Aroma

Posts about the mission, vision, values, future of our Aroma Project in Taipei Taiwan

One way to teach people how to think for themselves

We had just finished a branding meeting (a 6 minute rant fresh after the meeting) a few hours later someone was already asking me a question about the business. It occurred to me in that moment that the brand values we had so carefully pounded out in our discussions should have bearing on even these kinds of decisions.

In fact, defining brand, or organizational, values actually helps you begin to carve out a definition of and a direction towards certain destinations. Brand values should have a certain weight the way you’ll handle every situation you encounter, both internally and externally.

If your brand includes, for example, the concept of generosity, then you shouldn’t hesitate to give your employees free food, bonuses, extra days off, etc. If you want your brand to be generous, then you need to be generous.

Each interaction with employees, customers, vendors, other partners, etc., then, becomes a chance for you to ask questions that lead to people processing they’re own decisions. It’s one way of teaching people how to think for themselves.

This situation reminded me of a timeless quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery my friend had posted in a timely fashion: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long fo the endless immensity of the sea.”

If you want to cultivate independent, thoughtful, employees that execute on the vision, mission and strategy of your organization, then live by a set of values and invite them to hold them out as well.

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How To Start

This is for my friend, Lori. Virtually every week, Lori sends me a long-form written testimony about something cool that God has done in her life. I’m always blessed when I see a notification from Lori, because I know when I open it, I’m going to hear about something awesome that God has done recently. A few different times, I’ve told her to start a blog. Recently, she wrote back and said, “It’s time to get thinking about the blog. Let me know your tips/thoughts.” Here’s my advice for my friend, Lori, and anyone else who thinks “it’s time to start.”

Before first, just do. My first reaction to your text when I read it was that you’re going to get thinking about the blog. But you’ve already got 10 posts from all the stuff you’ve sent over to me. You could literally copy-paste those into blog entries on a wordpress website and already have a better blog than I do. Another trick is to “document, not create.” This is something Gary Vaynerchuk is teaching me. I talk like we’re best friends, but really, I just listen to his podcast and videos and have read five or so of his blogs. Documenting is the idea that you just record all the stuff you’re up to. For example, if you want to pursue music, then start your blog talking about that. Now, every time you learn something new, just make a blog entry about it. Every time you jam with a particular person, or stumble onto a new theory, or have coffee with someone who is going to give you the hookup, you have a new blog entry.

Okay, now first. First, figure out what you’re about. I call this the manifesto. I’ve written one here. Gary Vaynerchuk asks, “What do you want to be known for?” Lori, for you it might be “the testimony girl.” There’s probably something better than that, haha! Just write whatever you’re passionate about. It’ll flow!

Second, figure out how you’re going to do it. There are so many available platforms, it feels overwhelming. Lori, you write well, so just keep writing. Others may enjoy getting into video, like YouTube, or audio, like Anchor. Once you know the medium, think of how often. Consider this format for turning one piece of great content into 30-50 great pieces if you’re serious about making this thing explode.

Third, figure out the logistics. You can deep dive into everything from email lists, to when to post, to how to get advertising deals to start monetizing. One of my favorite sites for deep dives is buffer. But really, whatever question you have, just google it :-).

All of this, and more, is contained a personal favorite blog of mine written by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Lori, you got this. The world needs to hear your message!

Bound or Center

If you’re reading this, you might see that I don’t update this blog that much. I do think a lot. I’m finding that I post more on social media like, @odellcs on IG. One thing I can assure you, though, is that I have a lot of thoughts. One thought recently has had to do with a concept I’ve heard pop up a few times that may be useful to you as you go through life.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to try to keep things simple and clean. I love when I can just wipe up a mess and get it out of the way. I like doing the dishes after every meal. And I don’t like when situations feel unresolved. I like achieving things. I like accomplishing things. I like listed that are checked off and clean cut and get things out of the way. The problem is most of my life is not that way. I have messy kids. I have messy friendships. I have messy business. And everybody knows, I’m at a messy church. When those messes come up, I can feel like I want to just get rid of the mess altogether. And I know that it’s good to keep the rest of the situation as free of the mess as possible. But we can’t to that. Inevitably, Noah’s spilled milk shows up on my shoes. I can desire to keep things sectioned off, but so much of life doesn’t work that way.

