When the Best Thing to Do Is Nothing
This morning we were in our weekly Lead Team meeting covering various tactical issues when I noticed that I was participating in a discussion about light bulb replacement schedules. Then, I looked around the table and realized that NO ONE in this meeting should be discussing this. Not that it isn’t important—that schedule impacts gatherings and meetings that are real ministry, but it shouldn’t occupy a SINGLE second of this meeting’s bandwidth.
So, I just said, “This is a waste of our time. Do your jobs.” And with that I left the meeting. No yelling. No demeaning. No question about what is expected and who is responsible. Word on the street is that the issue got handled after I did nothing about it.
IT’S A NEW DAY
As we launch out of this past weekend’s celebration of Easter and the all-thing-new-ness that Easter makes possible, it’s a new day. For me. For our family. For LHC. For this blog.
It’s a new day. And I’m feeling … good.
The Long View of Leadership
When Jeff Long, University of Arkansas A.D., fired football Coach Bobby Petrino tonight, he bit a bullet and did what no one would’ve wanted to do. And the only thing he should’ve done.
Just to recap:
- Sun., April 1 Petrino wrecks his motorcycle and tells his boss that “a woman” was just there and flagged down a passerby who took him to the hospital.
- Thur., April 4 Petrino calls Long to tell him that the woman, Jessica Dorrell, was actually on the back of his bike at the time of the accident and that she’s a 25-year-old with whom he’s had a long “inappropriate relationship.” This revelation precedes by just minutes the release of the police report which will include Dorrell’s name.
- Dorrell was a recent hire of the Arkansas football program, filling a position after three people were interviewed of the 159 who applied. In addition, she is engaged to the Director of Arkansas Swimming & Diving.
- In addition to hiring Dorrell, Petrino had given her a personal gift of $20,000.
- Tues., April 10 Long fires Petrino “with cause” effective immediately.
Petrino’s actions speak plainly and clearly for themselves and call for prayers and help for him personally and his family. He issued a very clear apology accepting responsibility for his actions, which is admirable and a step toward the healing he clearly needs.
But, the more instructive lessons radiate out of the A.D.’s office. After all, in addition to 10 and 11-win seasons the last two years, Forbes Magazine recently valued the Arkansas football program at an $89 million enterprise, the 8th most valuable in nation. That $89 million goes a long way toward paying for other non-revenue sports, men’s and women’s alike. So, how does the person responsible for funding those programs handle the killing of his cash cow?
But Long made a calculated decision that the culture and character of Arkansas athletics mattered more than wins and losses. In the short term, that’s obviously arguable. They probably won’t win 11 games this coming season. They’ll probably sell fewer jerseys, Hog Hats, and other knick-knacks, and Arkansas fans will continue to wait to unseat Alabama and LSU for SEC supremacy.
He made the only decision he could have. Petrino’s lies, choices, and leadership undermined the very community he was hired to help build. Had Long kept him, he would have been accommodating a culture that allowed and celebrated dishonesty, deceit, and cheating.
While Long’s decision is the right one, it’s also highly pragmatic. Over time, those traits don’t work. When you cultivate—or TOLERATE—dishonesty, competent people whose talents are valued don’t have to settle for living in that kind of environment. So, they won’t. They’ll opt to play, coach, lead, manage, pastor, or work somewhere else.
The Arkansas A.D. chose a course that is painful and fraught with uncertainty in the near-term. But, his choices and standards have helped to set a standard of excellence for the athletic program he stewards for the Long haul.
Momentum matters. Winning trumps losing. But God bless those who stay. Those who stick around and stick to it long enough to see momentum ebb and flow and keep coming back for more.
A few years ago, I was at a small gathering of pastors. And the topic du jour was the recent resignation of a big name pastor and author to follow God into the unknown of what would be next. The prevailing sentiment was that he was acting on deep, abiding faith in this leap into the unknown. But the host of this gathering said introducing that day’s guest speaker: “I know that our friend’s resignation is a true leap of faith. But I don’t want us to forget the faith that it takes to stay. To fight the good fight through years and decades.”
In an age of disposable marriages, church-shopping/hopping/bopping, fractured friendships, we’re missing out on the blessing of staying. Building. Persevering. Resolving. Reconciling. Healing. Growing. Knowing. Reflecting the heart of Christ. Who stayed. And stays.
