The Paradox of Doing Good

October 16, 2018

Can you hold two opposing ideas in your mind simultaneously?

That is called a paradox.

Yesterday I pondered Jesus’ teaching about doing your good works in secret.

He also said that we should let our lights shine like a city on a hill through our good works.

Which did he mean?

Well, both.

That is the paradox.

Except when it isn’t.

What is in common? Attitude.

Do we do good works just out of kindness as an extension of who we are?

Do we do good works in order to gain praise?

Who you are speaks more loudly than what you say.

Striving For Right

October 15, 2018

Companies pay large amounts of money to consultants to help them define a vision statement that describes the company and its mission.

We also as individuals can have a vision that describes what we wish to be.

Jesus gave us an idea for such a vision for our lives. In his sermon on the mount he stated, “Strive first for the dominion of God.” In other words, we would be wise to choose to live in such a way as to be pleasing to God.

Just prior to this, he told three little stories contrasting people who do things with great publicity.

There are those who do good deeds only when there is a great deal of publicity at stake, or they give money in such a way that their publicists can get it recorded in important media, or they pray with many and beautiful words just where there are many people to notice.

For these, Jesus says they already have their reward.

Then there those who quietly do acts of kindness and generosity as a matter of course. When they pray, they do it quietly in private.

These people God will richly reward.

Try Easy

October 12, 2018

Try easy.

The motivational, self-help guru market is saturated with now-wealthy people who travel from conference to conference motivating people with their (sort of) unique take on pop psychology and quips.

They are all following in the footsteps, and often just repeating, Napoleon Hill and Earl Nightingale. For the record, I grew to love Nightingale’s teaching and research.

The first one I ever heard was in 1976. It was at a management conference. This guy wasn’t famous. Even then. But he was a good speaker. He introduced me to DayTimers for productivity.

His message to these alpha males was, “Try easy.” Think of this…that was 42 years ago, and I still remember.

He motivated us to achieve. But not to over stress our lives on the way to a heart attack rather than achievement.

This week became a sort of personal productivity week in writing.

I thought I’d leave you with this thought. Do the “try” part. For which he meant get up and work. But also do the “easy part. Tackle things. Take breaks. Eliminate the negative stress. In the immortal words of The Eagles, “Take it easy.”


October 11, 2018

We can’t focus on the next activity. We may have decided to tackle this activity. But we worked on it the day before. And the day before that.

It will never get done. I can’t do this. We tell ourselves the worst stories about our ineptitude. We are not smart enough. We don’t have the resources. It’s too much.

We are trying to understand a book we are reading. We are lost. But we look just at one paragraph. It’s too obtuse. I’m lost. Then I notice a key sentence. There is one word in the sentence. I study that one word. What does it mean in various contexts? What is this context? Oh, I see.

My next action is actually too broad.

Maybe the next action is in reality many next actions.

We list the steps to solve that next action.

Then we tackle one step at a time.

One by one. One word. One step. We focus. We understand. We accomplish.

Indecision Kills Productivity

October 10, 2018

The ability to focus on one task at a time is the key to getting things done. Or the key to learning new things.

I teach soccer referees to learn to use focus wisely. To widen focus and take in more area when a play is developing. Then to narrow focus to just two or three players when a challenge for the ball is about to occur.

Young referees (and many fans) often cannot decide where to focus. They watch too many things. Or the wrong things. And miss the play.

That indecision of where to place focus kills my productivity. I use my Nozbe app to list all my “next actions” as defined in David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Then I can’t decide to check the app.

Life is decisions. Indecision causes us to drift through life unaware and unproductive.

Get Up And Do What Needs To Be Done

October 9, 2018

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

I just love the language of the Proverbs. “You sluggard…” That is so blunt.

Yesterday I wrote about focus. Then I listened to an Eastside Christian Church podcast talk by Mike Breaux (pronounced bro for you non-Cajuns) on procrastination. Seems like a series brewing.

Sometimes we can’t focus because we just can’t get around to the work. We put things off. Dust the desk. Search on Google. Fix a cup of tea.

Go to the ant, you sluggard–it has no boss, yet it works constantly.

Get over the fear of starting.

Or maybe just plain laziness.

Sometimes you need a signal. Perhaps that cup of tea is the signal to sit down and write, or think, or draw, or make those phone calls.

I think of Garrison Keillor and the “sponsor” of Prairie Home CompanionPowdermilk Biscuits. Heavens they’re tasty, and expeditious. Give shy persons the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done.

Consider the ways of the ant and be wise. Get up and do what needs to be done.


October 8, 2018

Focus is a marvelous thing.

Don’t you admire, or at least respect, people who have the ability to focus. Their thought are aligned. They work on one thing at a time.

This morning my thoughts are all over the place. Maybe reflects my Enneagram 5?

I had much pressure and many experiences last week. There is still much to process. There was an industrial automation conference, a couple of tours of information technology applications, and a soccer tournament (in a part of Ohio that I’ve never visited).

I’ll need focus.

First calming.

Deciding on a list of “next actions” (from Getting Things Done by David Allen).

Picking one action and focusing until finished.

Focus and we can accomplish much. Let our attention drift among many things and we lose our way.

Focus–my word of the week.

It’s All In Your Head

October 5, 2018

Marcus Aurelius was an Emperor of Rome. 1,900 years ago. An adopted son, he was the last of the “Five Good Emperors.” He was also a Stoic philosopher. Reading him is like a journey through a personalized Proverbs.

He said that happiness is available through how we think.

We expect other people to make us happy.

Or, maybe God. Do we sometimes pray, “God, please help. I’d like to be happy.”

And we’re not.

Maybe we orient our entire life around things and people who make us unhappy. We obsess on them. We are not happy, even though we say we want to be.

Maybe we’re in a project that is not going well (that is one of the stages of every project we’ll ever do). We think about the obstacles. We are not happy.


Maybe we pause. Take a deep breath. Change our focus.

Put those toxic people behind us. Change our thinking to look for positive people. Forget the toxic. Become happier.

Focus on the outcome of the project. Tackle the obstacles a piece at a time. We change our thinking, we change our attention. We move the project forward and become happier.

This is not a new insight with Marcus Aurelius. He articulates it well. So did the Proverbs written 3,000 years ago. So did Víktor Frankl who survived the Holocost and wrote “Mans Search for Meaning” (read that book if you haven’t already).

A famous old proverb goes “We become what we think about.” Become aware of where our thoughts are residing. Change as necessary.

What Do You Do When Schedules Go Awry

October 4, 2018

Yesterday’s schedule was killed with an unexpectedly long Tuesday that returned me to my hotel room about midnight.

A project–really three projects–is going down. What should have been just cruising at this point is more like a sailboat in a hurricane.

Rather than my usual discipline of writing at 6:30 am, today it’s 12 CDT and I’m at the Chicago airport awaiting my delayed flight to Dayton. Only 40 minutes. Not bad.

So I look at my projects plus my regular research and writing plus answering a bunch of emails. What to do?

I look at the mass of problems, then take some deep breaths.

Then tackle one thing at a time.

Contact this person. Contact the next. Compile information, contact the next person.

Think through one problem; reach a conclusion; take action.

Then the next.

I’ve been up 7 hours and been able to accomplish a lot notwithstanding a short nap on the last flight and grabbing a quick lunch.

You can get overwhelmed and flustered.

Better is looking at the list and tackling one thing at a time.

Get A Clue

October 2, 2018

There is a story of a person who, when the Clue Train came through, didn’t accept delivery.

Some people know so much that they missed the Clue Train.

There are the people who can tell you what to do, how to do it, what to believe, how to believe it.

Yet, when you look at their lives, they don’t have a clue.

There are other people who must know a lot. But you don’t realize it at first.

These are people less interested in telling people what to do and exactly how to believe.

Their faith is not complex.

Their knowledge deep.

Their empathy strong.

I know many smart people, but talking to them is as easy as talking with a neighbor.

The ones who obviously strive for recognition, these are the people to beware.