Yesterday, I spent eight hours at my office, like usual.
Today, I will travel 1300 miles, from Madison, Wisconsin, to Orlando, Florida, with a layover in Cincinnati.
I will get more done today, with security checkpoints, three airports, and Cinnabon. (At least I hope there’s Cinnabon.)
Simply put, I will get more done today, because I am forced to go into Airplane Mode.
I have three hours on flights where I first have to shut down my phone and laptop, and then can only use them offline. (I have yet to be on a flight with free wi-fi, and I wouldn’t use it anyway, as you’ll see below.)
Forced into Airplane Mode, I do not have distractions—no social media (which, though part of my job, still can distract
me from larger projects), no interruptions from colleagues (again, part of my job, but still sometimes problematic), no videos of ridiculous compound fractures or Do You Even Lift.
Rather, I have a list ready of important tasks:
- documents to read (as hard copies),
- magazines I’ve been wanting to get to (tip o’ the hat to Greg Jao for that), and
- a couple of projects that need my undivided attention, like strategic plans, upcoming talks, an app I’m dreaming up (it’ll be helpful to many, if I can find the right co-conspirators), or outlines for books I might want to write down the road.
Now, here’s the rub—I realized how effective I was in Airplane Mode on a trip back in January. It was confirmed by another trip in February. I told myself, “ I should do this a couple times a week, even when I’m in the office!”
Despite my plans, I’ve not done it even once, except while traveling. The wise words of Clif Morton, my high school forensics coach, come to mind: “Good intentions are worth a thimbleful of donkey urine.” (Click to tweet this.)
So, I’m going into Airplane Mode today and again on Friday. And I plan to do it again next Monday…when I’m back in the office.
Do you get more done while in Airplane Mode? What trick are you trying this week to get more done and decrease your stress? Comment below.
You have options:
Stuff your stress way down deep and get ulcers.
Meditate on the word “peace” until the knots in your shoulders melt away.
Revert to a preschool state and let ball pits, nap time, and pudding pops calm you down.
Take some hard drugs.
But the absolute worst thing you can do?
Vomit your stress all over a spouse, friend, or coworker. (You will likely ruin their outfit.)
I realized this a couple weeks ago. I was on my way out of the office after a full and frustrating day. I did not get to the things I hoped to accomplish. And as I packed up and walked out, I barfed it all over my friend Dan:
Oh, I have so much to do! I didn’t get anything done today. I had five and a half hours of meetings and three hours of interruptions! I have 75 emails I’ve not read—just from today! I need to have a difficult conversation with somebody in the office tomorrow, and I’m not ready! My boss says I have to report on that big project tomorrow, and I have a cavity to fill! I haven’t been able to exercise in weeks, my car needs new tires, it’s raining today, my kid got yelled at by the bus driver, the paint’s peeling on my house, and we have a houseguest I don’t know arriving tonight and staying through the weekend!
Barf. I threw up the vile bile of stress all over Dan, the innocent bystander. He was now covered in my stinky, orange, chunky…stress.
Did this help Dan? No way. Unless he’s really rotten—“Golly, I’m glad I’m not Adam!”—he’s pulled down by my load. He might even feel pressure to share all the ways he’s stressed, even if he’s not really stressed, just to empathize a bit. Yes, good friends bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), but I’m not sure this fits the bill.
Did this make me feel better? Not really. It can be helpful just to articulate what’s stressing us out but vomiting it onto someone else doesn’t help. It’s really a selfish move—“Oh, look at me, feel sorry for me, buy me a drink, tell me how I’m such a good victim!” At its best, this is taking mental stock of my life in the presence of someone else. At its worst, it’s trolling for assurance and comfort, while covering others in our mess.
I am stressed today. I have a lot to do. I have a lot of meetings. I am behind. Others are waiting on me. I want to do a good job. There’s not enough time.
But today will be different. Today, I won’t vomit stress on innocent passerby. (Click to tweet this.)
Am I alone in this? Do any of you barf stress on others? (Or get barfed on?)
“I’m just can’t talk about myself like that.”
“I’m afraid of rejection.”
And most damning, “It feels icky.”
I’ve been a writer for six and a half years. (Well, at the start, I said I was a writer, but I had no evidence of that fact for editors.) I started off in motorcycle travel photojournalism, telling stories about traveling across southern Africa when we lived there. I had no name. I had no sponsors. I had no publishing credits. I didn’t even have very much skill. But I am very good at the key to good self-promotion:
I find out what people need and help them.
