Know Yourself

Know Yourself

One of my fondest memories from high school was leaving a dance and walking a mile to retrieve my car.  The snowflakes were falling gently and I felt warmed by them as I walked.  In my solitude their peaceful descent felt comforting, like God was touching me and telling me to be who he created me to be.  But who was that?  Many years later I read this article and it reminded me of that memory.  The article helps me better understand who I am. Hopefully it will do the same for you.

From “Managing Oneself” by Peter Drucker* in HBR Leadership Fundamentals.

“Now most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves.  We will have to learn to develop ourselves.  We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution” (p. 7).

“We need to know our strengths in order to know where to belong” (p. 8).

The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis.  Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen.  Nine or twelve months later, compare the actual results with your expectations” (p. 8).

“Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis.

  • First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths.  Put yourself where your strengths can produce results.
  • Second, work on improving your strengths….
  • Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it” (p. 8).

“It is equally essential to remedy your bad habits — the things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance” (p. 8).

“Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization.  It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction” (p. 8).

How Do You Get Things Done?

“Comparing your expectations with your results also indicates what not to do….In those areas a person…should not take on work, jobs, and assignments.  One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence.  It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence….Energy, resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person into a star performer” (pp. 8, 9).

“Amazingly few people know how they get things done….For knowledge workers, How do I perform? may be an even more important question than What are my strengths?….A few common personality traits usually determine how a person performs” (p. 9).
  • “The first thing to know is whether you are a reader or a listener” (p. 9).
  • “The second thing to know about how one performs is to know how one learns” (p. 9).
    • “[Writers] do not, as a rule, learn by listening or reading.  They learn by writing” (p. 9).
    •  “Some people learn by doing.
    • Others learn by hearing themselves talk” (p. 10).
    • “Am I reader or a listener?  and How do I learn? are the first questions to ask.  But they are by no means the only ones.
  • To manage yourself effectively, you also have to ask,
    • Do I work well with people, or am I a loner?
    • And if you work well with people, you then must ask, In what relationship?” (p. 10).
    • “Another crucial question is, Do I produce results as a decision maker or as an adviser?” (p. 10).
    • “Other important questions to ask include, Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment?
    • Do I work best in a big organization or a small one?  Few people work well in all kinds of environments” (p. 10).

“The conclusion bears repeating: Do not try to change yourself — you are unlikely to succeed.  But work hard to improve the way you perform” (p. 10).

“To be able to manage yourself, you finally have to ask, What are my values?….To work in an organization whose value system is unacceptable or incompatible with one’s own condemns a person both to frustration and nonperformance” (pp. 10, 11).

Successful careers are not planned They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values” (p. 12).

“Knowledge workers in particular have to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my contribution be?  To answer it, they must address three distinct elements:

  • What does the situation require?
  • Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done?
  • And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference?” (p. 12).

“Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships.  This has two parts.

  • The first is to accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are.  They perversely insist on behaving like human beings.  This means that they too have their strengths; they too have their ways of getting things done; they too have their values.  To be effective, therefore, you have to know the strengths, the performance modes, and the values of your coworkers….
  • The second of relationship responsibility is taking responsibility for communication” (p. 13).

THE Goal (Part III): Called To Work

By Gordon T. Smith

Vocational Holiness

“This is vocational holiness — that on any given day or week or chapter of our lives, we are able to say, ‘I glorified God and completed the work that he gave me to do.’   To be able to say that for this day I have completed work God assigned to me” (p. 90).

“When we use the language of vocation and vocational holiness, we assume two things:

  • First, the language of vocation suggests that we live in response to a call….
  • Second, the language of vocation assumes that more is not necessarily better” (p. 90).

Theological Vision

“[Freedom] comes not in a self-determined or self-constructed life but in a life of deference — we could even use the word ‘submission,’ for these are hard boundaries and points of reference — to three realities:

  • The work of God in the world as Creator and Redeemer….
  • Ourselves as agents who respond to the invitation….
  • Our world — the actual situation of our lives, the arena into which God calls us…” (pp. 91, 92).

