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To my critics

I first read this several years ago and I must say, it still speaks to me today. I hope it will do the same for you. May you always choose to create….

An Open Letter to My Critics by Russ Hill

The truth is you’ve existed as long as I have.

I didn’t realize you were there until my early teenage years.  It was then I began to hear your whisperings.

As I’ve gotten older you seem to have multiplied.  Like mosquitoes or scorpions do.

You’ve followed me wherever I’ve lived, studied, worked, worshiped, or played.

I’ve decided that for a brief moment I will quit ignoring you.  And speak directly to you.

Let me begin by saying two words: Thank you.

Thank you for helping me realize there are Critics and Creators.  And that I choose to Create.

I’ve struggled over the years to understand your objectives.  But the more I’ve heard your whisperings the more I’ve come to grasp why you do what you do.

And that leads me to the second thing I’d like to say to you: I’m sorry.

I wish so badly you could see things more positively.  Your world would be so much brighter.  So much more colorful.  So much happier.

I know you think you’re doing me a favor by pointing out my flaws or telling others about my weaknesses.

But there are so many problems with your approach.

Your work will never be done.  Because I have many flaws.  And I gave up faking perfection a long time ago.

Every time you speak I become more motivated.  You help me realize I’m making a difference.  That I’m connecting with someone or accomplishing something.

You’re silent only when I’m idle.

Watching you, I’ve come to understand that guessing the motives or intent of another is a fool’s game.

Your pointed words suggest you’ve never walked this path or worn these shoes.

Maybe you’re preoccupied with fairness.  Perhaps you’re worried my happiness and success mean I have escaped struggle, failure, and sadness.  When can we chat?

You have denounced my decisions for our team.  But have never asked about my sleepless nights of deliberation or considered how much I have to lose if I’m wrong.

When I show courage you see arrogance.

When I am simply sharing you accuse me of declaring.

When I have meant the best you have suspected the worst.

When it has been my responsibility to be decisive you have told others I’m divisive.

I’m grateful there aren’t many of you.

I realize that you mean me no harm.  Most of the time.

I wish you no harm.  Most of the time.

I forgive you because the truth I have discovered is: Many times I am you.

My own worst Critic.

I hope you are not aware I have children.  But then I realize if they are to accomplish anything in this life they must endure you.  I am already working hard to teach them how to ignore you.

The reality is your words and actions have had an impact.  I will admit you have caused me to second guess and retreat at times in my life.

But then I have examined your motives.

And my heart.

And decided to keep Creating.

By Russ Hill

Thank you Russ Hill, I hope these words speak to you as well.

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Who’s on your journey?

About 15 years ago I had the opportunity to spend most of the summer in The Philippines. It was my first time out of the country and a wonderful life changing and fulfilling experience. I was with a group of 10 people and each day we traveled to a new place to serve in a new way. One day we would be in the heart of Manilla working with homeless boys, the next day outside the city working with small school children and the next day on a small island helping to build a fish pond for college students who were in need of a source of protein.

There was one part of the trip I was not looking forward to, a hike, through the jungle to a remote mountain village. We planned to spend a few days in this village and I knew I would be pushed far outside of my comfort zone. As I now reflect on this portion of that journey I am able to see how critical it is that we travel with people who will advance us on our journeys in life. Looking back I am able to identify four types of people that I witnessed on that hike in the Philippines as well as what I witness in my own personal journey.

On many of our journeys we are exposed to Tourists who are usually excitable people but they don’t last long on the journey. Their approach is to get started with enthusiasm, they are energized by the newness and excitement of what lies ahead but not long into journey, after taking a lot of pictures, they find a reason to abandon the journey and head in another direction. If I am being honest, that was me on the hike in the jungle; “well this is different, how many people can say they have been to the jungle, let me get some photos… well, good, I am ready to go home!” Tourists can help you get going but don’t be surprised when they bail on you. Appreciate the excitement they bring, even if it is brief, and then you must keep going.

As you continue your journey you may notice at some point that people start to stand out as Campers. Campers are willing to work hard but they hit a point where they decide “this is good enough” and they are ready to settle at that point. Our group had that moment in our hike though the jungle that day. We were halfway up the mountain, covered in mud, exhausted, with limited water and food and no shelter but as a group we were ready to stop, we were thinking “this is good enough, this will do, I mean look how far we have come”! There is no doubt on your own personal journey in life you will encounter people who become Campers. Value you them for coming this far on the journey, recognize that you may need to stop and rest with them, but if your mission and purpose is still out in front of you then you need to press on and you may have to leave some Campers behind.

