Archive for Leadership

Getting Stronger

// January 21st, 2014 // No Comments » // Climbing, Hiking, Leadership, Reflections

You have trained your whole life to be the best, the toughest, most loyal soldier you can be.  You are part of an elite special ops team fighting an enemy on their turf and on their terms.  Terms that do not meet the rules of engagement which you follow.  It is like fighting with one arm behind your back and now as you move in on your target (mission classified) a grenade goes off near your head: confusion, concussion, injury, blood and blindness follow.  The men you are with are still relying on you but you urgently need help.  The medic tries to pull you away but you insist on staying, running the communications back to the team to ensure your team makes it out safely.  Just another heroic day at the office.

Is this you?  It is hard to say how we ourselves would react in a situation like this, but I know for sure it is a rare few who would do what Marty Bailey did a few years ago when he lost his sight.  I can guarantee that his team was thankful to him and thankful for his courage.  I am too.  This is why we have formed www.BlindStrength.org so that we (this means anyone who wishes to support it) can help Marty and soldiers like him who have sacrificed so much for us.

Last week I met Marty for the first time on our team’s first training climb in Utah’s Wasatch mountains.  The team is preparing to climb 20,320′ Denali May of 2014.  Blind for only a few years Marty has come a long way, and is now again pushing his limits as part of a team that hopes to make the first blind ascent of the Upper West-Rib, a climb that offers plenty of challenge for seasoned sighted climbers – let alone a climber who is blind.  Once again he will be fighting with one arm behind his back and the rules of engagement once again, unfair.

In freezing temperatures, at altitude, with a heavy pack and hauling a loaded sled in one foot of fresh snow pushed by 30 mph winds, blinded Master Sergeant Marty Bailey pressed on in spite of his cramping legs and small, awkward, snowshoes.  Using new tools and climbing with a new team on only the few hours of sleep that travel delays and a sixteen month old baby girl would allow, I herd him stop and out of frustration say “I’ve just never been the weak link.”

This is what it is all about.

Most all of us will admit that at some point in our lives we may have felt as though we have let others down, or that we were the weak one, or the reason for failure.  I hope so.  This is the reason for team, for community, for trust and reliance and it makes us humble like it or not.  Peyton Manning quarterback of the Denver Broncos has just had the most successful season a QB has ever had and I know for a fact (I watched the bad games) on his journey there were days he was off and relied on the team more than others.

No matter who we are, we need the strength of each other to help us through the off days, to get back on our feet, to get to the top – help in getting stronger.

“No, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are actually very important.” 1 Corinthians 12:22

The Whiteout

// August 22nd, 2013 // Comments Off // Climbing, Getting biblical, Leadership, Reflections

White Out on Pisco

White Out on Pisco

Through the darkness of the early morning hours we began our climb.  Headlamps shining brightly to illuminate the rocky terminus of the glacier we navigated by instinct and small piles of rocks called cairns.  The small circles of light were just enough to illuminate each step and where it should be precariously placed before glancing upward to spot the next pile of rocks showing the way.  Hours would pass by as time and time again we would briefly lose our way.  Pausing, examining the surroundings, exploring possibilities, we would regain our course and press on.  A favorite scripture of mine speaks to this: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105.  The destination is unseen, the entire plan unknown, there is just enough light, just enough information to take the next step.  In faith – take it.  Navigation requires focus, experience, the ability to be alert to each step even while carrying on a conversation.

Have you ever  been at a place in life where you were wondering which way to go?  Have you been seemingly stuck, no map, no signs, no GPS coordinates, and no one to guide you and make tough decisions for you?  True in business, true as a parent, true for the student figuring out the future.  We have all been there.  So what does it take to carry on in such uncertainty?

Fortitude and faith.

