Louis Upkins Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

Louis Upkins took the stage as the author of Treat Me Like a Customer. He has worked with many well-known stars, from Whitney Houston to Oprah.

Leadership Principles from Louis Upkins:

  1. It takes courage to lead differently. It takes courage to sit down and listen.
  2. COURAGE is something EVERYONE needs.
  3. How is the family?
    • This is an important question about what really matters, but isn’t asked enough and is usually answered with surface level activities.
  4. How can you add value to your family?
    • We can set up mission statements for our family


Question asked in a video from Centier Bank:

  1. What do you appreciate most about leaders? The responses:
    • Example
    • Passion
    • Character
    • Coaching
    • Lift people up
    • Clarity
    • Give opportunity
    • Learn
    • Let others leader
    • Authenticity
    • Courage
    • Honesty
    • Focus
    • Encourage
    • Communication
    • Failure is an option
    • Open
    • Personal
    • Caring
    • Present
    • Invested
    • Humble
    • Safety
    • Real
    • Challenging

Invest in your people and get out of the way. Give people the opportunity to lead, fail, get back up and lead.

Tommy Newberry Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

Tommy Newberry is a leader and author of multiple books. He wrote books such as The 4:8 PrincipleI Call Shotgun, and Success is Not An Accident.


Leadership Principles from Tommy Newberry:

  1. We all want things, but we have to get up and go get it. Only the magnificent minority get up and go get what they want.
  2. Our best decisions and our worst decisions all started with a thought…all future decisions will too.
  3. Think 4:8
    • What are you thinking? Look ahead at your thought life.
      • We often think more about what we don’t want than about what we do want.
      • The average person thinks 50,000 thoughts per day (the vast majority are repeats from yesterday)
      • We want to change, but we want to stay the same. We want to change but we aren’t willing to change the way we think.
      • We have to line up our thinking with our hopes and goals and dreams. Every thought is a seed. Random negative thoughts won’t yield much, but consistently bad, negative thinking is of great concern.
    • Every moment is a new beginning for us to begin thinking in a new way.
    • Our emotions allow us to feel what we’ve been thinking about, giving us the opportunity to reevaluate what we’ve been thinking and dwelling on.
    • We feel what we dwell upon (if you feel rotten, what have you been thinking about?)
    • We soak up our surroundings
      • It’s so hard to pull someone up to your level
      • It’s so easy to be pulled down by the negative people around you
        • The one who is negative and cynical always has the leverage on you
  4. Think Huge
    • Think beyond where you are, who you are, what you’re doing, etc.
    • Where do you want to go?
      • Using today we can shape tomorrow
      • What are you shooting for?
        • There should be an urgency here
        • Be concerned with your future because you will live all of your life there
    • In life there are a bunch of options, like in the grocery story. At the end of your life you will have a cart full of stuff. If you don’t have goals (a shopping list) you will end up with things you didn’t want in your cart.
    • Like with a GPS if you don’t get moving, you won’t get any instructions (a.k.a. You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving)
      • If in doubt, take action!
    • SDIMJWT — develop goals on this
      • Some Day I Just Might Want To
        • (develop this with a team or in a marriage and make it Some Day We…)
    • Be intentional
  5. Tomorrow Changes Today
    • If you want tomorrow to be different, today must be different.
    • Your decisions determine your direction which determines your destination.
    • Ask yourself: What’s been working, what has not been working, and what am I going to change?

John Maxwell Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

I had the opportunity this weekend to attend the Lead Michiana conference in South Bend, IN. This event was put on by Justin Maust in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the City of South Bend. The following will be some of my notes from the John Maxwell segment of the conference.

Leadership Principles from John Maxwell:

