Saturday, April 26, 2008

How Do You Define Success?

I'd like to start an ongoing conversation about the topic of success - how we define it, how we pursue it and what it means to our lives. It might be a series of occasional posts or just a couple. Truthfully, I don't know where this will go but I thought it might be interesting.

How do you measure success? I believe that your answer to this question determines the aim and trajectory of your life. Here's my thesis - we will pursue whatever we define or picture success to be.

If you believe that success is best measured by "financial independence", you will make it your aim to obtain greater material wealth. If being successful means having a happy family and lots of friends, then nuturing those relationships become your priority . If you think of success in terms of prestige, respect or even some small measure of fame, then gaining acceptance and recognition by others becomes your pursuit.

This means getting the right, functional, definition of success becomes vitally important. Define it incorrectly and you may end up setting your life on a wrong trajectory...pursuing all the wrong things, for the wrong reasons.

I have no great insight about this but in view of how important this is, I've been thinking about how the Bible might instruct us about how to rightly define success. Before elaborating my thoughts on this, I'd love to hear your perspective -

How do you really define success?
What does it mean to you to live a successful life? How does work, home, relationships and God fit into that definition? Or does it?
What do you think the Bible has to say about defining success for us?

Inquiring minds want to know....

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quote of the Week

The fact that the universe continues to function as it does, and that certain actions have certain consequences, needs to be seen in light of God's continued, intentional, active, sustaining involvement.

Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach; Pierced For Our Transgressions. p. 107

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Charitable Disagreements

Over a week ago, we discussed how effective leaders should encourage or at least make room for disagreement as part of the decision making process. But, what about being on the other end? If you should disagree with a decision or corporate direction, how should you register your disagreement? What, if any, are the rules of engagement?

Before jumping into how to disagree constructively, I'd like to say that it isn't necessarily virtuous or loving to simply "tow the line" when you're not in agreement. If someone is possibly making a grave mistake, choosing not to advise or warn them because we'd rather "keep the peace" is not loving. It could reveal what the Bible calls the "fear of man" which is a sinful response and a topic for another post altogether.

How do you agreeably disagree? Here are some of the things I try to keep in mind -

1. Disagree Charitably. Remember the adage pertaining to Christian disputes (attributed to Augustine) : "in essentials - unity; in non-essentials - liberty; in all things - charity". When we're in the midst of disagreement and eager to make our point, it's easy to forget to treat each other with love and kindness. I know that I can often become impatient or intolerant. I find reading 1 Corinthians 13 is a helpful antidote for my uncharitable disposition.

2. Disagree Humbly. As I've reminded my children (and myself) from time to time - we were wrong on the most important issue in human history. We were born into rebellion against God - we were on the wrong side. And on the wrong side we would have stayed except for the mercy of God. With that in view, perhaps we should enter into disputes at least aware of the possibility we might be wrong. It isn't sinful to be confident about your position. Just be aware that you're not always right and might not be right this time. Here's the good news - God gives grace to the humble.

3. Disagree on the Issue, Not with the Person. If you're disagreeing with a decision - keep the conversation on the issue. Resist the temptation to make it personal. Don't be drawn into making comments like "you're lowering the morale in the office" but rather "this decision is leading to lower morale".

4. Learn to Listen. When we're disagreeing, we're eager to make our point and we fail to listen to the other side. The Book of Proverbs is replete with passages on how the wise listen but fools don't.

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15

5. Disagree Directly. Simply say what you mean. Do it gently, kindly and certainly lovingly but be direct. Sometimes I see individuals using humor to hint at a problem or insinuating a problem but yet not speaking plainly. This practice lacks honesty, is disingenuous and can lead to more conflicts. Speak openly...just do it with love (#1) and humbly (#2).

6. Be Inclusive and Work on the Issue Together. It's natural to take opposing, adversarial positions. However, at times it's possible that you can come to the problem in a fresh way and work on it together. If it seems difficult to imagine how you could get to that point, I'd suggest starting by using inclusive language - using "we"/"our"/"us" instead of "I"/"you"/"my"/"your".

I'm sure that there's more to be said on this topic but this will do for now.

Do you have additional thoughts or advice on how to disagree constructively? Please share them with us.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Quote of the Week

"The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom), so scandalous (according to my conscience), so incredible (according to my timid heart), that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as I should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the devil than to overwhelm such things with the daily rehearsings of the gospel."

Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer p. 14