We emerged from the darkness into the light of day long enough to get geared up and hit the glacier.  Only minutes after setting foot on the glacier we were again moving blindly, and this time a headlamp would be of no use.  The wind kicked up, the snow was moving sideways, the clouds came down and now there was no visual separation of earth and sky.  Hello vertigo.  Progress became slow, morale dropped, and what was supposed to be a “gimmee” of a climb became a real challenge indeed.  Winter in the Andes is predictable: the sun always shines – ha.  The drifting snow covered the tracks of yesterday and as the ridge narrowed, we began to wonder if we might walk right off the ridge stepping onto a cloud thought to be solid ground.

PiscoGlacier

More exhausting than the altitude and the climb itself was the amount of focus it took to discern and stay the course.  Probing with poles for each step, the mind playing tricks on the senses and the senses playing tricks right back on the mind, up seemed down and down seemed up and at times the team tied to my rope would disappear into the white.

Just when all hope seemed lost a break in the clouds would reveal some footsteps, or a feature up ahead, just enough to ensure the course was still true.

We walk by faith, not by sight.  Says 2 Corinthians 5:7.  It is that faith that assures me the course will be revealed at some point, so I ask myself do I have enough faith to take another step when all I see is my feet?  Well one more…then another…and so on.

We made the summit of Pisco in challenging conditions.  Experience, a positive well equipped team, moving forward in fortitude by faith.

So if you are facing difficulty, uncertainty and that next step seems impossible – try this:
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6.

PiscoSummit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Departure

// June 4th, 2013 // Comments Off // Getting biblical, Leadership

- In memory of Tom Driscoll -

Tom lived with purpose and passion in service to, and love for others, even while battling terminal brain cancer and living in hospice care.
Tom’s life, and the manner in which he lived shows all of us that it is never to late to make a difference in the lives of others, and that by taking the focus off of ourselves and our own miseries and putting that focus on others will cause our problems to take a back seat.

You will be missed Tom, thanks for living to the fullest even while you were dying – your life gave inspiration.

His favorite scripture: “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

TomD

P vs p a Strategy for Success

// November 2nd, 2012 // 3 Comments » // Advice, Leadership, Reflections

David Baker mile 70 of 100 on White Rim Trail Utah.

What makes a person successful?  What is success?  Is it achieving a goal which has been set? Perhaps this is a good place to start but it is not the end-all.  I think success and its definition run through deeper waters, but for today’s thought I will keep it parked here.  Pondering this perplexing question recently, looking at people whom I respect and whom I consider successful as measured by a variety of criteria, I came up with 6 powerful precepts for success:

1. Passion – a person must possess passion for what he or she is doing and plans to pursue.  My pastor is a great example of this as he is so passionate about serving the                      Lord and serving others that it just bubbles out in an uncontainable manner.  It is contagious and gets others motivated to live out their faith as well.  We’ve all seen burnouts who seem to suck the life out of others instead of giving it.  We must have and exude passion.

2. Purpose – If the question why poses a problem and you are perplexed, perhaps it is time to reexamine what it is you are doing.  The purpose for which one begins the journey can get lost and muddied along the way – don’t forget why you started.  A runner runs a race to win the prize.  If the race is long and difficult and the competition stiff, maintaining that starting attitude is a challenge, so we must run the race with endurance while seeing the purpose for which we started.

3. Practice – nobody is going to win the New York marathon or the Olympic 100M dash by just showing up with a positive attitude and a passion for winning.  It takes practice.  Even the most naturally gifted among us need to polish that gift and work hard to train the mind and body to be prepared for the rigors of one’s chosen race. Elite athletes train a minimum of 24 hours a week, not to mention nutrition, study, visualization and other techniques they employ to have a winning edge.

4. Prudence – This comes down to having a little wisdom and the ability to see yourself for who you are and the gifts that have been bestowed upon you.  I can’t sing.  No amount of passion, purpose, practice or perseverance is going to change that.  I won’t quit singing, especially in the shower, because it brings me joy, but I certainly am self-aware enough to know that this should not be something the public should need to endure as I pursue it as a profession.  If you can pass this test move on to the next bullet point.

