Archive for the 'Inspirational' Category

Bucket List Includes Rock & Roll Show

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I admit I don’t have much of a bucket list, besides keeping the floors mopped until the kid spills decrease.

And while I was born in Music City the week Elvis died, I don’t consume a lot of new music. My older sons laugh at how few artists are in my repertoire.

And I definitely don’t think of myself as a rocker, unless it’s on the front porch.

Still, I consider one band iconic. While the group is labeled a rock band, its work cuts across genres and decades. With its latest release, the four-man act has had a Billboard chart-topping album in each of the last four decades.

My wife was a fan long before I. So, she wasn’t a tough sell when I asked her to rendezvous with…drumroll, please…U2. “I was going With or Without You,” she said.

U2’s sweeping anthems have captured generations of music lovers. The songs land the band on Super Bowl halftime shows and outsized music festivals. Think “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

U2’s current tour is called eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE. At the concert, we didn’t hear all the classics. We did experience the heart and soul of U2’s vision and its mastery of technology and artistry.

While U2 scales every rhythm and melody to entertain at the highest levels, its lyrics are what draw me in, particularly the Biblical allusions. Lead singer Paul David Hewson (a.k.a. “Bono”) pens them.

“See the bird with a leaf in her mouth, after the flood all the colors came out” (from Beautiful Day)

“You broke the bonds, and you loosened chains, carried the cross of my shame” (from I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For)

Historical references reflect how much attention these guys pay to the world around them. They are always on a mission and are deeply affected by human suffering.

“Sometimes, I wake at four in the morning when all the darkness is swarming, and it covers me in fear…Sometimes, I’m full of anger and grieving, so far away from believing that any song will reappear” (from The Little Things That Give You Away)

Bono’s honesty keeps U2 rolling, real and relevant. He connects grief and terror from his youth with events of today. The death of his mother and the 1972 shootings in Northern Ireland impacted his young innocence.

And now, through experience, Bono entreats Americans to restore the American soul. There’s even a song by that name.

On the new album, he writes, “The slaves are lookin’ for someone to lead them, the master’s lookin’ for someone to need him, the promised land is there for those who need it most, and Lincoln’s ghost said, ‘Get out of your own way.’”

“Free yourself to be yourself,” he encourages in the song, Lights of Home.

“I want to be useful,” Bono said recently in an interview with Rolling Stone. “That is our family prayer… It is not the most grandiose prayer. It is just, ‘we are available for work.’ That is U2’s prayer. We want to be useful, but we want to change the world. And we want to have fun at the same time.”

While making good music, Bono and company appear to be keeping the faith, just not to themselves.

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

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Don’t put off reading this!

If you’re reading this, you’ll know I relapsed. I’m likely on a first name basis at a meeting of Procrastinators Anonymous.

This is the chapter my editor keeps on file for when I wait to the last minute and then that minute gets interrupted by a case of pinkeye.

Or maybe I just couldn’t resist checking my bank account and sports scores and online garage sales. Maybe I needed just the right cup of coffee to get started, but the Keurig spit out only grinds. Whatever the reason(s), I procrastinated.

Procrastination occupies the punch line of plenty of jokes and quips.

“Procrastinators are the leaders of tomorrow.”

“Never put off to tomorrow what you can put off to the day after tomorrow.”

In Latin, “pro” means “forward” and “crastinare” means “of tomorrow”. The two combine to stockpile many good intentions. We all know the roots of the disease, but, for therapy’s sake, let’s review.

  1. Fear of failure. Whether I’m apprehensive about trying something for the first time or I’ve done something a hundred times but fear this one might not measure up, fear of getting it wrong can slow me to a crawl.
  2. Perfectionism. If I can’t do something precisely right, I often would rather not do it at all. So time slips away while I think about how to accomplish a task perfectly, forgetting that it’s only in practicing a task that my performance actually improves.
  3. Urgent vs. important. Small fires burn so uncomfortably hot that I think I must address them immediately. I think they will only take a second, but they can smoke out priorities for hours and days.

Procrastinating is not necessarily irrational. Work generally expands to fill time. So, it makes sense to compress a project into a window that closes right at a deadline. Deadlines force action.

But this is the rationale of someone who can’t leave well enough alone, someone who obsesses over a project to the bitter end, someone addicted to the adrenaline that comes from squeaking under a wire.

Some possible cures for procrastin-addicts:

  1. Let it go. If you let a project go when it is reasonably done, it will be easier to start the next one. You may need a reasonable third party to help define what “reasonably done” looks like. Your OCD won’t necessarily know.
  2. Care less about what others think. All you can do is all you can do. If it’s your best effort at that point in time, it shouldn’t matter what other people think. Remember: most people are neither for you nor against you. They are only thinking about themselves.
  3. Visualize. This is the most cliche of my recommendations, but it really does help to imagine what it will be like to get something done. Think the thoughts, feel the feelings of relief and satisfaction. Or, conversely, imagine the consequences of inaction.

