An Encounter With the Ark

By Linda Tancs

Noah’s ark is the storied vessel discussed in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, built by Noah to save his family and a menagerie from a world-engulfing flood. While scientists debate the existence of the real McCoy at Mount Ararat in Turkey, you can witness your own real-life model of the life-saving ship at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. The museum features a full-size ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible, spanning 510 feet in length, 85 feet in width and 51 feet in height. Built from standing dead timber by skilled Amish craftsmen, the ark contains three decks of exhibits, including life-like animal sculptures. The site also includes exotic live animals from around the world in Ararat Ridge Zoo.

Back to the Future

By Linda Tancs

Are you surrounded by other people who specialize in prophesying your future (Ecclesiastes 8:7)? That idea will never take off. It’s all been done before. That book will never sell. You can’t go back to school now. You’re too old to adopt. The list goes on and on, and it’s often less than life affirming. Do you let the opinions of others control your goals and dreams?

It’s easy to get discouraged over someone else’s opinion of you, however uninformed if might be. And it’s especially difficult to deal with in this season because a new year often brings new reflections on the future. The power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Don’t let someone else’s tongue bring death to your dreams. Keep calm and carry on is a popular expression these days. The Bible expresses the same sentiment (Ecclesiastes 9:10; 10:4). Give yourself to what you’re dreaming to accomplish, staying calm and composed in the face of opposition. Let God be the one to guide you toward what is appropriate and to discern what needs letting go.

Never Say Never

By Linda Tancs

Whenever I hear someone express a negative belief about being able to accomplish something, I’m often reminded of one of my favorite quotes attributed to the philosopher Goethe:  “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.” Negative beliefs often surround the subject of going back to school at a later age. Consider a 50-year-old who says: “I can’t go back to school now. I’ll be 54 when I graduate.” Well, you will be 54 (or whatever age it is) in any event. Growing older doesn’t take any talent or ability but it’s all the sweeter if you find opportunity in change. This point was aptly illustrated in a newspaper story about an older woman who elected to rise above some very challenging circumstances and attend a community college. She became homeless after losing her job, lost all her possessions when she couldn’t pay the storage facility, surrendered her children to relatives for their daily care and lost three loved ones to health issues within a single year. She remarked that if she could persevere through school as a homeless person, then anyone with a home could do it, too.

So what causes a person to visit Neverland and take up residence there? Oftentimes, something in the past holds the future captive—a negative life event that leaves one hopeless or depressed and unable to move forward. Conversely, prior success many install fear in a person that the best of times are already behind. In either event, Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that as we think, so we are. So forget the past (Isaiah 43:18), and look to God to lead you in the present (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Never say never; it’s as simple as that.

Just for Today

By Linda Tancs

For tomorrow I cannot pray. Cover me with thy shadow just for today.—St. Therese of Lisieux

There is a Dear Abby column that has often inaugurated each new year called Just For Today. It’s a list of things you can try to do, even if it’s just for today: things like being optimistic, living in the moment, taking care of your health, taking action, being agreeable, being happy and improving your mind. Try it. Start your own list of affirmations, beginning each one with “just for today.”

That column is the perfect reminder that it’s the moment that counts, just as the Bible instructs. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34). Who knows what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14)? Jesus taught His followers to ask for their “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). It’s a matter of trusting Him, one day at a time.

If you focus on today, then before you know it, you’ll have many todays behind you and be well on your way to developing better habits, but you need to look at what is—and move from there. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift—that’s why we call it ‘the present’.”

Living the Life You’ve Imagined

By Linda Tancs

Are you living the life you’ve imagined? If not, why? Is it lack of courage—or encouragement? First Thessalonians 5:11 exhorts us to encourage each other and build each other up. Let’s face it, though; it’s easy to play it safe. But as the expression goes: no guts, no glory. Take a look at the excuses you use to keep from realizing your dreams. I’m too old (or young)I don’t like riskMy family would never approve. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough influence. It’s all been done before. I’m not that talented. What excuses do you make? We all have hopes and aspirations. The next time you contemplate yours, be very conscious of the excuses that creep into your thoughts. Chances are, you haven’t given them much thought or even accepted them as excuses because they’ve become so much a part of your daily thought process. Or you may have “inherited” one or more of your favorite excuses from a potentially well-intentioned friend or family member. However, excuses derive their power from you—and only you. God’s Word gives you the power to banish them. As Ephesians 4:23 says, renew your attitude.

