Don’t Put Sharp Knives in Soapy Water

Let me tell you a story, a true story: When I was in elementary or early junior high school, we went on a family camping trip to Lake Chelan in Washington State. I should first give you a peek into how my parents viewed camping as they had their own unique and very broad definition of the activity—no tents, no sleeping bags, no Coleman stove, and no outhouse. Ours was a mobile home/camper type experience that maintained some of the comforts of home. One of my memories from this trip is my father grilling outside in the rain as we sat patiently waiting inside. Dad was holding a metal garbage can cover over the grill to keep the food from getting drenched. He was wearing his white baseball coaching jacket, an “older” pair of dress slacks, and his old wing tip shoes. Are you getting the picture?

One day we were standing on the dock waiting for a boat when my dad realized he had left Photo 1something in the camper that he wanted. I, being an active, athletic young kid, volunteered to run back for the item and asked for the keys to the camper. I was eager to dash off, but my dad told me to stop so he could explain the trickiness of the lock. I impatiently listened (well, pretended I was listening) to his instructions. “I got it,” I said (as I have been reminded of dozens of times), “what do you think I am, a dumb kid or something? I got it!” I quickly ran off and, as you can guess, this did not turn out well. I could not get the lock open and sheepishly ran back for help. I felt foolish, was embarrassed, and guilty as charged. My dad said little and just gave me a look (his look) that said all that needed to be said, “You should have listened!”

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When my sister and I were young, Sundays were the days we had to do the dishes (no dishwasher in those days!). We would fill the kitchen sink with dish detergent and hot water. Suds flowed to the top of the sink as dishes, knives, and silverware were thrown in. I remember feeling tentative as I put my hands in the soapy water wondering where the Photo 3sharp knives were. Mom would say, “Be careful, there are some sharp knives in there!” I would respond with a flippant, “I know!” when what I meant to say was “What do you think I am, a dumb kid or something?” Most times I was successful in navigating blindly through the soapy water yet, at times—with too much confidence and little regard to Mom’s loving reminder—there would be a jab and cut of the hand. I would yell for help which arrived a bit slow with a glancing look that said, “I told you to be careful.”

As I’ve reflected on my life I realize these stories (and others) reveal a personality quirk that, at times, had served me well, but more often than not, and has been a barrier to success, substance, and intimacy in the past.

When Pride Gets in the Way

Much like when I was a kid, I have found there have been times in my professional life when I didn’t want advice from others despite the fact they were well-meaning and informed and were looking out for my best interests. How ignorantly prideful I was!

I tend to approach my work with a laser-like focus in order to maximize performance. I pull together everything I feel is needed to excel at a task and take great pride in being able to say “I DID IT!” I love the sense of confidence that comes when a task is well done. In the past, I have not solicited or wanted input or feedback from others as I believe I have things well thought out. I think I can do it on my own and it will become a benchmark of personal accomplishment. Today, I look at tasks so differently!

Why did I react this way? Perhaps I feared that my self-confidence, or pride, or the sense of accomplishment would be diminished if I accepted outside help. Perhaps I viewed advice as a lack of trust in my ability and I wanted to prove them wrong. Or was my self-esteem based on my performance? Did I have a learned belief that asking for help or accepting help was a weakness that diminished the sense of satisfaction in successfully achieving a task? I now recognize, that graciously leaning into outside input is a strength, that advice or help is given out of a caring desire to support my success.

Embrace the value of what others have to offer. Listen to the heart of what is being said.

Reflecting on these experiences (and others) I have come to realize a critical life, business, and relationship lesson: Being a lone wolf has risks and can be isolating. Listening to what is offered by others—beyond the words—to the substance behind the words—is critical and pays huge growth and relationship dividends.

Listening Beyond the Words

This is true in business when dealing with my clients. I’ve learned to listen beyond the words that are being said, to the real message and intent. I work hard to listen carefully, and try not to be too quick to take control of the conversation, but rather delve into purposeful communication, ask clarifying questions, and create a meaningful dialogue. Attempting to always be in control can be and most often will be destructive to a great trusting and intimate relationship. I now do my best (not perfect) to recognize that allowing others to be “in control” of the conversation can enhance the business and personal relationship. I have learned that this overriding attitude and behavior will slowly develop deeper trust by allowing for an engagement that will have lasting value.

What has been the outcome of this personal paradigm shift? My understanding of the other person’s desired outcome has been crystalized enabling a more meaningful solution and action plan. There is a healthy give-and-take of questions and discussion. I find the relationship becomes stronger as it is built on respect, value, trust, and communication. This discovery, had I discovered it sooner, would have helped me navigate the soapy waters and open camper doors a bit more easily in my professional life and caused less pain in my personal life.

