As the conversation progressed a very common theme emerged. There sitting, talking, was a professional. As he shared, his pain was evident. Serving in a company for nearly five years, he “closed” a chapter of his life.
His personal story of long work weeks, low pay, few benefits, ingratitude, unappreciative supervisors, and little positive input filled his sullied demeanor. Hired to lead a team of nearly two hundred people in an organization which nearly failed in bankruptcy, the task was daunting. This task did not disturb him. He loved a challenge. And, there were many successes.
Listening past the words, and hearing his heart, a very clear picture emerged. Incompetence existed not in this person, but in the team around him. Long seated individuals in the organization pushed back after restructuring; a restructure that turned everything around! The verbal emotional attacks were well planned and continual. After months of personal attacks by emotional detonators, he was done.
During one of our conversation I asked, “How long ago did this take place?” The answer, “Four months ago.” For four long months, almost every minute of every day, painful events rehearsed themselves continually in his mind.
Nearly 3500 years ago, a whole nation of several million-people struggled with a similar issue. These people insured a nation’s success and prosperity. Yet, they lived as slaves for more than 400 years suffering extreme hardships, sufferings, and abuse. Fed up with all they could take, they embraced a new opportunity, and headed out for the desert. Most know the story as Israel leaving Egypt heading towards a new promised land. Their leader, Moses, encouraged, “This is a day to remember forever — the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery.”(Exodus 13:3)
Letting Go of Egypt
Israel left Egypt, but not really; not a first. More than 40 years after their departure from Egypt, they still looked back. They still remember their hardships. They still held grudges. They still coddled their hurt and injuries. Their captors, the Egyptians, still ruled the thoughts and feelings though absent for four decades.
Moses urged them, “Do not hate those Egyptians, for we were strangers in their land.” (Deuteronomy 23:7) Apparently, there were family problems too He urged the small fledgling nation, “Do not hate the Edomites for they are your brothers.” His instruction, “You’ve got to leave all that hurt, pain, anger, and hate behind . . . or you can never move forward.”
Letting Go of Your Egypt
Can you imagine hanging onto bitterness, hate, or hurt for over forty years? In fact, I can. Done that with my dad. Done that with church members in a church I pastored. Done that with someone who wronged me. Unfortunately, done that, been there, and still continue to do that at times.
Here’s the thing. Until you can leave your Egypt behind it’s difficult to move forward into your promised land! My thoughts on how to let go of your Egypt:
1. Egypt Teaches Lessons Learned No Other Way. One of my sons who suffers from an autoimmune disease has suffered much over his thirty plus years. Watching him near death several times during his life, he’s learned to squeeze happiness out every moment of life. His suffering reminds us that life is precious, it is temporary, and it changes without notice. His Egypt teaches us to grab each moment!
2. Egypt Forces Necessary Changes. Truth is that adversity is a wonderful teacher! Did you know that Bill Gates first business failed? Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old. Jim Carrey used to be homeless. Richard Branson has dyslexia. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Charlize Theron witness her mother kill her father. And, Nelson Mandela was prisoner before he became president.
Egypt forces us to make necessary-difficult changes! Changes never contemplated apart from the hardships of your Egypt!
3. Leaving Egypt Means New Never Before Thought of Opportunities. Henry David Thoreau said, “All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.” One beautiful story of this is shared on American Express Open Forum. Lee Rhodes while suffering with a rare form of lung cancer left her Egypt. After getting to know many other cancer patients she started the company Glassybaby. Glassybaby produces amazing hand blown glassware. Glassybaby gives a 10% of its profits to charities helping cancer patients. Without Egypt, no Glassybaby.
4. Leaving Egypt Often Requires Forgiveness. It was after forty-four years of his life before my father and I could enjoy some sense of relationship. It was not perfect or completely fulfilling at times. However, apart from forgiveness there was no hope of any relationship at all.
Leaving Your Egypt requires rebounding from wrongs. It means learning from hard life-stuff experiences. It requires letting go of negative draining emotions. And, it often means a release of hatred towards agents of pain, employing attitudes of gratitude.
Gratitude changes Attitude
Gratitude? Yes, gratitude. Agents of pain direct me to sources of gain. How about you? It’s really your choice. Ready to leave Your Egypt? Really? Start your departure today.
Just My Thoughts,
Not long ago, a young worker accused, "They just don't get it!" By "they" he meant me and my generation; Boomers. Ironically, a Boomer friend of mine who oversees a staff of sixty-five, recently made a similar comment about Millennials. "These younger ones, they think everything is owed to them for nothing They just don't get it!!"
