Why Being Busy Is Sometimes a Very, Very Good Thing

It’s become kind of a cliché. Somebody asks: “How are you?” You respond by saying: “I’m doing fine. Things are pretty busy.” I tried to stop using that as a response years ago. Everyone’s busy. If you say that to people you’re really not saying anything. Everyone has plenty of things to do. In fact, everyone has the same amount of time in every day.

busy

But someone told me recently that even if you don’t say it, or use it as a response in your small talk, being busy might just be a blessing. A friend of ours recently moved her father into an assisted living facility. She and her sister have done everything they can to make him comfortable and at ease in his new environs. Yet in a recent conversation, he said to his daughter:

Enjoy your life now. I wish I could still work and still have a busy life because that means you are needed and valued for all that you do.

So…how are you feeling now? I know you’ve got a lot to do. But doesn’t this little statement put it in perspective? If you’re busy, you have at least two things that bring purpose to your life. You are needed. And you have value.

If you are busy, you are needed.

  • Someone needs what you have to give.
  • Someone needs the effort you’re putting out.
  • Someone needs your art.
  • Someone needs the talents you have.
  • Someone needs your care.
  • Someone needs your compassion.
  • Someone needs your empathy.
  • Someone needs your thoughts.
  • Someone needs your time.
  • Someone needs you.

If you are busy, you are valued.

  • Someone values your unique skills.
  • Someone values what it is you are making.
  • Someone values the extra effort you give.
  • Someone values your words.
  • Someone values what it is you’re thinking.
  • Someone values your ideas.
  • Someone values your time.
  • Someone values you.

So just for today, take some time to appreciate your busyness. It means that you are needed and you are valued. You have something someone else needs.

You are a gift.

Give it to the world.

What does busyness mean to you?

How Emotional Intelligence Improves Your Work and Relationships

I’m a little late to the game, but I’ve spent the past couple of days at a conference learning about Emotional Intelligence. Apparently this has been the rage in the business world for the past few years. The church is talking about it now, too, helping pastors and other church workers know themselves better so that they can help others better.

relationship

Emotional Intelligence is measured by four things:

  1. Self-Awareness: The ability to recognize and understand my moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others.
  2. Self-Management: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses or moods, to suspend judgment — to think before acting.
  3. Social Awareness: The ability to “read” the emotional realities of others; skill in responding to people based upon their emotional “map.”
  4. Relationship Management: Proficiency in managing conflict, building networks, and energizing appropriate behavior in others.

You can read all about it hereWhen you are more self-aware and more aware of the feelings and emotions with others all of your relationships will improve. It will even help the way you perform in your work, whatever your work may be.

There are specific ways you can sharpen your Emotional Intelligence. Each of the four categories can be enhanced by doing a few specific things:

  • Sharpening Self-Awareness: When you feel something, make yourself more aware of it by naming the emotion you’re feeling. Write down the “what,” “when,” and “why” of the things that trigger unhappy feelings or strong emotions. Note how your emotions impact others. Become aware of whom and what “pushes your buttons” so that you can prevent emotional outbursts.
  • Sharpening Self-Management: Create an emotion vs. reason list. In other words, write down: “When _________ happens, then __________ happens.” Smile and laugh more. Control your self-talk, the things you say to yourself inside your head. Becoming more aware of your self-talk can go a long way toward improving moods and relationships. Avoid “victim” thinking. It’s detrimental to your own emotional well-being and your relationships with others.
  • Sharpening Social Awareness: Try to figure out how accurate you are in deciphering the feelings and emotions of others. Live in the moment by not always rehashing the past or being fearful of the future. Improve your listening skills. Speak honestly, with love.
  • Sharpening Relationship Management: Be transparent and respectfully curious. Practice “invitational” talk; in other words, say to people: “Tell me more about that.” Build trust by greeting others by name whenever you can. Do your best to bring out the best in others.

Try these things and watch your work and relationships improve. Don’t we all want better relationships both at home and at work?

How have you seen emotional intelligence improve your work or relationships?

