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First Impressions

First impressions

Ushers and greeters are your church’s first impression.

I’m sure you have all heard the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. It is true in your personal life, and it is true in your church.   An area of serving that is often overlooked in churches is that of Usher.  Not everyone can be an usher. Just as not everyone can be a worship leader, work in child care, repair the building, or preach the sermon. We each have our unique God given gifts, and that includes people who are wired to be good ushers. I love how well Dan Reiland outlines the importance and “how to’s” of the usher ministry in the article below.

“Your Usher Ministry”

by Dan Reiland

One of my favorite ministries to lead is the usher team. Their role is so important, but often undervalued, undertrained, and less than organized.

The ushers are a huge force in setting the tone for worship and helping to prepare the people to hear and respond to the Word of God.

I’m pulling a portion of the training notes for our usher team and adapting for this article. If you would like the full usher training manual (free) CLICK HERE!

An usher is a spiritual ambassador for the local church – God’s ordained and organized body of believers. The usher serves as a “first representative” of Jesus Christ for a worship service. Though we thoroughly enjoy the creative edge of our worship services, make no mistake, this is a holy event where God is meeting with His people.

From the tabernacle in the Old Testament to the temple and synagogue in the New Testament, God’s presence and the teaching of His word is of supreme importance.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Mark 1:21-22

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. John 8:2

Who Can Serve as an Usher?

Not just anyone can be an usher. In the same way that not just anyone can sing in the choir, work in children’s ministry or lead a small group. The right gifts, passion, and ability make a big difference.

As you recruit new ushers keep spiritual qualities, characteristics and usher responsibilities in mind. Please make sure you work in coordination with your section leader or a service leader rather than practicing “random recruiting.”

The fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 is a solid guideline for a good usher. This is not about perfection, but a heartfelt motive and desire to live a life of a spirit-filled believer.

Qualifications of an Usher

• You understand the vital role of the usher ministry.

• You enjoy and care about people.

• You possess a servant heart.

• You are committed to the vision of “your church name.”

• You are supportive of the leadership at “your church name.”

Responsibilities of an Usher

1. Committed leadership

• Prepare yourself spiritually.

A good usher comes prepared mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is not to be seen as a duty, but a privilege to connect with God as part of your preparation. Don’t feel like this requires an hour of Bible study before you show up. God is far more interested in the commitment of your heart than the amount of your time. Take a few moments at home to connect with God and ask Him to use you as a representative of His love and an agent of His redemptive plan.

• Take initiative!

This is huge. The cardinal sin of an usher is to not pay attention. At all times watch what is going on in your section and jump in to handle it. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask your section leader. The only wrong choice is to do nothing. Never assume “someone” else is taking care of the need. Pay attention, take initiative, and make it happen!!

• Absorb the pressure of the moment, don’t transfer it.

Most of the ministry of an usher is pure joy. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun. But on occasion there are moments of pressure when someone is upset or something isn’t working right. In these moments never transfer the pressure to the person entering into their worship experience. You are the leader. You absorb the pressure. Get help if you need it, but never make the issue their problem. You help deliver a solution.

• Own your section, lead your section, shepherd your section.

This is exciting. In an average environment with average ushers, once the seats are filled the ushers relax and mentally check out. As a leader you are empowered to take ownership of the area of seats you serve in and give leadership where needed. Think of your area like you are responsible to do everything in your power to ensure that all those people have the best opportunity possible to connect with and hear from God. You can shepherd the people by getting to know them, praying for them, learning their names, and meeting appropriate needs.

• Follow the direction of your head usher.

All good leaders are good followers. It is important that you follow the leadership of the person responsible to lead you. Be supportive and encouraging. Offer suggestions if you have good ideas, but don’t be overly sensitive if your ideas aren’t used. Your head usher will do his or her best to serve and lead you and the rest of their team well.

2. Core tasks

In each of these areas you will receive practical hands-on training.

• Help people find a seat.

This seems obvious, but there is an art to it. The art is all about making people, especially new people and people far from God, feel comfortable. Their insecurities can rise and their feelings of self-consciousness prevent them from connecting with God.

Imagine what it feels like to walk into an unfamiliar restaurant or other environment and not know what to do. Do I seat myself or do I wait to be seated? Who do I talk to if I have a question? Who do I tell if I have special circumstances? (e.g. potential medical condition)

Your job is to move toward and engage people quickly and with confidence to help them know what to do. Don’t leave people hanging. Let them know that you can handle anything they need, and that you are the one that can make this a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Don’t make them come to you and ask. You approach them with confidence and a smile. Take charge with grace and poise.

• Collect the offering.

