Called To Leadership

Note: This is an address I gave at the Master’s Hooding Ceremony at Fresno Pacific University on May 3, 2019.

Masters – congratulations! My name is Andrew Shinn, and I’m a member of the faculty of the School of Business. I’ve had the great privilege of working with the MBA cohort being hooded this evening.

The accomplishment we’re honoring tonight doesn’t belong to you alone. Graduates: your families have been there to support you through all the hard work, the late nights of class, the weekends of homework, the trips away. They’ve watched or helped as you’ve complained about a professor or struggled with a project. Graduate, please stand up, look back at your family or the people who are here supporting you, and give them a hand. Tonight belongs to them, as well.

There’s another sense in which the accomplishment we’re honoring tonight doesn’t belong to you alone. As people who have earned Master’s degrees, you’ve now been called to leadership. In Leonard Sweet’s Book, Summoned to Lead, Sweet writes that leaders aren’t born and they’re not made; they’re called into existence by circumstance. Those who answer that call are leaders. The path that you conclude tonight is part of the circumstance that calls you. The response that you get to choose is to now walk into and embody that role.

In your professional lives, people will increasingly look to you as the master in the room. You’re now the one who will assume responsibility. Some of you have already had professional responsibility for people’s lives, for budgets, and for the future. Your task in assuming these responsibilities is to walk the fine tightrope between confidence and humility. You’ll need to balance careful decision-making without waiting for perfect information. You’ll need to show a bias for action while still listening deeply and fully to the people around you. You’ll need to live with your mistakes without letting them make you gun-shy. You’ll need to act like Nehemiah from the Biblical book of Nehemiah. He was summoned by circumstance and answered. He went from working in food service to construction management and then military leadership. He was able to balance both the spiritual and administrative aspects of leadership at the same time. He was what Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, would call a Level 5 leader: the kind of leader who empowers those around him or her. The kind of leader that Jesus was talking about when he said that those who would lead need to become the servants of all. You haven’t been called as leaders for your own benefit, but for the people around you. For the organizations and lives that you’re called to impact.

As leaders, you also need a deep foundation. You’ll need a well to draw from. The best leaders bring both proactiveness and depth to their work. This is a pointer toward the source of that depth:

Leadership assumes hope; it acts on the assumption that the world can be a better place, and that we have a role to play in making it that way. The ultimate hope for this world is in Jesus Christ. At the end of all things, the ultimate hope is in the redemption that Jesus bought with his death on the cross and showed with his resurrection from the grave. As a leader, this is the highest hope, and the deepest well from which you can draw. There’s a God of the Universe who wants to know and walk with you personally. I know we come from a lot of backgrounds, but if you want to start walking with Jesus in a personal way, please talk with one of your professors or a friend who can guide you. Good leaders also need to carefully choose people who can lead them.

Graduates, this is your call: there’s a world out there waiting for you to engage: ideas to create and act on, people to teach, new structures to make, new paths to find. Bring your education and keep learning, bring your passion and keep renewing it. Draw from deep, still waters and create a vision of the world that abides in hope. And then get to work making that world happen. Thank you!

Some of the graduates I had the privilege of both teaching and addressing

St. Patrick’s Faith

Note: This is from a brief talk I gave at Palm Village Retirement Community this morning, March 16, 2014.  Most of the source information comes from How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe (The Hinges of History).  I’m a big fan of Thomas Cahill’s writing.  Some of the interpretation is mine, and some is his.  Give him credit for any brilliance you find, and me credit for any faults.

St. Patrick didn’t start his life as an Irishman or as a Saint, or even as a Christian, per se.  He was a Briton, of Roman cultural origins.  His first language was not Gaelic, but Latin.

Though Patricius grew up in a Christian family, he ignored the faith of his fathers.  God used some pretty awful circumstances to get ahold of him: he was kidnapped at age 16 by Irish pirates, taken to pagan Ireland, and sold into slavery.  He spent the next 6 years as a shepherd and as a slave.  Much of the time he was naked, and his body ached from hunger and exposure to the elements.