Being privileged to enjoy a family with six young professionals, I hear a lot about Millennial tensions at work with older generation bosses. Also, just as equally privileged, I enjoy great friendships with Generation Xers & Boomer professionals. These older professionals share quite often their frustrations about their millennial counterparts at work.
What Generation Xers & Boomer Bosses Want To Could Say To Millennials
"How about a little respect?"
In our social digital media age, blunt force trauma comments occur daily, hourly, ah . . . minutely. A friend of mind puts it this way. "I would never have gotten away with talking to my boss the way these kids speak to me." By "kids" he referred to thirty-somethings. He held that younger employees might find his favor more if they simply spoke a little kinder to him. Boomer bosses often feel like they are in the cross hairs of lack of appreciation. "When they speak to me like that if just takes the wind out of my sails," was his cry. He went on, "I earned my way into this position, I possess skills, and I simply would appreciate a little kindness."
"You have to earn it first!"
Ah, there it is. The often repeated dirty "E" word; also known as "entitlement." A friend recently shared a comment made to an employee, "Create your own opportunities if you don't like the ones I am giving you. Don't ask me to give you mine!" I replied, "What opportunities do you offer to your younger employees besides a job and a wage?" He looked at me a bit dumbfounded and changed the conversation.
"How about a little work?"
Uttered a millennial of times about Millennials is "their lack of work ethic." Older bosses complain profusely that younger employees are undependable, unproductive, and whiners. One boss cried, "They show up late, and want to leave early. They attend work more than they work at work." He continued to emphasize that hard working employees get his ear, his time, and his respect. My inquiry, "What kind of productivity do your 'hard workers' produce compared to your 'lazy workers?'"
"You want to get paid how much?"
Boomers remember starting their careers on a far less salary than today's Millennials are demanding. A friend of mine who oversees several hundred people in a large banking firm stated this sentiment. "I can't believe these kids think $50,000 a year is nothing! That's more than double what I got when I started my career!"
"A little loyalty?"
"We've done so much for him. You'd think he at least owes it to the company to stick around for a while," cries the small business owner. Millennials change jobs frequently as older workers willingly hang on a little longer.
What Millennials Wished They Could Say To Their Older Bosses, and Sometimes Do!
How about being a little more authentic?
Younger adults tire of hearing the blustering of accomplishments and successes. They believe they are keenly aware of older management's strengths. They are also, quite aware of their weaknesses too. A young professional shared, "If he just shared with me instead of bragging about his accomplishments all the time, I might be willing to listen."
How about leading from your strengths?
A millennial friend shared, "I wish my boss would just do what she is good at doing, and let us do the rest." His complaint, "My supervisor tries to do my job. She is not good at doing my job. That's why she hired me. So, rather than let me soar, she steps in front of me on the runway. I'm always taxiing. I never get to take off. So, I'm going to get off this job runway. I quit."
How about empowering us in action rather than just in words.
"Yes, they say they are empowering us, but they really don't mean that," is the millennial's mantra. One young man on staff at a very large mega church made that statement. Holding a master's degree in Hebrew and Greek, along with a minor in IT skills, he left the job, ministry, and the Church. He shared, "They kept telling us how important we were. But, they never allowed us to do anything important. The work was menial at best."
Stop Micromanaging Us!
"If you hire me to do a job, because you do not possess the skill to do this job yourself, then let me do my job!" Millennials are frustrated that they are not given more freedom to create, make decisions, and exert a little influence. A young graphic arts designer complained that regularly on Friday afternoon his boss came into his office. Upon entering, he stood behind him looking over his shoulders. After about twenty minutes he requested major changes be made to his project. His 'request' was, "Please have it ready for presentation on Monday morning. Bellowing, the young employee cried, "After hours of creativity, a very non-creative person demands I change my creation into a very non-creative creation!"
Can you just listen for a minute?
Sitting with two very young reps in a coffee shop an interesting conversation ensued. Being very young, both women fall into the Eco-boomer generation; born after Millennials. Having worked with both on a number of projects, they knew their stuff. I was impressed with their professionalism and creativity. One lamented, "I might spend more time in the office, if we could actually move in our offices." My puzzled look begged for more information. She continued, "There is so much stuff stacked all over the place in our offices that we can barely sit in our offices. I've tried to talk with my department heads, but to no avail. They just don't listen. We can't get rid of anything!" Working for a well-known large nonprofit, this certainly surprised me. I asked, "How old are your department heads?" All of us along with my wife erupted in laughter.
