Doing What Is Important (But May Not Be Urgent)

I came across this insightful posting on time management.

How do effective leaders manage their time? Why is it that so many of us are so tired every day when we feel like we haven’t really done much? Where is all of our time going?

Shardul Mehta provides a good insight on why many of us seem to be getting less and less done over time (but remain equally tired as before):

There’s always a fire to put out, an urgent meeting, a request from up the chain to satisfy, someone stopping by the desk to ask a “quick question”, an email to answer, a phone call to return.

The problem is that while it feels like we’re getting stuff done in the moment, we’re actually not getting anything of real value done. It’s an illusion.

See full posting here.



Why This Man is Leaving the United Nations

What do you do when the organization whose mission and values you deeply believed in once is starting to fail? What do you do when multitudes are looking up to you for the much coveted positions you’ve held at the organization and yet you find yourself disillusioned by the way the organization now functions? Do you stick with the organization because everyone else would see your leaving as a waste of a good opportunity? Do you just put up with what doesn’t quite align with your values because of all the work, energy, effort, and time you’ve put into it so far?

… or, do you leave the system as a whole to express your defiant stance on the issue and let the world know how the system is not the way it used to be (or the way it looks to those who look at it from outside only)?

That’s exactly what Anthony Banbury did after working for the organization of his choice for the last 30 years.

Now, granted this is not the first time where a disillusioned, defiant UN worker has left the organization to make his stance clear, what struck me most powerfully about his statement in the NY Times article is the striking similarity I saw between the problems of the UN that Banbury pointed out in his article and some of the issues I am seeing in the church today globally:

The bureaucracy needs to work for the missions; not the other way around. The starting point should be the overhaul of our personnel system. We need an outside panel to examine the system and recommend changes. Second, all administrative expenses should be capped at a fixed percentage of operations costs. Third, decisions on budget allocations should be removed from the Department of Management and placed in the hands of an independent controller reporting to the secretary general. Finally, we need rigorous performance audits of all parts of headquarters operations.

(See full posting via the NY Times here.)

Is the global Church system of organized Christian religions suffering from not being able to discern which of the two must exist for the other — the missions for the bureaucracy, or the bureaucracy for the missions? I’d say a loud yes in a heartbeat.

In a piece titled “Why Denominations Cannot Complete the Great Commission,” David Watson writes:

The denominational education and indoctrination processes make it impossible to fulfill the Great Commission. We have come a long way from First Century illiterate fishermen entering new people groups, nations, and cities and starting a church within months and then moving on. With the loss of simplicity we lost the ability to replicate leaders quickly and move through people groups efficiently. By over training and over managing new believers we stop the process of replication that could reach a nation and a world.

Now, the Church, let us ask ourselves again and be honest about it:

Is it the bureaucracy (read: denominations) for the missions? Or the missions for the bureaucracy (again read: denominations)?

The Peril of Turning Prayer into a Routine

Prayer is about communication.

Prayer is how we hear from God, and it is also how God speaks to us. And yet, we also are fully aware that Christians who believe in the existence of the almighty God in their very own lives are known to rarely pray. If one genuinely believed in the power of prayer, why wouldn’t he/she pray? Does that mean Christians say one thing and believe something else?

But what if it might be because many of us have turned prayer into a mere routine? Wait, isn’t that good if we habitually, routinely pray? That means regular prayer, right? Like eating, sleeping, brushing teeth, etc. Maybe but maybe not:

I have found the habit of prayer is truly a weapon. It can protect you, but it can also be dangerous. Since I write my prayers down, it is easy for me to fall in love with the words on the page more than the One I’m writing them to. I like the way my pen feels in my hand and finding ways to string my thoughts together until they are beautiful.

Never let the habit of prayer outweigh the holiness of prayer.

See full posting here.

Why UX Isn’t the Next “Everything”

UX is everything.

Is it?

Living in a day and age where the term UX has become such a buzz word, many are mistakenly lured into the journey of pursuing UX as their next career destination. Coding schools have designed programs to help people find jobs in the UX field, and more and more blogs and websites are coming out to write about UX at large, the latest trends in UX, and interviews with some of the best, hottest UX designers.

