How This One Habit Transformed My Life

[blockquote source=”Proverbs 11:19 (NIV)”] Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death.[/blockquote]

Taking Up Space
There was an episode in Seinfeld “The Dog”, where Kramer was breaking up with his girlfriend and this was what he said: I must have been out of my mind, look at you, why don’t you do something with your life, you sit around here all day, you contribute nothing to society, you’re just taking up space, I mean how can I be with someone like you, wouldn’t respect myself.

It was an unforgettable scene and in fact it is probably one of the best lines from Cosmo Kramer as it was both hilarious and inspiration. It was hilarious because whatever Kramer just said, it was actually him speaking about himself! It is inspiration, because that leads us to think whether we are merely just existing or are we contributing to society?

How to be Wildly Successful
Many years back as I started to explore how I can become wildly successful, even more successful than I ever dare imagine. And on top of that, I want to be rich and wealth. As a result of that desire, I then began to read books on “how to be successful”. Some were good and others were bad. A few transformed my life but this one book literally turned my life around.

Interestingly, how I came across this book was a result of me reading another book. The book is “The Richest Man Who Ever Lived” by Steven K Scott. The foreword of the book is by Dr Gary Smalley, where he recounted the advice he gave to Steve Scott when the latter was going through some difficulties in his career. Dr Smalley then asked him if he would like to become smarter than all his bosses. To that, Steven replied “Yeah, right” somewhat sarcastically.

Read This…
Dr Smalley told him that all he needed was simply to do one thing daily. And that one thing was to read the chapter in the Book of Proverbs that correspond to the date. Hence, if it is the first of the month, then read Chapter 1. Second day, read Chapter 2. And so on.

Not only did Steven took up the advice, he went one step further by using his wisdom to better the lives of others. For instance, I have personally benefited from this little piece of advice and like Scott, I have also taken it one step further. I now not only read the Book of Proverbs, but I am on my way to completing the whole Bible within this year.

…And More
I know not what will happen as I reach this milestone, but one thing I believe and know is that through these readings I have gained wisdom, knowledge, insights, and even foresight to choose the way that I should lead my life and use what I have gained; be it wisdom, knowledge, and riches, to help others in need so that collectively we can all bring glory to God’s name.

Dear God, thank You for giving us the Bible, Your Living Word, that gives us the wisdom and knowledge to lead our lives in a manner that we will be able to contribute to the betterment of others. In Jesus name, Amen.

Do You Lead A Productive Life?

[blockquote source=”Luke 3:9 (NIV)”]The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.[/blockquote]

In our performance centric marketplace, we are often judged by what and how much we produce. If we fall short of expectations then it would not be long before we are sent packing. Even if we meet expectations, we are merely seen as being compliant. Only when we are capable to continually produce good work do we see any hopes to get a decent amount of rewards. And in order to reap the lion’s share of rewards, we need to be exceptionally prolific and brilliant in our creation.

My Creative Work Flow
In recognizing that our ability to produce great work is based on two key elements; chiefly our own work flow and the environment in which we operate in. The work flow that I have found to be extremely useful in helping me produce great work is the Learn – Live – Lead approach.

In this work flow, I am recognizing that the quality of my work is a function of the quality of inputs I put in. As a result, I pay close attention to the inputs and make deliberate attempts to feed my mind. There are currently three sources that I rely on to feeding my mind, viz the Bible, podcasts, and books. Through these inputs, I then extract key learnings that I can apply; which brings me to the next step. Application.

Typically I would ask how I can apply what I’ve learned to enhance my existing work. Sometimes there is a good fit, other times none. When there is a fit, I would almost always implement it right away to see how well it worked. But when it cannot be applied immediately, the idea is then filed into Evernote.

Based on my own experience of how well (or not) it worked, I would then seek out someone and teach it to that person. Sometimes (okay, its probably most times) it’s my spouse; where I would insist that she listens to my experience. Other times it would be people that I am coaching, where I would offer them tips as to how to enhance their lives.

