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Monday, September 25, 2017

The Early Bird Wakes the Firm

It was Ben Franklin who advised us, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I’m not sure my paper delivery person has bought into that yet, but I wish he would. We seem to get our paper much later than when I recall delivering the Chicago Tribune for several months as a teenager.

Perhaps it’s because he’s not a “morning person.” Too bad. Since he’s delivering a MORNING newspaper. But I digress.

Those who live in Chicago and other major metro areas often have to adjust their lifestyle to earlier start times. Some studies have shown that only about ten percent of the global population are the morning types. Twenty percent are the night owls. I guess the rest fit in the middle.

But get this. The late nighters are shown to be more prone to depression. More likely to smoke and drink. Their academic abilities tend to fall short of the early risers. In 2013, the British Psychological Society released a study that night owls are more likely to have a cluster of personality traits known as the “Dark Triad” – narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The morning folk tended to be more moral!

In February of 2016, Business Insider reported that your genes may have something to say about this. The study cited included nearly 90,000 people who had their genomes sequenced by a consumer genetics company, 23andMe. Researchers were able to identify “15 versions of genes that are linked to reports of being an early or a late riser.”

The same study showed that “people who self-identified as night owls (while not a truly objective measure) were almost twice as likely to suffer from insomnia and about two-thirds as likely to have been diagnosed with sleep apnea." Obviously, not a pretty picture.

What turned my attention to this subject was a recent article titled, “This is Why Being a Morning Person Will Make You Better at Your Job.” Four “science-backed” reasons are offered up as to why people do their best work in the morning.

Read the article for complete insights. But here are the four basic reasons you do better earlier.
  1. You have more energy.
  2. You have fewer decisions to make.
  3. You can stop fighting distractions.
  4. You can take advantage of the calm.
I think that last one is of particular significance. Josh Davis, who has written a book on the benefits of early risers, states “Noise makes it harder to do the deep cognitive work most knowledge workers need to do. In the morning you’re free to work from anywhere, and you can find a quiet, beautiful spot. A quiet workspace helps you be more productive because it’s like working with tailwinds.”

For many years in my radio life, I have been a morning show guy. Several of my jobs had me on the air by 6 a.m. My previous assignment required me to rise by 2:45 a.m. and be on site by 4:30 a.m.! When people asked how I could manage that, I would ask them how they felt when they got up later. They would reply "groggy." "Out of sorts." And I retorted, “Well, that’s how I feel. Only it’s 2:45!”

Your circadian rhythm may not be excited about you changing your wake up time, but there is a payoff. Early rising enables me to get some serious request time in with the Almighty. I’m not alone. As David wrote in the Psalms, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3, NIV) This alone can be a powerful productivity tool!

Seeing these benefits to rising early, I hope today’s blog serves as a “wake-up call.”

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Fundamentals of a Godly Enterprise

Recently, I had the privilege of giving a workplace chapel presentation at Crossway Books in Wheaton, IL. It had added meaning to me as I have several personal relationships at that company. I was recommended by one of those friends.

When these opportunities occur, it’s my natural instinct to ask God what I might say to represent Him well. Minutes after I accepted the request, thoughts flowed naturally to a short list of of what I called, "Fundamentals of a Godly Enterprise." I’ll be sharing these today.

The context for my words was a verse in the Bible that is often quoted: Ephesians 2:10. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV) My question for us to consider was simply, how does a person of faith live out good works—in the workplace? How can we set our minds and hearts on performing “God-honoring acts of obedience”—as theologian R.C. Sproul refers to them?

From this, there were actually two messages I wanted to communicate. The first was to relate how my first work in Christian radio in 1986 was simply another job. The same held true in two later employment roles in Christian radio. A breakthrough in my soul came while working in another type of job. I yielded heart and soul to go wherever God would lead me, including “the ministry”— something I had resisted in my life.

Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by a friend who worked for a Christian radio station in Pittsburgh. He asked me to consider joining his team, which I eventually did. I work for that same company today—but in Chicago. And once I was back in my Christian radio role, I embraced a new mindset of ministry.

My point to the audience was, no doubt, quite clear. It’s easier than one thinks to be involved in a “service” oriented work, but not truly have the heart toward service. It’s even more serious an issue when this work is related to advancing the message of the Kingdom of God. That is an important assignment!

My second message was those seven fundamentals. I’ll give an overview of these today. You may see a series of blogs in the future with greater definition on each. These fundamentals apply to both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Fundamentals of a Godly Enterprise

  1. A mission statement that transcends earthly gain. If our endeavors are only pointed at worldly achievements and have no lasting value, it seems we come to the end of our time feeling little true accomplishment. 
  2. Leadership that clearly communicates values that mean something. My friend John Blumberg is a specialist at coaching companies on core values—those that are lived out beyond just words. 
  3. A recognition that people are the functional priority of God. If there is no nurturing of healthy relationships, one can expect an unhealthy work environment.
  4. An open transparency that allows for weakness—but not as an excuse for poor performance. All of us use poor judgment or make mistakes occasionally at work. A healthy workplace is forgiving. But corrective coaching must result in positive improvement. 
  5. Frequent celebrations of success and the people who helped make it happen. I’ve seen it many times. A big push for a goal ultimately reached. But, rather than enjoy and celebrate, new pressure is immediately applied for what’s next. Hey…enjoy the moment and celebrate!
  6. A generous employer who wisely supports his team, community, and stakeholders. This goes beyond compensation. It is a heart attitude. 
  7. Establishing an enterprise. Not an institution. People have very different perspectives on what those two terms imply. Better be always thinking forward as an enterprise—using God’s great gift of creativity.

Applying a good heart to our work. Living by principles of a godly enterprise. Do this and you will see the fruit of good works…in the workplace.

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Today's Heroes

What heroic work will you be about today?

All of us have seen countless pictures from the falling of the Twin Towers and those amazingly courageous rescue workers who rushed to the scene. Several never came home. Many survivors owe their very lives to these people. Indeed, such sacrifice makes these rescue workers true heroes.

We are currently in a unique season where more heroic efforts are being publicized. During Hurricane Harvey we heard of a police officer who put his life on the line to try to help others. Hundreds of volunteers rushed to the hurricane damaged area to help, including the "Cajun Navy," that informal ad-hoc volunteer group composed of private boat owners who assisted in search and rescue efforts. There is even a website portraying “Heroes of Hurricane Harvey.” (

While our nation turned a lot of attention to the impending damage anticipated from Hurricane Irma, we almost bypassed the tragic number of fires out west. There were 172 fires burning in several different states. More than 26,000 firefighters have been fighting those blazes across our western states. Since the beginning of this year, nine firefighters have died (two of them in training) in their efforts to protect us. Danger seems to find heroes.

The unexpected events in life find heroes as well. The massive earthquake in Mexico will likely yield some. Stories will emerge as well in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and perhaps Hurricane Jose. The news may report on dramatic rescues or some selfless act of sacrifice. It was Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address who recognized in the darkest times we could still see “The better angels of our nature.” 

There is, however, a broader perspective to be shared on what we might call “the work of heroes.” It is well summarized in another fine inspirational piece penned by Craig Lounsbrough, Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Professional Life Coach. His most recent post pays tribute to heroes, reflecting on the anniversary of our losses on 9/11.

