The Value of Hustle and Asking

coffee-1475384-639x852Here is something I’ve learned over the past few years: it matters to ask for mentoring.

I’m young, and in many ways I have so so much to learn. But I’ve learned the value of having mentors in my life informally. The first two mentors I’ve had were people who chose to invest in me before I thought I was worth investing in. One was my dad who mentored me over years, the second was a man named Shawn Good who actually asked if he could mentor me. He took the initiative and really showed me the value of having someone pour and invest into you. Both through his mentoring and through my dad’s, my leadership grew leaps and bounds.

But through a series of events both of those mentoring relationships stopped (my dad passed away, and Shawn moved across the country and I changed churches at the same time).

It was at that point that I realized something: I need mentors. I need people to invest in me, and not just for me but those around me. If I am going to give back something to this world, to the church I love, to the people I love, I need to be doing my best. And the truth is my best comes out when I’m listening and engaging with others wiser and more experienced than I am.

So I did something that felt unusual to me. I contacted one of the best pastors in our denomination and asked him to mentor and invest in me. I asked if I could have lunch and just learn from him. And he accepted and out of that relationship grew an opportunity I never could have guessed.

And I have been doing the same thing since: selectively reaching out to leaders I respect and asking for some coaching. 

And through this I’ve made some great relationships. I thought what’s the worst – they can say no. But not one has said no, they’ve all given back, helped me grow, and given things to think about and put into practice.

So I say all this for one simple reason: we all know others investing in us helps us tremendously. But here is where we struggle: we don’t ask. We hope that someone will recognize us, will choose to invest in us, will see the potential and take the initiative. And sometimes that happens like with Shawn and my Dad, but sometimes it doesn’t. What I’ve also learned from the mentoring end of things, I love investing in people who take the initiative to ask, to learn, to grow, and to practice.

So here is my challenge for you this week. If you want to grow in whatever area you live, work, and breathe – who are the people you really respect? Who are the people you might have a connection with? Who are the people that you would love to spend even sometime with to learn?

And now here’s the challenge: why not ask them? Why not take some initiative and add some hustle, some discernment over who to approach and genuinely ask. Get rid of arrogance, and humbly ask. What’s the worst?

Because here is what I know about good leaders – they want to invest in other leaders. And the leaders I look to invest in are the ones who are hungry to learn, seeking to change lives with some extra investment and wisdom, and not scared to try.

So all I’m saying today is that chances are there are people in your company, in your sector, in your world that you might have a semi-relationship with. Ask if you can take them out to lunch to learn. Who knows it might start something that turns out to be the best future you could imagine.

Seeds, Growth, and Youth Bands

sand-straw-1392579-1280x960Earlier last summer I spoke at this young adult group. I was invited to speak on whatever I picked, at a church I had never been to before. And so of course I picked talking about Jesus, which if given the chance is what I will always pick.

But this amazing thing happened when I went into the room. I knew a huge number of the young adults. In fact everyone on the leadership team other than one or two people had been a part of my youth group at some point.

And what was so amazing to me was to see them continuing to step up into leadership, and creating and giving God space to move. All these youth were there; many of them whom I’d spent hours and hours with and were now discipling others. It was just beautiful.

Now certainly I don’t get to own their decisions to step forward and lead young adults deeper into a relationship with Jesus. But in some ways God did remind me in that moment that we never know what the seeds we plant in others will grow into. That we can never discount the hours we give and pour into others.

The truth is that as human beings, we have a short horizon for time. We do things and expect results, in weeks and months. Sometimes I think God thinks in decades, or centuries. Some of the seeds planted by me, other youth leaders, parents, and friends are now years later bearing fruit. People are being changed, because people years ago poured into this youth who are now young adults. That’s the beauty of God, community, and investing in others.

For me that night to speak, was a reminder that pouring into others is never wasted. I don’t get to own the results. I also can’t own whether or not someone else gets filled up. What I can own and be responsible for is pouring out my life, and letting God do the rest.

And so while I spoke, hoping that God would use my words, God had already spoken so clearly to me. The moment I walked into the room, it was like God was just reminding me, “investing in others is never wasted”. So while I came to bless them, they blessed me and I think that’s how God works.

The Leadership Test: Are you leading, or helping others to lead?

The real test of leadership isn’t what you can do, but what you empower and enable others to do.

What I mean by this is simple. Real leaders raise leaders, enable others, and empower others. But we have this idea in our cultural mind that leaders blaze a trail, get stuff done, and move things forward by the sheer force of their will. And maybe that’s true sometimes.

But I think the true leader isn’t’ the one who focuses on what they can get done, but what they can help others to get done.

And it’s a shift in thinking but it needs to happen.

The best leaders are the ones who help others to lead well. 

So it’s not just about focusing on what you can do, but what can you help others to do?