Companionship

Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.

-Jesus Christ

Somers Family Mission Statement - 2013

Jamie and I read a fantastic book called The Three Questions for the Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni last year right around our anniversary.  Lencioni suggests married couples should ask themselves what is the most important thing to focus on over the next 3-9 months.  Jamie and I chose to focus on building a marriage that glorifies God.

Lencioni then suggests we should list out the activities we think will help us get there.  We cleverly called these: “How do we get there?”  After that Lincioni suggests we should list out things that will always be important so that we do not lose sight of the basics and remain balanced.  For example, listing out finances in this area would keep us from spending too much money on an activity that would help us achieve what is most important.  A check and balance of sorts.

Once you have your three questions answered the idea is to review the bottom two sections regularly with each other.  We set aside regular time to each give them a green, yellow, or red. Green meaning it going good and red meaning it is not going so good.  Following this routine has lead to some fantastic conversations and understandings and learnings.  God is good.

One of our activities or “How do we get there?”‘s is companionship.  For us companionship was tricky.  We were used to ‘taking turns’ as it were.  For example when we were dating in college, if I had a big exam coming up, Jamie would not bring up things that were bothering her.  On the surface this seemed like the right thing to do.  I can tell you, at least for Jamie and I, it was not. Things would build up. It was not good. This was a habit we needed to break.

It helps us to consider our thinking when we are trying to break a habit.  Our beliefs surrounding the issue.  Again the approach seemed to make sense.  Sacrifice for the other person by not bringing anything controversial up, asking for help, etc. while it was their ‘turn’.

I have come to believe that this is not God’s design for companionship.  When we lay something like that on our spouse we are asking them to give.  Give us time, attention, priority.  When asking someone to give to us they will often be in one of  two states.  1.) A position of abundance.  2.)  A position of lack.  When we give from a position of lack I believe this is one of the most pleasing things to God.  (Mark 12:44)  So the conclusion Jamie and I have reached is this: by not asking for help when the other is busy, we are actually robbing them of an opportunity to please God.

The end result.  We ask for help.  No matter what.  It works.  For us.

 

-A takeaway from The Three Questions for the Frantic Family by Patrick Lincioni

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.

 

Anxiety into Peace

For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.

-C.S. Lewis

A habit that I have come to cherish is a habit of peace and tranquility. It came from a mix of things I took away from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie and The Servant Leader by Blanchard and Hodges and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lweis.  I like to do it as soon as my eyes open in the morning.  It goes like this.

  • get down on your knees and place your hands face down on the ground
  • list off all the things you are working towards in your life and commit them to the LORD
  • once you have exhausted your list turn your palms up and ask the LORD “What will You have of Your servant today LORD?”
  • listen and weigh what you hear against your foundation in the Bible
  • take your marching orders for the day and go in peace

I have been taught that often when I am anxious or worried about projects I am working on it is likely because I have not committed them to the LORD.  That I am being prideful and working for my own selfish interests.

Over the years I’ve returned to the image above to help refocus on God’s will.  It’s a visual takeaway from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.   The idea that eternity transcends all time and that the point at which eternity touches time is right now.  C.S. Lewis suggests that God wants us to focus on eternity and right now.   The Deceiver, on the other hand, would have us focus on the distant past and the distant future as a way to make sure we are not doing what we should be doing right now.  To paralyze us with fear and worry so we do not focus on a key question in life, what can I do right now to store up treasure in heaven?

God help us focus on eternity and now.  Help us focus on You and on others.  Lead our spirits on level ground and establish the work of our hands LORD.

Never Retire

Integrate your vocation and your identity by thinking of your life as a journey rather than a destination.

-Rabbi Daniel Lapin

journalist writing with typewriter

In his last commandment to making money Rabbi Lapin suggests retirement is a no go.  In fact, he points to the Jewish belief that hebrew is the language of God and therefore it is perfect.  Meaning that there is a word for everything that is real and timeless in it.  there is no word for retirement in Hebrew.  I have not come across a similar word in the Bible either.  Interesting.  What is retirement all about anyways?

