If you want to understand Minimalist Management living and leading, this blog, and to a large degree…me… give this a quick watch. I hope it is helpful to you. The key themes are purpose, mentorship, self-reflection, faith, gratitude, wisdom, leadership and of course minimalism. I am honored to have shared the TEDx stage with so many amazing people. Check out tedxcreightonu.com!
I am sure a few people out there are wondering why I call this blog The Minimalist Manager. A few might be thinking, “Todd’s first two posts didn’t scream minimalism to me”. So here goes…Minimalism and Minimalist Management is about cutting through the chaos and clutter to get to clarity of purpose and freedom to strive toward that purpose. Only under these circumstances will people fully flourish.
Minimalism is way of proceeding that rejects the idea that we have to do everything and consume much in order to be happy. Minimalist Management proposes that we need meaningful and clear work in order to grow and thrive. Minimalism does not mean we should all retreat to the woods, forage for food, and meditate all day long. It means we should decide what we truly value and organize our lives accordingly. This extends well beyond work, but it is a powerful way of approaching our work lives. As the The Minimalist Management Manifesto suggests, I believe that our greatest aspiration should be to help others flourish while striving to flourish ourselves. I believe we can best achieve this by pruning back to what’s healthy and productive.
I fail at this regularly, but I am most happy when I am working on core activities both at work and at home. Peripheral activities may be required at times, but they should be minimized in favor of value creating activities. Each of us must determine our core value creating activities and invest as much time there as possible.
Three clarifying questions:
Which of your activities create the most value for you and those you value?
When do you feel most productive?
When do you feel most like your true self?
Most of us do not have the luxury of quitting our jobs and retreating to nature or traveling the world…if you do you probably are not reading this blog. But many of us could focus our time and energy differently, change jobs, change companies, or change careers once we determine the circumstances that will best enable us to flourish. We must create a context for our growth. We owe it to ourselves and those we value.
Ask the tough questions!!!
More on Minimalism. These guys’ blog has been important in driving minimalism.
An acquaintance of mine passed away recently and his community subsequently celebrated his life. I cannot help but reflect on the celebration service and his life.
I wrestled with sharing in this case because I don’t want anyone invading the family’s privacy, but I think we can all learn from this man’s example. Those in the community will know who I am writing about, but I won’t identify.
This man was referred to as the type of person everyone wants to know…a rare person indeed. Beautiful and beneficial themes surfaced that point toward why he will (and should) be remembered so fondly.
Don’t wait to:
He was a role model for this…
In remembering our mortality we are reminded to embrace each day.
Be in community
We all engage in activities with people, but are we truly in community?
Are we kind to everyone? Are we getting to know the people around us? Are we allowing others to know us? Are we role modeling, teaching, and learning? Are we waiting for those we have beaten at the finish line to celebrate the race and congratulating those who beat us to the line? Are we helping others improve even when it might mean they could surpass us in the future? Are we helping up those who have fallen?
Put simply, are we for and with those around us?
Don’t judge people based on their worst moment(s)
We all make mistakes…some are quite harmful to others, sometimes even to people we love. We must not judge people based on their worst moments. Jesus doesn’t. He sees us as people he loves and died for…
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Want to listen in on a conversation with people who built a remarkable company and changed a city?
Kate and Sandy Dodge (The NP Dodge Company) are two of the most amazing people with whom I have ever conversed.
The above will link you directly with the audio, but it is also available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, etc.
Sandy is a quiet and thoughtful man so he can be a little tough to hear at times, but the little bit of extra attention required is worth it to glean his wisdom. Kate is brilliant and has a voice that resonates so she is pretty easy to hear.
Together they offer an extraordinary amount of virtual mentoring to anyone interested in growing as a leader…and quite frankly, as a human.
Give this podcast a listen and check out the rest of the season.
As always, please subscribe to the blog and/or connect on Facebook.
No, I am not talking about seeing Jesus’ face in the cracks of the concrete or the tracks of the snow blower like the people who see his face in their food.
I saw God in my driveway yesterday, because a man was Jesus to me. A neighbor sacrificed his time and energy for me in snowblowing my driveway out of the kindness of his heart.
God’s love was on display through God’s creation. A free gift was given to me that I did not earn and am not asked to repay…although I plan to buy him a 12 pack.
I could certainly write about being Jesus to those around us and probably will at some point, but for now I think it is best to start at seeing God and helping others see God.
I think there are four basic steps. We need to:
Open Our Eyes To The World Around Us
If you are like me you spend plenty of time looking at a device of some sort. That is fine, but we all need to remember that what you see on there is not hard and fast reality. Too much device time creates an individualistic mindset…it has the potential to create a world view that says to us “this world is curated just for you” and embellishes the importance of what gets us excited/worked up.
We need to break out of that for the good of ourselves and those we love.
