What Makes High Level Leaders Ineffective

Here’s a random observation.

The higher level leader you are, the more resources you need in order to be effective.

So the big mistake we make in churches (and business for that matter), is depleting the budget to bring in a high level leader, but have nothing left over for admin help or an operational budget.

Without these things, top leaders could be frustrated or ineffective.

Book Notes: The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

Recently, I finished a great book called The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg. Below are some of my notes.

Do you want to chase degrees or do you want to chase success?

Sir Ken Robison, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Chances Everything, says if an alien were to visit earth and comment on our education system, he would infer that the purpose of public education is to produce university professors.”

There is little evidence that grades bear any casual relationship at all to real world results, success, achievement or satisfaction in life.

There are boatloads of good freelancers who are broke because they don’t know how to market their services.  Learn the business side of your craft.

Education is not the same thing as school.  Despite 16 years or more of schooling, most of what you’ll need to learn to be successful you’ll have to learn on your own, outside of school, whether you go to college or not.

Skill #1: Make your work meaningful.

  • The world doesn’t care whether we want to make a difference or have an impact.  When we dream about the things we want to do, we don’t dream about things achieved with little to no risk.  The bigger impact you want to make, the more risk you will have to take.
  • It’s easier to figure out how to make a difference in the world and find meaning in your life when your bills are covered.
  • Trailblazing is a problem if nobody wants to go whoever the trail you are blazing leads.
  • The best things you can do in business are to keep your overhead low and make sure you’re getting recurring revenue as quickly as possible.

Skill #2:  Find great mentors and teachers. 

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn

The secret to finding mentors is giving.  Hope to get something in return but don’t expect anything.    Two great questions to ask:

  1. What’s most exciting for you right now in your life or business?
  2. What’s challenging for you in your life or business right now?

Skill #3: Marketing

  • “I am a 100% self educated direct marketing expert.  No college, no apprenticeship.  Just a study of everything I could get my hands on and diligent application.” – Dan Kennedy
  • You are in the marketing business.  You are not in the dry cleaning or restaurant or widget manufacturing or wedding planning business.
  • Good marketing starts with the problem you can solve for a customer who realizes he has a brpblem.
  • Marketing is one of your most important jobs, period. Nothing happens until something gets sold. Safe doesn’t sell. Good marketing isn’t pushing products…it’s about listening to your audience.
Skill #4:  Sales
It says “best selling author” not “best writing author.” Sales is the magic skill that opens doors.
Skill #5: Invest for Success
  • The Paul Mitchell logo was designed in black and white because it was cheaper to print the bottles that way.
  • Keep expenses low, generate income right away (even if it’s a little bit) and continually reinvest as much as effectively possible into expanding your future income.
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content oriented.    Millionaires tend to have a passion for life-long learning.
  • “One characteristic of a lot of entrepreneurs its hat they’re relatively unemployable.” – Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress.
Skill #6: Build the Brand of You
Whatever your market, there is a community on Twitter. Your brand is what people think about when they hear your name.
Skill #7: Think Like an Owner, Not an Employee
  • Pay great attention to what YOU can contribute to any given person or situation.
  • Great leaders find out what people in their organization need, and give it to them.    You get through school by giving expected answers.  You don’t make it in business using that same formula.
  • People who don’t have an owner mindset will not move toward big decisions, because they will be afraid of making the wrong one.
  • If you have an owner mindset, you see yourself as RESPONSIBLE for the impact you have in your usiness or workplace, and for your own success and advancement in life.
  • Henry Ford: “An educated man is not one who is trained to carry a few dates in history – he is one who can accomplish things.”

When Everyone Feels This Way

I know you’ve gotten a monday morning email saying the music was too loud, or somebody stopped you in the parking lot to complain that the previously free coffee is now too expensive. Maybe one person said your sermon didn’t paint the whole picture or that your website wasn’t clear on one particular issue. But be careful: How one person feels isn’t how everyone feels.

It’s easy to take feedback from one person and project it on the entire group. All of a sudden, “people” are feeling this way, or “they” are saying, when, in reality, it’s just the opinion of one or two people.

And here’s another version.

