Posts Tagged ‘Attitude’

thankitforwardWhen my professional colleagues at The Community Roundtable started posting their “Thank It Forward” posts recently, thereby recognizing three specific people or groups that have made a difference in their lives this year, I knew I wanted to do the same. So it’s taken me a while to think through it and come up with this post. My three who have had the greatest impact on me this year are from all parts of my life, so it’s an unlikely trio, but a meaningful one to me.

The first person I want to thank for his impact on me this year is my new pastor, Mark Williams. I cannot adequately express how thrilled I am to have this man as my pastor. He is a kind, loving, gracious soul who is profoundly committed to proclaiming the Word of God and calling others to a life of faithful service to Christ. He is wise far beyond his 31 years with a wisdom that can only come from the Spirit of God within. When he preaches, you know you are hearing the truth of the gospel. He is not out to impress others or dictate to others or to draw attention to himself. He is a servant of his Lord and an incredibly gifted and faithful proclaimer of truth.

It is important to me that I deeply respect my pastor. Life has been a bit out of whack in times past when there has been some tension between a pastor and me. That’s not a good situation and not one I care to repeat. I respect the role of pastor and want the relationship to reflect that respect. Mark makes it easy for me to do that because we are united around a common purpose and cause and desire. I would be quite content to learn from this man for the rest of my days on this earth. He makes me want to be a better person in general and a better Christian in particular. I know my own relationship with Christ ought to produce those same desires and it does, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a key person in the flesh that draws you in that direction as well. I thank God for Mark Williams and look forward to his continued influence on me, our church and our community.

The second person I want to thank is my bride of 35.5 years, Linda. I don’t know anyone who works as hard as she does. While her role as kitchen hostess at church and self-employed caterer is officially part-time, she sure does seem to be going at one or the other full-time. And if she isn’t absorbed in those activities, she’s gardening or doing yard work or something else – anything but resting (which she really ought to do more of). Anyone who knows us can tell you how different we are. That has always been the case. In fact, we lost some college “friends” when we got engaged in 1978 for that very reason. They worried that we were so different that it would never work for us to be married and they simply could not and would not give their blessing to it. Well, 35.5 years later, I would beg to differ with their assessment. That doesn’t mean we always see eye-to-eye or have no issues, but we’ve learned to keep the main things the main things and not elevate minor differences to a loftier level of attention than they deserve.

I want to thank Linda for loving me all these years, for continuing to do the less-than-glamorous things that come with managing a home and family, for forgiving me when I have been self-absorbed or downright thoughtless or mean or stupid, for being an absolute rock of faithfulness and consistency for the entire time I have known her from my sophomore year of college through the present, and for being the mother of our two sons and grandmother to the newest generation of Rosses. I cannot imagine life without her, and I am thankful now and forever for her.

The third person I want to call out in my #thankitforward this year is my manager at Humana, Lewis Bertolucci. Lewis took a chance in late 2011 by adding me to his Enterprise Social Media team at work when there were not originally plans to have that team own the internal social media function I manage so much as the external, customer-focused media. Lewis is a remarkable person who knows more about the field than I ever will. He can’t possibly sleep much and still juggle all the things he has his hands in. It’s no wonder he was included in a recent list of the top 100 digital marketing experts. Don’t even think about trying to match his Klout score!

There are so many things I appreciate about Lewis as my manager. He is open and honest and I can discuss whatever I need to discuss with him. He trusts me to do my work and has no inclination to micromanage me or others. He is funny and creative and will blindside you with a funny photoshopped picture or JibJab video and seems to have funny animated GIFs ready for all occasions to throw into online discussions. He keeps his cool in the midst of what I know are very stressful, demanding days at work. He thinks of others more than he thinks of himself. He can write out the best, thoughtful, reasoned response to situations where others would be tempted to respond quickly and emotionally. He gives wise counsel that others (including me) would do well to heed. He is supportive and encouraging to his team. And as is shown by the expanded role he offered me in August this year, he is eager to see those he supervises grow into their potential, even when that means they leave the team for other roles as some did in 2013. Like my pastor mentioned above who is in his early 30s, Lewis is also wise beyond his years and has earned the deep respect I have for him as a person and as a manager. I am fortunate to have him and hope to learn from him for many years to come.

So there you have the three people from different areas of my life who I am most thankful for in 2014.

I won’t end this post, though, without also recognizing the one professional organization that has also been very significant for me this year as well – The Community Roundtable. I have enjoyed being a member of this organization of online community professionals for several years, but this year the connection stepped up a notch when they graciously agreed to take over the reins of the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat which I started in 2013. They are doing a great job with the chat and will continue to innovate and do things with it that I as an individual could never do. I am deeply appreciative of their willingness to do this. I know the work involved in making it successful and worthwhile week after week. It is no small task. Thank you, Hillary Boucher, Rachel Happe, Shannon Abram, Jim Storer and all the wonderful people at TheCR! You do amazing work that is very much appreciated by many.

