Help! I’m in Charge | Influence Podcast


“If you want to make a difference,” writes Rod Loy, “if you want to fulfill God’s calling for your life, if you want to be a leader, you have to be willing to pay the price. This is the difference between changing the world and living your life without impact.”

In Episode 165 of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Rod Loy about this and other leadership insights from his new book, Help! I’m in Charge.

Rod Loy is senior pastor of First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and executive presbyter for the General Council of the Assemblies of God. In addition to Help! I’m in Charge, he’s the author of Immediate Obedience, 3 Questions, and After the Honeymoon, all of which are available in both English and Spanish.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Finish | Book Review

Most people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to a commonly cited statistic, 92 percent of resolution-makers become resolution-breakers. The odds may not be ever in your favor, it seems.

Of course, most people don’t accomplish their goals, period. It doesn’t matter to your body whether you resolve to eat right and exercise on January 1 or July 17, for example. The only thing that matters is whether you eat right and exercise. You can start doing those things — or not doing them — any time of the year. The same goes with any other goal.

So why do our resolutions fail? Why don’t we finish what we start? There may be any number of reasons, but Jon Acuff thinks that perfectionism is “the ultimate villain.”

He writes:

The problem is that perfectionism magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress. It does not believe in incremental success. Perfectionism portrays your goal as a house of cards. If one thing doesn’t go perfectly, the whole thing falls apart. The smallest misstep means the entire goal is ruined.

Perfectionism also messes us up by making us aim too high. There are perhaps a thousand reasons 92 percent of resolutions fail, but one of the greatest is also one of the most deceptive.

When we create a goal, we aim for something better. We want to look better. We want to feel better. We want to be better. But then better turns into best. We don’t want small growth. We want massive, overnight success.

The key to keeping your New Year’s resolutions and accomplishing your goals starts with kicking perfectionism to the curb. This is easier said than done, however, so Acuff recommends taking six action steps:

  1. Cut your goal in half.
  2. Choose what to bomb.
  3. Make it fun if you want it done.
  4. Leave your hiding places and ignore noble obstacles.
  5. Get rid of your secret rules.
  6. Use data to celebrate your imperfect progress.

Again, this looks easy, but while Acuff keeps the tone of the book light — he’s a very witty author — there are sound motivational principles behind his advice. And he fleshes out how to take each action step with concrete examples, diagnostic questions and helpful suggestions.

Reading a book isn’t a magic wand. Accomplishing your goals requires work, often hard work. But the work doesn’t have to be impossible or joyless. In fact, it should be doable and tap into your deepest hopes.

As the New Year begins, don’t let the best get in the way of the better. Don’t let perfectionism hinder progress, however small. Be realistic, be patient…and get ’er done!


Book Reviewed
Jon Acuff, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done (New York: Portfolio, 2017).

P.S. I wrote this review for It appears here by permission.

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Review of ‘The Power of the Other’ by Dr. Henry Cloud

The-Power-of-the-OtherHenry Cloud, The Power of the Other: The Startling Effect Other People Have on You, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom and Beyond—and What to Do About It (New York: Harper Business, 2016).

Leaders often say, “It’s lonely at the top.” That’s true, of course—at least to an extent—but it’s also tragic. Leadership doesn’t have to be lonely.

In fact, as Dr. Henry Cloud argues in The Power of the Other, success depends on relationship. “The undeniable reality,” he writes, “is that how well you do in life and in business depends not only on what you do and how you do it, your skills and competencies, but also on who is doing it with you or to you” (emphasis in original).

But not just any relationship! What leaders need is “specific qualitiative relational connectedness” (emphasis in original). This is what Cloud calls “True Connection” or “Corner Four relationship.”

In Corner One relationships, leaders feel “disconnected.” He writes: “True connection always means being emotionally and functionally invested in other people, in a give-and-receive dynamic. Disconnection lacks something, in one direction or the other—either in the giving or the receiving. Truly connected people do both. They are emotionally present and able to give and to receive.”

In Corner Two relationships, leaders have “a bad connection.” They experience a “connection, preoccupation, or pull toward a person who has the effect of making you feel bad or ‘not good enough’ in some way” (emphasis in original). Think of a son trying to gain the respect of a hypercritical dad or an employee trying to please a boss who rarely praises employees.

