Defined by a name: Christian

A few weeks ago I heard someone talking about the nicknames they were called growing up. They shared how these names carried meaning through their youth and into adulthood. They became like badges of identity and however good or bad they were they either lifted you up or tore you down. I experienced the same. I was called many nicknames through my youth. Whether it was positive or negative my reaction to a name became part of who I was and how people saw me. It wasn’t until high school that one name really shaped my understanding of who I was and defined my identity: Christian.

I know as some people read this there are some preconceived ideas that will come to your mind; some true and some not true. To be called a Christian can be simply described as a Christ-follower; to have faith in Jesus and recognize Him as my savior. To be a Christian is to follow a moral compass rooted in Jesus’ teachings and live life actively seeking His will. It also means I fall short and every day I am in need of redemption which Jesus provides with mercy and grace. Recognizing my own limitations in life allows me to love others around me more purely; looking for the best in everyone and encouraging them for the best life forward.

Being defined by one single name can be overwhelming but the truth is that being a Christian has a meaning. This name identifies my motives and my desires. It defines the way I approach every part of my life. As a husband, a father, a son, and a brother. As a friend and co-worker. It defines my demeanor at home and at work. It doesn’t mean I am perfect but it means I try to be the best version of myself using Jesus as my standard. That is why I blog with the purpose of encouraging people in their life journey by sharing about my marriage, my parenting, and my career. And I will continue to post with the desire to reach even if just one person and share my own experiences of growth.

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How to prepare for time off – my 3 habits

In my last post I wrote about the opportunity I had to take time off and enjoy the benefits it provides. In it I shared that while it can be hard to unplug it is necessary to rest and recharge in preparation for what is ahead. This need for a moment to pause can be easily accepted but more often than not it is the preparation that can be challenging. In truth, sometimes it is the preparation that stands in the way of us taking time off. Specifically with work, many friends and co-workers I know long for time off but find themselves hostage to work and these are some of the questions that paralyze them:

“How can I really be off when my team needs me?”

“Who will handle the current projects and all the work that is involved?”

“What if something happens with our product and it escalates to our leadership?”

A few years ago I would have been intimidated by these questions but over the years I’ve learned to lead well by preparing ahead. In this post I will share some very practical ways one can prepare for time off and set a work life balance that actually allows you to enjoy your time away.

Identifying the most important priorities

We all probably claim to be working on the most important items but that isn’t necessarily true. In the hopes to be efficient we often share attention over multiple areas of work and call it multitasking but when preparing for time off it is important to keep an inventory of all tasks and how they stack up in priority. If a decision needs to be made before you are away from the office that should be handled first.

However, sometimes certain decisions require further investigation which requires time. That is another way how prioritizing your work can be helpful as it helps you anticipate these scenarios. And in some situations you may even require the help of your team while you are away. Letting them know how important a particular task, work, or decision is before being away prepares your team for success.

Trust your team and delegate work

If the saying is true that great leaders raise others up then it is in times like these that we prove it right. When a leader takes time off is when we recognize how much of an impact he or she has had on their team and their ability and confidence to get work done.

Remember that your credibility as a leader is based not just on how much your team trusts you but also on how much you trust your team. And there is no better reflection of trust than when we delegate work; when we give room and space for others to make decisions with confidence knowing there is alignment and support.

Outline and communicate your support matrix

Once you have identified your priorities and delegated work, the final step is to simply communicate the support system put in place while you are away. This is my most practical habit before I take time off and it has served me well for most of my career. It doesn’t require much and an email will do. On the day before I sign out for time off I email my own leaders a list of the priority tasks with enough context on what is happening while also providing the name of the person responsible for supporting that work through while I am away.

This email is really like establishing a “who’s on first” matrix that provides your stakeholders a sense of confidence. This is different from an “out-of-office message” as that won’t include as many details but you can use that function to direct people to who you’ve delegated the work to.

What kinds of actions do you take when preparing for time off. Share in the comments below.

The 3 benefits of time off

I am publishing this post after almost a month of time off. Not continuously of course but with enough off and on, and off again time to make me describe this as one of the best summers ever. My family would agree as we got to travel to my home country of Portugal and then to Florida for some time to really unplug. And even though we expect Summer breaks to happen we somehow still have a hard time taking the time off. That is common when we become passionate about our work.

