Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Quest for Success

What defines success? 

This is perhaps the most prominent question rarely asked in North American culture today. We have become obsessed with being successful, but what does it mean to pursue success?

Industry says bigger is better. Family says multiplication is essential. Media says followers and likes are critical. But do any of these point to success?

When is something big enough? What happens if a married or co-habitating couple cannot conceive? Who has time to truly generate viable and consistent interaction online?

Success in sequence

What if success is rooted in rhythm and adaptability? In this season of life as a leader, I am beginning to understand that my ability to adapt to different cultural nuances while remaining in a life-giving rhythm of work, play and rest is essential to success. Some people might refer to this as the quest for balance and may even suggest that balance is impossible to attain. I, however, would disagree.

Balance in and of itself is a static word, but coupled with the concept of rhythm and adaptability, it becomes a dynamic reality.

Perhaps the beginning to our definition of success lies with understanding the cultural context we are currently immersed in. There is no cultural absolute definition for success. 

Success and sustainability

Having had the privilege to travel to several foreign countries, I can tell you that there are very different questions being asked about what success really is. The pursuit of "life in the red" as it pertains to pace is a uniquely North American issue predominantly. Different places in the world seemingly define success more in terms of relational benefit or growth, availability of opportunity for a broader scope of people, and/or the honouring of history or cultural practices.

But I wonder if success, general speaking, needs to focus more on the concept of sustainability than legacy, personal gain or economic development.

I'm a father of young children. The desire that I share as a parent for them is that they would be able to identify the rhythms of success in my life, while learning to adapt to the ever-changing cultural climate they are growing up in, in order to reflect a healthy pursuit of success in their own lives and the lives of their own children one day.

Land the plane - is success really ahead?

What is your current awareness level of how you are striving to succeed? What factors are at play in your definition of success? Have you become tunnel visioned in your pursuit of some sort of absolute, or are you willing and able to grow in your understanding of what success really is?

Success. The seemingly elusive and seductive invisible force. In one day, at one time, may you find clarity in reclaiming what really matters.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A New Hope

There is a way forward.

These are some of the most powerful words someone can hear in a time of need. When faced with insurmountable odds or circumstances, finding the hope that there is a way through the darkness, pain, uncertainty or confusion is life giving.

A friend of mine was facing some huge challenges in his marriage after his wife uncovered his infidelity. He was broken, confused, distraught and utterly overwhelmed by the reality of the weight of the potential consequences for his actions.

But somehow, he still found hope...and so did his wife. Together, they pursued restoration, healing and forgiveness and today they marital union is vibrant and inspiring.

I imagine their story would have unfolded differently had they not been given the gift of seeing a way forward that didn't further deepen their pain.

Their story isn't unlike yours or mine. Every single one of us is faced with difficult realities in life. And when these moments are revealed, we have a choice to make. We can choose to uncover a way forward, or we can choose to become overwhelmed and immobilized by the fear of uncertainty.

Leadership is chalked full of moments of uncertainty, second-guessing, confusion, clarity and more. It's in these moments that I am learning to pursue hope while taking the time to discover a way forward. And for me as a follower of Jesus, this has meant much prayer, listening and facing the fear that has attempted to immobilize me at every turn.

You and I are not dissimilar. No matter what you may find yourself immersed in at the moment, there is a way forward. Find the hope amidst the chaos. Face the fear with courage. Create a new normal.

There is a way forward.

Friday, November 13, 2015

All Shapes and Sizes

Leaders look different.

This is one of the many gifts the millennial generation is innovating in the leadership world of today. There is no longer this desire to be like everyone else. Individuality is the flavour du jour, accompanied with a deepening appreciation for diversity and variety.

One question that I've been stewing over lately is the correlation between personality and confidence.

How does one's propensity towards extroversion or introversion affect their level of confidence as a leader?

I'm a pseudo-sociologist junkie by nature. Armed with my keen powers of observation, there are some general realities. that I've discovered with having the privilege of interacting with hundreds of different leaders over the years...and this one is preoccupying my thoughts the most as of late.

