Archives For Patience

Recently, I received an advance edition of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kai Bird.

When I picked it up I thought, “Who doesn’t love a spy novel?”

This book was different and it was by no means a novel. It was raw and captured some of the most important events in the Middle East of the past fifty years through the eyes of a real CIA agent.

In its description, The Good Spy is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird’s compelling portrait of the remarkable life and death of one of the most important operatives in CIA history – a man who, had he lived, might have helped heal the rift between Arabs and the West. His name was Robert Ames and his time with the CIA spanned from the 1950s to the 1980s.

On April 18, 1983, a bomb exploded outside the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. The attack was a geopolitical turning point. It marked the beginning of Hezbollah as a political force, but even more important, it eliminated America’s most influential and effective intelligence officer in the Middle East – CIA operative Robert Ames. What set Ames apart from his peers was his extraordinary ability to form deep, meaningful connections with key Arab intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on threats and subterfuge, but Ames worked by building friendships and emphasizing shared values – never more notably than with Yasir Arafat’s charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent Ali Hassan Salameh (aka “The Red Prince”). Ames’ deepening relationship with Salameh held the potential for a lasting peace. Within a few years, though, both men were killed by assassins, and America’s relations with the Arab world began heading down a path that culminated in 9/11, the War on Terror, and the current fog of mistrust.

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird

I loved reading the The Good Spy for many reasons. First, it was a terrific narrative about the making of a CIA officer and it provided a terrific context of the twentieth-century Middle East conflict. Second, it revealed a different kind of spy that I did not know exists. What I appreciated most about Robert Ames was how different he was from what movies portrayed about spies. When we think of spies we think of James Bond, Ethan Hunt, or Jason Bourne and the destruction that they created. Although those fictitious agents are entertaining, I can imagine they are far from how things actually get done in the espionage world.

Robert Ames was a clandestine CIA agent, which meant that his job was to do business as unnoticed as possible.

Robert Ames is one of those spies who got things done.

He possessed a quality that none of this type had: Patience.

In the description of Ames, the distinction of his patience stood out in the book’s narrative. Impatience is something in my life that I struggle with and I suppose we all do in some way or another. We live in a “electronic-now” post-modern culture and we are losing the ability to approach life at a pace. Ames’ patience is what made him unique and probably so successful as a spy. I am thankful for Robert Ames’ life and I believe that his legacy to us is more than just how Middle East policy is upheld today.

Robert Ames’ life gives us five lessons in patience:

  1. Patience recognizes other people’s perspectives: Ames was a ferocious reader and student of the culture he worked within. He also understood that by taking the time to listen to people meant that he would be able to gain a deeper understanding of everyone’s plight, whether Israeli or Palestenian. His patience garnered better intelligence. For me it is a reminder about the importance of taking time to listen to people, especially people who are different from me and to better understand their point of view.
  2. Patience welcomes criticism: Ames was criticized for not signing up his key asset as a paid ones so the exchange was more official by the books. Instead, he focused on building a trusting relationship that would provide better intelligence rather than a quick purchase of information. Some within the CIA felt Ames was not strong enough to do this but Ames believed in this, ignored the criticism and found success over time.
  3. Patience looks beyond ourselves: Ames believed in peace in the Mideast. Tragically, he was killed before he could see more progress. Ames knew the risks of being a CIA officer and operated in a way that looked at the big picture because with how complex and difficult Mideast peace would be to obtain. He knew that it was unlikely for his own eyes to see this happen as it could take lifetimes. This is also a lesson of faith.
  4. Patience displays humility: Robert Ames as a clandestine agent was not looking to be noticed. He knew if he ever did anything amazing, very few if any people would know it. Ames wanted to move up within the CIA but he also knew that what mattered most was getting the job done no matter who received the credit.
  5. Patience is Biblical: From what I read Ames was a great family man and a strong Catholic. It seems like his faith got him through some of his toughest times. Patience through the Bible’s lessons were ingrained in him and I can imagine him reading these verses to be encouraged during his service.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

And endurance produces character, and character produces hope, – Romans 5:4

Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s temper, than capturing a city. – Proverbs 16:32

I hope to see Robert Ames one day again in heaven to thank him for these great lessons.

