7 Secrets to Massive Productivity You Need to Learn (from a Baby)

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For the last month, I’ve divided my time between an intensive online course for entrepreneurs and gazing at my beautiful newborn daughter.    I’ve been challenged and inspired by the course, but it’s also made me appreciate Aviva’s achievements in her first month of life.  While I’ve been frantically gathering information, she experienced an impressive 36% growth rate… without doing much.  She has a lot to teach all of us about productivity.  For example:

  • Sleep. A lot.  When we adults want to increase our productivity this is usually the first place we skimp.  But it’s no accident that the most rapid growth and cognitive development coincides with the period when we sleep the most.   Whether you’re looking to build muscle, boost creativity, or start a business, follow Aviva’s lead and get some sleep.
  • Cry.  Don’t hold back.  Babies certainly don’t.  Stifling your emotions takes so much energy- energy that you need to do more important things.  Let it out so you can move on.
  • Eat the best quality food.  Again, when we’re focused on an important project, it’s easy to eat for convenience and not for optimal nourishment.  But Aviva has been so successful in her first month on the job largely because she is eating only the most superior human food, and eating often throughout the day to keep her energy up.
  • Hydrate.  Hydration is critical for performance in every area of life.  Ironically, when we adults want to be productive, we usually turn to caffeinated beverages that actually dehydrate us.  Aviva devotes a lot of energy to staying hydrated, and again,  only the best will do.
  • Observe Intently.   As adults we talk to demonstrate our intelligence, and act to prove our worth.  Babies learn so much in such a short time because their energy is focused on watching and listening.  Keen observation is especially potent  when coupled with rest, which boosts assimilation of new information.   What could you learn if you talked less and listened more?
  • Assume Delight.  Babies  delight simply by  showing up for life.  They don’t try to please or impress.  Without spending a cent on branding or marketing, they never fail to captivate.   They aren’t wasting any energy on expectations.   I have to admit, this has been the hardest lesson for me to absorb.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been consumed with getting my message just right, yet Aviva fascinates everyone with no effort, no artifice.  It makes me wonder…what if I really showed up?  What if I was fully myself, and assumed that I was delightful? (try it, I dare you)

How about you?  Which of these secrets will you put to work in your life?  How can you “show up” more fully and more authentically?

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Stupid…and Safe

A year ago today, my husband left a steady job,  with insurance and a 401 K.  He had no plan, and no prospects.  We were scared, and also a little giddy.  Scared because we had no other source of income (and we have a mortgage and 5 kids to support).  Giddy because we were confident that God was leading us, so we assumed an amazing opportunity was right around the corner.

Erik felt that it would be like the Israelites crossing the Jordan river to enter the Promised Land.  When they crossed the river was at flood stage, and unlike the Red Sea, it didn’t part until they stepped in.  He was sure that once we took this step of faith, the waters would part for us and there would be a clear path to…somewhere.

My heart is tender this evening because, honestly, this isn’t the blog post I wanted to write.  I wanted to be writing a dispatch from the Promised Land.  I wanted to be able to say, “Take that step of faith that you’ve been afraid to take.  I’m living proof that God will come through for you in ways you can’t even imagine yet.”

But the truth is, I haven’t “arrived” at anything definitive.  The river is still at flood stage.  The water still hasn’t parted.

This year hasn’t been the year I had hoped for.  I don’t have a dramatic story of how God parted the waters for us with some  “dream job” offer the day Erik gave his notice.   But I do have a different, maybe equally miraculous story to tell:  Daily promptings.  “Little” opportunities. Volunteering. Retraining. Unexpected provision.  Odd jobs.   Even though we still have no steady income and no clear path forward, we are not drowning.   All of our bills have been paid on time, and we still have money in the bank.

We’ve applied for jobs.  We’ve prayed and fasted.  But the bottom line is, this year wasn’t about us making a “smart decision” and having it pay off right away.  What we did was Stupid.

It was also totally Safe.  Because this year has been about God being 100% faithful and coming through for us in ways we couldn’t imagine a year ago. Not once. Not twice.  Hundreds of times.

What about you?  Maybe you believe, but you’re not ready to risk it.  Maybe you want  something more, but you’re scared to really trust.  I’m not saying you have to do anything as stupid as what we  we did, but there is a step of faith for you to take.  It feels authentic and brave and scary.  What is it?  I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

I can’t call to you from the “Promised Land” and give you any guarantees.  I’m still in the river.  All I can say is:

Come on in, the water’s fine.

