Mind the Gap
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. – Romans 7:18-19 This afternoon I met with a man who has become a good friend, Neil Nakamoto. We have been working together on a training program which we’ve been pushing to a higher and higher standard such as: – There should be proof of success. The success should be measured by how effective it is in helping the people trained achieve personal and corporate goals – not by how many people attended our programs, or bought our books, or liked our fan page. To be truly successful we need to help them achieve their goals not just ours. Training programs should be able to say, “This number of people went through my programs. This number of people went on to achieve their goals.” before they can claim to actually work. And if they can’t say that, can we really say they’re effective? Let me put it another way, if you purchased something from a store but don’t ever know if the item was delivered to your house, would you say that your transaction was successful? No. We, meaning people who aspire to train, need to take it upon ourselves to prove our methods with metrics. – There should be a sustaining mechanism that develops good habits. People don’t need another information dump or inspirational talk. At least I don’t think so. Success, as Edison famously said, is only 1% inspiration after all. What’s the 99%? Perspiration. Effort, discipline, trial (and error), work and more work. If a training program is successful based on how it helps people achieve their goals, and goals are achieved through 99% perspiration, then why is there such a large emphasis on inspiration and information dumps? Training programs should be making people perspire towards success. – Let’s not be the bad teacher in a useless class. Let’s be the movie people want to watch over and over, and people want to live out. In many schools today, when a teacher teaches and the kids don’t buy-in, the kids are labeled rebellious, or slow, or lazy, or some other thing that puts the responsibility on the child. In the movie business, if people don’t like what they just watched, if the message was not delivered effectively, then it’s the movie maker’s fault, which is why they put a ton of effort into building good movies. We see how the media influences others, and they do it by taking it upon themselves to build something people will accept. I have other thoughts on training and why many training programs, for all the money they make and the hype, are really not worth much. I wonder at how many of the people who have attended financial programs actually become millionaires, or how many seminar attendees actually practice what they learned. I look at my own life and how I haven’t enjoyed many benefits from wisdom passed on to me, not because the information wasn’t sound, but because I didn’t practice them. What makes us think more information is what we need? At the end of the day, many already know what they need to know, at least from an information point of view. Most people know they need to save but how many do? Will reminding them really cause them to save when many have already tried? Most people want to be healthy and know what basic things to do but how many will actually eat right (and less), stop smoking, sleep enough, drink enough, and practice a lot of the affordable but effective health disciplines? Just as signing up for a gym won’t make you fit, and attending a finance course won’t make you rich, having more of what you already know won’t really make you better. In fact, I find, many people sign up for these things, simply because they know they need to “do something”. But doing “something” just for the sake of acting isn’t better than doing “nothing” all the time. Many times it’s a waste. Sometimes it is actually worse because it makes us think we’ve taken a step forward when we’ve only been reminded of something we have already heard many times. This was the main problem Neil and I were pondering on, this gap between what we know and what we do, between stated values and application. I asked Neil, “What do we call this problem we have to solve? I need a term for it.” And Neil said, “It’s dissonance.” I replied, “That’s our word. That’s a great word.” And we googled it up and started cooking what we think will be a game changer. I’ll announce that when it’s ready. Here’s something from Wikipedia on dissonance: In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who (1) holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time or (2) is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction. Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals largely become psychologically distressed. His basic hypotheses are listed below: “The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance” “When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance” When Neil left the office, I thought about my own life and the dissonances that exist. I came to realize that my life’s highest stress points, the places that cause me the most unrest, or pain, or shame, or guilt, are the areas that have highest dissonance. These are the places where my actual actions are not in harmony with my stated values. It reminded me of the apostle Paul’s words: For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. – Romans 7:18-19 That sounds like me. Probably sounds like most people. Maybe even all people. Paul was stating a reality pretty much all people face: the reality of dissonance. He goes on to say: Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? This is Paul already saying this. This guy was a saint! Where’s the hope for the ordinary guy? Where’s the hope for the more dark minded like me? Like with every honest self-reflection I was led down a dark staircase into the wretchedness of my soul. It’s good to have those regularly because they’re humbling. It’s a good thing that the verse continues on to say in verse 25: Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! This verse was an express elevator out of myself. Yes, the reality of dissonance exists in my life, and yes this leads to destructive behavior, and yes that leads to a loss of destiny (and I have a very different view on destiny), but there is Jesus who bridges the eternal gap our inner gaps have created. This is why we have hope, because no matter how wide the gap our life’s dissonances cause, and no matter how terrible the consequences we face, we can hold on to another verse in Isaiah that says: Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save… – Isaiah 59:1 There is a gap in our lives, a gap we must all mind and recognize. But there is also a bridge over that gap so we move to fix our minds on Him.