You Must Sit Before You Stand

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You Must Sit Before You Stand

Black Belt Leadership
You Must Sit Before You Stand
John L Terry, III - The Black Belt Leader

I was on a call with Mark Cole, CEO of John Maxwell Enterprises, Tuesday night as we discussed what's happening here in America and around the world and how (as leaders) to respond. In the conversation, Mark mentioned a recent collaboration between Pastors Steven Furtick and John Grey to discuss the recent killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black American, and America's response to this senseless tragedy.

As these two men talked at length about race relations and solutions to bring hope, healing, restoration, and unity to our nation they discussed the importance of leadership. Pastor Furtick made a statement that stuck with Mark Cole and he expounded upon in our call.

These words also resonated with me as I thought into the power of Pastor Steven Furtick's comment in his exchange with Pastor John Grey:
"There comes a time before you can take a stand for something you have to take a seat." (Pastor Steven Furtick)

In the subsequent dialogue that followed, Mark shared that learning is better when we are learning from teachable teachers. He shared that his mentor, Dr. John C. Maxwell, is still actively learning at the ripe young age of 73. Mark reminded me that leaders who are growing and learning are able to continually deliver deeper insights into what they are teaching to others.


They are sharing what they are experiencing and learning from others and from life as a result of remaining open to growing and maturing.
As I thought into my call with Mark late into the evening, I thought about Pastor Furtick's words. My mind flashed back to my early years in school. I sat, and I learned. I thought about the times I have spent with my mentors over the years, and it was when I sat at their feet and leaned into what they were sharing that I gained some of my greatest insights into their life experience. It was there I learned to grow, mature, and gain that all-important life experience of applying what I learned.

We learn when we're listening, not speaking.

Sitting makes listening easier.

In the Gospels, we read, "Jesus sat down, and He taught the people." The multitudes sat around him and listened. It was there they learned. No distractions, no unnecessary movement. Eyes focused on the teacher, ears tuned to His words, and the mind concentrating on what was being imparted and storing that teaching for future use.

People became better because they took the time to sit, listen, and learn.

Position and posture matters. Putting ourselves in a position where we can hear, even when the message is uncomfortable, challenges our deeply held beliefs or prejudices, and stretches us to consider the insights and opinions of others is where real learning can begin. Removing the distractions so we can focus on the person speaking and the insights they are sharing,

In the martial arts we would sit, either formally or informally, at the feet of our instructor so we could be taught. It was there we learned through word and through illustration. Our thinking was stretched, our minds were engaged, and only after we gained insight could we stand to start making application of what we had been taught.

When we listen, we learn. Sitting makes learning easier.

It is only after we've taken the time to sit, listen, learn, reflect, and appropriately respond in a life-giving, God-honoring way that we have the right to take a stand.

In times of crisis, there are three responses. The first is to REACT. This is an emotional response to anger, fear, or guilt. This is when we tend to see humanity at its worst. It often evokes a "
me vs. them" way of thinking that promotes scarcity thinking that can lead to violent outbursts of aggression by one group against another as what is known as a "tribal" mindset based on race, creed, color, class, or ethnic origin.

It is a limiting belief system that says "I'm right" and "everyone else is wrong". It causes us to infer the nefarious actions of one (or a small subset of a group of people) onto the entire populace of this grouping based on race, color, creed, class, or ethnic origin. This limiting belief system can even be extended to include one's vocation or geographic location in a particular area or region.

It is divisive. It is destructive. It is wrong.

Reacting is never productive and the end result is hatred, violence, and destruction. If people remain in the reactive phase too long, society crumbles into chaos. This leads to the destruction of social norms, resulting in a fractured society where each tribal group looks out solely for the interests of its own. No longer a united collective working for a common cause, each group wars against the others fighting for scarce, limited resources with a complete disregard for the value of the property rights of others. In extreme cases, even human life is devalued or completely disregarded. People become expendable.

The second response to a crisis is to REFLECT. It's the opportunity to take a seat, to pause and examine what has happened through the lens of reflective thinking. Getting to the root cause of WHY something happened is necessary because it is there that answers and real solutions can be found. Reflection gives us time to see things from the perspective of others. It also allows everyone involved to have that all-important "man in the mirror" moment where each of us has to be honest as to what we have done (individually and corporately) that brought us to the point where we now find ourselves.

In times of true reflection, all parties find there is plenty of blame to go around. Why? None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. We all have our own limiting beliefs, preconceived ideas, prejudices, and behaviors that have contributed to our initial reaction to a crisis. It's in times of reflection we see the shortcomings in our own lives and how our own choices have contributed to the crisis we are now facing.

It's in times of reflection we realize that nothing changes until something changes. Each of us has to change for the better. To realize we are not part of a tribe based on race, color, creed, or ethnic origin but are part of the global human race. It's in times of reflection we realize that we must treat other people the way we want to be treated.

