Elmer Cañas Jr.

worship leader • songwriter • ministry consultant

It Takes Commitment

Life is built on commitments. Relationships, assignments, responsibilities, dreams...all rest upon the depth and passion of ones personal commitment.

Marriage, friendships,  family, is all reliant on how much we each "choose" to lean in (commit) to love and support one another. Our assignments or responsibilities in life either open new doors, turn new positive chapters or leave us in the dust based on how we "choose" to commit to them. Our dreams will only come true when we commit to seeing them fulfilled. God conceives the dream. God provides for the dream. God goes before us to prepare for the arrival of the dream. BUT we must commit to the dream and give birth to it. We can't blame others for our lack of success, or blame an environment for cultivating a lack of passion and vision. It's all within us. We must CHOOSE to COMMMIT to the call of God in our lives.

Another way of putting this thought into perspective is FAITH. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:17) Beliving or hoping will lead us to the door but we must be take action and step through the doors God has so graciously opened for us along our path.

My wife, Laurie, recently shared her heart with me and said, "To many times men go jumping through windows to get something but God opens doors. I'd much rather go through the front door and it be God's will then to have to force my way through a window and be out of the will of God." (Drop the mic!) How true is this? The only reason we choose short cuts is because we become impatient in waiting. Waiting takes commitment. When I "wait" on my wife to get ready when we're heading out somewhere, my tolerance for how long I'm willing to wait stems from my commitment to her and our relationship. We tend to get impatient with God because the depth of our commitment with Him is pretty shallow, so therefore a window commitment seems very appealing, versus having to stare into the eyes of our relationships, responsibilities and dreams as the door opens. (Speaking metaphorically)

The importance of commitment goes beyond the simple things and to the depths of who we will be in the future, the legacy we leave behind for generations to come and the foot print we leave upon the earth. Make a decision. Go to God, and re-evaluate what you've chosen to commit to. I pray this helps you move from where you are today, to where God has purposed for you to be.

Has 'WORSHIP' Become a New Idol?

"The very thing that God designed us to do, is the very thing that has distracted us from Him."

Humility and selflessness. These are some of the greatest characteristics of many worship leaders around the world. Yet we've become really good at hiding our true feelings. We feel the need to please everyone around us, and to maintain a smile on our face at all times. When deep inside many of us our longing for relationships, mentoring, and an opportunity to be ourselves. 

You have the most followers on social media then anybody else at your church, but you still feel alone. Popularity from the platform only makes ministry lonelier. You have friends galour, but they truly don't understand the pressure you live under. You have to maintain your composure at home so your spouse doesn't complain about the long hours and countless days you spend away from home. You don't get to visit family but once or twice a year and you expect them to understand because your life has great purpose which doesn't allow you to exist in their life, but for mere moments at a time. 

You want to grow and explore new possibilities with your talents but you're so busy trying to develop the next group of teenagers that are coming through your youth group. You're so busy trying to make everybody else's dreams come true that you've given up on your own. You feel like your pastor has every right not to communicate with you, or even spend time with you because he is extremely busy pastoring other people in the church, so you deal with your private matters on your own. You want to network with others but you fear being caught with the worship leader from the rival church. 

You began ministry with a pure passion for God. To serve God. To serve people. To spread the gospel. Unashamed. Untainted. On fire. And now you're burnt out. Tired. Looking for the next worship leader gig. You've made a career out of your passion. You feel entitled to more because of how much you've given up of yourself. You fight trying to identify who and what you are. Am I a pastor? Director? Minister? What does any of that mean?

We've taken "worship" and identified our lives by how it's being portrayed in today's society. We dress the part. Look the part. We sing songs that we don't even like, just to stay up to date with what everyone else is doing. We've compromised our heart of worship, for worship trends.

It's weird saying that worship is an idol because of what it means. You worship an idol, so to idolize worship is a bit misconstrued. But guess what. In one way or another we've both done it. We've personified worship. Instead of worship being a sacrifice of our way of life unto God, worship has become what we sacrifice ourselves to, in order to maintain status. 

This may not apply to all of us. But please ask God to reveal to you the things that you've given up in vain. Better yet ask your spouse. Ask your friends. Ask your parents. Ask your children. How can I be a better person? A better friend? A better son or daughter? If their honest with you the responses will be simple. Most of them will tell you, time management. Being in the moment. Smile again. Enjoy your job. Crazy right? But those are things we all lose sight of in order to do our "jobs". Sit with your pastor and ask him to pour into you. Make him or her aware of your dreams. Surround yourselves with people that want you to succeed and be ok with it. God created you to be successful. God created you to be passionate. God created you to worship. But to worship Him. Live a life that in ALL aspects brings glory to His name. That doesn't consist of singing songs everywhere you go, but rather of living a humble and selfless life founded on your identity in Christ. 

