10 Keys to Spirit-Led Leadership

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 10.32.17 AMLast month I led a leadership class for two weeks (of a six week class) and talked about 10 Keys to Spirit-Led Leadership. I hope to write a post on each key at some point, but in the mean time here’s a brief overview of the 10 keys.

Spirit-Led Leaders…

1. …Walk Closely With The Lord

John 15:5
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

Luke 6:47-49
47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

This passage is true for life and it’s true for leadership. Jesus tells us how to lead. He demonstrated how to lead when he washed the disciples feet. Servant leadership is not of this world.

2. …Discover Their God-Given Potential

Judges Chapter 6 (Read the whole chapter for context). Basically Gideon was hiding from the enemy just trying to survive and fly under the radar when God showed up and called him to his purpose as a leader. When Gideon was anything BUT a warrior, the Lord said to him “The Lord is with you mighty warrior.” (Vs. 12) God sees our potential, not our current state. He shows us HIS vision for our leadership, not how we view ourselves.

3. …Lead Those Closest to Them Best

Our leadership is only as good as our closest relationships and we’re only as deep as the last person we served. Our definition of success needs to be similar to leadership expert John Maxwell’s. “Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most.” If we’re building an empire but our family is a wreck we have failed. If we’re doing something “great for God” but our marriage fails we have not succeeded. If we’re pioneering new ventures but have to step on people to do it, we’re losing.

4. …Know Themselves

As leaders we need to cultivate self awareness especially in the areas of personality type, spiritual gifts, awareness of our blindspots, and an understanding of our unique experiences and weird combinations. For example, David was a warrior…and he played the harp. Weird combination but God used both in his life to position him.

5. …Grow

We need to grow in our knowledge of scripture (2 Timothy 2:15). We need to have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.

6. …Attack Fear

We shouldn’t just “deal with” fear, we should intentionally attack it. Read Mark Batterson’s “In a Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day”. Beneniah (one of Davids mighty warriors) didn’t just kill a lion that came at him. HE went after the Lion. The only antidote to fear is heading straight into the very thing we are afraid of. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s action taken in the face of fear.

7. …Encourage, Inspire, and Mentor

Encourage literally means to “add strength” or to “spur on to courage”. It’s not a Hallmark card, it’s a call to be strong, to keep going, to make a difference.

8. …Cast Vision Effectively

The prerequisite to casting vision is seeing the big picture. The prerequisite to seeing the big picture is spending time with the Lord.

9. …Are Essentialists

Leaders understand the power of  focus and clarity. We can go 50 directions an inch deep or one direction a mile deep. Know your core strengths, core values, marketable skills, and God-induced passions. Spend 80% of your time doing what only you can do. Delegate or cut the rest. Read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. See also, Good to Great, by Jim Collins.

10. …Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Leaders should set 3-5 goals (covering each leadership role or life area) each year that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to your calling/purpose), and Time-bound.

I hope you enjoy these leadership keys. Feel free to leave a comment or question below!

Character Design Course Review

DArriegaOne thing all artists need is continuing education. It doesn’t matter if you have an established career and have been working for years. Artists (and leaders) must continue growing in their craft and in other ways that stretch them.

I recently completed a Schoolism character design course from Pixar’s Daniel Arriaga and loved it. Arriega has worked on such films as Monsters Inc, Monsters University, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. He also worked on projects at Disney including Wreck-It-Ralph and (as art director) on Prep and Landing: Naughty vs. Nice.

The course covered topics like: shape language, silhouette, rhythm, design and composition, gesture and mood, exaggeration, character moments, and expressions and I really enjoyed his perspective on each of the topics.

Most lessons started with a famous artist highlight featuring the work of various illustrators, comic strip artists, character designers, or visual development artists who displayed mastery of the specific area Arriaga was going to cover in that particular lesson.

Next, he would show how that principle was applied in character design for feature film by showing specific behind the scenes examples from Pixar. I really enjoyed this aspect. Many of the examples he showed I had never seen (and I have just about every “Art of” Pixar book ever published).

Finally, Arriaga would demonstrate the principle and talk about the process. Watching an experienced master character designer draw characters while talking about his thinking process is invaluable.

I won’t give away much more than that (so as to not step on Schoolism’s proprietary toes) but I highly recommend this class to any serious character designer. This was an amazing class and is available as a “go at your own pace” course, or as a specific date range course (check dates/availability) where Arriaga actually critiques your work after each lesson. The second version is obviously limited and only offered a couple of times per year (and more expensive, but justifiably so).

I should also mention, that I am not affiliated with Schoolism in anyway. I don’t get any affiliate commission to recommend them. I simply took the course, really enjoyed it, and want to recommend it to any serious character designer. I’m definitely going to take more courses there myself.

New Timbuktoons Webite Launched!

