On Being Well Read

I attended a risk management conference last week, and one of my most important takeaways was the need to be more well-read. As a risk management professional, I seek to be more informed about news & current events, global business climate, and important business transactions among other things. Since returning home, this has been on my mind, and I have explored subscriptions to a few publications.

Yesterday morning, during my daily devotional time, the Lord offered up this reminder:

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This is what is most important: to be well-grounded. I must set my foundation on solid ground and let everything that I am be built on that. To be sure, I fully intend to subscribe to a few news and business publications. I want to be that informed, well-rounded individual. But my time in God’s Word comes first. It defines me. It sets the tone. The others will help me be well-rounded; God’s Word will help me be a better man as it keeps me well-grounded.

Soli DEO Gloria!

RIMS 2018: What Did I Learn?

I’ve lost count of the number of national RIMS (Risk & Insurance Management Society) conferences I have attended over the years, but I’m guessing it is around 20 or so. I always come away from the conference feeling a bit melancholy as I am reminded of how important the relationship aspect of this industry truly is and how much I enjoy hanging out with my friends in this crazy and wonderful industry. Here are a few key takeaways from my recent 2018 RIMS experience:

  1. Be well-read. I had the honor of joining Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg for lunch after he spoke at Chubb’s annual leadership luncheon. I am always impressed at his worldliness as he speaks on world affairs, American politics, challenges in business, and Chubb’s strategies. Given the plethora of misinformation out there these days, I asked him, “What do you read?” He responded that he reads three newspapers daily: The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Financial Times. He also reads The Economist each week. I have been pondering this ever since, as this is an area in which I can improve.
  2. Relationships are important. In this industry, people prefer to do business with people they know and trust. The purchase of insurance for a large publicly traded organization is an important two-way transaction: While I need to rely on my trading partners to be there if the crud hits the fan, they need to rely on me and my team to manage our risks the way we say we do to mitigate that potential. There is much at stake for both of us. Part of my process is to personally meet every underwriter in my portfolio, and to get to know well those who take on the most significant risk transfer. RIMS offers me an annual opportunity to nurture these relationships, and this is one of the aspects of my role that I enjoy the most.
  3. If you need something, ask. I had a need in my claims program that had not been addressed to my satisfaction. At RIMS I had the opportunity to state my case to senior management of an important trading partner, and within a few days my need was met. One important reason was the foundational relationship between our two organizations and us personally. See number 2 above.
  4. You own your program. We risk managers rely heavily on our brokers for coverage placement and addressing any issues or concerns that may arise. They are an incredibly important leg on this three-legged stool (broker, insurer, client), and I value their experience and expertise. Sometimes, however, we must take ownership of solving a problem, not because our partners are deficient, but because it is my problem; I have the greatest stake in seeing it addressed. See number 3 above.
  5. Never stop learning. I recently joined the Board of Houston’s RIMS chapter. Along with four other Board members, I attended a Sunday morning Chapter Leadership forum led by national RIMS. There was much discussion of the RIMS CRMP (Certified Risk Management Professional) designation. I had heard of it, but never explored it. You see, I am fairly seasoned in my career, I have a graduate degree, and I earned my ARM designation many years ago. “What’s the point,” has been my response to earning CRMP. The point is, retirement is several years out (God willing). I have much work yet to do and my organization deserves the most well-rounded professional I can be. And learning is fun. So I’m going for it.
  6. RIMS is worth supporting. The Chapter Leadership Forum offered the opportunity to learn from many very successful chapters from around the US and Canada. We have great people in Houston and we have a great Chapter but we can be better. I have gained much from my RIMS membership over the years and now it’s time to give back. I’m looking forward to working with my fellow Board members on several takeaways we gained in this session.
  7. Work hard, play hard. OK, it’s not really a takeaway. Those who know me well know how much I enjoy the social aspects of what we do for a living. Yes, it’s fun. But it is also very important. In these social settings, we get to know one another personally. We learn about each other’s families. We talk about life’s struggles. We celebrate life’s successes. We build bonds of trust that are personally gratifying, but also business beneficial. Many who I consider my closest and dearest friends are friends through this industry, and for their friendship I am truly grateful.

