Camel Choking, Creativity & Productivity

I want to introduce you to the gentle art and joy of camel choking.

It’s transformative – particularly in the spheres of creativity and productivity.

It’s an ancient art. And true Masters are rare.

But we’ll come back to our humping friends later.

Speaking of friends, I’ve just come back from spending two days at my best friend’s house. She probably wouldn’t describe herself as having the gift of hospitality. But she’s always been beautifully hospitable to me.

It’s been thirty years this year since we first travelled overseas together. We discovered a lot about each other on that trip. She knows me. And she loves me.

Her prophetic hospitality preemptively provides what I want without me even having to ask.

But this morning as we were leaving, I realised I’d never been through her front door. I asked if I could use the front door on my next visit. Her husband said “No. Only people who are selling something come to the front door. All our friends and family know to use the backdoor.”

Stories are like that. They have a creative backdoor way of accessing parts of our heart that are intimate. Statements and strangers might try and knock on the obvious entrance way. But they’ll be left on the front porch with their pitch. They’ll never know the real way to get inside us. They’ll never be invited to relax and hang out with us on the back deck overlooking the lemon tree and other things we’re nurturing in our private garden.

Maybe that’s why Jesus made up so many stories.

But He also warned us not to neglect the front doors – the obvious pathways – the things designed specifically to be entered into first.

Can you imagine if Jesus was a full-time blogger? I love the language and imagery He used to describe our very human ability to miss the bleeding obvious.

“… you are blind! Think about a man picking a little fly out of his drink and then swallowing a camel! You are like that.” (Matthew 23:24 ERV)

I’m starting to realise I catch too many flies. And I inadvertently swallow too many camels.

Camels are designed specifically to be too large and too lumpy to sip down without realising it. And yet, sometimes, I do.

I get so consumed with the tiny fly details of everyday life that I overlook the obvious. I drink in negativity and stress all too easily and i neglect to pause and recognise the positivity and productivity that’s found in the bigger issues of life.

Lately, I’m determined to choke on the camels.

One of the large and lumpy things I think I’ve missed, is the very first verse in the Bible.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created…. 

There was darkness and chaos and lack, but God created something beautiful.

He didn’t try to make the best of a bad situation. He created a new situation.

Another version translates Jesus words as “you are straining at gnats”. Part of the flies in my drink are when I’m straining … straining to be more patient, less judgemental, more kind and loving.

All the things that I know Jesus displayed.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “exact representation” of God (Hebrews 1:3 NIV).

But why am I straining to be more patient and less judgemental when the front door that God created for me to enter into first was the door of creativity?

The first time God mentioned love, prayer, scriptures, church, faith and patience are practically light years away. But He shows off His creativity in the first verse.

If you’ll make time for church and prayer and scripture – you’ll do well.  But can you first create a little more time in your schedule for creating? I promise you it’ll be transformative if you do!

The exact representation of God must first be creating. And when I look at His exact representation Jesus was creating all the time. Some of His best creative works were His stories.

If being a creator is the front door of being more Godly, then creating stories is the front door of being a creator.

I have no idea (let alone any other of the required capabilities) how to create a whole universe. But even children can create a story.

One time when I was a children’s church leader, I was putting up the Christmas tree and one of my toddler congregation, Naomi, came in not long after I had just started. Curious about the still bare tree, she asked me “where are the decorations and the presents?”

Feigning a panic, I invited her to be my co-creative and solve our universe of the darkness, chaos and lack.  “Oh no – there’s no tinsel and no presents! What are we going to do?”

She took it all in her stride. She shrugged her shoulders and held up both hands. Then emphatically said “It’s okay. We can just pretend we’ve got them.” Then, clearly satisfied with her solution, she joyously skipped outside again.

The story she’d told herself was one where the lack of presents and tinsel didn’t exist anymore. She’d created a pretend universe where “we’ve got them”.

If creativity is the front door of Godliness, and stories are the front door of creativity, then the story of the seed is the front door of stories.

The Parable of the Sower, as it’s more commonly known, was a story Jesus specifically designed to be the large and lumpy first thing we enter into.

“Jesus told them: If you don’t understand this story, you won’t understand any others.” (Mark 4:13 CEV).

This story is kingdom kindergarten. It is an opportunity to find the ideal way to multiply. The first few times, the sower failed. He failed to find a place where his seed could do what seeds are designed to do – reproduce themselves; in other words create something new – the exact representation – from the old.

The camel is obviously to create a copy. That’s what great about stories. They are highly leveraged – they can be copied over and over and over again – for free. I’m still copying this story a couple of thousand of years later – talk about reaping a harvest!

Thousands of year before Jesus told this story, this was the first commandment that God gave us (before He gave us any of the more famous commandments).

Genesis 1:27-29 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.

