Archives For Focus

Focus by McKeownGood morning! Enjoying watching two rabbits under our bird feeders right now enjoying themselves!

Let me ask you something this fine Monday morning. Do you feel a sense of fulfillment and contentment right now? Are you excited that it’s Monday and you get to dive into your work?

Or, do you feel a bit overwhelmed, distracted, stressed, and wondering why in the world you are doing what you are doing? Or is that also a perplexing question? Wondering exactly what you it is that you are doing, why you are doing it, and to what good purpose? Is a full night sleep (7-8 hours) a luxury that seldom occurs except maybe – just maybe – on the weekend? Do you feel healthy – soul, mind, emotions, and body? If not, have you stopped to consider why?

Another question – do you have a hard time saying “no”? I do and it has cost me in many ways. As I have been studying this, I have come across many who are dealing with the subject from different angles. People like The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, and Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, Gary Keller, author of The One Thing, and of course many more. Although they come at the issue(s) from different angles, it seems that they are all saying that you can’t have and do it all. You really can’t, but for some reason we think we must – or at least try.

It’s hard saying no to the boss when asked to do one more thing that will keep you at work after hours, it’s hard saying no when asked to be involved in a local charity, and on and on – it’s just hard saying no. In my opinion there are a couple of reasons that seem to stand out above the many other reasons. One is called the Fear of Man – we fear what others will think of us, we fear causing emotional discomfort, we fear being different, and we really fear rejection. Another reason, it’s hard to say no is that we don’t know what it is that we should be about doing with our lives. We haven’t spent time reflecting on our purpose in life and what that looks like in a practical, concrete manner. So it’s hard saying no to something, when we don’t know what it is that we should be saying yes to!

If you really would like a life that is fulfilling, that is content, and that is purposeful – maybe it is time you stopped a bit and reflected on what is your purpose for being on this earth and what is your particular mission in life that fulfills that purpose. A suggestion – take a three day weekend somewhere that allows you to think and not be distracted. Take with you a journal and a couple of good books that you think will help, and then focus on why toy are here and what you are to do.

For me, I find my purpose in the One who created me and in His Word – the Bible. So for me, my overall purpose is to glorify God. My mission is coming alongside leaders who are impacting this world for good, and helping them to become more effective so that they, and the organizations they lead, have an even greater impact on their communities. That’s me – what is your purpose and what is your mission?

Discover those two things and then focus on them like a laser beam. Learn to say no to the things that distract you from your purpose and mission. In doing so, make space for caring for your soul, your mind, your emotions, your body, and especially make time for caring for those you love.


Good morning!

Last week we talked about how busyness is often a form of laziness. What I didn’t mention is that as leaders we are often subtly (sometimes not so subtly) encouraging busyness at the expense of mission accomplishment or allowing people to work on projects that are longer term and actually have greater mission impact.

We, as leaders, also suffer from that notion that someone who is “busy” and is engaged in a flurry of activities is the productive one and not the one who is quietly in the background working away on something that will really move the organization  forward towards mission accomplishment.

How many times have you looked at the calendars of your team and were more impressed with the person whose calendar was filled up with meeting and such and wondered what the person with the empty calendar was doing? How many times have you praised your “busy” workers in public who get a lot of tasks done, but fail to acknowledge the ones who are working behind the scenes on the long-term impact projects?

What do you really want – a lot of tasks done or people focused on the “main thing” and working towards impact and mission accomplishment?

Yes, we need to be busy, but busy doing the right things and realizing that sometimes the right kind of busy does not look “busy”.

Focus on mission, impact, and priorities – not a to-do list full of tasks that detract you from the main thing.

Have a great week!!


“Do you want to be the one in the nursing home with the best stories, not the biggest frustrations?” – Alex Malley

From Alex Malley on LinkedIn

“Do you want to…

“3 Beliefs of Highly Successful People” –

I hope you had a blessed Easter celebrating the resurrection of our Lord.