On a divine level, the offering is part of worship. It is the opportunity for worshippers to express their love, trust and obedience toward God. On a practical level, the financial needs of a large church are significant. Your smooth and coordinated execution of an offering can and does impact the resources that fund the Kingdom. On a security level, this is one of the most detailed functions of an usher.

You will be trained in the actual physical process for receiving an offering in a live session.

You will receive detailed training that will help us ensure compliance with legal guidelines and practical security issues.

• Assist in the execution of special moments.

Many churches are known for creativity in their worship services. From motorcycles to doughnuts, to tractors and bottles of coke, you just never know what may be coming down the aisles! Some of the special moments are fun, some are crazy, and some are deeply spiritual. Things like crossing a bridge, writing in journals, or taking communion. The service of an usher is crucial to these moments being leveraged toward life-change.

We are depending on your flexibility. Don’t get flustered when last minute changes are made. That will happen. Just keep positive, stay flexible and know that creativity is at work “making the magic” that makes all the difference.

• Get an accurate people count.

Why does this matter so much? Why must these numbers be so accurate? Why can’t we just make a good estimate? The answer is that every number represents a person. We want to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us and therefore it matters that we know how well we are reaching people. Just like in the book of Acts, they counted, recorded, and celebrated how many people were saved . . . we count too!

• Re-set and clean up the auditorium.

People will leave papers, cups and “stuff”. The glamorous part of an usher’s ministry is cleaning up after each service. In addition, supplies such as Bibles and pens are replenished.

Remember, many hands make light work. If all ushers jump in and help, it takes about 10 minutes.

3. Common sense

• Maintain proper appearance and personal hygiene.

• Show up on time.

o Section leaders 40 minutes before the service. o Ushers 30 minutes before the service.

• Read the bulletin – get informed, stay informed.

• Wear your name tag.

• You are not required to usher every Sunday, but when you are on the schedule, give it 100%.

• If you are on the schedule and can’t make it, it is imperative that you call your section leader.

• Smile, talk to people, and learn their names!!

Yes, there’s more, and as mentioned, you can have the complete training booklet – CLICK HERE!

Happy Ushering!!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  – 1 Corinthians 12:20-25


Handshake – Howard Schultz and the Choice of Adding Value to Others

Howard Schultz employee

Howard Schultz makes adding value a priority

Adding Value to others is crucial in every area of your life, business, family, friends and even the stranger you meet today. Adding value to others is always reflected back to you.  This next excerpt from my new book Handshake is on Howard Schultz and the priority he gave to valuing everyone in the Starbucks organization.

Between 1987 and 1992, Starbucks, under Schultz, opened 150 new stores.  By September of 2009 Schultz was operating stores in more than 50 countries, through more than 16,000 stores around the world.

Schultz always said that the main goal was, “to serve a great cup of coffee.”  But attached to this goal was a principle:  Schultz said he wanted “to build a company with soul.”  This led to a series of practices that were unprecedented in retail.  Schultz insisted that all employees working at least 20 hours a week get comprehensive health coverage.  Then he introduced an employee stock-option plan.  These moves boosted loyalty and led to extremely low worker turnover.

… Starbucks has achieved what many thought impossible under the umbrella that if you add value to people, value will be added to you.  In a society that is self-driven, adding value to people may seem like a waste of time. Those who think that way have no clue to the power that comes from this practice.  When you determine to be “others” minded, you have made a decision that will alter your life.

Listed are some of the benefits you will learn in this chapter regarding adding value to those around you:

a)    You deposit success into others

b)    You build your network

c)    You build loyalty

d)    You build longevity

e)    You create a winning atmosphere

f)    You increase your level of influence

g)    You will receive a great return on your investment

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.
— Flora Edwards

Life Lessons for All Higher Ground Seekers

Higher ground statue

Keep climbing to higher ground.

Exerts from: In Search of Higher Ground

Regardless of what mountain you are setting out to climb, you are going to be faced with challenges. Marriage has its challenges, but it’s a great experience. Parenting has its difficulties, but there’s nothing like the love from a child. Standing in front of a crowd and receiving a degree is wonderful, but it is preceded by hard work and a variety of challenges. The freedom that comes from owning your own successful business is terrific, but it does not come without its share of problems. Any Higher Ground goal you have for your life will have its share of problems.

