Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

Beware the Pop

Added on by Sam Davidson.

The firework was meant to impress us, to dazzle us with its brief illumination against a dark sky. 

It was never built to keep us warm in that same darkness, even though its temperature can reach well over 1,200 degrees. 

In a world that gives attention to media platforms that reward bursts, be sure to find time and give more attention to those ideas and relationships that build your fire within. 

Seek the shock of the sparkle for occasional entertainment, but keep searching after a home where a steady fire burns for you. Find work and love that offers a continual kindling for your spirit, and not just flash for your eyes. 

There's a lot that you can be excited about today: resolutions, dreams, plans, goals, habits, commitments, and beginnings. But fireworks fade. 

Give time today to the thing that'll keep you warm and feeling at home six months from now, not just the thing that is screaming loudest at you today.


What I Did the Day After the Election

Added on by Sam Davidson.

3:04 AM:
I woke up to a text message saying that - effectively - Trump had won. He isn't who I voted for, so I was a bit disappointed and, of course, surprised (shocked, really). I went to bed thinking this thing was headed to a multi-state recount but then, in the middle of the night, I woke up and checked some news sites on my phone and sure enough, saw the truth. I laid awake for another 90 minutes or so thinking what this meant for me, my daughter, my business, and the rest of the country. I wondered how it could have happened, how experts were so wrong, and how so many people could vote for him. I wondered what I'd say to my daughter.

6:36 AM:
My daughter, awake and eating her breakfast on the couch as her morning ritual, was getting ready to start the day. I knew I needed to tell her the outcome of the election before she went to school, so I did. 

"Hey," I eased in gently. "Yesterday, a lot of people voted for Donald Trump and he actually won the election."

"Is he going to be the President?" she asked.

"Yeah. I'm afraid so."

She teared up. She wanted Clinton to win and over the last few months would ask people who they were voting for. At the mock election at the local library, she cast a vote for Clinton and on more than one occasion I heard her tell someone, "Donald Trump says mean things about girls," which, as we know, is true. 

A little piece of her world came crashing down. I assured her that no matter who the President is, that I love her. That her mom loves her. That lots of people love her. And that today at school, she could find lots of adults that care about her whom she could speak with about how she felt. 

Eventually we started watching Kids Baking Challenge and then left for school.

7:42 AM:
I call my best friend James to check in quickly. He's at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with his girlfriend and her family. It's not a long call as such and we don't wade too deeply into our post-election feelings. It's nice to hear his voice on the other end of the line, even if both of us - usually very optimistic people - are finding it hard to be that right now. 

7:50 AM:
As I'm walking to a coffee meeting, I call my girlfriend to chat briefly, mainly about how we're each feeling about the results. We're both stunned and a bit confused. 

8:00 AM:
I meet my friend Andrea for a long-scheduled coffee and catch up. We picked this date weeks earlier, not even thinking about what the outcome of the election would be. We saw each other and hugged. It felt good to have someone to sympathize with and debrief some of this whole thing in person. The discussion quickly moved on to catching up on work and family.

9:00 AM:
Another coffee meeting, this time with a student from Belmont who needs to interview me for a paper he's writing about entrepreneurship. It feels good to focus on and talk about something else for a while. 

10:24 AM:
I call Rob, my business partner and close friend. He jokingly answers the phone, "Rob speaking. Here to make America great again." He, an ardent Clinton supporter and donor, is nearly speechless. He tells me that his daughter, a kindergartner, is also taking the result hard. To children who got into this election mirroring their parents, losing on a national scale like this is hard. 

After all, for many of my peers, we've backed a winner the last two times. As such, it felt like the US was heading in a certain direction and all the Trump rhetoric was a u-turn from that. And here was a qualified and tested candidate in Clinton. Certainly this would be easy, right?

11:15 AM:
I pick up lunch at Chipotle. The line is long. It just looks like any other Wednesday in America. 

11:30 AM:
I eat lunch with my girlfriend and we watch CNN to see what people are saying. Lots of experts who were wrong thinking somehow now they're right about why all this happened. We can't take too much of it, so we switch it to HGTV. I normally hate watching The Property Brothers but I find them more palatable than the alternative at that moment. 

During the commercial, my girlfriend and I talk about echo chambers and how all of us live in one. Everyone in our respective social media feeds was voting like us. Then again, most of our feeds look like us, act like us, shop like us, and eat like us. We all seem to congregate with people like us, I think, no matter who we backed.