Creator and Redeemer

“Our work is a participation in the work of God” (p. 92).

  • “First, our work is a participation in the work of God….We create; we heal.  In both cases, we are co-workers with God….
  • Second, when we speak of the work of God and thus our work, the sequence of creation and redemption are important….When we use the phrase ‘good work’ we must begin with creation: what did God intend when we were invited to be co-workers with the Creator?” (p. 93).

The Intersection of Three Realities

“Vocation is discerned at the intersection of three realities.

  • The first…is the vision of work in the Scriptures, specifically the work of God and his invitation to us to participate in that work.
  • The second reality is our very selves as agents, as called ones.  Here we need to attend to the significance of the human person and, more, the significance and particularly of our own selves as actors on God’s stage….We must speak of ourselves as individuals who are self-directed and recognize that we truly act with integrity in the world when we act in a way that is consistent with our selves.  And for this, we must affirm that each human person matters….Therefore, vocational holiness requires that we attend to the specifics of our own lives.  Self-knowledge and self-awareness are an essential aspect of spiritual maturity and wisdom: we need to know ourselves but then, of course, also come to a gracious acceptance of how God has made us….Self-knowledge is expressed in two notable ways:
    • First, to know oneself is to be attentive to one’s deep passion or joy….[If] God longs to give us the desires of our hearts when we are aligned with the good, the noble, the worthy of praise (Phil 4:8), what is it we long to do more than anything else?  What is it we need to do?…
    • The second expression of self-knowledge is a gracious acceptance of one’s strengths and limits….
      • Perhaps what we should stress is that we need to identify and cultivate those strengths and capacities that open up the possibilities of fulfilling our deep passions.  These are the strengths that matter…..
      • Limits are not a problem; they are an opportunity for us to focus, to truly embrace our calling.  Furthermore, our limits bring us to interdependence with the strengths of others, allowing the synergy of our strengths to produce an outcome that is beyond — perhaps way beyond –both of our individual capacities….
  • The third critical reference in discerning vocation is found in careful attention to our circumstances.  We are providentially located in time and space, thus ‘vocation’ is never just about us and God, about God’s mission in the world and our identity in response to that mission.  It is also about the social circumstances and historical ‘accidents’ in which we have been placed….(pp. 97, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104).

In Christ

“Vocation flows from union with Christ; it is an integral dimension of living in Christ, abiding in Christ and identifying with Christ.  And our only hope for navigating the complex world of vocation, work, and career is to have a prior commitment to and practice of dynamic communion with Christ” (p. 122).

THE Goal (Part I): Called

By Gordon T. Smith

The Essence of the Christian Life

“We are striving and running toward a goal — the telos of our Christian journey toward mature discipleship and  transformation into sonship” (p. 44).

“We are freed from sin, but to what end?  Clearly, it is to enter into the power and presence of God” (p. 45).

“In other words, our transformation is both an external transaction, by Christ and for us, and also a participation in the life of Christ Jesus through him as pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (p. 45).

“And that is our goal: union with Christ.  Our righteousness is not self-produced but arises from our union with Christ, and thus our only hope is to be participants in or partakers of the life of Christ” (p. 50).

“What we are after here is a theology of Christian maturity — or, it could be phrased, a theology of Christian character” (p. 50).

“Maturity in the Christian life is maturity in faith.  Nothing so marks faith as this: that a person recognizes and lives in the reality that there is another order of life beyond what we engage with our five senses” (p. 53).

“And so evangelism is about fostering and cultivating the opportunities for a person to meet Jesus: to meet Christ Jesus in real time.  In the end it is all about Jesus.  It is not about persuading [someone] of certain truths or laws, or even about believing that Jesus has done something — that if the “believe” it will lead to their “salvation.”  It is rather about meeting Christ Jesus in person and in real time (p. 57).


