Friday, February 26, 2010

Pyromaniac on the Loose!

What an epic lesson week! We did so much, and talked about so much, that I hardly know where to begin! And since my blog entries tend to be...long...I've decided to focus on one principle I really liked and keep this one short(er) and sweet as can be!
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
~Matthew 5:16
This well-known scripture is talking about light. Specifically, the light and glory of Jesus Christ. The Topical Guide in the Bible says this about the light of Christ:

"The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ."
This light is in each of us, and as disciples and leaders it is our responsibility to distribute it to those around us whose inner flames are in need of being replenished. Our speaker this week spoke about teamwork, and the specific point of "Firelighters vs. Firefighters" was incredibly poignant for me, especially because I had just been exposed to a similar idea in one of my leadership positions. (This was also rather exciting...finally, a strong connection! It was cool.)
In a recent C2G meeting we were shown a short film about giving. It began with a young man, a student, coming from the Maeser building on BYU campus. He was holding a lit candle as he went down the steps.
Sitting at the bottom of the steps, head hanging low and shoulders hunched in a despairing posture was another student. As the first student approached, holding his burning candle, the miserable student raised his head and pulled an unlit candle from his coat.
The first student held his lit candle towards his fellow, whose once-desolate face became lit with hope. He held his candle to the lit wick of the other and received a flame of his own. Then, with a smile, he stood and began walking away. He met a girl whose candle had no flame, and invited her to light it on his.
The end result was a campus completely lit up by burning candles, brilliant flames shared.
Firelighters are those people who have lit candles already. They want to share the joy and light of this flame with everyone, so they uplift, inspire, and go out of their way to give the desolate hope, the miserable joy. They are those who connect the world.
President Uchtdorf is well known for his story of a group of men trying to move a piano. No matter how they lifted, they could not budge the enormous instrument. At one point the charge was given to "stand close together, and lift where you stand." As if by magic, they were able to lift the piano.
It takes good, solid, close relationships for anything worthwhile to be accomplished in this life. And for a leader to lead, it would be impossible without this closeness.
Every leader needs to be a firelighter, rather than a firefighter who extinguishes ideas, joy, and people.
Christ served with love; his light has spread throughout the world. As a leader, and disciple, I can do the same, starting with the individual and my own lit candle.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either...It's passing, yet I'm the one who's doing all the moving." ~Martin Amis

"Life isn't about the breaths you take; it's about the moments that take your breath away."

A lot of things can "take your breath away"--a beautiful scenery, an unbelievably happy event, laughing uncontrollably, a surprise, running several miles, getting punched in the stomach...and we call this Life, with a capital "L". The biggest lesson learned here is that Life is about time. You only have so much time on this glorious Earth, and there is no end to the good (or bad) things we can do with it. It's easy to waste a few minutes, a few hours, occasionally even a few days. Months and years are harder, but people still waste them sometimes, getting lost in the whirlwind of action happening around them and feeling as if they have no direction.
I count myself lucky to have a solid platform I can build from, and a constant light guiding me to my goal of eternal life; by the very nature of this goal, I am striving constantly to make good use of my time. And boy, is that hard! I have so many responsibilities now-college (classes and homework), work, writing, church calling, mentoring, socializing, family--the list goes on for miles if I think long enough and start getting specific. A typical week for me looks something like this:

4:15 AM Wake up
Run to work
5-8 AM Work
Walk to campus
10-11 AM Class
1-2 PM Class
2-3 PM class
9-10PM Bed

4:15 AM Wake up
Ride to work
5-9 AM Work
(T-Temple 9-10:30 AM)
12-1PM Class
(T-Homework 1-3 PM)
3-4 PM Class
4-5 PM Class
9-10 PM Bed

WHEW!! That makes me tired just typing it! And all of that is just the bare bones of my schedule. I have to do laundry, grocery shop, socialize, make time for's crazy. I think anyone my age attending college would agree that there just isn't enough time in a day to get everything done. And it's easy to let priorities get out of whack, especially if you're a perfectionist like I am. Balance is key. Unfortunately, I've always been the clumsy type, so I stumble along, moving between too much work, not enough spiritual/emotional time, and too much procrastination/me time and not enough work. What's a girl to do?
Well, the speaker in my leadership class this week gave me some great ideas on how to improve, things I already knew but had forgotten amongst all the busy chaos of my life.

1. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God."
Scripture mastery that I've heard a million times and yet, it seems all too easy to lose focus and start putting other things before scriptures and prayer. Like sleep, or homework. But this week I've started a small experiment (again, actually-I've tried this before). Every morning, instead of saying a groggy, half-conscious prayer into my pillow, I get up on my knees and say a heartfelt, awake prayer. Then I go to work, and when I come home the FIRST thing I do is read my scriptures. Or, if I'm about to start a homework assignment and I realize I haven't read them yet, I will do that first. I feel more focused, more in tune with the spirit, and better able to let knowledge flow through me. I know I am blessed when I do this!!

2. Keep water in your well
This is the hardest one for me, I think. I'm so much a perfectionist; I want to succeed at everything I do, especially school. College is extremely difficult for me-high school was easy, so I wasn't as prepared for the extensive workload as I could have been. So, while I struggle through the mounds of homework and learning how to study properly and still feeling like I'm not doing well enough, I completely neglect myself. I put passions such as reading, writing, and violin on the back burner of life, set on simmer, hoping the talent will remain until I can get back to it. This is a great example of one priority that is a little skewed in my life. Not that writing should take place of homework, but it should have room in my life because I go crazy without it. I can't live without writing and being creative, but many times I find myself trying to starve myself. It's like anorexia, only of creativity rather than food. I'm still working on the best solution for this; maybe committing to half an hour a day, or a certain time amount per week, would be a good idea. Or maybe a certain number of days per week, like four.
The reason this is so important, besides the fact that I would DIE without some of them, is that God has granted these talents to me for a reason, and he desires me to use them and grow in them. Even if I'm not the best student at BYU, I am the best ME--nobody else can do a better job at that! So I need to nurture those talents I've been given so I don't lose them, and so I don't lose myself in less important, although good, pursuits of the world.

3. 10 second rule
I REALLY like this one! I had never heard of this before, so I thought it was really cool, and I've started implementing it every chance I get. The idea is, I pray so much for guidance from the spirit, but how often do I listen to those promptings and obey them? Not often. Actually, a lot of the time I dismiss them as my own silly thoughts, and I suffer needlessly for that. The ten second rule is as follows: Every time a thought or impression to DO something--such as call someone, start an assignment, anything like that--within ten seconds I have to either WRITE IT DOWN or DO IT. It's amazing how well this works!! It solves the memory problem I have sometimes, even if I have to write something down several times a day, it helps. And it really helps with things like getting out of bed in the morning-acting on that thought "I should get out of bed right now." Instead of laying there thinking about it is enormously beneficial! I'm not late to work nearly as often since trying this. And getting assignments done instead of wasting time is always good. I am definitely using this!

4. Choose the BEST over Good and Better
This is referring to the talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks titled "Good, Better, Best." Great talk...not so easy to actually act upon. It's extremely difficult to prioritize things at times. There are so many GREAT and WONDERFUL things I can do with my life and my time...but what is BEST? Only God really knows, I think. But something that has started to help is that in our group class this week our group leader had us write down our life goals and number them. I numbered some of mine, not according to IMPORTANCE necessarily because many are based on events taking place or time passing that I don't yet have control over. My goals looked something like this:

1-Study Abroad to England
2-Publish first Fantasy novel before age 21
3-Get married in the temple
4-Editing internship at respectable publishing house
5-Run marathon
6-Education-related debt-free within 5 years of graduation
7-Have a BIG family
8-Serve a mission (either at 21 or later with my husband)

