What Would Happen If You Succeed?

Today I listened to a fascinating discussion. It took place on Krista Tippet’s “On Being” Podcast (listen to it here). She interviewed Anil Dash. He’s a blogger, entrepreneur, and technologist. Anil Dash is on a crusade to make technology more humane and moral. It’s a tall task. But the thing about the interview that stood out to me came way toward the end. When discussing new tech startups Dash’s question is not: “What if you fail?”; but: “What if you succeed?” In other words, what impact will the success of new technology have on the world?

It’s a very interesting question. It turns on its head our usual thoughts. We are so afraid of failing that we often fail to think through what would happen if we succeed. But when we do, we don’t take a step forward because we’re scared. We are actually afraid of success. With success comes responsibility. It means we might just have to carry through on promises. When we succeed it might mean that we have to change. And very few people truly like change.

I was listening to this podcast as I came home from a Church Council meeting. At the meeting we had a great discussion about ways our leaders could engage more of our members through one-one-one interviews and discussions. Doing so would create a fabric that engages people in action that could bring about great “success” in reaching people outside of the church. But that success would bring about change. And very few church-goers like change.

It’s one of the things my wife, Tammy, had to wrestle with as she contemplated quitting her job and starting a new businessWhat if that business would succeed? It would mean learning new things, working long hours, and figuring out how to take next steps. But it’s an exciting journey and risk she was willing to take.

With success comes responsibility. It means hard work. Learning and education are necessary. Change is inevitable.

But doesn’t life consist of constant change? So why not lean into success?

Before you do, consider all of its implications. You might just discover that it’s completely worth it.

What would success look like for you?

The Payoff That Comes from Taking a Risk

One of my favorite things to do is to encourage people. I’m especially passionate about encouraging people to live out their passions. It makes me incredibly sad when people find themselves stuck in jobs they hate, punching a clock with no joy, or living under undue stress. I’ve had the opportunity to encourage people in this way no less than three times within the past week. But I’m especially proud of my friend, Justin Fricke. He took a risk and it paid off.

I’ve written about him on this blog before. Justin and his brother, Adam, cooked up an idea called “The Bro’d Trip.” They were going to live in a van and visit all fifty states within the course of a year.

Well…they did it.

The year 2016 saw them hiking, biking, surfing, climbing, and driving their way through every state, Puerto Rico, and three Canadian provinces. They drove the Alaska Highway, took photos of Hawaii from a helicopter, and won a lottery to hike in and see Utah’s “Wave” (Check it out here). They saved their money, set a goal, purchased a sprinter van, and made it happen. These two did what other people only dream of doing.

I like to think that I had at least a small hand in this adventurous journey. Justin was part of my mentoring group while he was contemplating all this. He and I rode 100 miles together in bikes. And just before The Bro’d Trop commenced, we sat in a coffee shop to say our good-byes.

It was a surprising discussion. Justin was getting cold feet. He wondered if he had made a big mistake. Thoughts started entering his mind about missing home, his friends, and his parents. But I reminded him that this dream was built on a solid foundation. He had no debt. His savings account was well-stocked. And most importantly, he was gifted with a spirit of adventure.

Needless to say, the brothers went on the trip. It changed their lives. They learned important lessons. The skills they gained and networking they did set them up well for the future.

The point is this: There is always fear when taking a leap. That fear is natural. But many of our most important actions take place outside of our comfort zone. Adam and Justin had fear as they embarked on this adventure. But now they wouldn’t trade their experience for the world.

In fact, Justin is selling the sprinter van and has just bought a traditional panel van. In another month or so he’ll be heading out west on his own to keep the journey going. He’s got some sponsors. He has a few freelance jobs lined up. And he’s looking to make more connections.

Another leap. A continuing adventure. More lessons. Another risk.

But all worth it so that he doesn’t have to sit behind a desk in a corporate job.

What risk are you willing to take?

