Decisions, Decisions

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.  Proverbs 15:22

Everyone has to make a hard decision from time to time. Sometimes the weight of a decision kept me awake at night. I am not alone. I suspect you have been in the same position.

The next generation is no different. They are at the stage of life where they will be making lots of decisions, some small, but some that might be life changing.

Both Millennials and Gen Z have a proclivity to make decisions based on emotion. Facts, analysis, critical thinking and reason go out the window.

Alternatively, they are frozen by a fear of failure.  They don’t want to make a mistake, and given the number of choices that face them, they often make no decision, which is a decision in itself.

They are often persuaded by social media, which is like the blind leading the blind. Social media provides opinions based on the same emotional matrix of their generation. That is a recipe for disaster.

Due to extended adolescence where they don’t become adults until their late 20’s or later, they have deferred making hard decisions about relationships or careers.

Granted, not all decisions matter to the extent that you need to do critical thinking. But major decisions – life changing decisions – are ones that can get swept up into an emotional decision tree.

In my career, as a mentee developed experience, I stopped answering their questions which would make a decision for them. Instead, I would ask for their solution. I believed that if they did not have a solution (good or bad), they hadn’t thought through the issue enough.

This same approach is helpful for helping the next generation develop in their ability to think critically. I am cautious about providing my answer to solve their problem. Instead, I help them analyze their options. It’s their decision, after all, and I don’t have to live with the consequences.

Even small decisions can have a big impact, sometimes more than large ones. As Shawn Lovejoy notes, “We are one or two bad decisions away from destroying our life, and one or two good decisions away from turning our life around.”

I’ve written about this topic before (EmotionalismCritical Thinking), but it deserves another look. I even provided a practical matrix for decision making for the next generation.

On my recent Dude Ranch experience, I often asked the staff who were either millennials or Gen Z if they based their decisions on emotion, and they consistently said “Yes”.

Whether you like it or not, decisions will define you. The decisions you make today will end up being the stories of your life down the road.

So how do you make better decisions? I think it would be too easy to just say do some critical thinking for someone that has not advanced far in their ability to think critically.

A better way, as suggested by Shawn Lovejoy, is to adopt three habits which may aid anyone (not just leaders) to making better decisions.

The first habit is to seek out relationships with people who make good decisions. Turn to someone who has been successful in the area you are interested in. If it is about marriage, seek out someone who has had a successful one. The bottom line: find a mentor that can help you.

Don’t be shy: ask them questions like “What did you do when you were in my shoes?” They may not have the magic answer for you, but I am willing to bet they will advance your understanding of your decision, possibly from a vantage point you hadn’t considered.

The second habit is to be a personal advisor to yourself. This might be hard because you have to remove emotion from the equation. You need to ask yourself “What would I advise someone else in this position?” Alternatively, ask yourself “What would a great leader do in my circumstances?”

The last habit is to seek advice from the right people. You instinctively know who they are, and they probably aren’t your friends on social media who give such advice as “Go with your heart”.

Lovejoy says that he often asks the advice of 4 or 5 different people when making a large decision. He said he cannot even count the number of times that “this has saved my tail.”

Mentors are part of this equation. This is where you can reach out to someone who is ahead of you on the curve of where you want to go. In Japan, they call it Sensei, and the actual meaning of that word is “one who has gone before another.”

Mentors have been there and back. They probably have a T-shirt, too. For the next generation faced with a decision, the challenge is to take advantage of a mentor as a resource.

A mentors role is to help the mentee make the best decision possible given the known facts and circumstances. They can provide insights into issues they have encountered that the mentee may not have thought about or considered.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor can be a valuable resource for a mentee to bounce problems off so they can be clear eyed when making a decision.

FURTHER STUDY:  Shawn Lovejoy – 3 Habits that Make you a Better Decision Maker

WORSHIP:  Listen to You Revive Me.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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Photo is courtesy of Dan Rush and used by permission.

 

 

 

 

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Gen Z Trends

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Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18

This is the generation where the oldest is now around 21. We often talk about them in generalities, but after lots of research, those generalities have proved accurate.  I was riding on a plane recently and spoke to a young woman who was still in college and a member of Gen Z.

We spoke about several observations that I have written on her generation, and she confirmed that what I was saying was accurate.  Good to know I’m not totally off base.

Gen Z, as they are commonly called, are different from their predecessors, the Millennials.  The latter are now aged 22 to 38. If you are not sure if someone is Gen Z or not, just ask them if they are a millennial and they will quickly tell you: “I am not one of them.”

