Intentional Stress

My book editor, Bradley Harris - stretchmaster.

Without even knowing it, I’ve created intentional stress in my life … and those who are doing the pushing and pulling tell me it’s a good thing.

That’s easy for them to say.

I’m trying so hard these days to keep focused on what’s important: Study of the Word; using my gifts for a higher purpose; family; health; business; personal time; and investing financially in the future.

It’s time to forget the Harley Davidson, the dream of being a BBQ grillmaster and making a fortune …for now.

For now, it’s time to stay focused on what’s important, the theory being that all of the above may come later.

Earlier this week, I had my first meeting with my career/spiritual coach, Dick Savidge of Ministry Coaching International. His number-one job is to keep me focused on these things. Keep me disciplined. Keep me harnessed. Reign me in from the tasty distractions that satisfy my fleshly appetite. Oh, the mouth-watering hunger…

Then there’s my book editor, Bradley Harris, a Canadian born, expatriate, now living in the Deep South of Memphis, TN, who informs me now that his job is to stretch me, take me beyond what I might imagine and savor all the possibilities.

Then, there are my respected bosses and colleagues at my day job who envision a new product line, and want me on the front line of sales to make it happen. They don’t express it as sink or swim, but if you’re a guy like me, my self-imposed nature sure makes it feel that way.

So I pointed out to Brad yesterday “…you guys are pulling me in half a dozen different directions, when what I’m looking for is FOCUS.”

“So?” he responds.

He says it’s a good thing.

Have you ever bent an iron bar, or even a coat hanger back and forth. When bent back and forth, to and fro, the properties of certain metals have a tendency to heat up as the molecules become more and more active.

And you know what eventually happens as the bending and stretching continues? It breaks.

Lord, don’t let me break. I asked for the tension and the stress and you handed it to me on a silver platter.

You know what You’re doing. I sure hope I do.

-30-

My DISC Dilemma: Am I Really Such a Terrible Person?

The most interesting class I had in graduate school was one in organizational behavior at Arkansas State University.

Never having really considered the workplace dynamics of personalities and how they jive or clash, it was a fascinating exercise to go through the Myers-Briggs testing and the DISC assessment. If our “natural” personalities don’t mesh with our co-workers, family and friends, we can sometimes see how our “adjusted” personalities take over to compensate in certain scenarios.

After entering into a professional coaching relationship recently with Dick Savidge, president of Ministry Coaching International, one of Dick’s pre-requisites prior to our initial coaching session today was the completion of the DISC profile assessment, which I had taken many times before.

This marks the beginning of my relationship with Dr. Savidge, and one that I pray will be productive. Dick has agreed to take me on as a client primarily for the purpose of keeping me focused and accountable to the things I’ve determined as important in my life. His initial assessment of my “self-destructive” nature a week ago should provide for some interesting conversation down the line.

Anyway…

The DISC is standard fare in professional coaching. It offers understanding and insight into our natural and adjusted styles of behavior and communication. Further it enlightens us on our own world view, values and “emotional” intelligence.

It’s amazing how a 20-minute test can provide such amazing insight into a person’s psyche.Typically, anyone who goes through the DISC will confirm some things they already know about themselves, and may be actually taken aback by some other revelations.

Let me share with you some words and phrases intended to describe me in this most recent DISC assessment.

  • Aggressive and direct
  • Bored with status quo
  • Dominant
  • “short fuse”
  • Arrogant
  • “emotionally involved”
  • Defiant
  • Egotistical
  • Opinionated
  • Stubborn
  • Self-willed

Well, that’s enough of that. I’m already starting to psyche myself out.

Not that there weren’t some “good things,” mentioned in the assessment – but of course, my natural tendency is to focus on the problems, fix them, and move on. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

In DISC language, I’m a “high D” in my natural style. This means my preferred style of communication is direct, short and to the point. Let’s analyze, assess and move on. No “how’s your day going” chit chat. Oh, the humanity.

But we also have an “adjusted” style of behavior and communication to which we shift in certain environments. Problem is, my ability to shift is probably less than it should be, and really takes me out of my comfort zone.

Ironically, most people who know me on the surface probably see me as easy-going, light-hearted and generally a decent person. Most don’t see the bad guy inside, and that’s a good thing.

This is probably what concerns me the most… The characteristics of  “high D” are the things mentioned above. Self-willed, egocentric, arrogant, forceful and on and on… Furthermore, the bar graph assessment shows me at 100% D. It doesn’t get any higher than that.

So with those natural, instinctive, characteristics in mind, and if that’s, indeed, the way I really am, and I’m seeking to be in God‘s will in everything I do, rather than in my own will, what does this mean?

Am I hearing God’s voice when I make a decision?

