Friday Five for January 13

Employees arriving late for work is nothing new. But perhaps the list of excuses is getting more exotic. At Mindsharp, we don’t clock in and out, so the vast majority of our employees can’t be late or early. Our emphasis is on results, not time spent doing a job.

Small business lending is up 18%. No joke. Looks like bankruptcy filings are also down, which is a good sign. But unemployment claims are up for this week, indicating that mixed news will continue to be the norm for a long time.

Want to be a CEO? You might want to reconsider. I can honestly say that even in a small company, I identify with some of what this article articulates. And while we’re on the CEO topic, note this article that says CEO’s don’t use their time wisely. Again, I can attest to this – I’d rather spend my time on long-term focused activities that produce new products and markets for us, but I often get pulled into day-to-day efforts. That mostly because I’ve not empowered my management team – not their fault. So I’m working on this very concept now.

The age of the earth and religious beliefs about creation vs. evolution continues to be a non-factor for me. The reason it’s a non-factor is because Evangelicals (of which I am one) continue to mis-interpret the Scriptures. Almost universally, Evangelicals automatically assume that time started at Genesis 1:1. I disagree. One could easily argue that God created time either in vs. 4 or in vs. 14. Here is the passage:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

It seems to me that a simple reading of the Genesis account would indicate that time as we know it was created on the 4th day, not the first day and certainly not in vs 1. Now, bring in the notion that eternity past and future has no time, which is why the Bible says that in heaven (which is outside of time), a “day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day”. Hmmm………

We’re not told how much time passes between Genesis 1.2 – 1.3. All we’re told is that matter existed and if you read on, you’ll learn that the laws of physics weren’t in play yet, meaning that water didn’t flow downhill and “sky” didn’t exist. But also, in terms of how we measure time today, that period could have easily equated to millions (billions?) of years, because before time began, we had eternity past. I continue to believe that the argument that the earth is no more than 6,000 – 10,000 years old by Evangelicals is narrow-minded, just like those who don’t see intelligent design in our system to be equally narrow-minded. It seems to me that God did create all that we have and that us Evangelicals do ourselves a huge disservice by not correctly interpreting this key passage of Scripture.

Lastly, given that most Boomers have little to retire on (reference here, here and here), it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in those over 55 working longer. This continues to support my assertion that retirement is swiftly becoming a thing of the past. People will want (need?) to work well into their 70’s, health permitting.

Bill English, CEO

Coincidence or God?

Read my short post first, then if you’d like, please enter your answer into this poll:

An Excellent Assessment of Our Current Economic Environment – A MUST Read

I have not read a better, more succinct explanation and assessment of our current economic environment. Richard Fisher is top drawer in my book. I especially like this paragraph:

“I maintain that no matter how much cash you have on your balance sheet, or how compliant your banker might be, or how cheap the cost of money, you will not commit substantial capital to expanding your payroll or investing significant amounts to expand plant and equipment until you know what it will cost you to run your business; until you know how much you will be taxed; until you know how federal spending will impact your customer base; until you know the cost of employee health insurance; until you are reassured that regulations that affect your business will be structured so as to incentivize rather than discourage expansion; until you have concrete assurance that the fiscal “fix” the nation so desperately needs will be crafted to stimulate the economy rather than depress it and incentivize job creation rather than discourage it; or until you are reassured that the sinkhole of unfunded liabilities like Medicare and Social Security that Republican- and Democrat-led congresses and presidents alike have dug will be repaired so that our successor generations of Americans will prosper rather than drown in dark, deep waters of debt.”

Rarely do I laugh out loud when reading a white paper or a speech, but this comment got me laughing pretty good because it seems that so many economists do speak in technical terms:

“My colleague Sarah Bloom Raskin—one of the newest Fed governors, and a woman possessed with a disarming ability to speak in non-quadratic-equation English…{emphasis mine, on the part I found funny}”

I encourage everyone to read this speech.

Bill English, CEO

When We are Our Own Worst Enemy

Sometimes, I think that I’m my own worst enemy. If I were to give a pecking order of what I find most difficult to manage and change, I must admit that at the top of list is myself. James has important teaching in this area. Consider these passages:

  • We are tempted to sin by our own evil desires, 1.13-15
  • We are tempted to think that by our anger, we can bring about good things in other people, 1.20
  • We are tempted to say things that we shouldn’t say, 1.26 & 3.2-12
  • We are tempted to fight and quarrel because we have conflicting (mutually exclusive) desires within us, 4.1-3
  • We are tempted to live with unconfessed sin and this can cause trouble and sometimes physical illness, 5.13-16

When it comes to managing a business, so much of our teaching and understanding is about how to manage others toward task completion and/or project success. But in looking at what James wrote, I fine the most difficult things to manage in life are not others, buy myself:

  • Desire
  • Anger
  • Speech
  • Arrogance (unconfessed sin is rooted in arrogance)

It’s interesting that Murray Bowen swerved into the truth, though he was an agnostic at best. In his model of family therapy, he wrote this:

