I Am Not Out Of My Mind – I Am Out Of Yours!

I finally had it.,’ Diego said, ‘I slammed my fist on his desk and said with enough force to slice through a mountain, ‘I’m not out of my mind. I am out of YOURS.’  I guess 111 failed proposal attempts can wear on a person’s psyche. Diego spends an abnormal amount of time coming up with solutions to give his company a lasting competitive advantage. But once again…no dice. ‘So,’ Ava said after letting his statement hang in the air for a few moments, ‘Do you still have a job?’ Diego looked off, shrugged his shoulders in exasperation, and replied, ‘I can’t see why not?’  She smirked. ‘Of course you can’t!’

I’m sure I won’t be able to get that parable out of my mind for a long time. It is so true. In most cases, innovative people are not out of their minds. They are out of yours. I learned from a consultant friend of mine recently that the number one question innovative people ask is: Why Not?  I wouldn’t hurry pass that observation! Its not that innovatives have an evil propensity to ask unsettling questions. Its that they live and breathe everyday with a conviction that what the world says is impossible, is indeed, possible. In my opinion, this is what sets them apart.

Timothy Ferriss dared to think to himself ‘Can people beat the 9-5 prison of work and live a ‘dreamlined’ life? Is more money and meaning possible in shorter stretched days? His answer was, ‘Why Not!’ You can join the thousands of other shocked readers by taking a glance at his best selling book, The 4 Hour Workweek. How about Mark Benioff, the CEO and Founder of Salesforce.com? He thought ‘Can we usher in the end of software by building cloud-based solutions? The end of software! He too answered the call by saying, ‘Why Not’  His innovative, billion dollar journey can be found in his book, Behind the Cloud.

What is an area of life where you need to stop asking ‘why should I’ and start thinking ‘Why Not?’


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I couldn’t contain myself this morning when I overheard this parent-child interaction. The mother bends over to pick up her daughter when suddenly she stops everything. She stands back up with a baffled expression all across her face, pauses, then leans back over and says, ‘Um…honey, where are your undies?’ The little girl slowly lifts her eyes to meet her mother’s and mischievously smiles. What a little prankster! If that wasn’t cute enough, the mom goes on to say, Listen to me! There are two things that are new every morning: God’s mercies and your undies! Do you hear me?’ #laughingstill

Well spoken, mom (whoever you are)!




Behind the Story

It may come as no surprise, but life is full of secrets. I guess you could say all of life is a treasure hunt where secrets can be found buried in the lives of people worldwide. I found this out a few years ago when I began to make a list of the heroes whose lives deeply resonate with me. Those epic stories that somehow call to me to further my own. Personally, I have always been amazed at how the heart is moved and spend a considerable amount of time processing why certain people or certain things fire me up consistently and why others don’t. Jesus said once that the kingdom of heaven is within you. I read that to mean that we find our calling not ‘out there’ like some confused young professional taking a trek through India trying to ‘find’ themselves, but by searching out the movements of the heart God has given us. I find it immensely fascinating to discover in a room of 10 people that each heart is moved in vastly different ways and is motivated by the lives of vastly different people. So there I am, writing down their names on a piece of paper describing what it is about their life, their way of thinking, or their impact on others that has gripped me. Peeling back the layers on what has made these people so special, I began to see that each of them had a secret. This secret might be a perspective, a conviction, a lesson, or a habit that they practiced everyday. These great ones always have a story behind the story.

These secrets many times were indeed rarely mentioned because the hero didn’t see it as ‘spectacular’ nor would they guess everyone would be eager to know. In fact, many times these secrets came camouflaged as discipline. That’s right! These consistent practices served as the story behind the inspiring story that moves us. Take for example, Winston Churchill, one of my all time heroes. Most people don’t know that behind this towering intellectual giant who helped steer the West to victory over that evil tyrant, Hitler, was an extremely sensitive man. From sensitive skin and great sensitivity to altered routines all the way to sensitivity emotionally. Winston Churchill’s secret was his daily routine. He did it without fail everyday. It kept him sharp, disciplined, and emotionally stable. He would get up at 7am, have breakfast in bed while reading newspapers until around 11:00am. Then he would take a bath, get dressed, have lunch, and then head to the office. The fact that Winston could accomplish in 4 hours at work what most people can’t do in 40 hours is astonishing. But everyday around 5 or 6 pm, he would come home, take a nap, eat dinner, and then work until 11pm or 12am. This funny routine was his secret to greatness…not his world famous ‘apparent’ love for cigars.

Winston Churchill isn’t the only one. Peel back the layers of Benjamin Franklin’s life or Henrietta Mears’, Steve Jobs, Miley Cyrus (ok, so she isn’t doing so ‘great’ right now), Tim Tebow, or Ed Gulley (that’s my dad!) and you will find secrets or better said, ‘stories’ that drive them behind the scenes.