What about you? For whom would you #thankitforward for their impact on you in 2014?

Better-NotBitterNone of us have the luxury of experiencing life without some bad things happening from time to time. Granted, some people seem to have a dark cloud that hovers over them a little more frequently than the rest of us, but all of us probably have more negative experiences than we’d like. (Do we want any negative experiences? I don’t think so.)

You can tell a lot about someone by how he/she reacts to those less-than-pleasant and even tragic events of life. Some may seem to surrender all hope for the future and forever consider themselves victims with no way out. Others may fail to even acknowledge the negative and go on rather blindly choosing not even to notice or react to events. Still others may hover somewhere in between the first two by acknowledging and dealing with the negative, but then making every effort to move past it and move forward with life, having learned from the experience in some way. It’s the old “lemons into lemonade” response.

I tend to be more optimistic than not the majority of the time. There are various reasons for that:

  • Life is more enjoyable focusing on the positive than on the negative.
  • I don’t like being around people who are overly negative, so I don’t want to be like that.
  • My Christian faith provides an underlying hope for this life and the next that surpasses anything temporarily negative I experience.

We can’t always choose our circumstances in life, but we can make the most of wherever we are. We can and do choose the attitudes we carry in circumstances – for good or bad. We have the option of learning from experiences, choosing to leave the past in the past, and building on our new situation for the future.

As for the attitudes we respond with when bad things happen, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to respond by trying to be a better person as a result and by trying to make life better because of what happened instead of being bitter and living with the ongoing drain on life, emotions, and health that bitterness yields? I’m not claiming it’s always easy to do that, nor am I presuming that it is possible merely through one’s own strength to do so, but I’m certain it’s the more promising path.

When bad things happen, be better – not bitter.

Im-Not-Thankful-EnoughThis week has been a mixed bag of emotions for me. With the American Thanksgiving holiday yesterday, there have certainly been more than the usual number of moments reflecting on all for which I am thankful. But some of the week was dominated by other less-than-admirable emotions of anger, of disgust with what I was watching in the news, and of times when I spoke or wrote out of those emotions when I should have probably just kept my thoughts to myself.

What I should have demonstrated for the week was an ongoing attitude of gratitude. What I actually demonstrated was a far cry from that. I resonated immediately, therefore, with my friend, Jay’s, post on Facebook last night when he wrote, “I’m thankful, but not often enough. It’s good to have a day to be reminded.”

I really do have so much to be thankful for:

  • a family who loves me and whom I love;
  • my first grandson and second grandchild on the way, due in April;
  • a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood in a city we’ve enjoyed living in for almost 30 years;
  • a job and career that is fun and fulfilling and a joy to invest my time and professional life in daily;
  • all the food and necessities of life a man needs – so much more than what is typical throughout the world;
  • a country that in spite of its challenges is where I prefer to live;
  • good health that allows me to do what I want when and where I want;
  • a church and church family I have loved since our second week in Louisville in 1985;
  • a relationship with the living God that provides ultimate meaning, purpose and hope for this life and the next;
  • the opportunity to freely read, study and apply God’s Word to my life;
  • opportunities to serve God and others every week in a variety of ways;
  • and even the best canine friend and companion I’ve ever had in my nearly 58 years.

When I look at the above list, I am in awe at the blessings I enjoy. And I am simultaneously embarrassed by the times I allow an unhealthy focus on other matters to steal that joy. I am ashamed that I could for a moment look past these giant gifts only to focus elsewhere. I regret that I fail to be a consistent source of a good and encouraging word to others, choosing instead to sound off about my latest emotional reaction to news or events of the day. I feel remorse for getting angry at those with whom I disagree rather than seeking to understand and show the love of Christ in the midst of those differences. I realize after the fact far too often that I have failed to be Christ’s ambassador when I spew from my mouth the venom that I allow to fester in my heart, for “the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34), and that overflow is too often sewage rather than life-giving water.

So on this day after Thanksgiving, please know that this ongoing work in progress called Jeff is truly grateful and thankful for so much. Also know that I am truly sorry for those moments when I am far less than what I can and should be. I am called to be conformed to His image, and I have a long, long way to go.

image from shopping.rediff.com

image from shopping.rediff.com

We’ve seen this past week the impact of what happens when expectations are not met for something to happen quickly. In the rush of last-minute buying and shipping of Christmas presents, untold numbers of packages went undelivered by the “guaranteed” delivery dates. As a result, people either had to do without presents on the intended day, or they had to rush out and buy something else. I saw on the news one lady who was upset that her shipment of live lobsters didn’t arrive in time for the family get-together and meal (definitely a first-world problem – poor, poor lady). I’m sure starving children around the world will weep for her inconvenience.