So, why is UX so hot these days? Is it because of certain perks that come with the job (title) itself? Or is there something about UX that is inherently appealing to those who pursue the art and those who demand the service?

A renowned UX designer writes:

I recently met some people at a hackathon who transitioned into UX Design at an impressive speed. But they weren’t your average joes. They didn’t just wake up one day, decided they wanted to switch careers, and got a UX job a week later.

Instead, these people are good problem solvers; one was a talented product manager, another was on his way to a PhD in ethnographic research, and another was a skilled web designers who’ve been (subconsciously) doing UX for the past 5 years.

These are people who are smart and can solve problems, regardless of their job title.

See full posting here.

Humanitarian Worker Trying to Escape Something but Not Quite Succeeding

I am not a humanitarian worker myself but have aspired to be one for a long time. I don’t think I quite thought about this when I was contemplating the idea of becoming one, but the following excerpt from a humanitarian worker puts it very aptly — the worker’s insatiable urge to want to change everything, which strangely leads to escapism.

They all seemed to be trying to escape something but not quite succeeding. Everything needed to be fixed constantly, no matter if it was work, the home, the friendship or the relationship. No matter where you were or what was improving, the grass was always greener on the other side – hence the constant need to hop to another disaster, another country.

Maybe this has more to do with the all-encompassing lack of patience and all-out commitment to instant gratification prevalent among today’s 20-to-30-somethings. But this is indeed an interesting insight into the field of humanitarian work.

See the full post here.

Advice to a Young (Aspiring) Social Entrepreneur

As I continue to find out more and more about entrepreneurship as a means to address societies’ economic, systematic, and spiritual problems, I also find myself asking “Just how do I then get started with social entrepreneurship?” Working (mostly) 9-5 on a desk job, I often feel like I’ve got to drop what I am doing now and start doing things that are directly relevant to entrepreneurship (think joining startups, coffee dates with local entrepreneurs, etc.). If nothing else, having a sense of purpose in one’s work is just good for one’s well-being anyway. How are entrepreneurs-want-to-be’s then to see their daily grind — which may or may not be seen as more menial and tedious labors than startup-like job titles — as essential pieces to their journey into entrepreneurship? Or are they even essential?

I think today’s young people do have a heart and want to do good, but if you want to succeed that’s not enough. You also need to think through your financial model. So my advice: Before launching yourself into a business, get some experience, do volunteering work. Many youngsters today have been raised on handouts from their parents and they need to build some inner core strength. They can’t take stress, because they’ve never really experienced hardship, they’ve never experienced failure; their parents have always been there to help. To build a muscle you need to train it regularly; it’s the same in business. You will have issues coming your way every day, and that’s something you need to learn to deal with so it doesn’t become stressful.

H/T to Elim Chew. See the full NY Times article here.

Cutting Down on Meat for All’s Sake

Are we consuming too much meat as a society?

Differently asked, do some of us (who are not vegetarian or vegan) feel that a meal should always come with some sort of meat? But why is that so? Since when, has the norm dictated that meat is such an essential part of one’s daily diet?

Instead of trying to cut meat out of our diets completely, how about we try something like this instead:

Though becoming a vegetarian is the obvious way to improve our own contribution to the environment, for some, giving up meat completely may be too big a step. Part-time vegetarianism – eating meat just two or three days a week, for example – has become a popular and useful compromise. Personal carbon footprints are reduced, and if enough people were to do this, it would drastically reduce the need for unsustainable farming practices.

H/T to Amit Singh. See the full posting here.

Fear of Losing What We Already Have

I used to own a nice credit card from one of the major banks in the U.S.

Now, because it was a nice credit card that had the suffix “preferred” at the end of its name, it came with one of those deals that said “no annual fee for the first 12 months, then $ XX … every year.” And if I spent more then $4000 or so within the first 3 months of activation, I’d get something like $500 worth of points which could go towards, well, pretty much anything (yes, even cash). After the first 12 months (of no annual fees), I would be free to close the account if I didn’t want to keep it. Sounds pretty good, huh?

With so many credit cards that offered such enticing offers, I ended up signing up for a number of these nice credit card offers. After a minute of simply credit checks, I’d usually get approved and have the credit card in mail in a couple of weeks. I’d usually meet the spending requirements for the various rewards and have those points (sometimes cash) in hand just a few months down the road. What is to complain about, really? None that I can think of.