By John Ortberg

We have a need to connect.

“The yearning to attach and connect, to love and be loved, is the fiercest longing of the soul.  Our need for community with people and the God who made us is to the human spirit what food and air and water are to the human body” (p. 18).

“Neil Plantinga notes that the Hebrew prophets had a word for just this kind of connectedness of all things: shalom — ‘the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight'” (p. 19).

“Community is the place God meets us” (p. 21).

“[Attack and Withdraw] express the only two ways that many…people…see for dealing with each other….At root they are the two expressions of the one great sin, which is a lack of love, the violation of the one great commandment” (pp. 23, 24).

“Our task is to create little islands of shalom in a sea of isolation” (p. 25).

“Community is rooted in the being of God” (p. 34).

“The Trinity exists as a kind of eternal dance of joyful love among Father, Son, and Spirit” (p. 35).

“In the Bible, a person’s name generally stands for his or her character and identity.  To gather in Jesus’ name means to relate to other people with the same spirit of servanthood, submission, and delight that characterizes Jesus in the Trinity” (p. 40).

How do we be in the Trinity at Trinity?  How do we “meet Christ Jesus in person and in real time?”  How do we “create little islands of shalom in a sea of isolation” and “engage in “fostering and cultivating the opportunities for a person to meet Jesus” to invite more to “gather in Jesus’ name?”  How do we become a “holy people?”  What does doing business have to do with that?

What Leads to Well-Being?

Being Engaged in a Career

Research from Gallup indicates that people who work according to their strengths are 6.0x more likely to be engaged in a career; and people engaged in a career are 4.6x more likely to experience well-being.

Why Does Being Engaged In A Career Lead To Well-Being?

God created us to work and manage his creation.  Humans flourish when they have the opportunity to be engaged at work.  They are engaged at work when they are empowered to discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and callings.

Our big “C” calling is be holy.   A contributor to becoming holy is using our gifts in ways that glorify God.   A lot can be said here.   But simply stated, we glorify God when we use our talents (Matthew 15:14-30) and walk humbly, love mercy, and seek justice (Micah 6:8).  Our little “c” calling is to do that.

What Leads To Being Engaged In A Career?

Here’s what we know: the odds of being engaged at work are…

  • 2.6x higher if college prepared students well for life outside of college
  • 2.2x higher if students had mentors who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
  • 2.0x higher if at least one professor made them excited about learning
  • 1.9x higher if professors cared about students as people
  • 1.8x higher if students worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete  (Gallup)

In short, God created us to help others discern, develop, and deploy our gifts and calling.

We believe organizations have a responsibility to create those experiences.  This is what we seek to do at Trinity.


Fundamental Transforms Normal

Building a Bridge


In the Normal State of Leadership

“[We] seek equilibrium.  In the normal state, we are comfort-centered, externally-directed, self-focused, and [externally] closed.  We construct a world of social exchange and economic transaction.  The central purpose of anyone in such a system is to obtain status and resources while avoiding pain and punishment.  When emerging reality threatens our deeply held values by suggesting we need to move into the unknown, we resist.  We become self-deceptive because we say change is needed, yet we want to avoid the risk of losing what we have, so we seek to ‘manage’ change in ways we do not find deeply threatening” (p. 69).

“In the normal state, we typically employ two general strategies of change: Telling, that is, making logical arguments for change and Forcing, that is, using forms of leverage such as threat or firing or ostracizing.  Less often, we use a third strategy, Participating, that is, using open dialogue and pursuing win-win strategies” (p. 69).


“When we are in the [Fundamental State of Leadership,] we become more purpose-centered, internally-driven, other-focused, and externally-open” (p. 21).