As you move forward you will want to make sure that at this stage in your journey, as you work through the really difficult things, that you have a core group of Climbers. Climbers are the people who have their eyes on the final destination yet at the same time they understand the value in the journey. The Climbers are going to do whatever it takes to keep moving safely. It took a lot of encouragement for my group to become Climbers on that day!

But the people that I think we most often over-look on our journey are the Sherpas, the people who’s sole (soul) purpose is to help you reach your goal. Sherpas do not receive credit for their part of the journey but the journey doesn’t happen without them. Whether you are climbing Mount Everest, on a hike though the jungle in the The Philippines or on a new career path we all need good Sherpas. Your Sherpas will look out for your safety, they will help you carry the load and they will help you find the way when the way isn’t clear, but they do it all with the purpose of serving you. In my opinion Sherpas embody characteristics of leadership that are far too rare. On my hike in the jungle my Sherpa emerged when we were about halfway up the mountain and ready to stop, he was a 4 year old boy, who came running down the mountain to carry my backpack. I’ll share more at another time about his influence on me that day.

The reality is that as we seek to move forward in our lives and to live out our influence we are going  to find ourselves on difficult journeys where the path is sometime treacherous and unclear. Who you travel with really does matters because they will influence your journey. Do not be discouraged when people who you thought were in it for the long haul turn out to be Tourist or Campers. Instead, be grateful for their role in your journey. Shift your focus to your fellow Climbers and celebrate that you do have people on your journey who are with you every step of the way. And lastly, how will show gratitude to your Sherpas, those people on your journey who look out for you, who help carry the load and who help you find your way. Sherpas are very rare.

Who are your traveling with? Who are your Sherpas? And who can you be a Sherpa to?

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Book Review: Whale Done

Whale Done by Ken Blanchard
Topic: Positivity
Audience: Appropriate for adults and young adults

Whale Done is a quick and easy read. The story centers around Wes Kingsley who visited SeaWorld and was amazed that they were able to get killer whales, feared predators, to perform such amazing tasks. He was so amazed that he wanted to understand what steps they took to train these animals and he was surprised at how simple the process really was. The trainers emphasis was on building trust, focusing on the positive and redirecting negative behaviors. Wes began to see that many of these ideas applied to interactions with people as well. He was especially impressed with the ideas that some people like to use the “GOTcha” approach – catching people making mistakes. While others more effectively utilize the “Whale Done” approach – catching people doing the right things.

Blanchard does a great job of encouraging people to be more effective at work and at home by taking a Whale Done approach to life! We all want to be acknowledged for doing the right thing.
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Book Review: The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Topic: Life Lessons
Audience: Appropriate for adults and young adults

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is exactly what is sounds like, the final lecture of a dying Professor. In this book he talks about not only pursuing your own dreams but enabling the dreams of others. He is clear that it takes tremendous work, passion and focus to achieve your dreams. The statement that stood out to me the most is “The brick walls are there to stop people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop other people.” As leaders we must often be visionaries and there will be many brick walls on the paths we need to take, but are those brick walls there to stop us, or the other people?

In The Last Lecture Randy Pausch will challenge you to live your life to the very fullest and pursue each of your childhood dreams.
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Book Review: The Energy Bus

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
Topic: Positivity
Audience: Appropriate for Adults & Teens, he also has authored The Energy Bus for Kids

The Energy Bus is simple to read but full of deeply profound life lessons. The story centers around George, a father, husband and employee who is finding life’s challenges to be overwhelming and these challenges are taking a negative toll on his life. He is miserable and those around him are miserable too. One Monday morning George finds himself with a flat tire and he forced to take a city bus to work, which he is not at all happy about doing. Little did he know he was in for the ride of his life. While on the bus each day he learned from the driver, Joy, a series of ten life changing principles called The Ten Rules for the Ride of Your Life. Once he applies these rules to his life everything changes for him.

This book is easy to read, has great character developed and strong underlining moral themes. Whether you are a CEO of a large corporation or a young teenager this story will apply to you. I highly success taking the time to read The Energy Bus, but be warned, you might just find yourself enjoying the Ride of Your Life!