Solving A Husband’s Big Leadership Mistake

Men are genetically wired to lead—or at least want to lead—to have the strength, the answer, the way over the mountain and to help others get there.  Since I was a kid, I wanted to be someone like King Henry V or General Patton and give rallying speeches before epic battles.  Ask any man, and he’ll tell you his leadership influences, both common and legendary (let me add Denzel Washington in “Remember the Titans” to my list).  There is a mistake with this line of thinking, though; because this is not the leadership our wives fantasize us giving to the family.

What?  You mean my wife doesn’t think of me waving her and the kids into the battle fray or a last-second touchdown?  Correct.  Save that for paintball weekends and little league coaching instead.  Those guys will eat it up like so many deep-fried Oreos.  Of course, your wife wants to be inspired and given direction to win, but it looks completely different for her.  One critical way your wife wants to be guided by you: Servant Leadership.

What is servant leadership?  In the late 1970’s, Robert K. Greenleaf wrote Servant Leadership and quietly rocked the business world.  Now, his book is a modern day classic.  He essentially took principles from Jesus Christ and repackaged them to the marketplace (and more power to him), so the core of servant leadership is self-sacrifice.

Greenleaf says moral authority comes through sacrifice in four basic elements of nature.  Let me break them down and add family leadership application:

1) Physical/economic sacrifice: Holding back and giving back.  Men must learn to withhold many of the things he wants until their proper time (or not at all)—sex and lust on-demand, indebtedness, indulgences, grown-up toys, etc.  Simultaneously, he should become an expert at building life-margin and then giving time, energy and resources away to worthy endeavors.

2) Emotional/social sacrifice: Apologize and forgive.  Being right is a big deal to mankind, especially male-kind; but servant leadership means admitting when you’re wrong and seeking forgiveness, and to lead the way in this practice.  That said, giving forgiveness is equally important when others seek it.  Don’t add strings to your pardon, just give it without equivocation.

3) Mental sacrifice: Seek wisdom and self-discipline exponentially more than pleasure.  To be amused and feel pleasure is necessary to healthy living, but it’s not the whole of life.  In fact, one spent seeking the next revelry is empty and wasted.  Servant leadership seeks wisdom (through education, practical learning, reading, daily reflection, etc.) and grows in self-restraint (to command emotions and appetites).

4) Spiritual sacrifice:  Live Humbly and courageously.  Humility means to willfully choose a lower position (to not think too highly of oneself), and courage means to willfully face difficulty (to believe victory is possible).  Put those two together to equal a leader that is neither arrogant nor passive, a husband who engineers necessary conflict, so everyone can win, not to force his demands.  Also, he is a husband who will lay down his life (and preferences) for the good of those that follow him.

When a man adopts a self-sacrificing leadership approach, and his wife trusts that he consistently gives up his pride and comfort to add value to their relationship, she will follow him anywhere with a whole heart.  Try a commander, strong-arm, trial lawyer approach and she’ll shut down or go AWOL.

Choose servant leadership.

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4 Beginner Steps to Honorable Masculinity

Men today struggle to know and live out honorable masculinity.  Virtues like chivalry, self-control, humility,  commitment and leadership seem to fade more and more.

Indifference and ignorance are a couple prevalent reasons men appear more lost than ever; but, what about the guy who wakes up one day and says, “I have no idea what it means to be a good man, but I’m ready to find out?”  This guy doesn’t care about the politics, social decline or culture wars that got him to that clarifying frustration, he just wants to know how to take a step towards honorable masculinity.

If that is you or someone you know, here’s some immediate steps.  Of course, these are not the only ones, but each of them is fundamental to all others:

1) Take responsibility:  Good men accept their role in facing problems and finding solutions to their life.  They don’t lie their way out of messes, cover up mistakes or defer blame; instead they admit wrong-doing or failure and then accept the consequences.  Also, they take action when work is at hand, when help is needed and they ask forgiveness and give it readily.

