Looking Back on 2018: 10 Reflections on Life and Leadership (Part 3)

Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
— Proverbs 14:26 ESV

If I want to keep my heart “formed in wisdom,” I need to stay on the path that will shape it in ways consistent with God’s best for my life. Slowing down and looking back helps me do that. Reflecting on where I have been and what I have learned enables me to chart my course for where I need to go.

Last week I highlighted a few of my key learnings (and re-learnings) from 2018:

  1. Lean on technically competent people.

  2. Do creative work first.

  3. Oh what a difference a strong team makes.

  4. Stop looking for encouragement where you know you won’t find it.

  5. Stay on your knees.

The two posts, Looking Back on 2018 (part 1) and Looking Back on 2018 (part 2) contain these five reflections on life and leadership. You can click the links above to review my thoughts in depth. Meanwhile, here are numbers 6-10.

6. You don’t really know the pressure until you get out from under it.

I have two project cars sitting in my garage, a ‘66 Olds Cutlass convertible and and a 1936 Chevrolet Master Coupe Deluxe. Most folks look at the ‘36 as a piece of junk. To me it is 83 years of weathered beauty covering a true hot rod. The car is so cool.

But my cool car needs a lot of work, including some welding, which I did not know how to do, but very much wanted to learn. So . . . after five Christmas Eve services behind me and three “free days” in front of me, I set out on my quest to purchase the welder, set it up, and begin to learn.

Not until I was completely absorbed in heating metal to 2400 degrees, getting my toes toasted by welding sparks (poor shoes), and seeing the early fruit of my efforts did I realize how good I felt — in large part because I was out from under the pressure of my normal work (which I dearly love but definitely drains me).

Absorbed in endless days of God-honoring duty made me numb to the stress that was taking its toll on my soul. Had someone asked me, “How are you doing?”, I would reply, “I’m good.” And in one sense I was, but stress is stress and my stress was slowly doing it’s damage — until I got out from under the day-to-day and took time to play.

7. Soul care, first priority!

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” That is what Jesus said. If I believe it (and I do), then taking time to “abide in him” is PRIORITY. Last year I read through the Scriptures using Eugene Peterson’s The Message. Having never read The Message cover-to-cover, I began most days listening to Peterson share his paraphrase of God’s Word.

Whether reading a paraphrase or diving deep into my ESV Study Bible, God’s Word takes me to God. Jesus said,

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
— John 15:5 ESV

These quiet times of personal worship have been God’s means to sustain me. His word is a light to my feet and a lamp to my path (Psalm 119:105) and a hammer to break up my hardened heart (Jeremiah 23:29). God’s word is “alive and active” (Hebrews 14:12), perfect (Psalm 18:30), makes me “wiser than my enemies” (Psalm 119:98), give me “more understanding than all my teachers” (Psalm 119:99), is sweeter than honey (Psalm 119:103), and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Is it any wonder that reading it, God continually restores my soul. I simply must have this time.

8. By perseverance the snail reached the ark.

Charles' Spurgeon’s words continue to prod me toward continual, incremental progress. In 2018, I was able to:

Thank you Spurgeon for prodding me to press on. Like friendship, this was no overnight achievement. It was perseverance. It was applying the power of monotony to my magic hours, a concept that has served me well for years.

9. The power of the Leader’s Magic Hours.

I have written on this and created a leadership tool, The Leader’s Magic Hour, so I won’t say too much. This concept has served me well for years. I am still figuring it out, but devoting concentrated time to those tasks that are most in line with my gifting and best serve the purposes to which God has called me is a key (maybe the key) differentiator in my life.

10. Starting is easier than finishing. Do the hard work to call it, “Done!”

I’m a creative. New ideas for books and projects are the fireflies I see in my head. Starting is easy. Finishing is hard. I began my 3-Hour-Retreat series near the end of 2017 thinking I would finish by 2018. Not so.

This year I continue that march, but doing so I know I will have to bank other ideas and put off worthwhile projects. My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach. I continually think I can do more than I can. I am learning to heed the words of a friend who reminds me,

We overestimate what we can do in one year, and greatly underestimate what we can do in ten years.

So here’s to finishing this post and to “finishing well” in 2019. May God give you the grace and strength to do what he has called you to do.


“If I want to keep my heart “formed in wisdom” . . . the idea for this came from the ESV Bible Study note at Proverbs 4:26-27, always a great “go-to” resource for me.