Crossfit Lessons #3: How Many Can You Do When You’re Tired
One of the bedrock principles of Crossfit is high intensity training over a short duration. Toward the end of one of my early workouts, I was doing pushups with a weighted vest on after flipping a tractor tire multiple times (Don’t ask—these people do some weird stuff). As I was nearing the last push of the session, I was hating life and Web, grinding through some pushups when he got on the floor and asked very directly but quietly,
C’mon, Mac…How many can you do when you’re tired?
Within the same week, I saw an ESPN special, All Access: Alabama that spotlighted Alabama Head Football Coach, Nick Saban. One day toward the end of practice, Saban was, um…encouraging his players to stay focused even though they were exhausted. And he told them that the first half of practice was just to get them to this point so they could learn to focus, execute, and perform when they were tired.
How many can you do when you’re tired? That’s really what separates average from excellent, good from great, and getting by to taking flight. It became such a mantra for me in Crossfit that it began seeping into other areas of my life:
- When Julie needed help with something around the house, but I was “off the clock”
- When I felt like I had done “enough” message prep
- When my son wanted to play 1-on-1 in the driveway
- When I needed to return phone calls/emails
- When I wanted to sleep in instead of get up and get quality time with God
- When my daughter wanted to download her day at 10:30 at night and I was falling asleep
So many areas of my life grew and improved because of that one question: How many can you do when you’re tired? So much of the good stuff lies just outside of my comfort zone. When I get tired, when I feel like “that’s enough,” is exactly the time to push through and keep going to see what God has just on the other side.
Because of Web Smith (@CrossfitChron) and what he taught me training, pushing, mocking (in love, I think!), mentoring, and teaching, I’ve got a deeper, clearer understanding of how God grows us. One day at a time. One step at a time.
Crossfit Lessons #2: Monumental From Incremental
Once I started getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, I noticed something else was going on:
Incremental choices created monumental changes.
Certainly not in and of themselves. But, just the simple decision to train—no matter what—on days when I didn’t feel like it, when I was stressed or distracted, when it was too cold, or any other host of excuses led to noticeable and sustained changes. Some days, I’d come home and my bride Julie would ask, “How was your workout?” and all I could say was, “It wasn’t pretty, but it happened.”
The workouts themselves were so intense that I had to think about what I was eating the day of and the day before if I had any hope of finishing the session. And those incremental choices about what to eat, when to eat, and what not to eat led to monumental changes in how I viewed food—as fuel and setup for the workout to come (and how much I enjoyed my cheat day when it rolled around each week), as well as how I performed in the workouts.
Yet again, as in Crossfit, so in life: Incremental choices about setting aside time to pray, hacking a night out of our crazy schedule to date Julie, talking to my kids about their basketball games, spending another hour in message prep…all of these “little decisions” add up to the sum total of who I am and what I do with the life I’ve been given.
There is no such thing as a little choice.
Crossfit Lessons #1: The Poison of Comfort
2011 will forever be remembered as the year I met Crossfit. Under the able coaching and frequent harangue of Web Smith (@CrossfitChron), who also redesigned my blog, I discovered a whole new world of training that I’d never known before. In discovering Crossfit, I also discovered some immutable laws of life that transcend working out and strengthen performance as a husband, a dad, a pastor, and life in general.
The first Crossfit Law I learned laid the foundation for all the others. After one of my first workouts, as I was huffing and puffing, thinking I had really worked hard, Web grinned his big gap-toothed grin and said,
I gotta get you comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t working. It was this: I wasn’t working hard enough at the right things. And, if it hadn’t been for his accountability, I never would’ve made the gains that I did.
Comfort crushes growth. Every time. Everywhere. In my faith, marriage, work, training, parenting—Comfort crushes growth and feeds mediocrity. When I broke through the comfort ceiling in working out, I started noticing little pockets of comfort I had allowed to sprout in other areas of my life. And I started rooting them out because mediocrity scares me more than failure. With failure, at least something is attempted.
MERRY NEW YEAR!!!
In the beginning, God created…
This is how God opens his love letter to humanity in the book of Genesis. But, what if we used it as a template to open our love letter to him in 2012? What if everyone who claims the label Christian began this year praying with everything we have to ask God how to create a year that reflects, proclaims, and honors him?
To be sure, we’ll encounter events, challenges, losses, and opportunities that are beyond our control. But, if we accept responsibility for the things we can control and influence—the gifts & talents, relationships & resources that have been entrusted to us—we can radically alter the trajectory of this year and our lives.
All creativity is born in the heart and character and personality of God. And as another expression of his love for us, he lets us participate in that creativity to honor him and make a difference in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, the marketplace, politics…you get the point.