My 3 words and the goals that go with them

This year I was introduced to the concept of identifying 3 words to be the focus and guide for personal goals and development, rather than going through the exercise of creating resolutions that might fall to the wayside before the end of January. I wrote about how I came to my 3 words here.

For 2011, my words are: Prudence, Mercy, Humility

Prudence = the characteristic of exercising sound judgment in practical affairs; act justly.

Mercy = a disposition to be kind and forgiving; compassionate treatment of others; a blessing

Humility = the quality of being modest, reverential, never rude or self-abasing; temperance (restraint against inordinate desires or appetites).

As January nears its end I’m pleasantly surprised to realize these 3 words continue to resonate for me. But the real trick is to define SMART goals that support these words. SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. I’m sharing my goals here as an example and as a way to hold myself accountable.

  1. Exercise 4 hours per week
  2. Write a minimum of 4 blog posts per week (one each: Here, Here, Here &  Here)
  3. Read one leadership book per month, write a one-page summary for reference and share the content/learnings with my staff
  4. Save $5/week from my lunch allowance to give away in unexpected places in December
  5. Read/review one novel per month
I’m not off to a great start but I’m making progress and I’m not giving up.
Have you set goals or made resolutions for 2011? If so, how are you doing so far?

Are you a Coach, a Mentor, a Leader or a Manager?

In the world today, everyone is someone – at a minimum, you are your own boss. I don’t mean in the sense of owning your business; I mean in the sense of how you manage yourself. Whether you like it or not, you are responsible for your own actions. You’re accountable for the decisions you make. How well are you managing yourself? Seth Godin recently wrote a post that suggested the odds are that you’re doing it poorly.

Here’s a summary of the fundamental differences between the roles of coach, mentor, leader and manager:

Coach A person who trains (athletes), tutors (students) or instructs (performers).
Mentor A wise and trusted counselor or teacher. An influential senior sponsor or supporter.
Leader A guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement or political group.
Manager A person who has control or direction of an institution, business, organization. A person who controls and manipulates resources & expenses.

The differences in practice can be subtle:

Managers are individuals assigned to a specific role with defined scope, typically paid to fill that role, and responsible for the day-to-day operations and expenditures of that organization. Not all managers are effective leaders. Ideally, managers are accountable for the decisions they make.

A leader in an organization can be identified as the person that everyone tends to follow. This may not be an organizational (assigned) leader. A friend of mine worked for a local school district. She told me about a teacher that all of the other teachers’ turned to during difficult discussions. The teacher always provided sound input and her guidance was typically followed. Then the school district “put her in charge” (i.e. made her a manager) and she turned into a hated dictator. The school district quickly returned the teacher to her previous role. Had they taken the time to invest in her leadership skills they might have enjoyed a different outcome.

Leaders are not necessarily accountable (if they are not also the “manager” for the organization); a series of bad decisions or a change in conditions might cause a leader to fall out of favor or get left behind by an evolving organization.

A mentor is also a go-to person. This is an individual whose experiences and reputation make them a great source of advice. They’ve learned from their own mistakes & successes, as well as from others and they’re able to distill those learnings into practice and useful advice. Wisdom, a key attribute of a good mentor, can best be judged in hindsight. Does an individual’s decisions (and advice) generally turn out well? That track record builds a person’s reputation as a wise and trusted counselor and grows his or her sphere of influence.

The advice and opinions offered by a mentor are generally of the take-it-or-leave-it variety. A mentor is not likely to be held accountable for the failure of others, although they might credit themselves with another’s success.

A coach has an area of expertise or interest and a particular talent in helping others within that area. Not everyone with expertise has the ability or inclination to coach. You don’t have to be an expert in an area to coach.

A year ago I began a workout routine. Over time I became increasingly more proficient with my Wii-Fit exercise. A friend suggested I begin to run, but I laughed, argued, made excuses and generally avoided running. Soon my friend became my coach. Before I knew it I’d run in my first 5K. She’s not a professional runner, but she has useful experience running in 5K’s and she wanted to see me succeed. She encouraged me. She gave me tips and suggestions. And she cajoled me into finally signing up and participating in a 5K. She effectively coached me, mentored me and led me through the process of defining and meeting a specific goal.

