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Monday, June 29, 2015

Distractions to the Soul

Deepak Chopra and I come from different parts of the world. His upbringing and mine both included spiritual teaching. We are not on the same “path,” although some might believe we are.

Chopra seems to have inspired many to consider spiritual things, including meditation and prayer. In a world filled with distractions, it is wise counsel to learn the beauty of keeping focused on the right things. And a recent article by Deepak Chopra centers the discussion properly.

It’s titled, “Holding Focus - Why You Need This Awareness Skill.” Anyone holding a job that moves at a fast pace, has many potential interruptions and includes a higher degree of pressure, would benefit by reading this. That is, if you can focus long enough to read it.

Chopra argues that most often it is not IQ or brilliant creativity that leads a person to success. He advocates awareness skills. Specifically, focus and clear intention.

Focus enables us to have steady attention. One-pointed intention. Goal achievement is rewarded in our culture, and people who zero in on their best goals with focus are more likely to succeed.

His second point is clear intention. This, too, made sense to me. Multitasking is so common today. Chopra says, “Knowing what you want, uncomplicated by confusion, is clear intention. Your brain obeys clear intentions more easily than confused intentions.”

I’ve seen the effects of focused attention in helping deal with panic. Getting the mind redirected on something specific and holding that in place helped me in earlier years get though panic attacks. It works.

But I’ve determined to apply focus in another direction. My previous job ended in an unanticipated way. I was given walking papers as a “retiree”—even though I didn’t want to retire. Obviously, in a situation like that, it can be tempting to allow resentment to take hold in the soul. I determined not to do that—in prayer and by conscious thought.

Then, when I received my call to a new job, I set another objective. I asked for spiritual help to “keep me focused on my assignment.” It is something for which I still pray on a recurring basis. Why? Because there are a plethora (I love that word) of opportunities to look back, or make judgments, or find any number of other distractions that keep me from achieving what I’m now assigned to do. Staying focused on my new role is a much more peaceful and enjoyable way to live.

Chopra goes on to mention both prayer and meditation in his piece. Both are highly valuable for the practice of focus and clear intention. The dividing point for Deepak and myself would be how we center our meditation, and our understanding of the God of the universe. I’m not sharing this to be critical. But we are different.

The Bible is a good guide book on this subject as well. Proverbs 4:25-27 reads, “Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.” (The Message)

As for the distraction of resentment, here’s another piece of advice. It’s found in Hebrews 12:15. “Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” (NLT) Bottom line on resentment and bitterness…don’t go there.

So if you want to increase productivity, achieve success in the things that matter most to you, and find healing for your soul, learn and practice those two awareness skills: focus and clear intention.

Oooh. I have to go. Squirrel!!!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

No Room To Be Late

Someone recently reposted an excellent article on timeliness written by Greg Savage. It looks like Firebrand first shared it in 2011. It’s titled, “No, you are not ‘running late,’ you are rude and selfish.”

This flies in opposition to the well worn phrase, “Better late than never!” In “The Yeoman's Prologue and Tale,” Canterbury Tales, it was Geoffery Chaucer who appears to have been the first person to introduce us to this proverb, “For better than never is late.” Or as we say it “Better late than never.”

It should be said upfront that in certain cultures, “lateness” is a way of life. And when mixing business practices with folk who don’t see time as a commodity in ways Americans do, one must be prepared for that. These are not the people to whom Greg Savage is writing.

Greg is quite a successful dude. He has founded four very successful staffing businesses including Firebrand Talent Search and People2People. Best not show up late for a meeting with him!

His primary target to receive the diatribe on lateness are the chronically late. A meeting starts at 9 a.m., and they drift in at 9:10 or 9:15. A business lunch is scheduled for noon — the late-ster sends a text at 12:10 saying he or she is “5 minutes away.” You get the point.

My favorite item from his article involved his dentist. For years, Greg would show up on time — only to be sitting in a waiting room for 45 to 50 minutes. He finally got tired of feeling “abused” and got up and left!

Here’s how he resolved it: “Sure she was “busy,” another patient took longer than she expected, blah blah. But hold on, I am busy, too! I would not keep her waiting 45 minutes if she came to see me as a candidate. And yet I am HER customer. I told her I have been coming to you for 15 years but don’t take me for granted. See fewer patients in a day if you have to, but see me on time or close to it. She has never kept me waiting again.”

I’m with Greg! Whether it’s a business meeting, a business lunch or dinner, a private reception, a conference call, or whatever — if you set a time, let’s start on time. And this should be established up front.

FYI…Greg also makes allowances for the occasional miss. It will happen, despite our best planning. But the chronic abuse should not be tolerated.

My wife gets a wee bit uncomfortable with my “radio timing.” I calculate things pretty well to show up on time. For her, I’m calling it too close. In my radio world, I may be getting a coffee refill with 30 seconds to go until a live mike. But hey…I have 30 SECONDS!