Environment that puts you in Flow
However establishing a work flow is just one aspect. We would also need to acknowledge that we are subjected to our environment, which we may or may not have direct influence over. Sometimes the environment is a little more intense, whereas other times it could be more at ease. But we can make a deliberate attempt to re-create the environment that facilitates the creation process.

For instance, in his recent book, The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler that there are Four Stages of Flow: Struggle, Relaxation, Flow, and Learning & Consolidation Phase. Briefly the stages here:

  • Struggle: this is the stage where you are literally packing so much information in your brain
  • Relaxation: this is where you take a break from the usual grind so that you allow the conscious mind to relax and let the subconscious mind take over
  • Flow: this is where your ideas flow almost effortlessly, where you feel like you are Superman
  • Learning and Consolidation: where you take in the learning from the flow experience and consolidating with your existing experiences.

Now that we know these four stages, we become better able to manage or even re-create the environment or stimuli that facilitate flow.

Father I pray that we will continue to produce great work that serves Your will. In Jesus name, Amen.

We Need Your Help

[blockquote source=”Psalm 60:5 (NIV)”]Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered.[/blockquote]

On-Again, Off-Again
Its been an on-again, off-again situation. For the last two to three months I have not been consistent in my writing. Frankly because I have reached my 100th post milestone. Also, because I was running out of steam. Not so much in terms of whether I have anything to write, but more of the fact that I don’t see any benefits in the foreseeable horizon.

Foreseeable Horizon
And of course that is where my problem lies. Foreseeable horizon are usually not seen when pursuing a cause. If it’s so foreseeable then everyone would have done it. If it’s so foreseeable then it would not be so special. If it’s so foreseeable then it would not require me to grow. If it’s so foreseeable then I would could just have relied on my humanly abilities. And if it’s so foreseeable then I would not need God.

It is Beyond Me
Because this endeavor is beyond my comfort zone, it is beyond what I currently know now, it is beyond my current abilities. And because of these very reasons, fear began to set in. I began to have fears of what if I did this and it did not work. What if all my efforts are leading me down the wrong path. What if I work myself into a tight spot? What if…

Starting Today
And that’s where I read about this in the book, “20,000 Days and Counting“:

[blockquote]”I believe I am always divinely guided”.
“I believe I will always take the right turn of the road.”
“I believe God will always make a way where there is no way.”[/blockquote]

With God = I’m + Possible!
Essentially, there are no difficulties that I cannot overcome, as with God, all things (including those beyond the unforeseeable horizon) are possible.

Just like in Philippians 4:13 (NLT), “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

And friends, I am back, with God’s help, to continue to bring the Living Word to you and I hope you will follow me by picking up your own cross daily.

Father, we cannot see beyond the foreseeable horizon what’s possible and what’s not possible; but Your horizon is infinite. We seek Your help in guiding us in this endeavor as we continue to carry our own cross daily. We need your help. In Jesus name, Amen.

Look Out For Rainbows

[blockquote source=”Genesis 9:13-15 (NIV)“]I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.[/blockquote]

Rainbows are just such a magnificent sight that whenever someone sees it, it’d almost always bring out a pleasant emotional state.

I’ve always seen rainbows from afar. It wasn’t until 2013 when we visited Western Australia (specifically Pemberton) that I first came like ten feet away from the rainbow.

If not for the horse stable, I would have made the leap and grab it. But seriously, can you grab a rainbow?

God’s Covenant
Rainbows are so beautiful, and also rare, that you’re almost always in awe when you see one. Besides it being a reminder of God about His Covenant with us, it is just beautiful to look at.

It is one of those sights that no matter how tired, busy, or frustrated you are; whenever I see one, I would stop, if only for a nanosecond, to admire it.

God’s other Creations
Yes, while rainbows are quite a sight, let us not forget God’s other creations that are equally magnificent but we sometimes overlooked.