Creatively Investing in the Future

This weekend I will be reminding people that they are creative. I am providing the keynote address for a meeting of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund Congregational Advocates for the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod in Florida and Georgia. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? It’s a group of people who actively engage their congregations to do some investing that will build church buildings and further the spread of the Gospel.

These are dedicated people. They serve their church and community. This group of people is investing an entire weekend toward learning better how to invest in others. In fact, the theme of the weekend is: Creatively Investing in the Future.

So here’s a little sneak peak at what I’m going to tell them. I will remind them that they (like you!) were created to be creative. They are artists in the sense that Seth Godin has defined it: “Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.” And I would add that art changes the one creating it, as well.

So I am encouraging them to ask themselves three questions:

  1. Am I creative? The answer I’m going for is: “Yes! I’m creative” The Creator of the universe has created human beings with creativity in their DNA. He spoke all other creatures into existence. But when it came to human beings He molded us out of the clay. Go look at Genesis 2. You are precious. You are unique. You are distinct. You have a mix of gifts and abilities no one else on this earth has.
  2. Am I making the right investments? Some of the best investments we make are the investments we make in people. It’s part of who we are as human beings to interact with and bring value to other people. Loving people and helping people is an investment we make to improve our families, communities, and the world. How can you more intentionally do that?
  3. Am I looking toward the future? We’re always looking forward. Moving ahead. Taking steps into the great unknown. What that means is sometimes we have to make adjustments as we go. One of the things that the best entrepreneurs do is what they call “pivot.” When something just doesn’t seem to be working, they pivot in another direction. As you look to the future, where can you pivot to be more effective in your vocation or in your family? Don’t ever consider an “end” a “dead end.” There are always different ways of doing things. There are always other opportunities.

How are you creatively investing in the future?

How to Love Like Christ Loves His Church

St. Paul said it. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25). Impossible, right? Yes. It is. Christ gave Himself for the church by hanging dead on a cross. You or I could never fully live that kind of love. That’s utter and complete sacrifice. But there is a sense in which we can live a fraction of that kind of love. I’ve seen it.

If you have a son-in-law I can only wish for you that he would live up to the standards of mine. We liked Josh from the minute we met him. But we love him even more now that we have seen the way he treats our daughter. Even more so throughout the course of her recent pregnancy and delivery of our first grandchild.

I can’t even count the number of times he said to her over the last nine months: “Are you OK?” He made sure a healthy, picture perfect dinner was ready for her every night when she came home from work. Josh oversaw her diet. He cautioned her about what to eat and what not to eat (or drink). Josh accompanied her to every doctor visit and did what he could for her when she experienced the pain of contractions. The decorations in the corner of their little apartment have just as many of Josh’s fingerprints as Ashlyn’s.

In the 48 hours before the delivery Josh took Ashlyn to the Labor and Delivery Triage at the hospital no less than three times. He was with her through every contraction and push. Now that little Crosby has been born his care for our daughter and his new son has been ramped up even more. He’s more involved in feeding, and care, and newborn tactics than I ever was. Josh is serving them hand and foot…literally.

He has not hung on a cross for them, but I’m pretty sure he would if he had to. It doesn’t mean he’s any more saintly than you or I. It just means that he loves in the way that he has been called to by Christ Himself. He is giving of himself in nearly every possible way. He sacrifices self for the sake of those he loves.

I couldn’t ask for more for the ones I love so much.

When have you seen this kind of love?

Welcome to the World, Crosby!

Welcome to the first day of your life, Crosby! Consider this the very first ink blot in your lifelong digital footprint. After all, you’ve been born into a world of iPhones, Facebook, Instagram, Alexa, Snapchat, and blogs (I have a feeling you’ll be making numerous appearances in your grandpa’s blog for a long time to come). There’s no escaping it. And there’s no escaping the love that’s already being showered upon you by your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and relatives.

