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The New World-Changers?

I stumbled across a very interesting set of blog posts today from three different bloggers. Check out these "money quotes"...
“Forget the 'influentials.' You must buy into the theory that [things] reach critical mass because mere mortals spread the word for you. This defies the common wisdom that a handful of 'influentials' shape what the rest of us try and what we adopt...Reliance on influentials is flawed because the Internet has flattened and democratized information.” --Guy Kawasaki, How to Use Twitter as a Twool

“The person who can help you the most is almost always someone who doesn't appear that powerful on the surface...Remember, it's not just that they can help you. It's that they want to help you. Famous people qualify in neither category.” --Seth Godin, If you could meet one person...

“It truly seems that the age of “charismatic leadership” is a thing of the past. This obviously has big implications for the church of our day. People connect with others – in relations – rather than with the guru.” --The r(e)formation Blog, Barna's observations stir the pot...
Assuming these thought-leaders are "spot on" (which they often are), what does that say about how we do business?

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Do something new every three years?

Check out this blog post by Chris Anderson (author of the Long Tail) entitled "Do something new every three years." Definitely food for thought...

In my comments to Chris, I confessed that it had not occurred to me that 10,000 hours squeezed out of a 40+ hour work week would certainly shorten the time frame. Talk about a brain freeze!

Anyway. I also mentioned that over the years, I have noticed that--almost without fail--it took a minimum of three years for pastors to establish the necessary relationships and contextual expertise to have any real impact at a given post. It is also worth noting that Christ Himself spent approximately 3 years in public ministry before He "moved on" and left it in the hands of His disciples.

This is certainly food for thought (though I am reticent to draw any hard conclusions).

So, would you tend to agree or disagree with the 10,000 hours theory? What has your own experience been? Would love some feedback...

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Christmas Angels, Pt 2

Heroes

Have any recurring dreams? I do. All my life I've dreamed I could fly. Honest. I've flown over cities, lakes, oceans, mountains, valleys, parks...you name it--100s of times. And each time it's the same: I wake up exhilarated. I love dreaming I can fly.

I also happen to be a huge fan of Heroes. [Update: I became increasingly frustrated with Heroes after season 2. I eventually gave up, but that's another story. —EW] So I guess it's no surprise that the ability to fly is the one I'd want, despite it's lack of glamour.

Of course, can you imagine how odd it would be if the made-for-TV world of Heroes were a reality? Actually, why imagine? Just read about it.

In the Book of Genesis, chapter 6 (which was before the Great Flood) the Bible says that “the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them, the children were called Nephilim. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” The CEV uses the phrase "supernatural beings." Half human, half "angel."

Television has it's Heroes: Peter Petrelli, Hiro Nakimura, Claire Bennet, and Matt Parkman. The Greeks have their heroes: Hercules, Odysseus, Jason, and Perseus. And Genesis has the Nephilim. All are greater than mere mortals like you and me. In a world littered with these "heroes," can you imagine anything being out of their reach or ability? Intriguing, huh?

But here's the kicker for all heroes, especially the Nephilim. Even with all of that "supernatural" ability, evil was rampant. There were no real good guys. Wait. Nope. That's wrong. There was one. Genesis 6:8 says, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” And if you know the story, you know those old-time heroes perished along with everyone else. But not Noah. The Psalmist said, “For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12, ESV). Favor sounds pretty awesome!

And that's what's makes the message of our second Christmas Angel so fascinating.

Just one month after appearing to Zechariah, Gabriel was commissioned to Nazareth in Galilee with a message for a virgin named Mary: “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:26–38).

Now that's good news, but apparently Angels are always a bit unnerving, so Gabriel continued: “Don't be afraid!” he said. “You have found favor with God.” Wow. Favor.

No doubt Mary knew that for Noah, God's favor meant salvation from the flood. But did she know that favor for her would mean salvation for all mankind? Probably not.

Maybe you're in need of a bit of favor, a salvation miracle this Christmas. Debt and financial insecurity, wars and rumors of war, interpersonal conflicts, sickness...the list of "tangible" dangers and threats is long. But Proverbs tells me that you can find that shielding favor of God if you will only “let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (Prov 3:3-4).

That sounds like a sweet deal no matter who you are...and it's bound to be a lot more exhilarating than any super power imaginable.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (Ps 90:17).

Missed Christmas Angels, part one? You can read it here.
Christmas Angels, part three is here.

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The Talent Myth?

Branding guru John Moore (Brand Autopsy) recently pointed out two books which similarly discuss how people achieve world-class success. He says, “Both books dispel the notion that talent and intelligence are predictors of success. Both rely heavily on Anders Ericsson’s research into ‘Deliberate Practice.’” Here’s some key quotes pulled by Moore.

