I Used to Run at Night

flashlight_in_the_dark-600x420All it takes is Chels being out-of-town and me being home by myself for 48 hours for my brain to go all deep and introspective… So here’s what’s rattling around my head tonight.

I’m on this “health journey.” I’m 44 lbs down over the past four months, but some days, like today, it takes everything I have to get up off the couch and go for a jog. Given that I spent over 30 years of my life without every seriously exercising, I still find I’m surprised at myself for getting up off the couch and doing it.  It was warm/muggy this afternoon, so I waited for sunset to run.  I decided I would grab my flashlight so as to not get run down in our dark neighborhood and I couldn’t find it… anywhere. I was thinking to myself, “you always use your flashlight to run, where is it.”  That got me thinking about why I couldn’t find my flashlight – because I haven’t run at night in a few months… I used to run at night. Why?

Because I’ve been a big ol sack of shame, that’s why. I didn’t want to go to a gym where all the fit people would see me, and I didn’t want my neighbors to see me in daylight – would they automatically assume that my doctor told me I had to? Would they immediately assume I’d never be successful? Would they crack a joke to their spouse about that “big guy” trying to lose weight? Would they see me six months from now and automatically assume I had given up?

Shame is paralyzing. It alienates you, it torments you, it mocks you. It’s yelling so loud in your head that it’s deafening – louder than the encouragement, louder than any smidgen of hope you may have, and most importantly, louder than the truth. What’s amazing to me is that shame has this amazing ability to be hidden just under the surface – enough so you can’t name it and beat it. Instead, you act like you’ve chosen that part of yourself and it’s just “who you are.”

A few months ago, Chels and I were in the car on our way to church and we were fighting. We were arguing about the fact that I didn’t bring tennis shoes and shorts to wear after church. Seems silly, right? But the truth was, we weren’t arguing about my choice in clothes at all. We were arguing about the fact that I was fat and ashamed of myself and the best way for me to deal with that shame was to pretend that I didn’t want to wear shorts and play ball.  I would argue that most fat folks will tell you they don’t want to swim, or be outside, or play on your team, or whatever – because they’re embarrassed to do those things.

I’ve been embarrassed at how uncomfortable I’ve been on flights and how uncomfortable I’ve made the folks sitting next to me. I’ve been ashamed of how much I sweat or how hard it is to catch my breath. I’m ashamed to be the guy in the pool wearing a t-shirt. I’m ashamed of getting that 2nd or 3rd plate. Despite all of that, I’ve just lived up to my own expectations and done it again – because I’m doomed to live life that way. I was scared out of my mind to go to a gym – to be that uncomfortable – so I didn’t. That day in the car, I finally said all of this. Chest-heaving, all-out weeping, I had had enough – I needed to admit I had looked at personal trainer reviews and gym rates for two years and just couldn’t bring myself to face those fears. I had to admit that I knew that it’s hard to be physically attracted to someone who’s almost double the weight they should be. I had to admit that I didn’t believe it could ever be different. Truthfully, life doesn’t have very many “breakthrough” moments of clarity, but that conversation was. I walked away from that conversation after having admitted my shame and fears, know that it was time to face them head on – with a wife cheering me on every step of the way.

I don’t write this because I’ve figured it out, on the contrary, I write because it helps me put words to the jumbled mass of thoughts in my head.  I’m not writing this so you tell me how great it is that I’m losing weight and not to “give up.” I write this because I hope that there’s one other person out there who knows shame like what I’ve written above will find the courage to tell someone they are ashamed, and then to do something – small, but significant – to face their shame – to believe that they too can make progress. Maybe you’ll beat shame altogether… or maybe you’ll just beat it down a little… but that paralyzing feeling you have, it starts to lose power for every day that you do that next thing to continue your journey…

Because now, I rarely run in the dark.

Peace be with you

mjd

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Just Because

I’m obsessed with producing things. I have been for a while. It all started with being obsessed with living the purpose driven life, then it grew and grew into this monster of me always wondering if I was on the right path, brining the right value, and potentially, missing out on the best (and/or God’s plan) because I went the wrong direction here or there. I’ve felt like as long as I was producing something, even if it was producing change, then I was adding value and fulfilling my purpose.  To be honest, it’s that drive that has made me successful (I’ve not achieved, but I’ve found success in my ventures over the years), but it’s also the ugly side of this very belief that has resulted in me being so internally torn.  I’ve long felt like in every conversation I had to add value, and it’s only matter of time till that begins to impact every relationship.

