I just arrived at my room in Cape Town after three flights from Accra to Nairobi, Nairobi to Johannesburg and Jo’burg to Cape Town. A question on my mind as l flew here far above sea level, sometimes as high as 38,000 feet, has been, “How high is your leadership lid?”
THE FIRST OF THE IRREFUTABLE LAWS OF LEADERSHIP
Of course you know what a lid is, the cover of a container. How high your lid is determines the quality of the leadership that you provide for those you lead. I learnt this a long time ago, some 20-25 years ago from John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It was the very first of the principles of leadership he espoused in that bestseller and my life has never been the same since.
As John challenged me then from the written word—and many years later in-person—I must always endeavour to lift my leadership lid because no family, organization, church, community or country would ever grow past their leader. The leader is the lid over those (s)he leads. Sometimes when training leaders I ask, “are you a leader or ‘lidder’? because a leader is literally the lid on the progress and prosperity of their constituency. In a sense, every leader is a lidder; the question is “how high?”
IMAGINE THIS PRESIDENTIAL LID
You probably have heard me tell the story of a certain African president that a group of us, Maxwell certified leaders, were trying to connect in-person to John C. Maxwell for a national transformation process and programme. This president had never heard of John. In all probability, he hadn’t read any other contemporary leadership experts but hopefully he has digested at the very minimum some of the leadership classics like Plato’s, ‘The Republic’. It is a scary thought that this African nation—and by extension every family, organization, corporation, community, church etc. within her—would be constrained by the tightness of this head of state’s lid. I almost added, “through no fault of theirs,” but I guess they voted him into power.
HOW TO LIFT YOURS
While we educate a new generation that should be too enlightened to allow such tight lidders to lead African nations in the next decade, let me ask you, let’s get personal: how high is your lid? We forget, many of us (or we might even not know), that leadership is not just caught, it must be taught. And that’s why I love the opportunity, come October 07, for us all to be part of a life-altering, lid-lifting Live2Lead virtual experience with local faculty and global ones beaming all the way from Atlanta, Georgia.
We are gunning for 2,000 leaders—from emerging (youth) leaders, through leaders in the establishment (i.e. government/public sector leaders) to established leaders in the private sector, including executives from the corporate space. We will be taught in word and deed by powerful speakers and shakers like John C. Maxwell himself, two Patricks (Lencioni of the USA and Awuah of Ghana) and a Patricia (CEO of Vodafone, Ghana).
RAISE THE ROOF!
One of the most powerful discoveries in psychology over the last generation has been that people can learn and grow and change! So wherever your lid is today, if you learn to lead better you provide more room for those you lead. John will be the first to tell you that “your capacity determines your impact.”
Perhaps, some of the conflicts you are experiencing right now in your organization, church or wherever you lead is because your lid is too low and so people keep hitting it. And there is going to be continued tension and banging (conflict) till at some either you leave the stage or your people take their exit. As you have probably heard it said, people join organizations but they leave people (managers/leaders). It’s time to make room, lift your lid, raise the roof!
I have been part of things l left because the lid was too low. It just wasn’t life giving and l know people have also left my leadership when my lid was low because it was just too tight. Learn to lead. Each one of us can learn to lead better. Blow off the lid so that all of a sudden the people under your leadership feel this space and freedom because you lifted your lid and now they can breathe and create and innovate and… live again.
Join us at Live2Lead Ghana 2022, on October 7, and let’s all learn to lead better so that the people following our leadership can live better. If leading is your purpose on earth—that you live2lead—then you might as well as learn2lead, and do it well. As Donewell Insurance puts it, “If it must be done, it must be done well.” If we must lead, then we must lead well. Let’s blow off some lids and see our constituents blessed beyond measure, growing great and strong.
Right outside my hotel room window is the breathtaking view of the majestic, towering Table Mountain at 3,500 feet above sea level with no real ‘peak’ per se. No lid! So in the meantime, while you contemplate your lid, I will enjoy Cape Town on your behalf.
Register and join LivetoLead here.
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day! I think it makes a difference when you prefix the ‘saint’ before ‘Valentine’s Day’ because unfortunately a lot of unholy things happen on Valentine’s day but it’s a day to celebrate a saint who out of love, gave of himself for others. That’s what the essence of love is, it’s not so much what we can get but what we can give.
This is why I love the commonest scripture which numerous people who are not even Christ-followers know that by heart (John 3:16): “ For God so loved the world that He gave…” Love is three things (3As): Love is an affect (emotion), an attitude, and an action. If you would take another look at the most famous passage in all the world about love, 1 Corinthians 13, you would see love showing up mainly as attitude and action. There are a few affects sprinkled here and there but mainly attitude and action. That’s what love is–not just an affect and an attitude but love is action, so love gives.
On this particular Valentine’s day, I want to send a shout out to the love of my life, Naa Anyele Perbi (nee Ampa-Sowa). We’ve been married for over 15 years now and one of the things that has saved and sweetened our marriage is searching for and satisfying each other’s emotional needs, something we learned from marriage mentors of ours in Montreal, Canada. Gerry and Kathy Kraemer do a marriage workshop and illustrate this beautifully. The point is that each of us–depending on where and how we were born and raised, our make-up/wiring, personality, life’s critical incidents etc.–receive love differently. This is not just the general and popular ‘five love languages’, no! This is way beyond that. This is deeper than that. Based on our life stories, we each have unique emotional needs.
