Unintended Consequences

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
– F. Scott Fizgerald, The Great Gatsby

I once read somewhere that we gain a pound of weight a year after the age of 20 (at least in the United States). And what, according to the study, was the single biggest contributor to the weight gain? 

Potato Chips.

Potato Chips were the single biggest factor associated with weight gain. There were other different eating and lethargic practices listed. You can find them on this link: http://archive.boston.com/lifestyle/health/articles/2011/06/27/long_term_weight_gain_how_does_it_happen/

I’m not sure how good the study was (you can validate on your own). I’m not writing about health today, but about a topic I shared with a young businessman earlier, which is the Impact of Unintended Consequences.

An unintended consequence is a result that has materialized, good and bad, that was not the originally intended. For example, I doubt anyone intends to become fat. But through unchecked calorie consumption that comes from an intention to feed our hunger, enjoy a good meal with friends, or satisfy a craving, all neutral or even good things, we end up with the unintended consequence of becoming overweight. No one is intending to be poison their body with chemicals and gain weight when snacking on the inanimate potato chip, but it’s contributing, and contributing largely to a very undesirable consequence. No one intends to wake up drowning in debt. But because of other intentions, again, neutral or even good intentions, we purchase too much, we give too much, we don’t save enough, we don’t negotiate enough, we don’t excel enough, and then we find ourselves facing issues we never wanted, such as lack, foreclosure, and debt. 

In my conversation with the young man, I gave a fictitious example of a luxury hotel management team. In the mission, they are told they want to be “top of the top!”, but during a recent management meeting, the boss screams at everyone, “Your teams are all so magastos!” (“Your teams all so costly!”) Maybe he’s saying this in a moment of frustration, maybe he really wants them to cut costs, but it’s possible that HR hears that and starts cutting staff, including maintenance staff, Purchasing hears that and starts buying cheaper materials, Facilities hears that and starts enacting rotating power outages, and Marketing hears that and stops coming up with more value to offer. Before you know it, the once luxury hotel is a badly run and badly maintained organizations, offering a diminished value proposition to its customers, yet with a management team feeling very good about how well they’re managing – because they’ve been able to follow a directive (which may not even been a directive in the first place). I told him, “Bosses don’t wake up in the morning thinking, ‘Let’s make my team’s life a living hell.’ While I’m sure there are truly evil people out there, most of the ills of the world are caused by people like you and me triggering unintended consequences.”

I can easily turn this into a business post, about how management needs to go back to being purpose-driven, principles-led, and performance-oriented NOT compliance run, not HR run, nor finance run, nor communications run, nor legal run, but mission-centered. I can talk about the growing evidence that many of the failed organizations collapsed due to “good managers” implementing “good management” in a new rules world. But instead I want to focus on ourselves, on our own unintended consequences, moving away from policing other people, moving away from the latest rant on Facebook, the latest injustice to be worked-up on, the latest video to be upset about, and truly reflect on this question: What are the consequences of my life?

What are the unintended consequences of how I shop? What are the unintended consequences of how I do the grocery? Of how I talk to my teams? Of how I talk to partners? Of how I spend my money? Of how I wake-up? Of when I sleep? Of how I pray? Of how I write? 

What ripples are caused from my seemingly harmless decisions. A cold sweat just broke through me. I can think of many areas I need to alter for the sake of Elijah. I can think of many “potato chips” 

Many months ago, someone asked me my thoughts on the “cat issue” in BGC, about whether I thought people should be allowed to feed cats in Highstreet, particularly the walkway beside Shangri-La. Characteristically, I answered her question with other questions:

Me: Are animal lives important?

Her: Of course!

Me: I agree. Now, is the concept of Private Property important? Meaning, if you own something, it is up to you what you choose to keep or not keep in your premises?

Her (sensing where she thought I was going): This is different. This is about valuing animal right. Animals have as much right as us? Who will defend their rights. (Notice, she never actually answered my question.)

Me: Wait, just answer yes or no. Does Private Property matter? I already agreed with you that animal lives matter. Is it important that, let’s say in your home, your own private property, no one can just, let’s say, raise pigs there, without your consent?”

Her: Of course it’s important! Why would I let anyone raise pigs in my house without my consent?

Me: Because you’re selectively applying the principle of private property. You want it to apply if it benefits you but you don’t want it to apply if it goes against something you want. If someone decided to raise all these cats in your living room, would you say it’s the right thing to do?

