Creativity, Inc. – Embracing Failure

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Picked up Creativity, Inc. again last night. Came across the quote below while reading. I love how this explains so many things I’ve encountered in the work force.

There’s a quick way to determine if your company has embraced the negative definition of failure. Ask yourself what happens when an error is discovered. Do people shut down and turn inward, instead of coming together to untangle the causes of problems that might be avoided going forward? Is the question being asked: Whose fault was this? If so, your culture is one that vilifies failure. Failure is difficult enough without it being compounded by the search for a scapegoat.

In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen.

It sucks to be real

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The problem with being real is that we open ourselves up to hurt. Wounds then form, mental playgrounds of the same scene played on repeat. A festering sore gnawing at the soul.

I lowered my defenses this past weekend. Decided to be real, vulnerable about where my wife and I are in life. I need a new job. For those of you who have read my blog for awhile, you’ll know that this is not a new crisis. What has changed is the depth of the situation. The situation has to change.

As a recent exercise, I sat down and wrote a list of responses to the question: What expectations do I have for my job?

  • A positive work environment.
  • The ability to grow/move up within the company.
  • To be able to make a salary where I can support my family. Annual raises of some sort. Anything but years of silence.
  • Open/clear communication on company direction.
  • The ability to learn. Even if on my own time.
  • Feedback on job performance and ways/direction on how to improve.
  • Common respect being a foundation for work relationships.

None of the above expectations are mind blowing. Yet, I had someone tell me in my moment of being open that I will never find a healthy work environment. That this somehow elusive thing does not exist. I know this not to be true based on past companies I have worked for. But the comment ate at me. I was also told that my current salary is normal. Not to expect much more. If only this person was open to a little market research.

What hurt the most about lowering my defenses, is that no one else in the group I was in have any clue of the response given. No idea that I’ve allowed discouragement to affect me before from this person. That I have veered off a track of studying due his words eating at me.

I know that I shouldn’t let words hurt me the way they do. Words have weight. Hard-wiring is hard to change.

The blank stare, the expression that casts, “he has no clue what he is doing with his life”. I’m tired of it. My college degree, my side pursuits, all beg to differ.

We might not all have the answers. I’d argue that this is part of the faith journey. This is part of my journey.

While it may suck to be real with others, authenticity is essential for both maturity and growth. So be real. Drop the shields.

Job Hunting: Professional Silence

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How do you keep job rejection from becoming personal?

You apply month after month. No response.

You have a professional look over your resume. Good to go. Still no response.

That cover letter you just wrote, the best thing you’ve ever written. No response.

Time and consistent rejection without official reply are wearing. You begin to wonder if it is something personal. Could it be that some future employer knows about that tuna fish sandwich accident in high school? Nah.

There are a lot of factors that go into the job hunt. Factors that have nothing to do with you, your work history, or that dumped tuna sandwich. Some jobs have to be publicly posted for legal purposes. Someone else, internally, already offered the job. I’m guessing this happens more often than not. It’s not you, sparky.

Factors of experience, location, and even race are further elements to consider. However awesome you are, you may not fit the company culture, hiring needs, and/or profile.

Hunting for a job is hard. The faceless modern job application process the internet promotes makes the process more difficult. There is no human feedback. The submit button looms with the ever present question of whether to attach a cover letter or not.

But you can do this. We can do this.

By reminding ourselves that we:

  • Are qualified for the positions we are applying for.
  • Are not just some number, standing in an infinite line. We are unique, talented, and experienced.
  • Will not always be dealing with silence.

Job hunting is a waiting game. May you wait well.

Control Is Hard To Give Up

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God is in control so we don’t have to be.

titanicI’m not too sure what is going on anymore. The company I work for has built it’s business on school bond elections. We design schools, gymnasiums, and administration buildings with bond issue funds. A workable and sustainable business model with one major hiccup, voters. Back in the beginning of May, voters shot down two of the three bond issues we were counting on for work. Thankfully, we have learned a bit from a similar failure last year. We have since diversified our client base and moved into areas not targeted by large Dallas architectural firms. What is odd is that one week we were talking about hiring, growth, and technology upgrades. In the weeks following the bond election, optimism has disappeared and silence rules. Just like last year. I have no idea whether my company will lay off anyone within the next few months. I do not think we have diversified enough/obtained enough clients to sustain our company long term. While business may seem normal for now, I keep waiting for the hammer to drop like it did last year when I lost a fellow co-worker due to layoff. Frustrating to be back in a situation where I have no control.

