The unapologetic, raw, unedited interpretation of living life. Each of us is the artist of our own life, constantly remolding, reworking, and roughing out the details and applying what we've learned to the changing canvas. There are no do-overs, no take backs...just rough cuts that release what lies inside us.

I saw the angel in stone and I carved until I set him free. - Michelangelo

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Confinement does not equal Control

I recall a night coloring with my sister and our babysitter around the age of 5 or 6. Coloring isn't too exciting to write about, and truthfully wasn't all too eventful then either.  But for some reason I am here writing about it because of the way my babysitter taught me to color in a coloring book.  She outlined each black line heavily with the color then used the same color to lightly fill in the areas.  I love the way the final picture looked. The picture was of an alligator and the green popped out of the picture above the bright blue ripples, formed by his seismic leap from the water. This impacted how I would color and my standards for proper "coloring" for many many years.

My coloring was always controlled, defined, and neat.  Then a day came when I realized I might be among a few proud line definers, the day my daughter opened her first coloring book.  For her, it was all she could do to try to spread each color on each page of the book as quickly as possible.  I had no control over this and it, surprisingly frustrated me.  Why would she not want to make her pre-formed art perfectly planned and executed? 

We do this a lot on our own teams, in our families, and with our peers.  We want them to see the lines we have drawn and only color within those lines.  Do we provide adequate space for them to color how they choose to color?

My daughter now has more motor control over her coloring and produces wonderful, colorful renderings with her name proudly across the bottom or top of the page.  Don't we want this from our teams?  The pride that comes from completing a job even though it has their own flavor or sprinkling of personality on it?  Don't we WANT our kids, our employees, and our peers to feel as though they can be proud to be themselves within the confines of our lines?  Someone wiser than me said there is a difference between breaking the will and breaking the spirit of a person...

You can and should draw lines within your organization, otherwise how will anyone know what you stand for, what you do or what you are. HOWEVER, you are missing a big piece of the puzzle if you use those lines as ways to control those who follow you. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Open the Lid on your Life

Several years ago, when I was drawing my way out of the dark places in my life, I began to discover the principle of "the Lid".  Lids get placed on all types of things: jars, trashcans, your car's gas tank, even your ice cream.  The purpose of the lid is to keep something in or prevent the release of something, whether the inside contains something hazardous or not, the lid restricts everything outside of the confines of the container from getting in and anything inside from getting out. If you want to squelch a fire, you cover it.  If you want to keep a lightning bug inside a mason jar, you screw on the lid.  If you want to protect your favorite ice cream from freezer burn, you seal it. The trouble with a lid when it comes to living, breathing things - it prevents the growth and is fatal. 

So what did a lid have to do with people?  What was this magical principle that shed light on to my dark canvas?  As I focused on my own thoughts, on my own situations, on my own weaknesses, I placed a heavy lid on my soul.  I found myself inside I confined space with no ability to get out and do something with my life.  I cannot stand to be in tight spaces.  I enjoy my 3-feet-of-life-bubble.  So how did I allow myself to get so confined?  I let it happen, I ignored my passions, I let things happen to me instead of taking a step forward.  I let the lid get nailed down over me - I was suffocating and didn't even take notice until I was almost out of breath.

What do you do?  What do you do when you find yourself out of air, out of the passion that fuels your life?  You start digging in - you start chiseling away at the stone!  It only takes one small hole, one tear in the lid to allow the breath to enter your space.  For me, I began drawing pictures of my tightly closed box, then I began adding holes, which allowed light to enter.  When enough light entered the space, I began to see the keys laying inside.  I began to take note of ways to unlock the lid.

Sometimes we just are not able to see what needs to be done because we are in darkness.  Digging in, making small movements, introducing light to your situation, allows you to take account of what tools and resources are available to you.  Leaders understand this concept and those who know how to lift the lids of others appreciate the power of letting light slip into the cracks.  They know they do not need to provide the tools, just guide the light. 