I deserve to get paid this much.
I'm worth it!" Millennials and Eco-boomers maintain they are uniquely trained in newer systems, technologies, and techniques. "I'm worth the salary, just look at what I can do!" Millennials are the largest, best educated, and most diverse group of workers in American history. And,
"I need to get paid this much I really do!"
Millennials and Eco-boomers carry staggering student loan debts into the tens of thousands of dollars. Two of my sons still struggle to pay off their student loans ten years after graduation. My niece just received her bachelor's degree from a state university. Her student loan debt stands at $80,000! She is now in a master's program borrowing more to study. Estimated final debt; $150,000.
Where Does That Leave Us Now?
As a Boomer myself, I seem to faintly remember my builder parents issuing the same concerns. And, if I'm honest, I too remember in my earlier years feeling left out, unappreciated, and underutilized.
From my perspective, one thing is certain. There are some pretty brilliant, creative, and technologically advanced young workers out there! Equally, ability, experience, and know-how exists deep within the ranks of older employers. There is no shortage of talent. There just seems to be a shortage of community. Maybe we should work more on community?
Just My Thoughts,
Thinking this whole "expectations" thing out here, I ask, "What exactly does it mean when someone says, 'It, they, he, or she didn't meet my "expectations?'" As mentioned in my last blog expectation is defined as, "a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future." It's a hope of something better than what is present. A very successful business person once told me, "My expectation is to get what I want, how I want it, when I want it, and to get all of it, I can." Now, there is quite a bit of truth in that statement! And, perhaps this sentiment is a familiar theme.
What I Wish
"To get all I can!" There is a desire in many people to do the best they can for themselves, their families, and for those they love. For example, I wish my sons succeed in their calling, are happy in their relationships, and love those around them. I hope my grandchildren all grow up healthy, happy, and productive. I wish for a lot of things, good things, and healthy things. Squeeze the last ounce of goodness out of life might be the cadence of this expectation.
What I Will
"How I want it" and "when I want it" is a matter of will. Sam Walton, the Founder of the Mammoth Walmart Empire held, "High expectations are the key to everything." In such, expectations push one to achieve. Almost all high achievers drive themselves by high expectations.
When setting expectations high in achievement, great possibilities can occur. We love to quote famous people who've achieved historically noteworthy feats. Yet, some of their noteworthiness is simply because others say it is so, and someone recorded the event. Often, many notable accomplishments go completely unnoticed.
Mrs. Majola, in Steadville, South Africa cares for thirty orphan children in her garage; the kids live there, in her garage. She lives with them, in her garage. She pushes herself to care for these children every day. Few will ever take note of her, but when asked the reason for her diligent assistance to the little ones she simply said, "Children expect parents. These children have no parents. Therefore I am their parent. I am their expectation today." Yes, English speakers do not speak English that way. But, a Zulu speaker struggling with English said those words exactly, "I am their expectation today." Significant meaning!
What I Want
There is another expectation which I suspect slays more people than helps, I suspect. Let's call it Me-Expectation, or as my friend put it, "What I want." This expectation insists that every possible event occurs on the individual's field of desire. The measurement is, "What makes me happy meets my expectation."
Once while standing in line to order a coffee at McDonald's a blustery woman pushed in front of me. With her outstretched hand holding a coffee, she exploded, "This coffee is not right! I don't think you stirred the sugar in the bottom!" Feeling a bit sorry for the worker behind the counter caught a little off guard, I softly retorted, "It's a buck cup of coffee, why not stir it yourself? A verbal blitzkrieg followed, "Oh, shut up! It's not your business." And, with that, the woman's coffee stirred, and cup firmly in hand she shot out of the shop. The center of her expectation was only herself. And, what about the server behind the counter? What about her expectations that day; job, family, and friends? What about my expectations? Just the way you want to start your day!
In this consumerist society, were indoctrinated into thinking all things should work together for me. Advertising jingles, slogans, and cultural overtones reinforce "me the center of me." I mean, if a Cat commercial on TV tells me that my cat deserves the best, and better get the best, just because my cat is my cat, where does that lead most expectations?
And, when "me" becomes the core of fulfilling my expectations, what happens to everyone else's expectations? What about he, she, him, her, them, and they? When people become mere objects of my expectations for me, don't I set myself up for disappointment? And, don't I aid in other's disappointments too?