Image by Karpati Gabor, license information and more work at http://www.morguefile.com/creative/Karpati%20Gabor.
Image by Karpati Gabor, license information and more work at http://www.morguefile.com/creative/Karpati%20Gabor.

But God used those six years that Patricius spent (mostly alone) in a powerful way in his life.  In those lonely years, when he was far from home and wandering naked on the wind-swept hills of Ireland, he later said that God had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and he was given the chance to be forgiven of his sins and convert to Christianity.

He began praying, and later claimed to have prayed more than a hundred times per day during those years.  After six years of captivity, God told him in a dream that a ship awaited him 200 miles away at the coast.  He rose, obeyed this message from God, and was taken back to Britain.

The story of Patricius’s conversion rings with echoes from Acts 4:13.  As Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.“  Though St. Patrick later went through ecclesiastical training, his writing suffered from the 6-year gap in his education.  He remained, functionally, an unschooled man who walked with God.

God called Patricius, again using a dream, back to Ireland.  God called him to the people who had enslaved him.  If we were to see Patrick in our day, we would say he had a checkered past.  We would call him damaged goods.  We’d excuse him if he never recovered from the harm.  We might even call him a little crazy.  “Six years alone would do that to a man,” we’d say.  But he let himself be wrecked by God, and it turned out for God’s glory.

Some people have called St. Patrick the first cross-cultural missionary.  The apostles, with the possible exception of the apostle Thomas, never made it past the borders of the Greco-Roman world.  St. Patrick, some 300 years later, went to a people not his own.  He carried the gospel boldly across a cultural boundary.

Jesus said, in Matthew 11, verse 12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”  He may as well have said that about St. Patrick.  He demonstrated the gospel to the people of Ireland with power.  We don’t know how many of the stories about him are true, and what has grown from legend into fancy.  But we know that he demonstrated God’s power to warlord, kings and anyone else who would listen.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 4, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

Year later, St. Patrick had the opportunity to fight back against slavery.  He was the first person in human history to speak unequivocally against slavery.  This time, a British king sent raiders to the coasts of Ireland to seize thousands of slaves.  Patrick worked both by direct appeal to these kings and politically, through the church in Britain, to try to obtain their release.  Only a former slave could write so forcefully about the evils of slavery, and only one redeemed by Christ would argue for the release of the people who had held him in captivity.  God takes our wounds, and if we give them to him, they CAN result in His glory.  But usually not in time for our suffering to make sense.

So as we remember the day of St. Patrick’s death tomorrow, don’t think about Leprechauns and pots of gold.  Remember a man whose pain was used by God, who was willing to forgive those who enslaved him, and whose life mission was to demonstrate the power of God in obedience.  He was a man who saw no clear dividing line between this life and the next, who left open the possibility to see the finger of God at work anywhere in his world.  Even in the pain.

Among other writings, this prayer of St. Patrick survives.  If it’s okay, I’d like to pray it as our closing:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Goals

(Insert standard statement about the time between blog posts, along with inevitable apology, here.)

I’m reading about goals for a leadership and organizational behavior course I’m taking.  The reading is a little academic in nature, which I really appreciate.  Some of the important things I’ve learned (that are borne out by actual, peer-reviewed research):

  • People tend to set higher goals for themselves in the workplace than their supervisors would have set.
  • Higher goals lead to higher achievement.
  • Goals that are shared are more likely to be accomplished.
  • The process of setting and working on goals, not the prospect of reward, is what actually improves performance.

So what personal goals am I working on?  I’ll share a few.

  • To study 64 hours for each of the two classes I’m taking this semester.  It should probably be more, but this is the amount I feel I can actually achieve.
  • To exercise at least 5 days per week.
  • To be consistent with reading the Bible.
  • To avoid checking my e-mail (and looking at Facebook) before 1pm.

Lofty goals, you say? Aye, say I.  They wouldn’t be worthy if they weren’t.  So what am I doing to achieve these goals?  Well, setting them was a good start.  But I didn’t stop there. Measuring them is the next step.  Here’s where to tech comes in.  I use a series of specialized iPhone apps to record my progress. (Click on each app name for a link to the Apple App store.)