Questions: Where do you need to stop denial, laziness and the blame-game and just take responsibility?  The more you take responsibility for your life, the more wholehearted and confident you’ll be in your identity.

2) Work hard, rest well: Our DNA is wired to work and produce, but also to rest and reflect.  When this gets out of whack, whether idleness or workaholism, a man’s physical and mental health decay.  For example, an idle man falls into boredom and slothfulness, which opens him to escapism, addiction and instability.  Why?  Because an unproductive man is a self-loathing man, which descends into depression or anger.  On the other hand, when a man overworks, he burns out his body, mind and relational symmetry.  Before long, the overtime and weekend warrior-ing cause total-life collapse.  Health comes from getting a work-rest rhythm.  Here’s a proven template: Our ancestors worked 6 days until sundown and took one day to refresh.  Start there.

Question: What areas are you becoming idle and how can you get moving again?  Do you take time off to rest?  As you gain success in the work-rest rhythm, you will get stronger in health and relationships.

3) Stop the porn:  Yes, it is immediatly gratifying, but also instantly demeaning; not just demeaning to the women, but self-insulting, as well.  Every time a man encounters porn and masterbates, he tells himself he is not capable of being truly desired and respected by a real woman.   Also, porn floods his mind with unreal and twisted views of sexuality and women—and it is highly addictive.  Sex is seen as merely an act of pride and self-indulgence, and not a bond between two committed and trustworthy spouses, which is the core purpose of human sexuality.  As long as porn is an acceptable part of your life, then healthy relationships with women become increasingly unfeasible.  Reason?  Porn convinces your mind and soul that all women are object for your sexual pleasure, whether in reality or imagination; and once again, it retells you that you’re bankrupt as a man.

Question: How ready are you to quit porn?  Ready enough to build boundaries, get help and stay accountable?  This will be tough and some relapse may await, but honor will meet you on the other side.

4) Get spiritual:  A myth perpetuates that men are not naturally spiritual or sacred.  Wrong.  Truth is that most men just desire a more practical faith than women—less contemplation and more experience—and they respond best when ministerial leadership is relatable to their daily lives.  Yet, both sides of the spiritual coin are necessary to grow.  So, whether it comes natural or not, men need contemplation and introspection just as much as they do practical wisdom and action.  A growing faith life and community are imparitive to honorable masculinity.  Here, you will be trained and encouraged in the greater convictions of your life-purpose.  And, a man that recognizes his eternal dependency, matched with soul clarity and direction, is destined towards honor.

Question: What new decisions much you make towards your faith (or lack thereof)?  How long has it been since you worshipped with true believers in a sacred context?  What lies or doubts have you stuck in a superficial belief system?  Answering these questions will be the key to an abundant manhood.

Once again, these are only four steps of many to achieve honorable masculinity, but each one is keystone to all the rest.  If you (or someone you know) wants to just get started, these are forward moving.  For an extensive look, read Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield and Spiritual Leadership by J. Owald Sanders.

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3 New Ways a Man Can Compliment a Woman

A rare day passes that I don’t tell my wife how beautiful she is.  I compliment everything about her outward appearance.  Sometimes it’s her outfit or hair, and other times it’s, well, much more.

Recently, she admitted that my affirmation of her physical attractiveness is meaningful, but she asked, “What about the rest of me?”  I was stunned by her question and immediately shot off a few fresh examples of other-than-physical compliments I had given, both publicly and privately.  The whole thing sounded like a questionable witness at a murder trial—“Well, I think I saw the defendant, but maybe that was just Bigfoot.”  Basically, my examples were suspect.

Walking away, I vowed that my wife nor I would ever be cloudy again on me proclaiming to the world how brilliant, compassionate, savvy and overall astounding this woman is for the world.

