Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Looking Back at 2007 and Forward at 2008

As 2008 begins, I would encourage you to find some time away from the holiday madness, and take a few moments with a pencil and paper to reflect about the past year, and get your thoughts, your priorities, and your vision ready for the next. Things don’t always work out the way we plan, and that’s why goals need to be flexible and responsive to work. From time to time, it’s good to sit back, reflect, and ask questions about where you’ve been and where you’re going. When you do, here’s eight important questions to consider:

1) What did you accomplish in 2007 that you were really proud of? This is rubber meets the road time. What did you do that worked? What meant something to you? Take a minute and congratulate yourself. It’s easy to forget that we actually do good stuff during the year, and worth taking a minute to enjoy it.

2) What slipped through the cracks? What did you want to accomplish, but because of a variety of reasons didn’t? It may have been budget, time, scheduling, resources, apathy, opposition, or a million other reasons. But make a note of it. Perhaps you need to take another shot this year, or pass on it completely.

3) In 2008 – think “responsive goals.” Up until Napoleon’s time, battlefield strategy involved a predetermined goal. Generals told their troops to take a specific hill, and come hell or high water, they went for it. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But Napoleon came along and adjusted that strategy. He realized that taking a specific hill might be desirable, but along the way, if he noticed a spot on the front lines where the enemy was weak and he was strong, he would divert and attack there. He exploited the changing battlefield and was responsive to the ebb and flow of war. As a result, he became a legend. There’s much to say for that approach with our personal lives and in business. Goals are great – but remember that Bill Gates original goal was to sell hardware. When that didn’t work, he had the foresight to look at the potential of software, and became the richest man in the world. Keep the big goal in mind, but be ready to attack other areas as circumstances change.

4) Control the technology monster. Learn to put down the Blackberry or cell phone during meetings. Look at people in the face again. Never say something in an e-mail you wouldn’t want shouted from the housetops, because once you hit the “send” button, you have no idea where it might end up or how people will use it. Thin out your software. About 7 or 8 years ago when I switched from PC to Mac, I had tons of different programs on my PC. At first I was stunned to realize how few programs a Mac has – but then I realized how few I really need. Keep your computer lean and mean, focus on programs that actually help you work, and delete the others from your system. Stop wasting your time “futzing” with technology. Control technology, and don’t let it control you.

5) Learn to speak well in public in 2008. Nothing will help you more in your career path that knowing how to speak to a group. Take a class, read a book, practice. Lead a workshop, or address your team at work. Learn to be comfortable in front of a crowd, and know how to verbally encourage, inspire, and motive your team.

6) In 2008 fight cultural polarization. Newsweek reports that the political divide in American isn’t from the red state / blue state issue, it’s because of the media. With the advent of talk radio, cable TV news, and blogs, at least 20% of the population has become “news junkies” and are unusually passionate about their views. The majority of people that used to be considered “moderates” or “the vital center” by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. have been eroded, because of these extremes in political and cultural opinion. The bottom line is that we’re drifting farther and farther apart as a nation. How do we fix it? Listen to more opposing opinions. Develop close relationships with people who don’t agree with you. Get out of the bubble. Read magazines and books you don’t agree with. Try to understand the other side. We don’t have to agree with others, but we need to understand, value, and respect them – in the same way God does.

7) Discover yourself. Not in a wacky new age way, but to learn how you’re wired. There are inexpensive resources like the Personality Page, or Mark Gungor’s Flagpage that will help you understand your personality. More extensive resources like Myers-Briggs or DISC profiles are available as well. Whatever you pick, these options will help you understand why you think the way you do, and liberate you. I spent my life being frustrated at my short attention span and being easily distracted until I learned I was wired that way and re-focused my life with that in mind. Now, I realize my creativity and openness to change is a key part of that genetic make-up. Stop being frustrated with yourself, and learn how God created you to overcome.

8) Finally – look backward and forward through the lens of your priorities. Most people spend the vast majority of their lives doing things that just don’t matter. Re-think your schedule, your to-do list, and your job from the prospective of your priorities. What is really important to you? How many things that you hate are you doing simply for other people? Service to others is great, but don’t live your life based on other people’s approval. Decide what’s really important in your life, and focus on those things. Success matters far less than the knowledge that you’re doing what you were born to do…

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16 Comments

  1. Phil, thankyou for these challenging points for the New Year.  On #6, "Fight Cultural Polarization," and "How do we fix it?"…maybe we should all just become "the same"…the result, socialism.  I don't believe "the same" is what we want.  As the end of this dispensation draws to a close, we are going to see increased polarization.  It is a sign of the end times…fathers against sons and neighbors against neighbors, etc.  Your "fix it suggestions" remind me of the Russian and Lebanese Christians who sat back and "listened" becoming tolerant to the destruction and loss of their cultures.  Jesus' idea to the opposing culture was calling, "Sin…sin."  And requiring right living, rather than, "Let's sit down and talk about this and see where we can understand each other better and come to some compromise."

