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Be fully alive! (Part 2: The How to)

October 19, 2012

“In order for your business to become fully alive, you must become fully alive inside it.” John Jantsch, The Commitment Engine p. 18

So yesterday I explored the importance of being fully alive inside our businesses and workplaces. Today I want to discover more of the how to come alive, be alive and stay alive in our various contexts.

In a word: Less

The first thing I often need in order to feel more alive inside my business is less of my business. We all need a break sometime. We all need systematic, regular breaks where we step aside from our businesses and get a different perspective. Where we lift our nose off the grindstone and look up, get a different view. I’m part of a coaching program that refers to these as “Free days” and they have elevated that simple concept to a life altering and beautiful extreme.

Free days are days we plan to nothing related to our businesses – including email and reading business related books and articles – for 24 hours. It is a day for rejuvenation. The word Rejuvenation descended from Latin and literally means “to be made young again.” So if you’re wondering what you would do if you take time away from your business think about those things that you did when you were younger that made you feel alive.

When I was young I used to hike in the woods behind our home for hours, climb trees, camp, ride my bike, ride my skateboard, jump ramps, and ride motorcycles. Basically anything that involved risk, speed and nature. So not surprisingly as an adult I still like to experience nature and sometimes I like to do that at high speeds. So I bought a Harley last year – pictured above. (And Charlie, if you’re reading, I definitely want to ride in November even if we have to bundle up a bit!)

This concept of free days though is hardly new. It finds roots deep in the Jewish scriptures in both the creation story (God rested on the 7th day) and in the 10 commandments (“Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”) It has been a part of the faithful’s practice for millennium.

So, I try to take at least one free day a week and often two. I also schedule a full day away for solitude each month. And quarterly I take a few days away that are focused more on dreaming, planning and goal setting. All that is in addition to family vacations and regular holiday breaks. I haven’t always been able to have this. It has been a goal and something I’ve worked toward for years and only in past few years have been able to enjoy.

And here’s the pay off: By taking time to not focus on my business, I return to it different, more ready to fully engage it with fresh ideas and energy that infects everything and everyone I interact with.  

Be fully alive! (Part 1)

October 18, 2012

“In order for your business to become fully alive, you must become fully alive inside it.” John Jantsch, The Commitment Engine p. 18

There was definitely a time when I was not fully alive in my business. John Jantsch has a simple definition of marketing and it’s getting someone who has a need for what you offer to know, like and trust you. I didn’t really know, like or trust my own business! Yet, over time I have been able to come fully alive inside my business. Part of that has been a healing journey and part of it has been a growing realization that this is what I was born to do.

Know: We all come with varying degrees of knowledge into a field. Sometimes the things we learned while in training whether that be vocational school or college don’t really apply in the real world of work. Sometimes we train for something and find ourselves doing something completely different. For me I spent years training for the ministry and found myself in business. Sure, I had worked in the family business when I was 15 sweeping floors, cleaning paint cans, and washing cars but 20 years later I found myself suddenly in charge of it and learning to do computerized estimates, deal with insurance claims and marketing to referral partners. Somehow my classes in Theology weren’t providing much help here. And the view I had on the bottom of the org chart when I was 15 also did not prepare me for this new challenge.
Like: Secondly, I didn’t really like being in business. At first. Now, I absolutely love it. But in the beginning it was just a means to an end. I just needed a paycheck so that I could do what I really loved which was ministry. That, I thought, was my calling and really, what could be more important than God’s work? Business was just a cow that gave me milk. I wasn’t attached to it. I was using it for one purpose: a paycheck.

Trust: I didn’t trust my business. I didn’t even trust “business” in general. I saw it at best as a necessary evil that would some day go away as we became more enlightened or God more fully redeemed the world.

But over time I came to know, like and trust my business. I know much better now the technical side and the how-to side of how it operates and what makes it go. I’ve also come to see that it has a personality, a unique way of being in my neighborhood and in my industry. And I like it. I have learned to like it in the sense that it brings me loads of joy and the more I work in it and at it the more joy it delivers. It’s like the guy in Chariots of Fire who said he feels God’s pleasure when he runs. I now feel God’s pleasure when I’m running Center City Collision. And lastly I trust it. I know that it is part of the good world that God created and I’ve come to believe that God fully intended business to be a part of the world he created and loves. That’s important to me because if that’s not true then I would have no hope for encountering his presence in the bulk of how I spend my day. But since that is true I can count on him to be there, ahead of me, waiting to reveal more of his abundant life to me there.