 

Do you struggle with impatience? How do you handle it? 

How We Fight Distraction

August 27, 2013 — 2 Comments

We live in an age of disruption.

Everyone wants your attention; family, work, church, your iPad, a book, marketers, television, and your local service group.  Some of these distractions are noble and do require attention. Some of these can wait.

Technology and life’s demands want to suck us dry. A friend remarked to me the other day that he wish our world went dark with technology like the television show, Revolution. While that is drastic, I empathize with his sentiment as does my wife when she sees me looking down at my phone when I am at home.

My job is focused on leveraging social media in business and everyday there is something new to pursue; the hot new app, the new social media network, or a digital conference where you fear missing out of the ‘new thing’ in technology. There is always a new technology to learn or a place where people want to share information. It is a never-ending cycle that has only been accelerated in today’s culture.

When I am bombarded by too many meetings, demands, and other things, I am reminded of Indiana Jones. In a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana is trying to rescue Marion and the Ark. He is being chased by Nazi agents and Cairo henchmen. After he briefly escapes, he is then confronted by a master swordsman who is prepared to end his quest. Indy has to act fast. Watch and see.

Admit it, you laughed.

While I would like to take care of our distractions the Indiana Jones way, there is better wisdom I am learning. I struggle with disruption like any average person. C.S. Lewis said that “God whispers in our pleasures” and I feel most alive and joyful when I am focused on doing one single thing. God didn’t make me a multi-tasker thankfully and when distracted he causes me ask this question,

What what is most important and what do I do about it? 

There are three pieces of wisdom that I have learned over time. Whenever I am overwhelmed with distraction, God seems to point me back to this wisdom.

1. Wisdom of my Mother:

“Slow down: One thing at a time.”

No one likes listening to their mother but even at 34, I humbly acknowledge thought that she is right.

2. Wisdom of Scripture:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 5:18

3. Wisdom of Prayer:

Jesus taught us out to pray and in prayer he helps us focus on him.

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen.

So let’s fix our eyes on him, pray, and take it one thing at a time. 

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As my daughters are getting older and memorizing more and more things, Brooke and I thought it would be good to help them learn some Bible verses.This week our verse was Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (NIV 1984). I try to read many Bible translations, but the NIV was the one I memorized.
Galatians 5:22 was one of the first verses I learned when I became a Christian. It always reminds me about what pleases God, and I expected it would do the same for my daughters.
What I didn’t expect was how they began reciting it to Brooke and me. When we became openly frustrated, or when I instructed them to do things, they’d quote the verse. Their zeal gave a whole new meaning to wielding the Bible as a sword of the spirit. They are correct in one sense–that the holy living described in this verse is difficult to follow. But in treating the verse this way, I think they’ve substituted measuring tape for fruit, and robbed the whole of its sweetness. As I grow older, I realize more and more how valuable the Bible is on a daily basis, and this is especially true in the workplace–even when you work, like I do, in Christian publishing.
Here are some ways that Galatians 5:22 applies in a work environment.
  • Love: Love can easily get lost when you are looking at financial numbers or trying to get something done. Galatians 5:22 is Jesus’s reminder to us about what is most important—to love God and to love others. The spirit of any situation changes when love is the motivation. Think about how you can love first in the way you do business and in all of life before you do anything.
  • Joy: No day is perfect in terms of what goes right or wrong. But when there are tough days, Galatians 5:22 reminds me of the big perspective. We are put on this earth to do work and to take joy in it. Our work matters! So the next time things get hard, think about how God has blessed you and others overall and how you are not alone. Joy can then emerge.
  • Peace: In business, especially the business I am in, it is difficult to have peace. The market is complicated and ever-changing, and it is easy to get stressed out and become overwhelmed. Our lives need peace, a calm during a storm. Most especially, Galatians 5:22 reminds me to spend time resting and in prayer before making big decisions.
  • Patience: When it comes to my kids, I need patience. And patience is valuable at work as well. Most people I admire in the workplace are ones who are patient do not rush into making decisions. Galatians 5:22 is a reminder to be patient with others as they develop into better leaders.
  • Kindness: I see so little kindness in today’s work environment. People act as if the ends truly justify the means, and they get hurt emotionally. Galatians 5:22 is a reminder that most people around me could be having a tough time at home or with something at work so why not be kind to them? And in the wise words of Bill S. Preston in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1986), “Be excellent to one another.” See, you never thought God could work through Bill and Ted, right?
  • Goodness: When I create or do something at work, I need to ask myself, “Would God think of this as good?” Is it purely for profit? Is it something that actually helps others and make a difference? I believe Paul put goodness in there to force us to ask these questions of ourselves.
  • Faithfulness: Good work requires hard work. Galatians 5:22 reminds me that to finish well is a great virtue. It shows that you are willing to stick with something through the thick and thin to ensure it gets done. At the end of a project, I have learned that knowing that you left it all on the field gives you so much more satisfaction. God smiles too.
  • Gentleness: We are asked to communicate with people each day. There is always news to share, meetings to schedule, and issues to resolve. Galatians 5:22 is a reminder to always be gentle in the way we talk with each other, especially when things are wrong. The blame-game does nothing to get you toward an outcome. To solve problems, choose words that are encouraging, yet direct.
  • Self-Control: As a marketer, it is so easy to do the most flashy or newest technological thing to get attention. I’ve often had to ask myself, “Will this technology realistically help us reach our outcome?” As Steve Green—Max Lucado’s great friend and literary agent—once told me, “Dave, just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it.” Steve, that wisdom comes right from the self-control encouraged in this verse. So thank you.

