Quotage: Make commitments

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hope, but no plans” – Peter Drucker

Just a good thought on a Wednesday night.

Posting has been sparse here because life’s been busy. If you want more updates, you can follow my twitter updates (which also have an RSS feed for you Bloglines or Google Blog Reader folks). I’m hoping to get into a schedule where I can post more regularly again. Some exciting things are happening in life, so here’s to hoping things will gel soon!

Let doors close

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Even writing that title is hard. I like keeping options open, and it turns out, I’m not alone.

The New York Times tells us about a study from MIT that showed people will pay a cost to keep options open because it hurts to feel a door shut. Here’s a section of the article. It’s a little longer than typical fare here, but worth the read…

The experiments involved a game that eliminated the excuses we usually have for refusing to let go. In the real world, we can always tell ourselves that it’s good to keep options open.

You don’t even know how a camera’s burst-mode flash works, but you persuade yourself to pay for the extra feature just in case. You no longer have anything in common with someone who keeps calling you, but you hate to just zap the relationship.

Your child is exhausted from after-school soccer, ballet and Chinese lessons, but you won’t let her drop the piano lessons. They could come in handy! And who knows? Maybe they will.

In the M.I.T. experiments, the students should have known better. They played a computer game that paid real cash to look for money behind three doors on the screen. (You can play it yourself, without pay, at tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com.) After they opened a door by clicking on it, each subsequent click earned a little money, with the sum varying each time.

As each player went through the 100 allotted clicks, he could switch rooms to search for higher payoffs, but each switch used up a click to open the new door. The best strategy was to quickly check out the three rooms and settle in the one with the highest rewards.

Even after students got the hang of the game by practicing it, they were flummoxed when a new visual feature was introduced. If they stayed out of any room, its door would start shrinking and eventually disappear.

They should have ignored those disappearing doors, but the students couldn’t. They wasted so many clicks rushing back to reopen doors that their earnings dropped 15 percent. Even when the penalties for switching grew stiffer — besides losing a click, the players had to pay a cash fee — the students kept losing money by frantically keeping all their doors open.

Why were they so attached to those doors? The players, like the parents of that overscheduled piano student, would probably say they were just trying to keep future options open. But that’s not the real reason, according to Dr. Ariely and his collaborator in the experiments, Jiwoong Shin, an economist who is now at Yale.

They plumbed the players’ motivations by introducing yet another twist. This time, even if a door vanished from the screen, players could make it reappear whenever they wanted. But even when they knew it would not cost anything to make the door reappear, they still kept frantically trying to prevent doors from vanishing.

Apparently they did not care so much about maintaining flexibility in the future. What really motivated them was the desire to avoid the immediate pain of watching a door close.

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities. If you are afraid to drop any project at the office, you pay for it at home.

Students were willing to lose money to keep the options open – even when they were in a better place – even when they could re-open the door at any time. All because we don’t like the feeling of missed opportunities – regardless of how many other opportunities are out there!

I love simplicity. I believe less is more. But I have to admit, I’m still unable to actually follow through sometimes. I received a letter last week turning down my application for an internship that (after the interview) I had decided wasn’t a great fit and wouldn’t be the best option. But it still really bothered me! It’s easy to cling to options instead of “burning the ships” and pressing ahead.

Sometimes, closed doors are a blessing. Less stuff scheduled. Fewer commitments. (And, in church, fewer programs and events vying for people’s attention.)

So where do you need to let a door close?

[ht: lifehacker]

Theology with feet

One of the constant (healthy) tensions I face in seminary is what the theology means in life. We can spend a lot of time thinking great ideas about God. But what does it mean for following God?

In the midst of talking about Hebrew parsings, evolution and creation accounts, sermon structures, the nature of evil, and the rationality of faith, it’s been important for me to come back to a few thoughts…

What does it mean to follow Jesus? We need to examine our understanding of theology. The deep, technical stuff isn’t for everyone, but we all need to push our beliefs and make sure we understand what God has taught (and is teaching) us. But following Jesus takes action – not just thinking. So where are the feet to this belief?

I love how Andy Stanley put it in a recent sermon: “God does not give information for consideration or contemplation but for cooperation.” (Thanks Heather)

There is a lot to consider. But it’s also important to focus on and respond to the basics. I like Scot McKnight’s focus on the Jesus Creed:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.

That’s not the only place to go to follow God, but it seems like a good place to start …

Maximizing output

Life is usually a juggling act. I have to balance a lot of things at the same time, and I’m sure you do, too. For me, balancing work, school, home, other work, friendships, hobbies and more means something always gets less attention than it really should.

Here’s something I’m learning. Sometimes productivity is really about information management. Some folks like to get all of the info possible on a given subject so they can master it. But for most things in life, what you really need is enough input to maximize output.