Iraneus, a church father from the 2nd century said “The Glory of God is a person fully alive.”

How are you coming alive in your work? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or an email to kevinrains@gmail.com.

(In Part 2 I will discuss specific strategies for coming more fully alive inside your business.)

The Patient Entrepreneur

October 15, 2012

“The most critical aspect of commitment is that it can not be manufactured quickly. It must be carefully cultivated and cared for, just as a tree can only come from the careful nurturing of a seed.” (John Jantsch, The Commitment Engine p. 1)

When I think of entrepreneurs I rarely think of them as patient. That is partly for biographical reasons! I’m not prone to patience. Action? Yes. Moving quickly without all the facts. Yep! Starting something or innovating with little forethought. Guilty.

I’m part of a coaching program that encourages the use of the Kolbe profile. It is a test that measures how people prefer to act. It’s well worth your time to check it out but without going into all the details my profile is what they call a “Quick Start.”

“Hi, my name is Kevin and I act before I think.” And yet…

There’s no shortcut to an Oak tree. Growing Oaks takes time. It can’t be rushed.

There’s no shortcut to shared commitment. Growing commitment takes time. It can’t be rushed.

But the good news is it can be cultivated. So while our part in growing commitment is dependent on many factors we can’t control the few that are in our control are very important. We plant seeds: idea seeds. We share vision, painting pictures of a preferred and shared future. We invite co-workers to join the team and investors to buy in. And then we wait. We wait to see what the response is. We water it by sharing it over and over. We protect it by clarifying the vision and the invitation. We make sure that it passes from person to person without getting skewed like a game of telephone.

And we do the work. We experiment and create demonstration plots. We verify and adjust on the fly. We patiently tweak and try again. We fail as fast as possible so we can learn where the weak points are and that reveals where we need to make adjustments. And simultaneously we celebrate even the smallest successes and patiently point out where things are working.

I’m right in the middle of this process now as my shop Center City Collision is trying to dramatically reduce the amount of time cars spend in our shop. I am convinced that half the jobs can be done on a 24 Hour clock. I’m talking about it. We’re experimenting on small jobs. We’re succeeding. And we’re failing. And the failures are just as important at this stage so we can keep keep tweaking it. Finding clears that dry faster. Making sure all the parts are at the shop before we get started. We’re creating the recipe and taste testing as we go. Commitment is grown as we succeed. Learning spikes when we don’t.

But again, this takes time.

I’m reminded of Wendell Berry’s poem Like the Snow. I’ll let my favorite poet/farmer have the final word:

“Suppose we did our work

like the snow, quietly, quietly.

leaving nothing out.”

What shortcuts are tempting you right now?

St. Kevin & the cow

October 13, 2012

These last few posts I know have been pretty autobiographical. Sorry ’bout that. I hope to be on to more interesting topics soon but there’s just a few that I had to get out. This is another one.

St. Kevin as the story goes was an Irish monastic who set up a hermitage on a farm. Every day one of the farmer’s cows would come to Kevin and lick his feet while he was praying. Gross right? Well, turns out that acted as some sort of blessing and the cow produced more milk than any other cow the farmer had. As any good businessman would the farmer followed this cow around to try to figure out what had increased the production to this unusual but very pleasing level. So he followed the cow for a day and the cow led him to St. Kevin. The farmer was so pleased he asked Kevin to instruct his family in the ways of Christ. Kevin agreed to this and before long others came and a monastery with a church was established on this farmer’s land. Over time and under Kevin’s influence the site became so popular that it became a city, the city of Glendalough in Ireland. It remains a city to this day (1500 years later!) and has been a popular destination for Christian pilgrimage for hundreds of years.

Ray Simson, a prolific author and expert in Celtic spirituality, told me this story near the end of our recent pilgrimage to Ireland and Scotland. One of the core ideas I wrestled with on that trip was integrating my calling as a minister and my calling as an entrepreneur. I’m sure he sensed this as we talked and he told me this story about St. Kevin’s special ability to make things more productive – the very definition of an entrepreneur!