Slow Down with Kids
I constantly remind myself to slow down whenever I’m with my kids. Not that my kids are slow or anything, it’s just that kids have that innate ability to notice things that we adults sometime take for granted. Like an ant crawling. A caterpillar in the cocoon. The flowers on the tree (or ground). The leaves that are moving because of the wind. The birds chirping in the background.

Previously I used to find myself trying to hurry my child along, so that we could get (insert place) on time. These days, if he wants to stop to take a look at the pigeons eating, or the cats cleaning themselves, or just to seat down on the steps on the pathway; I’ll let him. In fact, I would also take this opportunity to stop, to pause, and to connect with him. True, not everything is as magnificent to look at like the rainbow, but these are God’s creations nonetheless.

And sometimes if we can just stop ourselves for a moment or two and just take in the surroundings, you’d be surprised how refreshing and rejuvenating it can be.

Look Out for Rainbows
The same is true about our lives. Because when all we do is to search for that moment in our lives; the rainbow, then we might just miss life’s moments. For some of us, the rainbows could be graduation, marriage, parenthood, when my children are older, etc. And because we search for those moments, we tend to forget about life’s moments; where these could be picking up your child from school, bathing your kids, feeding them, etc.

While rainbows are magnificent, let us not forget or ignore our surroundings which could be equally, if not more, magnificent then the rainbow. So, brothers and sisters, while you may not see a rainbow today; there are other things around you that may have been there all these while, but maybe you’d just haven’t taken the time to pause and admire it. Identify three things that are always been in your surroundings. Make it a point today to pause and take some time to admire it and give thanks to the LORD for this creation.

Father, we thank You for Your Covenant with us. And we also thank You for all Your creations around us. Everything that You’ve created adds value to the entire ecosystem. Though we may not fully understand or appreciate it, let us today thank You for it nonetheless. In Christ name we pray, Amen.

How To Handle Temptations?

[blockquote source=”Matthew 4:1 (NIV)“]Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.[/blockquote]

Temptation of Christ
The context surrounding today’s verse is this. Jesus was baptized by John. As soon as Jesus was baptized, there was a voice from heaven that said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Matt 3:17)

Then Jesus went into the wilderness and was fasted for forty days and forty nights. There he was tempted by the devil three times, before he sent him away.

We are all tempted by the devil. Whether it is you, the president, or the pope. So, how do you handle temptations? Do you fight it? Do you give in to it? Or are you even aware of it? Hence, the key question we want to ask ourselves is: How do you know when you are tempted?

Awareness of Temptation
This question relates to awareness. Are we even aware that we are being tempted? A temptation can be as seemingly harmless as an ice-cream when you are supposed to on diet. Or it can be as harmful as an affair.

The issue I want to point out is the level of awareness we have about temptations. Have temptations become so frequent and perhaps ingrained in you that each time you enter into a particular state, you almost ‘naturally, give in to the temptation?

Some of us would be able to identify with this pattern: every time I am stressed, I binge, or swear, or indulge in food, or indulge in sex. Now, if we are not even aware that this is a temptation, then there is no way we can address it.

40-Day Challenge
Here’s my challenge to you. For the next forty days, record your key actions, emotions, and thoughts in a journal. Now, of course you don’t need to record every single detail like how many times you visited the bathroom. But you want to record things like these:

  • Today I got up late and I felt like my day just went downhill from there.
  • I smiled at the lady who cleaned my table and she smiled back, acknowledging her appreciation of my appreciation.
  • I was angry with my son today for throwing tantrums and refusing to cooperate with me when I need to rush him to school.

The above are just some examples from my own life. I, like you, are being tempted every day. Sometimes I win by overcoming it, other times I lose by giving in to temptations.

But in order to be able to (1) know what to do when you are tempted and (2) get better at overcoming temptations, we need to first be aware of it.

