The Dark Side Of Helping People

This post is part of a new series called “Shock the Status Quo.”

A couple of weeks ago I finished up leading Financial Peace University for the third time.

As I was saying goodbye to everyone, one class member, I could tell, was waiting on everyone else to leave.

Part of my awesome Air Force team.

Part of my awesome Air Force team.

As soon as the last person left, I looked at her, and she burst into tears.

She stood there, struggling to find words and wiping away tears on her face. After a few seconds, she said, “This has been life changing.”

That moment is why MaryBeth and I lead this class and always will.

The mission

One of the great joys in my life is teaching and coaching people.

Seeing someone take something I’ve taught them and go change their life is simply amazing and warming.

Be it coaching a small business entrepreneur on marketing, teaching one of my outstanding Airmen something, or helping people learn to handle money well, anytime I’m teaching, I’m happy.

But there’s a great irony in being someone who’s personal mission statement is “to advance others through personal-growth education.”

That irony would be me, and I suspect you may be able to relate.

Isn’t it ironic? (Thanks, Alanis.)

Other than being flawed, I don’t know where this comes from. That “this” is frustration and talking negatively about the very people I’m trying to help.

Perhaps you’ve done it, too.

In the same moment you go from being high on life about showing someone something powerful to complaining about why they aren’t acting on it.

There’s no other way to put it. It’s ego run amok. It’s arrogant. And it undercuts our ability to help people.

A couple cuts up a credit card in Financial Peace University. Awesome moment.

A couple cuts up a credit card in Financial Peace University. Awesome moment.

And if this is you, I encourage you to join me to shock this from our status quo.

The focus

Complaining about someone in need not acting on advice is nothing more than selfishness, and a waste of time.

In my experience, it erodes our ability to help because it causes us to view people as weak or inferior or incapable. Not exactly what people in need want so-called helpers to view them as.

The truth of the matter is we, the helpers, are the weak ones when we lose sight of what we’re trying to do and who we’re trying to help.

At the end of the day, I guess we get frustrated, at least partially, because we’re confident that what we’re sharing will help, and we want people to act.

So, therefore, its well-intentioned, right? It’s all good then, right?


Let’s shock negative speak from the status quo and get on with the business of helping and advancing lives.

Question: Have you experienced negative speak undercutting helping a person or situation? Share below.


How I Nearly Didn’t Get Married

This post is part of a new series called “Shock the Status Quo.”

When MaryBeth and I recently moved into a new place, we were unpacking the kitchen and it hit us. There’s no microwave!

Our knee-jerk response was, “Well, we’re going to have to buy one.”

Because we’ve used a microwave for so long, we couldn’t, in that moment, conceive of not having one. I mean how would we heat water or syrup or tortillas or anything?

A month has passed and we never bought a microwave.

‘I’ll always have a car payment’

It’s funny how we get caught up in one way of doing things and we can’t see alternatives.

Before my wife and I were married, I was terrible with money. I lived check to check and didn’t save anything. And I said things like, “I’ll always have a car payment.”

And that was logical to me then because I was living with a $425 monthly payment on a BMW I had no business buying, and I couldn’t see a way out. I couldn’t see an alternative.

Get mad!

But then one day I got mad. I got mad because I knew I was making good money but had nothing to show for it. And I was tired of the stress.

There I was standing in MaryBeth’s kitchen one day all fired up and upset, and she loved every second of it.



You see before I finally got mad enough to change my situation and act on it, she knew she could never marry me.

MaryBeth was one of “those people.” She was a “Dave Ramsey” follower. Gasp!

And she wasn’t just a follower, she worked for him at the time, had paid off close to $60,000 in debt, and she wasn’t about to get herself married to someone like me….then.

I went on to pay off 18 months of car payments in 5 months time, and I never looked back.

And if I hadn’t shocked the status quo, my life would be drastically different, and this picture would not exist.

Wedding picture

Or this one.

MB and Josiah

Or this one.

Christmas 2012

Shock your financial status quo. Change your life.

Question: How has changing the way you handle money improved your life? Share below!

Starting A ‘Thank You Revolution’

This post is part of a new series called “Shock the Status Quo.”

