How to Simplify Your Life

I just finished reading Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels, and it is a really helpful book.

What’s it about?

When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do.

Key Takeaway

The chapter on friendships was incredibly helpful to me personally. As our world becomes more transient, it seems like people are moving in and out of my family on a regular basis. Whether they finish school, get a job in a new city, move back to where their family lives or get deployed, people move and relationships change. This is hard and painful. I really appreciated the way he talked about seasonal friends (those who will be in our lives for a season) and lifelong friends. We want lifelong friends but will have more seasonal friends, and that’s okay, but we need to know how to walk through it.

Some things that stood out

  • Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created. It’s a lifestyle that allows us, when our heads hit the pillow at night, to reflect with gratitude that our day was well invested and the varied responsibilities of our lives are in order.
  • What sorts of things fill your bucket? What refuels you? What activities or engagements restore your energy levels? What do you need to do to start pouring new streams of replenishment into your badly depleted life? What relationships inspire you? What do you read that elevates your perspective? What in your life is actually a bucket-filler for you?
  • Read any study on the topic of what adds energy and vitality to your life, and you’ll find that most experts agree: Exercise and proper rest patterns give about a 20 percent energy increase in an average day, average week, average month.
  • You are the boss of your schedule. It’s your responsibility to keep command of your calendar—and you must in order to simplify your life.
  • Your calendar is more than merely an organizer for what needs to get done; it’s the primary tool for helping you become who you want to become.
  • My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.

My Favorite Books of 2015

books

Each year, I post a list of my favorite books, the ones I would call the best books of the year. To see my list of favorite books from past years, simply click on the numbers: 20092010201120122013 and 2014. To me, I love this list because it shows what has influenced me in the past year, where I’m growing and what God is teaching me. If you are a leader, you should be a reader, there is no way around that.

To make this list, it does not have to be published in 2015, I only needed to read it in 2015. As always, this list was hard to narrow down, but here are the top 15 books of 2015:

15. Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Ryan Hartwig & Warren Bird

Summary: Teams that Thrive looks at how a leadership team can move to the next level and really make an impact. This was an incredibly insightful book for the leadership team at the church I lead.

Best Quote: “The five Cs of thriving teams: Clear. Does the team’s purpose paint a clear picture of value? Compelling. Do team members view the purpose as consequential? Does it address something that truly matters, drawing people into it? Challenging. To accomplish the purpose, is each member of the team required to contribute in a meaningful and interdependent way? Calling-oriented. Does accomplishing the purpose help members accomplish God’s calling on their lives and pursue their goals? Consistently held. Do the members of a group truly know the group’s purpose and pursue it with fervor?”

14. Taking People with You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen by David Novak

Summary: Yum! Brands CEO David Novak shows that in order to lead a great organization of any size you need to get your people aligned, enthusiastic, and focused relentlessly on the mission.

Best Quote: “You have to begin by asking yourself three big questions that will drive your approach to leadership and allow you to take people with you. They are: 1.) What’s the single biggest thing you can imagine that will grow your business or change your life? 2.) Who do you need to affect, influence, or take with you to be successful? 3.) What perceptions, habits, or beliefs of this target audience do you need to build, change, or reinforce to reach your goal?”

13. Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Summary: Leadership BS takes a look at the leadership industry, showing why it’s failing and how it might be remade. Pfeffer looks at the usual prescriptions for leaders to be honest, authentic, and modest, tell the truth, build trust, and take care of others and asks if these prescriptions are truths or myths about leadership.

Best Quote: “Being authentic is pretty much the opposite of what leaders must do. Leaders do not need to be true to themselves. Rather, leaders need to be true to what the situation and what those around them want and need from them. And often what others want and need is the reassurance that things will work out and the confidence that they are on the right track.”

12. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

Summary: An inside look at Google, how it works, what they’ve learned and how they continue to grow and get better.

Best Quote: “Start by asking what could be true in five years. Larry Page often says that the job of a CEO is not only to think about the core business, but also the future; most companies fail because they get too comfortable doing what they have always done, making only incremental changes. And that is especially fatal today, when technology-driven change is rampant. So the question to ask isn’t what will be true, but what could be true.”

11. Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear

Summary: Greear looks at how we are not only called to send people out to plant churches, but also to train them as leaders to be involved in our cities, governments, businesses and the arts. The best churches are those that send.

Best Quote: “I want to suggest four reasons why the future of Christianity belongs to churches that send, and why those of us who want to see the world reached will be more committed to raising up and sending out than we are to gathering and counting. Those four reasons are: 1. Increasingly, in a “post-Christian” society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how “attractive” we make them. 2. Multiplication beats out addition, every time. 3. The presence of God accompanies those who send. 4. Jesus’ promises of “greatness” in the church are always related to sending.”

10. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller

Summary: All that Tim Keller thinks on preaching. Enough said.

Best Quote: “What, then, is good preaching? Let me pull all these ideas together into a single description. It is “proclaim[ing]. . . . the testimony of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1)—preaching biblically, engaging with the authoritative text. This means preaching the Word and not your opinion. When we preach the Scriptures we are speaking “the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11). You need to make clear the meaning of the text in its context—both in its historical time and within the whole of Scripture. This task of serving the Word is exposition, which is to draw out the message of the passage with faithfulness and insight and with a view to the rest of biblical teaching, so as not to “expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” It is also proclaiming to “both Jews and Greeks” (1 Corinthians 1:24)—preaching compellingly, engaging the culture, and touching hearts. This means not merely informing the mind but also capturing the hearer’s interest and imagination and persuading her toward repentance and action. A good sermon is not like a club that beats upon the will but like a sword that cuts to the heart (Acts 2:37). At its best it pierces to our very foundations, analyzing and revealing us to ourselves (Hebrews 4:12). It must build on Bible exposition, for people have not understood a text unless they see how it bears on their lives. Helping people see this is the task of application, and it is much more complicated than is usually recognized.”

9. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Summary: How to be more organized, productive and get the right things done to lower your stress level.

Best Quote: “In training and coaching many thousands of people, I have found that lack of time is not the major issue for them (though they may think it is); the real problem is a lack of clarity and definition about what a project really is, and what associated next-action steps are required. Clarifying things on the front end, when they first appear on the radar, rather than on the back end, after trouble has developed, allows people to reap the benefits of managing action…Many people try to get organized but make the mistake of doing it with incomplete batches of stuff. You can’t organize what’s incoming—you can only capture it and process it. Instead, you organize the actions you’ll need to take based on the decisions you’ve made about what needs to be done.”

8. H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. by Brad Lomenick

Summary: Lomenick categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?).

Best Quote: “Who you are is not what you do. What you do is not who you are. Identity is unchanging. Being comes before doing. Who you are determines what you do.”

7. The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the Ride by Darren Hardy

Summary: This book looks at the roller coaster entrepreneurs go through. The applications of this book to church planters is obvious and incredibly helpful.

Best Quote: “The only constraint of a company’s growth and potential is the owner’s ambition. I am the constraint. The market, the opportunity, everything is there. It’s up to me to set the pace, clear the obstacles, get the resources, and create the conversations to grow the company faster. As CEO, the most important thing I manage is myself. Do that right, and everything else falls into place.”

6. Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

Summary: Written in the style of a fable, this book looks at how a company/church grows the leadership and systems need to change as it grows, but often the last people to realize it are the leaders.

Best Quote: “Most small businesses can be successful with a checkers mindset. That’s actually the game you play when an organization is in start-up mode. The leader does virtually everything in the beginning. That’s checkers. Then, if you grow, you begin to add staff. Many leaders see these additional people as interchangeable pieces, nothing more than hired hands, no need for specialists. Each piece is capable of the same limited moves. That’s checkers. In the beginning the game is simple. That’s checkers. You react, you make decisions, the pace is frenetic—you’re playing checkers. And, it works … for a while. You can win in business by playing checkers until someone sneaks in one night after you’ve closed for the day and flips the board. The game changes, and you don’t even know it.”

5. Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller

Summary: Miller looks at what keeps us from getting close to people, trusting them and moving past our fears of relationships and intimacy.

Best Quote: “Here’s something I heard recently: Men move toward whatever makes them feel competent.” As soon as I heard that I knew it was true. Every man I know migrates toward something that makes him feel powerful and in control. If it’s work, he puts in more hours, if it’s sports he’s constantly at the gym. I only bring this up because few men I know feel competent in intimate relationships, which might be one of the reasons they don’t sit around talking about how well they do or don’t get along with the people they love.”

4. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying by Drew Dyck

Summary: Many people have lost a reverence and an awe for God and his power. This book helps you to recapture who God is, how powerful He is, how in control He is and how that brings freedom to your life.

Best Quote: “Many of us say we want to experience God, but we don’t look for his majesty. We travel life’s paths with our heads down, focused on the next step with our careers or families or retirement plans. But we don’t really expect God to show up with divine wonder…Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God. We become experts at taking something lofty, so unfathomable and incomprehensible, and dragging it down to the lowest shelf. We fail to account for the fact that God is neither completely knowable nor remotely manageable. Here’s the beautiful irony: making God strange actually enables us to know him more. Once we have marveled at his magnitude and mystery, we are able to achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is. Instead of treating him as an equal, we approach him with reverent awe. Only when we’ve been awestruck by his majesty can we be overwhelmed by his love.”

3. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Tim Keller

Summary: Like Preaching, this is all that Keller knows, believes and how he leads his church. So much wisdom packed into this book. He helps leaders lead their churches through creating a theological vision.

Best Quote: “What is a theological vision? It is a faithful restatement of the gospel with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history. A theological vision is a vision for what you are going to do with your doctrine in a particular time and place.”

2. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand

Summary: This book looks at the reality that the only way for you to reach your potential as a leader, for your church or company to reach its potential, you must raise your threshold for pain.

Best Quote: “My advice for a pastor who faces any kind of crisis is to give yourself one day to moan, whine, and feel sorry for yourself. Just one day . . . then get up, ask God for direction, and take your people where He leads you. Leaders can’t afford to collapse for more than a day. They then have to seek solutions. We don’t have the luxury to be paralyzed by anxiety and discouragement. We have an obligation to trust God for a workable solution and a plan of action. Begin with the positive assumption that God always has a plan. The price is the figurative blood of leadership: having your sanity or integrity questioned, the uncertainty of taking bold risks, the pain of hard conversations and replacing people (many of whom are friends) who no longer fit the larger scope of responsibilities, and the strain of being publicly positive while dealing with the myriad of private pains of change.”

1. The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zach Eswine

Summary: A look at how God does his best work through broken and flawed humans, not perfect ones.

Best Quote: “To the important pastor doing large and famous things speedily, the brokenness of people actually feels like an intrusion keeping us from getting our important work for God done. Our desire for greatness in ministry isn’t the problem. Our problem rises from how the haste of doing large things, famously and as fast as we can, is reshaping our definition of what a great thing is. Desire greatness, dear pastor! But bend your definition of greatness to the one Jesus gives us. At minimum we must begin to take a stand on this one important fact: obscurity and greatness are not opposites. It is possible for ministry leaders to desire greatness in ways no different from anyone, anywhere in our culture. Attaching Jesus’s name to these desires doesn’t change the fact that they look just like the cravings of the world.”

What Others are Saying about Breathing Room

Breathing-Room

My book Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More came out yesterday, and the response so far has been overwhelming and encouraging.

My hope is that this book helps people to stop settling for a life that is tired, busy, in debt, holding on to past hurt and in many cases settling in life, and instead they would live the life that God calls them to. The life that God has for them. One that is not tired but full of life. One that is not busy but purposeful and intentional. One that is not in debt but controlling their money. And instead of allowing their past to control them, they are able to see their past redeemed to move forward into a new future.

