Being Made Over Time – Jon Acuff

How do we not confuse making with achievement? In his (too brief) talk, Jon used the story of the Prodigal Son to explore what it looks like for God to make us.

Click here to visit Stuff Christians Like1. Remember Who You Are

You are not the things you make. Your identity isn’t wrapped up in things.

God doesn’t make things better. He makes things new.

The prodigal planned to return to his father and declare himself a slave. The prodigal could misname himself when he wasn’t in the father’s presence. But not when he fell at his father’s feet he couldn’t. Because his identity was set: he wasn’t a slave, he was a Son.

2. Remember who God is

God will not be handcuffed by your failures or handcuffed by your successes.

God solves problems by throwing parties.

The older brother missed the party because he was working in the field. The older brother insisted on being a slave. He denied his identity: he’s also a Son.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain

I spent way too long trying to become an extrovert instead of harnessing my unique powers of my introversion.

Click to buy Quiet on AmazonAs most introverts do, growing up, Susan received implicit messages about the insufficiency of introverts. But the truth is, we need introverts. When introverts don’t be introverted, everyone loses.

We should be thinking much more often about temperament pairings in leadership.

Temperament informs our person as deeply as does gender. And while to some degree, we’re all “Ambiverts” (there’s no such thing as a pure introvert or pure extrovert), we need to learn how to harness the power of introversion.

Introversion describes how you react to stimulation.Continue reading

The Making of a Leader – Andy Stanley

Click here to buy Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
Many of these ideas are in Andy’s most recent book, “Deep & Wide”. Click here to buy it!

Information and Insight alone do not make a leader. What makes me into a leader is how I respond to

  1. Unexpected Opportunity
  2. Unavoidable Adversity
  3. Undeniable Calling

The leader is not the first to SEE an opportunity. They’re the first to ACT.

My response needs to be a story worth telling. The younger you are, the more important this is. But less significant this feels. Be careful!

Andy illustrated his thesis through several autobiographical stories:Continue reading

Andy Stanley (pt. 2)

These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

Andy always speaks twice at Catalyst – opening and closing.  His closing talk is always hardcore, nuts-and-bolts leadership, and is always among my favorite of the conference.  This year proved no exception (though I was disappointed to learn that he’d already given this talk at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit).

Andy used the opposable thumb to great effect: because we have an opposable thumb, we can leverage tension to create and progress far beyond the rest of the animal kingdom.  Tension is actually necessary for any organization that wants to make progress.

Every organization has problems that shouldn’t be solved and tensions that shouldn’t be resolved.

If you “resolve” any of these tensions, you only create new tensions elsewhere, and you’ll create barriers to progress.  Progress depends not on the resolution of the tensions, but on the successful management of those tensions.

Examples: Evangelism vs. Discipleship.  Building vs. Giving. Music vs. Sermons

To distinguish between problems to solve and tensions to manage ask the following:
  1. Does this problem/tension keep resurfacing?
  2. Do both sides have mature advocates?
  3. Are the two sides actually interdependent?
The role of leadership is to leverage the tension for the benefit of the organization.  How?
  1. Identify the tensions to be managed.
  2. Create new terminology.  Vocabularize what you’re doing so everyone can be on board.
  3. Inform your core team.  Make sure everyone is in on the conversation.
  4. Continually give value to both sides.
  5. Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases.
  6. Don’t allow strong personalities to win the day.  It’s not a win when somebody wins.
  7. Don’t think in terms of balance.  Think in terms of rhythm.

My job is to make sure the important, progress-critical tension never drop out of sight.

We need passionate people who will champion their side and mature people who understand tension.

As a leader, on e of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is differentiate between tensions you organization will always need to manage and problems that need to be solved.

T. D. Jakes

These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

The Bishop T. D. Jakes leads the famous Potter’s House down in Texas, and is well-known as a preacher and author.  He’s wild and energetic, and embodies the best of the black preaching tradition.  So I knew whatever he was going to say, it was going to be a lot of fun.

Leadership is foresight and vision.  It’s not about catching up or keeping up.  It’s about being ahead of the curve.

Jakes remembered his childhood; his older brothers would go hang out ‘on the corner’ where shady things went down.  Jakes wouldn’t elaborate so as not to offend our ‘delicate sensibilities’.  When he turned 16, his mother forbade him from going down to the corner.  When he argued that he was old enough, she replied that she ‘didn’t raise him to live on the corner.’

People who hang on the corner think the whole world is the corner.

Our responsibility is to speak to all people, and you can’t change the world from the corner.  This is hard, and it’s dangerous, because we’ll have to step out of the crowd and do something different.

If you get out front, you’ll get shot at; they can’t pick you off if you stay in the crowd.

