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Contributing At A Higher Level: It's a Matter of Focus, Lens, Aperture..And Don't Forget the GRIT!

Dare to Be YOU!

I captured this image several months ago when on a personal mission to find examples of beautiful architecture in my community. The self-designed task for that day took me to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Fort Worth, and you’ll probably agree, that’s some gorgeous place! Not one much for post-processing, I carefully selected the lens and aperture after my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. I sat down to take in even a small portion of the beauty I saw there, and a search began to find a visually unique focus.

Stained glass? Ornate ceiling? Beautifully carved statutes? Pews from rare wood? Unblemished marble in perfectly cut squares? Any and all of these would, and did, allow for capturing many truly stunning images.

Making my way toward the altar area, I was taken by the visual of the two women. One was dusting the windows stretching to reach as far up as she could, and the other crouched on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. Neither woman noticed me as I sat down a few rows from them so not to interrupt what was demonstrably a labor of love. I had just found focus, and my confidence was building, mission accomplished!

When I look at images which I do many times over many days before ever letting anyone else see them, it’s a lot like looking at life. Thoughts run to questions like: Is my work worthy? Where did I fail in terms of my settings? Was I purposeful and intentional in my actions? What will others say, think, etc.? Do I have the tools I need to be “good” at what I do? Am I getting advice from the experts about my craft so I can continue to grow and develop instead of stagnating? What if I fail? What if I actually succeed? Am I objective about my assessment of what I see, and do I celebrate where there are developed strengths (we all know our weaknesses often are all we can see clearly)? And there is the really important, what is the story that I believe needs to be told?

That brings me to life in the artistic language of photography and the story in this image as I began to see it. I hope you will let me know if I connect title to context?

Let’s go with some basic definitions from Merriam Webster: 1. Focus – center of activity, attraction, or attention; 2. Lens – something that facilitates & influences perception, comprehension, or evaluation; 3. Aperture – lens opening that admits light; and 4. Grit – firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.

Focus in the image of the women volunteers cleaning, at first was just that to me. But the more I watched them devote lots of energy to their labor of love, I was led to see the great care with which they worked tirelessly. It was clear they had no greater gift to give than to perform such service, and they were, indeed, contributing at a higher level than most anyone. I’ve visited there many times, and I’m always taken with how immaculate it always is despite the many, many worshippers there many times every day. They were giving to the Kingdom, and they were also giving to mankind. The focus for me became introspective to consider where was my own center of attention. Am I focused on Kingdom work, and contributing at the highest level to do what needs doing, in other words, the right things instead of things right? Am I able to disregard perceptions of where leaders “should” be in order to be where God has called me to be such as that of these women volunteers? As I have reflected on the word focus in the context of life, I realize there are many examples of people all around me who are living out this type of focus in their own lives contributing at the highest level. They inspire me every day no matter whether I’m in as administrator, teacher, volunteer, friend or Clayton’s mom. Think for a moment about those who inspire you every day. Have you told them they are your inspiration for contributing at the highest level? How are you purposeful and intentional inspiring of others?

Lens choice was important because without the details in the environment around the two women, the focus of the story would be totally different; in fact, it would be a totally different story. In life, what is the lens through which we look, comprehend, evaluate what we see? I suggest it is the actions, the things being done often when no one else is looking. Perhaps better to say is actions demonstrating one’s beliefs and values? No one grows and develops by themselves; it takes others stepping up to invest the time and effort to help us, doesn’t it? The craftsman giving back through an apprentice. The mentee becoming the mentor, and the mentor who seeks out the relationship just for the connection and beauty in giving to watch someone else stretch to reach a new plateau, or just out of love. We’ve all got examples of lens choices, good and bad, don’t we? For me, there are special people throughout my life who come to mind. Some are teachers, volunteer leaders, co-workers, mentors and bosses. Many are authors, researchers, corporate & community leaders, most of whom I have yet to meet but who I follow passionately to learn untold numbers of life’s lessons. So much I have learned through engaging & connecting with all the behind the scenes people serving in order for many of us to be out front to do what we are called to do. As a person of strong faith convictions, it is the foundation upon which I rest, and the lens through which I see the world and all things in it. What / who are your lens choices? And do others see you as their lens choice, too? Will you share examples of who & how?

Aperture, am I getting enough light for the images I attempt to capture? Beyond enough really, I suggest more like it might be is it the right kind of light for the given situation? Going back to the story of the two women, just the right amount of soft light was important to achieve the focus I sought. In connecting the right light to life, I suggest this is clarity. By clarity, do we have others surrounding us who will rumble in situations to challenge our clarity, or lack thereof? Do we have trusted colleagues and friends around us who are contributing at the highest level, and showing up every single day for us, and us for them? It isn’t easy to hear what we don’t want to hear, but it is critical that we listen attentively anyway. Seeking out opposing views will help us to challenge our own views, values and beliefs not necessarily to change them although change happens sometimes, too, but to ensure they are really our true beliefs and that we are acting them out in every aspect of our lives every day. Thinking about getting the right light for clarity, who are your go to’s? How did you establish / nurture these essential relationships essential to contributing at the highest level? Take a moment to reflect and to share your thoughts here!

Grit is just one of those words that we all get, right? Firmness of spirit; unyielding courage. I believe we see grit displayed in the two women who are cleaning in the image that represents my story. Showing up every day, wholehearted living and loving in the present. Why does one need grit? Because acting to do the right thing, every time, is downright hard. However, contributing at the highest level is what we are all called to do. For me, that means living through faith and courage without exception, and per Simon Sinek, starting with the “why” we do what we do, what do we believe & why do we believe it? If unfamiliar with Simon’s work, a link to a great place to start:

Call to Action – 5 things to think about this week:

* What are you doing to sharpen your focus to achieve your life goals?

* How do you choose a lens to see your desired life’s image?

* Why is knowing when you need different light & to adjust the aperture a game-changer?

* Where does your grit come from?

* What is your why? Share your thoughts with me & others! Let’s get some dialogue going as you are about your daily activities!

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