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.

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.

Being Content With Your Station in Life

Proverbs 30:21–28

21 The earth shakes under three things; under four things it is not able to bear. 22 Under a court official that becomes king; and a fool that satisfies himself with bread. 23  Under a hated woman that is married; and a female slave that dispossesses her queen. 24 Four things are among the smallest things of the earth; and they are extremely wise. 25 The ants are a nation that is not strong, they still prepare their food in the summer. 26 The rock badgers are a nation that is not powerful, they still fashion their homes in the cliff. 27 There is no king for the locust, they all still march forth divided in groups. 28 The lizard is regularly caught by hands, but that animal is in the palaces of a king.

by Trevor Tarpinian

Are you familiar with Mickey Mouse’s performance as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” in Disney’s Fantasia? Do you remember the disastrous series of events that follow his attempt at playing sorcerer? Of course, Disney still manages to pull off its trademark happy ending (even to a Goethe poem!). No one can stay mad at Mickey Mouse. In fact, we might even sympathize with Mickey and applaud the cunning scheme that he devises to avoid doing his chores – until that terrible moment when he loses control. Everything falls apart because he was not yet ready to be the sorcerer or wield his power. Walt Disney saw the lesson to be learned in being discontent with one’s position or status, just as Goethe did centuries earlier, and the writer of Proverbs 30 before him.

Let’s observe a few select features of the passage:

Monarchies and empires in the ancient world operated by the divine right of kings. If God appointed a leader, anyone who usurped a king’s reign disrupted divine order. This explains David’s hesitancy to lay a hand on Saul, the “Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 24:6). Prov 30:22 highlights the upheaval caused by a servant’s usurpation of his king’s throne. The Hebrew word translated “servant,” might be better read as “court official” here (cf. Neh 2:10, 19; 1 Kings 1:47; 2 Kings 24:10; 25:24.1 ). If so, it paints an even more sinister picture of a trusted official betraying his king. In either case, it demonstrates gross disrespect for the divine appointment of a king.

The word for “fool” in v.22b is found elsewhere in the OT. In 2 Sam 3:33–34 it means “lawless one” and is parallel to “sons of wickedness.” In Isa 32:5, the “fool” parallels “the rogue” or scoundrel” and next in v.6 describes one who occupies himself with evil, practices ungodliness, and spreads heresy. Jer 17:11 describes this person as one who gains wealth by injustice. Psa 14:1 describes this person as a vile evildoer. Prov 17:21 and Job 30:8 demonstrate that this person is a disgrace and a dishonor to their kin and community, possibly even divested from an inheritance. Given this character profile, the “fool” deserves physical punishment, disinheritance, and death. His consumption of food runs contrary to this in two ways. First, it reflects society’s permissiveness toward the fool. His ability to eat well demonstrates that society rewards rather than ostracizes him. Second, his nourishment gives him sustenance to continue his evil.

Examples of the “hated woman” in Prov 20:23 occur in other OT passages. Gen 29:31, 33 refer to Jacob hating Leah. Deut 21:15, 17 describe a married woman who is despised in comparison to another wife. These texts refer to women that were already married and lends support to understanding the woman in Prov 30:23 as already married (so the NIV; contra the KJV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, NRSV). Since this despised wife is in harmful competition with another, more favored wife, the “earthshaking” feature of this line is unrest in the sphere of the family. It negatively demonstrates that God intends tranquility in the sphere of the family. Anxiety, disfavor, and competition – all symptoms of a despised wife – metaphorically shake the world’s fundamental social institution to its core.

The use of the number four in Prov 30:21 and 30:24 provides us introductions to two separate, but related proverbs. It helps us structure two units of thought that we can summarize in the following:

Unit 1 Summary: Prov 30:21–23 observe four things that turn the world upside. They run against the grain of God’s intended social order. Usurping power because of disloyalty (servant) or seduction (maidservant), especially among public figures, corrodes polity and society. Further, an evil “fool’s” provision attests to society’s permissiveness toward unjust gain. A disfavored wife shows distress and upheaval at the family level, a place in which God intended tranquility and safety.

Unit 2 Summary: In contrast to four social upheavals that can cause headlines and commotion in the world, Prov 30:24–28 show four creatures that unceremoniously demonstrate wisdom in overcoming their limitations. Ants and rock badgers accomplish their self-preservation by storing food and building fortified shelter respectively, despite being small or weak. Locusts overcome their bulk by acting in solidarity. Lizards, although vulnerable to capture, have the ability to find safe residence in palaces.

In our first proverb (vv.21–23), we observe four people that act out of dissatisfaction and profoundly disrupt social order as God has ordained it. In our second proverb (vv.24–28), we observe four ordinary but wise creatures in the natural order that seem to get by just fine with the resources at their disposal. What significance does Prov 30:21–28 have to your business practice? Let me offer some suggestions for implementing two principles from these proverbs:

  • Be respectful to the authorities in your realm of business because it helps maintain order and stability, especially for your clients.