The Kraemers love to tell the emotional needs tale this way: On the day we get married you we exchange vows and say, “I do.” Gerry and Kathy half-joking assert that we probably should rather say, “No clue!” instead of “I do!” for indeed, we have no clue what we are getting into, no matter how much in love we are and how much we think we know of ourselves and of the other. They actually project their 1970s wedding picture and ‘photoshop’ in an ‘invisible’ suitcase by each of them, symbolizing the baggage each of us comes into a marriage relationship with!
And this is how they illustrate it: Gerry is blindfolded by his wife, who then holds a cut-out heart, a big heart, right in front of her. Now, Gerry holding a bow and arrow (the plastic kind with a sucker at the end) then tries to hit the target, the heart of his dear Kathy, going boom, boom boom!!!! And guess what? He misses Kathy’s heart every time. Until eventually he allows her to remove the blindfold so he can now see exactly where her heart is and can strike it point blank or from afar, any and every time.
The point is this: there are a lot of books and audiovisuals out there that talk about love and romance in such generic terms such as ladies love flowers and guys like sex. Don’t buy this stuff! There are guys who love flowers and gals who have a bigger desire and capacity for sex than most men you know! There is actual work to do in specifically finding out through conversation and some tools (those who take our YAW PERBI Family Foundations Mastermind actually get to go through this) to know these things. Basically, you can find out from conservations with or without expert help. What makes your spouse feel fully alive? In other words, what gives oxygen to their souls? When you find that out (when your spouse let’s you in on the master key(s)–and by the way you don’t have to understand it!, you don’t even have to like it–just do it! When your spouse says, “I am XYZ and this is how l love to be loved, would you love me this way?” I hope your answer would be yes!
Today being St. Valentine’s Day, a lot of people are going to give gifts that they would have loved to receive; not gifts people would loved to get, necessarily. That’s how humans behave: we tend to give what we would like ourselves or what we think is good. But if we would take the time to hear the heart of whoever we’re trying to love, they would tell us, they would give us a clue what makes them feel loved or what gives oxygen to their souls.
“I am Yaw, this is how I love to be loved… (Errrm… I won’t tell you! Only Anyele knows that!) …Would you love me this way?” Love somebody the way they want to be loved, the way they feel loved this Valentine’s Day; not the way we want to love them. Have a Happy Valentine‘s Day!!! and a great month celebrating love, true and love, lasting love, pure love, for God is love. Whatever you do today, may be it be saintly!
The following is a snap peak of the preface to the third edition of Dr. Yaw Perbi’s third book, ‘Positiveness: a fuel for success’, first published in 2003 to commemorate his silver jubilee.
It took a global pandemic to make this third edition of Positiveness: A Fuel for Success, possible. I have been trying to republish this book for nearly a decade now. The revised manuscript was done in 2012, and I had nearly completed the back-and-forth with a publishing company. All was ready to go, or so I thought. Then life happened and I put this on the backburner. Until now. It took the lockdowns of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 to get this going again.
I have changed a lot since I turned 25 and first launched this book and so have many things too. We didn’t even have smartphones back then, and the internet was still a novelty. But some things have remained the same. After thousands of copies sold and many countries reached, “through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and joy,” what hasn’t changed is the fact that positiveness is still fuel for success.
In the past two decades, I have lived and worked for a year or more in three countries on two continents. In doing so, I have needed a whole lot of positiveness, especially in those times when I was geographically separated from my family. I have formally had various occupations and preoccupations ranging from being a medical doctor in Ghana, a military captain with the United Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, a leadership consultant and speaker around the world, pastor of a Chinese congregation in the French city of Montreal, a financial security advisor and investment consultant, to being president of a couple of Canadian and global charities. Positiveness is still fuel for success no matter the field of endeavour.
You see, this book was only my third book and, back in 2003, I wrote and self-published it with a white cover and silver inscriptions to celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday (silver jubilee). At the time, I was a struggling medical student in Ghana attempting to do ‘what Napoleon couldn’t do’. I was trying to straddle the world of medicine and human development. In May 2003, together with a group of friends, while still in med school, I founded The HuD Group to inspire and empower young people to reach their full potential. Now I am a full-fledged medical doctor who has hung up his stethoscope— after four years of clinical practice—to focus on human development, especially holistic leadership development, because I sincerely believe, like my mentor John C. Maxwell, that “everything rises and falls on leadership.”
The HuD Group began in Ghana but, at the time of writing this, I am feverishly coordinating our global operations in two dozen countries on all continents of the world and currently domiciled in Montreal, Canada. If I thought I needed a daily prescription of positiveness back in 2003, then I might need a thrice daily prescription now. The two-year battle with the Canada Revenue Agency alone to get charitable status for The HuD Group warrants a book on its own. I’ll save that for another day, but it took positiveness to fuel my success.
