The Character Condition

pewshot-motivation-carrot-002Working for decades as a clergyman certainly gave me one perspective on the human condition, but three years in the secular workforce has certainly given me another. Needless to say, I needed a little sharpening on the man I saw in the mirror.What I did not expect was the need for an overhaul in perspective in order to survive.

I’ve experienced what I did not see in the pastoral role, the whole not-so-veiled, one-up-man-ship in the business world. At times it almost seemed like middle school again where classmates will pull others down to rise above them, stepping on hands and heads as if it were a hobby.

You know the feeling…

I’ve learned in a new way how difficult it is to trust the motives of those whose agendas are not for the common good, but selfishly for their own. The end result is the need for increased hazard pay among supervisors and the rank-and-file as the climber breaks the ankles of everyone in their path.

Oh wait, there are entire business schools that teach how to use this premise for success…

So, just like middle school these folks will always be among the population.

There is nothing wrong with having drive and wanting to do well. I believe that to be Biblical. I believe there is something to be said and admired about moving forward with character, one that positively infects a corporation from top to bottom. When selfishness is the sole driving force in a corporate culture, peace is fleeting and turnover is the common denominator.

I’ve learned along the way to see the beauty of the flawed individual whose intent is based on purer motives of integrity (which may even expose these flaws). While everyone in proximity can perceive their shortcomings, these persons can be a rallying point for those who want life on a playing field where the game is based on character and not the destruction of others. Add in the experience of life where these shortcomings can be minimized, success is nearer.

The truth is, both tactics of selfishness and character work. What matters is which tactic we choose as our own…




Wednesday’s Wisdom

There’s hope!

“Anybody who tells you that, you know, you’re on the back nine or starting to get to the end when you’re 55 years old, don’t believe them because that turned out to be the start of the best time in my professional life. There’s no question about it.”

Former New York Yankee Manager Joe Torre, Undeniable with Joe Buck, 8.31.16

Tool Time


pexels-photo-65043I while back I was at the venerable store, Sears. They were having a huge sale from 7 AM to 11 AM.  I was sent there by my wife to buy some new towels for our kid’s bathroom.  After scouting out and purchasing the towels that she wanted, I made my way toward the reason why I didn’t complain about going to the store to buy towels.  It just so happened that the sale was store-wide, and Sears is well known for their hardware.

There I was in the seat of earthly male bliss!  It was a glorious time!  They even had special lighting for all of their drills and saws.  I thought I was at a well-lit smorgasbord!  It was almost humorous as I stood there looking at some tools that I would love to have someday.  I heard wives pulling their husbands along with, “We didn’t come here to look at tools!” and “Come on honey!”

As I was standing there, salivating over a set of tools, another fellow engaged me about which of three sets was a better buy.  I had never met the fellow before, but in the midst of the tool department at Sears, hey, we’re brothers!  After an in-depth discussion about the needs that he was trying to fill, we together decided that the cheaper set would do him just fine.  He even went around the corner, picked up the box, and brought it back to me to confirm that he had made the right choice.  If he only knew…I didn’t work there!

The tools at Sears, Home Depot, Menards or Lowes, they have a way of bringing a sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals, connecting us through the tools we use and want to have.  We love the new ideas they bring us, not to mention the opportunity to engage in some household project that our spouses might have for us, thereby validating our hardware wants and purchases. And so, the like-minded tool and hardware lovers everywhere, are bound together by the commonality of desiring something that makes things a little easier at times.

One of the key aspects of the Christian life that binds us together around the world is the peace that we have in our hearts because Jesus came to this earth 2,000 years ago. And yes, that fact does make life a little – to a lot easier at times…

What are commonalities to that connect your life to another? If you are a Christ-follower, what aspects of your life bind you with other Christ-followers? What matters most as you head into this Christmas season of reflecting on the coming of the Christ child?

