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Entries in community (4)



This morning is tough. I'm fighting a cold that's hung on for about three weeks now. I'm struggling against the lingering effects of Nyquil, which has me feeling a little doped up and out of it, even after seven hours of sleep. I'm facing down anxiety over the usual deadlines and demands of my day. It's a tough morning.

And then there's this blog. For the past month or so I've been able to just sit down, pray, and start writing with no trouble. I could usually tell when I was trying to write it "myself," rather than trusting God for what I needed to say. I'd struggle with it. The words wouldn't come easily, I'd have to drag them out, kicking and screaming. I was writing for myself, and not for the glory of God. Not the right idea for a blog I've dedicated to God's glory, first, and to helping others reach their intended life, second. This morning I had a bit of that before I could get started (you should see the stuff I deleted!).

These days aren't uncommon. I have them pretty often, actually. Maybe the blog comes easy for the day, but then I face the challenge of doing my work, and doing it well. Or I face the challenge of willpower and self control regarding food and exercise and attitude and finances. Or I face the challenge of butting heads with Kara over issues that shouldn't matter as much as they seem to in the moment. Or I face the challenge of facing down self doubts and anxiety and fear over things I can't control or can't know or can't predict. 

I'm challenged, every day, to live an intended life. 

You probably have that, too. Your job isn't what you want it to be, or your family life stinks, or your health is awful, or you just can't stop feeling anxious and scared and worried all the time. 

Usually we feel like this because we think we're being overwhelmed by the details of life. So many things to do! So much to pay attention to! SO. MANY. THINGS.

One at a time. That's the ticket. The magic cure. One task, job, or worry at a time. I have to remind myself, sometimes, that I have plenty of time to get to everything, if I just face one thing first, and then the next, and then the next. And if I don't have time to get to it all, I have to prioritize and do the important stuff first. And if it all seems important, I have to realize that I may fail, I may suffer a consequence, and the best I can do is minimize that consequence as much as possible. Or get some help.

When I was working in electronics I had to be mindful of loads. When working with electricity, a load is the amount of draw on power that a circuit creates. In general, the more parts there are to a circuit (the more the circuit can do) the more load it draws.

A single battery can run a lot of stuff for a while. But eventually, the load runs it down, and the battery has to be replaced or recharged. That means "time out" for whatever the circuit is doing. It means putting things on hold while the battery "rests." 

If you want more life for the circuit, to do more stuff and do it for longer periods of time, one way is to connect batteries in parallel. This means you use multiple batteries, wired to work together, to produce the same work force, but with increased longevity. Two batteries doing the work will last longer than one battery on its own.

That's why marriage is such a blessing. Two hearts and minds working toward one common goal? That should make it easy! Of course, this pre-supposes you actually are working toward the same goal. To do that, you actually have to have a goal.

In electronics, engineers create a circuit schematic so they can see all the operations of a circuit, to trace down trouble when it happens. The schematic for your marriage is a plan the two of you should sit down at least once per month and actually talk to each other. Write down the goals you both have, and what you can do to move toward them. When a problem comes up, refer to your goals and your plan and work together to get yourselves on track. Sound too simple? It's a lot of work, actually, which is the point. It's work, but it's work you do together, as a team, as a married couple.

Beyond marriage, there's the importance of having people who can work with you in your daily life, to help support you in making wise decisions, to help keep you on track for your personal and career goals. It's important to have a team that you can turn to for advice and for help and for strength.

I have a great group of friends, and I can turn to them for advice on a wide range of topics. I don't always turn to them the way I should, however, and that's typically when I start feeling overwhelmed.

It's important to realize, also, that the two batteries in our example above work together, as equals. One battery isn't dominant over the other. Both are on the same wiring. Both serve the same purpose. Both carry the same load. Both light up their world together, or one, on its own, will just wear out first and leave the other to wear out after a time, too. 

You have to approach friendships, business partnerships, marriage, and every relationship as a coming-together of equals with a common cause. Each of you should look to help carry the load of the other. Each should focus on doing whatever you can for the other. That's the key to success, in life and in business.

