A gift from Zappos

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Big G, Me | Posted on 04-01-2014

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Recently, my husband wrote to Zappos asking them if it was at all possible for him to return a pair of shoes that, over time, he realized he didn’t like.

See he had ordered many pairs of sneakers, wore them around the house for a few hours before deciding on one pair and sending the rest back. He then brought this pair on our summer vacation to San Francisco and Yosemite…and that’s when it happened. He started to feel a digging in the side of his foot and no longer liked the shoes. After vacation, he didn’t really wear them and returned to Zappos to find another pair. Six months later he wrote to Zappos and asked if he could return them.

They said yes…with a 100% refund!

You think he would be excited…but he wasn’t. His brow was furrowed and you could tell he was deep in thought.

Now my brow furrowed. I asked, “Aren’t you happy?” And he said, “But I wore them, I was maybe thinking of a 50% credit or something. I just don’t understand. How are they making a profit?”

He was basically saying, “This seems unfair” and he’s right. It is.

That’s the thing about gifts. The Oxford Dictionary defines a gift as “(noun) a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present”.

Gifts are given without any benefit to the giver.

But is that how we give gifts?

Think about Christmas. How many of those gifts felt like an obligation versus a desire, a true desire to give something to someone without expecting anything in return?

So is it any wonder that my husband struggles with the concept of accepting an over-the-top refund from Zappos?

And is it any wonder that we struggle to accept God’s gift? And if we cannot accept this gift ourselves, how do we explain it to everyone else?

The Shoemaker’s Wife

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Books, quotes | Posted on 02-01-2014

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A quote that resonated deep within me:

“I’ve learned that it’s fine to have expectations, and dreams are wonderful, but once in a while, it would be good to have something come my way without having to fight for it.”

~Enza, The Shoemaker’s Wife

How the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy improved my leadership!

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Books, Leadership, quotes | Posted on 13-11-2013

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I recently recalled this quote from chapter 30 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when talking about a situation at work:

“I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” ~Slartibartfast

See, I had openly criticized two fellow leaders about their performance. They had not done something and I had…and what better way to point that out, then to make a snide remark in a public setting?

I felt terrible because that’s exactly what I did…and while I may have been “right” (i.e. as fellow leaders they weren’t leading by example), I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy because in that moment I chose myself and my need to be right over the relationship with my peers and the team environment. Let me explain.

Choosing Relationships

“Your happiness can be measured by the quality of your relationships, not your prosperity or your progress. ~Andy Stanley

If life was just about tasks (in this case being right), we would be robots. We wouldn’t have been created or developed in to beings with feelings. We were made for relationships and community. Heck, even in the book Born to Run we learn from evolutionists and anthropologists that one of the primary reasons humans survived and rose to the top of the food chain is through teamwork. The only advantage a hairless biped without fangs had was superior intellect and working as a team. And so, for many reasons, I would rather be a person who chooses relationships over being right.

Healthy Team

The foundation for any relationship or team is trust(1). Without trust we are just a group of individuals. With trust, we are a team. By publicly criticizing my peers, I was not creating a healthy team environment. Why would anyone else on the team trust me with their mistakes, fears or failures? Why would anyone choose to be vulnerable, if I would use it as an opportunity to hurt them? And so I not only hurt two relationships with individuals, I fractured the team relationships with everyone else in that room.

So what do you do when the cat is out of the bag? I’ve decided to apologize to the two individuals to whom I directed my snide remark (they graciously forgave me) and am debating emailing the rest of the team to repair the environment I fractured. That’s just me. What do you think?

(1) I can’t take credit for this nugget of wisdom. I learned it from Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Trust as Currency

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Leadership, quotes | Posted on 03-11-2013

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“Teams use trust as currency. If it is in short supply, then the team is poor. If trust abounds, the members of the team have purchase power with each other to access each others’ gifts, talents, energy, creativity, and love. The development of trust then becomes a significant leadership strategy. Trust creates the load limits on the relationship bridges among team members”
~Reggie McNeal

Downside of Visionary Leadership

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Books, Leadership, quotes | Posted on 07-09-2013

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One of the downsides of visionary leadership is that we can get our sights set on something that is so far out in the future that we miss what’s going on in our life as it exists right now. We are blind to the bush that is burning in our own backyard and the wisdom that is contained within it. We squander the gift of this day just as it is, these people just as they are, the uniqueness and sweetness (even the bittersweetness) of this particular place on the journey just as it is, the voice of God calling to us in our own wilderness places.

~Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

Tipping

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Me | Posted on 05-09-2013

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I would consider myself a generous person and so, most of the time, I tip. The thing is – I think it’s getting out of hand. Last night, I went to one of those self-serve frozen yogurt places and there was a tip jar. What exactly am I tipping you for?

I got the cup. I filled the cup with an excellent swirl of frozen yogurt (I learned from the best). I put on the toppings. I put the cup on the scale. The only thing the worker did was put a spoon in my cup and work the cash register, which in this case required an exchange of cash. They didn’t even do math – the register did!

So when I saw the tip jar as I got my change back, I was outraged! Seriously?! Am I tipping you to watch how awesome I am at making my fro-yo exactly the way I want it? Am I tipping you for putting the spoon in my cup? Or was it how you watched me enter, get what I want, skip the undecided and get out in under ten minutes?