Her: But this is different…

Me: This is the problem with un-principled emotional reactions. First, it creates a double-standard. It isn’t based on a principle but our feeling about the principle. Second, without that principle, we will never be able to agree objectively, so it creates division. Third, while the emotional mob moves on to the next issue of the week, the unintended effects of rallying for a cause we don’t really understand linger. This is true for cats, for politicians, and for other issues. And we will always say that the current emotional issue is different. We will always say, it’s more important. But how important is it if just weeks later we’ve already forgotten it? And what about the effects on Private Property? What about the effects on how people interpret that principle? What about the effect of encouraging people that mob rule wins? We have no idea on the damage these snowballs we’re rolling, started by our good intentions, resulting in avalanches of unintended consequences.

Her: Silence.

Me: Let me offer a bridge. It doesn’t have to be a Cats vs. Private Property issue. Both can be satisfied. How about this? Let’s start a “cat fund” specifically for this area. That fund will pay for the responsible care, research, and potential liabilities of having cats here. If anyone gets scratched or gets sick, the hospital bills and court costs can from from that. I’m sure the owners won’t mind having this win-win proposal. How much would you, personally, contribute to that cat fund? How about starting with P250 a month? That’s like two cups of coffee. Sacrifice two cups of coffee to give these cats that you love so much a home, and in a way that satisfies the private property principle, because you gave the owners a beneficial alternative. I’ll contribute myself. I also value animals AND private property.

Her: Why should I pay for it?

Me: I didn’t tell you to pay for all of it. But what you’re asking is for the owners to pay for your ideals. You want them to use their private property for your ideals, and you won’t even give two cups of coffee worth. Wouldn’t your energies and rallying be better used in drumming up support for such a fund?

Her: I still don’t understand why I should pay for it. I’m not doing anything wrong.

To make a long conversation short, there’s still no cat fund.

I wonder about the unintended consequences of overflowing idealism with incredible entitlement. I wonder about the unintended consequences of expecting holiness without allowing sanctification. I wonder about the unintended consequences of watering down personal responsibility in the name of kindness. I wonder about the unintended consequences of not teaching our kids to work hard and suffer because we don’t want them to struggle like we did. I think about the unintended consequences of finding biblical basis for blatantly unbiblical leadership in the name of honoring authority. I think about the unintended consequences of a highly popular yet highly ridiculous “happy wife = happy life” teaching. I think of the unintended consequences of wanting a better world, a better government, a better morality, a better society, a better family, a better life, yet being clueless at the cost of making these a reality. I think about unintended consequences of churches and non profits who feel entitled to donations, to volunteer commitment, simply because they have good intentions – even if they’re incredibly wasteful. I think about unintended consequences of businesses who feel entitled to profits, as long as they’re “legal” without giving thought to the environment or to the effect of their marketing. 

I think about the unintended consequences, and I think about the beloved high priests of these false gospels, and I think about the foolish people who listen with their hearts and don’t know how to filter with their minds. I think about these things…

… And I shudder.

I shudder because I can see the avalanche coming. I shudder because our current leaders won’t admit it. I shudder because I know I’m guilty myself.


What Do I Bring with Me?

V. 17 And to Adam, he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I had this thought, “Are the things we speak to our partner making their life more difficult? Are the requests, expectations, and comments improving the peace and rest? Or are we a ‘curse to their ground’, someone who makes their life more difficult, more painful, more thorny, and more tiring? What do I bring with me?”

While this verse is talking about Eve’s effect on Adam, the verse is clear that God put the responsibility and the consequence on Adam. I also think it’s very possible (and is not uncommon) for a husband to make life difficult for his wife.

As early as Genesis 3, the Bible was already revealing one major way we kill relationships: by making their life difficult by the things we ask them to do, particularly, asking people to sin. And what is sin? Is it simply asking someone to do something society agrees is bad? The Bible takes it further. Sin includes anything that gets in the way of us and God. Eve asked Adam to partake of something she thought was pleasing and beneficial. Are we asking our partners to partake in things that are seemingly pleasing and beneficial but actually lead to them having a more difficult, painful, thorny, and more tiring life?

As I was typing my thoughts on this verse, I remembered another verse I never thoughts was related:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

  • Matthew 11:28

This is followed by what seems like an oxymoron of a yoke and burden combined with rest:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

  • Matthew 11:29-30


There is a similarity that they’re both invitations to attractive things, but one ended in pain and weariness, the other leads to rest. Which invitation am I taking? Which invitation am I offering?