The most confident people tend to be the most quiet. 

Volume doesn't equal confidence. There is a time and place to rally people towards a cause using one's exuberance and energy, but there is also a time to be still and quiet in order to discover what is really happening on the leadership level internally, not just externally.

I've made the mistake of assuming that quiet person in the room is the one that needs to be encouraged or spurred on the most. Often times this had led to me swallowing both my feet right in front of them as I've unsuccessfully attempted to woo them towards the perceived elusive confidence I believe they are lacking.

Sometimes being quiet has allowed a person to embrace their identity at a deeper level. Those of us who tend to be loud may simply be attempting to control the environment in which we are seen or perceived so that it can continue to fuel our insecurity through verbal affirmation and relational reward.

If you've ever spent some time being still and enjoying a part of nature (mountains, beach, forest, etc.) you'll understand that there is a different layer of enjoyment when the noise and clutter are removed from the moment.

Leaders create spaces and opportunities to grow in confidence. When you think about who you are as a leader, what are you learning the most about remaining confident in who you are or in who those around you are meant to be?

Are you someone who is motivated by your own insecurity, or are you able to appreciate the rich diversity and variety that are essential to leadership health?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Personality or Substance - What kind of leader are you?

Yesterday was a first for me.

I had the privilege of working in the federal election of my home country Canada. My role was to serve electors and help them cast their vote. It was an exhilarating experience to observe democracy and freedom in action.

As I watched all the activities and events leading up to election, I couldn't help but be reminded of a key concept that I've continued to learn as a leader; that being the principle of personality or substance.

There will be a lot of different political satire pieces dispersed in the world of the inter-web today, but this my friends isn't one of them.

It's true that this election process has reminded me of this leadership principle most recently, but it is my drive and passion as a dad that truly inspires me to understand the relationship between personality and substance. This is a non-partisan conversation about leadership, being a dad and desiring to disciple those in my sphere of influence to be all they have been created to be.


I love all of my children dearly!! Each of them is amazingly unique. It just so happens that what I'm learning today relates more directly to Deklon at the moment.

My son Deklon shares some similarities with our newly elected Prime Minister, Mr. Justin Trudeau. Both men can enter a room, entertain their community and leave people wanting more.

The greatest challenge that I face as a dad to Deklon is to teach him to use his talent for inspiring and captivating people to draw them into the depth of substance...because substance is where people will truly grow and develop, and personality come sometimes be a barrier to this growth and development.

Suppose I tell you the story of a woman who lights up the room every time she walks in. Friends, colleagues, strangers...they all admire her for the beauty she possesses that transcends her stunning outward appearance. She is elevated to a position of power and influence because of this gift, and uses it to reshape the course of history for generations to come.

What would you say were her most important gifts, talents and abilities to have been able to create this new future?

This story is a true story. It's the story of a woman named Esther, which is recorded in the bible (read it here). Esther inspires a king, who makes her his queen so that she can be used by God to create a hope and future for her people...her tribe. It's the depth of her character that allows her personality to flourish and grow into something beautiful.

Being a leader

All leaders face the tension of personality or substance. The most prolific ones are those who can learn to marry personality and substance together to create a hope and a future. 

Brody Jesperson, a friend of mine, recently posted this on Facebook - "What you attract people with will be what they are attracted to." 

He shared this in the context of being a youth minister. It can be very tempting to use hype and mystery to draw a crowd, but also very humbling when you recognize that hype is a permeable thing, shifting effortlessly and simultaneously all at once...don't believe me, watch a Jays game in the playoffs this year!!

Leadership is has to be. People rely on leaders to be persons of integrity, of hope, of stability and of future thinking. Leaders can possess a dynamic personality, but they don't always have to. The character behind the personality leads to the future, not the other way around.

As a leader I ask myself these gut check questions:

1. Is this about me or something greater than I?
2. Can I see beyond myself in this moment?
3. What is the long-term reality of this decision I am making?
4. Who am I allowing to speak into my life to help shape my present and my future?
5. Am I teachable and willing to learn?