It’s easy to get stuck in the absorbing and never produce anything. We live in a world where there is unlimited information to consider.

To top that off, most of the time absorbing is the relaxing part. It’s much easier to read a book than write a report on it. I’m betting it takes less effort to watch a television show than to make one.

Tim Ferriss writes about here:

In a digital world, the race goes not to the person with the most information, but the person with the best combination of low-volume and high-relevancy information. The person with the least inputs necessary to maximize output.

Now, there are some things that aren’t worth short changing. Things like relationships take time, and no one’s going to settle for a friendship where someone puts in just enough to get the desired results. But I think that’s the point. Put in the right amount of work in certain areas so you have a maximum amount of time for the areas that really matter – the areas that need that investment.

Just a few Thursday afternoon thoughts. Now it’s time to go absorb a little Hebrew…

Accountability

Keeping accountable to others can be the difference between finishing well and failing miserably. But most of the time, it isn’t done in a way that provides much more than a slap on the wrist and a guilt trip.

Usually there’s a list of questions regarding different sins you could have committed that week.

Did you lie? Did you cheat? Did you lust?

Did you have a quiet time every day?

You have two choices … you can lie or feel guilty. It’s even worse when the other guy had what was apparently a “perfect” week. The problem is, you end up simply looking to avoid certain sins, which has the potential to draw you even more to those areas. At the very least you’re focusing more on failures than on a positive vision.

I’ve recently started meeting with a couple of guys, and the approach has been different.

We talk about things like integrity (at work, home, school – how are you using your time?), evangelism, time with God, etc. We talk about how we need to grow, but we focus on where we want to end up.

Do we address each other’s blind spots and challenge each other? Absolutely. Life’s still a journey. It still takes work. We still need God to refine our hearts and characters. But the emphasis isn’t on the little stumbles we all make. It’s on the steps we’re taking to follow God daily.

Lifting that sail and catching the winds of destiny

Let’s be honest. Poetry is a little too heady and cultured for this blog. It just is. I write in three-word sentences. I don’t write poetry.

But there’s this poem that Edgar Lee Masters wrote in his Spoon River Anthology that I think about every few months or so. The book is filled with poems – each a self-written epitaph of someone who has died in the fictional town of Spoon River. There’s one that stands out to me:

64. George Gray

I HAVE studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Since we’ve been talking about action and following God, it just seems to fit. How can we live a life where we dive in and follow God? A life of no regrets?

Challenged by action

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I’m glad I am taking the time to go through seminary. It’s a chance to ask the big “God questions” before someone else asks me. It gives me the time and tools to consider what I really believe. It gives me a background and perspective on the Bible that enriches my ability to follow God and to lead and teach others.

But sometimes it’s … so … draining. If you’re not careful, it can become completely removed from any sort of “real life” or any sort of real application. “Faith” can become something that’s all in your head – not something that’s believed with your heart and emotions or your feet and actions.

That’s why I love hearing stories like Aaron‘s. He’s a guy I kind of worked with at NorthWood. He’s working in a group called Intentional Communities in Fort Worth and headed out to Las Vegas. God’s using him to do some awesome stuff. Here’s a little of what he has to say. Take some time to read a few of the stories linked below.

There are guys in the “emerging/organic/simple/house church” movement who are somewhat disenfranchised with the church as an institution. Many of them have taken up a new hobby of bad mouthing the church that doesn’t look like theirs, which happens to meet in a living room. This is a terrible approach. Not only does this cause even more division among the body of Christ, it is arrogant and prideful. Philippians chapter 2 speaks of a unification that occurs through humility. Thinking that I’m right and everyone else is wrong is not humility, and cannot birth unity. The issue is not a debate between who is right and who is wrong. Too often in the church time is wasted arguing and discussing who’s right about this and that, who does church “right”, who’s doctrine is correct, etc. I wonder if the Lord isn’t thinking to Himself, “man, they just don’t get it…I thought I made it pretty clear in my word that their purpose is to glorify me, and become more like me.”

Knowing is great, but Jesus’ main call was simply, “follow me.” I want to follow Jesus

The real work of creativity

It’s time for another Seth Godin quote. This time on creativity.

99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity isn’t coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you’ve thought of.

The devil doesn’t need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics.

In a world with lots of ideas, execution matters most. And when you’re doing the tough things, you need people around you who will support you. It’s a fact: we weren’t meant to live this life alone.

Preach what you practice

It’s really saying the same thing, but in a different way. What if the “living it” had to come before the “speaking it?” What if we just couldn’t talk about how to live life or how to follow God or how to have a devotional time with God or how to pray or how to serve the least unless we were doing it?

What would that change?