So far, here’s what I’ve learned (both in practice and theory):

1. Build up her MIND:  A woman’s mind is complex, a labyrinth of wisdom, intellect and intuition.  You’ve heard it a zillion times, a “woman’s intuition.”  Well, that is real world stuff.  She is smart, but she doubts it all the time, because her mind is also a nebulous forest of worry, insecurity and self-doubt—Do people think I’m smart?

So, when you’re out on a double date or meal with friends, save the typical cheap-laugh joke about her forgetting her keys all the time (guilty as charged), and instead tell the others how much you admire her mind—the advice and insight she gives, as well as the contents that flow from her grey matter.  Figure out creative ways to insert illusive kudos into the evening.  Words like that will activate confidence and empowerment in her, not more uncertainty.

2. Recognize her HEART: Women are emotionally more expressive than men.  Better said, they are more honest and open about what they’re feeling—sad, mad, happy or afraid.  At times, this quality might be too much to handle, but resist putting her down for her greatest attribute in the world and your marriage.  Today, it’s a cliche to mock female emotionalism, but do not.  What would a man gain from a woman that emotes like a man?  Exactly.  Tell your wife that you treasure her feelings, how they work and how to care for them.  Even more, tell others the way you appreciate her compassionate side, her sensitivity to things that you lack empathy towards.  Find reasons to brag on the way she expresses her deeper heart.  Her affection will surge for you each time.

3. Spotlight her TALENTS and ABILITIES:  Whether your wife works at home or the White House, she is gifted.  She searches for affirmation differently than a man, though.  Sure, she wants to accomplish goals and score points, but it’s not as much about ego as it is worthiness.  Women want to know their contribution matters and is helpful to the people they serve: Do people value what I do?  Am I good at the work and the relationships?

Furthermore, women struggle with chronic guilt about role-balance, or being good at being a woman, wife, mother, employee, etc.  Facebook is a minefield for them, as they medal-detect every pic and post about so-called perfect women who can do it all.  That’s science fiction, of course, but that is where we come in.  Our wife needs to hear us declare that she does great work.  By work, I mean all the trillion things she does to make your shared worlds move and matter.  Don’t hold back complimenting the smallest details of her endeavors.  Yes, even the way she salted the potatoes she made for dinner.  Go further and tell the neighbors and her friends how impressed you are at how she mothers your kids, and manages the calendar, and works hard at building a career with a balanced home life.  Whatever she does, tell her and the masses that she does it well.

Disclaimer:  Ultimately, no woman (or man) can find his or her worth in another human being’s affirmation and compliments.  The divine meaning comes only from God.  And yet, didn’t He say, “It’s not good for a man to be alone,” and “the two shall become one flesh?”  Somehow, God was intentional about a man and woman encouraging and supporting one another over a lifetime.

Finally, does a woman want to know she’s physically beautiful?  Absolutely.  She also wants to hear that she’s more than skin tone, shape and sex appeal.  So, join me in a 5 to 1 compliment ratio: For every 1 physical ovation offer her 5 more in the mind, heart and skill category.

 

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A Better Way for a Man to talk about Sex with His Wife

Why do sex-life talks seem like such a minefield for husbands?  Ideally, two married adults should be able to discuss their sexual needs in a simple, life-giving and productive manner; yet, often these conversations are dodged or explode quickly.

Still, avoiding these talks may cause men to settle for mediocrity, private frustruation or shutdown intimacy altogether.  If a man does not learn how to converse with his wife about their sex life, an environment of dysfunction, secret sins and possible affairs can evolve and destroy the marriage.

Ignorance and naivety are one challenge, where some men value sexual purity but still never learned how to discuss sex with their wife.  Of course, the media and popular culture are happy to fill in the blanks.  A more common challenge, though, is a man has a sexual past of promiscuity, abuse and/or pornography, which significantly alters his view and expectations of his wife’s sexual performance.  Here are some great resources for help and understanding on sexual residue: Sexual Healing by David Kyle Forester, Redemption by Mike Wilkerson and Sexual Detox by Tim Challies.