Forgive my harsh use of words. As I write I'm exposing my own experiences, as well as those shared by others. My intent isn't to condemn but to expose hidden realities. I believe we need to be set free from lies that we've been told and those that we choose to believe on our own. The next generation of leaders depends on us. What legacy are we choosing to leave behind? I hope this stirs something in you. Hopefully something that will be of benefit to you and to those you serve with.

My final thought. Fear cripples our dreams. Fear destroys our hearts. Fear distracts us from our purpose. Fear will make you bow down to idols. Take courage. Stand out. Be you. You'll accomplish a lot more in life and for the kingdom of God if you can practice being yourself. Worship God because He's worthy of it, not because you get paid to.

To Live in Fear, is Not to Live at All

(Original Post December 2015)

For almost 20 years of my life, I’ve had the privilege of declaring the goodness of God through song and sharing about the freedom that is found in Jesus Christ. I find myself shy of 34 years of age, and I'm finally admitting that I am afraid. I am afraid of confronting certain issues that I’ve left untouched for decades. We all have things deep within our skin that over the years become a thorn on our side. One moment we feel like we can conquer the world, and at an instant we feel incapable of even functioning within our gifts. We can easily solve the problems of the world around us, yet are terrified to see the very issues that have been buried beneath our feet.

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “for all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” (Luke 8:17-NIV) Scriptures as such tend to cause fear to those hiding things from others. When we try to live a life that is not real and do everything in our power to put up facades, this scriptures puts the fear of God in us. But then there are the hidden things that we choose to keep hidden not because we’ve done a wrong, but because we feel unworthy. We fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. We compare families, success, wealth, marriages, accomplishments, ministries, etc. We slowly back our selves into a corner where we are met with the decision of giving up on our dreams and calling or taking a huge risk. Perception is irrelevant. By saying “huge risk”, most of the time it implies that your ego or pride will be affected by your decision. We think that the world will end and that society as we know it will parish. In all honesty, we hurt ourselves and those that we love; we hurt our generation, when we choose to give up on our dreams because of fear.

What would be different in your life if the things you fear the most were not there? On my desk I have a picture frame that has a quote that reminds me daily not to conform to one way of viewing my outcomes. It says, “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you keep getting what you’re getting.” In other words, if you don’t change anything today, you can’t expect change at all. How many of us live lives in limbo, just waiting for things to come to us. Waiting for our big break. Expecting the world to rotate around us, as if we were the center of the universe. If that is you, I don’t blame you. It’s so easy to find ourselves in those situations. But most of the time we find ourselves in such spots because we are afraid.

Many have kept reading this post waiting to read some crazy dirty little secret that I’ve kept hidden for decades. My past isn’t filled with stories of drugs, violence, alcohol and sex. But it is filled with seasons of disobedience and lack of faith. Regardless of what we’ve walked through in life, we can all relate with the urge to give up on life, on family, friends, work, ministry, etc. But if I can encourage you my friend, stand on the word of God. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7-NLT)

Can you imagine what would happen if we would all take a risk and step into the purpose God has created us for? Can you imagine doing life or serving in a ministry where everybody that surrounds you is totally committed, passionate and willing to lay it all on the line for one cause, one purpose? Can you fathom a generation that rises up understanding their true identity in Christ and not being distracted by false fears created by the culture of today’s entertainment industry? That would be one dangerous crowd to be around.

My wife and I have learned to stand on the promises of God. Even though we've faced trying times, we've never been alone. God always stands true to His word. Step out in faith. Do not fear. Do not hesitate to pursue your dreams. Step into your purpose.

SONGWRITING & The Risks You Have to Be Willing to Take

(Original Post January 2012)

I've been writing songs since I was a child. Some funny, some sad. The older I got I began writing for more of a target audience. In Middle School my target audience was girls; trying to make a great impression. FYI; it worked maybe 4 out 20 times. And who really knows what, "it worked" means when your in Middle School. Well anyways, as I figured out my focus and direction in life changed and so did the way I expressed myself. Life directs your expressions. But out of all of my ways of expressing my feelings, Songwriting is the one I love the most, yet fear to love the most.

See, as a songwriter you put your self out there. You read in the Holy Bible (Luke 6:45) that "out of the abundance of the heart, speaks the mouth." So pretty much a songwriter is welcoming his or her audience not just into the maze of the mind, but into the intimate place called, "The Heart." Just like a bad Middle School relationship, this can lead to some serious heart break. If what you intend to communicate is not clearly understood, if it doesn't quite paint the picture that you had in your mind, if it isn't relevant to others, then you run the Risk of it being a disaster.