It's in times of reflection that forgiveness is fostered and ways to proactively unify to change things for the better are cultivated. The mindset changes from "me vs. them" to understanding that "we're all in this together".

The third way people act in response to a crisis is to take action, to RESPOND. In the response phase, this is when we take a STAND TO IMPROVE the situation for the better. It's when tribalism is defeated, with each side acknowledging its own part in the origins that led to the crisis. It is in a proactive response that individuals come together in UNITY for the common good of humanity.

John Maxwell spoke into the crisis we are dealing with as a nation this past Monday. As he talked about the senseless death of George Floyd and the rioting taking place across our nation, John noted, "We are ALL better than our worst reactions."

It is a message our nation (and the world) needs to hear.

John also shared a memorable teaching from his father Melvin. As he sat at his father's feet as a young boy, Melvin challenged his son to (1) Believe in people, (2) Value people, and (3) Unconditionally love people.

When you do those three things, you will want to do what is best for the people, and not just what's best for you.

I've talked often about how our choices create the consequences of our lives. If we don't like the consequences we are experiencing, we must change our choices. Not only do our choices shape our future, but (as Mark Cole says) our actions compound. That which we do consistently multiples the results of what we experience in the future.

There will be a day of reckoning when we will come face to face with the compounded impact of our choices, individually and corporately. On that day, we will either PAY UP or we will PROFIT FROM the choices we have made. We will either be ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, or we will cease to be a global force for good in our world.

Martin Luther King, Jr. longed for the day when people would not be known by the color of their skin but by the character of their heart. King understood that it was a mark of maturity as a nation when we could see things from another person's perspective, find the common good, and focus on what unites us as a unique creation of God.

That can't happen until we stop reacting, sit down, and start listening, learning from each other, and reflecting on how we together make things better. It is my hope and prayer that America can take a seat, learn from teachable teachers who aren't seeking to divide us but unite us, and come out of this crisis better as a nation.

It's only then that we can take a stand and bring about lasting change that benefits the whole of the nation, and not just the individual parts. Abraham Lincoln said it best when, in the midst of the Civil War, he declared, "United we stand, divided we fall."

The dysfunction in society cries out for values-based leadership that believes in people, values people, and unconditionally loves people.
It starts with you and it starts with me.

It starts with treating other people the way we want to be treated. Treating other people with dignity and respect. Loving others in the same way we love ourselves. Lending a helping hand. Sharing our life experience. Understanding we won't always agree on everything, but we won't let those minor differences divide us.

Dr. Frederick Price Jr. recently said, "Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for is own first, but not to the exclusion of everyone else." We're imperfect people, and we always will be. But when we, like Dr, King, find and pursue a cause that can unite us as a nation, incredible change can (and will) take place.

There will always be haters, regardless of race, color, religion, creed, or ethnic origin. They are vocal, but they are very small in number. We can hate right alongside them, or we can unite as a nation and drown out their hatred with a message of hope, a message of grace, a message of dignity and mutual respect, and a message of unconditional love.

We can choose a different path. It's a choice.

It starts with sitting before we take a stand.

When we listen, we learn.

When we learn, we get better.

When we get better, we make better choices.

When we make better choices, we all enjoy better consequences in life.

It starts with sitting before we take a stand.

2X martial arts Hall of Fame inductee, John Terry (The Black Belt Leader) is passionate about helping others become Black Belt Leaders in Life. He is a motivational speaker, leadership, sales & communication coach and trainer.  
Jessie Terry, John's daughter, is a Certified Speaker, Coach, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team and is actively involved in the JMT Global Youth Initiative. She is also a Real-Life Management trained coach and a certified Women-Safe Self-Defense Instructor.

For more information, schedule John (or Jessie) to speak to your organization or to book a personal, group or corporate coaching session, visit our website at  

If you are a faith-based organization, learn more about John and Jessie's outreach to churches, para-church organizations or faith-based volunteer groups by visiting

John is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team and is passionate about helping others pursue excellence as they become "Leaders in Life". He is also a Master Coach & Trainer with Real Life Management, a human behavioral training organization helping people learn how to live "Real Life" and make better choices when it comes to relationships, money, health, and wellness. John is also a certified DISC Human Behavior Consultant.

John's newest book, Black Belt Leadership 101, released as a #1 New Release on Amazon Kindle in late March and has been on the Amazon Best Sellers List for over 2 months. Also available in paperback, this book highlights the 10 essential character traits necessary to live life as a Black Belt Leader in Life.
Why just be a leader, when you can be a Black Belt Leader?

This book includes a Discussion Guide for either your own personal growth and development or to facilitate a group discussion with your Team. Get your copy today.

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