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.

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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.

3 Tips I Learned Recently About Being Flexible

Recently, I encountered a potentially awkward situation during a meeting with a client. While in the middle of a meeting, I started to get a runny nose. The only problem? It wasn’t snot. I had a bloody nose. Of course my instant reaction was to excuse myself and let them know I had to run to the restroom. So picture me in the bathroom, head tilt back, a bloody paper towel in one hand and another shoved up my nose (Gross picture, right?), hoping nobody walks in to this potentially awkward sight. While simultaneously trying to get my nose to stop bleeding, I was attempting to think of an excuse since my client was probably wondering where I was and why I had been in the bathroom for several minutes. So what solution did I come up with? Since I am one to joke around, I decided to bring light to the situation and laugh it off with the client. I figured that if I could laugh about it and, at the same time, get the client to laugh about it too, I’d be in the clear. As a result, it worked and I spent the rest of my appointment with a kleenex up my nose. The good news is that we are working on a potential good-size project and we didn’t miss a beat.

I learned a lesson on flexibility through this situation. It’s easy to sit here and write about leadership lessons and principles. It’s another thing to encounter actual situations where you have to react properly and accordingly. There are going to be situations that come up where you didn’t exactly plan for things to happen that way. For example, I was all prepared for my meeting that day and me and my colleague had it mapped out. I have news for you: a bloody nose wasn’t on the agenda.

The following are three tips on flexibility in less-than-ideal situations that I learned from my blood nose incident:

1. Be honest
I didn’t really have a choice in my situation since I was wearing the truth on my face, but the worst thing we can do is be dishonest. If I had tried to play it off and returned to my client acting like nothing was going on, my nose would have started bleeding again and I would have had to excuse myself again. At that point, the client would be wondering why I keep leaving the meeting. He might even think that the reason I keep leaving is because I have something more important to tend to than him . Does anything good ever really come out of being dishonest? Rarely does that happen. Just be honest.

2. Laugh it off
This whole bloody nose incident could have been very awkward. Although it may be cliché to say this, I think it runs true anyway: It’s only awkward if you make it awkward. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I heard someone say once, “Take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.” Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. John Maxwell says, “You better laugh at yourself, because everyone else is laughing at you!” This particular situation made for a good laugh.

3. Keep your goal in mind
Remember your goals and objectives. For me, I knew what my goal was for that appointment and what I wanted to accomplish. Even though I may have taken a detour to get to the destination, we still made it. More times than not, your journey isn’t going to consist of a straight line from the starting point to your end goal. Detours are going to occur. In fact, you should be prepared and expect them. However, don’t veer too far off the straight line. Keep your end goal in mind because all that matters is that that is where you end up. Whatever happens inbetween is just your story.

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.

6 Ways To Develop Your Business Skills

Editor’s Note: 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.

In today’s fast-paced business world, information is moving quicker than ever and it’s never been more important for us to be on top of things and constantly learning and developing our business skills. Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” If we aren’t growing personally and professionally then we run the risk of falling behind our competition who I guarantee is. In order for each of us to become experts in our respective fields, we need to make learning a daily habit. As a result, the following are six low-cost resources available to you in order to hone and develop your business skills:

1. Books
There are an endless amount of books out there for you to read. Unfortunately, it seems like I run into a lot of people today that give me the excuse that they aren’t readers. Well guess what? While it may be cliche, leaders are readers. If you aren’t daily taking in new information and learning, you aren’t growing. My advice is that you just start somewhere. Find a good book by a reputable author. If you are looking to save some money, I’d suggest going to your local library to see if they have the book you are looking for. If not, look at purchasing it on Amazon. I purchase almost all my books on Amazon. You can get a book for cheap and have it shipped fairly quickly to your doorstep. I’ve even found some books in great condition on Amazon for as little as $0.99 and around $3.00 for shipping. It’s worth it.

As far as suggestions for books to get started with, I have some favorites that I recommend. However, it all depends on what you are doing and what you are looking to learn. If you have any questions or are looking for recommendations, drop me an e-mail and I can offer you a few suggestions.

2. Online Courses
Online courses are a great resource and there are several offered by organizations online. For example, right now I am in the middle of a course that is offered through the website, Udacity. The course I am taking, titled How To Build a Startup, is taught by Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and professor who teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford, Columbia and Caltech among others. So I’m learning from one of the best professors and the best part is that the courses offered through Udacity are free. Also, did you know that Stanford is offering 16 free online courses for the Fall quarter?

