How to Live Intentionally in Today’s World

Proverbs11:28

What and who are you putting your trust in? Do you trust in your own abilities? Maybe you are putting your trust in the company or people that you work for. Maybe you are putting your trust in that pay raise or promotion you’re expecting to get at the end of the year.

This post is personally a challenge for me. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced society we live in without stopping to take a step back and think about what we are actually doing. I’ve written about this before in past posts but I believe that God has planted a dream in each and every person. And it’s our calling to pursue that dream. With that dream comes God’s purpose and plan for our lives.

When we don’t put our trust in God enough to pursue that calling, we are missing out on the potential impact we could otherwise be making. That calling is where we thrive.

Pastor and author Francis Chan said “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” I’ve never forgotten that quote because it has challenged me to change my thinking from what do I want to what does God want? I don’t know about you but the thought of getting to the end of life and realizing I’ve succeeded at things that in the end don’t really matter (and weren’t my calling) is terrifying.

It’s can be difficult sometimes to trust that God has a plan and that His plan is best. However, the following Proverbs offer encouragement to hold on to:

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end. (Proverbs 16:3,4a)

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Francis Chan also said, “It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.”

God has you in the place you currently are for a reason. If you feel like you are where God has called you to be, then there is a good chance you are thriving. Continue to do so and make an impact until God calls you elsewhere.

It’s also possible you don’t like where you are at all. Well here is the good news: God has a plan for your life. Proverbs 16:3 says that if we commit everything we do to the Lord, he will establish our plans. God has you there for this season of your life and until he moves you elsewhere, be creative. Make it a game. Figure out ways to make an impact.

Finally, maybe you don’t know where God wants you right now. My advice is to prayerfully search for your calling. But just like those above, look for ways to make an impact where you are. God has you intentionally where you are.

Pride Goes Before the Fall

Proverbs16:18

G.K. Chesterton once said, “If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.” In my opinion, pride is a major problem in today’s world.

Leadership author, John Maxwell, wrote a great article about this proverb a few years back, titled Pride Comes Before the FallIn it, he discusses how we are able to point to famous athletes, actors and businesspeople who are living examples of this proverb while others seem to thrive professionally in the midst of having big egos and pride:

Muhammad Ali’s brash egotism did not prevent him from triumphing in the boxing ring. Charlie Sheen’s sickening smugness may have burned relationships at CBS, but he has never been more popular, selling out several nationwide tour dates in a matter of minutes. The conceit of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been noted by competitors, colleagues, and friends alike, yet he ranks among the world’s wealthiest men.

What can be said, then, about pride? Is arrogance really as dangerous to leadership as some people would insist? On the surface, it seems that pride does not necessarily hinder success. However, I maintain that pride is every bit as destructive to the welfare of a leader as the ancient proverb forewarns.

Along with the propensity to see themselves as superior to others, Muhammad Ali, Charlie Sheen, and Larry Ellison share in common the attainment of enormous success. However, each also appears to have left a wake of destruction relationally. While their pride may not have cost them professionally, privately it seems to have taken a toll.

In its truest sense, success involves more than material wealth and career accomplishments. When considering the implications of pride, we must remember to see the whole picture. An individual may be standing atop the world with respect to a career, yet still fall to the deepest depths.

The opposite of pride is humility. Albert Einstein once said, “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” I know there have been situations in my life where I thought I knew everything only to find out very abruptly that I did not. And most of those times, I learned something new once I made the decision to humble myself and change my attitude.

We learn the most when we have an attitude of curiosity and openness and miss out on important lessons when we are too busy pretending to be know-it-alls. C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

Pride puts the focus on “me” instead of others. If you want to be a leader, you need to be a servant. True leadership starts with being willing to humble one’s self and serve other people.

A Necessary Ingredient for Happiness

Proverbs 15:13- “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

Smile

I’m writing this post on a Sunday evening. And just like many of you, I have to go to work in the morning. With statistically most people having that Sunday evening pit in their stomachs, I thought this Proverb was appropriate as we venture into Monday and the new week.

We can all agree that we tend to smile when we are happy. And when we aren’t happy, it’s probably safe to say we aren’t doing a whole lot of smiling. Pretty profound right?

Did you know that scientists have discovered that if you force yourself to smile, whether or not you feel like it, you can cause yourself to feel happy feelings? This forced smile actually has a name. It’s called the Duchenne smile, named after anatomist Guillaume Duchenne who studied emotional expressions in the mid 1800s. Psychologist Paul Ekman has expanded on that research in the past 50 years to discover this:

The Duchenne smile, it seems, is accompanied by increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex — known to be the seat of positive emotions. The most fascinating thing Ekman found is: You can work it in reverse. If you put on a Duchenne smile, you can activate your pleasure centers. You can literally make yourself happy by smiling.

