The power of vulnerability and how I am finding my voice

I believe in the power of vulnerability. This is probably one of the reasons why I blog. It is not about how smart or wise I am as much as it is about admitting my mistakes and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Still, there are some things we keep to ourselves. And if anything, the hard parts of life that we’re willing to let out we only admit and share with the people closest to us. Our so called “circle of trust.” We do this to avoid judgement. And so we hide in a shell with fear of what others might think. Yes, vulnerability can be used against us but it should not be concealed by fear or limited by an audience. The true power of vulnerability is on full display when we accept our situation, our experience, and share freely.

I wasn’t introduced to this concept until later in life and so for many of you cringing at this idea I simply ask that you continue to read. Believe me when I say this is not easy. As I type these words there is a part of me that is uncomfortable. Seriously. But I still believe I should share.

Why should we be vulnerable?

If we are truly honest with ourselves we can all recognize that we are messed up and less than perfect. We’ve all been hurt by something or someone. For some of us even our circumstances and environment have damaged our sense of perspective. Broken. That is how I would define it.

Our instincts are to fight the pain and adjust. Adapt. Sometimes we do this by avoiding the things, people or places that remind us of our brokenness. Most times we put on the fake-it-until-you-make-it mode that has been subtly engrained in us. You know what I’m talking about. We were enrolled into this mindset at an early age and now we’re instructors of the fallacy. “Get over it” or “You shouldn’t feel this way” are all well intended but don’t address the issue. That is why vulnerability is so liberating.

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Indeed, if life and pain go hand-in-hand then vulnerability provides the calibration needed to measure both. To acknowledge a struggle or a painful memory to the point of sharing is to choose freedom. By doing this we can approach the future with hope. And when we do this we recognize that the freedom we experience is available to others . It is also the recognition that our story has power to impact the lives of people around us.

I often find myself looking at Jesus and the Bible as a compass for my own journey. In the case of vulnerability I see it best displayed when his followers accepted their shortcomings and simply acknowledged their place in God’s story. Paul was a great example of vulnerability. Yes, Jesus accepted him and provided him a purpose that ultimately changed his life. But not everyone was as welcoming. I just don’t think God’s story would be as beautiful without Paul’s past – the one who persecuted and killed Christians. It creates authenticity and it is the same with our story.

True vulnerability weights in the balance of opportunity. To have an impact we must recognize when to share our story, knowing that is is just a piece of something much larger. But instead of moved by fear we must share with courage knowing that our message can bring freedom to us and hope to others.

Finding my voice by being vulnerable

Growing up my dream was to tell stories that would inspire others. Look deep into the character of a human being and reveal the secrets behind his or her achievements. I first started looking at the historical figures of my own country – The Conquistadores. It later morphed into a passion for sports. The images I wrote in my mind came to life as I hoped for them to be my story. But it never happened. Yes, I experienced moments that still play like a Forrest Gump movie: in the midst of historical events I was somewhere in the story, just not center-stage. But then again, that was okay. The problem is that is distorted my voice.

Through the years I was told to conform and so did my narrative. It is no wonder I ended up looking at the corporate world as my new platform and public relations as the skill to master. The spin doctor in me recognized the way a message needed to be shaped, only to feel the brokenness harder to hide. It wasn’t until a youth group welcomed me in to their midst that I could feel comfortable in myself; my own skin. I was finally able to tell my real story.

Through the years I’ve never felt perfect or as the main cast member but I have felt whole. I might not have the craziest of stories but my life still includes frustrations, regrets and pain. No, it is not all loom and gloom but I am now just as comfortable with the dark side as I am with bright side of my story. There is no need to spin that.

In my life…

I experienced great loving parents as well as parents that didn’t accept my bride as the love of my life.

I created great friendships but was hurt by deceiving company.

I spoke with authority for others but shrieked when bullied.

I have lead with confidence but experienced the pain of demotion.

I loved well in public but failed in private.

In recognizing my shortcomings I have been able to be truer to myself and become a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better son, a better brother, a better worker, a better leader and a better friend.