I have been privileged to be a part of wonderful projects in my life. Some have failed, some have succeeded, but all have had their challenges. The climb has never been perfect for me or for anyone I know. The problem is that many individuals start off with good intentions of reachiing their goals, but the give up too quickly. Hershey Walker, the famous NFL runningback, said, “My God given talent is my ability to stick with something longer that anyone else.”  That’s what it takes to achieve your desires. You must be willing to work hard and stick it out. It is not necessarily your talent or ability that gets you to the top, it is your tenacious spirit that never gives up. I have found that people tend to give up early in the climb for one of two reasons:


I have talked about this before, but it bears repeating that fear keeps us from climbing. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and/or fear of what others may say or think. Fear of not having enough talent, ability or education. Fear attacks our minds, grips our heart, and chokes potential from our life. Fear is a funny thing. It’s being afraid of something that has not happened and has not been proven. It’s like a child being afraid of the dark. When my little girl was a toddler, she didn’t want me to shut the lights off. I sat down beside her and said, “Close your eyes.” She closed them tightly and then I asked, “What do you see?” “Nothing,” she said. Then I said, “Open your eyes,” she did and then I asked her, “Now how can you be afraid of nothing.” In search of higher ground Now that sounds like a logical point, unfortunately it didn’t work, the light stayed on. As adults, we fear what we cannot see or cannot predict, but we allow this fear to control us like helpless children. Next time you are overcome by fear, remember the words of John L. Mason, “Tell fear to go jump in the lake.”


Another reason people give up on the climb to the top is because of failure. Something didn’t go right, a plan fell through, and rather than pick ourselves up and continue climbing, we throw in the towel and let failure get the best
of us. Charles Goodyear purchased an Indian rubber life preserver out of curiosity. He began to experiment with the idea of making a weatherproof type of rubber. It was a known fact that the rubber would become hard as stone in the cold weather or melt in the hot weather.

Mr. Goodyear sank all his money into experimenting with this rubber. For five years he worked at this project. In fact, his family sacrificed their standard of living because of Mr. Goodyear’s obsession with his experiment. Finally, after thousands of dollars and countless hours, his experiment worked. He figured out a way to make a weatherproof rubber. Out of humiliation, hardship and defeat, Charles Goodyear won. He turned failure into success and defeat into victory all because he wouldn’t allow failure to be the final answer in his life.

Your climbing companions may let you down

There is nothing like the joy of having people climb with you on your way to the top. I have dedicated an entire chapter to this concept, and I have dedicated my life to help others succeed and to be climbing companions with me. There is such a joy to journey with others, to experience the ups and downs of life with people who share a common purpose with you. Over the years I have been honored to partner with incredible people. I have brought out the best in them and they have brought out the best in me. I love working with my staff, being their friends, partners in purpose, and being each others’ greatest fans. However, the reality is that along the way people are going to hurt you. There are people that you will pour your life into and they will, in the end, bring pain to your heart.

Realizing that people will let you down, you must determine before you ever journey to the top, that your faith in the human spirit will not be shaken. You cannot allow yourself to ever become isolated, because part of the joy in your journey is partnership, and sharing the experience with others! You cannot determine that because people let you down, that you must do it all yourself. When someone attempts to do it all themselves, they limit their effectiveness. You cannot accomplish more work with less people, and in addition you will rob yourself of the joy that’s found in helping others succeed. Finally, because people will let you down, you will be tempted to doubt others. You will begin to feel that people cannot be trusted. The result will be that your relationships with other climbing companions will always be limited because the shadow of doubt in the human spirit will be lingering in your heart. People will let you down…but never stop believing in others and never determine that your journey will be better if traveled alone.

Enjoy the scenery

My good friend Wes Beavis once said to me, “Chris, remember that the path you are on is a marathon not a sprint, it is a journey not a destination.” He was encouraging me at a time in my life where I was so focused on tomorrow that I was not enjoying today. I must admit that I fall into this trap quite often. I will find myself so focused on the future, and as soon as the future becomes the present, I focus on the future again. It is a trap that robs me of the joy of life. I must constantly be reminded by those closest to me to keep reaching forward in the race, but don’t forget to enjoy it.

Remember, that although we want to obtain our goals to see our dreams become reality and to be known as a Higher Ground climber, we must never become so busy with our futures that we forget the present. There are marriages that need to be nurtured and children who desperately need our attention. There are friendships that need to be cultivated, love that needs to grow, and joy that needs to blossom. Our Creator did not make us to be so over burdened by life that it robs us of the joy of living.

I am thankful for my wife and two children, who have a perfect way of lifting me to Higher Ground while keeping my feet on Solid Ground. My wife wants me to succeed, but never allows me to forget what really matters in life. She helps me remember what I always say to others, “No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time at the office.” Let me encourage you to keep reaching for Higher Ground, but never forget to water your own ground -the ground you call home, family, and friends. Water them with your love and affection, and your journey to the top will never lack the joy your life was meant to have.

If you keep climbing, eventually you’ll make it

Life has a way of clearing a path for the Higher Ground seeker. For those who want to be more, do more, see more, and become more, life holds a special door open that leads them to the top. Every person who has accomplished something great or has seen their dreams lived out, has faced their challenges, but has found the timeless truth that if you keep climbing, eventually you’ll make it to the top.