When I was much younger and naïve, I dreamed of working with the United Nations. And unlike many for whom that is still a dream, I achieved it. I did that, for a year, in La Cote d’Ivoire. Even while already enjoying that success, I still needed positiveness as fuel when I got car-wrecked on July 21, 2008 and lost two of the military colleagues I was travelling with. It was positiveness that got me back on the road to recovery. My commanding officer, out of rare soldier-sympathy, wanted me to return home (to Accra, Ghana) and recuperate but cheers to positiveness, I was convinced to stay put and serve with grace. I prevailed. Positiveness prevailed.
So yes, life has changed—a whole lot— and so have I since 2003. Now married to my dear wife, Anyele, and a father to seven amazing children, I certainly have a broader and deeper perspective on life today. But if anything, these changes have only affirmed and confirmed the principles that were penned in this book nearly two decades ago. Positiveness is fuel for growth, success, and significance in any and every endeavour, and at whatever age and stage in life, that hasn’t changed.
Do you know the story about the wealthy arts collector and his son? Eventually when both died the man willed all of his wealth—unbeknownst to the other wealthy art connoisseurs and museums who were eyeing his stuff—to whoever bought the ‘unimpressive’ but deeply precious painting of his son. Usually, this story is told in an evangelistic sense for people to consider Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord—“whoever takes the Son, gets it all”—yet this is the same Son who said, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate [THE PRESENCE] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Friend, whoever takes the Spirit, THE PRESENCE, into 2022, gets it all.
THE PAINTING is like THE PRESENCE
Everything you need is in THE PRESENCE; just like every painting the connoisseurs wanted was in that one painting of the son. Moses knew, that everything he and the Israelites would ever need was in THE PRESENCE. And so when God said “I’m not going with you guys any longer,” Moses retorted without skipping a beat, “then we’re not going!”
1Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” (Exodus 3)
As I said in the beginning, many people wouldn’t mind such a deal at all, just like heaven without God! If getting to the Promised Land was guaranteed, with an angel to boot, what’s the problem if it’s ‘only that’ God isn’t coming along for the ride? At the various Watch Night/Cross Over services around the world, I dare say that for the majority of people as long as were assured of the promises of God, angelic guidance and protection, prosperity of what to eat and wear and spend (milk and honey) in 2022, who cares about THE PRESENCE?!
12Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” 14The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
The company you need is in THE PRESENCE, favour is in THE PRESENCE, pleasure is in THE PRESENCE, rest is in THE PRESENCE, distinction is in THE PRESENCE. We’ve all been raised to think how sad it was that Moses never entered the Promised Land. Are you sure? What if I told you he did? What if the Promised Land is God Himself? I’ll leave you to wrestle with that for a bit.
SO WHAT? FOLLOW THE CLOUD
I hope I’ve been able to convince you that EVERYTHING you need for 2022 is in THE PRESENCE of the LORD; all you’ll EVER WANT is in THE PRESENCE. Do you then now have the faith to pray, “Dear God, all I need for the New Year is YOU! so All I want for New Year, is YOU!”
Remember, s(h)e who takes the Spirit, THE PRESENCE, gets everything! Lord, LEAD! LORD, your presence or nothing! Will you follow the crowd or the CLOUD? Using ‘CLOUD’ as an a acronym, here’s how to practicalize this message and maximize THE PRESENCE in 2022: Cultivate, (Be) Led, Obey, Unwind, Discern.
1. CULTIVATE— Cultivate THE PRESENCE
This year, learn to stop at set times (also spontaneously) during the dam, calm your spirit (breathe in and out deeply) and centre yourself by being conscious of your breathing and God’s presence, saying, for example (with breathing in), “Lord, “I breathe in your Spirit…” and as you exhale, “I breathe out my stress or anger.”
Incidentally, on the very 31st January, prior to traveling to preach this message in the evening, my wife and I were going to look at a piece of property and burst a tyre. She had to continue alone in an Uber. Initially I was getting upset, wondering whether this was an attack on 31st or whatever… Then the Spirit reminded me of this very message. I stopped, calmed down, centred myself, cultivating THE PRESENCE.
2. LED— Be Led by the PRESENCE
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…” (Rom 8:14). Let the Lord lead in 2022. Listen & be led.
3. OBEY—Obey the promptings of THE PRESENCE
What more is there to say?
4. UNWIND—Relax, Lounge, Chill and build intimacy with God
Mark Thibodeaux describes four stages of praying, or relating to THE PRESENCE. By unwind I mean the fourth; not the first three.
o Talking at God—This is simply parroting prayers, whether recited ones like “Bless me, Lord, for what we’re about to receive we thank thee O Lord” or the kind of mindless speaking in tongues
o Talking to God—We become more comfortable finding our own words to speak to God, rather than readymade prayers but still “give me, give me, give me more, Lord.”
o Listening to God—This is when we begin to enjoy a two-way relationship with him.
o Being with God—A final stage is where “finally, we simply enjoy being in the presence of God—who loves us. This is far more important than any particular activity we might do with Him [or for Him]. His presence makes all of life fulfilling.”
5. DISCERN—Scripture says we should not be foolish and act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants us to do, understudy God’s moves and waves and will. Moses said, “show me your ways” as He asked for God’s presence and glory. My favourite definition of discernment is Ruth Haley Barton’s: “the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God—both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives.”