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 5.39.38 PMI’m out of a major production vortex just in time to go to a conference we’ve been preparing for. What was the cause of the major production vortex you say? Well, first of all we have a bunch of projects in (a very good thing). Second, those projects don’t sit by idly waiting to be worked on while you launch an all new website.

Sean Copley, Timbuktoons VP of Brand Strategy, has been working on the site for months on the planning side. I knew we would put up a new demo reel, but the more we got into planning and development approaching the site from our client’s perspective, the more we realized we needed small demo reels for just about everything.

We also worked on some fun projects last year that we haven’t had a chance to show yet and we wanted to do them justice. After countless hours of pulling project files, writing copy, creating graphics and demo reels, the site is done! (Well, as “done” as creatives allow any project to be done. 🙂

So, gather your family, find a nice computer (preferably a mac) and check out the new site. There are still a few bells and whistles we’ll add and some cross-polination of the blogs (TBT site for studio stuff and project highlights, and this site for more posts and resources to help creatives thrive*)

*I’m teaching a 4 week course on my book in April then we’ll have lots more resources that will be made available on the blog.

Selfless Leadership

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporation

There’s a big difference between positional leadership and actual leadership. Positional leadership demands followers because of a title. Real leadership just leads through a myriad of key leadership qualities (check out The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John Maxwell as a primer).

Among many other qualities good leaders have, a clear vision (even if developed over time), an instinctive gut feel or sort of sixth sense at the beginning of the bell curve that others around them don’t quite understand, and a willingness to live (and die if needed) for a cause bigger than themselves.

Today we celebrate a great leader’s life. Martin Luther King, Jr. faced the possibility and even the probability of death often. He had a family. He loved life. More that that, he saw change that needed to happen and his faith told him he was “called for such a time as this”, for a purpose bigger than himself.

Historical leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., or Abraham Lincoln, knew their lives were constantly at risk. Both had previous attempts on their lives yet kept leading with poise and confidence in their purpose.

There’s a scene in Saving Private Ryan, where Captain Miller (Played by Tom Hanks) climbs over a small hill and breaks down crying after losing a second soldier in their seemingly pointless search for Private Ryan. He wipes his tears, puts his own feelings behind him, then stands up to once again lead his unit on a tough assignment they were called to take on.

Where are the selfless leaders today? Our country needs them. Our businesses need them. Our non-profits need them. Our churches need them. I’m blessed to know some really good leaders who inspire me to live for more and to lead better. If any of us claim to be a leader, it’s time to live selflessly for a cause bigger than ourselves, and to challenge other leaders to do the same.

As we celebrate a great leader’s life today, take time to reflect on how you can selflessly lead using the sphere of influence you’ve been given.

Don’t Wind Up In A Small Mountain-Town ER! Go With Your Gut!

You may remember the series of funny Direct TV spots that ran this year tracing a cable users small reaction to a frustrating cable TV event that leads to a large scale bad situation.

Today as I was thinking through some milestones for my 2015 goals and a recent life event much like the Direct TV commercials (detailed below), it hit me how important one rarely talked about aspect of leadership and pursuing your calling is, and how this one small thing has big implications.

Gut-Instinct. It won’t scream at you. It won’t throw a fit. It won’t force you to take action. It’s not “fight-or-flight”. It’s a low simmer. It reminds me of “the still small voice” or “gentle whisper” the Biblical Old Testament prophet Elijah wrote about.

As I was analyzing one of my goals and thinking about how it logically fit into my plans, it struck me that I couldn’t explain why some decisions and opportunities seem to draw me more than others. I just know in my gut when the moment is right to pursue an opportunity. There’s an excitement and a draw that occur but it’s deeper than that. There seems to be a strong underlying mature passion and willingness to take on certain challenges.

Some opportunities look great on paper, but in my gut I know something isn’t right with it. By contrast, there are other opportunities that may seem less strategic, but I know in my gut that it’s the right call.

I can honestly say that every time I have neglected to go with my gut, the results have confirmed that I should have. Take this past Saturday for example. After four days of snowboarding at a Christmas family get together in the mountains of PA, we wrapped up our last run of the morning and were about to head in for lunch. My kids wanted to do one last run because we had about 20 minutes to spare so we went.

In my thinking, there was no logical reason not to go for one more run, but in my gut I felt we probably shouldn’t. Logic won out over gut and we went.

Twenty minutes later when we completed the final morning run, I had added a third degree (aka “type III”) separated shoulder and spending a few hours in a small mountain ER to my list of life experiences. Call it intuition. Call it gut-feel. Whatever it is, go with your gut and learn to trust it! It’s a God-given gift. Don’t wind up in a small mountain-town ER! Go with your gut!

