Person Rock Climbing with Overlay text "Do Hard Things"

One of the common phrases in our house is, “Do hard things!”

It’s a call. A challenge. To our kids, but also to the adults. Life requires, necessitates difficulty. We should rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things

Life is full of the difficult.

Taking our first steps requires doing hard things.

When we’re young, learning to walk is hard. Yet without knowing any better, our natural instinct is to persevere. We fall, we rise again, and we take another step.

Somewhere along the way, however, we get talked out of that mindset. We learn to shrink back, play small, give in, and give up. Ultimately, we end up missing out on some of the greatest aspects of life.

Because everything we’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Our ability to push through, rise to the occasion, and achieve the difficult things, determines how far we get in life.

 

Don’t Run From Hardship

One writer from the early church history penned the idea of difficulty this way:

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. (The Voice)

We were warned thousands of years ago about the necessity of doing difficult things in life. From cleaning our rooms to forgiving someone who offends us, the message is the same: do hard things!

Got a side-hustle you want to be your full-time gig? Do Hard Things. 

Looking to advance in your career and get a promotion? Do Hard Things.

 

Discovering the need to be a better parent, spouse, or lover? Do Hard Things.

Trying to lose ten, fifteen, for fifty pounds? Do Hard Things.

Convicted to swallow your pride and ask for forgiveness? Do Hard Things.

A Call For Growth

Ultimately, this is a call for growth. For all of us. We are presented each and every day with the chance to grow and get better.

For my son, it’s cleaning his room, engaging in his math homework, and being nice. (Even when his little brother is legitimately being annoying).

 

For me, it’s putting in the focused effort on the right action items every day. Ignoring distraction, feeding my quest for self-improvement, and growing a business.

For you, it might be something different. Maybe it’s to put the phone down and engage with the family. Perhaps your growth point is to finally start that business venture that has you so scared (I can help). Maybe there’s that small voice that is urging you to show up, to speak up, and to act for justice.

Whatever it is. Embrace the call. Press into that feeling. Rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things.

A Name on the Back of a Jersey

Every jersey comes with a name on the back. It is an identification of the player. More than the team, more than a number, this is a particular someone.

Jones.

Brady.

Manning.

Mahomes.

Davis.

Let me tell you why I’ve given up wearing jerseys.

A Life of Passion

I love sports. More than anything else, I love all things Nebraska. Husker volleyball, baseball, wrestling, basketball, and football. If they have a team, I’ve watched it on tv. I’ve been to several sporting events in person.

I plan on dressing up as Scott Frost, the football coach, for Halloween.

My wife was appalled at my petition to name some of our kids after Husker greats.

I love all things Huskers.

Along with this, comes several decades worth of memorabilia. Shirts, cards, magazines, autographs. My parents have a “Husker Hall of Fame” in my childhood home.

But I’ll never wear a jersey, Husker or otherwise, again.

It comes down to me, about a shifting philosophy in my own thinking.

The Name on the Back

The short version is that it comes down to the name on the back. I’ve got nothing against the team, the number, or the player. Instead, it comes down to my own sense of identity.

I root hard for my team, but for years I wrestled with the belief that I should root that hard for myself. I’ve learned that I need to root for my own success and my own victory. 

Every season is a fresh start to be special. Sitting at 0-0 I carry the belief every fall that my favorite football team will finish 14-0. A Name on the Back of a Jersey

But for years, I struggled with bringing that same belief into my own life.

I was, so I thought, a victim of my identity. I was trapped by my past. My belief was that I was stuck in a predetermined path and that any changes I made would be minor at best.

While my team could do great things, I could not. 

In short, I would’ve been embarrassed to wear a jersey with my name on it. I was comfortable rooting for other people, but not for myself.

If my team can go 14-0, why can’t I?

Wear Your Own Jersey

So I’ve changed my philosophy on wearing jerseys. I wake up every day with the notion that I want to wear my own. I don’t want to champion someone else’s skills, abilities, or passions more than my own.

This isn’t arrogance, this is assurance.

I was created for a purpose. I have passion. In this world, I am capable of unleashing great good.

My investment in myself will benefit me, my family, and those around me.

I also unwaveringly believe the same thing about you.

You were created for a purpose You have a deep passion. You are capable of unleashing great good in the world. Your commitment to you will benefit you, your loved ones, and those around you.

Wake up every day and put on a jersey that has your name on it. Commit to living your best values and transforming the circumstances around you.

We aren’t victims, we are overcomers.

We aren’t stuck, we are capable of great transformation.

If you need someone willing to champion you and come alongside you as you learn to put on your own jersey, reach out to me. I’d love to help

Blog Cover Picture with Title "Courageous Leadership"

We are all leaders.

The only question then is what kind of leader we want to be.

Nancy Koehn in her fantastic book Forged in Crisis sets the premise this way: “Courageous leadership is actually a result of individual people committing to work from their stronger selves, discovering a mighty purpose, and motivating others to join their cause.”