One of my favorite movies was “The Patriot” for multiple reasons. In one particular scene where his young boys had to fight the British, the father tells them to “aim small”. If you are familiar with shooting and marksmanship, you know what is meant here – you are focusing on a very small and precise point on the target. Even if you miss by a little, you still will most likely hit near the center of the target. Most of all it is about focus.

More and more, I am beginning to understand that how you change systems, how you impact culture, how you grow people, and how you develop leaders is by “aiming small”. You want to make a change? Aim small, focus, change things one person at a time. You want to grow leaders in your organization, church, or community? “Aim small” and invest your life in just a few people and go deep.

One or two or a handful of people who have been radically changed will change a family, change a neighborhood, change a church, change a ministry, change a company, change a community, and on and on. It starts with you taking the time to invest deeply into one or two other people. Intentionally and faithfully.

One challenge that we have in “aiming small” is us – our pride. Somehow we have this notion that we have to do huge things, we have to do many things, we have to know about many things – for that is what our popular culture glorifies. But time after time, I have seen large organizations with complex systems eat up resources with little to no real change. And then I see people who are quiet and behind the scenes faithfully investing in a few people and changing their lives. Those people then go out and invest into a few people and change their lives and thus real change starts occurring.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the challenge. Don’t think you have your change the world on your own – that’s not your job. Focus on what you can change. Be intentional and focus on investing into one or two lives and see what happens. You will be surprised.

Most of all – do not give up. As followers of Jesus, we have just celebrated the greatest event in history and it should fill you with great hope. We of all people should be filled with hope and we know the change that is possible. Jesus invested deeply into the lives of a handful of men who then went out and started changing the world.

“Aim small” and make a real difference.


One thing that I have noticed about leaders in my journey through life is that so many of them (and me) want to impact things in a large way. They want to grow their organizations larger and have greater numbers of staff, revenue growth, number of people they impact, and so on.

Many of these leaders think in terms of systems to produce this greater impact. As I mentioned in an earlier post, they think this way about growing leaders. However, it is interesting to me, that what seems to produce the greater effect is focus on the small things. It is a greater focus on fewer things and going deeper rather than wider.

It seems when we focus on the “vital few” versus the “trivial many” things really start to happen that last. This is especially true when you want to grow people.

Yes you need systems, common training, core readings, and the like for the bulk of your people and to lay the base for growth. However, the real growth occurs when you, as a leader, invest yourself into one or two people deeply and begin to help them grow. Somehow that feels counterintuitive, as we think we should be influencing as many as we possibly can and going as wide as we can, but real growth and impact comes when you focus.

Think small and make a huge difference.



Good morning! Still hoping it will one day actually be Spring here in the Midwest, but we have snow in the forecast for Tuesday!!

Last week, I did a brief post on the book Mission Drift and was asked by a friend of mine if there is mission drift, how do you get back on track? What I am going to do is take some key points from the book to talk about how you might be able to get prevent and even correct mission drift

First, this statement: “Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission. It’s that simple. It will happen.”

Read the following mission statement and then tell me who you think it applies to. “To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of our life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.” Who did you guess? Would you believe that it is the founding mission of Harvard University? It’s original motto was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Now it is simply Veritas. Eighty years later Yale was founded to counter the drift seen at Harvard – we have seen how that has worked out over the years!

The Pew Charitable Trusts were founded by a devout Christian, Howard Pew, and he helped Billy Graham launch Christianity TodayHoward Pew created the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Today, the Pew Charitable Trusts fund Planned Parenthood and some Ivy League schools, but no longer do they support the seminary founded by Howard Pew. An astonishing example of Mission Drift.

However, there are ways to counter our natural tendency towards mission drift (as the authors note, since organizations are made up of by individuals, then this has to be addressed at the individual level). The authors talk about what it means to be a Mission True organization.