Next time you’re feeling down, stressed, etc., try to force yourself to smile. I know it’s easier said than done but just try it.

Researchers at Uppsala University took these studies one step further with the goal of finding out to what extent we are in control of our facial movements when engaged with other people:

During the study, Dr. Ulf Dimberg told volunteers to react to a series of pictures of expressionless, happy or angry faces. They were told to make frowning, smiling or expressionless faces in return. Often the face they were told to attempt was the opposite of what might be expected – meeting a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile.

The results showed that volunteers simply did not have total control over their facial muscles. While it was easy to frown back at a picture of an angry man, it was much more difficult to pull a smile. Even though study subjects were trying consciously to curb their natural reactions, the twitching in their muscles told a different story. Dr. Dimberg describes this as “emotional contagion”.

So this “emotional contagion” proves that smiling and frowning is contagious. I don’t know about you but I would rather have a contagious smile then a contagious frown. I dare you to smile around people tomorrow and see if they react likewise. I’ve tried it myself and seen it to be true. Just a quick tip: don’t be awkward. 🙂

Mother Teresa once said, “Peace starts with a smile”. Do yourself a favor and put a smile on your face this week.

The Supreme Quality for Leadership

Proverbs

According to Webster’s dictionary, duplicity is defined as “dishonest behavior that is meant to trick someone; the belying of one’s true intentions by deceptive words or action.”

Honesty and integrity should be the foundations for each and every aspect of our lives. A word that comes to mind when I think of integrity is consistency. The American writer, John D. MacDonald, once said, “Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather.”

Are you consistent in every aspect of your life? Do you act the same way no matter where you are? Whether you are with co-workers, friends, family or by yourself behind closed doors, are your actions consistent?

Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” I think that we all would hope to have the opportunity to one day be in leadership in regards to “important matters”. It’s the handling of small matters that lead to greater responsibility. I encourage you to see the small matters as opportunities.

Remember that your actions and words are seeds. What you do now will manifest itself later. While shortcuts and cutting corners may lead to short term gratification, it never lasts.

The famous architect and inventory, R. Buckminster Fuller, said “Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” True success is not possible without integrity. I came across an article in Forbes recently written by a contributor and entrepreneur named Amy Rees Anderson. She had these impactful words on the importance of integrity in life:

If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.

That last sentence is so true. If you need proof, just turn on the TV. Unfortunately, it seems that daily we hear stories of celebrities, athletes, politicians, etc. falling out of favor with the public due to missteps.

The 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “the supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

I’ll leave you with this. Whether you are currently in a position of leadership or strive to one day be, when people think of you, do they consider you to be someone with unquestionable integrity?

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

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.

How To Increase Your Influence

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the type of influence I have (and need to have) in the positions that I currently occupy as a husband, friend, mentor, co-worker, etc. More specifically, am I influencing others as I should by the example I am setting and, also, am I developing other leaders as a result of my leadership? As a matter of fact, what does influence even mean? There are two quotes that come to mind by John Maxwell, my favorite leadership guru, that describe influence. First, “Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” Second, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” And a bonus quote I like by former President John Quincy Adams who said, “If your actions inspire others to do more, to learn more, to dream more or to become more, you are a leader.”

Leaders that have true influence understand the stages of leadership. I’ve heard the stages of leadership presented by several leadership speakers/authors (however for the sake of citing I am taking from Tony Morgan’s website):

Set the Example
The first stage is this: true leadership and influence starts by being the example-setter. It’s impossible to inspire and lead others if you yourself don’t know the way, go the way and show the way as Maxwell says. If you want to position yourself as a leader in your organization, you’ll have to begin setting the example for others. If you are in sales and want to be the top salesman in the office, start by making more phone calls than anyone else. Recently, I ran into someone that was telling me that their company’s salespeople make 30 cold calls per day. Instead of doing the minimum and the status quo, he had instead decided to make a daily habit of calling 50. As a result, he was booking more meetings and creating a larger amount of new business than anyone else. Setting the example means being the bar-raiser in the organization.

Lead Others
Once you have become the example-setter and bar-raiser others to follow, people will soon want to know what you know so they can do what you are doing. At this stage, while you are still taking ownership, you begin to delegate responsibilities to others that are following you. Also, you begin to teach. They see you booking more appointments and bringing in more new business than anyone else and want to know how you are doing it.

Develop Other Leaders
While it’s important to lead by example and lead people, as leaders, one of the ways to judge our effectiveness is by the fruit we are bearing in the form of new leaders. My suggestion is to first find a mentor if you don’t have one already. However, make it a goal to find a mentee. That person is someone that you can pour into and offer guidance to just as your mentor will do the same for you.

