Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Absence of this Word is Eroding our Culture

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a bumper sticker on a car that read bitch.

What?! Why would that woman…?! She put that on her own car?!

I couldn’t understand why a woman would take a colossal slur and turn it into a trophy. And just so we’re clear, the only people who think the term bitch is positive are other women with the same bumper sticker. I’ll show you:

“Hey, why don’t you come over tonight? I’m grilling and I’ve got some new micro brews and a couple women from my office will be there; they’re real bitches.”

“Uh, no. No thanks, I think I’ll pass.”

Something started happening a few years ago. We started settling. We masked it in proclaiming that we’re tired of being politically correct. But somewhere along the way, instead of seeing opportunities to grow, instead of working on our temper and social skills, we decided to camp out on our less-than-positive traits and even proudly proclaimed them.

And it’s easy to see why: It’s easier to put a bitch sticker on one’s car than it is to learn how to turn a mean-spirited, volatile temper into something kinder and more respectful of others.

And bump stickers like My kid beat up your honor student are funny, but it’s easier to make excuses or defend our child than it is to walk with them through the quagmire of wise decisions, humility, work ethic, respect and the like.

When I was growing up through my teens and early twenties, I was so cocky, so full of myself, trying to compensate for an upbringing that wasn’t up to my snuff. I was full of pride and full of me, at the expense of you.

And somehow, mysteriously or spiritually or both, I began to see my arrogance as the character flaw that it was. And so I aspired to be a person who was more humble than arrogant.

The truth is, it would have been easier to put a Cocky SOB bumper sticker on my car. It would have been easier to settle into a lesser version of myself.

Listen, it’s always harder to aspire than it is to settle. (And for the record, it’s not like I’m arrogance-free at this point. It’s still an aspiration.)

I’m concerned that we are much less of an ASPIRE culture and much more of a Popeye culture: “I am what I am!”

The word ASPIRE is desperately missing from our culture.

History has been forged by people who aspired for better and many of those people shaped our lives. 

We don’t know any of the Popeye people by name. People who settled didn’t move themselves or anyone else forward.

But history is full of people who aspired. Our lives reap the benefit of people who aspired:

Joan of Arc, even though an illiterate peasant girl, aspired to make a difference beyond her station in life.

Beethoven aspired to compose music even through the challenge of deafness.

Nelson Mandela aspired to be a lawyer amid the South African apartheid system.

Rosa Parks aspired to do something as simple and profound as sit in the white part of a bus in the racial segregation of the deep south.

People pushing, grinding, aspiring for better, is what has made people and countries great.

And please get this: this happens at the micro level—this happens when arrogant guys like me aspire for something better. It happens when you decide to not be a Popeye person, “Well, I am what I am!

It happens when women take the energy and strength of their bitchiness and channel it into civility and lead and influence in ways that move things forward instead of just tearing people down.

So many times our character flaw is just the bad expression of a positive trait.

My positive trait is that I can take a hill, take people with me and help them grow in the process. 

The same fire that fuels that, is the same fire that can make me arrogant and pushy on a bad day or when I’m tired.

So, what about you?

In what area, in what way do you need to aspire to something more or something better?

Greatness happens when you and I aspire to be the best with whatever was given to us.
All of us have been given a toolbox of heredity, abilities, personality, natural wirings and physical capacity.

Given what you have and what’s going on in your neck of the world, what do you need to aspire to?

A marriage gets better, when I aspire for more and I get better.

A family gets better when a member aspires to bring more healthy interaction to the table.

A city gets better every time a person aspires to figure out how they can make even a small difference.

And a country gets better every time one of us aspires to maximize whatever’s been given to us in our toolbox.

So, tell me: What are your aspirations?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why the Third Party isn't Taken Seriously

Why aren’t Libertarians, aka the Third Party, taken seriously during presidential elections? In large part, it’s because they haven’t taken it seriously.

Exhibit A:

First, in early Sept of this year, Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, didn’t know that Aleppo, Syria was the epicenter of one of the biggest refugee crises in the world. Watch video.

Secondly, a few weeks later, he couldn’t name the leader of a foreign country that he respects. He actually said, somewhat dejectedly,

I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment…” Watch video.

You may not think this is a big deal because perhaps you would fail one or both of these questions, or you assume he was just caught off guard. But in both cases, he was being interviewed on television—a situation in which any serious candidate would and should be well prepared to answer questions both domestic or international in scope.