Our design, our blessing, our gifts are all about productivity; to be fruitful and multiply, to be seeds who create trees and produce fruit that yields seed … copying ourselves to create a new generation of copiers.

Patience, and all those other Christ-like characters are fruit. They are reproduced. They are created copies. They can’t come from spending our time straining, only by creating. When we do the creating part, they are the natural, joyous ending. If we try to achieve them outside of the creative process – it’s like trying to produce an orange without an orange seed – it’s at least straining and stressful, if not impossible!

I shouldn’t be straining at the gnats of impatience in my life. They should be swallowed up. By what? By the large and lumpy works of creativity that I’m producing. My camels should be huge enough to be a choking hazard for anyone!

When I see Jesus interacting with people, He doesn’t seem to be straining at their gnats, He seems to be creating. When people are hungry, He reproduces lunch. When people were maimed, He creates limbs. When people are hurt, he creates love. When people have died, He creates life.

Sometimes, He’s creating curiosity, then surprise, and healing, like with the woman at the well. Jesus enjoyed that so much, He skipped a meal to do it. There’s a bouyancy that creativity brings that’s better than breakfast!

When He first called the professional fisherman, He created a great catch of instant income for them. In the same place they’d ended up broke the last time they tried it, He created so much their nets broke! When it was tax time, He created their tax money.

When those same fisherman saw Him walking on the waves, they were terrified. He turned their fears into an invitation to have fun when He said to Peter, “Come!’.

Lunch, love, life, limbs, curiosity, surprise, income, fun…. It may seem obvious, but what if being more Godly was just about ignoring all the gnats you’re not and choking on the camel of creativity? For God, it was just the beginning… and it brought about a total transformation. I wish you a new beginning – not just in your personal relationships but in your business productivity and income, too.

For me, I’m spending a lot of time in kingdom kindergarten – story-telling. Making stuff up is way more fun than straining to be patient. As I’ve started treating everyone I meet like they are a patient who’s just entered my creativity clinic, being patient has become a tiny gnat issue. I’m rediscovering what a joy it is to truly live like Jesus – not just for me – but for all those around me. I’m gonna make more stuff up!

Kisses, cupcakes, comedy, camel stories… What will you create for the next person you meet?

 

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1,200 Times More Profits (in less than an hour)

Recently, I’ve been reminded of the old adage “time is money”.

On two separate occasions, with vastly different people, I asked a question where the answer was binary – only two possible options.

Or so I thought.

Both people actually must have heard me ask “what completely irrelevant topic is so important to you that you want to talk about it for forty minutes and avoid answering my question altogether?”

I’m sure of that, because that’s exactly what they did.

So, they turned a question which could have easily been answered in 4 seconds and instead spent 600 times as long not answering it. 

But remember this wasn’t 600 times of just their time alone, they wasted 600 times of my time, too. 

What if a third or fourth person were involved?

If someone wanted to rob your money instead of your time would you let them? 

If I told you there was a way I could make you 1,200 times more profitable, you’d probably be really happy. If I told you all you had to do was shutup, maybe a little less happy…

This reminds me of when Jesus was at Mary & Martha’s house. Martha was really busy – run off her feet – doing loads of things. 

None of which were necessary.

Mary was only doing one thing, and it was the only thing that was needed.

Like most people who are using their time ineffectively, Martha tried to recruit others into her fruitless panic.

When Martha complained how busy she was, Jesus basically told her there was no need to be busy at all.

I don’t think Martha would’ve been very happy with that. But it was probably the best piece of advice she would ever hear.

Is it possible you could be one thousand times less busy and you don’t even know it?

Is there a more profitable way to spend your time? And the time of those around you? 

Maybe, it’s time to spend some time examining how you spend your time. 

There could be a 120,000% increase in profits waiting for you, less than an hour away, right under your nose (literally). 

Managing Time To Profit

Time Management

Today is the last day of the Summer season in Australia. And it’s also the last day of a season of more than ten years of my life … so it’s got me thinking about times and seasons.

When God the Son talks to God the Father we get to listen in on how the divine leaders of the universe think and what issues concern them. In John 17:1 we see Jesus beginning the conversation with “Father, the hour has come….”. Timing is so important!

Time is mentioned throughout the Scripture. Indeed, the first thing God communicates is an answer to the question “When?” … In the beginning. If you read Scripture with the question “When?” in mind, you might be surprised just how often the management of time is an issue addressed by the biblical writers.

I’ve been reminded recently of two of the most productive ways of handling your time and tasks so that you’re not squandering your profits – whether you use online profit systems or good old fashioned ones.

1. Avoid To Do Lists

I was recently put on the spot, in front of a group of people, to organise a group outing. Whilst, I would have preferred to be asked in private so I could either accept or decline without embarrassing myself or my leader, I accepted. And completed the task, in front of the group, within just one minute.