As a leader I understand the need to be present and support your team. To make sure they have what they need; to provide direction and clear the path for work to be done on time. Sure, a good leader knows how to delegate and trusts their team but this is less about needing to be involved and more about the desire to be one in the “trenches” helping when needed. Great leaders do that. But great leaders also know when they need a break; when they recognize they can be more effective if they step aside. This post is about the 3 benefits we can all enjoy when taking some time off. It ultimately helps us, our families, and our co-workers.

Hit the reset button and replenish yourself

The first benefit can be seen as selfish but similar to an airplane flight where we are to place the oxygen mask on ourselves before aiding others this is really about positioning us to be better when the time comes to help others. That is because you can’t help anyone if you can’t help yourself. Hitting the reset button doesn’t mean you forget everything you’ve done up until now but it means you assess your wins and losses and you… sit on it. You do nothing but take the time to breathe. Instead of taking action you take… no action. You go for a walk on the beach, enjoy a sunset and catch up on your sleep. I did all of it while away and it was great. You reset the personal habits that make you physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.

That is what I did in Portugal! With every opportunity I would go to the cafe and enjoy one of those amazing pastries I grew up eating. The ability to walk old streets and new streets without a sense of time healed me from a constant state of busy. That is when I finally rested.

Make new memories with family and friends

In addition to focusing on yourself taking time off allows you to spend time with the ones you care about the most. Whether that is family and friends, or both, spending time with those who have been by your side through the ups and downs can be re-energizing. Being away from work helped me see, acknowledge, and fully appreciate the people most close to me.

While in Portugal and Florida I would wake up earlier than most in my family and after enjoying some time for myself I would greet everyone with a smile and breakfast (or an invitation for more pastries). We built new memories with both sides of the family by filling our time with walks by the beach, boat trips, or moped rides. Those memories will hold for a lifetime and they are only made possible because I took the time off.

Review your purpose and adjust for your goals

One of the big reasons I love Summer time, besides the weather and the multiple trips to the beach, is the opportunity to reassess my personal and professional goals in the context of a full year. It is a perfect time as it allows for a midpoint review for the first 6 months and adjust if needed for the second 6 months. For over a decade I have done this exercise and it always provides a sense of peace when moving into the future with confidence.

During my time in Portugal and Florida many of my morning walks allowed me the time to see my purpose beyond the professional goals and assess my personal objectives as well. I used many of those moments to pray and check on my motives and what is really important to me and my family. Those moments have allowed me to have a clear sense of direction for the remainder of the year and beyond.

So what do you enjoy the most about taking time off? In what ways do you see time off benefiting you and your family? Be sure to share below.

Let me tell you why

In the busyness of life there is always one question that catches my attention and centers me back. It’s a simple question I learned to recognize meaning years ago and it has shaped much of my life. Now, more than ever, I feel like I need to come back to it.

Why am I doing all of this?

Much of the meaning in this question has found a root in my faith. But that internal motive quickly found its meaning with my work. I was first introduced to this question as I read Simon Sinek’s wonderful book “Start with Why”, which focuses on the force of significance behind some of the most successful endeavours in human history. This book and this question were a big catalyst in my corporate work and shaped my leadership as it helped me connect organizations with results. But life is much more than just work and so this question infiltrated my heart and challenged me to think through the meaning of my actions as a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and even as a friend.

I’ve always welcomed challenging questions as a way to engage with others and grow, but this one really changed me. I think we often live our lives with points of interest that, while different, flow in the same direction. But when we question the why we question the source of that thought and the direction it may lead us to. That is when real change happens. My why has given me freedom and direction to make some difficult decisions. These might seem trivial but they have changed the course of my life. Decisions such as saying no to job offers, or yes to relocating with work; no to certain foods, or yes to early morning workouts; no to certain purchases, or yes to a trip across the ocean.

I can honestly say this question has brought greater focus into my life. And I am recognizing I need that focus to be clear again. I need to answer that same question again in the context of new corporate roles, older kids, and more years of marriage.

