Categories
Christian Living

The upside of fear

Stupid spreadsheet.

Typically, I’m a pretty positive– upbeat — and self-confident person. I’m told I’m overly optimistic by my friends. But the past few weeks have brought about unfamiliar emotions. Negativity, melancholy, and anxiety. 

And since these are unfamiliar emotions I haven’t quite known how to respond. In situations where I’m typically chipper I’ve been quiet. In moments I typically shrug off bad news and instantly turn it into a positive I’ve been silent. I’ve been asked for ideas on things and just not had solutions where I normally have been so dependable.

It’s not that I don’t have stuff to say its that I think its time to be quiet and listen– I don’t want the wrong words to come out because of my emotional state so I just bit my tongue.

It all goes back to the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet brought out fear I’d never had before. And, like all fear, it’s illogical and stupid.

The Spreadsheet

As a small business owner my income and expenses are all captured on a master spreadsheet. This gives me a month-by-month look at my business, where my money is coming from and where it is going. (Very similar to a personal budget.) Heading into the summer my balance sheet was very strong for the rest of 2012… this summer we had some record breaking months and some projects coming this fall which could double, even triple what we made in the same months of 2011.

Then over the last few weeks I’ve had to revise some of some numbers down. At the same time I had to make these revisions we ran into a normal business cycle where I pay a lot of money out while I’m waiting for a lot of income to come in. (I call this cash poor, invoice rich.) When larger businesses hit these business cycles they take out short-term loans. But we’re small enough where we just float through these times with our savings.

But it was those normal revisions and that normal business cycle which brought out all of that funky emotional junk.

Factually speaking, the numbers aren’t even that bad. We will still make more than we need. We are totally fine. But the act of making those changes and seeing all that cash go out planted a seed of doubt in me which grew into fear. “What if the cash doesn’t come back?” “What if it gets worse?” “Why don’t I have ____ in savings for when this happens?” “Why don’t I have a line of credit at the bank in case to cover this better?” On and on and on.

This is what I know about fear: Fear will make you dumb. Fear whispers lies in your ears. Fear makes you say no to things you should say yes to and visa versa.

And all of that was true of me in August. Our last camping trip came at a perfect time. Just when I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” We went and looked at the stars and took hikes and laughed and giggled until bed time.

Those 4 days gave me the perspective I so desperately needed: We are totally fine. 

Sitting by the fire helped calm my nerves. It helped lower my anxiety. It reminded me that everything would be OK.

The Upside of Fear

Sitting in church the other day I think it all started to wash over me. Not all fear is bad. I’m afraid of what a spreadsheet says might happen in 3-4 months? Really? How could I be so stupid? Talk about a lack of perspective in light of all that I know about Our God! Talk about allowing emotions to rule over facts! Talk about putting your faith and trust in something really, really small!

Here’s my observation: The only good kind of fear is the kind which leads you to taking positive action. 

Photo credit: James Stark via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
Christian Living

Towards Simplicity

Photo by Steve Minor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Simple Gifts – Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker

This has hardly been our theme song for 2010. Yet, Kristen and I have made some serious moves towards simplicity this year. Ever since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been fascinated by the concept that less is more in my life.

The Simple Things

  • Quantity time with the kids, individually. As the kids are getting older we are making sure to schedule time for mom and dad to spend big chunks of time with each of us 1-on-1.
  • Gardening. I can’t tell you how many deeply simple Biblical principles have been illuminated to us through our garden this year. For me, the biggest one has been– You have to prune daily, you have to weed regularly– Otherwise good things will take over your life and bad things will choke out your growth.
  • Staycation- I suppose not everyone lives in a vacation destination quite like we do. But there was something so beautiful about renting a house 45 minutes away and spending a week with family.
  • Financially sound – I was shocked when I looked at some graphs on Mint.com the other day. I told Kristen, “We did a really good job this year. We’re ahead in every category and on target or ahead in every goal.” It’s amazing what can happen if you’ll just live within your means. In 2010, we were able to give or save 25.4% of our income.
  • Meaningful roadies- In November, I lamented a lot about being away from home 14 weeks in 2010. (27% of 2010) At the same time, most of those trips were really meaningful. And not all of that was away from family. (Including the mission trip with Kristen, probably the most valuable trips of our marriage.)
  • Friendship – It’s incredible to have a life full of friendships. (Or as a co-worker calls them, “Adam’s bromances and brarriages.”) While having a bunch of great friendships is huge to me… nothing has made me more excited than to see Kristen develop some deep friendships with a few women in our community group.
  • Real food – We’ve far exceeded our desire to buy/grow 25% of our food from organic sources in 2010. While it might not sound immediately like a step towards simplicity: Going to the farmers market (and even visiting the farm where our food comes from) has not only connected us to where our food comes from– we feel a lot better. There’s nothing finer than enjoying a salad or eating fruit that you’ve grown yourself.
  • Acting on convictions – Putting what you believe to action really is a step towards simplicity. That might not sink in at first, but remember that regrets and the conflict caused by sitting idly on your convictions creates stressful complexity. All year long I’ve asked myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity? Am I acting on my convictions? Will I regret it if I don’t say that?”
  • Towards a small world – No doubt, I have many friendships all around the country and around the world. But taking the step to try to focus some of that energy onto the block we live has been rewarding. We’re looking to allocate more of our time/resources towards that in 2011.
  • Journalling – I’m headed into my seventh year of journalling my life online. This little discipline has transformed my life. It’s really interesting when I interact with people who are thinking about starting a blog. “When will I have the time? What will I say? Will people read it?” I come at it daily with the exact opposite thoughts. The time I spend journalling brings me life. What I write just comes out of my life. And I don’t care if anyone reads it.

