Monday, December 31, 2012

Goal Setting: Step Three

Scoring and Prioritization

Once you've got your list, the next step is to figure out which set of goals you think are in front of you to work on right now. There are two different metrics I used for scoring my goals, Importance and Timing. The scales (feel free to adapt them however you like) Looked like this (with examples from my list)

1. Downright silly (Target shooting with a large caliber rifle)
2. Less Silly, But still (Go into Space)
3. This has some redeeming quality (Have a sword)
4. This is Neat, Great, Cool Etc. (Sail on a tall Ship)
5. This will help me or someone else in the long run (Have a woodshop)
6. Expresses some core value (Have a book published)
7. Passionately Expresses some Core value (Learn to Grow fruits and vegetibles)
8. Shares my Core Values with others (Perform together in a show with M.M.)
9. Grows my ability to share my core values (Mentor a writer)
10. Mission Critical, Without accomplishing this I missed the mark on a core value (Be an evangelist)
A. I could start now (Thank an old friend for his influence in my life) 
B. I need to do some other things before I can start (A trip to Isreal)
C. I can't control when I get the opportunity to do this (See a solar eclipse)

Obviously, the extent to which one goal or another fits the scale can vary, the point is to figure out the most important goals you can start on now. Once you've got all your 10-A's figured out you've got a short list of goals that are lined up with your values that you can choose from to get started on.

Goal Setting: Step Two

The "Popcorn List"

Time to start writing the Popcorn list. It started from the concept of the Bucket List i.e. "things to do before I kick the bucket." In our version, each item on the list is a popcorn kernel, which we'd like to see "pop" in our lives. If we've surrendered our lives to the lordship of Christ, then we've also surrendered our goals. When the kernels pop, we get the opportunity to act on those goals, if they don't they stay on the list and wait for another time. Either way, what we're writing here is the completely unfiltered list of 101 things that we want over the next 3 or 5 or 10 years. As a junior in college my horizon was 10 years since my next 3 years were heavily invested in school, now, as a graduating senior I'll be looking at a 3 year span. 

The kernels end up looking a sentence with 3 parts. It always starts the same...
"In 3/5/10 years I will..."
Then in the middle there is an action, of which there are a few different kinds:
  • Do (Write a book ) 
  • Have (a Camera)
  • Be (a Distinguished Toastmaster)
  • Learn (fluent Sign Language)
  • Go (to San Francisco with*** someone who loves it, you know who you are.)
Then finish with the specifics (I've given examples of each category in the parenthesis after each type)

I recommend that you start with a few categories to brainstorm on, which can come from your interests, your core values, or just one of the Goal types like "Be" or "Have." For example, mine were: Writing, Learning, Haves, Relationships, Physical, Be,Go, and Build. Those categories got me to about 80. After that things did end up getting a little sillier, but the point is to get beyond what you might normally think about, I know that I discovered some interesting things about my self in the last 10-15 goals as I was fishing at the bottom of my brain to fill out the last couple goals.

It's time to brainstorm, that weekend we spent an afternoon on this part. So set aside a good block of time, get comfortable, and start writing!

*** This "with" piece of some goals is very important, since a number of my goals revolved around getting to know a friend better or sharing some experience together. I won't have accomplished the goal of getting to San Fransisco unless I've got somebody by my side to tell me the stories and show me the places that I need to see. A few of my categories were a name, followed by the goals I have for the two of us.

Goal Setting: Step One


This is the beginning of a short series of posts about goal setting, it describes the process that about 10 of the men in my spiritual family went through to set some really meaningful goals for the coming months and years. That retreat was about 2 years ago. 10 men cooped up in a 3 room cabin in the woods, in upstate New York, in the depth of winter. It was a very intense weekend of focused work (a few of us even fasted), and it was a critical point in my life that kicked off a number of the best decisions I ever made. I've accomplished a number of the goals on that list. Since we're coming up on the new year, and I'm going through the process again, I've decided to share a little bit of what I learned that weekend. Happy New Year!

Step One: Digging down to core values.

Imagine a bunch of managers fresh from the airport sitting around a hotel conference room at 8 in the morning, ready for a day of learning about how to be more effective managers. They're sporting power suits, fancy watches, holding their executive pens and their notepads. They aren't expecting what's about to come.

The man they've all paid to come see walks into the room and, after introductions and a few warm up exercises  asks them to concentrate, close their eyes, and imagine the following scenario.

     In your mind's eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one, Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You the the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.
     As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.
     As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended ... the second speaker is one of your friends... The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or come community organization where you've been involved in service... Now think deeply. What would you like these speakers to say about your life? - Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Habit 2
The man they've come to see is Stephen Covey, and you can imagine the atmosphere in the room. Tense silence. They were all thinking they would get a few new management techniques, and they are plunged into a soul searching exercise that brings them face to face with their own mortality. The power of this method is that it immediately shows the real value of the things that we spend our time and energy on. No one in that room wants his coworkers to say "he climbed the corperate ladder with the best of them" or his best friend to say "boy, he really had the nicest cars"

We start at the foundation of our goals, our core values, or what Covey calls our "center."