Renewal requires you to challenge your excuses. Sure, many folks will say, “It’s not an excuse; it’s actually a fact.” Take, for example, I’m too old. How can you be sure of the truth of this statement? Like a detective, seek the evidence that bears it out. In other words, be sure to separate facts from feelings. Do your homework. How many others with aspirations like yours accomplished their goals at the same age—or even older? In New Jersey, a 96-year-old woman obtained her high school diploma. Look for stories on your topic on the internet, in business journals, blogs, social networks and so on. Only after you’ve exhausted your fact-finding mission and found no evidence to refute your excuse should you even think about accepting it as a cold, hard fact. If that’s the case, then consider whether your statement is really more a reflection of your own lack of desire to accomplish something. Are you striving towards your own dream or trying to achieve something for someone else?

There’s no need to waste time with excuses based on someone else’s agenda or your own actual (rather than conjured) limitations. In all other cases, continue to think big and look for inspiration. Remove the word can’t from your vocabulary (Philippians 4:13). As the writer Frank Scully once remarked, “Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”

A Sporting Approach Toward Career Management

By Linda Tancs

Tennis icon Billie Jean King once remarked, “A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning.” This got me thinking about the parallels in sports and the Bible concerning winning traits: perseverance in the face of obstacles, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship. First Corinthians, in particular, provides a sporting analogy on life. In chapter nine, Paul outlines the criteria for running an effective race: determination, self-control, goal-setting and discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Aren’t these some of the same qualities that our business leaders should possess? No doubt many of these qualities are picked up in the gym or out on the schoolyard, which is why it’s distressing when sports and academics are pitted against each other as mutually exclusive endeavors. Sports are an important part of education, teaching the value of teamwork and other career enhancing skills like strategy, goal setting, feedback and review.

Regardless whether you’re a sports fanatic and armed with biblical precepts on running your race, watch a game and ask yourself what lessons can be learned and applied in your working life based on the conduct of the players towards themselves and the opposing team, the strategies employed, the reactions of the fans, the interplay between the coach and the team, and the commentary. You’ll likely never watch a game the same way again.

The Road to Transformation

By Linda Tancs

In the movie Eat Pray Love Julia Roberts’ character remarks that ruin is the road to transformation. The remark was sparked by a tour of an ancient Roman ruin, but its deeper meaning is related to failures in life as the film’s story line indicates. It’s a compelling statement, and oftentimes we do think of transformation in the context of some failure that preceded it. But why focus on failure? I prefer Thomas Edison’s famous positioning statement: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Those “10,000 ways” are success stories, don’t you think? Every time we discover a way that doesn’t work, we’re that much closer to finding a way that does work—and learning a whole lot about ourselves in the process. The point is that transformation isn’t an event, it’s a process.

That process occurs by the grace of God, one baby step at a time. By testing the waters, we discern His will (Romans 12:2). Regardless of how long the road is, He that began a work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Bible is packed with examples of people who were utterly transformed, Jesus’s death of course being the ultimate illustration of transformative, redemptive meaning. Think, too, of the apostles, ordinary men who became great leaders and kingdom builders. And Paul, the persecutor-turned-evangelist. David evolved from shepherd boy to a king. Remember Moses, Gideon, Ruth, Habakkuk. Their minds and hearts were all renewed in God’s Word in countless ways, bringing peace, joy and strength in times of triumph and adversity.

Think about what God has taught you from your “10,000 ways.” Would you have learned as much without Him?

Rest is Not Idleness

By Linda Tancs

As you run about your day like the Energizer Bunny on steroids trying to juggle life and work, remember that the human body is not designed to run 24/7. It’s essential to have balance in work and life, which is all the more trying these days—especially for employees who are so often asked to do more with less. And add to that the vague notion that rest is idleness and you end up with needless stress and anxiety.

What does the Bible say about rest? You don’t have to read far to get an answer. God established the principle by resting on the seventh day following creation (Genesis 2:2). Exodus 33:14 reminds us that when we place our trust in God, He will give us rest. Jesus reminded his followers of the same thing in Matthew 11:28. Why is rest such an important biblical concept? Because it engenders faith, which allows us room to focus on aligning ourselves with God’s mission for our lives. And that creates peace.