  • “We become less comfort-centered and more purpose-centered.  We stop asking, What do I want?…Instead we ask, What result do I want to create?…[That] may attract us outside our comfort zone and into the uncertain journey that is the creative state.  As we begin to pursue purpose in the face of uncertainty, we gain hope and energy” (p. 22).
  • “[We] also become less externally-directed and more internally-directed….We begin to transcend our own hypocrisy, closing the gap between who we think we are and who we think we should be” (p. 22).
  • “[We] also become less self-focused and more other-focused.  As our sense of achievement and integrity increases, we feel more secure, less selfish, and more willing to put the common good ahead of the preservation of self” (p. 22).
  • “[We] become less internally-closed and more externally-open.  When we meet our needs for increased achievement, integrity, and affiliation, we increase our confidence that we can learn our way forward in an uncertain and changing world” (p. 23).

How Do We Educate Students To Succeed?

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the skill needed for all aspects of life.  As M. Scott Peck says, “Life is a series of problems.”  Best to be able to solve them.

Personal Leadership Development

Personal Leadership means being able to manage oneself.  Peter Drucker famously wrote:  “Now most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves.  We will have to learn to develop ourselves.  We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution” (Drucker, HBR Leadership Fundamentals, p. 7).

Managing ourselves is a primal skill because at our core we default to being emotional, rationalizing beings.  Today we refer to the skills that manage our primal instincts as emotional intelligence: “The key…to making primal leadership work to everyone’s advantage lies in the leadership competencies of emotional intelligence [EI]: how leaders handle themselves and their relationships” (Goleman, Primal Leadership, p. 6).

For example, if you tracked high IQ people over time, who would rise to the top of organizations and stay there?  You guessed it: emotionally intelligent people.

Vocational and Career Discernment

Like Critical Thinking and Personal Leadership Development, Vocational Discernment is a necessary skill for success.  Vocational Discernment, however, not only defines success differently, it empowers the development of Critical Thinking and Emotional Intelligence skills — more than any extrinsic motivator ever could.  And it is not a gift to be achieved, but received.

Note Vocational Discernment is different that Career Discernment.  Although they could be the same, they don’t usually entirely overlap.   One might say that one’s Vocation transcends and transforms one’s career, much like one’s eulogy virtues might transcend and transform one’s resume virtues (David Brooks).

A Gift To Be Received

Some people find success by learning the rules of the game and using them to get ahead.  Others break all the rules, or at least some of them.  “I believe that God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with just the status quo.  I think in a sense everyone is called to be an entrepreneur in a way. We are all called by God to approach life as an opportunity to use our skills that God has given us to better the world for the glory of God” (Jordan Rose).

Another work for calling is vocation: “True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need’” (Parker Palmer).

Interestingly, David Brooks tells us that we don’t find out calling, it finds us.  That may be true.  As Parker Palmer writes, “Today I understand vocation quite differently — not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received” (Parker Palmer).

In other words, it is a gift to be called to make the world a better place doing that which combines one’s deep gladness and the world’s deep need.  The concept that pulls those concepts together, believe it or not, is Holiness.  Can striving for holiness lead to joy?

Our Vocation Is To Become Holy

We are called to holiness (big “C” calling).  In other words, God intends for us to be perfect.  But perfection is not something we can obtain this side of heaven. However, in accepting it and then seeking it we can experience wisdom and joy!  Joy and wisdom come from radical dependence on God and interdependence on others.  Sounds crazy!

We can strive toward holiness, believe it or not, by accepting we have a calling and seeking to discern, develop, and deploy it (little “c” calling).   Doing so is incredibly empowering and motivates us to become even better at critical thinking and personal leadership.  There is nothing more energizing than doing that which brings us fulfillment and joy.

Discerning, Developing, Deploying

Discerning can occur when we listen to what God speaks in our lives and in our hearts — our holy discontent.

Development can occur when our Adam II transcends Adam I (when our eulogy virtues begin transcending our resume virtues), and our  “fundamental” state of leadership transcends our “normal one” such that it reflects the fruits of the Spirit.   It is no long conforming to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:1,2).

