Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Blog Address

Yep, it's been awhile since I last blogged.  And with the layoff, the blog has moved.  Follow me over here ( if you want.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Things You Don't Know

My wife tagged me for the popular number game thing going around on Facebook.  However, the number of things is longer than I would normally post on Facebook, so I'll put them on the blog instead, and still keeping with the game's spirit!

  1. I had to be rescued by the summer camp lifeguard because I wasn't making it swimming to the 'dock' in 3rd grade.
  2. In later elementary school, I was hit by a car riding my bike home from my friend's house as the tornado sirens were going off.
  3. I played "Scrooge" in our 6th grade production of "A Christmas Carol".
  4. In junior high, I was at a friend's house.  He took out his dad's handgun, pointed it in my direction while jokingly saying "stick 'em up", and accidentally fired it.  The bullet whizzed by my ear and we spent the next hour patching up the ceiling.
  5. In high school I ran a red light and t-boned a car.  I wrecked my parents' van and sent the family who was driving the other car to the hospital.  
  6. As Hillcrest's youth pastor, I had to call the police to the church at least three times for different 'things', had to visit with a county sheriff for a 'thing' on a mission trip, and also was kicked out of Fargo's mall while making a stop there for lunch on yet another trip.  
  7. I worked at a bank in college.  One Saturday, the other person I was working with left a few minutes before closing time, leaving me to lock up the vault and the rest of the bank.  I could't get the vault locked, which triggered an alarm, which sent police to the bank, which turned into me not being able to go home for a few hours. 
  8. I was the first male dining room host at Crystal Springs.  I know, I know- explains a lot.  Save the jokes!
  9. My best friend and I had a paint fight while painting our college's kitchen and dining hall.  Our boss came in right after we had thrown around some paint so we had to 'explain' that the paint had spilled.
  10. In grad school, I was part of a team that took a high school group on a mission trip to Mexico.  On our way back to the states, we were still in Mexico, about a half mile away from the border, when 'nature called'.  I couldn't hold it any longer, and since we were in bumper to bumper traffic leading to the border, I got out of the van and relieved myself among some shrubs along the median.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Downfalls of Group Work

When I first started teaching at a local college, I made it a priority to assign group projects.  The administration highly encouraged it as a way of preparing students for work in the real world where you often need to play well with others in order to get things done.

I ditched group projects after a couple semesters.

Those still able to recall their own educational experiences already know why.  One or two highly motivated students do most of the work.  Another one or two students put in just enough effort to be offended at the other one to two students who do nothing, but really didn't give the project their 'all'.  Theoretically, everyone receives the same grade which is a boon for the freeloaders but a startling disappointment to the achievers.

Every time I assigned a group project, I'd get the same result.  Almost every group had someone not show up on the day of the presentations.  The presentation suffered.  If the group was pitching a business plan, the person who was missing was supposed to provide the marketing plan.  Quite the whole in the project!  The achievers would then hang around after class and tattle- who did what, who didn't, etc.  And this was college.

There's a place for group work.  There's a place for rewarding the whole (a class, a group, a team, etc) when the whole is collectively working together to achieve something.

But if that isn't the case, if there's some part of the whole who's decided not to pursue the agreed upon objective (an unruly student who continually gets detention, which costs the entire class some corporate incentive or a lazy athlete or musician who costs the entire team or band a prize or a win, etc), then we shouldn't do it.  Better to reward the individual (and send positive reinforcement signals to everyone) then to penalize the group because of an individual (and send negative reinforcement signals to those who desire to achieve more).

Monday, November 18, 2013

David and Goliath

A few takeaways from Malcolm Gladwell's new book:

  • Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.
  • Underdog strategies are hard
  • Money stops making people happier at a family income of around seventy-five thousand dollars a year.  After that, what economists call “diminishing marginal returns” sets in.
  • There are times and places where it is better to be a Big Fish in a Little Pond than a Little Fish in a Big Pond
  • Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and discover they aren’t so tough after all
And, if I coached a basketball team where the league allowed 'full-court presses', I'd do that too!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Choose Goals You Can Control

I am not the first person to say this, but we could all benefit by choosing goals we can directly have some control over.

Often times, we judge our success based on some external factor or factors that we have no control over.  In the church world, this might mean attendance at events, positive feedback after a message or an event, giving, etc.  In education, it might mean student test scores or how well behaved the class is.

While those are fine benchmarks and things to measure, I can't physically control attendance.  Or feedback.  Or giving.  So while I need to track those things, I can't necessarily measure success off of them.

But, and this is one of those big buts, there are tons of things I can do that can impact those measurements.  If I am teaching, did I use all of the creative resources available to me to convey my lesson?  Did I do all I can to make our church as friendly to guests as possible?

These and hosts of other questions are actually better goals because they are ones I can do something about.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Story You Tell Yourself

A couple of blogs I read have been hitting on the same topic lately.  One is here and the other is here.

My son has a saying painted in his Spider-man room that reads "you are the hero of your own story".

Essentially, the story you and I tell ourselves matters.

If you tell yourself a story where you the are the victim, life never goes right for you, and you have no ability to control or influence your life, chances are your story ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the other hand, if you tell yourself a story where you are the main character, the protagonist, the one who gets to make decisions and gets to have some say on how your life goes, chances are you'll get different results.

Management and behavioral gurus calls this locus of control.  Those with an external locus of control are the first group; those with an external locus of control are the second.

Which are you?

Friday, November 15, 2013


Recently read this book after seeing the author speak at a conference and wanted to offer some takeaways:

  • Children given a series of progressively harder puzzles and praised for their intelligence stagnate for fear of reaching the limit of their intelligence.  Children given the same series of puzzles but then praised for their hard work actually increased their ability to reason and to solve problems. 
  • Talent managers give credit, empire builders take credit.  
  • You don’t get the most out of people if you just tell them what to do.  You get full effort if you help people discover opportunity and then challenge themselves.·        
  • Diminishers give answers.  Good leaders ask questions. Multipliers ask the really hard questions.  They ask the questions that challenge people not only to think but to rethink.
  • In an intense discussion, consider having people switch sides and argue for the position they are arguing against.  Or to have people argue from the perspective of an area or department outside of their own
  • The cost of an opinion is evidence