Throughout the course of my life I have seen this truth lived out in me. I have watched with my own eyes how a path seems to open up whenever I become determined to reach Higher Ground. The key however is in the phrase “keep climbing.” It’s the ability to move forward and upward and never ever stop reaching. There is an old Christmas cartoon where the characters sing a song that says, “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out that door.” You can change the words for your own inspiration and say, “If I put one foot in front of the other, eventually I’ll make it to the top.” Cosider this, if you don’t out one foot in frount of the other, it’s a garentee that you won’t get anywhere. If you’re a Higher Ground seeker, your only choice is to march forward and upward…so keep marching!


Set your course towards the top of the mountain where your dreams have been waiting for you. Brush away the dust of insecurity and fear and wipe away the filth of a failed past and begin to see clearly all that you once thought impossible. It is only then that you can breathe life into your dreams! Destiny awaits you, so embrace it with all your might! Stay focused, march forward and never settle. Our personal paths may never cross, but if we set our sights at the top I am confident that we will see each other on Higher Ground.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach.”

– John Muir

Developing the Habits that Will Take You to the Top

choose good habits

Create Good Habits to help You Reach Higher Ground

Excerpts from In Search of Higher Ground:

The ability to create the right working habits may be the single most important tool you will need. As I have discovered for  myself in my personal journey, the right working habits will eventually produce the results I have been seeking. John Mason in his book, “Know Your Limits then Ignore Them” writes, “People spend half their time telling you what they are going to do and the other half making excuses why they didn’t do it.”1 I couldn’t agree with that more! But if I may be so bold to add to John’s statement by saying, “One of the reasons people don’t complete what they say they are going to do is that they have not developed the necessary habits to get it done.” They set out with good intentions to accomplish a certain task or obtain a heart felt dream, but they don’t develop the habits necessary to see those dreams become reality.

Not setting yourself up with the right habits is as foolish as a fitness expert not developing the habit of eating right. Or a boxer setting out to win the championship, but not developing the work habits that will get him there. Maybe your Higher Ground includes buying a house, early retirement, changing careers, starting a business, learning a second language or a new instrument, becoming a leader or founding an organization. Whatever worthwhile dream you possess, it will require you to develop the right habits. Ignoring this principle will set you up for failure every time.


TRUTH 1    Good Habits are hard to make

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution to begin eating right or exercising daily, only to find yourself right back where you started in under a month? I was speaking to a friend of mine who oversees several fitness centers and I could not believe how many people he told me were members at each fitness center. I asked him, “Why do you sign up so many people? There is no way they could all fit in here if they all came at the same time.” He said, “We are counting on the majority of them not following through with their commitment to begin working out.” I thought to myself, isn’t that amazing, that the success of this fitness center is dependent on the average American’s inability to follow through.

Good Habits are a lot like a stamp. They are only good when they stick to something. Good Habits are good, but their value and their worth comes in the ability to stick with it. That is why so many people start off with the right idea, but can’t finish the job. Because Good Habits are hard to make. If they were easy, everyone would be doing them. People that are dream builders…people like you, must be willing to take the time and effort to instill into their lives the “Good Habits.”

TRUTH 2    Bad Habits are hard to break

Not only are Bad Habits hard to break, they also seem a lot easier to make than Good Habits. Simple things, like biting your nails, become a habit that is difficult to break. But there are other habits that become part of our lives that cost us a lot more than biting your nails. These Bad Habits steal from our dreams, time, and finances. Horace Mann once said, “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day and at last we cannot break it.” These Bad Habits include:


…and the list goes on.

The price to break these habits are high, but not nearly as high as the price we pay to keep them. You always pay a price for staying the same! Bad Habits are hard to break, but they must be broken for anyone who wants to climb the path to Higher Ground.

TRUTH 3    The Right Habits separate

There is nothing that separates successful people from unsuccessful people more than this one word, “Habits.” I have found that the difference is that successful people are simply willing to develop the habits that unsuccessful people are unwilling to develop. One of the greatest, if not the greatest basketball legend of all times, is Michael Jordan. He is an incredible athlete, an outstanding competitor, a leader, and team player. It has been said that Michael Jordan made it a “habit” that, when everyone else was through practicing, he would stay around and spend an hour or more practicing free throws. It was this habit that assisted him in becoming a legend. That’s what the Right Habits do, they separate the good from the great, the ordinary from the extraordinary.


What is accountability? Accountability is being responsible to finish what you said you would do. If you open up a charge account or if you take out a loan, you are “accountable” for that loan or that charge account. Whatever payment is due, you are the one who is responsible. Your accountability partner in this case is the bank. They will be the one to hold you accountable to finish what you said you would do. That’s accountability and that’s what an accountability partner does, they hold you to your word.

