Leadership 101: Influence requires investment

Influence requires investment.

If you had to define leadership in one word, what better could you find than influence? Leaders effect change because leaders influence. Leaders achieve goals because leaders influence. Leaders are only leaders to the extent they influence.

I remember bits of a sermon an evangelist passing through our little west Texas town preached when I was about 11 or 12. This preacher was from Tennessee and he whistled his “s” sounds. We called him the Tennessee Whistler.

Get off your can!

The part I remember is the quote he used to drive home his main point. The quote is of unknown origin, but it goes like this: “Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the can.”

Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the can.

I can still hear the whistlin’ preacher thunder like an Appalachian storm, “That’s not right! That’s wrong! That’s not the way to anything useful. That’s not the way to wealth. Investment is the way to wealth. Just so, it’s not the way to influence, either. If you want your life to matter, get off your can and take off the lid. Pour yourself into something. Pour yourself into someone!”

I am thankful that among the indelible impressions stamped upon my soul in my formative years, was this one from a traveling preacher, whom I heard speak five times in a week and never saw again.

Time passed and I would find myself in various leadership roles, charged with casting a vision and achieving an end. I learned quickly that I could achieve nothing of real, lasting, or far-reaching value by myself. I could not make a difference by being too introspective.

The unexamined life doesn’t much matter.

I could learn, but what was the point of learning if I could not teach? I could gain wisdom, but hoarded wisdom is its own brand of foolishness. Socrates, during his trial in which he was accused of corrupting the minds of youth is reputed to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Think about it. If a person lives only for himself and then goes the way of the world, who will remember – or care – that he ever lived at all? One’s influence is the only way to impact the world beyond one’s own reach.

A leader is only as great as his influence.

Bill Parcells is widely regarded as one of the great coaches in NFL history. Other coaches have enjoyed longer careers, won more games, and even won more championships than Parcells, who coached four NFL teams over an 18-year career. Parcells coached in three Super Bowls (with two different teams), winning two.

The greatest thing about Parcells is not his winning percentage or championship runs, but his football acumen and ability to teach the game to players and coaches. To see his true greatness, you have to look at his influence.

parcells-treeESPN did a series on the Greatest Coaches in NFL History. Parcells is included and special attention is paid to the “Bill Parcells Coaching Tree.” Among those directly influenced by Parcells are Bill Belichick (six Super Bowl appearances and three wins as head coach in New England), Tom Coughlin (two Super Bowl wins as head coach with the New York Giants), Sean Peyton (Coached the New Orleans Saints to their only Super Bowl win), Chris Palmer, Al Groh, Romeo Crennel, Tony Sparano, and Todd Haley. Indirectly, Parcells influenced such notables as Nick Saban, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Jim Fassell, and Bobby Petrino.

One could show even more impressively credentialed coaching trees by tracing those of Vince Lombardi or Tom Landry.

But I will leave the ranks of football for the grander stage of influence upon mankind as a whole. Whom would you say has had the greatest historical impact on the world? In 1926, James Allen Frances wrote One Solitary Life in an effort to answer that question:

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

Love Him, hate Him, deny Him, follow Him, revere Him, revile Him…each of these choices have been made through the centuries since the Galilean walked the dusty roads of Palestine.

The one thing it is impossible to do? Ignore Him.

Why? Because of His influence! And what was His strategy for influencing so many for so long? Investment!

…Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach… Mark 3:14

Want to change the world? Want to make a lasting difference? Share your wisdom. Invest yourself in those who comprise your circle of influence. Get off your can. Take off the lid. Pour yourself into others. That’s investment, which becomes influence, which is another word for leadership.

The Dance of the Insane – or – The Direction of the Informed?

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

huckI was in the house alone, except for my English Setters, Huck and Finn. I was lustily singing a Willie Nelson song to the plaintiff guitar strumming in my head. The dogs couldn’t hear the inimitable sound of Willie plucking his old signature guitar. They only heard me braying like a bereft mule. They thought it odd and said so by barking at me as if I were an intruder.

I stopped singing to ponder what it must be like to be inside their heads. What was it like to see a human singing and carrying on with no apparent prompt or reason? Then I thought how the world outside Christ perceives the behavior of those who glory in Him.

Is the dance of faith insane?

I thought of King David when he danced before the ark of the covenant to the embarrassment and scorn of his wife Michal…

And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly garment… But as the Ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she was filled with contempt for him… When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” ~2 Samuel 6:14,16,20

I thought of the way Stephen endured a violent, unjust death at the hands of angry men and the adverse affect it had on all but one of them…

The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.mBut Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.n

As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. ~Acts 7:54-60

willie-guitarStephen was “dancing” to a tune these unregenerate religionists could not hear. He was moved by a sight they never saw, a voice they never heard, a love they could not possibly comprehend. How it must have drilled into their rancid souls when he, through broken teeth and bloodied lips, interceded for their forgiveness.