I suppose these are not really “learnings” per se. They are reinforcements of things I know to be true and sources of inspiration from which I plan to drive my future success and professional development. Thank you, industry friends and partners, and thank you RIMS for being a very important part of my life. I am blessed.

Hurricane Harvey: Providence After the Storm

We made provision. As recommended by experts, we stocked up on bottled water and nonperishables as we prepared for Hurricane Harvey. We laughed as we bought wine, bourbon, and Courvoisier claiming that, with those purchases, we had the essentials needed to ride out the storm. As it turns out, we had no idea how severely Harvey would impact our home and our family.

On August 28, 2017, as a result of “controlled releases” by the US Army Corps of Engineers from two local reservoirs, our neighborhood and many others in west Houston were inundated with flood water and we were forced to evacuate. As I write this, our neighborhood and our home remain flooded as the releases continue. The flood and ensuing evacuation will be the topic of another post, as we have quite the story to tell, as do many in southeast Texas.

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In the aftermath of the storm, God has held us in His hand. We have witnessed His glory manifested in a myriad of ways. He has provided for every need as each need manifested itself. We have experienced rescue, hospitality, love, support, kindness, generosity, provision, hugs, and so many other things from friends, family, and complete strangers, some who seemed to appear from nowhere at just the time we needed their help. I know better: their appearance was not coincidental. Indeed, in the midst of all of this I see God’s handiwork.

Romans 8:28 plays like a continuous loop in my mind: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Speaking from personal experience from the center of disaster I can say with no doubt whatsoever that this is most certainly true. In the coming days I plan to tell our Harvey story, not to draw attention or sympathy to myself, but to give glory and honor to God who rescued us from this storm.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Saturday Morning

The house is asleep. It’s quiet. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the house as I clear my eyes and set my sights on a brand new day; a day that offers fresh opportunities to impact my world in positive and constructive ways.

Yes, I am a morning person. I’m that guy who wakes up ready to go, ready to get the day started. On a weekday morning, things move quickly as I take my devotional time, prepare for work and mentally run through my calendar and the day’s meetings. But Saturday mornings are different. There is no clanging alarm to rouse me from my sleep; I awaken naturally – 6:39 this morning – I slept in! I take my time catching up with friends on Facebook, reviewing and updating my Twitter feed, reading my Bible, and sipping coffee as I contemplate the week just past, the weekend upon me, and the week to come. In the quiet of Saturday morning I remember how blessed I am to have good people in my life, a comfortable home, a fulfilling career, and a God who loves me even in spite of my many shortcomings.

That’s all I have to say today. If you’re reading this, put a smile on your face, thank God for another day of this wonderful gift of life, and be a positive influence in your corner of the world. After you’ve had your coffee, of course!

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Saturday Morning 7.15.2017

 

The Harvest is Ripe…

For me, there is nothing like live music. I admire those who have been blessed with musical talent and I enjoy music of most genres. Last night I had the privilege of attending Carlos Santana’s show at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Until now, I’ve been a very casual fan, if that. It was a business event and I was given a free general admission ticket along with the other business colleagues attending the conference. “I’ll stay for a few songs, then I’ll sneak out to bed.” Was I wrong or what?? His music is infectious, and I found myself not wanting to leave. Just over two hours later, I’m on my feet with the rest of the crowd applauding this man who has truly mastered his craft.

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Carlos Santana performing at the Mandalay Bay House of Blues, February 2, 2017. He is a master at his craft, and his music is infectious! Taken on my iPhone.

A little more than halfway through his show, he spoke to the audience. He told them that there are people out there teaching about “wretched sinners”, that those people are mean and we should run from them. He said that we all have this light inside us, and we should live out our lives in that light, enjoying life, being kind. Many in the crowd enthusiastically received and applauded his message. And that made me sad; sad because the only part of the Gospel message he’s apparently heard is the part about sin and death. If he only knew how beautiful the other side of that coin is – the truth about redemption, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ, he could have shared that Truth with his audience.

As he launched into his next song I looked around the room – all those people. How many know Christ, and how many don’t? How many took his false message to heart? I turned to the colleague standing next to me and said, “His theology is a bit off.” My colleague responded, “He’s talking about his god.”