Allowing intentionality, intimacy, vulnerability, and graciousness in all aspects of business, life partner relationships, and faith is the foundation of happiness, fulfillment, and wonder.

A while back I read a book a friend had written entitled, Beginnings. What struck me as I read it was that I was going through my own new beginning of understanding how to be better in a variety of aspects: my professional role, my relationships, being more patient. . . essentially, being “a better Bob” in how I use the gifts I’ve been given. I’m learning to embrace and value true relationships through openness, trust, and acceptance of meaningful and loving input from others. This attitude has created greater value than being the lone wolf that I once thought was such a hallmark. The result: I am better at what I do for my clients and in how I foster and deepen my personal relationships.

Final thought: Here’s something to reflect on, a quote I recently came across: “If you are the smartest person (or think you are) in the room, you are in the wrong room.”

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The Unbelievable Value of Challenge and Doubt

I was recently reminded of the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, you know the story of the old miser, Scrooge, being challenged by the ghosts of Christmas Present, Christmas Past, and Christmas Future. The ghosts revealed to him not only the ways his negative, insensitive behavior affected those around him but the dark future that awaited him.

I had my own Christmas Carol/Scrooge experience not that long ago when I was in a group setting and observed how the presenter responded when someone challenged him with a new perspective. While the feedback was being shared in a professional manner, you know, in an “I want to help” sort of tone, I found the presenter’s response (in behavior and tone) to be defensive and dismissive. I thought, “That was me in the past, yikes!” It was a meaningful reinforcement of what I have learned—and continue to learn—a personal discovery that warrants sharing.

Awareness and personal importance are catalysts to learning and personal growth.

Remember the closing of A Christmas Carol with Scrooge’s expression after his transformation? He experienced uncontrolled happiness and, more importantly, JOY! Remember how those around him were also feeling the joy and excitement of the new Scrooge? Maybe it was the emergence of the Scrooge that was always in there somewhere but just needed to be cracked out of its shell.

Care about everything, I mean everything. It adds up to how we choose to maneuver through the world and with others.

There have been times throughout the recent past when I felt like both the Scrooge of the past and, more recently, the Scrooge of the future. Why the change? It’s because, fundamentally, I care about the future. Shouldn’t we all?

I think the story of Scrooge inspires four overreaching messages I am of the belief we should learn to live by:

  1. WE are often the last to know about a misaligned behavior and we need to care in order to effect change.
  2. WE need to have people we trust to tell us what is being observed about us.
  3. WE can change if it is important and as long as it for our own personal reasons.
  4. Now the hard part for many: Those previously affected (by the Scrooge syndrome) need to exhibit amazing grace in forgiveness and understanding of the past and embrace (with a warm trusting hug) an excitement for the future. (Want to read about grace? Read Brennan Manning’s book, Ragamuffin Gospel)

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Not being a Lone Wolf has manifested in me a powerful message, behavior, and change in perspective.

Recently, I have been blessed with some great new people in my life: friends, relationships, professional advisors. I have been changed in how I view many aspects of my business and personal life. I remember the days when I was younger (could have been 1 year younger 🙂 ) when I would be told (or the suggestion made) that something was not possible, or could maybe be done in a better way. I would think “I’ll show them that I can do it!” I did not like others doubting me or my ability to do the task. I felt insecure in being challenged about something I believed in (right or wrong). How self-centered I was to feel and believe this! How self-righteous I was in thinking I was that good. How disrespectful I was to those who wanted to provide input to enhance the outcome. Too prideful comes to mind.

The bigger the challenge the bigger the opportunity.  –unknown

This was further reinforced at my Monday morning men’s group when I began challenging and asking questions about a topic that was being skimmed over. One of the other members said, “The challenging of a perspective has been good, Bob.” It dawned on me that he was right, challenge done properly and received openly is worthy of sharing.

What do challenges and doubt do?

  • Challenge and doubt trigger reconsideration of one’s posture through reflection;
  • Have the potential to create deeper conviction of the belief as it is no longer superficial in its nature;
  • If communicated and received properly, they further define who you are;
  • Creates meaningful dialog between the parties that is fun, has depth, and most likely enhances the closeness of the relationship. All byproducts that are enriching;
  • Could very possibly temper the posture, or may enhance the outcome with a new perspective;
  • Expand one’s knowledge and self-awareness;
  • Allow for a deeper, more personal understanding of others through positive growth.

None of this would be possible without the lasting POWER OF CHALLENGE AND DOUBT.

Press “5” to Accept- My Faith, the maturity of something that was always in me!

