In the nights since the shootings in Connecticut last week I’ve been losing a lot of sleep. I lie awake in bed, but I don’t worry about gun control, school safety or even the safety of my own children. No, I’ve been losing sleep over us, the American public, who seem duplicitous in our grief over the tragic deaths in Sandy Hook.
Children are killed in our country every day through neglect and violence. In the state of Connecticut alone over 13,000 abortions were performed in 2010; that works out to about 35 children killed every day. Thousands of children around the world die on a weekly basis for reasons ranging from malnutrition to open war. Thousands of children around the world are sexually abused on a daily basis.
What is it about the Sandy Hook violence that is different?
Do we feel a poignant sense of loss because these are the children the world wanted? What does that say about us?
Is it because they were white kids from an affluent neighborhood? What if they had been Hispanic kids from El Paso?
Do we see them as our own children and fear for the safety of our own families? Are we THAT selfish?
How can we, on one hand, hear about ten year-old girls working as prostitutes in Thailand and only shed a tear or two (and maybe write a check), then turn around and act outraged at the shooting of ten-year-olds in our own country?
How can we keep ourselves comfortably ignorant of the fact that for every three live births in Connecticut one child is aborted, then turn around and decry gun violence when 20 school-aged children are murdered?
I am in no way trying to detract from the loss and tragic waste this shooting entailed.
I am trying to understand why people think the murder of these children is ‘worse’ than the thousands of acts of violence that affect children around the world every day, as evidenced by the highly emotional reactions involved.
I don’t want our vision to be limited by our press and politicians to a single issue; I want us to think bigger. I want us to embrace the primacy of all human life and consider what we can do today to protect and defend that most valuable commodity.
I had a meeting with the Chief Sales Officer (CSO) of my company yesterday. During that meeting the CSO told me he really wanted some analysis done on a particular aspect of our company’s sales cycle, though he didn’t give me a deadline because he knows how ridiculously busy I am. I spent some time after the meeting getting the necessary data together and conceptualizing what the report would look like. On the bus ride home I worked on the assignment long enough to realize I had pulled the wrong data set and would need to start over…which I did once the kids were in bed at 8pm. I spent the next hour downloading new data and running the numbers through my spreadsheet, and I came up with some interesting findings. I crafted an e-mail to various managers and executives in the company with some embedded charts and an attachment. Then I paused and thought for a moment:
“Do I really want to send this e-mail tonight? I think the work will really help the company and will probably impress folks…especially since I’m working this late at night…but that’s also a problem. It’s late and I’m tired; what if there is a mistake somewhere? What if there is an aspect of the business I have not taken into consideration? Is the chance to impress people worth the risk of sending out inaccurate analysis?” (Note: Accuracy is the bread-and-butter of analysts. It’s no small thing to risk accuracy for the sake of speed; in fact, many analysts discourage it.)
In the end I sent the e-mail; I decided it was worth the risk. But to be completely honest with you, after I sent the e-mail I worried that I’d made a mistake. I went back to the spreadsheet several times to confirm that my formulas and logic were accurate.
When I got to work this morning, I had a surprise waiting for me in my inbox. My boss, his boss, and the CSO had all reviewed my analysis.
They loved it.
The analysis was so thorough and compelling that the CSO sent it to our Regional Sales Managers, who then each had mandatory calls with their sales teams today. I received at least half a dozen e-mails from various people in the company praising my work, and at one point the CSO made a point of swinging by my desk to personally thank me for my hard work. I believe that we will see the impact of my analysis on sales results as early as next week.
But nothing would have happened if I had not taken a risk.
Turn your attention to your own life now. Is there a decision in your life you are afraid to make because of the risk involved? What is holding you back? If the reward outweighs the risk I want to encourage you: Be bold!
I have to admit that this series is not turning into the successful experiment I initially hoped for. Ironically, admitting that fact confronts my fear of failure, as well as my fear that people will quit reading this blog because I had a ‘bad idea’. It turns out that I don’t have the opportunity to confront a fear every day…what a blessing! Rather than a series I believe this should be an ‘occasional topic’; you can bet that I will write about overcoming fears in the future as the opportunities arise.
