Stop, Think and Start Living Life

Proverbs 4:26

NIV- “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

ESV- “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”

Know Your Why

Often we hear stories of people who once had big dreams for their lives when they were in their 20s and 30s only to wake up one day and realize that over time they slowly moved off that course (probably without even realizing it). Along with this realization usually comes regret.

I heard someone say this one time and I’ve never forgotten it: “If you don’t know where you are going, you aren’t going to be happy with where you end up.” Too many don’t take the time to stop and think about where they are going. And when they look back, they don’t like where they’ve ended up.

What are five ways we can ‘ponder the path’ and prevent looking back with regret?

Stop
Just stop and as this Proverb says, ponder your path. Think about the direction you are moving in. Nothing in life is static. The truth is that we are either progressing or regressing. Which one are you?

Know Your Why
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s your hot button? Maybe your why is that you want to have financial freedom. Maybe you want to be able to provide for your child to go to daycare. Or even be able to be at home with your children. Usually the why is something larger than ourselves. Find out what your why is and get in the pursuit. Life is so much more enjoyable when we are in the pursuit.

Focus
Where and what is your focus and is it in line with where you want to end up? If not, the good news is that you can always re-focus. It’s never too late to start over or get a new goal.

Set a Goal
If you have a goal then you’re ahead of most people. If you don’t, then set a goal. What do you want to accomplish? What is your purpose? I believe that we’ve all been created for a purpose in life. We all should have goals.

Have Fun
Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Life isn’t going to be fun 100% of the time but we weren’t given the gift of life to not live it to the fullest. I see too many people who look miserable all the time. Live life!

This post is also live at http://www.brandonhelderop.com.

Three Weaknesses to Avoid as Leaders

Proverbs 29:2

NIV- “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

MSG- “When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans.”

Have you ever had a boss that makes everyone groan when he enters the room? The type of boss that, in anticipation (and fear), forces people to grip their chairs in an effort to hold on for the potential roller coaster that may ensue. I’ve heard these types of people referred to as sunshine: the instant they leave the room, everything becomes brighter again. It is my prayer that I never turn into that leader.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with and for some very good leaders in my young business career, but no one is perfect. Every leader, including you and me, has his or her strengths and weaknesses. In my leadership training, I’ve learned that it is important to emulate the strengths of leaders we admire as well as learn from their weaknesses. In the end, as leaders, no matter how hard we work we will never be perfect. However, we will only be most effective if the strengths we have outweigh the weaknesses.

Recently, I came across an article titled Five Characteristics of Weak Leaders by one of my favorite leadership authors, Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In it, he tells of a book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals which gives an account of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. While Goodwin writes about Lincoln’s overall political genius and leadership abilities, his leadership was not always perfect. During the Civil War, Lincoln appointed General George McClellan to be commander of the “Army of the Potomac”. Later, McClellan would become first general-in-chief of the Union Army. Ultimately, this ended up being the wrong decision by Lincoln.

In the article, Hyatt points out five weaknesses McClellan had: he was hesitant in taking action, complained about the lack of resources, refused to take responsibility, abused his leadership position, and engaged in acts of subordination. Based on the examples Hyatt uses to demonstrate each of McClellan’s flaws, it is easy to understand why the Union Army performed so poorly under his leadership and why he ultimately lost his job.

These are all leadership traits we want to avoid as leaders. In my own personal career, here are three more I’ve experienced:

1. Lack of consistency

This is the leader I described above. They are a roller coaster. When you see them in the morning, you wonder what kind of mood you are going to have to deal with that day. Are they going to have a Monday attitude or a Friday attitude? A rainy day attitude or a sunny and 75 degree attitude? Not only is it difficult for the leader to be effective when lacking consistency, it makes their employees’ job very difficult due when having to constantly adjust to the roller coaster of moods the leader brings to work each day.

2. The overworked

This is the “old-school” leader. A character from a TV show that comes to mind is the dad in The Wonder Years, Jack Arnold. In the show, it seems like every episode he comes home from work exhausted because he is overworked. He can’t even enjoy dinner with his family because he is so worn out, overwhelmed and stressed. This is a heart-attack waiting to happen. God makes it clear that we need to give our all in everything we do when in 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says:

“So whether we eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)

However, it’s important to work hard but we need to play hard too. Being overworked is not healthy. We need to have balance in our lives.

On the other side of this trait, the overworked too often expect their employees to overwork. No one wants to work for a leader that overworks their employees.

3. Lack of integrity

This one is simple. A long time ago, I heard this quote, “If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. If you lose a friend, you’ve lost something. If you lose your word, you’ve lost everything.” Don’t ever lose your integrity. Two of our guiding values as leaders always need to be honesty and integrity. Leadership guru Brian Tracy said this, ”The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”

It is so important we learn from those like General McClellan in order to not repeat the missteps he took while in a leadership position. At the same time, it is also important we have self-awareness. Don’t fool yourself. We all have weaknesses. Focus most on your strengths but find out what the weaknesses are and work to minimize them.