Once we have written out their speeches, we can start to distill our values from what they say. For example, I wanted a coworker of mine to be able to say that I was "passionate about the best - not just good enough, mature beyond his age, hard working and kind." I encourage you to write as specifically as you can, have in mind specific stories they might tell about you to show those values.

Find the things that repeat, for example, all of the people that spoke at my funeral mentioned that I was passionate or wholehearted about what I do, and nearly all of them mentioned something about not letting people around me (including them) stay stuck. So I ended up with wholeheartedness and  "not-enabling" (I'd love suggestions for a way to say that in the positive) as core values. All told you should have anywhere between 5-10 core values.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IX: More Folly and the Usefulness of Equilibrium


My Dear Nightshade,

     You insufferable, careless, idiotic git! It has been less than a week and you allowed your man to stumble into the most dangerous man on that whole campus, when he just happened to be there. The pariah of a man is not even a student there! More to the point you had been well warned of his influence within the dossier I sent you. Then, as if your ignorance to the danger wasn't enough, you let your man, (who was once so deliciously afraid and shy) share his goals immediately with the man.
     Worse than all of that; I can read, with perfect acuity, your intentions. You did not lazily slide into this disaster, by Belphagor, no! You caused the whole mess. I spent a few years instructing first years as a adjunct at the training college before this post as senior tempter opened up, and never in all of the simulations and role playing that was done was so naïve a plan conceived. Never once! Allow me to guess your motives, I will wager your compensation on it. If I am wrong in a single detail you may skip your corrective training with impunity.
     Firstly, you have allowed him to pray consistently for fellowship with christian men. You surely believed that since fellowship itself is a wandering generality to him that he could pray for it with little ill effect. An inexcusable oversight. Again you have made the mistake of viewing our battle as your patient views it, not as it truly is. I might accept that you saw the fact that with all his intentions he had failed to act on them, and that prayer would be an appropriate substitute for action. I could almost appreciate your realism, but our enemy is too vigilant to project our superior philosophy onto His own illogical strategy. He values the pathetic creature's intentions, sees into their “hearts,” as it were. In the case where your man has a desire to follow the enemy and an intention to do it, prayer is the absolute last thing that you should allow him. I will have to write to you more fully on the subject of prayer at some time, but I have not the time to instruct you on the subject now.
     So there you were, allowing him to pray specifically for fellowship with other Christian men, and not only for the fellowship, but with a specific set of goals in mind thereafter! If there is one thing you should never allow your man it is a clear veiw of his goals and the path to them.
     Enough of what should have been done, you have already (although you have been inexcusably tardy in doing so) discovered your folly, let us move forward. Your situation is more dire than ever before, the enemy is sure to be working hard against your every move, and your task will be doubly hard. Subtlety is the key, drive him to the path of relative goodness, a short stint in the wrong direction to convince him he deserves time to himself, which however he uses it will be infinitely less dangerous than whatever the enemy, via this new influence, has planned.
     In fact, I will elaborate on this topic briefly. Your situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. This tool of relative goodness, which I have discussed before, will be very useful. Any time that you can fix in his mind the idea that he deserves anything, even if it has no vice in it, you have done a good thing. One of the excellent byproducts of our progress in the last decades is the death of work ethic. Boys and men alike are punctuating their entertainment with work, rather than the other way round. They begrudge each demand on “their” time, (how funny that they believe themselves to have ownership of it) and move to entertainment or dissipation quickly after each task, however brief. In the past only through slavery and oppression were the humans allowed such luxury, and then only a select few. There are exceptions, but through the cunning application of technology we have managed to make this new addiction to entertainment the rule. In the case of the disciple, (you are outmatched here, and you may as well start planning for that possibility) we can use the pattern to more subtly undermine the enemy's work.
     Allow me to write in parable. In their sciences (primitive as they are) they have discovered that the final state of any system in nature is equilibrium. Reactions take place, and the system finds it's lowest energy state. Any reaction, no matter how violent, must end and when it ends the system finds equilibrium. This is a useful idea. Patently false, but useful. The humans' simpleminded physics or chemistry could never account for the alchemies that drive our deepest infernal mechanisms and schemes, let alone the grand mystery of the Enemy's creation... would that our researchers could unravel that skein. I digress.
     Equilibrium! In this case let your boy go to social gatherings, meet new people, work on homework (the most harmless, by far) but at each turn press upon him the desire to return to his comfortable, natural, equilibrium state. If you do this well, then you will have your man believing that he needs to set aside time in his comfort zone in the same way that he must take time to sleep, and he will be driven to it just as powerfully. Define as clearly as you can the boundary of a world, outside himself, over which he can believe he has exclusive control. This is not so hard as it seems, especially now. You would think that the obvious truth that nothing in their physical realm can belong to them in any real sense would cross their mind but in a pathetic imitation of our own grand avarice their desire to contol and own blinds them to the impossibility of their really owning anything. It doesn't matter how large the area that he carves out for himself is. Some men retreat to their homes, and the endless journey of home improvement, finding just the right color, building the new addition, furnishing the perfect room. Others simply retreat into a computerized world.
      Whatever the space, real or imagined, physical or ideological, once a man believes he can control it, and he deserves to control it, there is no man, however firmly in the enemy's camp that you cannot win for our father below.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


