15 Ways I’ve Changed as a Person in the Past 15 Years

1996 was a big year for me. I went to the Bahamas, got engaged, and graduated from college. I got married, moved to New York City, and started my first pastorate. When I think back on who I was then, I want to just shake my head and laugh. The key sentence in the first chapter of my upcoming book sums it up, “I am not who I used to be.”

To commemorate how I’ve changed in the past 15 years, I thought I’d do a series of blog posts about my personal transformation. In the coming months, I’ll make lists about how I’ve changed as a theologian, as a husband, and as a pastor. But to get things started, I thought I’d write about how I’ve changed in general, as a person.

So, here are 15 statements that are true of me now, but I couldn’t have said about myself in 1996.

1. I don’t bite my fingernails.
I used to bite my nails a lot. During games. While I drove. But then, a couple of years ago, I got very sick while traveling in Florida. It was miserable. I was too sick to bite my nails. And I haven’t bitten them since.

2. I take money seriously and have an actual plan for it.
If I could tell the me of 1996 anything, it would probably be to take the money stuff seriously and to get it figured out as soon as possible. I can’t believe how much money I’ve wasted over the years. Two things have made a huge difference – the weekly budget lunch with Vanessa and Dave Ramsey.

3. I am authentic.
I grew up in a family and church culture where faking it was the norm. And then I married a person who is relentlessly real. Thanks to her, I’ve learned that it is better – and essential – for me to take off my mask and let people see the real me. Yikes.

4. I have a problem with anxiety.
So, speaking of authenticity, I can now admit that I get this unexplained, uncomfortable, unwelcome pain around my heart. I’ve blogged about it before, and I’ve been doing some things to combat it – giving up caffeine, exercising, and more – but I think being able to admit honestly that it is something I struggle with is a huge first step to getting better.

5. I can make it in the real world.
The summer after I graduated from college was miserable. I bounced from job to job, unable to find a place where I fit. When that kind of thing happens, you begin to wonder if you can make it in the real world. Then I started pastoring my first church, and making it in the marketplace was no longer a concern. Until we started Vintage. 6 years into being a bi-vocational pastor, I now know that I have skills and abilities that translate in the real world.

6. I care less about politics and more about people.
I used to think of politics as life or death, the future of the country and the world hangs in the balance. People on the other side of aisle are to be opposed and defeated. Now, I think of politics as a sport. I still root for my team to win, but I care much more about civility and understand than victory.

7. I embrace mystery.
I don’t have to have it all figured out. How liberating is that?

8. I try to listen more.
When I worked at a church in Boston several years ago, I used to write a note to myself on top the agenda for each interminably long meeting I had to attend – “Don’t interrupt.” I’ve learned that it’s far better to, in Francis Schaeffer’s words, earn the right to be heard, than to simply be the one who talks the most or the loudest.

9. I exercise.
Seriously. Three or four times a week. This might be the craziest thing about me that has changed over the past 15 years.

10. I intentionally sabbath.
Sundays are the highlight of my week: up early for some alone time with God, Vintage, lunch with friends, nap, watching football or playing the Wii with Vin, family TV time, some alone time with Vanessa. This is what heaven is like, right?

11. I parent.
Three times, in the past decade and a half, when driving to either the hospital or the courthouse, I sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” Three times I was right.

12. I value friendship.
It’s not that I didn’t value friendship 15 years ago. It’s more that I didn’t realize how much I should value friendship. Having a few guys that get me and love me. I’ve come to realize that it is a rare gift.

13. I wear my goatee short.
In 1996, my goatee rivaled that of Alexi Lalas. I rocked the long, red face mullet. 15 years later, it’s high and tight, as it should be.

14. I don’t run from conflict.
I don’t like conflict, but I am much less afraid of it. Just when I think I’ve seen it all in church conflict, something new happens. I’ve learned over the years that ignoring it and hoping it goes away doesn’t work. The best way to deal with it is honestly, humbly, and head-on.

15. I have tattoos.
Who would have guessed that.


The Best Week Ever?

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to watch The Soup with Joel McHale. The Soup lets me know what happened on the world of TV in the past week without me having to watch all those shows. And it makes me laugh. A lot. Occasionally I’ll watch Best Week Ever too, but it’s not as good. At all.

So … here is the recap of my week.

On Monday, I came back from lunch to see a blinking red light on my phone – voicemail from the VP of Human Resources asking me to call him. When I did, he asked me to come to his office. Gulp. Is that ever good? But actually, I wasn’t too worried. He and I have been working on a training initiative together, and I thought he wanted to touchbase on that. I came around the corner and saw that in his office was the Project Manager who had given her two week notice. Somehow, I knew immediately what I was being called in for.

They asked if I would be willing to take over the leadership of the department of the company that she had been overseeing. It is a division we call Managed Services. We provide special offerings to private schools, most notably online bookstores for large private schools whose students are responsible for buying their own textbooks. The potential here is immense. In three years, our revenue in this area has more than quadrupled. The plan for this next year is for it to double again. I said yes.

In actuality, this is the job at my company that I have wanted for a very long time. Something about it resonates with me. And I think it would employ my strengths. But, as things at work have gone over the long periods of months, I don’t usually get what I’m hoping for. When I found out the PM was leaving, I didn’t even let myself hope. Vanessa and I didn’t talk about it; I didn’t mention to any of the VPs that I would be interested; I just quietly did my job. And out of the blue, I was sitting there being asked to do it.