Let’s thank God for every time you experienced THE PRESENCE in 2021. Confess your eagerness to have stuff and success in 2022 but not necessarily HIM! Let’s pray for a life that follows the CLOUD in 2022. If you’re serious about THE PRESENCE, tell God, in the words of Don Moen’s classic:
If Your presence doesn’t go with us
Lord we don’t want to leave this place
Lord we need You near
As we go from here
To lead us by Your love and grace
May Your presence fill us every day
May Your Spirit lead the way
Lord to You we call
Let Your glory fall
And may Your presence go with us
If we have found favor in Your sight
Show us Your ways O Lord
Cause we want to know You
And live in Your light
For all of our days
Show us Your ways
We have our hopes
And we have our dreams
But we cannot go
Where You will not lead
Lord to You we call
Let Your glory fall
And may Your presence go with us
Rest assured, we have a guaranteed general, guide, guard, giver and glory for 2022, the “Captain of Israel’s Host,” THE PRESENCE.
17When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. … 20After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13)
THE PRESENCE FROM EGYPT
God will not necessarily lead you through the shortest routes in 2022 but the best routes, according to His good, pleasing and perfect will. God was Israel’s captain as they exited Egypt to possess the Promised Land. A captain is a commanding officer of a ship, someone in command or a leader of a group (like a football team). This captainship is clearly captured in phrases like “God did not lead them…” (v. 17); “So God led the people…” (v. 18); “By day the LORD went ahead of them… to guide them” (v. 21); “…in front of the people” (v. 22).
And they were many, an estimated 2 million of them! It is no wonder they are described as a host (like stars or a vast army). A host is “a multitude or great number of persons or things.” God was the General, Guard & GPS of this ginormous group, host!
THE PRESENCE IN ENGLAND
It is this amazing story in Exodus 13 that captured the imagination of Charles Wesley (1707-1777), the brother of the founder of Methodism (John Wesley) to pen those words in 1762 (the original words are in bold, my brief commentary is in italics):
Captain of Israel’s host, and Guide
Of all who seek the land above,
The same God who was Captain of the Israelites exiting Egypt to the Promised Land called Canaan is the Guide of those of us who eventually want to exit Earth to the Promised Land above we call Heaven;
He can be the General of those of us exiting 2021 and wanting to enter the Promised Land called 2022. For he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
The cloud of Thy protecting love;
The shadow, cloud, pillar of fire—these are all metaphors of THE PRESENCE.
Will you abide (John 15) in THE PRESENCE for intimacy (love), protection, provision, piloting (guidance), production (fruitfulness)…
Our strength, Thy grace, our rule, Thy Word;
Jesus Himself says, “my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness in 2022” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
What laws or constitution or playbook will you live by in 2022? How about the Basic Information Before Leaving Earth (Bible), which itself is already saturated with THE PRESENCE?
Our end, the glory of the Lord.
Is God’s glory the purpose and end goal of your life or your own idea of what is cool and successful? God’s own glory is God’s mission!
It is no greatness if it brings God no glory!
A WORD ABOUT GOD’S GLORY IN UNEXPECTED PLACES & WAYS
God’s glory can show up in ways and places that are strange to the human mind. Think about it: one day in John 9, “As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God [or the glory of God] might be displayed in him.” But blindness?!
How about when Jesus says to Peter (John 21), “Very truly I tell you [Jesus says to Peter], when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” A death that glorifies God? Come on! JUST FOLLOW THE PRESENCE.
THE PRESENCE is powerful; even in the valley of the shadow of death, according to twenty-third Psalm, I fear no evil for you are with me (THE PRESENCE). In Genesis 39, “…while Joseph was there in the prison, 21the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” THE PRESENCE in prison; glory through prison. Unstoppable God; unboundable PRESENCE!
BACK TO EXODUS
We’re told in the ninth chapter of the book of Numbers that:
17Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23At the Lord’s command [captain of the host!] they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.
The second verse of Wesley’s hymn continues…
By Thine unerring Spirit led,
We shall not in the desert stray
THE PRESENCE makes no mistakes—He is the omniscient (all-knowing) One to steer us aright from missing our way yet if we sin and stubbornly deviate He also is the gracious omniponent (all-powerful) One to, like a GPD does, re-route us, even if it takes 40 years in the wilderness! Re-calculating… Re-calculating…
We shan’t be lost in 2022, amen!
Just move when God moves; stop when He does; stay when he stays.
We shall not full direction need
It was reprinted in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780), where John Wesley altered this line 3 of verse 2 from, ‘The light of man’s direction need’ to ‘We shall not full direction need’.
Nor miss our providential way;
Just as He gives us our daily bread, let us look to Him for daily direction. There is no grace for tomorrow; only today. We don’t need the full direction! Sometimes we don’t even need direction in our heads or hearts; he just orders our steps, like Simeon!
As far from danger as from fear,
While Love, almighty Love, is near.
God is Love, and the Bible says “perfect love drives out fear.” Fear and God cannot co-exist. In 2022, God will keep us far from danger just as He will keep us far from fear, as long as THE PRESENCE is near!