In Corner Three relationships, leaders form a “seductively false ‘good connection.’” In this corner, leaders gravitate toward relationships that make them feel good. They cultivate people who flatter and praise them but overlook people in the organization who bear bad news. People in high-stress jobs who live in Corner Three often find themselves engaging in extramarital affairs or using addictive substances to maintain an artificial “high.”

None of these corners is a good place to be. Leaders need to go to Corner Four. Here, leaders form a “real connection” with others, “one in which you can be your whole self, the real, authentic you, a relationship to which you can bring your heart, mind, soul, and passion. Both parties to the relationship are wholly present, known, understood, and mutually invested. What each truly thinks, feels, believes, fears, and needs can be shared safely.”

In contemporary parlance, authenticity is often interpreted in non-relational terms. “I gotta be me!” people exclaim. The problem is that this understanding of authenticity is individualistic, not relational. “I gotta be me” is often used to slough off or criticize the counsel others are trying to give us. That’s not what Corner Four looks like.

Instead, Cloud identifies eight characteristics of Corner Four relationships. True connection:

  • fuels,
  • gives freedom,
  • requires responsibility,
  • defangs failure,
  • challenges and pushes,
  • builds structure,
  • unites instead of divides,
  • and is trustworthy.

When we truly connect with others, they help us draw out the full potential of who we really are and what we can truly be. Relationship makes authenticity possible.

Cloud opens the book with a story that I’ll close with. It’s about “Hell Week,” the final week of training for Navy SEALs. That week is “a grueling exercise requiring the utmost physical and mental endurance, pushing these already-at-the-top specimens to their absolute limits.” Cloud’s brother-in-law Mark was a Navy SEAL who was later killed in Iraq. In the days after Mark’s death, Bryce, one of Mark’s fellow SEALs told, how he almost failed “Hell Week.”

He was swimming in the cold Pacific Ocean after a week of grueling training. A way from the shore, he “hit the wall.” Cloud comments, “He tried to will himself to keep going, but his body would not obey.” It was at that moment that Bryce looked up and saw Mark, who had already reached land. Mark caught his eye, gave him a fist pump, and yelled an encouraging, “You can do it!” And that was all Bryce needed. “His body jumped into another gear,” Cloud writes, “into another dimension of performance that he had not had access to before…That is the ‘power of the other.’”

To be one’s true self, to reach one’s full potential—whether as a leader, a spouse, a parent, or whatever—you and I need others. Authenticity requires relationship. That’s what The Power of the Other is all about.

I recommend the book highly.

P.S. This review first appeared at

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Review of ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth

GritAngela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York: Scribner, 2016).

Every year, approximately 14,000 high school juniors apply to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Of these, about 4,000 secure the necessary nomination from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate or from the vice president. Of these, around 2,500 meet West Point’s standards for academics and physical fitness. Of these, only 1,200 are granted admission. And among these, approximately 20 percent drop out before graduation. In other words, only 7 percent of high school juniors who apply to West Point actually graduate from it.

Angela Duckworth cites these statistics at the outset of Grit in order to ask a simple question: Why do some people succeed? That question is relevant to military training, of course, but also to a host of other endeavors: business, education, athletics, entertainment, artistry, technical trades, etc. In any field of effort, some people rise to the top. What psychological factors explain their achievement?

A common answer is “genius,” which describes a knack or talent for something. We look at child prodigies and think, They will do great things. Success is simply in their nature. Angela Duckworth thinks the “genius” argument is not helpful. When we focus on natural talent, we begin to think that success in a given endeavor is pre-determined. And we overlook other factors that might be in play.

Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2013 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship—the so-called “genius grant.” Over the years, she has amassed a growing body of research to indicate that “grit” is more important than “genius” when it comes to determining success. Her book explains what grit is and why it matters (Part I), how to grow grit from the inside out (Part II), and how to grow grit from the outside in (Part III).

First, the definition: Grit is a “combination of passion and perseverance.” Duckworth writes: “no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. [That’s perseverance.] Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. [That’s passion.] They not only had determination, they had direction” (emphasis in original).

In defining grit this way, Duckworth isn’t knocking the role of genius or talent. She’s simply putting it in a larger context. A genius may fail through lack of grit, whereas a non-genius might succeed through abundance of it. Indeed, her data indicates that grit is a better predictor of success than genius or talent. (The smartest and most physically able West Point applicants did not necessarily make it through to graduation, for example.)