And besides findings my place in the story, I have found my voice.

The Sabbath

Sunday was a good day. It might have seemed like any other Sunday but it wasn’t. It was special because for the first time in a long time my family and I relaxed. We relaxed because we truly took the Sabbath for what it means: a time to rest and a time to connect; with God and with each other. We fulfilled God’s command (Exodus 16:23)

This is what the Lord has commanded: Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord

and experienced His rest (Hebrews 4:9-10)

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

When I first heard about it

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about how him and his family would take Sunday as a day of rest. While it seemed good at first my mind immediately took me back to all the tasks I would need to fulfill and how “wasting” 24 hours was unacceptable. I mean, how could I do all that I wanted to do with one less day of the week?

When my body reminded me of it

It became less of a theory and more of a must when after weeks of long hours in the office my body broke down. I was tired and literally aching; mentally and physically. I wanted to wake up early and stay up late; I had things to do but I couldn’t muster the energy to do it all. My body was telling me to slow down.

When it all made sense

It’s been 3 years since I had that experience and I remember how Courtney and I decided to stop scheduling activities on Sundays. Since then we’ve created great memories with long walks, backyard games and some heartfelt conversations. I  can look back and see how much I needed to have taken each weekend as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy what was most important to me.

Spending time with God solidified it all

But if I was to point to the one thing that made Sunday worthwhile it was my renewed time with God. In fact that is the whole purpose of the Sabbath: to spend time with the creator and provider of all that I’m surrounded with. I’m not talking about just attending church; we’ve always done that. I’m talking about waking up with a desire to spend time with God. To learn about His love for us; His plan and purpose for our lives. To have the whole family join in as we read scripture and listen to God’s story.

It also provides a better perspective on the week ahead

Ultimately, spending time with God and my family while experiencing true rest provides me a better outlook for the week ahead. My work emphasis is less on the challenges and more on what I get to do. It becomes easier to see work for what it truly is: worship. Not a consuming list of tasks but joyful activities that praise my God and support my family. I’m able to look at my time with others as an opportunity to be light and bring value to any interaction. Ultimately, the Sabbath provides rest and replenishment.

Have you ever observed a Sabbath? Maybe you work on Sunday and you need to do it during another day of the week. My encouragement to you is that you take the time to immerse yourself in God’s word with a day free of appointments or to-do’s.

The case for leadership

The following blog post was based on an initial article I wrote for Marketplace Matters. I’m honored to serve along side other Christ-followers who find purpose in their work and recognize the true meaning of leadership.

It is fair to say that we will all read a book or an article, at least once in our lifetime, on the topic of leadership. In fact, bookstores and libraries are packed with them. Leadership is a timeless theme that grabs the heart and soul of every man, woman or child. We’ve all heard the stories of leaders who took initiative to achieve greatness. Deep inside, our inspiration is fueled by a desire to do something bigger than ourselves. I believe that desire was placed inside each one of us by our Creator. God has called us to lead.

My experience shows me that leadership is multifaceted. It comes in different shapes and sizes. That is the blessing. Whether in business, ministry, at school or in the home, we’ve all been given a platform from which to lead. Leadership is more than just a position or a role; it goes beyond influence. Leadership is the ability to achieve objectives in a process that generates development in yourself and the people around you. Which is why we read books, attend conferences and meet with mentors. We want to lead but we too know that we need other leaders in our lives. Ultimately, leaders are followers too. We look for people wise, more knowledgable and experienced than us to show us what the path of life looks like up ahead. I think that is why God placed Proverbs 27:17 in the heart of Solomon. The wisest man of that time knew the benefits of others in our lives.

As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens  another.

The call in all of us

Through all the realities that I’ve been exposed I’ve learned my biggest contribution will always be in preparing the leaders of the future. I can do that at work or at home. My most precious opportunity is with my three children. They are all different; unique. Each one with specific traits that make their personalities shine in different situations. And I encourage each of them to be a leader in their own way. Yes, I teach them lessons that will help them be effective and understand the environment around them, but I allow them to be themselves. My oldest, Caden, is creative and I can see him be flexible and open to the perspective of others. Blake, my middle child, is strong willed and I can seem him encourage and motivate a group to achieve a goal. My little girl, Ava, is sweet and I can see her balance high expectations with compassion.

