Competitive or Collaborative?

In my new book Loving Work, we talk about whether one likes to be in a competitive or a collaborative environment in the workplace. I was reminded by a friend yesterday about a story someone who was working on a building project at some point and a prominent person came to him and offered him some assistance with fund raising for the project.

That request was turned down. The person in question didn’t want anyone else’s help. They wanted to do the project on their own.

I can understand the sentiment and perhaps they were threatened that the donor would want too much credit for building the property or want it named after him or perhaps others would say “Steve (not his real name) couldn’t have done it without those dollars from so and so.”

But couldn’t we all use a bit of help and aren’t we all called to help one another?

Jim McDermott, SJ once noticed that I had a similar attitude and he remarked, “Mike, it would be a shame if you had to do it all, because you can’t do it all! So perhaps God is calling you to be a bit more humble and admit that you need the help of others sometimes.”

True enough. Blasted spiritual directors saying things that make sense!

And I truly value collaboration and take care to make sure each individual working on a project gets some credit for the work they put into the collaboration. Mike Breen, now of ESPN, but formerly of WFAN taught me much about this. I used to work with him on the station’s Imus in the Morning show as a desk assistant and whenever I did anything well, he’d be sure to point that out to Imus or to one of the higher ups. I try to model that behavior in my own work.

At times though, others don’t have the same attitude. There are some who take way too much credit for a project that they really didn’t contribute much to. Or take credit for an initial idea that didn’t really come them.

True collaboration comes from not worrying about who gets the credit but instead focuses on the work itself and allows the team to name one another’s roles in the entire project so that they can appreciate the diverse gifts of the entire crew.

Some people have a hard time with that, wanting to horde attention or hold onto the feelings of grandeur that they have about their accomplishments. They sometimes might also be the first to cast blame towards others as well.

And then there’s those who tear down others to build themselves up. A major league baseball player once told me off the record that they didn’t like one of their teammates. The hated player would say things like “Today I’m going to get more hits than anybody!” But he really would ben wishing everyone else to go 0 for 4.

Ministry can only afford to be competitive when we’re competing for the hearts of good people over evil choices and often we choose competing with one another. That must change. We are often our worst enemy and that ends up getting in the way of great progress.

An Old Man’s Advent Dream

Deacon Bill Ditewig, one of my heroes, wrote possibly the most beautiful advent reflection I’ve read to date.

Here’s a snip:

Right now we have many Catholics who don’t even like to reach out and take someone else’s hand at the greeting of peace before communion. Those folks are really not going to like my dream, since not only do I hope that they will shake someone else’s hand, but actually, beginning at Midnight Mass this Christmas, I’m hoping that they will open their arms and embrace tightly that dirty, smelly homeless man who’s been living in a cardboard box down the street from the church. In fact, it is precisely to those who have been excluded by everyone else that Christ is coming into the world.

My dream is really quite simple. Christ willingly emptied himself completely into human nature. We either believe that or we don’t. Human nature is the common denominator here. If Christ is to be found there, then we are to be found there. The “Church” isn’t a place for those who have successfully navigated life. It’s a haven for all those who admit their sinfulness, their brokenness, their need for others and for God.

Amen, brother. What can we all do to make this dream a reality this Christmas?

Taking Sleep for Granted

So now it can be told, I started working out again just before Lent started. I’m down roughly 13 pounds even with being inconsistent with workouts because of Alternative Spring Break (I missed a week and then the trainer was out of town the following week). I’ve added a lot of muscle and dropped a good deal of fat.

I’ve been getting up early to workout at either 6:30AM or 8:00AM. I’ve changed my diet slowly but it’s much better than it was–I still have a long way to go there. My shoulders are pinning back further. People have noticed the weight dropping. One of the UB coaches said the other day, “Dude, you’re looking real good. Keep it up.” Motivation is everything.

But then about two weeks in, I was waking up in the middle of the night (about 3 times a night) with a horrible case of dry mouth. I mean literally, it was like someone took a wet vac and sucked all the moisture out of my mouth. I thought maybe my body wasn’t producing enough saliva. I tried some biotene (a saliva producing agent. It relieved the dry mouth but it would come back again in about half an hour. One day after a workout, I literally couldn’t form words until I got some water.

Then I started falling asleep. At like 2 in the afternoon. One of my colleagues found me sound asleep at my desk one day and was alarmed. I’d be home and would sit on the couch and would fall asleep in the middle of my favorite TV show. Ugh. Horrible. I had to get things done quickly or I’d forget to do them because I’d fall asleep and wake up and not remember that I hadn’t done it. I nearly missed an important appointment one day because I woke up 20 minutes before I had to be there.

I suspected diabetes. My sister and mother have it. I had a good deal of the signs. But a check of my sugar levels were normal. My doctor asked me to call my wife while we were in the office. We asked her if I had been snoring. I knew the answer.

“Oh yeah!” And it was more frequent in the past few weeks.

Sleep apnea. So off to the sleep center for a study. I tried a CPAP mask on for the first time and they have to monitor me so you see all those ledes all over my face (there were some on my shoulders and legs too. Surprisingly, I slept fine. I woke up once to go to the bathroom and I have no idea what time it was. I returned to sleep and slept really soundly and was disappointed when they woke me up around 6AM.

Now I can’t wait to get the machine at home. Dozens of friends and colleagues tell me that they have had to use it as well and report great success. Losing weight actually might cure me of this–so I’m hopeful I won’t need it long term—but after the restful sleep I got last night, I’m actually looking forward to it.

So today let’s pray for those who are deprived of sleep. Whether it’s sleep apnea, mental illness, or just fear of falling asleep in a homeless shelter. We all need to rest and relax and give the body time to recharge. It’s how God designed us after all. We often pray before we go to bed (mostly that we wake up!) so tonight take some time to pray for a restful sleep as well.