Restraining an Elephant

I’ve heard it said when an elephant is young they are restrained with a small chain around one leg. The baby elephant will pull on that chain and fight to get loose but it is too small to break away from the chains.  At some point the baby elephant stops even trying because it hurts to tug on the chain. The elephant eventually believes it is impossible to break the chains so it stops trying.

The interesting part is the elephant continues to grow. In fact, it grows to become one of the largest and strongest animals on the planet yet the chain that restricts it remains the same. It is the same tiny chain that was used when it was a baby. The elephant now has the strength to break the chain with ease, but it doesn’t.  It never attempts to because the elephant has already been conditioned to believe that it can’t.

The tiny chain has become a limiting belief that keeps the elephant from breaking free.

I can’t say for certain that this is totally true or is still how elephants are restrained.  It may be a practice that is no longer used. I’m not an elephant expert, but the story is a great illustration for us.

It seems silly to us to think of a giant elephant not pulling on a tiny chain.  But that is the power of a limiting belief that we have about ourselves.

What tiny chains do you have around you?  Maybe they were put on you by someone else? Maybe you put them on yourself?  It doesn’t matter. What matters is breaking free.

What is Balance?

Balance is interesting.  Most of us want to live a balanced life. Meaning we want to have it together in all the areas of life.

We have all seen the examples of the movie star with the great career, but the rest of their life is a total mess. It could be the athlete, the business person or the mom. The point is all of us have multiple areas of life that we want to excel in, but that isn’t always easy.

I think it helps to start with how we view balance.  When you think of balance, what do you think of?  For many, the idea of balance is perfectly in the middle.  The idea that all areas are equally thriving at the same time. This is perfection. This would be balance.

If that is our view of balance, we will continuously fall short of it and live in frustration.  I don’t believe that definition of balance is possible.

I prefer to view balance like riding a bike. While it may appear to be perfect especially as we pick up speed and momentum, the reality is we are constantly making adjustments from one side to the other. We are shifting back and forth to keep from falling off to one side. When we are moving slow these shifts are very obvious but they become more subtle the faster we go. There are endless examples, but this is a principle of balance.  It is back and forth making constant adjustments and corrections to maintain what we call balance.

There are times in life that a certain area may require more attention to shift the momentum in that direction.  A person gets a wake up call that it is time to make their health a bigger priority.  Another realizes he better start paying more attention to his marriage. Another wakes up to discover he is out of a job and finding another becomes most important.

This is how life works.  This is what balance really looks like. So what does being out of balance look like? It is when we are so focused on one area maybe because it is going so well that we don’t shift our focus back. This is very easy to see in others.  It is not always so easy to see in ourselves.  I think this why balance can be difficult.

How do you view balance? When was the last time you shifted your focus?




There Are No High Performance People…

I heard a good quote. I wish I had fully understood it earlier in life. Like many people in life, I counted too much on natural talent or searched too much for the home-run solutions.  Here’s the quote:

There are no high performance people only high performance habits.”

For as long as I can remember, I would have agreed with that quote, but living it is the key. I wanted the rock hard abs like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. I really did. Unfortunately, my eating habits were much more in line with Chris Farley in Tommy Boy.

Sylvester Stallone didn’t get that way after one good workout or one good day or even month of eating right.  He sacrificed daily.  I’ve heard him talk about his eating and workout habits especially during those times.  They were high performance habits for sure!

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t perform at high levels with poor habits.  It may work to be average at something.  Our talents may help us slide by, but to perform at the higher levels at anything we have to pay attention to our habits.

Are you trying to be a high performer without the high performer’s habits?

Who Gets the Credit?

All of us want recognition on some level.  I’m not talking about fame, but simply receiving recognition for our achievements.

It is a strong motivator often times even stronger than financial compensation.  Recognition is a healthy part of any organization as it drives productivity.

Like most things in life, the need for recognition is a double edge sword.  While it can drive productivity, it can also kill it.

Ronald Reagan said it best.  “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Often times our desire to be recognized holds us back.  More importantly it can hinder the growth of the business, organization or even ministry.  Dealing with people’s egos is tricky. I think that is what Ronald Reagan was talking about.

It is important to ask ourselves what is most important. Would we rather be recognized at all cost or would we rather progress be made? Ronald Reagan certainly received his share of the credit, but he also understood the importance of not letting that get in the way of progress.

We could all benefit from giving more credit away. Not only would it make the organization healthier, but it might even make us healthier in the process.

The Downside with Assessments

I am a huge fan of personal assessments that help us better understand ourselves and others.  There are personality assessments. There are natural strengths assessments.  There are even spiritual assessments to show us how we naturally worship best.

