Art or Service?

This one’s tough for me. It’s something I don’t think ever gets resolved. As Andy Stanley puts it….”its  a tension that must  be managed.”

Have you ever noticed interviews on tv with actors or music artists? Usually, the person doing the interview brings up something that a critic has said either positively or negatively about their latest piece of work, and the actor usually mentions that they in some respect pay no attention to the critics whether good or bad. They are making  their art for the sake of art, and they believe in what they have filmed or recorded to a level where the popular consensus doesn’t concern them. They have an intrinsic belief that they did the best they could on project and they don’t want someones critique to cast a shadow over their perception of the work they did.
At the other end of the Pendulum, there are business where the critique is the point. If people aren’t happy, then it wasn’t a success. If you are a restaurant owner, and no one likes your food, you will probably not have a successful business. If you open a clothing store and no one buys your clothes, well….you get the point.
There have been a handful of companies throughout the years that I believe managed this tension well. Two particular people come to mind…Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs. Ford was quoted as saying “you can have any color model-T you want as long as its black.” He created (either for personal reasons or business model reasons) a product that was what it was, and if people wanted a car, thats what they got. Steve Jobs upon his return to apple in ’97 looked at their product line which was ballooning upward of 40-plus product lines and wiped them all, and drew a 2×2 grid on the board…..Apple was going to make 4 products, thats it. And if people wanted an Apple Computer, they were going to buy one of those 4 products.
Now Here’s where the tension really starts to show itself…I work at a church. And there are as many opinions on “how” you do church as there are menu items on a Cheesecake Factory menu. Are we in the Art business? or the service business? Are we about catering to peoples wants, needs, and desires? Or are we presenting an art, the most beautiful love painting ever drawn….the gospel? These are the things that are hard to define for me. If we have the artist attitude, and do not care about the opinions/perception of people we can have a beautiful presentation that appeals to no one, and therefore no one hears the Good News. However, if all we do is appeal to the preferences of people and cater to their wishes and desires, we are not shepherding people, we’re looking to the people for the vision, not drawing the vision from God.
So is it Art? or is it service? Love to know your thoughts…….


The Bathroom at the other end of the Hallway

You’ll have to excuse  the locker-room-level example on this one, but it really does make a point for me. At our offices, we have a conference room where we often have meetings . And some of these meetings can go for lengthy time periods. The closest “facilities” to this conference room are just down the stairs….a few steps away. But I don’t frequent that particular location. I choose to walk a couple hundred feet to the other end of our office hallway to the other facilities. It could be a number of reasons…. I don’t like the pink tile, or I don’t like its proximity to a main entrance to the building, or it doesn’t have hot water in the sink. But what really is the reason is the culmination of all that…..the experience. Now, please remove that fact that I’m still discussing a bathroom here, but experience matters! It IS the reason I walk the extra time and space to go to the other restroom. That restroom has a better experience.

Why do people like certain restaurants over others? Sure the food maybe better, but more than not, they like the appeal of the experience. So when thinking through my decision to use the facilities that are further away and the reason that is, it prompted the question for me that I must answer for what I do as a creative….”Am I creating an experience that drives people to walk the extra distance in order to participate?” Are You? Is whatever you’re creating, whether its a product, presentation, conference, or service so appealing as an experience that people will go out of their way to take part in or purchase?

Creativity and Planning

I know, they sound like they don’t coexist.

There’s a stigma thats attached to “creatives”. Most of the times you’ll hear phrases like “they only function under the gun”, or ” I do my best work under pressure.”

I feel that the the procrastination epidemic in the creative world is both stereotypical as well as cop-out related.

Most “administrative” types look at creatives as not being able to hit a deadline…most “creatives” usually say things like ” you can’t time-clock creativity.”

I have found in all my reading and experience, that the best creativity comes from my planning. I realize that sounds a little oxy-moronic in a way. The idea that planning can create creativity is counter-intuitive. But think about the best things that ARE created. You think the iPad or the iPhone came into being on a late-night whim of procrastination? No it was months and months of working through design, form and function that led to the device I’m posting this on. You think one of Mozart’s symphonies was purly created out of a deadline to a performance?

True artistic creating takes time….and in today’s society of non-stop going…it takes planning. For my administrative friends…you can’t box in creatives. I recently sat at a conference and a very well-respected teacher was speaking, and I know his content was second-to-none. However, in the middle of his speech, my brain started following a creative thought that will be a major player in weeks to come….you cant time-stamp or time-card creativity…you learn to take it as it comes and welcome the result.

To my creative friends…..don’t fall into the trap of procrastination. I promise you, that you do great work under pressure, but I also know that you can do better work when you’re not stressed. If you take your best accomplishment, and add time for planning and execution at a healthy level, I promise the work would be better and your life would be healthier. Don’t let someone box you in and tell you that if you’re going to do truly creative work, it must be late in the night and against a hard deadline. I promise if you plan, and manage your time, your work will be stronger, deeper, better, and your life will be healthier, and that will show in your work.