I wanted to share what some other leaders and authors had to say about the book:

“You can’t underestimate how critical mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health – or as Josh calls it, Breathing Room – is in the success of a leader. Josh gives an honest account of what led him to dramatically change his life, busts the life-balance myth, and provides practical steps to help others turn that same corner.  I’ve been there too, and finding “breathing room” can change everything.” –Carey Nieuwhof, Lead Pastor, Connexus Church

“While there may be no such thing as a stress-free life, the stress-dominated life has almost become the norm in our modern-day culture. In his new book Breathing Room, Josh Reich exposes the most common sources of crippling stress and lays out a game plan for conquering the beast that so easily robs our joy and sabotages our walk with Jesus.” –Larry Osborne, author and pastor, North Coast Church

“Josh Reich’s book Breathing Room is truly a breathe of fresh air.  You will appreciate Josh’s authenticity and vulnerability as he shares his personal journey to try to find breathing room in his own life.  This is the kind of book that is hard to pick up because you know you are going to be challenged to make life-altering changes, but it will be hard to put down because you know those changes are going to lead you to discovering the abundant life that Jesus desires for all of us.” Brian Bloye, senior pastor, West Ridge Church, co-author, It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting

“In Breathing Room, Josh Reich opens up with us about his journey of recovery from addiction and compulsions that kept him from living the abundant life that Jesus has in mind for us. All of us can identify with his struggles. Hopefully some of us can also learn from his many practical suggestions and insights.” -Reggie McNeal, author, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual LeadersMissional Leadership Specialist, Leadership Network

“Ministry is hard work. It’s spiritually draining, emotionally taxing, and intellectually exhausting. Josh opens his heart and shares the pain most leaders carry but reveal to no one. It becomes the secret burden we endure until something breaks. Breathing Room will reveal the warning signs that we’re headed towards a crash, but gives us hope that healthy living is possible for those of us in church work.” –Bob Franquiz, Senior Pastor, Calvary Fellowship, Miramar, FL; Founder, Church Ninja

“Josh Reich is a man of influence, integrity, and a leader of leaders. I have walked along side Josh and personally watched him live out what he preaches. I commend to you Breathing Room and encourage you to learn from Josh’s wise words.” -Brian Howard, Acts 29 West Network Director, Executive Director of Context Coaching Inc.

I hope Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More helps you, and I’d love to hear your story of how you change through reading the book and live the life of meaning that God has for you after you do.

9 Lessons from “Teams that Thrive”

Our staff at Revolution Church recently worked through Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership, and it completely changed how we operate as a church. Granted it wasn’t just this one book, but a combination of the timing in our church and this book.

Here are 9 lessons leaders can learn from Teams That Thrive:

1. Andy Stanley said, “If you don’t know why it’s working, when it’s working, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.” While not a learning from the authors, it is still crucial for churches and their teams. Many churches don’t know what is and isn’t working. They have ideas, feelings, thoughts, premonitions, gut feelings. But what is actually working? Do you have data for that? Do you know why something did or did not I aII work?

2. The best teams make decisions as a group. The best teams both make decisions and “own” the implementation. Many teams operate as a place for the lead pastor to share ideas and get “buy in” because no one wants to contradict him and then move forward. Or decisions are made that are passed down by some hidden board, and then no one owns it. A team should be a place of robust discussion that covers every possible scenario, and then everyone owns the final product.

3. For good or bad, leadership teams shape the culture, direct the mission, establish the vision and model the values of your church. Put another way: Great leadership teams lead great churches, and mediocre leadership teams lead mediocre churches. This is just a simple truth. The healthier the church, the greater the teams. There is no shortcut to this and no way around it.

4. When we asked team members what made their team great, the responses almost always pointed to their communication practices. Churches are notoriously bad at communication. Silos exist, people do their own thing. The reason is simple: a lot has to get done, and communicating takes time. It can slow things down, or you might be told not to do something.

5. Many successful lead pastors make poor team leaders. They are gifted to preach, cast vision and think strategically, but they are poorly equipped to lead teams. For our church, I lead the elder team and oversee the whole staff team, but I don’t lead our lead team meetings. Our executive pastor leads most of the meetings that I am in. Why? He’s better at it.