I will borrow his words today for us to consider this broader perspective. Craig writes:

Might we take time to intimately reflect upon the heroes of 9/11 even though they would forgo the title and shy away from any such attention. And as we do, may we raise up the real heroes all around us who repeatedly step in the gap quietly and without pretense. The teacher who comes alongside a troubled student to grant hope to one who has none. The mother who forgoes the dream of her own career in order to abandon herself to the dreams of her children. The first responders who without hesitation walk into the very situations others run from. The businessman who sacrifices a job because sacrificing his ethics is simply too implausible. The victim of injustice who refuses to live as a victim or let injustice define them. The person who feeds the homeless, coaches the team, becomes a father to the fatherless, who stands by their faith even when the scathing criticism of a culture bent on immorality pummels them bloodied and bruised. The everyday man and woman who faces the looming specter of cancer, prays for their neighbors, wrestles with a handicap, fights an addiction, works a second job for a college-bound child, buries a father and cares for a mother.

I do not believe Craig Lounsbrough robs the greatest acts of courage in these words. Instead, he reminds us that heroic work should be painted with a broad brush.

For people of faith, maybe the simple sharing of the Good News may result in a soul headed for eternity. We are, after all, on divine assignment. As the apostle Paul notes, “We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20, TLB)

On this anniversary of 9/11, let’s honor and celebrate the work of heroes. It truly is a beautiful thing.

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Ramsey Collection

On this Labor Day, I would like to pass along one of the most rewarding work related experiences in my life. It was spending a week at the Dave Ramsey-led EntreLeadership program. I should reveal it came as a gift for me to attend this several years ago. The Ramsey organization puts on these week long training events both in Nashville and at very nice international conference areas. I got the Nashville experience—which has its own perks.

The week begins with a Sunday night reception and photo opportunity with Dave and his wife, Sharon. It is also a time to meet some of the team involved in this first class program. Of course, you meet other attendees as well.

Throughout the next several days, participants navigate through a workbook that tracks along with various presenters. Dave Ramsey is involved in most of those sessions. Spouses have their own track in which to participate.

The program is designed to help those who are in business, starting a new venture, or who are considering such a major move. It’s tailored to give you a clear path and practical instruction to advance in the fundamentals of good business. I met several people who have taken the course more than once.

There is ample information about this at the website Incidentally, the next Master Series course is coming up February 18-22, 2018, at the Nashville area location. There are, however, more abbreviated variations on the EntreLeadership menu if this sounds interesting.

Since Labor Day generally marks a time when we re-engage full bore with our business lives, it might also be a good time to advance your personal work skills with a good book. When attending the EntreLeadership Masters Series, you receive a box of books preferred by Dave Ramsey. You might recognize a few of them. But here is some recommended fall reading—just in case.

  • The Monk and the Merchant: Twelve Keys to Successful Living, by Terry Felber. 
In writing this parable, Terry was hoping it would transform your life and your business. It had that kind of impact on Dave Ramsey, helping him to “rediscover the marketplace as a mission field” with merchants as ministers. Do you need this readjustment?
  • The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber.
Gerber made his mark as a small business consultant. One of his primary objectives is to show readers how to work ON your business and not simply IN your business. Understanding the technical aspects of products and services does not translate info being effective at running a business. Very insightful.
  • Rhinoceros Success: The Secret to Charging Full Speed Toward Every Opportunity, by Scott Alexander. 
This one is just 97 pages. Scott wants people to move out of a “cow” mindset, watching life go by, afraid that risk and noise are not for them. Rhinos are hard-charging, snorting, and running full speed ahead. They trample obstacles that stand in their way. Obviously, this book is for those who need a tune up for action.
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, by John C. Maxwell.
Some people do not know that before John Maxwell developed his very popular international leadership development organization, he served several years as a pastor. He left the pastorate in 1995 to become a full time speaker and writer. The rest…is history. This is one of John’s very best books, which has sold over a million copies. Read it and learn!

There were several more titles in that box of Dave Ramsey gifts for those pursuing success in life and business by attending EntreLeadership. Perhaps these resources will give you a needed boost. As King Solomon advised, “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding!” (Proverbs 4:6-7, NET)

And here’s a gem of wisdom from Ramsey himself: “Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on you.”

May you be blessed on this Labor Day!

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.