I enjoy seeing the world without a lid to block the view.  It can be an amazing place, but it starts by digging in, allowing a little light to cast into your life, then MOVE in the direction of the light!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Perspective and Legacy



The first stop on our family trip was to Pennsylvania.  My Dad owns a small farm in a rural town right outside Pittsburg.  They moved there right after I graduated from high school.  During my college years, I spent many hours sitting on a swing staring at this majestic view.  In those quiet moments, I found inner peace just watching clouds pass by an expansive horizon. 

So often we get caught up in the web of frustration, wound tightly around our worries.  What would it look like in your life to surrender to the solace waiting for you in a quiet moment, left open to the Master’s hand to create masterful work in your life?  If God created a small piece of 15 acres with beauty so breathtaking it could move a hurting, hardened heart to be still, imagine the movement He is waiting to create in you.

Sitting in that same swing this past week with my daughter and son, listening to their laughter and watching their faces smile with excitement as they talked about their next outdoor adventure, I remembered days when I was joined on that swing by my own mother.  We sat and planned my wedding, talked about the impending birth of her first grandchild. 

Those moments are pieces of a lifetime mosaic of a legacy I will one day leave for my own children, just as my mother left memories and moments I will treasure forever.  As the three of us walked to her gravestone this week, we talked about who she was and how much she lives on in our hearts.  She continues to cast light into our lives – that was her legacy.  What will be yours?



Monday, August 15, 2011

Photo Journal: Part 2

It's in the details.

One of my absolute favorite parts of traveling overnight is the hotel experience.  What makes that experience so worth it is not the TV in the lounge or the free continental breakfast or 24 hour fitness center.  It is the toilet paper.  Yes, that's right it is the folded end of the toilet paper roll.  I know they planned for my arrival: the bathroom was cleaned, each detail was thought out and prepared just for me.  In the same light, creatively folded towels, tucked in pillow cases, and a turned down bed rank up there too!  Last night I stayed in a hotel and they had every detail worked out, included high brow coffee.  It was midnight when we got in and I just wanted to crawl into the covers.  When I got to my bed, there were three pillows piled in the center of the bed with no pillow cases!  My entire reason for the reservation - one night's sleep was not a priority for them. No amount of free Wi-fi or carefully placed decor made up for the fact that my good night's sleep was delayed.  We spent all of 7 hours in the hotel and MY detail, the one thing that mattered most to me was forgotten.  At 6:30 AM, when I opened my door, I rolled my suitcase right over my free USA Today and headed to the car.

This made me think about what my leadership creates for others.  Is there a detail I miss when engaging with my team, how are their lives affected by the impact of my leadership (or area where leadership is lacking)?  Can you see far beyond the members of your team you are able to improve details along the way for them so it is easier for them to get to where your vision is taking them?  Do you take care of the details?

This weekend was an amazing trip to Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.  Just as our team does at Waters Edge Church, they focus on the details.  In all areas...excellence matters.  Do you know why?

What this produces and what impact this has on those who attend allows guests to experience something astounding.  They are not distracted by the little things we forgot, or the thoughts they have about "how I wish there was this or that" They are able to focus on their reason for coming.  They are able to focus all of their attention on what matters to them.  As a result, lives are changed.  As a result of diligence on the part of leaders who think far ahead, entire generations are changed. 

Do you have this level of intensity about the details in your life?  Do you "fold the toilet paper ends" for the people you care about?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Photo Journal: Part 1

Over the next week, I will be traveling to a few different places for work and with my family.  Instead of forcing out some creative whit which may or may not apply to your life or deepen your understanding of the artistic view of life, I thought I would snap some photos and share them with you.  This way perhaps I can SHOW you how I see the world.  I hope you enjoy the experience.
First Step was to remove the large screw front my tire so this trip could be possible!  Little things have a way of making a BIG  impact on your life. (I will spare you the puns)

Tonight is the preparation, not only of the schedules and iteneraries, reassurance for the kids, handling last minute household responsibilities, but also for the planned time I will need to manage the impact this next week will have on me personally.  A trip to see the extended family surely will include emotional and physical demands associated with the gauntlet of home visits, hugs, and run down of our lives in 60 seconds or less as I tell my 3 year old not to over feed the fish or push a toy cart down the stairs (these are actual examples of his antics). Fortunately, the first leg of my whirlwind tour is a roadtrip to North Carolina for work. Considering I work for a large contemporary church, this trip has the potential to be both a professional and personal recharge.  