It’s dangerous to step out, but people who play it safe aren’t leaders.

Jakes then encouraged us all to pursue diversity.

When you write the books you read, your truth is distorted.

He reminded us that secular industries spend billions of dollars to figure out what people think and how to talk to them.  Only the Church doesn’t take the time to learn the language of the masses.

Are we armed with the message that reaches the masses… or only the corner?

Jakes concluded by telling us that fish grow to the size of their tanks, and challenged us to provide our people with unbounded space.*

God doesn’t allow sameness to procreate.  Differences bring fruit.

*It turns out that the fish tank thing probably isn’t true.  Fish that are kept in tanks too small for them become deformed.  So the metaphor may actually work even better.  Are you responsible for creating environments that deform your people?

Craig Groschel

These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

Craig Groschel is the pastor of the innovative and spoke at Catalyst for the first time a few years ago and has since been a Catalyst favorite.  His style is blunt and in-your-face tempered with a large helping of humility and confession.  This year, he told us that he’d been asked to speak about generational tension, and since he’s right at 40 years old, felt he could speak to both the older and younger.

To the Older generation:

Don’t resist, fear or judge the next generation.  Instead, believe and invest in them.  The older generation feels insecure far too often.  Remember: you don’t have to be cool; you just have to be real.  Don’t give up.  If you’re not dead, you’re not done.

To the Younger generation:

Our challenge is that we feel entitled.  We want the giant ministries and fame instantly.  We typically overestimate what God wants to do through us in the short-term, which leads us to underestimate what God wants to do through us over the course of 15, 20 or 50 years.

If we want to lead up, we need to learn to honor the persons God has put in authority over us.  There’s a difference between respect and honor.  Respect is earned; honor is given.

Honor publicly leads to influence privately. – Andy Stanley

Gabe Lyons

These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

Gabe Lyons helped to start the Catalyst Conference, but left several years ago to pursue Q.  He co-authored the excellent book unChristian and released just last week his equally excellent follow-up The Next Christians, which fleshes out many of the ideas he presented at Catalyst.

The next Christians are engaging cultural tensions in a whole new way.

Our world is changing.  But what is it changing into?

  1. Post-Modern – a skepticism towards certainty
  2. Post-Christian – the Church has moved from the center of culture to the margins.
  3. Pluralistic – the Judeo-Christian worldview is no longer exclusive.

When engaging culture, Christians fall somewhere along a spectrum between two poles:

  1. Separate
  2. Enculturate

Those who have captured the heart of the Gospel do neither.  They take a third path.  The Next Christians seek to restore.

80329357 What is a restorer?  How is s/he different from the poles of the spectrum?  Consider this as the outline of the Gospel story:

Creation –> Fall -> Redemption –> Restoration

Separatists tend to focus on the Fall/Redemption aspects of the story, ignoring that creation and culture are good, and that it’s all going somewhere.

Encultureists tend to focus on the Creation/Restoration pieces without taking Sin seriously enough.

A Restorer listens to the whole story.  S/he is provoked by brokenness to step-up and get involved.

Gabe has elsewhere categorized culture in seven different spheres, and pointed out that the Church (the religion sphere) is the only sphere that regularly gathers the other spheres.  Every person in your church already works in the world, in the other spheres.  This means that your church is an unmobilized army already on mission.

What are you doing to train and equip them to become restorers?

Our job isn’t just to show up and state the Good News; it’s to embody the Gospel so people might catch a glimpse of what the Gospel looks like.

Seth Godin

These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

seth-godinSeth Godin first spoke at Catalyst two years ago and really impressed everyone with his Tribes concept.  This year he was back and blew us out of the proverbial with some thoughts from his newest offering, Linchpin.  Get ready…

The Economy always drives our culture (and our religion).  When our society was hunter/gatherer, our religion was a lot more portable (think Tabernacle).  When we had monarchies, we had a strong, hierarchical church.  And now that we’re all capitalists, our church is strongly consumer.

The interesting thing is, however, that our system (of organizing and maximizing) is just that, a temporary system (that’s only about 200 years old).  And in this current (but failing) system, if you have something you want to sell, you advertise (which is basically just trying to yell louder than everyone around you, which ought to make you think of tract or bullhorn evangelists).

Modernism created the Factory system, which requires people to be interchangeable.

So the system created schools that train us to be identical, interchangeable people who obey the system.  No one teaches us how to solve interesting problems or to be creative.  The Factory wants you to conform so it can ignore you.  But in the world of Google, competence isn’t a scarce commodity.  It’s easy to find someone else to do your job better than you can.

Because we’re all more connected than ever before, all that’s left is to matter.
  1. Are you doing work people will miss when you’re gone?
  2. Todays ‘win’ is being more connected.
  3. Failure isn’t scary; in fact, it’s necessary to succeed!
No one joins a boring tribe.  You create a movement by doing something people are talking about.

