How can you better connect with others?

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It’s 7:45 on Tuesday morning. I’m talking with my coach, who has already helped me reflect on 4 key questions: 

  • How am I connecting with God and others?
  • How am I increasing my health?
  • How am I growing and helping others grow?
  • To what extent am I thriving?

We’re reviewing a description of my personality type (INTJ) and reflecting on the list of strengths (hardworker, listener) and weaknesses (tends not to talk about emotions, may seem insensitive). I share that to connect better with others, I need to pay more attention to the emotions of others. 

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It’s now 9:15 on Thursday morning. I’m talking with my wife about how I can better connect with others, and she gently reminds me that I have a tendency to expect her to communicate on my terms, not on hers. Hmmm. (Or should I say, “Ouch”?)

She’s right. As someone who values task completion, I still have yet to develop a full-orbed understanding and practice of…

While I’ve grown in connecting with others, I still find myself too ready to…

  • Do the dishes after supper (instead of hanging out for conversation).
  • Start work immediately when I get up (instead of doing my devotions).
  • Focus on the task in a meeting (instead of finding out how others are really doing).

Regarding connecting with others, John Maxwell offers helpful advice: “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.” So, now I’m wondering what “daily something” I can change. 

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What about you? How are you connecting with God and others? Given your personality type, how can you better connect with others? What’s something daily you can change?

What I’m learning:

  • “Do you like developing others?” (Is Leadership Right for You?)
  • …think big, but act small. And by small, we mean highly focused. Focus on that unique, number one priority—that will take you much farther than people expect” (The 6 Lies Between You and Success: Jay Papasan).
  • “Validation…eases tension, builds trust, and gets you and the other person to a solution more quickly. The only problem with validation is that at first, it’s really hard to do. We’re so used to defending our own position” (The Magic of Validation).

—Michael

What are you counting?

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Counting. My grandson likes counting. He likes counting chocolate chips. When riding down the highway, he likes counting trees with his grandmother. And when he needs a really big number, he says, “55!”

Counting is part of life. I’m 57, I have 2 daughters, and I have 3 grandchildren. And in very round numbers, I’ve been alive 21,000 days and have 16,000 more days until I turn 100. Yes, I’m counting my days, like it says in Ps. 90:12: “So teach us to number our days” (NIV). 

It’s taken me 21,000 days to become the person I am, and it’s going to many more days for me to become the person God wants me to be. My character has grown and changed over the years, and I still have a ways to go. 

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How do you feel about the pace of deep change?

I wish I would change faster, that God would change me today, but the reality is that deep change is slow. It’s like leaves that gradually, almost imperceptibly change, from green to yellow to red. It’s slow—but it’s good.

To help myself move forward with deep change, this year I’m…

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How might community support help you move forward with deep change?

What about you? What are you counting? How do you feel about the pace of deep change? What might help you move forward with deep change?

What I am learning:

—Michael

What kind of person do you want to be?

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I’m looking at my granddaughter eat carrots and broccoli, and I’m wondering, “What kind of person are you going to be?” Will you be happy and healthy? Will you be loving and peaceful? Will you be faithful and self-controlled? (Galatians 5:22-23)

Maybe because I’ve become a grandfather, my focus is shifting from doing to being. I focus on less on the tasks I want to get done and more on the the type of person I want to be. I think more about being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and abundant life (John 10:10).

And as 2020 begins, I ask, “What kind of person do I want to be this year?” My answer? Being a person who is thriving. (I chose one thing because that’s what I can realistically focus on.)

What does thriving look like? For me, it looks like this:

  • I’m deeply connected with God, Kim, family, friends, and a local church.
  • I’m practicing spiritual disciplines, exercising, getting coached, and unplugging from work on the weekend.
  • I’m reading, doing online learning, listening to podcasts, and blogging.
  • I’m helping others thrive through coaching, consulting, mentoring, and teaching.

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What helps me thrive?

  • Setting goals based on all of my life and not just work. I used the LifeScore Assessment to develop “being” goals (regarding my intellect, my physical health, and my spiritual health), “relational” goals, and “doing” goals.
  • Asking myself each day, “How did I thrive?”
  • Reflecting each week on my vision for thriving.
  • Talking with my coach each week about progress I’m making on my thrive-related goals.

What about you? What kind of person do you want to be this year?  What does that look like? What’s helps you become that kind of person?

What I’m learning:

—Michael

How do you measure if you’ve really learned something?

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I’m in a taxi, going from the airport to my hotel. I notice that my map app is giving me 2 mileages: 9.6 miles of driving distance, but 5.1 miles as the crow flies (or of displacement). And then it hits me: when learning, don’t measure distance; instead, measure displacement.

Let me explain by first clarifying the difference between distance and displacement:

  • Distance is the total length of my journey—the 2 miles I walked from my home to the trailhead, the 3 miles I walked up a path over a mountain, the 2 miles I walked down the mountain, and the 3 miles I walked home. The distance I walked is 10 miles.
  • Displacement is the difference between where I started my journey and where I ended my journey—though I walked 10 miles, I ended up exactly where I started (home)—so I have a displacement of 0.

Now let me apply this to one of my goals: Handle difficult conversations with increased candor, curiosity, and follow-up.

  • “Distance” is the total of activities I do to achieve my goal—the books and newsletters I read, the online class I took, and the conversations I had, both practice and real.
  • “Displacement” is the actual difference between where I started (needing use more candor, curiosity, and follow up) and where I ended (actually using more candor, curiosity, and follow-up). 