12:44 PM:
I go back to work. Emails and orders keep coming in. Gotta keep up. I check Facebook (one of my echo chambers) intermittently. I see friends and family trying to process what can only be described as grief. I want to hold out hope. It's difficult, though. It's easy to talk about hope when your candidate wins, but hard to hold onto it when she doesn't. Then again, hope isn't forged in Heaven. Its true test is how formidable it can become when facing the fires of Hell. Easy hope isn't hope at all, I think.

2:15 PM:
I call my friend Jodi. It's been a few months since we've spoken. She's experienced more loss than anyone I know this year and this just heaps it on. Her husband passed away unexpectedly in February. "I just wish I had someone to hold," is the first thing she tells me. We move on and begin to catch up, talking about work and relationships and a book idea. Things start to sort of feel a bit normal. 

3:20 PM:
I see on Instagram (another echo chamber) that a local business is offering its space as a place where people can come and process their feelings. "Would they be offering that if the election results were different?" I wondered to myself. I can't imagine so. Not everywhere is an equal opportunity safe space. 

4:01 PM:
My college roommate calls. We don't talk often as he lives in Florida, has two young kids, and is working hard in his career. He opens with, "So you proud of my home state?" We chat briefly, again, flabbergasted. There's no easy conclusion or explanation, but it's good to connect with him again, even if it is in the midst of an inexplicable haze. When things are blurry is when we find it easiest to reach for another hand.

4:15 PM:
I meet my daughter and her mother for an art reception. One of her drawings was chosen to be put on display in the front hallway of her school and they're honoring her and other students with a reception (cookies and punch). When life gives you lemon, make art.

5:19 PM:
I start dinner for me and my daughter. We eat our noodles and work on a puzzle. It feels like home. Here, inside, tucked away from a world we thought we understood (good always wins, right?) it feels like we can make it another day. That's what home should be for all of us - a place to go to celebrate and grieve, to grow and to heal. 

But so many fellow Americans don't feel like this country is a place where they can do that anymore. How can I help make it that way again? Or even for the first time?

7:36 PM:
It's time for bed for my daughter. We each take turns reading a book to each other and I say goodnight, tell her I love her, and kiss her goodnight. Some things never change. Nor should they. 

8:19 PM:
I text with a good friend, a local pastor. He begins by saying that he's sad. I tell him that I am, too. He's most regretful that so many evangelicals voted as they did, for Trump. He's even to the point that he no longer wants to identify as one, if that's what such an identification means. I don't blame him and tell him that's a great first step. He is saddened that so many people chose a known sexist racist for such a high office, but also admits that when he's at his worst, he has those tendencies, too. I admire his humility and honesty, but before I can tell him that he says he'll repent. I remind him that such an act is fine, but it can't end there.

For far too long, Christians have thought that repentance and prayer is an act. It's not. It's a cowardly excuse not to act. Pray all you want, but then you better get to marching. If prayerful hands don't turn into clenched fists, then I think you're doing it wrong. Your praying knee better be attached to a marching leg. Solemn voices in private need to turn into truth telling and prophecy in public. I have a feeling that God's answer to every prayer is, "And?!" as God pleads us to get off our asses and out into the streets. 

9:42 PM:
I end tonight like I do most nights, by talking to my girlfriend, unpacking the day and dreaming about what's next. Such an anchor matters in both peaceful waters and stormy ones. 

I spent the day after the election how I should spend most days - talking to people I love, thinking deeply on issues of great importance, working hard on what I'm building, making sure my daughter knows she's loved, and staying hopeful about tomorrow. 

All of us need these three things, I think, to be our truest and best selves:

  • A place to call home
  • A person to love
  • A cause to fight for

An upset election can remind us of that. But so can a sunrise. A paycheck. A delicious meal. An injustice. A poem. 

Whatever your harbinger, I hope you find what you're looking for. I hope you've got a place, a person, and a reason. They'll keep you pressing forward even when you feel like you can't move at all. 

This, Then, Is How You Should Live

Added on by Sam Davidson.

We don’t need any more comic book superhero movies. Rather, what we need is someone to turn meaningful stories like this one into lessons we can all witness on the big screen and then apply to our life.

Bernhardt Wichmann III had very few friends, but they were deep ones. Friends were patient enough to wait until he wrote replies on small slips of paper so they could carry on conversations with him. Friends were willing enough to help him schedule medical visits.