Jesus never removed responsibility and burdens to achieve rest (which is what our leisurely culture likes to do) nor did he glorify the lack of rest as a sign of responsibility (which workaholics like to do). In fact, who was He inviting? Those on vacation? Those with no issues? Those with no concerns? No. He was inviting those who are working, who are carrying large responsibilities. You don’t invite someone you don’t want to welcome. He wants to welcome us to His rest.

As a worker, and as a person with growing responsibilities, I find it helpful to listen to God’s voice, to look for what He’s saying through circumstances, through others (such as my wife), and through His word, which is why I make time to do my morning devotions. Everything else can wait.

As a leader, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, I am convicted and led to repent. Am I gentle and lowly in heart? Do I lead in such a way that our goals and achievements are not causing others to be further away from God and further away from His rest? What do I bring with me? I can see many areas I can improve. I am grateful that I have Jesus to look up to.

Let it never be said by God to anyone, “Because you listened to the voice of David… …you are cursed.” What a chilling thought. #DB

On Effective Leadership

How to lead in a fast-changing world. 

This is a very simple guide to effective leadership, with effective being defined as “successful in producing beneficial results”. I deliberately switched the word beneficial for the word intended because many times, in this fast-changing world, our original intentions need refining as well. It is possible to go seek something and find out, in the process of seeking it, that it is not the outcome we really want not need. Much has been said about the agility required in today’s environment. I have realized that an agility of objective is just as important as an agility of execution.

A lot has been written and said about leadership, so much in fact that it’s confusing. This guide does not try to better them. This is simply my personal approach to getting things done in a team, and it follows my penchant for simplification, some would say oversimplification, because it is designed to be easy to understand across a team. 

Here is my leadership framework:


The Leader

At the center of the framework is the Leader, the primary agent for progress in a team. A leader takes on the responsibility of causing the team to a better place. I think it is important to be clear that the leader does not solely bring the team to a better place. Getting there, that better place, is a team effort. Saying that a leader causes it means he or she gives rise to the team actions that result in the outcome. 

The Three Core Abilities

To lead effectively, a Leader must have the following abilities:

  1. Clarity: Clarity refers to the ability to define and communicate the shared values and compelling mission that leads to the attainment of a great vision 
  2. Competence: Competence refers to the ability to bring together a team of people who are purpose-driven, principles-led, and performance-oriented, and to harmonize them into living out the values, pursuing the mission, and realizing the mission the team shares. 
  3. Capital: Capital refers to the ability to marshal and manage the resources we deploy to pay for the necessary human, financial, and social costs. Capital will always be finite. The more resources, and even more, the better the stewardship of the resources, the more effective the leader will be. 

When Clarity and Capital combine, we have Focus. Channeling our human, financial, and social resources at a very clearly defined outcome leads to benefits such as alignment, less waste, and a strong brand. 

When Capital and Competence combine, we have Productivity. Our resources and our skills together produce good things. This helps us ship out products and services, helps get things done, and helps us do these things in an efficient manner. 

When Clarity and Competence combine, we end up with Dynamism. Dynamism is defined as:

The quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress.

When a leader and his team are very clear about what the want to accomplish and have the skills to make it happen, including the necessary collaboration skills, this leads to highly-energized way of working that is not only exciting but gains momentum as it continues. This momentum triggers a virtuous cycle, as it leads to great progress, making the vision, mission and values more real and more achievable, leading to more capital coming in (in different forms), leading to more excitement for the team that translates to even more energy. 

I want to spend a little more time with this one. 

Dynamism in a team is a highly-prized quality but for some reason leaders continue to ignore the factors that lead to Clarity and Competence. Instead of clarifying further the vision, mission, and values, we tend to bloat them with dogma, tradition, and conflicting interests. Instead of ensuring purposefulness, we are busy propping up the past. Instead of principles, we end up with policies. Instead of performance, we are distracted by politics. 

I will write about the abilities of Clarity, Competence, and Capital in more detail, but for now let me leave you with this: Be a dynamic, productive, focused person; and surround yourself with dynamic, productive, and focused people. I can’t think of a simpler leadership hack than that. I am privileged to be surrounded by such people, and that is an earned privilege for deliberately making sure I am dynamic, productive, and focused. You will attract more of what you are. #DB