Only one person in that crowd (that we know of) was ultimately stirred to embrace Christ and the Cross: the “young man named Saul.” Saul would later be known as the Apostle Paul and would himself become the New Testament era’s mightiest, most vocal, most celebrated, and most reviled evangelist.

Saul would hear the music others could not understand on the road to Damascus and this Pharisee sworn to the destruction of the church would become the mighty apostle. Those with Paul heard the voice he heard, but it did not mean to them what it did to him. It did not impact their lives the way it did his. (Acts 9)

Late in his life, in the events that would ultimately culminate in his death, Paul told his story of redemption to King Agrippa and his court. A dignitary of that court named Festus declared, “Paul, you are insane! Too much study has made you crazy.” (Acts 26:24)

What’s this music that makes you dance, Paul? It isn’t like the dance we do. You are out of step, man.

What you call crazy and what I call crazy are not the same thing.

You look around our homogenized society, where everything and anything can suddenly become a trend (if only for a few hours). I read something about how middle schoolers are into flipping water bottles at the moment. A few weeks ago, on a Saturday, I walked home from work, taking time to amble down a walking trail through a city park. I saw 20-30 people, adults and kids, looking like the Walking Dead, walking in odd patterns in the park, eyes glued to their cell phones, trying to capture the Pokemons in their heads.

Things like that aren’t crazy to a society desperately filling its soul with whatever pleasures and pastimes will get them to senility and the silence of the grave. Whatever it takes to drown out the voice in their head that says, “Meaningless, meaningless. All of this is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

But following Christ, loving your enemies, praying for those who abuse you, giving with no strings, valuing the gold in the Golden Rule over mob rule, valuing a soul more than your savings, walking this way when the crowd goes that way…

That’s crazy, man.

Just ask Huck and Finn.

To Trump or not to Trump | Decision 2016, a Christian’s quandary

To Trump or not to Trump? That is the question! It is also the most hotly debated social media topic among conservatives – particularly, CHRISTIAN conservatives – right now.

The Trump Tapes

In the wake of the perfectly-timed release of the Trump tape from 11 years ago, on which he engaged in lewd and foul rhetoric and demeaned the fairer sex (an old-fashioned term I am sure to get into trouble for using, which is ironic in a way), Republican leaders like Condoleezza Rice have pulled their “support” of the controversial Republican candidate.

Rice wrote on Facebook: Enough! Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw. As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.

I have seen fast friends and even fellow ministers duking it out on Facebook and Twitter over whether it is appropriate for a Christian to vote for Trump. The debate has been lively and colorful and sometimes involves suggestions that the person taking the opposite view is either delusional or deranged…or downright sinful!

The ones taking the high road and saying #NeverTrump put forth the argument that essentially boils down to this: The lesser of two evils is still evil! 

Got me there.

I am trying to remember when an American election came down to God vs the Devil or complete Good vs complete Evil. I don’t recall Billy Graham or Mother Theresa ever having been on the ballot. Granted, Trump is the worst best option we have had since I can remember. But some of the same people who were willing to forget a lot of things they know about Mormonism as it relates to traditional (biblical) Christianity to vote Romney sure have been slaying the wayward sons and daughters willing to overlook brutish behavior and dirty words to vote Trump.

Conversely, those selling out to a wholesale endorsement of a man whose best qualities revolve around the kind of delusions of grandeur and egomania rarely seen in anyone not holding the title Caesar or Emperor are a bit annoying, too. Telling someone they are wasting their vote if they vote for a third candidate is the same as telling them they can never vote their conscience and that underdogs should never have any support.

Trump: Will he make America great again?

Trump may be the best hope for America, given the options. I really don’t know that I can say he is…or if he will be, as he would say, “a total disaster.” I am not sure anyone can say for sure.

What we can say for sure is that Trump is not the squeaky clean candidate we would like for him to be. He has been self-serving, cold-blooded, ill-tempered, and middle school bully-like way too often to suit me.

I have, frankly, been on the fence and on either side of it numerous times in this election. I am torn, like so many of you. I do NOT like Trump. I do NOT trust Trump.

But…I believe that Hillary is as close to evil incarnate as a candidate is likely to be. Furthermore, she is on the wrong side of EVERY issue that is important to me, and some of those have real spiritual implications (like ABORTION).

In last night’s debate, the people Hillary most passionately and eloquently defended were illegal immigrants and Muslims. She lied about her stance on the Second Amendment. She lied about how she changed her tone on the “Irredeemable deplorables” statement. She did what she does: if her mouth was opened, she was lying. She believes she is entitled to the throne. She thinks America owes it to her.