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We live in a lost and fallen world. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37) My sense of urgency is increasing, but I sometimes struggle to find my place. Talking about things of God is easy in church, but it’s frowned upon in the workplace. Screaming the Gospel at a colleague I just met in a loud music venue doesn’t seem right either. I know God wants me to share the Gospel. This morning I prayed about the harvest and my role in helping gather it. I look forward to seeing how God chooses to use me, and I pray that He will give me with wisdom and courage to seize every witness opportunity He presents.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Our Words Mean Things

What do your fingers and your tongue have in common?

Rush Limbaugh once said, “words mean things” and he’s right. Hurtful and harmful words are hard to take back, and even if acknowledged and forgiven, the damage can linger for a long, long time.

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James3:9-12 NIV

People can have a mean streak. We say and do some rather shocking things with the intention of hurting one another. We sometimes justify it, “I sure put him in his place” or “that was great, she had that coming.” Or, perhaps worse, we’re just cruel for cruel’s sake.

Observing our current leading candidates for president, I am quite disturbed by what I hear: name-calling, misrepresentations, overstatements, and even some outright non-truths. I watch the so-called “news” channels and see panelists interrupting one another and talking over each other as each believes his or her message is the only message of value. Rather than reporting the news, these channels spin a yarn in support of whatever political agenda each has chosen to support. Is any of this really helpful in forwarding our nation? Will any of this make us safer or stronger? Will any of it position us as a force for good in the world?

Sadly, many of us are taking note and following their lead. As I page through Facebook and Twitter there is much vitriol to be seen, much of it posted by Christians like me. As James writes in the passage above, this cannot be. As believers, we are to share the Gospel with this lost and fallen world. Our lives are our chief witness; everything we do and say points to something. If we sing praises in church and later speak evil of others, we cannot be an effective witness. We can’t.

Indeed, in this era of modern technology and social media our fingers are an extension of the tongue. Think about it. How many times over the last week have you lashed out on social media against a person, a cause, a disagreement or something else? I’ve been making a conscious effort in this aspect of my over the past few months. A salt spring cannot produce fresh water. With vitriol we do more harm than good and our credibility as a witness for Christ is tarnished; Something for each of us to consider as we engage our world today and every day.

Soli Deo Gloria!

On Growing Old(er)

I remember a junior high conversation in which my friends and I calculated how old we would be on January 1, 2000. Back in 1975, that seemed like forever to us 14 year-old eighth graders. And then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, I was 38 years old, celebrating New Years Eve with a house full of friends and neighbors anxiously waiting to see if the lights would go out and the world would stop turning as Y2K approached.

Y2K was 16 years ago, and looking back, it almost seems silly to consider how scared many people were of that fateful turn of the clock from 11:59:59 12/31/1999 to 12:00:00 1/1/2000. Tech companies made millions, if not billions, of dollars helping organizations prepare their computer systems for that fateful moment in time. Doomsday prophecies abounded as many stockpiled water and other staples in preparation for the calamity that was about to befall us all. Alas, and thankfully, the calamity never came. As we moved forward from 12:00:00 on January 1, 2000 it didn’t take long for the revelry to continue and life to go on as normal.

Today is my 55th birthday. As I sit here this morning pondering the past 55 years and thinking about what I would write to commemorate my “double nickels” day, this is the memory that sprang forth first. Isn’t that interesting? Then it hit me: how often do we live life waiting for the next calamity that never really manifests itself? As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that worry and fret over circumstances I cannot control serve only to drain energy and distract me from what is truly important and worthwhile.

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Micah 6:8 NIV

I don’t have a “favorite” passage of Scripture, but there are several that I try to apply as guiding principles for how I live my life. Micah 6:8 is one of them. My ultimate goal at all times and in all things is to honor God. Even as I typed that line I cringed because I know I often fall short. But as I cringe at my shortcomings, God reminds me of His mercy and grace and I look ahead with renewed vigor. I know God is honored when I do “good” and His “good” is the standard I seek to achieve. As I ponder 55 years on this grand planet today, I am more determined than ever to avoid fret, worry, and other robbers of time and energy as I seek to honor Him with whatever time He wants to give me.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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