Paint the Target, Find Your Vision

Proverbs 29:18

KJV- “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

The Message – “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed.”

Vision

In my opinion, Proverbs 29:18 is one of those verses that is taken out of context often in leadership circles. The focus of the verse needs to be God’s vision not my vision. If we are in tune with what God’s plan and vision is for our individual lives, our vision will always be His vision.

Also, God’s vision is always bigger than our vision. We all need to think bigger. We get too caught up in small things and don’t let our minds expand. We need to open up our minds. Wilferd Peterson said, “Big thinking precedes great achievement.”

I’m going to give you the Brandon translation of the verse: “Without pursuing God’s vision for our lives, we will not succeed.” And as the Message translation says, “they stumble all over themselves”. And I believe that when we are in tune with what God’s plan is for our lives, God blesses that.

How important is it, as a leader, to have vision? Leadership author Dr. John Maxwell says this in his book Leadership 101:

“Vision is everything for a leader because it leads the leader. It paints the target. It sparks and fuels the fire within, and draws him forward. It is also the fire lighter for others who follow that leader. Show me a leader without vision, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t going anywhere.”

Furthermore, while it’s so important we pursue and understand God’s vision for our lives, a vision cannot meet its optimal effectiveness without the leader’s ability to communicate it. In doing so, Patty Vogan, author and owner of Victory Coaching, says this in her article titled 5 Key Traits of Great Leaders,

“Learn to paint a picture with words. Speak it, write it, draw it, touch it. Whatever methods you can use to create a picture, do it. As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

That last sentence is so true. I know I “get it” once I see the picture in my mind. Unfortunately, way too many leaders and organizations have a vision but fail to communicate that vision to their people. As a result, the vision never sees its full potential.

In addition to being able to effectively communicate the vision, we also need to have passion and confidence in pursuing it. Your people will follow you until the ends of the earth if they know that you are willing to do whatever it takes to see your vision come to fruition. As the legend coach Vince Lombardi said, “Confidence is contagious”.

While looking for quotes on vision, I came across two quotes that I believe capture the essence of what I’m trying to communicate in this post that I would like to leave you with:

“Don’t underestimate the power of a vision. McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, pictured his empire long before it existed, and he saw how to get there. He invented the company motto — ‘Quality, service, cleanliness and value’ — and kept repeating it to employees for the rest of his life.”
–Kenneth Labich

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.”
–T.E. Lawrence

Be a Diamond: Take the Road Less Traveled

Recently, I started a new exercise routine. While my goal for running is to run a 10k, my journey has begun with shorter distances in order to build up my endurance. After running these short distances for a few days and needing a new challenge, I decided it was time to bump up the distance. About halfway through my run that day, I started to hit a mental wall. The pain was coming on and I was trying to push through it in order to finish. Thankfully, I made the decision to keep going knowing full well that I would be happy I did in the end. And I was. It’s a great feeling knowing that you pushed yourself past what you mentally thought you could handle.

Out of my running that day came a leadership lesson. In our lives and in our careers, there are going to be periods of pain time. There are times when you just have to push through the pain. You don’t quit. You persevere. During these times of trials is when personal growth occurs which leads to new heights, new opportunities and, ultimately, the “potential you”. Toni Sorenson said this:

“Strength comes from struggle. When you learn to see your struggles as opportunities to become stronger, better, wiser, then your thinking shifts from “I can’t do this” to “I must do this.”

Successful people see opportunity where others see hard work and that is what sets them apart. Thomas Edison said, “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Too many people today want a handout and a free lunch. If we are going to reach our God-given potential and ultimately be successful, we have to be willing to dig in and persevere when it is least convenient.

Also, we have to learn to see the bigger picture. That requires us to think bigger. Thomas S. Monson said, “Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty.” I know this is easier said than done but what are your goals? What are your aspirations? If you give up and quit when the going gets tough, will you still have a chance of reaching those goals you have set for yourself? That’s something you have to answer for yourself.

Life is never going to be perfect or easy. We are going to go through professional, personal and maybe even physical pain moments. In our jobs, we are going to deal with a situation that is less than ideal. Furthermore, we’ll probably go through a hard personal situation at some point. And when these trials happen, the easy route to take is to quit. But remember this: there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just like diamonds are formed under extreme pressure, leaders are formed in challenging times.

Thomas Henry Hamblin said, “The world is divided into two classes of people: those who overcome life, and those who are overcome by life.” Life is going to have forks in the road. A barrier we may face is an example of a fork in the road and, in these pain times, we have a decision to make: we can go left or we can go right. As the poem suggests, my advice is to take the road less traveled.

Proverbs and Business is Guest Posting

This past week, I had the privilege of being asked to write a guest article for Business Works, a UK publication that according to their site, “highlights business, entrepreneurship, success and opportunity”. This was definitely an awesome opportunity to get Proverbs and Business out there in front of fresh eyeballs. My hope and prayer is that Proverbs and Business will be seen by more and more people.