3. Podcasts
iTunes has an endless amount of podcasts for you to subscribe to. One, in particular, that I subscribe to is a leadership podcast by Andy Stanley, the popular leadership author and speaker who is also the Senior Pastor of the mega church, North Point Community Church in Atlanta. Sometimes I’ll listen to his podcast while I am running. Podcasts are a great way to get some education time in while doing other things. Another great time to listen to podcasts is while you are in the car. If you are able to play your phone over the car speakers, you can get some education time in while driving.

4. Websites
There are a lot of websites available to you. The best part is that the only investment websites require are your time. I spend about an hour each day reading new articles. Here is a list of websites that I visit regularly:

For Business and Leadership:
Inc
Entrepreneur
Young Entrepreneur
Fast Company

For Social Media:
Mashable
Social Media Today

5. Seminars and Events
Seminars and events are great resources available to you. These events allow you the opportunity to hear the experts speak. I try to attend at least one event every month. Some of these events include topics such as start-ups, leadership and social media among others. For example, I will be attending TEDxDetroit on October 26. This event will allow me the opportunity to hear the Metro Detroit’s leading thinkers and creators. It will also be a great chance to do some valuable networking.

I’d recommend looking up some local organizations and finding out their event schedule. For example, if you are interested in social media, there are social media clubs and groups available to you no matter what city you are in that hold monthly events and seminars.

6. Mentorship
Do you currently have a mentor? If not, you are taking a big risk. I’d recommend pursuing mentorship in your field. You can do this by finding 2-3 experts in your field and seeking them out. Take them out for coffee and use that time to ask them questions and pick their brain. I’ve recently been doing this as I am looking to improve my social media knowledge. In the past month, I’ve gone out for coffee with 2 social media experts and had a conference call with another who happened to be in a different state.

It’s unwise to tackle a goal without any mentorship to keep you going in the right direction. John Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Find a mentor and begin picking their brain for knowledge. There is a reason they are where they are and you are where you are. They have already made the mistakes that you would most likely make along the way. Wouldn’t it be ideal to piggy-back their wisdom and save some time, sweat and tears?

What other resources would you suggest?

Why Aren’t You Pursuing Your WHY?

Right now I’m reading one of the best books I’ve ever read called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. In the book, Simon fires off so many nuggets that I could literally dedicate a series of posts just to this book. However, I was reading yesterday and came across a quote that really grabbed my attention and prompted this blog post:

“All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.” (Start With Why, pg. 134)

Simon goes on to tell Bill Gates’ story and how his WHY is to “help us all become more productive and achieve our greatest potential.” (pg. 134) Want to know a leadership secret? Because of his WHY, everything Bill does is dedicated towards his WHY and his cause. Great leaders have a crystal clear WHY and, as a result, dedicate their lives to finding new ways, different WHATs to bring their cause and passion to life. That’s why Bill and Melinda have the Gates Foundation. Through their foundation, they’ve led the charge for around 100 billionaires who have pledged to donate half their wealth to philanthropy as well as leading the charge to defeat malaria. Through these two missions, their goal is to help millions of people have the opportunity to realize their greatest potential.

Maybe your why isn’t as huge as Bill Gates’, though. Guess what? You have a driving purpose, a passion, a dream. As a Christian, I happen to believe that God has given each and every one of us a dream and a purpose for living. What is yours? If you don’t know, I would highly encourage you to take some time to think about it.

Now think about WHAT you are doing right now in your job, business ventures, free time, etc. If you know your WHY, are your current WHATs helping you achieve that cause and passion? If not, maybe that’s why you aren’t happy doing what you are doing.

Your WHY should determine why you do your WHAT. People tend to feel like they are in a rut because they aren’t following God’s purpose for their lives. The reason a WHY is so inspiring is because it encompasses something that is greater than ourselves. It shouldn’t just be about you. If it is, then your WHY is too small. If we pursue our WHY, we are intended to touch the lives of a large number of people. That’s how a God-inspired WHY works.

But not only that… if we pursue our WHY with passion, because it is touches the lives of so many others, it’s very possible that others may begin asking you if they can be a part of it. According to Sinek:

“When a WHY is clear, those who share that belief will be drawn to it and may want to take part in bringing it to life. If that belief is amplified it can have the power to rally even more believers to raise their hands and declare, “I want to help.” With a group of believers all rallying around a common purpose, cause or belief, amazing things can happen.” (pg. 136-137)

I’d really suggest that if you don’t know what your WHY is, figure it out. I promise you that God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He has placed a dream and cause on your heart. I’ve heard it referred to as the “sweet spot”. It is up to you to figure out what that is.