And it took on special significance when I remembered that I had written  about my business being a cow over 5 years ago!

+++ Lord, I ask for the gifting of St. Kevin – to help things produce well beyond their normal capacity and out of the overflow may your kingdom come more fully and Christ’s name be known and praised more broadly. Amen. +++

St Kevin, pray for me as I pray for my business, neighborhood and this city. Amen.

The Contemplative Entrepreneur

October 7, 2012


There’s this little story from the life of St. Anthony that has completely changed the way I view my calling and has helped me immensely as I’ve tried to integrate my earlier life as a minister with my more recent life as an entrepreneur.

For years I’ve viewed my move into business as a demotion. Since I was a child I’ve wanted to be a missionary or a pastor. That call has taken me to many countries, to get a ministry related doctorate degree and to being a pastor for 15 years in Norwood, Ohio with Vineyard Central first as an associate pastor followed by 8 years as the lead pastor.

And even though I would preach and teach that everyone has a calling and being a pastor is not more important than being a shoe salesman some how that was never quite true for me.

I remember the tension I felt as my business began to grow. I was almost angry… ok, I was angry! I didn’t want it to grow or at least out grow my church. I wanted to see fruit from my ministry not profits from my business! It seemed all backwards and out of proportion. A little effort in my business and it would grow all out of proportion to the small effort. Same effort with my church… more effort actually… and very little fruit. I was an “ok” pastor but a good entrepreneur. Except I didn’t want it that way. I wanted my business to give me “just enough” to live on so I could be about my real work as a pastor. And not having great fruit from my ministry efforts just confirmed that I was suffering for Jesus in obscurity working in a ‘hard’ place. That must be worth some bonus kingdom points, right?

An unknown doctor who was a contemporary of St. Anthony is changing all that. Finally.

I have lived with this feeling that I somehow messed up or got a pink slip from God. Or if you prefer sports metaphors: I was sidelined and went from being a quarterback to a water boy.

St. Anthony is probably the most revered desert father from early church  history. After giving away his large family inheritance he lived a life of solitude and prayer in the Egyptian desert. Eventually hundreds imitated his life and followed him into the desert then thousands came to learn from them. These men (and some women too) who went to the desert were like rock stars in the kingdom. Everyone wanted to meet them or be prayed for by them. They were called the ‘athletes of God.’ They were a special class of Christian that many would admire but few could meet the high demands of renouncing everything to follow them into the desert.

In short, they were the gold standard of what it meant to be a Christian.

Or were they?

While on a recent pilgrimage to Ireland and Scotland I would find books along the way that really seemed to speak to me. Directly. It was weird. And one book would lead me to the next. Like one book I was reading in Ireland about life in a monastery referenced another book on silent prayer that I just happened to find in Scotland at a book store I stumbled into one day… and then that book had a little story in it that really spoke directly to me. It was like God had me on a scavenger hunt or like he was leaving me a trail of crumbs that led me directly to this…

“It was revealed to Abba Anthony in his desert that there was one who was his equal in the city. He was a doctor by profession and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor, and every day he sang the Sanctus with the angels.” (Sources: OrthodoxWiki.org and Wikipedia.org)

Whoa! Hold on here. You mean there was someone out ‘in the world,’ living in a depraved city, being a doctor and managing his business who lived a prayerful and generous life and that he was St Anthony’s equal?

Yep.

I know I have issues but that was mind bender for me. And that little story is changing the way I view my calling. I can be a prayerful and generous entrepreneur and be really, really close to God.

Which is really all I’ve wanted all along…

St Columba’s Bay: A burial

October 6, 2012

I recently did a pilgrimage that took me and several friends, some old, some new to Ireland, Scotland and a little dip into England. Each place had its mega-delights, surprises and charms and the relational gains were immense when I consider how fast I got close to this little posse of pilgrims.

There were however three standouts in terms of personal growth that I’ve been longing to share in writing. Two of them had to do with a new understanding of how my life now as an entrepreneur fits with my younger life as a minister. And the other has to do with some final healing related to the deaths of my friends Chad Canipe and Mark Palmer.

