Peace at all costs is hollow

What I am writing about today probably saved my marriage.

Most of you who know me know I have a mild temperament. My nature is to avoid conflict and to seek peace.

Early on in my marriage, I realized that this was not always a good trait.

Because when I avoided conflict, it was impossible to uncover the truth. And with the truth buried, both of us could not move past an issue.

In those early years, if Leslie brought up something, I had two ‘go-to’ reactions:

  • Apologize quickly so she can stop being upset, but silently never repent and slightly resent her for not understanding ME or for being UNREASONABLE
  • Get super defensive and justify my position while negating what she was feeling

Thank goodness for our mentors Deen and Roslyn Allen who told me I needed to learn …”Leslie-ese” (that was the way they referred to learning to REALLY listen to her).  

It would have been virtually impossible for me to learn ‘Leslie-ese’ if I steadfastly held onto my prior beliefs because I was missing rich opportunities to pick up on the vocabulary and grammar of that language.

What I learned is that when she got to the point that she was raising something that was really ‘heated’ – it was something that was REALLY important (even if I didn’t think it was important) … and as much as I was uncomfortable and wanted to make the discomfort go away … I needed to LISTEN and LEARN … and then take ACTION.

This is not to say I am perfect at this – I still mess up.  Just recently, she called me out on something I was not taking appropriate action on … and my knee-jerk reaction was to defend myself … but that night I couldn’t sleep and I went and spent some time in prayer and reflection.  Then I took out the notes I had written about the issue earlier in the year – and realized that my hesitation to act was not justified.

By doing my RESEARCH, I was able to see a fuller picture (we had more information now than earlier in the year) – and I could see that she was right.  

So I repented and we were then able to walk side-by-side instead of against each other to a better outcome for all of us.

I said all that to say – seeking peace at all costs … without understanding that there is no true peace without understanding … is just a band-aid – its a hollow peace.

There is difficult work to be done for the pain in this nation to be healed … and it will take discomfort AND repentance (which simply means “changing your mind”) AND new actions.

A lot of my recent social media posts may have made you uncomfortable, defensive, self-righteous, or even confused … maybe you believe there is a media conspiracy that is making a big deal out of nothing and you can’t wait for things to ‘die down’ so you can go back to a peaceful life.

If that is you, consider that there just might be a ‘language’ that you need to get better versed in and that as you learn more, you will understand more.  When people say to get ‘educated’, they are not saying you are not an educated person – they are asking you to learn a language that will bring healing and reconciliation.  That language is a fuller understanding of this country’s full history – a lot of which you did not learn in school – and how that history has true and lasting effects TODAY.

Every time that Leslie and I have gone through one of those intense periods we have grown by leaps and bounds – we have come out on the other side stronger and more resilient.

I truly believe that is a realistic outcome for this nation too – you just have to be willing to do the work.

The next time you say “I can’t afford it”, think about this

When you say “I can’t afford it”, what do you really mean?  I think this is an important idea to deconstruct because money and your thoughts about money are an integral part of your emotional health.  All adults spend some portion of their life thinking about money.  Whether you have a lot of it, a little or just enough.

This is because money at it’s core is an abstract idea.  There is a practical element to money because we all need to trade the value of money for goods and services we need.  But most of the time when we are thinking about money, it is not the practical aspect of money that is occupying our thoughts.

What Money Represents to You

Before I go into my recommendation about what to do when you think “I can’t afford it”, here are some things to consider about what money represents in your life.  There are three key things money represents when we are dealing with the abstract concept:

  • Actions or Lack of Actions
  • Fears
  • Beliefs

Our thoughts about money are a representation of actions that we have either taken or failed to take.  An example of this is when you bounce a check, the emotion you have about money at that moment is based on a lack of balancing your check book.

Money also represents our fears.  This shows up primarily in your attitudes around spending, saving and investing.  Based on your internal programming, if you believe that life is about scarcity, you will try desparately to hold onto everything you have and miss out on opportunities to be a better steward of your money.  On the other hand, if you have a fear of being ‘controlled’, you may reject the idea of a budget and just spend whenever you want without planning because discipline translates to emotional bondage for you.

When it comes to beliefs, money and how we use it is generally aligned with what we truly believe, regardless of what we say we believe.  I have a friend who says: “Your spending history is your true story”.  So if you believe that your worth as a person is tied to how much money you have, when things get tough financially, your self-esteem takes a hit and it is difficult for you to move forward.

The Two Meanings of “I Can’t Afford It”

The next time you say “I can’t afford it”, examine the meaning of the thought.  It could mean one of two things.  The first source of the phrase could be a question of priorities.  When you say “I can’t afford it”, you might really be saying that the thing you want is not of a high enough priority for you to move the resources from something else to get it.  On the other hand, it might be a true issue of capacity and you really have a shortfall even if the thing you want is a true priority.