My thoughts lead me towards this thinking these days, "Maybe, just maybe, such preoccupations with me, myself, and I ensure no one's expectations can be met; most of all mine.
Just My Thoughts,
Last Week Exceeding Expectations
A slightly frustrated patron spoke obtrusively to his friend as I stood behind, "They just did not meet my expectations." He then went into a rant about all the shortcomings of those he reported to, the vision of the company, the product they produced, and the lack of benefits he received.
"Expectation," it's a word used frequently in frustration. He didn't meet my expectation, so I left him. My expectation was so much higher, I am disappointed. I thought he/she was better than that! The president, what a let down. My marriage, disappointing. My expectation of my friendship with her, well it didn't quite work out. "Expectation," quite an interesting concept.
What Exactly is an Expectation?
Expectation is defined as, "a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future." Now that really grabbed hold - a strong belief that something will happen in the future. You see, I think another word for expectation is "hope." When I once ask my mom why she weekly bought so many lottery tickets she replied, "Hope."
Expectation A Better Hope?
So, I think when someone says, "It just didn't meet my expectation . . ." They are really saying, "I hoped for so much more." Hope perhaps needs some defining. What hope? What does hope look like? What exactly does one hope for? What does one expect hope to produce? How does one get hope, and once hope is received, then what?"
The problem with expectations is that often they are not grounded in real life. Asking one's self very direct questions helps put expectations on solid footing. Questions like, "When I accept this position at this company what are my chances based upon my abilities to advance myself?" Or, "My relationship with him is blissfully happy right now, but in a few years down the road are we prepared for inevitable changes?" Or, "Will this relationship always remain the way it is?" Maybe, "How can I live somewhere else, and why do I want to leave?" And, the ultimate questions, "How can I change my life, change my surroundings, and change my future?"
Expectations - Hope or Self-Determination?
Perhaps, one of the biggest questions for consideration is, "What are my expectations based upon?" Sometimes, perhaps often, people build expectations upon a Lottery-Ticket-Win-It-Big philosophy. The thought process is, "Just somewhere over that rainbow lies something better."
I've witnessed this many times as a counselling pastor. A young woman married only six years shared, "Pastor, my relationship with him is so disappointing. He is just, well, a little bit way too average. I expected more love, more meaning, and more purpose in our relationship. I am going to find something better." On another incident shared with me personally by a church member in my first American pastorate, "We had so much higher expectations of you." That one really motivate me; not! Returning from a family vacation a dad shared, "I wished that trip worked about better." Here's a big one heard many times, "My expectation of retirement was so much higher than where I am at now!"
A Thought For Consideration
Are our expectations, just a mere hope of better things to come? Is expectation some sort of mystical wish of getting lucky that life will work out better than it does now? Or, is expectation built upon a determination to make one's relationships, families, lives, and futures better? Is it just plain old fashion hard work?
Here's the kicker. For most of us commoners, does one's direct input into self-determination create and fulfill its own expectations? Does one create and fulfill one's own expectations?
Is expectation built upon initiative and hard work or is it just waiting for social and cosmic lines to intersect in our lives?
Just My Thoughts
Next Week - When "Me" is the Center of Expectations
A few days ago, my three year old grandson, Nanner - as I call him, called me on his mom's cell phone. He wanted to talk with "my papa." My grandson who is very articulate for his age began telling me about his trip with his mom to the grocery store. For twenty-five minutes Nanner described his shopping experience to me. He began, "And, now papa we are in the ceweole (cereal) isle." With several 'and ums' he continued, "And, now we are in the puppy isle (dog food) . . . " He continued to describe every facet of every isle from his little three year old mind's perspective. Suddenly the subject matter changed.
"And, ah papa . . .? AJ, (his older brother) bwurned (burned) his stomach on the stwairs (stairs)." Always intrigue by his young mind, I asked, "How did AJ get his stomach burned on the stairs?" With a condescending sigh in his voice like, "You know," he blurted, "The carpet papa!" Just enjoying his descriptions and talk I pressed on, "The carpet and the stairs?" In a bolt of excitement Nanner declared, "Yah! We activated the carpet!" In the background, his mother exploded with laughter in the store. "Yes papa, the carpet is activated, and we slide down the stwairs," he gleefully explained. He explained in an endearing three year old kind of way only a three year old can do. Then all of a sudden, "Um, I am done now. . . . And, um Papa . . . I love you. Bye!"