    "Read magazines and books you don't agree with."  This is exactly what our secular, academic universities of intolerance would like to see.  And four plus years later of "listening" to the opposing view, you can begin to "think and act like us."  How can one respect those who desire to rewrite history and change the face/culture of America?  Jesus radically brought change to the culture by preaching the gospel which demanded, involuntarily, the listening ear of his opposition.  Jesus listened but it was not to reach a consensus of agreement on how to coexist together in harmony.  If anything, He created greater polarization. (a stumbling stone and a rock of offense..Rom. 9.33)

    Since this is a Christian forum, I thought I missed "points 9 and 10."  The first 8 seem to primarily focus on "me."  Number 9 could be, "Focus on others besides yourself and tell someone about Jesus."  Or, "Go volunteer…somewhere…just help someone else…no strings attached."  Number 10 could be, "Try focusing more on the Lord through prayer and the Word."  There is plenty in this world to draw us away from God and His presence."  Point 10 might add, "What can I do to include the Lord in Phil's 8 questions?"  He (God) might just say, "Scratch it and start over."  Just a few provoking thoughts. 🙂

  2. Phil.

    Good encouragement. Of course along with the Spiritual inventory we all should be taking now and continually through the year, these elements professionally are important as well.

    I especially appreciate the appeal to read things from different points of view. Understanding wherever it can be promoted to open our own minds and better appreciate where people, even those we disagree with, are coming from is an important thing to be doing. Jesus modeled that by the ultimate act of sacrifice of emptying Himself of all that he was due in order to meet us where we were. He compromised nothing. He demonstrated true servanthood though.

    It's sad when Christians become arrogant, condescending, and self-righteous know-it-alls. Mature exposure in appropriate venues with a willingness to adapt and adopt where there is no compromise in truth is a sign of strength not weakness and far too often I have to return to the truth that when I'm unable to learn, then I cease to grow.

    There's few things more debilitating than a closed, arrogant mind that believes it knows everything, and can learn nothing more.

    I appreciate your challenge and will take some time to go through these questions along with the others I typically do at this time.

    Merry Christmas to you and all who visit your blog and a happy, Christ-centered year to all.

  3. Amerikan, aka Phil (explain that name to me sometime) – I think you're taking an awfully narrow view of things here. First, if you really think that by learning about opposing viewpoints you'll start to think and act like them, then you must have a pretty shallow intellectual pool to draw from. That sounds more like the build a wall mentality, which I don't see in the Bible at all – particularly in Acts 17 when Paul purposefully engaged the philosophers at Mars Hill.   Second – the "focusing on me" issue is exactly what I'm trying to do. This year, let's fix a few things with us, so we can impact the world in a more powerful and positive way.  So my advice would be to lighten up a bit, expand your horizons, and enjoy the new year!

  4. Are comments only welcomed when they are "in agreement?"  I am sorry my opposing opinions are too much for some and apparently "excluded from question #6."  Would that we be "so fair and balanced."

    Re: Mars' hill and Paul…his opposing views (doctrine) to the Athenian's idolatry appeared a most narrow view to the philopsphers being accused of "ignorance" by Paul.  And they in turn scoffed and mocked.

    As for AmeriKan, aka Phil…it is really a capital "K."  The computer does not recognize the "capital" for some reason.  My given name is, Phil, and I reside in the heart of America (Kansas).  Trusting we all take time to smell the roses. 🙂

  5. Disagreement is always welcomed, but I think your nit-picking misses the point of the post.  And regarding your comment about Mars Hill, certainly some scoffed and mocked, but if you recall, they respected him enough that they also asked him back for more discussion. So how does alienation and opposition work for you in evangelism? If humiliation, opposition, and criticism help you win the lost, go for it.  But a significant part of this blog is about building bridges to reach the world.  The last generation complained, criticized, and protested the culture, and it doesn't seem to have done much good.  I stick to my guns. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

  6. Gee, Phil, I thought you blogger pros had thicker skin than this.  I assumed since you did such a good job of dishing out "humiliation, opposition, criticism, and nit-picking" to the targeted subjects of your more recent blogs, you would be able to receive the same.  Turnabout should be fair play…as in practicing what you preach…right?  I don't think my opinions are any "narrower" than yours.