If you are going to be committed to creating the Right Habits in your life, the ones that are going to lead you to Higher Ground, you will need to find yourself an accountability partner. Someone you trust, who wants the best for your life and who will take the time and effort to keep you accountable for what you said you would do. Accountability partners don’t just happen. They don’t knock on your door one day and say, “Hey, I would like to hold you accountable.” You must seek them out and approach them or you


Take a moment to figure out what things in your life waste your time and keep you from doing the habits necessary for success. Keep in mind that Time-Wasters are not always bad, they just might not be what’s best for your life. Sometimes you have to choose between what is good and what is best!

What are the Time-Wasters in your life? Could be as simple as T.V. or searching the Internet. Maybe it’s activities in your life or involvement in a variety of programs or community events. Again, the Time-Wasters are not always bad, but they are the things that keep you from spending time on the habits necessary for your growth.


There are so many things in our daily routines that we know we need to do but we keep putting off. Making a phone call to someone we don’t want to, working on a project that needs to get done, but is not something we enjoy, or maybe facing a confrontation that is inevitable, but we continue to wait just one more day. There are several things we don’t like to do, so we simply put them off. Phone calls don’t get made, meetings go unscheduled, paperwork piles up, and “to do” items simply get transferred to the next day. There are things that help us succeed, that cause us to do our jobs better and even create growth in our personal lives, but we put these things off and say, “I’ll take care of that ‘one of these days.’” As you well know, ‘one of these days’ is none of these days. I read once, “Today is the tomorrow that you said yesterday you would get it done.”


My final challenge to you in this pursuit of developing Right Habits is to make “success” a regular habit in your life. There is something extraordinary when you can begin to put wins underneath your belt.  I have a picture that hangs in my office that says, “Nothing succeeds like success.” That’s true! If you want to be successful, discover the power in making success a habit. For you it may be completing certain projects by the end of the month or reaching a financial goal by the end of the year. It may mean getting started on something you’ve said you were going to start but still haven’t. If you can do these things and do them with excellence, you will begin to gain a confidence that comes from making success a habit.

As I said in the beginning of this chapter, habits may possibly be the most important tool for your success. You may not notice the difference right away, but eventually you will. Developing the Right Habits will ultimately lead you to achieve all your dreams and goals. The Right Habits have proven to be the deciding difference between first and second, Gold and Silver, success and failure. Change your habits from what is good to what is best, from what hinders you, to what helps you, and ultimately you will find yourself at a level you once thought impossible!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, in not an act, but a habit.”

– Aristotle

Staying Motivated on the Mountain

Don't fall off

Maintain motivation so that you don't fall off your mountain

Exerpts from In Search of Higher Ground

As you search for Higher Ground in your life, there will be times when you feel like giving up. Times when you feel like it’s pointless and you just don’t want to try anymore. You’ll feel like it’s too hard to keep climbing and you’ll simply want to quit. The question is not whether you are going to feel like this at various times in your life, the real question is, “What will be your response to these feelings?” Will you stay motivated enough to climb the mountain and finish the journey or will you find yourself lacking the motivation to continue upward?

I’m reminded of a story my friend told me about a young boy whom the schoolyard bully was picking on everyday. Each day this bully would steal this young boy’s lunch money and the little boy was tired of being picked on. One day on his way home from school he noticed a sign advertising free karate lessons. He inquired within and began taking his lessons immediately. After about a week of taking lessons, the instructor informed him that the free lessons were only good for a week and that each lesson would now cost $5 per session. The little boy didn’t have the money and he figured it would be harder to come up with the money for the lessons than it would be to pay the schoolyard bully so, he quit.

The moral of the story is obvious. This little boy lacked the motivation and found it easier to take the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, many people do that. They start off with great intentions, but lose their motivation. “I’m going to start a new business, change careers, improve my relationships, establish a stronger faith, develop a non-profit organization, or make a dream become reality.” Maybe you’ve said this or something like this, maybe you have even started taking some steps toward these objectives. But in the case of thousands of people, their good intentions weren’t good enough.

Everyone has some type of motivation. They have something that drives them and serves as a passion in their heart… Find your motivation, find the thing that thrills your heart more than anything else. You will find that it will be easier to stay motivated with something you like rather than something you dislike. You will notice that you do not tend to burn out on your strength, but you burn out on your weaknesses.

Stanford University did a study and concluded that only 5% of people that set out to implement something into their lives ever do it.2 The reason 95% of people never finish the task is that they simply lack the resources to stay motivated long enough to accomplish their goals. That is why I am a firm believer in consistently feeding yourself for personal growth. Many people have said to me, “Chris you are going to teach another motivational topic, don’t you know that after awhile the people will go back to normal?” My response to that is, “Of course I know that people will eventually go back to the way they were, but that is why they need constant motivation. You don’t take a shower once and say, ‘That’s it.’ You make an effort to stay physically clean, as you do to stay highly motivated.”

