Archive for the 'Grow' Category

12 Productivity Tips for the New Year

The title of the bookette caught my eye: “Shave 10 Hours Off Your Workweek.” The recommendation wasn’t to leave at three. [Insert banker joke here.]

Author Michael Hyatt is the former CEO of a large book publisher. Since retiring a few years back, he has been “virtually mentoring” people, helping them become more productive.

Hyatt would readily admit that productivity starts with the heart. He would likely point to one of his former authors, John Eldredge, whose writing on desire helps people recover what really motivates them.

But many of us need help with the practical. How do I turn goals into action? How do I keep from getting distracted by a world gone mad? How do I create the space necessary to accomplish what is really important to me?

Here are some effectiveness-enhancing ideas from Hyatt’s writings:

  1. Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. Either decide to do something or don’t do it. “Try” is a cop-out word that makes you feel like you’re doing something when you’re really not.

  2. Don’t complain about others. The people who hear you won’t think less of them; they’ll think less of you.

  3. The secret to achieving more is not managing your time. It’s managing yourself and your energy. Time can’t be expanded. Energy can.

  4. Take naps. DaVinci, Einstein, Edison, Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, JFK and Reagan all did. Less than thirty minutes in the early afternoon will focus you for the balance. Pick a place that works for you: an empty office, your car, a janitor’s closet. Hyatt gives plenty of research to support the practice.

  5. Remember the Big Three: diet, sleep, exercise. These are often the first to go when we get overwhelmed. Reality is: if you snooze, you don’t lose. Along with sound nutrition and mind-clearing exercise, rest resets you physically and emotionally.

  6. Become a morning person. Slay the three-headed dragon Lethargy. Attack its spiritual head (Pneuma) with Scripture reading, its physical head (Soma) with exercise and its intellectual head (Nous) with thought-provoking audio books.

  7. Guard your time. Hyatt quotes first century philosopher Seneca. “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

  8. Constantly move to-do list items to your calendar.

  9. Make appointments with yourself. Then, when someone asks to encroach on your time, you can honestly say you are committed – to the things that are most important.

  10. Disconnect from the web. Respond to emails and phone calls 2 or 3 times a day, not constantly all day long, so you can focus large blocks of time on your core work.

  11. Triage your activity. In emergency medicine, there are three possibilities for every case (hence, the tri- in triage) :

(A) survival without medical attention;

(B) death even with attention; and

(C) survival with proper attention.

Medical professionals focus on Category C. It’s the same with our priorities. Some will save themselves and some aren’t worth saving. So, elevate those that will make a significant difference if given proper focus.

  1. Say no more. Discover the positive impact of a negative word. Saying “no” is really about saying “yes” to what matters most.

Kevin Thompson writes for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at


Dickens on Gain

Charles Dickens knew need. His father could hold down a job in 1820s Victorian England, but he couldn’t hold onto money.

After selling family possessions to pay debts, the elder Dickens sent twelve-year-old Charles to work in a shoe polish factory. The adolescent labored twelve hour days, six days a week.

The entire Dickens family landed in debtors’ prison, a peak of humiliation for the future literary giant. Eventually, an inheritance from a passed grandmother returned Charles to formal schooling.

But, as biographer Henry Vittum observes, “the experience left a mark on Dickens which a life of immense popularity and great wealth could not erase…His writings bear witness to his interest in the economic and social factors which made such childhood agony possible.”

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a staple of seasonal community theater. It has something for everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear: greed, conflict, horror, reflection, sympathy, redemption, blessing.

As we all recall, the antagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, “was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone…A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching covetous old sinner!”

He was “hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire… solitary as an oyster.”

When Scrooge’s nephew attempts to redirect his humbug attitude, Scrooge asks, “What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

The nephew responds in kind: “Come, then. What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

“What else can I be?” retorts Scrooge. “What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer.”

Christmas time, says the nephew, is “when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

His words fall on long, deaf ears.

And so appears a series of apparitions. First, the ghost of Scrooge’s deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, arrives in chains.

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” explains Marley. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Scrooge defends Marley: “You were a good man of business.”

Marley clarifies with remorse, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.

“Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

When the ghost of Christmas past arrives, we see a crack in Scrooge’s shell. The ghost takes Scrooge back in time, to his hometown and to a school yard where a boy sits all alone, neglected.