If all else fails, perendinate (verb – to put off until the day after tomorrow).

If all else fails, add a word to your vocabulary: perendinate – v. to put off until the day after tomorrow!

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

What’s your leadership quotient?

“There are two kinds of people in the world,” Dr. Lyle Sussman began his seminar. “One kind walks into a room and the room lights up. The other kind walks out of a room and the room lights up. Which kind are you?”

Sussman is a Professor of Management at the University of Louisville. He writes and speaks on leadership, motivation, performance and teamwork.

Sussman believes great leadership begins with great followership. His Golden Rule of Management is this: “Are you the kind of employee that YOU would want to manage?”

Self-examination is critical to improving one’s leadership quotient or “LQ”. LQ is Sussman’s measurement of a person’s ability to lead effectively.

“It’s hard to look at yourself,” Sussman says. “It’s easy to stay in that river in Egypt: denial.”

The cure for denial involves asking the people around us for honest feedback about how we act. It is a painful process. It is also a helpful one. Sussman recommends 360-degree reviews where more than an employee’s supervisor comments on the employee’s performance. These reviews should be done anonymously.

Presentee-ism can be as big of a problem as absenteeism, Sussman says. He once asked a seminar attendee, “How many people work in your company?” His reply: “About half of them.”

Management guru Peter Drucker was convinced that most organizations are over-managed and under-led. Sussman agrees. All employees are volunteers, even if they get paid. They have free will and can choose how hard they will work. Managers can buy talent, but they must earn loyalty.

The goal of both managers and employees is to increase value and reduce costs. Value and costs can be in both monetary and non-monetary terms. Non-monetary cost reductions may include resolving conflict or reducing stress.

Volunteer-employees create value for your organization. What are you doing as a leader to make them smarter? Sussman asks. When’s the last time one of them came to you with an idea to make the organization better?

Productivity is the product of efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency means limiting costs. Effectiveness means getting a job done. Sussman explains efficiency and effectiveness with a quadrant matrix:

1. Not efficient, not effective – This person raises costs, but doesn’t achieve goals (will soon be fired or bankrupt)

2. Efficient, but not effective – This person limits costs, but doesn’t achieve goals

3. Not efficient, but effective – This person raises costs, but at least achieves goals

4. Efficient, effective – This person limits costs while achieving goals

Category 4 is obviously the model employee, but most employees fall into Category 3. Effective coaching can help employees ascend into Category 4.

Unfortunately, good coaching can be scarce. Most managers are more referee than coach. It’s easier to carry a rule book and a whistle than to invest in an employee’s development. That requires courage and self-sacrifice.

With regard to coaching, courage, self-sacrifice and getting out of one’s comfort zone, Sussman had a unique perspective on the growing industry of executive coaching and consulting.

Coaches and consultants are paid to get people to do things they already know they should do. People who actually do what they know really do believe what they know.

We’ve all heard the adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Hogwash, Sussman says.

“The trick is to make the horse thirsty.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Franklin family offers model of service

“God has a sense of humor,” Larry Franklin says. The former CEO of San Antonio-based direct marketing firm Harte-Hanks never thought he’d be working the land at age 73.

“My father sharecropped the same one hundred east Texas acres for 50 years. My goal in life was not to be working in dirt anywhere. I wanted off the farm.”

After graduating in a class of 13 (“ten boys, two girls and a married woman”) from Ladonia High School, Franklin took his young wife and some football talent to East Texas State University.

“Charlotte was from the big city. She was from Paris.” Texas, that is.

“Walking off the field after my last game, she said, ‘You’re going to be a father.’ We eventually took an economics professor’s advice and went to graduate school at Texas Tech. Kelly was born in Lubbock.”

After an MBA, a CPA and 4 years of public accounting, Franklin joined Harte-Hanks in San Antonio, rising over the course of 41 years to the top of the corporation.

During his tenure, Franklin purchased 150 businesses in 37 states across 7 sectors in the media industry, including the San Antonio Express-News and KENS TV. Harte-Hanks’ assets today include mainly direct mail and target marketing businesses.

As the business grew, Franklin wrestled with his purpose:

“One day we all will answer two questions: ‘What did you do with the Lord?’ and ‘What did you do with what he gave you?’ I have felt good about the first question since I was thirteen, but I wasn’t sure about the second one.”

As he approached 60 years of age, Franklin slowed down, thanks, in part, to the power of some praying women.

“I’ve always been surrounded by praying women. First, my mother, then Charlotte, then my two daughters.”

Franklin stepped down as CEO in 2002. At the urging of his son-in-law, Jason Borchardt, Franklin purchased the first ranch he toured: 450 acres 10 miles northeast of Blanco. That was 1996.

