Does Your Facebook Status Give You Meaning

I came across this piece from Ed Batista today and it speaks volumes.

It got me thinking about how we view our status in life and the value we place on it.  In many ways it can consume our energy in life.  We don't often utter it, but we live it out for all the world to see.  What's my Facebook status, what's my job title or how much mortgage can I afford.  Often these are just masks for other motivations.  Most specifically to be seen as someone worth paying attention to.

In my days of roaming the corporate plain, I used multiple forms of status to give me a brief feeling (note brief) of satisfaction.  Obviously, the working life didn't make a lot of sense to me.  Like the man or woman who drives home feeling glad they earn six figures.   The feeling satisfies, but for only a moment.

Here are a list of some things that I see as long-term status symbols.  And can stand the raging winds when they come:

  • A relationship with God.  Not religion, but a friend to scream at (I've been doing this a lot lately), cry to and a trusted source for insight.
  • A family.  Include as many or few to nail this one.
  • A mission.  Something you pursue until the last breath.
  • A community.  A group of people that you can give heart to (thanks Cyndi).
  • A healthy physical lifestyle.  This communicates the value you place on the gift of life itself.

Leadership Team Development

During my days in corporate America there was nothing more aggravating than disunity within leadership teams.  Unity (or the idea of) was found in meetings and award ceremonies, but severely lacking during hard times.  Needless to say we didn't spend much time on leadership team development.  How good would your organization be if it took this type of development seriously?

Here on some ideas on how to grow, or start, leadership team development within your organization:

  1. Conduct a meeting and begin the embrace of candor.  You'll encounter a lot of silence, but that's ok.  Conflict comes into the air when a word like candor comes around.
  2. Putting leaders together for development exercises can be very revealing.  It might clue you into what you really have.  This very important to know when times are tough.
  3. Have each leadership team member partner with an entry level employee to gauge humility.  Pay close attention to the response you get when the idea is broached.  It will tell you much about the person's character.
  4. Conduct mock emergency (of the organizational variety) drills.  Go as far as you can hear to create a sense of reality.
  5. Study jazz.  It's the type of music that is fluid and improvisational at the heart.  Teaching leaders how to be fluid and improvisational is essential for breakthroughs.
  6. Have your leaders spend some time with those who are coming to the end of life.  Not meaning to be morbid here, but it can build a sense of urgency and thankfulness.
  7. If you're responsible for the leadership team development, ask yourself what your love level is.  Do you love the people you're serving?

Back To Character

The following is a re-post from 2006 and is dedicated to the U.s. Congress and AIG.  May they understand the power of character and the influence therein.

A mentor of mine reminded me this week of something I'd heard
before, but didn't really understand until now.  He told me that one of
the biggest threats to a leader is when their skills development
outpaces their character development.  Quite frankly, the problems
we're seeing in corporate America (H-P, Converse Technology, etc.) is
very likely a result of this chasm.  Think about it, no one would
question the skill level of the executives at H-P.  But obviously we
would question their character.

So how much time does the average leader spend on character development vs. skills development?  If the most recent headlines (Business Week Online)
are to be believed, more time is spent on the skills side.  Isn't funny
how the thing that can wreck a life or career is the thing we ignore. 
Some call it arrogance…I call it stupidity.  We've all been warned
about what happens when character is left in the dust (see Enron,
Citigroup or Adelphia).

You have a chance to turn the ship around by giving your character
some attention-major attention.  Start by putting as much time into the
development of your character as you would on skills.  For example, if
you're taking fifteen hours of classes at your local university to get
your MBA, then give your character that much.  Believe me, their are
churches, universities, books and more that can offer you the right
material on character development.  Do it now!  You thank me for it

The world needs more leaders who are well balanced in their character and their skills.

Embracing The Upside and Downside

In our pursuits (career, money, family, relationships) we find it easy to embrace the upside.  Let's face it; everybody's looking for a win.

Focusing on the upside is a good trait to have.  Probably means you're an optimist.  The world can use more of those, so all-in-all its good.

The question remains for us all: do we spend enough time embracing the downside?  Not to extremes or morbidity, just a firm, calm consideration.  Maybe it'll prepare (as much as anyone can prepare) you for the tough times.  Maybe it'll make you more humble, realizing that the downside is not a question of if, but when.

