Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Like A Million Pieces

Life is one of those day-to-day things. It can't really be generalized as an event. I think that life is a reoccurring "thing" that you do every day. It's defined by the things you do, the places you go, the people you meet, ect.

The way we "live" our lives is determined by an internal process that humans created to try to place our experiences into manageable timeframes, categories, and feelings. You encounter things and/or people, you perceive them through your personal filters, you process and then experience them as an event, and then you learn something about what happened (hopefully).

I think that the issue that people have with "life" is a two-fold problem within us as individual human beings:

1. We are too insecure.

Whether it be in who we are, our worth in our existence, our worth to someone else, our capability, ect. We are insecure creatures, always fearful of falling out of favor in the eyes of ourselves or others.

There's nothing wrong with caring about what people think, but allowing your sense of SELF-worth be determined by your perception of how other people view you is a dangerous place to be. If there's one thing I've learned in my years on this planet, it's that everyone has a purpose, and everyone has something to offer. Maybe you haven't found that person or place yet, but you are valuable to somebody. Someone needs you. If people were to understand that somebody holds them in a place of value, I think that the insecurity issue would be counteracted a good bit.

The problem here is that a lot of people have never experienced a sense of being loved, cherished, and cared for. That is what sets a select group of people apart from others. Because they have reached the revelation of understanding that there is an all knowing, all powerful, creator God who knows every messed up thing that they try to hide in their hearts - but He loves them still. That is a sense of unprejudiced affection that cannot be taken away. That allows these people to experience their life with a sense of security, because they have gone through tough times, just like all of us. The difference is that their hope and joy of security and worth is not stocked in other people, because they know that people can change and people can disappoint. They stock their hope and joy in a source that has never, and will never run dry. That source is the answer to our collective insecurity, because it is a love that overwhelms us when we need it most, and it never disappoints.

2. We don't know how to take the good and leave the bad.

We take things too personally. We have been driven into this belief that whenever we encounter something negative, we are supposed to judge ourselves in a negative light, condemn ourselves, and give ourselves the 12 lashings we so deserve.

In reality, when we experience negative things, there is such a thing as taking the good and leaving the bad. Just because something *is* bad doesn't mean we have to take it that way. It's just taking "learn from your mistakes" one step further. Learn from your mistakes so that you can be the best you that you can possibly be, then just move on. Period.

Humans have this complex that tells us that when we do wrong, we should try to fix the past before we make things right in the present. Unfortunately, no one outside of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek universe is capable of changing the past. Trying to do so is like trying to teach a kangaroo how to do the tango; you're wasting your time, and probably looking more and more foolish as the minutes drag on.

The Bible teaches that God knows we're going to screw up - it's inherent in our genes to be flawed. We will never be perfect, we will never be the best, and we will never do everything like we want to. But it also teaches that even though He knows that, He still urges us to keep going. Because He is more than capable of picking us up when we fall, dusting us off, and teaching us how to do it better next time.

If we can learn to filter our experiences in a manner that says, "okay, maybe I didn't do this the best, but how can I make it better in the future?" we will find ourselves laying our heads on our pillows having spent a 24-hour span of time increasing the quality of our lives and of the lives around us.

Our experiences on this earth are important, and they shape the dynamic of who we are, but they're not everything. It's not about what you do or how you do it, it's about what He will do through you.

The two-fold problem of insecurity and inability to learn is combined to cause the real issue: we have times where we stop allowing God to use us. When you shut that door and tell yourself you've been a bad boy/girl or you're not good enough and nothing will ever go your way, you put a wall between yourself and God. You put a hindrance between the tree and the root. You cut yourself off from the Source. That is why this problem persists; either people don't realize they have cut themselves off from the Source, or they don't know how to/want to fix it.

If you want to live your life to the height of your potential, if you want to experience life in a way that leaves you eager to see what the next day has in store, you have to connect to the Source.

Life is an occasion. Rise to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Be In Your Wallet, Matey?

Every competitive business in the 21st century has a marketing budget (at least you should, penny pincher). The problem is that some of those budgets are being used incorrectly. While the technology for businesses to thrive has leapt forward into the internet age, marketing strategies often hesitate to follow suit. With every market turn, uncertainties arise that keep cash for marketing development in the bank or in other marketing avenues that may become obsolete. We can see the negative effects of that in the plights of Blockbuster and Borders Books, who are being run into bankruptcy by the surpassing technology of competitors like Netflix and the Amazon Kindle (respectively).

I try to never be a fire and brimstone businessman, but for regions like Metro Atlanta with populations knocking at the door of 6 million, you’re going to be facing an increasingly competitive and saturated market for your industry. When businesses miss the market turn, they generally suffer.

I also don’t want to give you the impression that if you don’t stay on top of every piece of cutting edge technology that you can throw cash at, you’re going to go out of business. There is a healthy balance of organic and marketing-driven business that you should pursue, and there is some marketing strategies that is much cheaper that others; but they are also not as comprehensive nor do they land on every target. For instance, word of mouth is always a strong tool to utilize for new business, but it can only go so far without a drive from your company itself to propel it to new prospective clients. There is a point where you need to break out the checkbook and start exploring new ways to gain more business.