Father, we thank You for Jesus, who came to earth and lived like us; to be tempted. We pray that over the next forty days that we grow in our awareness of the temptations around us so that we can not only overcome it, but get better at overcoming it. In Jesus name, Amen.

Only Fools Despise Discipline

[blockquote source=”Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)“]Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.[/blockquote]

Being Disciplined
For the most part of 2013, I’ve been quite disciplined. By disciplined I mean doing what I’ve set out to do. And based on my recent review of the year’s work, I’ve been quite consistent at about 60% of the time. In other words, more than half the time, I would actually do what I have set out to do.

Areas of Focus
The areas that received the most attention in 2013 for me were the personal and people domains. Within the personal domain, I’ve worked most consistently on my spiritual, physical, mental, and time categories. As for the people domain, the key category that received the most attention was family. In these two domains, I have achieved an upwards 80% consistency.

And I have results to show too.

Building on Strong Foundation
As I start off 2014, I am now well poised to work on the other areas that have not received the same amount of attention and focus, for instance, in the area of fellowship, creative work, and finances. But this doesn’t mean that those categories (spiritual, physical, mental, time, and family) can now take a back seat while I work on these three areas of fellowship, creative work, and finances. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Because if I were to let those earlier categories slide while I work on the new ones, then it would simply undo all the achievements that I have accomplished in 2013!

Winning Habits
In fact, in those categories, many, if not all that needs to be done are already a habit for me. Some has even become an instinct to me, that it is something that I do even without thinking about it. Take the example of eating fruits and vegetables daily. Previously, it was something that I had to remind myself everyday. And on days when my schedule was crazy, I’d usually forget and as a result not eat any fruits or vegetables. Sometimes, this can even go on for days.

What I have done is to look for a way to simply leverage the process, so much so that I do not have to even think about it. For instance, since June 2013, we have someone to prepare food for us every working day and have them put vegetables in the menu. This not only free me time to take care of other matters, but it also enable me to free up my mind to think about higher value-added stuffs. Now, it does not mean that I have a perfect plan set up. There are still days that I don’t eat fruits and vegetables, but it is more of an exception rather than the norm.

The truth is, we all love discipline. We crave for the fact that when we set our mind to do something, we actually get it done. We do what we say we will do. We like that. And we like and admire people who are able to do that. However, some of us may slip or even get off track sometimes and that’s because We just can’t see the benefits (whether direct or otherwise) of it and that’s why we don’t follow through.

What is one key area in your life, where if you have a little more discipline would get you ahead?

Father we pray, in our daily living that You would guide us as we apply a little more discipline in our lives. In Jesus name, Amen.

Preserve The Truth, Don’t Sell Out

[blockquote source=”Malachi 2:7 (NLT)”]”The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.[/blockquote]

“Pass the Message”
I joined the Adventure Club when I was in College. One of the excursions that I signed up for was the night walk. In order to prepare ourselves for what was ahead, we had to go through numerous training sessions. One of which was getting a group of about ten people. They would then number themselves off; the first being number 1 and the last number 10. Then a message would be passed from the facilitator to person number 1. Person number 1 would then repeat the message to person number 2; and the procedure would go on until it reached person number 10. It is not uncommon that by the time it came to person number 10, the original message would either be distorted or its original meaning being changed entirely. It was laughable but it also illustrated a learning point.  During night trekking when communication is extremely important, it is critical to have the original message preserved so that the last person would be informed of what lies ahead, or vice versa.

Interpret (or misinterpret)
The same applies in our spiritual study. When we read the Bible, it is critically important to understand the context with which the verse was written, as well as the structure and setting, which could lead us to interpret (or misinterpret) the true meaning of the verses. This is also important so that we understand why the characters did what they did, as well as the significance of the verses.

As the messenger of God, we need to stay true to the Word. Not to bent it so as to suit the point we are trying to get across or to distort it so that I would appeal to the audience.

Of course, sometimes it can be very difficult or even almost impossible to distinguish between who are the true prophets and who are the false teachers. Unfortunately there is little one can do to discern between the two unless one is adequately equipped with the know-how, as well as experience.