  1. “If you will spend one hour a day on the same subjective for five years, you will be an expert on that subject” – Earl Nightingale
  2. The better the leaders are in your organization, the better your organization’s chance for growth
    • Leaders develop daily, not in a single day. As leaders in an organization, we need to spend our resources (time, money, etc.) on improving our leaders.
    • The people in our organizations are the most appreciable resource we have, but we have to train and equip them.
    • There is no room to “microwave” leaders; we must “crockpot” them.
  3. 5 Levels of Leadership:
    1. Position — as a level one leader, people follow you because they have to
      • 80% of leaders stay in this level
      • Being a level one leader does not make you a leader. A person may have a position, but the position doesn’t make you a leader.
    2. Permission — as a level two leader, people follow you because they want to
      • Followers of level two leaders give a significant amount more of energy to the organization because they have a relationship with the leader and want to be there.
      • In order to be a great leader you have to connect with people.
      • If you are going to lead, you have to listen (listen, then learn, then lead).
      • Most leaders lead by assumption, assuming they know where their people are, what they are passionate about, where they are going, etc. Leaders need to walk slowly “through the crowd” in order to know their people.
      • Level two leaders are servants.
      • True leaders don’t need to be introduced.
      • There are three questions followers ask their leaders (leaders should ask themselves these same three questions):
        1. Do you care for me? (Do I care about others?)
        2. Can you help me? (Can I help them?)
        3. Can I trust you? (Am I trustworthy?)
    3. Production — as a level three leader, people follow you because of what you have done for the organization
      • This level is where you really get the credibility to lead. People want to follow successful people.
      • Leaders cannot send people where they have not gone. As leaders we have to be tour guides instead of travel agents.
      • You reproduce what you are, not what you want.
      • Level three leaders lead by example.
      • You attract who you are, not who you want. The better producer you are, the better people you attract (on a scale of 1 to 10, if you are a 5, you will not attract levels 6-10).
    4. People Development — as a level four leader, people follow you because of what you have done for them personally
      • Level four leaders are good recruiters.
      • You can only raise a person’s skill level one or two levels, so recruitment is essential. If someone comes in with a skill level of three, then you will most likely only be able to raise their skill level to a four, or at most a five.
        • Recruit with care. Don’t hire the wrong person for the job.
      • After recruiting, you must train and equip your leaders
      • Five steps to equip people well:
        1. I do it.
        2. I do it and you are with me.
        3. You do it and I am with you.
        4. You do it (and I hope you are better than I am!)
        5. You do it and somebody is with you (you’ve never equipped someone until they equip others).
    5. Pinnacle — as a level five leader, people follow you because of who you are and what you represent
      • When you do levels two, three, and four well, for a long time, level five happens naturally as a result

I hope these notes help you grow as a leader! I know there are some challenging concepts in here. Work your way through them, take the time to do them well, and strive to always improve as a leader.

Does God answer prayer?

Have you ever wondered this? It is likely that whether you are a Christian or not, you have asked this question at some point in time. Maybe you thought it during a rough family time when you found out that someone you love has cancer. Or maybe you thought about it during a stressful personal time when you wondered if life is worth living.

Does God hear me? Does He care about me? Does God answer?

Is God ListeningThese questions are hard and they are real. The answer is is a resounding yes. God hears, God cares, and God answers. I think where the hang up so often comes is God answers in a differentway, on a different timetable, and with a different response than we most often want. It could be that we too often pray with our own selfish interests at heart, not understanding fully what prayer is supposed to be like. Prayer is communicating with the Creator of the Universe, the Father who sent His only Son to die for you and for me, the Son who gave His life willingly, the Holy Spirit who guides and directs and dwells in us when we are saved.

Luke 1:13 records this:

But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were “advanced in years” and “Elizabeth was barren” (Luke 1:7). They didn’t have children, because Elizabeth was barren. They were also “both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). The Bible doesn’t record how long they had been praying for a son, but I would be willing to make a strong suggestion that Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed more than once for it. I would be willing to make a strong suggestion that they prayed over and over for an extended period of time, probably even many years.

Doesn’t this sound comforting? God answers prayers, but it may take decades to receive the answer. Not the kind of thing we want to hear or believe, is it? And yet it is the truth. Because prayer is not about my wants and my desires, but it is about God’s glory and God’s kingdom and me having the opportunity to come alongside that for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel, that Jesus Christ came to this earth, lived a sinless life, was tortured and crucified and killed, buried, and rose again from the dead three days later to conquer sin, death, and hell!

woman praying silhoutteThe next time you pray, pray with passion and purpose and perseverance. Do not give up in prayer. Keep going at it. God always answers. Sometimes He answers right away, sometimes a short time later, other times many years down the road; He might answer with a yes, a no, or a not yet, but He always answers. Don’t give up. Be faithful in prayer and be faithful in relationship with Jesus Christ.

God hears you. God cares about you. God loves you. God answers prayer.