With the latest turn bringing us into a more comprehensive internet market, we’re seeing things like Yellow Pages, TV ads (unless it’s the Super Bowl), and print ads (unless handed out in a crowd) all falling in effectiveness and, consequentially, in value. Traditional marketing is simply no longer trustworthy to bring in new business in a constant and stable manner as it once did. This is because in the last 5 years, we’ve seen the introduction of new generations of smart phones, computers, cable services, billboards, search engines, social media, and websites that have created new and more comprehensive ways to market businesses.

(Granted I’m writing as an SEO specialist, you can probably guess what I’m going to say next.)

I think that the two most important avenues of marketing that have risen over the past 5 years are new standards for websites, and their subsequent interaction in search engines. I believe that these two are the most important because the other avenues are largely dependent on them.

The design and format standards of websites along with the integration and functionality of search engines has dictated the types of software and functionality in our smart phones, the integration of our cable services (that now work off of internet, and can surf the web), the design and integration of new digital billboards, the software and functionality of our computers and new tablet PCs, and the depth and breadth of involvement on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Internet technology is setting the bar for the rest of consumer tech.

Knowing this, you can see the importance of having a presence on the internet. If you are established on the web, the rest of technology will change to accommodate you, rather than leave you behind.

The moral of the story is that in a 21st century market, you’re not just competing against other companies in your industry; you’re competing against the trends of the market and the psychology of consumers. The most effective way to market your business is to establish your business on the internet and let technology work for you. Evaluate your marketing, establish a budget, and consult a professional (Me!) about how you can start making the market work for you by establishing your presence on the web.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sacrifice and Love in the World of Mumbo Jumbo

I was asked that this week in regards to giving in order to help a ministry. I think people can pretty unanimously agree that money is one of the most important things in the world. Some would even say money makes the world go round. I would have to say that both of those statements are probably true. Not true because they are right in nature, but because human nature (which brings forth greed) makes it right.
Aside from the greed factor (that’s for another entry…), money is pretty important. We need food, water, and shelter to survive on the earth – all of which cost money. Then you have things like other basic necessities, transportation, fuel, and communications that all have price tags. Life is pretty pricey.
Most of us in the U.S. being poor now (thanks for the change, Barracky!), it’s tough to imagine spending your cash on anything but what you need to get by. Before I get to this next point, don’t be misled – I’m right there with you. Cash is hard to come by, especially when doing honest work.
We’re not supposed to love our cash.
Now, I know you’ve all heard this Sunday School lesson before, so I’m not gonna beat that horse. Allow me, however, to take a bit of a different approach…
We all know that money is temporary, that we can’t take it with us when we die, and that we should use it for the glory of God. Plenty of people sacrificially give their money to missions, orphan ministry, bible smuggling, and lots of other very commendable, Godly purposes. Those people are awesome.
Other people give their money sacrificially to bless their neighbor. Overtipping on their restaurant tab, helping support a friend who is expecting a baby, buying food and a coat for the homeless during the winter. You get the picture.
Some of you have been indoctrinated with these examples, and a lot of you do a really great job following suit. I think these are all good things and good principles to follow. It’s essentially selflessness and generosity in practice with your cash. Kudos to you.
But I wonder how many of us take the same approach of sacrifice and giving when it comes to their lives? When you think about life, it has the same qualities as money (you can run out, you can’t take it with you when you die, etc.) But no one talks about sacrificially giving it away. Why?
God has never been interested in our cash. He is God, He can kind of buy anything He wants by just speaking it into existence. He isn’t interested in food, gifts, money, or altruism, yet these are the things that we give away as a sacrifice.
What if we made it a goal to, rather than be open to giving our cash away, be open to giving our lives away. Cash, time, and prayers are a part of our lives, so we wouldn’t start missing that aspect. But what about the actual idea of giving up our livelihood? Or of even dying? Are there things we can honestly say we’re willing to die for? A lot of people say they would die for Jesus, but a lot of people don’t know what that means. A lot of people say they’d die for their freedoms, but a lot of people are in no risk of losing that freedom. But what if you were called by God to leave school or quit your job and go minister to Southeastern Asian tribes who have never heard the Gospel? Or go to build wells in Africa. Or go stand before the Supreme Court building and pray? Or oppose a government that is oppressing its people? What if you were told to renounce Christ or be tortured for 6 more weeks? Or if you worked for a government who gave the death penalty for believing in Jesus? Are we really willing to give away our lives?
I believe that the truly genuine heart that gives sacrificially gives as a result of passion for Jesus. A willing and passionate dedication to a prayerful pursuit of the heart of God brings the revelation that our physical stuff just isn’t worth all that much in the grand scheme, that there is justice and righteousness worth dying for, and that we should give as a result of our willingness to live without stuff in order to see God’s kingdom come on Earth.
So, I guess the moral of the story is that we’ve all got a pretty generous heart as Christians, and we understand generosity through the grace that God has given us, but sometimes all we think about as far as sacrifice is concerned is giving away cash. If you’re openly giving your life to Christ, and as a result you give your cash, then it’s a testimony to faithfulness. But if you’re willing to give your cash for Jesus, but not your life, it doesn’t amount to much.
The question, then, should be “What are you willing to give your life for?”