Why do I blog?

I blog because it gives me pleasure to use my gift of writing with the hope to encourage others. Truly, this is why I write! I’m not an expert in the topics of home and work because I never make mistakes, I’m an expert because I fall down, learn from it, and hopefully get back up stronger than before.

I post messages online because I hope to reach even if one person and make them realize that life can be fun when we are vulnerable enough to be true to ourselves and the people around us. That is why I share about my lessons at work. This is why I tell my kids about how big my shortcomings are. This is why I humbly share the ways I am growing as a human being and Christ-follower.

My hope is that one day these writings will serve as an artifact for my family and friends to know that I cared enough about them that I would share openly about my life, my leadership, and my faith.

This is why I blog. Why do you do what you do? I would love to hear from you.

Peace in relationships – my 3 personal lessons

I spent the last month digging deeper into the meaning of peace and how it can impact my life. I don’t want my word of the year to be a cliche or part of a social media trend. I want it to mean something; to transform me daily. It is evident with everything going on in the world that peace is needed all around us. During a time of war and increasing discourse peace is the key to unlocking us out from a destructive cycle. And nowhere is it more evident than in our personal relationships. This is true for the relationships we hold with family, at work, or where we live.

I’ve heard it said that while we all have immeasurable value the quality of our lives is directly correlated by our relationships. If we consider this truth in light of our desire for community we must recognize the need for peace just as we recognize the reality of conflict. Relationships are messy and the way we handle them can either make us or break us. I recently mended a personal relationship that created pain for multiple years. These are my 3 personal lessons when seeking peace.

Peace acknowledges pain

It’s easy to correlate pain with conflict, but more than anything we need to acknowledge it. In my recent experience I could not remember what I did wrong but I knew exactly what it had been done to me. Acknowledging pain for both sides was a key to peace.

I’ve learned that it is possible for pain to originate from unintentional acts or claims. Still, accepting the existence of pain shows empathy and gives peace a chance.

Peace always empathizes

It would be easy for me to claim my hurt feelings and scarred memories as more important, but for peace to flourish it needs to recognize pain on both sides. I saw this in my own experience as instead of choosing to be right in my argument I choose to understand.

Seeking understanding doesn’t take away the pain but it opens the door for empathy to be reflected on the other person. That is when healing begins.

Peace allows for redeeming

Relationships can be messy and one important aspect I’ve learned from conflict management is that healing doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation. This is especially true with toxic relationships. What we should be looking for is redemption.

In my recent experience redemption has been rich in opportunities to reconnect and further understand the other side. Whether that leads to a stronger connection or not that is okay as ultimately kindness allows peace to be sustainable moving forward.

I share these lessons not because I have it all figured out. I share it because they have truly made me a better man and I’m still learning and growing. Since conflict can happen all around us in what ways do you seek peace? I would love to hear about it.

Peace in the workplace – 5 ways it can help you in 2022

My word of the year for 2022 is peace. I selected this word based on my recent journey to understand the motives behind my thoughts and actions. You can read more about it here. I don’t know if this is true for you but my overall reaction to peace has always been detached from some serious application from every day life, and definitely not a work related quality. But somehow that has changed as I’ve sought an active meaning of the word in my life. As someone passionate about work, I want peace to reveal itself in my leadership.

As a definition peace is a state of calm joined by a lack of disturbance. But that is just an explanation. What does it mean to be an active participant in peace? Thinking through the application of peace in the workplace I’ve uncovered 5 ways it can help me and you this year.

Peace builds confidence

Confidence is all about mental strength, so this one hits home for me. Being confident in your work and your capabilities frees you from overthinking things. Still, being confident can often times be misunderstood by a lack of humility. In these cases peace builds confidence beyond what others might think of you. That consistency of thought turns confident leadership into action.

Peace fuels trust

I’ve heard it said that trust is a human currency. An exchange between people. But what happens when you don’t trust yourself, your own thought process or capabilities? That is where confidence built by peace can be powerful beyond it’s leader and spread to a team. A true leader who is comfortable in his/her strengths and weaknesses doesn’t feel threatened by the team but trusts in each member to the point of empowerment.