Strong, courageous leadership is composed of three elements.

First, is the strength and belief of a stronger self.

Second, is a call beyond oneself.

Third, is eliciting others to join.

A Stronger Self

We are all in the process of self-development. Engaging in blind spots, seeking sound council, expanding our minds. We read, process, develop new ideas, think, share, and refine our every action.

This is because we embody a firm belief in reaching our full potential. That there is something inside of us call to be more.

Do more. Blog Cover Picture with Title "Courageous Leadership"

Love more.

We know that there is a call within us that if we embrace it, it could transform the world.

The greatest gift we can give the world is our full self. This is not arrogant or pushy, it is a recognition of the gift God himself placed within us.

Koehn examines the development of five great leaders in history and reaches this conclusion: “The concept that, at times, the most powerful thing one can do is to invest in oneself, without signs of great outward progress … The work they did on themselves wasn’t some kind of formal bildungsroman brought to life. No, the self-development work that these protagonists did was generally unnamed and unforeseen. It was often accomplished ad hoc, in response to an obstacle in their way or a new realization. But once learned, the particular skill, aspect of emotional mastery, or powerful insight became a part of the individual leader’s tool belt—to be used and strengthened going forward. And as all five individuals came to realize, the harder they worked on themselves, the more effective they became as leaders.”

A Larger Vision

Great leaders never work on themselves as the end goal. Rather, the end goal is to complete a mission. They want to birth the vision in their mind and fan the flame burning in their heart.

We get that.

We have that same calling.

As leaders, we’re calling others to join the mission. Save the planet. Invent a product. Find a new revenue stream. Raise a child.

Whatever it is, we get it. You get it. The belief in your best self – and your continued pursuit of that – have led you to acknowledge the world-changing power contained in your soul.

When you spend time developing yourself and give detail to the future vision, you can enter step three of leadership.

Recruiting Others

The final step of great leadership (or ‘courageous leadership’ as Koehn calls it) is to recruit others. We can never complete this journey alone.

We will never reach the greatest potential on our own accord.

A mentor.

A coach.

A group of peers. Blacksmith forging iron

A tribe.

A blacksmith of the soul, sharpening your iron to bring out the greatness.

Other like-minded individuals willing to seeing the awe-inspiring vision come to life. Not just in your mind. Not just in your heart. Instead, your desire is now theirs. They want to honor you and the call in your life while charting new territory.

We are all leaders.

The only question then is what kind of leader we want to be.

I am preparing lecture notes for a master’s course in Ethical Leadership. This is a preview of the material. While the full course is private, I will be offering a version of this to the public in the near future.

 

To find out more or be put on the course waitlist, join my Elite Performers newsletter.

 

To work directly with me, sign up for coaching.

Sources:

Koehn, Nancy F. Forged in Crisis: The Making of Five Courageous Leaders (p. 3). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

 

Blog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2

Spiritual and Emotional Health in Leaders

The spiritual and emotional health of leaders is a necessary component of holistic health. 

We’re in the middle of a series on leadership health. Want to catch up? Part 1 is here.

Spiritual Health

Healthy leaders engage in ancient practices of development, often called spiritual disciplines. Times of quiet reflection, meditation, prayer, rest, and community discernment are a few examples.

An example of leadership spiritual growth is a hobby. Hobbies are those life-giving activities that serve as a reflection of our unique personality. Hunting, fishing, reading, flying drones, calligraphy. 

Need help? I did. Go here. Blog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2

In fact, I found that is often the case for high performing leaders. Engrossed in work and personal development (for the sake of further accomplishment), high performing leaders have a hard time unplugging and engaging in activities with no real goal or purpose other than enjoyment.

I’ve used comments like, “I have fun when I’m winning.” That’s enormously frustrating to people who are playing to have fun. (And vice versa).

Other similar phrases include:

  • I don’t know what to do with downtime.
  • I’m not bringing too much work with me, I’m on vacation.
  • My hobbies include winning and getting better.

(I may or may not have said all of these….) 😬

But spiritual health is rooted in calling and it is about the full development of a person’s humanity. Below, is a partial list of spiritual practices and disciplines to help you grow.

Practices for Spiritual Development:

  • Prayer
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Scripture Reading
  • Gratitude and Thankfulness
  • Fasting
  • Sabbath Rest
  • Singing
  • Silence
  • Solitude

Have others? Leave a comment and let others know how to grow in spiritual health.

Emotional Health in leaders

Emotional health is the next step to fruitful and productive leadership. In my experience, this is the most neglected area of health. The emotional health of a person sits in the unique field of being almost completely internal in nature through past experiences, while also being almost completely externally visible through actions, perceptions, and relationships.

Peter Scazzeo notes the concerns of emotional health:

Emotional health is concerned with such things as: naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings identifying and having active compassion for others initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships breaking free from self-destructive patterns being aware of how our past impacts our present developing the capacity to clearly express our thoughts and feelings respecting and loving others without having to change them clearly, directly, and respectfully asking for what we need, want, or prefer accurately assessing our own strengths, limits, and weaknesses, and freely sharing them with others developing the capacity to maturely resolve.