No matter the destination, it's what you do on the ride, how you intereact with where you are, and what you bring home.  Every trip is an adventure.  I look forward to sharing my next eight days with you.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Screen printing Leadership: Changing Generations

I was reading today about art legend Andy Warhol.  He is the pop culture artist that many may recognize for his celebrity prints, such as those done of Marilyn Monroe.  He is also the man, not surprisingly, credited with the creation of the screen printing concept.  If you have ever worn a t-shirt with a graphic on it, you can thank the brilliance of this man.  Screen printing helped him form his art out of reproduced shapes, he simply added a variety of colors to add vibrancy and life to the repetition of images.

It made me think a moment about my leadership: What am I doing today with such excellence, that it can be reproduced by those around me without the need for additional training?  What tasks, ideas, or actions do I bring to my team and my everyday life are worth the distinct honor of having someone else reproduce?

Every Artistic Leader has an art form they do exceptionally well, whether it is the way they relate to people, casting vision, coaching followers, or a myriad of other qualities.  After years of honing it, perfecting it, adding their own unique signature to it, there will come a day when someone else will need to pick up where they left off and carry the torch for another generation of artists.  This individual or group of individuals is usual an apprentice in the craft of his leader or someone a Leader coaches, molds, invests time in developing, demonstrating a strength in those areas where his leader excelled, but also with his own unique skill.  This pattern repeats itself over and over again across generations to form great organizations, strong families, or perhaps communities poised to overcome the greatest of catastrophes.  A strong leader with reproducible passions and vision, has the potential to reproduce his work long after he has resigned his formal position in limelight.

What are you passing on to the next generation of leaders?  Who will carry on your passion past the moment of today?  What would it look like to "screen print" your best qualities?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Frame your Work

After a couple months of blogging and discussing what makes up art and what things influence my own art, I am realizing that I have left out a significant element: the frame!  Frame (and framework...we will toggle between the two frequently) provides the context, the outer limits to your work.  Now, I know that if you are creating in a two-dimensional world, this makes perfect sense a flat canvas would need a border to mark the edge of the painting. So a frame is functional, it provides the edge and it transforms your work from a canvas to something people want to hang on a wall.  Aesthetics and functionality.  But what about frames as they deal with the three-dimensional world we actually live in?

Functionality of a frame
A frame allows us to determine the edge, the borders, the outer limits.  As an Artistic Leader, we call these boundaries and we set them for several reasons: to establish order to our workplace, home, or social groups.  This prevents us from being taken advantage of, us taking advantage of others, and to set a values system by which everyone will abide.  While we all function within the boundaries of the relationship, we are able to work and co-exist in harmony.  When those boundaries are tested, it causes stress.  As parents, we place boundaries on lots of things in order to protect our kids from harm; we set rules for them to develop self-control and self-reliance.

If you created a frame around your leadership, how would it look?  How would it affect your interaction with your followers or the people you lead?  Would you see a reduction in stressful relationships?

Aesthetics of a frame
Frames also create a piece of art that is pleasing to have hanging on your wall.  I take this opportunity to acknowledge that many pieces of modern art do not have frames but are in some other way hung, shaped, or placed in space that is otherwise aesthetically pleasing.  Defining your Leadership "in space" would translate to mean your leadership has presence. When you encounter other people, based on your interactions with them, they are easily able to determine the characteristics or your "DNA".  The more clearly this is defined by you, the more likely you are to live it outwardly.  Think of it like this:  You know where your yard is because you live there, you mow it, you see it everyday and it's yours.  But to help others see it, to enhance the appearance of your yard, you might be inclined to put a fence around it.  There would be no doubt about where YOUR yard ends.

Can other people SEE your Leadership?  Do people know where they stand with you? 

I am challenged by this daily, not only as a parent, but as a person.  I think if we are honest with ourselves we could see some area where we could use at least a small white picket fence.