In these two examples, Johnson gave us a narrative of a candidate who didn’t seriously expect to answer real questions during a very real presidential election cycle.

Exhibit B:

The Third Party shows up once every four years on the national stage and expects to be taken seriously.

They are like some strange insect that only surfaces every four years. On off election years, we never see them in the public spotlight nor do we hear of their off election year accomplishments. They seem to be about dialogue more so than action. They appear to have no three-year strategy for ramping into an election.

Let me put this in perspective: If I wanted to break into auto racing and I told you I was going to head to the Indy 500 in May hoping to qualify—hoping to be taken seriously, you’d call me crazy.

You’d call me crazy because there’s no part of life that works that way. Be it sports, academia, business, the arts, etc.—everyone works their way to the top.

Everyone who’s at the pinnacle of what they do can tell you the story of how they started somewhere, then worked up to the next level and so on and so on. This is common sense; this is how life works. No one gets to the top by touting theories (well ok, maybe philosophers); we get there through bona fide experiences and successes.

If the Third Party were serious, they’d intentionally work at being successful at lower levels, generating a string of successful mayors, successful congressmen and the like.

If they would show they can win and be successful on smaller stages, to the point that people took note and to the point where Libertarians could earn public respect based on resume versus aspirations— then the Third Party would greatly increase the chances of being taken seriously at the presidential level.

And now back to my metaphor:

If I show up at the Indy 500 next May with some fresh new revolutionary ideas about open wheel racing—without having won any races, I’d never be taken seriously--nor should I. And so it is for a Third Party candidate on the biggest political stage in our country.

By the way, I'm very open to a third party, I've just yet to see it be compelling.

See you at the race track ;-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Six Reasons Why Democrats & Republicans Should Hate Each Other

1. Sorry, but there aren't any reasons why Dems & Repubs should hate each other. Instead, how about some fresh ways to interact with the current culture.

2. Compromise required.
Hating each other comes from an unrealistic expectation that our side should win or get whatever we want. That's not the way the system was designed nor the way it is supposed to work.

The two-party system is about compromise. You give some. I give some. It's like recess on the playground when you were in elementary school: share, trade, give in, now you go first.

The idea that "we're not going to compromise" is an idea that's directly responsible for why people are so fed-up with government right now. So you can keep on sticking to your immovable principles that only further moves all of us into the unhappiness zone, or you can be open to compromise

3. For atheists.
Please stopping acting as if there is a moral truth that everyone can naturally agree upon. If there's no god, no higher power, then I'm not sure where one gets the idea there's a common sense of right & wrong running through humans.

Nature demonstrates that if one is hungry, eat the next edible creature or thing regardless if it's a mommy-something nursing-baby somethings or endangered.

So if there's no moral truth that we can all cling to, let's be ready to compromise and agree to disagree.

4. For People of Faith.
Be nice. Politics isn't an excuse to treat people rudely or disrespectfully. Your God/god hasn't endorsed a political party. So if your faith is a real thing for you, be that first and a dem/repub second.

Let all your words and actions reflect the God/god you've entrusted your life to. Love and humility are fairly standard in the faith game, so give yourself allowance to not be right all the time, and love your enemy enough to cut him/her some slack. Again, be nice.

5. Realize that you are the media.
Ever notice that Sean Hannity and Rachel Madow aren't the ones whipping you into a lather when you're on Facebook? They aren't sharing their posts with you; it's your friends, it's you.

Did you also notice that the preponderance of "news articles" that you share that tell people how horrible Hillary/Donald is aren't bona fide news sources?

They look like NBC or CNN but look closer at the web address; it's probably a website that's hugely political, far from impartial, will have the kind of articles you love and will be a source you haven't heard of before.

So please know that we are whipping us into a frenzy. Sure, MSNBC and Fox News are helping, but it's you and me and all of our friends who have the social media power. Sharing kitten pictures would probably help our great divide more than any political article.

6. Run a New Play
Aren't you tired of the great divide? Aren't you tired of being mad at the other side? Aren't you tired of how it's been politically for far too long? You and I can stop being part of the hate at any time.

I didn't say you had to agree. Just try not hating the other side. Just so you know, hating the other side takes a toll on your insides. Try getting to know some people from the other side; get to know their stories. Do what politicians are doing a poor job of lately: value and befriend people despite their political views.