There are more, of course, and many of these may switch places or be replaced as other goals become apparent. Like the internship, and the publication of my book...both of those could happen at the same time, a long with marriage, as could the marathon. But as far as preparing for those things, I tried to put them in perspective as to what I should focus on FIRST and FOREMOST. Marriage could move to the top of the list (unlikely, but...that's an observation to be discussed elsewhere), if I meet the right man and it's the right time. Or serving a mission could happen instead. But the idea is that the most important aspect of my goals, the reasons behind them, will not change, that I will still DESIRE and AIM for a temple marriage, even if it doesn't happen for a very long time. I liked mapping out my put a lot into perspective for me, and made me see what's important to me. The best thing is that I know these are all righteous desires, and my Father in Heaven will support me in my endeavors to succeed.

5. Focus on people, not processes or things
This is one that will come gradually, but at the same time it's something that I already do for the most part. I'm still learning, of course. It could mean that sometimes friends should be put before school, or even writing. Christ made people his focus during his mission on this earth, and I should always strive to express love to those in my life, supporting them as they do me rather than selfishly using all of my resources to further my own goals and dreams.

I know that despite any improvement these things bring to my life, there will always be room for improvement. And no matter how often I find balance, there will always be a situation or trial to come mix it up so I can start over again. But this inevitable learning process is essential to my spiritual growth. If I "endure it well" and patiently, always looking to Christ and following in his footsteps, I will return to my Father's presence and obtain the blessings I inherit through my divine heritage; that is, eternal life and godhood.

**Saturday, February 20th, 2010
I just had a pretty neat experience that involved the implementation of several of these principles. So I got home from work and decided to read my scriptures, put God first in my life and nurture my spirit. As I was reading, a thought came into my head--I had forgotten to set up visiting teaching with one of the women I am supposed to teach. I at first thought, "I'll do it later." But the thought came again instantly, so I acted. I got up, walked next door (because I couldn't find the phone number), and knocked. I wasn't expecting success because she is rarely at home, but lo and behold, she answered the door! We chatted for a moment and set up a time and I walked away, whistling and holding a warm cinnamon roll she bestowed upon me. I realized as I came back to my apartment that even though scripture study is great and important, this young woman I visit teach is more important in many ways. Not that I could replace my scripture study with visiting her, but rather, interrupting my personal scripture study to reach out and touch her life when prompted will bring further blessings and more harmony to both of our lives.

Friday, February 12, 2010

No Other Way

"You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That's assault, not leadership."
~Dwight D. Eisenhower
This week in class we read and discussed an inspiring article of literature titled, "Divine-centered Leadership." It actually wasn't until I was in class on Monday (the word document we received the material in had no author name) that I discovered something exciting. The speaker we had, Neal Cox, had a physical, bound copy of the text, and my dad's name was on the front!! Woah! I mean, I knew he had written SOMETHING during his time at BYU, but they still USE it! And I got to read it in a CLASS! WAY COOL.

Anyway, returning to the actual subject of this blog, which is the CONTENT, not the author (sorry Dad) of said material. The driving question stated in the very first section after the introduction is "What would the Lord have me do?"
Jesus Christ beckons us to follow Him; He doesn't drag us behind with a rope around our necks. Love is the only leash He needs. Others have motives like pride, power, control, and greed; they are sometimes successful for small periods of time, but eventually they will have a rebellion on their hands, no matter how appealing their logic or ideas. People want, more than anything, to be loved and to feel that love. Christ as a leader knows this, and so His motive for leadership is love. In love, there is power. It is not an overwhelming drive for power over people, but instead it is striving for the power that can be found and made WITH people. Love also has pride, but it is quiet pride for hardship conquered, goals reached, and growth achieved. Love has control, again not over something or something, but in something, such as oneself. Love is never greedy, but it is always sought after and should be given without hesitation. Love is the best, and in my opinion, only, form of true leadership.