5. Possibility – Believe in the possibilities that exist for you and seek them out: Join a band, enter a race, submit a resume, apply to that school, get creative and do that thing you have always dreamed of doing.  It won’t be easy so be ready for…

6. Perseverance – maintaining the mental stamina to persist in that which you have passion and in which you see purpose.  Don’t give up, don’t let obstacles turn you around, instead use them as steps to lift you higher (unless of course you can’t sing, run, dance, play music, read, write, think, move, breathe…).

What will bring you down in this pursuit? Aiming at the wrong target.  Looking for position, power, or mere possessions.  Essentially it is pride, or these symbols of pride and vain glory that will turn that original passion into merely a pursuit.

As the apostle Paul said “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Hebrews 12:1

we rejoice in our sufferings for we know that suffering leads to perseverance; perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3

 

…as wild asses in the desert go they forth.

// May 4th, 2012 // 2 Comments » // Cycling, Leadership, Reflections

20120504-070518.jpgMountain bikes, road bikes, 4×4′s, Razrs, dune buggies, rock crawlers, street motorcycles, dirt bikes, climbing gear, golf clubs, airplanes, paragliders, rafts – what good is a men’s trip to Moab Utah other than an excuse for guys to pull out all the toys and go play? – we have seen it all. While the toys are great, the best part is honestly the time forging friendships both new and old in the inhospitable environment of the Utah desert. Job 24:5 says “like wild asses in the desert go they forth” which for the purposes of good humor has become the motto of the trip. Having a few pastors in attendance allows for some good teaching around the evening fire and tends to give us some credibility as well as some thoughts to reflect on as we then go forth into the desert the next day.

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I have said before the value of sports is in the values sports instills in us. This statement was never truer than while on an epic 30 mile mountain bike ride and linkup of multiple trails. With my friends Dave Baker (a former D-1 hockey standout) and Gil McCormick (GM of Wheat Ridge cycler, former racer, and alpine hard man) I headed out well prepared with lots of snacks and water for a ride that we knew, due to the terrain, would take possibly more than six hours.
Navigating the winding canyons, over the slickrock, through sand, perching on precipices we rode under the hot sun continually seeking the best route and trusting in our one-eyed leader Gil (Gil lost sight in one eye while climbing a new route on Pumori in the Himalayas years ago). In this landscape getting hurt, lost, having weak or unprepared partners can be unforgiving, even so I never felt that way due to the fact that I was riding with guys I knew and trusted. I was having the best ride of the year because I wasn’t worried, felt prepared and in control. How often in our daily lives do we get to experience this kind of trust – trust made up of reliance and confidence that releases us from fear and worry. Sports – wether they are extreme or mainstream provide a venue to develop this kind of trust.

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Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon said this about trust in _The Seeking Heart_ “here is a way to know if you’ve actually trusted God with something – you will not think about the matter any longer, nor will you feel a lack of peace.” how great it is to know this trust, as well as a deep trust in the people you have surrounded yourself with. After the ride Gil said this “Seems you can hang out in lost and stressful situations, tired and worn out, and still have a sense of humor. Testimony to your extreme endurance and patience with the blind and half blind.” I took it as mere flattery and could easily say the same of my friends, but because of who they are things never felt desperate or out of control, just some guys doing a long ride in the middle of nowhere. I’m thankful for sports for the friends that come with them and for the values they teach as they wear us out but not down.

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A Fear of Dying

// April 23rd, 2012 // 21 Comments » // Leadership, Reflections

Life is terminal.  In my daily routine, getting caught up in the busyness of things, I often forget this fact and think that life will just keep on going.  However, there will come a time when we will all have to face this reality, some sooner than later, sudden, and unexpected and for some after a very long life.  The question then is not if we will face it but rather how.  Will we face it gracefully knowing our lives had purpose and that our soul moves on?  Or will it be with pain, anger, bitterness and fear of the unknown and of a life not fully lived, not fully given?