Answer this riddle: would you rather have a million dollars or a penny doubled everyday for 31 days? Hopefully you chose the penny because on Day 31 you would now have over $10 million. Influence is such an important aspect of bearing fruit as a leader. Our own leadership influence is limited. However, as we develop leaders, our influence increases because it multiplies, just like the penny.

Inspire Leaders
While you should always be setting the example, leading others and developing new leaders, at stage four your focus changes. For example, a guy like John Maxwell has several leaders that he mentors in his organization, EQUIP. Those leaders are leading the charge and taking ownership of their positions. As a result, John’s focus doesn’t necessarily need to be on the first three stages. While all three stages of leadership are still essential, John’s job is to cast a vision and inspire his front-line leaders as well as those who read his books and listen to him speak. That should be the goal.

The truth is that not all leaders make it to stage four. Many may never make it to stage three either. However, it should be our goal to continuously grow. If we can set the example and be bar-raisers, lead an organization, develop leaders within that organization then we’ll position ourselves to be stage four leaders whose job is to inspire and cast the vision for our organizations.

It’s a process, though. You won’t be a stage four leader today or tomorrow. So make it a goal to start today by striving to be an example-setter and bar-raiser for your organization. Go the extra mile. Make 20 more calls than anyone else as my friend did. That will put you on the right track.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

Sloth: What Is It and Why You Need to Avoid It

Proverbs 3: 11-12

RSV: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

Photo: “Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt,  1665

I have been somewhat alarmed at writing this post. Over on twitter, I have been expressing regularly how God has written more on my heart in writing this post than I have written down on paper (or screen). I have been alarmed because the same topic kept coming to mind: the sin of sloth. Let me explain.

In Proverbs 3. 11-12 , the author writes, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

In writing about the Word of God, I often find that I write the things I do because those are the things that are normally going on in my own life. You can see why, then, that the writing of this post has been of concern to me.

Sloth is one of those deadly sins and topics that is misunderstood and frankly, hardly talked about. That is because most people don’t know what it actually means.

Sloth does not mean laziness or sleeping in too late for church: it’s much more spiritual and deep than that. Sloth is despair in striving for God and His ways. It’s a spiritual laziness or sadness in wanting to be holy; at it’s core, a mistaken belief that God’s ways are less-than, and not more-than.

It is one of the most dangerous sins, and it is why history has labeled it a deadly sin.

Unfortunately we live in a culture which believes that the least important things are the most important things, and the most important things are the least important things. It’s not difficult to see: more money is spent in the porn industry than in any other industry. To them, lust is first and love is last. 

As Christians who are still on the journey home, we must ever be vigilant to stay on the path to the promised land, lest we get distracted in the desert and mistakenly desire to bow down to Pharaoh and his false promises of freedom. 

Now that we have defined what sloth is, the question begs, “So what do we do now as business owners, entrepreneurs, and young professionals?” I would suggest three things in the context of the rest of Proverbs 3.

First, as entrepreneurs, professionals, and even just as people who desire wisdom, we should always look outside of ourselves for the right answers. The author in verse 5 writes, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” We should find people to learn from, but not just any people. Find people that we want to be like. In this case, holy people: people who have persevered in running the race after God, who have loved others sacrificially, who have given their opportunities back to God to serve Him and people.

Second, just like in business, we need to build our spiritual house on solid rock. Interestingly, one of the best ways to do this is to start confessing your sins out loud to another person, somebody you trust. Verse 11 states, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Because I am Catholic, I can testify from experience that verbal confession is one of the best experiences of living the Christian life. Yes, it is God alone who forgives sins, but there is a real freedom in letting it out and hearing that even for this terrible sin that I just confessed, I am forgiven and set free anew. The second part to confession is the counsel that is shared by the other. It is critical to find somebody who will help you through the valley: somebody who will love you enough to tell you where you are wrong and what steps you need to take to grow.

Third, I think sloth can be avoided and conquered if we ask for more faith. With the eyes of faith, we will realize that being a disciple of Jesus is more, not less, unlike what the culture wants us to believe. We can run our businesses with integrity, with honesty, not taking advantage of our employees or our clients, and we can still win. In fact, we will win more by aligning our hearts with the servant heart of the Lord because we will experience the joy of sacrificial giving. But notice- it first requires us to take actions to align our hearts with His before we can understand such riches. 

With these three things in mind, let us hope that we can experience the joys of discipleship and steer clear of sloth, for wisdom is “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her, those who hold her fast are called happy.”

Ryan Eggenberger is a writer, blogger, and social media consultant for political, religious, and business organizations. He teaches people how to come up with creative ways to make money doing what they love. He blogs regularly at
RyanEggenberger.com. Follow Ryan on Twitter!