Thomas Rainer, one of many resources that I follow on leadership and cultural trends, recently did a podcast on Gen Z.  It contains some interesting trends and new insights as to how this new Generation is now affecting the church.

Gen Z is asserting its influence on Church life in subtle ways. They are digital natives, which means that if your church is not involved in the digital community, Gen Z might not ever know that you exist.  Put in another way, Gen Z continues to seek a digital community and is attracted almost exclusively by that means of communication.

Churches that miss this trend may be missing the mark. It is something that I pay attention to, often suggesting methods of communication that will be consumed by the next generation.  Much of the on-line Church websites cater to an older generation. Works for them, of course, but not for Gen Z.

A church that may be visited will already have been checked out on line.  They can get an idea of what you are about from the church webpage, long before they darken the door. That means that the website needs to cater not just to members, but also to prospective attenders of a younger generation.

A member of Gen Z or a millennial is unlikely to ever pull up and listen (or watch) last week’s sermon. They don’t have the attention span for that.  It’s not the content; it is the length that is problematical.

Thinking creatively to reach Gen Z means adapting to their communication style, not the other way around. You can’t change the stripes on a zebra; nor can you change the fact that this is a digital generation. Not only that, it must be mobile digital friendly (as opposed to computer friendly), and your mobile presence must be clear.

Creating short podcasts, or even a breezy bible study on a sermon topic has a better chance of being watched.  Anything better than zero would be an improvement.  Social media is also a must for engagement and community.

Rainer suggests that Gen Z might be more receptive to the gospel than millennials. This is not a hard data analysis – but there are implications that this is true.  The time to reach them is now, not later, according to Rainer.

I believe that this generation has little contact with the church or the Bible, so they may not have an existing prejudice.

One thing that interested me is that Gen Z has never seen a “worship war” – which is where there is a tension of the style of worship in your church. It is an anathema to them – they will not tolerate it.

I know this might grate on some who prefer old traditional hymns for worship. But there are two things that will kill church attendance by the next generation: poor worship or poor sermons.  I am in favor of a more contemporary worship style than my wife, for example, but the reason is not just personal preference.

I favor a style of worship that embraces the next generation. I firmly believe that churches which are intentionally intergenerational will survive over the next 25 years.

Arguing over the style of music in a worship service is majoring on the minors, and apparently toxic to Gen Z.  The song below is an example of an old hymn in a more contemporary style which crosses the intergenerational barriers.

Finally, Rainer notes that Gen Z are service oriented.  They are focused outward and they want to make a difference in the world and their community.  This alone may signal a change in paradigms of the church. They want to be involved in the community, so a missional church may be more attractive.

While writing this post, I have been at a dude ranch in Wyoming. Most of the staff are either members of Gen Z, or are the youngest millennials. It’s been an interesting time interacting with them. My wife has told me that I interact with younger people better than anyone she has seen.

They are very career oriented. I’ve spent some time with a couple of them who wanted insights into either a career path or possible post-graduate work, such as whether to get a law degree or a joint JD/MBA (I voted for the latter,where you graduate with a law degree and an MBA in 3 years).

The challenge here is that we are on the cusp of a new opportunity with Gen Z – we need to be thinking about how to reach them, guide them and engage them. The time for engagement is now, not later.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Engaging with Gen Z is not all that difficult, but you must be prepared to change some of your traditional forms of communication. You need to adapt to them, not the other way around.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.

 

 

Gardens

insect

It [the Kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches. Luke 13:19

I enjoy gardening. Some find that hard to believe, particularly since I grew up in a suburb of New York City. Hardly a place to learn about gardening.  Jesus grew up where gardens were plentiful, and He often referred to them in his parables.

My wife’s father got me interested in gardening. He grew up around farms and his garden produced unbelievable quantities of vegetables. After we were married, my wife’s parents built a house in the county. It had lots of space for a garden.

My father-in-law was getting up in years but that didn’t slow him down. His wife, my mother-in-law,  worried about having too big of a garden for him to maintain. So, he made a 2-acre garden out of sight from the house.  She couldn’t walk to see it due to crippling arthritis in her ankles.

Take my word for it, a 2-acre garden is a lot to handle. I always chuckled over his deceit of his wife. That wasn’t the first time, either. But they were good deceits that didn’t harm anyone.

Our first house in Raleigh had a large back yard. My subdivision had been a farm in the past. My yard is where the livestock had been kept years before. Instead red clay,  I had lots of dark brown fertile soil. I used to kid that you could spit on it and it would probably grow.

My neighbor had studied agronomy in college. He had a garden that was plagued with the red clay soil. He had spent years trying to improve his soil into something more manageable with little success.