I don’t know about the #NeverTrump thing. But I am down with #NeverHillary, brothers and sisters.

She is completely nonplussed that this is any sort of contest at all. How can Americans actually entertain a cartoon character like Trump and make this a close race?

Rather than being informed by this fact and doing an honest self-evaluation, she is instead totally disgusted…with you.


My question is with whom are you disgusted? For whom will YOU vote? Please poll here…

How will YOU vote in November?

A Birthday New Year’s Resolution -or- 101 reasons to celebrate

What a week it’s been! I have 101 reasons to celebrate life right now.

Last Friday, my baby girl got married to the love of her life and started that incredible journey called marriage. It was a beautiful wedding, well attended, and pulled off without a hitch. I had the privilege of preaching the charge and officiating the vows, which means I have both given away in marriage and solemnized the vows for all three of my girls.

How could you top that?

gene-and-cakeWell, I can’t and I don’t want to. But I can add a cherry on top of the delicious red velvet wedding cake my wife made and my gifted cake guy son-in-law decorated (with an assist from his wife).

You see, today started the new fiscal year for me. I turned 55 yesterday (which was the speed limit when I got my driver’s license back in 1977). I remember how depressed I was when I turned 40, feeling all “I haven’t accomplished anything much and here I am at mid-life.” What a dumb kid I was then.

Celebrate hitting the speed limit, but no speed bumps

Fifty-five seems like one of those watershed numbers for reasons I can’t quite put my arms around. Maybe it is the impressive double-nickel plating. Maybe it’s knowing that those two fives don’t make a 10, you have to make your life a 10 by hard work, hard loving, and harder decisions…all immersed in the grace and goodness of a loving, forgiving, patient God. Maybe it’s the senior discount these smart alecs want to saddle you with at the buffet. (Not that I will turn that down or anything.)

There is something sleek and aerodynamic about 55. I feel much cooler today than I did two days ago.

The biggest reason 55 has not hit me the way 40 did is Facebook. For all the complaining folks like me do about social media and its attending evils, there is no birthday quite so cool as a Facebook birthday, because friends and family – some of whom you communicate with every day and some you hardly ever interact with – come out to celebrate YOU. Man, that feels good. People stop down in their busy lives and take the few seconds or minutes it takes to say, “Hey, I noticed you today and you matter enough to me to say so. I want the best for you. I am thinking about you.”

101 Reasons to embrace double grace

101birthdayreasonsI looked this morning and saw that 101 Facebook friends had posted to my wall and thought, “Now there’s 101 reasons to look on the bright side of this whole aging process.”

Sure, I am not as far around the retirement curve as I ought to be at this stage, but thank God I am no further behind than I am.

Yes, I have made my first million and change by now…and am only about a million bucks short of being a millionaire.

OK, so, the pepper has given ground to the salt in the salt-and-pepper hair I had last birthday.

Fine, I am not where I wanted to be by now in a lot of areas, but I am better off than I ought to be, given some of the missteps along the way.

Besides, I married a gal whose beauty is ageless and have three daughters who are all happily married and locked into productive, quality lives…

And a grandson who still calls me DooDah at age 11, because he is cool enough not to be too cool to do that.

My mother-in-law called to wish me a happy birthday and reminded me that five is the number of grace, so at 55 it’s like double grace.

Yes, I can think of at least 101 reasons to rock on.

It’s the Journey, Man! or, Welcome to Walley World, now go home

One of my favorite Hollywood comedies is National Lampoon’s Vacation. I love it because it is such an accurate caricature of life in the American family and because most of us who have been around a minute can identify with the characters and their misfortunes.

There is this epic journey to Walley World, with mishap after hilarious mishap along the way, and when they finally arrive at the place of their dreams…



So, I wrote this on my Facebook page this morning…

Enjoy the journey, because the destination is often disappointing.

With my youngest set to get married in a day less than a week, I want so badly to help the two of them understand this: Marriage is a journey and the journey is what it is all about. The wedding day is, for young women the world over, the culmination of a dream. It is the fairy tale ending to what seems like an epic journey, because, usually, there were missteps, misfires, misgivings, and maybe even the wrong Mr. Right along the way.

Then, the smoke clears and there he is – the dashing prince on a white charger, ready to sweep her off her feet and dash her off to the Magic Kingdom of Marital Bliss.

Magic Kingdom of Marital Bliss next exit

It is not, however, a kingdom. It is not always bliss. Nor is it the culmination of a journey. It’s the beginning.

The kingdom palace is usually more of a small wood-framed house or economy apartment, at first. Life is often built on modest income, while the couple strives to rise up through the socio-economic ranks. There is often more month than money.

This is marital bliss.