I am so thankful for the word of God and how it heals our spirits and guides us in our everyday actions. Galatians 5:22 is one particular part of it that gets me through my personal and professional life. I hope it blesses you too.

What other Bible verse most guides you through your work day?

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Lately, our company has been going through the best-selling business leadership book, Good to Great by Jim Collins.  Featured in the book is the “Hedgehog Concept”, which serves as an illustration of why we should master one simple thing.  In the Hedgehog’s case, he has an amazing simple defense with is his spiky needle-hair and ability to roll up in a ball. Foxes and other animals may try to be sly to take him down but he does this one simple thing really well and succeeds.

It got me thinking about other ferocious little animals we can learn from today.

Apparently 37 million people on YouTube agree that the Honey Badger is a hero to all nations.  I kind of feel like this blog would be best  if I could do a video post and imitate the narrator of the popular video. But I don’t because it would be terrible in my voice so here is my attempt to make further use of Honey Badger. As an homage to Honey Badger and “Randall”, the voice behind the narration, here are five life lessons from Honey Badger.

1. He is patient.  Honey Badger always takes his time and goes at his pace. When attacked by other animals, he simply waits them out because his endurance is better than theirs.  Does he set goals? Probably not but in his head he just knows what he needs to do and does it well because of his patience.

2. He is not a people pleaser. Honey Badger doesn’t care what other animals are doing or what they think about his activities.  This behavior is incredibly intriguing because I fall into this trap of pleasing too many people.

3. He is resilient and focused. Honey Badger gets knocked down and gets back up and keeps going. When Cobra takes Honey Badger down with venom, he accepts the short loss but then quickly gets back up  and is on to his original task. We all experience failure like Honey Badger. But we like Honey Badger need to recognize that this is only a short setback and we need to get back up and eat Cobra. When he’s being attacked by a swarm of bees and other animals are trying to snatch his food that he caught, Honey Badger stays focused on his prize.

4.  He knows how to use the right tools:  Honey Badger is known to adapt tools in his environment to dig holes and move objects when his claws won’t do.

5. He focuses on his strengths.  Honey Badger doesn’t try to fly. Honey Badger doesn’t try to juggle too many rats. What is his Good to Great “Hedgehog Concept”? He probably eats Hedgehogs of course.

All this being said, the only weakness I can find in Honey Badger is that he is a bit of a lone ranger and doesn’t seem to work well with other Honey Badgers.  Then again Honey Badger would simply say to me, “I don’t give a $#!&.”  So be it, Honey Badger.

What else can we learn from Honey Badger? 

Ditching the Pacifier

April 11, 2011 — 12 Comments

The past few weeks my lovely wife Brooke and I have been talking about a strategy to get rid of “The Pacifier”.