You’ve still got work to do

Life is perpetually moving forward. Even as I’m writing this right now, life is moving forward, not backward. We can use our memories, photos, scrapbooks, journals, Facebook, Timehop, to Moving Forwardremember things in our past, but life will never move in that direction. Everything that has happened to us or that we have experienced or that we have done is in the unchangeable past. What we do with what happened to us or what we have experienced or what we have done makes up our present and our yet-to-be-determined immediate future. There are some things that are determined to be in the future, but even the normally safe assumption, “I will wake up tomorrow morning,” is not a guaranteed truth.

Sometimes our circumstances can become so overwhelming that we develop a narrow tunnel vision. We begin to lose perspective. We begin to fear, to doubt, to question, to lose sight of what is most important. I think that if we focus too much on our circumstances we become self-focused and have a hard time seeing the bigger picture..seeing the purpose behind pain, difficulty and suffering.

Keeping a broad view doesn’t diminish the acuteness of agony that pain and suffering bring, but it does help us to understand that Jesus Christ endured torture, beatings, mocking, and horrific crucifixion so that you and I could have a right relationship with God. This doesn’t take away the present hardships and difficulties but I think it gives us a hope and joy that this is all worth it. This is all worthwhile to serve the risen Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what we endure, he is there to walk through it with us.

God may not take us out of the circumstance or choice or situation, but He is faithful to walk with us through it. Guiding, directing, leading, loving, caring, restoring, healing, conforming, drawing.

Acts 27:24 reveals God’s response to a crazy situation the Apostle Paul found himself in:

and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’

Paul was in the middle of a storm, at sea, in a boat that was getting ready to sink. An angel of God appeared to him and told him not to be afraid because he still had work to do for the Lord.

When I am in the middle of a storm in life, I know it is my normal reaction to focus on the stormstorms-of-life, to see how big the waves are, how strong the wind is blowing, how cold and dark everything around me is. But, I also know that my normal reaction is not a reaction based in faith, but is a result of my flesh. So my encouragement to you is to keep pushing forward, to keep strong in your faith, to trust in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, to walk with you and trust in God’s Holy Spirit to guide and direct the way you are going.

The way out of a storm? Moving forward through the storm through the power of God available to you when you trust in Him. Put away insecurities and fears and trust in God. Keep moving forward because if you’re still alive, you’ve still got work to do.

A control freak’s worst nightmare!

I’ll admit it, I like to be in control. I don’t know many people who don’t enjoy being in control of their situation. Have you ever driven with a backseat driver? Yep, me too. And often, I’m the backseat driver if somehow you were able to talk me into not driving (because I’m always the driver…because I like to be in control).

Control freakWhen it comes to being out of control, I think there is a huge amount of fear. Rightly so! To not be able to control your situation, the outcome, the circumstance, is hard to do because that means we have to sit back and let it all play out. It’s like sitting in a rollercoaster blindfolded, not in control of the ride and having no idea when the twists and turns or drops will come. But they will come, no doubt about it.

I think Joshua in the story below is living in the tension of not being in control, but believing and trusting in God, who is always in control. There is always this element of tension, because so much of our lives is out of our control. I can’t make my puppy listen, as much as I would love to. She does what she wants, and then will listen if I have a treat or food to give her! In the wintertime in Michigan, I can’t control the amount of snow we get and how often I have to shovel and how long shoveling takes. If I could control this, I would be a millionaire because who wouldn’t pay good money to not have to shovel ever again, but stay in the nice warm bed and sleep an extra hour?

Here’s the story as told in Joshua 11:6 (NLT):

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them. By this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel as dead men. Then you must cripple their horses and burn their chariots.”

Now this out-of-control situation is one we will probably never be in ourselves. Ultimately Joshua was the one physically engaging in the battle, but he was not really in control of the outcome. God told him not to be afraid, not to worry, because God Himself will “hand all of them over to Israel.” So, Joshua, don’t worry about your life or the lives of your warriors or their families, because God is in control. But it is war. How can you not be afraid? How can you not be worried?

Control - God is inThe tension is that we can be in scary circumstance, in scary situations way beyond our ability to comprehend let alone control, and yet not be afraid. Instead, we can find the hope and freedom from fear that God gives when we recognize and understand God’s place in all situations. He is powerful, He is in control, He is good, and He desires great things for us. This doesn’t mean every situation is great,  and if a situation is hard or scary or terrible we’re in the wrong. Often that is actually not true. But, we can trust our Heavenly Father. We can trust Him and believe in the Son that He sent to die for us and experience this freedom from fear.