In fact, God seems ok being in the middle of mess. He came to the garden in search of Adam and Eve after they messed up. Jesus came to find us after we’d left him. God still reaches out to us. He draws near to us. He invites us to draw near to Him. It seems that in most situations I have a choice to move closer to Him or to drift further from Him. But we all believe that we have this choice to move closer to or further from and in that choice we choose a direction.

With this element of direction, we’re left wondering how far is too far? Or in a more positive phrasing, how close can we actually get and when have we arrived? If God’s at the center, how far am I now? How close can I get? But then, my desire for clean boundaries and situations makes me think, “I wonder if and when God’s going to have a wall up.” Does God put up a wall? If so, what does that separation look like?

I was reminded of this thought process and pointed towards a concept: bounded set and centered set. In bounded sets, we seek to create structure and walls that clearly define what’s in and what’s out. Bounded sets have their uses. You know what’s accepted and what’s not. Centered sets focus on what’s at the core. They allow the coming and going of everything as it revolves around the center. They, too, have their benefits.

An article I recently read had this to say:

So what is Bounded Set vs. Centered Thinking? Frost and Hirsch use an analogy of fences and wells. If you are a farmer with a 3 acre ranch so to speak, you can build a fence to keep your cattle in and other animals out. This would be a Bounded Set. But if you are a rancher say with a huge amount of land and acreage you wouldn’t be able to build fences around your whole property. So instead of building fences, you dig wells. So it is then assumed that animals won’t go too far away from the well, because their life literally depends on them not wandering too far away from their water source. (veritas)

It’s been helpful to me to consider the possibility of living life through a centered-set lens. For me, this is a way to love and accept those around me without sacrificing what I believe to be true. I stay as close to the center as I can. I can unconditionally love without condoning the mess. In fact, I can be in the middle of the mess just like Jesus was, and indeed, is. I hope to continue to move towards the center, to release more and more of my

Centered set is a way forward being able to be full of grace and truth (John 1:14). I want to make sure I’m orienting myself with truth and life, but also not cutting myself off from the very people I want to point towards Jesus. In the ocean of life, find me swimming towards the center and inviting others along for the ride!

Your turn: bounded or centered? Why?

You might find another useful resource here.

4 R’s of Sabbath

Always tired tattoo on post Malone

Has anyone recently told you that you look tired? Maybe you feel tired. Or you’ve even used the word “burned out” recently. Perhaps, you need to take a break. Good news is God’s got you covered. He built it right into creation (Exodus 20:8-11). You may have heard the word “sabbath” before. What is it? What does it mean? What’s in it for me? Why should I care? These are all good questions. I am going to address them in this article. To tackle the main points of sabbath, I have the four R’s. I’ll list out the four and then give you some points to ponder for each.

  • Rest from Work
  • Refocus on God
  • Reconnect with God’s People
  • Refuel for Next Week

Rest from Work

  • God says take a “rest from your work” (Exodus 20:8-11). God rested from His work on the 7th day, and so we take one day per week to rest from ours.
  • Take a break. It’s a gift from God. Be careful not to turn this aspect legalistic. Some people think the only purpose of sabbath is to do nothing. Jesus shows us sabbath is more about connection with God and less about “doing nothing” (Mark 2:27-28).
  • Resting from work reminds me I’m not the savior of the world. God’s in charge. He’s going to take care of it.

Refocus on God

  • God says “honor the sabbath” and “keep it special” (Exodus 20:8-11).
  • Sabbath isn’t just for rest. It’s for connection with God.
  • People connect with God in many different ways. Perhaps, for you, it’s deep study, or a mountain-top hike, or a God-filled conversation with a friend.

Reconnect with God’s People

  • God says “keep it special” (Exodus 20:8-11).
  • Sabbath isn’t just for rest and your 1 on 1 relationship with God. It’s designed to be a day where you connect with God’s people.
  • That’s why we typically meet on a day that can be considered sabbath for many. Be intentional about time for God’s people on your sabbath.

Refuel for Next Week

  • God says “find mercy and grace” in your time of need” (Hebrews 4:11-16). One of the graces God has given us is sabbath. It’s time to help us refuel and prepare for what’s ahead the next week.
  • Sabbath isn’t just for rest, connecting with God, and people. God created you to refuel on this day.
  • It’s typically a great idea to build something that gives you life into your day. For me, it’s often a form of exercise or music. These things refuel me. They excite me and help my body, mind, and soul to be restored.

God designed us to rest from work. I’m convinced that if we followed this clear commandment from God, we would have all the energy necessary to do more than we’re doing now and all while feeling less tired than we do these days. There’s still a sabbath rest for you to have (Hebrews 4:9). Enjoy it this week!