Why Not? Is a Great Question to Ask

Why not? is a great question to ask. The sister of one of my good friends asked it years ago. When she was a child she asked her mother if she could take dance lessons. Her mother said, “You can’t dance your whole life.” As a result, she didn’t take dance lessons and never became a dancer.

As she reflected on that episode from her younger years, the woman said: “I now wish I would have said, why not?” Indeed, why not?

Has anyone told you that you can’t do something? I hope your response was, “Why not?”

Why not?

What is it that you should say “Why not?” to today?

10 Quick Tips for Generating Ideas

No matter what you do, it’s likely that you have to generate ideas. Pastors have to generate creative ways to preach every week. Teachers have to come up with lesson plans that will draw interest from students. If you live in the corporate or entrepreneurial world there’s always a need to generate ideas for marketing, innovating, or team-building.

heart-idea

Here are 10 quick ways to generate an idea:

  1. Keep your eyes open. Like the picture you see above, there is inspiration all around you. Be mindful throughout the course of each day for creativity. When you see, read, or hear something, jot it down on a piece of paper or record it on your smart phone.
  2. Read. There are ideas in blogs, books, and magazines. Read something new every day.
  3. Get outside. On the mornings I ride my bike on a tree-lined trail I see the sun rising, there is water foul and wildlife all around, and there are runners and bicyclists that join me. I’m alone with my thoughts and inspired by what I experience.
  4. Watch TV. There are stories in sporting events, documentaries on Netflix, and inspirational pieces on shows like CBS Sunday Morning.
  5. Listen to podcasts. Redeem your time in the car by learning. Some of my favorites include Michael Hyatt’s podcast, Entreleadership, and EOFire.
  6. Sit down in front of a blank screen. There’s nothing like a white screen with the curser blinking to get you thinking. (I’m a poet and I don’t even know it.)
  7. Collaborate. Other people are often willing to brainstorm with you when you need it. People love to share their particular wisdom and knowledge. They may come at it form a perspective completely different than yours.
  8. GoogleType in a few key words and see what comes up.
  9. Scroll through your Social Media feeds. There are ideas galore in Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
  10. Take a break. If you’re working hard and pressing to come up with a creative thought, sometimes a simple break to participate in something mindless is just the ticket for that next brilliant idea.

What ideas do you have for quickly generating new ideas?

5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Became a Pastor

This weekend the wonderful people at Ascension Lutheran Church will be celebrating my 25 years of ministry as a pastor. These 25 years have been quite a ride with ups, downs, hills, valleys, and every other cliche that has to do with the good and the bad. It’s hard for me to believe that for nearly half of my life I have been a pastor. As I think back to my days at the seminary I recognize just how naive I was to it all. My classmates and I had eager and shining eyes when we graduated on the warm may evening in 1991.

princeton university princeton, nj

As I both reflect and look ahead, I recognize at least five things I wish I’d known as my young wife and our infant children headed off to rural, western North Carolina.

  1. Sometimes the well runs dry. I like to say that Sundays keep coming. There’s one of them every week. That means there’s always a sermon, liturgy, and/or Bible class to prepare. Every. Single. Week. It means there might be seasons when creativity and drive take a dive. But you have to push through. At times like those it’s best to receive inspiration from others. Sometimes being around other pastors, doing reading outside of theology, and simply taking a walk are what it takes to get things moving again. Don’t be afraid to experiment with things that might work for you.
  2. Nothing should surprise you about anyone. I’ve heard it all. Sometimes people tell me things about themselves that they are afraid or embarrassed to tell. They really shouldn’t be. I’ve come to the recognition and realization that we are all poor miserable sinners in need of the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross. Nothing that anyone ever says to me could surprise me. I need God’s forgiveness as badly as anyone else. Because I know what that forgiveness means to me, I’m always happy to be the vessel who delivers it to those who need it most.
  3. Be ready to offer all the personal forgiveness you can muster. People can be mean and hurtful. The ones who are mean and hurtful are usually struggling with their own personal difficulties and struggles. Though the things people say and do to a pastor can sometimes be nearly debilitating, the best thing to do is to recognize “hurt people hurt,” and to respond with (sincere) love and forgiveness. It’s easier said than done, but do it.
  4. After God, your family comes first. There were times early in my ministry when I did things that unnecessarily took away time from my family. It took me a while to learn that though the congregation is important, my family is more important. When everything is said and done the congregation won’t always be there. Your family always will be. They deserve not just “quality time,” but quantity of time.
  5. There will always be someone to support you. Over the years I’ve had my share of “different” ideas and have made bad decisions. There have been times when I have not always put forth the best effort. Sometimes mean people (see #3) have taken over my thoughts and have ruined days. But without fail I have always had people who have supported me, my ministry, and my family. They have prayed for me and told me they were. People have surprised us with far too generous gifts and have written the kindest notes. I’m certain that the Lord sees to it that though we live and serve amongst sinful people we are given the gift of those who have our back. It’s comforting to know.

