Dealing With Difficulties

Personal and professional development is not what some think it is.  It’s not about eliminating or even reducing our difficulties.  So you you might be asking, why bother with it?  Development leading to growth…

  • Alters our attitudes about difficulties so we are open to what they can do FOR us, not TO us;
  • Prepares us to deal more effectively with the inevitable difficulties of life;
  • Teaches us to respect and value life’s challenges for what they are — growth opportunities;
  • It reveals the role good character has in avoiding many of the most common difficulties;
  • Strengthens us for bigger challenges;
  • Gives us wisdom that we can use to help others deal with their challenges; and
  • Rewards us with more meaningful challenges — the kind that lead to greatness.

“…life is supposed to be difficult!  It’s what enables us to grow.
Remember, earth is not heaven!”

— Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, p. 173.

Building Community

You don’t have to be a Christian to learn and benefit from the wisdom contained in the Bible.  However, its fair to say that it can be challenging to find the specific wisdom you are looking for and correctly interpret its meaning.  This is true when reading any ancient writing whether its the words of Aristotle or the Word of God.  That’s why I appreciate books like Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”

In Day 19 (i.e. Chapter 19) Warren writes about building community, a practice that is important to our organization’s teaching and coaching models.  On page 146, he says, “Cultivating community takes honesty.”  A page later he goes on to say, “Real fellowship, whether in a marriage, a friendship, or church, depends on frankness.”   (I would add “at work” to his list.)  “In fact, the tunnel of conflict is the passageway to intimacy in any relationship.  Until you care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, you will never grow close to each other.  When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other by facing and resolving our differences.”

Warren continues building his case for honesty in relationships by paraphrasing Proverbs 28:23, “In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.”  The actual words from the New King James translation are these …

“He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward
Than he who flatters with the tongue.”

Next, Warren provides instructions using the following similes from 1 Timothy 5:1-2.

“Never use harsh words when you correct an older man,
but talk to him as if he were your father.
Talk to younger men as if they were your brothers,
older women as if they were your mothers,
and younger women as if they were your sisters.”

This lesson about building community through honesty and love concludes as Warren once again paraphrases the Bible.  This time he refers to an occasion when the Apostle Paul was compelled to rebuke the church in the ancient city of Corinth for their “passive code of silence in allowing immorality in their fellowship.”  Paul said, “You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own.  Bring it out in the open and deal with it…. Better devastation and embarrassment than damnation…. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that…. you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory.  You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior.  I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?”    — 1 Corinthians 5:3-12 (Msg)

The Bible was written to tell the story of God’s relationship with His people.  With a skilled teacher like Rick Warren leading the way, it can also be your user’s manual for living a purpose-driven life.

Small Things Still Matter

While reading another chapter in Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” I was reminded that it’s the small things that matter most.  I’m not sure if it’s ADD or the consequences of a culture that bombards us with advice to look for big opportunities, dream big, and shoot for the moon, but this is a lesson I have to constantly rediscover.  While big thoughts and dreams are not inherently wrong, thinking totally on the big stuff is self-limiting.  Big and small are both important and here’s why.

  • Reality – Life is made up of an unimaginable number of small matters.  If we miss the small, we miss life itself.
  • Process – Big outcomes are the sum total of small achievements.  Whether or not we do something big depends on what we do, one small step at a time.
  • Perspective – Without small things, big things would seem small.  What is big is big only by comparison.  Small things create perspective.
  • Preparation – Small things prepare us for big things.  Mastery of small skills leads to mastery of great capabilities.
  • Trust – Being faithful with little matters is evidence that we can be trusted with larger ones.  Conversely, if we are untrustworthy about the small, why would anyone trust us with something huge?
  • Significance – Small things make a bigger impact than we realize.  How we perform with small matters shows how much or how little we care.  Being intentional and  consistent about doing the small things is better evidence that we care than a one-time big act.

Meaning Trumps Magnitude

You might be surprised that it was Warren’s chapter entitled, “Planned for God’s Pleasure” that inspired these thoughts.  I certainly was.  I think it was his examples of the different acts of worship, which include serving others, and how these seemingly routine and minor acts can be pleasing to God.  I realized that if we treat these small behaviors with the reverence they deserve, God will find favor with us.  And if these so-called “small things” are significant to God, shouldn’t they be to us as well?  Yes, small things do matter!

The Tree

Some trees were meant for shade, others to provide fruit, firewood and furniture.  Some were meant to look at and admire, while others were meant to become decorations at Christmas.  Apparently, some trees are meant to be relaxing places for people.

There’s a tree along the Brule River in northern Wisconsin that has been photographed many times for over 60 years.  The picture below, featuring my nephew, was taken in 2007.  Somewhere in the family archives there’s a picture of my mother as a young girl reading a book, resting against this exact tree.

Twice recently I was reminded of The Tree.  First, while listening to a recording of a song called, “The Tree” from the musical, “The Me Nobody Knows.”  Second, while reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.  At the very beginning, he quotes Proverbs 11:28 …

“A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump;
a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.”

Despite the moss and the way The Tree leans, it is anything but a stump.  Its roots go deep to drink from the river and anchor its tall trunk firmly in place.  It would seem that the purpose of The Tree is to provide pleasure to our family.


Regardless of how much longer my favorite tree lives, it will always be a symbol about the importance of having a purpose that serves others.

“When you are green you are growing,
when you are ripe you are rotting…
…If we stop growing personally and/or professionally,
we stagnate and start to rot.”

Dr. Sam Lam, < >

The symbolism goes a bit farther.  Someday The Tree will be gone. If I’m around to see this part of the river without my crooked, moss-covered friend, I will be reminded that life is finite and we all have a responsibility to bring value to the world while we’re here. And we can’t do that if we’re not growing deep roots.

Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to grow my roots and help others do likewise by hosting workshops like the one this week led this week by Bryan Flanagan.  On behalf of my colleague David Wright, “Thanks Bryan for  bringing your wisdom, energy, humor and sales experience to Dayton, OH.”