Putting several batteries in parallel gives you greater strength. Don't stop with just your spouse or your best friend or your business partner. Get more people involved! Connect with a like-minded couple, find a career mentor, bring in a third, startegic business partner. Bring many people together under the same goal, and help each other to master finances and health and children and vacations and work stress and gardening and whatever else is part of the circuit load of your life.

Tough mornings will always come. They're a part of the gig. You know, "being human." It's there, every day, for you to face. But God has provided you with a means for dealing with the load in your life. God is the power that flows through your circuit. He's your current and voltage. He's your "working force." And he likes to work with batteries in parallel.

The Bible lays out the circuit for inviting God's motive power into your life.

20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

Two or three (or more), working with God as their voltage and current. That's a circuit that can do anything.

Rough day? Hard start? Lingering cold? No rest over the weekend? Heavy workload ahead?

Pray with someone. Ask for strength to face the day. Start every day like that and see how much more you can accomplish. Gather all the batteries you can find, connect yourselves in parallel, ask God to power you, and you can light up the world. 




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. 



The hard part about being responsible is sometimes you have to take responsibility for something you may not necessarily feel responsible for. Let that one spin around in your noodle for a bit.

Arguments. Who needs 'em? Nobody, that's who. And sometimes we have them even when we don't know what we're really fighting about. And I'd be willing to bet, if we could do some sort of study, that "we don't know what we're really fighting about" more than likely fuels a high percentage of the arguments we have. 

In the past 24 hours I've taken responsibility for two very different arguments. For both, I didn't particularly feel that I was the cause, that I had instigated, that I had provoked. But it hit me at some point (maybe about two sentences ago ... sometimes I'm slow on the up-tick), I may not be the CAUSE of the argument but I am, somehow, RESPONSIBLE. It has somehow fallen to me to resolve the conflict, to make the apologies, to smooth the ruffled feathers. Because I can. 

My first instinct, when I realize this, is to think, "Why should I?"

I don't want to. I want to storm out, log off, slam a door, click "block user" or a dozen other things that could be "solutions," could absolve me of responsibility, could end the argument without me having to bend or take a bruise to the ego or feed some future justification for arguing with "evidence" of me having once been in the wrong.

That's unfair. And unfair ... that rankles me. I have this inflated sense of "justice," but it apparently weakens as it radiates further from me, here at the center. Justice for all, but mostly Kevin.

Thing is, I've taken on a role of leadership in my life. The adage is, "Leaders are made, not born." Made by choices, made by decisions, made by actions, made by responsibility. You can choose to be a leader, even if no one wants to follow you. This is the route Kevin has chose. He speaks of himself in the third person so that it sounds as if at least ONE person is following him. 

And if I'm going to be a leader, I have to take on the onus of leadership, the responsibility that comes with the gig. Sometimes, the leader has to bear the brunt of the ego bruising and injustice. The range of the leader's "justice field" has to increase, radiate further out. If you're going to be a leader, you're going to have to ditch pride and take more responsibility.

God makes it clear that leadership is what we're doing here. Leading in our family lives, leading in our communities, leading in our own inner thoughts and struggles. Leading means being responsible, even when it's unfair.

Arguments. I hate 'em. I am not a big fan of conflict, and my primary tool for dealing with it is avoidance. But I can't do that. Avoiding it means saying, "This isn't my responsibility." It means I'm a follower, not a leader. So it's up to me to step in, to diffuse, to apologize, to suck it up and acknowledge, to myself, that even if I don't think I'm in the wrong, the only way to be in the right is to be the peacemaker, the bringer of justice, the equalizer of joy, the responsible one. 

That's not easy. It never will be. And the only way it works is if I surround myself with people who can be my strength and guidance when I need it. That's what God was going on about, with the whole "fellowship" thing. One thread is weak, many threads, woven together, can be strong. 

