Trust

To be trusted is among the greatest privileges we can walk under. And conversely, to lose that trust becomes the most expensive relational loss, and regaining it is near impossible.

As business leaders, we can be given, with little question, much trust. By our employees, our vendors, and of course our customers. But when that trust is broken, our reputations are cast in bronze and mortared to the outside of our building, never to be removed.

So what does this mean as leaders? Walk carefully. At all cost do not betray the fragile trust invested in you. Learn to understand what it is like to be your customer, or your employee, or your vendor. Or your competitor. Humility can often put out the fires of broken trust if discovered in the first few minutes of its kindling. But wait too long, and in the mind of your customer, your reputation is in ashes.

Father up.

dad on ipad

My dear fathers…

What has become of us? We are portrayed as mower-riding, repairman-calling, beer drinking game watching cave dwellers. For good reason, I am sorry to say.

A good father is becoming a misnomer. An oxy-moron, with emphasis on moron.

Can I pump some Oxy into you?

Rise up from the digital dead. Lift your head from the toxic glow of your digital distractor and look around. At your family. At your community. And at your nation. It’s time for you to be the father we all need. All year long.

Take the plastic gizmo from your belt and launch it in the air. If you hit it with one shot, you rock. Then turn, and lead. Turn, and love your woman well.Turn and father the generations to come.

It’s time to Father-Up.

 

 

(image courtesy of media.npr.org)

 

 

On fatherhood

dad and son and truck

Fatherhood is a complex and vaporous reality, full of powerful compounds and tools, volatile materials, and ingredients. The force of nature called fatherhood, and the life changing ability inherent in the person called father, are monumental. These ingredients are pivotal and foundational  principles in the history of mankind.

We hold in our hands the futures of the children with whom we are entrusted. For better or for worse, the future of these little ones pivots on our abilities, or lack there of.

We fathers who actually see the truth of our position, who reach out beyond mere biologic sperm donation, have a common denominator, which I believe is this: we come to realize that we are no longer individuals, and recognize the fact that we are in the process of putting aside our own personal, selfish, inward looking nature, which is so prevalent, and celebrated even, and are actively reaching for something higher or grander or more expansive than our own gratification. We have come to realize that the beauty of our calling and position lies in the band of people called family. Yes, these are individuals, but between them exists a metaphysical bond that cannot be removed. And the father is the source of this bond.

The father stands at the crux of the collision between individuality and community.

The smallness or bigness of the vision with which the father operates will determine  the width and breadth of community and family, that complicated band of individuals who are connected invisibly.

Fatherhood is fore-running. It is pathfinding. It consists of making a way for individuals, for a wife and some children, or perhaps a blended family, to become cemented into a permanent and life-giving relational band called the family.

This is not easy work. It is not peaceable, or tranquil work. It is man’s work, warrior’s work. Father’s work. But it is good, no- the best work, one man could put his hands to.

the need for objectivity

The need for objectivity, for the view point of an unbiased and observant and stable person, in our lives, remains paramount.

I often charge blindly into the night, and the day, of my life, with little or no understanding of what it must be like to live with me. What it must be like to interact with me, or listen to me, follow me, lead me, or love me. To say that I move through my existence with blinders on would be accurate.

The need for a voice, for the reasoned opinion and observation of a trusted compadre, who could bring data to me about myself, who could make me aware of certain ruts and pitfalls that they see me fall in routinely, this need is great. It is a need that many of us reject, out of a desire for safety. And perhaps for good reason, due to being burned in the past by over-trusted and under-qualified voices, who perhaps were not healthy enough to speak into our lives.

But we should still search for and invite these types of  voices, especially those of our elders, who have taken a dozen more turns around the sun than we have, who have been to the war and back, who have struggled with, and overcome, the common enemies of our day. Enemies like low motivation, or greed, or selfish living.

Finding a trusted voice, a tested and true voice, can be difficult and dangerous, but it is worth doing. Our futures will be carved by our own hands, but we cannot get far enough back from our work to get a long view of where we are headed. Mentors and elders can do that for us.

A little honor for a great lady

     I saw a woman who gave beyond her ability. She took what little she had and gave it, to me, to my wife, and to my children. She gave even when in pain. I watched her wince, from agony, while playing cards with my children, but she let on like nothing had happened, and kept playing.  For years.
     I don’t know how to love like that, but she showed me the way.
     I saw a woman struggle to lift her children above herself, to push them ahead, trying to shake off the scales of poverty and blindness and abuse. She came from almost nothing, and spent the best years of her life trying to create something of value for her family.
     I didn’t know how to live like that, but she showed me the way.
     And I saw a woman pour out affection like a swollen river after a heavy April rain, aiming it at a child who was misunderstood, and misaligned, a child disfigured in speech and body and behavior.
     Even though this child was my own, I did not know how to love like that. But she showed me the way. My mother-in-law, who is gone.
     I miss her, and honor her, and thank her.
     Anne Helmick.