Crosby Benjamin Swenson, you entered the world early in the morning on January 8, 2017. It was the coldest day we’ve had in Florida for quite some time (a low of 35 degrees!). But you’ll discover that “winter” in Florida is very, very short. In just a day or two it’ll be back into the 70’s and 80’s again. Then you’ll be able to wear those onesies all those generous people gave you. In fact, you’ll learn all kinds of things: like the grass is green, MacIntosh is better than PC, and the Green Bay Packers are your favorite football team.

As you were entering the world, four of your grandparents (and one of your aunts) were just down the hall. They were in the hospital waiting room before dawn even broke. That’s how much they were looking forward to meeting you. As the old saying goes, “God may not come when you want Him, but He’s right on time.” Always. And God saw to it that you, little Crosby, were right on time.

You were 7 pounds, 12 ounces, 20 1/2 inches. That’s pretty good evidence that you were right on time. When they finally met you your grandparents shed some tears, broke into smiles, and couldn’t stop cuddling you. Your great-grandmother said that your name is one that “might take some living up to.” I think it sounds like the name of a baseball player or a quarterback. Maybe even an actor.

When your uncle who lives in Nashville saw all your pictures he gushed. After the photos he saw on Facebook he posted over and over again: “My little buddy.” I’m certain you always will be (buddies).

When you were born you still had some liquid in your lungs. There were just a few tense moments. But the nurses took good care of you and you were breathing regularly in no time. As the sun set that same evening you curled up in a little ball right there on your mother’s chest, sleeping like a baby (as it were). You may never be quite that content again in your entire life.

While you snoozed the Packers beat the New York Giants 38-13. Mason Crosby even kicked a field goal. Your first victory as a lifelong fan.

Just before your grandparents left you for the night, a prayer was said. The prayer gave thanks that you were healthy. It gave thanks for your loving family. It asked for health and protection for you and your mom and dad. And it looked forward to the day in just two weeks when Jesus will use water and His own Word to wash away your sin and sinfulness, transfer you from death to life, and plant in you the gift of growing faith.

There is nothing better or more important than that. In fact, you were born on the day we commemorate the Baptism of Jesus Himself: The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. He took on your sin so that you never have to fear its punishment: not today; not ever.

Don’t ever forget that.

I, for one, will do my best to make sure that you don’t. You have my pledge on that, dear grandson, my dear little Crosby.

When Old Friends Are Just What You Need

It just so happened that our old friends, Pat and Tammy, were in town. Well, they’re really not old at all. A better way to describe them would be “long time friends.” We’ve known them for nearly twenty years. Our kids grew up together and are still friends. We’ve been through significant moments of life together. They recently had their first grandchild so they were telling us what to expect in our new vocation as grandparents.

Pat and Tammy are the kind of friends with whom you can pick right up where you left off. You have friends like that, don’t you? I think it’s one of God’s great gifts. Old friends are the ones who really know you. They ask the probing questions that find honest answers. The have observed your history. You’ve been through good and bad together and have come out all the better for it.

Old friends are like:

  • your favorite pair of jeans that you always go back to when you really want to be comfortable
  • a candle that delivers a shining warm glow
  • a full bank account from which you’re not afraid to make a withdrawal
  • medicine that soothes a sore throat
  • the sunset that brings a happy sadness
  • a book that’s so good you read it more than once
  • a warm sweater on a cool fall day
  • your favorite chair

It’s good that there are people in life who know you and still like you. It’s good to know that friends come into our lives to stay. The love and kindness of an old (or should I say “long time”) friend is one of life’s greatest treasures.

To even steal a few minutes when long time friends come into town is worth every effort it takes. It may even be just what you need at just the moment you need it.

How would you describe an old friend?

Why Waiting with Patience Is an Important Lesson

As I write this, our daughter, Ashlyn, and her husband, Josh, are in the waning days of waiting. They (and we!) wait with (im)patience for their new baby boy. The “baby corner” of their studio apartment is all set up. The name is selected (though they refuse to reveal it to us at this point in time). The hospital bag is packed. Morning sickness is behind her. Now “all” that’s left is labor and delivery.