In a world without bosses, who is setting my agenda?  Art is a human act that changes someone; it’s a generous gift.  Untamed generosity is the heart of genuine relationships.  So in your teams and organizations, ask What are we rewarding?


There’s a small part of our brain that’s afraid of risk-taking, afraid to step out and embrace new opportunities.  Seth calls it the Lizard Brain.  It’s the enemy of progress and growth as our culture shifts because staying where it’s safe creates deniability.  If I don’t step out, if I don’t risk, then it’s not my fault.

If I stay where it’s safe and don’t grow, then it’s the company’s fault, not mine.

Seth ended by encouraging us not to be afraid to step out and do something radical and different.  He closed with this idea:

As the community gets more orthodox, the outliers will always outnumber the insiders.

Dan Pink

These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

Session two featured Dan Pink, author of the very excellent Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.  His talk was sort of an executive summary of the findings he presents in Drive.

Every leader has a motivating tension that emerges from one of three spheres:

  1. Biological drives (Andy’s appetites)
  2. Rewards/punishments
  3. Contribution to the larger world

What’s surprising is that the second drive is only effective in a small range of circumstances.

The best way to motivate someone is to make him/her feel as though s/he is contributing to the world at large.

Caveat: Money is a motivator.  If you don’t pay someone enough, you won’t get quality work.  But more isn’t more.  Once someone is earning ‘enough’ (whatever that looks like), a higher salary isn’t an effective motivator.  So pay your people enough to take money off the table.

So what does motivate people?

1. Autonomy

We think management is a force of nature, but it’s not.  Management is a technology from the 1850s.  How many other technologies from the 1850s are we still using?

Imagine that you had the best, most functional telegraph (built in the 1940s) in history.  You still wouldn’t use it because an outdated technology you refine is still outdated.

Management achieves compliance.  But we want engagement, not compliance.

We want autonomy over our time, tasks, teams and techniques.  How can we create systems that encourage autonomy in our people?

Examples: Google, Dell, Best Buy (corporate)

2. Mastery

Being able to see that we’re making progress is what motivates us, and feedback is the best way to chart mastery.  The younger generations live in a feedback rich world – everything we do from turning on the TV to sending a text gives us immediate feedback.

Even so, our work environments are feedback deserts.  What the older generations often perceive as a deep-seated insecurity is actually a hunger for feedback in one of the places it matters the most: our work.

Annual performance reviews are a joke, and almost completely ineffective.  Consider the DIY Performance Evaluation.  At the beginning of each month, create clear, measurable goals for yourself and then at the end of each month, evaluate yourself.

3. Purpose

A great person has one simple sentence that states his/her purpose, not a convoluted paragraph.

Examples: “Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union and freed the slaves.”
“FDR led us out of a depression and helped us win a world war.”

So ask, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?”

Carrots & Sticks are so last century.  For the 21st century, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.

BONUS! Here’s a sweet video of a similar talk:

Andy Stanley (pt. 1)

These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

Andy’s first talk was brilliant, as always.  He explored the tension we feel because of our appetites – drives for food, fame, sex, etc.  He gave us this framework for understanding appetites:

Our appetites create tension in our lives because they always want more.
  1. God created appetites.  Sin distorted them.
  2. Appetites are never fully satisfied.  We live as though there’s something or someone out there who can, so we always experience tension.
  3. Appetites always whisper ‘Now’, never ‘Later’.

He then took us into the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25.  Esau, the older brother, trades his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.  Andy asks, “Who would trade his birthright for a bowl of stew?”

Actually, most of us would, thanks to how our brains manage our appetites.

Andy cited two psychological phenomena that make it hard to say NO to our appetites:

  1. Impact Bias – When we want something, our brains magnify that simple appetite out of porportion.  Essentially, our brains tell us that the object of our desire will satisfy said desire to a far greater degree than it actually will.
  2. Focalism – When we want something, our brains focus our attentions on the object of our desire to the exclusion of everything else.

So given that the temptation we all have to give into our appetites, how bad is that really?  Andy asked us to consider how history could’ve changed if Esau had reframed his desire for a bowl of stew in the larger context of his birthright.  Eventually, God would’ve introduced himself to Moses like this:

I AM the god of Abraham, Isaac and Esau.

But since Esau took the bowl of stew, it all changed.  No one was there for Esau to reframe his appetites.  And no one will be there for us either.

So ask yourself, Where do I want to be in 10 years?  And what’s my bowl of stew?

We have no idea what God wants to do with our lives.  So when it comes to our appetites, we have to reframe and refrain.

Knowing the bigger picture is a cure for our appetites.  What a way to start the conference!