Divine-centered Leadership outlined five main things a leader should do or have in order to not only be successful, but to become the sort of leader the Lord would have him or her become. They are:

  • Inspired Vision
  • Challenge Unrighteousness
  • Model the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • Know Each Heart
  • Serve others so they may Act
After all the discussions, we were instructed to choose one and discuss it in this blog. I immediately knew which one I would use. Based on my personality test results (see previous blog), it is known that I am drawn towards assisting others in discovering their potential. A HUGE part of that is finding ways to give them a glimpse of that potential without throwing back the curtain and forcing them into the role that, for now, is too big for them. Some growth and learning on their part is required. This reminds me a little of my younger sister. She is a wonderful young woman now, very energetic and delightful to be around. When she was younger she LOVED to dress up, and LOVED to try on all my hand-me-down clothes. She would then want to wear them everywhere, and to have them for her own. The only problem was that she was, and still is, a very thin girl. I have always had a different body type, and therefore, my clothes simply did not fit her. They hung off her small frame in a ridiculous, baggy way, or slid right off her waist unless she hiked them WAY up or wore a belt. My mother usually caught her wearing such items and made her take them off and put them in a box until she had grown enough to fit into them.

It is the same with all children of God. Sometimes we want, or others want to help us, put on a version of ourselves that, while better, we just haven't grown into yet. The tricky part in being one of those helpful people is knowing how to nudge in the right direction and challenge just enough to give them the opportunity to realize for themselves who they can be, so when they step into those shoes their feet fit just right.

And, once they are ready, these children can do as you did for them and in turn lead others to their potential. It's one of those gifts that costs nothing and will keep giving for generations to come.

The greatest way to begin this process is through love, and love in action is SERVICE.

In every meeting I am in for Choose to Give, I am reminded that we are students giving to students. We are just a small group of perhaps twelve, mobilizing and recruiting volunteers so we can raise money for our fellow students to attend this grand university. But a dozen people stepping up and leading the way can inspire hundreds, if not thousands, to give of themselves. And so we serve; we donate time, effort, ideas, and other little bits of ourselves to focusing outside of what WE need to give our fellows what THEY need. In doing so, we light the path others can follow to achieve the same things. Action leads to action, like a game of dominoes. All it takes is one movement, one touch of a finger, and those small tiles will move until all are touching, all are connected, and potential is realized. Takes that first action to accomplish this, however. It takes each tile being close enough to the next one in order for the final goal to be accomplished.

Applying this to my mentoring, which I just began, is not difficult either. I have one hour to spend with a beautiful, intelligent little first grader. She is darling, but she has a lot to learn. I should know--I've been through almost 13 years of school now, and I haven't made a dent in all the learning that can take place in this mortal existence! But I get the opportunity to share what knowledge I do have with her. It doesn't matter that I have to practically run from campus after class to get to the elementary school on time. It doesn't matter that afterwards I have to sprint back to make it to my next one. What matters is making sure this girl is given the chance to grow. I can't pound the idea that "This is a circle, that is a square." Into her head. I have to lovingly, and PATIENTLY, teach her until she understands the concepts herself. And maybe someday, while she may not remember me teaching her, she will remember that SOMEONE taught her the difference between a circle and a square, and that if no one had loved her enough to give that service, she wouldn't have gotten very far. This, in turn, could inspire her to do the same for someone else.

It isn't usually very difficult to give, but when it is and we give anyway, we are blessed beyond measure, and so are those we serve, and so are their children, and their children's children. True leadership, akin to discipleship, is service. Service is love in action. Love is the way and the light of Christ. There is no other way to serve, no other way to lead, no other way to follow Him.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who am I to be a Leader?

I love this picture, and not just because there's a cat in it. The profound message portrayed has stood out to me ever since I saw it sitting on a desk in an old teacher's office.

At this time, seeing this picture, I ask myself these questions:

  • Do I see myself as a leader?