Dip a toe in the water (29/365)

A Baby, a Corpse, and a Promise

kids bw

He held the slight form with uncharacteristic gentleness,  his eyes locked on her tiny face.   I’ve learned to expect the unexpected from this kid.  But he still caught me by surprise when he said,  “I don’t mean to insult you, but why do we have to wait for her to be beautiful?  Tikva (his other sister) wasn’t beautiful when she was born, but she grew and now she is.  Why do we have to wait for so many things to become beautiful?”

I  asked him to list other examples.  I thought about all the times we wait for something to be beautiful.   Days. Weeks.  Months.   Some of us wait  a lifetime.  We give helpless newborns names that mean  “courageous warrior” or “noble lady” because we believe they will assume their full potential.  The first thing everyone says when they see an infant, regardless of how they look, is ” (S)he is so beautiful!”

We have faith in the promise of a newborn because we’ve seen the transformation so many times.  But how long would you wait for a dead body to become beautiful?

This morning, I thought about the body, and the tomb.  Three days may not seem like a long time to wait for anything,  but seeing promise in death goes against everything we’re taught.  Jesus’ friends had all memorized the promises in the Torah, and some of them had even seen him raise people from the dead.  But when confronted with a dead body, would that be enough?  How much hope could they have?

The thing is, God’s promises come true with or without our cooperation.  My daughter will become beautiful whether I believe it or not.  Jesus rose from the dead apart from the faith of  his closest friends.  But what about you?

You may be facing death, or some other situation that appears hopeless.   God’s promises will come true no matter what, but you have an opportunity.  It’s easy to wait for beauty when your experience and common sense back you up.  But  Jesus said, “… blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”    That blessing is for you.

Think of an area of your life that is everything you hoped it would be.  How long did you wait for it to become beautiful?  Think of an area where even hope seems impossible.    How much beauty are you willing to hope for?

Birth, Rebirth, and the Shadow of Death

I am within hours of giving birth.  Our house is full of  healthy, energetic children.   Yet today, I’m mindful of the shadow of death.  The death that each one of us deserves to die, but doesn’t have to.

At sundown tomorrow night, we begin our celebration of Passover.  One of the most powerful things about the Passover meal, or seder,  is that it’s a first person celebration.  We don’t talk about what God did for the Israelites, we talk about what God did for us.

  When we were slaves…

…God brought us out of Egypt…

…the angel of  death passed over us…

This is personal.  Passover reminds us that each of us was a slave to something.  And if the angel of death has passed over you, it’s no accident.  Somebody was sacrificed, somebody’s blood  was applied.  This didn’t just happen long ago and far away.  It happened as part of your own story.

This morning, I was in bed breathing through a contraction, and one of our sons came in to “snuggle” with me (I snuggled, he wiggled).  He had lots of questions about death.  And about eternal life.  At the end of the conversation, he made some decisions.  He began his journey out of slavery and into freedom.   The Passover story is part of his own story now.

When I talk about making it part of your own story, I’m not suggesting that you have to go out and sacrifice a lamb.  I’m not saying you have to smear blood over your door.  But however you celebrate, make it a first person celebration.

If you are celebrating in freedom, what were you a slave to?  When did Death pass you by?

la fille

 

P.S.  Yesterday, before I had a chance to post this, I gave birth to our daughter.  We got to celebrate a birth and rebirth in the same day! More on her story later…

Spring Cleaning

Cleaning Supplies for Spring Cleaning

We can’t see it when we look outside our windows, but inside we can tell Spring is coming.  We’re beginning preparations for one of our favorite holidays of the year.  Passover is the first biblical holiday that we celebrated as a family, and it still holds a special place in our hearts.

We love the foods, the songs, the storytelling.  We love celebrating freedom.  We love rediscovering Jesus in so many of the symbols of the holiday.  Every year we know him better and love Him more as we celebrate this holiday that meant so much to him.

Then, there’s the cleaning part.

I can’t honestly say that I love cleaning.  But cleaning the house to get rid of any crumbs or dust that might contain  yeast is a big part of the preparation for Passover.  When we first started celebrating Passover, I used to use the excuse about not being under the law to explain my lack of zeal for cleaning.  I removed the yeast and  bread from my kitchen and called it good enough.

I was missing the point.

My house doesn’t have to be  meticulously clean to earn my salvation, or God’s love.  But that’s not what’s at stake here.  God’s command to clean our houses, and the whole celebration of Passover, is an invitation.  It’s an opportunity.