When I was growing up my father told me a story, most likely very similar to a story you have heard.  It goes like this.  He had a friend who loved to write.  His friend, we will call him Jim, had two options for the next chapter in his career.  Option one was a corporate sales job that paid really well.  Option two was a writing job that did not.  Jim became a paid writer.  And because Jim went to work everyday with a smile on his face and a fantastic attitude he soon became a writer for a major publication and earned substantially more than he would have at the corporate job.  Because he was doing what he loved he naturally put his heart and soul into the work and that is a beautiful thing that is easy for everyone to see.  The old adage “do what you love and never work a day in your life” is true.  It is out there.  My challenge to you is to create margin in your life and seek it.  You will be happier.  Your family will be happier.  Your boss will be happier.  Everyone will be happier.

-A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.

The Power of Giving in Secret

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

-Jesus Christ

Seljalandfoss Waterfall At Sunset In Hdr, Iceland

In his ninth commandment on making money Rabbi Lapin suggests that we should give away ten percent of our income.  He goes on to say that “charity is irrational” as a means to make money but “nevertheless, it benefits the giver in many ways.”

Since we are on the topic of giving I want to retell a story I recently heard Randall Wallace tell about giving in secret.  It goes like this.

Imagine you come home one day after work and park your car in the street.  The next morning you get up and realize someone has dinged your door.  There is no note.  As you leave for work that morning you can not help but look at your neighbors differently.  That little old lady who was once the nicest grandma in the world does not seem so sweet this morning.  The fine young man next door over is now feeling a lot more like a hooligan.  Those lovely little kids playing ball in the street seem a lot more suspicious this morning.

Now lets imagine you came home from work all the same.  After you finished dinner and were getting ready to sit down with a good book you look outside and notice your trash can blew over.  Trash was everywhere.  In one of your weaker moments you decide you will pick it up in the morning.  The next morning you get dressed and go outside to track down your trash.  But you find your trash can upright and your lawn and block free from trash.  Someone had picked it up for you.  Who did this?  Surely it was that little sweet old lady that now that you think of it always smiles at you, she really is the nicest person.  Or perhaps the fine young man who now that you think of it always says hello and remembers your name too, he really is going places.  Or was it the kiddos who are always playing ball in the street and who now that you think of it always see you coming and pause their game without making you wait, what great and considerate kids.

In the second scenario because one neighbor did something good in secret, they built up good will for the whole neighborhood – which by the way includes them too.  The same resources were deployed but the goodness that resulted was multiplied.  Cool.

A deed done in secret multiplies. Good or bad.

 

-A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.

Know your money

Promise less than you deliver.

-Rabbi Hillel

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When you write a check the proprietor will typically only accept it if they trust you have the money in the bank for the check to clear.  They will typically only accept it if they trust you. When Argentina gave notice to their creditors that they would not pay past $130 billion people no longer trusted them.  As a result people stopped accepting their currency.

Rabbi Lapin explains that the very word dollar comes from trust.  In the sixteenth century a highly trusted German count known for his high ethical standards started minting currency.  The coins were known as valley coins or thalers. Because the count maintained an extremely strict level of standards for weight and purity of silver people came to trust his currency and its reputation grew.  Thalers spread across Europe and each country pronounced it a little differently.  The Dutch called them daalders and eventually dallers.  Lapin makes a great point: “the lesson of the Thaler is still true; anyone with a reputation for reliability can create money.” Accepting a dollar is trust in a government.  Accepting a check is trust in a person.  Money is trust.  Could you create money if you needed to?

 

-A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.

 

 

Learn to Fortell the Future

Who is wise? One who can tell what will be hatched from the egg that has been laid. Not he who can see the future — that is a prophet.  Wisdom is seeing tomorrow’s consequences of today’s events.