I don’t get it. Like lawsuits, tipping is getting frivolous.

The man in the arena

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in quotes | Posted on 15-08-2013

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I usually use Twitter to post quotes to my blog…but this I couldn’t cheapen by getting it down to 140 characters. I love it too much.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

Ordinary is beautiful

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in quotes | Posted on 02-06-2013

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“I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder-Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary. There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” ~Pam Beasley, The Office

Things that make you go hmm…

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Big G | Posted on 28-05-2013

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I really resonated with this excerpt from Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What:

For his humanities class, Omar was assigned to read the majority of the Bible. He asked to meet with me for coffee, and when we sat down he put a Bible on the table as well as a pamphlet containing the five or six ideas – man was a sinner, sin separated man from, and Christ died to absolve the separation. He opened the pamphlet, read the ideas, and asked if these concepts were important to the central message of Christianity. I told Omar they were critical; that, basically, this was the gospel of Jesus, the backbone of the Christian faith. Omar then opened his Bible and asked, “If these ideas are so important, why aren’t they in this book?”

“But the Scripture references are right here,” I said curiously, showing Omar the verses were printed next to each idea.

“I see that,” he said, “But in the Bible they aren’t concise like they are in this pamphlet. They are spread out all over the book.”

“But this pamphlet is a summation of the ideas,” I clarified.

“Right,” Omar continued, “but it seems like, if these are ideas are that critical, God would have taken the time to make bullet points out of them. Instead, He put some of them here and some of them there. And half the time, when Jesus is talking, He is speaking entirely in parables. It is hard to believe that whatever it is He is talking about can be summed up this simply.”

Formulas and relationships

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Posted by Wendy | Posted in Big G, Books | Posted on 24-05-2013

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Oftentimes we think of the Bible as a self-help book. We think there are formulas that will help us to be better people…to be more like God and less like us, really, to be perfect. Early on, I learned I love formulas. I loved math and science. It just made sense. 2+2=4 always. There was no room for interpretation. There was no debate. There were no sides of the argument to consider before solving the equation. There was just the formula. Black and white. Clear as can be. As an engineer throughout college and in the first eight years of my career, I lived within this domain of science and formulas. It was easy to live there. There was little confusion or room for argument.

Recently, I started working for a church and, so far, it’s the hardest job I’ve had. Besides the blurred lines between my personal and work life, I also struggled with the people aspect of my job. By that I mean, ultimately, the church’s product is people. It’s about giving people the opportunity to take steps that get them closer to God, that enable them to continue moving on in their faith journey.

In the corporate world, I worked with consumer goods. Our products were tangible items that people consumed. Working with people is hard, really hard, because relationships are messy. There are no formulas for every situation or personality you encounter for the 6 billion people on this planet. Heck, not even animals respond to formulas (says the proud owner of two cats and rabbits)!

So I identified with the author Don Miller of Searching for God Knows What when he wrote the following:

It made me wonder, honestly, if such a complex existence as the one you and I are living can really be broken down into a few steps. It seems if there were a formula to fix life. Jesus would have told us what it was.

…when Jesus was walking around on earth He taught His disciples truths through experience, first telling them stories, then walking with them, then causing stuff to happen like a storm on the sea, then reiterating the idea He had taught them the day before. Even then it took years before the disciples understood, and even then the Holy Spirit had to come and wrap things up. So it made me realize that either God didn’t know the formulas, or the formulas weren’t able to change a person’s heart.

To be honest, though, I don’t know how much I like the idea of my spirituality being relational.

The formulas propose that if you do this and this and this, God will respond…but it makes me secretly wonder we don’t wish God were a genie who could deliver a few wishes here and there. And that makes me wonder if what we really want from the formulas are the wishes, not God. It makes me wonder if what we really want is control, not a relationship.

I mean, who wouldn’t?! Formula are EASY! Formulas leave no room for debate. Why wouldn’t I want to control my life? It’s mine, isn’t it? Donald Miller goes on to say:

Relationships aren’t the best thing, if you ask me. People can be quite untrustworthy, and the more you get to know them — by that I mean the more you let somebody you know who you really are — the more it feels as though something is at stake. And that makes me nervous. It takes me a million years to get to know anybody pretty well, and even then the slightest thing will set me off. I feel it in my chest, this desire to dissociate. I don’t mean to be a jerk about it, but that is how I am wired. I say this because it makes complete sense to me that we would rather have a formula religion than a relational religion. If I could, I probably would have formula friends because they would be safe.

and ultimately so would I…

I have this suspicion, however, that if we are going to get to know God, it is going to be a little more like getting to know a person than practicing voodoo. And I suppose that means we are going to have to get over this fear of intimacy, or whatever you want to call it, in order to have an ancient sort of faith shared by all the dead apostles.

And this makes me think of people who have tried to live there lives with formulas – House, Bones, etc. OK, these are TV examples but they survived more than one season. Why did the networks keep them on? Because of viewers. Because it was popular with the American TV-watching audience. And why did people tune in? I think it’s because at some level, didn’t we identify with the main character? With their desire to have life explained totally by formulas and science, by reasoning and logic?