Disclaimer: I’m not a psychologist or therapist, nor is the following an exhaustive list, but some of these challenges get resolved in the guidance below.  The first two are basic 101 conversations, but I don’t assume all men have covered them if they’re relevant to their story.  Skip to number three if their irrelevant.

1) Disclose your sexual past and present: If you held back this detail in the beginning of your relationship or marriage, or have a current secret sins, then prepare for this conversation today, and don’t put it off another week.  It’s nearly impossible to be whole-hearted in intimacy if you still have secrets.  You might be tempted to think that it’s all behind you now, so why bring it up, but the Apostle Paul reminds people that sexual past has a lingering effect overtime (1 Corinthians 6:18); it stays in our conscience and memory longer.  Not every detail of every situation needs equal treatment, but your wife should know about any past or present skeletons in the closet.  You might fear her falling apart or running away, but let her take responsibility for her own reaction instead of you.  You are responsible to be honest and transparent, and that virtue is worth the risk.  Read Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

2) Patiently discuss any abusive backstory:  Countless resources show women who’ve been sexually abused or raped can struggle with desire and performance for years.  This doesn’t mean you both must accept lifelong dysfunction, rather you have an opportunity to walk her out of the hurt and into sexual fulfillment, but a long haul mindset and willingness to get professional assistance are the best steps forward.  Isn’t your wife and your sexual health worth the time, energy and investment, though?

Now, if the first two conversations are covered well, then you’re marriage can handle the next level.

3) What does foreplay mean to your wife? Women often admit their husband begins foreplay hours before love making–acts of kindness, consideration, domestic involvement, humble leadership, etc.  Ask your wife to describe these actions, but realize that doing them is only half the equation.  The heart behind these acts is just as critical.  Read Kosher Lust by Rabbi Schumley Biotech (Caution: this book is life altering).

4) Discuss quality or quantity:  Even when a husband and wife are both emotionally and physically healthy, most men still have a stronger sex drive than their wife (there are exceptions, of course).  That said, she will desire sex less, so her fulfillment is based on space between encounters.  Otherwise, you trade quantity for quality; most considerate husbands will shoot for mutual fulfillment.  Assuming you’ve covered conversation 1 and 2 above, start a conversation that gives your wife freedom to speak openly about her desires and expectations.

Tread prayerfully, humbly and courageously through these conversation.  Comments welcomed.

 

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Fathers Can Make Every Moment Count

Leverage everyday moments to show your sons character, because life can sometimes teach better than a lecture.

On a recent visit to my in-law’s house, my son, Chase, and I kicked a soccer ball in their backyard—more like a grassy patio.  The small patch embanked a mucky waterway that empties into the nearby Atlantic Ocean.  Sure enough, a few kicks into a casual passing game and the ball plunged into the sleepy current.  This was no ordinary ball, though; but instead my nephew’s prized possession.

The ball must be recovered, because I wasn’t about to be the uncle that lost his nephew’s childhood trophy to the sea.  Besides, this was the first virtue to highlight for the boys—STEWARDSHIP.  If boys are going to become men who take responsibility for their life and utilize resources with care, instead of recklessness and waste, then I had to prove it to my sons right then.  They must know this was not a disposable object.  That ball must be retrieved.

Like a whale bobber, the ball wafted about 20-feet off the bank, sort of taunting us out into the deep, black water. I asked my mother-in-law, “What should I be aware of before I jump in?”  She said, “Water moccasins.”  Scratch that, I thought.  My nephew can hate me to his grave, because this was not a drowning child, but instead a twenty-dollar birthday present.  Nevertheless, virtue-one still was in play, and the scene was also an opportunity to teach virtue-two–PERSEVERANCE.

Men learn how to fight through future setbacks and struggles in boyhood endeavors like this one.  How can I ask my sons to study for an exam when they’re exhausted, or follow through with a project when everyone else flakes out, or fight for their marriage during the Seven Year Itch, if they can’t find a way to get a soccer ball out of the swamp?  Simple moments like this are where they learn to push through until the job gets done.