They would tell you that they can’t wait another day. They want to meet that baby already! I, on the other hand, have been pulling for him to be born closer to his due date which is January 7th. I want the poor little guy to have a birthday that’s a bit further removed from Christmas. But you know as well as I do that it’s not up to me.

Waiting is an important lesson for all of us. But this season of waiting is an important lesson for new parents. It’s setting them up for all the waiting they’re going to do for the rest of their lives. They’ll be waiting for:

  • that first tooth
  • those first steps
  • the first word
  • him to come home from the first day of school
  • an illness to finally end
  • a sibling?
  • the other kids to stop picking on him
  • him to bring home the car by curfew that very first time
  • report cards
  • the results of tryouts or auditions
  • a final decision on which college to attend
  • the first chance to meet “the one”

Waiting is an important part of life. In fact, it’s so important that God made it one of the “fruits” of the Spirit. In other words, patience is a gift of God. It’s a gift we all need. And it’s also a gift that can be developed. Sometimes the Lord even uses the gift of children to help us develop the virtue of patience. After all, it takes a great deal of it to raise a child in the way he will go.

I know it’s easier said than done. But consider whatever it is you currently await a lesson from the Lord. He will use it to develop one of the greatest virtues a human being can possess. Learning long-suffering patience is something that will do you well in life’s most difficult situations.

In the mean time we wait with patience for whatever it is God chooses to reveal. 

Here’s to hoping (for Ashlyn and Josh’s sake) that this little boy makes his appearance soon. 

What are you waiting for?

Here Come Some Great Ideas for Your New Year

It’s the first week of a brand new year. I know that new months and years are only arbitrary ways to delineate time. But since most everyone recognizes the new year as a new start I thought I’d share some great ideas. These will help you kick off your new year with a bang before it has the chance to become a bust.

Here come some great ideas for you to try starting today:

  1. Don’t make resolutions.
  2. Set goals. Follow the formula Michael Hyatt suggests here. Make them “SMART.” Write them down. Review them frequently.
  3. Smile a little more. People are drawn to those who are happy.
  4. Pay off debt. You can do it. The freedom it will give you is unparalleled. Plus, you’ll be able to help and support people and organizations in ways you never have before. If you haven’t yet, check out Dave Ramsey. He’ll get you on the right path.
  5. Choose your attitude. You can. Check out what Seth Godin says about this. It makes a difference not only in your life, but in the lives of those around you, as well.
  6. Make an effort to compliment someone every day.
  7. Start something new. What have you been thinking and dreaming about? Take one small step toward making it happen.
  8. Plan your week. If your work week begins on Monday, use a few minutes on Sunday night to make a “to-do” list for the week. You’ll be surprised by what you accomplish.
  9. Set aside time on your calendar to get away. Plan a trip. Go somewhere you’ve never been. It doesn’t even have to be elaborate. Find someplace new and explore. You’ll be better for it.
  10. Be an encourager. No matter how you feel, lift others up.
  11. Sharpen your creativity. I can help you with that with the book I wrote called Fully and Creatively Alive: How to Live a More Joyfully Fulfilling Life. The book gives you insights from those who make a living with their creativity. Each chapter concludes with three questions to help you hone your creativity and apply to your own life.

What would you add to this list to make 2017 a great year?

10 Reasons 2016 Was Actually a Pretty Good Year

I’m kind of tired of people saying 2016 was such a bad year. Sure, it’s had its bad times, celebrity deaths, and tragedies just like any other year. But if you take a step back you will recognize that this year has really been no worse than any other. The devastating effects of sin have their way every year. An unbiased look back on any year will show you that 2016 wasn’t really any worse.