My wife begged me to start a garden, and I relented and started a little garden in the back corner of our yard.

It was fun to watch the plants sprout and grow – I had corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and squash. I quickly learned that something else sprouted and grew quickly: weeds. I had no idea where they came from – they just showed up and proliferated.

My neighbor would come over and marvel at how large my plants were compared to his. My squash plants were twice the size of his because of his poor soil. I was not a great gardener; I just had better soil.

I quickly learned that gardening was more than planting and watering. It was about keeping the pests controlled like weeds and insects. Weeds were so hardy that they started choking my plants.  You ignored them at your own peril.

The solution was frequent maintenance to keep the weeds down and control insects that preyed on plants. I learned to enjoy it. Gardening, after all, is more than just planting seeds and watching them grow. Weeding, watering and fertilizer are necessary.

As I was thinking about this topic, I thought of the parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13.

In the parable, the seeds fell in different places in the field. Some fell on the path and were gobbled up by birds, just like my blueberries and raspberries today. Some fell on rocky soil and withered because of shallow roots.

Others were choked out by weeds.  Some fell on fertile soil and produced abundant crops. Jesus was talking about what kind of soil you have when you heard the Gospel.

The metaphor is that your spiritual life is like a garden, and in order to succeed, you have to constantly maintain it – water, fertilizer and weed as needed.

We often put out seeds daily – it might be our thought life or the friends we chose to associate with, or influencers of our lives.  Influencers can be a positive or negative, depending on our choices.

The next generation, like all generations before them, have the possibility of growing up with weeds in their life – things that will influence them negatively. The more good things and good people that they can associate with, the more likely that those good things can choke out the bad things.

You can help your mentee by encouraging him to spend time with positive influencers and to think on things that are good and true as suggested by Philippians 4:8. It only takes one weed – one weak spot in a mentee’s life- to take him down the wrong road. It won’t happen immediately, but is likely cause trouble in the long run.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor can help a mentee keep his life “weed-free”.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Bethel Music play the  Lion and the Lamb.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address. 

Note: The picture was taken in Denali National Park, Alaska along a dirt road in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens

insect

It [the Kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches. Luke 13:19

I enjoy gardening. Some find that hard to believe, particularly since I grew up in a suburb of New York City. Hardly a place to learn about gardening. Jesus grew up where gardens were plentiful, and He often referred to them in his parables.

My wife’s father got me interested in gardening. He grew up around farms and his garden produced unbelievable quantities of vegetables. After we were married, my wife’s parents built a house in the county. It had lots of space for a garden.

My father-in-law was getting up in years but that didn’t slow him down. His wife, my mother-in-law, worried about having too big of a garden for him to maintain. So, he made a 2-acre garden out of sight from the house. She couldn’t see it and was unable to walk due to rheumatoid arthritis.

Take my word for it, a 2-acre garden is a lot to handle. I always chuckled over his deceit of his wife. That wasn’t the first time, either. But they were good deceits that didn’t harm anyone.

Our first house in Raleigh had a large back yard. My subdivision had been a farm in the past. My yard is where the livestock had been kept years before. So, instead red clay, I had lots of dark brown fertile soil. I used to kid that you could spit on it and it would probably grow.

My neighbor studied agronomy in college. His garden was plagued with red clay soil. He spent years trying to improve his soil into something more manageable, but with little success.

My wife begged me to start a garden, and I relented and started a little garden in the back corner of our yard.

It was fun to watch the plants sprout and grow – I grew corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash and other vegetables.  I quickly learned that something else sprouted and grew quickly: weeds. I had no idea where they came from – they just showed up and proliferated.

My neighbor would come over and marvel at how large my plants were compared to his. My squash plants were twice the size of his because of his poor soil. I was not a great gardener; I just had better soil.

I learned that gardening was more than planting and watering. It was about keeping the pests controlled like weeds and insects. Weeds were so hardy that they started choking my plants. You ignored them at your own peril.

The solution was frequent maintenance to keep the weeds out as well as control insects that preyed on plants. I learned to enjoy it, which actually surprised me.

My gardening experience today is little different than my first garden because we live in an area inhabited by deer, squirrels and rabbits, in addition to insects and weeds.

As I was thinking about gardening, I thought of the parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13.

The seeds fell in different places in the field. Some fell on the path and were gobbled up by birds, just like my blueberries and raspberries. Some fell on rocky soil and withered because of shallow roots.

Others were choked out by weeds. Some fell on fertile soil and produced abundant crops. Jesus was talking about what kind of soil you have when you heard the Gospel.

