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5 Things I Love About Football Season

Football season is in full swing. It is one of my favorite times of the year. It is the only sport that I can watch no matter what teams are playing. 

Since I am an East Carolina alumni, I have season tickets to their games. I enjoy attending in person, but I also enjoy watching on television. I was raised on the Washington Redskins and NC State Wolfpack. I have added East Carolina and the Carolina Panthers to that lineup of favorite teams. 

My wife also enjoys football season, especially the in-person games. She is not as much into the game as the things surrounding the game. There are lots of people that way.

I am glad to have football back. In honor of teams on the field and fans in the stands, here are my 5 Thursday Thoughts about why I love college football season. 

Passion

I love the passion of football season. I find it to be more evident in high school and college football than in professional football. It could be the element of students that makes the difference. The passion of fans is just fun to watch. The way they dress. The volume of their cheers. The amount of time spent in preparation to get to a game. The amount of money they spend to attend a game. People have their favorite teams and they support them. Passion spreads the fun along to others.

People

The people of football season are fun. First, the people I enjoy the games with make it better whether we are watching a game on television or attending a game in person. Then, the power of a crowd is enchanting. The thunder of thousands of people cheering and clapping is moving. After the long absence from those venues, it is even more exciting now. Add to this the people you get to watch. In large crowds, there are always a few spectacles you find yourself laughing at or embarrassed for. The people around football season make it so much better.

Upsets

I love a good upset unless it is my team being upset. There is something about the underdog occasionally winning that gives everyone hope. Watching a team that is completely outmanned figure out how to put a single game together and beat someone they should have no chance against is exhilarating. Everyone wants to believe they have a chance.

Leadership

Leadership is on display year after year. Great leaders produce great teams. Great leaders are not always coaches. Sometimes a single player with great leadership skills can be the difference-maker for a team. Last year’s Super Bowl winner is a prime example with the addition of Tom Brady. Over the years, it becomes clear that consistently good leadership keeps teams at the top. As a student of leadership, it is always a reminder of the power of great leaders.

Competition

I am a competitor. History tells us that people have been drawn to watching competitions for centuries. It is exciting to watch people with high skill levels pit their abilities against one another. All of the stress, emotion, excitement, and exhilaration that competition brings bleeds over to everyone watching. Whether we win or lose, we are usually made stronger when we compete.

What is your favorite sporting season? Who is your favorite team? How do you celebrate during football season? I would love to hear from you. Maybe I will see you at a game. 

5 Observations from Work Rules! by Lazlo Bock

Recently I took a leadership group through a book written by Google Executive Lazlo Bock entitled Work Rules!. Bock led the people to function at Google, which includes all areas related to the attraction, development, and retention of Googlers worldwide. At the time the book was written, that included over 50,000 people in 70 offices around the world. The company is now called Alphabet and has multiple more employees. 

The book walks through how Google hires and retains employees. It offers suggestions that other organizations can implement even on a smaller scale. Pollers consistently rank Google as one of the top places to work in the United States. This book addresses many of the reasons why people love working there. Here are my 5 Thursday Thoughts about Work Rules!.

Google Is A Verb

Google has become such a part of our lives that we do not even realize how we use the word. We no longer search for something on the internet; we “Google it.” Google has entrenched itself in our daily lives so deeply that we do not even realize its impact on our daily decisions. I tell people that Google knows more about you than you know about yourself. 

Make People Founders

Don’t just have employees. Give them enough responsibility that they feel like a founder. You do not have to start a new company to be a founder. It is more of a mindset. Create a culture where people are invested in the company, and they will act differently than someone who feels like they are just hired to do a job. Creating this culture requires giving employees great opportunities to have a meaningful impact and feel like they are contributing to the good of society.

Culture Over Strategy

I have heard this statement numerous times over the years: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can have the best ideas and hire the best people, but if the culture they are immersed in is not healthy, they will become a product of the culture instead of changing the culture. Culture is one of the most difficult things to change in an organization. Bock says, “Give people slightly more trust, freedom, and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you’re not nervous, you haven’t given them enough.”