How the top people feel is not how everyone feels. Those who know you best or who receive personal attention from you will often let you know. High level volunteers who know exactly what’s going on may cause you to think everybody know’s what’s happening, but that’s just not true. The people closest to you or the highest level leaders in your organization might not be a reflection of how everyone feels and what everyone knows. If you only listen to the top people, you’ll miss the masses.

And here’s another version.

If you’re a preacher or communicator, you’ll especially relate to the immediate feeling that comes after preaching a mediocre message. “That was the worst message I’ve ever preached…there’s no way anyone understood anything I was saying,” you think as you drive home. The next day, you get a call or email from someone who heard from God, and you’re reminded that it’s not just your words that matter. You might feel like the message was worthless, but God used it.

You might not like your website, the way a kid’s classroom is set up or the landscaping. But your personal preferences aren’t everyone’s personal preferences. Because how you feel might not be how everyone else feels.

So let’s review.

1. How one person feels isn’t how everyone feels.
2. How the top people feel isn’t how everyone feels.
3. How you feel isn’t how everyone feels.


How We’re Intentionally Saving for a Major Purchase

My wife and I are saving money for a major financial purchase. We’re trying to save a specific dollar amount as fast as we can – ideally, in the next year.

So I hung up this calendar in our closet and my goal is to write a number in every box – the amount of money transferred to our Ally savings account that day.

Yes, every day, I want to manually transfer something to this account. It might be a big amount, or it might be $1. But every day, our goal is to save something. I could either buy a cup of coffee at the coffee shop, or transfer $2. I could either keep that shirt I don’t wear, or sell it on eBay for $5 and make a transfer.  In the past 24 days, I’ve made 23 transfers and filled in 23 boxes.

The old school calendar and the ritual of writing a number in a box every day is really helping. I’ve never approached a financial goal with this much intentionality and intensity before, but three weeks in, I’m relatively pleased. There’s something about visually tracking the goal and writing it on the wall.

I’ll keep you posted.

For English, Press 3

Engraved on the Statue of Liberty is a quote from a sonnet by Emma Lazarus. It reads, “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddles masses yearning to breathe free.” Listen to the political rhetoric  on illegal immigration and you might wonder why some lawmakers haven’t climbed up the Statue of Liberty to chisel off that quote.

I recently attending a panel discussion on healthcare where a local doctor whose practice does not accept third-party insurance spoke. He simply charges for his services and admits that many illegals come to his practice for care. He charges what he considers a fair price and said they are usually happy to pay.

A woman in the audience was very upset over the fact that her tax dollars were funding services like medicine and education for illegal immigrants while her own children did not have healthcare. While I am sure that this is a complicated issue, one involving a great deal of politics and invoking a great deal of passion, the doctor’s answer was great.

“They are still human,” he said.

I do not pretend to understand all of the issues related to immigration, and Lady Liberty may not be able to practically follow through on her statement, but the well-being of humanity is an issue that should extend beyond the healthcare or education debate.

Yes, many people take advantage of government services. But a great deal of other people leave horrible conditions in their own country and come to the United States in pursuit of a better life. While millions of Americans may not have access to quality healthcare (the emergency room is compelled by law to treat everyone in need of medical attention), we cannot often relate to the horrible living conditions around the world. Our perspective is not complete.

As a Christian, I believe we have some sort of responsibility to care about the needs of the world, including those who do not live in our country. I’m not sure what that looks like, but I know serving and helping shouldn’t be stopped by borders.


National pride is a good thing, as evidenced by the Olympic Games. During these few weeks every two years, we root for Americans as nationals root for their countries as well. But national pride can lead to ethnocentrism, the belief that one culture is morally superior to another.

Americans speak few languages and know little about world affairs. The newspaper in a small town is more likely to run a story on an overnight arrest at a convenience store than what’s happening in another part of the country. It’s difficult to get people to think outside their town, much less challenge them about global concerns. We’re convinced it’s not important. And we’re highly suspicious of other cultures, especially Islamic ones.

We expect everyone to speak English and act offended when we learn that they are teaching Spanish in the schools. “If they want to come here, they can learn our language,” people say. When I visited Israel a few years ago, my cab driver spoke three languages fluently, and while I may know many things, I speak just one language.  We forget that most of the world doesn’t speak English.