We all have been called to be leaders and we will all leave a legacy. What kind of legacy will your leadership leave?

 

An honest post on a busy life

I often describe life in one word: busy. For some reason it has become an expected state of affairs for the home and the office. Do you ever feel this way? I know I do and when I ask others I simply hear: “That is the way life is.” But could there be a better way? I’m not going to try to fake that I have this all under control. I DON’T. I mess up in this area often and it reminds me that there is this false sense of security in being busy. Especially when there is no clear direction. In fact I think Busy is the hamster in all of us.

 

Meet Busy the hamster

If life is a spinning wheel then we are the hamster. Our first steps are slow but we quickly pick up the pace to a speed we cannot control. We can’t stop and we won’t stop because the wheel depends on us. We become hypnotized by it. Almost as if the current motion is what keeps it all together. So we continue until we fall flat. We’ve forgotten that we control the speed. We’ve forgotten that unless we are moving somewhere then we are just hamsters on a gerbil wheel.

 

The impact of this reality

When we run through life aimlessly we miss the beauty of moments as simple as the smile of a friend of the closing of a child’s eyes as they drift off to sleep. I’ve missed moments like this because of a task that could have waited. This message is not a discouragement to working hard or having fun. No, this message is about focusing on priorities. On what truly matters. The reality is that I can’t even remember what tasks I needed to complete but I know exactly the memories I missed.

 

Hope for the weary

I believe this was one of the reasons why Jesus was so contagious during his time on earth. He always found the time to do what was most important; whether it was to heal the sick or play with children. And just like he challenged the status quo of society then, he would certainly challenged today’s as well. Yes, we all go through seasons where life is busy. But Jesus’ words of hope in Mathew 11:28 break the chains that strap us to a false reality that busy is better.

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

 

The hamster in me

Over a month ago I started a blog series on my vocational journey, highlighting my work experience and the lessons I learned along the way. I have truly enjoyed it but in the last few weeks a new project at work and my kids swim season got the most of my attention. In the midst of it all it has been hard to not feel guilty for taking a pause on my blog. I think that is part of the curse… we are made to believe that unless you are always on, your message loses meaning; that your audience might shift their attention. This is true, especially for a blog. But the real experience comes when we realize that a pause button is just as important as play. This is true with my blog and with life.

This example reflects the hamster in me. I grew tired and instead of enjoying the beautiful moments I was granted to connect with other employees and my family. As I’m reminded again of my true priorities, for now, my blog posts will remain in a draft stage for a little longer.

 

Lessons from my second job

My vocational journey took me all the way from Lisbon to Crystal River, Florida. From a European city with a sense of glamour and history to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Let’s just say that I definitely experienced culture shock. Some moments were difficult but I will never forget the months I spent in the sunshine state working at a nuclear facility. My experiences provided me with life lessons that go beyond the workplace.

You have to crawl before you walk

I knew being a forklift driver at a nuclear facility was far from the marketing and public relations work I envisioned for myself. But I had to start somewhere. They say innocence is bliss; I was actually naive enough to believe that this could be a great starting place for me. Those long days were hard but I took every opportunity to learn as much as I could. I became a student of the nuclear energy, the utility industry and my role. Yes, the role of a materials specialist who issued the right pieces for the work being done inside the plant. I would ask questions and tried to connect with other employees. While my desire was to eventually move into a communications position, I recognized early on that I needed to experience this reality if I was to ever tell a compelling story to employees. This experience would make me better in the future. I needed to crawl before I could walk. That attitude was key as I reflect back on the other employees’ willingness to answer my questions. They saw my inquiries as a real interest and that lead to my second lesson at the nuclear plant.

