Systems Trump Hopes & Intentions

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Everybody has hopes, dreams and good intentions.

Everyone wants to lose weight, get out of debt, get a degree, start a business, or start a hobby.

Churches want to grow, reach new people, see people start following Jesus, see new givers take that first step, see people get connected into community or serve.

W. Edwards Deming said, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.”

Put another way: systems trump hopes and intentions. 

This is true for every system.

The systems you have in place as a church are why you have the number of first time, second time and third time guests that you have. It is why you have as many people giving. Why you have the number of people serving or in community.

None of this is accidental and none of this “just happens.”

For Revolution, this is one reason we transitioned from small groups to missional communities. We found that small groups would give us a certain result and it wasn’t the result we wanted.

Think about it personally. What if you want to lose weight, get out of debt, get a degree or start a business. None of that will just happen. You have to have a system for it. Just hoping to lose weight won’t cut it. You can’t have the intention of getting out of debt without a system for it.

The reality of Deming’s words ring true in our businesses, churches and homes. We are getting the results our systems are designed to give us. It isn’t an issue or hope, wishes, intentions, but of systems and strategy.

At this point, once you realize this, the next step is having the patience for it to take root.

One of the reasons I see people not lose weight or get out of debt is they expect it to happen as quickly as they gained the weight or got into debt. 

That isn’t a reality. In the same way, after 10 years of unhealthy communication in a marriage, it will not change over night. It will take time.

What happens for many people is they put a system in place, that moves slower than they would like, so they give up and settle for the results they don’t want.

And then we are back to square one.

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Thoughts on Turning 35

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I turn 35 today. It is hard to believe all that has happened in my life in 35 years. If the average man lives 70 years on earth, I’m at the halfway point. That has caused me to reflect on things I’ve learned as I look forward to the next 35 years. Here you go:

  1. Pick something you are passionate about and give your life to it. I knew at 18 that I wanted to plant a church. While it took my until I was 28 to do it, everything in my life led me to that moment. I meet so many men who float through life, aimlessly wandering from one job to the next, unsure of what to do with their life. They also seem to have no idea what makes them passionate, what makes them excited, all they know is they hate their job and are miserable. They look at their life and think, “This is all there is” so they play video games, work a dead end job or look at porn. I just preached on this topic on Sunday, but find something worth giving your life to for Jesus and don’t look back.
  2. Commit to your wifeI met Katie when I was 16 and fell in love. She is everything I could hope for in a wife and more. We just celebrated 12 years and every year gets better and better. We’ve had our bumps and hard seasons but through it all, we’ve pushed through, got closer to Jesus and got closer to each other. I love laughing with her, talking with her, cooking with her, and watching her blossom in her artistic gifts. I have a number of friends on their second marriage or are getting divorced and it is so sad to watch people walk through that or see other couples settle for a mediocre marriage. That is their legacy, that they didn’t stay committed, they didn’t push through the valleys to make it to the mountain top.
  3. Protect your healthWhen you are 20, playing a sport year round, you can sleep in, eat whatever you want and probably lose 5 pounds in the process. Except then you get older. I meet a lot of guys who are starters and they start businesses and churches and then burnout in the process. They don’t exercise, sleep well, protect their finances, their calendars and their health deteriorates. I have a friend who is so burned out he has to take three 1 hour naps a day to survive. You are in charge of your health, no one else can protect it. It is hard to stay motivated to workout and eat well, but the end result is worth it (and the end result isn’t a certain body it is living well and longer).
  4. Make your kids a higher priority than they are. It is easy to make other things more of a priority than your kids. Men make their jobs, they make carting their kids to activities more of a priority than having a relationship with them (and yes you might be at their stuff, but you aren’t building a relationship with them while they do it). Each of our kids are different and like different things. It is a challenge as our family has grown for Katie and I to spend time together, have a weekly date night (because my relationship with Katie is more important to our family than our relationship with kids), have hobbies and friendships and spend time with our kids, but the investment is worth it. Make sure you are having regular daddy dates with them, doing things they enjoy with them, not just watching them do things.
  5. You are responsible for your relationship with God. No one else is responsible for this. Your pastor isn’t, you are. If you aren’t growing in your relationship with Jesus, that is your fault. Men like to pass this off to someone else, but it is on them. Spend time with God. I’m not a morning person, but reading my bible is the first thing I do when I get up.
  6. Read more. Every great leader is a reader. I don’t think this is a coincidence. While women tend to read more than men, if you are a man who wants to accomplish something, you need to keep growing. Don’t be content with what you know, push for more knowledge, more skills, hone the skills you have. If you don’t know what to read, start here and here.
  7. Make some close friends and invest in those relationships. Men are not good at friendships with other men. If you ask most men who their close friends are, you will get blank stares. The older I get the more important close friends are. I’m an introvert so I don’t have a ton of relationships, instead, I prefer to have a few close friendships with people I connect with regularly. Make this a priority. I have talked with a number of men who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who have no close friends and it is tragic.
  8. Find a mentorMen need mentors. They need someone who is further in life when it comes to their career, leadership, being a father and husband, managing money, their relationship with God. Look at your life and see the areas you want to grow in and find someone who is further along in that area. I have multiple mentors in different areas. I simply ask them, “I want to get better at _____, you are better at that than I am, can you help me grow in that area?”
  9. It’s not too late to accomplish goals. If you have a goal, go for it. I have had a goal to write a book and I’m almost there. Too many men seem to have a lot of goals and hopes and never do anything. This leads men to have midlife crisis, feel aimless, have regrets as they look back on their lives. Decide today what is going to matter most in your life, how do glorify God the most and do that. Put your energy towards that.
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How to Set Goals and Accomplish Them