Here’s a list of things I recommend to you to stay on a path of personal growth:

• READ BOOKS – Find books that motivate you and keep you growing and read them.
• LISTEN TO TAPES – Purchase tapes from your favorite speakers and listen to them over and over until they get down into your spirit.
• ATTEND SEMINARS – Make it a habit to attend at least 3-4 seminars per year. These events will help to charge you up and keep you going.
• ASSOCIATE WITH MOTIVATED PEOPLE – I’ve mentioned this before, but it bares repeating. You become like those you associate with. If you want to stay
motivated, associate with motivated people.
• SPIRITUAL RENEWAL – For me personally, one of the greatest forms of motivation comes from my deep faith in God, who is my #1 source for motivation. If God isn’t part of your life, you should deeply consider it…He can do far more in your life than you ever imagined.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen


“Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turn about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow.
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.
It’s when things seem worse,
That you must not quit.”


Overcoming the obstacles that keep you from climbing

Children Racing - overcoming obstacles

She simply tried harder

Excerpt from In Search of Higher Ground – Chapter 2

Whatever your dream or goal is, whatever the road you want to climb, you can be assured there will be opposition.  I heard an inspiring story of a 10-year-old girl named Sarah.  Sarah  was  born  with  a  muscle  missing  in  her  foot.   This unfortunate tragedy caused her to continually be in a brace.  She arrived home one day from her elementary school and told her Dad that she had competed in “Field Day,” a day designed with a variety of competitive events for the kids.  Because  of  her  leg  support,  the  father’s  mind  raced  as he tried to think of some encouraging words to give to his daughter.  Thinking, that with her brace, she probably did not do so well in the competitions.  But before he could get out a word, the daughter said, “Daddy, I won two of  the races!”  The dad couldn’t believe it.  The daughter went on  to  say,  “But  daddy,  I  had  an  advantage.”   The  father thought to himself that the teachers must have given her a  head start because of her brace.  Before he could say anything, the little girl blurted out, “My advantage was that I  had to try harder.”

That  little  10-year-old  girl  figured  out  something  that thousands  of  people  are  still  struggling  with  daily.   She knew that she had obstacles and circumstances that made  her  situation  different.    But  instead of quitting or making  excuses for herself, she simply tried harder.  Each one of us  has  our  own  set  of  circumstances,  obstacles,  and  oppositions.   They  stand  there  like  a  schoolyard  bully  taunting  our dreams and keeping us from moving forward…

As you make your decision to search for Higher Ground, you will run into a variety of obstacles ranging from fear to insecurity to overwhelming circumstances.  However, if you will choose to exchange the lies for the truth and begin to build up your confidence, it will not matter what you face as you climb the mountain to your dreams.  Your momentum will be so strong that any obstacle will seem like a small bump in your personal path of success.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.

– Norman Vincent Peale

David McCarty

I am interested in your audio teaching ““Seven Choices That Will Change Your Life”

Where can I find it?


What is Higher Ground?

The view is better from the top

Excerpt from: In Search of Higher Ground

What is Higher Ground? It is anything good and positive that you desire for your life. It may mean financial freedom, early retirement or the ownership of personal property. It could mean the beginning of a business, that up to this point, has only been a dream. Higher Ground may be the corporate ladder that is waiting for you to climb, the book that is waiting to be written, the idea that is waiting to become reality. It could mean a better way of life, a healthier marriage or successful parenting. It may be freedom from an addiction or an overcoming of a past hurt that continues to damage the future. Simply put, Higher Ground is the place where you live out your dreams. Higher Ground is different for everyone…its path is different, the obstacles vary, and the surroundings rarely look the same. Although it varies in size, shape and color, what it takes to get to Higher Ground is most often the same. Dreams, goals, taking risks, letting go of fear and insecurity, good character and mental attitude, the right motives, and accountability, are all things you must place in your backpack as you journey up the mountain to this place called Higher Ground.

