Grow Up & Get a Life

I’m embarrassed to be writing this.

I’m embarrassed for our generation. 

While I think there’s so much energy to be found in the millennial generation, I would argue that much of that energy is wasted on really bad choices stemming from wrong ideas of the world. Why would anyone embrace a wrong idea? The answer is, no one really knowingly embraces a wrong idea. We embrace wrong ideas we think are right. Why? Because we don’t filter ideas based on rational principles but on resonance, which is how the idea feels to us. We take our thoughts in like a good drink: Did it go down smooth? But the most important ideas we will ever have won’t start smooth. On the contrary, they will be the ones that require wresting, doubting, questioning, criticizing, and honest reflection. It will require the very humble admission that I can be and many times am wrong,  that how I feel about a topic doesn’t make it true, and it’s very possible that many things I feel to be true are actually not. 

An example of how I reveal our weird thinking is with a few simple questions I like to ask in workshops: Does everyone deserve success? Does everyone deserve a house? Does everyone deserve security? Very quickly the answer of the crowd is always a loud “Yes!” I follow this up with explaining the definition of success, which is, the fulfillment of one’s goals. Then I ask, “If everyone deserves success, let’s say it is the goal of a man to have abs, does he deserve those abs?” I always see looks of confusion. “When we say someone ‘deserves’ something, we mean they have the right to have it. It means they should be able to claim this right from society, from the government, or from God or some higher power. Can this man claim his abs?” Of course the answer is no. Six packs are not deserved rights. They are earned muscles. There are body fat% conditions that have to be met in order for a person to have abs. That’s not unfair. That’s how bodies work. “Do people deserve to have a house?” I ask again, and once again I hear yes a lot. “Ok, what kind of house does everyone deserve? What kind of house do you deserve? A big house? A small house? A house with a pool? With air conditioning? With fiber internet? What house does your seat mate deserve?” This always causes some inner conflict because we like to believe that people deserve good things. That idea goes down smooth. But the rough reality is that we don’t deserve good things, we enjoy the good things we earned or were gifted. While I wish everyone had a decent place to live (why do you think I’ve been active with Habitat for Humanity), the truth is these structures don’t just magically sprout from nowhere because someone, or even millions of people, believed they deserved one. They are resourced, planned, built. Finally, does everyone deserve security? Again the answer is a resounding yes. Then I ask, “Does someone who abuses his or her body with sugar and bad habits deserve the same the same peace of mind and healthy disposition as someone who practices health principles? Of course not. Does someone who chooses to do reckless things and do risky things deserve the same security as someone who shows more prudence? Of course not. If they did, wouldn’t it be unfair that deserving and undeserving got the same thing?” In all examples, I prove one thing: What we think are rights or things we deserve are actually earned achievements. Security, a house, and success are all achievements that are enjoyed when the principles that lead to these achievements are fulfilled. They are not rights we deserve automatically.  

To believe otherwise is to believe that people should receive what they don’t deserve. To believe that is not to believe in a just and fair world.  

Entitlement is believing something is deserved without paying the necessary cost. This is the fundamental flaw in our generations thinking that reveals a very prevalent immaturity. 

This is why we whine and opine online, why we cry at the office when we fail or feel bad, and why our mothers scold our teachers for giving us low grades.

This is why we are weak.

We have so much energy but we are weak, unable to make anything more of our lives than the social media pa-cute even as we continue to mooch of our well-meanjng co-dependent parents.

How do we know we are weak?

When we are so easily stressed, we are too weak to handle responsibility. When we easily breakdown during tough situations, we are too weak to build. When we easily complain, we are too weak to address things ourselves. When we gossip or backstab, we are too weak to confront others. When we don’t stick to deliverables , we are too weak to handle commitments. When we follow the crowd, we are too weak to stand alone. When we don’t move out of home, and we are already old enough, we are too weak to fend for ourselves, and in many cases, stand independent of our parents’ decision making and resources. I can go on.