Rest is a biblical weapon to combat stress and anxiety. So how do you incorporate a sense of balance? First, you need to determine the value you place on every aspect of your life: work, emotional growth, friends, family, hobbies, health and fitness, finances, intellectual growth, spirituality and so on. Rate each aspect on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest value). A sense of imbalance often evolves from a feeling that one’s values are out of sync with daily living. How much do you incorporate your highest rated value(s) into the life you’re living? Next, determine the resources you need to close the gap between your highest values ratings and the space that any such activity actually occupies in your life. Are you lacking a “team” resource—a supportive partner, an extra hand at work, an au pair, a counselor, etc.? Or perhaps you need more material resources like a daily planner, better technology, or training materials, to name a few. Once you’ve determined the resources you need, sit down and write out an action plan to optimize those resources. List each resource and your goal with respect to acquiring or optimizing it. Determine a realistic timeline for each goal. Finally, consider how you’ll know whether the goal has been achieved. What will success look like? Revisit your plan often to gauge how your values jibe with your current life circumstances.

What a Movie Teaches About Management Skills

By Linda Tancs

In the movie The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock’s character admonishes the coach, “You ought to get to know your players.” She was referring to the coach’s lack of recognition that one of his players tested in the 98th percentile for protective instincts, a key trait for someone acting in the role of an offensive tackle on the football field. In business, it’s equally as important to know how your team members learn so that you can lead them more effectively towards optimal performance. Individuals process information predominately in one of three ways: visually, in an auditory manner, or in a kinesthetic manner. Studies indicate that 90% of the population is oriented towards visual learning. Visual learners are aided by charts, pictures and written directions. Some research shows that those with a visual orientation tend to speak rapidly and use phrases such as “Do you see?” or “Get the picture?” when interacting with others. Those with an auditory orientation have been found to have a melodious quality to their voice and are apt to use phrases such as “Ring a bell?” or “Do you hear what I’m saying?” An auditory learner excels with verbal transmissions of information and instructions. Those with a kinesthetic orientation, on the other hand, process information more readily in a hands-on approach. Tactile learners have been found to favor phrases like “What’s your gut feeling?” or “Get a grip” and tend to speak slowly.

Knowing whether your team members function best by seeing, hearing or doing is a good first step in partnering with them to maximize their potential. Of course, it also enriches your own storehouse of wisdom and understanding, two characteristics that the Bible encourages us to cultivate. Listen and watch what others are trying to tell you. As James 1:19 (NLT) puts it, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” When you listen and pay attention to your colleagues you are blessing them and making them feel valued. That, in turn, increases your understanding of their needs and builds relationships by the way you interact. As Proverbs 16:21 (NLT) advises, “The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive.”

Do You Bite Off More Than You Can Chew?

By Linda Tancs

“A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.” Herb Caen, Pulitzer Prize-winning American columnist

Delegation bedevils a lot of people in business. We know we should do it but often we don’t or else fail to do it effectively. Do you bite off more than you can chew? If so, you’re in great company. Moses was terrible at delegation, remonstrated by his father-in-law for taking all the tasks of governance upon himself. Through his wise counsel he advised Moses on the finer points of delegation, exhorting Moses to share the smaller duties with others while retaining authority over bigger matters (Exodus 18:13-26).

So who’s who in your responsibility matrix? A responsible person is one (individually or as one designee of many) who bears responsibility for performing a task. Accountability relates to that person who ultimately bears the burden for the outcome of the task—the phrase “the buck stops here,” famously adopted by President Harry Truman, comes to mind. Accordingly, there can only be one accountable person per task. Consultants are those who have some input on the performance of the task. Therefore, they communicate with those who are responsible and accountable. On the other hand, informed folks are those kept in the loop on a project but not generally expected or required to offer an opinion (think of the “cc” and “bcc” folks on your letters and emails).

Delegation was well understood in the first century. After all, Jesus appointed 12 apostles and gave them power over evil spirits and power to heal every kind of disease and sickness (Matthew 10). Later, Paul reminded Timothy (in 2 Timothy 2:2) to entrust Paul’s instruction to faithful men who would then teach others—an ancient equivalent to our “train the trainer.”

Remember, you have employees, subcontractors, consultants or virtual assistants for a reason. As a British expression goes, don’t keep a dog and bark yourself.