In a lesson to entrepreneurs, author and radio show host Dave Ramsey said the last time many of us ever received an ovation was at our high school graduation.

That’s kind of sad. But it’s true. Thank you cards, thank you notes, revolution

Dave was teaching on recognition in that lesson, and encouraging a group of business leaders to seek out opportunities to recognize team members on the spot. It’s powerful.

It shocks the status quo.

But this post isn’t about doing what Dave said. It’s instead about something related.

The power of “thank you.”

‘Thank you Revolution’

My friend Matt McWilliams is leading a soft revolution.

What started as a single blog post blossomed into a full-on war to inspire people to give hand-written, thank-you notes.

Why is he doing this?

To shock the status quo.

In his words, “Two words not said enough, by bosses, by spouses, by friends, or by strangers on the street. We can change that.”

You see Matt understands that people are busy. They get into routines and focused on tasks.

As a result, we simply never think to say “thank you” or we never make time. Perhaps we even feel a little awkward about it.

His Mission Is Your’s

Regardless, Matt’s mission, which I fully signed onto, is to inspire people to be intentional about improving their relationships by not just saying “thank you,” but writing it down in a note – a rare thing nowadays.

We’ve probably all heard now that we’re all using electrons to communicate, a hand-written note is powerful.

And I’d say it’s safe to say most of us value our relationships.

If so, what’s stopping us from doing this?

What’s Stopping Us?

What’s stopping us from taking 1-2 minutes to tell our spouse, co-worker, boss, pastor, friend or even a stranger who held the door for one of us “thank you” in writing.

I can tell you from experience it works. It totally shocks the status quo for you, the person on the receiving end, and interestingly enough, it’s paid forward and shocks the status quo in other people’s lives.

I encourage you to suit up and do this. If you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable doing it, I encourage you to muster the strength and try it just once with someone you fully trust.

Your weaponry consists of a pen, piece of paper and the ability to care.

You can read more about the revolution and get Matt’s FREE e-book called The Power of Gratitude at his blog here.

Question: When’s the last time you received a hand-written, thank you note? How did it impact you?

Shock The Status Quo. A New Blog Series!

For must of us, I think it’s safe to say we establish a routine and we stick with it for a long time.

At the beginning, we make conscious decisions about individual parts of a routine, but before long, we’re just doing. Doing subconsciously.

Before we know it, months have passed.

Courtesy of Filter Forge on Flickr Creative Commons.

Courtesy of Filter Forge on Flickr Creative Commons.

The truth is there’s comfort in a nice routine, but there are also downsides. Downsides for us personally, for our relationships and for our leadership.

While I’ve not written much here in quite some time, I intend to change that and start a new series called, “Shock the Status Quo.”

It’s all about examining life, determining what needs to change, and being intentional about making change happen.

Here’s a taste of what you can expect in this series.

– How a friend of mine shocked the status quo by starting a note-writing campaign called “Thank You Revolution”;

– How I led a team from “I hate my job” to “I love my job”;

– How developing a personal mission statement and goal setting will put your life on hyper-drive;

– More tips to shock your own status quo.

– And what the Bible has to say about it all.

I hope you enjoy this series, participate in comments section below, and tell others about it.

Question: How has being intentional about making a specific change improved your life?

How A Simple Act Of Kindness Inspired A Movement

As I shared in my last post, I’m kind of a coffee addict.

Some people (MaryBeth Fortner) would say I’m also an Internet-smartphone-Apple-Facebook-Twitter-LinkedIn addict.  I like to say I’m an “admirer and eager user of technology.”  But that’s me.

Well, one day last year my eagerness led me to a website called I Like Giving.

In the creator’s words it’s “…a campaign to inspire generous living. It is a collection of stories from around the world about people who have done the unexpected without expecting anything in return.”

Many of the stories are told through videos that are incredibly moving and beautifully produced.

One my favorites is called, in all its irony,  “I Like iPad.”  It tells the story of Frances, a young woman, who gives up something she needs, or thought she needed, to her cousin who has autism.

Frances first learned about her cousin’s condition from her grandmother who said her cousin was struggling to put words together and communicate at an age he should have been able to.

