"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Upside Down and Inside Out

My neighbor grows tomatoes upside down. An odd-looking green contraption hangs from his patio awning. The top is filled with dirt, and the plant grows out of the bottom. It’s watered from above. That system is completely upside down from the way I’ve ever seen anyone else do it, but Rob's plant produces enough juicy red ripe tomatoes for several of us.

Whoever designed that apparatus “challenged the process.” And, after not having much luck growing tomatoes in the traditional way, Rob decided to find out for himself, which way worked better. 

Challenging the process is one of five key principles taught in the bestselling book, The Leadership Challenge, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. That idea was mentioned in almost every leadership doctoral dissertation I edited over the course of many years. When I went to work for a nonprofit, I implemented that concept by asking “why do we do it that way?” 

Their current system was failing. Setting goals instead of adhering to deadlines permitted projects to stall. As a result our publications were frequently late. So we began figuring out a better way by trying a different approach.

Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, that concept also helped me as a young adult when I decided to stop living life by reacting to my circumstances. Way before Dr. Phil began asking his dysfunctional television guests: “How’s that working for ya?” I had begun challenging the process by looking for a workable alternative to my norm. 

When I began studying the Bible with an international organization, Bible Study Fellowship (see "recommended links" to the right),  homework taught me principles to apply in my every day life. As a biblical view of the world began developing, the way I approached situations started changing. The Bible offers viable, practical, coherent, balanced ideas that correspond to the world around me and to my experiences. In many regards it’s a verifiable worldview that meets my internal needs. 

Consider this. If 5 million people believe a lie—it’s still a lie. That's likely why so many people bought homes they couldn't afford. Regardless of what everyone else is doing if their approach leaves a person unsatisfied with himself and filled with anxiety, a different way might be worth considering.

Rather than operate out of a self-oriented focus trying to find self-satisfaction and escape pain, Kouzes and Posner explain another valuable concept that coincides with the way I approached Christianity: 

“leaders know well that innovation and change all involve experimentation, risk, and failure. They proceed anyway. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is to approach change through incremental steps and small wins. Little victories, when piled on top of each other, build confidence that even the biggest challenges can be met. In so doing, they strengthen commitment to the long-term future (p. 17).”

They also say that “the key that unlocks the door to opportunity is learning (p. 17).”

That advice is consistent with the poem I posted a few days ago. Step by step I started learning to live life dependent upon the Creator for help. As I came to Him, Jesus began teaching me ways different from my own. Small steps led to little victories, which keep piling up building my confidence to take on bigger challenges. That strengthens my commitment to the long-term future.

So how does one come to Jesus? More on that tomorrow.

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