Let me say this, I don’t think my theology of salvation got jacked up as a result of this. I totally got that my salvation was a result of grace, but to be honest, I began to think that my productivity was THE way I pleased God. As I continue to write, let me be clear, this paradigm hasn’t left, it’s just that I’ve begun to realize how distorted this is. It’s exhausting. Internally, I’m always feeling the strain of whether I’ve provided ENOUGH value to the God of the universe, when in truth, he wants me more than he wants my gift, he wants my attention – He wants my trust.  I don’t have to please him through my knowledge or wisdom, I can be loved JUST BECAUSE I am the beloved.  

“Purpose driven” has resulted in me becoming a man tired of ever striving and never arriving, always trying to chase this big plan, this big revelation, this world-changing gift that I believe I’m supposed to bring to the world. At the end of the day, I do hope I make an impact on this world, but I want to be a man who is just intimate with a God who loved me so desperately that he would die for me, and I want to spend the rest of my life responding to him, trusting him in every situation that if I’m to make an impact, I will, and if I’m supposed to do nothing more than serve right where I am and just be loved, I can.

He loves me just because, just because of who He is…

Is Your Culture Worth Recreating?

I’m in. All of the way, not holding back – I’m a Capital One employee.  I’ve always prided myself on the ability to “fake” my employment with my clients.  I can mimic the values, common phrases, and acronyms of my clients a few weeks into the relationship (with sincerity), which as a contractor/consultant made me successful.  I’m 7 work days into this relationship with COF (Capital One Financial) and it’s not just a matter of mimicry.  There is a distinct culture in this organization and I want to be in lockstep with the organization.

We’re focused on maintaining their culture.  The entire onboarding program is about including you as a part of this culture.  I thought of posting about “how” we maintain our culture, but I realized that many organizations don’t have a culture worth maintaining, much less recreating.  I’m thinking the honeymoon will end and I’ll find the things about the organization that makes me nuts, but 7 years into my marriage, I’m in more of a honeymoon today than I was the month I got married – so maybe this doesn’t have to end.

Here’s why I think this culture is a good fit for me:

  • Values: The company values come up in most of the meetings.  They’re not just words on a page, they are guiding principles by which decisions are made.  
  • Collaboration: This environment is hard core about collaboration.  I’ve already challenged IT on a system implementation and they were supportive. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.  They agreed that we should take more time to get stakeholder buy in on requirements.   They are open and sincerely value team work. I know, right?
  • Laid Back Business:  My friends warned me about the finance industry and how stuffy it can be. Instead, it’s jeans, untucked, and lots of laughing.  They’re just fine with my feauxhawk and value my input more than they care about what I’m wearing.
  • Paradoxically Conservative and Strategically Bold:  We walk a fine line between being innovative and playing it safe.  The history of this organization is amazing and they openly share the wins and the failures. I appreciate the honesty and the fact that the focus on analysis is tempered by creativity and the human element.

mjd

Keep it Simple

I ended my work day with an interesting discussion on what a Project Management “Center of Excellence” would consist of. I’m constantly amazed at how overcomplicated we can make things. There is value in those who study the Word day in and day out (that’s for you, Russ) – we need you to help clarify things for us. We need those who study “adult learning theory” and “project management theory” and come up with great understanding of the human mind – and then we need you all to simplify it.

Jesus said it like this – all of the law can be summed up into these two things: 1. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul mind, and strength. 2. Love others as you love yourself.

I wish sometimes we could just keep it more simple. It’s REALLY hard for people to understand 25 competencies or 14 competencies. We need it simple. When the time comes where we need more, we go find more, but if we could generally do the first two really simple ones, we’d nail it – but we fail there all of the time.

For project management, I would say it could be summed up in three things: 1. Communicate everything to all people – status reports, project plans, strategies, expectations, requirements, risks, needs, etc. 2. Pursue quality and excellence in all things. 3. Be a problem solver, not a fault finder.

Oversimplified? Maybe… but I can help fill in the gaps if we could just start with those three things.

Those that Came Before Us

I’ve waited a few weeks to post this as I know the rumor mill regarding my parents, but after the “revelation” I’ve had over the past two weeks, I want to share something I’ve learned.

My Dad’s in the middle of some transition and he’s moving to Nashville. While he gets planted in this community, he’s staying with us. I shared this with a couple of friends and they shared their concerns/hesitations about this. We had a few of our own, but something hit me like a lightening bolt: I’m getting the opportunity to return the investment my Dad made in me.

My parents are both pretty wise, both are “people” people. They instilled leadership, solution finding, and excellence in me for as long as I remember. Almost all of the blessings I enjoy in my life today are as a result of what they invested in me. Dad staying here with us for a few weeks/month while he gets his roots planted in Nashville is just a chance for the investments my Dad made in me to be returned to him. Most folks don’t get to give back to their parents until their old… we get to do it today.