And weakness is not a virtue. It is useless. It is unattractive (at least should be). Crying in the office is not just unprofessional, it is selfish, distracting from the success of the team to deal with an individual’s feelings. You dont like your company, be part of the change or quit. Dont be the little boy crying for something better when you’re an adult with the responsibility to do something better. Complaining about your partner to your friends is weak and sows the seeds for future unfaithfulness. You are better off improving things or leaving than whining and nagging. No one wants to be with a whiner. Even the Bible says its bettee to live in the corner of a roof then be with a nagging wife. Whatever it is you don’t like you either be the change or you move away. Don’t waste  a moment acting like a brat. The world isn’t perfect so don’t expect it to be. It can be better or worse depending on how we face it.

When I was being updated by the latest drama from some of our “millennials” in our company, I very quickly remembered my 3 week old son crying in his cot. My baby cries when it needs or wants something. It cries unintelligently, unable to speak or communicate effectively what it is he requires. So he cries and cries and cries. He wails (which is like a shout and a cry combined). At this stage it’s still bearable, even cute. But someday, he will be 13 (a man in my book) and learning how to communicate effectively should be a given and whining stamped out. To see an adult crying and whining or even wailing like a baby is embarrassing. Some of you are in your 20s and 30s and you still address life like my baby.

Babies cry because they’re helpless. You are not. You have a mind. Use it. How can anyone with a college degree have graduated without knowing how to interact in uncomfortable relationships? What are we teaching? What are we learning? Unless you are a helpless baby, stop whining and help yourself. If you’re a parent stop raising brats thinking you’re being supportive. You’re raising a weak person who responds to life like my 3 week old. I would be so worried to work for or with someone who acts like my 3 week old. I would be dumb to do so. Same for marriage or any other partnership. I would be very stupid to connect my success to an adult who acts like my 3 week old.

Conclusion:

In one of my talks, some people  asked if I was open to being their life coach. I told them, “I don’t think most people need a life coach. I think most people need a life.” While some may take offense at such an answer (it does not go down smooth), I maintain that coaching only works for people with a life purpose (something to coach towards) and life skills (basic attitudes and abilities to navigate life). It is impossible to improve the performance of anyone who does not have clear goals or lacks basic adult skills. In a world that seems to have growing up and #adulting issues, be different. To grow up doesn’t mean boring and stern. That’s being boring and stern. To grow up, to mature, means to commit to your responsibilities and purpose, to develop the attitudes and abilities needed to meet the requirements of your responsibilities and purpose, and achieve the results you desire, not because you think you deserve them, but because you fulfilled the principles they require.  That is not just not boring, it is incredibly necessary.

To all the brats of my generation (I describe you above), grow up and get a life. This may not go down smooth but this is much more than whisky. It is wisdom. #db

The Freedom and Beauty of Worship Through Self-Control

A notification went off on my phone telling me I slept only 66% of my sleep goal of 6 hours a day. The same alarm pings my Apple Watch, iPad, and MacBook. (Am I really this dense that I need so many reminders?) None of these notifications are needed to inform me that I am tired. Exhausted is probably a better word. I would like nothing more than to be snoring loudly on this warm Sunday morning.

But I am awake and typing this. Why? Am I really some sort of blogging addict? Nope. It’s because I scheduled to post an article today, meaning, I committed to myself that I would sit down, process my thoughts, and share them with others, hoping that they may encourage and empower others. The ability to do things not because it feels good, or feels right, or is popular, fun, or respectable, and despite being opposite all those things,but following through simply because you made an invisible commitment to yourself, is what is known as self-control. Self-Control, the ability to respond to life, not merely react like little babies do, is a key indicator of maturity. What about ourselves should we control? This often-shared quote encapsulates things nicely:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Self-Control means controlling our thoughts, words, actions, habits, character, and ultimately our destiny (our destination, where our lives go).