Work Habits and Time Management

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known at 20″ target=”_blank”>26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known at 20</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Etienne Garbugli @egarbugli</a></strong> </div>

Demographic and Accesibility

Just because you have a demographic doesn’t mean your message can’t be accessible to a wider group. This is true in business marketing, but also ministry planning. The way you structure your ministry presentation will most likely identify with a certain type of individual….thats natural.  But I  don’t think it has to stop there. Its great to know/understand your demo… but that shouldn’t be a one-stop-shop for how you evaluate your presentation.

Your presentation may resonate with one specific audience, but it can be accessible to a broader range of people. What does that mean? One way is to appeal to people’s appreciation of excellence. I had a friend, my age, in the music industry talk about his experience at what most of us would consider a “traditional” church. He said that it was “old school” but they did it so well that he got caught up in the grandeur of the moment. He definitely was not the demographic of the normal person that resonates with the presentation of that church, but it was accessible to him because it was done well.

I think one of the easiest ways to increase your accessibility is look at things you can get rid of that may be “turn-offs”, but don’t change the heart of your message. Lets look at an over-exaggeration to make the point. Let’s say you happen to like the word “groovy” and your demographic likes the word, but its a turn-off to people outside your core audience. If “groovy” isn’t a central part of your message, just let go of it. I would say its not about doing things that people outside your audience love, trying to be all things to all people, but  NOT doing things that turn them away.

There are 3 questions I like to ask in this order:

  • 1 – Whats my message and is it clear?
  • 2 – Who does my message resonate with? (Godin calls this “tribe”)
  • 3 – and who could this message be accessible to/what’s the inhibitors to that happening?

12 things about being a grown-up man

I found an article with these things in them last year. They are not mine, nor are they spiritual in nature. But they are quick thoughts about an art that seems to be diminishing in the current age…growing up. Enjoy.

1. Stand Up Straight: Men often don’t pay attention to their posture, and the results are far more extensive than back problems. Most studies show that 75% of what we communicate is non-verbal. So you can flap your gums all you want, but if you’re hunched over like a troll, you won’t be heard or respected.

2. Listen: Few of us actually listen. Take the time to listen, to hear andunderstand the person trying to communicate with you. You’ll be surprised at the impact it can have on your life.

3. Hit the Gym: The single piece of advice that shows up on every stinking New Year’s list you’ll find is some variation of “get your fat tail to the gym.” There’s a good reason for that. You will feel better, your clothes will fit better, you gain confidence.

4. Wear Clothes That Fit: Sounds simple enough, but even the most aesthetically advanced men can be guilty of this sartorial crime. Fit is king in menswear. So in 2012, don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit and get rid of (or tailor) what you already own that doesn’t fit properly.

5. Go to the Doctor: If you don’t get a regular yearly check up, you’re an idiot. I can tell you that because in 2011 I found out just how foolish I had been. I consistently run 10 to 15 miles a week, watch what I eat, and never really get sick. Because of that, I hadn’t gone in for a regular check up in 7 years. When I finally did, I found at the ripe old age of 31 I had inherited my father’s extremely high blood pressure. Had I not attended to my newfound condition, I could have seriously taken years off my life. They don’t let you wear cutaway collar shirts and double monk straps when bedridden in the hospital.

6. Tuck In Your Shirt: Tuck your shirt in. Just tuck it in.

7. Take a Book at Bedtime: If you made it through last year without reading at least one book, shame on you. The whole, “I don’t have time” argument is truly rubbish. Instead of surfing them interwebs before bed or falling asleep with the TV on, spend 10 to 15 minutes with a book, and it will change more than your vocabulary.

8. Care for Your Shoes: After you spend all that hard-earned money on fine footwear, it is essential that you regularly clean and care for it after you pound the pavement. Try Venetian Shoe Cream for cleaning, buff them to a light sheen with a horsehair shoe brush, and store them in their very own pair of cedar shoe trees. And don’t forget to give them at least one day of rest between wearing.

9. Make a Budget: Rick Ross said it best when grunting, “Big bank take little bank.” In other words, you need assets to acquire more assets, and if you don’t have a fiscal plan to accumulate your wealth, you just might end up losing the funds you currently possess. It’s not sexy or cool, but it is necessary.

10. Wear a Tie: Plenty of men hate wearing ties, and I just can’t understand it. The necktie is one of the few pieces a man can use to add some much-needed levity to his attire. And it never hurts to be the best-dressed man in the room.

11. Get a Grown-Man Haircut: If you are over the age of 18 and have bangs or the messy/bedhead hair, stop reading right now and go to the barber. Bangs are for boys named Bieber and gelled, spiky hair reminds people that you haven’t let go of Friends. Hey, I loved Ross and the gang as much as anyone, but it’s time to move on.