Holding out hope that perhaps he was just a slow learner, time went by.  After close to two years, it was clear her cousin was autistic.

Not knowing what the future held for him but knowing the importance of communication, she started researching.

She came upon an article about a school that was using iPads and specific apps to help kids with autism communicate.

From that point forward, Frances said every time she used her own iPad, she thought about her cousin.  So, one day she drove to the post office, boxed it up, and sent it to him.

After word got around, people began donating iPads to Frances to give to other children with autism.

She said as the story got told it wasn’t about her giving something, rather it was about the kids receiving it and it caused this movement of overflowing generosity.

In Frances’ words, “It’s what I was supposed to be doing.”


That was what Frances said she was supposed to be doing.  Not for accolades, praise or prizes.  Just giving to someone who needed something more than she did.  This is the type of giving Jesus says we all should practice.

1 “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give it to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

Yes, Frances made it happen. You can watch her do so here.

How You Can Make It Happen Like The Widows

I have a confession to make.  I’m an addict.  A coffee addict.

I’m also kind of a coffee snob.  I mean if it was up to me my church would serve freshly ground, dark roast, Arabica bean coffee in a French press after service every Sunday.

Well, about a year ago and a half ago, my love for coffee led me to the website of an organization called Three Avocados, a nonprofit coffee company in Missouri.

I began reading about it, and the more I read the more excited I became.  You see, this is no ordinary coffee company as you may suspect from its name – Three Avocados.

The thing is their name has nothing to do with coffee.  But it has everything to do with Three Avocados’ purpose, which is to provide clean drinking water to people in Uganda.

How it all began

The story of Three Avocados begins in the humble village of Bulopa, Uganda.  Bulopa, like many other village there, is very remote and extremely poor.

There is a small church there that amounts to nothing more than a few sticks in the ground and some benches.  A group of people on a mission trip had been invited to worship with the people of Bulopa.

As the offering basket was passed around, a poor widow placed three avocados in the basket. It was literally all the food she had.

You see, in Uganda, the pastors don’t receive any pay. The food they eat is given through the offering as they visit different villages. That widow had given all she had to ensure someone else could eat. Talk about faith.

The widow’s offering

It was that simple gift that inspired the visitors. They left Uganda brainstorming ways to ensure the poor throughout the world are cared for and are never forgotten.  And thus Three Avocados was born.

The widow gave all she had.  Sound familiar perhaps?

If you’ve read the story of the widow’s offering in the gospel of Mark, it should.

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.

42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small cooper coins, a worth only a fraction of a penny. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.

44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)

Yes, the widow made it happen.

Question: How are you making it happen?

The #1 Reason to Start a Business

Money.  Entrepreneurial spirit.  Freedom.  Desire to create something out of nothing.

These are all common and completely legitimate reasons why people start businesses.

In fact, all of these are reasons why I started a business.  But you know what?  None of these is the main reason why.

And none of these is what inspires me every day.  None of them.  What does though?

My purpose.

To advance others through personal-growth education

You see, my business is a what to my why.  It’s a major way I activate my God-commanded calling.

As a small business marketing coach, I teach.  I teach entrepreneurs who desire the freedom of working for themselves.

I help advance them by increasing their marketing knowledge, which builds their confidence and ability to grow their businesses.  Their dream. Quite possibly their what to their own why.

I get paid to live out my purpose.  This is my driving force.  My inspiration.

Question: Why did you or would you start a business?

Are You Living at ‘Full Operational Capability?’

The military has a phrase “initial operational capability.”

Military units, equipment or pretty much any capability is deemed, for short, IOC when it meets minimum standards.

After a period of time and much more work, capabilities are deemed full operational capability, or FOC.

At that point, they’re ready to go to war.


John Maxwell said, “There are only a handful of important decisions that people need to make in their entire lifetimes.”

“What?” you may be thinking.  “I make important decisions every day.”

But do you really?  Or do you spend most of your time managing the important decisions you already made?

See, I agree with Maxwell.  I believe it’s impossible to make truly important decisions every day and live a successful life because the key to accomplishment is execution after you make a good decision.

If all you do is make decisions, you don’t leave yourself time and energy to act on them.

