4 Things I Learned in 2012

As I  reflected on 2012 over the past week, I honed in on some key learnings.

  1. Sensemaking is required for visioning. The more accurate my understanding of who I am, where I am, and what surrounds me, the more poised I will be to envision ideal futures, set goals, and respond to the changes life constantly throws my way.
  2. I often underestimate what it takes to accomplish something. When allocating time to a project or task, I need to be realistic about three things: 1. Problems or opportunities are almost always more systemic and therefore more sophisticated than they first appear, 2. Distractions are the death of solutions, and 3. I need designated time deep within a problem to the point where my subconscious starts working on it on non-designated times—in the shower, on my commute, while sleeping. Epiphanies almost always come during these down times.
  3. God wants me to live into who he created me to be and vigilantly renounce titles, accolades, money, possessions, and anything else that should only be tools for the restoration of his kingdom.
  4. Leadership is often lonely and hard. It’s always easier critiquing or second guessing from the follower position. When I follow, I will offer more grace.

What do you think? What have you learned in 2012?

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We have met the enemy…

Pogo and his buddy Porkypine observed in this famous Walt Kelly comic strip, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” I believe this is more true today in the United States than in 1971 because we’re more comfortable, materialistic, and dependent than any society has ever been.

Prime example: The economy, and more specifically our own personal economic status, is our primary criteria for voting, and our primary measure of economic health is growth. What does growth require? Consumption.

Though the purpose of this comic was to promote environmental responsibility, we can generalize it to personal responsibility as a whole. When we observe evil in the world (anything less than the perfection God created for us), what’s your reaction?
“There’s our tax dollars at work.”
“Why isn’t the government doing a better job?”
“The Church should be helping here.”

Or is it: “Right now, what can I do?”
And do you act?

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The fruit of adversity.

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When I returned home from vacation a couple weeks ago, the single tomato plant that had survived this summer’s record heat was flourishing and had dominated my 4’x6′ planter box. This week, it began bearing what promises to be a record quantity of fruit–the first of which is the best tasting I’ve ever grown.
I come away with a conclusion and a question.
Like plants, people who survive adversity can bear the fruit of many who have been untested.
Should I prune back the vines to maintain or improve the quality of the fruit, or is it too soon for more distress?

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Why do we exist?

In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni delivers a template for what he calls an organizational playbook–a document that answers six critical questions to provide organizational clarity:
Why do we exist?
How do we behave?
What do we do?
How will we succeed?
What’s most important, right now?
Who will do what?

Are you able to answer these six questions for the United States of America? Have our leaders provided this clarity?

Looking for answers, I started with the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. The Declaration references examples of “certain unalienable Rights” of all people–“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Constitution communicates the foundational intent of the U.S. by stating: “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

With these in mind (or using other sources), how would you answer the first of Lencioni’s six questions for the organization called the United States of America?

Here are my attempts:

    Attempt 1

Why do we exist? We exist to lead citizens of the world toward life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, starting with citizens of the United States of America.
Observations:
-more Declaration than Constitution
-noticeably more aligned with recent foreign policy than the more domestically minded language of the Constitution.
-Does “we” reference the government officials or the nation?

    Attempt 2

Why do we exist? The United States of America exists to provide life and liberty for all citizens.
Observations:
-liberty and justice are citizen-focused outcomes
-domestic tranquility, common defence, and general welfare are more collective outcomes

    Attempt 3

Why do we exist? We, the people of these United States, exist to provide for the life, liberty, justice, and pursuit of happiness for our fellow citizens.
-assumes individual responsibility of citizens to pursue shared aspirations without abdicating to the government
-identifies common citizen-focused outcomes from the founding documents
-continues to be domestically focused in alignment with the founding documents

What answer do you propose?

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What’s the thinking outside the box way of saying thinking outside the box?

When was the last time you asked the most dangerous and rewarding question of all: What if my core assumptions are wrong? Based on the ironic prevalence of the phrase, “Think outside the box,” I’d bet your answer is rarely or never.

Have you done the leadership activity of sensemaking to know what your core assumptions are? These are the assumptions or hypotheses upon which your business model or leadership style is built. You assume customers are buying because you’ve priced your product effectively. You assume you’re an effective leader because you turn a profit year over year. But what if you’re just an accidental genius?

Consider changing your perspective every few weeks to see if you’re operating in the right system. Instead of thinking outside the box, maybe your box is just too small. Or maybe it should be a rhombus…a large one.

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