Looking for Margin

Margin is the space to rest, to recharge, to enjoy life with those we love … space to decompress and breathe.

As I get older, the pace of life seems to pick up more and more. Occasionally, I’ll hear someone (often a teenager) comment, “I’m bored.” I honestly can’t remember being bored—other than perhaps occasionally during a class lecture that was particularly tedious. But as far as looking for something to stimulate my mind when I had some “free” time? I just can’t remember that happening.

Life seems to bring a different problem my way—the need for breathing room. You might call this looking for margin. There was a time in my adult life when it was just me … then just me and my wife … then me and my wife and a kid … and then me and my wife and two kids … But I don’t think that margin is about the number of people involved in my life (though increased relationships and responsibility do affect margin).

Every person has the same number of hours in a day and in a week. My days and hours fill up, whether I fill them up or not. So … I’m learning that the only way to have margin is to create margin intentionally, by making sure that there is time for the most important things in life: my relationship with God and local church, my relationships with my wife and kids, and my relationships with friends and other family.

Life will run away with you if you let it; sometimes it even runs over you! Take intentional steps to create margin in your life—for worship, for rest … and yes, even for fun. God designed us to live life with rhythm and margin, and it takes discipline to create margin for the most important things. If you don’t live life with intentionality, you’ll look at your hectic schedule one day and realize that life is out of control.

My fear in life isn’t that I won’t get anything done. It’s that I’ll spend my life doing things that don’t matter or doing things that don’t matter the most.


Innovative Leadership: Old Dogs, New Tricks (Part 2)

What are some ways that old dogs can learn new tricks?

  1. Run with the end in view. The end goal is a vision of where you're headed. Don't run to nowhere. Your end goal may change as you change and as the process evolves. But give yourself a picture that will motivate you to run when you feel like giving up!
  2. Make a plan. This is different than having the end goal in view. A plan helps you reach your goal. Many people fly through life from one thing to the next without ever pausing long enough to plan the next step. Making a plan (even a poor plan) is better than not planning at all!
  3. Ask for feedback. Inform someone else of your goal and your plan, and ask for feedback. Invite regular criticism to help strengthen your areas of weakness. When you receive the criticism, listen. Learn. Live. Listen. Learn. Live. Listen. Learn. Live. You get the idea. (It will help if this person is someone you trust highly.)
  4. Be prepared to get back up. Yes, you will fail. Be prepared to pick yourself up, wipe off your scrapes and bruises, and keep on moving. Don't let small setbacks equal categorical failure!
  5. Enjoy yourself. No, this isn't about having “fun” like watching cartoons. It's about having “fun” like a hard workout that really hurts but feels really good afterward. Let the exercise of improving yourself and improving your leadership be an enjoyable process.
  6. Finally, make sure the shoe fits. If you hate what you're doing, then it really may be time to look somewhere else and learn some other new tricks. You might even need a whole new bag.

See part one of this post.

Innovative Leadership: Old Dogs, New Tricks (Part 1)

A couple of months ago I watched my two year-old daughter attempt to put a puzzle together. She was rather clumsy and therefore rather frustrated. She couldn't make the pieces fit in the right spot, and would cry, “Can't do it! Can't do it!” A few days ago, I saw the very same two year-old blaze through several different puzzles in record time. She loves puzzles!

Do you ever feel locked into doing something that you aren't particularly good at and that you don't particularly enjoy? Or … maybe worse … Do you ever wish you could be good at something but have failed so many times that you just want to give up?

Perhaps you've responded to failed attempts by concluding that it's just not worth trying, that you are the way you are and that you just won't change. After all, you know the saying: “You can't teach an old dog new tricks.”

Well, my friend, there is an important difference between you and the “old dog.” You can choose to change. You really can! Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking, “That's just who I am and how I operate.” Of course, the only way anyone can ultimately change is by experiencing the life-changing grace of the gospel. But what about smaller changes, like changing what time I get up or how much I read or how much I eat or how much money I spend?

I'm not speaking to things that are beyond human limits or beyond the scope of your gifting. We all have God-given limits. Many times, though, we fall short because we aren't willing to expend the time and effort required to change. Don't succumb to believing that you are the way you are and that you can't change. Innovative improvement is often the result of slow, painful effort. Kind of like getting in shape. It's not rocket science, but it takes more effort than most of us are willing to expend.

If you need to develop new habits and new disciplines as a leader–at home, work, church, wherever–start with baby steps. And be prepared to dig in for the long haul. Old dogs can learn new tricks. It just takes time.

We'll consider some strategies for learning new tricks in part two.