When you come face to face with the tension that can be a personality or substance dichotomy, how do you respond?

My hope

My hope for my son Deklon and all other folks who are gifted with a dynamic personality is that they would learn to marry substance with their gift: leading from a place that is full of integrity, honesty, goodness and the future. 

I'm praying for my son. I cannot wait to see how him grow and develop. I pray for him like I pray for his sister Saydie, his brother Cannon and the child we are waiting to add to our family through adoption. I pray for their hope and future.

And I pray for you brave soul who chose to click on a link to the ramblings of a crazy Canadian. May you be inspired to merge your personality with substance to create something beautiful!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Best Play or Worst Play

I love sports. If you have ever watched a sports highlight show, you will know that they usually end their show with a highlight real package of the best or worst plays of the day/week.

Lately I've been asking myself the question about my best play or worst play as it pertains to leadership.

I've been involved in leadership in one way or another for the better part of the last 20 years...first as someone who was being grown and developed as a leader as a teen, then someone who was hired to be a leader and now someone who is learning to grow and develop leaders around me. During this time, I have personally felt tempted to try and make myself fit into a variety of different moulds or expectations. There were seasons where I wanted to change my personality or reinvent my passions in order to fit what other people were looking for...and in doing so, I often wonder if I was making my best play or my worst play in terms of leadership.

In a conversation I had with my wife recently, she shared this quote with me:

Oscar Wilde - Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken

Have you ever been tempted to try and be someone different than who you are as a leader? Have you ever wondered what your best play or worst play might be? 

My best's to help introduce people to their future. That's how I lead and that's who I am. I'm not ashamed that I'm different...I kinda like it. I'm learning to lead with this notion in mind; how about you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Living in Inspiration

For our 10th wedding anniversary I surprised my wife with a trip to Las Vegas. Friends of ours had a condo in Vegas which they generously allowed us to stay at for free, and I had been saving up air miles for 5 years to offset the purchase of our flights.

One of our most favourite things to do as a couple as we have gotten older is to explore the outdoors through walking, hiking and other activities. We have been inspired by the many things we have seen.

This photo was taken in Red Rock Canyon. What do you think of when you see it?

This photo inspires me towards hope. Even in a dry climate like the Nevada desert, life can be found. 

In my current occupation, I have the opportunity to listen to thousands of different stories told by many different people about their own lives, their own dreams and their own wounds that they have sometimes endured. As I hear about the loss, the frustration, the hurt or the bitterness, this image I took from Red Rock Canyon often comes to mind. 

There are times when we are overwhelmed to the point where we can no longer see hope. In these dark seasons where life sometimes leads, there is only one question that is really worth asking:

When life seems to be at its' worst can you find what really inspires you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Waiting when it hurts

I've been taking a hiatus from writing as of late. There is so much content available for the browser courtesy of Google & the inter-webs that I sometimes forget that what I do end up writing may only be meant for one person who's in a tough space and may be in search of something that inspires them towards hope.

So, for anyone who is reading this, please forgive me. Forgive me for being selfish. Forgive me for forgetting what it means to love through this digital medium by sharing story, asking questions and hopefully illustrating something that inspires you.

I am in a season of waiting.

In 2009, my wife and I had the honour of adopting our oldest son, Cannon. It was a process that we were told may not even happen...and yet it did. It was a process that seem overwhelming at times...and yet we were determined. It is something that has changed my life for the better, and I will always be grateful for that.

Fast forward 6 years and we find ourselves in a similar space yet again. Today we wait. We wait for a phone call that will once again change our lives for the better. But friends, I must say, there is pain in the waiting. Questions of what if, what's next, when will it happen and more can become all consuming when perspective is lost in the moment. It hurts to wait. Are we not good enough? Have we missed our opportunity? Did we forget something along the way?

I am learning that the wait and the pain are actually a gift. Perverse as it might seem, I realize that I and my pain produced by waiting are becoming friends, not because we have chosen one another, but because we are in the last 2 people on the planet type of scenario. It's me and my pain, alone. Sometimes in the dark, but always searching for the light. It's a space that is difficult to explain, but familiar to those who have experienced the emptiness of a season of waiting.