And early last month, Wichmann died as he lived: fully. From The New York Times: "They discovered that since 1991, Ben had lived in that tiny third-floor room down the block that cost $10 a day. He had few possessions and eked by on Social Security. In a city where so many have so much, he had practically nothing. Yet it was enough, always enough. And inside him beat a heart bigger than a mountain."

Read that again: "And inside him beat a heart bigger than a mountain."

Your move.

What 10 words would you want written about you in The Times?

Of course, Wichmann’s goal wasn’t to be in The New York Times. It was to live fully present and to help others. Living into that authentic goal of his got him into the paper.

Many people would love to be covered by the NYT and it still never happens. I have to think that when our goal is to impress others, we’ll always fall short. When our goal is to serve others, we’ll wind up impressing them, too (even if a large newspaper never writes about us).

Happy 80th, Rosemary

Yesterday, Rosemary Brown turned 80. She hasn’t been in The Times, and may never be.

Last year, I walked into Rosemary’s church when life was very hard. I didn’t expect Rosemary or the people inside to make life easier for me. But I did hope they could make life a tad brighter. It seems like when we’re facing darkness and need some rays of hope, we humans do have the ability to shine for others when we show up in their lives.

The more people we let in, the brighter life gets. And the more deeply we let them shine in our lives, so much beauty becomes revealed by that light.

Yesterday, our ragtag congregation sang "Happy Birthday,", gave Rosemary a set of new tires, and listened as she cried with the gratitude and sincerity that only 80 years can offer. Wrinkles are just memories we can see, after all.

Rosemary offered us all one hope in her sermon yesterday - that when her time is up, she can be described as a single word: faithful.

Maybe eight decades of living make you realize that headlines are temporary; tombstones are permanent. And that legacy is even more lasting, written on hearts and retold with love in a way that newsprint and granite could never convey.

Fight for who you’re becoming

I left these two notes behind - one in each night stand - in Austin last week.

We each have a desire to fight for something, be it a worthy global cause or combatting some injustice we find in the world. But we can’t forget to channel some of that fierce drive toward our own destiny.

Whoever it is you’re becoming, you can decide each morning that you’ll fight for her and the bright vision welling up inside her heart. So don’t compromise a value that makes you beautiful, a passion that makes you unique, or a love that makes you full.

Don’t back down from the man you want to become just because someone else offers a route that’s simple or convenient. Easy and meaningful are opposites. (Click to tweet.)

Dream up the kind of person you’d die to become known as. Then do the hard work of fighting for him or her by being and becoming that man or that woman you know you can be. Your life and your legacy depend upon it mightily.

How to Live

The only life instructions are these: be.

Be authentic.
Be kind.
Be nice.
Be vulnerable.
Be on time.
Be present.
Be willing.
Be patient.
Be curious.
Be loving.
Be honest.
Be true.
Be faithful.
Be thoughtful.
Be pleasant.
Be hopeful.
Be you.

Live deeply. There is no other way.

Destroy the Box

Added on by Sam Davidson.

I don’t need you to merely think outside the box.

I need you to destroy it.

The box needs to be crushed. Crumbled. Shredded. Detonated. Obliterated. Find an empty field, take the box out there late one afternoon, and put it out of its misery.

You can’t merely think outside of the box because eventually, fatigue and safety will tell you to return to it. "Just this once, take the easy route. Do less work. It'll be our little secret."

For this reason alone you must destroy the box. You must cut off the route and burn all bridges that lead back to it. That route is so easy to travel, absent of obstacles or criticism. Anyone can see how effortless it is to harken back to a time when thinking inside the box was acceptable.

Think outside the box if you dare and you’ll soon breathe the free air that comes without confinement and expectation. And then you’ll realize that to return to a simpler time would be the highest treason of self.

You were not meant to think inside or stay inside a box. Especially a box not of your making. A box "they" told you about. That "they" put you in to watch over and control you. You do not need their box. And what you do not need may as well be gone. Dead. Destroyed. Finished.

So do yourself and all your future work a favor and the second you’re willing to leave the box, press that detonation timer. Hide far enough away to be shielded from the shrapnel and watch its glorious explosion and decimation.

Then, get up, and move forward. But don’t look back. You’re not going there.

The Finish Line Isn’t Where You Think It Is

Added on by Sam Davidson.