Though I can’t go back and re-live these past 25 years, I take comfort in the fact that there have been many lessons learned. I hope that I can share those lessons with others. And I pray that I will continue to learn important lessons as my ministry continues.

What are some of the things you wish you would have known as you began your career?

Why it Takes a Village to Write a Book

I’m not a big fan of the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Sometimes the “village” has values of which I am not too fond. Having said that, I’m a big fan of using a village to help write a book. My new book, Fully and Creatively Alive: How to Live a More Joyfully Fulfilling Life, was just released yesterday. You can buy it here. I couldn’t have done it without a great deal of help.

village

Now that my book has been published, I want to recognize the people that helped me make it happen.

  1. Allison Fallon and Author Launch. When I first had the idea to write a book, I found this platform that provides a step-by-step process to help authors write books. It’s a series of videos helping authors through each and every step of writing a book. Without this invaluable tool I wouldn’t have a book today. Author Launch has become Author Guides, and you can find it here.
  2. A team. I had four people who read the book along the way, helped with advice, promotion, minor editing, and various kinds of help. The team included Brian Fricke, Tim Wesemann, Tanner Olson, and Leah Mitchell.
  3. Creative entrepreneurs. My whole book is based on the stories of creative entrepreneurs. A good many were willing to freely give of their time for me to interview them. You’ll have to find their names and their stories in the book, but trust me when I say that they are an incredible inspiration to me and to many others. The interviews were fascinating. As I did each one of them the time flew by. This is why I’m planning on starting a podcast based on this format: interviewing creative entrepreneurs.
  4. An Editor. I am so thankful for Mark Zimmermann. He is a professional editor for Creative Communications for the Parish, for whom I have written. He was willing to help me out by being my editor. He made corrections and changes that I would have never known to make. What a valuable asset an editor is.
  5. Designers. Good designers make a book pop. They help it stand out from a distance and make it pleasant on the eyes when reading it. Megan Phillips is a fashion designer who lives in New York City and does graphic design on the side. She designed the beautiful cover of the book. Lindsay Galvin is a professional graphic and book designer who did the interior of the book. She made it look far better than I could have imagined. I can’t recommend them both highly enough.
  6. My family. My wife supported me even when I used time to write the book that could have been dedicated to her. She encouraged me every step of the way. I never felt like I was robbing her by spending time writing the book. She never made me feel guilty. She was excited for me at each milestone. In addition, both of our children, Ashlyn and Ben (and their spouse/fiancé), were so helpful in reading the book, offering feedback, and bringing support. The book would not have been published without all of them. I am eternally thankful to my family.
  7. The reader. There is no point in writing a book if nobody will read it. I am amazed at the number of people who have already expressed an interest, are already reading it, and are purchasing it on Amazon. The reader is the reason most every writer writes. Thank you for reading this. Thank you for reading the book.

When have you noticed that it takes a village to accomplish a big project?

The Steps I Took to Write and Publish a Book

Here goes: If I can write a book anyone can. No, really. You can. I know what you’re thinking: I could never write a book. Yes, you can. There’s an idea inside of you that you always wanted to get out. There’s a story you have no one else does. There’s a skill or talent you have that you can teach us. If you take it one step at a time, little by little, bit by bit, before you know it you’ll have a book for us to read.

book

The whole process of writing a book took me about a year-and-a-half. I could have, and should have, done it much more quickly. But it’s finished now and about to be released. The book is called Fully and Creatively Alive: How to Live a More Joyfully Fulfilling Life. It will be available on Amazon very soon. I’m excited for you to read it.