Think your derisive comments about upper-management are inconsequential? You might set office precedent and subsequently become the object of similar hissing from your subordinates next week. If you are an independent professional who doesn’t report to anyone, think of how your attitude toward vendors, companies, regulators, and legislators might influence peers in your network of influence? A few words could sway them to change their business practices, ultimately affecting the products or services to their clients. Have you ever known better than an experienced superior, only to realize down the road how ignorant you must have sounded and how disastrous your ideas would have been if implemented? Consider writing one of these memories down (or better yet, submit it to FailDetroit) and reflecting on it the next time you’re dissatisfied with an authority. Their installation in a decision-making position might be harmful rather than orderly, but your involvement might be even worse.

  • Find contentment in the rhythm and cycle of your work.

We shouldn’t expect a 3,000 year old proverb to be any less counter-cultural. We value constant upgrading and upsizing – our meals, phones, computers, cars, houses, careers. We like novelty and change (unless it’s Mr. Obama’s variety). We get bored quickly and most of us find routine to be a threatening tedium. In fact, this may be an implicit motivation for the earth-shaking actions of 30:21–23. Yet the sage points to four unremarkable creatures and illustrates how easily they flourish within the confines of their “routine.” Consider the challenge employee retention poses for many companies. You feel under-appreciated, under-paid, under-challenged? So does everyone else. What would it mean for your retention if you could model contentment to your employees? We all experience burnout and boredom. We go through the motions in any job. How valuable would your experience be to your employees if you could share the tricks that got you through their position for eight years? You’ll never be able to share it if you haven’t done it. What message do you communicate to your colleagues and customers if you change jobs every three years? What does it tell them if you have established yourself in a single industry for two decades, despite recessions, markets swings, and legislative challenges? It doesn’t take a sage to know your clients want long term consistency and stability from the people with whom they work. Identify aspects of your work that offer you fulfillment. Use them to get yourself and others through the dry seasons so you can ensure long term benefits to your clients and yourself.

It could always be worse. You could be pointlessly carrying water buckets for a sorcerer.

Trevor Tarpinian is a financial representative for all things insurance at TFI Insurance & Benefits, a Michigan native, and a beer league hockey player. When he’s not watching the Detroit Red Wings, he’s helping professionals and business owners manage risk, minimize tax exposure, and strategize succession planning. You can contact him via e-mail at Trevor.t@tfiins.com or follow him on Twitter at @FerrisBueller66 (Personal) or @TFIInsuranceBen (Business).

1 So Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15–31, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 494.

What We Can Learn from Insanity

Proverbs 26:11

ESV- “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”

I was taught at the beginning of my business career that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I later found out that it was Einstein who said that quote.

What practices are you holding onto that aren’t producing the right results yet you continue to do them in hope that your fortunes will change? I wrote on a similar topic in my post on Proverbs 29:1. In that post, I wrote this:

“There is a difference, however, between being stubborn and refusing to quit. When we face challenges, there are those who truly believe in what they are doing. Then there are the people that the NIV translation calls “stiff-necked”. Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance.” People like this hold onto ideas or practices that haven’t worked in the past and continue not to work in the present. They stand in denial of a problem refusing to accept a need for change. This stubbornness is not only stiff-necked but also foolish. Furthermore, the end result is never positive and can usually be summed up in one word: regret.”

What are some things that you can think of off the top of your head that you are doing over and over yet not getting the results you’ve been hoping for? As the verse says, fools repeat their folly. So the question I want to answer is this: how do we not continue to repeat folly? Here are 4 check-marks that we should review when things aren’t going the way we’d like:

1) Listen to the Holy Spirit

First of all, I’ve written from day one on this blog that we need to pursue God and offer up everything we do so He can lead us. We need to be in tune with what God’s plan is for our lives. He has a plan for each and every one of us and it is our purpose to figure out what that is. If you don’t feel God’s calling on what you are doing, then it may not be right. However, if you do feel God’s call on whatever venture/project you are pursuing, then run forward.

2) Personal Growth

Have you grown through the process of pursuit? If a venture/project isn’t going to stretch you and/or force you to experience personal growth through it, then it isn’t worth it. In that case, you might want to take a step back and analyze what you are doing. On the other hand, if it has stretched you, then you are probably on the right path. Keep stretching and growing yourself.

3) External Impact

Are you impacting others through the process of pursuit? External impact is similar to personal growth. If a venture/project isn’t benefiting others around you then what’s the point? It’s very difficult to get any type of satisfaction out of a venture if you are having zero impact on others. But if you are impacting others positively, then keep doing what you are doing.

4) Making Some Progress

This one is a tough one. There are going to be times when you feel like you aren’t making any progress. That can be a very discouraging feeling. If you truly believe that you are doing what God has called you to do, then make it a goal to take baby steps. Don’t go for the home run. Just do a little bit everyday to move yourself and your venture/business/job forward. On the other hand, if you are going backwards with little hope, then you might want to rethink what you are doing. It may be foolish to keep going.

The definition of a fool (according to the dictionary) is someone who “acts unwisely or imprudently”. The French writer, Simone de Beauvoir said, “In the face of an obstacle which is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid.” It’s imperative we understand when it is okay to be stubborn and when it is not.

Next time you hit an obstacle, analyze your expectations and use the 4 check-marks above to help you figure out if you are moving in the right direction. Are you doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? If so, make some adjustments. Maybe even try something new. You’ll be happy you did.