When we don’t control our thoughts, when we let circumstances, the opinions of others, our worries and fears, our lusts, our anger, our impatience, our unprocessed thoughts, and unrefined ideas dictate what we think, we exhibit a lack of self-control. We are reacting to things outside of us, instead of doing what the Bible says:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things

– Philippians 4:8

This is not so easy during a stressful situation, like trying to make your finances work while calming a wailing baby at 3am. But it is possible and very beneficial. For this specific example, a true example from my own life, I CHOOSE to go beyond the surface suffering and look at the profound privilege of the activity. I am not merely struggling to pay the bills and calm my son. I am participating in the amazing process of raising a godly man. If being up at this time is part of it, it’s worth it. If having to tighten our belts and move funds around is part of it, it’s worth it. If feeling very tired is part of it, it’s worth it. And it’s extra worth it because I know that not only am I part of such a meaningful activity, but that if I set my eyes on Jesus, if I trust Him and obey Him in all circumstances, not only will things work out, but I’ll be transformed to be more like Him. Sometimes, I forget that God’s main goal is not to give me the life I want or a life with no struggles, but to make me more like Christ, which means, that my thoughts words, actions, habits, and character reflect those of Christs because the spiritual virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and, here it comes again, self-control, are so evident in my life. I have born fruit. The pleasure of having a son, and the privilege to be able to become more like my Jesus, makes everything worth it. Of course I find it worth it because I have activated the self-control required to reject society’s values of success and the good life but determined for myself that I want to please God and love my family. My success is based on how well I do the latter two. I think most people simply live by recommendation and convention, not by conviction, so actually live others-controlled and wonder why they don’t feel free. Is it not logical to understand that to be others-controlled means you’re not truly choosing for yourself?

Cultivate self-control. Be free.

Last Friday morning, my son, Elijah, was circumcised. While I won’t go through the reasoning of why we chose to have him circumcised, I want to share a simple story from it. Inside the operating room, after preparing Elijah for the procedure, the doctor warned me that the babies usually cry when they’re injected but that after that they’d be fine. Right before they injected him, the doctor said, “Ok, here we go. 1-2-3…” And proceeded to inject him, only to marvel, “Oh. He didn’t cry.” Elijah had only made a slight grunt and went back to sleep. Throughout the whole procedure, he did not cry at all. He’d whine a bit, but then relax again. The anaesthesia must have taken over at some point. I was so proud to watch how my 3-week old son handled what is a painful situation. He took it, winced, and let it go. “That’s my son.” I thought to myself. The nurses told me that he was very brave. I don’t know how much of that is true or them being nice, but I’ll take it. Haha!

Anyway, the next day, I was still so proud of how tough my son was when I had a thought: Maybe this is how God the Father feels when He sees me win over my anger, surrender my pride, defeat lust, or choose kindness and godliness under pressure. Maybe this is how He felt watching Job take hit after hit yet remain faithful. Maybe this is how He felt when the disciples worshipped until death. Maybe this is how He felt when His Son chose the Father’s will. More than enjoying freedom as we become self-determining when we are self-controlled, the beauty of self-control is that we are able to worship God in our own special way, responding to our own individual circumstances in our own unique acts of worship. For me and Yasmin, one of the songs we sing to God looks more like ass-wiping with a smile at 2am. For me, the melody I send to Heaven, is the sincere gratefulness in my heart at working in Bridge on such an awesome mission, even though I haven’t slept. The chorus I repeat is my recurring repentance of my many sins and constant trusting in His goodness, even as I face consequences.

This, I believe, is true worship as Romans 12:1 explains it:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.“

Just as there is good singing and bad singing, there is beautiful and pointless worship. Pointless worship is lip service. Beautiful worship comes from our self-controlled choosing to please God in all that we do, knowing that He is pleased when we walk in faith, obey His word, and love others as ourselves.

#db

#startupdad: Schedule

Starting up anything isn’t easy. It’s actually incredibly difficult at times. I reviewed my sleep this past week (of course I track my sleep!) and found that I’ve averaged a little over 3 hours. While I don’t need a lot of sleep in general (I sleep 4-6 hours normally), getting a total of 3 hours from a series of naps is not optimal at all, which has been the case since my son, Elijah, was born. To not only survive this period, but thrive, the need to be ruthless with my schedule and priorities is necessary. There’s no other way to get everything done at work, stay healthy, spend quality time with my wife, care for our son, and continue to serve the organizations and communities I am involved in. Discipline is not just a good idea. It’s the only idea that will produce results. My schedule looks like this at the moment:

4:30am: Wake-up and morning ritual, which includes my devotions, meditation, short workout, pray for my family and teams, and review the day.

