shortbread

short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the tag “Personal vision”

“Einstein’s Desk…Burns…and an Organizing Principle”

Einstein's face

My first job after college was that of “Youth Director” at Huffman United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. My supervisor was Director of Christian Education, Burns Nesbitt. Burns was a 50-something, retired Air Force chaplain with way too much life and knowledge to spend it golfing away the golden years, so, Burns took on the challenge of cultivating the educational ministries of a 1500-member congregation.

How to describe Burns?

Burns was a dreamer/planner/world-thinker/justice-seeker/teacher/trainer/ uproarious laugh-er/theologian/connoisseur of life’s simple gifts—not to mention, husband to Mary Alice (delightful, strong, and refreshingly honest), and father to Phil, Jaye, and Chris. All this said, Burns tried his best to bring it all together and live a life of integrity.

My first visit to Burns’ office was unsettling. How do I describe that 8’ x 12’ish space? Overstuffed bookshelves reaching floor-to-ceiling… institutional, gray-green metal desk…a couple of mismatched chairs—all upstaged by two-foot-high stacks of file folders, open reference books, periodicals, and do-dad keepsakes from people and places past. There were 2’ x 3’ sheets of white newsprint masking-taped around the walls with barely legible, color-coded, Magic Marker scribbles from recent meetings. There was a flip chart in the corner on a flimsey aluminum easel, and a fire hazard of a desktop strewn with loose papers, sticky notes and cheap pens. The words “tsunami” and “tetanus shot” come to mind. John Wesley, father of our Methodist OCD-ness would not have seen eye-to-eye with Burns—and not just because Burns was a foot taller. 

In time, I came to understand that Burns was perfectly comfortable in his little disaster area. The disorder was his order—and Burns could put his hand on anything he needed at a moment’s notice. He knew exactly where the red Magic Marker was, and the children’s Sunday School material, and the book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Question: Have you ever seen a photo of Einstein’s desk?…or Mark Twain’s?… or Steve Jobs? Take a look….

Desk-Einstein

Desk-Mark Twain

Desk-Steve Jobs

My point?   Different people have different ways of making sense of their world—that is, different organizing principles.  Maybe it’s do-lists, PDA’s, calendars, personal assistants, executive secretaries.  For some, it’s mentors, managers, coaches, or trainers.  Maybe it’s a favorite philosopher or theologian.

What’s important is that you find something that works for you—a simple truth or system that helps you figure out the specifics of your life…that helps you make sense of a discombobulated world, and make a little hay while your mortal sun shines.

Now, Burns was no Einstein—though he had his occasional bursts of brilliance—but Burns had found a system that worked for him….

Amazing that he could find it in that office!

Keith Elder

2-3-2015

http://keithelder.com/

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“Smokey the Bear and Catherine of Sienna?”

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Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

Wait for it…  Hold that thought…  I’ll tell you in a sec….

It was just another facebook poster:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – Saint Catherine of Sienna  (shared on meetville.com).

The irony—and I didn’t know this till I did a little research—Saint Catherine was/is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of Fire Prevention.

I’ve known a few “saints of fire-prevention” along the way.  Self-designated dowsers throwing water on anything vaguely resembling innovation. If it was not in the rule book…if it meant going off the beaten path or over the beaten budget…if it threatened to crack the glass ceiling of “the way we’ve always done it”—the saints of fire prevention just said, “No.”  In church. In business. In society.

Unfortunately, the only way we find the new-and-wonderful is to let go of at least some of the old-and-not-as-wonderful-as-it-once-was.  Nicodemus did it in John 3.  It’s the story where Jesus said, “you must be born again.” It’s a new wineskins for new wine thing.

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Though Catherine received no formal education, and though she only lived to the age of 33, she was recognized as one of the most intelligent theological and philosophical minds in the Catholic world.  Don’t you know the old cardinals loved having this young, female voice swaying the Pope’s decisions?  But she didn’t care. True truth-tellers aren’t bent by winds of popular opinion. She was a mover and a shaker. And despite her later designation as Patron Saint of Fire Prevention, she was anything but in her life on earth.  She was a fire starter, bringing light and hope and joy and new life to a struggling Church.

Her secret?…

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  She was, and she did.

Oh… I almost forgot….

Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

…………..same middle name.

It’s a dumb joke, I know.  But becoming who God meant you to be and, setting the world on fire is not.

Keith

5-21-14

http://keithelder.com/

https://twitter.com/keitheldermusic

“Tony Robbins, Dog Training, and Saving Yourself”

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I’m new to Twitter. Just beginning to know some of what I don’t know I don’t know. I do know I need to tweet more. I need to learn about hashtags (#duh).

Mostly, I’m learning that not everything you read can be read lightly.