Additional resources: Garden City, Sabbath as Resistance.

(Photo Credit: melmagazine)

Can you teach me to be an optimist?

Recently, someone texted me, “Can you teach me how to be optimistic?”

BACKGROUND RESEARCH

Of course, if you search this on google, you’ll come up with some great ideas, like this blog:

– Avoid getting hung up on one thing

– Remember that there’s always a silver lining.

– Get over the past.

– Be thankful.

– Use positive affirmations

– Surround yourself with positive people

– Watch your language

– Remember that even a positive life has ups and downs.

Out of interest, I’ve also started reading a book called “Attitude is Everything,” which has challenged me to think about how a posture or disposition of pessimism or optimism could actually be learned based on how we think and our attitudes can be reprogrammed. The book has these chapter titles and quick thoughts

  • Success begins in the mind (think)

    • Your attitude is your window to the world

    • You’re a magnet

    • Picture your way to success

    • Make a commitment

    • Turn problems into opportunities

  • Watch your words (speak)

    • Your words blaze a trail

    • How are you?

    • Stop complaining

  • Heaven helps those who Act (act)

    • Associate with positive people

    • Confront your fears and grow

    • Get out of there and fail

    • Networking that gets results

Essentially, your life is like this set of dominoes:

Thoughts > Words > Beliefs > Actions > Results

I’m particularly fascinated by how this book describes “mental movies” and the important role they play in your eventual success or failure. I think there’s something powerful about the ability God has given us to envision something.

We should keep in mind that depression and negativity can be physical (needing medication), can be mental/emotional (needing therapy or counseling), can be spiritual (needing deliverance from demonic oppression) and can be mixtures of all three. I’m aware that people aren’t necessarily born with a disposition that makes it easy. I’m also aware that our upbringing, certain traumatic events that happened, education, etc. can all play a factor in how we look at the world.

But I had the sense that I wouldn’t satisfy my friends’ request without digging a little deeper.

CONTEXTUAL CONVERSATION

I happened to be staying with a pastor friend, Ed, and asked him the same question. He immediately shot back: “You can’t teach optimism, but you can teach faith.” His thoughts revolved around perspective and trust. He argued that “optimism” might be a genetic or some sort of a personality predisposition, but that faith is something grown in us based on trust. For him, the big idea was trust.

When Enoch was little and we were training him to sleep in his own bed and room, he screamed a lot when he was alone. He didn’t know what do do. He felt lost, scared, alone. When daddy came in the room and held him, everything worked out. I still remember putting him in the baby carrier. Sometimes, I couldnt’ get him to sleep any other way. But once he was asleep, I could walk, talk, even bump into things, and he stayed quiet. He was safe. He could trust. It’s like anytime you hold the hand of a child as they jump off a high ledge. It’s no problem if they’ve got your hand. But on their own, it’s deemed impossible. Trust is knowing the one whose hand you’re holding. Trust is understanding that He’s walking with you in it.

BIBLICAL PRECEDENT

I would like to expand this idea one step further: Biblical Hope. Biblical hope doesn’t avoid the facts of whatever difficult situation we’re facing. But it is aware of the future. Like Kris Valloton says, “He works all things for the good (Romans 8:28), so if it’s not good, then it’s not the end.” From the very beginning of time when the first sin was committed, Father God showed he was in the restoration business (Genesis 3:15, Galatians ). He’s in the business of creating new life, cheering that life on, and correcting that life until it walks in the fullness of the abundant life He created for it (John 14:1-31). He gives us hope as an anchor (Hebrews 6:19).

So, where does that leave us?

FORWARD MOTION

Ultimately, I submit that being optimistic is about holding onto the anchor of biblical hope, developing trust, and partnering with God to reprogram your body, mind and soul to be in tune with His Word. Faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), so I’ve got good news for you: you can be a “biblical optimist” who knows that all God’s up to something good!

Macro Patience, Micro Speed

Embed from Getty Images

Recently, I’ve been into a character on the internet named Gary Vaynerchuk. I don’t necessarily recommend you google him, because some of the things he talks about or words he chooses to use. But there are two things I’ve been gleaning I wanted to share.

First, Gary Vee sees the big picture of patience. He frequently tells new entrepreneurs to “eat ‘stuff’ for 10 years,” meaning it’s going to take a long time before you’re actually going to make anything happen. You have to understand that the game is one of patience; one of willingness to hold on and not give up.