As is our Sunday tradition a few times a month, my daughter and I went on a hike.

And it took forever.

It always does nowadays. As much as we both love being outside, she is in no hurry to cover the three or four miles we aim to do. It’s a stark contrast to my trail runs on alternating weeks, when I want to cover the same terrain, roots and all, as quickly as possible.

But with her, the point isn’t to finish at a certain clip. The point is to just be on the trail.

She and I are looking at different finish lines. Mine is back at the car, three-and-a-half miles later. Hers is to point out turtles and twisty vines, to wonder out loud how many leaves are in the forest, and to ask me all the questions she can imagine until I run out of ways to say “I don’t know."

The point is not the point

Somewhere along our life's journey, we each begin to focus on a singular outcome. Maybe it’s something simple in a growingly complex world. Maybe keeping score is more fun if there’s only one metric to which we compare ourselves to others. So we start to focus on and measure our work and life in terms of:

  • Money
  • Speed
  • Longevity
  • Clicks
  • Sales
  • Square footage
  • Accounts
  • Awards

The (a) point is not the point. Points are the point. Life is too important to be lived quickly. Nature is too necessary to not be noticed. People are too fragile to be overlooked. All of the elements we badly need in life could never be counted with a calculator.

So maybe we digress by default. We push past the hard stuff (relationships, depth, meaning, religion, mystery) and keep score artificially. At least then we know where we stand.

But sadly, where we stand is on a fragile podium of our own making, one built on arbitrary measurements that neglect the very finish lines we need most - the biggest, most complex ones that keep moving the more we live.

Someone sold us a finish line we don’t want (or need)

I’m the worst person to meet with if you’re a financial advisor or planner. You’ll ask me where I see myself several years from now, how much financial security I want in retirement, and what I need to have saved up by the time I’m 65. I’ll listen to your questions until you’re finished and then I’ll laugh, tell you I have no idea nor concern, and tell you that retirement is an outdated concept, one I’m not racing toward, and not a way that I keep score.

You’ll protest, we’ll chat about it a bit, I’ll thank you for coffee and then you’ll be on your way to the next sales prospect. I’m not interested in running this race.

Well-meaning adults told us (some of us when we were very young) that there was a clear path to follow that consisted of various steps that included making good grades, going to college, getting a job, climbing a ladder, getting promoted, earning a nice living, owning a home, and then doing all of this in increasing measure until we died.

And so went the story of a happy life.

Many of us bought into this race we needed to run. (Many of us still do.)

But this race misses a lot. Its contrite finish line leaves so many of us wondering why the hell we’re running this race so fast. Isn’t there more?

Yes. But it’s not the race you think it is. It’s not even the race you may know how to run. But it’s the only race your inmost being was born to run.

It’s a race bigger than any singular finish line, bigger than what your parents told you, and bigger than your job.

The finish line keeps moving. And more and more of them pop up day after day. Some you’ll decide to stop chasing, and that’s ok. The point isn’t to get to the end of the race.

The point is to run the race with everything you’ve got.

Chase something big

Go start a company. But don’t let someone tell you the point is to make as much money as possible. Instead, breathe life into your idea and its people, watching as the goal isn’t just to amass material wealth, but also to train people how to work hard, to please customers by listening to their needs, or to bring ethics to a place where they are rare.

Go fall in love. But don’t only think the only worthy end is to die beside each other at 90. Maybe you simply love each other for a season, teaching the other about vulnerability and honesty, leaving the relationship wiser and more rich, your heart ready for someone or something else when the season is right.

Go to school. But understand that the point can’t merely be a diploma some years down the road. You’ll also need to learn how to learn, what pursuits are worth your intellect and attention. You want to sit with opposing thoughts, confront someone whose worldview is too small, and sit at the feet of those who are wiser, whose wisdom has come after years of striving.

All of our races - our life’s pursuits - may start heading toward one finish line. But then along that route, we learn that the point of that race wasn’t to finish it. It was just to start it. To get to the first distance marker. To meet someone else along that same course and then veer off with them, hand in hand.

Maybe the point of this race was to show us another race running parallel to ours and so we hop over to that lane. And then we realize we are running in the wrong direction, so we stop and start over, now destined to where we want to go. The finish line is further off, blurrier than we thought, but that’s ok. At least we’re running.

If the race is only about speed, even if you win, you miss out on what could have been an incredible journey. The races that are just about speed usually aren’t worth running anyway.