12. Chase a Dream: If your life doesn’t currently include earnestly seeking something you are deeply passionate about, your greatest goal this year should be to find it and pursue it with everything you’ve got in you.

New Years, Passion, Worship, Sundays, and Expectations.

Five words (yes I’m making “New Years” count as one word) that have some relation to each other… I will try to strengthen that relationship during this post.

Its Jan 1, so its the start of a new year where everyone makes resolutions that most likely will not stick and will be given up within the next 6 weeks. I have experience in this cycle as last year I attempted to add additional miles to my weekly exercise routine and quit doing so after a few months :/

Within the next few days many of my friends and believers (of mostly the same age group) from all of the country will head to Atlanta for the Passion conference (or service, meeting, gathering, experience, or alternate word for an event).  I am not going to be joining them for this event. It’s not that I didn’t want to go, or don’t think its worth going to, but I decided its not best for me to take the time away from my family to do so when I travel a good bit already. Here is what I do know….its going to be fantastic! People will have an awesome encounter with the living God through the Holy Spirit. People will draw closer to God, and rekindle their passion for loving Him and all people because of this event. I know it will be amazing because of one primary element….people expect it to be amazing. I know it may sound elementary, but our expectations have a large determining factor on our perceptions. Thousands of people will gather in the GA dome all expecting to encounter the Holy Spirit, and you know what will happen…..they will.

Unfortunately, a large part of this same group of people will go back to their local church and attend with mediocre expectations or no expectations at all. Don’t get me wrong, the team that will lead the conference is a very talented and anointed group of pastors and worship leaders. And I know that the presentation will be well planned and prayed through. But its not just the talent or the preparation that will make the difference in people interacting with the Holy Spirit….its their (the attendees) hearts.

What would happen if our congregations showed up to weekly worship with THIS expectation? What if we walked into the room with the expectation that GOD is going to meet with us there, and not only that; He will speak to ME! If we show up thinking that church is going to be “ok”, it most likely will live up to that expectation. But I also believe that if you show up looking for the Holy Spirit and listening to what He may be saying to you….you will be ministered to and you will have an encounter with Him.

So Here’s the tie in (back to the 5 words at the top). Can we commit in this new year to show up on Sundays to church and worship with the expectation and anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s presence the same way we (in the collective sense) expect Him to show up at a Passion event? If we do, I’m pretty sure He’ll show up, meet, and most likely exceed those expectations!

Have a wonderful new year!

The Calendarization of Creativity

Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael. These are the great artists of our history and of the Renaissance. Have you ever wandered how they accomplished so much in such short times. While their projects themselves may not have been short in creation, the amount of projects they accomplished is astounding. They would finish one and immediately start another. How did they accomplish so much in their lives with their artistry? I believe it had something to do with their lack of distractions and limited communication channels. Think about it…If you wanted to talk to Leonardo about something, you had to go see him. There was no email, snail-mail, computers, SMS, MMS, etc… Therefore, thier interruptions were far less than what we deal with today.

It used to be that if I had a list of things that I wanted to accomplish, or needed to get done, I would simply get through them and allow myself to have “creative” time on the back end when everything was done. Those days are long gone and now I believe it is imperitive that I schedule creativity. I realize that sounds oxymoronic in nature, but I am finding that it is the only way to ensure I stay creative. The creative muscle is no different from the muscles in your body…if you fail to exercise it, it will become weaker, and not as functional. You MUST exercise that muscle, and I believe in order to do that, you must schedule that time. Just as you would a meeting, just as you do you gym time (which you SHOULD do). Richard Florida talks about the creative mind in his book “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Its a great anylization of creative people and how they work. We are plagued. You can’t turn off creativity. It happens in the shower, in the bed at 4am when you wake up, riding in your car. But, it can be stifled by daily administrative duties and you’re left with the rest of the day to think about those things. Now lets add another dynamic into this situation….A Dad and a husband. If it were just me, I could work in the office all day, come home and let the creative juices flow and sit down and arrange, produce, create, write and everything else inbetween. But you know what I need to do when I come home? Spend time with my girls and my wife. So coming home and spending “creative” time there isn’t the best option. Somethings can’t be helped. You get a breakthrough on a particular conundrum thats been reaking havoc on your mind and you need to write it down. But most of the time, it can be controlled and limited, for the sake of your family. Like Don Draper says: “Think intently and purposefully on it….then forget about it; the solution will present itself.”

Here’s what I’m getting at… Plan to be creative when you can. You can’t turn your brain off, but you can control your calendar. Block off sometime to handle the things that need your creative energy; and not just 1 hour. You need a few, un-interrupted hours to let the ideas take shape and show themselves. If your job is a blend of the administrative with the creative (like mine), this is a must. Plan to be creative. Exercise that muscle and guard that time or else you’ll end up being weak and wonder why you’re not creative anymore.