S.M.A.R.T. Creative Career Goals, Part 2


This post is an excerpt from chapter 18 of my book Calling All Artists. November is the perfect time to start planning goals for the next year! In part 1, I shared what S.M.A.R.T. goals are and the benefit to using this method. Here in part 2 I want to show specific examples and an exercise for you to work through to develop your own S.M.A.R.T. goals for next year!

Here are examples of 3 of my goals for 2014. Two are professional goals and one is a personal goal. Notice the specificity of each and see if you can confirm that each of the 5 S.M.A.R.T. components are present.

1. Identify my thought-leadership niche and start a blog by January 31, 2014
(I launched my first post on January, 15th 2014 and the blog has already gone through two major alterations.)

2. Write and release a thought leadership e-book by September 30th, 2014.
(The book officially launched on July 28, 2014.)

3. Plan and go on an adventure that helps others and is physically demanding by July 31st, 2014.
(I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my oldest son in June, 2014.)

For the sake of transparency, I have also missed a goal. I had planned to write and illustrate a children’s book this year as well. The skill of goal setting is a process of learning how to make sure your goals are Realistic. That goal by it’s self is realistic, but I discovered that all four goals together in the same year (along with client work, being a soccer dad and running a company) were not. Realistic goal setting helps temper ambitions so that we don’t take on too much at once. This skill, like any other, is honed and refined as you use it.

What I have learned is that it is better to have one to three goals that you can complete with a level of excellence, than it is to have too many goals that risk being half-baked or completely unobtainable. I also learned the importance of prioritizing goals so that the goals with the most important impact, or that are most strategic, are completed first. Pushing less strategic goals off until next year is not the end of the world.

Goal Setting Exercise
1. Take some time to list five to seven goals (in all areas of your life, not just professional) that you would like to accomplish in the next year. Spend time rewriting them with more specificity until all five S.M.A.R.T. goal components are present.
2. Once you have a draft of your five to seven goals, share them with someone you trust and get some feedback.
3. Refine and finalize your goals.
4. Put them somewhere you will see them every day.
5. List the next single step toward each goal and put a due date next to it.
6. As you complete an action step, write the next single step along with a due date. Rinse and repeat.
Remember that the only way to move a mountain is one shovel full at a time, and the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Start digging and start chewing and before long you’ll see yourself moving closer and closer to your creative career goals.

S.M.A.R.T. Creative Career Goals, Part 1


This post is an excerpt from chapter 18 of my book Calling All Artists. As we approach the end of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to start thinking about goals for next year. I suggest doing this in November before the holiday season begins so you can hit the ground running in January! Enjoy!

You’ll fail at 100% of the goals you don’t set.  —Mark Victor Hansen

Once you are clear on your calling, you set goals, plan your work, then work your plan. In order to plan, you have to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. I was introduced to this goal setting system last December when I went through Micheal Hyatt’s five day goal setting course. Prior to that my goals were usually missing on of these 5 very important components, but I didn’t even realize it. This simple system took my goal setting to an entirely new level.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are:
1. Specific: Your goals must be clear and detailed, not broad, general or vague.
2. Measurable: You must be able to measure progress toward your goals.
3. Achievable: Your goals must be realistic and attainable.
4. Relevant: Your goals must matter. They must line up with you overall plans and strategy.
5. Time-bound: Your goals must have a time frame and a target date or deadline.

I honestly didn’t know how powerful each of these components was until I implemented them into my goals this year. I have been setting goals for years, however I have found this method to be revolutionary. I wish I would have learned it years ago. It’s amazing what one small pivot can accomplish in a short time.

What I’ve found is that even some great goal setters and achievers, are missing one of these components. Leaving one component out won’t kill your goal setting but it weakens it’s effectiveness. This method just flat out works.

Next week I’ll share more from that chapter, but in the mean time if you haven’t read the book you can get it here. Goal setting really should come after the hard work of nailing down your creative calling. Stay tuned!

Official Book Launch: Calling All Artists

forpostSee details and purchase options here.
(or go directly to Amazon)

Well it’s finally here. Six months in the making (although I could argue decades) with many late nights and early mornings, encouragement from my wife, kids, and great friends, I’m proud to announce the official release of my first book: Calling All Artists. (See printed manuscript from last week at left.)

After compiling and editing 210+ pages (39,790+ words), setting the master manuscript up with all of the correct styles needed for e-readers, uploading to Amazon it’s finally ready for purchase.

It’s available for Kindles (and Kindle app on iPhone/iPad and other devices) at Amazon.com.


I was extremely humbled by these generous endorsements from some very kind industry veterans. Some also have some amazing interviews in the book along with several other TV, Feature Film, Broadway, Music, and Video Production veterans!

An immensely practical guide for the creative in all of us. Todd Hampson’s work has blessed me and thousands of others – his writing about the nuts and bolts of being a working creative will bless many more. Highly recommended!

Phil Vischer — Creator of VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?