We are not told explicitly who the boy is, but “Scrooge said he knew it,” Dickens writes. “And he sobbed.”

And that was the turning point.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at

The Fasting Paradox

Nothing says gorge like a modern American Thanksgiving. Which makes it a good time to state the not so obvious: Less is more.

Taking a break from something can bring better results than doubling down one’s practice of it. This fact doesn’t sit well with my Protestant work ethic, but I have found it to be true nevertheless.

If it’s true for many of life’s activities, it is certainly true for eating.

Like other spiritual disciplines, fasting is a challenge for contemporary Americans. Among vending machines, convenience stores and “quick service” restaurants, money is the only obstacle between me and a bite when the first growl hits.

And with big food companies’ driving down the cost of high fat, high carb, high calorie consumables, money is less of an obstacle than ever.

To quote the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church, my god is often in my stomach. As long as it’s full, I don’t have to confront the underlying pain and unrest of my own soul.

Hence, the invitation to fast. Author Richard Foster notes that in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t say “if” but “when” you fast.

Saying no to constant physical comfort means saying yes to much more. When we fast, longings surface, misplaced priorities get exposed and self-control builds.

“Human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels,” Foster wrote in Celebration of Discipline.

When one fasts, he depends on a higher source for a livelihood he can’t deliver with his own grasping hands.

In fasting, there is release. We release control of the things that are actually controlling us. We find real freedom that’s different from the first world freedom to snack at a moment’s notice.

The Apostle Peter helps us navigate the bounty around us: “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.”

For the spiritual, Foster says fasting is not just abstaining; it’s actually feasting on the word of God.

For the secular, a periodic break for a hard working digestive system certainly benefits the human body. Nutrition supplement stores offer various cleansing aids to maximize the gastrointestinal advantages of a fast.

Of course, fasting from food is one of many potential fasts. We should probably fast from anything we believe, deep down, we can’t live without. Taking breaks from media, telephones, advertising, our consumer culture – all these would do our souls well.

Saying “no” to Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football might lead to saying yes to a more fulfilling pastime, or at least some stronger relationships. Likewise, foregoing a “can’t miss” sale may spark a more special homespun gift idea.

Please hear me: Thanksgiving Day is not the time to fast from food or football. But it is a good time to contemplate a long lost practice.

Though esoteric today, fasting was not always so uncommon. In fact, it was once prominent enough to name one of our three daily meals for it: break-fast.

Perhaps it’s time to give fasting a seat at the table again. Happy Thanksgiving.

Two Questions in Remembrance of 9/11

“Where were you when the world stopped turning?” sang country music artist Alan Jackson in the weeks after 9/11.

I was at a Chik-fil-A in North Dallas. Then, in my cubicle. Then, in a co-worker’s apartment. We didn’t have a television at the office, and the news sites were jammed.

The perpetrators that day demonstrated certain foresight. They chose planes full enough of fuel to create maximum explosions but empty enough of people to limit resistance.

Their first hit got us all watching; their second terrified in real-time. All on 911, a universal number of distress. Though the terrorists were organized, their plans didn’t fall completely into place.

In Pennsylvania, the courageous passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 scuttled its kamikaze mission. Cell phone calls provide a record:

“We’re going to rush the hijackers.”

“Are you ready? Let’s roll.”

“I have to go. They’re breaking into the cockpit. I love you.”

In New York, the hijackers knew forty-thousand people worked in the World Trade Center. Thousands more visited daily. Remarkably, less than 2,700 people perished in the structures. The Dallas Morning News’ special edition on the afternoon of 9/11 had predicted “tens of thousands” dead.

In the days after the attacks, stories flooded in. Some told of narrow escapes, others of loved ones lost.

Two public address announcements within the towers had life and death effects. One message encouraged workers to return to their offices stating the damage had been contained.

Another Titanic-esque message said the buildings were incapable of collapsing, which actually helped evacuees stay calm during their stairwell descent.

The stories of rescuers going up as regulars came down still put a pit in my stomach. One hero, “the man in the red bandanna,” was an intern at an investment bank. Welles Crowther is credited with saving at least five lives before he fell that day.

As chronicled in a new book by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, Crowther had plans to join FDNY. The department made him an honorary member posthumously, only the second such bestowment in its 141-year history.