Be intentional with every interaction

This lesson might sound a little forced, almost self-serving, but the truth is that intentionality creates real relationships. I experienced it for the first time at this nuclear site. Yes, being intentional means that I was aware of how to connect and who to connect with. I knew the plant manager and the communications team onsite. But I also knew the janitor and the cafeteria manager. My interactions with the people in power were just as important as my interactions with my peers. Ultimately, every connection you make can be an advocate for your cause. You just need to give as much as you get in return. Real relationships are mutually beneficial. That is what happened when I met the folks who would introduce me to my future manager. I recall asking questions which led to me providing ideas for communications strategies at the plant. That led to them building the bridge that made it easier for me to connect with a leader that would later hire me.

Looking back all these applications sound simple and easy, but it took reflecting and writing them down to truly recognize them. Do you have similar stories? Have you reflected and grown in appreciation for those early days in your career? Who did you connect with on along the way? Join in on the conversation and share in the comments section below.

The restart of my vocational story

My vocational story started in Portugal but hit a restart button with a huge change for me and my family. After one year working at Hill & Knowlton, I decided to resign and move to something bigger. And for me something bigger meant a bigger market; a new country. While a transfer to one of their other offices was unavailable, this change meant I would start all over.

I recall Courtney and I reading Henry Blackaby’s classic, Created to be God’s Friend, during a period of time when our future was uncertain. The book looks into the relationship between God and Abraham, and how this patriarch would move his family to a new  land with faith in a holy promise; a promise for a better life. I remember quite vividly when we felt the calling to move to the United States. This move would provide the right professional challenge for me, while also creating a better foundation to start a family.

The belief

Growing up I remember being infused with an environment that provided perspective. While there were limitations to access new technology my parents provided me a historical window to human achievements. To be honest, in many cases it felt like I was being raised in a whole different decade. While my peers were enjoying CDs, I was still using good old vinyl records (cool now but not so cool then). And while others had a computer to play, I was being tossed books to read. My parents always pushed me to learn more and I grew with a belief that I could create an even better future for myself and my family. It wasn’t until I got into college that I truly understood this power from within. Ironically it came in the form of a book: the bible. Reading truth not only encouraged me to continue, it now provided meaning to my goals and the desires that had fueled me from a young age.

The second job

We moved to Florida in the summer of 2005 with big dreams. I believe I could quickly land a job with a PR or Ad agency but that didn’t happen as fast as I wanted. Within a month I found myself looking for something different. I quickly realized that my journey in the US would not be easy and there would be some ups and downs. This would be a defining moment as I accepted the challenge and took on a labor role at a nuclear facility in Crystal River, FL.

I remember meeting the Nuclear Material and Warehouse Manager at church and asking him if he needed some marketing specialist in his organization to which he said, “No, but I do need some forklift drivers.” In that moment I did something that I had become accustomed to doing: I said “I could learn it.” A few weeks later I took a test and started my second “real” job. In hindsight, I was pretty naive to think I could be a marketing specialist in a warehouse but this move was good for me. I had moved from a suit and tie environment to working 12-hour night shifts. I wasn’t easy but I believe I could learn from this situation and move up.

In the next post I will share details on the following lessons:

  • You have to crawl before you walk
  • Be intentional with every interaction

Have you ever gone through a transitional moment in your career? What did it look like? Join the conversation and share your vocational story.

 

Lessons from my first job

In my previous post I shared about the beginning of my vocational journey. Working at Hill & Knowlton allowed me to use my passion for storytelling on a daily basis. It also provided me with two professional lessons that have been instrumental in my career. I will unpack each one of these lessons with the stories that shaped me.

Always be on time

Life in Portugal is different. As a southern european country we are more relaxed and tend to start the day later. It doesn’t mean we don’t give it our best; it just means that for many the workday starts mid-morning and ends after dusk. I remember my first official day I showed up at the office at 8:45 am. The official start time was 9:00 am but I wanted to arrive early enough as to not be late. The reality it that by 9:15 there was still no one present. I recall thinking that maybe this was a bogus job; maybe I had been tricked. I called my wife and remember asking her, “Isn’t this an international company with a real website?” She was just as surprised as I was and told me to wait. I’m glad I did. By 9:30 the first people showed up. They were surprised to see me there and I created a positive impression on the first day. But most important, I set a new standard. I could have just chosen to follow the example of others but instead I stuck to my on time commitment. This allowed me to rise above by getting a head start on the day while also building my own credibility. By the second week I was given my own main access key and a PIN to the alarm system.