If you don't like how it is, choose to be how you wish it were and it very well may come to be.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bathrooms and Me

So in Kokomo there's a heck-of-a hullabaloo about the flood of lewd crime that will ensue in public restrooms if a LGBT ordinance passes.

Christian people are seriously freaked out about this. What I've mostly heard is they're ok with the LGBT community having their rights protected, they're just not ready for the crime spree of public restroom unspeakablness that they say will surely follow.

This is my personal response to that supposition.

I don't know about you, but from the time I was a little kid, we always heard that public restrooms were sketchy. Statistically, whether they were or not, we took care and were cautious. For instance, my brother and I were instructed to go together if we had to go to the restroom in a public park.

(For the record, growing up I never had a scary incident in a public restroom, nor did any of my friends or acquaintances.)

Much later, as a dad raising a family, my wife and I always escorted our kids into public restrooms, stood in front of their stall--you know, all that good protective parenting stuff. We did this in the mall, in town, out of town, wherever.

So my question is, if they pass that LGBT thing, would my behavior in a public restroom as a parent be any different now? No. I'd run the same play. My kids would be as safe as before.

Isn't that true for all of us? Do any of us send our kids into public restrooms alone now? No.

Here's where I'm at: I live in a world that has sketchy people in it. Sketchy people doing sketchy things includes all kinds of people. It's life. It's not a new phenomenon. Sketchy goes back to the beginning of time.

So do you know what I do? Every day I try to be careful and observant. When I'm in a parking lot, a restaurant, anywhere there are people, I pay attention. Why? Sketchy people exist. And do you know where the sketchy people are? Potentially, everywhere.

That's right. Sketchy people are everywhere, but we keep doing life.

It doesn't keep us from driving our cars even though sketchy people might drink too much and crash into nice people like us.

It doesn't keep us from going to the mall, even though sketchy people might try to make off with your wallet or purse.

It doesn't keep us from going to the bank even though sketchy people occasionally show up there with a gun to hold it up.

Do you know why we risk sketchy things happening to us?

Because there's way more nice people than sketchy people. We watch the news and know things like car accidents, purse-snatchings and bank robberies are rare occurrences and they aren't worth us obsessing over.

I'd guess right about now, someone reading this has pulled up a story about some guy who's done something bad in a restroom and that person's now feeling victorious.

If that's so, let's have a contest: you pull up all the bathroom crimes you can and I'll pull up all the people killed in America yesterday by drunk drivers.

In light of the grim statistics, I bet that doesn't keep you or me from driving tomorrow. (By the way that was 27.5 people a day in 2013.) My point is, let's not make bathroom crime a spree when it's far from it.

(By the way, if you Google "Crime in public restrooms" you won't get stories and statistics from credible news sources like CNN, Fox, etc, you'll get websites that look like news pages that are really propaganda either for or against this issue. Be leery of stats and stories on websites you've never heard of.)

As a pastor I am aware that our world isn't safe. Since we left the garden, it hasn't been. At some point, either at a national, state or local level, the LGBT community will be protected from discrimination, it seems inevitable. Whenever that happens, we need not fear taking our chances in the public restrooms, our cars, the malls, parking lots...everywhere. Since we left the garden, we're all risk-takers.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why You Can't Hate Brady or Manning

(This piece inspired by my friend, Sam, and his disdain for people spilling "hate-er-ade" all over his boy, Tom Brady.)

Just days after these two went at in their fifth AFC Championship game, my friends are all aflame in the social media-verse with the "I hate #18; I hate #12" folderol.

The truth is the greatness of each is forever tied to the other. And yes, they're both truly great and will both be touted and esteemed way beyond their time.

Nearly every historic figure we know by name, had an adversary--someone to fight against.

We wouldn't know the Hatfields without the _________ (you said McCoys, right?)

There was Larry Bird and ____________ (you said Magic Johnson).

There was Staubach vs _____________ (Bradshaw. You're getting good at this).

Ali and _________ (Frazier).

Chris Everett and ___________ (Martina Navratilova).

Nadal and _________ (Federer.)

Washington vs the British. Reagan vs communism. Palmer vs Nicklaus, Coke vs Pepsi, Gates vs Jobs, Ford vs GM. You get the idea.

If you're a Brady/Manning fan you have to be thankful for the other guy! Imagine for the last thirteen or so years if there was just ONE of these phenoms in the AFC: BORING!