Life will not always be perfect. However, it will be much more fulfilling if you can figure out what your “sweet spot” is and run at it with full speed and might. Pursue your cause so that great strides and achievements can be made. This world will be a better place if you are aiming to pursue your dream.

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.

Four People (Dead or Alive) I Would Invite To My Dinner Party

I came across a blog post recently that really got me thinking. The title of that post was “Ten People You Would Invite to Your Dinner Party”. Since the goal of having this dinner party would be to soak up wisdom and knowledge and learn from the greats, I’ve decided that four people would be a perfect number. In my opinion, a smaller group equals a more intimate and special setting. With that in mind, the following are the four people (dead or alive) I would invite to my dinner party:

Guest #1 – Ronald Reagan
If you know me, you know that I am extremely passionate about politics. I love studying past history and have spent many late nights reading about past Presidents and the United States’ Founding Fathers. One of my favorite Presidents is Ronald Reagan, not only for his accomplishments, but also for a few other qualities. First, Reagan was a phenomenal storyteller which allowed him to draw the interest of the American people and effectively connect. At my dinner party, he would keep us entertained with his entertaining stories. Also, Reagan had a great sense of humor and ability to lighten the mood when the time was appropriate. As the story goes, following the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, as he lay on the hospital table, he looked up at the surgeons and said, “I hope you’re all Republicans”. Another story goes like this: during mike check for his Saturday radio broadcast, Reagan came on and said to everyone’s surprise, “My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes.” He had a great personality and ability to make people laugh.

In addition to those qualities, I would love to pick his brain on why he was so successful as President. In the future, I plan on running for political office so who better to take mentorship from than the one they called The Gipper.

Guest #2 – The Apostle Paul
If you’ve read any of my past posts on this blog, you would know that I speak often of the Vertical Alignment. The Vertical Alignment is how we prioritize our lives. For me, God is #1 in my life. Therefore, everything I do, believe, value funnels through my personal Biblical worldview of how I see the world.

The quality that stands out to me about Paul is that he was fearless and unapologetically bold about his faith. Paul knew he was called to be set apart for the gospel and, as a result, had purpose in everything he did and preached to all with absolute boldness. When someone is sold out for something like that, it is contagious and that’s why Paul’s ministry was so successful. My prayer is that I am unequivocally sold out for my faith like Paul was.

I would love to have Paul at my dinner party because I would love to be around somebody like that who is so contagiously sold out for his faith. Also, I would love to hear some stories that didn’t happen to make it into the Biblical canon.

Guest #3 – Rich DeVos
Hands down my business hero is Rich DeVos. For those of you who know me, you know that I have a background in network marketing that began when I was 19 years old. While I’ve since moved on to other ventures, I would not be the person I am today if not for my time in the Amway business (co-founded by Rich DeVos). A quality that sticks out to me about Rich is that he believes in people. That belief is so evident in the Amway organization. In Rich’s book, “Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People”, he writes, “It’s been said there are two types of people–those who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are.” Rich is the second type of person. It’s no coincidence that the last phrase in that book is a simple one: I love you. I can attest that Rich uses that phrase. I was lucky enough to receive a few wedding presents from Rich in the form of signed books. Each one at the bottom is signed with “To Brandon. Love Ya, Rich”.

I want to emulate that kind of belief in and love of people and would love to pick Rich’s brain. Not to mention, he’s a phenomenal communicator and storyteller as well.

Guest #4 – John Maxwell
I love to read books on leadership. Specifically, my favorite author is the leadership guru, John Maxwell. In fact, it is because of him that I blog on the topics of Proverbs and Business. I heard a talk of his a few years back in which he told of many leaders he knows personally that consistently read the book of Proverbs each month (one chapter per day). John is not only a leadership author and speaker, he is also a pastor. I love that he comes at you, the reader and listener, with leadership knowledge based on a Biblical foundation.

If you are looking for a good book, you won’t go wrong by picking up any of his books. My favorite, especially, is his book Failing Forward. I’ve written in the past about an online community I’ve co-founded in Metro Detroit, along with two others, called Fail Detroit which is based on the idea of failing forward like John talks about in his book.

I would have a ton of leadership questions for John and he would probably get tired of all the questions I would throw at him. The guy has one of the greatest leadership minds so I’d definitely take advantage of having someone like that to talk to. Not to mention, he is also a phenomenal storyteller as well. Seems to be a common thread among many leaders.

I think this would have to be an all-night dinner party or maybe week long because between all the knowledge, wisdom and entertainment, I wouldn’t want it to end.

Your turn: What four people (dead or alive) would you invite to your dinner party?