Go the extra mile

This lesson sounds cliché, almost basic. But sometimes you have to go through a real life situation to truly get it. Going the extra mile made sense but it wasn’t until one of our clients lacked the media attention they needed that I started pro-actively looking at other angles. The story plays like a corporate fairytale: a commercial real estate business that operates shopping centers want to highlight their health and wellness culture. A child who needs a bone marrow transplant also needs people to register  as donors to possibly find a match. I remember reading this story in the back of a newspaper (a habit in public relations is to start the day by checking the news in the hopes of finding interesting segments that may affect a client of industry). The following weeks I did exactly what I had heard my mentor say: go beyond your call of duty. During that time I was supposed to simply focus on handling current events for our clients not create new ones. Instead I spent overtime creating a business case and pitched the idea to my directors. They loved it and allowed me to reach out to the shopping center and the health organization. Together we created a Bone Marrow Drive focused on this family. The day came and went. From a business perspective it was a success. The child did not find a match but from there we planted the seed for what would become the first ever Bone Marrow Day Drive in Portugal. Going the extra mile allowed me to see new opportunities with work.

Have you experienced similar lessons in your career? Join the conversation and share below.

 

 

 

The beginning of my vocational story

Work has long been a connecting point between me and others. I’ve enjoyed sharing experiences with professionals who are vulnerable about their wins and their losses. I recently blogged about my view of work and how we have transitioned from a vocational model to an occupational point of view. This recognition of a shifting reality has allowed me to better appreciate my journey while encouraging others along the way. That is why I’m starting a series on my vocational story and what I’ve learned from my experiences.

First, I’ll take you back to the beginning…

The gift

I grew up with a passion for storytelling and early on saw it as a clearly defined path for my professional future. In Portugal, students make tough decisions at a very young age. By the time you enter high school, you have already chosen a field of study which sets the course for a specific work area. For many this can be hard. It is supposed to build confidence and provide focus but it can also be challenging. I remember friends whose parents envisioned them in a specific, prominent role. Thankfully for me, my parents never pressured me to choose one direction over another. Looking back, that was a gift that I will forever be grateful for.

My first job

I followed my passion for communications through college and successfully landed a job with Hill & Knowlton, a leading PR firm with an office in Portugal. To get hired straight out of college in a shrinking economy was in itself an accomplishment. Being able to apply my passion and gifts early on was an incredible blessing. By the time I was 21 I was a communications consultant providing strategic guidance to leading international companies.

My first job was a dream job. I was doing what I loved the most. I gained experience in key areas such as media relations, vendor partnerships and event management. While I grew in my understanding of how to position clients as industry leaders, the most impactful lessons came in the most simple of moments. These memories have stuck with me and prepared me as a professional.

As part of this series I will also share details on lessons that I have carried with me. In my next post I will share details on the importance of:

  • always being on time
  • going the extra mile

Join the conversation and share about your vocational story. When did you find your passion? What was your first job?

 

Work that suits you

The last few months have been extremely busy. Work has taken much of my attention but I have enjoyed every moment of it. The majority of us spends over 60 hours a week at work. So, it’s only logical that we should immerse ourselves in activities that we love and enjoy. I blogged about it recently by recognizing work as a form of worship. Never has this been more true in my life than now. Even though my career path hasn’t always reflected a pursuit for the work I love, it remains clear that success follows passion and not the other way around.

I was reminded of this simple concept recently when rearranging some of my books and came across 48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller. A few years ago a friend encouraged me to find a new job that would better fit my gifts and skills. He presented me with this book after we shared some conversations regarding my passions and a desire for more fulfilling work. Ultimately, this book reminded me of some of my childhood dreams. I think that is what happens when we meditate on our calling – the purest of thoughts flow gently with no regard to the worries of this life. There are no impossibles, just opportunities ahead. I miss the simplicity of my childhood dreams.