As we move closer to the year’s end, let me set my focus going forward with the core message that I’d like to share:
[blockquote]An engaged life is a choice. It does not happen by accident. You need to exercise your free will to make it a reality. Therefore, an engaged life is by design. And by design, we mean that you are the creator of it. But because it is getting you to a whole new level, you cannot based it on your same set of actions and habits. You need to learn or develop a new set of habits that will lead you to take actions that will move you closer to your goal. Hence, if you have certain habits that are more of an impediment rather than a leverage, you first need to change those habits.[/blockquote]

Father, I pray that we will preserve Your word so that as our tribes learn from us, they are actually learning about Your Word and not our agenda. In Jesus name, Amen.

Speak Up For Those Who Cannot Speak

[blockquote source=”Proverbs 31:8 (NLT)”]Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those who are perishing.[/blockquote]

My Granny
Whenever I got into trouble when I was little, I’d always look for my grandmother. I would explain to her what actually happened and she would always tell me she’d fix it. Sometimes that would mean reasoning out with the other party (usually some other kid bigger than me) or other times it would involve her telling my mom not to punish me. Whatever the case is, she would always be there for me. However, she’d also firmly remind me that there are certain things I should never do again.

Tribe Leader
As leaders of our tribe, we should take the same approach as my grandmother. To stand up against, or to speak up for, or sometimes just to defend our tribe for what they have done. Sure, certain actions must be met with their corresponding consequences. But apart from those areas, we must always be there to speak up for those who cannot speak.

Give Us A Voice
And we all need someone like that to give us a voice sometimes. For us, that someone is Jesus Christ. As our High Priest and the one that can intercede for us, He is our only hope of salvation.

So, brothers and sisters; learning from Jesus, is there a particular group of people or persons whom we can speak up for? Are these the homeless in your community? Or are they the spiritually deficient individuals?

Jesus, we thank You for speaking up for us. For saving us. For loving us. And we pray to have the courage and strength to be able to use our intellect and wisdom to speak up for those that cannot speak up for themselves. We pray all these in Your name, Amen.

Are You More Hopeful Or Fearful About The Future?

[blockquote source=”Psalm 147:11 (NIV)“]the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.[/blockquote]

Fear and Hope
It is difficult to have these two words in the same sentence. Let alone having both words describe the same circumstance. For instance, you can’t be fearful of the future and yet remain hopeful. Likewise, it seems like an oxymoron to say that you are hopeful about that job interview and yet fear the worst.

So, how is it that we can be both fearful and hopeful about God? Why is it that our fears can be eliminated by our hope in him? And why is it that our hope can burn brighter because of our fear of God?
Away and Towards Emotions
If you look at fear and hope; these are both emotions. One is an away (fear) emotion, while the other is towards (hope).
So the reason why you would not do something is because you fear the consequences that you’d have to face. For instance, you would not punch me in the face because you fear the consequence of having to answer to the court of law. And because of that fear, you’d restraint from carrying out such an act. Another way to look at fear is this: because you have so much respect for your dad, you’d never do anything that would cause him to be disappointed with you.
So the reason why you would do something is because you hope that the outcomes will meet your expectations. For instance, the reason you chose to exercise and sustain a healthy lifestyle is because you hope that the desired outcome of it is something that you expect. Another way to look at hope is this: because you know that your dad loves you unconditionally, you’d take the plunge and pursue your dreams. Because you know that despite what the outcomes maybe, your dad will still loves you.
Can You Be Fearful and Hopeful at the Same Time with God?
And the distinction between these two emotions is critically important because it will facilitate our progress moving forward in all our goals. Fear the LORD. The starting point is this: is what you do aligned to God’s will? Is what you do in accordance with the Truth? Do you do what you do with Love?
Hope in his unfailing love. He knows that we will fall short. And that’s just the way we are. He knows we are imperfect. And that’s just the way we are. He knows we will and sometimes even give in to temptations. And that’s just the way we are. But through all these, He will still love us.
Are You More Hopeful Or Fearful About The Future?
Now, that we have achieved alignment of fear and hope; let me ask you this: for the future ahead, are you more fearful or more hopeful? Do not look at it based on your current resources. Do not look at your current situation and see that you have no skills, no education, no money; and hence become fearful. At the same time do not see that you have all the knowledge, skills, and money and hence you are hopeful.
For nothing lasts forever. What you have today, you didn’t have previously. And what you didn’t have today, you could have it in the future. The thing is not to based your answer on your resources; but to base your answer on where your faith is at. Is it with God or is it with money.
Because you know that the God we worship can do supernatural things. You ain’t seen nothing yet. So keep your fears and hopes in check.
Father, we fear You for You are the creator, and we place our hope in You for you are the creator. In Jesus name, Amen.