I use iGoal Pro 2 to track my study progress.  It allows you to easily set time-based goals, then run a timer track your progress.  It allows for pretty-looking  charts and graphs, which are all-important to a data hound like me.  Progress so far? I’m 6% of the way finished with my study goal for one class, and 4% of the way toward my other class.  Not bad so far, but I need to pick it up if I’m going to hit 128 hours.

I use iFitness to track my exercises.  (This has since been removed from the iTunes App store, but I still use it.)  iFitness is great for tracking both which days I make it to the gym and what I do while I’m there.  Again, it has pretty charts and graphs.  Pretty is important, and it helps me to make sense of the data.  How am I doing so far?  Well, I’ve been to the gym 29 times (and I’ve been running twice) since January 1st.  If you include the running, that’s just barely more than 5 days per week.  Besides tracking, I also set out my gym clothes next to the bed before I go to sleep.  Help me to actually get up and get it done in the morning.

I use the great Bible app from YouVersion.com to both read the Bible and track my progress.  They have pre-built reading plans to help you set and achieve goals with your Bible reading.  There’s also a feature that will actually read the Bible to you, and this is what I use.  I have a set time every day when I listen – it’s first thing in the morning.  I listen while I get dressed, get to the gym, and warm up.  My only beef with this app is that the audio tends to cut out about 2/3 of the time if you change internet sources (ie move from wi-fi at the house to a 3G connection as you travel.  How am I doing on progress toward this goal? Well, this measure is a little more tricky.  I’ve started and re-started this goal several times.  But I CAN tell you that I’m 24% of the way through the Bible.  In the books of Judges and Luke, specifically.

I’m using Evernote to track my fourth goal.  Evernote is actually a note-taking program, but I’m using it because of it’s ubiquity.  It has free apps for the Mac, iPhone, and the web. So I can pretty much always  able to log my progress, no matter where I happen to be working.  This one is a little less automated, but it’s still working.  I use Text Expander and a keyboard shortcut to automatically insert a datestamp and timestamp. (The keyboard shortcuts are ‘ddate’ and ‘ttime’.)  How am I doing with this goal so far?  I’ve only been tracking this since the beginning of February, but here’s a screenshot of my log.  This goal might bear some explaining.  I’ll keep it short: I get more work done when I’m not living or working out of my e-mail inbox.  Hence the goal.  (Also, don’t expect a reply from me on anything first thing in the morning.)

That’s long enough, but I hope you picked up a tidbit or two about goals.  And feel free to ask me how I’m doing with any of my goals.  That’s part of the reason I’m sharing them!

 

How much?

How much can one learn? How many things can a person master? Are there over-arching skills that one can focus on to improve one’s facility with many different skills? I’d really like to be a great photographer, a cutting-edge designer, a good businessperson, a trusted counselor, a good advisor, a knowledgeable historian, an effective teacher, a compelling writer, and a decent human being.  Not necessarily in that order.  Is it reasonable to think that I can become all those things?  Is it possible to be well-rounded in an age that requires such depth in every field?  Or should I give up some of my dreams? Try to develop in stages?

P.S. –  Be sure to watch the Shinn Photo blog tomorrow morning around 8 am.  I created an art piece earlier today that I’m excited to share!

Clara’s Christmas



09Dec29-A-378, originally uploaded by shinnphoto.

Here’s Clara and Papa Brad at Christmas. She LOVES both of her Grandpas. I haven’t been able to get her to say, ‘Dada’ yet, but she sure likes to say, ‘Papa’!

Liam at Christmas

09Dec25-A-102.jpg, originally uploaded by shinnphoto.

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, but I know some of you are still checking. We went to Lodi for Christmas and had a wonderful time. Here’s Liam wearing his new cowboy hat. I plan to post a little more often in the coming days, playing Christmas catch-up like Rachel.

Cheers,

Andrew