Once I began seeing it in this light, the whole thing became so life giving.  As I wiped and scrubbed and swept, I asked God, “What do you want to cleanse in my heart? What needs to be exposed? What are you getting rid of ?”.  Those times of cleaning became really meaningful to me, and they increased my sense of anticipation for the celebration to come.

We are coming out of a stale, dormant season and into a season of fresh growth.  I’m sensing God challenging me in so many ways, exposing so many areas that he wants to heal.  Whether or not you’ll be celebrating Passover, you have an opportunity to meet God in a new way during this time.

So now it’s your turn.  It isn’t about performance or judgement.  It’s about an invitation to meet with God.  Where do you most want to grow?  What areas of your heart need some spring cleaning?

Why it’s all About You (Except when it Isn’t)

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Last week, I told you it wasn’t about you.

And that’s true.  Except when it is.

This week I want to cover how to know when it is about you, and what to do about it.    Ownership is really important, but we get into trouble if we take ownership of the wrong things.  I’ve been in more than one emotionally abusive relationship because I took ownership of the wrong things, and/or failed to be responsible for the right things.  And taking responsibility is really what we’re talking about here.

When you find yourself:

  • wanting to protect or rescue someone from unpleasant emotions or consequences
  • saying to someone else “You make me feel_________”
  • saying “I need you to ________” when you make requests or give instructions
  • overreacting to circumstances without knowing why

In all of these situations, it’s about you.  If you find yourself wanting to protect or rescue a loved one, that is your issue.   What does being needed by them do for you?  (notice that this strategy denies them the opportunity to take responsibility, perpetuating the cycle of co-dependence).

If you find yourself saying “You make me feel______”, you have given someone else control of your emotional state.   I used to catch myself doing this to my husband all the time.  It was unfair to both of us.  Now I simply acknowledge the feeling, “When you said that, I felt ______”.

When you say, “I need you to______” instead of,  “Would you please_______”, you are revealing the truth about what you believe.  You believe you need something from that person.  But the question is, what do you really need?  I have a son with some behavioral challenges.  I gave him instructions that started with “I need you to_______” until I realized the truth.  It wasn’t about helping him progress and develop healthy coping skills, it was about me feeling like a failure as a mom.  Now I give him simple, straightforward  instructions, and deal with my own feelings separately.

When you react emotionally, it’s rarely about the present circumstances.  What are you really reacting to?  More than likely, the present events have stirred up pain from the past, and you’re reacting to that.  Innocent remarks from friends used to bring me to tears, eventually triggering congestion and migraines.  I became resentful, cherishing my victim status. Now I’ve learned that when I experience l those symptoms,  I’m processing an emotion that’s rooted in the past.  I take responsibility for discovering the source of that emotion and asking God for truth.

Responsibility is a terrible, beautiful thing.

When have you taken ownership that wasn’t yours to take?  Where do you feel ready to take responsibility in your own life?

It’s Not About You (Except When It Is)

English: Book of Knowledge

You know something.

Then,  it crystalizes in your brain.   It comes alive before your eyes.   And you KNOW it.

I have been in a pregnancy- induced, sleep- deprived fog for a week or so, but the few moments of clarity that I’ve had have been extremely clear.  It’s like leaving the eye doctor’s office wearing a better prescription.  Everything is sharper, the edges are crisper.

What’s interesting is how the clarity is born out of the fog.

Over the last few days and weeks, I’ve questioned what I really know.  As in,  what do I know not just because I read a book or took a class, but what do I know to the point that it’s a part of me, and I’m part of it.  What do I know on a level that I can teach in an authentic way, and make a serious contribution?  In one of those moments,  God reintroduced me to  principle that has been part of our spiritual stump speech for a while.  It goes something like this:

It’s not about you.

It’s all about you.

Yes, I know they seem to contradict each other, but these truths dovetail beautifully, and I’ll unpack that a bit over the next couple of weeks.

First off (and I hate to be the one to break this to you) sometimes, it really isn’t about you.  Here are some examples of  when and why it’s not about you.

  • If someone says,  “You’re making me feel_______”
  • If someone places blame on you, yet you feel no genuine conviction
  • If the reaction to something you say or do seems wildly out of proportion

In these and other similar situations, you’re not the source of the problem.  Other people may invest significant energy in convincing you that you are, and you may believe it.  But without knowing the specifics of your situation, I can say pretty confidently that you are not the true source of the problem.

I’ll explain why I believe this in my next post, but in the mean time I want to ask you:

What do you know?  What is so true for you that it’s part of who you are?  How can you share that?