Twentysomethings unite and grab a copy of “All Groan Up”!

coverI recently had the privilege of reading Paul Angone’s latest book, All Groan Up. This follows on the heels of another book he has written, called 101 Secrets for Your Twenties.

The years between 20 and 29 can be a time where we are lost, found, confused, on track, right, wrong, satisfied, depressed, on top of the world, living in our parent’s basement, working a dead end job, getting fired from our “dream” job, and the complicated, contradictory list goes on, never seeming to really have much of anywhere to go (kind of like our lives seem to be doing), but in a hurry to get there.

Paul writes with an intense honesty that is both hilarious and yet penetratingly vulnerable all at the same time. Some of the situations he found himself in a ridiculous, and yet the principles of those situations are evident in my own life. He writes about an all-too-common struggle that many are all-too-silent about.

All Groan Up is full of adventure and true stories of struggle, pain, loss, and yet is also so full of hope, joy, and being found. One of my favorite quotes, and one of the turning points in the book, is this:

I thought I could tell God something about my identity with guilt. With all my bitterness and  pain, I could change the way he thought of me. But I’m slowly realizing I gave myself way too much credit. He doesn’t love like us; he loves like him.

Boom. So powerful. God doesn’t love conditionally like we do. God loves perfectly and unconditionally like only God can. What a profound turning point. It takes a journey to arrive there, but it becomes worthwhile the moment that light bulb comes on.

My prayer for every twentysomething who reads this book is that you will be encouraged, as I have been, along this journey, and that this book would give you the hope and the courage to keep pressing on and to keep moving forward. Don’t give up on yourself, on your family, on your friends. Don’t give up on God. He hasn’t gone anywhere.

Grab a copy of this book and join the rest of us on this journey forward through our twenties!

You should be playing chess, not checkers

Recently I read Mark Miller’s book, Chess Not Checkers. Being fairly new to the leadership game/leadership world, this was a reading for me that was full of incredible insight. Mark does an incredible job of taking leadership principles and implanting them very clearly into a story. The book is a quick read because it reads as a story, and yet it is a book that leaders should return to over and over to glean all of the incredible principles to elevate our leadership game.22647288

When we first look at the title, it seems a little odd – Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game, but when we really begin to consider the implications of the game of chess and the game of checkers, the strategy is much different. As Mark Miller describes it, checkers is primarily reacting to situations or focusing on the problem instead of the cause of that problem. For example, in the book Miller uses the situation of a customer unhappy that they hadn’t received their order as they had been promised. The leader’s reaction was to expedite their order and ship it overnight so they would have it as promised. That is playing checkers. Chess looks into the background to figure out why they didn’t receive the order, who should have known about it, who should have really taken care of it before it reached the senior leader, why it wasn’t taken care of, etc.

Leaders can so often get into the habit of playing checkers because there are so many problems to deal with, so many fires to put out, and so many tasks to get completed. However, we have to take a hard look at our jobs and make the executive decision about what is within our realm of responsibility, what we must take action on personally, and what should be delegated and owned by a different member of the team. It is hard to relinquish control as a leader, and yet it is one of the most effective things we can do.

This book gets us thinking about not just how we lead, but who we are leading. Are we building into the leaders we have now, our starters? Are we building into and preparing the leaders who are up and coming, our bench? Are we unified as a team of leaders in this organization? Are we winning the hearts of those we lead and those who engage with our business/organization? Are we executing our game plan well?

These are all valid questions, and are dealt with in more detail in the book. I would encourage anyone who is either a current leader, a new leader, an old leader, or about to become a leader to read this book. It will really help you think clearly, see with a broader perspective, and elevate your leadership game.

A great thanks to Mark Miller and his team for allowing me to get an advance copy of the book to read, and my apologies it took so long to write a review for! It is my pleasure to be able to read and review this book, and really I have been blessed through reading this book and look forward to wrestling with how to implement the strategy of how to play chess instead of playing checkers!

You can check out more books by Mark Miller by clicking here.


