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.

 

Love is a Journey

I’ve had most of this latest post ready but have been waiting to publish it in the hopes that some additional words would fully express the true meaning of love in my life. The reality is that no eloquent text will give it justice… love is perfect but it doesn’t always look that way. The best definition is in scripture – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

The title of this post is simple. Love can take us far. And while the journey may have ups and downs, the experiences make us whole. I think that is God’s plan. Not to experience a perfect life but to experience His perfect love; with all the ups and downs. That is when patience comes in and kindness shows up. Just like the scripture states.

This has been true for me. When I look back at my life I can definitely see where love played a part in making moments count; in creating it memorable. While love isn’t always easy, I can look back and recall each season with a smile. So this post is more of a nostalgic walk on how love has shaped me.

As a child

I remember my parents telling me that they loved me more than I could ever imagine. That first memory in the hallway of our home is still stamped in my mind. My parent’s love for me was the first catalyst to make me believe in myself.

I also recall my parents fighting and telling me that they loved my brother and I more than each other. That coded statement confused me for most of my childhood. I thought their love was what I was supposed to aim for. Their love for each other was imperfect but it was okay. It was still beautiful. Ultimately, their imperfect relationship made me realize that my example for marriage would have to come from something higher than my parents.

As a teenager

I look back at my middle and high school years and recognize that most of my relationships were one way and heart breaking. The formative decade of the 90’s made me want something more. From hurtful friendships came a desire to experience sacrificial love.

My first experience of real love came through a soccer game that led to a weekly youth group. I remember true kindness showing up when we would ride an old van to pick up folks for small group, enjoy a meal together, sing hymns, read scripture and witness Jesus to each other. This was when I first experienced perfect love by imperfect people.

As an adult

As I got in to college my heart beat raced fast for a beautiful American girl. Her smile got my attention and her laughter made me happy. But it was her sacrificial commitment to others that made me fall in love with her. She moved to a new country, learned a new language and walked the roads less travelled to share the love of Jesus. True love becomes clear when you recognize the spring from where it flows.

That spring of love led me to a new family that welcomed me as their own. They heard my stories and recognized it as my journey. They have been there ever since. Always cncouraging. Always uplifting. When you follow love, love follows you back. 

And as I recognize this journey, I’m now able to show my children the road. They are part of the blessing of love. And while I will one day let go of their hand, I know God’s perfect love will lead them the right way.

What is your journey of love?

 

 

The best formula to build Commitment

As part of my new year’s theme I’ve decided to focus on one word: Commitment. I blogged about it on my first post of 2016. I recall this word coming to me during a time of prayer and meditation. Commitment is a word that is present in everyone. We all make decisions and commitment is the intrinsic muscle that allows us to keep the course. Commitment is non-negotiable. It doesn’t change based on the results of a decision. Commitment isn’t always easy but it is one of the greatest standards of leadership.

Over this last month I’ve learned much about the definition of commitment and believe there is a formula that can help anyone stay committed to their decisions, goals and dreams.

Discipline

Discipline can be synonymous with restraint and self-control. For many people it provides an image of suppression which can be both good and bad. I tend to focus on the positive and believe discipline along with motivation help us stay the course. In many ways it creates an environment of clear direction.

I’ve seen the fruits of discipline play out in my life when I was young and even now…

I see discipline in my life when I wake up every morning and read my bible to meditate on God’s truth. 

I see discipline in my life when I wake up extra early to go on a morning run three times a week.

I see discipline in my life when I take an hour of the day to read a book that will help me both in my personal and professional life.

Accountability 

When I think of accountability I think of responsibility. We answer by our own actions. I think most of us were first introduced to the notion of accountability in our youth with our parents. I can still remember them keeping me straight on what was expected of me. I do the same with my children. But accountability is not so much the reinforcement of rules as much as it is the empowerment of ones ability to keeping the course. To staying committed. To doing what we are supposed to do.

Even as an adult, and even as a leader, I still find value in accountability. Every week I have a set of friends who will check on me and confirm my direction with decisions I make. I do the same for them. They are not mentors but rather accountability partners that provide encouragement and support. To me, they reflect the beauty of Proverbs 27:17:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Discipline and Accountability will help you keep your Commitments. In reality they can help you establish your new year theme and achieve your goals.

How are you building discipline and who is keeping you accountable?

Choosing a theme for 2016

We are a few days into the new year and by now you might have already made some mistakes that jeopardize your new year’s resolution. That happens to most of us – making plans for a new year and falling short of them. At least that is what statistics tell us.

I was reminded this weekend that one of Jesus’ first commands to us, as shown in Matthew 6:25, was to not worry:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat of drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

While some of us dwell on what they wish they did more of last year, others quickly focus on the opportunity to redeem themselves. Setting new year’s resolutions can create stress and anxiety. So instead of creating a list of new things to accomplish, I’m choosing a theme in the new year. I’ve done this in the past and encourage others to do the same. Choosing a theme provides a broader perspective for the new year allowing you the freedom of flexibility to adjust your decisions and steps along the way.

This year I felt challenged by a friend to pray for a word that would describe my theme. Asking God for direction allows you to dig deep into your motives. The word I felt given to me was…
COMMITMENT

Commitment is such an amazing word that acknowledges the power in decisions. So in 2016 I will choose of theme of Commitment…

To my wife in my marriage – being present to serve and love
To my children in my parenting – being willing to equip and prepare them for life
To my family and friend – being aware of them and ready to support and love
To my work and co-workers – being willing to lead with a reflection of integrity
To my neighbors – being able to connect and know them
To God – being intentional

So that is what I will encourage others to focus on this year: to choose a theme word for 2016. What will your theme be?