Every great person needs other great people to bring out their best. Left to just ourselves and our goals, apart from an opponent, we don't do so hot.

This is true of individuals, companies and countries. In terms of the latter, consider that when we had a common enemy (USSR), we appeared less divisive as a country. Since the USSR disbanded, one could argue that America's enemy is itself, other Americans.

When did America most recently rally? During the recession. It was US vs recession and it brought out our best. Automobile companies that were arguably a little complacent, got serious, knuckled down, got innovative, paid off government loans and got stronger than before. Every segment of the public and private sector have been working on how to do it better and more efficiently.

Why? Because we had to. We had an adversary called the recession.

When it comes to humans, we're at our best when there's an adversary, So if you love Tom Brady, then thank God for Peyton Manning. And if you love Peyton Manning, then thank God for Tom Brady.

Manning and Brady are friends, rivals and men who know that they've kept each other on their toes all these years. I cannot fathom the inordinate amount of respect they have for each other.

So, don't be hatin'. Adversaries and adversity bring out our best.

Thank you, Peyton.
Thank you, Tom.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

How to Open a Restaurant

Sandra and Morgan Young opened Main Street Cafe in November 2012. They've previously logged many years in restaurant management for national chains. They believe opening a restaurant isn't rocket science, but is rooted in basic foundational principals. This is their attempt to help others open well.

The Worst Reason to Open a Restaurant

"I love to cook!" or "I'm a foodie; I love food!" These are really bad places to start. If you love to cook, get someone to pay you for cooking. If you're a foodie and love food, be a food blogger, a secret shopper, or give advice to local restaurants. Similarly, if someone said, "I love Indy Cars," and next told you they were going to start a race team, well--yes, you'd laugh all over them.

So What's a Good Reason, Then?

You love the intersection of food and people. A restaurant isn't a food business. It's not a people business; it's both. Oh, and you have to have some tolerance for the risks and tensions of owning your business, because at its core, it is a business. Food + people + business = good recipe for starting a restaurant. The person who said, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day of your life," was probably not a restaurateur ;-)

Bring Great Food

We live in a day and age where OK food won't cut it. There are too many chains that serve good food every day. Mediocre food will not get people out of their home and into your new restaurant. Well, it will the first time, but success is found in repeat visits. Your friends all think your food is amazing. I'd suggest finding some people that know food and don't know you; see what they have to say about your food. It takes consistently great food to make a restaurant go.

Own Customer Service

This is the primary secret weapon that a small start-up restaurant has that most chains don't. If you aren't great at this, your employees won't be either. More is caught than taught; they'll do as you.

There may be no bigger oxymoron in business right now than customer service. At Main Street Cafe we talk about this as part of our culture, not something we do. It's our ethos, not a script. If you don't naturally love people enough to make a difference in their lives when they come in your new restaurant, you may not survive.

Again, people can get great food anywhere these days, and all the chains have advertising budgets that you can't compete with. Treating people amazingly costs the same amount of money as it does to pay your employees to not care about your customers. Creating a culture of great customer service costs you nothing and could be the difference in your success or failure.

This is where the "fun" in owning your own business comes from. It's up to you to create the culture your employees and you want to come to every day. Only you can own and drive this part of your business.

"Treating people amazingly costs the same amount of money as it does to pay your employees to not care about your customers." 

You Need Other Great People

You're amazing, right? Well, you can't do it all and can't be everywhere. And as you'll soon find out, getting this amazing restaurant off the ground is exhausting. If you hire people on their ability to fog a mirror, this won't be much fun. You have to be determined to hire good people. Who's a good person? Someone who likes the culture you're trying to create.

Sometimes we hire people with restaurant experience. Often we hire people with great personalities whom we can teach restaurant skills. If a person can't smile through a ten-minute interview, I guarantee they won't smile fifteen minutes into their shift either.

Don't think good people won't work for restaurant wages. People are happy to come to work in a place that's happy to come to ;-) It's not all about money. Hire well. Train well. Respect them. Laugh with them. Show them how to have fun and love your customers. They'll then enjoy coming to work.

"If a person can't smile through a ten-minute interview, I guarantee they won't smile fifteen minutes into their shift either." 

Do Your Homework

Does your area want to buy what you're passionate about? It's not all about passion. It's about passion + the right market. Know your market because it's the context for everything you'll do in your new restaurant. At Main Street Cafe, our menu is unique yet familiar. Why? Central IN isn't the place to fill a menu with things people haven't heard of.