Soon, the boys and I rummaged the parameter for anything long enough to snag the ball before it was gone forever.  Branches and shovels wouldn’t reach it, though, so my oldest son, Ethan, tossed rocks and bricks out past the ball and hoped the ripples might push it towards the bank.  The opposite happened and the ball drifted further from reach and soon out of view.  Jumping in flashed through my mind again, but the math was still the same, death by venomous snake.

Then, through the side-yard thickets I heard voices.  Across high thickets and overgrowth was the neighbor’s yard, where two men spread pine needles in their landscaping beds.  I ran over to enroll them in the plight; and now these strangers and I walked to the water’s edge to debate options.  Virtue-three was framed up for my sons—FRIENDSHIP.  Men need other men to help them get stuff out of the dark water.  I don’t want my son’s growing up believing rugged individualism is anymore true than it is virtuous.  Too often men live and die in a shell of false power and loneliness.  Why?  Because they believe going it alone is what the world asks of them and rewards.  Wrong.  Seek help and comradeship, and know when you’re out of your league, is what I want them to go after.

Within minutes these new friends gave me the advise and tools to fish the ball out.  The gray-bearded man said, “Just wait.  It wants to come to shore.”  And his twenty-something son handed me a rake and said, “Use this when it comes closer.”  Like a prophet and his protege, these men called the moment like they once trained for a thousand soccer ball rescue missions.  Once I clutched the ball, I presented it to my sons as a venerated catch, as though we had bagged the White Whale.  High-fives all around.

If a father pays attention, he can use trivial settings to teach manhood credos to his boys.  Trust me, they’ll watch and learn if you will make the moment count.

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How to Let Your Kid Fail

No caring father wants his kid to be an American Idol tryout clip where the national public wonders, “Did that kid’s dad ever tell him he can’t sing?”  Instead, we want to be the voice of reason to guide them to realistic expectations.  Nevertheless, sometimes we’re wrong and just need to let them fail.

A year ago my 10-year-old son, Chase, declared he wanted to be a goalie for his soccer team.  The family collectively agreed this was not a good idea, because he was a promising offensive player.  He didn’t care and the next game asked the coach to put him in the goal.  I’ve never been the side-line-coach-parent who yells insults and instructions to his kid, but I got pretty close that day.  

He was a terrible goalie.  Shot after shot went past him to score.  Once, the ball rolled towards his grounded palms at 2mph, yet somehow escaped and tunneled under his legs into the goal.  I wanted to dig a hole and live in it for a couple years.  

Why don’t we want our kids to fail?  Is it our pride?  Are we afraid it will crush them?

Afterwards, Chase rushed off the field and locked himself in the backseat.  His mother tapped on the window to check on him and he said, “I don’t feel supported by any of you.”  What? I thought.  He’s mad at us, and not humiliated by his performance?  Sure enough, he didn’t care that he tried something and failed, what he wanted was space to learn.  I begged his forgiveness and so did the rest of the family.  He gracioulsy forgave. 

Last week (one year later) Chase was the starting goalie for his travel team and hailed by his teammates as the unofficial MVP for more than one game.  What happened?  He busted his tail to get better.  He got up early to work out, asked his brother to coach and drill him in the backyard and persisted in improvement.  Perhaps, he did so to prove us wrong or just accomplish a dream, or a little bit of both.   

The lesson for me was simple: Sometimes just let go of pride and protection to let kids fail their way to success.  

What’s your story?
 

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Every Man is a Chief

Men are the Chief Culture Officers of their homes; meaning, he sets the relational and production climate of the group. Let me add that any woman is capable of the job, and some assume this role when a man is absent or neglectful.  Nevertheless, most women and children look to and prefer the male figure to see how relationships function and things get done.