Furthermore, those who claim that they live in the greatest country in the world have most likely never visited any other country.  It’s small thinking and ethnocentricity.  It’s a statement that lacks facts and reeks of prejudice.

We can be proud of nation in which we live, but we need to honor and respect other cultures, and realize that those who live there think THEY are living in the greatest country on earth as well.


Did you know that the world’s tallest building isn’t in the US? The richest man in the world is Mexican and the largest publicly-traded company is Chinese. The world’s biggest plane is built in Russia and The Ukrane. The largest Ferris Wheel is in Singapore. Macao surpasses Las Vegas in casino revenue. Only 1 of the top 10 malls is in the United States. 2.5 billion people in the world live in just two countries…India and China.

I know us Americans think that live revolves around us, and while we may be the world’s only military superpower, finances, industry, society and culture is no longer centered here.

When you look back through human history and consider all the Empires that have come and gone, we shouldn’t think that America will last forever. Rome was pretty powerful in her heyday. So was Greece. And Great Britain.

It’s not that America is losing ground, but rather that everybody else is catching up. That’s what happened to the Dream Team, the USA basketball team that dominated the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. By 2004, International Basketball caught up.

It happens in sports and it happens in business. The growth that occurred over the past 200 years in America has happened in China over the past 30 years. Wal-Mart, the pinnacle of American capitalism, employs 1.4 million people and makes up a whopping 2% of the GDP. But the majority of Wal-Mart’s suppliers are in China. This American company is really a world company.

And it’s true in education. Foreign students make up 50% of the science researchers in the United States. In 2006, 40% of doctorates in science and engineering were given to people not born in America.

Not only do those of us in small towns need to realize that there’s a country out there. Those of us in this country need to realize that there’s a world out there.


Did you know that protestant churches are growing fastest in Brazil and South Korea, NOT in North America? Did you know that South Africa has 7,000 Christian denominations? Not Christians…not churches….denominations. Do you realize that Christianity is spreading all over the world, and that the move of God is not limited to America.

The Great Commission commands us to take the Gospel to the World. To do that, we’ve got to get out of our American bubble and stop expecting everyone else to adopt American values.

If you’re a leader, I recommend you read The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria.  It’s recently been updated and its one of the best books on global thinking.

Lessons Learned from Michael Hyatt’s Platform Book Launch

Michael Hyatt’s new book Platform, was available on May 1. But he asked me not to buy it until the unofficial book launch, about three weeks later.

Why would an author ask me NOT to buy his book?  It was all a part of the launch plan.

Though I purchased the book and am looking forward to reading it, I’m equally as intrigued by his launch strategy. Here are seven things you could learn from Michael Hyatt and the way he launched the new book.

1. Ask people to do something specific.

On May 1, Hyatt wrote, “I want to ask you to wait until the week of May 21–25, which is the official “launch week.” He goes on to give the specific reason for requesting this specific action. Hyatt didn’t ask people to support the book, talk about it, consider something…he called for a specific action. His request wasn’t vague, it was clear.

Too many times we inform but don’t ask.  We tell people we have a mailing list, but we don’t ask them to sign up.  We tell people they can make a donation, but we don’t ask them to do it.  This isn’t a subtle difference in terminology; it’s an important lesson in clarity.

2. Worthwhile bonuses lead to action.

If you purchased the book during the launch week, you were rewarded with several bonuses, including a six-session video series, a video about writing, two previously available e-books, digital versions of the book, and an audio recording of the book. According to Hyatt, these resources have a value of $375.98. When it comes to offering bonuses, Hyatt got two things right.

First of all, the bonuses were valuable. This wasn’t a free bookmark with the purchase of a book, or a six-page blog post turned PDF. The video and audio resources are arguably MORE valuable than the book itself. If you’re going to give bonuses, make sure they are worth it.

Second, the bonuses were diverse. Some people will greatly appreciate the video series, but as I read through the list, I wanted the audio book. Since I spend a good deal of time in the car, I will listen to this book before I read it. That one bonus made the product more valuable to me.

3. Creating a launch plan is important.

Too many times, we work hard on creating a good product, but but no thought into how to launch or sell it. As Robert Kiyosaki jokes, there’s a reason we talk about best-selling authors and not best-writing authors.