As an end this series I want to discuss my fears about writing this blog, and the realization of some those fears. When I began this blog my intention was to provide myself with a creative outlet. In just a few short days, however, God ‘hijacked’ my blog and began using my posts as a form of ministry to those dealing with pornography addiction. I knew that I would have to disclose my own history if I was to have any credibility with readers on the subject, and that scared me. I also knew that it would be selfish of me to allow my fears of judgment and rejection to stop me from trying to help others.
As you might imagine, some of my fears have come to pass. My social calendar is much more open than it used to be, and it’s been weeks since I’ve heard from some of my best friends. Of course that might just be a coincidence. And while some of the men at my church are acting notably different around me (or outright avoiding me), other men and women are very supportive and go out of their way to encourage me.
In closing I want to leave you with a final thought: You must challenge your fears to overcome them, but when you do you will pay a price. That price might only be your ignorance, as you learn something new about yourself. Or it might be something more meaningful to you. Be ready.
I have no new fear to write about today…and I asked God all day for a challenge! So instead I’ll quickly post a follow-up on my Day 3 post. I spoke with my former peer and current boss about becoming a better analyst; in was a humbling experience to be sure. There was also a part of me that rebelled at the idea of embracing a career I’m not crazy about. But there’s not much else I can get paid to do, and maybe being an analyst wouldn’t be so bad if I was really good at it…
My boss was very receptive to my suggestion, and said it’s important to him that I feel like I’m growing because that will improve my long-term success and happiness. In fact, he started the learning process today, walking me through an e-mail I’d sent and explaining the various levels of thought and management I needed to address in the message. I’d already guessed at the things he talked about, but it was good to hear him explain in concrete terms what I needed to do; it should make future job performance better.
Wish me luck in finding a fear to confront tomorrow!
In November of 2001 I entered the Air Force’s Officer Training School (OTS). I spent the previous fifteen months working as an Administrative Assistant at The Seattle Times newspaper, but became frustrated with the lack of career prospects at that company. Rather than seek a more traditional position at another company I applied for OTS and was accepted. On the first day of OTS we were told to fill out a career field request form. I kid you not: We were all confused, tired, sitting on the first two-thirds of our auditorium seats (we weren’t allowed to lean back in our seats during the first week of training), and they passed us a piece of paper with three lines on it; we were supposed to put our first three career field choices on those lines.
“No guarantees,” they said, “But we’ll do our best to match your preferences with the existing Air Force needs.”
“Well,” I said to myself, “Let me see…I have a business administration degree…so I guess I’m supposed to do something related to that…I’ll put down: 1. Financial Management; 2. Cost Analysis; 3. Program Management.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I got into the Financial Analysis career field.
I imagine that when the Air Force Personnel Center received my form someone rang a bell and yelled out, “Yeah! I just got a volunteer for Finance!” Seriously, who joins the military to work in Finance?
Fast-forward ten years: I am currently employed as a Finance Analyst, a field I’ve worked in for over seven years. Despite the fact that many of my peers have been promoted to Senior Analyst positions, I remain just an Analyst. I blame this partly on my pornography addiction which stole time and energy away from my career. I also blame my lack of success on my Myers-Briggs personality type (ENFJ). If you click here you’ll note that nowhere in my recommended career fields does anything related to Finance or Accounting appear.
However, as valid as those reasons might be I must also admit that regardless of my past, and regardless of the career field I should be in based on my personality type, for now I am a Finance Analyst. So to fulfill today’s fear challenge I asked my supervisor to come up with a list of things I can do to become a better Analyst.
Ok, so it’s not like I’m going bungee jumping, but this move does confront two of my fears at once. First, I have to admit to another man (who is not a relative or close friend) that I’m not as good at my job as I should be or want to be. I don’t know if women will see this the same way, but I suspect a lot of men know what I’m getting at here. It is tough for me to admit to another man my age that I need his help to get better at what I do.
The second fear this move confronted is my fear of commitment…to the Finance career field. I’ve probably been a mediocre Analyst throughout my career because of my various excuses and ‘loser’s limps’, but I’ve been able to excuse my performance in my own mind with those same excuses. To genuinely desire to improve at a job I tell myself (and anyone else who’ll listen) isn’t for me is a big step. I will be actively growing in a career I’m not ‘supposed’ to want to be in. But maybe, just maybe, I will come to find that I can enjoy Finance if I get over my fear of being an Analyst, and start trying to be the best Analyst I can be.