Here are the steps I took to write and publish a book.

  1. Come up with an idea. I had an idea floating around in my head for a number of years. I wanted to interview young, creative entrepreneurs and share their lessons and knowledge with the world.
  2. Interview subjects for the book. I had a blast interviewing people. I learned so much and had a great time talking with each and every person. There was no problem getting the subjects to agree to do interviews and to share their wisdom. They were happy to do it.
  3. Lay out your map. In order to write the book, I used the assistance of an online platform called Author Launch. It helped me lay out where I wanted to go, what each chapter would be about, and what the flow of the whole thing would look like.
  4. Write it. This was, by far, the most time consuming part. I would set aside time on my day off every week, as well as free evenings, to do the writing. I was able to base much of the writing on the interviews I did. It was fun to finally get something down on “paper.” I used Scrivener software to do the actual writing of the book. It’s software that allows you to move around the document without having to scroll through the entire thing. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  5. Edit. It was my privilege to have a professional editor do the editing of the book. He was able to catch typos and grammatical errors, as well as make some structural suggestions.
  6. Get it Designed. I had two wonderful designers. Megan Phillips did the cover. Lindsay Galvin did the interior of the book. I couldn’t be happier with the job they both did.
  7. Publish the book. CreateSpace was the company I used to publish the book. It’s an affiliate of Amazon, and there is no charge to upload your interior and cover design. The beauty of CreateSpace is that they print each book as it’s ordered. You don’t have to order 1000 books and store them in your garage. They do take a cut of each book you sell on Amazon. But you can order your own physical copies to sell on your own at a very minimal price.

So there you have it. Start with an idea and work your way through the steps. I would love to help you do it. I’m always happy to guide people through this process and help along the way. If you need me, I’m here.

Why not start your own today? The world is waiting.

Congratulations to You If You’re Growing Through Concrete

Today I ran across one of those silly memes on Facebook. It said: “Shoutout to all the plants growing through concrete.” At first I chuckled just a little. Then I thought about it a bit more. Pardon the slight pun, but there’s much more to this meme than what’s on the surface.

plant-concrete

You’ve probably been walking down a street and seen them. There are those persistent plants that don’t give up. Where concrete would stop a mere mortal, a weed, plant, or tree pushes toward the light and grows through a hole or crack in the concrete. They don’t give up. They move onward and upward.

I began to think about the people I know that exemplify this metaphor in real life:

  • The two women who’ve lost their husbands within the past couple of years and have now regained their happiness. They have become the ones who are helping others.
  • The mom who struggles with a child who has gone down a path no parent would ever want. She soldiers on with faith and hope.
  • The man who works and travels more days and hours than I can imagine and has a newfound medical issue. Yet he volunteers more hours and gives more to other people than almost anyone I know.
  • The woman who grieves family issues that she should never have to. For decades she has been teaching young students not only the Three R’s, but also the love and hope of Jesus.
  • The couple that is raising three children and working three full time jobs. Still, they find the time to lead two Bible studies a week.

It’s hard to find a reason why these people have to face the struggles, trials, or even busyness that they do. But it’s not as hard to see from where there strength comes. It comes from a Rock that is far stronger than any concrete. It’s the Rock that is their foundation. That Rock is more firm than any trial this life could ever offer.

Their lives demonstrate it. And I, for one, am thankful that I get to witness it. Sometimes I stand in awe. They have no idea what an inspiration they are to me.

Whom do you know that pushes through the concrete of life?

3 Reasons the Personal Touch Makes a Big Difference

According to CBS Sunday Morning, Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans does things differently. Most restaurants you go to you will be assigned a table and the server in that section will wait on you. Antoine’s uses a very personal touch. From the first time you go to that restaurant you will be assigned a waiter. That person will then be your server every time you come back to Antoine’s. Some servers have spent the most significant occasions with their customers and are almost seen as members of the family.