Hiring Is The Most Important People Activity

Every single person you hire should be above average. Some of that has to do with how much you pay employees. If money does not matter, every baseball team would have a 3% chance of winning the World Series. That is just not the case. Some teams can attract and retain better players. Some teams can pay higher salaries. Other teams have fantastic farm systems. But the teams at the top all have a system for hiring, recruiting, or drafting the best people. If you hire correctly on the front end, the work will be easier at the back end. 

Pay Unfairly

Bock makes the case that it is okay to pay two people completely different amounts for doing the same job. Your best people are better than you think and worth more than you are paying them. Stop trying to be fair. Most companies design compensation systems that encourage the best performers and those with the most potential to quit. According to Bock, “Fairness is when pay is commensurate with a contribution. As a result, there ought to be tremendous variance in pay for individuals.” The reason you are losing your best employees might be because you are paying them like you pay your worst employees. 

If you have any responsibilities for hiring or managing employees, I highly recommend this book. Every organization wants to recruit and retain the best people possible. This book will offer you significant insight into how to do that.

5 Things I Am Struggling With Right Now

I have goals and dreams. There are so many things I want to accomplish in this life. Every year I make goals for the coming year. This year was no different. I try to review them at least once per month to see what progress I am making. Some I am crushing, others I am making progress, and some I just cannot get any traction.

For my 5 Thursday Thoughts this week, I will share some of the things I am struggling with right now. At least three of these were on my list for this year. Two of them are not goals, but they are things that are frustrating me at the moment. I am sure you have those things too. Here are five of mine. 

Eating

I am not struggling to eat. I am struggling to moderate my intake. One of my goals this year was to get to 220 lbs. I am pretty consistent exercising every day. I have tried some intermittent fasting. I just love good food. Even when I narrow my consumption time to 8 hours per day (intermittent fasting), I still eat more than I should. I think about it when I wake up, and it is one of the last things I think about before bed. I will get it figured out, but I am struggling to lower my food intake. 

Screen Time

I use my phone for just about everything. I talk with people, and I send lots of emails and texts. I connect with people on social media, do sermon research, read, keep up with my favorite teams, keep records, read my Bible, and journal. This list could go on. I use my phone for many things, but I need to put it down more than I do. I am on it from early in the morning until late at night. It is on my goal list, but I have not made much progress. I am hoping the last few months of the year will be better. 

Recording Videos

For about five years, I did at least three live videos per week. This year I wanted to make some changes to how I recorded and delivered them. What happened instead was I have just not been doing videos. I have not done the live videos as I was previously. I have not recorded and edited videos in a studio as I planned. I have allowed the lack of a new video setup to keep me from doing any videos. This will change soon. 

Unanswerable Questions

As a pastor, people look to me for direction at times. Sometimes it is a spiritual direction, but many times it has nothing to do with the spiritual lives. It often centers around family, finances, and careers. With a worldwide pandemic, people added more questions to the list. Should I get vaccinated? Would Jesus wear a mask? Should I put my job at risk? Is it safe for me to come back to church? Is ___________ (the latest conspiracy theory) true? There are no clear answers to these questions. I am not even qualified to have an opinion about some of the questions being asked, much less have an answer. I want to help people. 

I get it. The world is facing things to which there is no clear response. It is a massive change all at once. I do my best to guide when I can. At the moment, I feel a little overwhelmed. I want to help every single person in every situation. I just can’t do it. 

Division Among Believers

I am not sure what is to blame. There are multiple facets to this. For some, it is race-related. For others, politics is the driving force. Currently, vaccinations are the divisive tool of choice. It is not just opinions, but complete fractures in people groups. Differences and divisiveness are not the same. There will always be differences; that we can expect. Divisiveness is dangerous and often demonic. One of the calls for believers is to find unity. When we are participating in the division of Christians, we are walking a dangerous tightrope.

What are your struggles right now? You are not alone. All of us have places we want to see improve. I will report back to you on the first three later in the year.