  • Do I utilize the talents and personality traits given to me by God to be an admirable, trustworthy leader?

  • How can I better understand and take advantage of what I already have in order to better serve those I lead?

Thought-provoking, no? I know I'm getting deep today, but stay with me. For class this week we took a
Myers-Briggs Personality test to get to know ourselves a little better. My results weren't incredibly surprising, and I want to combine them with the results I got from a StrengthsQuest test my dad had me take before I left home. Personally, I LOVE taking personality quizzes. It's fun to see how answering a few seemingly random questions can lead to an identification of self. And while I may get the same result as someone else, they won't emphasize certain traits in the same ways, and they may be stronger in some areas that I'm weaker in, and vice versa.

First off, the Myers-Briggs test placed me in the "ENFP" category. These letters stand for:


And at the bottom of the page I was supplied with a graph showing how much I was each of these things. For example, I am moderately high in Extraversion (focus on outer world of people and things), but that means that I still maintain quite a bit of Introversion (focus on inner world and impressions). Intuition was also moderate, indicating my tendency to take information from patterns and "the big picture." Not surprising was my almost avalanche score in the area of Feeling, meaning I make decisions on values and person-centered concerns rather than logic or objectivity. I pretty much straddle the line between Perceiving and Judging, barely preferring having a flexible, spontaneous approach to life and keeping things planned and organized. A good mix, I think.
Myers-Briggs said this in general about ENFP personality types:
"Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency."
Cool. So I'm an optimistic, creative, out-going kind of person. Now what? Well, I'm going to compare this to my StrengthsQuest test results, and then make an evaluation and how understanding myself can make me a better leader.
StrengthsQuest is a book by three individuals, each with a Ph.d, so I assume they have a pretty good idea about this stuff. Or at least, they've spent a lot of time and money thinking about it! When you buy the book, you have to buy it new because enclosed is a ONE TIME USE code that allows you to take the "Clifton StrengthsFinder" and discover your "Top 5."
The Top 5 are five traits each person is naturally endowed with. This is not to say that those five are the only ones, but they are the most obvious and the strongest. After taking the test, the idea is that one could expand and train these talents into SKILLS, or strengths, so instead of natural, wild talent, one has for their use a honed and strengthened skill. It's similar to building muscle; someone may be extraordinarily strong naturally, but imagine the kind of success that is had when pure talent is taken and toned until it becomes an unstoppable strength!
Now, my Top 5 are:
Empathy- Briefly, this means I can intuitively understand what people around me are feeling. I hear unvoiced questions, anticipate need, and assist others in expressing their feelings. I, as the description puts it, "Help them give voice to their emotional life." It also says that this ability draws people to me.

Developer-This trait is what draws me to people (remember the "Extraversion" from before? Yeah, that comes into play here!). I can see the potential in everyone I meet, and when I interact with them, my goal is to challenge them, put them through stretching experiences that cause growth, and I look hard to see change, even changes that might be invisible to some. This is another thing that draws people to me because they can sense that I honestly care for their success and want to help.

Input-I LOVE TO READ. And write. And learn. And that's what this trait is all about-gathering stuff: information, books, travel experiences, people, stories, WORDS, anything! I gather because the things I'm interested in are important, or at least could someday be important.

Includer-It has already been established that I like people, and that, in general, people like me. Well, when I see the good potential in others, I want them to be included. I want to get to know them. I avoid exclusive groups and head towards the ones that have a jumble of people. This is a result of my tendencies towards seeing others' potential and gathering. Who knows what interesting people could be hiding beneath the surface? Who knows what a little friendliness will do? Better invite them over!

Adaptability-This one ties back into the previous mention of "Perceiving," and how I prefer a bit of spontaneity. I prefer this description better than that word because "spontaneity" implies randomness, which doesn't complete the idea. I don't see the future as fixed, or pre-determined. I see it as something I create by choices I make, and I make those choices one at a time. I may have plans, but I am able to react well when other factors change them. I don't see a quick change of my plans as much of an inconvenience. To quote the actual description, "You are, at heart, a very flexible person who can stay productive when the demands of work are pulling you in many different directions at once."