For instance, Tony Robbins tweeted a Michael Hyatt link entitled, “What my Dog Trainer Taught Me About Leadership.” (http://buff.ly/1j3vMI1, but don’t go there just yet.)  It offered a few good insights, but there was a quote that, as I mentioned, cannot be read lightly.

“The Russian saint, Seraphim of Sarov (a household name, I’m sure), once said, ‘Save yourself, and thousands around you will be saved.’”

I don’t think that the 18th century saint and wonder worker, celebrated January 2nd in the Russian Orthodox Church, was nixing Jesus’ words, “He who wishes to save his life must lose it.”  (Matt. 16:25)  I can’t imagine that he was tossing out most New Testament writings about laying down one’s life in service to others, taking up our cross, etc.

My bet is that he was talking along the lines of securing your air mask before securing your child’s in case there is a loss of cabin pressure on the plane. I mean, if you pass out, your kid’s a goner.

Maybe Seraphim was talking about coming to grips with our issues—be they addictive behaviors, bad habits, painful pasts, broken relationships, or even something as simple as not showing up on time for meetings. Maybe he was trying to say that if others see us overcoming and succeeding, it just might stir the hope in them that they can overcome and succeed too.

Not to put words in a Russian saint’s mouth (you know that’s not sanitary), but maybe that’s what ol’ Seraphim of Sarov was trying to say to people in positions of leadership.

Become your best you, and there is no telling how many others will be inspired and empowered to become their best them.

Twead–i.e., read tweets–carefully.

Keith

5-13-14

 

http://keithelder.com/

https://twitter.com/keitheldermusic

 

 

“The Naturals… you and me and Roy Hobbs”

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If you had to list your ten all-time favorite movies, what might they be?  The elves of your subconscious are probably already running to the stacks and bringing titles up to the checkout counter of your mind.  Given time, you might come up with dozens, but there’s a good chance the first eight or ten were first for a reason. They bump into your story.

One film that jumps out for me is, “The Natural,” a baseball story starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close.  Close has one immortal line, addressing Roy in his maternity ward bed (long story).  “I believe we have two lives,” she says, “the one we learn from, and the one we live with after that.”

It’s another scene, though, that came to mind today, It’s a dugout scene where Roy (Redford) and Pops (Wilford Brimley) have a life-altering confrontation.

Roy was “The Natural”–a phenomenal young baseball talent destined to be “the best there ever was.”  Unfortunately, as is often the case, Roy’s dream got sidetracked by life.  He reappears as a late 30-something who still has the swing and the passion, but the clock’s ticking—loudly. The Knights, are a losing major league ball club managed by Pops. To say that he was frustrated with his players is an understatement. But he was further frustrated when one of his scouts sends him a middle-aged rookie—Roy Hobbs.  Pops refuses to play Roy or even let him practice.  Roy literally and figuratively rolls his eyes as he watches the team lose again and again. Tension between the rookie and the manager finally comes to a head.

“Hobbs,…I’m sending you down—to Triple-A ball,” Pops says. “I set the rules and you haven’t been playing by them.”

“I came here to play ball,” Roy shoots back, “…not to listen to some two-bit carnie (a joke of a sports psychologist).  I won’t do it, Pops…. I can’t.  It’s taken me too long to get here.”  Roy walks away—but Pops follows.

“Hobbs! Come here!… Batting practice…tomorrow… Be there!”

“I have been,” Roy says without a smile, “…every day.”

From then on, it’s a story of Roy knocking the cover off the ball and inspiring a team on to win the pennant.

As a fifty-something who knows he’s never touched his true potential—that unique something I know I coulda/woulda/shoulda done—”The Natural” stirs my hope-er. Maybe it stirs yours too.

Fellow Baby Boomers…now hear this: you aren’t dead and you aren’t done.

“Batting practice… tomorrow…be there.”

Keith

1/11/2014

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keithelder.com

“Jiminy Cricket, Charlie Brown, and Changing Your Stars”

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(A word: Friends, this blog is about four times as long as my usual posts. Very much the exception to the Shortbread rule.  But don’t think of it as a long blog… just think of it as a short book!  I could have chopped it up into several blogs, but I thought it would be most valuable to you as a unit.) 

All due respect, Jiminy Cricket, but wishing upon a star won’t—in the words of Larry the Cable Guy—“git ‘er done.”

If you have a piece of paper handy, draw a simple five-point star—a star representing your plan of action for 2014.  It is a star that you will look at each day of the year to assure that you are staying on task in order to get to where you say you want to be by January 1, 2015.

It’s an old question: “Can a person change his or her stars?”  In other words, can we, by changing our attitudes and actions, rewrite the way our life story will play out?… the way we will be remembered?