One Word to Change The Meaning

In the case where it is a capacity issue, there is one word that you can use to shift your mindset.


“I can’t afford it … yet.”

By adding that one word to the phrase, you force yourself to go into planning mode and to face the real issues around why you are stuck.  You can’t plan for a way to afford it without addressing your limiting beliefs and your fears.  So you can do the true internal work that will get you unstuck, instead of staying on a surface level that doesn’t move you forward.

I talk about this at greater length in this Facebook Live Video.


today is its own day


Today is its own day.

Regardless of what yesterday looked like and what you are worried about for tomorrow, today is its own day.

You can only live in today.

To change tomorrow, you work on your plan today.

So make today the very best you can, so that when you go to bed tonight you know that you gave it your all.

Then wake up tomorrow and tell yourself again …

Today is its own day.

living 2015 like a BOSS

“… Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:20 NIV Bible)


Every year I use the month of January as an opportunity to reflect on my upcoming year and how I would like to focus my attention. I find this more effective than setting arbitrary resolutions that I am not truly committed to follow through with. This year, a series of events and circumstances has crystallized for me what my key theme for 2015 should be.

The colloquial phrase ‘like a BOSS’ is the easiest way for me to summarize the theme because it captures the posture with which I am looking at this year.

The combination of two things in my current reality have made me realize that my only way to come out of this year where I want to will be by exercising a level of boldness that is usually outside of my comfort zone.

The first is that I am experiencing a very high level of constraints on my resources. Money is tight. Time is limited.

Despite these constraints, the second thing is that my vision is bigger than it has been since my mid-20s. I have a very clear picture of what I want spiritually, relationally, physically, professionally and financially.

It’s a big picture.

And the only way to bridge the gap between my resources and what needs to happen will be through a strategic use of leverage – squeeze a lot out of a little.

I will seek out and take advantage of opportunities that are as efficient as possible, while maintaining my integrity and commitment to serving others.

So what does ‘like a BOSS’ look like?

  • It’s being honest with someone even when it’s uncomfortable
  • It’s finding a way to get things done regardless of the obstacles
  • It’s dreaming big and taking massive action to make those dreams happen
  • It’s shrugging of negative comments from those who don’t get it while loving them just the same
  • It’s not being afraid to fail because I know I can get right back up again
  • It’s believing in others long enough for them to see the giant within

It’s helping regular people do great things.

I don’t listen to Katy Perry but 2015 will hear me roar.

what unwritten rules are hindering you?


I recently decided to step down from a leadership role that I have held for several years outside of work. Its a decision that I mulled over for the better part of a year until it was clear that I needed to make the change.

I took so long to come to this conclusion because I had not identified a successor for the leadership role and felt it was irresponsible of me to step down without finding one. I have been reflecting on the mental and emotional process I went through and realized that one of the key issues I was struggling with was an unwritten rule that I was following without examining whether it was still valid in my situation.

My unwritten rule needed challenging.

The unwritten rule in this case was: you cannot voluntarily step down from a position of leadership if you have not identified and trained a successor.

I have always viewed doing so as ‘dropping the ball’ and doing a dishonor to the organization I was serving.

What I realized after extensive reflection was that this rule would have been true for me three years ago, but it was not relevant in this particular situation. Three years ago, I began working on duplicating myself in leadership by mentoring other members of the organization because I realized that I would eventually have to move on. Unfortunately, each time I indentified a successor and began working with them, circumstances arose that required them to move onto another role, or limit their involvement with the organization.

In parallel with these obstacles internally in the organization, I had some major events in my life that significantly limited my capacity to lead the organization. So for the past 18 months, I have led the organization on ‘auto-pilot’ with significantly less passion than I had a few years ago.

The turning point in how I was viewing the situation was when I realized that serving on auto-pilot is just as detrimental to the organization as stepping down without identifying a successor. In addition, holding onto the role might be hindering somebody else from stepping up and taking over the leadership when the ‘vacuum’ is created on my departure.

So, holding on to the ‘letter’ of my unwritten rule was actually violating the ‘spirit’ of the rule.

Your unwritten rules are an implementation of your internal values.

I would challenge you to periodically examine some of the major rules in your life that drive your decision-making and determine whether they need to be revisited. Often, these unwritten rules exist because of your deeply held internal values, but when your values change – or expand to include other perspectives, you don’t take the time to re-examine decisions you made based on those values.

A common consequence of this problem is holding onto commitments that should be challenged for their validity in your current context, and as you pick up new commitments without altering or dropping the old ones, you become increasingly overwhelmed. Your capacity to contribute has not changed, but the nature of your contributions needs to change.

You are the ultimate arbiter of your to-do list.

