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Sweat the Small Stuff

One of the mantras sometimes bandied about in business is, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s cracker-barrel wisdom to keep one focused on the big goal. However, in my 29 years in corporate and now eight years in academia, I observe that this is bad advice.  The big stuff is made up of small stuff; dismissing small stuff is unproductive.

For example: A common New Year’s goal is to lose weight; however, success rates hover in the single digits. Why? Because making one big decision is easy… “Let’s lose weight.”  It’s the failure to remain vigilant with a thousand small decisions, “Don’t eat the cookie,” that derail your goal. I earned a master’s and doctoral degrees in my 50’s not because of a big decision, but because of hundreds of small decisions to study or go to class instead of playing golf or watching television.

In business, we face this dilemma all the time. We set big goals… but are we prepared to execute on those goals? Are we prepared to do the small thing, day-in and day-out, to bring that goal to life?

A good secular book on this topic is Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy.  A better book is Luke where in chapter 16, verse 10 we learn: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in very little is also dishonest in much.”

Success is about the small stuff – the little decisions. Every day.

Dr. Kirk Fischer, Associate Dean, McLane College of Business,  University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

Godly Sorrow

Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.  –Psalm 102:1-2

My mother died recently. She was a godly woman who at 91 was struggling with memory loss. She knew her family, and she knew her Lord; her prayer was that He would take her home before she forgot those she loved. God answered that prayer, and I am feeling the loss.  It is an easily identifiable pain—a sadness of heart.

Years ago I left a successful career path in response to God’s call to another. As that call became clear, I had to decide to leave something I loved to do another good thing. And it was a good thing, and once again God blessed me with a measure of success. But months into the new position I experienced another sadness of heart, this one less identifiable. It took me a while before I realized that I was subconsciously mourning the loss of my previous situation.

Today I talked with a friend. His work is going well but it is taxing his family, he fears to the point of breaking. He wants … no he needs to make a change. He sounded almost desperate as he shared how his situation is breaking his heart.

There is great joy in the gospel—the good news that Jesus saves us from our sins. But Jesus does not promise that there will not be sorrow along the way. To the contrary, Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

It is not sinful to weep at the death of a loved one, to mourn the loss of happy situation, or to grieve in the midst of trying circumstances.  It is not clear who wrote Psalm 102, but the author understands sorrow. Charles Spurgeon described Psalm 102 as “a prayer far more in spirit than in words.”

The Psalms contain many moving expressions of lament, Psalm 102 being one of my favorites. When you experience loss, turn to the Psalms. They will help you give voice to your sorrow.

Dr. Ken A. Smith (Dean, McLane College of Business)

What About the Change?

This morning I listened to Stephen Curtis Chapman’s “What About the Change?” In this song Chapman lists all the symbols of his faith he keeps around him: a WWJD bracelet, a keychain, and “the outline of a fish stuck on my car.” He then asks, “What about the change? What about the difference? What about the grace? What about forgiveness? What about the life that’s showing I’m undergoing the change?” It’s a good challenge to all of us – including those in business.

I lead the praise team in our church.  Too often, though, I find myself singing and playing the words without really internalizing what the lyricist is attempting convey. My brain is preoccupied with playing the right notes, or keeping the rhythm, or… are my socks matching and what am I going to order for breakfast at Cracker Barrel after service? The words come off the page and out of my mouth, but do not stop in my heart. I go to church to worship, but some days my presence is a sham… I’m somewhere else.

In business, we too often pay lip service to our ideals while mindlessly acting in ways inconsistent with our rhetoric. We might proclaim that we want our employees to live a balanced life, then scorn at a father that leaves work 15 minutes early to catch a soccer game. Our mission could state that we will be “the best in our field” then willfully try to save a few bucks by producing second-rate product hoping the customers will not notice.

Proverbs 12:22 states, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” If we are to be true and faithful in business, we must align our words to our deeds.

This week take an inventory of your recent work experience.  Are you consistent in your words and deeds? Is your place of work consistent in word and deed? Are you just “reciting the words” or genuinely acting on the words? As Chapman asks, “What about the change?”

Kirk Fischer (Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, McLane College of Business)

Outrage and Sanctimony: Are You Buying?

The 2016 election was characterized as “the most divisive” in our lifetime. Maybe not. Consider my first presidential-election as a young adult in 1968:

  • One presidential candidate was assassinated.
  • A sitting president declined to run for reelection because he was mired in a war that saw the loss of over 50,000 draftees.
  • Sections of entire cities were substantially burned in riots.
  • The Democratic national convention was stormed by 10,000 protesters who were confronted by 23,000 police using riot-control tactics.

Why did some report that 2016 was the “most divisive election” of our time?  Consider the marketing value of this news story for the sellers of outrage and sanctimony, two of the most salable commodities of our age.

Pundits from all persuasions hold court on the airwaves to pander to basic prejudices or to harness those prejudices for personal gain. The process requires selective narratives, sometimes ignoring reality and employing extreme language that’s designed to inflame, rather than enlighten or clarify.  They cast anyone in disagreement with them as ignorant or evil.  The goal is to generate outrage at others and sanctimoniousness in ourselves.

Here is the problem for Christians: self-centered outrage and sanctimony are sins. They promote pride.  They sow discord among God’s people. They are the opposite of grace.  They allow us to generalize whole swaths of our neighbors in overly simple terms. There is a saying: “For every complex problem there is a simple, elegant solution… which is wrong.” There is genuine evil in the world and there are complex problems – but none are well addressed through one-sided diatribes designed solely to stir an emotional response.

Be wise.  When you listen to the purveyors of outrage and sanctimony you are not the customer – you are the product. It is entertainment posing as wisdom designed to deliver you to an advertiser.  It is about profits, not prophets.

Our Master requires different virtues – acceptance, benevolence, compassion, humility, reverence, and self-sacrifice.  Reject the sellers of outrage and sanctimony. They are not selling anything you need.

Kirk Fischer (Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, McLane College of Business)

It’s Not About How Well You Are Going

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”  Matthew 5:13

Yesterday my wife and I were driving through the Hill Country trying to find a little Texas town.  We missed our turn from one two-lane highway to another and found ourselves going West instead of South.  I was driving very well.  I was under the speed limit, two hands on the wheel, lights on for safety.  But none of that mattered because I was going the wrong direction.

When we have sin in our lives there is only one answer.  We can’t study the Bible enough to make our sin satisfactory to God.  We can’t give enough of our money to justify ourselves.  We can’t preform substitute service taking care of the sick or feeding the hungry so that our sin becomes OK.  That sinful activity, those base thoughts, those worldly feelings, are no good to us no matter how we try to dress them up or compensate for them.  That sin has to be tossed out.

Yesterday I had to humble myself, admit I was going the wrong way and turn around.  I had to go back to the turn I missed and head in the right direction.  That is what repentance means, to turn around and go another way.

Bible study is extremely effective for growing in Christ.  Sharing what we have – money, time, and energy, is a commandment of God.  But when it comes to sin, humble repentance is the only medicine that will cure us.

Trying to grow in your walk without repenting would be like my wife and I trying to get to our destination yesterday, going the wrong direction, by just trying to drive more carefully.  We could have been the best drivers ever all the way to the Pacific Ocean and still never reached our goal.  Today, save yourself time, frustration and further distance from our Father.  Repent of your sin and get on track to a fuller relationship with Him.