Peace makes you bold

Fear in the workplace is often associated with failure. We deny these emotions because we very seldom read about great leaders being this vulnerable. When you experience peace you end up seeing failure not as a fear but as a result of inaction. Great leaders who experience peace take more risks because they believe in their abilities and trust their teams efforts to be bold enough to lead without the fear of failure.

Peace generates positivity

Like a domino effect, a leader who is confident and builds a trusting environment sees the work of the team through positive lenses. Peace helps generate an atmosphere of positivity that is genuine and real. Leaders who experience peace are positive in the way they speak about the challenges at hand and in the sensitive interactions we all have with difficult people. They even remain positive when things don’t go according to plan.

Peace fuels persistence

A true sense of peace transforms a leader to go after his/her team’s goals with a real belief that they can be achieved. While good planning and clean execution are hallmarks of great leadership, being persistent in the continued pursuit of an objective is just as important. Peace allows leaders to set aside any selfish motives and helps them realize what is truly important to push through. Persistence is an energy that when fueled by positive motives rooted in peace it can be unstoppable.

In what other ways do you see peace being important to you? How can it influence your leadership? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

The 3 reasons for having a word of the year

Like most people I see the new year as an opportunity to recharge and set new goals and milestones. But sometimes the pressure to achieve something new can be overwhelming. This is why I try to focus on a word of the year. Just one word but with a much broader meaning. It can be a simple thought, feeling, skill, or trait. One word that will help me grow personally, professionally, and spirituality. These are the three most important aspects of having a word of the year.

Personal growth – not a new year’s resolution

Let me be objective: choosing a word of the year is not about setting a new year’s resolution. It’s so much more than that. Take losing weight as an example. As I look at the world of social media the month of January is primetime for meme creators. We’ve all seen the pictures of crowded gyms on January 1st, poking fun at people who want to make a change. A word of the year would allow you to take a holistic approach that goes beyond your physical appearance.

I’ve done this exercise for many years now and the way your word changes year after year reveals much about who you are and who you are becoming. Last year my word was trust and it carried me to a place where I discovered how I can be a better husband, father, son, brother, and leader when I trust the people closest to me. My recent blog posts reflect that. This year my word of the year is peace. And in the example of potentially wanting to lose weight, the word peace gives me the ability to pursue that goal with the freedom to make decisions that go beyond my physical health.

Professional growth – not focused on money and promotions

If you know me you know I like work. I think this desire to work and be successful grew on me from an early age and for various reasons. I recall my parents modest lifestyle that allowed us to live comfortably but with some reservations, and early on that reality planted a desire for me to make more money for my family. Or when I graduated from college with top grades and landed a job ahead of many of my peers. This made me want recognition by moving up the corporate ladder quickly. Choosing a word of the year doesn’t mean I disregard these desires or declare defeat to these goals if I don’t achieve them, instead it allows me to see growth even if that is not the end result.

If I can be honest, seeing growth beyond the promotion and financial raise was difficult for me. Much of my career journey has been made of ups and downs. And in light of this reality the word peace provides me the comfort to navigate these experiences with controlled emotions, without loosing sense of the learning opportunities that are present in the here and now. This approach has actually allowed me to grow from each position I’ve held with the different teams I’ve worked with. Even when the promotions didn’t happen when I wanted them to happen, overall I am a better professional because of all these experiences.

Spiritual growth – not a set of rules

Every time I write or speak of spiritual growth I know I am getting into personal space. But I don’t want to shy away from it either (there is peace in this too). Whether you believe in a deity or not the truth is that wholesome living and real growth happens when you see mind, body, and spirit as one. The way I think and the way I act are connected through my soul. I believe this is why Jesus wanted a relationship with us. It has nothing to do with my appearance or my level of knowledge. It’s all about a relationship.

Wherever you are in your relationship with God my hope is that you seek a word that allows you to find your purpose beyond the things of this world. I believe this is the part of your life that unlocks the most growth in the personal and the professional. The spiritual side of your word helps you answer the question why. Why do I want to lose weight? Why do I want to be promoted at work? The way you think and act come from your beliefs which are shaped by this relationship. Your word can help you in this conversation. There is no set rules as to how you do this. That is the beautiful part of it. For me it is starting every day reading scripture and writing my thoughts and prayers in a journal. For you it may be different.