Are you investing for your future in your relationships, not just your 401K?

mjd

She’s Here Because of You

I’m guilty of making fun of those local christian talk shows and TBN, but today I met Susie and Ron on the plane.
Susie and Ron spent four years pouring all of their personal finances into their local TV show.
Yes, Susie had big hair.
Susie told me how much she enjoyed doing the show, and I sat there full of skepticism.
Then she told me about the time a few years after the show was off the air that they visited a small local church.
A woman came up to her and said, “Are you Susie?” Susie replied yes.
Then the young woman reached behind her and pulled a young girl out from behind her.
“I had an appointment for an abortion, but the day before, I saw your show where you told me I had a choice.”
“This is my daughter, and she’s here because of you.”

BAM! Conviction.

It may not be “my” style, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact on people….

Career-Changing Week

In the corporate environment, I try not to discuss my age – at all. I’m surrounded by people who are 35+, often 45+ and with 15+ years experience in their fields. When I’m asked, I have to say 26, and then the wheels start turning – either this kid didn’t got to college, or he’s only been in the field for 5 years. Then they realize they’re putting hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars worth of projects in my hands to manage or lead. I usually fake it well, but this week, I’m overwhelmed by my own lack of experience.

I hired into my company b/c I liked what they did, and my first 6 months with the General was spent running copies. Yep, I was the copy boy – granted I had a team of 3 and 7 copy machines, but I was still just a copy boy. I had the grand salary of $26,500 and I couldn’t have been more proud. Over the past 5 years, the favor on my life has been remarkable. I don’t deserve one iota of what I have today. I work hard for it, but every door has been opened for me.

In 4 hours, I’m flying to Chicago, then to DC on Thursday, then driving to NJ on Friday. This week is where the rubber meets the road. Though I often facilitate, I’ve always been accompanied by some senior level somebody to make sure I don’t screw it up. This week, the training wheels are coming off the bike and if I fall, no one can catch me. 2 new customers, 4 new projects, and a trip to corporate = me feeling slightly overwhelmed.

My first mentor (Cassie Green) taught me that God’s interested in who I am in the workplace. That my promotion(s) have been about influence and impact on the lives around me. My greatest concern this week is to properly steward the influence I’ve been given. Here are a few of my guidelines for the week.

– Don’t talk unless you have something of value to add.
– Discernment is the greatest gift I have when leading meetings.
– Write more questions than assumptions.
– Choose my words carefully – the fewer words used, the more clear the communication.
– I must be the peace maker.
– I will lean on the expertise of those around me (your customer will always know when you’re full of crap).
– Projects succeed and fail b/c of details, rarely b/c of glaring oversights.
– My influence is a gift that I must steward with utmost care.

I’m scared out of my mind and so excited about where this will all lead. Be careful what you pray for, you might just get it…

mjd

When did you last dance?

I hope today you get so excited about the grace and mercy of your God, that you get so excited about the fact that he is for you, that you get so overwhelmed by his presence, so lost in your praise and adoration of Him, that you can’t help but dance. When my worship becomes more about my experience, I dance less – but when I allow myself to focus on his goodness, I find myself overwhelmed and I can’t help but dance. When did you last dance? Today’s a good a day to dance…

Won’t Be Moved

On September 19th, 2001 – I sat at a piano and Chels set on the bench next to me and we wrote our first song. It’s pretty simple, but there are seasons in life that I have to go back and sing the words over and over. I remember the date because it was the Wednesday after the bombing of the WTC. Everything felt like it was shaken then. Things feel a little unsteady today, so I sing in advance:

When the earth quakes
And my life shakes
When the darkness surrounds
And the shadows invade
I won’t be moved
But by you

Find me here
There’s no need to fear
You keep me from harm
Right here in your arms

When my heart hurts
And the pain lurks
When all grows still
And the tear start to fall
I won’t be moved
But by You

One Thing

I woke up this morning with an old Charlie Hall song on my heart:

Single Minded, whole hearted, one thing I ask
Single minded, whole hearted, one thing I ask

That I may gaze upon your beauty oh Lord
That I may seek your holy face
That I may know you an intimate way
And follow after you all of my days
And follow after you all of my days

Cause all of life comes down to just one thing
That’s to know you, oh Jesus, and make you known
Cause all of life comes down to just one thing
That’s to know you, oh Jesus, and make you known

The video isn’t from him, but it’s someone playing the song: