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Entries in Christian lifestyle design (2)

Tuesday
Mar192013

communityness

I'm easy.

Down boy, I mean I'm easy to rile up or stress out or otherwise get button-pushy with. My close friends used to have a little gag they'd drag out whenever they wanted to get me going on something. They'd make some ridiculous statement, then I'd rush in all angry and annoyed and righteously indignant and go on a rant for several minutes. To REALLY get under my skin they'd pretend to tap some unseen buttons in the air before them and make beeping and whistling noises. Pushing my buttons.

It always worked. I'm easy, like I said. I have a hair trigger, especially when it comes to things that I think I'm an expert on. Really it comes down to a profound arrogance on my part. I think I'm better and smarter, and anything that counters my POV is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

It's one of my more disgusting personality traits, and one that has held me back for decades. And it's the one that I'm attacked on constantly. When sin starts trickling out of me, its source is usually my arrogance and narcissism. 

So counter to what I want to be. So counter to who I really am, deep down. I'm someone who wants to love people, to help them, to protect them, to encourage and inspire them. That's my role in life, I think. I am the man who looks for ways to build people up. If I spend all my time building myself up instead, what good am I? Who am I helping when I'm only helping myself? Who am I encouraging when I am only boosting my own ego? Who am I, if alll I am focused on is what I think I know, and how much I think I'm better than you?

Nothin'. Nobody. Not worth the time of day.

The whole point of life is to live in community with others. We're built for community. We're social animals, dependent on each for strength, support, validation. God built a pretty good machine, when He built each of us. But he built an infinitely pliable and powerful machine in community.

That's why I'm struggling, daily, with bringing myself around to a new way of thinking. I want to change that part of me that thinks "me first" all the time, and start nurturing the part that asks, "How can I help? How can I serve? How can I love?"

People will sometimes take advantage of your good nature, if they know that your goal is to help and to serve. That's OK. It can't last. It seems weird, and somehow contradictory, but in my experience the people who take advantage of you most will often just wander away. They don't trust that what they're getting is the real deal. They start to think that somehow you're pulling one over on them. Nobody is THAT helpful, right? 

The truth is, we see in people what we see in ourselves. We relate to people by looking for those traits we share with them. That's how relationships start. "You like Doctor Who? I like Doctor Who!" And a friendship is born.

So people who cheat or steal from others will most often see everything as an attempt to cheat or steal from them. And if you are offering them a hand, with nothing asked for in exchange, then it's probably because you're running a grift. You can't be trusted. So they cut you off.

Same can be said of the arrogant. My biggest complaint about people? "They're selfish. They only think of themselves. They just want me to pay attention to their every word." And in my most honest moments, I can look at myself and see that I am the person I'm describing. Selfish. Self-centered. Self-motivated. 

Changing that means embracing a couple of tough ideas. We're made for community, but we're also made for service. 

Loving others the way you love yourself—in Romans 13:8-12 the Bible tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law. Basically, if you are concentrating on loving your neighbors, you aren't concentrating stealing what they have, committing adultery, murdering someone, or any of the other laws you could be breaking. Love them like you'd love yourself, and you don't have to worry about "right and wrong/legal and illegal." You're fulfilling the law and the greatest commandment from God.

Cool, huh? 

Loving others like I love myself—that's a lot of lovin', for sure. If I spent my time focusing on encouraging and building up others the way I try to build up my own ego, I'd have more friends, I'd have more opportunities, I'd build a bigger, stronger community that could back me up in my time of need. A community of like minds, always thinking about each other, always sure that others are up to somethin', alright. Up to somethin' good. 

Wednesday
Mar132013

christian lifestyle design (or "how I spent my 40-year vacation")

I first came across the term "lifestyle design" in The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss. This book changed  my perspective on work and career, especially when it comes to "retirement." It helped me figure out a better way to handle outsourcing and contract work (both as a contractor and as a contractee), and it has served as a catalog of resources that I can draw on when I need it. I've read this book dozens of times now, and I learn something new every time.

(Just a side note: I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version as well as keeping a print and/or ebook version around for reference. Scott Brick does an outstanding job of narrating this book, and I've found that LISTENING to a book like this has more impact than reading it from the page)

The short definition of lifestyle design might look like this: Instead of locking yourself into a "typical" 40+ hour workweek for 40 to 50 years, working toward a cash-strapped "retirement," you should use every resource at your disposal to create a more "unconventional" lifestyle and career, and take lots of "mini retirements" along the way. 

The REALLY short definition might be: Use your brain, be creative and innovative, do what you love, and work becomes a joy instead of something you endure.

I love that whole concept. It's rooted in learning and growing, experimenting and playing by a different set of rules. I've used a lot of the techniques I've learned about marketing and strategy to make my career more unconventional than most. Even now, as I work full time as the Marketing Creative Director for a software company, my career is on a different track than just a few years ago, and it's far from conventional. 

But there's been a slight deviation from the 4-Hour plan. 

I really didn't see my lifestyle change much until I made a couple of key choices. It's hard to say which of these came first, because they're both so intertwined. I know which is the more important of the two, and which is the stronger guiding principle in my life now, but I can't remember exactly when I made the commitment to either. So I'll just list them from least important to most important.

Positive attitude

 How cliché is that? Very. And for 35+ years I felt it was too obvious, too pat, too eye-rollingly bleh to give it any real consideration. I agreed with the idea, and all the adages. "Your attitude determines your altitude," and the like. I agreed 100%. I just wasn't putting it into practice.

Actually, I did TRY to put it into practice. I just wasn't very good at it. And that's because I was missing the point.

Having a positive attitude isn't the full story. The real power behind this little "secret" is all about your choices (this sound famliar?) Being positive in a general, Pollyanna sort of way gets you nowhere. Eventually the smile you have plastered on your face will fade. The internal dialog of "just feel joy!" will peter out. Nothing about this empty, hollow decision to "think positive" has any power at all. 

Real positive attitude comes from making a conscious choice to put the needs of others above your own. It's called "love." And when you exercise it, the thing gets muscles like you wouldn't believe. If you're only focused on yourself, your own needs and goals and desires, you can only stay positive for so long. Eventually greed and selfishness and self-centeredness become the rules of your life. Eventually you get your true, deepest wish, which is to be alone with yourself, with no one bothering you.

Making the effort to put someone else in front of you, to do whatever you can to help someone else achieve what they want or need out of life, puts you in a different head space. It's the most positive head space you'll ever manage to reach. Your heart is in it. Your very soul is in it. 

I love to quote Zig Ziglar on one specific topic, and anyone who knows me will know what's coming next:

"You can get everything you want in life if you will just help enough other people get what they want."

How can you not be positive, when you're thinking like that?

God as the center of your life

This was the biggest change, the most important change of all. And it has made all the difference in my life and my career.

I was always a Christian. I just wasn't very good at it. I spent a large chunk of my life searching for something that would give me inspiration and a sense of purpose, but the only place I was willing to look was inside myself. 

Turns out, that's a pretty limited field to search.

I don't have what it takes to be successful or brilliant or a perfect Christian. Only Christ has that kind of strength. So this whole time, as I've focused on "improving" myself by focusing ON myself, I've really robbed myself of any power to change. 

But recently I made the decision, finally, to turn my life over to Christ. I emptied myself out and chose to study the Word, to engross myself with God, to fill myself ... well, actually, to ask God to fill me ... with the Holy Spirit. I asked Christ to increase my faith. I decided to stop relying on the Power of Kevin and start relying on the true and real Power of God.

Having God as the center of my life, making the choice to glorify Him with EVERYTHING I do, say, think, feel ... that has made all the difference. Three or four years ago ... three or four MONTHS ago ... I might have agreed with this with my mouth, but I didn't agree with my heart or my soul. I believed, if you asked me. I didn't believe, if you studied me. "You'll know them by their fruits." That's the trick. You can't judge a book by it's cover, but you CAN judge it by the impact it's having on the world.

I was an ineffective, loudmouthed, self-centered jerk. I paid lip service to all the good and positive things that I'd always HEARD could make your life (and the world) better, but I wasn't living what I was knowing. God changed that.

I had my crisis of faith. A couple of them, actually. It happens. It shouldn't have to, but it does. And now I know, I KNOW, that the way for me to be happy, to have joy, to achieve more in my life ... it's all in who I'm focused on. 

Focus on me = struggling, sinking, drowning

Focus on God = Standing, Walking, Performing Miracles

Christian Lifestyle Design

I've started putting things together, thinking things through, and I'm coming around to a new idea. I think that lifestyle design is a good plan. It's good to want to accomplish things. It's good to want to have a lifestyle that makes you feel fullfilled, that brings you joy. It's good to want wealth, even. Its good to want to do as much as you can.

It's better, so much better, to want all these things to bring glory to God. 

True lifestyle design, effective and empowering, will only come from glorifying God with everything you do. So that's what I'm going to focus on. I'm going to use all of the things I've learned, through all of my years of study into marketing and strategy and innovation, and I'm going to apply all of those to the principles that God has laid out for me in His word. 

And I want you to join me. I want to help you get what you want out of life, what you NEED out of life. That's the mission God has put in front of me, and this blog and my books and all the things I do an create, they're all tools for that mission.

So let's get started.