Health-wise, I’ve been seeing a couple doctors and having some tests run. Will be getting the test results next week. I am nervous. My body is tense and I feel sick. I have zero control over the situation.

nineveh02This past Sunday (5/17), my small group leader asked me to teach during our morning hour together. Knowing that the kids were having a lesson from the Book of Nahum, I decided to dive-in and see what the book is all about. Turns out Nahum is a sequel to the Book of Jonah. Nahum takes place a 100 years after Jonah visited the City of Nineveh. By this time, Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, had returned to idol worship. The Minor Prophet Nahum steps in and speaks aloud (an oracle) that the destruction of Nineveh is coming.

The people of Nineveh must have laughed at Nahum. Their city walls were a 100 feet high with a 150 foot moat extending out from the walls. The moat, for anyone who is wondering, was 60 feet deep. Who knows what lived in there. Situated on the Tigris River, Nineveh had a series of dams throughout the city. Now what is interesting is that Nahum prophesied that the city would be destroyed by water (2:6). The dams that held back water-giving life would end up unleashing water that would undermine a part of the city walls. Like a sandcastle, the walls would fall, allowing the Babylonians access into the city.

640px-Nineveh_map_city_walls_&_gatesOne of the key verses that stuck out to me was 1:3 –

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
    the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
    and clouds are the dust of his feet.

God gave the people of Nineveh a chance. He sent Jonah, a reluctant prophet, to tell them to turn from their evil ways. And they did! A hundred years later though, the people had forgotten all about Jonah. What stuck out to me in 1:3 is that God is slow to anger. He could have destroyed Nineveh a hundred years ago, but He didn’t. Another verse I noted was 1:7 –

The Lord is good,
    a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,

The head and heart disconnect, I call it. I know that God is good, no matter what the situation. I know that He is a refuge, ready to catch us/hold on to us when all seems to be falling apart. I know that. But sometimes my heart forgets. I want to be in control.

I am not sure where my job is going to be in six months. I have no idea what is going to happen next week at the doctors office. What I do know is that God is good. He will take care of me. I just need to tell my head and my heart that.

Quitter

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A few weeks ago I downloaded the audio book Quitter by Jon Acuff. Ever since then, I have been slowly making my way through the book. As each chapter unfolds, I have found God using it to attack lies I have accepted as truth. Quitter has made me re-realize that:

  • Our American culture celebrates those who quit their jobs to pursue their dreams. What about those that stay and persevere? What about the day-to-day realities of supporting oneself and family?
  • Blogging at work, doing anything besides what your paid to do, is stealing from your employer. Not sure I’ve ever thought of it like that, but Jon tells it like it is.
  • When pursuing a dream, coming up with a plan is not always the first step. Jon talks about  the importance of looking at what your passionate over, practicing on that, and then charting out/ planning where you’d like that passion to go. Makes sense to me.

I have really enjoyed what I have listened to so far. I have also enjoyed listening to the book being actually read by the author. Seems to add more authenticity to what is being said.

Discontent

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I saw this John Piper quote over at What’s Best Next and so I thought I’d share:

The Meaning of Your Discontent

Many of you should stay where you are in your present job, and simply ponder how you can fit your particular skills and relationships and resources more strategically into the global purposes of your heavenly Father.

But for others reading this book, it is going to be different. Many of you are simply not satisfied with what you are doing. As J. Campbell White said, the output of your lives is not satisfying your deepest spiritual ambitions.

We must be careful here. Every job has its discouragements and its seasons of darkness. We must not interpret such experiences automatically as a call to leave our post.

But if the discontent with your present situation is deep, recurrent, and lasting, and if that discontent grows in Bible-saturated soil, God may be calling you to a new work. If, in your discontent, you long to be holy, to walk pleasing to the Lord, and to magnify Christ with your one, brief life, then God may indeed be loosening your roots in order to transplant you to a place and a ministry where the deep spiritual ambitions of your soul can be satisfied.

It is true that God can be known and enjoyed in every legitimate vocation; but when he deploys you from one place to the next, he offers fresh and deeper drinking at the fountain of his fellowship. God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace. . . .