True, that some write just for the need of expressing themselves, but then there are those that have a direct audience that they feel loyal to write for, a unique responsibility to take them through a melodic journey in song. Ballads or Romantic tunes are written with the intention of triggering thoughts of love and intimacy between specific individuals. Dance and pop tunes are written with the intent of getting you out of your seat and dancing all night. Praise and Worship songs are written to glorify God, yet through the structure of the song and it's lyrics, songwriters attempt to create a powerful and unique moment between the Creator and His creation.

My biggest fear is that I might put a song out that wasn't intended for me to release yet. Like a parent observing their own child growing up and slowly accepting the fact that one day they will go off to college or to work and have their own family; releasing them; songs are like children to the songwriter. Through the joys and trials of life we take in the emotions and give birth to new songs through creative writing. And one day when the song is released the songwriter faces the fear of it becoming oblivious, of it being re-recorded and expressed in a completely different manner. Even the critic of those that experience the songs can cause great grief to one if it doesn't connect with your target audience, you feel like an epic failure. Now there are individuals in the business that can just pop out babies, I mean songs out and let them go and not care. Those people are making a lot of $$$. And in their defense, even if the song makes an artist millions of dollars, i guarantee you that it's not one of songwriters favorite songs. Their favorite and best songs might just be tucked away in a journal at home, they hum the melodies in their head and say I will never let you go, and when I do, it has to be to the right person (artist) and expressed as I desire it to be expressed.

We're not a needy bunch, but simply careful of not letting go to quickly!

Music in Our Daily Lives

(Original Post February 2012)

The Arts, all the way from fashion, design, music, etc...has a way of repeating itself. It's just a matter of time. The challenge is how to stay innovative and cutting edge without copying or reproducing the trending songs or styles. Check this out; there's probably over 1.5 million artist out in the Unites States alone that have created their own unique sounds, styles and lyrics. The problem isn't that their not gifted but that mainstream America "might" not care so much for the newer, fresher sounds of these individuals. So they think.

Here's your challenge for the day. (test my theory) Check out at least 5 to 10 playlists on your friends or co-workers computer or iPod. On average you'll find the same or similar music. It's almost like we need to like the same stuff to fit in now. It's culture, it's the business.

Purchase new music, something completely unique and out there. Give it a shot. For you the creative, it just might inspire you to create something you've never even thought of. And even if your art isn't recognized, delight yourself in your work.

We were created in the image of God, the Creator. So we should create an not focus on who will see or hear our work, or how much profit will I make. That's a creatives worst enemy; creating something for profit. Don't believe me?

Story Telling through Pictures

(Original Post January 2012)

With today's technology there is no excuse not to share a simple photograph to help enhance a story. With the amazing picture quality on our mobile devices a picture is as simple as making a phone call. Here are some pro's and cons to using photos on posts, blogs and other social media venues.

Pros:
Your audience can relate better to the content of the story as they can see your environment and those around you.
You don't have to get so wordy on your posts because a picture helps explain a lot of the little details that would usually take you additional characters or paragraphs.
If your trying to make a sale or convince your audience on your product or idea, people prefer visual content when making a decision on making purchases or investing energy on creating something.

Consider eBay, Craigslist and some of the monster web vendors. They rely heavily on products having pictures tagged to their products. Anytime I've sold an item on eBay or Craigslist without a picture, the buyer always request that I send them a picture. Nuff said!

Cons:
You have to be mindful of what or who you are taking a picture of.
If your at a birthday party or event where there are several children; believe me, parents don't like for their kids to appear on Facebook or twitter without their prior consent.
If you take pictures of certain brands and publish them on a public site, depending on what it is, you might be notified and asked to remove the content from your blog or post.

There's several other pro's and con's that can be addressed but overall; use pictures to tell your stories. It makes them much more interesting.

Also, when you upload pictures to a social site, most of the time you can delete the picture from your computer or phone and make more space for you. That's always a plus!

Using Trending Songs, Topics and Themes in Church

(Original Post October 2011)

So here's one of the oldest struggles within our modern day church. How far is to far? When have we crossed over the boundaries of the "world" and brought it into our churches? In plain english, why do we have to look like the world in order to win them over to Jesus? Questions like this can be debated and thrown around for hours, if not weeks. Here's my take on this issue in a few simple points.