They don’t want to lose any momentum while they try to decide what to do in the future. So, I am going to be providing this leadership on a temporary basis, 3 to 4 months while further decisions are being made. My hope is to do so well that 4 months from now, the decision will be obvious. In the meantime, I’ll be filling both this new role and the one I currently have.

Three hours later, the team was assembled in the conference room, and I was being introduced as their new point person. For those of you that know anything about my company, that in and of itself may be the single most amazing thing from this week.

Before I left on Monday, I asked the VP of HR if I was going to get two salaries since I had two jobs. We laughed. But he knew I was serious.

Given this new position, I was invited to participate in a strategic planning session on Tuesday at the Embassy in Rogers for upper management. That kind of stuff is so interesting to me, and I had a blast. At one point, I looked around the room and realized that in this group of 20 or so men and women, there is not a single person I do not like. That is something.

After an early morning breakfast with a friend on Wednesday, I was back in the office. Lots of meetings. Lots of getting up to speed. The PM’s last day was Friday, so I had a lot of information to download. But it wasn’t just a data dump. I also reviewed line-by-line two proposals that went out the door to potential Managed Services schools.

On Thursday I had a great meeting with the CEO. He clarified his expectations for me. Basically, nothing is off limits. He wants me to run it and help it succeed. For as long as I am in this role, it is mine with no limitations. That is a huge relief. He also mentioned that he and the VP of HR had discussed my salary and that the VP would be talking to me about it. Hmmm.

Friday was a fun day. I got a Blackberry. Some of my friends began joking that I was becoming “one of them.” Late in the day, I got up my courage and went to see the VP of HR. I asked if he had talked to the CEO about me (knowing that he had). He said that they had. He said that I would be getting a 4% raise because of my annual review that I had had a week before. For my company, 4% is very, very good. In addition to that, he said that I would be getting a sizable monthly bonus for each month that I was in my new role. The paperwork has all been submitted, and it is a done deal. Interestingly, what he said the monthly bonus was the exact amount of money I had told Vanessa that I would be willing to do the job for. Nice.

Last night, Vanessa and I went out to celebrate. We had drinks and appetizers at Noodles, did some Christmas window shopping, and then had dinner at Red Lobster. At one point, I looked at her and said, “On Monday morning, did you have any idea that the week would end like this?”

Best week ever? Probably not. But pretty damn good anyway.


Doing the Ben Duffy

I spent two days this week holed up in a hotel meeting room with two corporate trainers, the VP of human resources from my company, and a financial advisor from Salt Lake City. We were going through The Counselor Salesperson facilitator training from Wilson Learning.

Back in May, our new department at work went through half of this course in a one-day training. Now, the company wants new employees and our sales force across the country to have the training, but they don’t want to pay the big bucks of bringing in an outside trainer. So, the veep chose me to get certified as a trainer along with him. I was flattered by the opportunity and jumped at it.

The days were long and tedious. Anytime you go page-by-page through a thick notebook, it is tedious. The worst part was the 6 hours of homework on Monday night. But I got through it. When I finished my presentation on Tuesday afternoon, everyone applauded. That felt nice.

This Counselor Salesperson approach is interesting. I told Vanessa back in May that it was a lot like our approach to evangelism. In college, we were taught the old way – memorize the right answers so that you can answer any objection someone might throw at you. Hard sell them and get them to pray with you. Now, we do it so differently. We build relationships. We talk. We listen. We ask. We build trust and credibility. Ultimately, any kind of advocating we might do is natural and comfortable because it fits in the context of where our relationship is at.

Maybe I should kife this material, write a book about sharing your faith, and make a gazillion dollars. I better do that before January 20th though. Taxes are going to be a bitch for gazillionaires when Obama becomes President.


King Craptastic

Who’s the opposite of King Midas? If everything Midas touched turned to gold, who is the guy who turned everything to crap when he touched it? Is it King Craptastic? If so, that’s me.

It was that kind of day at work. It started with the realization that my team was going to fall just 8% short of our June target. That was close enough that it hurt. Then, I found out that we had won a bid I had placed a few weeks ago. Good news, right? Nope. I had neglected to put the books on reserve when we placed the bid, and they are now no longer in stock. Later, I got an email from a customer that I assumed was a K12 customer and assigned one of my reps to work on their order, which was like 13K. Late this afternoon, I found out this was actually a college customer and I had wasted an entire day of one of my CSRs. Add to that the normal annoyances of a typical day … and I was left with a pile of crap.

King Craptastic

It Was One of Those Days

So, I’m minding my own business today when the Vice President of Human Resources walks up to my cubicle and says, “Hey Robb, do you have a couple of minutes to meet?” Gulp. “Yeah,” I respond.

He says, “Good. I’m going to go get Bill (the VP of Sales and my boss). Go wait for us in the Forum (one of our conference rooms).” I grab a notepad and a pen and head to the Forum.

My head was spinning. Is this the end? Are they going to tell me that I am no longer needed? The last time I got called into an unexpected meeting with the VP of HR, my department was being shut down. Has my time and luck finally run out? What am I going to tell Vanessa? What are we going to do?

I sat down in the Forum. My heart was in my throat. I waited. And waited. And waited. Five full minutes. Wondering if someone was packing my stuff in a cardboard box and disabling my login. Waiting.

Finally, the VP of HR shows up. He says, “I’m sorry. I meant to get Rob.” (The one with one B in his name, not two.)

So I headed back to my cube. I guess I wasn’t being fired today. It took me about an hour to catch my breath.

I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.

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