A crucial tenet of grit theory is that grit can be developed. And if it can be developed, then greater levels of achievement can be earned. That brings us to the second part of Duckworth’s book: how to develop grit from the inside out. These chapters focus on the psychology of the would-be achiever. Gritty people have four key “psychological assets”:

  • Interest: “intrinsically enjoying what you do”
  • Practice: “the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday”
  • Purpose: “the conviction that your work matters,” that it is “integrally connected to the well-being of others”
  • Hope: “the expectation that our efforts can improve our future”

Duckworth describes each of these assets using both anecdotes and data, and she offers practical advice for how to develop these assets personally.

The third section of Grit shows how passion and perseverance can be instilled in us through the example and advice of others. Here, Duckworth focuses on the roles that parents, teachers, extracurricular activities, and culture—corporate or team culture, not national culture—can play in growing gritty individuals. There’s sound, practical advice for leaders in these chapters. As a parent, I was particularly drawn to her advocacy of “wise parenting,” which strives to create an environment for children that is both supportive (“I love you”) and demanding (“You can do better”).

Although Grit examines the psychology of achievement from a secular point of view, I cannot help but think, as a minister, that it can shine some light on the ministries of the local church too. In the Pentecostal tradition, we often look for “calling” and “giftedness,” which are the spiritual analogs to “genius” and “talent.” There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, because God does call and gift people for ministry, whether ordained or lay.

The problem is, too often, we only look at those elements. So, we hire the charismatic preacher or the enthusiastic youth pastor or the worship pastor who’s a musical prodigy and are surprised when they crash and burn. Worse, we overlook the less-charismatic preacher or the slow-and-steady youth pastor or the worship pastor who has to work hard to get the song service ready because their “calling” and “giftedness” are less obvious at first glance. Perhaps what we need is a more thorough way of examining grittiness in ministerial candidates, of their passion for and perseverance in ministry over time. The slow burn is far stronger than a flash in the pan.

I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend Grit, whatever your context. As a husband, parent, minister, and PhD student, the book kept shining light on areas where I can cultivate greater passion and perseverance regarding long-term goals, and in the process, experience better results. I think you’ll find the book similarly illuminating.

P.S. This review first appeared at

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Review of ’40/40 Vision’ by Peter Greer and Greg Lafferty

40-40_Vision_book_350Peter Greer and Greg Lafferty, 40/40 Vision: Clarifying Your Mission in Midlife (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2015).

[Note: This review originally appeared at]

An 80-country survey asked respondents, “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?” People in their 40s were least satisfied, with 46-year-olds being unhappiest. I am 46 years old. Needless to say, I read Peter Greer and Greg Lafferty’s new book with keen interest.

The forties are the decade when men and women experience midlife crisis. They are halfway through their lives equidistant from the start of their professions and their retirement. The twenties and thirties are predominated by questions of success. In the forties, however, questions of significance take the lead.

According to Greer and Lafferty, the kinds of questions 40-year-olds ask are these: “All this work, does it even matter? I’ve striven for so long, but I’m still not there—and now I’m losing interest. Why am I not happier? Is this my lot in life? Did I miss my calling? Is it too late for a do-over? Was all that I pursued in my thirties a mistake?” (emphasis in the original).

These are questions of meaning. To navigate the turbulence of the forties is thus to navigate the waters of life’s meaning. And few books of the Bible address the question of meaning more acutely than Ecclesiastes.

But wait, you’re thinking to yourself; doesn’t Ecclesiastes say that life is meaningless? “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless’” (1:2). If you’re having a midlife crisis, that’s hardly the kind of statement to cheer you up.

True, but as Greer and Lafferty point out, Ecclesiastes’ perspective is that of a “functional deist,” that is, “a person who acknowledges God’s existence but suffers due to his apparent absence.” Such a person can experience great success and pleasure in life, and yet still discover that they don’t guarantee a meaningful life. What is needed is a larger worldview, an above-the-sun perspective.

An above-the-sun perspective gives meaning to an under-the-sun life not by pooh-poohing success or pleasure, but by qualifying them, by helping us see the goodness in life’s limitations. For example, chapter 6, “(Un)charitable,” deals with the concept of “true wealth.” Ecclesiastes 5:10 truly said, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves money is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”

But notice the parentheses in the chapter title; they are important. A person focused on getting is uncharitable. But place that negative prefix un- in parenthesis—qualify or limit it—and you discover that wealth isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of generosity. The authors write, “In the United States, we’ve developed super-sized appetites for pleasure, but we haven’t experienced a corresponding rise in our taste for giving.” Accumulating money doesn’t make you happy or filled with a sense of meaning. Being generous with what you have does, however.

The same can be said for all the goods we pursue in life. They’re not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but they’re unalloyed goods either. A meaningful life recognizes their limited, qualified, under-the-sun goodness.

Only God, who lives “above the sun” is unqualifiedly good, so our search for meaning in midlife must inevitably turn to Him. Of one of the criminals crucified alongside Christ, Greer and Lafferty write: “In many ways, he typifies a wasted life, a nameless man engaged in senseless violence. But during his brief moment on stage, he said a line that goes down as one of the greatest in history: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42).” And that request saves him. “Boom. Immortal. One moment of clarity in a life of futility, and everything changes.”

Precisely because I’m in my forties, I paid close attention to the advice given in 40/40 Vision, and I recommend it highly, especially if you’re in midlife too. I want my next forty years to be even better than my first forty. I especially recommend reading the book to forty-something pastors. It’s hard enough to lead a congregation under normal circumstances, let alone on top of a midlife crisis. Get help early and often!

At the start of this review, I noted that 46 years of age was the low point of unhappiness in that global survey. If that’s where you are today, you don’t have to get stuck there! For, to borrow a phrase from Ecclesiastes, God will make everything beautiful in its time (3:11).


P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “yes” on my review page.

Review of ‘The Key to Everything’ by Matt Keller

Key_to_Everything_350This review originally appeared at

Matt Keller, The Key to Everything: Unlocking the Secret to Why Some People Succeed and Others Don’t (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015). Hardcover | Kindle

To be honest, I’m not the kind of guy who reads books like The Key to Everything. For one thing, I prefer reading “theory” books to “practice” books. For another thing, I am wary of authors who promise simple answers to complex questions, let alone the key to everything.

Simplicity comes in at least two kinds, however. The first is synonymous with foolishness. In this sense, a simple person—a simpleton—lacks knowledge or expertise. The second kind pertains to science. In this sense, a simple formula can explain complex phenomena. Think of E=mc2 as an example.

Matt Keller’s book is simple in the second sense. He believes that teachability is the key to everything. “Without teachability,” he writes, “you and I will never reach our full potential or leave a mark on the world as we all desire to do.” He doesn’t discount the roles intelligence, hard work, or native genius play in achieving success, by the way. But he writes that “all the right stuff minus teachability equals the loss of tremendous potential.”

What is teachability? Keller borrows Roger Seip’s formula from Train Your Brain for Success: “Desire to learn times willingness to change equals our level of teachability.” If you desire to learn but are not willing to change, or if you are willing to change but don’t desire to learn, you have a low “teachability index.” The goal is to have a high one.

After defining teachability, Keller outlines common roadblocks to teachability: pride, fear, insecurity, pain, and pace. Keller uses the negative example of King Saul from the Old Testament to illustrate these roadblocks. He then goes on to use the apostle Paul from the New Testament to illustrate positive characteristics of teachability:

  • insatiable desire to learn and grow
  • appropriate view of success
  • openness to feedback
  • flexible approach to life
  • ability to handle failure well

Keller concludes his book with guidance about how to develop a lifestyle of teachability. “Teachability is not something we can develop from a single session or a simple intention. It doesn’t develop in spurts and starts.” Rather, he writes: “True teachability is a lifestyle—and it takes practice.”

Matt Keller is a Christian pastor and leadership coach, so most of his readers will be fellow pastors or leaders of parachurch ministries. Though his book refers to the Bible, Christian business professionals can safely use it as a coaching tool in secular environments too.

The Key to Everything is a short, easy read. Don’t let those characteristics fool you, however. Keller is on to something. Whether teachability is the key to everything, I still can’t say. But it is the key to quite a lot. As Proverbs 4:7 puts it: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost you all, get understanding.”


P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

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