Have you chosen a word of the year before? How has that word shaped your life? Comment and share below.

The gift of peace

In my current journey to understand intentionality one thing has become clear: things are not always as they seem. Maybe that sounds cliche but I have become much more aware of this reality as my recent counseling sessions dig deep into my motives. Finding meaning in past experiences has helped me recognize this throughline that runs in me. If intentionality was attached to a need for control, the fear of losing control is rooted in my corrupt sense of value for myself. The way to overcome this is peace.

Recognizing fear

It’s hard to talk about fear. The feeling of ‘fear’ is a symptom deep in someone’s gut. It paralyzes us. It makes us doubt ourselves. It keeps us from being who we truly are and who we were meant to be. In many ways fear has the power to stop you in your tracks without ever doing anything. It just makes you think of all that could go wrong.

Fear revealed itself to me in my early years. Whether it was the bully who gained control of my actions in middle school or the lack of support from bosses who lead through intimidation, fear took root in much of my life; making me not even notice it. And almost like a chess game, that fear made me calculate my every move in the hopes of avoiding disappointment and pain.

Finding peace

If fear makes you unsure of yourself, peace makes you comfortable with the outcome. While it’s popular to think that courage is the opposite of fear, I believe it’s peace that truly negates it. Courage then becomes a reflection of that peace which gives you freedom to take action.

Peace became real to me during my teenage years as I entered high school. It was peace that helped me overcome the bullies and see beyond the shortcomings of bad bosses. It was peace that made me understand the richness in each experience. Not that I wanted to experience hurt or frustration, but peace helped me see these occurrences not as defining moments but as learning opportunities. And in that sense, peace brings a freedom that is hard to describe.

Describing peace through Jesus

Peace become real to me when I was introduced to Jesus. Yes, that same Jesus who Christmas is all about. The people of his time also battled fear and their courage to speak truth and live in truth was only unlocked because they saw peace. Living and breathing peace. Jesus’ promise of a full life didn’t mean a life with no problems; it meant a life where we grow in those problems; a life that we appreciate because regardless of what happens we are safe in Him. I am rediscovering this truth and there is no better season to do it then Christmas. I hope you enjoy the gift of peace He brings to you and me.

Rediscovering my value

Living with intentionality can be powerful. But sometimes that power can break your spirit as you lose track of why you gained so much focus in the first place. My recent journey in understanding the impacts of a life lived with intentionality led me to an uncomfortable place. A place where I didn’t have all the answers and where I was not fully in control. But sometimes it’s okay to sit in the uncomfortable; to lack the words that express fully how one feels. It’s in those moments that we identify what is truly valuable.

As I look back on my life I’ve always made an effort to see value in others; an appreciation that makes me give the best version of myself. In many ways that is how intentionality has become such a central point in my life. But somewhere in this process I forgot the value that I carried for myself. The recognition that I was worth it. Thankfully my wife noticed this acknowledgment that was lacking in me and she gifted me with a trip back home. A trip 14 years in the making. A trip that set me on a path to rediscover my own value.

Value in word

My trip to Portugal became real when I realized that the excitement in my heart was echoing in my brothers heart as well. To experience the sights and sounds that I grew up with was exhilarating; to do it with him was emotional. I didn’t know what to expect. Over the years we’ve had our disagreements. Our misunderstandings. Even our extended period of time when silence was the only sound between us. This unknown was a question on my value as a brother; as an uncle; even as a friend.

I stood in our parents living room when the door bell rang. He ran to me when we locked eyes and in that same place that saw us grow old we hugged for the first time in a decade. I will never forget that hug. Nor the kisses on my cheek. Nor the words that he spoke. “I missed you my little brother. I’ve missed you so much. And I am so thankful you are here.

My brother and I

Value in touch

This trip to Portugal also allowed me to lock eyes with other members of my family. There are many who have played an important part in my life but none made me feel as nostalgic as my cousin Fatinha. I didn’t know it until we were reunited but she was the one who made kindness a real truth in my life. You see Fatinha can’t talk. Injured with cerebral palsy due to a complicated birth she would be permanently constrained to communicate with gestures and unique sounds that would provide her meaning.