Tuesday, December 11, 2012



It is a century and a half before Jesus was born, Isreal is conquered, Jerusalem is occupied, and the world is undergoing a cultural revolution of a scope unrivaled in the millennium before or after. Hellenization. The propagation of Greek thought and culture from Spain to Syria. Throughout Israel, many Jews are giving in to the prevailing winds of culture, forgoing the study of the Torah as it is outlawed. Some go so far as to un-circumsize themselves so as to appear as gentiles in the public baths and gymnasiums. God's home on Mount Zion has been desecrated, a statue of Zeus erected, and pigs slaughtered on God's altar. Hellenizing influences have declared all out war on the traditional Jewish way of life, and by all appearances, they have won.

God still needed the Temple. So the Hanukkah Miracle began.

A Priest by the name of Maccabee led a rag tag geurilla offensive against the most powerful, most disciplined army in the world. They ran, much like their fore-fathers ran into battle after battle in Canaan, with no hope of victory. They picked a fight with a giant. They gave their all and against all odds they regained the city, and the Temple. Those who survived the campaign walked, battle weary, into the temple and started the work of re-dedicating it. Destroying the Statue of Zeus, scouring the temple of anything that might be unclean. All that work done, imagine their dismay at the sight of only one sealed container of consecrated oil. Only one day's worth of oil to light the Menorah that must burn for eight. They gave their all, they fought with everything they had, they were spent. They had nothing more to give, and it wasn't going to be enough.

Then God showed up, as he always does, when his people give everything they have. The oil lasted through each day of the week that it would take to re-dedicate the Temple. From then on God's people celebrate the Feast of Dedication, The Festival of Lights. One more example of God's intervention on behalf of his people so that each and every event could lead to the culmination of every tradition and Holy day, the Ultimate Passover.

Celebrate it because Jesus celebrated it (John 10:22-39), and celebrate it knowing that it is one strand in the Messianic thread that runs through the tapestry of history.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 3, 2012

2012 Spiritual Birthday

It's my spiritual birthday! I was baptized 4 years ago today.

"...and who knows whether or not you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this." 
- Esther 4:14

If I didn't know any better I would say it was luck. I've studied enough probability and stats to know that it's not likely that the one guy who had what I was praying for was standing right there. Literally. Right there. That's only if I didn't know any better. Knowing what I know now it was the result of a whole lot of hard work, a well trained perception, and just a little bit of an old, wise, and very Jewish Mordicai raising his shoulders in a shrug that says "perhaps God is at work here." I wasn't the first or last freshman he met that year, or even that day, probably. I was just the one who wanted a fellowship to meet with, who just happened to be praying for it just as he walked by, and when I opened my eyes to eat my salad he was asking me, "mind if I sit here?"

I studied the scriptures with him and a few of his brothers in Christ, the more I heard the more I wanted in. This was what I had been longing for and never knew. I saw men bound together by a bond I had never seen the likes of before, and more than that I saw men and women bound to Truth more securely than I had ever seen before. The Apostles Teaching. The way that the first Christians did things. The way that the men who walked with Jesus taught them. What other way could there be?

It didn't take long for something to get in the way. There are forces out there who would just assume see me floundering in my faith, and... perhaps they acted. I managed to connect myself in my first few weeks of my schooling with a two groups of Christians, one that professed to follow the apostles teaching, and another that was convinced that I was at risk of joining a cult. 

I will say 3 things about that and move on.
1.) "Judge a tree by it's fruit." - Matthew 7:16
2.) "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother." -Matthew 18:15
3.) "You'll never really know a man till you walk a mile in his shoes" - To Kill a Mockingbird

So I heard their accusations, I took a look at the fruit, and I haven't quite made it a mile yet, but I'm working on it. I kept studying, and I learned enough to know that I wanted to be baptized. I wanted be converted the same way that the first century Christians were. I saw this as the answer to the prayer that I had prayed 3 years before.

I was baptized. A lot has happened since then. More than I can write about now.

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better? Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."