You’re an editor of a small magazine in California about on-/off-road motorcycling? I’ll write you a story about my similar experiences in South Africa.
You publish a motorcycling magazine in South Africa? I’ll give your readers a piece on an American’s view of the riding scene, from the inside.
Your magazine covers living with a faith perspective for young adults in the U.S.? I’ll tell you the story of finding out Chrissy was pregnant and how we freaked out.
You are struggling with living out the extreme teachings of Jesus in middle-class America? We’ll tell you about the journey and struggle of re-entry after our years overseas, with insights from friends there, in This Ordinary Adventure.
All along the way, I listen to people, love people, and seek to solve their problems. This is the most natural and effective self-promotion possible.
So when I share one of our columns in Relevant with my Facebook friends, I use a quote that might be challenging or encouraging. When I tweet about my work for Urbana 12, I share student ministry insights from my InterVarsity colleagues and the excellent work of 250+ international missions. organizations. When I speak on campus about our book, I will first find out where students are at, what issues they’re dealing with, and what they need.
Even this post is an example of this commitment. If I wrote a post today called “Why Our Book is Awesome,” no one would read it. But I’m solving your problem of needing to promote your work but feeling uncomfortable about it and so here you are, at the end of the piece, with a little encouragement, maybe a new idea, and a general impression that I’m a happy, helpful guy with an interesting book coming out. See what I did there?
Love people and solve their problems. That’s the key to self-promotion.
And that’s not icky.
Did this post address your misgivings about self-promotion? Why or why not?
My first book is coming out in a couple weeks (This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling). I co-wrote this book with my lovely wife, who wrote another book a couple years ago. I helped as a quasi-agent for that project. We also write a biweekly column for Relevant and contribute to their print magazine. And we both blog.
In the past few years, then, I’ve thought mucho about how and where our content goes out. The publishing industry continues to lurch and sputter, trying to figure out how to adjust to the new communications landscape. This ought to give you pause if you’re thinking about writing a book.
Here’s why you shouldn’t:
- You want to be rich. The average book sells something like 1,000 copies. Even at cover price (and no one has bought a book for cover price since the 1800s), that’s like $15,000 gross. Take out printing. Shipping. Ads. Editorial staff. You may pocket the advance, but a few thousand dollars for the number of hours that go into a book doesn’t equate to “rich.” It’s got to be something like .1% of all book projects that pay the author more than minimum wage for their time.
- You want to be famous. How many authors do you think you could name? Recognize on the street? Even just know the name of while browsing books? I’d guess maybe a few hundred for myself, and I’m good with names and I read a fair bit. Even in a niche market, there are not many famous authors. Committing a novel crime is a much easier way to get famous than writing a novel.
- You want to be a writer. It’s far easier to just publish your own work on a blog or as an e-book through one of the new services that’s popped up. You don’t need to publish a book to be a writer. You just need WordPress. It’s easier and it’s faster. So why schlep through the months (years!) of a book project?
But we’ve got a book coming out anyway. Here’s why we still thought writing This Ordinary Adventure would be worthwhile:
- We want to reach certain people. A key to effective communication is using the audience’s preferred mode of communication. Some people simply prefer books. So if we want them to consider our ideas, we need to hand it to them, made of paper and print (or pixels for the Kindle and Nook addicts).
- We have big and deep ideas. Books allow a depth and pace that other formats do not. They are focused and immersive in ways that phones, laptops, and even tablets with browsers are not. We do blog (at IntoTheMud.com, ExecutingIdeas.com, and we even have a big announcement coming next week about a new publisher for our new blog). But a book hangs together, welcoming readers to sink in deeply.
- We write and speak. Having a book out really has helped Chrissy (and me, too) build a platform, giving a reason to be in front of audiences. “Author” still confers a level of credibility beyond what we can get from “blogger.” (I’m not sure how much longer this will last.) For now, it makes a lot of sense to do both.
But here’s the biggest reason why we wrote a book, despite all the reasons we shouldn’t:
We want to help people. At the end of the day, our lives are for serving others. We have lived in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa, trying to learn from and to help friends in hard places. When we came back to the U.S., lots of people said, “We would so love to do what you’ve done!” and “That’s so amazing!” What we really heard in that was, “I feel like my life sucks. And there’s nothing I can do about it.”