Hyatt and his team created a launch strategy that was both intentional and effective. Tweets throughout the day showed the book climbing up Amazon’s Top 100 list.

I would argue that a good launch plan is nearly as important as a good product. If you’ve got something great, but nobody knows about it, you won’t make much of a difference. From reviews, to the bonus offers, to the Platform Launch Team, great thought and care was taken in the launch of this book.

4. Landing pages are different than websites.

Hyatt created a unique landing page for the book and the special offer. Notice the sidebar isn’t the typical blog sidebar – everything is focused on one thing. The typical plugins and popups are disabled, because the goal of the page is to get the reader to do one thing…buy the book.

When you have a product, event or service that you want to emphasize, create a landing page and drive people to one action. If the idea of a landing page is new to you, I highly recommend this free series from CopyBlogger

5. Deadlines drive decisions.

If you want people to take action, you’ve got to give them a deadline. The special bonus offers were available for one week, and the countdown clock in the sidebar is an effective tool to remind us.

Too many times we create offers and campaigns with no deadline. That means people have no incentive to take action now. Instead, they think, “I’ll get to that one day.” Whether it’s a limited time offer or a price increase, a deadline can actually drive decisions.

Here’s an example of deadlines you could use:

  • Parents, sign up your teenagers for student camp. $299 until June 1, then it’s $349.
  • Bring in your donations of gently worn clothes before Sunday, May 16.
  • To receive a tax donation, be sure to postmark your envelope by December 31.
  • Happy Hour is from 4-6 PM.

6. Honest communication trumps hype.

I love that Hyatt clearly explained WHY he is doing this.

“Why am I doing this? Because I want to get Platform on the best sellers list. The best sellers list is tabulated by counting all the books that are sold each week. The book that sells the most is #1, the book that sells the second most is #2, and so on. (I know it’s not a perfect system, but it is what it is.) When a book makes the list, it drives additional visibility. Retailers who initially didn’t stock the book order it. The traditional media becomes more interested in booking the author. People who weren’t aware of the book, suddenly become interested.”

That’s an honest answer and I respect it. I understand exactly what’s going on, and I didn’t feel tricked into making a purchase.  People do like to buy, but nobody wants to be sold.

7. No strategy makes up for bad content.

I haven’t read the book yet (but I will read it and listen to it), but based on the reviews, the book is great. I trust many of the people who provided quotes, including Seth Godin, who said: “A generous book from a man who knows what he’s talking about. Michael Hyatt has built a platform, and you can too.”

Too many times, we launch and market something that isn’t any good in the first place. Michael Hyatt created an excellent launch plan, and it seems to be working.  If the book is as good as the launch plan, I’ll be happy.

One Critique

If I could offer one critique of the process, it would be in the product review department. On the day of the launch, the book had more than seventy five-star reviews on Amazon. I might be inclined to give the book five stars as well, but absolutely NO one, two, three or four star reviews seems odd to me.

While asking for positive feedback is great, some people are skeptical of products that don’t have ANY negative or neutral reviews.

Google’s recent ZMOT report learned that a few honest, mediocre reviews don’t heart…they actually make a product or service appear more authentic. Here’s a post I did about what churches could learn from the ZMOT report.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post some notes from the book and do a Two Minute Book Review.

The Problem with Pedestals

I’m a huge Andy Stanley fan. I read everything Tim Keller writes. And there are dozens of pastors, leaders and Christians I deeply respect.

Because while they are incredible writers, leaders and pastors, they are not super-human or super Christian. They are husbands and fathers and friends. Parts of their lives are incredibly public, but I don’t know the full picture. And I have to guard myself of putting them on a pedestal and thinking they are super Christians.

And it’s not just a Christian issue. Look back through real history, and you’ll romanticize and idealize great leaders. We’ll talk about Washington on the white horse and how he willingly laid down power for the good of the infant nation, yet fail to wrestle with the fact he owned slaves. We’ll challenge young people with the story of Helen Keller, but completely forget about her love for communism and socialism later in life. This isn’t an attempt to throw mud at people who deserve a place in history, or a suggestion that all heroes have secret sins that just haven’t been uncovered. That’s not my goal. And it’s not healthy.

We sometimes gloss over glaring issues, because we need the feel-good story. Other times, we’re crushed when our leaders fall from grace.