This rambling is very personal, and longer than most. However, I hope you can settle in and read it in its entirety. I have reflected a long time as to how best write this rambling, consulted close friends and hope I have hit the right tone in these words.

If this Rambling blog of mine is to be true to its stated objective—to be true to myself and to allow those around me “to get to know the personal side of Bob”—then I need to treat this subject as a VERB—taking the risk to talk about my personal faith.

I’m not here to tell anyone what they should believe—I’m simply sharing my personal reflections, to allow others to better understand who I am and what is important to me. Like other posts, this is not meant to tell anyone what they should do, it is at its best intended to challenge and encourage personal reflection.

Sit back, relax, and reflect on the heart of what I have written.

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I not only want to know God, but want to live with God as my roommate—that close personal friend, that best friend, who drives me crazy because he challenges me and keeps asking me questions. He lets me dangle till we debate an answer, or at least the answer that sounds best after a few beers.

I have learned that having a deep guiding faith does not make you overtly weird, does not require you to stand on the street corner screaming your beliefs waiving a Bible, and does not prohibit you from having fun, but it does require you to be engaged in something that is Press 5 to Accept_Photo 1personal and intimate.

Press 5 to Accept

Let me give you the Cliff Notes version of a story that resonated with me as I reflected on this post:

A friend received a call from Sandstone prison with a message that an inmate wanted to speak to him. If he was willing to take the call he was to “Press 5 to Accept.” After a brief hesitation wondering what the call was about he stared at the phone in the palm of his hand, and in an action of finality, curiosity, and determination hit “5.” On the other end, the inmate said although they had never met, that he had just finished reading one of my friend’s books and wanted to visit. That was the start of what would become a personal relationship between the two. And it began with the writing of the book and my friend’s willingness to Press 5 to Accept a call. A call that came out of the blue, to answer a curiosity, and developed—out of faith—into the belief that he could make a difference that would impact both his own life and that of the inmate, all by Pressing 5 and Accepting!

Press 5 to Accept resonated with me as it is the cornerstone of actions I have needed to take to deeply explore and intimately develop my faith as two personal and intentional
actions were taken:

  1. To be askedPress 5 to Accept_Photo 2
  2. And to Press 5 to Accept!

Re-igniting Faith
This notion is further captured in another story found in a friend’s books (Thank you Terry Esau and your books “Surprise Me, God” and “Be the Surprise” for giving me insight, inspiration, and the permission to share your insight and analogy.) Terry’s analogy of fire, flames, and warmth captures what I have experienced in my life. I think of the many times I’ve sat around the outdoor campfire at the cabin. Although I could appreciate the dance and movement of the flames, I had this sense there was something missing, something that was preventing me from feeling the warmth of the flames. Terry’s books helped me in my journey to re-ignite my faith, to PRESS 5 and to Accept.

We can look fantastic, attend church, tithe, volunteer, be on church boards, help at food shelters, participate in men’s groups, you know, all the things that good faith-based individuals do to express their faith and feel that they have built an impressive flame. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these are all great things to continue doing as it is part of our belief and statement of faith. For me, however, I have discovered they did not provide all the warmth and comfort that I wanted or needed, I needed more! I was not feeling the connection with my God that was personal and intimate. In fact, I have discovered that in the past I did not even know what an intimate and personal relationship with God entailed.

This search for a meaningful relationship did not start and evolve until I was personally challenged. The person who challenged me did not realize how it impacted me as I said little. You see, in the past I had mastered internalizing my feelings. My fear of vulnerability and deep feeling of shame did not allow me to fully explore the answer with the person who challenged me , this was one of my biggest mistakes in my life that is with me daily and that I have no ability to correct, a painful lesson that I am committed to never let happen again.

This internalized fear of expressing vulnerability, tackling shame is something that I have worked hard to correct (I want to thank many, you know who you are, for your help in my conquering this flaw.). Actually I was so good at my internalization that the person who triggered this challenge distrusted—and maybe still does—my commitment and who I really am as to my faith and many other aspects of the real BOB.

That aside, I decided that stoking the coals because of missing warmth was important for my own personal reasons and I slowly and privately accepted the challenge to rekindle the coals for the warmth, not the sensational flames without the challenging person even knowing my efforts, here lies mistake #2, not communicating intent, actions, commitment and progress.

What is your fire? Has it lost some of its warmth and comfort?

What I have discovered is that this growing personal faith feels warm. I love pulling up my chair close to the fire to enjoy its warmth, something I do most mornings with reading and prayer, something that was so foreign to me as I NEVER did this in the past. Now, I look forward to making this part of my day. Yet even when there is no fireplace, I can still feel its comfort, as I reflect on how the glowing embers create the warmth. I have come to believe that the dazzling flames of the past with all of its grandeur provided a great look, but not the substance that was important.