Or am I just self-absorbed in what I hope He wants me to do?

Am I just pretending to be a follower of Christ?

Or am I just a “fan” of Christ on the surface?

And if these things are true, what am I going to do about it?

Hope you’re ready for this, Dick. You may have your hands full.

-30-

Paying Someone to Yell at Me…

The Monette Buffalos 1981 championship team. I still love these guys. At center is Coach Jim Ellis, who will travel with me this summer on a mission trip to Cordoba, Argentina. That's me, #34 in the short shorts.

I love sports.

And for me, there is no greater time in sports than March. The NCAA basketball championship, known more commonly as “March Madness,” has provided me with some of my greatest memories. Coach Jim Valvano of the NC State Wolfpack, God rest his soul: Phi Slamma Jamma; Darrell Griffith of Louisville, who at less than 6 feet had a 41/2 foot vertical jump; the legacies of schools like Duke, Kentucky, Indiana and others. Thrilling stuff.

I was a fair high school athlete, not because of any particular God-given talent, but because at my small school, if you wanted to be “somebody” you pretty much had to excel at sports. I worked hard, had great guidance and “encouragement” from some great coaches and had a fair jumper from 25 feet on the left wing. For a kid, I was a decent power forward.

Thirty years later, I still relive almost daily the memories of 1981 as part of a championship team that may have been among the best junior high teams ever to play in Arkansas. There was beauty in the way my teammates and I played together, and when we were “on,” it was magic.

At the same time, we were a rowdy bunch, and I’m fully convinced had we not had a truly brilliant coach at the helm, we would have never experienced the success that we did.

Coach Jim Ellis harnessed our rowdiness, and our talent, and made us greater tha we really were. It wasn’t always a fairy tale with Coach Ellis. Aside from my dad, that man yelled at me more than anyone on the planet. He once compared my defensive ability to that of his dog.

I miss those days. I miss having a coach in my life. I miss having someone who will call me out and put me in my place. I miss having someone who will take an interest in me to make me better than I really am.

I’d pay good money to have that again, and so I think I will.

Before I became a regular blogger about a month ago, I subscribed to several blogs from authors whose topics interested me. One of those was Michael Hyatt, chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, arguably the leading publishing house in the world for Christian authors. In a recent post he featured the services of a Christian Coaching firm called Ministry Coaching International, www.ministrycoaching.org and it peaked my interest.

I’m not a “minister.” While I’m involved in some personal humanitarian interests, I have a day job that requires focus. I work with 30 men who are all some of the finest entrepreneurial thinkers in the country and it’s a daily task just to keep up with them. But my personal ministries provide added fulfillment, and they are important to me, and for several months now I’ve followed God’s calling to serve Him better through writing. There’s a manuscript now that awaits publishing but the work is not yet done. It needs focus.

About a month ago, I realized I was losing focus. My personality is easily distracted. I love to learn and when I find something that really interests me, I want to get involved. Lately, dozens of those interests have popped up, and while they are all good things, they have become a distraction to the task at hand. Oh, how that Harley Davidson awaits…

Realizing this, I sat down one morning and created a list of 7 priorities on which to stay focused. I printed that list and taped it to several key locations in my home where I could see it frequently.  The list included: studying the Word; using my gifts; serving my family; focusing on my health; building streams of additional revenue; taking personal time; and developing a diversified investment portfolio.

For three weeks the exercise worked.

The “list” helped me focus. Then the demons of distraction made their way back into my life. Other things about which I read, seemed interesting. I checked them out. I pursued some of them; played around with some of them, and before I knew it, the seven priorities were becoming an afterthought.

At this point in my life, I can’t afford the distractions. I need someone to yell at me.

As it all played out, Hyatt’s blog and the topic of Christian coaching came to top of mind. So I picked up the phone and called the Ministry Coaching International team.

The conversations culminated yesterday with a 45-minute phone call with the president of the organization. We discussed my goals and my “issues.”

Things started clicking and I liked what I heard.  Among his qualifications are that he’s a: professional fundraiser, ordained Presbyterian minister, specialist in organizational resource development; and last, but not least, a clinical psychologist. I like that.

As we discussed my problematic issues with “focus,” he was able to get to the heart of the issue about 40 minutes into the conversation. It may be very well likely that I have a self-destructive personality, a self-sabotaging bent.

I took a deep breath and sat back in my seat on that one. I think he may be right.

For a man, there is nothing like “clicking” with another man. One with whom you can be transparent and who will not find fault in who you are. I miss having a coach and I’m doing something about it.

Ten minutes after our conversation I sent an email with a subject line: “Let’s do this.”

I’m ready. Time to get back in the game.

Let’s do this. Let the Madness and the yelling begin.