6:00am: Get dressed and leave for the office. Read the news or listen to a podcast in the car.

7:00am: Start work day. Huddle with team and leaders on Monday’s, review different units depending on predetermined priorities, or email/message instructions to teams for the day. I try not to start the day by answering emails that way I avoid reacting to them. We all get thousands of emails that all threaten to dictate our day. I try to start with my priorities. 

The rest of the day is non-stop activity which I’ve come to enjoy. The secret to not getting tired during the day is to stay engaged. If you stay engaged and focused, you’ll get a lot done. I keep a detailed bullet point list using Microsoft OneNote on a day page and add links and attach photos of the notes to it. I like taking notes on a Moleskine notebook, so I take photos of the notes and add them to the digital page that way it’s easier to access in the future. My tip here is to try to remove randomness and negotiations from your day. Set your priorities beforehand and commit to them. Don’t guess what your day will look like. Design it. And don’t second guess your commitments. Stay faithful even if you’re feeling lazy or it’s difficult. 

I try to be home by 6:30pm, which doesn’t happen a lot, so I just give Yasmin a heads up. When I am home, we have dinner together, spend time with Elijah, and read to him from the Bible and from whatever book I’m reading, whether it be poetry, Thomas Sowell, Rowan Moore, or Robert Massey. 

Since we don’t have stay in maids or nannies, Yasmin and I do our own chores. A cleaner who comes in a few times a week takes care of, well, cleaning, and laundry. We do the rest, particularly in the evening and weekends when it’s just us. While it’s extra work, we prefer this hands-on approach to our home and family. It is also more affordable. As a startup family (less than 2 year marriage, 2 week old baby), it’s important to stay intimately involved, which I think works well for startup businesses as well. I remember when we first started Bridge, we all embraced the idea of Garage Mode, where we would not just be ok with not having fancy things, but enjoy it. We love Garage Mode at Bridge and will guard the lessons and experiences from that season. Same at home. My wife and I chat about the day Elijah will be big enough to hike with us or paint and play tennis, but we also enjoy every fun and inconvenient moment of his complete dependence. How does one enjoy inconvenice, whether at work or home? In one word: Love. Wiping my son’s butt isn’t some random poop cleanup. It’s me caring for my love. When I watch how selfless my wife is with Elijah, instinctively waking before him to prepare his milk (which basically means preparing her breasts), I see a physically tired but incredibly graceful woman. She makes this feeding and changing with no sleep while recovering from a Cesarean beautiful. I’m not talking about a face lifted, made up, catwalk stunner that comes from outer embellishments, but a soulful inner beauty that comes from inner engagements. Again, it’s much like a startup business. It’s not the external media focus that makes your startup. It’s your internal engagement. It’s your commitment when no one is looking. It’s your team’s real culture when you’re not there. It’s your inner work that will produce the outer work.

At the end of the day, about 9pm, Yasmin does her final pump for the day and prepares to rest after almost non-stop caring for Elijah. I take over (though I call Yasmin a lot for help!) and set him up to sleep beside me while I work until about 10:30pm, do my evening ritual which includes a breathing exercise and preparing for the next day, and finally end the day reading. I usually sleep around 12 or 1am, but wake on and off to check on Elijah. We still have new parent jitters. Usually around 3am he has another feeding and diaper change, then I’m able to squeeze in a nap before waking up again to begin my day.

Despite this busyness I’m able to write, exercise, study, and play a short game on my phone (like chess, Sim City, or Vain Glory), which I treat like mental sorbet between modes of thought. We really have a lot of time if we manage it well. Even one’s gaming should be scheduled in my opinion. 

I’ll be sharing a list of what my wife and are focusing on the next few weeks for our Startup Family, but I really want to encourage you, whether, single, married, with or without kids, manage your time well by scheduling ahead. Sundays are a great time to prepare the week’s events. Like I said, don’t guess and negotiate through your priorities. Instead, design your days.

You’re more capable of greater things than you think. Give yourself an advantage by making use of every second of every minute of every moment. #db

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalms 90:12 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.90.12.ESV