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Why emphasize the distinction between distance (activity) and displacement (real learning as indicated by real change)? Because sometimes I find myself thinking I’ve learned something because I’ve completed some activities, even though I haven’t  changed. I’ve seen others struggle with this, too. 

What helps me focus on change (displacement) instead of activity (distance)? First, developing SMART goals that specify the change I want. Second, documenting 2-3 reasons I want to achieve a given goal. And third, reviewing my goals and my reasons each week.

What about you? How do you measure if you really learned something? What helps you focus on change, instead of on activity?

Resources I am using:

—Michael

What big things happened for you in this decade?

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Big things happened for me during this decade, including:

  • Family: We grew from 2 daughters to 2 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, and 3 grandchildren.
  • Finance: We started working with a certified financial planner in preparation for retiring in about 10 years.
  • Fitness: We moved from walking to doing a regular exercise program at the gym.
  • Ministry: We moved from Christian Academy in Japan (where we served 1987-2014) to serving at Okinawa Christian School International.
  • Reading: While Kim continued reading, I increased my reading, finishing 104 books in 2019.

I also learned key lessons, including:

  • Praise God for answering prayer.
  • When facing challenges, talk with someone from my heart.
  • Recognize and address my own inappropriate coping strategies when under stress.
  • Reduce distraction (and increase focus) by proactively doing right things right.
  • God, though He can move His kingdom forward without me, gives me the privilege to participate in His work.

I enjoyed podcasts like…

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During the next decade, I want to….

  • Deepen my relationships with God, my wife, and my family.
  • Develop leaders.
  • Focus more on being (values) and less on doing (accomplishments).
  • Grow.
  • Exercise regularly.

What about you? What big things happened for you in this decade? What key lessons did you learn? What do you want be/do during the next decade?

Resources I’m using:

—Michael

Check out this Christmas testimony

We enjoy hearing the testimonies of Japanese Christians. So, we thought you’d enjoy Fumiya’s testimony—how he lived for himself, how he met Christians and accepted Jesus, and how he wants Japanese people to understand the real meaning of Christmas.

Thanks for praying:

  • Praise God for drawing Japanese to Himself.
  • Ask God to use special evangelistic Christmas events to help non-Christian Japanese understand the real meaning of Christmas.

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We’d appreciate your prayers as we prepare to start serving in April at an international Christian school in Japan—Kyoto International University Academy. And we welcome your continued partnership in using Christian education to reach Japan as we serve with RCE and Resonate Global.

Thanks for being involved in God’s work in Japan! Merry Christmas!

Michael and Kim

P.S. Check out this 2-minute video to learn how Japanese celebrate Christmas.

What helps you really learn?

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I’m 57, I’m a grandfather, and at times I wish that real learning was a lot simpler—more like memorizing facts and then doing a true/false quiz, or a matching exercise, or a multiple choice test. Ever feel that way?

But real learning is hard. I don’t say this lightly—I say this based on having attended kindergarten through graduate school, serving in Christian schools for over 30 years, doing coaching/consulting for over 10 years, and having worked through significant personal and professional challenges. Real learning requires deep connection. And real learning results in actual change—as in, if I haven’t changed, I haven’t learned (James 1:22).

What helps me really learn? Personal reflection. Taking time to be still, to be silent, to think, and then to write. Writing has helped me…

  • Define and live out my values—Christ-centered community, focus on mission, empowering others, best practice, and growth.
  • Develop and implement my 14 annual goals, including reading 12+ leadership books and completing 3+ leadership courses.
  • Apply what I read in Leadershift in terms of further shifting from ladder climbing to ladder building, and from directing to connecting.

What about you? What helps you really learn? What 1-2 steps can you take to learn so that your learning further results in change?

Resources I’m using:

—Michael

Helping international Christian school teachers reach students for Jesus

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Imagine you’re a teacher at an international Christian school in Japan:

  • You want to help each student learn about God and have a positive attitude toward God.
  • While most students seem open to learning about God, there’s a really big spread of Bible knowledge and some spread in English proficiency.
  • You don’t want to overwhelm students with limited Bible knowledge, and you want to keep students with quite a bit of Bible knowledge engaged. Quite the challenge!

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Kim and I want to help international Christian school teachers find effective ways to reach all students—so that all students keep learning about God. So, one lesson in our new teacher training materials (Share Life with Children) focuses on the following question: What instructional practices help your students improve their knowledge of and attitude towards God?

Thanks for praying! Please continue to ask God for wisdom regarding our future ministry in Japan. We are on home assignment for a year, and we want to continue using Christian education to reach Japan for Jesus.

Thanks for being involved in God’s work in Japan.

Michael and Kim
P.S.
Check out this video on OCSI’s camp for grades 4-5!

Check out this encouraging testimony

We find testimonies of Japanese Christians encouraging. So, we thought you might like to hear Shota’s testimony—he was bullied at school, struggled with relationships, and felt hopeless. Then he met Christians, learned of Jesus’ love, and became a Christian.

Thanks for praying:

  • Praise God that Japanese are becoming Christians.
  • Ask God to continue using international Christian schools to reach Japan for Jesus.
  • Ask God for wisdom regarding our future ministry in Japan. We are on home assignment for a year, we’re exploring opportunities, and we want to continue using Christian education to reach Japan for Jesus.

Thanks for being involved in God’s work in Japan!

Michael & Kim
P.S. We’re really enjoying the fall colors!

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