Perspective #1 THE SEEKER

"I'm a person in this world of hurt, seeking an answer. Obviously because I've tried many things in life and I'm willing to venture into different cultures, traditions, etc. I've been exposed to some radical stuff. Some of it might have caught my attention. Karma, energy, that's great, whatever...but can anyone define it more clearly for me? Somethings might feel good and that's is great, but what is my Purpose? What's our purpose? Wow!!! Check this person out. They look just like me. They even have a similar past as mine. I wonder what's working for them. They look like me, like the things I do, yet they have a certain lifestyle that's different. Hmmm."

This person has now identified him or herself not with the religion or the message, but with the culture. (Reflected through other individuals). Now relevancy changes depending on the culture (city, country, zip code, etc.) that is established. For example; I know many really "hip" churches, but because the majority of the people attending are of one ethnic background, an indirect message is sent to a seeker, that unless they fit in, they don't belong. So what play's the biggest role in attracting people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities? CULTURE. Make an observation; what "underlying messages" are your sending to those that walk through your doors.

Perspective #2 GIFTED PEW BOY

"I've grown up in church my entire life. I remember sleeping under the pews during the long Friday night prayer services. Well, I got some crazy good ideas with some multi-media stuff. I'm finishing my studies in Media Design, I got some boys in the church that have their own recording studio. They've attempted to record several worship albums but the people at church don't even buy their CD's. I came across one of the biggest opportunities in life. One of my boys from back home heard what I was studying and wants me to make a demo reel for him. I guess he's some type of artist now. By the way my best friend Ronny, who was the worship leader for our Youth, just quit the youth group because he feels he needs to stretch out his gifts a bit. He's auditioning for American Idol and some other "make-u-famous-over-night" shows. So I make my reel and it's MTV hot. I really would love to make videos for my church like this but I know it probably wouldn't be accepted."

Many gifted and famous people have come out of local churches throughout the world. They were a bit to artsy and radical for the majority of their churches, so they took their gifts to the multitudes around the world instead. How many children and youth have lost their dreams at church? Out of personal experience, if there is a place where your gifts can be sharpened, it's called the local church. When in a healthy and encouraging CULTURE, you feel the support from others to take a leap of faith and go after your dreams. I can go on but I won't. Point made.

IMPORTANT FACT

Regardless of how relevant you want your approach to be, make sure it ties in with a clearly communicated message. Don't just do things just to do them. Half of the time churched folk don't even have a clue if your playing a cover song, if you re-made a current pop video, or that the message your speaking on is based on a popular movie. Unchurched folk will. And they'll like, it as long as you can still answer their question at the end. What's my purpose? And why? Using scriptures within these creative opportunities will never go wrong. Most of the times it creates dialogue and people begin to ask questions like: "why did that scripture go with that song? What did that graphic mean? What is the cross?" If you can simultaneously focus and add value to gifts in the house, you will be building a team of dreamers from within, that learn to understand that the gifts we posses are not for us to keep hidden, but for the world to hear and see the grace of God via our gifts. We then sharpen their gifts in house, build strong Christ-centered foundations and then release. The gift within us represents the Christ in us. Why hide it from the world? How much more of an impact can somebody make when they know they have the full support of their community (church) before heading out into the wilderness of society? It's a bigger deal than many care to think.

1. An Accepting Culture

2. Building and Training Creatives that will impact the World.

So, if you have an idea, a song, a video, etc. Do not be afraid to step out and try it. There just might be a person in the crowd that can relate with you and is looking for an answer. There also might be a little rug rat under the pews observing your every move, waiting to one day grow up and be just like you, not knowing that they will one day they will have greater influence than you. Which means, their light for Jesus can go much further...again, only if your willing to try what others try to hide and deny!

What Does My Future Look Like?

(Original Post September 2011)

What does my future look like?

This is a question we ask ourselves daily, if not  just about every month. With so much changing in our society from Education, Technology, Culture in general, what will my community look like in 10, 20 or 3o years? Attempting to figure out our purpose in life on a daily basis, doesn't help our cause. Things are always changing and evolving. Technology has created a seamless society that is connected just about 80% of our existence to another individual or group of individuals via Facebook or Tweeter.There's nothing bad with that. My only piece of advice would be, "don't take yourself to serious, allow room for growth and run after your dreams. But do make sure you're surrounded with people that will encourage and lift you up when the world comes tumbling down. Be flexible, learn from the new trends, styles and genres. This allows you to visit other concepts that can help build you into a better stronger person.

