One thing I have come to appreciate about Cal Newport’s Deep Work is the focus on weaning yourself from stimulus. I say appreciate, not experience. I still struggle with habits that have been ingrained over the past 10 years.
But one area where I am coming to see the most benefit — and one where this ability to focus is most critical — is in communion with God. How can I expect to be changed by the word if I cannot read for more than a few minutes without doing something else? Or if I cannot pray with a sense of waiting? How long does it take for one to feel the presence of the Spirit? To hear the still, small voice of the Almighty creator of all things?
I dare say it takes more than 10 distracted minutes a day.
And this is more important to my life than career success.
Over the past 18 months since I read Deep Work, I’ve had varying degrees of success with focus in my work day. Each month, each week, and each day bring different projects, different areas of responsibility that require our attention. It is easier to achieve focus with some, less so with others.
But over and over, I come back to the fact that while Newport’s concept of increasing our ability to focus is crucial to a successful career, it’s even more crucial to a successful Christian life. One that is lived attuned to the Spirit. One that is carefully watching to see where God is working, then ready and willing to join him in it.
There Is Depth in Freedom
One of my goals for this year was “deeper times of devotion”. Now, that is a goal that does not meet the criteria of good goals. It’s general, not specific. Therefore, it’s not measurable. However, I purposefully left it somewhat ambiguous, for I do not want to simply adhere to a rule without seeking the true purpose (something I am prone to do).
And so I have a very general guideline. I leave the entire hour of 5–6am open for devotions. My reading plan only requires 10–15 mins each day, so I have a good amount of time to meditate, pray, or just sit in stillness. By not setting a list of rules for this time, I give myself the freedom to see where I’m led.
I allow myself to sleep in some days … if I get up at 5:20am, I still have a good amount of time left
I make my coffee as a part of this time
I have been reading one Psalm every day, on top of my regular Bible reading — this is a slower read, more meditation than “study”
I have started to practice praying the Psalm when it really resonates (not all do)
I have spent more time contemplatively praying the Lord’s prayer
I pray more often, for some regular items or persons
If there are days when something else comes up, like a deadline or this newsletter or I feel like a walk or run are a better choice, I allow myself to do that thing. Some weekends, I stay up later and skip devotions the next morning.
I can do that because I’ve set this goal for the year and that gets reviewed each and every week.
Depth of any sort takes time. For the Christian, this is especially true. For we not only have to fight off our internal struggles of boredom, distraction, and desires. But we also have external forces at work trying to impede intimacy with God at all costs.
So as I focus on improving my skills to achieve depth in my work, I’m beginning to realize how vital this is for all areas of my life. Especially that which is most important to me.
Being self-employed is great. And it’s not so great. Like anything, there are tradeoffs. For you, the tradeoffs may be worth it. Or, they might not. Or, they may not be the right tradeoffs at this point in your life. Just don’t put self-employment on a pedestal. There are plenty of other options that are darn near self-employment without the burdens.
There has been so much hustle and propaganda about “doing what you love” and life hacks and indiepreneurship in recent years that “having a job” has gotten a bad rep. But Garrett shares how his run as an entrepreneur needed to end (at least for a while). As someone who went through the same experience, I understand where he’s coming from.
Yes, I enjoyed a lot of flexibility when I ran my own company (as I do now at Wildbit). Yes, it’s nice being able to make decisions and have impact on the bottom line (which I do now in my customer facing role). And yes, it was nice to earn a great income (that has not changed either). And when I compare running my own business to my previous employment at a 10,000 healthcare company, the contract is striking.
But that does not mean employment is bad. It really does depend on where you work.
You know what else came from running my own business? Anxiety.
The pressure of knowing that your every decision directly impacted the needs of your family wears on you. That kind of pressure is not for everyone. Self-employment sounds really great when you're focused on the negatives of a job that you're not satisfied with, but working for your self will have that as well.
Don’t get me wrong — those were some great years for me. But I also experienced my first taste of anxiety and how it can impact every area of your life. By the time an offer to buy our business came around, I was ready for something else. And I have been blessed to work for some amazing companies since then, enjoying many of the same benefits that self-employment made possible.