We need to see the people all around us. The world is in better shape than Twitter might suggest. Good people made in the image of God are all around you.
Remember That God Created People In God’s Image
When we remember this fact we are more likely to appreciate the people around us for what they are vs. what clickbait wants us to see.
Of course, our human resemblance to God’s image is most often the equivalent of a disfigured Picasso impressionist portrait…but God created us and remembering this is crucial.
Enter Each Day Looking For Blessings
Start each day expecting to see God in your fellow humans.
If we expect to see pain, suffering, and evil…we will struggle to see good. Your worldview drives your perceptions. Choose a positive worldview that reflects that God created and you will see the beauty in God’s creations…his people.
Use confirmation bias to your advantage and choose to see good.
Humans love stories! Tell your family members, co-workers, friends, and acquaintances about the good you see in the world. You will shape their worldview so that they can see God too.
The more we notice good in the world the less we will dwell on the negatives constantly fed to us via our devices/social media.
Train your brain to see good and help those you care about to do the same.
They will thank you for it!
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How do you get a street named after you when you weren’t a city “father”, a major philanthropist, a company founder, a celebrity, or the person who once lived on the developed land?
Put another way, how does an “ordinary” man get a street named after him (and another street named after his grandson)?
I am becoming obsessed with the stories of people who aren’t famous but make a significant impact on people and communities. Fortunately for me, I grew up with an uncle who was just such an “ordinary” man.
This is a story of Denny Darnold, a not-so-ordinary man, and four lessons we can learn from the way he lived his remarkable life.
Until a couple years back when you Googled “Darnold”, you didn’t get many results…the Darnolds aren’t exactly the Rockefellers or Kardashians (thank God). Of course, distant cousin Sam recently elevated our Google prominence and taught people how to pronounce our name.
We Darnolds aren’t generally headline seekers, we are more folks who sit on the end of docks with our grandchildren. Thanks to Uncle Denny (and of course my Father), I understand the beauty and power in a humble strength approach to living though their example.
Lessons on Living From Denny Darnold
1. Live With Great Integrity
While eulogizing my Uncle the Mayor of Hudson Wisconsin listed Denny’s many accomplishment and awards (see a nice story about Denny’s accomplishments here). However he also emphasized one word, integrity. I think he said it ten times. And for good reason…integrity, and care for family, were the values most enacted in Denny’s life.
The Mayor told a story about a man who interacted with Denny on a regular basis professionally. That man told the Mayor upon my Uncle’s recent retirement that he was happy Denny was retiring because he could now buy Denny a beer.
He was a city planner and he wouldn’t allow vendors, contractors, etc to even buy him a beer because he feared it would mar his reputation for integrity!!!
The Mayor also told a story about the only time he saw my Uncle lose his temper. You guessed it, someone challenged Denny’s integrity.
Denny understood that in his role, one of public service, he must never be seen as beholden to anyone but the citizens. He knew that if his loyalty to the people was clear he could be effective for them and that he and his family would never be embarrassed by some negative story that would come to light.
“A Man of Integrity”
I believe we are all called to live with great integrity. Claim the right values and align your actions with those claimed values!
2. Value Function Over Form
I drive a Honda Accord because of my uncles (Tom factored in here as well) and I probably will until Honda messes up their value proposition.
In my opinion, the only reason to own something is because it meets a need (broadly defined). If an attribute of a thing doesn’t cause it to better meet a need, why pay for it. The logo doesn’t add tangible value…only symbolic value. Some needs are met by symbolic value…not very many of mine.
Denny modeled this for me at an early age.
Buy Function Not Form
I remember when Denny first saw me pull up in my Accord. He was proud! At the time I found this strange. Now I believe he saw this as a sign that I had grown into a man who valued the important things. In his view (and mine), Honda Accords have the features you need and they function efficiently…they just run. The things that are important in a conveyance for an office worker.
Honda has become the symbol for me – contradiction intended – of valuing function over form.
3. Have and Share Personal Passions
Denny was a man of many passions.
Denny was a childhood athletic prodigy in a tiny town in Southwest Iowa. He loved the communal nature of sports. He played golf almost literally until the day he died. Many golf buddies came to his funeral and were some of the most sorrow filled non-family members in attendance.
He used his passions as means to build relationships. He was on the shy side so I believe that having connections to people through common interests was especially important to him.
Denny and I both went to Iowa State and he loved to follow Creighton basketball as well. He and I connected through these common interests. But more importantly, we connected early in my life through golf. This is odd because I don’t think we played more than a few rounds together in my entire life. I only remember one.
We connected because he brought me along as a caddy. I went to visit him for about a week most every summer and he would take me along to some tournament. I did nothing but hurt his chances of winning. I know for a fact that he was distracted because of me during a match play final (match play is where two players are going head to head). However, he never got angry with me and had me caddy for him again the next year and the next.