So, if that's where you are I want to inspire you. You are not alone. There are others who have found a way through the pain that waiting can bring. It's true, not all seasons of waiting are the same, and neither is the pain that they bring. Waiting for a loved one to pass is much different than waiting for a long lost friend to finally come home for a visit. Find the courage and strength to identify with what may be similar while never forget what is truly different.

Wait, friends. Wait, even when it hurts. At some point in the not so distant future the season will come to a close and with it will be a new set of opportunities, hopes and dreams...and the perspective on the season of waiting you just went through.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

When Options Become King

I had the opportunity to share with a local church community this summer about the complexity of living in an option filled society. Take a listen and share your thoughts with me!!

Listen now

Monday, May 25, 2015

Feeling out grown

Transitions in life can often lead us to feeling out-grown in some sense.

I was chatting with a friend of mine who is an educator. As another semester comes to a close, we chatted about the tough reality that many of the students this person had grown close to would be leaving the school and pursuing other opportunities outside of this person's direct influence. As my friend shared with me, I was reminder that this is a season of transition, and this transition is actually a form of grief.

When a transition occurs there is a grieving that takes place. And grief is an invitation to these 3 things:

1. Observe - Every transition provides the opportunity to see things from a different perspective. While one trend is ceasing to continue, another potentially emerges. In the example with my friend, their influence in the role of primary educator and influencer was morphing into more of a post-educator mentor type reality. Sure, the students under their care wouldn't be viewing them with the same perspective any longer, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the influence one has had in their lives comes to an just changes.

2. Reflect - What does this all mean? A transition has happened. It changes the way you see something, but it also invites you to rediscover the purpose behind the transition. In the instance of the above conversation I had with my friend, there is the emerging opportunity to see how the influence they once had shifts and changes to become something greater than what they might have originally anticipated. Reflection helps us uncover how we feel about what we are experiencing. It's okay to be sad, or happy or any number of things. Human beings were created to feel. Our emotions allow us to create connections (positive and negative) with people and experiences. Emotions weren't designed to rule us; they are a gift meant to help us discover what it means to really live.

3. Remember - To remember is to celebrate. All forms of transition and grief help us to remember what is worth celebrating. This could mean some sort of achievement, memory, experience, taste, sight, sound or more! The remembering phase moves to celebration over time. Like when a teacher sees their former student become a person of integrity and great leader.

When you face a season of transition can you pay attention to what you observe, how it makes you reflect and what it causes you to remember?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Are you IN or OUT?

This is perhaps one of the most talked about questions in all of Christianity.

Throughout the history of humanity, humans have been preoccupied with hierarchy. We've wanted to establish who we are or who we aren't based on comparison. Sometimes this may have been considered a necessary development, and at other times it had some of the most devastating consequences to human life that have ever been recorded (you've heard of genocide, right?).

I wonder if this is question that we even need to be asking.

I have three kids, and I can tell you firsthand that each one of them is unique, special and crazy in their own way. And they all are driven by the question of who they are to me (or more specifically their mom...she's #1 in our house by far!!). There are times when they use comparison to see which of them is "better" in my eyes. From a parent's perspective, it's a silly exercise because they are all important to me. But from their perspective it is seemingly the most important question they can have answered.

I wonder if this might be what God feels or thinks when His kids try to figure out which is the "best" in His eyes?

It's got me thinking...what if I spent less time trying to figure this out and more time loving people the way Jesus did. Maybe it starts with things like this:

1. Listening first. I can't tell you how many times I've made the mistake of talking too much. I've  said something without thinking, betrayed a friend's confidence and hurt those I love with my words. I know it's tough to be silent when we are excited about a particular subject...and nothing excites me more than talking about Jesus! But what I've learned is that by demonstrating the willingness to listen, I not only earn the right to be heard, but I've also begun introducing people to Jesus without a single word. Our world is full of noise and distraction. Give the gift of undivided attention through listening and see what sort of conversations you get invited into as a result.