Touch

The personal touch makes a difference. People notice it. They come back to the places they feel special. I’ve seen it in action when I have had to deal with AT&T customer service. Though they’re a huge corporation, they like to make it look like they really care about their individual customers. So they train their customer service personnel to go over the top with friendliness and service.

In this day and age of technology I think we all long for a little more of a personal touch. Technology keeps us at arms length, or at the very least, viewing each other on a screen.When we get the sense that people know us we are drawn in. We want to come back. Our senses are heightened and our emotions are charged.

Here are three reasons a personal touch makes a big difference:

  1. People like to be noticed. This world has become so impersonal. We live in a land of big corporations and distant technology. When we are seen as individuals in this impersonal society we take notice. As I shopped for a suit for our son’s wedding the clerk asked for my first name. I know it was a sales technique, but the way he naturally used it in conversation was appreciated.
  2. People like to be known. My wife has a particular “happy place” where we often find ourselves on Friday evenings. It’s a place on a corner in beautiful Winter Park, Florida, with outdoor seating at an outdoor bar. We’ve been there for dinner so often that one of the bartenders has become a friend. He knows us by name. We have learned his story. He comes from a poor family in Columbia and has made his way very successfully in this country. We love to chat with him as we eat our dinner. We go back there not just for the food and the setting, but because we are known well.
  3. People like to think they have an edge. When you are noticed and known you feel like you have an edge over other people. There’s something about human nature that really likes that. We want to have an edge. We like to know that we are important. Not too long ago one of my favorite authors was completing one of his books. He reached out to me and asked if I’d like to read his pre-published book and provide some feedback. I was, of course, happy to do so. I felt special. And still bought a book when it was published.

How can you offer some kind of personal touch in your work or life today? It will make a difference.

Appreciating the Gift of Work on Labor Day

I can’t think about Labor Day without thinking of my Grandpa Eggebrecht. Growing up in an environment of white collar workers, I wasn’t around many people who used their hands and gave their sweat to make a living. But my Grandpa Eggebrecht was different. He worked hard to provide for his family: my grandma, my dad, and my dad’s twin sister.

Labor

My dad’s family never had much money as he was growing up. But that wasn’t for my grandfather’s lack of work. Way back in the “old days” he had a coal delivery service. I have a picture of his truck above my desk with “Eggebrecht Coal and Fuel” painted on the side. He would drive around town shoveling coal into the shoots that went down into people’s basements. That coal would be burned in Milwaukee furnaces to heat homes. Can you imagine how hard that work was on those cold Milwaukee days?

He was also something of an entrepreneur. In addition to the coal business, at one time he also owned a liquor store. For a time he was a bartender. Anything to make a buck. By the time I was on the scene he was a custodian at a nice, suburban public school. My grandpa could fix anything. I don’t know where those genes went, but they sure weren’t passed down to me.

What was passed down to me were some of his tools and the knowledge that work is a good thing. Isn’t that the point of Labor Day? It’s a day to celebrate good, honest work. So many people dream of retirement when they don’t have to work anymore. But work is a good thing.

In fact, there was work in this world even before Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Check out Genesis 2:15. Work:

  • brings purpose to life
  • creates camaraderie
  • gives direction to our days
  • makes a place for us to use gifts and talents
  • delivers a sense of accomplishment

It’s only when we work at cross purposes with our gifts and talents, or at cross purposes with other people, that our work becomes unhappy. Though people retire, it is often best for them to continue on with some kind of “work” that brings purpose and pleasure to one’s life. I can’t imagine retiring and then sitting around doing nothing. I’ll be happy to continue writing and serving in ways that help others.

So after Labor Day, let’s go back to work with a sense of appreciation and purpose. Let’s remember that work is a gift. Though there may be frustrations let’s think about the purpose it gives us, the camaraderie we share with others, the direction it gives our day, the place it provides for our gifts and talents, and the sense of accomplishment we will feel at the end of the day or a job well done.

What do you appreciate about your work?