Big issues are in the offing. May God help you. May God free you. May God give you a fresh, Christ-exalting vision for your life — whether you go to an unreached people or stay firmly and fruitfully at your present post. May your vision get its meaning from God’s great purpose to make the nations glad in him. May the cross of Christ be your only boast, and may you say, with sweet confidence, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Don’t Waste Your Life

In December of 2006, I graduated from college with no job lined up. After months and even years of praying over what I wanted to do with my life, I hadn’t a clue. In January of 2007, I married my Texas treasure, my wife Tabitha. Still, I hadn’t found a job. 9 months went by, still no job. I hunted and hunted, even took a position of a bank teller for a few weeks before landing my current position at an architectural firm.

Nearly 4 years later (hey, I’m stable!), I find myself in a position that has no hope of moving upwards…unless I become an architect. Through it all, I have continued to pray that God would show me what I need to do to move forward; through it all, I have remained thankful that I have a job that provides me a paycheck during the recession.

Rewind a second

Sometime into my college career, I decided to swap majors from English to History-Political Science. I had thought at the time that a history degree would make a great partnership with a pastoral degree. Upon graduation, I even applied to a seminary in Dallas. I received a reply soon after that told me to work on decreasing my school debt. Seemed fair enough.

As the years progressed, I have still felt called to seminary. However, the entire time I have also continued to have this argument in my head that says you don’t have to go to seminary in order to serve God. Heck, most pastors I knew from Southern California didn’t have a formal seminary education and they were amazing speakers. Seminary equals taking out more loans and becoming a further slave to the lender. That doesn’t make sense to me. God has quite clearly shown me that I need to work to pay off my debt AND that I can serve Him in the process.

Discontent

I have often wondered if God has kept me uneasy, kept me discontent in my workplace in order so that I don’t become comfortable. What I liked about the Piper quote, was that it calls on us to focus back on Christ. As a Christian, I should be primarily focused on how I can serve God. I have learned that God does not reveal things to us in huge chunks. Instead, God seems to show me just enough to keep moving forward. He is constantly teaching me how I have been uniquely gifted me to impact His world for His purpose. Seems like a life long process. I hope and pray that I do not become angry or bitter during this time of feeling unsettled. I know that God has a purpose, and I pray that I am willing and able to be a part of that bigger purpose.

Entitlement

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The promise of record heat allows me some comfort in knowing that I’ll be indoors all day. Record heat in May? I’m already worried about how hot this summer is going to be. This morning though the clouds are making every attempt to block out the sun. A bit of morning respite before the onslaught of the day.

Had a good conversation with a friend last week. We talked about the feeling of entitlement college bestows upon graduates. “Finding a job is going to be easy”, administrators and professors tell you throughout your college career. 4 (usually) years of hearing their melodious spiel is enough time to start to believing the lies. Yes, I said lies. The real world, that place outside of the college campus bubble, proves to be harsh for many young graduates. After being unknowingly brainwashed, they suddenly find themselves dumped out into the world with a mountain of debt (unless mom and dad have helped). The jobs that had once been mythically “promised” are no where to be found. The sense of entitlement that has firmly taken root by this point won’t allow the graduates  to simply take a job they could have had in high school. No, those types of jobs just aren’t good enough anymore. “4 years of hard work certainly entitle me to something better”, the newly graduated thinks to themselves. Sadly and perhaps fittingly, this is not the case.

The current economic crisis has turned the business world upside down. Companies are afraid to hire new employees and are instead downsizing/ consolidating normally open positions. The world is tightening its belt. The entitled graduate has a hard time making sense of this economically depressed world. Promises of something better turned out to be lies…for now.

But not all is doom and gloom. Like someone recently held hostage, a bit of deprogramming is needed for the newly minted graduate.

  • Realize that finding a job takes time AND hard work.
  • Realize that obtaining that perfect job with a corner office could take years.
  • Recite daily: “Just because I have a degree doesn’t mean I’m special”

Having a good attitude is probably the most important piece of advice I could ever give someone. Attitude is everything. So, don’t despair recent graduates, time and hard work will soon make all the effort put forth in college worthwhile. If not, there is always the option of fleeing the country to escape the loan bounty hunters.