I loved this in real time and in hindsight this was amazing! I learned so much about how to relate to people at these tournaments and I bonded with my Uncle.
I wasn’t the only one who experienced this.
Denny bonded with his in-laws by becoming a huge Packers fan when he moved to Wisconsin.
Denny bonded with his father in-law through fishing.
And most importantly, he bonded with his children through their interests. He coached their youth sports and shared his love of art most especially with his son.
Don’t be selfish about your passions. Use the energy they provide to build relationships and influence others.
4. Be a Person of Few Words
Meaning > Multitude
I am still trying to live this lesson.
My Uncle lived with a humble strength that allowed him to make an huge difference in the world.
The people of Hudson valued the way he lived his life as much or more than the zoning decisions he recommended.
I believe humble strength is how an “ordinary” man gets a street named after him whether it be literal or metaphorical.
I think we all need to be mentored by these “ordinary” people through their stories. I aim to tell these stories in a way that helps others grow. I wrote about my Grandfather in “My First Minimalist Management Mentor” and I am proud and humbled to pay tribute to my Uncle Denny in this post. He was a remarkable man!
He is one of the many additional people I should have discussed in my TedX talk if it weren’t for that pesky time limitation.
Who are your “ordinary people” and what life lessons can you learn from them?
With all do respect to my pastor at Papio Creek Church and my father who are both wonderful teachers, the message in the video above is probably my favorite “sermon” ever.
In my humble opinion, this discussion of the life in Christ is dead on. Please give it a watch (check out the hilarious fake political ads toward the end).
Key themes that really hit home for me:
Harmony > Disharmony
Inclusion > Exclusion
Hospitality > Rivalry
Jesus Followership > Superficiality
Jesus Followership > Politics
Jesus > Than How You Vote
Jesus > Fitting In
Jesus had time for all people, so should we.
Don’t waste time worshiping false gods.
Jesus wants you to live a meaningful life in Him!!!
Give over your “work” to God!
You were made for more!
Please give this video a watch.
2nd, A Good Friend
My family met up with my friend Alan and his family at church. They then came out in the bitter cold to watch my son play soccer…they brought me coffee…good friends indeed.
We were chatting on the sideline during the match and he mentioned to me that I was an important character in the story of his faith journey. He was wrestling with faith questions in college and we had some amazing talks about faith in Jesus in our dorm rooms.
Our conversation reminded me that my “work”, in the most broad sense, is to point toward Jesus.
Jesus will do far more to help people live more purposeful lives than I ever will.
There are points in every person’s journey where they get to decide who to point toward, I am going to do my best to point toward Jesus.
How about you?
If this message is compelling to you please share it.
If you want to learn more about my journey and philosophy please watch my Tedx talk.
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I love it because it is rapid fire. Seven speakers, seven minutes each, seven unique leadership focused subjects.
I thought it would be helpful to share some of my take aways from this powerful evening. My take aways are not specifically attributable to any one speaker, they are themes that emerged across speakers.
1. Context Matters
A theme that emerged across nearly every speaker was that context matters. First, you as a leader need to find or create a context for yourself where you can utilize your strengths…you need to find fit. If not, finding success will be especially difficult. It is already difficult enough to lead (a bonus theme/take away).
Second, you need to create a context for your people where they can find success. They need to understand what winning means for your organization (e.g. business, not-for-profit, family, team) and need to know how to help the organization win.
2. How You Communicate Matters
It appears to me that many people believe that simply sharing information equals communicating well…not so.
You need to communicate for effect. What is the outcome you desire from your communication? What do you want people to take away? What is the headline you would want to read in the morning regarding your situation?
You need to communicate with the proper tone. Sometimes you need to be dead serious, sometimes humor is appropriate. However, when you use humor you must be thoughtful about it. What is the goal of the humor? Will humor help or harm?
3. Authenticity Matters
Be authentic and allow your people to do the same.
“Covering” at work is very harmful to self and to employees! The act of covering up your true self is exhausting and will lead to under performance and burnout. You need to hire great people and let them bring their whole self to work. You as a leader need to do the same. If not, you will suffer and eventually your people will see through the act.
4. A Learning Orientation Matters
Learning occurs in many ways, the key is that you strive to learn.
You learn through research. You dig until you understand the truth of the matter and the root cause. In doing so you can fix the true problem and avoid reoccurrence.
You learn through experience. Be ambitious, take risks, don’t be afraid to try new things so you can learn and grow.
You learn by seeking and listening to feedback. You need to utilize your strengths, but you also need to understand your areas for future growth. What news tools do you need to acquire?
5. Connections Matter
Leaders need to see and create connections.
You need to understand how the work gets done through your people. Who works with whom to create value. You need to help those folks set aside their self interests so that your organization can flourish.