The purpose of this question in the first place is because, watching my year old son (almost two) interact with my current technology, instruments and devices it amazes me to see his response and coordination to the items. For example, at 8 months Baby Jordan would take my iPhone, hide in a corner and listen to my iPod app for a great length of time. After time he could find his own apps and choose his own movie via netflix. He grabs his drum sticks and plays along(on beat) to the songs we're sing on Sundays. It amazes me how his brain functions and how as Jordan grows, so does society. How is it that this little boy can manage using my iPad successfully by playing the games he wants, watching the movies that he wants and listening to his jams. What will Face time and Skype look like? It's amazing. Maybe I'll never find the clear cut answer that I'm hoping to here one day, but at least I got you thinking about tomorrow.

Let's not look to far ahead just yet, think about tomorrow. What is gonna happen tomorrow? How will it happen? and why will it happen? How will society had evolved over night? From Dusk to Dawn? Please feel free to share your comments and opinions.

Right Brain Thinkers

(Original Post July 2011)

So I've been studying the differences in Right-brain thinkers vs Left-brain thinkers, to better understand the people around me, including my own thought process. I've come across several interesting articles that clearly define how the brain functions and that's all jiffy. But then I came across a book by Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. I recall listening to Pink lecture at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta in 2010. He shared the most intriguing thoughts based on engaging our teams, employees into more productive work weeks and more effective creative lives. It was "money!" I've implied some of his concepts to my work week and have seen some of our team members step up and out of their box in such an amazing way. Check out the following paragraphs. It's a quick overview on Daniel Pink's book.

Six Right Brain Aptitudes

So what remains for us as creative, educated humans? What can we bring to the table to generate unique contributions we can be proud of? Pink says: “In the Conceptual Age, we will need to complement our L[eft Brain]-Directed reasoning by mastering six essential R[ight-brain]-Directed aptitudes…Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning. These six senses increasingly will guide our lives and shape our world.”

OK. I see you rolling your eyes and grimacing. Yet while your left brain may protest this as airy-fairy sounding stuff, Pink says we need not fear because “back on the savannah, our cave-person ancestors weren’t taking SATs or plugging numbers into spreadsheets. But they were telling stories, demonstrating empathy, and designing innovations. These abilities have always comprised part of what it means to be human. But after a few generations in the Information Age, these muscles have atrophied.”

So the task before us all is to help give birth to this “whole new mind” by encouraging right brain thinking. But what’s in it for project managers and project team members? It’s simple: By engaging your “whole new mind” you will create more innovative project deliverables and distinguish yourself from the routine, plodding left brain teams that are just “getting it done.” And better yet, when you get a reputation for producing great results, you are likely to win the competition for scarce organizational resources like money, people, and time. And, in the long run, having more resources will enable you to create even more of those amazing new products and services that you can be proud of. And isn’t that why you went into your line of work in the first place?

A Project Team Case Study Example

To figure out how to crank up our right brains, we need to dig a little deeper into Pink’s “six essential R-Directed aptitudes:” Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning. Then we have to figure out how to apply these to projects and project management. And the best way to do this is by examining a somewhat fanciful little case study scenario.

Let’s say we work for a software company that sells two consumer products called “Your Accounting Buddy” and “Lawyer on a Disk.” Both products have been around for many years and they are losing market share to newer competitors that are a bit slicker in appearance and easier to use. Your team has been assigned the job of upgrading these products so they can beat the competition. To do this, you decide you want to try to employ Pink’s “six essential R-Directed aptitudes.” Here’s how that might work.

DESIGN. Pink says we should consider “Not just function but also DESIGN. It’s no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that’s merely functional. Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.” So, after a little discussion related to Design, our team decides that our two products in their current state really are “merely functional.” A little more brainstorming and we decide that it would be great if instead of software-only products, we could create a smooth, shiny, hand-held device that we can talk to, ask questions, and have a pleasant voice provide us with accounting and legal advice. Dreaming big, we decide that maybe it could be as sleek and appealing to handle with as a Blackberry or an iPhone! So the more we think about it, the more it seems that our design really could become beautiful and engaging!

STORY. Pink says we should consider “Not just argument but also STORY. When our lives are brimming with information and data, it’s not enough to marshal an effective argument. Someone somewhere will inevitably track down a counterpoint to rebut your point. The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative.” OK then. With this in mind, we ask ourselves: “What stories are hidden inside this product of ours? What life-changing epiphanies could it produce when customers use it? What little narratives could we come up with to show that it’s not just answering dry accounting and legal questions, but making a difference in quality of life for the users. At this point our project team resolves to go out and talk to customers and gather testimonials to help generate several powerful stories that will ring true for our product.