And none of my stops has been better than where I am now. This comment from one of our co-founders says it all.
Garrett and I talked about this a bunch. I’m really proud @Wildbit has given several entrepreneurs a safe and fulfilling home.
That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
As I mentioned in January, a primary focus for my writing this year would be to review some of the answers I've found over the years to the following questions:
So If I’m going to pursue a life of depth, if I’m going to actively pursue God, to seek him and knock on the door, how will I go about it? How can I follow the exhortations I see in Scripture, to be holy as he is holy, without moving my focus from him to my works?
The answer is multifaceted, but it includes the disciplines we see exhorted in Scripture. From there, I talked about how the purpose of these disciplines is to seek his presence and the end result is a change in what we desire. But, like any good thing, it takes hard work to get to that point.
What That Work Looks Like
We see a lot of different terms in the Bible that speak to how to live a well ordered, God pleasing life. Again, we’re talking about working out our salvation, not working for. We have to beat this truth home again and again.
Christ’s work on the cross — and only his work — makes us right with God. But after this redemption, while we live in this world, we are soldiers at war, fighting against the powers of darkness as well as the selfish desires of our own heart. We rest in his grace, while at the same time dressing ourselves for battle each day.
And it’s the various disciplines that Christians have used for centuries that can help us prepare.
Here are a few words we see used in Scripture to exhort us in this battle: disciple, discipline, chasten, subdue, keep, diligence. Some of these terms we do not use in many modern contexts, so it may help to define them.
chasten (paideuó): to train up a child, educate, or discipline (by punishment), instruct, teach
train (gumnazó): to practice naked, i.e. train, exercise or training
keep (hypōpiazō, also often translated as discipline or subdue): to hit under the eye, buffet or disable an antagonist as a pugilist, subdue (one’s passions)
This last one sounds a little harsh, no? But rather than alluding to the sin of self-mortification, God is pointing out to us in his word just how serious we need to take things. Jesus did not humble himself, take on human flesh, and suffer the wrath of the Father only so we can live a life of comfort.
Justification is not a spiritual club Med
Rather, Christ is the “firstborn over many brethren” and we are to follow his example.
But we cannot do that with half measures.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
1 Cor 9:26,27
In his epistles, Paul illustrates how we’re to approach our life here using the examples of Olympic athletes and soldiers. In order to overcome our self-focused tendencies and selfish desires, we have to approach the battle as if each day is our last.
Where Is the Focus?
The primary way we do well in this battle is to keep our eyes on Christ. Like the bronze serpent Moses raised in the desert, we’ll only survive if we keep a laser focus on our saviour himself. And this is the purpose of the disciplines of the Christian faith.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The disciplines we see in Scripture and in church history enable the diligence spoken of in Hebrews 11. And they are not a burden, but a blessing. Consistently seeking out God through fasting, prayer, meditation and the like will help us lose our taste for the things of this earth. Why?
Because we learn to enjoy Him more.
All of these writers are united in their view of the spiritual disciplines as crucial means to the pursuit of God.
So, what are these disciplines I keep talking about? We see many mentioned explicitly in the Bible. Others are implicit. Here are the ones I see: study, prayer, meditation, solitude, silence, fasting, worship, fellowship, submission, service, and confession.
I’ll close with this thought: apart from the last one, which of these did Christ not do? And if the son of God needed these in order to complete his work, how much more so do we?
If there was ever a “well, duh” sub-title, this is it:
The software maker, which once prided itself on a flat corporate environment similar to Valve and Zappos, finds that workers can benefit from a little direction.
This article discusses the progress that GitHub has taken from a holocracy to its current structure. It includes some of the struggles the company has gone through over the past few years and their direction for the company.
I find the topic of leadership and company culture a fascinating one. Some of the most frustrating times in my career have been when there is no clear line of authority. Without this clarity, my experience has been that no one really feels free to make decisions that will have an impact beyond themselves. And talking to colleagues in the industry who have been in some of these types of environments in recent years, I’m not alone in this feeling.
On the flip side, I’ve also experienced frustration with leaders who held too much authority, or leaders who were incompetent. Simply having authority in place is not a guarantee of success. However, I would argue that a complete lack of authority or structure is a recipe for certain failure.