You may know this about me already but my left arm is one big tattoo. It is mostly a memorial and declaration related to that profound loss. Two young men, both starting out in ministry with incredible zeal and wisdom beyond their years and both husbands and fathers of young children. They were two of my closest allies and they died within 2 weeks of each other; one totally unexpectedly, the other after a recurring battle with cancer.

Our pilgrimage guide and my friend and spiritual director Mary knew of this profound grief that I have been holding onto for years now – almost 7 to be exact. She also knew that the Celtic Christian tradition was stirring up those feelings of loss in big with me as both Chad and Mark felt deeply connected to that tradition through their study and admiration of Celtic church history and praying Celtic Daily Prayers from the Northumbria community. In her own unique way that only Mary can bring she told me it was time to leave them there. To find the closure I desperately needed but couldn’t quite embrace. 

When we reached St. Columba’s bay after a long walk I decided that it was time. I picked up two gorgeous white rocks from the bay and found a perch on top of this massive 20 foot high rocky outcropping – it required a little climbing – and extended into the bay. Waves were crashing on all sides and I was alone with the two rocks on my perch. Each rock of course represented one of my friends and after a brief conversation with each of them where I poured out my heart and my grief I threw them into the bay below, burying them among the crashing Celtic waves on the ocean floor below. I had an image in my head later that night as I recalled this that they were walking into a huge banquet, together, with large wooden doors closing behind them as they entered into a feast. Once the doors were closed all that was left was for me to turn around and face the work in front of me and stop longing to be with them. Togetherness, I believe, will come in time – or beyond time as the case may be! For now I am left here, facing the work that is set before me. There is still much I have to do before I can join them and my other two revelations from this pilgrimage clarified what that work entails…  

August 12, 2012

So I’m starting to write again… but as is typically the case I start with more questions than answers. Writing settles me. Writing clarifies even as it raises new questions. Embarrassingly, The questions I’m wrestling with now are the same ones I’ve been wrestling with for a long time. To further add embarrassment, I’ve had counselors and coaches and spiritual directors and friends offer very compelling answers to these questions. Perhaps I have not been in a place to embrace their answers. Perhaps wrestling with these questions is more important for my own or others development than having a “solid answer.”

My questions revolve around my identity, history and where to put my focus.

In a nutshell I’m wrestling with how my past experience, training and calling as a minister/ pastor/ clergy relates to my current vocation as a business professional. I mean I feel schizo over this!

A large part of my frustration is that I want to contribute to others who have “dual callings” but I have not settled in to my own skin on this issue yet. I want to write about how to sell without selling your soul and why marketing is not a sin and profit is not a 4 letter word. And the voices in my head (we all have them, don’t act like you don’t!) start in on me…. “Well St Francis never sold anything!” on the one side and “Of course profit isn’t a sin… it’s the whole point!” on the other….

I guess I want to do well and DO good.

 

Jesus is named.

January 1, 2012

Today is the day the church celebrates the “Holy Name of Jesus.” The gospel reading for today climaxes with Mary and Joseph naming Jesus. And of course they named him, “Jesus.”

The name Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek name Iesous that is related to the Hebrew name Joshua which means “Jehovah (God) is salvation.”

Here’s the story from Luke 2:15-21

 “15-18As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

19-20Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

 21When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived.”
(from The Message, translated by Eugene Peterson)
What strikes me immediately is the contrast between the sheep-herders and Mary.
The sheep-herders are classic extroverts. Their first reaction to this news is to start talking. They tell anyone and everyone who will listen what they heard from the angels and eventually saw for themselves. They are processing it out loud, in conversation, excitedly.
Then there’s Mary. She takes a more contemplative approach and just stores all this in deep down and ponders it. She is acting here as a classic introvert. Processing things internally. Thinking things over in silence.
Another way to look at this passage would be to see the sheep herders as enthusiastic Pentecostals and Mary as a reserved high church liturgy type. There’s room for both in the unfolding Story of God!
+++ Lord, thank you for the diversity of reactions recorded in your Story around your birth. There’s such great high notes of angelic choir celebrations and verbal proclamations coupled with silent, holy nights of contemplation. Help me to embrace both celebration and contemplation as parts of the greater whole of knowing, loving and worshiping you in all the diversity of your church & kingdom. Amen. +++