Occupation versus Vocation

What if work was more than just what we have to do, and instead became what we get to do? What if our work didn’t feel like work at all? That is the difference between occupation and vocation. Instead of occupying our time with work that has little meaning, vocation allows us to create a legacy; to hear the voice that tells us who we are and the purpose for our life. Purposeful work is available to us if we just listen for the voice that echoes our passions and skills.

I think that is why Jon Acuff’s books Quitter and Start were so successful. Beyond his awesome writing abilities, he touched on a nerve that resonates with most people. In fact, a recent Gallup pool recognized that 70% of americans hate their jobs. As Acuff would say “That is why we eat at TGI Friday’s and not TGI Mondays.” This is true in other cultures too… even tough we don’t have TGI Friday’s restaurants in Portugal I do remember seeing people more excited at the end of the week instead of the beginning.

Think about it…

What are you passionate about?

What kind of work gets you excited?

What work-related dreams get you thinking?

I experienced this struggle 7 years ago when I knew I was meant for more than what I was doing. I wanted to bring to work every part of me that best glorified God’s gifts in my life. This view of vocation is reflected in 1 Peter 4:10:

Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.

For me it took volunteering with work related groups and with my church to continue to polish my skills while simultaneously finding fulfillment. I recall that time vividly as it provided the right level of peace even while I still wrestled with wanting more professionally. Recognizing your vocation removes the clutter and complexity of what work should be. For me the voice whispered a passion for communication and relationship building, which I’m now able to utilize every day.

What does work look like for you? Are you currently following your passion? Share in the comments below.

Loving your work

One of my favorite topics of conversation is work. I’ve heard it said that men, in particular, quickly gravitate towards talking about their job and role in the marketplace. I can attest to that as I often realize the first information I know about someone I just met is where they work and what they do in their job. Work is an integral part of who we are and reflects one of the first blessings given to mankind. Think of Adam and his first task on earth as shown in Genesis 1:15:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

We also know that one of the curses Adam received for disobeying God was to experience pain and tiredness from his work. This was reflected in God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3:17:

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.

I think both of these scriptures provide a beautiful image that explains our mixed experiences with work. When I think of a tired Adam that smiles at his accomplishments but aches with pain I think of me; I think of you and everyone who works. The reality is that while work is seen as a responsibility that brings a great sense of accomplishment, it can also be challenging. And I think the curse goes beyond a difficult task; it challenges our abilities but also our core beliefs and sense of direction.

So how do I get to a place where I love work?

The secret to loving your work is not in a task or a specific process. And it’s greater than a J-O-B. To love our work we need to find the meaning and purpose behind it. Instead of looking at work as either a dreadful activity or an opportunity to excel, we should see it for what it really is: Worship. You see, for Adam and for us all, to work is to praise the opportunities and the challenges given to us by our Heavenly Father.

This view of work may resonate more intimately with a Christ-follower but it’s available to everyone. If worshiping is an extreme form of love, then to love your work will take you to extremes. For some of us that might be scary – you might not like your employer, your boss or your co-workers; but it might also provide the perspective needed to be successful. If we see work as an opportunity to achieve a purpose greater than ourselves, then the legacy we establish needs to be greater than the factors associated with our work.

It isn’t always easy. My own career mirrors those ups and downs with moments of extreme success coupled with others of incredible disappointment. But that is okay. I look back and see that in every role, with every task, and in every team there was something I learned, and I experienced moments of great joy. In some cases I took extreme measures to understand organizations, leaders and co-workers. I’ve worked long hours and traveled to multiple locations; it is what we do. But the why is greater than the outcome.

Take this command for work as shown in Colossians 3:23:

 

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…

The best encouragement is in the truth of God’s word. Whatever you do, good work can be defined by your heart’s desire to praise God in the act of working.

Think about your current role. It is possible to love your work despite your circumstances. It starts with your view of work.