Deployment can occur when we actively pursue God and his will in our work.  This is also the source of wisdom, which is both understanding and practice, “for we do not understand until and unless we live this understanding” (Gordon Smith).

Therefore, if we wish to set students up for success, we need to enhance their critical thinking and personal leadership skills.  But most of all, we need to help them accept and discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and calling.  How do we do that?  In the classroom but also outside of the classroom via experiential learning and mentoring.

What is experiential learning?  Learning that includes:

  • Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis
  • Opportunities for initiative, decision-making, and accountability
  • Holistic learning: learning that engages the head (intellect), heart (emotions), soul (beliefs and values), and hands (physical engagement)

Which learning opportunities bring us joy?  Why?  Which meet the the world’s deep needs?  How?

“What Happens In A Life God Wants To Use And Improve?”

If You Want to Walk on Water..

By John Ortberg


READ Matthew 14:25-32.

“There is a consistent pattern in Scripture of what happens in a life that God wants to use and improve:

  • There is always a call….
  • There is always fear….
  • There is always reassurance….
  • There is always a decision….
  • There is always a changed life….

Those who say now are changed to.   They become a little harder, a little more resistant to his calling, a little more likely to say no to the next time.  Whatever the decision, it always changes a life–and it changes the world that that little life touches” (pp. 9, 10).

On Water-Walking

  • Water-walkers recognize God’s presence.  “In each case God had to get people’s attention….In each situation the person that God called felt afraid” (p. 15).
  • Water-walkers distinguish between faith and foolishness.  “This is not a story about risk-taking; it is primarily a story about obedience….This is not a story about extreme sports.  It’s about extreme discipleship” (p. 16).
  • Water-walkers get out of the boat.  “Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself.  Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy.  Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves.   Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship.  Want to know what your boat is?  Your fear will tell you.  Just ask yourself this:  What is it that most produces fear in me — especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?” (p. 17).
  • Water-walkers expect problems.  [We abandon ourselves to the power of Jesus.  Then it happens.  We experience the wind and we become afraid again] (p. 19).
  • Water-walkers accept fear as the price of growth.  “The choice to follow Jesus–the choice to grow–is the choice for the constant recurrence of fear.  You’ve got to get out of the boat a little every day….fear and growth go together like macaroni and cheese….Karl Barth said that comfort is one of the great siren calls of our age” (p. 21).  “Each time you get out of the boat, you become a little more likely to get out the next time.  It’s not that the fear goes away, but that you get used to living with fear.  You realize that it does not have the power to destroy you.  On the other hand, every time you resist that voice, every time you choose to stay in the boat rather than heed its call, the voice gets a little quieter in you.  Then at last you don’t hear its call at all” (p. 22).t
  • Water-walkers master failure management.  “Failure is not an event, but rather a judgement about an event.  Failure is not something that happens to us or a label we attach to things.  It is a way we think about outcomes” (p. 22).   “The worst failure is never to get out of the boat” (p. 23).
  • Water-walkers see failure as an opportunity to grow.   “Here’s the principle: Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you” (p. 24).
  • Water-walkers learn to wait on the Lord.  “We have to wait on the Lord to receive power to walk on the water.  We have to wait for the Lord to make the storm disappear” (p. 25).
  • Water-walking brings a deeper connection with God.  “I believe that God’s general method for growing a deep, adventuresome faith in us is by asking us to get out of the boat.  More than hearing a great talk, or reading a great book, God uses real-world challenges to develop our ability to trust him” (p. 27).  “The call out of the boat involves crisis, opportunity, often failure, generally fear, sometimes suffering, always the calling to a task that is too big for us.  But there is no other way to grow faith and to partner with God” (p. 27).

On Gifts and Growth

There is not tragedy like the tragedy of the unopened gift” (p. 32).

“There are few things that attract us more than growth.  We were made to grow, and we love to be around growth” (p. 33).