I’ve been labeled so many letters and words that I have to keep up with all natural strengths and personality traits on a spreadsheet!  It is fun to learn and I do believe in personal assessments because I believe the more we understand ourselves the better. I’m sure I’ll take more assessments in the future, but there is a downside.

This is never the intent of any assessment, but if we are not careful we can use them as excuses. People do this all the time.  It is easy for us to say things like, “that’s just not my strength area” or “that’s just my personality.”

Assessments have nothing to do with success in life.  In fact, no one who succeeds at anything will list their personality or natural strength as the reason for their successs, so we should be very cautious of using them as an excuse as well.

I’ve seen some of the greatest sales people who could have said they didn’t have the natural personality type for it. I’ve seen some of the greatest leaders who could have used their natural personality or strengths as a reason not to lead.  The bottom line is personal assessments have almost nothing to do with success, but they can help us better understand people which is extremely valuable.

The first step is understanding ourselves which helps us find our unique style.  The next step is learning to understand others around us. This can help us have empathy towards others.  When we have a better understanding of others natural traits, we can better understand how they may deal with situations differently than we do. It helps us walk in their shoes and maybe give them more grace.  This is what assessments should do.  They should help us better understand the people around us.

If we aren’t careful, they can have the opposite effect.  We can be so self focused that we say “this is who I am” and expect the world to understand us when they don’t.  We can use them as excuse not to succeed because that’s exactly what we need is another excuse to justify our failures.

So assessments are great, but use them wisely. Never use them as an excuse. Have more empathy for others because you better understand them.

Assessments may never help us “succeed” but they can make our journey better along the way.

Addicted to the Wrong Emotions

I don’t recall where I first heard this idea, but I remember it challenging me to think.  The idea is that we often gravitate towards unhealthy emotions.  These are emotions that we don’t want yet we often go back to them like an addiction. Deep down we have become comfortable with these unhealthy emotions and often times gravitate towards them even when we shouldn’t.

There is much more to this idea and why people may find meaning and comfort from unhealthy actions or emotions, but I’ll share how it impacted me.

Stress. This is really a feeling or an emotion. We all experience stress in life.  Sometimes it is even good.  Stress can make us focus with great intent to make a deadline or study for that big test.  Stress also weighs heavy on us. Some of the most healthy foods on earth are under so much stress from the environment parts of the year that they develop antioxidants which turns them in to the healthy plants.  So stress is not always bad, but even the super plants of the world can’t live under constant stress. They need a break.

This idea of returning to unhealthy emotions even when maybe life didn’t call for it impacted me as it relates to stress.  What I begin to realize about myself is I hadn’t gotten too comfortable with stress.  Maybe deep down I associated stress with productivity.  Stress meant that I was achieving or doing what I was supposed to do.  Maybe the stress emotion blocked out something else.  I’m not certain for all the reasons, but all I know when I reflected honestly I realized I returned to stress too often.

The crazy thing is I hate the feeling of being stressed. But I have the ability to bring it on even when life isn’t always demanding it of me. I’m not saying I’ve figured this all out or that I never get stressed, but I have learned when I’m feeling stressed that I need to take a step back.  Ask myself some simple questions like:

“What am I stressed about?”

“Is this real stress or am I returning to stress for no valid reason?”

“Why do I feel the need to be stressed right now?”

Simply asking the questions goes a long way towards lowering or even removing the stress.  It no longer has the power when we identify that the monster in the closest isn’t even real.

Stress along with many of his emotional cousins are very real and often times need to be let out. Often times there is a very real underlying problem that needs to be fixed before the stress will go away.  We all know this, but I’m talking about returning to it even when there isn’t an underlying problem. Knowing the difference requires us to reflect and be honest with ourselves.

What about you? If you are honest with yourself, have you gotten too comfortable with the wrong emotions?

Is Giving Other People’s Money Really Generous?

My son came to me recently saying that he wanted to give one of his friends a gift.  It wasn’t an item of necessity.  It wasn’t the friend’s birthday, but my son knew it was something his friend wanted and he wanted to give it to him.

I thought that was a very generous gesture and told him if that is what he wants to do with his money that is great. At that point, the conversation changed. It turns out he wanted me to give his friend the gift.  He wanted to be the one to give the gift to his friend, but he just didn’t want to be the one to pay for it.

I told him I loved that he is thinking of others, but I also asked him if it was really generosity when he wasn’t willing to give his own money?  In the end, we both contributed to the gift.  He was willing to give with his own money, but only when he didn’t have the option to give with someone else’s money.

I couldn’t help but think that this is the real challenge with government.  Politicians are always spending and giving away other people’s money.   It is so easy to sound generous when we aren’t giving our own money.  I’m sure every single one of us could give millions of dollars away of someone else’s money in no time if given the opportunity. But is that really generous?

