Colin Powell’s 13 Rules


I stumbled upon General Colin Powell’s Rule. I was amazed and thankful that I subscribe to the lion’s share of his rule, albeit with slightly different wording. Should you need some guiding principles to move you this year, I’d suggest these.

General Colin Powell’s Rules:

1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your
position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone
else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

25 Great Books To Read This Fall


People ask me for good book recommendations on a regular basis. I love books. I admit, I have too many. I also admit checking books out at the library has never worked for me. For whatever reason, I need to own, to possess, to write in the books that mentor, entertain and form me. I would probably be a millionaire if I could merely check them out at my local library.

When I am asked for a recommendation, I tend to ask questions in order to find out where a particular person is at on their journey; what they are hoping the book will do for them; or what deeper work they sense God is up to in their lives. After I ponder their answers, I have multiple good ‘old friends’ whose clothing of worn, aged pages might be a potential help or new love.

As Fall approaches, and you have visions of entering into the pages of a biblio-journey that will change your life, while savoring a steaming cup of dark roast coffee on a chilly misty morning next to the warmth of your crackling fire, then read on. Here are some offerings that you may not have read.

Here is my disclaimer. I read widely. I read critically. I don’t always read books that I agree with, in fact I generally find ideas that I disagree with in almost every book. So there will be authors in my list that you might think, “Really Monty? I can’t believe you recommended that book!”

It seems we have lost the ability to discern, critique and think for ourselves. We tend to read books exclusively by people we like, or who think exactly as we do. We dislike being stretched, or heaven forbid, challenged in what we think or believe. We need to learn to read, ruminate, ponder, dialog, disagree, stretch and ultimately grow. To that end, we all need some authors who cause us to ask tougher, deeper question freeing us from tribal dominance and the status-quo.

A final disclaimer, the books are not in any order, just some titles you might not have encountered yet.

Having said that, here are some books to consider reading this Fall:

  1. Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. by Eric Metaxas
  2. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, by Walter Brueggeman
  3. Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry. by Ruth Haley Barton
  4. The Way of a Pilgrim (Russian Spiritual Classic). by anonymous
  5. The Normal Christian Life. by Watchman Lee
  6. The Complete Stories (FSG Classics). by Flannery O’Connor
  7. The Prodigal God. by Tim Keller
  8. Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. by Christena Cleveland
  9. Ruthless Trust. by Brennan Manning
  10. The Singer. By Calvin Miller
  11. Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked . by Chris Matthews
  12. The Sparrow. by Mary Doria Russell
  13. The Cure. by Bill Thrall
  14. The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea. by Bob Burg
  15. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. by Gregory Boyle
  16. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Marshall Goldsmith
  17. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. by N. T. Wright
  18. The Alchemist. by Paulo Coelho
  19. The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. by Scot Mcknight
  20. Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh. by Sadhu Sundar Singh
  21. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perennial Modern Classics). by Annie Dillard
  22. The God of Small Things: A Novel. by Arundhati Roy
  23. Night (Night). by Elie Wiesel
  24. The Shack. by Wm. Paul Young
  25. Bonus book: Sacred Space. by MC Wright 🙂

The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants…


“The heart wants what the heart wants.”

I believe Emily Dickinson was the person who coined the phrase. Generally there is a tired-soft-sigh released into the universe when this is spoken. Why do people say this? Well this incantation is intoned when you believe someone made a bad choice that fails the test of reason, rationality and intelligence. Sometimes people have a broken chooser.

Maybe a better way to say it is “The will- will choose whatever the will wants regardless of the advice given.” But that is not as pretty or poetic is it?

The prophet Jeremiah had some thoughts about the heart too:

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
    a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
    and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
    I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
    not as they pretend to be.” 17:9-10

Leaders make decisions every day that confront what the heart wants.

When you make a decision that goes against what the heart of someone wants, you generally are labeled as bad, evil or wrong by the offended heart and the friends of the offended heart who have heard a partial and perspectively limited rendition.

This is when the sigh is exhaled, and the words “the heart wants what the heart wants” mystically fill the air.

Truly, this is a daily reality for those in leadership and it takes more than thick skin to lead through the brokeness of life.

There are three things that every leader needs to employ while navigating the minefield of people’s perceptions and opinions.