You also need to understand who should be connected in order to create or seize new opportunity. Understand the people in your world so you can introduce those who will work well together.
6. Nurturing Talent Matters
Great leaders nurture talent.
You need to understand how to best pour into your people. You need to help them develop skills that will benefit the organization, but you also need to enable people to develop and live out their passions (family, community, hobbies) beyond your organization.
That said, you must also fill your own cup. What do you need to grow? What interest do you need to pursue? Which loved one do you need to spend time with? Your cup must remain full in order to be able to pour into other’s cups.
7. Community Matters Can Be Organizational Matters
You need not sacrifice organizational outcomes to help the community. Find the intersection of interests. How can you meet an organizational goal while also meeting a community need?
Understanding the needs of those around you is the key. When you understand people’s true needs you will know how to effectively help and can determine how to align organizational interests.
In the end, by connecting community and organization both those you lead and the community will benefit.
It was a fantastic event and I hope this post conveys a bit of the wisdom that was shared. Make sure to check it out in person next year!
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I find that back to school season is a great time to reflect. Mostly because I can’t think until my kids are back in school. Heading into this particular summer break I felt particularly fried. I was busy all summer, but didn’t feel productive. Maybe you can relate.
When the kids headed back to school I reflected on the summer. I tried to make sense of my lack of measurable output. I barely wrote at all. I kept the balls in the air at work, but didn’t really score many goals.
I truly came to terms with the fact that my progress stalled. I bet you have felt this way a time or two.
I realized I never really took a summer break this year. We took some long weekends that were sandwiched between work travel, the daily grind, and youth sports, but I never really took the time I needed to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.
That was a big mistake!
I came to realize that the sprint I made in the spring left me empty in many ways. I was submitting manuscripts, recording a podcast, trying serve my team, teaching a new course, and delivering a TEDx talk. In many ways last spring culminated in a mountain top moment for me. But we all know the problem with being on a mountain top…
My metaphorical finals week left me drained despite earning good grades.
For those of us who are parents, teachers, coaches, etc we can all see this in the children and young adults around us. They lose focus, their tempers get shorter, they make more mistakes…just like all of us when we run out of juice. If you can’t relate, congratulations, you are super human.
I needed a summer vacation to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.
At the beginning of any good summer vacation – whether it is a week, a month, or the whole summer – you just need to relax. Kids need to swim, run through sprinklers, play games, watch movies, and eat ice cream with their friends.
I personally need some serious kayak time, preferably with fishing involved. I need a few good camp fires with my wife and friends…and of course a few beverages help the cause.
What do you need to relax?
Unless you give yourself some time to decompress you won’t release the pressure that has built up. This will eventually lead to an explosion!
However, summer break cannot just be about decompressing if we are going to use it as a time of growth and refreshment. We can’t live on ice cream alone…some of you might debate me on this point.
As we begin to release pressure we need to take time to strengthen ourselves through nutrition and exercise in order to thrive in our next. Many of us, myself included, can get into some bad eating habits when we are stretched too thin. Don’t even get me started on my exercise routine when I am in the worst phases of the grind.
Kids eat and exercise naturally as long as we provide a conducive environment. The key for them and us is the conducive environment.
Breaks allow us the opportunity to focus on what we need to strengthen our bodies and to reclaim healthy habits.
What habit do you need to reclaim/start to strengthen your body? What needs to change in your environment to keep your body strong?
Physical nourishment isn’t all we need refresh, recharge, and refocus.
At the end of my last sprint my mind was a pile of goo suited for little more than Candy Crush and running errands…
Fortunately breaks allow us time to feed our minds what they need to grow. Our brains are especially receptive when not cluttered with the day to day.
What do you need to learn? Do you need inspiration? Do you need to dream?
Books, documentaries, the theatre, lectures, podcasts, and conversations with thought partners can all provide what we need. We must use our breaks to learn and grow as thinkers and dreamers.
I find that campfires are catalysts for great conversations.
As a Jesus follower I also need breaks to help me get back in touch with my creator and God’s creation. I need time to reconnect with Jesus and to reflect on what he wants for my life.
I often neglect prayer, study, and reflection when I get busy. Although busyness is not an excuse, once I am out of the habit I need time to get refocused. Without reconnecting, refreshing, and refocusing spiritually I don’t feel well directed to move forward.
What do you need to do to reconnect and refresh your soul?
We all need breaks to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus, but then we need to return.
Refueling is a waste if you aren’t going to burn that fuel. By the end of summer I can always tell that it is time for my kids to go back to school. They are stir crazy, bouncing off the walls, focusing their energy poorly…it is time for them to get back to work.
The same is true for us. I believe we are all called to work while on this earth. We should refresh, recharge, and refocus with the aim of returning to serve our people.