Many years ago, I was invited to go on a long backpacking trip. Those who know me well, know that I am not much of an outdoors person. My idea of the outdoors is lying by the pool at the Marriott. To be a part of this backpacking trip, I was told I would have to attend an orientation meeting in which we would receive instruction on what to bring and how to prepare. Beyond my better judgment, I attended this meeting and received the information. The guide for the trip had divided up the list of who would bring what. Each person was assigned various tasks and duties to help make the trip a success. I purchased 21 of my assigned items, and in a few short days I found myself on a week long backpacking trip that I will never forget. We drove all night to the mountain we were to climb, until finally we arrived. With very little sleep we began to climb the mountain. For the next 8 hours all we did was climb. The guide and the few who had been on a trip like this were doing fine. Myself and the others who had never been on a backpacking adventure felt like we were dying. After hours of climbing and complaining we finally arrived at a sight where we unpacked, got cleaned up, and had an opportunity to eat. Even though it wasn’t very comfortable, we slept like babies through the night. The next morning however, the guide woke us up and told us it was time to pack up and continue the climb up the mountain! I honestly thought that we had arrived the day before, that we were not going to climb anymore. I tried to reason with the guide, I asked him what is the difference between staying here and climbing higher? The trees look the same, the ground looks the same, what could possibly be different by climbing the mountain any higher? After much pleading, complaining, whining, and anything else I could do to change his mind, we moved on. We continued to climb all day until we arrived at our final destination, just about sunset. I was so tired that after eating and getting cleaned up, I went immediately to sleep. The next morning I awoke and realized that we were at the top of the mountain.The guide was absolutely right. The trees looked different, the air was cleaner, the surroundings only something I had seen on a postcard.

I realized something that morning that I will never forget, that the view is always better at the top of the mountain. Somehow you forget all the work that it took to get you there, when you finally arrive at Higher Ground! The first characteristic to reaching Higher Ground is found in this story of my mountain top experience. You see, the difference between me and the guide, was that he had been to the top and I had not. He had a picture in his mind of what it looked like and I had never seen it. The mountain top was a place he loved, a passion he had, a dream that so captured his thoughts, that fatigue would not and could not stand in the way. You see, that’s the power of a dream. It becomes your compass, your passion, your love, your guide and your thoughts. Dreams become a sense of purpose and direction for where your life is headed. Without a dream, life becomes something to be endured, not enjoyed. Life becomes something where we get by, but not ahead. The first step towards Higher Ground is knowing your dream and being committed to it.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“The only thing that will stop you from fulfilling your dreams is you.”

– Tom Bradley

Becoming a “Master Communicator” With Your Team


Make sure that you are having enough face time with your team members.

Studies show that one of the top reasons for divorce among couples in America is poor communication.  This problem with communication is that it not only creates problems in marriages, but it creates problems in the workforce as well.  Learning to communicate with your team sounds easy in theory but is much more difficult for leaders to accomplish than most would think.

It is important for you, regardless of the kind of team you lead or the size of team you lead, that you lead that team from a point of strong, clear and healthy communication.  Here are some ways you can become a “Master Communicator” to the team you lead:

1)  Don’t try to sound “managerial”
You may have some preconceived notion of how a manager should talk, but confident leaders don’t adopt jargon to impress staff and team.   Our message can often get lost in our attempts to sound managerial or knowledgeable.  Be yourself, don’t be a carbon copy of someone else’s idea of what a strong leader sounds like.

2)  Talk with – rather than at – people
People in positions of power often make the mistake of talking “at” others in a direct, abrasive manner.  Telling your team members what you know and displaying your experiences, while forgetting to listen to the opinions of others could cost you leadership credibility.  Stay clear of the “I know this and you don’t” tone.  It is an out of date dictatorship style that will never persuade your team member to loyalty or longevity.

3)  Speak without judging
There are times when the hammer needs to drop and you need to drop it, but the majority of the time you must learn to be more persuasive than abrasive.  You can accomplish this by learning to speak to someone without judging them.  This critical approach will move your team closer to you rather than, pushing them farther away from you.

4)  Don’t disguise direct order as suggestions
Don’t say “This is only a suggestion,” when you mean, “Do it this way or else.”  You will only confuse the team member.  They’ll quickly conclude that they receive more credit when they use your ideas than when they rely on their own.  I am not suggesting for you to be a dictator but when you feel that you need to be direct…be direct.

5)  Limit e-mail
Although technology can make us more efficient, it can also make your team feel less connected to you.  Corresponding primarily through email has a tendency to alienate the needed face to face moments that build the relationships among your team.  I am not saying not to use e-mail, it is a great tool, just evaluate yourself and make sure that you are having enough face time with your team members.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths
rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”
John D. Rockefeller

Creating a Pleasant Work Environment

happy team

Happy People are Productive People

Disneyland has a slogan “The happiest place on earth.”  Wouldn’t that be a great slogan for your team or company – that your place of work is the “happiest place on earth?”  What do you think your fellow team members or staff feels about the work environment that has been created?  Would they describe the climate of your company as the “happiest place on earth?”

Happy people are productive people.  If you want to your people to be productive, creative, loyal, hard working and full of life and energy, then it is essential to create the healthiest, happiest environment possible.  People work better under the right conditions.  You win, your staff wins, and your customers win…everyone wins!