We wrote This Ordinary Adventure for those friends (and thousands of others) who feel like they’re not living out their calling where they are. Our time overseas gave us a unique perspective on life in the U.S., and now that we’re back here and rooted a bit, we’re wrestling with how to live a life of significance, a life of deep faith for the good of the world. Our hope is that our struggle—our journey—helps others in the midst of theirs.
Have you written a book or thought about it? Why do you think you should or shouldn’t?
Last week, 120 younger leaders in the evangelical movement got together in Madison, WI. I was privileged to be one of them. This was the first of several “younger leader gatherings” that the Lausanne movement is pulling together in each of the regions of the world. We started from the Cape Town Commitment document and broke into working groups that included business as mission, leadership development, unreached people groups, cities, theological education, and arts and media, where I found myself.
Tom Lin and the rest of the steering committee brought us together to consider how we see the work of the church from our roles with our churches and organizations. But the real beauty of this was the connections that formed in the hallways, during breaks, late at night, and over breakfast.
I met fantastic people. Bryce is leading a church way up in Canada and doing some cutting edge research. Chris is facilitating a conversation about who we are and who we should be. Bethany is making the case for justice work from a biblical framework. Matt is gathering together first hand observation and analysis from people on the ground all over the world. Emily is mobilizing people to care for vulnerable children. Jonathan is re-envisioning the church as gospel communities on mission, with a network of others. J.R. is leading a conversation about what our church cultures do to us and the potential of that, in his new book. And Tanya is traveling and teaching about God’s character to young adults.
These leaders—and knowing gatherings like this are happening around the world—give me hope.
What gives you hope for the next 40 years?
Four of my friends need my help. Two just became dads. One will become a dad in a couple months. And I think one is becoming a dad right now. (Go Matt…actually, go Sarah!)
Becoming a dad is no small thing. Just before Phoebe was born, I asked a friend if he was ready before his son was born. “No one is ever ready,” he said. In this picture of Phoebe and me, you can see I was trying to be like, “I’ve got this,” but I was actually like, “This is terrifying.”
But you can at least prepare. And it’s a lot easier to prepare before you’re running on four hours of fitful sleep and all kinds of anxiety about screwing up this brand new person.
I am an authority on becoming a dad. I’ve done it twice. But only the first one counts. Any subsequent births are kind of like sequels—never quite as noteworthy as the original. (And don’t get me started about prequels.) (I love you, Zeke.)
Seriously, people comment all the time, “You kids are so quiet/cute/obedient/smart/fun/well-behaved/polite/kind/awesome!” Rarely do people add, “just like you.” But I know that’s what they’re thinking.
Obviously, I didn’t screw up my kids too bad to have strangers in libraries need to be hushed as they raved about their excellent character and perfect posture. My friends should heed this advice, or their children will likely grow up to be Lindsey Lohan or telemarketers (Lord, have mercy). And you must share this with your friends, or you will be held responsible for how many terrible tabloids and inconvenient no-call lists we have in 2040.
Here’s what my friends, your friends, and new dads everywhere need to hear:
- Marry an amazing woman. This makes being a great dad much easier.
- Sleep with your running shoes on. I did this for the first few weeks of Zeke’s life. He would start to wake up, and at the first precious little, “Oink,” I’d spring up, grab him, re-swaddle him, and head outside. We would walk for an hour in the 2am quiet, with him staring at the streetlights in wonder, and me staring at him in wonder. (And trying not to trip.)
- Use cloth diapers. This will enable you to endure long stretches of caring for your child, cleaning the house, and giving your wife back massages, as you won’t have to leave to use the bathroom.
- Put cloth diapers on your kid, too. Feel free to use disposables at first, as newborns poop an average of 75 times/day. But once that’s down to under 30 times/day, you should use cloth, because over the next three years, you’ll save a few thousand dollars. If you invest in that immediately, by the time you retire, it’ll be worth a few thousand and fifteen dollars. (The economy isn’t what it used to be.) Alternatively, if your kid ends up needing diapers for more than three years (let’s say…30), you could come out way ahead. So buy them big.
- Get used to crying. The first year of parenting is full of tears. You just have to figure out what’s needed. Food? Sleep? A little snuggling with Mama? Find those needs and meet them. And you’re not the only one who will be crying—your kid will want some of the same things. But at the end of the day, if the your baby is clean, not too warm or cold, fed, and not dangling off of the balcony of a hotel in a large city, I’m sure they’re fine. For what it’s worth, we used a philosophy (a book?) called Baby-wise. Chrissy read it. You should get it for your wife. You teach your kid to sleep, and you don’t have to care if they’re crying. Win!