After pastoring and leading a church with many extraordinary leaders for the past 10 years, I began to think, what is my secret? Do I have one? What has allowed me to be confident that I am passing the tests of life, that even when I am weak and making mistakes,I can confidently move forward? And I found it.

It comes from one of my firmest convictions that Mark 12:29-31and John 13:34 are truly the greatest commandments. It is what all of life is measured by and what pleases God the most: loving God with all that I am and loving others like Jesus loves. I found that everyday I ask myself multiple times, did I respond to God with love and did I respond to this person with love? If I didn’t, then I quickly make it right. Our humility repositions us and God’s grace eternally edits out the junk of the day. After a while, you can easily look back on your life and though mistakes and failures are unavoidable, you can know that you know that you are right in step with JESUS.

I love studying secrets. Please feel free to think about this and send me yours? Feel free to comment below.

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21rst Century Parables

For many years, I have compared communities to fishing nets. If a net catches fish then communities catch people. Pretty simple. And since I believe that relationships are the most important gifts God gives us to grow and steward while on this planet, there can be no work more meaningful than the work of investing in people, building families, communities, and teams. Over the past nine years, I had invested my best energy and resources in planting and pastoring a vibrant church community in Wheaton. A community that had become our home and tribe, the resting place of many fabulous miracles and testimonies, and a launching pad for multiple apostolic endeavors.  Oddly enough, about 3 months ago a new chapter in my story began when my family and I made another costly move to drop our nets and move in a new direction, to a new life  and a new work.

Like many good stories, mine began on a beautiful morning. It was early and I was sitting alone thinking and praying when suddenly I felt with a sense of great resolve that Jesus had come to me.  It was like a Holy Spirit-led imagination experience. Jesus looked astonishing and confident. In my imagination, I could see him smiling at me like he had something up his sleeve. A few seconds later, he began motioning to me to follow after him.  It is hard to convey the sense of adventure that came with this experience but it was like Jesus was ready to shock the world – to shock me…again. You see, in 1998, I came into a wonderful relationship with Jesus where I initially dropped my nets, my life plan, and followed him. In 2004, my family and a team of 5 others,  dropped them again and pursued Jesus’ assignment 1000 miles north in a city called Wheaton. This idea was shocking since Wheaton was perceived to be a very churched place. Why send soldiers to a well-protected fort? There is only one answer. Because Jesus was up to something…again. It is why I am obsessed with his leadership. He shocks me to no end. But back to my story.The year is 2013 and along with Jesus’ smile on that beautiful morning, came this knowing. I simply felt with every fiber of my being that Jesus was calling me once again to “drop my nets and follow him.”

Many of us know that Jesus called to a few marketplace leaders a few thousand years ago to leave their fishing nets and join him on a public ministry tour. Their lives would be completely reinvented. They’d no longer be focusing on making money, something they were skilled at accomplishing, but on ministering to others. I have heard stories of men and women in the 21rst Century being called in the same fashion. In my case, I felt Jesus was calling me to do the opposite. I had been on the public ministry tour for some time. My wife, Amy, had been on that tour for 16 years. What felt opposite was that I would drop my ministry nets and follow him into the marketplace. Serving others for free would be replaced by serving others for money. It was time to hang up my preaching cleats and pick up something new.  I can’t begin to describe how disconcerting and freeing that has felt. Of course, no true follower of Jesus ever stops ministering to people, but in my case, the vocational ministry nets would be left behind.

I feel like I am living in a 2013-version of Jesus’ stories. Daily I get to tell people that I left a vibrant and meaningful work in pursuit of a man that most people see as moral at best and crazy at worst. It makes me feel right at home with Peter, James, and John. We have put ourselves in towns not knowing if it is where we will live or if it is simply the next place Jesus wants to visit. Just like his disciples, Amy and I have felt Jesus intends to offer little explanation but expects us to jump in with the same enthusiasm he has. As I read the Gospels everyday, I look up and think, I have no security in where I live, what I do, or who I know. All I know is that the most peaceful place in all of the universe is being where Jesus is. This is the adventure of faith we were made for. I guess we are living in a 21rst century Jesus story. I pray you see Jesus smiling at you today. Because, indeed, he has something up his sleeve.


The Most Important Language

Language is a big deal as I think you would agree. And no other language is as meaningful than the language that reveals the heart. Even though English is the most widely spoken language around the world, it only takes a few trips overseas to discover there’s a difference between someone sharing with you in their heart language versus sharing information in yours.

I’d like to suggest that regardless of your native tongue, stories are truly the language of the heart. You can’t say you know someone really until you’re familiar with their story and the stories of those they love. Bill George wrote in his book True North that when he interviewed Oprah Winfrey and many other successful men and women about why they do what they do, he was amazed that none of them wished to share their achievements – they wanted to share their story. George went on to say that to discover your passion and true legacy – you have to mine your own story. Though communication has evolved dramatically since the dawn of time, story-telling still remains the language closest to our heart because in a story you get in touch with our experiences. You get to feel what we felt.