-Babylonian Talmund, tractate Tamid

Hot Air Balloon Flying over Dramatic Sunset Sky

Rabbi Lapin’s seventh commandment to making money is “learn to foretell the future.”  In this chapter Lapin gives a lot of advice that feels a lot like the traditional Porter’s five forces, SWOT and PEST analyses.  Look for trends and patterns in the marketplace.  Forces and how they came to be.  Are the forces present due to a lack of market influence or the presence of one and is the influence likely to continue or not?  Who seeks to gain from these influences?  How do the influencers make decisions?  What does that process look like?  When is it likely to happen? Etc.  All important things to consider when considering how things will play out.

The part that I liked the most about this chapter was an exercise to help your mind weigh all these elements.  An exercise in ‘foretelling the future’ (Cue cheesy sound effect here).  I have heard of a similar exercise in other books.  One that comes to mind is Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill.  It goes like this.  Learn to flip the switch in your mind into receive mode when considering the future.  Find yourself a peaceful place apart from interruption.  Start by focusing intensely on a subject in the future.  Take all the data you have on the subject and weigh it from every conceivable angle.  From the top and then the bottom.  From one side then the next.  From within.  From the outside looking in.  From 10,000 feet then right along side it.  When you feel like the angles from which to consider the topic have been exhausted switch your mind to receive mode by focusing intently on the sound of the birds, or the wind, or the traffic, or whatever it is that surrounds you right in that moment.  Bounce from one stimuli to the next and let your mind grab hold of whatever comes its way.  Go back and forth between receive mode and problem solving mode several times.  Capture and consider the ideas that flash into your mind when in receive mode.  Cool.

 

-A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.

 

Constantly Change the Changeable While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable

One of the most important distinctions you need to learn to make is between those things in your life that should be constant and unchangeable and the kind of change you should welcome.

-Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Rear view of a male kayaker paddling through rapids

If an amateur canoeist unexpectedly finds himself in a raging rapid what do you suppose would come to his mind?  A new technique, a new way to lunge his paddle into the water? Or would his mind immediately flash back to the words of his instructor, “Dig in!”?  Where would your mind go in that situation?

Rabbi Lapin gives this advice. “The more things change, the more you must depend on things that never change.”  He suggests that the Jewish star, also known as the Star of David, shows how to balance change with a fixed frame of reference.  The triangle on its base represents things that should never change in life.  Lapin points to things such as your relationships with your Creator and your family.  The triangle on its apex represents being open to and benefiting from the opportunity that comes with change.  The relationship between the two suggests that a strong base of things that do not change allows you to deal with and even embrace the things that inevitably will.

Change will happen.  Your cheese will be moved.  Jim Collins, author of Built to Last, was asked how great companies get through tough times.  Collins suggested “In times of great duress, tumult, and uncertainty, you have to have moorings.”  A mooring refers to any permanent structure to which a vessel may be secured.

We’ve all heard the stories of famous coaches going back to the basics at points of change.  A college basketball coach that teaches his freshman all-state recruits their first lesson on his team – how to tie their shoes.  Vince Lombardi holds up a football as he addresses his team before the big game “Gentleman, this is a football.” Back to the basics.

I have even found that forcing change helps keep me sharp.  To keep my shot on I often shoot three pointers left handed.  If I want to even hit the backboard it has to be back to the basics.  Good lift, elbow above my shoulder at the top, elbow pointed at the rim, aim small – concentrate on the middle eyelet on the rim, reach for the cookie jar and let the it roll off my pointer finger last, focus on the eyelet – do not watch the ball in the air.  When I go back to my strong hand – my shot never felt more natural.

When you or your company face great change go back to the basics.  The blocking and tackling.  The things that your earlier victories were founded on.  Stand on this firm footing. With a strong base – take full advantage of the opportunity change presents.

-A takeaway from Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject would be the coolest.