How To Do More With Less

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Fewer Resources In A Difficult Economy

Money is tight.

I seriously doubt that statement is too much of a shock to any of my readers.

In the early to mid 2000s, money flowed fast and cheap. People took advantage of the financial system, and then ended up in a world of hurt when the economy slowed way down.

For the last six years, we have lived in challenging economic times. Some people have struggled more than others. Some have been able to successfully make the transition over to surviving and even thriving on less, financially.

Somehow, these people have been able to take a little money and stretch it further than what is even considered possible.

Jesus Transforms The Little Into Much

In the Book of John, Chapter 6, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.

This accounting was for 5,000 men and didn’t count all the women and children. So, the “real” people count may have been more like 15,000-20,000.

Jesus had taught all day on a mountainside near the Sea of Galilee, and this crowd of people listening to Him was getting hungry.

Jesus went to the disciples and asked them to find food for these 5,000 men, plus the women and children present as well.

One of the disciples, Phillip, told Him, “Lord, there’s no way we can afford to feed all these people. It would cost nearly half a year’s wages.” In today’s numbers, this could equal around $20,000.

Another disciple, Andrew, found a boy with a Jewish Happy Meal – five loaves of bread and two small fish. This boy had a $7 lunch. Andrew thought this amount of food was simply a waste of time. He had a scarcity mindset.

But Jesus didn’t think this way.

He had the people sit down. He took this small amount of food, he gave thanks for it, and he blessed it. Then the disciples distributed these five loaves and two small fish to the people.

In John 6:12-13, we read these words:

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

In this amazing miracle by Jesus, we see Him taking a small amount of food, blessing it, and multiplying it to the point that all the people’s physical hunger was satisfied, PLUS they had more than enough leftover.

Abundance Thinking

Jesus had an abundance mindset.

This makes total sense, though. He is God the Son. He owns it all! All resources are at his disposal at any time and any place.

When the disciples brought him the five loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people, He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration and give up.

Instead, He prayed.

He thanked God for the resources that were before Him. He prayed a blessing on the loaves and fishes, and then what happened?

God multiplied the resources and then there was more than enough to feed the people. In fact, there were HUGE amounts of leftovers after the people ate until they were full.

You can do more with less. When God is in something, little can be much.

Questions: Do you, like the disciples, struggle with scarcity thinking, or do you have an abundance mindset? Do you look to God as your ultimate provider of resources? When you come to the time of offering in your church, do you think that you don’t have enough financially to make any kind of impact in the Kingdom of God? Do you think that your giving would be a waste of time and resources?

Key Thought: Whether you have a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter. Be like this boy who obeyed Jesus, gave away his small lunch to the Master, and the Lord blessed these few resources in an amazing way!

3 Career Course Corrections To Propel You Farther, Faster In The Information Age

Photo by Don Urban

Photo by Don Urban

Turning Back The Clock

If you had a time machine, what would you do with it?

Would you go back to see historical events in real-time? Would you go back to see what your parents or grandparents were like as children? Would you rush ahead to the future to see what life is like in 25 years?

For some unknown reason, I was contemplating this question the other day. I believe I know exactly what I would do with a time machine.

I would attempt to go back to when I was 18 years old and explain to my younger self what the world is like in the future. I would also give myself a better, faster, more elegant path to achieve career success.

I would be my own best mentor. I would give myself the following advice.

The information age is dominated by people who have a specific skill set and connections. To me, these are the folks who seem to be the most successful in their careers. They dare to do the things that other people dislike to do.

I’m talking about people such as Michael Hyatt, Tim Ferriss, Pat Flynn, Dave Ramsey, and the late Steve Jobs.

And, what do all these people have in common? They are creative. They are excellent communicators. They are skilled at writing blog posts and influential books. They are podcasters (or traditional radio personalities). They produce popular YouTube videos. They are dynamic public speakers. They have developed important mentor and industry relationships that have propelled them farther, faster.

These leaders have embraced the key aspects of being successful in the information age and have been highly rewarded for it.

A Change In College Focus

Now that I’m in mid-life looking back at my college experience and present calling, if I could back up and do it all over again, I believe I would take a different path that would have perhaps gotten me where I now want to go, faster.

You see, when I originally attended college in the late 80s and early to mid-90s, I went a very specialized route – music performance and education.