A decision is like a company vision.  It’s meaningless without a mission, goals and action.

Execution is what makes life happen.  Execution is when you find out if the decision was sound or not.  Execution, or better yet, as best-selling author and business coach Jim Collins said, “brilliant execution” is key to success.

Brilliant execution after brilliant execution after brilliant execution.

The F-22

In 2007, the U.S. Air Force‘s newest fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, reached full operational capability.

It reached this milestone 26 years after the decision was made to build it.  Yes, it took nearly three decades of research and development, successes and failures, and challenging execution to achieve what began when Ronald Reagan was U.S. president.

Simply put, it was a pretty ugly process.  But in the end, a fighter jet like none the world has ever seen was produced because of a truly important decision followed by execution.

Again, it wasn’t pretty.  It shouldn’t have taken so long.  It shouldn’t have cost so much taxpayer money.  It should have been easier.

The fighter jet that is you

The story of the F-22 sounds very familiar to me.  It sounds a lot like life.

We make one of our few truly important life decisions, and we set off to achieve it.  We can see the end result.

Along the way we achieve successes.  We experience failure.  Things take longer than we planned.  We stumble.  People tell us it can’t be done.  “It’s a waste of time,” they say.  We bounce back and rattle off a few more successes.  We trip again.

Does this sound familiar, parent?

Does this sound at all familiar, spouse?

Does this sound like your life, entrepreneur?

Does this sound like you?

It sounds like me.  It sounds like that fighter jet.  It sounds like pretty much anything worth fighting for, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t it sound like the road we take when we believe in something?  When we’re inspired to achieve?  When we’ve made a decision to go out there and do something?  Maybe something bigger than ourselves even?

It took 26 years to produce the F-22. In 1981, the decision was made to build it because military leaders said the U.S. needs it.  Following the decision, thousands of people began executing to make the decision come alive.

In the end, the world’s greatest fighter jet reached full operational capability and entered the sky above.

It may not have been smooth getting there, but it’s there today because a decision was made, goals were set and people executed.

It made FOC.

Will you?

Question:  What decisions do you think lead to living at full operational capability?

How to Overcome Any Obstacle

Some things I won’t ever achieve.  Why?  Because I get in my own way and throw up obstacles like this. 

“It’s too hard.”  “I can’t do it.”  “I’m not talented enough.”

The thing is obstacles are man-made.  Obstacles are our way of limiting ourselves.  The next time you encounter one, trade in “It’s too hard” for this.

“God, I place my faith in you.”   And get about the business of achieving.

Here’s a little inspiration that perhaps will help you tackle a challenge you’ve been putting off because “it’s too hard.” 

The #1 Way To Help More People

Stop complaining about them.

Stop complaining.

If you live to teach or coach like me or just give advice from time to time, which is pretty much everyone, you’ve probably complained about someone not taking your advice.

“I don’t understand why they just won’t do it!”

“They have the information!  All they have to do is use it!”

“I don’t think they actually want to get better!”

Saying things like this holds us back from actually helping people because it causes us to frame them in a negative light.  We stop viewing them as someone to help and instead view them as someone to avoid.

Talking like this is also foolish because people so often don’t need “information” to change, they need inspiration.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been inspired by a negative person or someone I felt didn’t care for me very much.

The more we talk down about the people we’re trying to help the more we begin to shun them because they’re not like us. They’re not teachable.  They’re resistant.  They’re no longer an opportunity.  They no longer make us, the teachers or advice givers, feel good about ourselves.

The Bible says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 (NIV)

I’m pretty sure this includes coaches and advice givers.  I doubt we’re given a pass because our intent is good!

The thing is I truly want what’s best for people.  I mean it’s the core of my personal mission statement.  I also believe you do, too.  But we have to be okay when people ignore advice, are slow to act, or go another direction.

We must remain positive about them anyhow.

This is something I’ve struggled with a lot.

This is something I’m praying about because I need God’s help to kill my arrogance. To draw attention to the plank in my own eye.  To help me remember we’re all God’s imperfect children.

Trading in arrogance for Godly perspective helps all of us better assist our neighbors, family and friends and be the only Bible some people may ever see.

Question: Has talking negatively about someone kept you from helping them?