Lead With Friendship (Bread)

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When we first moved to Nashville, someone gave us a “starter” for Amish Friendship Bread.

It looked like a Ziplock bag of liquid glue.  It came with instructions.  It was the “starter” for Friendship Bread.  Follow the instructions and mix in other ingredients, and you will end up with magnificent dessert-like bread.

We loved it.

And my wife loves to bake, too.

When you bake this bread, you end up with more of the “starter” mixture.  It seemed to be a mixture of yeast, flour and sugar.  Before long, my wife was baking this bread as if our kitchen was a commercial bakery.

If you visited our house to change the locks, you walked out with Friendship Bread.  Same for the plumber, the handyman, the electrician and the alarm salesman.  Basically, if you walked within one hundred yards of our house, you were going home with Friendship Bread.

 

 

Still, it kept growing.  Our kitchen counters were literally overflowing with this stuff.

Until, one day, we had enough.  My wife gave all the starters away, and we were finished.

(I’m not sure how much weight I gained during this period, but it was worth it.)

Friendship Bread really was named perfectly.  It was a great gift, a good conversation starter, and who wouldn’t immediately like someone giving them homemade bread?

The experience is a good lesson for leaders:

 

Leaders Give With No Expectation of Anything in Return

What Some Birds Taught Me About Friendship

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Image courtesy of Joy Prichard Studios

My wife does an amazing job decorating our home.  Maybe too good of a job.  She changes colors and decorations with each holiday or season.  Admittedly, I’m often clueless about the passing months and her changes remind me just where we are in the year.

This past spring she changed the wreaths on our front doors.  I suppose some birds took a look and thought they were inviting enough to build a nest.  When we opened the door one day, the mother bird flew off.  We realized there was a nest in the wreath and that changed everything.

Until those eggs hatched and the new birds were safely flying on their own, we would not use the front door.  For any reason.  Deliveries?  We’d just walk the packages around the house.  Visiting us?  “You can’t enter the front door,” we shout from a window, “Come through the garage!”  The air-conditioning repairmen who came to replace a faulty unit?  Well, they had to take some extra steps.

We were careful to watch the birds’ progress, but not disturb them.  We didn’t want to scare the mother bird off.  All through the spring we took pictures and waited.  Finally, one day they were all gone.

They never even knew we were there.

They didn’t know that we were going through all these inconveniences for their benefit.

Buzz Bissinger: From Friday Night Lights to Fatherhood

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Image courtesy Buzz Bissinger

Buzz Bissinger has so many awards for his writing that I’m not sure where he can keep them all:  the Pulitzer Prize, the Livingston Award, the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, the National Headliners Award among many others.  He is best known for his nonfiction book Friday Night Lights.  His newest book is called Father’s Day, a deeply personal and moving book about his relationship with his two sons.  Born premature and just minutes apart, his twin boys ended up very different because of a few precious minutes.

Here is an interview with the talented Buzz Bissinger:

I described this story, or as the subtitle aptly points out, this journey, to someone recently.  I’m curious, though, how would you describe the book in a few words?

Father’s Day is a journey across the country. But it is really the journey of a lifetime, both to discover a son who is different from the mainstream and also my own journey to better understand myself and the degree to which my relationship with my own father, my ambition, my insecurities, have informed me as a parent and father.

In this very personal, and remarkably candid journey, we meet your entire family.  But obviously the focus is on your extraordinary son, Zach.  You take a cross country trip in part to know your son. I haven’t met him, but you can’t finish the book without feeling you know him as well as it may be possible to know him.  When I finished, I flipped all the way back to the first pages where I underlined this: “I love my son deeply, but I do not feel I know him nor do I think I ever will.”  By the end of the trip, did that change for you?

Yes. I found all sorts of emotions and abilities in Zach I never knew were there—remarkable empathy, his determination to be responsible and independent, his powers of observation even when I didn’t think he was paying any attention, his steadying influence upon me when I grew volatile. 

What if your closest friend is someone you haven’t met?

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Image courtesy of istockphoto/Greensquared

There’s an old story I want to share.  Like most old tales, I’ve heard it told in various forms.  True or not, the point is a good one.

There was once a university professor who visited a Japanese Zen master (I’ve also heard this was a Buddhist monk, but you get the point).  The professor wanted to learn more about Zen.

After welcoming his visitor, the Zen master asked if he would enjoy some tea.

Knowing he should accept, the professor smiled and thanked the Zen master for his generosity.

The Zen master disappeared and then quickly reappeared with two cups and some steaming tea.  The master smiled back as he poured tea into the cup.  The professor watched the cup fill, and continued to watch as it overflowed.  He put his hand up and exclaimed, “Stop!  It’s overflowing.  You’re wasting the tea and no more can fit in the cup!”

The Zen master nodded and calmly explained.  “You are here to ask questions.  Yet you come full.  You have your own ideas and have no space.  Until you have room for more, you will not accept new information.”

How Full is Your Cup?

It’s a powerful reminder about preconceptions.  We all too often have such strongly held opinions that we are not really able to take in all of the new information.  That part is obvious.

But today I thought about the story in a different way.  What if, instead of ideas, we thought about our relationships?  How many of us think, “I have enough friends.  I have no room for any more.”  We hit a certain age and we are comfortable with the people around us.  What do we lose by not making room for new people in our lives?