With this specialized knowledge and experience, I believe I have been relatively successful and enjoy what I have the opportunity to do each week. I’m grateful for God’s blessing in my life in this area. I know other musicians and creative-types who have gone the music school route and have struggled to make a living at what they do.

Observing our current culture and the direction it’s heading, though, I would make the following course corrections if I could go back in time. If I were to mentor a younger person now, these are the areas I would encourage them to pursue for (potentially) greater and faster career success.

3 Course Corrections For Future Career Growth

  1. Personal Relationships: This is a key area of life I wish I was better in. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would definitely be way more proactive in seeking out mentoring relationships with people who are successful in these critical career areas.
  2. Writing Skills: I would spend more time studying the skill of writing and spend more of my available free time developing this critical skill. I would start a personal blog as early as possible. I would attempt writing books at an earlier age as well.
  3. Presentation Skills: I would have joined a Toastmasters Club at an earlier age, maybe take acting classes, worked on video presentations, and read more books on the craft of public speaking.

Why These Areas?

So, why would I even want to go back and tackle these specific areas?

Partly due to the fact that these are the areas people claim they hate and are frightened to pursue.

I always hear statements from various people like, “well, Larry, I’m not really a writer and don’t enjoy it at all.” I also hear statements such as “I always get so nervous standing before a group and giving presentations. I hate public speaking.”

All I can say from personal experience is that I have had similar thoughts to these as well. But, I have found that the more I attempt to do these uncomfortable skills, the more I seek out information and training on how to do a better job, the better and the more comfortable I get.

Isn’t it amazing how that works?

The big picture, though, is once you are able to get comfortable in these areas, the more of a connection you are able to make with people, and the greater the contribution you are able to have in people’s lives. This should be the ultimate payoff for us, anyway – connection and contribution.

Questions: What do you think of these three specific areas for greater, faster career success? Agree or disagree? Have you found yourself backing up and working on these areas to move forward in your career like I have?

Give Like An Angel Investor, Not A Venture Capitalist

Photo by Kim Seng

Photo by Kim Seng

Shark Tank Reminded Me

Have you ever seen the TV show “Shark Tank?”

If you aren’t familiar with the show, here’s an excellent description from Wikipedia:

The show features a panel of potential investors, called “sharks”, who consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product. The entrepreneur can make a deal on the show if a panel member is interested. However, if all of the panel members opt out, the entrepreneur leaves empty handed. The show is said to portray “the drama of pitch meetings and the interaction between the entrepreneurs and tycoons.” A one hour pitch by a contestant is edited down to “a dramatic 10 minute segment”. The show is said to personalize “the desperation and pain experienced by victims of a broken down economy.”

I was watching the show several weeks ago, and I was reminded of the various types of investors. In the world of small business start-up investing, there are essentially two types: venture capitalists and angel investors.

Let’s look a little more closely at these two types of investors.

Venture Capitalists And Angel Investors

There are a couple of key differences between these two types of investors.

Venture capitalists are mostly concerned with making money. They typically invest a lot of money and they are hoping for a substantial return on their investment. For the venture capitalist, it’s all about the money – give a lot and make a lot!

Angel investors, however, handle their investing a little differently.

Yes, just like venture capitalists, they invest a lot of money and are interested in a return on that investment. But, their primary interests are in the people who started the company as well as the success of the business in which they’re investing.

They really like the person who started the business and want this person to be successful. They also really like the business model that this entrepreneur has created and want the business itself to be successful.

You see, for an angel investor, it’s not all about the money. The financial return on investment process is almost like a bonus to them.

Giving Like An Angel Investor

In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus told His followers,

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

As believers, I think it’s way too easy to fall into a “give to get” mentality, much like the venture capitalist. Yes, many times God does richly bless those who give faithfully and abundantly, but this shouldn’t be our primary concern.

I believe our motive to give should be like that of an angel investor.

First, we have a unique relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the “people” part of angel investing.

Second, as children of God, we should have a deep personal interest and desire for the Kingdom of God to be successful. This is the “business” part of angel investing.

One way we can demonstrate this love for God and desire for Kingdom success is by giving back to our local church a portion of what He has given to us to manage.

And, the bonus for us as believers is that God promises to take care of our needs when we put Him and His Kingdom as our number one priority.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: Have you ever thought about giving in terms of small business investing? How have you given in the past, like a venture capitalists or angel investor? Do you give because you are looking for a financial blessing, or because you love God and want His Kingdom to succeed?