6. Focus on purpose, the invisible leader of your team. This was easily one of the biggest a-ha moments in the book. What is the purpose of the team? Why is this team meeting? If you can’t answer these questions, you are wasting time.

7. Top teams were smaller than underperforming teams. The lead team I’m on right now is the smallest team I’ve ever been on. I think back to the other teams I was on, and they had 7 – 10 people on them. Not everyone got heard, stuff was missed and we wasted a lot of time. Smaller simply is better.

8. Top teams do more decision making and leadership coordinating. While this is the purpose of the team at the top, it determines who should be on it. Most churches draw a circle at the top of the org chart and put the people in that circle on the leadership team. To lead a church, you need to be able to see the whole field, not just your area. You need to be able to make strong decisions, and not everyone is good at that. You need to be able to handle details, and again, not everyone is good at that. This goes along with #5 and who should lead which teams, which meetings, etc. It isn’t always the lead pastor.

9. Your leadership team is the primary determinant of the health, effectiveness and impact of your church. This is a leadership truth that every leader knows but does not want to admit when faced with an unhealthy church or a church that is not meeting its fullest potential.

Our church has gone through quite the transition in the last year because of this book and others. While at times it has been slow, it has been hard and painful for our team (and me as I’ve had to let go of quite a bit), it has made a stronger, healthier team and allowed leaders to lead.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you are a pastor or lead something. This is the best book on teams in a church setting.

Book Notes: Scary Close, Brain Savvy Leaders, The Best Place to Work

I have been blogging less lately as a lot of my writing time has been taken up by book edits. So instead of long book reviews, I wanted to give some quick hits of some great books I’ve read recently. I thought this would be great timing if you are looking for a good book to read on vacation or a long weekend (like this weekend)!

bookScary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy is Donald Miller’s latest book. Like all his books, it is funny, sad, heartwarming, encouraging and convicting all at the same time. I appreciated his journey through intimacy and letting people in. I resonated with a lot of what he had to say in terms of the struggle men have with intimacy. Easily the biggest takeaway was the chapter where he describes the three circles (which I used in a sermon not long ago). The outer circle is the me I want you to see; the middle circle is my shame; the inner circle is the me God created and called me to be.

bookBrain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry by Charles Stone was fascinating. I love reading his blog, and the connection of ministry and the brain is very interesting and often overlooked. There was a lot of science in this book that Stone tried to make accessible, which is difficult, but the takeaways for pastors are numerous. Section three is worth the price of the whole book as Stone shows how your brain keeps you from being productive, what is going on in your brain as you deal with ministry hurts and emotions, how to move change through your church, how that change is affecting the brains of people in your church and the science of brains as it relates to teamwork. I kept reading and seeing things that didn’t make sense before or why someone reacted the way they did or why something affected me the way it did. Walking through this book was like a big light bulb coming on.

bookThe Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman was another great book I read recently. In it Friedman shows how to create the best place to work. What makes this so relevant to churches is that many churches are not a great place to work. The teams can be toxic, and staff can feel overworked and under appreciated. As a Type-A personality, the chapter on why forceful leaders can develop the least productive team was eye opening and convicting.

Summer Reading List

book

Summer is a great time to read books. The longer days, trips to the beach and the pool, time in the car. If you aren’t careful though, you can end up reading the wrong books or miss the opportunity. While I won’t get through all of the books on my list (or even finish all the ones I start), here a few in different categories I’m hoping to read:

History: I love history and recently have been enjoying reading more of it. This summer feels like a time to spend some extra time on history books.

Leadership: It is impossible for me to not read some kind of leadership book, so that will for sure happen this summer. Here are a few:

Soul: Leadership can become all about doing and tasks, spending time with people, meetings and sermon prep. Summer is a great time as a leader to work on your heart and soul, grow who you are.

Novels: I don’t think pastors read enough novels or books for fun. On vacation, these are my go to books.

Future sermons: Summer is a great time to work ahead on sermons and do some background work. This fall, I’m preaching through Acts so I’ll start working through some books on that.