2015 in review

I received an email from the WordPress.com team where they highlighted some of the features from my site. This couldn’t have happened without all  of you who read my blog. So thank you for…

2014-emailteaser

Signing up for my email list…

Sharing my links on Facebook…

Following me on Twitter…

And spreading some of my experiences for the world to read!

Here’s a pretty cool analogy of what my blog looked like in 2015 (courtesy of WordPress.com):

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 890 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.

These were the Top 5 Most Read posts. If you haven’t checked yet, do it now and share it with a friend!

Ambition and Contentment

1. Ambition and Contentment – Can they co-exist?

MARRIAGE WILL%0AKILL YOU

2. Marriage will kill you

Learning from your connections

3. Learning from your connections

Raising Leaders

4. Raising leaders – the parenting example

Community

5. The Gift of Community

As we celebrate 2015, I wish you all an awesome 2016 filled with more learning experiences and opportunities to share from within.

 

 

Growing up with a reflection of Christmas


The story of Christmas is captivating and beautiful. I never truly understood the significance of this day until I read the gospels as an adult. But looking back I can see that a reflection of Christ was around me during my younger years. As I build new memories with my wife and children I’m reminded of the traditions that made Christmas special. I cherish the time I spent with my cousins Fatima and Paula. If you find this picture of the nativity scene intriguing, let me tell you more about them.

My cousin Fatima is handicap. She was introduced to this world with forceps that caused permanent damage on her brain. She can’t talk and is limited in her physical abilities. Still, I remember carrying a conversation with her. Through her moans and noises she would make herself clear and was able to get a message across. Her younger sister Paula was always there, present and willing to help. Through the years Paula took a back seat for the greater needs of Fatima and served selflessly. The simple nativity scene built out of an egg container and construction paper is in the home they share and in which I spent many of my Christmas’ growing up.

The meaning of Christmas was right there in front of me through all the years I spent with Fatima and Paula. Through scripture we find out that life became broken when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. And God planned for deliverance to come in the form of a baby boy who would one day die on the cross for our sins. The reality is that we are all broken. We all have a handicap. Some are visible on the outside like Fatima. All of us have it on the inside.

I saw the reflection of Christmas in my cousin’s limitations. Mankind, limited by their sinful condition. I saw the reflection of Christmas as Paula and the whole family served selflessly. Christ, born in a manger, came to provide the ultimate sacrifice. This is good news to all as revealed in Luke 2:10-11…

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.”

I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Creating a Culture of Thankfulness

My last blog post highlighted my appreciation for Thanksgiving as a pure holiday that is quickly forgotten. Today I want to showcase three habits that we can all adopt in order to create an environment where gratitude is center stage to our life. These are simple actions that I’ve taken with family, friends and co-workers. Simple gestures with great power.

Building Thankfulness at Home

Recently my youngest, Ava, brought home a rock she was given at pre-school. It is just a rock but with great meaning. She can hold it in the palm of her hand and she makes it a point to bring it to our dinner table every night. She calls it “The Thankful Rock”.

A month has passed since she brought this rock home but every night, during dinner time, she pulls up “The Thankful Rock” and shares about what she is thankful for today. She will then pass the rock around the table and we all share what we are thankful for.

Courtney and I have always tried to engage with our children during dinner. We use our meal time as an opportunity to engage with each other as we all express the good and the bad that went on during our day. But this rock has now brought a new dynamic to our meal time that provides clarity on the blessings we are given daily.

What do you do with your family that fosters a sense of gratitude?

Sharing Thankfulness with Friends

One of my best memories of Portugal was in 2003 when my wife and I, along with another couple, planned a retreat for our church’s youth group. I can still remember the excitement we had in renting a big house away from the city and packing over 20 people for a weekend of relaxation with messages of hope, love and thankfulness.

During our stay everyone was given a small lunch bag that we were to identify as our own and place it in a visible area of the house. Throughout the weekend we were encouraged to use index cards and write a message of thankfulness for each person.

The goal was for everyone to have a source of encouragement to help us during life’s hardest times. I still have my own lunch bag. And while it’s been some time since I last read my messages, I still remember the times I spent writing a card during that weekend. Being thankful became easy as I recognized natural kindness in my friends.

How do you show gratitude with friends?

Fostering Thankfulness at Work

In a time where the busier we are the more important we feel, it is hard to slow down and recognize meaningful ways to communicate. While everyone uses email and IM to share thoughts and decisions, I believe the best way to share a feeling of thankfulness is by simply wiring a note. I do this often and for the most common tasks.

It is easy to write a note for someone’s birthday or during the holidays. But what about recognizing someone for that regular task they do, day in and day out. Every now and then I get an interoffice package with documents that need to be signed. I have made a conscious decision to often place a post-it note by my signature simply thanking my co-worker for fulfilling this task.

Recognizing employees for what they do, no matter the task, fosters thankfulness and creates a sense of pride in someone’s work that raises the bar on excellence.

How do you let your co-workers know you are thankful for what they do?

These are just some of the ways I’ve embraced gratitude and thankfulness. Join the conversation and share some of the ways you say Thank You to people in your life.