It’s great to have someone in your life that can help you succeed but sometimes that “someone” must be you yourself. I’ve recently come to appreciate the need for me to be that person for myself. As the head of US-based operations for a Taiwanese company I rarely see or hear from my boss and when I do, his input does not typically take the form of constructive feedback, mentoring or coaching. I can choose to be a victim, remaining stuck in old behaviors or I can identify opportunities for my own improvement, set personal goals and develop action plans for bringing about the desired changed. I also have to find ways to measure progress and hold myself accountable.

I am in the process of managing myself: I have the assigned responsibility and accountability for being the best me I can be. That means I have to move from the role of “Engineering Manager” to “Director of Operations”, which carries more than just an increase in responsibilities. I need to define goals for the team and strive to meet those goals in an ever-changing climate. Failure could mean the demise of the organization (i.e. closing shop and handing out pink slips). While that may be an extreme view, it keeps me motivated to outswim the sharks.

I am in the process of leading myself: I am an avid follower of Michael Hyatt, Chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His blog is sub-titled “Intentional Leadership”. He regularly posts tips that are useful for leading, mentoring and coaching oneself and others. I am choosing my path.

I am in the process of mentoring myself: I’m paying attention to the leaders I consider effective, and those I don’t (i.e. “what not to do”). I have a stack of management & leadership books (some I’ve read before, some not) that I’m reading with a fresh eye. As I read I’m thinking about how I interact with others, but also how I interact with myself. I’m identifying a few key areas for improvement and focusing on opportunities for immediate change.

I am in the process of coaching myself: I’m setting goals, defining expectations and deliverables, and most importantly I’m devoting the time needed for these efforts. I’m encouraging myself, cajoling and pushing and striving for continuous improvement.

I am a proponent of intentionally leading myself, how about you? Are you ready to take the initiative and be accountable? Think about these questions:

  • How do you set goals/expectations?
  • How do you measure progress?
  • How do you give yourself feedback?

These are key elements in effectively learning to manage yourself to success.

Welcome 2010, it’s going to be a good year.

Last year I began an exercise regimen that successfully stopped the horrific weight gain (20 pounds!) that plagued me during 2008. Although I was able to stop the trend, I’m still sporting the extra pounds. Other accomplishments of note include surviving the 1st year of employment in a start-up working for my old employer and, even better, writing a novel. I also read the Bible in its entirety.

I only have a couple of resolutions for this year: Exercise more, eat less, read more, write more. And by that, I intend to do a bit of each of those 4 activities every day.

On the exercise front: we’ve acquired the Wii Fit Plus and we’re 4 days in. My DH and I have completed 30 minutes per day and we plan to continue the trend. I also have an exercise ball and a heart rate monitor. I’m all in. 30 minutes a day, minimum. Walking, Wii-ing or a tryst with Richard Simmons – it doesn’t matter which. My goal is to “Work it, baby!”

On the eating less front… well, yeah, I’ve got room for improvement there. I’ve never been good at counting calories. The best I can hope for is some amount of self control. Eating smaller portions, taking smaller bites, eating more slowly. I’m imagining things that are yet to be achieved. But I’ve got time to work on it. I’d like for dinner to start taking 20 minutes to eat instead of 2 minutes.
On reading and writing, here are the stack of books I currently have queued up, ready to read:
Under the Dome, by Stephen King
The Principle of the Path, by Andy Stanley
Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
A Man For All Seasons, by Robert Bolt
Obstacles Welcome, by Ralph de la Vega
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
How Not to Write a Novel, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
A Twist at the End, by Steven Saylor
Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose
The Good, The Bad and the Lovely, by Fran Hart
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne & Dave King
The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV)
The Complete C.S.Lewis (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed), by C.S.Lewis
Adventuring Through the Bible, by Ray Stedman
The Marketing of Evil, by David Kupelian
Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said, by Victor Kuligin
The Eduction of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter
The Gospel According to Judas, by Benjamin Iscariot
Reading Judas, by Elain Pagels & Karen L. King
See Jane Lead, by Lois P. Frankel, PhD
The Christian Moral Life, by Timothy F. Sedgwick
Cure for the Common Life, by Max Lucado
If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, by John Ortberg
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (short stories)
bird by bird, by Anne Lamott
Writing Mysteries, a handbook by the Mystery Writers of America
And the books I won at the Women of Faith conference:
Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti by Chad Eastham
Redefining Beautiful by Jenna Lucado
Take Your Best Shot by AustinGutwein
Knockout Entrepreneur by George Foreman
Beautiful Mess The Story of Diamond Rio