From this article, the following quote from the CBO stood out the most to me:
Without even a minimal layer of management, it was difficult to have some of those conversations and to get people feeling like they understood what was expected of them, and that they were getting the support that they needed in order to do the best work.
That feeling of uncertainty kills progress dead.
Bluetooth & AirPods … Who Knew?
I confess, Bluetooth is one of those first world problems that sets my teeth on edge. It’s been a technology in the middle of my workday for what, 10 years now? And yet it’s the most maddening piece of tech known to man. Why is it still so bad after all this time?
I know, I know — first world problems. But let me share my pain with you.
On my newest Macbook (a 15 month old Pro), I went through a period of about 10 months where I would have to reboot my machine once every day. I would be typing away when suddenly my keystrokes on the wireless keyboard would not register. Everything pauses for 5–6 seconds, during which time you hammer on the keyboard a few more times wondering why there is no response, the move your finger across the track pad.
Suddenly, every keystroke appears in a mad dash on whatever application suddenly has focus. To resolve this, I would disable bluetooth, wait a few seconds, then enable it once more. This cycle would happen intermittently until I would finally go make a beverage and reboot. Until the next day.
Our new Honda Odyssey has a decent stereo that allows your phone to connect (via Bluetooth) to play your tunes and podcasts. That has been such an amazing improvement over our old Kia that was CD and radio only … and the CD player didn’t work. The only issue? Approximately every 3rd or 4th drive, the connection goes wonky. Music still plays, but trying to navigate through your music library via the van’s console results in a “no data” message. And I’m stuck listening to Bon Jovi, thanks to my three boys.
Last, the bluetooth powered Magic Mouse that I use on our family computer (where I tend to spend a lot of my workday when the kids are at school) disconnects every 20 minutes or so. It re-connects after a few seconds, but having this happen throughout t—there it goes again—he day results in a strong desire to flip tables.
Thanks for bearing with me there! All of that to say, my word the AirPods are bloody fantastic. And they’re powered by Bluetooth!
I finally got a pair of these and have used them exclusively over the past 2 weeks. The sound quality is likely nothing crazy, but I’m no audiophile. However, the experience is spot on. From the packaging, which Apple is always good at, to the onboarding experience, to daily use, these are special.
A couple of other notes.
Comfort. First, they fit well in my small ears. Wearing regular ear buds for a longer periods of time results in pain for me. But the AirPods are light and have yet to cause discomfort. Even when napping on my side. As well, I’ve worn them on runs of 5–10km and there is no issues with slippage (and I’m a heavy sweater when exercising). The AirPods are comfortable enough that you can forget they’re there.
Connectivity. Second, and most importantly, they … just … work. If you’ve read any reviews, you’ll likely have heard that the setup process and pairing is quick and painless. That was true for me. But what has impressed me more is switching between devices. I first paired them with my phone, but soon wanted to use them for a video call on my Macbook. Switching was just as easy as the first pairing!
If you’ve ever made the attempt at switching your wireless keyboard or mouse from one device to another, you’ll understand the gravity of that statement. I’ll pause for a moment to let it sink in
I have not purchased a pair of headphones in the last 7–8 years. Apple’s earbuds were enough for me. But the AirPods provide an experience that has been worth the cost for me. The fact that they use Bluetooth still amazes me — and it causes me to wonder what Apple has done here since their other devices (keyboards, mice, trackpads) are nowhere near as fluid as this.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Day One. It’s an app I use regularly, yet greatly underutilize.
This is partly because I lost my habit of regular journalling a few years back, the act of taking time every day to jot down some thoughts or the events of the day. Most of my Day One usage of late has been the automation of getting items in there from other sources plus tracking my Bible study. But I could do so much more with it, both with some actual, real writing, as well as some additional automated entries.
And so the timing of recent content from Shawn Blanc and Co was perfect for me. The post linked here is a good start, but they’ve had some others. Here is Shawn’s review of the app, which includes a call out to their updated e-book Day One In Depth. I purchased this right away and it’s the perfect way for someone unfamiliar with the app (or the habit of journalling) to get started.