It’s time to put my money where my mouth is. After playing fantasy football for years (and winning a few championships along the way) it’s time to step up my game and take a shot at true FFB glory.
I’ve been saying for years that my analytical and technical skills as a finance analyst would help me win competitive tournaments if only I had access to the necessary raw data. But to be honest I’ve hidden behind the cost of acquiring that data so I wouldn’t have to risk making good on my threats. “If I enter a tournament and lose,” I rationalized, “it will prove that I’m not as good as I like to believe.” Never mind the fun I would have just competing, or the fact that I might be just as good as I think I am and actually win! No, my fear of losing has held me back.
Today, as the first challenge of my 30-day Overcoming Fear series, I have decided to compete nationally in a fantasy football tournament this fall. My father and brother will be fronting the cash required for the data acquisition and tournament entry fees; I will supply the technical know-how and fantasy expertise. Yes, I am nervous that I might lose…but I’m also very excited at the chance to compete and see just how far I can go!
“A fear is keeping them from doing something, and it really isn’t true. If they could only see the truth, the fear, they could do whatever they wanted to.” – Joe McQ, The Steps We Took
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
I have been a fearful person for most of my life. My fears are the greatest obstacles to the achievement of my life goals and the growth of my faith.
It’s time for things to change.
Each day for the next 30 days I am going to confront one of my fears and write about the results. Some ground rules for this exercise in growth:
- I will start each day in prayer, asking God to reveal the fear He wants me to work on
- No activities with a high likelihood of resulting in serious injury or death (skydiving, maybe; picking a fight with a suspected gang member, no)
- Nothing that will compromise my faith
- Nothing that will jeopardize my family in any way (See #2)
- Nothing that will put a considerable financial burden on my family (Again, see #2)
To my fellow bloggers: I encourage you to take up this challenge for a day or two and write about the results. If you are willing, I’d love to share your stories here.
Wish me luck! I hope you enjoy the series.
A funny thing happened on my bus ride home after work today. One of the emergency exits in the roof of the bus had a faulty hinge and the small, square exit door was flapping up and down in the wind. Every few moments the door would come down particularly hard with a loud *bang* and startle the other passengers.
I sat in my seat a few rows away and watched the other people watch the door pop up and down. Every few moments I’d catch someone giving the nuisance a furtive glance, then go back to their iPads and Kindles. It was obvious from the expressions on the faces of the other riders that the door was annoying them…but no-one was doing anything about it.
I began wondering why we were all sitting there, pretending the door wasn’t broken, pretending we weren’t annoyed that our after-work wind-down was being interrupted so rudely. When I thought of standing up and trying to close the door, I felt foolish and frightened. I realized that I didn’t want to be the guy to stand up and do something because that is such a risky position to be in. What if I can’t close the door? Everyone watching me will think I’m silly for even trying. What if I break it or make the situation worse somehow? Then people might get upset with me, maybe even the bus driver.
Then I realized this was a good metaphor for leadership. There was a problem that needed fixing, but no-one wanted to step up and assume responsibility because it was risky. Often great leaders are praised for their ‘vision’, but just seeing a problem isn’t enough to be a leader. You’ve also got to have the chutzpah to get off your butt and take some risks; if you won’t there’s a good chance no-one else will, either.
To bring my story to a close, I decided that I wanted to be ‘that guy’ after all: the guy willing to look foolish for the chance to stretch himself, and take a risk. I spent several minutes trying to secure the door, but to no avail; the hinge had snapped and there was no fixing it. On my way back to my seat one gentleman remarked, “Hey, at least you tried.”
Yes, I did.
Last night I had the honor and privilege of speaking to 35 or so students of the youth ministry at Faith Assembly in Lacey. The subject? Lust and pornography. I was expecting lots of nervous laughter and not a few rude comments. After getting them to quiet down to a dull roar so that I could begin, it only took about 15 seconds to get them dead silent.