It’s funny how simplicity is different for everyone. When I think of my life, filled with a calendar full of meetings, digital gadgets, hours online per day, on and on… I still consider it grounded in simplicity. Perhaps that makes me a digital simpleton?

I don’t have grandiose plans to drive this further in 2011. With baby #3 coming soon I think we’ll just be happy to hold on to the progress we’ve made in 2010. You know, keep it simple.

What steps towards simplicity are you taking? What are things you’d challenge me towards in 2011?

Categories
Sports

Fixing College Football

Mark Cuban is admirable for trying to fix college football.

Let’s start with this: It’s broken.

2010 is case in point. In mid-January Oregon will play Auburn in a game labeled “the BCS championship game.” But, if TCU wins the Rose Bowl they deserve to be co-national champions, too. We’ll simply never know who is the best team in the college football in 2010.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s happened a lot in college football. And it’s always the big money conferences shutting out the Little Sisters of the Poor. (As Ohio State president & chairman of the board of the foot-in-mouth council calls them.)

It’s about the money

We all know it. No one believes that it is about the athletes academic calendar… as the NCAA so stupidly claims. They certainly allow a playoff in every other sport, regardless of academic issues.

It’s about TV rights, protecting lesser bowls, visitor bureau’s, guaranteed payouts, conference affiliations, and a whole litany of people who are getting paid on the side.

It’s not about championships

We will never know who the football national champion is until we have a playoff. Why? We are leaving it up to computers and polls and fluke plays to determine who the champion is. Are Auburn and Oregon the best teams right now? Ask Ohio State, Michigan State, and Stanford that question.

Imagine just putting Duke vs. Kansas every year in the finals and calling that a basketball championship? What makes March Madness so fun for the whole country is that we take the best teams and let them decide who the champion is by playing the game.

The solution– Keep all of the bowls; have a 16 team playoff

First, shorten the regular season to 10 games. Then have a conference championship game determine who gets the automatic bid. Allow 5 at-large bids, top 11 conferences get an automatic bid.

That would be: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 10, SEC, Sun Belt, and WAC.

Second, identify the top 8 bowls the week of Christmas. Play in a 2 day rotation of 4 games each day.

That would be: Independence Bowl, Little Caesar Bowl, (formerly Motor City Bowl) Las Vegas Bowl, Gator Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, and Holiday Bowl.

Third, the round of 8 would be played on January 1st. The Final 4 would be played the second Saturday of January. These would be the six big games we all love. They’d be competitive and they would mean something. This would make January 1st an incredible day of college football. A rotation of the top 6 bowls would cover these.

That would be: Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Gator Bowl.

Fourth, the championship game would be played the 3rd Saturday of January. (Or, maybe more ideally, the Saturday between the AFC/NFC Championship & Super Bowl game.) I would argue that the game should be played annually in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. Let’s face it, the Rose Bowl is the most amazing place in college football to play a big game. It’s perfect in every way.

Two ideas for fixing the money problem

  1. Each participating school would earn an equal share of tickets, television, and all other monies paid to the NCAA for the coverage of this, just like in basketball.
  2. The rest of the remaining teams & bowls would be invited to play in the exact same system we already have. That’s 20 bowls left untouched! A 16 team playoff only effects and enhances 15 bowl games. We all know everyone would make more money.

This shows this isn’t just about money. It’s about pride. The SEC, Big 10, Pac 10, Big East, and Big 12 are just plain scared to play teams from other conferences. I don’t know how fans of those conferences can be proud of teams who are afraid to play anyone on any day.