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The Entrepreneur (Church Planter) Roller Coaster

Recently, I’ve been reading some great books written by entrepreneur’s. Mostly because the application to church planters is uncanny. A few of my favorites are The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Chess not Checkers, The Everything Store, Creativity Inc.and How Google WorksIf you are a pastor or a church planter, you are an entrepreneur and the wisdom in these books are incredibly helpful to those tasks.

Even though most pastors don’t believe that.

Enter Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine and his latest book The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the RideDarren share some of his best insights, but also many from his interviews with the world’s top CEO’s and leaders for his magazine. Simply fascinating. The insights were incredible. I felt like I kept highlighting parts of the book!

Here are a few that jumped out (if you are a pastor or planter, simply insert church/church planter when it says business and you’ll see the wisdom):

  • The first and most important factor in building a successful business is that you have to love it.
  • The mistake people make is that they judge one person’s “front of stage” persona with their “back of stage” reality.
  • Work is gonna suck 95% of the time. But that other 5% is freaking awesome!
  • After years of studying the success of the world’s leading achievers across a spectrum of disparate fields, my conclusion time and time again has been that those who are at the top of their game are really just people who have found something to love.
  • When you step outside the status quo, you become a giant mirror for those who stay, reflecting back their cowardice.
  • The higher you climb on the ladder of success, the more people will dislike you. Climb high enough, and people might even hate you.
  • We spend most of our lives pursuing success, but I’m not sure we stop often enough and ask ourselves: What does success mean to me?
  • The person who knows how to get, keep, and cultivate a customer gets paid the most. Period.
  • One of the fastest (and most common) ways to derail your roller coaster car and send it to a fiery death is to hire and keep the wrong people.
  • Your people are your most important recruiting tool.
  • Great leaders know that businesses are nothing but a group of people brought together to accomplish a mission.
  • You cannot shape or create the culture. The culture of an organization is not a whiteboard exercise done with executives sitting around a conference table spit-balling ideas. The culture of an organization evolves around the people who make up the company. The culture is the personality and character expression of the people in it. The only way to shape that culture is to focus on hiring people with the attributes you want your culture to have.
  • Great people want to work with great people. It’s self-perpetuating. It’s the number one thing people are looking for.
  • Great people want to be a part of something great.
  • People don’t go as fast as they can. They don’t work as hard as they can either. They aren’t as disciplined as possible. They aren’t as positive-minded or enthusiastic as they can be. They’re only as fast and disciplined and positive as you are.
  • The leader’s responsibility is to draw out the talent, drive, and capability of the people on your team. Your job as a leader is to grow your people.
  • Activity is not productivity.
  • The greatest threat to your productivity is keeping yourself from getting awash in low-value activities.
  • Any time you feel overwhelmed, there’s a good chance the culprit is a lack of clear priorities.

As I said, if you are a leader, this is a great book to have on your summer reading list.

7 Leadership Lessons from Extreme Adventurers

What can leaders learn from athletes and adventurers that push themselves to the limit and beyond? Who climb the highest peaks on the planet and ski to the furthest reaches of the globe?

A lot.

Enter Alison Levine and her book On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership.

Here are a few things I think pastors can learn from extreme adventurers:

1. Waiting on the fixed lines for too long can be dangerous and can jeopardize a summit bid. While climbing, you can run into traffic jams of other climbers and get stuck. Frostbite, loss of oxygen, tiredness, running out of food and water while you wait. All of these things can be a disaster while waiting. Churches often find themselves waiting to make a decision and miss an opportunity. Too many committees, teams, voices, people who need to say “yes” can all lead to a missed opportunity. While maybe not physical death like on Everest, it can lead to the death of your church.

2. People often forget that the top is only the halfway point. The majority of deaths on big peaks occur after people have reached the summit, because they have used every ounce of energy they have to get to the top and have nothing left to get themselves back down. It is easy for churches and leaders to run hard through a season (say Christmas, Easter or the fall kick-0ff) and then immediately roll into the next season without catching their breath. You need to make sure you either break, slow down or leave something in the tank for the next season. It was mind blowing to me when I read this part of the book, that more people die on the way down because they pour everything into getting there.