I also realize that I want to have an active relationship with God that is intimate, and personal not passive. It is an ongoing process to develop a personal relationship that is between me and God, something that is a personal and intimate aspect of my life.

I have learned that faith brings me closer to those around me in a more rewarding and intimate way. Faith has helped define who I am and how I live my life. Faith has made me more willing to be vulnerable and honest with myself, to be more honest with those around me, more intimate in my willingness to connect and more receptive to others perspective and constructive criticism. What a wonderful evolution.

Let me digress a bit. I have come to believe that there are many events in life that are not an accident, not just coincidence. Instead there are very possible moments touched by the hands of God guiding me all along. Surprises you might say!

Living in an uncommon way

A few months ago, a friend invited me to attend a Saturday morning men’s gathering at Grace Lutheran Church. Over 3,000 men attended (isn’t that in itself amazing and comforting) “ARISE with the GUYS” featuring Tony Dungy, Jeff Siemon, Paul Molitor, Brian Dozier, and Thomas Davis of the North Carolina Panthers, to name a few. It was a superb morning listening to great athletes talk about who they are as a person, not what they do for a career. They talked with conviction about doing their best to live their lives with the mindset of the common man, you know, the man that is nothing special, the man who was created in the image of God, the man who is to serve, not be served and whose identity is not what they do, but who they are for the benefit of others. Their message spoke to the belief that Jesus did not ask us or challenge us to take the wide easy road, and to be true to whom we are, not what we do.

That day encouraged me to stay the path of being a common person living in an uncommon way in the warmth and comfort of our faith in who Jesus is and why He died on the cross for us. Uncommon, may be the wrong adjective, possibly “to live in a way that is not the norm” is a better way to state this. To live outwardly with the mindset that those “ragamuffins” and individuals around us are those who deserve our praise and servanthood, not always doing what is best to pamper our personal and fragile ego for comfort. (I still want to have fun and experience the grandeur of life and the world but with a bit more balance!)…(check out “God is present in desperate need with Brene Brown, posted on FB by the work of the People May 29 at 9:35am ).

The very next day, I was at church and the message was “Ordinary People.” The message again challenged me to further explore how I can more purposefully create or participate in activities that serve others. I dream about finding a partner who shares this common belief, someone with whom I can develop a common vision to develop good ideas to serve others. You know, belief shared in the form of an “US” in terms of life and relationship, to create a new heritage with a purpose.

These experiences, on two consecutive days, weren’t a coincidence.

The term ordinary is relative as it is a statement as to how you compare yourself to those around you, those you hang out with. This may not be that out of the ordinary if we hang out with like-minded people, yet, in the greater aspect of society, it can be way out of the ordinary and helps move the needle in a positive direction for those a few rings farther out from us and those we touch.

Isn’t that part of being a disciple and making our faith a verb? Is that not part of the action in how we live out our faith and an intimate relationship with our God who guides us and provides comfort?

I will end with a question:

What is your fire? Has it lost some of its warmth and comfort? Have you been asked to PRESS 5 to ACCEPT? If not, I AM NOW!

Teachable and Learning Moment

My apologies, what a great lesson just learned as to FB content…, I love the message posted, just not the reference to Steve Jobs however

-“A friend informed me that this is a hoax letter. While I obviously wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments, I was taken in by the hoax–and I don’t want my friends and associates to be taken in as well. That’s why I’m doing this follow-up “ramble”–it’s another “teachable moment”–a chance to comment on the importance of “doing the right thing”–admitting mistakes–and retaining your trust. Wouldn’t the world be better if we ALL were more direct and straightforward, and admitted mistakes? While I had no intention of misleading, I want to make sure my friends know that when I’m wrong, I address the issue promptly.”

Last Words of Steve Jobs

I shared this on My Facebook, however the significance of the message is worthy of a Rambling Post.

This is a must read for all of us to never forget. Love, appreciation for those around us, having a personal defined purpose that defines who you are in your soul and heart that resonates outward in unexpected ways.

As I heard recently, live life so that being around you is like eating chocolate cake… A total and complete blessing and privilege for your unexpected and deserving grace!

The last words of Steve Jobs –
I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me.
I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.
This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead.
Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.
What is the world’s most expensive bed? The hospital bed.
You, if you have money, you can hire someone to drive your car, but you cannot hire someone to take your illness that is killing you.
Material things lost can be found. But one thing you can never find when you lose: life.
Whatever stage of life where we are right now, at the end we will have to face the day when the curtain falls.
Please treasure your family love, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbours.