Diligently Killing Ourselves

I was in the middle of writing another article (What Makes a Great HR Manager?) when I decided to write this one instead. As I was writing down my thoughts on the need for Human Resource Managers to go back to its core purpose of acquiring, developing, deploying, and protecting necessary people, I realized just how far forgetting our core purpose can take us. Most managers I know want to do a great job. They want to feel proud of their work. They want to be promoted. They want to succeed. But I would also say that most managers I know are nowhere as effective as they would like to be, not so much because they don’t have the potential nor desire, but because they’ve forgotten the core purpose of the role in the busyness of the role. It’s ironic, but it happens a lot, that a person busily working on a role ends up forgetting the reason of the role. I am guilty of this. When we forget the core purpose, we start evaluating things wrongly, and when we have dishonest scales (which the Lord abhors), we start putting more weight on the wrong things and not enough emphasis on the things that need attention.

It’s like a father too busy at work trying to fulfill his role as provider that he forgets he isn’t just a bills payer, he is a father, and the only one his kids will have. So this father starts evaluating himself based on how much money he brings in and is satisfied or dissatisfied depending on how well he is able to do this. The person will end up being a bad father, and it’s not because he wants to be a bad father, on the contrary, it’s because he wants to be a good father. It is his mistaken emphasis on providing, and not the core purpose of providing love, identity, protection, along with the provision which makes a father.

It’s like a husband and wife too busy trying to fulfill their own and shared dreams that they forget to love each other in a way that reflects Christ’s love, and in the process end up burdening each other instead with expectation after expectation. People like this won’t make good spouses, not because they don’t want a good marriage, but exactly because they want a good marriage, but a wrongly defined marriage, a marriage built around each other’s happiness, not the reflection of true love.

It’s like a company too busy with its policies, its operations, it’s growth, its sales, and its efficiency that it forgets its customer, only to wake up one day to find that the business is crashing because someone else is meeting the needs of the customer in a much better way. It will fail not because it doesn’t want to succeed but because it has forgotten that companies do not exist to pursue policies but to serve customers. They will become victims of their own vigilance.

It’s like a leader allowing himself to be drawn into petty arguments or defensive exchanges on twitter, on text, or in person, forgetting that a leader should hold himself or herself above feelings and dispassionately focus on principles. This leader, because of his care, ends up hurting the organization he cares about most, simply because he has forgotten that the primary role of a leader is to influence others by the example he makes, and not realizing that the example he is multiplying is bad for the organization.

It’s like a church so caught up in its dogma, in its programs, in its leaders, and in its traditions that it starts becoming more and more about the security and satisfaction of its members and leaders, such as what is happening in our current materialistic version of Christianity. We end up hurting our lives, not because we don’t want a good life, but because we want “our best life now”, but forget that our lives have a core purpose of glorifying God.

It’s like a parent burdening their kids with pressure to get high grades, bombarding them with studies and bribes, but forgetting the purpose of education is to prepare a person for liberty, to teach them how to make free wise decisions, NOT simply hit grades. Then we wonder why our young people are weak, why, despite their good grades, they’re ineffective. We educated them for grades not for the core purpose of learning.

I can go on and on of things we do and situations wherein the core purpose has been forgotten, and the very thing we think we are promoting, the very thing we think we are protecting, is the very thing we destroy, not because we are not hard working nor committed, but because we have forgotten the core purpose.

A good example of this, and one I use often with my team, is the story of Jesus and the High Priests:

One Sabbath, Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
– Matthew 12:1-8

The Pharisees, forgot that the core purpose of the Sabbath was for man to rest, not for man to be subservient to the Sabbath.

Jesus would again have to set His own disciples straight and point them back to the core purpose of His ministry:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
– Matthew 20:23-28

His disciples were trying to get positions of influence, and Jesus says, “Hey. Ministry isn’t about positining for power or favors. This is about serving others, about laying your life down.” It’s very different from the politics and petty ego massaging common among religious and civil leaders. Why? It’s not because someone criticized them or was offensive, though we like to blame incidents. It’s because we have stopped emphasizing the core purpose. A good sign that we have lost our core purpose is when we are petty, when we are easily offended, easily angered, and easily frustrated.

Who cares if things are difficult if the core purpose is fulfilled?

Who cares if people are eating during the Sabbath if they are resting and recreating?

Who cares if your spouse can’t afford a grander lifestyle if he’s loving you faithfully?

Who cares if your sex life isn’t like the movies if your faithfully serving each other?

Who cares if your kids’ grades are low if they’re learning how to handle adversity and learning how to learn?

Who cares if the policies are changing if it means serving customers better?

Who cares if they way someone said something is offensive if the point is true?

Who cares if I am regularly corrected if it means growing more each day?

Who cares about the petty distractions when my core purpose is being fulfilled?

All of this to make one point: Go back to the core purpose.

We don’t start businesses for ourselves. We start them to serve customers, to bring them value.
We don’t lead people to order them around. We lead them to bring them to a better place, to bring all of us together to a better place.
We don’t get married to fulfill each other’s hopes and dreams, but to love each other faithfully.
We don’t preach to burden people with our morality but share the Gospel: The Good News!
We don’t make policies to police people, but to be efficient towards serving our customers.

Sad ironies happen when we forget what our core purpose is. We end up failing at that we have so intensely tried to work on. It’s ironic because the failure doesn’t come to those who didn’t work hard, but to those who worked hard on the wrong things, spending too much time, money, and energy on other things, and not enough on the core purpose.

In Revelations 2:2-5, a letter to the church in Ephesus is written:

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

In the letter, the church is reminded that all the virtue and righteousness in the world is worthless if we forget “the love you had at first”, which is the original love for God and love for others, which is the core purpose of the Christian walk.

The Bible is so full of good advice for leaders in any field. This reminding letter can be applied to pretty much all our different life roles:

“I know your works, your efforts, your achievements, but you’ve forgotten to love your spouse, your first love.”

“I know your efficiencies, your growth, your dedication, but you’ve forgotten your customers, the people you’re supposed to be serving.”

“I know your service to your kids, how you provide, and how you care, but you’ve forgotten that this is about preparing them. This isn’t about you as a father or mother, but them learning to be faithful, loving, and wise.”

Again, I can go on. When we abandon the love we first had, the core purpose that attracted us, that made us fall in love, we end up destroying that which we are working on. It’s extra hard to correct this because no one can fault us for not trying or working hard. This requires a lot of personal humility to say, “My efforts, for all their good intentions, for all the energy I’m investing, is not leading to fulfilling the core purpose. I am sorry. I need to change.” The person who can admit that is rare. This is why I believe most organizations, especially those that have tasted success will ultimately fail. 

I worry about this in my own life a lot. I know how prone I am to making this mistake.

Like I said, it’s a sad irony. It’s sad when that which we worked on most is destroyed by our very own hands, simply because we have forgotten our first love, the core purpose we found beautiful at the start, especially the core people we were supposed to be serving.


“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
– James 4:6

The Fat Parts of Me

I feel a certain weariness knocking on my door. It’s a feeling I’ve felt many times in my life, particularly during seasons of high stress and busyness. When I feel this way, I like to quiet myself and think through the basics of my life, going through the fundamentals of my spirit, soul, and body, and checking whether each is healthy. A sample of this exercise is asking the following questions:

  • Spirit:
    • Am I meditating on the Bible consistently?
    • Am I praying unceasingly?
    • Am I fellowshipping with Christ-followers?
    • Am I sharing the Gospel with others?
  • Soul:
    • Mind:
      • Am I thinking clearly?
      • Am I considering openly?
      • Am I discovering new things?
    • Will:
      • Am I practicing wisdom?
      • Am I developing the right things?
    • Emotions:
      • How is my relationship with God?
      • Are my core relationships healthy?
      • Are my work relationships healthy?
  • Body:
    • Am I eating for nourishment?
    • Am I exercising for functionality?
    • Am I resting and recovering?

I have never once gotten a perfect score on the questions above. Most of the time, I have to admit a greater need for discipline, for focus, for help, and for accountability. But this process of reflection is like looking at a mirror, it is where we get the idea of reflection after all. We look at a clear surface to see an accurate picture of who we are, not as we wish we are, but how we actually are. I don’t always like what I see, but I’m better off knowing the truth, even the ugly truth, especially the ugly truth.

Here’s what my reflections have been telling me: You’ve become fat David.

You’re spiritually fat, soul-fully fat (mentally fat, willfully fat, and emotionally fat), and finally physically (body) fat.

Ouch.

But it’s true.

My body fat is the easiest to prove. I just checked my body fat percentage and I went from 18% in December, to 15.2% at the end of January (after a lot of discipline), and back to 17.8% as of yesterday. This body fat battle isn’t easy. It requires adherence not just to caloric deficits but proper macro-nutrition and intense workout. While I’m relatively fit and healthy, knowing that the average is person not close to being healthy, I don’t want to benchmark with average. I want to achieve a physical level that will help me enjoy as much time with my family and be physically able to continue to be productive and creative. The biggest enemy of my physical goals is my diet. The composition of my diet, the volume of what I eat, and the timing of my meals have not been optimal. If I want to achieve my goals, and I do, I need to address those things. I read somewhere that man is more likely to die from “over-nutrition” than starve from hunger. Diseases like diabetes, heart attack, and cancer, as well as fatigue, headaches, and other ailments are linked mostly to eating too much than too little – especially too much of the wrong things, like sugar. The point is this: my physical goals aren’t suffering because I don’t have a good gym, don’t have the right workout clothes, or am missing the newest workout craze. I’m missing my goals because I am, frankly, overfed. The problem with being fat is not that it doesn’t look attractive. The problem with being fat is that it chokes your organs and causes them to work over time (leading to tiredness) or even fail (leading to all sorts of issues, even death).

It’s not too different in the area of my soul.

Our soul is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. Even in these areas I can easily find I’m also fat.

Mentally, I read at least 50 books a year. This year, I’ve read at least one book a week. I also read a lot of magazines and articles, as well as listen to audio courses and podcasts. Every day, my brain is crunching through thousands of pieces of data. If we think of information as mental nutrition, like food for the mind, but don’t accompany this mental nutrition with exercise, with serious verification, validation, critical thinking, and wise application, we end up with a mentally fat mind, full of information but actually too choked-up to be useful. I find a lot of people, particularly young people are mentally fat. They have so much information but do not have the ability to do something as basic as move out and be independent. We know so much but can do so little relative to the greater information we have.

Emotionally, social media has been like soda fountain, pouring emotional stimulation through targeted posts, likes, and shares. While I have so many social connections, I can’t say I am at an emotionally better place. In fact, I find that social media has made me socially fat and can choke-up time meant for my core relationships. This is why I have been removing people from Facebook, unfollowing people from Instagram and Twitter, and being stricter about my network. I simply have too many acquaintances, describe as “friends” on social media, but are really people I barely know, have no responsibility over, nor benefit me in any way. They contribute to my emotional fatness with emotional junk. If I want my relationships to be healthy, I need to stop feeding off emotional social media junk and get really good at enjoying the very nutritious relationships of family, of high performing teams, of mentors, and of friends who stick closer than brothers.

Even in the area of my Will, my focus and disciplines have been shaken a lot simply from being too busy. I find myself being late more, being distracted more, and just unable to stick to my schedules as strictly as I have in the past. The reason for this is just simply: doing too much. While running a startup family and business is difficult, there are ways to prioritize, to focus, and to turn-off distractions that will help me. So I’ve been saying “no” more. I’ve been declining speaking engagements, partnership invitations, and meeting requests. It may sound selfish, but it’s simply being wise. I know my priorities and I need to treat them as such.

But the most worrying, for me, is how I am showing signs of being spiritually fat. I guess the best example of spiritually fat people in the Bible were the Pharisees. These were people who knew the law, who even memorized the law, but instead of seeing Jesus, their hearts were choked up. Just as body fat chokes our organs, knowing God’s word, knowing theology, doctrine, and having tradition, without practicing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control will lead to a spiritually fat person. Signs of my own spiritual fatness can be seen when I am not quick to forgive, when I write people off, when I easily give in to temptation, when I lose my patience, when I am harsh or quick to anger, and mostly when I am afraid, which shows that for all my head knowledge of the Bible, I lack faith in Christ’s finished work. All these things clog up my ability to hear from God, to trust in Him, and to obey Him.

As I finish writing this, I review the rest of the things I need to do tonight to prepare for what’s shaping up to be a another busy week. It’s only February, but the amount of things already accomplished, the adversity already lined-up, and the deliverables needed to be accomplished are quite daunting. None of them can be achieved if I am spiritually, soul-fully, and physically fat. But it’s good to know what I want to achieve, and it’s good to admit the gap between what I want and who I am right now, that I am not good enough – yet. Because this way I can identify what I need to do, and then I can line up my schedule, budget, and energy in the right way to bridge that gap. I know what I want, and I want to know what I lack, even if it means seeing an honest reflection of David I don’t like looking at, because it’s the real David.

Behind my titles, behind past achievements, behind blog posts, and fans, it’s easy to seem godly, wise, stable, and fit. But that’s not who we really are. It may be part of us, and sometimes we are fooled to think that’s actually us. I’m reminded of what Aristotle said, ”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

If we are fat, it’s because we repeatedly allowed it. If we are fit, it’s because we repeatedly achieved it. Who we are is what we repeatedly do.

So I erased my schedule to reprioritize. This is going to be a great week.

Tangible

It’s not enough for people to respect me.

I want to know, I need to know, in the deepest part of me, where there’s no one but God and myself, that in our partnership, we weren’t lazy nor dishonest with each other. I know that He’s faithful with His part. I need to focus on being faithful with mine. This is why I put a lot of emphasis on measured results, so that I never fall into the vanity of being honored by man and think that is proof of  a good life. It’s easy to impress a shallow judge. Man is a shallow judge. But by putting standards, even difficult standards, I push myself towards actual, fundamental, tangible results, that I may sleep content that I did everything in my power to be faithful to God as well.

When I am not meeting these standards, I feel the insecurity of dissonance. There is no peace in a lying heart, and my heart has, through the years, gone through many lies. Chief of which is that I am here to promote, protect, and pleasure me above all. It manifests clearly when I say things like, “I’m not so bad” or “I’m alright” or “I’m enjoying my ‘me’ time” or “I’m allowed to feel this way” or when I entertain other excuses. These are some of the conversations I have in my head when defending my small laziness and dishonesties, not thinking of the other lives deprived or hurt by me When I catch myself do this, I switch the question from “How do I feel today?” to “What is my measurable impact today?” and it changes my mental framework. Before I think about what I think I lack or need, I think about what I have given.

In Matthew 11, there’s a story where the John the Baptists sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He’s the real deal. John was having doubts, probably due to his situation in prison. Jesus didn’t go on an offended, angry, defensive “You don’t believe in me!” speech. Instead, He said, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Jesus simply said: Look at the results. The reply wasn’t “look at my posts”, “look what the media is saying about me”, “look at my likes and comments”. He said, “Look at the fundamental improvements in the lives of people I’ve touched. Look at my life’s message.” 

Jesus never argued His value to anyone. He let His results do the talking, and His results weren’t cute or vanity metrics. They were fundamental life improvements that transformed.

This is the example I seek to follow: to live such a good life that whenever there are doubters, I can simply say, “Look at the results. Look at my life’s message. I’m not perfect. There are a ton of mistakes. But look at the results.” To do this, I need to make sure that every day is spent generating results, not necessarily for monetary ends, but for life transforming impact. This is where discipline, diligence, and determination trumps intention, inspiration, and ideas. Too many people share a lot of inspiring crap but completely fail when they are asked, “So where are the actual, tangible, fundamental results?”

#db

 

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