So, I’m wondering….if it’s in my stack am I obliged to read it? I think not. My goal is to hone my writing skills. To read like a writer. To write like a reader. To do both like a critic. I plan to write reviews as often as possible (or reasonable).
On writing, I intend to finish “God the Father: What I’ve Learned about Parenting from God and about God from Parenting” and I plan to complete 4 more drafts of my first novel (and then find a publisher). And I will write my 2nd novel. And, God willing, I’ll write a book about my travels to Asia.
Yes, 2010. I’m glad to meet you. It’s going to be a good year.

Christmas

During my stay at the Windsor hotel in Kunshan, China I was impressed by the presence of Christmas and all its trappings.

When I checked into the hotel their halls were decked and Christmas tunes were playing in the background (specifically – “All I Want for Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth” greeted me upon my arrival).

Whenever I called down for room service, I was greeted with a cheery “Merry Christmas” and I listened to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” Muzak looping through my time on hold. And given the need to put me on hold every time I called (while they hunted down someone who spoke English), I heard that tune plenty.
Finally, I asked a local co-worker about the broad adoption of this Christian holiday. I know that Christianity exists in China but I was surprised to see so many reminders and signs of Christmas. I was curious if there was an appreciation of the significance of the holiday. I was told that most businesses were touting Christmas because of the commercial aspect – there were goods to be sold, they primarily catered to business travelers and tourists.
I wonder whether things are remarkably different in the US. We may be more cognizant of the Christian roots of the holiday but how many families really focus on the celebration of Christ’s birth? How easy it is to get swept up in the decorations and the gift-giving!
Something that struck me during this Holiday season was the weirdness of Santa Claus. The song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is especially creepy. In the song, we attribute traits to Santa that better describe God. Consider Psalm 139:

Psalm 139

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

….

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

God knows when we’re sleeping, he knows when we’re awake. He knows when we’ve been bad or good (so be good for His son’s sake!) and He loves us anyway.

God doesn’t come to town once a year or only on special occasions. He is always here. He is always with us. He is always seeking a relationship with us. He’s forgiving and faithful, loving us beyond measure. He leads us to everlasting life! He’s way better than Santa Claus!

Making a list and checking it twice


I wonder whether I’m avoiding work by making a list or avoiding a list by doing things. I have a lot left to do before I leave for China tomorrow. One of the things I need to do is to make a list for my husband…so he doesn’t forget the things he needs to do while I’m gone. Like mulch the flower beds. And feed the fish. The flower beds will survive but it won’t be good for the fish if he neglects them for 2 weeks. The man will clearly benefit from a list, don’t you think?

Meanwhile my to do list for today is only a few entries long. “Pack for China” was one of the big items. Below that was “refill shampoo, conditioner and face wash bottles”. I’m reminded of a great tip I learned from a friend, but forgot to follow today: Break down the projects into each task to avoid getting lost in the details.
“Pack for China” is too big of a task. I’m still working on that task. I should have made a complete list of everything that needs to go in the suitcase. Then I would know what was lacking as of this moment. Instead, I can tell you that my bedroom looks like the suitcase exploded – clothes and toiletries are strewn across the bed and floor.
I never finished making the list because I started tackling the project. I know better, yet I fell into this common trap. As I began to build the list I began to get anxious about how much I needed to do. Jumping into action helped relieve the anxiety – but that relief was superficial.
Sitting down and writing this post has reminded me that it’s better to take the time to plan. If I have time to write a post, I surely have time to finish writing the list of things to pack!
So, I’m going to revise my list to reflect everything that needs to go into the suitcase. Below that I’ll highlight things I need to do in order to pack (like restock the travel kit). Below that I’ll list the loose ends that need to be tied up before I leave my day-to-day world for 2 weeks (like some e-mails that need to be sent). Finally, I’ll start a list of things I need to purchase before I go (Pringles – a must, Pepto, …) And then I’ll get busy packing.
Are you a list-maker? No? What works for you?

"I’m in Training"


Oh, the joy of being the new guy. New at a job? New at a hobby? Being new at something brings inherent forgiveness for the inevitable errors and omissions.