Mission True – the authors of Mission Drift give us several examples of what characterizes Mission True organizations.

1. They recognize that Christ is the difference

2. They affirm that faith sustains them.

3. They Understand that functional atheism is the path of least resistance.

“Mission True organizations know who they are and actively safeguard, reinforce, and celebrate their DNA. Leaders constantly push toward higher levels of clarity about their mission and even more intentionality about protecting it.”

Steps Mission True organizations take:

1. Seek clarity first.

2. Acknowledge that the pressure to drift is constant.

3. Realize there’s a point of no return.

4. Make hard directions to correct drift.

Please do realize that change does not equal drift. In fact, being Mission True necessitates that you change to continue to meet your mission.

Mission True Boards do the following:

1. Recruit carefully and prayerfully.

2. Hold the CEO responsible for the mission.

3. Follow standard board practices (Note: check out Boards That Lead).

4. Create policies and safeguards.

5. Remember the mission.

In regards to hiring, Mission True organizations:

1. Hire slow and fire fast.

2. Clearly define your approach to hiring based on faith.

3. Be consistent with your hiring policy.

4. Inculcate staff in your values and history.

Mission True organizations understand the importance of culture. They know that:

1. Small things matter.

2. Consistency counts.

3. Exemplars should be celebrated.

4. Embed spiritual disciplines.

Mission Drift is real and a threat to all organizations founded with a purpose. And there are ways to prevent and correct that drift.

As a leader you must be always aware of the danger and vigilant in quickly detecting and correcting mission drift when it begins to occur. Also, do not confuse changes of methodology with change in mission. Very often, change in methodology is exactly what is needed to prevent mission drift.

This is a key leadership task – what are you doing to prevent mission drift in your organization?


In Praise of Depth – Tony Schwartz

It is cold here this morning! Minus 13 right now. Hope you are staying warm today! Following is a repost because I believe that this principle can greatly improve a person’s effectiveness.

What is so key about 90 minutes?  This is a number that I have been encountering over and over the last couple of years as I have been learning more about personal and organizational productivity.

For instance, in learning about effective meetings, it has been demonstrated that you should never have any meeting segments that last more than 90 minutes.  That is as long as someone can effectively maintain focus.  Apparently, another factor is that the way most of our bodies work – our cycles – after 90 minutes it is good to have some healthy nourishment.  So a having a healthy snack in the meeting available after that 90 minute break is helpful.  Here at our ministry, we are teaching the 90 minute “rule” for our extended meetings.

My main point today, however, is some research mentioned by Tony Schwartz in his book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working as well as by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.  Schwartz however illustrates a point not mentioned by Gladwell and that is the tremendous impact of working in cycles of intense focus for 90 minutes and then taking some kind of “renewal” break and then returning for an intense focus of 90 minutes and so on.

The research that Schwartz and Gladwell both are referencing is from a study by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University on violinists and the impact of practice on their levels of achievement.  One aspect that he discovered is that the truly great violinists typically worked in cycles of three focused practice sessions of 90 minutes each day with renewal breaks between each session.  The truly great violinists also averaged an almost an hour more of sleep a day than the only average violinists.

The principle that we need to apply in our lives that should enhance our productivity, is to understand our need for short (90 minutes) periods of intense,  uninterrupted focus with short renewal breaks between these periods.  So, when you set your priorities for the day, make sure you set aside these times of focus, when you shut off your e-mail, put your phone on “do not disturb” and truly focus on the priority at hand.  Then, after that 90 minutes, get up, get a healthy snack, walk outside if you are able to do so, or take some time to pray, get refreshed and then head to your next priority.

I believe you will be amazed at how much more effective you become.  But be warned – changing your work habits is not easy – but well worth the effort.

Questions – what are some of your methods of achieving uninterrupted focus on your work?  Do you believe that you are being a good steward of the time the Lord has given you to do His work?

Hope you are having a blessed day today!