Recently my family had the opportunity to spend some time with a man who is wrestling with terminal brain cancer named Tom Driscoll.  About a year ago Tom was diagnosed and given weeks to live.  After multiple surgeries and a new home called hospice, Tom continues on getting the most out of each day by giving to others each day with a positive attitude and a joy for living.  The hat on his head covers the evidence of cancer much of the time, but Tom is not afraid to go without and show his now misshapen head and the damage this disease has caused.

The damage is to his brain but has not affected his heart, his spirit, or his will and that is because he knows that the worst kind of cancer is the kind that devours the soul.  Tom doesn’t just attend church, sneak into the back row while bitterly praying to God “Why me?!”  He gets up front, stands tall, and sings praises to God as a member of the choir.  In spite of the fact that he may not see the transformation of another season, he is a man at peace because he knows the true transformation has already taken place inside of him.  He knows his savior, he knows Jesus, therefore he has peace even though his today will soon pass.

Tom gave my family a gift.  A reminder to live each day positively, with purpose, faith, hope and love.  To be strong and courageous, not given to fear.
Should you take the opportunity to go and meet someone like Tom, be ready to be infected, not by a disease, but by a power that can transform the fear of death and the unknown
into acceptance by faith of those things unseen.

Fully Clothed

// November 1st, 2011 // No Comments » // Getting biblical, Leadership

Last week here in Vail we received about a foot of snow with temperatures dropping down into the low teens.  On a recent trip to the Icebox of the Nation – the Fraser valley – we experienced our first dose of real cold this season with a morning of 2 degrees (F).  My friend even said at his house it had been minus 7, and it is still October!  Now it is the first of November another weather system is fast approaching and I am scrambling to make sure the cars are ready, my girls are ready, and that I too am ready for the deep freeze of winter.  Our world gets chilly and we need to make sure we have lots of layers and a solid outer coat to protect us and keep us warm.

As I get everything and everyone prepared I think of climbing in the arctic circle, climbing in the death zone on Everest and even skiing in Colorado on the worst days.  It starts with the socks and underwear as the base layer, moves out to a good breathable but insulating mid-layer sometimes followed by a technical soft-shell or gore-tex and lastly depending on the day the big “puffy” or parka.

As my wife and I were getting our girls layered up to go out and play in the cold she started talking about how we should do the same every day with our attitudes and virtues.  It caught me a bit off balance and unprepared.  I plan to the finest degree covering every detail about what goes on the outside to protect me from the cold world, but don’t often plan to the same extent to clothe the inside.  I don’t give much thought to the daily internal layers of character and virtue to protect me from the cold world or even better to share the warmth given me with it.

Colossians 3:12 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  I think in this way if I can plan a little ahead and make sure I am putting these layers on first, the harsh cold world might become a little warmer.  It’s the goggles that help me to see compassionately, the gloves that give me a touch of kindness, my holy underwear that keeps me humble, the soft middle layer that allows for gentleness, and lastly the “puffy” that allows me to bear with others through storm and be patient or even to give away when they are in greater need of being warmed.

As this next storm bears down on us I am making sure I have all my layers ready to go inside and out.  Are you ready for the next season in the icebox? 

Predictive Affirmation

// October 27th, 2011 // No Comments » // Advice, Getting biblical, Leadership, Reflections

What is predictive affirmation?  These are words that foresee and encourage others towards a future filled with hope and expectation.  Backed by another’s stated belief in oneself, one’s skill and virtue, a person will often go forward in life fulfilling those statements like some sort of prophesy.  This is the idea behind predictive affirmation: more than just a positive attitude or a belief, or speaking fluff into someone’s life, predictive affirmation takes stock of a person’s character qualities and lays out a roadmap of where those could lead in the future.

On a recent trip to Orlando I got to use a little bit of this with a global organization which was setting goals for the next year.  Knowing the mission, the vision, and the values they had at their core, I was able to speak truth into their organization that by getting back to those roots and applying some fundamentals of success (things that they already owned) they would not only find the success they were looking for, but that they would be a stronger community in the process.