The answer: absolutely. 

What I offer today is a simple tool to help you change your stars.  It is an approach that can help you get a handle on that life goal or dream that has, eluded you to date.  I particularly have a heart for those who have struggled to find their highest and best. Like Charlie Brown, your kite keeps getting stuck in the tree, or Lucy keeps snatching the ball away just as you’re about to kick it.  I know those frustrations.  But the tool is not solely for those on the edges of the dance floor.  It is just as applicable for those in the middle and those near the top of the life-fulfillment ladder.  It’s for anyone who has something they sincerely want to accomplish over the coming months, in any give area of their life.

Now, let’s be clear from the get-go: if you won’t work, it won’t work.  If you are waiting on someone else to make your life happen, it won’t work. If you are a quitter, it won’t work.   This is a tool–not a magic wand.

And now, for the star.

The first point—the top point of the star—is INSPIRATION.  You’ve got to identify something you really want—or really want to be.  A clear target.  I believe that the best of our dreams and ideas come from somewhere beyond us.  Call it your destiny.  Call it the will of God for your life.  What are your primal dreams?  What do you want to be when you grow up?  What are those underlying desires, beneath the surface wants?

A meaningful vocation… a comfortable home… loving relationships…  an adequate retirement at a reasonable age.  I want to write a book… or a song….  I want to get my weight down to ___ lbs. in the name of being healthy and living longer.  I want a better relationship with my spouse.

What’s your INSPIRATION—i.e., your vision for you?  There will likely be several items–physical, spiritual, career, family, etc..  Which ones are on top of your list for this year?  Write them down! Cut out pictures from magazines that give you a visual of those dreams.  Put them on the refrigerator door or on the bathroom mirror to keep them before you and remind you that this is where you are going.  They are your INSPIRATION.

Move clockwise to the second point of this star. Tag it, EDUCATION.  You begin reading around the subject of your dreams. You take notes. You memorize quotes and devour training CD’s and videos. You immerse yourself in the topic.  You talk to people who know more about the subject than you do.  It is one thing to have a dream, it is quite another to do your homework so that you can score well when the test rolls around.  Jesus once said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Vice-versa, where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.  If you really want something, you will invest yourself in it—your time, your money, your energy.

How do I go about writing a book?  How do I play a G chord on the guitar?  What tools do I need to build a piece of furniture?  How do I mix paints and work brushes to get the desired effect?  The second point of this star-changing star is EDUCATION.

The third point of the star is MOTIVATION. You’ve gotten a spark or two, but how do you fan that spark into flame, and how will you fuel the fire over time?  Great coaches are motivators.  They have the gift of drawing out the best in their players.  Where do we find the motivation to keep after our dreams?   You might Google “motivational speakers”.  Besides books or programs you might purchase, there is an ocean of free material.   You stay motivated by surrounding yourself with like-minded, can-do, wanna-do individuals. To stay motivated, you will probably need to say a few holy good-byes to individuals or groups that drag you down and pull you in the opposite direction of where you need to go.  Sadly, there are people out there who do not want you to succeed, and, consciously or unconsciously, they will try to undermine your progress.  MOTIVATION is the third indispensable point on your star.

The fourth point of the star is PERSPIRATION. Folks, if it was easy to be great, everyone would be great. But the truth is, anything worth having will involve sacrifice and strain…blood, sweat and tears.  It’s going to mean studying when you’d rather hang out with your friends or watch TV.  It’s going to mean making yourself go to the gym even when your don’t feel like it or even when it’s nine degrees outside (like it is this morning.)  PERSPIRATION—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—means pushing yourself through to the next level, then pushing yourself to the next.   Sometimes, it means saying no to those old habits that keep you in that downward spiral of failure and shame.  Anyone knows—breaking old habits is hard work, but you can cultivate new habits and a new future with a little PERSPIRATION.

The fifth and final point on the star is DETERMINIATION.  It is easy to be good for a day…to be committed for a week.  But without unwavering resolve, dreams will evaporate over time and in the face of adversity.  If you haven’t made up your mind ahead of time that you are going to stay the course, you are likely to run from the battle.  “Where there’s a will,” as they say, “there is a way.”  What determination does is galvanize the will.  I know what I want—more, I know what I am meant to do and beand I will get there…period!  Now, it’s just a matter of working out the practical steps from A to B, and following through.

The word, “determination” has two parts: “terminate” which means “to end”, and the prefix, “de”, which means “back” or “away from”.  To say that I am determined is to say there is no end to my resolve—that there is no going back.  DETERMINATION seals the star-changing deal.