- Encourage breastfeeding. While it may seem a bit awkward, it’s apparently something that happens in nature all the time. All kinds of mammals breastfeed: cows, pigs, squirrels, iguanas, ducks, Subarus, rhinos (wait, are rhinos mammals?). Check out the new BBC documentary, Breasts and Udders of the World if you don’t believe me. It’s good for your kid, and your wife needs encouragement to try but grace if it just doesn’t work.
- Take as much time off as you can. Talk to your boss about how much you admire Europeans. Get her to agree that she loves Europeans, too. Then explain that you’ll be taking six-months paid leave after your kid arrives.
- Learn to do new stuff like cook. Garlic scapes sautéed with almond butter you milled yourself? Grape leaves around lamb bruschetta? Ladyfingers soaked in scotch, lit on fire, and drizzled with organic wasp honey? Your wife will love you. It might also be appropriate to clean, shop, and change diapers.
- Cut out as many activities as you can. You have one activity now: surviving. That’s why you need all this time off of work. You can get out of anything when you have a newborn. “I’d love to come over and re-caulk your deck, Brian, but you know, with the baby and all…”
- Choose one thing for each of you that will keep you sane. It could be paintball, cross-stitch, a daily coffee, or huffing glue. Just pick one and help each other stick to it.
- FREE BONUS TIP! AVAILABLE ONLY TO PEOPLE WHO MADE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE END OF THE POST! Don’t ever give your child a pacifier. The last thing we need in this country is more passive kids. Last week, we celebrated our nation’s independence. But we are falling behind. We need to do something. Give your baby an “aggravator” or something. Maybe set them up in front of World of Warcraft. We need our babies to rise up together!
What advice would you give to new dads?
My experience as a father has been atypical, with a few years of it in China and South Africa. But I have found that fatherhood is a long trudge with occasional bursts of indescribable joy. The joys include gurgles and zerberts, strollers and first steps, reading and knock-knock jokes. And the trudge is multi-faceted, too.
I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night so my wife could sleep just a little more. I’ve paced before dawn wondering how I’d find a job to support my growing family. I’ve worked long hours. I’ve eaten lunch at my desk to try to get home earlier. After work, I’ve done the dishes, changed diapers, and figured out an insurance question. Before work, I’ve read the Bible and prayed I don’t screw up my kids. I’ve found a deal on a car. I’ve changed the oil. I’ve asked for a raise. I’ve taught Sunday School. I’ve shown my daughter how to ride a skateboard. I’ve tried to be gentle. I’ve told my wife how smart and hard-working and beautiful she is. I’ve built a mammoth treehouse. I’ve volunteered at the school play. I’ve devised a work schedule so my wife can get her PhD and not worry about childcare. I’ve worked out so I don’t die early from something stupid. I’ve gone to Cub Scout meetings. I’ve checked math homework. I’ve been available. I’ve done my best.
In the midst of that trudging, it’s easy to lose my way. Like dads across the country, this weekend, I’m hearing:
- I love you.
- Thank you.
- You’re the best.
- Have a beer.
All of these are very important. I’ve heard all of them from my kids (ages 9 and 7). Ok, they’ve never told me to have a beer, though I’m working on that.
Even so, even for a man with good relationships with his kids and wife or girlfriend, there are two things that are not said very often that we dads need to hear.
I need you.
We need to know that all these things, this effort, this work, this sacrifice matters to someone. If my wife and kids tell me how much they need me, how they appreciate what I do, that without me they would be having a hard time, then I have some evidence that it matters. In the midst of the trudging there has to be a voice telling me that my strength is needed. Without this, we men are prone to squander our strength to sloth or to misguided pursuits.
When I hear, “I need you, Dad” I’m ready to run into a burning building. (That may be foolish, but I’d rather be a fool with a short life spent for others than an old, wise man who looked out for number one.)
If a dad doesn’t hear that he’s needed, it’s a lot harder to do all the stuff that a good dad ought to do. But just being needed can lead to stress and anxiety. I’ll put pressure on myself beyond what’s helpful. There’s something else we dads need to hear.
I need encouragement. When I’ve put the kids in bed at 8:00 pm and I’ve been going since 5:00 am, it is very hard to do one more thing—some banking, planning for a vacation, or even just having an intelligible conversation with the woman I love. I need grace for the moments when I am running on empty. I need to know that I can keep learning and figuring this out. Even when a guy’s had a great dad, his personality and own kids are different. He needs to grow a lot.