5 Personal Effects of Not Preaching

I preach almost every Sunday. That is a big part of my job. Most of the time I have been at my current church, I have tried to be out of the pulpit 8-12 times per year. There are varying reasons for this. Some Sundays away would be to attend a conference, while other times I would speak at one of our campuses. I also have scheduled time away for vacations with my family.

When the pandemic began, I found myself at church every Sunday. When we were online-only, I alternated each Sunday preaching with one of our campus pastors, but I was still in the building and engaged. When we started back in person, I thought it best to be present and preach as people began coming back to the building. 

More recently, I have started to step away a little more frequently. I am a firm believer that the local church needs to hear voices different from mine. We also need to give opportunities to young pastors on staff. That is how they grow and improve.

Recently I did not preach two Sundays in a row. I was away for one, and the other Sunday, we had an opportunity to have a guest speaker. My wife asked me if I enjoyed not having to preach. I told her I love preaching but notice certain things happen when I take a break. My 5 Thursday thoughts are about the things I notice when I take a break from preaching.

My Brain Rests

When Sunday morning services are over, I go to lunch, and then I go home and take a nap. After waking up, one of the first things I do is read the text and points for the following week. It sets my brain in motion to think about the text and outline as the week progresses. 

Our sermon series are planned months in advance, so I know what is coming. Thinking about the sermon over the week takes up an enormous amount of my brain capacity. What will I say? What stories will illustrate the point? What other texts support the topic? What needs to be said, and what can I eliminate? Every day, all through the day, I think about what I am going to preach.

When I do not have to preach, it allows my brain to rest. I do not have to think about a sermon, so I am free to think about other things, leading to the next two effects of not preaching.

My Creativity Goes Up

Taking the need to think about a sermon away opens up space for me to be creative in some other areas. I use most of my creativity for sermon stories and delivery. When I do not have to focus there, I can use my creativity for other things. Not preaching the last two weeks have allowed me to think about other things. I have added about 150 different ideas and items in the last two weeks to my notes. Things that I want to accomplish or new ways of doing things that I had not seen before. Creativity can get clogged when we have to concentrate on one specific area for long periods. 

I Can Get Some Other Things Out

When I have a break from preaching, one thing that empties out of me is new ideas. As I mentioned, I have dropped lots of ideas on paper. I am also able to write more when I am not preaching. I have been able to get some work done on two books that I am writing. I have developed some specifics for a job I want to create and some steps I believe God wants me to take in a specific direction. The ideas, the writing, the steps were all there the entire time. But a little mental freedom allowed them to come out and get on paper. 

I Can Listen and Visit

Rarely am I away on a Sunday and do not attend church somewhere else. This past trip, I was able to visit Gateway Church in Southlake, TX. I listen to Pastor Robert Morris almost every week, but this was the first time I attended his church in person. I walked around the building and observed how they do things. I paid attention to their order of service and how people interacted with one another. I walked away with several things that will help improve the church I pastor and how we do things. If I were preaching at one place every single week, I would miss the opportunity to see how others are making the local church better. 

I See Things I Couldn’t See Otherwise

This concept applies mostly to the local church I pastor. When I preach, I have a routine when I get to the building until I leave. When I don’t preach, my routine changes. I end up in different parts of the building at different times. This freedom allows me to see things I would not otherwise see or see in ways I had not seen before. On a recent Sunday, when we had a guest speaker, I noticed several things that I think would be wise to improve. If I had been preaching, I would have missed them.

Maybe you have these same experiences when you take a few days away from your particular job. If you are a pastor, don’t be overprotective of your pulpit. Allow some other voices to speak. It will benefit you and your congregation. If you are not a pastor, taking a little time for perspective from your job will benefit you and your organization. 

5 Places I Am Seeing The Most Personal Change

I have committed my life to personal growth. There have been seasons when it has been easier than others. There were times I regressed. There were other times when growth seemed so easy.

We should always be growing. We are changing whether we like it or not. We are either progressing or regressing, but things are never static. Too often, we do not recognize the change until it has caused us problems.