I recently was leading through a no win situation. When you find yourself in a no-win situation the worst thing you can do is simply look at your pros and cons list and go with the best potential outcome. If you lead in this fashion, you will always second guess yourself while having all sides mad at you.

Practicing Spiritual Discernment is the best way to lead when all your options leave you with angry people. Listening prayer finds God in extended-focused-silence and intense awareness. Discernment moves you into the heart and mind of God to seek His will and direction rather than your best decision on a matter or issue. God will speak, give an impression, and/or reveal Himself in such a way that you and those with you will experience a unified sense of what to do. When you are in a no-win decision-making process, a unified discernment eliminates second guessing your best decision. Your soul senses a peaceful confirmation of what you need to do no matter how hard it will be. This is a powerful ally when you must have hard conversations. If you are finding consensus elusive, stay with practicing discernment until you reach it…this is both powerful and faith building.


Grace is the great equalizer of all things. We give grace when it is least expected and least deserved…and this is why grace has always been scandalous. It defies the norm, it goes where no man has gone before. Hard conversations need to be bathed in grace before and after. When your decision causes anger, disillusionment or discouragement, practicing grace is critical to creating the space for healing to happen. Without grace, combat will be the only outcome. Grace does not guarantee receptivity though…it simply ensures that you stay on the high road when you are taking some blows.

Jesus spoke into the lives of many who didn’t want to hear the truth He was delivering. When He said, “he who has ears to hear let him hear…” Although He knew that many hearts were not ready or receptive to what He was saying, His response was never tit-for-tat, generally, He asked some questions that caused people to think deeper about their situation.

I have found that grace-filled conversations have kept the relationship alive even while tensions were still alive and well.


You can’t control people…
You can’t control what they think…
You can’t control the circumstances of life…

The only thing you can control is you, and even that is hard! When leading through no win situations you must practice spiritual discernment bathed in grace. After you have received what you sense is God’s direction…say what you need to say and release the person and situation to God.

The problem is…

We want to justify our decisions when people are angry or disagree.
We desperately want people to like us, but that isn’t always possible.
We want to rehash and re-explain until they understand what we were trying to say…but that is often impossible.

So, breathe deeply, trust ferociously and release…
Believe and trust the confirmation you sensed from God…
Pray God’s healing presence into the situation and the people involved…
Stay rooted in God and in love…

Most importantly, stay available because God is always at work and things are never as they seem.

He just might give you an oportunity to experience the miracle of restoration and reconciliation as you continue to discern and release through the power of His grace.


Don’t Govern, Lead

In his book Master Leaders, George Barna has compiled a great collection of leadership principles from thirty noted leaders. One area I resonated with was the differentiation between leadership and governance. The way you approach your leadership will greatly determine the success and growth of the thing you lead. Concerning this concept, Master Leaders notes:

masterleader_3d-2“You see a leader is the person who pursues noble goals with such intensity that others are drawn to those goals. Leadership is taking people where they are not already going. It is about redefining the possible…I have come to understand that leadership is different from governance. Governance is the process whereby minimums are established. In government, the law is passed, and it sets the minimum threshold for activity. If you don’t exceed that threshold, you are the subject of impositions and mandates. Leadership is different from governance because it doesn’t establish the lowest and least that is acceptable, but it inspires people to their highest and best. Whereas governance operates on the basis of mandates, imposition, punishment, and things like that, leadership operates on the basis of models. The outcome of governance is the establishment of a floor. The outcome of leadership is people operating at their highest and best.

This really comes down to a difference between managing and inspiring. The manager will always manage lower level outcomes whereas the one who inspires can see the impossible become reality.

Management focuses on rules, regulations and status quo, and receives exactly that. The one who inspires focuses on potentiality and shattering the status quo.

The difference can also be seen in the kinds of questions these two leaders ask: The manager asks, “How do “I” maintain control and get a task accomplished with the least amount of trouble?” The visionary leader asks, “What have “we” never tried before?”

Managers tend to focus on self, Visionaries/inspirers focus on the team. Both are needed, but an organization with a manager in the lead role will limit it’s potential.

Great leadership is about connecting people to each other and a preferred future that is worthy of pursuit.