It is colicky babies screaming in the wee hours, diapers that smell like Hell’s city dump, and throw-up on your dress during the Sunday sermon. It’s fights over money or sex or both…and fighting with your diet and your own willpower…and sometimes, your will to just get up, get dressed, and go to %&$#ing work.

But it is also surprise dates, county fairs, funnel cakes, vacations, birthdays, anniversaries, cookouts, and crazy cousins at the family reunion. It’s cheering your team in the Super Bowl or not answering your phone because your nemesis is calling to rub it in that you lost…again. It’s texting a funny Meme of a dubious nature. It’s reading your Bible harder when you feel lost. It’s calling your Dad for advice, not taking it, and wishing later that you had. It’s gut-punch goodbyes and hug-til-you-pass-out reunions. It’s weeping at graves and weeping again in the newborn ward. Tears of sorrow. Tears of joy. Years of sewing. Lean years. Then a breakthrough, and suddenly you can breathe again.

It’s life, man. Raw. Beautiful. Gut-wrenching. Breath-taking… Powerful!

You cannot exchange it for someone else’s, no matter how badly you want to do so at times. But, in the end, if you do it right, you wouldn’t trade it for the entire world.

It’s the journey!

Put on your traveling shoes and grab your cell phone. Snap lots of selfies and capture moments that capture you. Share them on the Facebook or Instagram or text them to your mom!

Bon Voyage! Godspeed.

Lost in Translation | I Have a Dream (that needs an interpreter)

I need a Joseph or a Daniel to help me out here. I need a dream interpreted and I am willing to pay for it. Well, sort of.

Last night I dreamed and this is how it went…

Someone had died. I don’t now know whom it was, but in my dream, I must have known. I know that it was a man around my age and someone asked me to deliver the eulogy/sermon at the funeral.

A buzz of excitement gripped my friends and family, as I have not been behind a pulpit in quite some time. I guess, now that I am awake, that is a bit morbid. But I was dreaming.

450px-Church_in_fog_with_treeA fog, the kind you might find on any given San Francisco morning hanging over the bay. I drove my red Toyota pickup to the church. It sparkled and shined, so I suppose I had cleaned it for the funeral procession.

At some point, I went on an unknown mission to the convenience store. When I returned, the parking lot of the small, postcard-worthy, red brick church with the magnificent cross-topped steeple was filled beyond capacity. I had to park down the street.

Inside, the church was packed. People were shoehorned into every pew and standing along the outer walls and across the back of the sanctuary. I made my way down the narrow center aisle and took my place on the front pew.

I was not the only minister officiating this service. Two retired preachers – I think I know who they are, and one of them is my wife Donya’s deceased uncle – were to precede me to the podium. They were talking about retirement and how they ought to team up to do this sort of thing. I don’t know if I thought that was odd and sad in my dream or thought it after I woke.

A beautiful rendition of “When They Ring Those Golden Bells” ( a song I had inexplicably been singing in the car earlier that night – I mean, literally; not as part of the dream – to Donya’s baffled wonderment) was delivered by my good pal Rob Wren…or my Mom. I can’t say which for sure at this point. 

Finally, it was time for me to preach.

A reverent hush fell over the capacity crowd. For some reason, I lay prone on the front pew under a blanket. When I sat up, I was naked, but for a pair of boxer briefs. I had not realized this was the case until that very moment. I sat mortified. Donya looked across the aisle at me with a look of pained pity.

I sat frozen to the pew, unable to move a muscle or utter a word. I had no idea what to do.

Donya stood and asked if anyone had extra clothes I could borrow. There must have been some sort of collection for the homeless taken place at the church, because someone found and handed her a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans. I quickly put on the shirt and the jeans. The jeans were huge and would have fallen right off of me. I had to gather the waist in one hand and my Bible in the other.

And that is how I ascended the two or three platform steps and make my way to the pulpit. 

Apparently, the pastor of the church was a diminutive fellow, for there was a wood crate hidden behind the pulpit for standing on. I tried to nudge it aside with my foot, but it must have been nailed to the floor. So, I climbed onto the crate and was now towering above the pulpit, with the top of it coming to about my waist.

I woke to Donya typing out a message on her phone. It was 5:45 am. I tried to go back to sleep to finish my dream, but it was gone. I was thankful to her for getting me clothes and aggravated at her for waking me at a crucial moment.

I am looking for my Daniel or Joseph. I need a dream interpreter to make sense of this and I am prepared to give a free, autographed copy of my 2002 novella The Preacher’s Kid to the best (or funniest, or most interesting, or most inspired) interpretation as voted by the editorial board here at The Journeyman (which consists of Gene and I, which is to say me). Please leave your interpretation in the comment section below and feel free to invite any dream weavers you know to offer theirs, as well. I will leave the contest open for one week and the clock starts…now.