Fingers are pointing everywhere in the aftermath. Retailers are blaming shippers. Shippers are blaming last-minute shoppers, fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and capacity that was simply overwhelmed. Consumers are blaming retailers and shippers. I don’t think I’ve seen people or organizations yet raise their own hands and take responsibility.

In the case of Christmas shopping, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for last-minute shoppers, although a guarantee is a guarantee and the buyer should be able to trust those guarantees to be honored. Hopefully there is a lesson learned: shop earlier next year. It’s not like December 25 is going to pop up out of nowhere on you regardless of when Thanksgiving comes. Get it done earlier and quit your whining.

But the expectation of immediacy isn’t limited, of course, to shipping presents (in spite of the interest in Amazon immediately shipping things by drone beginning in a couple of years). We expect pretty much everything when we want it.

  • We expect news and immediate details of unfolding events, and news organizations feel obligated to be the first to report, even when they don’t know the facts, making their so-called news mere speculation.
  • We expect to get in touch with whomever we want whenever and wherever we please regardless of the intrusion that causes for the receiver or rudeness displayed by the receiver in taking such messages in other settings.
  • If we have a customer service issue, we expect a call, tweet, or other social media post to yield immediate resolutions as if we are the only customer for that Fortune 100 company that actually has millions of other customers.
  • If we see an ad for something we like, we expect to go online on our portable device and get it right now.
  • We want fast food, fast transportation, fast profits, fast credit, fast weight loss, fast beauty, fast ownership, fast training, fast relief, fast satisfaction, and relationships that are perfect quickly – none of this waiting or working for decades like our parents had to do for the same results.

I certainly have nothing against some things happening quickly. It’s convenient. It meets a need and then we move on to whatever is next. But something is amiss when the big story of the week is a package ordered on Monday not being delivered by Tuesday to a home on the other side of the country. Something is out of whack when the social media channels of businesses are clogged with complaints from people who tried to do something at the last minute and then expect the staff levels and processes of established businesses to wildly fluctuate to accommodate their tardiness.

Is our culture of immediacy a symptom of a growing self-centeredness in society? Is it a consequence of enabling technology that has slowly morphed our expectations? Is it both? Is it something else? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it isn’t always healthy or reasonable to expect whatever we want now.

There is value in learning patience. There is value in contentedness. There is value in planning ahead to avoid the need for so much to happen at the last minute. There is value in leaving room in our schedules for the unexpected. There is value is wanting less.

We are blessed as a society with many advantages, conveniences and opportunities, but I think we have a lot of room for personal growth and maturity. Less dependence on immediacy will be one indicator of that maturity.

HomelessIt is the most natural thing in the world to be self-centered – from the time we enter the world completely dependent on others (yet focused only on our needs), to the time we draw our final breath (most likely still clinging to what we want). It’s natural. But not everything natural is good.

As I observe the world around me this Christmas season, I see the usual uptick in charitable activity – bells ringing beside buckets of coins at store entrances, more volunteers than any of the other 11 months of the year at homeless shelters and elsewhere, Christmas baskets given for the needy, and angel trees with names of those who can use a little boost from other generous, kind souls. That is all good, and I am grateful for giving hearts that make a positive difference in the lives of others at any time of the year, but especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

You and I both probably know some remarkable people who live their lives as models of generosity – not just during December, but year-round. It’s just the kind of people they are. Some that come to my mind are my parents and grandparents and some dear souls I’ve known from churches I’ve been a part of through the years. I like to think I’m the giving type, but compared to some others I’ve seen in my life, I know I have a long way to go.

It’s no easy transition to make from that perfectly natural self-centeredness to one that takes more pleasure in focusing on others. Consider just a few scenarios that illustrate what I mean…

  • Someone is talking to you with the expectation that you are listening, but your mind is wandering about other things, perhaps about what you’re about to say, but maybe about things far removed from the conversation. How do you shift your attention back to the one talking?
  • You’re approached on the street by someone asking for spare change, but you’re in a hurry, you don’t want to get involved, you don’t have any change or small bills, and you don’t want to part with the larger bills you just got from the ATM. Do you get involved or just shake your head “no” and walk away?
  • Your child or grandchild approaches you with something he/she wants to do for a few minutes, but you have a long list of things you were hoping to get done before bed. What do you do?
  • A coworker asks for help with a project and your own to-do list is just as long for work as it is for home, but you’re the best person to help. Will you put in those overtime hours to help others succeed and not just get your own work done?
  • Your spouse has had a hard day or week and could use some tender loving care. Do you come through or do you just carry on as usual?

Being other-centered isn’t natural. In fact, it’s hard. Very hard. It takes time. It’s inconvenient. It costs you something – effort, time, money, emotions. But it’s worth the price. It makes us more of who we were put on this earth to be. It makes a real difference in the lives of others, leaving our world a little better than we found it.

Moving toward other-centeredness is a continuous effort. We won’t arrive at the final destination this side of heaven, but it behooves us to keep working at it.

How other-centered are you? What can you do today to move one small step in that direction?