If a man is passive or lazy about these things, then women and children either carry the load or sink into poverty.  If a man is angry and abusive, then the family walks on eggshells and functions out of fear.  Yet, if a man is proactive, humble and courageous then family members function in a peaceful and productive environment.  

Here’s a couple ways men can be proactive, humble and courageous:
 
Determine your core values:  What does your family believe? What’s your faith, values and convictions?  Take these things and narrow them to 3 or 4 axiom/proverbs that are easy to say and apply.  Don’t get too complicated, because  they’ll need to become part of the family lexicon.  For example, we say, “always tell the truth and you don’t have to rember anything.” That gets shortened to “always tell the truth.” Clearly, honestly is a big deal in our home.

Schedule a weekly family meeting (see The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler): This one habit will always keep your tribe connected to relationships and core values.  Family decisions can be discussed and decided here.  The parents should define what decision are consensus and which ones are not debatable.

Teach and model reconciliation:  Men should also be the Chief Apology and Fogiveness Officers at home.  Humility gets modeled when a man owns his mistakes and teaches the rest of the members to do the same.  Simultaneously, he must offer grace and forgiveness when someone follows his lead in seeking restoration.  

These three should get you started.  I’d love to hear ways you accomplish in-home cultural leadership.  
 

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One Way to Get Past a Good Enough Marriage

Men, sometimes we can be doing a lot of the right things, but still miss the mark with our marriage.  Note, this is not a fair reality, but, like it or not, marriage success depends more on us than our wives (again, not fair but true).  So, most women settle for the bird-in-hand stuff (husband providing materially, being present, staying faithful, fathering the kids, etc.) but quietly she desires the undone—husband growing in his leadership and helping the family get better season after season.

Why?  Over time, men stop improving. It’s like we acquire the secret list of how to score points and get busy doing it, but then plateau unapologetically.  Status quo doesn’t heat up the marriage, though.  Our wives long for us to dream new dreams for everyone we lead, especially her.  Dreams like: By next year, this is where I want to see our relationship; these are ways we can give, save and earn more money; if we do this, we can be debt free and take the whole family to Disney in two years, etc.

I re-learned this recently when my wife shared all the things I was winning on, but still she felt like I put marriage development on the back burner.  Marriage development?  I thought showing up in the basics was growing the marriage.  Well, kind of.  Truthfully, being a present man, husband and father in the home is expected after awhile (and shouldn’t it be?); but, ongoing improvement in the marriage and family is the special sauce.

Therefore, here’s one thing I did to kick status quo in the teeth and push marriage development into high gear.  I retooled a weekend trip out of town into a DIY marriage retreat.  I didn’t have to pay for a big ticket, nationally known conference guru or any packaged materials.  Instead, I designed three sessions out of Andy Stanely’s video series “Staying In Love” and then we discussed questions based upon the teachings.  When we weren’t “in session,” we walked around outdoor malls and ate great food.  The DIY-conference was a fraction of the cost, basically a Priceline hotel, tank of gas and food.  Give it a try and watch yourself move past good enough.

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Why is it Hard for Men to Have Real Friends?

You’ve heard the axiom “a good friend is hard to find.”  Well, it’s especially difficult for men, but there are some secrets to overcoming the difficulties.

One theme my wife has restated to me throughout our marriage is, “You should really get some friends.”  Defensively, I list off a few names of guys that I feel close to and she responds with, “Then why don’t you ever hang out with them?”  Too busy, too involved in family, too…whatever.

Most men don’t realize how isolated they are from each other.  Simply, we’re ignorant to our friendlessness.  We become masters of acquaintances and mostly settle for superficial relationships—work associates, football bros, hunting buddies and church friends.  Nothing is wrong with any of those relationships, but that’s not the kinds of friendship men have trouble fostering.  It’s the life-giving and life-saving ones we seem to neglect for years, because those require time, risk, trust, emotional expressiveness, regular proximity and maturity.  So, ignorance becomes bliss for most of us.