Hallelujah! Finally, in Part 3, we’ll end with Moses’ craving of THE PRESENCE and why we should too–abiding angels and promised properties, even flowing milk and honey, just won’t do. I share five practical tips on maximizing THE PRESENCE.
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed, elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.
Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home.
As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his, not to mention his father’s, love of fine art. “I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.” As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the son.
Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture over the fireplace.
A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went well above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy’s life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.
As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation! Unmindful of the story of the man’s only son, but in his honor, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift. The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many claim “I have the greatest collection.”
The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent.
“Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked.
Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the good stuff.”
More voices echoed in agreement. “No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now, who will take the son?”
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke, “Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”
“I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?” called the auctioneer.
After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Gone.” The gavel fell, cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!”
The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what’s going on here!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”
Puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same: the love of a Father, a Father whose greatest joy came from His Son, who went away and gave His life rescuing others. And because of that Father’s love, whoever takes the Son, gets it all.
As I prayerfully pondered how best to enter 2022 personally as well as what to share with a church plant on the Akuapem mountains (in the Eastern Region of Ghana) that had invited me as guest preacher for their Watch Night service, THE PRESENCE became overwhelming clear.
WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR 2022?
Take a pause and sincerely answer the question: What do I want for 2022? How about THE PRESENCE as a present? Yes, God is everywhere (omnipresent) so why does He say where two or three are gathered in His name He is present, among them? God can choose to concentrate His presence in a person or place, and that is what I mean by THE PRESENCE. My aim is to show that everything you need for 2022 is in THE PRESENCE of the LORD; all you’ll ever want is in THE PRESENCE. At the end of this, my prayer is that like the Mariah Carey song, “All I want for Christmas is you,” you’ll leave here saying, “Dear God, all I need for the New Year is YOU!” so “All I want for the New Year, is YOU!”
HEAVEN CAN BE HELL
Four years ago, when I was still president of ISMCanada, I led a team to organize our biennial staff conference for most of our 100 staff from coast to coast to come to McGill University in Montreal, on the east coast of Canada. One of the devotional speakers I arranged to exhort the conference attendees was a young pastor (he’s a white African from Zimbabwe) from the Peoples Church of Montreal. Pastor Chris asked a question that I would like to repeat: HOW MANY OF YOU WOULD STILL LOVE TO BE IN HEAVEN EVEN IF GOD WASN’T THERE? My own response revealed my heart and I was shocked. I realized to my utter shock and shame, I didn’t really mind being in Heaven—the golden streets, tree of life, worship music, peace, no more sickness, sweat or tears…—even if God was absent.
But really, WHAT IS HEAVEN WITHOUT GOD? Heaven without God is hell! Samuel Rutherford put it this way, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.” Teresa of Avila said, “Wherever God is, there is heaven.” And for John Milton, “Thy presence makes our paradise, and where thou art is heaven.” Simply put, God’s presence is paradise.
Now, let me ask you: WOULD STILL LOVE TO ENTER 2022 EVEN IF GOD WASN’T THERE? 2022 without God is hell. Yet even Covid in 2022 with God is heaven. Everything you need is in the Presence of Yahweh; is it protection, provision, guidance, favour, promotion, strength…? It’s in all in THE PRESENCE. For many of us, we don’t mind having this stuff without God coming along! We want his hand but not his face; we want his stuff but not him. That is a tragedy of our times; an error!
This last Christmas season, I was really challenged by the Spirit-led life of Simeon in Luke 2. He was a righteous and devout man in Jerusalem who Joseph and Mary met when the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, and they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Interestingly, my main text for this message, Exodus 13, begins by explaining that what was written in the Law of the Lord—“Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”—was part of the Exodus story as God killed all the firstborns of Egypt and spared the Israelites’.
Simeon was no special person per se—not a priest, prophet, pharisee, politician—just an ordinary guy who thought right, acted right, was in right and intimate relationship with the LORD and devoted to Him. He was waiting for the promised Jewish Messiah (“the consolation of Israel,” they would say) and the Holy Spirit was on him [THE PRESENCE]. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Someone reading this needs revelation in 2022; it’s in THE PRESENCE.
Just check out at the intimacy in THE PRESENCE—such a deep thing that thousands of generations had waited for in faith, and God chooses to promise this sight to simple Simeon! It reminds me of Abraham’s intimacy with the LORD to the extent that God said, before he would rain judgment on Sodom & Gomorrah, “shall I hide what I’m about to do from Abraham].
Moved by the Spirit [THE PRESENCE compels, propels], he went into the temple courts right when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required. Indeed, the steps of the righteous are ordered by THE PRESENCE]. Simeon took him in his arms [may you too take hold of and take delivery of God’s promises in 2022 by THE PRESENCE] and praised God [there is praise in THE PRESENCE], saying some amazing things which made Mary and Joseph “marvel” (v. 33), including prophesying some incredible things like the crucifixion, all of which could only have been revelation. Such is the life of an individual in THE PRESENCE.
In Part 2, I share about the remarkable Israelites-in-the-desert example of THE PRESENCE, so well-summarized in the following famous two-stanza Wesleyan hymn:
Captain of Israel’s host, and Guide
Of all who seek the land above,
Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
The cloud of Thy protecting love;
Our strength, Thy grace, our rule, Thy Word;
Our end, the glory of the Lord.