Have you worked in a restaurant? I hope you've managed one. There are processes and systems for running a restaurant. It's not at all like hosting your successful large dinner parties. It's like running a four ring circus: kitchen, guests, employees, inventory, etc., all at the same time.

Have you talked to people who've opened successful restaurants in your city and transitioned them into lasting success? Get to know them. Learn from them. It's also good to have people you can talk to when it's tough, people who "get it."

Have you done a business plan? Do you know what one is? Most of the people on Shark Tank who can't answer questions well, don't really know what their business plan is. If you think it's a document you're making just because the bank needs it for the loan, you're missing a huge piece of your potential success.

Don't Get in Too Deep Too Fast

For years, Sandra and I watched Mehrdad and Chef Cynthia at Pastariffic slowly grow their business, slowly add on. When we launched our restaurant, we were nervous, but the worse case scenario was we knew we could close up and still pay off our modest loans.
Don't bet the farm if this is your first foray into owning and running a restaurant.

Don't count on making money for a while. People who start taking salaries initially are often paying themselves with borrowed money, very unwise. I've talked with a lot of entrepreneurs and not taking a salary for a year or more is a common tale. If you have to make money on day one, maybe opening up a restaurant isn't for you, yet. (When and how you get paid should be part of your business plan, by the way.)

Learn, Respond, Adapt--be Flexible

As well as you understand your business plan, this isn't an exact science. Be ready to make changes. Be ready to admit that some things you thought would be hits, aren't. Leaders are learners so running a new restaurant is a huge learning experience. Be open to it. Have someone you can trust you bounce ideas off of and people who will tell you the truth.

Friday, April 24, 2015

4 Reasons Why We Dislike Good Leaders

We don't typically like good leaders, not in real time anyway. Maybe we like them after the facts, after they've accomplished good things. And maybe we like them because we didn't have to work too closely with them.

The four guys in the picture stirred it up pretty good. Three of them got shot for it. Good leaders aren't all famous people on Wikipedia. They're pastors, mayors, business women. You probably know some. And you don't like them, here's why:

1. They disrupt the status quo.

What we like is the familiar; we like things the way they are. We like comfortable. Leaders are wired for change, for progress.

We want progress too, but we're weird. I'll show you: We all like better roads, fewer stops and easier driving. We just hate construction. We even hate roundabouts--just because we didn't grow up with them.

Leaders understand that to go from here to there, there are growing pains, and they choose discomfort in lieu of our comfort. And we don't like that.

2. They rarely do the obvious.

What we like is common sense. We'd prefer that people in charge would do things the way that we would. But leaders are wired with uncommon sense.

When leaders do what we would do, we feel validated; we feel smart. When they run a play that's less conventional, that we never would've thought of, we feel dumb, or simply think they're an idiot. If you want common sense leadership that won't change things much and will help you stay comfortable, get a manager. Leaders have uncommon sense, it's what makes them a leader. We just don't like their unpredictability.

3. They're more focused on the future than making us happy.

When we dislike a leader, it's usually because she's messing with our current situation. But leaders are focused on the long play while we're focused on the short game.

Great leaders are pushing for a future that's better than today. That often means we have to make some sacrifices now to get to a better tomorrow.

For instance, when a local leader tries to build up the heart of a city and make it attractive so that people will want to stay or move into your community, the goal is a future tax base that's bigger than it is now. And that might involve funds being allocated today in such a way that's irritating to you. Good leaders are usually more focused on making our children happy than us happy, and we don't like that.

4. They see things we can't.

Part of this is vision. They envision a future that's outside of the box and better than we can realistically imagine. The fact that we can't see their idea of the future or don't believe we can achieve their vision, makes it easy for us to dislike them.

The other part is they actually see things we can't: inner-workings, strategy meetings, detailed reports, financial summaries etc. They're typically up to their eyeballs in data by the time we're hearing about their latest crazy idea. While we're up to our eyeballs in social media speculation and all the "wise" counsel of our friends that have no data, just endless common sense opinions.

When we think everything has a simple solution, we're making uninformed opinions about the leaders who have all the informed data.

Wrap up.

Now, look back at the picture at the top of this post. Read the main points again. It makes sense, doesn't it? Now...picture a leader you don't like because of what he/she is doing. These same four things could very well be at work in that situation too.

Peace, my friends ;-)