Optimism

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” – Yogi Berra

Uncertain FutureHad any punked-out plans lately?  Any disappointments or unforeseen disasters?  Have you lost someone dear to you or had your dreams shoved back into your face?

Have you noticed how the news seems to report more on what may happen than what just happened?  Here’s a headline from Wednesday:  With Dow Industrials at Record Highs, When Will Gravity Take Hold?  Sheesh!  Even the good news begs for more bad news.

Or try this one:  Have you ever had something surprise you with such joy, so much delirium that you had no clue what to do next?

It was Benjamin Franklin who first said that in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.  And yet we try, because nobody likes uncertainty.  So what do you do when you’re standing face-to-face with a completely unpredictable future?  You can offer money to people who promise to reduce your uncertainty – policemen, politicians, preachers, and “prophets.”  You can bury your head in the sand and hope tomorrow never comes.  Or you can find a way to confront your uncertainties with God’s power and courage.

Lessons from Paul’s Travel Plans

Now just to be clear, I’m not just referring to bracing for imminent disaster or catastrophic losses.  I mean even those every-day surprises and disappointments.  One source that has always been an example to me is the Apostle Paul.  At the end of his first letter to the Corinthians, he runs through a list of travel plans.  Travel plans!  In the Bible!  What’s his travel agenda doing in God’s holy book?  Check this out: [click to continue…]

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If your paychecks came from Ford Motor Company in the 1970s, you lived in an ugly time.  Morale was low.  Sales were taking a beating.  Quality was “job none.”  And the company operated from an entrenched system of rules and regulations.  Into that demoralized environment, Donald Peterson became Ford’s CEO in 1980.

Peterson showed up tossing words around like “teamwork” and “upward communication.”  But words mean nothing to entrenched bureaucracies.  So Peterson tried something radical – he left his office.  He would walk into the offices of designers and ask simple questions like:

  • Do you like these cars?
  • Do you feel proud of them?
  • Would you park one in your driveway?

I think you can guess the answer he received.

Your job, Peterson said, is to come up with the cars you think will sell – cars you can be proud of.  The results were stunning and quick, by auto industry standards.  The first significant product was the 1983 Thunderbird, followed quickly by the wildly successful Taurus, which became the best-selling midsized car in America.

That was just for starters.  During the 1980s, Ford reversed its dismal previous performance to record then-record-breaking profits.  Peterson was chosen by his fellow CEOs as the nation’s most effective leader, surpassing even Lee Iacocca.

What made the difference?  Donald Peterson was a Side-by-Side Leader.   In the words of Robert Richardson and Katherine Thayer, “Peterson didn’t accomplish all this by sitting behind a desk and telling people what he wanted done.  He rolled up his shirt sleeves and jumped in.  He provided a direction and goal and then participated in making them reality.”

Your Worst Skydiving Fear

Imagine you are an inexperienced skydiver.  You’ve been on a few jumps, but still think of yourself as a rookie.  It’s a beautiful day for flying and jumping out of airplanes, so up you go.  You reach the point where it’s time to pull the ripcord, and it malfunctions.  To your horror, so does the backup chute.

Suddenly it’s not such a good day for jumping out of airplanes. [click to continue…]

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In the course of this short year so far, I have been reminded suddenly, and sometimes rudely, how short life can be, and how there are no guarantees of the things or people we tend to take for granted in this world.

I have also been reminded that life is filled with the potential to make mistakes.  Sometimes those mistakes arise out of misguided values.  Sometimes out of boneheaded stubbornness.  Sometimes mistakes arise out of good things taken too far in self-serving directions.  Often those mistakes come when we lose our sense of balance.

I’ve thought a lot lately about how short life is, and frankly, sometimes how much shorter that I wish it could be.  Hillsong United’s “Soon” sure sounds appealing: [click to continue…]

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