On manhood

archer logo3-01

There are things which are true that in order to be known must be experienced. They must be walked through and lived in and broken in like a good pair of boots. Knowledge on its own is not enough for one to grasp these things. Yes, information passed from practitioner to learner can be very valuable and helpful, but mixing knowledge with experience is the only trustworthy recipe in the kitchen of life.

We learn best by being shown, being led by example, walking together with a mentor or a sage, who can point out pitfalls, extend advice as we try to walk the same path he has walked for many years. Essentially he is passing on his wisdom in a distillation, the essential oil of a life well lived. We benefit from his scars, from his victories, from his data gathered the hard way, and we glean this not through sterile lectures or readings but through trial and error along side the master. We put our hands to the tools that have been worn with use by one who has gone before.

This is especially true in manhood.

We were not meant, each one of us, individually, to rediscover and retake the same ground over and over through the millennia- we were meant to be brought into manhood by practitioners of the craft, by those who have gone before and taken ground by standing on the shoulders of their forefathers who took unique ground in their own day.

We were meant to walk along side these experts, these craftsmen of masculine expertise, these walkers of dark trails and hallowed halls and silent caverns, these living libraries of health and wealth and wisdom. That is the system into which you were born.

But many of these special ops warriors are missing, taken out by video games or small battles at work or a fixation on golf swings or women of ill repute or trips into unfeeling and unknowing lethargy brought on by alcohol or food or entertainment.

And we who would rise up in their shadow are left to recreate a story rather than add to it; to start a story that we were meant to finish, or at least develop into its deeper stages; We find ourselves recasting a vision that should have or could have been cast before, so that others could expand or develop or extend further into the universe that Great Story, one of the Father and Son. The kingdom which has come, which will continue to grow in mass and volume and beauty and richness throughout the unseen future.

Fixation

fixation
     Fixation     -dialed in way too close.
     Nothing good comes to me when I am in the state of fixation. And I have learned to recognize it as a state of being, almost an affliction or an infection of some sort. A mind infection.
     And it doesn’t really matter what I’m fixated on. In the past I’ve used the excuse that the thing on which I was fixated was a healthy thing. Like exercise. Or making money.
     But the problem is my personal inner scales get all thrown out of balance when I’m fixated. I value things that have no real worth, and I ignore things that need my attention. I lose the ability to recognize much of anything, let alone make good decisions.
     So, I’ve learned to identify the signs of fixation, and when I feel it coming on, I turn and run the other way, no matter the subject which is crying out for my gaze.

On mentoring

tree

An often overlooked quality necessary to being a good leader is humility. And one place in which that humility becomes essential is in the area of mentoring.

Dads and moms mentor. Coaches mentor. Bosses mentor. Pastors and community leaders and CEO’s and PTA’s and grandma’s mentor.

Mentoring essentially means walking with someone in a less experienced or less mature position, and acting as a forerunner, or sage, who can warn of pitfalls, hurdles, shortcomings, and blind spots along the way.

Mentor-leaders help to mold and shape those who are following, and this is where the humility comes in. At some point those people being led are going to mature to the position of ‘peer’, and begin to recognize YOUR weaknesses.  Point out YOUR failures. And they may be right.

If you do your job well as a leader, that day will come sooner rather than later. And without humility, you will become unsafe, defensive, offensive, unapproachable. And your leadership will grind to a halt.

It takes humility to receive corrective input from people with whom you have had a mentoring role. But this ability is what makes you a great leader.

Take your people to the next level by modeling humility when being corrected.

Formed

potters hand
     As a grown up, I can honestly say there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about my childhood. Actually, there probably isn’t an hour that goes by in the same way. I have only recently begun to feel like I’m a grown up. Until recently, I felt exactly the same as I did when I was seventeen. I looked out of the same eyes, and processed in the same inner room of my mind.
     The point I am trying to make is that I was formed by my childhood, and the clay has dried. Let me be clear. I was formed by two parents, for better or worse. By their presence and absence, their care and carelessness, their hopes and fears and wins and losses and tears and laughter, and they were knowingly or otherwise the architects of what I am now.
     This fact has been the single driving force in my parenting. I am now the potter at the wheel, and I have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to mold and shape these little people, recognizing that they too will spend most of their years looking back to wonder at their forming.

The flame of creative thought

Ideas, seminal thoughts, and the unique handmade truths of original thinking are a small flickering candle flame in the window of the mind.
When you open it to the world, the winds of popularity quickly blow it out.
These small flames are lit in the quiet rooms behind our eyes, not the freeways and subways and stadiums of corporate or societal collectives.
Like social media.
Shut the window, turn out the lights, and turn off your phone. Then strike the match that kindles the fragile flame of originality. Allow the glow to warm to recesses of your digitally depressed inner processor.
Make this a part of your daily rhythm, and soon the glow emanating from the windows of your mind will change the world around you.