    This is what I mean when "bloggers should be accountable for their statements and positions."  To go unchallenged, proves nothing.  Paul was more than ready and willing to step to the plate against his challengers.  However, their "taking hold of him," (v.19 AMP) and "we will hear thee again of this matter," (v.32) is hardly a jolly return invitation. 

  7. Bart, I really would rather retire.  Thirty-six years of sparring with my colleagues and patients does produces thicker skin.  Tis fun to sit on the sidelines and stick my foot in once and awhile with you guys…no harm intended. 🙂

  8. You may want to take a look at what you're doing then.

    This is a media blog and I think you've misconstrued or decided to take Phil's comments and observations with regard to televangelists beyond the context they are offered which is primarily media related.

    The nit-picking appears to be in response to some offense taken and I think it's unecessary and doesn't really contribute much positive.  These are ministry people who have purposely placed themselves in that forum.  It is legitimate to look at and consider how their actions and reactions play in that forum and from it hopefully learn something from it.  Especially for people who are professionals in that field.

    Perhaps if you added to your apologetics for those you wish to support, some comments as to how they could or should better handle these issues, or why how they've handled things was appropriate from a Media Relations perspective, the response to your comments would be more in line with the respect I'm sure you wish to receive whether there is agreement with the positions or not.

    Just a thought. 

  9. I am sorry this is an exclusive blog of the "good ole boy's club."  Left to your own devices with self-imposed "rules" that govern your day to day comments, I guess you are not open to "outside" observations.  I believe I remember someone saying this was not "academia."  Were I to discard /or discount advice, ideas and opinions (neg. and pos.) of those "outside" my professional ranks, I would have lost and been far less the person in this race of life.

    I think you and your colleagues are the ones who need to lighten up, take a deep breath and not suck air when someone "foreign," brings a different /or opposing perspective…media or not.  And I can invision much gnashing of teeth when Paul finished his "scathing" discourse to the Athenians.

  10. Wow – that's a lot of venom for a blog you post a lot on. For one of my most prolific responders, your criticism seems a little odd….. 🙂

  11. First, AmeriKan, keep in mind, Phil posts all your comments and everyone else, so he's obviously not afraid of criticism. After 30 plus years of producing television, I imagine he's had far more (and probably better) criticism than you've offered… Second, comparing yourself to Paul is pretty impressive. I would be interested in knowing more about you. Are you a media professional? Do you work in media? What are your frustrations there? Feel free to give us insight to help us be more effective. That's what this blogging community is about.

    Otherwise, I think it's a shame you allow yourself to get so worked up over trivia you miss the point of the post. I wonder how much of your life you've missed by doing the same. Perhaps you're just way too intellectual for us. Sorry about that. Hopefully you'll find a blog out there you agree with…

  12. I'm simply a fellow blogger and participant.  I'm not a media professional.

    The irony of your response with regard to criticism is not lost on me.  Apparently it's an exclusive domain for you and much easier given than received.

    Blessings to you my friend and I'll continue to give your comments the respect they deserve.

  13. Amerikan,

    First you made statements that challenged Phil Cooke's editorial.  Excellent.  Good idea.  That's welcome.

    Then you got upset because other people challenged your statements.   (Frankly, I was planning on making a post countering your statements.  I didn't do so because I'm a busy housewife, and December keeps me hopping!)

    Why did you get so upset?  Why did you launch a bitter diatribe against the blog and all who post here?  No, I'm not interested in the answers!  IT'S NONE OF MY BUSINESS!  Answer these questions for your own edification, not mine.  Don't be afraid of self examination.  It isn't egotistical to search yourself.  It's just spiritual housekeeping.  It can make you more effective in your Christian walk.

    Your contributions to this blog are clearly welcome.  Your posts are always thought provoking and well written.  Please do whatever is necessary to prepare yourself to return here throughout 2008 and participate in the exchange of ideas.

    In Christ,

    E. Conley 

    PS. My apologies to Mr. Cooke if I've overstepped my bounds as a guest here.

  14. I know this comment is probably a bit late but…

    Isn't this type of public argument that says nothing what Phil was trying to encourage us to avoid in 2008?  Now behave yourselves.  Passion is great but it is difficult to do God's work in anger.

    Now let's put some of that energy into increasing His kingdom in 2008.

    Regards from Melbourne Australia

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