Here are a few tips to help you create “The happiest place on earth:”

• Be less inclined to give advice and more inclined to take it.
Create an environment that is receptive to advise from others, rather then so quick to give it out.  By doing this you will develop individuals who desire to grow and value the voice of others.

• Identify great qualities in others.
This can be difficult especially with those who are difficult to get along with, but you can do it.  Find the unique qualities with those in your circle.  Applaud those qualities privately and publicly.  Create an environment where people seek the best not the worst.

• Go out of your way to show appreciation.
Be gracious with your words.  Say things like:  “thank you,” “good job,” “I appreciate all you do,” “you make this a great place to work,” and “we couldn’t do it without you.”  Think about it for a moment – words shape lives, add value to people, set the tone and, the greatest thing of all, words are free!

• Promise only what you can deliver
The environment must be one of trust and mutual respect.  This kind of environment is difficult to create if you have people that don’t deliver on their promises.  Be a person of your word… someone that others can count on.

• Have fun
Do something out of the ordinary and have fun.  Shut down the office and take everyone bowling or miniature golfing.  Take everyone out for an afternoon ice cream or to a movie.  Do something fun and out of the ordinary 2-3 times a year and your people will begin to notice the difference.

If you want to create an environment of productivity and creativity, then you will need to make your place of work “the happiest place on earth.”  Enjoy, get creative and think outside of the box.  I promise that if you work hard at making a happy place, your staff will work even harder for you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
– George Bernard Shaw

“When you’re through learning you’re through”

Always Keep Learning

Always Keep Learning

Stop and think about it for a moment.  “When you’re through learning you’re through.”  Isn’t that true?  I mean think about it for a moment.  The minute you stop learning, the minute you stop growing, the minute you stop obtaining more knowledge and understanding, you’re through.  You are making a conscious decision that this is the most I will know.  You are making a choice that this is the best you will ever get.  Once you make that decision your personal and professional future begins to plateau and often decline.  How is that possible?  Well let me explain it to you this way.

Imagine a Doctor saying “I am through learning, any new medicine or modern techniques; I don’t care to know about.”  What is going to happen for that Doctor?  Other doctors will begin to become greater in their field, they will know more and as a result be more effective. They will have a better chance of healing the sick, bringing relief to the hurting and possibly even saving lives.  They will have this chance because they have continued to learn.  The Doctor who chooses not to grow and learn will be left behind and ultimately he will suffer, his business will suffer and so will his patients, all because he did not heed to the powerful truth that says “when you’re through learning you’re through.”

Whether you are a Doctor, Salesperson, Accountant, Public servant, Pastor or Business owner the same is true for you “when you’re through learning you’re through.”  Your personal and professional life will begin a plateau and even a decline.  So how can you avoid this horrible pattern?  Here are some things that you can do that will keep you moving forward:

1)  Commit to grow
This is simply a choice that you must make.  “I WILL GROW.”  I will do whatever it takes to keep myself growing and learning every single day of my life.  Make this choice right now.  If you don’t chose to move forward with growth then you are ultimately making a choice to move backwards in your life.

2)  Create a growth plan
Don’t make a choice to grow without a plan.  I often ask people “do you have a growth plan?” and they usually answer “no.”  If they don’t have a plan to get somewhere then how will they ever get there?  You need to create a plan for growth.  Here are some things you can do:
• Read books – Find books that will help you grow as a leader and as a person.  Commit to reading one book a month.  Imagine the difference that will make over a year.
• Attend seminars – Find some conferences and seminars that will inspire and challenge you.  Sometimes these events can become costly but if you look hard enough you can keep the cost down.  These types of events have a way of keeping you motivated and on track with your plans for growth.
• Audio learning – There are so many great teachings on audio.  Imagine if you listened to teaching and training during your drive time, you could learn and grow so much just by changing what you listen to in the car.

3)  Use every available resource to grow
There are so many resources out there that can help you grow and they don’t cost anything.  Even this teaching that you are reading right now This blog and others like it are free.  You don’t have to pay for them and yet you and your key leaders can grow as a result.  There are numerous resources that are available to you through the internet that can help you grow.  Use these resources, use every resource and watch yourself grow. 

4)  Help someone else grow
Zig Ziglar once said “If you help enough people be successful you will never lack success for yourself.”  In other words, help other people grow and somehow you grow yourself.  How can you help others grow?  Give them materials that will make them better than they are.  Forward a link to this blog to 10 friends and colleagues and let them know that you want to help them grow.   Give them audio teachings, send them articles, and pay for them to go to a seminar.  If you will help others grow you will never lack growth yourself.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Today is the tomorrow that you said yesterday you would get it done.”