This reminded me that if you are tasked with something that isn’t on your To Do List and you can take action straight away, do it now (so it never makes it on to your list). You’re more likely to procrastinate if it is someone else’s idea and you don’t “own” it. People often spend a lot of time managing their To Do List (e.g. transferring a simple item over many days or even weeks), rather than doing their To Do List. You’ll save all of that time, and mental stress, if you avoid putting it on your To Do List and just do it now!

Also, if someone gives you their task (who you think really had the time and resources to do it themselves), doing it while they’re still with you, lets them see how quick and easy it is, too – which might inspire them to do it themselves rather than delegate next time. Hopefully, that will help keep it off your To Do List forever.

#ExecuteQuickly

2. Make Plans Once

Having organised the event, at their request, with the input and agreement of everyone in the group, within a minute, a week later the leader then changed the plans.

If you’ve made a plan with someone, let alone a whole group of people, rescheduling is a nightmare. Firstly, even if there are no other impacts, you are adding the extra time to communicate the new details. People are often tightly scheduled these days, and moving your agreed time can mean every other thing in their day needs to be adjusted. Whilst changing details of date, time or venue, may possibly be marginally better for you, the ripple effect for multiple other people can waste literally countless hours of time and profits – and create stress for multiple people.

When leaders say “Follow me” and change course midway, it weakens the ability of participants to trust them next time they want followers to agree to their schedule items (especially if leaders don’t clearly communicate what the benefits of the change were). And it shows a lack of respect for the time of others.

Whilst it only took me another minute to call the venue and cancel the booking, I hate doing it. As a small business owner myself, I know that everything from staffing to cashflow planning can change with a cancelled booking. And, frankly, I don’t need the reputation of being someone whose word is fickle and cannot be relied on.

Think very, very carefully before you are tempted to reschedule.

#RescheduleRarely

Following these two simple time management tips will help you profit not just today, but they will set you up with personal habits and a reputation for being someone who can deliver, everyday.

Leave a comment and let me know what time management insights you have found in Scripture or in practice.

Why Vision-casting is so Powerful and Productive

Robert Redford, Steve Jobs, David Cameron… all the best leaders spend at least some of their time casting vision.

But why? What is it about vision-casting that is so productive for already powerful, global leaders?

vision

Well, firstly, vision effects outcome. And sometimes the stakes can be really high. Consider Britain’s decision this week on whether to remain or leave the European Economic Union.

The future of an entire nation changed in one day. Powerful!

On the other side of the world, Australian shares lost $50 billion of value in shock.

The question of whether to stay or “Brexit” was quintessentially a question of vision. What kind of future did the people of Britain want? A future based on the possibilities of partnership with their powerful neighbours in Europe, or the freedom and control of a self-reliant future.

To cast their competing visions, leaders travelled the length and breadth of the country, several times over, to meet with people personally. Yes, there were brochures, and media appearances and social media campaigns, but the majority of time spent by the leaders was spent in front of a voter’s face.

At first glance, especially from a time-management point of view, this might seem like an incredibly unproductive thing to do. Why shake one person’s hand, when you could tweet to twenty million during that same time? Why address a small community meeting of eighty entrepreneurs in a tiny village when you could instead be interviewed on BBC broadcasting to eight million viewers?

Even Donald Trump, who doesn’t like shaking hands with anyone, and will (*probably) tell you himself “I’ve made a lot of money in media, I’m very good on television. I translate very well on Twitter”, has spent months out on the road criss-crossing America with personal appearances.

It’s all about the Proximity of Presence. There’s something about being in the presence of the vision-holder that doesn’t quite transcend into traditional and social media. Blogs and those other channels are great supplements, reminders and reinforcements, but for truly productive vision-casting think Michelle Pfeifer and Robert Redford – try and get all Up Close and Personal. (Yes, I realise the irony of quoting a non-personal appearance to encourage personal appearances 😉

Okay, so we’ve answered why vision-casting is necessary (the stakes are high), we’ve answered how to do it (up close and personal). But why does it work so effectively?

Here’s how Steve Jobs answered that question:

vision
If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you. #quote Steve Jobs

Ephron W. Taylor said it  this way. “Define the vision (this is the seed of self-leadership)”.

Leaders multiply into more leaders through vision-casting. Leaders help you lead yourself, and ultimately lead others, by planting and nourishing vision.

If a leader can plant the seed of vision in you, she doesn’t have to spend mountains of energy or time to motivate you towards success, that seed will grow generations of motivation in you, from the inside out. You’ll probably even start dropping seeds in your own network of contacts.

Vision is the ultimate leverage. You’ll achieve much more, with much less, if you cast vision seeds that grow into their own orchards of vision in others. And it’s massively scaleable – vision can multiply rapidly.