Staying on Course

Part of my job as a salesman is to find where the rigs are so I can talk to decision makers in the oilfield. I’m always selling and building relationships, but sometimes the focus is simply getting an invoice signed and getting out of the way of a busy leader and crew who are trying to solve problems. Normally I average between 150 to 200 miles per day in my company truck.

I have an oil well location finding program on my tablet that I use to get me where I need to be. Unfortunately North Dakota cell service doesn’t always cooperate. When I lose connection (which happens too often), my program stops. More than I few times I’ve been lost or been in the wrong place. Sometimes it means I’ve run into a no trespassing sign; other times it means there isn’t a road where the map says there should be one. I will also admit that a couple of times I’ve had to back up nearly two miles on a one lane road (called “prairie roads”) in order to avoid getting stuck.

That’s right, sometimes four wheel drive is no match for ND red clay…

In an effort to reconnect with cell service, I look for high ground in hope of gaining access. And it works – most of the time. The truth is I’ve been out here long enough to know the direction I need to head, even when I don’t know what lays ahead. Even when we get lost while traveling in our respective lane in life, we can correct prior mistakes, gain perspective and move back to where we need to be. It works not only for salesmen in the oilfield, but anyone who would dare to not be found sitting on their hands, stuck somewhere in several feet of red muck.

What is your high ground? What is the best lesson lesson on perspective that you’ve experienced? What tool/resource/people do you use to find your life’s road map? Whom do you consult to help you get back on course? When helps you trust your inner compass to move forward when you don’t know what lays ahead? How do/can you communicate your confidence to others who are watching you?

If Opportunity Knocks, by ALL MEANS, Answer the Door

As I write this post, our regional oil show has just ended. It was a fantastic time of being with co-workers in our booth, meeting and networking with new friends and enjoying this kind of specialized environment.

We wrote goals as a company for this event. We talked about other vendors whom we knew would be at the show that we wanted to get together with. We talked about our need to include the rest of our amazing team who couldn’t come to the show because someone had to remain behind at the plant to keep things running.

All it takes is one visit with one person to make the entire expense of such an event worth it all.

For those who are not aware of the news the last year, oil prices have fallen dramatically, which of course has coincided with fuel prices dropping to significant lows. It also means that the oilfield has appropriately shrunk as people have been laid off by the thousands.

All of these truths reared their ugly head the last few days at the show.

I can only speculate on the smaller number of vendors who paid significantly for their booth space. Likewise, the crowd that came through was frustratingly small. But everyone gets the reason why.

The field has simply shrunk.

How do you handle a life situation that seems so hopeless that you just want it to end? It is certainly a right to just go through the motions and let it pass by. After it’s over, you pay the price of admission and call it a lesson learned. On the other hand, since it is a costly experience, why not “grind,” working for all your worth to see if opportunity might knock, just once?

That’s really all it takes at a show like the one we went to the last couple of days. Just one good contact that could lead to thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in work.

Uh, you read that right. You shoulda been here last year…

On day one after my shift I spent three hours at the show networking. It was grueling. Booth to booth. It was interesting to visit the depressed and try to be a source of encouragement, along with the grinders who had smiles on their faces and were hopeful to see if maybe, just maybe something incredible might happen. I continued to network away – grinding.

Nothing happened for me until the last 15 minutes of my last shift on the last day. I talked to a significant player in the field for an oil company with an international presence, that had never thought about using the service we provide to improve their bottom line.

Yes, he was intrigued…

I have permission to call him next week to move forward. Opportunity knocked while we we continued to work at what seemed impossible.

You better believe we answered the door…

When was the last time you missed the opportunity of a lifetime in the lifetime of the opportunity because you were just going through the motions of work, play, family or life? What changes in your life did you miss? What happened when all the odds were against you but you worked hard, either on your own or with others, only to see opportunity knock and answer the door? How did it change you? How did it change your family, your future?

Proverbs 13:3

Turn Indicator, an Arm out the Window, or just an Outright SWERVE?

img_0364The name of this blog is, “Life in the Fast a Lane.” It started out as a joke between my wife and I, due to my advanced age (so she says) and my propensity to not need to drive like Mario Andretti anymore (you know, fast).