On a macro level, we were fortunate to have a principled Texas cowboy riding herd at that point in our nation’s history. It was not a time for gray. We needed black and white, good and evil, us and them – we needed George W. Bush’s resolve.

“Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution,” Bush told Congress in the days after the attacks. “Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”

Countering Secret Service opinion, Bush pushed to get back to Washington, D.C., by nightfall on September 11th. He knew the risks, but he did not fear the enemy.

In the years that followed, tens of thousands of his fellow Americans would take on similar risks, and they would not fear the enemy. Many would encounter Crowther’s fate.

At the end of the day, any day, especially that very long and somber day a decade and a half ago, the United States of America is still a nation of givers, sacrificers. We place service over self.

After the ash settles and the Psalms are read, we still ponder an age-old question: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?

Strategic Thinking on Leadership

The most basic challenge of leadership is to get followers. The second most basic challenge is to keep them.

Whether it’s getting employees to stick with your vision or getting customers to stick with your brand, leadership is principally about getting and keeping followers.

San Antonio-based management consultant Keith Hughey led a strategic planning and leadership development course in Dallas last month. He offered some insights that are worth repeating.

The freshest and most intriguing concept was a descriptive juxtaposition of an organization’s vision versus the truth about that organization. Hughey’s model was built on the work of sales consulting firm Critical Path Strategies.

Two equilateral triangles sat side by side. One pointed down representing the vision, the other pointed up representing the truth. A listing down the side of the chart showed stakeholder levels, from owners and executives at the top to front line workers and customers at the bottom.

Here’s the crux: The board of directors and “C-suite” management know a lot about the organization’s vision, but only a little bit of the truth.

Conversely, customers know little of the vision but 100% of the truth about what it’s like to do business with that firm.

As you go up the stakeholder chain (front line staff, supervisors, middle management, etc.), stakeholders know progressively more about the vision, but less about the truth.

The instruction is two-fold: (1) Find ways to understand what customers actually experience about your organization; and (2) Find ways to display your company’s vision throughout all stakeholder levels, down to your customer base.

Hughey had a simple but meaningful definition of value: experience minus expectation.

If my experience of your company surpasses what I expected from it, I will assign it value. Otherwise, I will not pay for a product or service that leaves me with more expectation than satisfaction.

Addendum: Once you exceed a customer’s expectation, you just have to be consistent. You don’t necessarily have to keep raising the bar.

This principle applies to personnel, as well. Hughey says seventy per cent of voluntary turnover is caused by something a supervisor did or didn’t do. In other words, experience fell short of expectation.

“People don’t quit their job. They quit their boss,” Hughey states.

With help from the late management science guru, Peter Drucker, Hughey gives seven needs of workers: teamwork, training, communication, recognition, growth opportunities and fairness.

Lacking any of these leads to employee disengagement and turnover.

In evaluating existing staff performance, ask two questions: (1) Would you hire them today? and (2) If they told you they were leaving, would you try to keep them?

“The toughest decisions you will make have to do with people,” Hughey told us.

Finally, Hughey tossed out a twist on Einstein’s famous definition of insanity being doing the same thing and expecting different results.

“The new definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting the same results. The world is changing too much and too fast,” Hughey believes.

Old methods of gaining and keeping followers (e.g., command and control) are quickly losing effectiveness. People have too many options.

Leadership today must be aware, intentional, convincing and value-producing.