John Eldridge, one of my favorite authors, wrote a fantastic book called Epic: The Story God Is Telling. He shares how the reason we love movies and can identify with fairy tales is because each of these stories reflect in some measure the Gospel story – the story God is telling throughout history.

In his book, Eldridge shares that most stories follow the same story line. A good story goes like this according to Eldridge, “Things were once good, then something awful happened, and now a great battle must be fought or a journey taken. At just the right moment (which feels like the last possible moment) a hero comes and sets things right, and life is found again.” Think about Lord of the Rings, Gadiator, Little Women, or The Chronicles of Narnia.

He, then paints the picture of how that story line is the same story line we see playing out in God’s story. Eldridge says “Christianity tells us there is an Author and that he is good, the essence of all that is good and beautiful and true, for he is the source of all these things. It tells us that he has set our hearts’ longings within us, for he has made us to live in an Epic. It warns that the truth is always in danger of being twisted and corrupted and stolen from us because there is a Villain in the Story who hates our hearts and wants to destroy us. It calls us up into a Story that is truer and deeper than any other, and assures us there we will find the meaning of our lives.”

Have you ever put concentrated time into hearing someone’s story? Robert McKee, a famous Hollywood screenwriting teacher, says that we go to the movies because we hope to find in someone else’s story something that will help us understand our own. Take time to think back on your life about the stories that you’ve lived or heard that have either inspired you or have left a mark on you. Then, think about each of those stories and determine have they excited you and made you want to live a certain way or have they burdened you and made you want to fight for something. In your own stories, you will discover your passion and the legacy your heart will long to leave behind.

Remember the language of the heart is the most powerful language. If you ever feel disconnected from your own heart or someone you love, share a story with them and the heart will show up again.

Is Book Smarts Enough?

Last year I was sitting down with a smiling Wheaton College student who had successfully graduated from one of the hardest schools in the nation. They were relieved to put behind them all those weekends of studying every night, reading thousands of books, and having very little time to foster close relationships. Paying $30,000 per year is a pretty high motivator for getting through college quickly and reason enough to sacrifice many social pleasantries on the altar of making excellent grades.

Within moments of talking about future possibilities (something I deeply enjoy) my friend’s winning smile quickly vanished as they began to share with me their dilemma. First of all, they had a degree in Anthropology, a noteworthy major that has no practical benefit unless you go on to grad school and then to get your doctorate. Secondly, on top of having to pay off a hefty college loan, they didn’t have many people they could network with to land a decent job. Again, the push for high grades without a plan for building strong and strategic connections had taken it’s toll.  I have seen this scenario over and over again. It seems that book smarts is expensive, worthwhile, but to be frank, not enough.

One of the clearest indicators of emotional health is how we care for and grow our relationships.  I think we all know that studying a textbook can get you a bachelor’s degree, but it doesn’t  necessarily produce social skills. Your IQ can get you a great score on a test but not ensure success in your marriage. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 was written by Bradbury & Greaves to help people determine their emotional health while proving that emotional intelligence is the greatest predictor of job security and the most important set of skills necessary to build healthy  families and successful organizations.

Being in the people business for almost 10 years, I have come to recognize that just because someone says “I think I would be good for this job because I am relational” doesn’t mean they are skilled at handling people. The reason I have employed Emotional Intelligence 2.0 with my staff as a part our coaching track is because relationship-building, networking, interpersonal skills, managing people, coaching people, and team-building all require a high degree of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and social management. These are skills that you focus on when growing your EQ and can be learned like public speaking, goal-setting, or learning a musical instrument. The sad thing is that too many people, young and old, rely on the ole’ school mindset that IQ is everything. Hopefully, this will begin to change with the on-going explosion of social innovation, social business, and social media.

I want to offer three ways to utilize Emotional Intelligence 2.0, if you would like to take the plunge towards a greater EQ:

1.  Take the test online after purchasing the book code. Once you have taken the test and gone over your results, you can take the strategies they suggest for you and put a growth plan together with weekly goals for taking a self-inventory and social inventory.

2. Do the EQ test with your spouse, your room-mates, your family and your in-laws. There has been more emphasis in using Strength Finders and Emotional Intelligence  tests for family and for friendship circles not just organizations and businesses. Much of the conflict that nags at you in your family circles and friendship circles could be eliminated with a shared understanding of where each person is strong and where each person is working to become more healthy.

3. Take the EQ exercises and turn them into family exercises. As a parent, I have become more convinced that our children need to learn how to be active listeners, great question askers, skilled at taking the pulse of the emotional atmosphere in the places they go, and how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes when they are listening. These are basic skills that can be caught at some level, but our children will not mature in their ability to build solid relationships without being taught and coached.

Gaining a strong learning ethic and study skills is definitely important, but in this day and age, your emotional intelligence will take you where book smarts ain’t enough.

The Secret Weapon

The Secret Weapon

One of the most creative and dynamic forces behind my life and my influence is my partner in crime, Amy Gulley.