So next time you are talking with someone you want to work with, think of the weird old Christmas Carol lyric:

Do you see what I see?” (it also talks about lambs, talking wind, and stars with tails who have apparently gone out for a disco – probably best NOT to think about those things if you want your vision to sound credible 😉

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

The vision locomotive just pulled an entire nation into massive change in one day – such massive and quantifiable change it had billions of dollars of economic impacts in the hip pockets of investors on the other side of the world. And that’s just day one of the changes.

 

If you want your work to produce such powerful and productive effects, lead with your hand. Get off the computer for a change and go and shake someone’s hand. Because if we can learn anything from sexy Robert Redford, it’s that even the most visionary leaders look better up close and personal.

 

Mastering Social Media in Ten Seconds

snapchat

On Snapchat the MOST time you can spend on any one post is 10 seconds. Yes, even a video is limited to ten seconds. If you only want to take a photo, well you can do that in a “snap” 😉

More than 60% of 15-34 year olds use Snapchat. And,yes, there are over five billion video views EVERY single day on Snapchat.

S-oooo if you haven’t got a lot of time to spare and you still want to get your message out there, Snapchat is the place to share.

If you want to connect on snapchat like all the cool kids are doing, use your mobile phone’s camera to scan my snap code. Just press and hold on the screen and you’ll be able to see my snapchat stories. Magic!

Or if your magic powers fail, just search for “shazjones” and you can follow my story 🙂

snapcode

Opportunity Of A Lifetime

“The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity.”
Leonard Ravenhill

I can’t remember where I first saw or heard this quote, but it made me look at a few things quite differently.

Time is my “love language”. So I tend to take it personally, and badly, when someone “steals” my time. On the other hand, when a random stranger, who has nothing better to do, spends a few minutes to chat with me, I read way too much into it.

Since I was eighteen, I’ve always valued my time in monetary terms, too. At my first job, I didn’t just learn about time management, I had to write down what I did every 15 minutes and charge that time out to a client. At the end of the week, I had to submit those time records to my boss and he would record my productivity. When you do this for months on end, valuing your time becomes a habit.

But this quote made me value my time a bit differently – not just by what I had done, but by what I could do. Not just the cost of my time, but the opportunity cost of my time.

I recently offered an opportunity to everyone I knew. Most didn’t take advantage of it at all. And some took advantage of it at the start. Some took a little longer to sign up but then stumbled somewhere before the finishing line. Not one single person seized the full opportunity within the lifetime of the opportunity (it ended today). If only they knew what they missed out on (it would be kind of cruel to tell them, now).

It made me think about the Promised Land opportunity. I watched the recent movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, on a big screen with 3D and surround sound – it was spectacular! It made the brutal conditions of slavery and the plague and the harshness of racism towards the Jews so horrifically real.

So the opportunity of their own land, a land flowing with milk and honey, was an excellent opportunity. It was not just a good opportunity – it was a God-ordained opportunity. And God provided direction, protection, food and leadership to help them seize this amazing opportunity. And yet, out of the millions it was available to, only two (yes, 2) of them actually managed to seize that opportunity in their lifetime. Most squandered the rest of their lives complaining, criticising and literally walking around in circles.

Which made me realise, you not only have to seize the opportunity within the lifetime of the opportunity, but also within your own lifetime!

Every opportunity, like every life on earth, has an expiration date.

Every person and organisation can either choose to possess the promised opportunities, or they can squander their God opportunities.

One of the things that I’ve discovered is that opportunities often co-locate with integrity. Those who follow through on commitments, find opportunities. The promised land is accessed by those who keep their promises. If you’ve agreed to meet with someone, or do something, but it’s now a bit inconvenient, breaking your word and cancelling your commitment might relieve some of the time pressure you are feeling – but it could also mean disqualifying yourself from your God-ordained opportunities.

The good news is, keeping your commitments could mean you find the resources you need to seize your opportunities. I find most people who cancel the commitments don’t think at all about what it is costing the other person to keep. When Jesus had said He was going to the other side of the lake, but there was no boat to carry Him, He didn’t text them a couple of hours before and say he couldn’t make it. He knew that people would be making enormous sacrifices to meet with Him. So, He walked on water. He. Walked. On. Water. Sometimes miracles hide inside of the determination to keep your commitments. Sometimes, like Philip discovered, you’ll find the agility to move at the speed of God.

In 2008, Steven Furtick wrote on his blog:

A lot of people I know are more fearful of making a wrong move than making no move at all. Not me. I’ve been alive long enough to know that if I just sit at the intersection after God has given a green light, He’ll only honk a few times before He passes me by in the other lane. Doesn’t mean He’ll stop loving me or stop using me. It just means that that opportunity is gone. Forever.

If you are currently considering an great, godly, risky opportunity, consider this:
The cost of missing out can be greater than the cost of messing up.

Even if we mess up, let’s not miss out. Let’s make 2015 the year we seize our opportunities!