SYMPHONY. Pink encouages us to think about “Not just focus but also SYMPHONY. Much of the Industrial and Information Ages required focus and specialization. But as white-collar work gets routed to Asia and reduced to software, there’s a new premium on the opposite aptitude: putting the pieces together, or what I call Symphony. What’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis — seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole.” Playing off this suggestion, our team tries to imagine all the different jobs, industries, life styles, cultural contexts, and family situations our users may find themselves in. Brainstorming, our team imagines and lists several flip chart pages full of the possible scenarios for using our product. Then we identify key themes running through all these that would generate a central vision or “symphonic” perspective about the product. Specifically, when we see all the pieces pulled together what emerges is a vision of a survival tool… a sort of Swiss Army knife for your financial and legal life.

EMPATHY. Pink challenges us to think about “Not just logic but also EMPATHY. The capacity for logical thought is one of the things that makes us human. But in a world of ubiquitous information and advanced analytic tools, logic alone won’t do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.” OK. So we ask ourselves:  What are the fears, hopes, and dreams our customers might be thinking about when they pick up our little accounting and legal advisor? What wishes are they hoping it will fulfill? What technical problems might they bump into when using it? What professional vocabulary (that is, what accountant and lawyer talk) might put them off or simply confuse them? Seeking deeper empathy, we decide to run a few focus groups to get answers to these questions.  The object of the game:  Help us get inside our customer’s perspective and really empathize with them.

PLAY. Pink suggests: “Not just seriousness but also PLAY. Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games, and humor. There is a time to be serious, of course. But too much sobriety can be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being. In the Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play.” So… with “play” in mind, we decide to set up a game sharing session for our project team. We have everyone bring in examples of the coolest games we have on our phones and other hand-held devices. And we do some light-hearted brainstorming about the kind of fun stuff we might stick in our little product that might help our users take a break, have some fun, or even challenge themselves with on-board quizzes on lawyer or accountant-speak.

MEANING. And finally, Pink, in effect, tells us to pay attention to more than the features, bells, and whistles of our product. He says we should focus on: “Not just accumulation but also MEANING. We live in a world of breathtaking material plenty. That has freed hundreds of millions of people from day-to-day struggles and liberated us to pursue more significant desires: purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment.” So… we step back and ask ourselves… just what is the meaning of this tool we are building? In the grand scheme of things… in peoples’ lives, in their work, what might it mean? And as we begin to search for the meaning of our product, our discussion ultimately leads us to the rather profound realization that what we are creating… our little pocket consultant … is in reality a tool for personal empowerment! Our users will have powerful decision-making technologies in the palms of their hands, available instantly, without needing to track down and consult anyone else. So, ultimately, the meaning of this wonderful thing we will be creating is personal empowerment and freedom!

Wow! Look what just happened here! By engaging our six essential right brain aptitudes (Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning) we’ve not only invented a product that will beat the competition and empower the people who use it, we’ve come up with a project for ourselves that is going to be fun, challenging, and career-stretching to work on! In short, we’ve inspired ourselves! All this from simply engaging our right brain aptitudes!

Here's a Challenge for Teams:

Reflections

Reflect on these questions:

  • Think about your current project schedules. What opportunities might there be to step back, brainstorm, and help the team apply their right brain aptitudes?
  • Visualize each project team member. Who might have more to give than they are now giving if only their right brain aptitudes were honored and encouraged?
  • Think about any competitors (inside or outside your organization) who are creating similar products or services. What evidence is there that these competitors are leveraging their right brain aptitudes?

Team Challenges

Ask your team:

  • Have you ever felt yourself holding back or avoiding “outside the box” thinking? If so, why?
  • How can we as an organization encourage more right brain thinking?
  • Review Pink’s brief definitions of the right brain aptitudes of Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.
    • Which of these do we stifle?
    • Which of these are we good at?
    • Which of these would you like to learn more about?

Project Manager Challenges

  • Get everyone on your project (or in your entire organization) a copy of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. It will likely wake up your team to entirely new perspectives!
  • Examine Pink’s Portfolio sections in A Whole New Mind and figure out how you can apply the activities to your project team.
  • Conduct a brainstorming session with your team that’s divided into six parts: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. In each part of the session:
    • Begin with Pink’s definition of that particular aptitude.
    • Brainstorm about all the ways this aptitude might be applied on our project.
    • Encourage discussion about ways this aptitude is stifled and how the forces stifling the aptitude might be neutralized.

A Good Hook

(Original Post June 2011)

"It doesn’t have to be a chorus or the main part of the song. The hook is simply the part that gets stuck in your head. Advertisers have historically used the same “hook” technique in ads. Usually it’s the slogan or tagline."