I got a chance to visit her at the facility she lives in and to see her smile of pure joy was so worth it. I remember the summers we would spend at the pool. I remember the times I would pull her on her tube across the water as she just relaxed. I remember her smile as we would lay on our beach towels and I would talk to her about my day. She didn’t say anything and she didn’t need to. Her presence was enough to remind me of her value in my life and my value in hers.

Fatinha and I

Value in time

On my last day before returning to the States my Mom reminded me of someone she had recently seen and who had asked for me: my elementary school teacher. The last time I saw her I was heading to college and it was over 20 years ago. But still, she remembered me. And I remembered her.

On our way to a restaurant we decided to stop by and say hi. She still lived in the same house and as I rang the doorbell she recognized me and immediately told me how much taller I was. She welcomed me in her home and we spent a good time talking about our lives. What stood out was her interest in hearing about my life and the decisions I made after graduating high school. I will remember her smile and affirmation that “you’ve turned out to be a fine young man with a beautiful family.” To hear that from my first teacher was so powerful. Almost as if I was still that young boy standing in her classroom all those years ago.

My elementary school teacher

Unconditional value

While this journey of rediscovering my value has not been easy it has been extremely enriching. And I know that my story isn’t necessarily the same for others who have questioned their self worth. But this is where faith bridges any doubt. When we seek truth about ourselves God meets us with a level of grace that only He can. This trip to Portugal was life giving, and that was because God met me there. In the laughter of my family, the smiles of strangers, or just the moments in silence as I marvelled at the blessings in my life.

The last few months

Maybe you are like me. Sensitive to hard truths that hit you like a gut punch. I want to be strong but my desire to learn and grow has wired me to seek feedback in all circumstances. And while feedback on who I am tends to be mostly positive, one slight reminder of something I thought I was over and the truth hits hard. When that happens I go through an intense review of my actions and up the intentionality meter to be more aware and more focused. In the process I shrug off the feelings that make me uncomfortable. Those are the feelings that have boiled over the last few months.

Quarantine feelings

Over a year ago I left my office unaware that I would be working from home indefinitely. At the time it seemed surreal. Almost like a scene from a movie that unfolded with a dark uncertainty that kept everyone unsure of what would happen next. Once sickness and death took over it was hard to see the future through clear lenses. How would we react to all that was happening? How could we live freely when asked to be in complete isolation? What psychological impacts would this reality have on children and their families? The ability to answer these questions got even harder when the topic of public health became a political argument, as if public health should be a partisan debate. This was our reality too; with friends and family.

These challenging times became real when the irony of a positive test meant bad news. This test reminded that not everything that is meant for good is indeed… good. As I dig deeper into my personality traits I have recognized that maybe my intentionality has grown from two types of roots.

The positive root

How could I be the best husband, father, son, brother, friend, co-worker, neighbor, leader, and (insert role here) if not by intentionally looking at the ways I act and react, think and process, discern and decide? I am not perfect – none of us are – but the opportunity to improve and be everything I was meant to be; the best version of myself is worth the effort. If anything, my family deserves it. My work benefits from it. It is all well intended and I’ve grown as a man thanks to this “always on” approach. But inside… it still hurts when the opportunity to grow is so obvious. Mainly because it is in these moments that I recognize I have very little control over the current reality and the future.

The negative root

What’s not to like about improving oneself? In many ways when I explain my intentional approach to life it is received with honorable mentions and recognized by the people around me. But this is what I learned from this pandemic, for as much as I tried to control the outcome I still ended up needing to quarantine. Could this focus on intentionality actually be a camouflage for my need to control the outcome? If so what was I controlling the outcome from? This recent revelation led me to seek help.

The value of mental health

The thoughts that eco through our minds reverberate through one’s soul and sink deep into the heart. My inability to recognize the fears that have haunted me have led me to a place of deep sorrow. A place where thankfully God has met me daily, and with mercy and grace. I am blessed to have a wife and family that have been supportive through this journey. And while it is hard to be in this place, I know I will be better for it. A type of intentionality that is worth pursuing.