Duh duh duh…

Yes, any parent out there knows exactly what I’m talking about.  The pacifier is just about the best and worst invention created for a young child.  We have a 19 month and recently turned 3 year old.  We knew that if we tried to get rid of these things both would need to do it at the same time.

No turning back.

Truth is we have been trying to do this ever since our oldest was 17 months old and our youngest was born.  It just didn’t stick. They love their pacifier.  It soothes them.  I get it. I like a nice cup of java every morning because it does something similar to me. Our girls call the pacifier a “Bobby” anyway.  We keep asking “Who is this Bobby?!?!”  Can we punch this kid because we hate this thing you so eloquently call ‘Bobby’?” Our oldest girl just picked up the name “Bobby” from a friend of hers.  It has stuck.  (In the future I sure hope she doesn’t date some guy named Bobby because I’ll immediately dislike him.)   Nevertheless, I read here about 150 other variations of names that kids call them.  I hate them all and you should too.

As suggested by some friends (I think), we bagged up all of the pacifiers in our house and took them to a toy store.  We promised the girls they could exchange their pacifiers for a baby doll of their choice. We tipped off the person at the cash register that we’d do this and when we made the “exchange of goods” the girls had no problem whatsoever.  But we knew once nap time would come all hell would break loose.  Oh and it did.  The house became like “Nam” as portrayed in the movie Apocalypse Now.  It’s been pure psychological warfare since with lots of crying.  The kids scream out for their beloved “Bobby” and we fight the urge to give in.  When faced with stressful situations like this I get a little bit like Clark Griswold and well…lose it.  If it weren’t for Brooke’s patience with me (her other man-child husband), I don’t know how else we would get through.  Brooke and I have been committed to this so despite the kids’ screaming fits we’ll get through it.  Last but not least, we prayed for strength and lots of it.  God has delivered.

It has been almost 3 days since “Ditching the Bobby” and all is quiet on the Western Front.  We suspect that most of this week they will still ask for it.  It’s a lesson in life I suppose.

I pray that our oldest girl doesn’t lose her naps because of these but this is all part of the growing up experince. She’ll get through it as will we.

My advice to other parents out there.  You’ll make it through. We all will.

I’ve double-bag caddied for 36 holes on 100 degree days.

I’ve worked 70 hour weeks in the office.

I’ve mowed a dozen lawns in one day.

But, there is nothing that could have prepared me enough for the toughest job in the world…

Parenting.

These past few days my wife Brooke has been out of town thus entrusting our two and a half year old and 11 month old to my so called capable hands.  I’ll admit that I have had help as my mother is a saint for coming in town to help.  In these past two days we have looked at each other and said “How does Brooke do it?”

There have been moments I have been proud of this weekend.  There has also been times that I’ve had to ask forgiveness of my mother by stressing out and taking things out on her.  I have to do that often to my wife as well so my poor mom is taking it for the team.  Hey even Clark Griswold got to lose it here and there in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

I can only come up with one conclusion.

It is time to lighten up and enjoy this process.

I thoroughly love my kids and the being a dad no matter how hard it can be sometimes.  This weekend we’ve gone to the pool twice, taken fun walks with our dog Winston, ran around the yard, made up a small inflated pool on our deck, created art, listened to music, ran around the mall, and yes I confess we even watched a little of the PGA Championships and a St. Louis Cardinals game.  This is just part of the dad life I suppose and I’m still getting used to it.

I’d propose an end to trying to do this parenting thing alone.  Even if you are divorced raising children, you are still not alone. The earlier we admit that we can’t do it all and all of it perfectly, the better off we will be.  The more we rely on friends, family, and God to take care of us and give us patience, creativity, and forgiveness, the more fun we will have. I am ready.

If you are single reading this or are married without kids just watch and observe the parents out there.  Learn from their mistakes, learn from their successes. Parents can’t imagine life without kids, it’s an adventure.

Both kids are taking naps as I write this by the way.  Why am I not napping?  Yep, because there is always something to do.

I’d love to hear some of your parenting stories and lessons.  How do you get through the hardest days?

PS  If you need a good piece of entertainment as a married couple with kids, watch Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Last but not least if you didn’t catch the “The Dad Life” video, you’ll love this.