In fact, 2016 had its fair share of really good moments. Here are just ten of them:

  1. Pokemon Go got people, especially kids, outside and exploring their neighborhoods and beyond. For some of the bad publicity it got, the game was actually a great way for people to discover places they never had, meet people they might not have otherwise, and actually have fun. Is that such a bad thing?
  2. The Olympics brought us people like Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, and Michael Phelps. They did things that pushed the limits of human capability. And we cheered them on because we share a common homeland. Their triumph was ours.
  3. The World Series gave us a champion that hadn’t won in a hundred years. Though it wasn’t the way I wanted to see the Series end, it brought untold joy to millions of people, and a wonderful connection amongst generations.
  4. Boaty McBoatface made us laugh at least a little this year. The Natural Environment Council in Britain asked public to name one of their new research boats. Boaty McBoatface won the contest by a long shot. The boat was still christened the Sir Richard Attenborough. But one of its submarines was named Boaty McBoatface. See? We do still have a sense of humor.
  5. Chewbacca Mom showed us that sometimes the simple joys in life are enough to make us laugh or bring a smile to our face. The woman purchased the mask for herself at Kohl’s after running some errands at the store. She filmed herself laughing and her genuine laughter became contagious. Her Christian faith shone through the whole story.
  6. A Super Moon was seen in America. It was the closest the moon was to earth since 1948. We won’t see the moon that close again until 2034.
  7. The Triumph of the Human Spirit was shown when a 46-year-old mother and wife hiked twenty-six miles through heavy snow to save her husband and son. They were driving through Grand Canyon National Park when a blizzard stranded them. She saved their lives.
  8. A Teacher Put Up a Billboard in Kentucky reminding her former students coming home for Christmas break that she still loves them and prays for them. Teachers are one of our most undervalued vocations, and stories like this show us why.
  9. The Economy was robust. The Stock Market hit record highs. Wages rose. Unemployment hit its lowest rate in nine years.
  10. The Power of Eating a Meal with Someone was demonstrated by Florida State football player, Travis Rudolph. When he saw a young boy with autism eating lunch all by himself he went to sit with him. The powerful image went viral as people identified and as the boy’s mother found herself in tears.

What was about 2016 that you found particularly good?

5 Steps for Taking a Leap in 2017

It finally happened. My wife, Tammy, took the leap and stepped down from her secure teaching job. She stepped out of the room and turned out the lights one final time last week. 2017 is a brand new start for her…and for me as her husband. It’s a risk. But we both felt it was a risk worth taking.

So here’s what we did to prepare:

  1. Began the business while she was still employed. Already at the beginning of 2016 Tammy began planting the seeds of the new business. We put up a web site. She began making pillows and selling them online. Connections with retail outlets were made. Tammy experimented with what was and was not working. It was a great way to get her feet wet in the business and begin to set some money aside.
  2. Saved money. That’s what we did throughout the year. We became debt free (except for our mortgage and one car payment). Whenever Tammy made sales we put the money into a savings account. Where there were “windfalls” of various kinds we also put those into a savings account. We now have at least a short “runway” for her to start making some more regular income with her business.
  3. Sought advice and input. Tammy has been interviewing our daughter-in-law who owns her own jewelry business. We’ve also sought input from a good friend who is a financial planner. Beyond that we’ve been listening to podcasts and reading articles to help both with the transition and with the business itself.
  4. Took the leap. About a month-and-a-half before she was going to step down from her teaching job, Tammy put in her notice. Her boss was appreciative that she was given an amount of time to find a replacement that was more than fair.
  5. Found a safety net. Though we both hope the business will eventually more than replace her income, we both felt more comfortable having a relatively reliable source of income. While the business ramps up Tammy has found a school that will hire her as a substitute teacher. The beauty of it is that she can do it as often or as little as she likes. But it will help with income if we get into a pinch.

These five steps will also help you take the leap if you so desire. Honestly, we’re both a little nervous about all this. But we really feel it’s worth the risk for a variety of reasons. Taking a leap really just takes a bit of foresight and a little planning in advance. The new year is a great time to think about this.

If you’d like to read more about other people who have done this same thing, check out my new book, Fully and Creatively Alive: How to Live a More Joyfully Fulfilling Life. If you do it, I’d love to hear about your journey. Drop me a line.

What leap are you going to take in 2017?