On the other hand, whatever car he is driving these days would look great in my driveway…

Life in a lane refers to the place we are in a culture, a job, a season of life, a (fill in the blank). The dilemma arises when we are either not in the “lane” we want to be in, or have experienced a traumatic life change that puts us outside of where we thought we would be.

For example, I was a vocational pastor for 35 years. I loved being a pastor. Due to a strong sense that the church we were leading needed change, I went from preaching messages every week to doing sales in the Bakken Oilfield.

Talk about changing lanes…a classic swerve if there ever was one.

Making changes at the church I was leading would have been like sticking an arm out of the window. It’s nothing fancy or necessarily formal, it’s just time for a change and we’re making it. Everyone in the organization, in this case a church, can even identify whose arm is sticking out of the window, leading change.

Think now about the use of a turn indicator. Now that one is a little different. The use of a turn indicator is more universal than just sticking an arm out. People in front or behind you are not wondering if you have a light out, or just like feeling a breeze reaching up into your armpit. They recognize your formal indication that you are making a lane change. In the church setting it means I’ve just moved to another congregation.

I have a friend who made a great deal of money in the oilfield. During the recent downturn he was laid off, like so many thousands of others. He has gone into interviews in different fields of work (that’s right, a swerve), only to be asked, “How much did you make in your previous job?” When he tells them the princely sum, he is immediately rejected by Human Resources as it is presumed there is no way he could ever be happy with the comparably pittance of pay he would receive in his new position. My friend knows he won’t make the same money he did before. He equates it to winning the workforce lottery, working a job that only lasted a season before a reality he understood would bring him back down to earth. Time for a swerve. Time to find a different form of happiness and joy.

When changing lanes, whether it be with a turn indicator, arm out the window or a swerve, decide whether it is money or happiness that you need in your life. Sometimes it’s both.

But don’t confuse the two…

Do you need to change lanes? What kind of lane change do you need to make? What would make you happier in the lane you are in right now? Can you stay in the lane you are in a be fulfilled? What are you willing to do to pursue your dreams, or are you living your dream right now?


Changing Your Lane

As we travel through “life in our lane” we are reminded that our age and experiences may dictate that the scenery is different than where we were before.

Before we turn 16 and get our driver’s license, we long for days of freedom. And then we get behind the wheel for the first time alone, with no one to tell us what to do. That lane is not only full of new responsibility, but freedom.

I put 1500 miles on my car that first month of driving…LOVED that lane.

Maybe some of us have arrived at the place where getting there is just part of the journey, and how quickly we do it is not. That’s another lane altogether…

Kinda know that lane these days, and it’s okay.

Now, here’s where things get dicey…

Are you in the “lane of life” you want to be? If not, what are you willing to do to change lanes?

  • Change careers?
  • Change of scenery?
  • Get training?
  • Change companies?
  • Change influencers?
  • Change, change, CHANGE!

It’s not easy changing lanes. It’s hard work, courageous even. But one thing is for sure, that NOT changing lanes when you need to leads directly to commonly repeated cultural truths. Try these out and see how they fit:

“If you keep doing what you’ve always done you’ll get the same results you’ve always gotten.” (paraphrase of Henry Ford)

“A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out.” (Vance Havner)

“If the horse is dead…DISMOUNT.” (Dakota Indian saying)

Pick one, pick them all, write your own. They all fit. In fact, this blog and my new website were my response to my own need to change lanes…

Here’s the moral we need to grab hold of. There are many lanes we can travel in. Pick one that is not only good for you, but good for others (remember that there are lanes of life that rob others of life – avoid these highways like the plague). Pick the lane where you want to belong and function accordingly – to the rules and standards of that lane/form of life travel. More on this later.

Do the things NOW that get you into that new lane. There, you have permission. Go for it!

What lane do you want to do life in? Do you have the will and courage to make a change? Do you have people in your life who will encourage your new direction, or do you need to find a new set of people?

Proverbs 29:18