Since we were near Disney World I took advantage of the gift store to bring home two little Minny Mouse dolls for my twin daughters.  Disney characters had been a staple for me in my youth and I wanted my daughters to share in the joy that I had also found from the Magic Kingdom.  With boxes of toys, however, how would I get these little mice to stand out or stand a chance?  Predictive affirmation.  I found that by giving Minny Mouse ownership of some human traits and abilities, and then sharing those in a special way with my daughters Minny has not been out of their grasp, and has become the go to doll of choice.  When Minny arrived in our home I told my girls that she was special, that she loved them and travelled all the way from Florida to see them.  I told my girls that Minny wanted to play with them, sleep beside them, dance with them and be a friend.  It has all come true.

What I have learned is that if I speak that same way to my daughters they more than likely will become those things too – friends that love each other, look out for each other, are polite and kind with grateful, courageous, adventurous and laughing hearts.  My hope is that if I can speak of my girls as I did Minny Mouse, that they too will be loved because they first loved others.
Are you speaking this kind of affirmation into the lives of others?

Have you ever had the blessing of someone speaking this way about you?

Can the cycle of of negative affirmation be broken?  I know it can by the promise of Jeremiah 31:3 …I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving -kindness.  I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt… .  Also 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

May your future be bright and filled with hope and expectation.

Brigantine Beach

// October 11th, 2011 // No Comments » // Events, Leadership

A trip east to the Jersey Shore was not at all what I thought it would be. Though I have not seen the reality tv series, I still had a perception of what I might find. What I did find was an area rich in history, a beach bustling with activity, and a welcome as warm as the sun-soaked sand.
I would be the keynote speaker of Brigantine islands first community prayer breakfast.

As an outsider looking in, it is often difficult to quickly assess the culture of a place and know how a community might receive such an event and how they may receive me and my words. People from diverse faiths and backgrounds would be in a attendance and my goal was not to offend nor was it to celebrate this diversity. My goal was to encourage people to step out in courage to serve and to live in community celebrating what I see as unity (Colossians 3:15). It appeared that this was happening right away. With the meeting taking place in the grand hall of the islands Catholic church, I wrongly assumed the attendees would all be catholic, what I saw instead was a great many denominations represented, all coming together to eat, and to hear testimony of what God has done in my life. What was far more inspiring than anything I could say however, was to see what God was doing in that room because a few faithful people took a chance to organize this event seeing a route instead of roadblocks.

The vision of a guy named Paul Powers made it happen and after the hard work, days of rain, and a great gathering we were all blessed by the appearance of a full rainbow from sea to sky to sea x 2 = a double rainbow on the Jersey Shore.

Unseen

// October 10th, 2011 // No Comments » // Events, Leadership

A presenters worst fear: to painstakingly prepare with visuals, notes, attire – the works, only to take the stage and find that no one can see a bit of what has been prepared. Not only could my audience not see my AV, but half of them decidedly had their backs turned to me as they sat at their round conference room tables. Had I offended them? No. Were they being rude? No. Was the room improperly setup? No. Then what… nearly all 600 attendees were blind. I had been invited to share some inspiration with the National Association of Blind Merchants at their annual conference in Nashville which serves to educate, update, and challenge entrepreneurs who happen to be blind. I did what I could telling of my stories of going to the edges of the earth with people who are blind and I do think I was able to inspire many of the attendees since they gave me a rousing standing ovation when it was all said and done. Honestly however, I was the one who gained the most inspiration that day. I saw one woman carrying an infant on her chest as she navigated the venue with a white cane, I saw innovators who were redefining blind technologies, but mostly I saw a spirit of brotherhood and an attitude not of brokenness, but of boldness that still believed, in spite of lifes circumstances that this day was dawning new with hope and possibility. It is that spirit which left me feeling invigorated and uplifted and made my job easy in spite of the fact that no one there saw me or my dialed AV. I wasnt there to lift them up, they had already done that, I was there to merely reflect back that same sense of hope and encouragement I had just unexpectedly received.