Besides ignorance, pride is another barrier for men moving past the surface and getting a real friend.  We don’t want to need anyone, especially the encouragement and accountability of another man—that sounds like hippy therapy stuff. Or, sometimes we apply the exemption rule, which is “my wife is my best friend.”  However, our wives are not men and some virtues are only found in male friendships, so no man is exempt from finding a real friend if he wants to live whole.

Okay, so here’s Secret #1:  Ask someone to be your friend.  Off the bat, that sounds cheesy, because we think friendship should just happen, but we’re not boys growing up in the neighborhood anymore and only the few and proud are active Marines (military exception applied).  Instead, we are men with a lot of responsibilities and little time to complete it all.  Recently though, I sat across the table from a church acquaintance and said, “The reason I wanted to meet today might sound strange.  In fact, it’s probably the first time someone’s ever asked you something like this.”  He said, “Go ahead, ask away.”  I replied, “Would you be my friend?”  We both laughed it off at first, but then he asked me what that looked like.

Great segue to Secret #2: Put friendship on the calendar.  To my new friend, I said, “Let’s try to meet at this time every week and we’ll go from there.”  He agreed and we’ve connected once a week for several months.  Let’s face it, though, our culture does not fit well with life-giving and life-saving friendships.  Good reasons will always come up for not meeting, so why not put it as a recurring appointment on your calendar?

This idea came to me one day when I walked into a breakfast joint and recognized an associate of mine.  I approached his table, joked back and forth about something and then he introduced me to the guy across the table.  “This is Daryl,” he said.  “He’s a friend of mine and we’ve been meeting here once a week for 5-years.”  Five years?  No football? No project? No good reason?  Two men meeting every week to build a friendship for friendship sake, is it really that simple?  That one episode gave me a framework to uncomplicate friendship—just put it on the calendar.

True friendship is work to foster and continue in, but it’s worth it.  What are your thoughts?

 

 

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You are a Mentor

You are a mentor.  Most people raise an eyebrow to that statement, because they’ve had incorrect perceptions on mentoring.  To mentor someone does not mean you are the sage with all the answers to a person’s questions.  Instead, it just means you’ve lived life and learned from it; you’ve failed, succeeded, been through trials, experienced triumph and everything in between (so perfect people don’t make good mentors).  Then you simply share all that imperfect stuff with someone else in need.

There is hidden benefit to mentoring.  You get to re-learn or redeem the pages of your life.  Once you impart the wisdom and guidance you’ve learned then that truth gets retaught to you.  Also, mentoring passes your influence onto more than just the person in front of you.  He or she will go impact others with your guidance.  Bottom line: you get better and your influence goes further.

Here’s a simple plan to mentor:

1) Choose someone: Don’t just wait for someone to knock on your door and ask you to guide them—that rarely happens.  Look around your circles of influence instead and offer your time to someone you have an instinct about.  Typically, you will be intuitive about someone you need to track with.  Say something like, “I noticed you’ve been going through…Would you like me to offer some guidance?”  The worst thing is they say, “No thank you.”  Otherwise, they’ll be grateful and ready for direction.

2) Set a timeframe: Whether you choose them or they ask you, agree to meet with for a certain period; for example, one hour a week for six weeks.  Mentoring relationships are not meant to last forever.

3) Structure the Time:  Keep the structure simple.  Read through a relevant book together, or just have them prepare 2 or 3 questions for each meeting, and you field those questions based upon your experience or expertise.  Side note: this is mentoring and not friendship, so bring the goods, not just the laughs.

4) Teach them to mentor: After a while, inspire them to be a guide to others.  Clue them in on how they too have something to give away to help others.  Teach them the hidden benefit of mentoring.

I love to catch up with people I’ve mentored in the past and hear them tell their mentoring stories.  Something deeply fulfilling happens inside me to know that I’ve inspired someone else to make a difference.

You are not perfect, but you are a mentor. 

What’s your story?  Has someone mentored you before?  If so, please comment.

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