Last week I bought a new heart rate monitor. Yes, it’s a men’s version, but hey! I’m new at this.
The first one I bought didn’t have the chest strap and although it was for women, it was a complete PITA and I had to effectively slow down my workout to get a read on my heart rate. In case you don’t know this, when the workout slows down, the heart slows down. So my darling hubby went back to Academy and traded the women’s Mio for the men’s Timex and now I can wear a goofy chest strap but get a more accurate reading and – even better – a complete summary of the work out at the end of the workout period.
Now I’m in training. I’m all about the numbers. Measuring progress, capturing results. The heart rate monitor (HRM) reports average heart rate, highest heart rate, time spent in “the zone”, etc. So naturally I’m going to build a spreadsheet and start tracking my results. Doesn’t everyone build spreadsheets to track their progress?
I’m also in training for my new career. NaNoWriMo is behind me, but that was just the kick-off. Now begins the long process of turning a novel into a published work while creating more works of fiction and non-fiction … for future publication. For now, I’m in training. No sense in signing up for a marathon just because I’ve successfully completed a couple of workout sessions. Nope. I’m currently procrastinating my next work-out session. A short story. To be submitted to the Austin Chronicle’s 2009 Short Story contest. And after that, I’ll be back to work on a non-fiction project.
And after that? Who knows? But there will be an “after that” because, well…that’s what I’m training for. To keep doing what I’m doing. Whether it’s walking around my neighborhood with my heart rate between 105-122 bpm or writing 1500-2000 wpd, it’s about changing the behavior for the long term and making the new behavior a habit.
So, I’m going to have a spreadsheet for tracking my exercise routine and a spreadsheet for tracking my writing routine. I admit it. I’m much more motivated when I’m measuring progress.
How about you? Do you have a goal or a dream? Do you track progress towards that goal? Do you forgive yourself for the errors and omissions you’re bound to make as you push yourself in a new direction?
Cheers to all who step out in faith or try something new. It takes courage to be the new guy… “in training.”

A day to be truly thankful

Today, as people all across America pause in their busy lives to give thanks, I have blessings beyond measure and my thanks are lifted up as I praise God for all He’s done in my life this year.

I just took a quick peek at my post from last Thanksgiving. Last November I banged out a post every day as part of NaBloPoMo. On Thanksgiving day, my oldest daughter was barely communicating with us. Our 2nd oldest daughter was living in Pennsylvania with her husband and our grandson. Our 3rd oldest spent Thanksgiving in Del Rio with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s family. Our youngest, my husband and I enjoyed a healthy, quiet meal at home. I spent some time reading. We worked on a puzzle. We were visited by a flock of cardinals.
This November I’ve banged away on the keyboard as part of NaNoWriMo. Today, I crossed the finish line – not the 50k word goal (I passed that last Friday) but the actual goal of finishing the novel. Yes, I did it. It took almost 69,000 words, but I can now proudly claim to have written a novel. What a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving! Giving thanks for the flow of words and the story I was able to tell.
But, better than that! (What, pray tell, could be better than that?) Last night at about 11pm our oldest daughter and her beau arrived. Today at 11am our 2nd oldest, her husband, his mother (the MIL) and our grandson arrived. They live across town so it wasn’t the journey that made their arrival remarkable. It was the drama leading up to today. She called Monday to say they weren’t coming (insert MIL drama here), then yesterday decided they were going to be here after all. At about 2:30pm our youngest daughter arrived with her girlfriend. We sat down to eat soon after 3pm. All eleven of us.
After a fantastic dinner, prepared by my wonderful husband, we settled down to watch “Up”. A very enjoyable movie (other than the occasional tear-jerk scenes that caused me to cry, which caused my husband to announce that I was crying much to the delight of all. Glad to be of service).
It’s been a good year for many reasons, but mostly because my faith has grown (continually seeking God’s guidance), my knowledge has grown (almost finished reading The Bible in a Year, huge awakening comes with the awareness and insight), my ambition has grown (well, “shifted” may be a better word – I’m no longer interested in the corporate ladder), my relationship with my children had improved dramatically (even in the absence of drama). I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been – physically, mentally and spiritually (given my history, that’s no small feat). I’m employed, yet able to pursue my passion (ahem, that would be “writing” in case you missed that subtlety).
I’m so happy I could dance. Or sing. Or fall on my knees, lift my arms and turn my face to sky and say “Thank you, God. You are awesome.” Or all of the above.
What are you thankful for?