Nearly two decades and an additional two thousand acres later, the Franklin Family Ranch annually hosts thousands of day visitors, retreaters, campers, hunters and trail riders. An Easter celebration draws more than a thousand. (“It’s not about eggs and bunnies.”) Boerne-based Still Water Sports Camps has called the ranch home for six consecutive summers.

“It has been an unbelievable run being out here with these kids,” Franklin said as dozens of diverse Still Water campers swarmed around us. “We have seen amazing transformations in kids because college counselors plant seeds and pour into their lives.”

Franklin’s two daughters and their families also live and work on the ranch. Kelly and Neil Hardwick handle the groups who visit. Kristi and Jason Borchardt manage the wildlife which includes several species of deer, antelope and sheep. Franklin’s grandchildren cook and serve meals for campers and guests.

“It just doesn’t get any better than this,” Franklin reflected. “It’s like what the apostle John said, ‘I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in the truth.’”

Son-in-law Hardwick summarized the uniqueness of the arrangement:

“We wanted a different life than what corporate America might dictate. We wanted to work together and live together. We wanted to show our kids through a life of service what it means to have a servant heart.”

Franklin recognizes the divine irony in his situation, “We always thought we’d have a place in New York City. God had a different plan.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at kevin@kwt.info.

A storm has passed

After battling multiple autoimmune diseases for the last four years, Justin McElhannon of Boerne, Texas, was laid to rest last month. He was thirty-two.

At his funeral, a childhood friend recalled the days they spent in lunch detention and in-school suspension. He remembered diving into rivers and stirring trouble as members of notorious Lampasas-area gangs (e.g., “The Buttkickers”).

An adult friend told of McElhannon’s love for trucks, guns and hunting. Other friends described his constant pursuit of adventure, his unbridled passion, his entrepreneurial spirit, his arch-competitiveness. One pallbearer summarized him this way, “He was a tornado.”

Storms are tenacious, real, authentic, intentional, focused – all words used to describe McElhannon at his funeral. Storms can bring wind and destruction. They also bring rain and life.

McElhannon was certainly a storm in the car business. The owners of Toyota of Boerne lured him from Houston in 2007. Co-workers called him relentless, either persuading buyers to pull the trigger on the floor or convincing them to add on extras in the finance office.

He frequently called colleagues to higher standards. It mattered little if you worked for him or if he worked for you. He would call you out.

In 2011, unexplained bouts of fatigue began to slow the storm. Then, swelling hands and hurting feet. Joint and muscle issues followed. Perplexed doctors across the country prescribed countless treatments, surgeries and therapies. Little seemed to work.

Unfit for slow days at home, McElhannon continued working both at the dealership and on his college degree, which he completed in 2012. He walked with a cane. Then, his hips gave way. Despite his growing incapacities, his good days and bad days, the storm rolled on.

Suffering has a way of clarifying. It clarifies both the character of the victim and the victim’s priorities. In McElhannon, suffering revealed a character infused with selfless love.

Foregoing his right to sympathy, McElhannon showered love and life on his sons and wife. It only takes a few readings of Misty McElhannon’s blog to know how he treated her and what she thought of him.

McElhannon’s young sons carry an innocent joy born of a passionately loving father, the kind of father who expresses love in heartfelt, heart-wrenching posthumous letters.

McElhannon’s friends tell of his unabashed expressions of brotherly love. He routinely told them he loved them, regardless of the squirming and mumbling he got in return. With his time near, his priorities came clear.

And then, McElhannon’s love for Jesus. In the footsteps of the first century Sons of Thunder, the storm followed Christ wholeheartedly to the end. He stood boldly for righteousness. He told the truth. Among the written words he left behind: “Love the Lord more than anything and everything will fall into place.”

Before what would be his final haircut, McElhannon spoke to the owner of the barber shop.

“I’ve entered the active dying stage,” he pronounced with a comfort level eerie to most listeners. It sounded a little like the Apostle Paul’s paradox, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices…”

In this fallen world, we are all chronically ill. We are all dying. The question is what kind of dying are we doing?

McElhannon’s dying was just like his living: active. Like a great storm, he brought water to a dry and thirsty land.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info. Read more of his columns at www.kwt.info.

Herdmans, herdsmen and me

“What do you want for Christmas, Dad?” my six-year-old asked. “Maybe some floss?”

“Some what?!?” I replied, hoping I had misheard him. Surely he thinks I have more compelling Christmas wishes than dental floss! Full disclosure: As a 15-year-old I did request a file cabinet from jolly old and organized Saint Nicholas.

To my chagrin, I had heard my son right. (At least my hearing’s not going!) He actually asked me if I wanted floss for Christmas. Woe is me. My offspring thinks I’m mind-numbingly boring or that I have really bad teeth. Or worse, both.