So what is being a leader, after it's all said and done? It's being a part of greater leadership. It's being responsible, even when you don't think you are, and it's being a part of a strong rope woven of other leaders. Leadership isn't meant to be a lonely, solitary role. It's meant to be a fellowship. It's meant to be a community. Every thread carries its own weight, but helps, too, to carry the weight born by all the other threads.

That's what leadership means. Time for me to start weaving. 


YoM: Steal this idea

Ever get one of those ideas that just sticks with you? You’re in the shower or driving to work or playing Angry Birds and PONK! There it is again. And then you spend hours noodling with it, writing out a business plan or drawing up a sketch or just talking about it with your (really, really bored) wife.

I recently got infected with an idea like that. It’s a humdinger, too, because it’s more than my typical, “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone would invent that?” It’s more of a “Wow … that could really, honestly change the world.”

An idea like that is bigger than an entrepreneurial opportunity. I mean, sure, I’m thinking it over and wondering, “How can I make this happen in such a way that I am fabulously wealthy in the end?” And that is the goal, of course. That’s always the goal. I like money.

But this particular idea is actually about community. Specifically, it’s about a community of “makers.”

You may remember from my last entry that I’ve proclaimed 2011 as “The Year of the Maker.” This year, I’m all about focusing my energy and efforts on building things. I want to create new inventions and products, and I want to start new movements. But I don’t want to do it alone.

Last night I met with a friend of mine, who also brought along and introduced me to one of his co-workers. Our whole goal was to get together and talk “product.” We were going to discuss ideas for things we could build and sell. But a funny thing happened during the two or three days leading up to this meeting. I got The Big Idea.

What if I could start a Maker Community? What if I could create a community of people who all have the same goal: Create products and generate wealth?

So, for about three days or so I spent all of my free moments writing a sort of business plan/manifesto for this idea. I’ve been outlining exactly how it could work, and how members could profit from being cooperative, and being a part of a community.

I think this community angle is the key, because communities tend to be self-regulating, living organisms. The community, unlike a corporation, takes care of its own.

Corporations tend to do what’s best for the company. So, you have a hurt back, a wife who is eight months pregnant, and your car needs four new tires … that’s a shame. But this has been a really bad year for the company, so we’re going to have to downsize your ass. Take care!

Communities, on the other hand, tend to be about throwing together to protect the individual. You just lost your job and you need someone to make meals for you and your wife while you recover and she has a baby? Count on your community! We have your back, bro.

So when I think of being a part of something, what I want is to be a part of a community that looks out for my interests and encourages my growth. And if that community is dedicated to especially looking out for one interest in particular — wealth for each of its members — then fun times are ahead.

That’s what I want to form. I want to build a Maker Community, and center it on building financial security and prosperity for each individual member. I have a lot of plans and ideas about how that could happen, and how to protect the community from the odd snake in the garden.

Now, you may be saying, “Kev! Are you nuts?!? You’re telling everyone your plan! What if someone steals the idea?”

Holy crap, if only someone would! Because, frankly, I think I’m setting myself up for a whole lot of work. I’m taking on the role of the founder of this thing, trying to put down on paper all of the basic ideas that I, one man, have. And then I want to outsource it to people who have brains I respect, who can look at it, maybe pick parts of it apart, and help me shape and mold it into what it’s meant to be. And then I want to take it to people and, somehow, explain it in such a way that my passion and energy for it shines through and they see that it’s a good idea, and want to be a part of it. I think I’m setting myself up for a job of work with this. So please, TAKE IT. I will be just as happy to become a member of this once it exists.

And that’s the whole point.

The thing is I freely admit that I want to be wealthy and famous. Hell yeah. And I will be. But this idea, this Maker Community, is something bigger. It’s a chance to build something bigger than me, bigger than fame, bigger than wealth, and involve a whole lot of people so we can do a whole lot of good. This is me trying to build something I can belong to, where all of my needs are met, and people care enough about me to make sure I succeed. And in return, I do the same for them.

So steal this idea. I’ll even give you my business plan/manifesto to work from. And as an extra bonus, I’ll be the first member of your new community.

Otherwise, get ready. The Maker Community is coming, one way or another.