By Thine unerring Spirit led,
We shall not in the desert stray
We shall not full direction need
Nor miss our providential way;
As far from danger as from fear,
While Love, almighty Love, is near.
Find Part 2 here.
Marketplace leaders of faith, it’s time to align. Since returning to Ghana, after several years mainly in Canada, that is a word I’ve heard a lot in my re-orientation: align. “Let’s align, let’s align,” I hear this quite often! CEOs want to align with their boards, other C-level executives need to align with their various teams, sales and marketing must be congruent, and everyone needs to align with the company’s vision, mission and values. All well and good.
Let’s elevate this alignment conversation as I dedicate this particular blog to marketplace leaders who are Christ-followers. The Christ-following marketplace leader does not, and indeed cannot, have the same motives and bottom line as someone who isn’t a Christ-follower. This week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of emerging leaders on “Man with a Vision on a Mission,” which was essentially about the purpose of life. Dr. Myles Munroe of blessed memory once put it so poignantly, “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.” Purpose is when you know and understand what you were born to be and accomplish, what something was made for. Or as they say in the French city of Montreal my family and I have been domiciled in for over a decade, raison d’être (reason for being). I’ve also held discussions with some of the C-level executives in the Ghana Club 100 from mining to fintech about purpose. (Ghana has christened the top 100 companies as the Ghana Club 100, akin to the Fortune 500 in the United States). These premium companies have profit, for sure, but how about purpose?
WHY WE ‘GO TO MARKET’
We are in business for profit, that’s the bottomline—or so we thought until a couple of decades ago, the concept of ‘Triple Bottom Line’ arose (thank you John Elkington) as a result of people pursuing profit at the expense of human well-being and the sustainability of our earth. The bottomline has since been triadized as Profit, People, and the Planet. That’s the triple bottomline. All three come together for holistic prosperity and complete sustainability.
Profit, is about acing financial performance, generating dollars for shareholders. By People we mean a focus on a business’s societal impact, or its commitment to human beings—within and without the company or organization. People are the other stakeholders beyond the shareholders (who are taken care of largely by profit). We mean people impacted by business decisions from customers and employees to community members. With all the talk about climate change and the like, companies are now tasked to also aim at making a positive impact on the Planet as they seek to capitalize on it to make profit.
Yet while all three are important to everyone in the market—of all faiths, little faith or no faith—I refer to the above treble as the temporal bottom line. There is a timeless triple bottom line, which is what I want to draw the attention of marketplace leaders of faith to.
MISSION IN THE MARKET
I’ve realized that we need a reorientation of why we’re in the marketplace, and what our mission is, as Christ-followers. I often tell people that if they don’t have a personal purpose statement, they wouldn’t know which company to work with or for because they won’t know if they are aligned. Your values must be compatible with theirs. Similarly, if you are a Christ-follower, your mission in the marketplace must be aligned with God’s mission.
What exactly is God’s mission? That’s the timeless triple bottom line I refer to. God is on a three-fold mission in the world:
1. Towards Himself—to bring glory to Himself. God gets glory when we reflect His good nature in our being and doing. He desires, and deserves, to receive glory also from the obedience, service and worship of all nations and peoples in every sphere of life, from Archaeology to Zoology. Are your life, leadership and work God-glorifying?
2. Towards creation—to bring a blessing to all created things. God is on a mission to bless all of creation, not just people. People, first and foremost, but all of creation is a candidate for God’s blessing. While the blessing would include the temporal financial profit, people’s prosperity and the planet’s care (triple bottom line), the greatest of blessing is all creation being freed from the penalty, power and presence of sin to be God’s friend once more, to worship and serve Him and reflect His nature lost once-upon-an-Eden again. So, the second-fold mission of God in blessing creation comes through in the 3BL of business, but there is a redemptive element that I dare to say is the most important. I say this because that will outlast how long profit, this planet and this life will endure. Are your life, leadership and work creation-blessing?
3. Against evil—to vanquish evil and establish His Kingdom on earth. Yes, your mission as part of God’s grand mission is to pillage evil to establish God’s righteous, just, and equitable Kingdom on earth forever and ever, as it is in heaven. Are your life, leadership and work evil-crushing and Kingdom-establishing?
PRAYER AT WORK
We see the above three-fold mission of God in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples:
1. Glory to Himself—“Our father in Heaven, Hallowed be your name… For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.”
2. Blessing to Creation—“Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts (sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
3. Against Evil—“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven… And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…”
Organizing prayer at work with like-minded, same-hearted folk of faith is good but being the answer to the prayer is even better—makes it complete.
Consider this! As a person, am I aligned with God’s mission? Is this what my life, leadership and work are all about: bringing God glory, blessing creation, defeating evil and establishing God’s kingdom? Is that what my company stands for?
So being an effective agent of God in the marketplace is going for the timeless triple bottom line for God’s glory, for blessing people and the planet in general, but especially the blessing of redemption, and ultimately defeating evil to establish God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, starting with your workplace. This is the tried-and-true-and-timeless triple bottom line. Is your work and leadership redemptive?