There is one appointment for which we absolutely cannot be late! That is because it has been pre-determined. IT is the date and time we pass into eternity.

The book of Job states, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (Job 14:5, NLT)

I was reminded of that yesterday when receiving the news that one of my former radio associates had died. A true radio talent, Bob Morrison was one of the best news reporters in the business. Bob and I worked together in Dallas, but shared hours together in a small group of men discussing our faith.

While I would encourage you to prepare to be on time for any business appointment, your final appointment is much more important. Preparing for that is a decision you make today.

Is it “rude” to meet your Creator and be unprepared?

You decide.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What You Ignore Can Hurt You

In the news this past week we learned that hackers — reportedly, Chinese hackers — gained personal information on all federal employees. The government document known as Standard Form 86 is submitted to intelligence and military personnel for security clearances. On those forms you might discover personal information about past arrests, financial trouble, mental illnesses, and drug abuse.

The names of relatives and other contacts are also listed. But a vital piece of data on the form is the Social Security number. Both the applicant and the “cohabitant” numbers are now on the market—somewhere. We believe at least one of our relatives may have had their information stolen.

This was the second security breach announced within two weeks. An earlier hack included federal personnel data. That one dates back to 2013.

Hackers can come in two flavors — good and evil. We hear frequently about the evil ones. Are there “good hackers”? Apparently so.

Check out HackerOne. They hope to persuade other hackers to cough up security flaws and get paid for their discoveries. The founders already have a proven track record.

A few years ago, young 20-ish hackers Michiel Prins and Jobert Abma made a list called the Hack 100. This was a target list of 100 high tech companies on which they would test their skills. Big name companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc. They found plenty of vulnerabilities and alerted the companies.

Interestingly, about a third of those companies ignored them. Another third, as reported in the New York Times, “thanked them curtly, but never fixed the flaws, while the rest raced to solve their issues.” No one got in touch with law enforcement!

Now, these two “gifted” hackers have found two others to form HackerOne. The firm intends to be the intermediary between companies that are vulnerable and the hackers who discover those vulnerabilities. As you can figure, the hacker then gets paid. HackerOne is getting LOTS of interested parties to their party. Call them the “good guys in the white hack.”

This reminds me of the movie from 2002, Catch Me If You Can. It is the true story of Frank Abagnale. Before he was even 19, he had conned millions of dollars by posing in various roles — including an airline pilot! His particular “gifting” was check fraud.

After a long pursuit from the FBI, Frank eventually turns himself in and goes to prison. And while there, he gets an offer to work for the FBI bank fraud department catching others in this game. He accepts, and that’s how he fulfills the remainder of his sentence!

Hackers catching hackers. Thieves catching thieves. Spy versus spy.

The lesson to be derived from my sharing this today is to be found in the “warnings” given when the two young Dutch hackers started their endeavor. Note that two thirds of the companies they contacted to warn of security flaws ... did nothing. Ignorance may seem like bliss, but ignoring what are clear warnings may be closer to stupidity. Or, said more nicely, foolishness.

The book of Proverbs offers much wisdom on the subject of the fool. In Proverbs 28:26 we’re told, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” And Proverbs 14:16 states, “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” (Both verses from the ESV)

One more bit of advice from Proverbs, Chapter 14, verses 7-8: “If you are looking for advice, stay away from fools. The wise man looks ahead. The fool attempts to fool himself and won’t face facts.”

The Bible also tells us Jesus will return like a “thief in the night.” Unexpectedly to most. And the advice to the wise is simply, “Be prepared.”

Any questions?

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Workplace High

Okay, I take drugs. I admit it. But I don’t like it. When I read the possible side effects or consequences from being on Lipitor, Levothyroxin, Metoprolol, and the like, I wonder what is really taking place in my body. Doctors tell me all this keeps me alive, which, so far, seems to be good.

Prescription drugs that manage health conditions make it possible for us to function without pain or to manage the breakdown of our health. None of the drugs I take appear to be habit forming or addictive. And I don’t use any medications to blur my reality or boost performance. In fact, I rarely, if ever, drink alcohol anymore...the blood sugar impact is terrible.

Apparently, the pressures of performance in our changing world have millennials on a different track. I was alerted to this by my friend John Stonestreet in a recent Breakpoint commentary. He cites a New York Times piece revealing that the millennial crowd has taken to prescription ADHD meds to give them an “edge.”

The drugs most commonly used (and abused) for upping performance are Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta. According to the Times article, non-ADHD pill takers get the effect of superhuman productivity from these additives. Many begin the addictive process of these drugs while in college, pulling all-nighters.