For anyone that hasn’t had a chance to read my post titled “How To Overcome a Lack of Motivation”, click on the link which will take you over to the article on Business Works’ website. By the way, if you enjoy reading about business and leadership, they have some great reads over on Business Works. I definitely recommend adding it to your list of sites to follow.

What Type of Foundation Are You Building On?

Proverbs 12:7

“The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm.” (NIV)

My first thought upon reading this verse was that the house of the righteous stands firm because it has a rock-solid foundation. Jesus speaks about the importance of having a sturdy foundation in Matthew 7 when he says:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NIV)

Let’s pretend your current position is your house. What kind of foundation are you building your “house” on? You may be a business owner, a seasoned executive, middle management, or maybe just a fresh college graduate starting out in your career. Are you building on rock or are you building on sand?

In life, just like the verses say, the rain is going to come down, the streams are going to rise and the winds are going to blow and beat against your house. Weather shifts are part of life. They are going to happen. My question for you is this: Is your “house” prepared to stand firm when those weather shifts come or will it fall with a great crash?

Your business or career is only as strong as the foundation you build it on. On the other hand, if you have a weak foundation, you are left vulnerable in ways that can disrupt or even lead to collapse. If your foundation is weak, then it’s important you patch the cracks in order to strengthen it.

What are some ways to patch the cracks and strengthen the foundation?

1. Give everything over to God

It’s very simple. It’s so much easier to go through life when you are a part of something greater than yourself. Don’t put all the pressure on yourself. Allow God to be in control.

2. Have character and integrity always

Stephen Covey said this:

“The character ethic, which I believe to be the foundation of success, teaches that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.”

We put ourselves in stressful situations when we don’t live a life of integrity. When we build our careers without integrity on a house of cards, at any moment that house could come tumbling down. There’s a reason God gave us consciences that notify us when we are doing right or wrong. Just have character and integrity and give your conscience some relief.

3. Give up anything that is holding you back

Is there anything that is holding you back from reaching your potential? A few common examples of things that hold people back are: TV, people you are surrounding yourself with, lack of discipline, and financial issues as a result of low financial IQ. Be willing to give up or change whatever is holding you back. As the saying goes, “the pain of disciplines is far less than the pain of regret”.

4. Eliminate unresolved Issues

If you have any unresolved issues with colleagues, friends or family, resolve these issues. Unresolved issues become burdens that hold you back from performing at your best.

5. Meet with someone you respect

Find someone you have the utmost respect for and ask them if you can take them to lunch. This person has to be someone who knows you extremely well. Take a notepad and pen (old-fashioned I know) and take notes so you have a guide for what needs to be changed. Just a sidenote: Don’t waste their time unless you are truly willing to change.

6. Put together a plan to work

Do you even have a plan? Just my personal preference, but I wouldn’t want to live in a house not built from a plan. Sit down and figure out some goals you would like to accomplish. Then put together a plan that you can work that will ultimately lead to accomplishing the goals you have set.

I have always loved this quote:

“If you want to change your life, you have to change your life.”

I have no idea who said it but I love it because it’s so simple yet full of truth. If you have cracks in the foundation because it hasn’t been previously laid right, you have to make the necessary patches. Don’t wait either. Remember, those weather shifts will come. Make the necessary changes today so your house will be the one standing firm on rock when that time comes.

A Habit of Highly Successful People

Proverbs 22:29

“Observe people who are good at their work— skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone.” (MSG)

Think about a few leaders that you respect in your field. They could be a boss/bosses, a competitor or a famous business leader. Are you observing these leaders in action? In my opinion, too many people rely on only learning from their own mistakes. There is so much knowledge and wisdom to be gained from other people’s mistakes and the way in which they persevered and succeeded through them. As John Maxwell says, “Big-picture thinkers learn from their experiences. But they also learn from experiences they don’t have.”

John Wooden, who was the late, great coach of UCLA basketball, was also famous for a diagram he spent close to thirty years honing called the Pyramid of Success. This diagram is made up of 15 building blocks Wooden believed led to winning in basketball and in life. One of those building blocks is “Alertness”. According to Wooden, it is important to “be observing constantly. Stay open-minded. Be eager to learn and improve.”

Angela Maiers writes about the importance of aspiring leaders to be teachable and willing to learn in her article titled A “TO-BE” List for Aspiring Leaders:

“Teachability leads to excellence and excellence makes people take notice. Being teachable reveals your desire to improve, grow, and be excellent in all you do.  It’s the excellent that often lead in any given field or industry. Don’t fail to learn all you can from those who went before you or to grow from your mistakes.  Seeking out coaches and mentors will push you light years ahead of where you would be if you travelled alone.”

While failure is part of the process of improving and striving to attain goals in life, successful people minimize their failures by making it a habit to learn and observe the success of others. If we strive to be the excellent in our respective fields, it’s essential for us to be teachable and willing to learn. The knowledge we need to attain success is out there. We just need to be open-minded and eager to pursue it.