Being a father takes time, and it never feels like there’s enough to even read the manual, let alone fly the plane. I need to know that my kids and wife understand I’m doing my best and that I want to do better. And if they think I actually can do better, and are helping me to do so, I probably will actually be a better dad.
When I hear, “Keep growing, Dad,” I can continue the trudge. It’s 10:00 pm on a day that I biked 15 miles with my family, went swimming, and had a campfire. I’m exhausted. But with my family’s encouragement and amazing grace, I can still write a blog post that I hope will help a couple of families out there. And I’ll be learning, too, so that tomorrow, I’ll be a smidge better.
Rare is the man that things he’s getting an A as a dad. So find one and tell him how much he’s needed and that there’s grace for growth.
What else do you think dads need to hear?
This post originally ran on the blog of InterVarsity.
Hope can be empty and fruitless. Do you have reason to have hope for the Church?
We bicker and fight and split. We divorce and cheat like everyone else. We are often hateful. We fail to live out the high ideals we claim as our own.
I do hope that the Church focuses on core essentials like the reign of God, the person and teaching of Jesus, the resurrection, the activity of the Spirit now, the authority of the Bible, the value of people, and the importance of justice.
I don’t think we need to be asking “What is your hope for the Church?” Rather, is there good reason to have hope for the Church?
I say yes:
1. Cultural Christianity is melting. In the U.S., it is no longer expected that you know the Bible or go to church or give a rip about religion. This opens space for authentic Christians to live in a fashion that befits those who follow Jesus. It’s like a do-over, allowing us to consider our forms of worship, service, and living as disciples. It’s an exciting time.
2. The Bible is back. Ok, so it never really left. But in this season of re-assessing how we’re living out our faith, we are looking for a standard by which to make decisions. A renewed commitment to the Bible and theological grounding is undergirding growing churches in the U.S.
3. Justice is no longer only for communists. From my years as a college student in the late ‘90s to the past few years, there has been a significant shift. Back then, when I asked about Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor” and “You cannot serve both God and money,” people looked at me like I had festering wounds on my face. Now, there is significant commitment amongst many evangelicals (as well as mainline Protestants, Pentecostals, and Catholics) to care for the poor like Jesus commanded. As we serve sacrificially, we earn credence with our critics.
We are about to go to our friends’ house to watch the Super Bowl. There are a few things I want to tell you.
Although this seems like a really big deal, it isn’t. It’s just that the people in our country don’t have anything to get excited about all together anymore. We used to get excited together about fighting against the British and stuff, but we haven’t all gotten excited about the same stuff in a long time. So we get all worked up about this game instead.
You are not less of a person because you can never play in the Super Bowl. Men are the only people who play. Sometimes the reporter on the sideline is a woman. And I’m sure someday soon a woman will be anouncing the game or in the studio at halftime and another will be running the sidelines as a referee. But the players are all men, and that will not change. I really hope and pray that you will do something more important with your life than play a football game (or report on one or referee one).
Don’t be like the women you see. You will see women dancing on the sidelines of this football game, my love. They will not be wearing many clothes. They will be amazing athletes, maybe even as amazing as the men on the field. But their whole lives go into being beautiful, and that’s kinda sad. You’re way more important than just having smooth skin and showing it off. You’re a lot more valuable than a pretty face. The shape of your breasts and butt and your ability to dance don’t give you your worth as a person. No matter how gorgeous you are when you grow up—and I have no doubt that will be really, really beautiful, since you already are—please know that your mind and your soul matter more.
There are a lot of men you should avoid. There will be some really funny and cool ads on during the Super Bowl. We’ll laugh and look at each other with our mouths wide open. But commercials sometimes kind of lie, saying things that are not true. I’ve heard about the ads that are going to air tonight—GoDaddy, Kia, Doritos, and the rest. They show women mostly naked. They do this because they think men really want to see that and that men are dumb enough to buy something because a mostly-naked woman was in an ad. A good man decides to really love one woman, not just her body and not lots of women. That’s the kind of man that I hope falls deeply in love with you one day. I love your mom and don’t look at other women naked. And trust me, you don’t ever want to be with a man who just wants to see other women naked.
You can always talk to me. This is some big stuff. You can ask me anything, and I will always make time for you. You’re the best.
What else would you say to girls and young women about the messages around the Super Bowl?
Leave a comment below.