Recently I was reflecting on some places that were changing in my life. Some of them I have given intentional thought and action. Others seem to be an outgrowth of other places where I am changing. For my 5 Thursday Thoughts this week, I want to share some places I see myself changing the most.

I Am Less Combative

This change point is one I have pursued with intention. Two years ago, my reading introduced me to the enneagram. It is a personality profile. I have taken many over the years, but this one just resonated with me for some reason. I saw some things that explained my personality in ways I had not seen before.

You may have heard me say that arguing was a sport in my family. We still do it for fun. We take opposite sides of a debate and go at it. It doesn’t change how we feel about one another. In meetings, I thought the best way to hash things out was to throw the ideas on the table, have a scrum and see what was left. The problem was that most people do not function very well in that environment.

I also found sport in taking the opposite side of someone’s idea. When others did this to me, they forced me to think more clearly to articulate my point. Most people do not operate like this either.

What I felt was a good way to hash out ideas others found combative and argumentative. I have worked hard on this for the last couple of years. I am not there yet, but I have made a lot of progress.

I Don’t Need As Much Flash

The place I have seen this the most is in my preaching. I used to want catchy titles and fancy sermon series names. Sometimes that is still good. But today, if I am preaching on sanctification, which I am right now, I just want to be straightforward and say this is what we will study. 

I also see this playing a role in two other “F” words: first and famous. I do not need to be first all of the time, and I don’t care to be famous. There have been times when winning was everything. Now another “F” word is more important: faithful. I will talk about that in a moment.

I Have A Dog

I have never been an animal person. I still do not consider myself to be an animal person. But the stars aligned for me to get a dog, and I am glad I did. He is a chocolate lab, and his name is Sam. I am his human. I am learning just like he is. I still don’t want him in my bed, on my furniture, or licking my face. But I love Sam, and he is a great addition to our home.

I Am Conscious of the End

I recently celebrated another trip around the sun. Statistically, I have more years behind me than I have ahead of me. I see the need to be extremely intentional every day with what I am doing and where I am going. I am committed to finishing well. That means faithfulness is more important than first, or famous, or flash. Some days are easier than others, but I am thankful that God sustains me every day.

Our Marriage Is In A Good Season

Marriage has been a journey for Barbara and me. We have been intentional about a lot of things. Some of that intentionality is paying off in this season of our lives. We enjoy one another more than we ever have. We are communicating better than ever. We appreciate our family more. Our home is tested just like yours. That will never end. But our unwavering commitment to one another and to growing in our relationship is a beautiful thing. It is such a blessing that we are investing in helping other couples on their journey.

Where are you changing right now? Is it growth, or is it regression? You get to choose most of the time. Don’t let life simply pass by you. Make daily growth a part of your life. You will be glad you did. 

5 Limiting Lids We Have All Experienced

Barbara and I use stainless steel water bottles every day. We have filtered water at our home, and we refill them multiple times per day. A few weeks back, I went to refill my bottle like I have done hundreds of times. I turned the water on and put my bottle under to fill, and water went everywhere. I had forgotten and left the lid on my bottle. Water was wasted. Things were a little messy. I had to take time to clean it up. Then I finally could take the lid off and fill the bottle.

We are constantly bumping up against lids in our lives. Sometimes it comes from not being prepared or not paying attention. Other times it is a little more nuanced than that. Limiting lids in our lives can create messes that we have to clean up and can cause us to waste valuable resources in the process. 

The question to answer is what are you going to do about your lids. There are usually options. Some people choose to continue to bump against the list over and over again. Others work to remove their lid so they can accomplish what they want.

In my 5 Thursday thoughts today, I want to share some common lids in people’s lives that we can address with a little effort or planning.

Aptitude

Some things come naturally to us. Other things do not. One of the places where we limit ourselves is an unwillingness to learn a new skill or improve on something we lack. There is no excuse not to learn what we need to learn in the world we live in. YouTube is a great resource. You can learn how to do almost anything with a quick search of this video website. If that is not sufficient, there are inexpensive courses on almost every subject. Don’t allow what you don’t know to keep you from what you want to do.