Honoring spiritual leaders is a good thing, but when that honor turns into a low-level form of worship, we cross the line into idolatry. We’re crushed and broken when our heroes fall, not just because of their humanity, but because of our own misplaced or misguided hero worship.

And being a spiritual leader is a tricky thing. You ARE in front of people and influencing people, and that influence is too easily abused.

That’s why I love movies like the Avengers – a film that portrays the human side of heroes. A rich, tech-saavy Tony Stark who openly struggles with pride and arrogance. A scientist who lives a life constantly suppressing emotion lest he become something he fears. A military captain from another time who struggles to fit into modern society. And incredibly fake movie with incredibly important implications on who we view as heroes.
Our heroes are humans.

We may write about their successes, but we may never know their secrets. We may clap for their victories, but without perspective, we are crushed by their vices.

We need examples and leaders. Hope and trust and following is a good thing, and perhaps there is something in the human DNA that leads us to put people on pedestals. Deep down, I think we all crave leadership and need examples to follow.

But let’s not our heroes become the sum of our hopes. Let’s not put faith that should be in God be diverted to people or allow their considerable skills to convince us that they have a deeper access to God.

Our heroes are human.

The Best Ideas Come from Unlikely Sources

Masking tape was invented by a guy who worked for an auto body paint shop.

Post It Notes weren’t invented because someone was trying to invent the post it note.

Some of the best ideas aren’t totally out-of-the box, brand new thoughts, but a combination of two or more ideas. So it’s not always a brand new product that revolutionizes life, but the mixing of two ideas to create a semi-new category of something.

The technical term for this is conceptual blending.

It’s why you get great ideas when you’re outside your normal flow. For example, we recently got a great idea because we intentionally went into a section of a bookstore dealing with art and design. I have minimal interest in art and design, but something I noticed there greatly influenced one of my core responsibilities.

It’s why the best people to ask about your church bulletin and handout might not be your staff, but moms or insurance salesmen who have a good grasp of writing. The people knee deep in the operation might not be the best people to innovate…you might need to bring in help. Not complete outsiders, but people on the fringe.

It’s why pastors need to read people magazine. There’s very little there of eternal worth, but it’s a glimpse into what people are thinking and talking about throughout the normal week.

Get outside the normal.  Or bring in some people from the fringe.

That’s how innovation happens.

Domains for Sale

I’m cleaning out some of my domains and thought I’d see if any of my readers would be interested in purchasing them. Here’s what’s on the block.

  • 412students.com
  • ABrandNewChurch.com
  • peopleinthemorning.com
  • SavingLoop.com
  • SmartPastors.com
  • SoFarSoGod.com
  • TheManGames.com / The ManGames.net
  • YouCanKnowGod.com
  • yourgreatsexlife.com

If you’re interested, contact me.

Stuff I Starred

Here’s a list of some of the stuff I starred in Google reader, favorited on Twitter, or clipped into Evernote.

I Know I Talk Too Much

In the front of my Moleskin notebook, I wrote a short statement that’s my unofficial theme for the year.

Speak less. Listen more.

This is a challenge to me because I’m terrible at this. As a public speaker and writer, my weapons of choice are words. I’m sure I could get better at putting those words together in a more intelligent way, but what I really need to work harder at is being quiet.

I need to listen to my readers more. I need to listen to my friends more. I need to listen to my wife more. I need to listen to my kids more.

I’ve been in conversations with people who are great talkers and bad listeners, and those conversations are incredibly one sided and terribly miserable.

I don’t want to be the talker, the guy in the meeting who keeps sharing his opinion and talking about his issues.

I don’t want to be the name dropper, the guy who talks about everyone he knows like he’s their best friend.

I don’t want to be the one upper, the guy who hears my story and tells a more dramatic version of his.

I’m not always going to get this right, but I’m going to try.

Speak less. Listen more.

Seems appropriate to say comments are open.

You’re Communicating Important Information That Nobody Wants to Hear

The other day, I left Atlanta for Norfolk, Virginia on a Delta flight. As I stowed my carry on luggage and put my electronic in the off position (why don’t they use normal language?), the captain came over the PA to convey some seemingly important information.