For the emotionally healthy leader, effective emotional health requires a previous recognition and engagement with the emotional traps, snares, and shortcomings at earlier stages of life. Family dynamics, addiction triggers, and shortcomings all need to be worked through and reflected upon.

But it is important to remember that emotional health may start internal, but presents external.

Snappy comebacks.

Biting remarks.  Leadership Blocks

Constant criticism.

These are a few outward signs that something is wrong internally. Healthy leaders, by contrast, are generous. With their praise, with their affirmation, with their encouragement and desire to see others succeed and grow.

Because this is such an important topic, we are going to examine how to grow in emotional health and intelligence next week.

For now, take this test if you want to know where you’re overall health is.

 

Calling – Leadership Health and Integrity (Part 1)

A Firm Foundation

The journey of healthy and sustainable leadership happens by building a firm foundation.

The bathroom remodel is nearing completion (finally!).

Over the last several months, it has been a series of two steps forward and one step back.

Exciting progress met by a frustrating setback.

The subfloor was installed fairly quickly and easily.

But then, it took three orders of the shower to get one delivered undamaged, followed by three visits of the plumber to get it installed fully.

But after six weeks, we finally had a shower. So we put up the drywall and painted.

Progress, Setback, Repeat.

That, as it turns out, is much like life.

Slow, Steady Growth

Healthy leadership is a series of growth events. Each is the opportunity to take a step forward. Unfortunately, we also experience moments of setback. 

For every successful meeting or mentoring moment, we belittle an employee.

Every time we set healthy boundaries and engage in personal development, we scream at someone in traffic.

For every trip to the park with our kids or a date night with our spouse, there’s the emotional binge eating for temporary relief.

It’s this continual cycle of growth and progression that encapsulates the leader’s life. It’s also the reason that I started intentionally focusing on seven key areas and aspects of healthy leadership.

Over the next couple of weeks on the blog, we are going to be covering each of these seven areas. In each area, we’ll examine the process of opportunity, growth, and reflection.

First up, let’s talk about calling.

Calling – Leadership Health and Integrity (Part 1)

The foundation for all leadership begins in a calling. God has been calling and shaping people since the beginning of time. Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul are a few examples. All have unique and personalized call stories that led them to live a life of mission.

There are two levels of calling that need to be identified. First, is a general calling. The second moves from general to specific.

General Calling

The general call focuses first on the development of leadership skills.

For me, it came as a freshman in college. Unhappy with where I was, how I felt, what I was looking forward to, and the classes I was taking, I remember the feeling of being alone, unloved, and unimportant.

I had gone to college because it’s what I was supposed to do. However, I didn’t arrive with any real sense of purpose or direction. Having spent a semester as a science major, the only thing that I was certain of was that I couldn’t spend any more evenings in the lab staring at a microscope.

I entered into a time of dedicated study, prayer, and reflection. I looked at transferring schools, changing majors,  and dropping out and getting a job. After weeks of prayer and study, I was renewed with a sense of purpose and direction. I was reminded that I had once been called into leadership positions and that it might be time to explore that calling again.

I began to argue with God about what that might look like. In my brokenness, I also listed the reasons why I was unfit and unqualified for leadership.

I suffered from extreme shyness and public anxiety.

I had a lack of public presence and a huge fear of the unknown.

In a sense of divine irony, I sensed the call to read my Bible. I randomly opened my Bible to the story of Moses in Exodus three and four. My reservations and fears had been calmed when I saw that I raised all the same objections Moses had. I became convinced that God delights in using our weaknesses in unique and exciting ways.

General revelations can happen at any time and force future leaders to have open hearts and minds about how God is calling and shaping them.

Specific Calling

Specific call stories take on a more detailed tone. If a general calling echoes my own idea of, “I’m not sure what this means, but I think I’m called into leadership;” specific call stories can fill in the blanks of to whom and for whom.

Originally for me, this meant youth ministry, but it didn’t take very long as a youth pastor to see that this was not what God intended for me!

Over the last decade, I have continued to define and refine my leadership skills and capabilities.

I now work with leaders, empowering them to get the right things done. My time is spent with success-oriented individuals helping them reach peak performance, accomplish their goals, and transform conflict into opportunity.

Growth Points

Let’s wrap up today’s discussion by providing discussion plans and growth points for the leadership journey.

These questions are designed to help you gain momentum in your journey towards leadership health.

  • To whom have I been called to serve?
  • What energizes me?
  • How do I want to give back?
  • What gifts and talents do my closest friends and family see in me?
  • Have I experienced a general calling? What did that look like?
  • Have I experienced a specific calling? What does that look like?
  • Who am I trying to become?

Next week, we are going to begin our look at the four internal aspects of leadership health and continue towards our final destination.