In the middle of the star, I would just write the word, REALIZATION.  This is the pay-off for working the five points.  This is moving into the new home.  It is walking across the stage and receiving that diploma. It is stepping on the scales and seeing that you have reached your target weight.  It’s yelling along with Dave Ramsey, on live talk radio, “I’M DEBT FREE!!!!!”

There will come a point where you will find yourself enjoying this process. The late, great, Zig Ziglar’s wisdom comes to mind: “You don’t pay the price of success—you pay the price of failure.  You ENJOY the price of success.”

And you will.  I’d love to hear your star stories.

Keith

1/6/2014

keithelder.com

“Malala… Born on Third Base…and Degree of Difficulty”

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“I am Malala!”

It is now the battle cry of millions of young women across the globe. A cry for freedom and justice. A call for the right to education and opportunity for girls in the face of the Taliban and oppressive forces everywhere.

When Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, women commiserated with her mother.  Men gave no congratulatory words to her father.  Why?…because she was a girl.  But, her schoolteacher father says that, from the beginning, Malala was bright and inquisitive—particularly questioning why girls did not get to go to school like boys. In October of 2012, she was singled-out on a school bus full of young girls and shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Why?  Because this “girl”, at the age of fifteen, had become a threat.  A voice for change and justice.

Now, just twelve months after her shooting–after what doctors agree was a miraculous recovery—Malala has spoken before the UN General Assembly, been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, gone viral on youtube…and her story, “I Am Mahala”, released just this week, is already on the bestseller lists.

As I saw Malala interviewed by Diane Sawyer, my mind skipped to a comment made by Ann Richards during a run for governor of Texas.  Of course, she had no specific opponent in mind when she said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

The struggle of fighting its way out of the cocoon is necessary for a butterfly to become a butterfly.  There are moral muscles, muscles of conviction and compassion, which are developed only through adversity.  The privileged are rarely privy to them.  We remember the Malala stories.  The rich—with rare exception—are forgotten, because their stories are forgettable, unremarkable. Their one hope of glory is to stand with the Malalas of the world. (e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates.)

In competitive diving, scoring is based on two factors: 1) a judges score of 1-10 for how well the dive is executed; and 2) the dive’s “degree of difficulty”. A simple forward dive has a degree of difficulty much less than, say, a back two-and-a-half somersault. Degrees range from 1.4 to 4.0.  So, even if both dives are perfect 10’s, the more difficult dive wins.

I’m giving Malala a perfect 10.0 after she started with a 4.0 degree of difficulty.  Way to go Malala! Your story comes in such stark contrast to what’s been going on in our nations capital.  Of course, 99% of those folks are at a disadvantage…

…they were born on third base.

–Keith   10-12-13

*  Want to read more about Malala?… http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-i-am-malala-by-malala-yousafzai/2013/10/11/530ba90a-329a-11e3-9c68-1cf643210300_story.html

website: http://keithelder.com/

“Not-not…Who’s there?…Me by process of elimation…”

What prompted this post was seeing a Facebook pic of a fellow singing with great passion into a studio microphone.  Eyes closed. Fists clenched. Red-faced with veins popping-out on his temples. (By the way—where was Solomon’s temple?… same place yours are…on the sides of your face.)  Mr. Microphone was obviously pouring his all into it, and I say good for him.  But I’m not that guy.

I’m sort of guarded—even a little self-conscious and I tend to play it safe on stage.  No flashy costumes. No streaked or especially stylish hair (though I am glad to still have a few).  I don’t have any signature moves or lip-curls and, Lord knows, I don’t dance.  Besides the seismic tremors, it scares pets and small children.   (Ever see Elaine dance on Seinfeld?…well, it’s not that bad–but it’s close.)

Each year, thousands of people move to Nashville or L.A. with the dream of being the next big thing.  The next Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift.  The next Bruno Mars or Dave Matthews.  I don’t know a lot, but I do know that they’ll never be the next big thing by being the last big thing.

I think it’s safe to assume that I will not be the next Adele. (The hair’s not right, and I’m not wild about the dresses she wears to accept her Grammy’s.)  I’m “not” Adele, so by process of elimination, I am one “not” closer to who I actually am.

Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) lives by the credo, “It all begins with a song.”  That is, the entire industry—the concerts and publishers and studios and number one hits, the bazillion side-industries–hinges upon someone sitting down with paper and pen and writing a lyric and a melody that tap into the hearts of people.  I like that.  Feels like home.

I’m not a country artist like Trace Adkins or Brad Paisley.  I’m not a worship leader like Chris Tomlin or Darlene Zschech.  Not, not, not, not—that’s four more “not’s” closer to figuring out who I actually am.

In Proverbs, it says, “A man’s gift makes room for him.”

I like that too…and I’m counting on it.

Keith   3/07/2013

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