten began to include him in his family.  This kid was bound for a life of crime until Wootten gave him the gift of investing in him. Wootten has done it every year since. 

Investment is obviously the secret sauce for turning out champions.   

Whether you are practicing law or creating a work of art; running a Fortune 500 company or singing in the Opera; starting a business or teaching in the local school, developing the people around you will leave you satisfied.  Start seeing yourself as a “life improver” for those in your path.  When we risk diving into people’s lives with the kind of conviction and courage that can truly propel them forward in all areas of their lives, we will experience a new kind of fulfillment.    

What does it look like to dive into a person’s life like a coach does his athletes? It involves individual time with them focused on a handful of things.

1. You want them to stop, think, and truly assess their current situation.  Make sure they have defined their reality.  What are they responsible for?  What are they tolerating?  I recently met someone who hadn’t slept well in five months because they had a six month old puppy.  If he would stop, think and assess that situation, he could come up with a better plan than just giving up his sleep.  

2.  Clarify their vision, define their goals. Most people constantly react to events, people, things rather than being driven by purpose.  Many of us can reach our 50s and realize we never really lived intentionally.

3.  Understand and address roadblocks to their vision.  We are most blinded to the things that are comfortable and familiar to us.  A fresh set of eyes can help us see things that we were missing.  I recently met with someone who wanted to accomplish a big task.  However, they had never scheduled time, actually marked off days, to get it done.

4. Test their thinking, and conclusions.  We already know that doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results is not working.  But we do it anyway.  Having someone ask us, “What could you do differently?”  And pushing us to try something different will help us get off the merry-go-round.  The absolute best thing we can do for each other is challenge each other to think.

5. Establish accountability.  Too often people confuse intent with action.  We all need action steps.  What are you going to do and by what time?

If you begin to invest in people like this, you will get 6X the return on your investment according to Manchester Consulting Group's analysis of coaching in Fortune 500 companies.

There are people everywhere longing for someone to help them become more than they currently are.  In order for you to effectively coach the people in your world, you will need to model all of the above five points.  You must stop, think, assess for yourself; clarify your vision and goals, as well as see the potential in others; understand and address your own roadblocks (likely with someone else’s help); look for what is not visible and understand what is not being said; listen carefully and ask excellent questions; and be straight forward in your communication.  Which of those areas do you need to focus some attention on today?

Every professional athlete has a coach.  The best musicians have vocal coaches.  All of us would benefit from having a coach in our lives.  My challenge to you today is: who should you be coaching?  And what do you have to do to get started today?


Fighting Terror

One thing the last several days of terrorist attacks have left us all feeling is uncertain.  It seems impossible to fight something so pervasive.  You may have even thought there’s just nothing we can do about it.

What if we could actually fight the terror?

Community is our best weapon.  Not just any community but the kind of community that builds you up, helps you fight your own self-doubt and keeps you engaged in good.  Community gives us a place to belong; a place to discover ourselves; a place that fights isolation and abandonment and even fear.  Jean Vanier in his book From Brokenness to Community, basically says that to love someone in community reveals their capacity for life!  How can you extend that kind of community to more people?  Who in your world needs to be a part of a community like that and how can you be part of making it happen?  

If community is the best weapon, then development is the absolute mechanism for the fight.  Each of us are in the development business.  Whether you are butcher, banker, or candlestick maker, you are in the people development business.  If we all recognized that our purpose is to invest in the people around us, we could drive out terrorism.  If we started developing the person in the cubicle next to us, the neighbor next door and our child’s best friend, there would be far fewer people who have been left uncared for, discouraged, discontent and generally abandoned.  Jean Vanier emphasizes that if I’m growing toward wholeness, then I will be an agent of wholeness.  How can you encourage the next person forward?  What could you say or do that would leave the people in your world better?

At the ripe old age of 28, I found myself a bitter old woman.  Thankfully a women 30 years my senior scooped me up and began to mentor me, challenge my rough edges, refuse my sorry excuses and invest in me like my mother.  I was rescued from the attitudes of resentment and revenge and tutored in contentment and forgiveness. The community and development that came from that one relationship liberated me from a lifetime of hate.  

The best way to fight terrorism is to look for a community that loves you; connect everyone you cross paths with to a community that will love them.  Then make it your objective in life to invest in as many people as you are able and encourage others to invest in the ones around them.  Fight being terrified with belonging, engaging, investing, encouraging, not with fear, hate, withdrawal, and isolation.  Belonging, engaging, investing, being encouraged will also go a long way to prevent people in your neighborhood from wanting to terrorize. 

I'd love to hear from you.  Where are you being encouraged?  How are you investing in others?