Generosity is so important.  As individuals, we should have the right to be generous with our own money.  We should teach our children to be generous with their money.

This is a much better approach than the government trying to be generous on our behalf.  After all, if the government gets too generous giving all our money away, we may not have the ability to be generous ourselves.

Individuals will give. Just like my son. At first, he wanted to give using my money, but when that wasn’t an option he gave on his own.

What do you believe about generousity?  Is giving away someone else’s money really being generous?

The Act of Measuring

I started thinking about the future and setting different goals early in life, but goal setting didn’t always work for me. Sometimes I’d set big goals and do nothing to move towards them. All this did was hurt my confidence. I still found value in setting goals and I still do today, but I’ve learned there is more to it.

I’ve learned that the act of simply measuring may be more powerful than the actual goal setting itself. In fact, I’ve learned that when we simply measure something on a consistent basis that we improve and naturally get a little better. Ultimately, we will end up hitting “the goal” even if we didn’t set it!

For some reason, we tend to resist this. I’ve observed this in myself and also working with others.  If I ask, “what is your goal?” Most will throw out an answer.  However, if I ask to see where they have been tracking their activity towards that goal, most have no idea.

Tracking our steps and jogging miles is a great example.  We could set a goal to start taking 10,000 steps a day.  That is a healthy long term goal, but the important part is tracking and measuring it.  Simply getting a Fitbit or Garmin is all we have to do. By simply tracking and watching, we naturally start taking more steps each day.  Most people will take more steps just because they measure it even if they don’t even set a goal to do so!  Every one of us should probably wear a fitness watch, but this applies to all other areas of life as well.

Not everything is as simple as buying a Fitbit.  Some areas require more diligence to measure our activities, but I believe the act of measuring is just as valuable if not more valuable than the act of goal setting.

Personal finance is the same.  How many people want to be a millionaire one day?  How many people actually track their finances and know where their money goes? Budgeting is great, but simply tracking and measuring causes us to manage our money better.

How are you doing at measuring?


My Chair…

I have a favorite place and chair where I have my quiet time when no one else is awake. It is a place to pray, read, and think.

I read in one of John Maxwell’s books a long time ago about how he creates the right environment for him to simply think.  I believe it was in his book, Thinking for a Change.  That stuck with me. After reading that, I created my place. My chair with books and the environment that encourages me to be still and pray, reflect and think. I am sitting in that chair as I write this.

In our fast pace world, it is important for all of us to take time each day to be still. We can pray any time and anywhere, but having a quiet place is helpful.  Our environments have a huge impact on us.  Our work environment is important as well. Different office environments are setup to encourage workers.  Creative people have work environments that inspire creativity.

I found the same to be true for simply thinking.  It may be different for you.  The environment that suits you best may be different from mine, but it is worth creating that place for yourself.

Where is your chair? Where is your place that you go to be still to pray and think?



The Trouble with Opportunity

We live in the land of opportunity.  As Americans, we have more freedom to pursue opportunities.  Our country was built by all the men and women who had an idea and pursued it because they could. Doing so created opportunities for others.

As I write this, we are in the middle of very unusual times due to the Covid 19 pandemic. It is changing people’s habits and the way many people do business. Some things are temporary but there is no doubt it will change much of the way business is done.

While this does hurt many businesses and industries, it also creates new problems for people to solve which means opportunity.  There will continue to be new opportunities for people in our great country.

There is a challenge with opportunities though especially for us entrepreneurial minded people.  We have to be open-minded.  We have to be willing to take risks and pursue new opportunities, but we should remember that the “new car” smell on the new opportunity doesn’t last forever.

I have observed this with people when they pursue a new opportunity.  They start a new business or take a new job.  It is new and fresh. It is full of endless potential.  They see themselves hitting levels they never thought possible because of this new opportunity.  There is no flaws in this business. All we see is the potential.  It has the smell of a new car and then…

At some point, the new opportunity we were once so excited about has the odor of a 12 year boy and last weeks take out.  Suddenly, the new business is not so new any more. Maybe it is leaking a bit of oil.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  The plans were fool-proof yet the business is now leaking a bit of oil.  It can be fixed of course, but maybe it would be better to just go get a new car that smells perfect. Maybe we should pursue a new opportunity.

This is the trouble with opportunity.  There is always more opportunity. This requires wisdom. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it is always good to pursue it. After all, if we pursue everything, we pursue nothing.

There are times when we must pursue something new especially in today’s fast changing world. But we should take caution.  Too many people have a pattern of pursuing the next thing as soon as the “new car” smell is gone and they never get any where. It is always the next idea that will be the breakthrough.

Every great idea eventually gets dirty. It may be a great opportunity, but we will always have to push through the times when it may not look that great. It takes wisdom to know when to push through and when to move on. That is the trouble with opportunity.