Be on the lookout for situations in which you constantly use one or both of the following phrases:

  • “I have to …”
  • “I can’t …”

There are very few things that are absolutely mandatory in your life. Things like breathing, eating, sleeping – are mandatory.

Everything else is a choice.

In my experience, I tend to confuse commitments with mandatory requirements. I commit to things based on my values, and that strong attachment to the commitment that makes it feel compulsory is a consequence of how deeply held the value is that the commitment is based on.

Something as simple as putting gas in your car is a choice you can make because it is a more convenient way to travel than your other choices.

On the other end of the scale, something as critically important as providing for your children is still something that you choose to do because you value being a good parent.  If it was mandatory, then all children would be provided for adequately because nobody would have the choice to ‘underprovide’ or abandon their children.  But sadly, this is a reality of the world we live in.

In both cases, the simple and the critically important, there is still choice involved.  You don’t have to do either one of those things.

There is a freedom that comes with this realization because you can then revisit all of the commitments you currently have and challenge yourself about why you are choosing to do each of the things on the list – instead of feeling like there is nothing that is negotiable because all the things seem important.

If you are feeling overwhelmed (or underwhelmed), test each of your major commitments with a critical eye and you might surprise yourself with what you find.

I am in no way suggesting that you should drop any particular commitments in your life – if you are a parent, please keep providing for your kids – just that you take the time to reflect and challenge yourself about what unwritten rules might be hindering you.

It might be time to bend, break or simply ignore some of your rules so that you can better align your actions with your values.


I remember in my second year of high school in Botswana, we had a history teacher named Mr. Wilson who was determined to help us gain an appreciation for the importance of understanding the past and its impact on the present.  He didn’t want us to just memorize the information for the purpose of passing the tests – he wanted us to care about the content and make it our own.

One of the ways in which he achieved this goal with me was a series he took us through about three historical figures: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.  With each of the figures, he took us through their background, how they rose up in leadership of a movement, the sacrifices they had to make and ultimately, how they changed the world.

I remember reflecting on how interconnected these three historical figures experiences were with each other.  Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s ‘non-violent’ approach to protest and the earlier part of Mandela’s leadership applied the same principles.  Prior to his civil rights work in India, Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa where he developed many of his political views and methods fighting injustices in Mandela’s native land.

All three challenged a ‘status quo’ that at the time seemed insurmountable and ultimately triumphed, not because of their wealth or military power – but because of their strength of conviction which caused a movement of people to rise up that eventually could not be ignored.

Nelson Mandela PosterIn 1989, when we studied these figures, two of them were already dead and the one who was living was still serving an unjust lifetime imprisonment sentence. We did not even know what Nelson Mandela looked like because all the photos released of him at the time were pre-prison.

Our visual image of him was the young man in his 40s with a part in his hair that we saw on all the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ posters.  So we studied him like a ‘past’ figure because we did not know if he would ever be released.

So I remember very vividly the following year when it was announced that he would be released.  Our school came to a standstill as everybody let it sink in – that day no class really studied – we just rejoiced.

And then on the day that he was released, we spent several hours watching a television shot of a gate as we waited for him to emerge.  There were several delays and it only built the anticipation of who he would be after all these years.

Was he a frail old man and a shadow of his former self?

Had he lost his regal stature and magnetic draw because of the unmentionable horrors of imprisonment?

Would he be bitter and seek revenge on his now vanquished tormentors?

Thankfully, the answer to those questions was no, no and absolutely not.  He emerged and lived an amazing ‘second chapter’ to his life that most people could not manage in a single life.  From uniting a country that was on the brink of civil war, to bringing Africa its first World Cup, his imprint has resonated throughout the world over the past two decades.

nelson-jacketEven within my family his impact has been tremendous.  I think this post by my sister this morning gives a very good summary of the breadth of his reach.  I love the picture that she used in her post because I am so thankful that our visual image of him today is that imprint that she used when she designed the jacket – rather than the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ posters we grew up with.



having the idea is easy

This quote is from an excerpt of a discussion about the craftsmanship and process that is required to take an idea to a remarkable product. Its the reason two people can have an almost identical idea and only one of them turns it into something successful:

… one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen …

-Steve Jobs-

The rest of the quote is here on the Signal vs. Noise blog.

the fear of missing out

This is a great post by Seth Godin about a problem that is getting worse now that we are so connected with media – you help The Resistance to trick you by spending too much time trying to be ‘in the know’.

Quote from the post:

Somewhere, right this very moment, someone is having more fun than you.

Making more money than you.

Doing something more important, with better friends, and a happier ending, than you. Or possibly just better at Words with Friends than you are.

You’re missing out.

The lizard brain can’t rest until it knows that everyone likes us, that no one is offended, that all graphs are ticking up and to the right and the future is assured. But of course, the future (and the present) isn’t perfect. It can’t be.

The full post can be found here