The metaphor is that your spiritual life is like a garden, and in order to succeed, you have to constantly maintain it – water, fertilizer and weeding as needed.

We often put out seeds daily – it might be our thought life or the friends we chose to associate with, or influencers of our lives. Influencers can be a positive or negative, depending on our choices.

The next generation, like all generations before them, have the possibility of growing up with weeds in their life – things that will influence them negatively. The more good things and good people, that they can associate with, the more likely that those good things can choke out the bad things.

You can help your mentee by encouraging him to spend time with good influencers and think on things that are good and true as suggested by Philippians 4:8. It only takes one weed – one weak spot in a mentee’s life- to take him down the wrong road. It won’t happen immediately, but it will cause trouble in the long run.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: A mentor can help a mentee keep his life “weed-free”.
WORSHIP: Listen to Bethel Music play the Lion and the Lamb.
MentorLink: For more informatabout MentorLink, go to http://www.mentorlink.org.
SUBSCRIBE: You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.

Passion

passion

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

While doing a leadership training for MentorLink in Nairobi, I recently sat with two of the participants during a break. We chatted about a number of things. One of them turned to me and said: “I want to be as passionate as you are when I reach your age.”

To be honest, I really don’t think of being passionate. It’s not something that you try and be. It made me think on what has made me passionate.  I touched on this recently in my post titled “Why”.

When my oldest son was growing up, he was passionate about geography and little else. It affected his education because, if a subject was not in his passion “zone”, he cared little and often didn’t pay attention. He was interested in cultures and geography, and nothing else mattered in his world.

As parents, we tried everything to broaden his interests or at least get him to realize that he needed to pay attention to subjects he didn’t care about. We tried the carrot and the stick approach – rewarding him for good behavior and punishing him for messing up.

Nothing really worked. I finally realized that until HE decided he wanted to excel, we were going nowhere.

That led to helping him go to a private school where we hoped that he would be challenged and motivated. It worked, albeit after a couple of setbacks. He became passionate about learning and finally achieved what we knew was in him. He retains his passion to this day, but it is buttressed by a much broader perspective.

My passion has always been to help others improve or excel at what they want to do. That hasn’t changed really over my life.

Having a passion is something innate to each individual. My passion might be an anathema to others and vice versa. It’s kind of like horse races: not everyone bets on the same horse.

I have spent much of my life on helping others tap into their passion.

For the Next Generation, studies show that they are passionate about making a difference  in the world. But that is a broad stroke, and the question is: How are they actually going to accomplish that in a real sense?

Most commencement speakers commonly tell graduates to “find your passion”. It might not be the best advice.

A study by Stanford University suggests that telling someone to follow their passion may be detrimental  because it might foreclose other experiences which might be influential. Thinking that a passion can be “found” can cause people to limit their pursuit of new fields.

My own son comes to mind as an example. He was laser-focused on his interests to the exclusion of everything else.

The author’s advice: instead of finding your passion, you should work on developing it. The authors suggest that if you find something interesting and “it could be an area that [you] could make a contribution in”,  you should pursue it by investing in it, “taking time to explore, face challenges and ultimately make a commitment.”

The study used two groups, one called “techie” and the other “fuzzy”. The former was interested in STEM topics, and the latter in the arts and humanities. The groups read two articles, one that was related to tech, and the other one on humanities.

They found that the techie’s were closed to appreciating the fuzzy article. It was outside their interest span. The authors felt this attitude was a problem.

“Many advances in science and business happen when people bring different fields together, when people see novel connections between fields that maybe that hadn’t seen before.”

The Stanford study is important in a world where competition for a career is not just with humans but with Robots and AI. A myopic focus on your passion without opening yourself to other interests could spell disaster in the long run.

Interesting stuff. So, what is your passion? How did it occur and how did you develop it?  Who helped you along the way and how did they do it? Those questions are on the mind of everyone in the next generation who are interested on making a difference in the world.

The next generation should not to be so focused on their passion as to exclude keeping up with developments in other fields that might impact them. This is where a mentor can aid them to see the difference between the forest and the trees.

The challenge is to help the next generation not only identify their passion, but to help them develop it. Sometimes that means walking beside them when they face unexpected setbacks and challenges.  Everyone needs someone in their corner who can communicate to them that they are on the right track. That’s what a mentor does.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Being a mentor is a good way to help the next generation hone, develop and refine his or her passion into their reality.

FURTHER READINGStanford Study on Developing Your Passion

Making a Difference – Generation Z

WORSHIP:  Listen to Passion sing Jesus only Jesus

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.