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helpful

I helped two people move this week. Well, "help" is a rather strong word. I showed up for a few hours and did some small tasks. I carried boxes, rearranged things to make room for more stuff, and tried to be encouraging and calming. It seemed like very little. I am used to carrying more of the load, I guess, but here's the thing: you can pay someone to move your stuff for you, but you can't pay someone to be your friend. And I guess I am learning that I don't have to exert a lot of sweat and expend great amounts of effort to be someone's friend or help them out. I just have to show up on a consistent basis, be there at crucial moments, and then stand, walk, sit, listen, cry, eat, or laugh with them.

I finished reading Good to Great by Jim Collins this week. He said many things that got me thinking. And I believe that I have a lot more clarity regarding how to move forward with certain situations in my life, especially groups that I am involved in. Here are a few principles that smacked me over the head:

1. Trying to motivate people and keep them interested is a waste of time. It takes energy away from your real task, which is to do something unique and great that no other group can do. People will have fun because they love being involved in that amazing and challenging process. One leader said, "If you are not passionate about what we do here, then go find something else to do." Ouch! I have too often found myself trying to convince people that x or y is a great idea and they should get involved. In the end, my motivation or excitement is never enough to carry anyone else and people lose interest and walk away. People have to find motivation within themselves or it won't last. I am not sure how I can help them uncover it, but I would like to able to do that.

2. Being great takes no more effort than being mediocre. In fact, it might take less at times. Hard work alone does not get one to greatness. However, being single-minded, focused, facing the brutal facts, and saying 'no' to everything that does not fit within your pursuit of greatness (calling, passion, goal, whatever you want to call it) will keep you moving forward. Yeah, I've tried trying harder and it just makes you more tired and frustrated. It helps to take a hard look at what we can be truly great at (our unique qualities and opportunities) and let go of all those things that merely disperse our energies. Diversification is not all it is cracked up to be. We cannot do it all, so how about doing one thing really well? Oh, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is bad news unless it already lines up with what you are passionate about.

3. Who you do it with is way more important than what you do. If you don't have the right people around you (who are passionate and disciplined), it doesn't matter what you do, it will not succeed. If you have the right people, they will help drive any project with their particular set of skills and their passion. You can always teach a skill. You can't teach devotion or passion. My question is, how do people get these qualities?

4. Humility will get you further than charisma. Leaders who were humble (cared more about their company or group than about their own reputation) served the company well, but leaders who were "stars" eventually drove their companies into the ground. This was because their own personal status was more important than the success of the whole group. Unfortunately, I have seen this happen a lot in church settings. May I never rely on charisma to produce lasting results or be sucked into following a personality. Humility also attracts God. I like that!

This week I have been thinking about what we as a faith community (and me as a person) could be truly great at. Surprisingly, it has not been that hard to see. And once I saw it, I got really excited! A bit scary to see where it could all lead, really. And that's a good thing.

This is a baby's belly button. Helpful at one time in her growth, but now that she's matured past that stage, it's just darn cute!

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