You'll be better for what feels like it kills.

I offer the following on embracing the upside and downside:

  • The downside is a long-term fertilizer for the upside.  Please note the long-term part of this advice.
  • Slowdown to see the upside.  Way too many leaders are "task" and "do."  You don't want to wake up one day wondering what happened.  You'll have be deliberate here, so make an appointment with yourself to stop and look around.
  • The downside can be scary.  Facing it is the only right approach.
  • The only way to eliminate risk is to stop.  Stop loving, stop learning, stop serving, just be a spectator.
  • You won't find your strength in prime-time.  It's found in places and people who you never expected to find connection with.  Prime-time people are only there for the party.  Stop the party, and they stop the caring. 

How We Were Meant To Respond In A Changing World

It's obvious that the world has changed.  Some say for the better, some say for the worse.  I think the truth is found somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of your opinion, I want to address the human response we were designed to have in the midst of change-especially the crushing variety.

When my father passed away some weeks ago, I entered into a place of deep pain.  To say he left a void would be an understatement.  But what is striking is the advice a friend and adviser gave me.  He told me to expect, potentially, a two-year journey through grieving.  I immediately thought: "I don't have two years to give."  My mind, body and soul said: "yes you do."  You see the dichotomy between my "poser" self and the real Eric Pennington?

I am no longer able to deny the real Eric Pennington, so I am preparing for whatever may come.  This hasn't set well with some because of their need for me to be ok.  I understand this and I am learning to navigate these waters with grace.  It hurts.

So what do you do when the changes (career, love, death, other life events) come?  Do you resort to old tricks?  Do you convince yourself that you just haven't found the right marketing (yes, we apply marketing to our personal lives)?

Here are some observations that I have found appropriate in moving through a changing world:

  • Some things are meant to end.  Letting go not only sets a pace for coping, but it allows the new to enter.  I don't miss corporate America because I found my life when I lost that way of existing.  The pain of that was excruciating and liberating all at the same time.
  • Our lives are a story played in the midst of a backdrop called eternity.  A heaven-created story on display for all to see.  Keep in-mind here that no great movie or book is predictable.  So if you have a great life, it will look different than you imagined-better I might add.
  • We must come to terms with our fears.  Yours could be different than mine, but we were designed to confront them.  Not doing this will leave you crippled and half-alive.  Don't by into the dogma of "I'm ok, your ok."  Assigning blame to a circumstance or another person is a recipe for regret.
  • Believing in a vision and it's eventual matching up with life is essential.  For example, I have a vision of a day when the thought of my father will not illicit heartbreak.  Life does not meet up to that now, but it will.  Use this in any change path and you will inject a hope of great depth.
  • Knowing yourself through a deliberate inventory of your tendencies will make sense of your journey.  I haven't always done this well.  I've spent days asking why I have recurring challenges of a certain variety.  I have discovered that these challenges were my tendencies.  For example, virtually all my life I have been underestimated.  Many doubters, many scoffers and critics alike would bring resistance.  When I recognized that underestimation was a tremendous tool, I experience much success and breakthrough.  Know your tendencies.

A Vivid Dream Of My Father


I am wired for dreaming.  Been that way for as long as I can remember.

I guess its no surprise then that I would grieve via the dream path.  Such was the case a couple of nights ago when I had a vivid dream of my father.  I need to write about this, so bear with me.

In the dream I found myself arriving at a hospital and moving quickly to an area that was obviously ICU.  Before I got to the actual patient area I saw a family weeping.  In my mind I thought: I understand. 

When I reached what I knew was the final destination, there lying motionless and peaceful was a man I did not know.  A loved one standing next to me was weeping.  In my mind I thought: I understand. 

Not much longer I turned and saw my father.  He looked like the first man.  He was lying motionless and peaceful.  In my mind I thought: I understand, he's gone.

To my shock, my father woke up and began to make haste to leave.  The nurses settled him and ask him to sit calmly on an empty bed.  With eagerness he did so…as I looked on somewhat confused.  I approached him to embrace, but as my arms wrapped around him he disappeared and I awoke from the dream.

And painfully in my mind I thought: I understand.