“Consider the sense of fulfillment in the leaders of a company that is expanding, achieving its mission, giving vocational opportunities to men and women who yesterday didn’t have any.  They are watching the miracle of growth….On the other hand, there are few things sadder than stagnation” (p. 34).

“At the end of the day, God will not ask you why you didn’t lead someone else’s life or invest in someone else’s gifts. He will not ask, What did you do with what you didn’t have?  Though, he will ask, What did you do with what you had?

“Fear makes people disobedient to the call of the master” (p. 44).

“It is only in the process of accepting and solving problems that our ability to think creatively is enhanced, our persistence is strengthened, and our self-confidence is deepened.  If someone gives me the answers, I may get a good score on a test, but I will not have grown” (p. 47).

“Growth happens when you seek to exert control where you are able to rather than giving up in difficult circumstances.  It happens when you decide to be wholly faithful in a situation that you do not like and cannot understand.  It happens when you keep walking even though you see the wind.  Then you discover that you are not alone” (p. 104).

“Sin, to paraphrase what psychologist Carl Jung once said about neurosis, is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.  It is an attempt to obtain the pleasure that does not rightfully belong to me or evade the pain that does….Sooner or later, you have to turn and face the pain that makes temptation so attractive.  Sooner or later, you have to run to God” (p. 106).

“As Scott Peck puts it, ‘It is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that we grow mentally and spiritually….It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems'” (p. 111).

“The single command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other — God’s most frequently repeated instruction — is formulated in two words: Fear not…. I think God says ‘fear not’ so often because fear is the number one reason human beings are tempted to avoid doing what God asks them to do.  Fear is the number one reason human being are tempted to avoid getting out of the boat” (pp. 117, 118).

“All research suggests that self-esteem largely boils down to one issue: When you face a difficult situation, do you approach it, take action, and face it head on, or do you avoid it, wimp out, and run and hide?  If you take action, you get a surge of delight, even if things do not turn our perfectly.  I did a hard thing.  I took on a challenge.  You grow.  When you avoid facing up to a threatening situation, even if things end up turning out alright, inside you say, But the truth is, I wimped out.  I didn’t do the hard thing.  I took the easy way out.”  Avoidance kills an inner sense of confidence and esteem (pp. 124, 125).

“[The cave named Failure] is where you find yourself when you thought you were going to do great things, have a great family, or boldly go where no one had gone before, and it becomes clear that things will not work out as you dreamed.  Perhaps you are in the cave because of foolish choices.  Perhaps it is the result of circumstances you could not even control.  Most likely it is a combination of the two….There is only one other thing you need to know. The cave is where God does some of his best work in molding and shaping human lives.  Sometimes, when all the props and crutches in your life get stripped away and you find you have only one God, you discover that God is enough…that God wants his power to flow through your weaknesses” (pp. 138, 139).

On Working

“God is particularly active in working with people” (p. 57).

“You are a piece of work by God!… And because you were made in God’s image, you were also created to do work” (p. 58).

“You have a purpose–a design that is central to God’s dream for the human race….As a crucial part of your calling, you were given certain gifts, talents, longings, and desires” (p. 58).

“A calling is something you discover, not something you choose.  The word vocation comes from the Latin work for voice.  Discovering it involves very careful listening” (p. 60).

“As a rule, the people whom we read about in Scripture who were called by God felt quite inadequate….The first response to a God-sized calling is generally fear (p. 70).

“[People] will experience God’s power–but they will have to take the first step.  This not only involves acknowledgement of God’s power, but requires them to take a step of action based on the assumption that God is trustworthy as well” (p. 79).

Two Laws

  • Law of Cognition: “You are what you think” (p. 161ff).
  • Law of Exposure: “Your mind will think most about what it is most exposed to” (p. 162ff).



Only 13% of employees are “engaged in their jobs” or “emotionally-invested” at work.  And that’s among the employed…(Gallup)

Empowering People to discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and calling by Engaging the Marketplace.   This is our calling.  Beginning with our students.

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