Second, Gary Vee is all about the hustle. He talks about how much he loves work. He says he loves the process. He loves the game. He has an end goal in mind (buying the New York Jets), but he says the process of getting to that point is more intriguing and even if he does buy them someday, he’ll never stop. He defines an entrepreneur as someone who“dies if they don’t create new businesses” (a paraphrase). He works 15+ hours a day.

He says you need “macro patience, micro speed.”

But what does this mean for me as a follower of Jesus. On the one hand, you could just slip into a performance mentality that says you’ll do it all on your own. You might actually get somewhere, but Jesus says, it’ll essentially be worthless (John 15). This, leads to burnout. We run hard, but without Him. We don’t know how to rest in His goodness. We think sabbath is watching tv, hiding away medicating our hurt hearts with overeating, or video games, or exercise, or whatever it is we think will make us feel better. All of that stuff can be good, but it doesn’t actually keep us connected to Jesus. It doesn’t actually allow us to experience His love in a transformative, restorative way. Here’s a paragraph I wrote to someone recently (and edited for content) that I believe sums it up well:

I’m glad to hear how you’ve been been able to process and learn and grow from the last year. How do you think you can maintain those healthy perspectives while you’re in Taiwan? There are certainly new challenges in our society today that past people didn’t have to deal with, but they also didn’t have our luxury of escaping almost seasonally. One quote that’s rocked me recently: “burnout happens when our attempt to output for God eclipses our input from God.” Thus, I would say that for me one way to keep the perspective of peace internally regardless of what happens externally is to “get more input from God than I’m giving output.” This may be a capacity thing, but I heard a similar quote concept that Jeremy Riddle (worship leader at Bethel) shared by a friend: Riddle always spends more time in private worship than he does in public worship leading by a factor of two (I might not be remembering exactly the amount he shoots for). That means, on a busy week if he’s got 10 hours of worship leading publicly, he spends 20 hours in private worship! I wonder what would happen if I spent 2x time in prayer, worship, study of God’s Word than I do in my times of work. It does mean I’d sleep less, have less time for TV and socializing. But it also means I’d be getting a lot more input :-).

So, I think I’m gleaning this from Gary: we have so much on the line that we need to hustle, with micro speed. But we also have so much on the line that we need to (actually ) rest with macro patience.

An odd day… but does it have to be that way?

I hate when I don’t wake up before the rest of the family. There’s something in me that just loves getting up early. I like the quiet. I like the time to be in the Bible. I like sipping a coffee. I like thinking about my day. I feel like I often hear from God during those times.

But, the other day we were at our family reunion, and I just couldn’t make myself get up early enough to beat the boys. It was tough. And then I found myself battling with thoughts. Frustrations. Judgments. Little things felt bigger than they were. Emotions were running high.

As I discussed this with Jamie, I came to a realization: This was absolutely not the issue of anyone around me. This was an issue that I had. It’s what happens when we don’t take everything captive. It’s the result of fractures in our understanding of our identity, which is largely based on on our understanding of God. If we understand who He really is, then we begin to see who we really are. We can live from a place of peace and rest, not fighting and striving. And even when the day seems to get the best of us, that’s absolutely ok, because it’s not based on us; it’s based on Him.

The two biggest lies I believe and struggle with are:

– I need to prove myself; I have to figure it out, because I don’t have what it takes. This results in a performance mentality.

– People don’t like me; I have to make people like me, because I start from a place of rejection. This is a people pleasing mentality.

Which means, there’s a war inside my head; there’s a fight that’s going to go down. It’s my job and responsibility to take these thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). In fact, we have some clues for how we can handle and win this fight.

> 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

We read here that there’s an enemy with an agenda. But God’s plan is that we would have “divine power” to destroy the strongholds. Through obedience to God’s Words, and the continued fight, we can be victorious. It starts out that we’re attacked by these thoughts every 3 minutes. But then, it’s 10 minutes. And then 30. Finally, we go a whole day. And then there’s a time in the process where we get breakthrough and this particular thought fight is not a struggle anymore.

We need macro patience to know God’s faithful in the end and completes every good thing He starts (Philippians 1:6) and micro speed (Thanks @garyvee) to respond to each opportunity God gives us to disrupt the enemy’s agenda with God’s awesome plan.

The battle is in your head. You can win it. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2). Today was an odd day. I felt like I did in that picture I took of myself during a 13k run. But the day didn’t end like that. And it doesn’t have to for you.