Geoff Colvin’s TALENT IS OVERRATED

“The gifts possessed by the best performers are not at all what we think they are. You are not a natural-born virtuoso…because no one is” (pgs. 6, 7).

“The fact that seems to explain the most about great performance is something the researchers call deliberate practice” (pg. 7).

“Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance” (pg. 7).

Malcolm Gladwell’s OUTLIERS

“Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness” (pg. 41).

“The 10,000-hours rule says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field…we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years [at] four hours a day” (source).

However, you will need extraordinary opportunities in order to reach that amount of practice time.

“People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact, they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities…” (pg. 19)

Practice Makes Lethal

Great insights. Of course, my first thought went to the world of MMA. Junie Browning’s “natural talent” was painfully irrelevant as he wasted a golden opportunity for focused, intensive, deliberate practice with world-class trainers. Junie seems to have realized this, correcting his behavior and proving it on the recent TUF Finale. He was a different fighter.

I would love to see a study done on the guys in MMA who have 10,000 hours of MMA practice in world-class gyms. I’m thinking the results would be fairly obvious.

So, what are you deliberately practicing? What opportunities are you taking advantage of (or not)?

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Christmas Angels, Pt 1

No doubt about it: Christmas is a magical season. Short-lived though it may be, the Christmas Spirit transforms our lives and communities each year in a way that no other holiday even comes close to doing. Among those transformations is one you may have never thought of: The ability to talk and sing openly about Angels—without baseball, ridicule, or straight jackets being involved. And while we are all familiar with the Herald Angels We Have Heard Singing from On High, Luke mentions three encounters with Angels that are all critically tied into the birth of Christ. Here’s the first.

Zechariah’s Angel

The priests stood in a circle awaiting the casting of lots. The first lot, which took place at the break of day, was to decide who would clean the altar and prepare its fires. Later that morning, at the second gathering, lots were cast to decide who would offer the sacrifice and clean up the candlestick and the altar of incense. But the third lot was the most important, the most prized. Sure, the sacrifice was critical, because it was the only way to obtain a “meeting” with God. But the sacrifice was not the end game. The highest honor of a priest’s regular duties was in the third lot. It was then that it would be determined who should have his prayers “like incense” (Psa 141:2) lifted up before the Lord in the Holy Place.

Zechariah, a descendant of Abijah (and thus Aaron), was one of 16 different priestly families who rotated duties. With such a large number of priests vying for the third lot, only those who had never offered incense upon the altar were deemed eligible. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be chosen for this sacred duty of prayer.

After the assistants had reverently spread the coals on the golden altar and arranged the special incense (a mixture of Frankincense and spices), the chosen priest was left alone in the Holy Place, while the remainder of the priests awaited reverently outside in anxious intercession.

Zechariah and his wife had served the Temple faithfully for many years. Luke says that they were “both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Lk 1:6). Yet, despite their faithfulness, Elizabeth remained barren. For a priest, it was the ultimate humiliation; the Scarlett Letter that he could not shake. And now, on this one day, he found himself chosen by sacred lot to stand just inches from the curtain which separated mankind from the very throne of God’s representative presence on earth. It was surely a sign that God was not punishing him or his wife. Hope was being reborn.

His heart raced and his hands trembled as he symbolically lifted up the people of Israel in prayer through the pure white smoke of the sacred incense. But deep down, Zechariah remained burdened by his own situation. Surely, the thoughts of his barren Elizabeth fought their way through his subconscious mind as he prayed silently, reverently.

The temple was eerily quiet. Any noise outside was lost in the reverential solitude of the Holy Place. Zechariah was alone, with God, and with his own thoughts.

And then the unimaginable happened. Luke says that “an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense, appeared to him” (v. 11). Confused and frightened beyond words, Zechariah felt his knees begin to buckle and his head grow faint from the sudden rush of adrenaline. His eyes filled with terror as he stood frozen in holy awe.

Then the Angel spoke. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John. Joy and gladness will come to you, and many will rejoice at his birth” (vv. 13-14).

The joy he experienced at that moment was almost overwhelming. After all these years, it was finally true: God was not mad at him after all! God had heard his prayers. There would be a successor to the priestly line of Abijah.

Despite his doubts and concerns, Zechariah lived to see the birth of John. The words of Gabriel, though many months before the birth of Christ, rang true, and the world would never be the same again.

During this Christmas season, may your heart’s desires be like holy incense reaching straight into the throne room of heaven. And may the words of that special “Christmas Angel” ring as true for you as they did for Zechariah: “Do not be afraid, for God has heard your prayers.”

Click here to read part two.

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