3. A great fallacy regarding progress is that it is defined by constant forward motion in the same direction. We assume that any steps in the opposite direction take us further from our goal. Not true, sometimes we have to go backward in order to make progress. Leaders can get impatient and want to push through when their followers, churches or cultures are not ready to move forward. Sometimes, what seems like a waste of time or slowing down can actually be a good thing.

4. On the subject of recruiting talent: “Screen for aptitude, then hire for attitude.” Churches are horrible when it comes to hiring. The turnover of pastors is astounding, volunteers quit and burnout, people serve in the wrong roles. People take jobs at churches they don’t like, working for pastors they can’t stand. Building teams is something many pastors can do better at, because the team determines where the church ends up.

5. Leaders should never expect the people on their teams to take any risks that they would not be willing to take themselves. This is a basic leadership principle, but one that many forget. Leaders set the pace. They set what is okay, what is acceptable and what is not. Leaders should not have different rules. While there are some benefits and things that come with seniority, being the boss as opposed to being an intern, everyone pulls the weight.

6. People are more willing to risk their lives and well-being for people they know. Pastors struggle with friendships and building strong teams, but your effectiveness as a leader will come from how well you do both of these things. As a leader, your best friends don’t have to be the staff you work with, but you should spend time with them. You should know them and they should know you.

7. Landscapes can change in an instant. In extreme adventures like climbing Mt. Everest, this is incredibly true. The same is true for a church. A culture can change, you can get thrown out of the place you meet in, you can lose a number of members, the economy can tank and giving goes down. You can lose a staff member on short notice and in an instant, everything is different. While you don’t need solutions for every worst case scenario, you do need to be prepared for things changing without notice.

For more from her adventures, check out Alison’s Ted Talk below.

How to Set Yourself Apart

Denise Brosseau new book Ready to Be a Thought Leader?: How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success was a book I wasn’t sure I would like or find relevant, but I had a few guys recommend it to me. I’m so glad I read it. This book is for anyone who wants to create a niche, standout in some area of life or business and I found it incredibly helpful as I think about writing and leadership.

  1. True thought leaders have expertise, passion, and a track record of changing the world. They become thought leaders when they rise above themselves by sharing their knowledge so that others can change the world, too. There are experts in every area of life, people that other leaders look to that are set apart by success, knowledge but also being able to make things simpler. They often figure things out others haven’t yet or put things in a way that everyone else says, “that’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that.”
  2. A thought leader is defined by her or his ability to galvanize others to think new thoughts, modify the way they have always done things, and embark on new behaviors, new paths, and new actions to transform the world. Thought leaders then create followings of their ideas. They become the person others talk about and say, “have you read so-and-so’s blog?” “Do you follow so-and-so on twitter?”
  3. Align your time, energy, and resources around one niche and you’ll open far more doors than if you focus in multiple unrelated arenas. This was one of my biggest takeaways as it pertains to my writing and speaking outside of Revolution. I’ve been too unfocused on that and need to narrow my focus. Really eye opening for me. 
  4. Great leaders invent the future they want. I don’t understand those who talk like there is nothing they can do about their future so all they can do is sit back and wait for it to happen, wait for someone to notice them or wait for someone to give them a free ride. That isn’t coming. If you want to do something, start doing it. I remember talking with someone who did not blog, wasn’t leading anything and they wanted to write bible study curriculum but they hoped someone would just sign them up to do that. Start doing what you want to be doing in 5 years. 


  5. Sheryl Sandberg, author of the bestseller Lean In and the COO of Facebook, argues, “Done is better than perfect.” It doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to stop being put on hold though. 
  6. The best brand reputation for a thought leader is being knowable, likeable, and trustable, being someone who provides value to others. That last line is something I am zeroing in on in my leadership and writing. How can I be more helpful to someone else?

If you are looking to create a personal niche in writing or speaking or as an expert in something, this is a great book to pick up.