Leadership Lessons From The Giants

[blockquote source=”Psalm 146:3-5 (NIV)“]Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.[/blockquote]

Leadership Giants
I was searching for the key principles of leadership, I was drawn to a few key authors namely; Stephen Covey, John Maxwell, Jim Collins, and more recently Jesus Christ.  I think many of you would find the first three as no surprises. These three authors are undoubtedly top leaders in the leadership category.

Start with the Principles
If you were to ask me how would one approach the literature on leadership; I’d suggest the following. Start with Stephen Covey and the principles behind what constitutes a leader. An important book to read would be Principle-Centered Leadership. In that book, Covey outlined what to me are the fundamental principles one would need to know when it comes to leadership. It is from these principles that I’ve adapted to create the Learn, Live, and Lead approach. It is also through Principle-Centered Leadership that I’ve created the Engaged Mastery (Personal).

Focus on People
Many, if not all, of Maxwell’s books are important resources for leaders. In fact, many people will attest to the fact that one of Maxwell’s most important book is 360 Degree Leader. I cannot agree more. But to select just one book out of Maxwell’s entire collection would be like using only one book in the Bible to guide your spiritual development.  Instead, Maxwell’s strength is his people leadership.  If you’ve ever attended any of his seminars, you’d hardly feel like here’s a leadership guru talking to you. Instead you’d think it’s a friend who cares about you deeply that is talking to you.  Hence, if you look at Maxwell’s work on leadership, it is the people leadership theme that stands out.  One of the books that I’ve always gone back to is his book on Winning with People. And one of his latest book that is a must-read if you consider yourself to be a leader is Be A People Person. It is through the work of Maxwell that shaped my thinking about people leadership, which led to the creation of the Engaged Mastery (People) segment.

Organization beyond You
Finally, if you are entrusted to a leadership position, you’d do well if you lead the organization effectively. But in order for you to build a great organization; you need to be a Level 5 Leader. As Jim Collins proposed, a Level 5 Leader is one that “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will“. Through these principles and strategies, it has shaped the way that I’ve structured the Engaged Mastery (Professional) segment to challenge the executives beyond just their ego-centric self, but more for creating a great workplace.

There is a void
That said, even after synthesizing all these wisdom proposed by the three giants; I still find that there is a void. In the sense that you could carry out all these principles and achieve what you’ve set out to do, but there isn’t that sense of fulfillment. And fulfillment comes not from simply achieving goals and meeting KPIs. Fulfillment comes when you know that all the work that you’ve put in matters at the end of the day. That it will bring a significant impact on the lives of others. It would make a difference and it would make the world a better place.

Do it with Love
And while I do not find it explicitly mentioned by these giants, it is a common theme that runs across their work. And that common theme is what Jesus said that we must do. And that is to love one another. So now I get it. It is not simply just learn, live, and lead but to do it with love.

Father I pray that we acknowledge that You are the Alpha and the Omega. You are what makes us complete. Father I pray that we will continue to find the Truth through Your Living Word. In Jesus name, Amen.