“The basic self is a definite quality illustrated by such “I position” stances as: “These are my beliefs and convictions. This is what I am, and who I am, and what I will doo, or not do.” The basic self may be changed from within self on the basis of new knowledge and experience. The basic self is not negotiable in the relationship system in that it is not changed by coercion or pressure, or to gain approval, or enhance one’s stand with others. There is another fluid, shifting level of self, which I call the “pseudo-self,” which makes it difficult to assign fixed values to the basic self, and which is best understood with functional concepts. The pseudo-self is made upf of a mass of heterogeneous facts, beliefs, and principles acquired through the relationship system in the prevailing emotion….The pseudo-self, acquired under the influence of the relationship system, is negotiable in the relationship system.” (Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, p. 473)

Bowen’s thinking was that we had parts of ourselves, when placed under stress, we negotiated away in order to lower our stress or anxiety. But we also have another part of our personhood that is not negotiable, no matter the amount of stress or anxiety we experience. It was the pseudo-self that was so difficult to manage, in Bowen’s thinking. He place premium value on people managing themselves as a way to reduce conflict and increase harmony in family relationships.

When we look at the list produced from the book of James, what we find is that each action (to use Bowen’s thinking) emits from the negotiable part of our personhood. I would submit that the negotiable part of our beings results from a lack of grounding in our beliefs and relationships. When I use anger to try to produce a good action in another person, I’ve negotiated away an important tool (patience and clear thinking) while violating my own values. If I say something I shouldn’t or if I don’t have alignment within myself on my own desires, then that comes out in a myriad of ways, all of which are destructive to those around me.

When you look at the list of what James gives us, I find that my most difficult elements in my day to manage are about myself. The better I manage these elements (mainly by aligning my desires and thoughts with those of God), the less I find myself saying something or doing something that results in more conflict or an added negative element to an existing problem. A sign of a great leader is self-awareness. Being aware of how my actions and words affect others and the current situation can greatly reduce the “my own worst enemy” syndrome.

Bill English, CEO

It’s Your Birthday!

Today is my birthday – not that it matters really. I’m 51. Big deal. I remember on my 17th birthday calling home around 5PM to let my mom know a friend and I were going out somewhere and she said – “by the way, Bill, Happy Birthday!”. “Oh yea”, I responded. “Thanks, Mom!”. She wasn’t mean or careless – it just wasn’t on my radar that day.

Birthdays were not big deals in my home growing up so now, it’s just another day for me. I increment my age by “1” and do my life as I do any other day. My wife likes to celebrate birthdays – she gets a thrill out of doing it all up special and big. I’ve never understood this, but I’ve learned after 18 years of marriage that I sure better have a card and gift on her birthday.

Vendors like to remind you that it’s your birthday. So far, today, by email (before 9AM!!!), I’ve been congratulated by my insurance agent, a car dealership that I didn’t buy a car from and a dentist – all wishing me a Happy Birthday, then all of them asking me to spend money with them. What a message: “It’s your birthday – so buy something from me!!!!” <sigh>

Every year my dad complains that I was born two days too late to help him save on his 1960 income taxes. Sometimes, birthdays bring out long-held grudges. So, I think I’ll call my dad today and remind him that his tax bill in 1960 was higher than it should have been because of me. Then I’ll remind him that my social security, Medicare and Medicaid taxes are supporting him. I wonder if he’ll make the connection.

There really isn’t anything that I want for my birthday. The things I want most in life cannot be purchased or given to me by a human being. What I really want, more than anything else, is to know God, to love Him with *all* of my heart and to know that He is pleased with me. In short, I want to be intimate with God. My atheist friends will chuckle at this – trying to be intimate with something that doesn’t exist. Whatever. He is there and He is not silent. I’m not perfect – in fact, I don’t think I’m a good example of what it means to be a Christian. But the longing of my heart is not for more money, fame, power, control, women, sex, thrills, experiences, food or a host of other things that don’t really fill the void inside each of us. Instead, the longing of my heart is for God. At the end of my life, when all my birthdays are over and I’m in the last few minutes of my life, all that will matter is Jesus Christ. Nothing else will matter. Read “90 Minutes in Heaven”. You’ll understand what I’m talking about. I watched my mom die of colon cancer nearly 3 years ago. I was with her in her final moments. All that mattered was Jesus Christ.

Even though it’s probably not your birthday, what do you long for? I bet you long for the same things that money can’t buy. Consider this:

  • Money can buy a house, but it can’t buy a home.
  • Money can buy medicine, but it can’t buy health.
  • Money can buy a thrill, but it can’t buy satisfaction.
  • Money can buy power, but it can’t buy respect.
  • Money can buy sex, but it can’t buy intimacy.
  • Money can buy an education, but it can’t buy wisdom.
  • Money can buy a membership, but it can’t buy friendship.
  • Money can buy an army, but it can’t buy peace.
  • Money can buy servants, but it can’t buy loyalty.
  • Money can buy prestige, but it can’t buy a reputation.
  • Money can buy a religion, but it can’t buy a savior.

The things we most deeply want in life cannot be purchased by money. It’s one of the great lies of Satan – that money will satisfy you. Everything you really want in life is found, ultimately, in the person of Jesus Christ. If you want a birthday that will last forever, then give your heart and life to Christ and He will give you a new birth into a family with an inheritance that will never spoil or fade. Today can be your birthday – all you need to do is ask.

Bill English, CEO