Ever wonder why certain things in life stand out a bit more than others? People in advertising specialize in making sure that we walk around with certain images, jingles and tag lines stuck in our heads. Because if we can remember it, we just might prefer to purchase it. Challenge your creativity and how you can make certain things you say, wear, create...stand out and stick to your family members, friends, etc. Please share your experience.

Click on the following link: A Good Hook - Creativity Tips

The Lost Stillness

(Original Post April 2011)

In the last two weeks I've come across a freeing truth. Meditation, reflection, truth, honesty, sincerity; these things can change the way we prepare to encounter God in times of worship and communion. We have become accustomed to the loud music with great powerful build ups, which are awesome and definitely propel the church into powerful anthems that bring life, strength and unity to the body of Christ.

"It's all about You!" , we shout when in worship. That's 100% true. But it does take preparation on our behalf. Does a bride come to the altar without prior preparation, both externally and internally? Does a professor stand before a class without an agenda?Does a fireman face a dangerous fire without having prepared his equipment? Do we drive our cars without airing our tires or adding gasoline? In retrospect I've come to realize the importance of meditation and reflection before entering before the Lord, before spending time with Him. It's like a great passionate conversation. God has spoken words into my life through His word, and before I come before Him I need to remember those words, meditate on them, value them and allow them to build me up. It helps prepare my approach, it helps prepare what I have to offer. I can get my thoughts straight, remember what He has done, remember what He can and will do. It adjusts my perspective of Him that at times gets tainted because of the craziness of life.

So why can't we on occasion engage our congregations into moments of meditation during worship time? I ask myself. Imagine if the millions across the world that gather to worship God  weekly, would prepare themselves mentally and spiritually for those special times in His presence. Imagine the change in dynamics. Would there be a need for the lights and loud anthems? Would the crys of the people and anthems of the church drown out the driving guitars and the beating drums? I believe so. Don't get me wrong, I personally love our music arrangements and styles. I write several songs that work off of dynamics that help set the atmosphere through the instruments God has gifted us to play through. But it's just a thought I've been dwelling on here lately.

"Before the water runs, you first must turn on the faucet." Before the power and anointed music plays a huge dynamic in our worship experiences, there must be an inward preparation that consists of meditating and intentionally turning to God. Focusing on Him. (Last Thought) It's like if you were about to run a race, say a 100 meter dash. You get on the track, hopefully you stretch first, then you focus on the finish line, the goal. Making sure that you are well acquainted with the mark. This is a must for all athletes, football players, basketball players, hockey players, etc. You need to know the direction in which you need to go to earn points. You need to know where the prize is at. I believe you get the point. So with all that said, take a moment and practice this on your own. Meditate on God's promises to you, on the things He has done in your life. And if you're in a position where you can lead your congregation, small group or family in doing this, do so. You'll see how worship will no longer be centered around the loud build ups and driving choruses but it will all fall back into line and it will be ALL ABOUT HIM!

Caution When Creative

(Original Post January 2011)

I find myself pumped up about creative ideas. But then I hear God's voice saying, "don't get caught up with all the creative stuff because you just might miss your encounter with the Creator!" It's alright to tap into God's creativity and thoughts. Obviously we were created in His image. and likeness. But as I've said before when you focus so hard on the task and not purpose, you lose your focus and it's dangerous. Lucifer (Satan before condemnation) was a master musician, the best. He focused so hard on his skill, "to create an atmosphere of worship", that he easily forgot who he was created to worship.And eventually it led to his own down fall.

Be creative, be different, experiment, see God's hand upon your creative thoughts and risks. But always remember to return to the One who gives you those ideas. And give Him the glory. Because in all that we do we do it for His glory.

A bride can work so hard on her own wedding, that she doesn't enjoy the most important day, the day she dreamed of her entire life, because she was focused on preparation and not on the celebration. Think about it.

Sound Around Us

(Original Post March 2010)

It's amazing how many sounds surround you on a daily basis. The amazing thing is that there is so much going on that we don't even notice. I recall the week I moved to Dallas, Texas from good ol' sunny California, and I heard everything that buzzed around me, including the cows down the street. Lol. (I'm not lying about the cow part) Wherever you find yourself today, may it be by the beach or on a mountain top. Take a moment and listen to the sounds around you.

I've found myself sitting still and listening to my surroundings and I have been amazed to find the smallest of things that at times goes unnoticed. While producing a song in my office I took a music break and muted my speakers so I could refresh a bit and I heard a small whistling sound right underneath my desk. Got down on the ground to find where the sound was coming from and to my surprise a cricket was on my speaker cable. I'm sure the vibrations kept him quiet. His whistling was probably a way of saying, "hey man turn that music back on!"