Attitude

There are very few things in this world we have complete control over. The one thing we all have control over is our attitude. A negative attitude, or stinking thinking, has been the limiter to more people in the world than almost anything else. A poor attitude can keep you from enjoying moments of success. It stops us from enjoying the people around us or meeting the new people we need to move forward. Our attitude can shut things down before they ever get started. You have control of your attitude. Don’t let it be your lid.

Time

We are all given the same number of hours in a day. We do not always use them the same way. Time is an excuse and a lid. Part of our problem is we do not arrange our time to achieve the thing we want most. We spend it and waste it instead of investing it. Time is much like money. It goes very fast if you do not pay attention closely. We all have things we are responsible for every day. Rearrange your day to make sure the important things get your time. Recently, I was listening to a book, and the author said his dad used to tell him, “you have nothing to do at 4 AM. Do it then.” Time is a tool. Use it. 

Money

There is an old saying that “it takes money to make money.” To a certain degree, this is true. But this saying also makes us lazy. We use it as an excuse to do nothing until everything falls into place. One of the times I saw this first hand was when I first started leading leadership conferences in Venezuela. This would have been around 2010, and our church had been using some video technology in our services. We talked about how much the equipment cost and the challenges we faced. When I went to Venezuela, they were making better videos than we were, and they were doing it with equipment that was so old I am surprised it was still working. They were using old handheld camcorders and editing on a Windows XP desktop computer with a bubble monitor. They did not have the money for state-of-the-art equipment, but it did not stop them from getting started and doing what they needed. Use what you have to the fullest capacity. This example does not even address that you may need to shift your financial priorities to match your goals. Money can be a lid that is difficult to address. Most of the time, it is an excuse.

Opportunity 

The opportunity of a lifetime is only as good as the lifetime of the opportunity. Sometimes it feels like everyone else gets all of the breaks, and we cannot get the opportunity we need. Many times, we have just not placed ourselves in the position to get the opportunity. We haven’t met the right people and gone to the right places. We have not gotten the training we need or had important conversations. You would be surprised by the doors that would open for you if you just start. Take advantage of what you have and move forward. It is arrogant of us to expect more opportunities when we haven’t maximized the ones we have. 

What lid is holding you back right now? What thing do you want that you could achieve with just a little effort? Don’t fall prey to limiting lids. 

5 Things About Travel Right Now

Travel is my hobby. I don’t hunt or fish and only play golf about twice a year. Almost all of my free time and money goes to travel. I am fortunate that I can do a lot of my work from anywhere in the world.

Over the last 18 months, my travel plans had to change some, but I never stopped traveling. Many people did stop traveling. Barbara and I have been on airplanes with as few as nine people. Vandin and I took a subway in January in New York City from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and we were the only ones in the car for 45 minutes. We have stayed in hotels where we saw no other guests the entire stay. 

But in the last few months, things have changed drastically. I recently read that leisure travel is already surpassing 2019 levels. But that has created a lot of headaches. Here are my 5 Thursday Thoughts about travel right now. 

Everywhere Is Full

Everything is not open yet, but the things that are are full. Restaurants, hotels, theme parks, and beaches are packed. Airlines are adding more routes to outdoor leisure destinations weekly. Last week in San Diego, the restaurants in one shopping area all had two-hour-plus waits or were no longer taking names. I went to San Diego twice during the height of Covid, and it looks completely different right now with the numbers of people out. 

People Are Irritable

I have previously written about people being more angry post-pandemic (link here: https://stephenmizell.com/5-things-i-am-seeing-post-pandemic/). There are several causes for this, but when you add other frustrations to people at a breaking point, bad things begin to happen. Long lines. Slow service. Lack of availability. Delays. Higher costs. All of it together is causing problems everywhere. Restaurants are putting up signs asking patrons to be patient and kind. Flight attendants are asking for stiffer penalties for aggressive passengers. We need to check our attitudes and be aware that others are very edgy right now. 