That was enlightening, wasn't it? The test also outlines weaknesses that come as a result of these traits, things I need to be aware of and avoid. I won't go over those now, but I can talk about what all of this means to me.
Knowing myself is crucial to becoming an effective leader because I will not be followed for long if I turn around halfway through the journey and ask my followers,
"Who am I?"
"What am I good at?"
"Can I even DO anything?"
Personality tests such as the two described above are only one way to discover oneself. Before I ever took these tests I had a pretty good understanding of myself and my strengths, to a point where the revelation of the above strengths and weaknesses did not come as a shock, but rather as a means of further discovering the finer attributes of my previously acknowledged abilities. Jesus Christ, as the ultimate leader, had to know who was. And he did. He spent countless hours on his own as well as among those he led, and those solitary moments, I can imagine, were spent in reflection and prayer as he more fully discovered his divine nature and his role as a leader on this mortal earth. I can learn from his example in so many ways, and especially in this. Christ knew he was a son of God, and he knew his calling was to suffer the Atonement and die for his brothers and sisters so we might be able to fulfill our divine potential of becoming like God without the pain and suffering of our many sins to prevent us from ever reaching that ultimate goal.
Knowing that I am also a daughter of God, that I have his love and that everyone else can have it to0, drives everything I do and everything I strive to become. I can be a leader for God's children, my heavenly siblings, EVERY DAY. All of these attributes I have been blessed with help me do this. When I care for and see the divine potential in others, when I include them in my life and help them get through those strengthening experiences, or trials, so they can discover their own strengths, when I maintain an eternal perspective and take others with me through this life to the next, glorious stage, I am being what I am meant to be: a disciple of Christ. A daughter of God. Someone truly worth following. Not for power or extraordinary feats, perhaps, but for love and service and my ability to give everyone the gift of seeing themselves as God sees them. Because love is the best way to serve. It is the only way to serve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reading for Leading

Late again. Sigh. One of these days, I'll make it on time. This will NOT become a pattern!

Anyway. We had an interesting assignment last week. I saw the point, but I didn't like it as much. We were supposed to take what our speaker told us about different types of leadership for different situations and persons and find it in our lives/leadership roles. What if I don't use all of them in my life? I'll do my best...

The four types:

This is the nifty chart we used in class. I guess I'll see how I did with them in my two main leadership roles.

When I'm mentoring, I'm not going to delegate to a first-grader. First of all, she wouldn't be able to focus on the task without my constant supervision. She wants to play! And she might not understand the assignment without me there to explain each section of the assignment she needs to complete. I'm positive this is a form of Coaching, using high Directive and High Supportive behavior to accomplish a task. I like this form of leading because I feel like it helps me to grow as well as the person I'm working with.

The committee chair of C2G uses Delegation in leading the rest of us, so we go out and get the necessary jobs done. I, in my interactions with the Deans and Donor Liaisons of the various colleges I'm over, use Supporting. I meet with them, talk, bounce ideas, exchange assignments, and rarely have any need to DIRECT the DEAN, or any others. Mostly, I am providing support and help for them through my ideas, volunteer recruiting capabilities, or in gathering supplies/information for the colleges' individual activities.

Well, it's a week late, but it's there. I don't really ever use Directing or Delegating. Maybe occasionally with my roommates, and in small doses, but it's not incredibly apparent. Maybe later in my life I'll fill roles that require these themes of leadership.

Also, we're supposed to be reading a book on leadership for the next month. Taking a suggestion from my wonderful father, I am going to read "Leading without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community" by Max De Pree. I just got it in the mail yesterday, along with another title of his: "Leadership is an Art". Maybe I'll read both. Either way, I'm pretty excited. I read the introduction yesterday, and I can already tell this is going to be good!