2. Being open minded. I'm a passionate sports fan. I can argue for days how my team of choice is better than your team of choice. The problem is when I let this type of passion taint the way I share my faith. Please don't misunderstand me. I believe that Jesus offers the ONLY version of life of this planet (and beyond) that is worth living. But I also know that sometimes my passion and zeal can be forceful and coercive instead of inviting and challenging (in the positive sense).

Try something different in the conversations you find yourself in. Be open willing to hear different perspectives. If you believe like I do that Jesus offers the best version of life, then please remember that all arguments that have ever been constructed have already been won (remember the words of Jesus on the cross - "it is finished").

3. Praying with hopefulness. There is a lot of differing conversation in the church word about different strategies to engage and connect with people. Two of the most popular buzz words in these conversation are the words attractional and missional. An attractional strategy focuses on putting the best foot forward so that people on the "outside" looking in would be attracted to what is going on. A missional strategy focuses on meeting people where they are at (meeting needs and having conversations). The conversation usually unfolds as to which strategy is the better one to pursue. Regardless of your personal opinion related to this conversation, the truth is that unless hope permeates how you act, think and pray all your activity is meaningless. Imagine with me what the world could look like if more people discovered hope in the ordinary and plain things that life sometimes offers.

Being in or out really isn't something I want to focus on anymore. I want to love people like Jesus did. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think if I can do that well the rest will take care of itself. What do you think?

Thursday, March 12, 2015


It's a basic need that every human being longs for...a place to belong. This past summer, I was able to share a talk with a local church here in Calgary about this subject. Take a listen. How are you being inspired to create connection for those around you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Passover

I'm a young leader...ok...youngish. I've had the great opportunity to get to know hundreds of different young leaders over the years, and there is a common trait that most of us seem to share.

A desire to be noticed.

Whether it's working inside a church, with a missions organization or in the corporate world, young emerging leaders want to be seen, recognized and given the opportunity to lead.

So being the kind of guy that I am, I asked the question why? And here's what I've discover:

We young leaders are afraid.

 We are afraid that we won't be seen, we may not be noticed and we may not get the chance to lead. We're afraid that at the end of our lives, we may have just been passed over. If we were really honest with ourselves, we might find the courage to not only recognize our fear, but figure out a way to combat it.

What If?
So what if we decided to be something other than afraid? What could that look like and what would it take? Here are three things I've begun to identify as growth areas for me as a young (ish) leader:

1. Humility - it's not all about me. The true measure of a faithful follower of Jesus, regardless of the setting or context, is not about personal's about kingdom development. When my motivation is to make sure that "my gifts are being used" or "my voice is being heard" I might actually be in the business of self-promotion. And if I am, I'm counteracting the work of Jesus. A wise leader is a humble leader. If we would humble ourselves and pray, what would God do in us and through us?

2. Patience - timing is everything. It's supposed to take 40 weeks of gestation for a human being to be grown (sometimes shorter, and other times longer). It takes time for crops to grow in a field. It takes time for young leaders to be recognized for their character, competence and commitment. There are no short cuts to influence. Being on stage with thousands of people tuning in to what you have to say doesn't instantaneously make you relevant. If you want to be seen, stay in the game longer than you think is possible. Embrace the internal and external tension, it might just be a gift God is giving to you for a reason. The solution may not be running out to start a brand new hip actually might be to weather the storm so that perseverance can develop the character God desperately wants you to obtain.

3. Grace - no one is perfect. Sometimes all we are meant to learn from leaders who have gone before us is how not to lead. And sometimes we need to learn how to forgive and to forget. What if we took the time to think the best about others instead of the worst? How might our conversations about the people who "don't see us" change if we see them with the eyes of grace instead of the eyes of frustration?

So what about you? Where are you at as a leader? Are you young and wanting to be noticed, or are you in a position to identify and develop the emerging leaders around you? What will your leadership legacy be? Let's choose not to be afraid of The Passover...we're not even certain it's actually going to happen, are we?