I Was a Lousy Student

This post originally published Monday, January 27, 2014 at http://www.grealeadersserve.org

Stop Learning Stop Leading


I met my wife in 11th grade; we were in Trigonometry together. I’m glad I was there; however, I shouldn’t have been. It became obvious fairly quickly that I was in over my head. Our first ever conversation occurred while looking at the results of our first test. I made a 16… Donna made a 96! She asked me how I got a 16 – I said, “I think they gave me points for getting my name right.”
Thankfully, she took pity on me that day. This year we celebrated our 31st year of marriage. Obviously, many things have changed over the years, but perhaps nothing more dramatic than the way I view learning. In 11th grade, I was a lousy student. Today, I believe my success as a leader hinges on my ability to learn and grow.

I’ve been asked on several occasions to share the greatest insight in my career – there have been many. However, one of them is:

Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.

That’s the big idea behind a book I wrote with Ken Blanchard, Great Leaders Grow. The best leaders are students for life.

My encouragement to you is to become predatory regarding learning. Learn all you can about yourself, your people, your company, your industry, your competitors and your chosen profession – for many of you, leadership is your job. Learn all you can.

Here’s a great question to start asking your colleagues: What are you learning? After they respond, they’ll often ask you the same question.  What benefits might you enjoy if conversations about learning became the norm in your culture?

My commitment is to continue to share what I’m learning on my leadership journey. If I share what I’m learning, will you? Who are the emerging leaders you want to serve? How can you help them learn? Every time you help another leader learn and grow, you’re putting another brick in the monument known as your legacy.

Today, unlike 40 years ago, I am a fully engaged student. If you’re a leader, I hope you would say the same. By the way, Donna is in charge of our checkbook – I could never get the numbers to add up.

Have you made the decision to be a student for life?


MMillerMark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

The 10th anniversary edition of The Secret releases today September 2, 2014.

Worried About Worrying?

Worry has a way of trapping us.  Worry steals our present and can rob us of our future.  Yet we allow it to have power over us day after day.


If you’re tired of this process, you can break the cycle.  One tool at your disposal is a newly written book by missionary Caleb Suko.  He fully uses nineteen chapters to help his readers learn how to kill worry once and for all.

One of my favorite quotes in his book is:

More than anything, worry saps of our faith and depletes us of our trust in God.

I have recently been faced with worry.  One thing I have noticed is when it comes to worry, I am at my worst because I feel like things are beyond my control.  Truthfully, I am never really in control – I just feel that way.  When my mom passed away my brother and I stood by her side trying to encourage her.  All we could do was watch and pray.

While difficult, painful, and challenging, situations like my experience are vital in life.  We can either stop, acknowledge our need for help, or grow bitter and angry.

We all worry.  If you want an invaluable resource to help you change your life and kill worry, then you need to check out Caleb Suko’s book, “What if…How to kill worry and anxiety before they kill you!”

What is your favorite quote on worry?  What do you think you could learn from Caleb’s book?

The #Conviction to Finish

“Often our attitude is the only difference between success and failure.”  John C. Maxwell

I was shocked when I read that author Andy Andrews and his manager Robert D. Smith endured over 50 rejections for a book they really believed in.  There is no doubt in my mind that countless others would have quit.

Their attitude of belief and a no quit work ethic was the difference between getting published or not.

The same is true for our current adoption of children, including one who is blind.  Nothing about the adoption process has been easy.  Further, each time we made plans or believed a phase was complete – something would change.

In addition to this the country has undergone a revolution, annexation, and a partial disintegration.

To say we have been anxious and uncertain would be an understatement.

Yet we still remain confident that we have been called out as a family to embrace all of our children.  If our attitude was any different we would have quit numerous times.

What are you committed to wholeheartedly?  Are you convinced and convicted to push through the challenges that await you?  Leave a comment below.

You Are Not in #Control

Over the last several weeks my wife and I spent time in Ukraine completing paperwork associated with adoption.  While we greatly enjoyed our time there it was incredibly difficult to leave without bringing our children home.

Five days after we returned to the States, my mom passed away at the age of 57.

International adoption is emotional.  Losing family is difficult.

Life has been chaotic.

We have been elevated in prayer which is a tremendous help.  We’ve learned a lot about the culture of Ukraine.  And we had a trip of a lifetime.

Yet, here we are – where we have been for years: waiting, praying, reflecting, learning, and hoping.

During this time, it is clear: we are not in control.  As much as we want to be, and as much as we think we are – time after time, we see the crystal clear picture that we are not.

It’s a valuable lesson that helps us remember just how small we really are.  It helps us recall previous life experiences where God’s plan and timing were better than our own.

What have you experienced in life that reminded you of the fact that ultimately you are not really as in charge as you thought you were?

Character and Reputation – What are you actively doing?

In a previous post, I shared a quote on character from Andy Andrews in his book The Noticer Returns, “Character is actively doing what is right.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary character is defined as moral strength and self discipline.  Another way it is described is reputation.  If this is the case, then how is your reputation determined?  

Applying Andy Andrews’ definition we could say that your reputation is based upon what you are actively doing.


What are you actively doing?  On a day to day basis are you aware of your actions as well as what your actions say about your character?  In the morning what defines you? afternoon?  evening?  Is it work, your commute, your family, something else?

In order to improve our reputation anywhere we can take three steps.