Follow Kevin Thompson at


Tips for talking in hard conversations

Something is bothering you. Part of you wants to express yourself. Another part doesn’t want to rock the boat or appear overly sensitive or damage a relationship. You walk on eggshells a while longer. 
Then, you decide it’s important enough to bring up, though you know it’s risky. Opinions will likely conflict. Things could get emotional. Your heart races. Your hands sweat. Your voice shakes.
How do you handle high stakes, high pressure conversations? What’s the best way to address situations you know must change?
Common tactics include the age-old twins of silence or violence, also known as fight or flight. But dealing in the extremes of any part of life rarely gets us to where we want to go.
Four corporate consultants joined forces a number of years ago to write “Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high.” Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler published a second edition in 2012.
Most people would agree that the quality of our relationships largely determines our success and satisfaction in each area of life. So, if relationship is the end we seek, communication must be the means.
The ability to communicate toward healthy outcomes, especially when times are tense, will open opportunities unavailable to those stuck in the ruts of defensiveness, point-proving and score-settling.
Patterson, et al. offer the following ideas for making the most of important discussions. It turns out you don’t have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend. You can have both.
1.      Decide what you really want: for yourself, for others, for the relationship. This shared purpose will help you “start with heart” and remember your highest priorities.
2.      Establish mutual purpose. For example, “We both are counting on this organization’s success, so it’s important to me that we have a good working relationship.”
3.      Add to the “pool of meaning.” The word “dialogue” literally means the free flow of meaning between two or more people. Understand what the real issues are.
4.      Create a safe environment. Nothing kills the free flow of meaning like fear. When people use silence or violence, they are feeling unsafe. Resist the urge to respond in kind.
5.      Use contrasting. For example, “The reason I ask questions is not that I don’t think the organization is well-run. It’s that I truly want to build on the progress we’ve made.”
6.      Ask yourself, “What story am I making up?” Emotions can come on strong and make you imagine things that may not be true. Made-up stories then cause more emotions. 
7.      STATE your path.
a.       Share your facts – “I’ve noticed you’ve shown up late to the last few meetings.”
b.      Tell your story – “It appears you may be losing your passion for our cause.”
c.       Ask for others’ stories – “How do you see the situation?”
d.      Talk tentatively – “Perhaps you were unaware…” / “I am wondering…”
e.       Encourage testing – “What am I missing here? Is my view accurate?”
These skills take practice. Pick one and try it in your next hard conversation – or in your next response to your favorite columnist!
Kevin Thompson can be reached at

Boerne deaths precede Easter

Is it just me or do deaths occur more frequently around holidays? The Easter season saw the passing of four members of our community.
Different ages, different situations, same sadness and grief for those left behind. Lives cut short and lives well-lived. 
Brea Hines passed away last Thursday. The 12-year-old battled the ups and downs of cancer for three years. Her Fabra Elementary / Boerne Middle School North and First Baptist Church communities surrounded her with love and support. 
Pancake suppers and clay shoots defrayed the costs of care over the years. A Jetson-like robot kept her connected with teachers and classmates when she couldn’t make it to school. 
Brea was bright and funny. As a tribute, bright colors will be worn at her funeral to reflect her love of life and laughter. She will be missed but not forgotten.
Boerne ISD graduate Justin Walker’s passing was more sudden, but no less tragic. The 18-year-old’s death following a spring break concert on South Padre Island remains a mystery.
This is the second year in a row a young person left the same Schlitterbahn music festival never to be seen alive again.
I hope Schlitterbahn looks closely at the situation. What they’re offering to spring breakers doesn’t seem consistent with their family-friendly brand. 
Sadly, any changes they may make won’t ease the pain of Walker’s parents who endured the call every parent dreads.
Ann Schafer served the Boerne business community as finance director of the Greater Boerne Chamber for nearly fifteen years. I worked with her at times on a weekly basis.
Ever gracious and unassuming, I had no idea she was dealing with breast cancer until the death notice arrived. Remarkably, she worked with diligence until the week before her death.
In a condition that often causes individuals to look inward, Ann was able to look outward. She obviously wanted no attention on herself or her illness. She simply continued to serve. 
A kinder lady you’ll never meet. God, bless her and those she leaves behind, particularly her grandsons.
Finally, Norman David Jarrell passed last Tuesday. Like Mrs. Schafer, I didn’t know something about him until I read his obituary: he was a colonel in the Army. I have never known a military man who was as much of a teddy bear as Dave.
Dave  – excuse me – Colonel Jarrell would frequently take a break at my desk, but only a short one. He had places to go and people to serve. He would usually tell me his volunteer schedule for the week and I would promptly retire for a nap. It was incredible.
Patrick Heath Public Library, Hill Country Daily Bread, Hill Country Mission for Health, First United Methodist Church. Every day of the week seemed to have a commitment – not to make a buck or to have some fun but to serve which must have been fun for him.
His obituary said he passed away peacefully and was “immediately whisked into the presence of God.” That sounds about right. He certainly whisked around the presence of God while he was here.
I don’t know why tragedies seem to strike and loved ones seem to pass around holidays. Maybe it’s because that’s where the grace is.
Follow Kevin Thompson at
Kevin Thompson
Senior Vice President & Boerne Market Manager
1689 River Road | Boerne, Texas 78006 | Maps & Directions
(830) 816-5199 Phone | (210) 527-7940 Mobile | |

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