A strange thing happened when one of these nice credit cards was approaching its first birthday. Now, I was fully aware that once it hit its first birthday, I’d be automatically charged an annual fee if I didn’t cancel the credit card. So, the rational thing to do (at least if I wanted to be consistent with the intention I had set out to do this thing with in the first place) was to call up the credit card company and suspend the account before it reached its first birthday. Just pick up the phone, call the company, and say that I no longer want to keep the nice credit card.

But I didn’t do it.
For whatever reason it may have been, I just wanted to hold on to the nice credit card. Even if it came with the fee all the sudden. Even though there might have been a number of other nice cards out there that I could have signed up for to replace it — all free of annual fees for the first year. I simply didn’t want to lose what I already had. I wanted to hold on to the preferred status I was freely given when I signed up for the nice card.

This fear of losing what one already has has led to a phenomena called “mileage runs” in the flight community. And it’s prompting many to fly between the same two cities multiple times during the same day, just so that they could rack up enough miles to keep and maintain their status with airlines:

The costliest manifestations of GS-MAD are unnecessary year-end trips, called “mileage runs” in the frequent-flier community, which are cousins to the flights Walter Kirn’s protagonist in “Up in the Air” takes to meet his goal of a million lifetime miles. I asked around to find the highest amount anyone had heard of being spent on mileage runs: the winner was fifteen thousand dollars, by a friend of a friend, in a month. Another friend told me about his own bottoming out, in the pre-Global Services era, when, in an attempt to achieve the highest status level at Continental before it merged with United, he took advantage of a temporary quirk. At the time, Continental, engaged in a route war with Southwest, was flying connecting flights between Houston’s two airports. Just shy of the requisite number of flight segments, my friend flew three round trips in one day without ever leaving town. The planes were filled with others doing the same, like some mile-oholic version of “The Iceman Cometh.”
(see full post via The New Yorker here)

Really, some say it should be aptly labelled  a “first world 1% problem.” I agree – but I also wonder, “Will it always be?”

Why Christians Sin (at Church)?

An imagery I like to use to describe the Church is that it is a place where the sick gather.

The Church is where the sick are welcome and therefore gathered to be with others who are also sick. What better place than this really, right?

Where the sick gather, sickness may abound but sickness also disappear as the sick listen to the wise words of the Doctor. The Place, however, will continue to attract the sick, and therefore, will never actually ever be free of, well, sickness! There will always be weeping, sometimes unfortunate quarrelsome disputes, violence (please), mishaps, anger, misunderstanding, visitors, and you name it. Sounds familiar? Yes, those are all sin!

So, is it any surprise that there are still sinners in our churches today? Well, the Church is a place meant for sinners to come.

Now, whenever any of the above (aka “sin”) happens, it would need to be adequately pointed out and addressed — but these things will continue to happen until there is no longer a need for the Place (which I believe is when the Son returns).

Below is a blog post from Tim Challies (I read many of his writings). I think he puts it really well to show how we are to see this “sickness” phenomena at church (read: why do Christians do still sin?):

We must distinguish between the activity of sin, which is true in all believers, and the dominion of sin, which is true of all unbelievers. Sinclair Ferguson has written, “Sin is not primarily an activity of man’s will so much as a captivity which man suffers, as an alien power grips his soul. It is an axiom for [John] Owen [whose teaching Ferguson is summarizing] that while the presence of sin can never be abolished in this life, nor the influence of sin altered (its tendency is always the same), its dominion can, indeed, must be destroyed if a man is to be a Christian.”

Read full post here (H/T to Tim Challies).

How Our Phones Actually Disconnect Us

When the telephone was first invented, I am pretty sure the idea behind it was that it would serve to connect human beings and help them communicate when needed. Has it ever occurred to you though that the very same invention might be actually doing the exact opposite?

This about sums up why we turn to our phones constantly and ruin many of our precious relationships effectively:

Maybe humans are just naturally more comfortable thinking about the future and less confident when it comes to the subject of what can be done to improve the hear and now. Because here’s thing about the future: it never arrives!”