Later that day, our family attended a heartwarming holiday classic in the league of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A story of hygiene-free rugrats who commandeer an annual Christmas tradition: the church Christmas pageant.

Barbara Robinson’s comedy The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been a favorite of mine since I saw it performed in a community playhouse in the mid-1980s. It probably sparked my love of redemption stories.

By way of review if you haven’t read or seen it in a while, the Herdman kids are a ragtag, uncouth, welfare-dependent bunch of bullies. Their parents are nowhere to be found. A social worker attempts to bring order to their chaos.

When the oldest, Leroy Herdman, is tipped off that Twinkies are served at the local Sunday School, the scraggly siblings suddenly find their religion. In Sunday School they hear about auditions for the church Christmas pageant.

“That sounds interesting,” they think.

After intimidating the buttoned-up church kids into relinquishing their starring roles, the Herdmans secure lead parts. Ralph is Joseph. Imogene plays Mary. Gladys gets her wings.

Church members are appalled:

“How could such riffraff be let into God’s house to perform God’s sacred nativity?”

“Mary and Joseph will look like poor travellers looking for a place to stay!” (Heaven forbid.)

“No one will come to the pageant!”

In fact, everyone came to the pageant – to see what the Herdmans would do.

The play unfolds as a story of redemption within a story of redemption. The Herdmans get swept up into the remote possibility that an all-powerful God just might care about them.

“Magi” Leroy Herdman offers a canned ham to the newborn king out of the family’s welfare box. Angel Gladys Herdman announces Christ’s arrival with “Hey! Unto you a child is born!” The story even broke through the hardened Imogene Herdman.

After the play and the crowd disperses, Imogene returns to the stage alone to take in the events that just occurred, to treasure them up in her heart, if you will. In tears, she clings to the swaddled savior of the world.

Imogene was as unlikely a carrier of the baby Jesus as the mother of Jesus herself. And therein lies the glory of the story of stories: God, acting in the lives of ordinary people – people who get dental floss and file cabinets for Christmas.

Just like the Herdmans on stage, the story of Christmas is equally unpredictable. From virgin birth to shepherds witnessing history to a daring midnight escape…nothing is as you or I would have drawn it up.

And how relieving is that? If a saving, gracing Creator can break through to the Herdmans and the herdsmen, just maybe he can break through to me.

Merry Christmas, 2014.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at kevin@kwt.info.

This is Boerne…you never know

A sad but undeterred mother stood on the driveway of her adult daughter’s burned down home. As she picked up some pieces and contemplated the road ahead, she surmised, “This is Boerne. You never know what might happen.”

She wasn’t talking about the tragedy that happened last week at 123 Becker Street on the north end of town. She was talking about the recovery.

By the time I showed up with shovel and wheelbarrow to help with the clean up, Boerne ISD bond contractor Bartlett-Cocke already volunteered to demolish and haul off the totaled structure. An architect donated his services to draw new plans. Several homebuilders expressed a desire to help.

The displaced family of six relocated temporarily to one of the last available 3-bedroom apartments in Boerne. The fire department donated a couple of beds. A thrift store donated a sofa. A random stranger gave a check for $500. A neighbor brought over a dozen eggs. All in less than a week. Yes, this is Boerne.

It is a unique sensation to live in a place so generous. Some people are generous because they can be. Others are generous because they choose to be. Either way, Boerne has a heritage of generosity.

I once heard a civic leader count more than fifty active non-profit capital campaigns in Kendall County. That’s not normal. That’s Boerne.

The persevering mother is confident in her daughter’s ability to fight back.

“We’ll be okay. We come from a very tough family. My mother lived to be 95 years old and only needed one medication.”

Judging by the matriarch’s perspective, I suspect the family will fight back.

“We’re really just thankful everyone made it out alive. The fire department expected casualties when they arrived. They did a very good job. The fire didn’t touch the houses on either side.”

A correlation exists among gratefulness and toughness and longevity.

A correlation also exists between generosity and desirability. Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants have come in droves in part because of the generosity within our DNA.

The same could be said about Boerne. People want to move here in part because our citizens are willing to give their time and wealth to make this a great place to live.

One truth about life is that the tables are always turning. Prosperity one day can turn – on a dime – into disaster the next. You never know when it will be your turn to need. That’s as good a reason as any to give.

If you would like to contribute to the family of 123 Becker, go to http://www.gofundme.com/h8qls4. So far, 83 people have given a total of $10,525. The donation site has been shared 277 times on social media. This is Boerne.

Disasters often strike at the worst possible times, such as two weeks before Thanksgiving. But bad timing can bring people together in good ways. What better time to express gratitude for the gifts we’ve received than to pay them forward to those who need?

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info. Email him at kevin@kwt.info.


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