He told me we’d be leaving from Runway #5, and we’d eventually cruise at an altitude of 38,000 feet.

Exactly what am I supposed to do with this information? How does this knowledge affect me in any way? Now, I’m sure those two bits of info are important to the PILOT or possibly the FAA, but why did the entire plane need to know that?

It was important to him, but not to us.

Tell me about the weather where I’m going. Tell me what the stock market is doing right now. Tell me who won the Celtics game last night. All of those things would be far more relevant to the cabin (why do they call it a cabin) of the plane.

Too much church communication, and even sermons, adopt this same model. We tell people information that matters to us, and expect them to care. Our communication or our preaching doesn’t intersect their real world, so the truthfulness or the accuracy of the information falls by the wayside because nobody cares.

If you want to communicate effectively, start with your audience. Step into their world and let them know WHY they need to know what you’re about to tell them.

In a sermon, while you’re preparation should always begin with the Bible, your sermon probably shouldn’t start there. Sadly, most people aren’t going to alter something in their life “because it’s in the Bible.”

When you’re sending an email, make sure it’s about them, not about your runway or the altitude. (You might want to pick up this cheap ebook from Improving Church called “Why Nobody Reads Your Church Email”)

Don’t be an airline captain, talking just because you have a microphone and are supposed to address the audience, and end up giving information that is accurate and important to you, but meaningless to everyone that hears it.

The Entire Group of Volunteers You’re Missing

Churches are often great for helping people find places to serve. We’ve got spiritual gift tests, web forms, and volunteer expos that do a fantastic job at matching people’s skills to the needs in the church. Here’s some common volunteer needs:

  • Teach children
  • Be a greeter
  • Play in the band
  • Set up or tear down
  • Church work day
  • Work with students
  • Drive the church van
  • Chaperone a trip

Do you know what’s missing from that list? It’s what’s missing from similar lists at most churches.

We’re great at giving people opportunities to serve with their hands, but where are the opportunities for people to serve with their mind?

Everyone isn’t wired to work with kids or be a greeter. Some introverted and smart people don’t want to work in the middle school ministry. It’s great that people can show up and serve, but what about the thinkers, readers, planners, or techies?

We need to do a better job of creating opportunities for people to use their mental talents, just like we give people the opportunity to use their strength or smiles.

Here are some ideas:

  • What if you turned over your church twitter account to a team of three people skilled in social media?
  • Do you have people who are always wanting deeper messages? What if you invited them to bring their commentaries ad study Bibles to your house and you worked on messages as a group?
  • Your website doesn’t have to be updated by a staff member. There’s probably a teenager who can do it better than you.
  • What if you allowed people to make funny videos? What if you brought in someone to teach PhotoShop or Final Cut and started training people to make videos.
  • Could someone make your sermon PowerPoint presentation?
  • What if you engaged some people gifted in public relations to help with a media campaign?
  • Are there strategic thinkers who could make your strategic plans or long-range decisions better?
  • What if you found people skilled in event planning and gave them help and budgets?
  • Are there copywriters, bloggers, or editors sitting in your services?
  • Would someone be willing to proofread your bulletin, newsletters or emails?

There is a large group of people in your church who are waiting for you to engage their brains, and give them some thinking-work to do. It’s not that they are above cleaning floors at the church work day – it’s that God has given them a different skill set.

Don’t Start a Prayer Team

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a church doing a Sunday morning evaluation for a church. In the evening, I spent some time with their key leaders talking about unity and just answering questions.

One of the volunteer leaders asked me about how to recruit people to the prayer team she leads. She was passionate about the ministry, but was having trouble getting people connected.

Without much thought, I gave an answer that I’ve now thought about for a few weeks.

If you want to get people on the prayer team, don’t call it a prayer team.

New people to a church, especially people who do not have a church background, might not understand what a prayer team is or what a prayer team does. Are there meetings? How does it work? What’s it all about? A lot of people love the idea of teams, but others are scared of meetings and rules.

Instead of promoting a prayer team, what if we just asked people to pray for specific requests on their own? Ask them to sign up for updates where they can pray as needed.

That’s a subtle shift in terminology, but it might make the ministry a lot more accessible to people. Besides, the win isn’t people being on the prayer team is the win…it’s people praying.