Businesses Are Understaffed

There is a multitude of reasons for businesses being understaffed. Some of it has to do with extended unemployment benefits. But that is not the only culprit. Some people realized how much they hated their jobs and were just not going back or doing something else. Demand is high, so people are taking higher-level positions at other companies. This shifting in job assignments leaves many entry-level jobs that pay closer to minimum wage open. Understaffed businesses are not a problem that is going to be solved quickly. Most businesses are doing the very best they can. 

Experiences Are Different

We went to our first theme park last week. You had to make a reservation in addition to your ticket. There was a long wait at each attraction. Things moved slower than normal. It was just different. Airlines are still requiring masks. Hotels are not offering cleaning services every day. The experience is different almost everywhere you go. Some of it is a new normal for which we just have to get prepare. Some of it is because places are still trying to figure out how things need to work. Your trip is probably going to look different than you planned. 

Delays Are Inevitable

You are going to wait. You will wait to get a seat at a restaurant. You will be on hold for hours to change an airplane reservation. Airlines are experiencing more delays. And it is not just in travel. Products can’t ship. Manufacturers are behind. Logistics can’t move the items fast enough. Everywhere you turn, there are delays. If you are traveling, this can be extremely frustrating. Our family missed an entire day in Hawaii due to an airline delay. Two young people in the military were on the same flight and were worried about not making their orders in time. Delays happen. They are just happening a lot in the current environment. 

If you like to travel like I do, be prepared for things to look different. But don’t let it scare you. I have found travel to be one of the most life-shaping things I can do. 

5 Takeaways From Serve Day 2021

Recently the church I pastor held a “Serve Day.” Instead of coming together in the building to sing and hear a sermon, we went into our communities and performed service projects.

These projects ranged from preparing bags for first responders to lawn maintenance to removing downed trees to work at the local elementary school. Around 200 people from our two campuses showed up to serve others.

Every time we try larger community-focused projects, I walk away learning new things and am reminded of things that have fallen to the side. Here are my 5 Thursday Thoughts on our recent Serve Day.

The Smallest Acts Are Appreciated

The first project I showed up on only required us to cut one small limb touching the roof of a trailer. A widow lived in the home, and she was worried about it during storms. It took us less than ten minutes to cut the limb and load it into the truck. The effort was very minimal. But the elderly lady who lives in the home was so grateful. She expressed her gratitude over and over on the phone and on social media as well. We did not feel like we had done much. But she was extremely grateful. The smallest acts sometimes bring the biggest smiles. 

It Is A Chance For New People To Get Involved

Most of the people serving gathered at the church first and then split up into groups for different assignments. One of the things I noticed as people came in was the large number of people who serve nowhere else in the church and how many were fairly new to the church. It was an entry point for people to begin to develop the habit of serving and understanding our church culture. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of a long-term commitment to serving. 

You Discover New Talent

Every single person in the church is gifted. The struggle is there are a lot of gifts of which you are not even aware. Some people are unsure of themselves. Sometimes there is not a clear path for them to use their gifts. Other times people just need to be asked clearly. As we prepared for Serve Day, several people offered talents we did not know they had or had not offered a way for them to use them. Hopefully, they will be able to use them going forward. 

New Relationships Are Formed

It is difficult to spend more than ten minutes with anyone in the church building on a Sunday. Usually, my time is even more limited. But as people went to locations together, they had more time to talk and build relationships. Connections were made that will benefit the church for years to come. 

People Are More Receptive To The Gospel

Years ago, I heard Zig Ziglar say, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Jesus would tell us to be salt and light. Make things taste better and help people see better. When we serve, we help people who want to hear the message of Christ. It tastes better when their needs are met. They can see a little better when we have solved a problem for them. Serving others opens doors that nothing else will. 

Serving others should be a mark of every believer and every church. Not only does it make us more like Christ, but the other things that come along with it also have long-term benefits as well. It was a successful day in more ways than one.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.