When someone with Todd Hampson’s credentials and experience talks about creativity, I listen.  In fact, his new book, “Calling All Artists” was the kick in the pants I needed to move forward on my next project.  If you live a creative life (and all of us should), then I recommend the book.  You won’t regret it.

Phil Cooke — filmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do

Having been an adjunct professor in the cinema and media departments of two major universities, I know firsthand the positive impact this book will have on students.  Whether graduating from college or deciding what to do with your life, this book answers hard questions,  provides insightful information, and gives you life changing tips on how to make better choices and start a creative career in the 21st century.

Kathleen Cooke — kathleencooke.com, Co-Founder Cooke Pictures, cookepictures.com

Todd Hampson’s “Calling All Artists” e-book is a GREAT tool for anyone just getting into animation or even those that have been in it a while and want to reinvent themselves and/or reignite their passions.  As artists, we are not very good at looking internally or into the future, so planning our careers is a mysterious journey.  Todd really gets you to organize your thoughts and aline them with your talents!  That is THE path to success for any artist!  Additionally, his optimistic viewpoint toward the industry, and his excitement about it, is a breath of fresh air we all need to hear!

Tom Bancroft — former Disney Supervising Animator, Director, Studio Owner, Character Designer, Author

Todd Hampson listens and delivers! I have personally had the privilege of working with Todd and his company Timbuktoons developing an animated series for kids. He and his wonderful team were able to grant my every wish, and then some. The information he shares in this book will absolutely help artists on their creative journey.

Cassie Byram — actress, singer, song-writer, and Executive Creative Producer, Oodles World Inc.

Needless to say, I’m really excited about this book, most of all because I think it is going to help thousands of artists discover their creative calling and how to thrive in a creative career. I’m planning a few promotional events to help get the word out about the book but I couldn’t wait to share the news. Please tell your friends and share this link (http://ow.ly/zG06i) on social media to help get the word out!



Book Review: Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Creativity Inc

This book by Pixar, Disney, and DisneyToon Studios’ President, Ed Catmull is amazing. As a long time Pixar geek I have soaked up just about everything available in terms of Pixar culture, special features, documentaries etc. I’ve watched The Pixar Story by Leslie Iwerks, and read The Pixar Touch by David A. Price. I’ve watched YouTube lectures by Ed Catmull, Lassiter, Stanton, Doctor, and of course Jobs.

So, when I started reading Creativity, Inc., I didn’t think there would be much new information to be honest. Boy was I wrong. This is the first extensive work published by a Pixar leader and it’s an in depth look at the management style and studio culture development thought process of one of the most unassuming and effective leaders of our generation. It covers the same history and facts and highlights some of the same Pixar culture principles, but I was amazed at how much rich content each chapter had. I can’t think of another recent book where I’ve highlighted so much. Just about every line is tweetable.

This book drips with wisdom for leaders of any organization, not just creative shops. For me, it was the perfect storm of creativity, healthy organizational culture, and leadership principles. It really transcends industries because creativity and leadership transcend industries.

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Let me know what you think once you’ve read it. You can leave a comment below.

The Leadership X-Factor: 7 Qualities of a Great Leader

xfactorI’m on the school council for an elementary school in our area. Recently, we interviewed applicants for a key leadership position and made our recommendations to the school board. We were to interview them one at a time using 12 questions, then rank them in several areas, number our preferred candidates from first to third choice.

I’ve interviewed people several times before but this was the first time I was to interview people whom I knew nothing about until the day of the interviews. The applicants did not have the questions in advance and really had to “shoot from the hip”. Furthermore, they had to sit down before a small group of strangers who were going to fire these questions at them. And this was the last step in the school board making their final decision. Talk about pressure.

It was apparent that all of the candidates had done their homework and prepared for the interview. All of them had impeccable qualifications and experience. These were the top 3 candidates who had made the cut several times to get to this point.

Before interviews began, I wondered how I could really give a recommendation (possibly effecting someone’s career advancement potential) without really knowing them and without seeing each candidate in action over a period of time.

The answer? Leadership. When all things are equal, leadership is the X-factor. I don’t mean, they are able to say all the right leadership catch phrases and describe leadership styles. I mean, there’s just something about them that demonstrates their understanding of leadership and an ability to lead effectively. The dictionary defines “the X-factor” as “a quality that you cannot describe that makes someone very special.”

With one candidate, I clearly sensed the X-factor in my gut, but I forced myself to list what some of the leadership traits were that I saw in this person. Here’s the list I came up with. These are key qualities found in a good leader.

7 Key Leadership X-Factor Qualities

1. A Quiet Confidence
2. A Sense of Calling
3. Extreme Self-Awareness
4. A Clear and Compelling Vision
5. An Ability To Empathize
6. An Ability To Apply Wisdom
7. Courage To Be An Individual

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What are some other unique qualities you have seen in a good leader? You can leave a comment below.