The one that is amazing at hunting down the source of the smallest things is my son, Jordan. We can be anywhere and he's scoping the room for items he can grab, of course he's 12 months old and more curious than a cat. He'll stop to listen and then takes off running towards the source. Whatever the item is it fascinates him because he is still soaking in all these sights and sounds of life.

Have you ever been placed, maybe at work or at school, right next to a real annoying person? How long does it take you to eventually filter the person out of what you are listening to? Can it be that with so much going on in our lives we've suddenly prioritized the sounds we choose to listen to and have ignored some that might be more important than we think? For example, the sound of screeching brakes on a car can drive one crazy. After a while you get used to it and just take it for granted. But how important is it to respond to the sound of your screeching brakes? Trust me, its super important. I recall last year my 2004 Nissan Xterra had screeching brakes, they were so bad that it sounded like a train coming to a halt. But guess what, I ignored it and thought I could fix this later. Well later never came and as I got on the freeway with my friend Jeremy on the way to the golf course, SNAP, SNAP, SNAP! With traffic behind me and cars slowing down in front of us we had no way of bringing that monster to a stop. Thank God that no one got in front of us and that we eventually stopped. But then it hit my bank account. Repairs were ridiculously expensive. And you say, "you should've fixed it dummy." and your right, I should've, I knew that I had to, I knew the importance of it, but I did nothing but continued with my routine.

When is the last time you heard the whispers of God tugging at your heart? His gentle voice breezing over your thoughts and capturing your attention? It can be so easy to put off Gods voice, but we must learn to understand that He is the source of life. We respond so much better to our mobile phone company when they send us a bill in the mail, just about to shut off our service. Because they get our attention and by shutting off our phones, our routine might just be disrupted. Don't wait for something tragic or painful to happen so you can then turn your attention to the One that has been calling you. Just stop for a second, close your eyes and listen.

What do you hear?

Now how will you respond?

Just a Word to Help You Move On

(Original Post February 2010)

Isn't it amazing how God brings an encouraging word right on time? He is so awesome! So I've had this word on my mind the past few days, "Dry". I had no idea what it meant, and I feared that God was speaking to me about my spiritual relationship with Him, or our finances since we are in a recession. So many things came to mind. I even started writing songs about being refreshed in His presence, the River of Life. I don't know if it was divine inspiration or fear. lol. But this morning I heard a small devotional by Pastor Steve Furtick and he shared from a portion of scripture that I completely overlooked. 1 Kings 17. The story of king Ahab and Elijah. The story of the famine and drought. He mentioned how Elijah had been obedient to God in everything God had asked him to do. And God was faithful to Elijah by giving him directions on where to go. He went to the Kerith Ravine, where God sent Ravens to feed him and provided water from the brook. Keep in mind this is in the middle of a famine, so God was taking care of His boy. After a while the brook dried up. That's so powerful. The brook dried up. Not because Elijah was being punished, but because there was a drought across the land. Let's stop right here. What would we do at that instance? How many of us would fight with God. "Lord, I've been so faithful to You and this is how you watch out for me? What's going on!". It might be that in your life your going through a dried up brook of finances, love, relationships, even peace and joy and you don't get it. God is up to something. Lets move on.

Then God speaks to Elijah again sending him somewhere else. He heads to Zarephath where we read the story of the widow and her son. While in Zarephath Elijah both is fed and supernaturally provides in abundance for the widow and her son. From Zarephath he moves on and ends up at Mount Caramel where one of the greatest biblical battles is portrayed between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. And we can go on and on. The point is this. Yes your brook is probably dried up, but it's because God wants to move you further to the next level. To something greater. How many times do we miss out on opportunities in life or great blessings because we are in our comfort zone.? But sometimes it takes for God to dry up your brook, whatever that may be, to move us up to what's ahead. Do not fear and know that God is with you. Just listen to His voice as He wants to direct you in the right direction, at the right time.

Waiting

(Original Post January 2010)

Life is a waiting game. You get to a restaurant and you have to wait. You get to the airport and you have to wait. You go to the rental car place and you have to wait. You go to the barber shop and you have to wait. You get home and you have to wait for dinner, family or your favorite tv show. You go to church and you have to wait. So what is it about waiting and life? The relationship between waiting and advancing in life. I don't know the answers to most things in life but I do know that even to figure somethings out, I have to wait.

So what if your not a patient individual? What if you have control issues and need to know what's happening yesterday, today and tomorrow? I don't know but guess what? You have to wait and find out. I end this short thought on waiting as I wait for my rental car to arrive and wait to find out what were doing later on tonight. Finally, I have important news to share with you... Never mind, you'll just have to wait.

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