Tunnel Vision

tunnel-visionSomething happened. We didn’t expect it. We didn’t plan it. We didn’t prepare for it. But it happened. There is no denying that. But what do we do now? What is our response?

We don’t like it when things come out of the blue and happen without our consent. We don’t like it when things come up that we didn’t budget for or that don’t fit into our life plans for ourselves and our families.

When something like this happens to us, it is way too easy to develop tunnel vision. We can only see the problem. We are too close to the traumatic event. Emotionally and physically we are too close to the situation that it is nearly impossible to keep things in perspective.

This could be a sudden illness or death. It could be a divorce. It could be losing a friend. This could be an injury that keeps us from playing the sport we’ve always loved and won’t have many more chances to play in this context. It could be a criticism or critique that comes unexpectedly when we thought things were going really well. It could be a sudden job loss when we were already hard pressed to make ends meet. It could be a friend or family member walking away from his or her faith.

The “somethings” are endless, aren’t they? But, if we respond with tunnel vision, our response will most likely not be tempered with godly wisdom, discernment, or good attitude. Tunnel vision restricts our ability to put things in perspective, like the Israelites in Exodus 14.

Moses had just brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery and imprisonment, because God was freeing them. As Moses leads the people as God’s representative, the Israelites start freaking out. As soon as they got out of Egypt, the Egyptian army then started coming after them. The army is closing in behind, and there is a huge sea in front of them. They have nowhere to go, and they think how much better it would’ve been to remain a slave than to die her in the desert. They had tunnel vision. All they could see was what was physically in front and behind of them.

Moses had other plans. Moses sought out God’s plans. Moses had confidence in God’s ability, even though on the surface things looked hopeless:

Exodus 14:13 – “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.'”

Maybe you are in a hopeless situation. Maybe you are lost and confused and don’t know where to turn or what to do or what to say or what to think. Maybe you are paralyzed by your situation right now. There is only one place to turn: the feet of Jesus. Turn it over, lay it down, trust in Him.


The situation or circumstance or choice may not immediately go away, but your tunnel vision can. And once your tunnel vision goes away, you can begin seeing things through God’s eyes, God’s purpose, God’s plan. You can begin to see that life with God is better than life without God. He makes all things new. He restores and gives purpose. He redeems and provides freedom and eternal life through faith Jesus Christ.

All of these things are available to you. God transforms tunnel vision into truth vision. You can begin fighting your situation with the Truth of God’s Word, and Truth will always triumph. Don’t give up hope. Give in to God and trust Him. He’s got a better plan than us anyway (Prov. 3:5-6, 16:25).

Unexpected Things

This past Sunday was Easter Sunday, or better termed: Resurrection Sunday. The purpose of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is really to celebrate and remember that Jesus Christ came down to earth as God in a body and dwelt among us (John 1:14). We praise and worship Jesus Christ because He came not only to dwell among us, to be tested and tempted in every way like we are so that He could identify with us (Hebrews 4:15), but He came to die for us and to rise from the dead three days later to show His victory over sin, victory over death, and victory over Hell and Satan.

The fearless passage we are looking at today comes on the heels of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Matthew records that on the third day, Sunday morning, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb” (28:1) that Jesus had been buried in. he_is_risenWhen they got to the tomb, the stone blocking the entrance had been rolled away and an angel of the Lord was sitting on the stone just hanging out, waiting for them. The guards were so afraid of the angel that they passed out! Here’s what happens next in Matthew 28:5-6:

Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.

This is crazy! They went to see the dead body of Jesus and instead they encountered an empty grave.

The angel continues on, telling the women to go back to tell the disciples what had happened. As they are running quickly away from the tomb to go to the disciples, Jesus greets them. When they saw their Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, the women “ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9). After the women run to him, Jesus tells them this, in verse 10:

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.’

 Why don’t we have to be afraid? How can we live a fearless life? We can because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is not the God of the dead, but is the God of the living (Luke 20:38). We can live with confidence and hope because Jesus Christ is risen, He gives us the opportunity to respond in faith to the Gospel, and He sets us free from the power of sin, becomes our righteousness so that we can have a right standing with God through the righteousness of Jesus.

Place your faith and your hope and your trust in Jesus Christ. He will never let you down. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Don’t be afraid and don’t lose hope. Jesus Christ is alive and the source of all our hope, joy, freedom and righteousness.