  1. Do the right thing.  We always have choices to make, we can do what’s right or not.  When we actively do what’s right we demonstrate to others that we are worthy of their trust and confidence.
  2. Take responsibility for your actions.  We can make excuses, blame others, or simply accept responsibility for our own choices, and the consequences of those actions.  Others will appreciate your honesty and maturity when you take credit for things that work out well, or things not working out so well.
  3. Avoid the blame game.  Anyone can identify a problem and assign blame.  Similar to number two, when you refuse to blame others/circumstances you demonstrate to others that you are different.

What are ways you strive to develop/demonstrate your character in public and privately?  What one thing would you add to the list to someone improve their reputation?


#Character is …


How do you define character?  (Leave a response below)

Great quote from Andy Andrews book, The Noticer Returns

Great quote from Andy Andrews book, The Noticer Returns

Hannah’s Hope Children’s Home Cambodia

James 1-27

Here at Sparkvoice the intention is to be a place to offer encouragement.  This encouragement comes in the form of written words, spoken words, and referrals to good sources of information.  It also means sharing stories of people doing good things to impact the world.

Today’s post is about Hannah’s Hope Children’s Home in Cambodia and here’s what they’re all about, “Hannah’s Hope Children Home provides a safe environment to orphaned and abandoned children in the country of Cambodia.  The purpose is to promote the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of abandoned and orphaned children.”

This is unique because Cambodia is not a place where U.S. citizens can adopt from, and it’s been a place notorious for child-trafficking.  Couple that with significant poverty, and you can understand how/why orphan care is vital.

Hannah’s Hope Children’s Home enrolls the children in school (often times for the first time ever), provides for their meals, delivers a Christian home environment, as well as a tutor.

Why is this a good work?  Hannah’s Hope, is not only helping meet the children’s need physically, but spiritually as well.

Why is that important?  Imagine your life with those needs being unmet.  Who would you be?  Where would you be?  How would you know what you know now?

Hannah’s Hope is actively trying to better the lives of children who’ve been abandoned, those who are cast out, and who would otherwise be hopeless.

What can we do to support Hannah’s Hope?  You can visit while on vacation, sponsor a child, tour the home, or organize a mission trip, and pray.  They are a 501 3(c) organization which means your gifts are tax deductible.  This year they are seeking to replace a motorcycle and tote called a “tuck-tuck” as well as add a seating area to the rear of a flatbed truck.  Visit their site directly to learn more.

Here is the verse of inspiration for the children’s home:

1st Samuel 1:11 “And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…” via Biblegateway.com

Can you imagine your life as a child without your mom and dad?  What inspires you to do good work?  

Are there other projects or works that could be featured here?  If so, please leave a comment, send me a direct message on twitter @sparkvoice, or drop me a note via email.

#Faith Hero’s – Able & Enoch

This is a lesson recently taught at my home congregation.  This is a direct link to the audio file.

In it we discuss our desire for control, our heart, compulsion, as well as how walking as a parent relates to God.

Questions to consider:

  • Are you and I careful and thoughtful in how we serve?
  • Is sin crouching at your door?
  • Do we have a faithful attitude?
  • Do we know what it means to walk with God?
  • How is your heart?

Key verses to read:

  • Hebrews 11:4-6
  • Genesis 4:2-15
  • Genesis 5:21-24

Key Points:

  • If you do what is right, you will be accepted.
  • There is nothing God expects of us that we are not equipped to do.
  • Walking with God is not a forced march, rather it’s a choice to walk in faith alongside of him.

When it comes to faith, are you willing to walk with God?  What does that look like for you on a daily basis?  What is your favorite story of faith in the Bible?

The Precipice – The Challenge has Been Issued

Sheer Drop.  Abyss.  These are the descriptive words to illustrate a country’s culture using illustrative stories.  TC Avey goes for your heart and mind with her futuristic book of stories, questions, and links to current news stories.

In many ways her book is controversial, but not in a bad way.  It just “stirs the pot”.  TC uses various short stories, news articles, and questions to challenge any reader on matters of culture, technology, and heart.

These stories at first seem far-fetched and futuristic, almost sci-fi.  Yet they grab you, fling you toward a mirror and demand an answer.  You are confronted with situations to help you mentally work through tumultuous circumstances.  TC begs the question, what would you do?  How would you react?  Where is your faith in the midst of these stories?

After being confronted with this, you are given article after article to demonstrate just how close the “futurist” stories actually are.

Here’s why I suggest you read this book – you will be challenged, regardless of where you come from.

TC Avey is a Christian, wife, mom, and blogger who takes modern events and helps people see how God is at work.  Purchase her book between April 3rd and April 14th, email the receipt to her, and receive two additional books for free!  NOTE:  I received the book for free because I volunteered to read the book and offer constructive feedback.  That did not require a positive review.  The link to the book above is an affiliate which means I receive compensation if purchased through my link. 

#Growth Moment with JK Rowling

Imagine being described as a famed author of a book series that gripped children across Britain and the United States as well as the owner of the rights to a movie series that shattered records.  Yes, a tremendous success in writing and with motion pictures.

Now picture yourself as a recently single mom…on welfare.  Imagine writing sentence after sentence in a public café, after walking as a way to get your child to sleep.

JK Rowling’s series about a boy named Harry Potter turned her and her characters into household names.  Each new book and each new movie release seemed larger than the last.

Her magical escape transformed youth reading while energizing a new age of mythical novels and movies.

Hard work, persistence, and sacrifice helped JK Rowling become wildly successful.  It didn’t occur overnight, nor was it easy.  While in the middle of poverty and bouts of depression, the outcome she now enjoys would have been impossible to imagine.

In the end, her journey was worth it.  Her life, and many others have been transformed.

What are you doing right now that’s worth it?  Do you believe in your effort?  Leave a comment below.


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