We must all align ourselves with God’s mission because to be with God on his mission is the greatest cause of all time for all people on Earth in any and every era. Oh, that it would be done in our marketplaces as it is in heaven!
I’m very excited to begin my doctorate in global leadership this week. Having been a student of leadership for the last 25 years plus and acquired a Master’s degree in it a few years ago, I’ve felt it’s time to do the whole nine yards, not so much for the title (after all I’m already a doctor) but to go deeper and be even better-seasoned in my darling subject (or is it object?).
In going this doctorate route, I opted for a seminary environment because faith matters immensely to me, and indeed to the majority people in the world. The increased secularization of a formerly mainly ‘Christian’ Europe and certain sections of American society seems like an overwhelming flood to many only because it is a sharp deviation from the not-so-distant past when there was hardly any division between church and state; but also because the West disproportionately fills the media space. Only last week the German national broadcaster shared that a recent poll showed “most Germans find religion unimportant.” Yet the fact remains that the majority of the world has and practices a faith of sorts. In 2025, 90% of the world will be religious, my friends who run Operation World say; and by 2050, at least 87% of the world will still be religious, according to Pew Research.
The mid-twentieth-century secularization theory—that an increase in modernity means a decrease in religion— has been largely debunked by the likes of Berger (2014). According to Todd Johnson, who I just exchanged emails with, an astute associate professor of Global Christianity and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “Despite increased modernity the world has in fact become more religious; 80.8% of the global population self-identified with a religion in 1970, rising to 88.1% in 2010 and with a projected increase to 91.5% by 2050,” higher than Pew’s projected 87% cited in the previous paragraph! Even the ‘unaffiliated’ doesn’t mean they aren’t religious; it often means they choose not to be identified with any ‘institutionalized’ religion. Just as humans have a physical, social and mental components that cannot be denied, so is there a spiritual capacity that we cannot run away from. French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal put it succinctly, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator,” and in his experience and exposure, “by God the creator made know through Jesus Christ.”
By the way, I use the world ‘religion’ generally (and maybe even generously) because as an insider of the Christian faith I wouldn’t call Christianity a religion per se. Religion connotes man in search of God while in the Christian faith it is actually God in search of man. Not only that, religion tends to paint a picture of rigorous rules and rituals while true Christianity is more of a relationship with the Divine than a set of rituals or rules per se. That being said, for the purpose of this article faith, spirituality, divine relationship and religion are all being treated as ‘religion.’
FAITH AND WORK, FAITH @ WORK
Without God, and my faith in Him, I do not have a reason for being, a raison d’être. Neither do I have sustainable passion for my doings because all of it feels like, in the words of the wisest and wealthiest monarch ever, “vanity of vanity, it’s all vanity.” I have observed with grave concern the increasing divorce of faith from the work space, treating it like the plague or some highly contagious disease. Even on work-centric social media like LinkedIn, one cannot help but get the feeling that the mention of God in posts ‘spoils the atmosphere,’ which is riddled with human achievements, of brain and brawn (mainly the former), simply singing of how great we are.
But statistically, 90% and over of the people on LinkedIn are religious. There are myriads like me who know we wouldn’t be as excellent professionally but for our faith. Meanwhile, all who have an active religious affiliation yet act at work as if they have no faith are walking on the dangerous ground of inauthenticity. It is not integrous to want to, or have to, hide such an important part of one’s life as spirituality or faith in a space that easily takes up a third to half of our waking hours: work!
This week, a Muslim mate of mine from medical school, now a neurosurgeon, posted on our year group’s WhatsApp platform a screenshot of a heartfelt social media post someone had made about Dr. Aba Folson, one of our Christian colleagues who is now a cardiologist. This person who made the post, a nurse, starts by saying, “I have been blessed in my journey in the Nursing/Healthcare space to be working with amazing, highly religious health workers. One of such awesome ladies is Dr Aba Folson. She is a Cardiologist.”
She goes on to describe “her humility, assertiveness, excellence and brilliance” and how Aba has “broken protocols to help save my very critically ill patients.” The protocols she speaks of, I believe, were put in place to save patients in the first place, but there are situations where one has to do the unusual and even unconventional at great risk, which separates humans from machines and even artificial intelligence. The wisdom and courage to make such calls, Dr. Folson will say, I know for sure, comes from above. The writer of the text seems to be enamoured by the fact that Aba is “an astute Christian and sings in the choir.”
ALL WE NEED IS RESPECT
I still remember zooming down the corridor between the ER and the blood bank to fetch blood for a critically ill child. This was during my days as a medical officer at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra. We usually had junior staff who would do that but no, this young doctor run in his white coat. The child’s mother gathered the energy to attempt to run alongside me. Barely catching up and hardly catching her breath she managed to say these words, which I shall never forget, “Doctor, doctor I can tell you are a Christian.” She must’ve known that for a Christ-follower the Pauline admonition about work is clear and strong: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
What is needed, indeed all that is needed, is for respectful co-existence in a pluralistic workplace, which is a microcosm of a really pluralistic world. The fight for diversity and inclusion in the workplace must not, and indeed cannot, be limited to ethnicity, age, gender, (dis)ability and such alone but faith as well. The majority of us wouldn’t be present at work with purpose and perform with passion and excellence without it, and none of us will be authentic in the workplace pretending we didn’t have it.