As you might imagine, the consequences are now showing up. It’s called crash and burn. Emergency room visits in 2013 saw a tripling for prescription stimulant overdose in the 18-34 crowd.

Now let’s face it. Drugs are everywhere in our medicated-loving country. But, usually, stressed workers seek their relief AFTER hours, not before they start their day.

In fairness, a good majority of people wake up and smell the Starbucks to get their juices flowing. And we see a LOT of these caffeine loaded drinks on the market. But the drugs causing the biggest damage are the kind doctors prescribe. And many of these abusers get them illegally.

The reason behind this trend is the larger concern. It’s based on a perceived competitive need. To outperform your coworkers, it’s time to get your Adderall on! Thus, if you look around and see some very wired young associates, and you’re wondering how they manage all that energy and activity…beware.

This leads me to ponder the meaning of an “abundant life.” The reason why most people work so hard, and are willing to kill themselves, is to have abundant stuff. Climbing a corporate ladder, becoming known, and stockpiling wealth are generally motivated by the desire for more possessions.

Our work life, in its best form, should contribute to an abundant life, but in a different way. Performing with excellence demonstrates good character. Working diligently reveals commitment. And serving others is a sacrifice of self in a most positive way. None of those workplace drives need be motivated by more stuff. And none of them require artificial performance boosters.

Jesus of Nazareth called us to live abundantly. His way of life leads to that path. As He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)

My friend Ed Stetzer writes, “Abundant life is not about what we have. It’s not about what we get. It’s not about what we claim. Ultimately, abundant life is about what we receive as a gift from the Lord and to live knowing we are stewards of the blessings of God.” (

Sometime today, perhaps you will take a moment to consider why you work the way you do. You might ask yourself whether you are truly enjoying the abundant life. You might even set a new course and make some adjustments.

If so, I hope this was just the stimulant you needed.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Honestly, It Is NOT a Business Family

According to the treasure trove of wisdom known as Wikipedia, “family business is the oldest and most common model of economic organization.” If the research is right, these family owned businesses account for more than 30% of companies with sales over $1 billion. That’s pretty impressive.

One might easily think that this is close to an ideal world in which to work. The family doesn’t rely on outsiders. Kin looks after kin. Brother supports brother.

I will not tread into the fallacies associated with this thinking. Plenty of examples in history prove that, just as Cain and Abel couldn’t keep it together, family members can be among the worst business partners. Enough said.

Instead, I would like to focus on a different fallacy of business. It is articulated well in the new book from Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn. Please know I have not read the book titled The Alliance — just an interesting write up from Ezra Klein.

The article captures two “lies” in the employer/employee relationship. They are the biggest lies supposedly told by each party. The employer “lie,” Hoffman says, is that “the employment relationship is like a family.” Conversely, the employee “lie” professes a false loyalty or commitment to a company framed this way, “Oh, I plan on working here for the rest of my career.”

Reid Hoffman “wants both workers and employers to begin having honest conversations with each other — conversations that admit employment isn't for life, that loyalty only lasts so long as it coincides with self-interest, and that the relationship doesn't have to end when the worker leaves.”

Got that? Your value to the firm may be only as good as what you’ve done for the company lately. Lest you mistakenly thought you had employment security. But…we can still be friends.

A couple of years ago, I heard a presentation by the former CEO of John Deere. He gave a classic example of how this “family” posture sneaks into an enterprise. John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL, is obviously a much smaller community than where you find most corporate headquarters. Thus, it can easily seem like this fosters a real “family” environment. It may feel like it, but don’t get confused. Lack of performance removes you from “the family.”

A variation on this theme came up recently in my personal life. By God’s grace and the blessing of Salem Media, my radio contract in Chicago has been renewed for another year. In sharing this with a few friends, I received a response I didn’t expect. A couple of times I heard, “Oh, so you are only year to year.” Well…yes.

However, it is a “Well, yes….BUT!” Throughout most of my business life, I did not have a contract extending out in time. I lived by what MOST workers live by. That agreement is known as “at will.” In that arrangement, neither party has any long term commitment. We are both two weeks away from a possibe unpleasant goodbye. How’s that for job security?

As with all workplaces in which I’ve been employed, several people have moved on even within the first year of my time at the radio station. Some chose their departures. Others didn’t. This is to be expected in a performance based world.

Reid Hoffman and his team know this happens. And they plan for it. Read the article or the book for more details.

There IS a place where security is guaranteed. It is a place where all your needs are met…forever. No one displaces you. You don’t need a health plan. Or a 401k. All the benefits you could ever want are included. I know, it sounds like I’m making this up.

It’s called heaven. In Revelation 21:4, it reads “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (NLT) And who qualifies for this place? Go look up John 3:16.

No, a business is not a family. But the fellowship of those who trust in God is. Just don’t expect a Christmas bonus.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.