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This post originally appeared on The Blog of Manly.

Since we’re now at the end of January and the luster of New Years Resolutions has begun to wear off, I felt like its time to share some ideas on how to set goals and keep them.

Resolutions are just that, goals. They are hopes for the future. In December we look at our lives, the things we don’t like about them and set a goal to change that specific area of our lives.

No one makes a resolution to get into more debt or add 30 pounds (at least not that I have met).

Here are ___ ways to set goals, keep them and accomplish them.

  1. Be realistic. If your goal is to lose weight, losing 20 pounds in 2 weeks isn’t likely or realistic. Possible if you just stop eating but that sounds miserable. The excitement of what could be is easy to get caught up in, but the reality that you will all of a sudden get up at 5am 4 days a week when you have been struggling to get up by 7am isn’t realistic.
  2. Set goals you want to keep. I have had friends set a goal and they are miserable. Now, sometimes our goals will have some pain. When I lost 130 pounds, it wasn’t fun to change my eating habits, but the short term pain was worth it. The same goes for debt. It will require some pain to get out of debt. You have to walk a fine line here. If it is too painful, you will not want to keep it. This is why our goals are often more of a process than a quick fix.
  3. Make them measurable. Don’t make a goal: to lose weight, get out of debt or read my bible more. Those aren’t measurable. How much weight? How much debt? How much more will you read your bible? Make them measurable so you can see how you are doing.
  4. Have a plan. Once you have your goal, you need a plan. If its weight loss, what will you do? If its debt, how will you get there? What are the steps? If its bible reading, what plan are you using? No goal is reached without a plan.
  5. Get some accountability. Equally important is accountability. One of the things I did when I weighed 285 pounds and started mountain biking was I bought some bike shorts that were too small and embarrassing to wear. This gave me accountability to keep riding. Your accountability might be a spouse or a friend, but it needs to be someone that can actually push you. Maybe you need to go public with your goal and invite people to help you stay on track.
  6. Remove barriers to your goals. Your goals have barriers, that’s why you have to set goals in the first place. It might be waking up, food, credit cards, working too late or wasting time on Facebook. Whatever it is that is going to keep you from accomplishing it, remove it. Get rid of the ice cream, credit cards, move your alarm clock so you have to get out of bed. Whatever it is, do it. Life is too short to be miserable and not accomplish your goals.
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The Next 100 Days

I think the next 100 days for our family will be pretty pivotal. Recently, Katie and I both read through Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker and really felt like we needed to be more intentional with our prayer lives, pray bigger, bolder, more specific prayers and think more through the lens of legacy.

To that end, I want to ask for your prayers over the next 100 days.

Starting this week Katie and I are reading through the Bible in 90 days, which boils down to 12 pages a day. At the end of that, we are going to do a 10 day daniel fast with the intention of clearly defining our goals at the end of that.

One of the things that Batterson talks about in his book is creating life goals. We will be making goals in 5 categories: family, influential, experiential, physical and travel. The goal of discipleship undergirds all the categories and has to be a component of the goals we come up with.

We want to think through the legacy we will leave to our grandchildren and think through how we live the rest of our days with intentionality. If we’re lucky, we are a third of the way through our lives and want to make the most of each remaining for the kingdom.

We’d appreciate your prayers as we embark on this journey. We are excited, a little scared to see what God calls us to, but excited to let him use our lives as he sees fit.

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