Faith works. Let your religion work at work—faith, love and hope at work. Your faith should make you a better professional; not worse. If your faith doesn’t make you better at work—which is all about service to humankind made in the image and likeness of God—it’s not worth following. Change it. Let’s see faith at work working, doing good works that bring God glory and bring about the good society—that’s the way it ought to be.
Right after I posted this blog, I came across a photo and headline on LinkedIn that said, “South African doctor: Professor “Mashudu Tshifularo” just became the first surgeon on earth to successfully perform surgery [with 3D technology] to cure deafness. He is also a pastor.” Ahem. Point nailed!
Life is lived forwards but understood backwards. That sounds very much like one of those witty sayings from my bank of African proverbs but the person I read that from first was the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. In his own mother tongue “Livet skal forstaas baglaens, men leves forlaens,” translates into “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
In a recent conversation with my brother and friend of nearly two decades, Rev. Albert Ocran, he prophetically said to me without butting an eyelid that when he looks at my entire life it can be distilled into one word: leadership, to which I replied with my head bopping like an agama lizard, “That is true, you are right!” (By the way I have given him the title, “Thought Distiller.” He’s doing a wonderful job distilling the life lessons of several leaders in society for the general public on his Springboard Road Show.) Albert is one of the few who ‘gets’ my life, probably because he is an ardent believer in something he himself calls “convergence.”
I have been accused by some of living a scattered life (“all over the place”) while others have expressed concern I might not make much of a dent in the universe (impact) because of how spread my life has been (and continues to be?). I have been a medical doctor, award-winning speaker, punching preacher, best-selling author, publisher, military officer, U.N. peacekeeper, cross-cultural pastor, serial entrepreneur from media to real estate to education, president & CEO, television presenter, financial advisor, investment consultant, founder of many things, corporate trainer, life and executive coach, inspirational teacher, lived in three countries over the last dozen years and served in 45 … So who are you, what are you? people wonder. Although I owe no one an explanation except the One who gave me life, permit me to share two pivotal paradigms, nay convictions, with you.
(1) META-PERFORMANCE–Milking Your Full Potential
First of all, there is the notion of meta-performance. Many of us never explore or exploit our full potential because we get stuck in being the best at something in comparison with others, rather than constantly exploring the question, “What am I capable of?” There is no reason to be stuck in a hospital because I was trained as a medic when I have the ability to author books as well, something the majority of my med school mates may not have the aptitude for. Shall I therefore not write because other doctors cannot? I resolved when I was but a youth, as entrenched it in my personal mission statement, to “die empty.” To die having utilized and exhausted every gift in me, but now I add, “within my God-given limits.” After all, like you I have only one life to live and have only 24 hours in each day. Besides, with a wife and seven children, family is a blessing which comes with its own limits as well.
Suffice it to say I encourage the youth in particular to spend their first 30-35 years at least, exploring and exploring and exploring until they finally hit oil. Don’t forget the parable of the talents: one was given five, another three, and a third servant, one, each according to their ability. Why should the chap with five compare himself with the person with one and underperform? As has been wisely said, the talents we have are God’s gift to us; what we do with them is our gift back to God. Meta-perform!
(2) CONVERGENCE–Connecting the Dots
But I digress, which is funny because the point I want to make next is about (a word that Albert loves): CONVERGENCE. We all must get to a point in our lives when we can look back and connect the dots, and see that all these seemingly scattered and unrelated aspects of our lives, including the lows and the pains, can all really come together to make one huge statement and result in an integrated life. The reason Kierkegaard’s words speak profoundly to me is that when I reflect on my seeming scatteredness, when I look backwards, I see that the many different-coloured strands have a common thread: leadership. That is why I doff my hat to Albert for being so spot on. I have not been called to be a medical doctor or military officer or media man or investment guru per se but a leader in every sphere I’ve been given talent and opportunity in. Is leadership a career? If it is then, then that’s mine. If it isn’t then I do not have a career.
The late Apple founder Steve Jobs put this Kierkegaard philosophy of looking backwards and Albert Ocran’s love of convergence into a very powerful statement: “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
BACK TO THE FUTURE
This issue speaks to a powerful leadership practice we must all have: reflection. Reflection, really, is the rhythm of leadership. There is no understanding without reflection. Unless we lead from a place of pause, we will not be able to distill the lessons in life. Not only will we miss out on ourselves, others and even life itself but also our lives and leadership will be shallow. Take it from a guy who is almost always busy running around and has been described by my nonagenarian mentor in Britain as peripatetic. I’m learning more and more to be in solitude and silence, otherwise there is no understanding of the life lived or the thrill of the act of connecting the dots. I would wish that we all, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, can say after our own backwards reflection, “later the true significance of what happened would inevitably become clear to me, and I would be numb with surprise.”
The fuller philosophy of Kierkegaard is this: “It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards.” Don’t keep looking only in the rearview mirror, that’s not where you’re going. But surely do look into it momentarily from time to time for the wherewithal to live and lead forwards with meaning. Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.