Besides being one of the luckiest men alive for being loved by such innocence, the conversation produced thought. Activate is defined as, "to make active or more active." It also carries the idea of, "to cause to function." Another use of the word is, "to turn on or begin with" as in activating a cell phone. To a three year old it meant, "An opportunity to learn a new experience of sliding down the stairs on one's abdomen over and over again until superficial abrasions upon the stomach and knees appear thereby causing a burning sensation indicating a need to stop said practice." Ok, well those are more my words, not so much Nanner's. :-)
After our conversation I thought, "'Activates,' what an interesting word." Questions began popping in my head, "What activates me? What activates people in general? What activates period? What activates the activator?" Just what does activate fulfillment in each and everyone of us?
As a Professional Life Coach it is a question I ask often in a variety of ways. Just what would produce fulfillment and significance for you? What is the one thing you need to change today to begin to bring about that happiness? Or, what might be the steps that if accomplished could activate you towards living life fully?
But, through the eyes of my three year old grandson, I guess it all boils to just two simple questions. Is your carpet activated? And, if not, what activates your carpet?
Just My Thoughts,
Quite often people say something like this to me, "I feel like I am stuck therefore I feel like I am just not able to move ahead." I've learned that statement often means, "I am not happy where I am at right now, I need to move forward, but I don't know how to move forward. How do I move from where I am currently to where I wish to be; even if I'm not quite sure where I want to be?"
Where Are You Now?
Perhaps this sounds a bit trivial or dumb. However, listening to many many people, my take is most people can't answer this question very well. Asking the question over and over again, only one in ten come close to knowing where they currently are in life. Maybe, they know what they do for work, what activities they are involved in daily, but knowing where they are in thought, mind, and desire often many don't have a clue.
While speaking with an owner of a large construction company in South Africa, Bryan, he looked at me and said, "Ah, I just don't know Don about this job?" Now from my point of view he was quite successful at what he did. Consequently he enjoyed a nice house, nice - very nice cars, good marriage, kids in very posh colleges, and surrounded himself with all the trimmings of success. Once I asked, "So Bryan, where are you exactly in your life right now." Dumbfounded with a shrug of his shoulders, he said, "I just don't know."
Now, my grandfather loved to drive. Accordingly, he sometimes drove one hundred miles to take grandma to lunch. Therefore, every summer my grandpa showed up at my mom's house. Raised by a single mother, there was little money for extras. Grandpa and Grandma ensured that my mother, myself, and five other siblings enjoyed a vacation every summer; oh, and snoopy our dog too!
Upon his arrival in his 72 Chevy Impala, the miracle began! Slowly and precisely grandpa packed all of our belongings. Fishing rods, fishing tackle, suitcases, games, food, drinks, coolers, baseball bats, gloves, footballs, and toys all went into the trunk of his car. It always looked like a miracle, how mounds of stuff all went into that trunk. Then the second miracle began. In the back seat of his four door Chevy, six kids and our dog loaded up. With mom in the middle in the front, grandpa in the driver's seat, and grandma in the passenger's seat that totaled nine humans and one dog all in one car ready for the three hour trip to Great Grandpa and Grandma's cabin up North!
Now more than one time during those early years of my life, I asked my grandfather upon embarking on our trip, "Grandpa how do we get up North to the cabin?" Grandpa always responded, "You first have to know where you're at right now before you can look to where you're going." My early year's response was, "Why?" Grandpa expounded on many occasions that before one looks to where one is going, one first must understand where one is. This he believed important for a number of reasons.
First, the moment is all one really ever possessed. "Know what you have now, because now is all you've got!" That didn't make much sense to a ten year old, but as I've put on fifty more years, it makes a lot of sense now. The past is behind me, and tomorrow is only a hope because all I am is right here, right now.
Second, knowing where you're at is important so you can know where you came from; your upbringing, roots, and origins. Grandpa thought this important. You are who you are because you come from where you came from, and you go to where your going because of where you are right now.
Third, if you don't know where you came from, you'll never know how far you've gone, and how far you still have yet to go. He used to tell me, "Buddy, if you don't know where you're at, then you'll not be sure where you are going, and you'll never be sure if you've arrived; really all you'll ever do is wander looking for somewhere else to go." With that he gave me the old road atlas map and put me to work.
So, where are you going today?
Just My Thoughts
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.