I read another amazing article on Art of Manliness this morning, and couldn’t help but chime in. This one looks at two competing treks to the South Pole taking place in 1910 - one ending in success, one ending in death - and learning from the contrasts between the two approaches.
There is one specific lesson I found particularly interesting. The team winning the competition was focused on one thing - reaching the South Pole first. The team that lost, had two goals. They were attempting to reach the South Pole first, but also scientifically study the Antarctic environment.
The authors of the article point out a very important lesson. If you want to be successful, focus on one goal.
I have ADD something awful. My natural state is to focus on everything at once. I wouldn’t trade who I am for the world. Because of my lack of natural focus, I’ve experienced a lot of different things even at a very young age that most of my peers couldn’t even dream of. I’ve learned a lot of different, cool stuff through my different educational experiences. But, my efforts have been spread out a mile wide and an inch thick.
See, since I’m naturally going in a thousand different directions, I know that it isn’t very efficient. I don’t get anything accomplished very quickly when I’m in that frantic state. When I notice I'm venturing down that path, I have to consciously collect myself, and redirect all my efforts in one direction. I repeat this process multiple times a day.
I know I’m not alone. In America, corporations have spread the idea that people should “multitask” at all times, people have taken the bait hook-line-and-sinker. To be honest, I think this idea is merely a desperate attempt to maximize profits. It’s clearly a break between theory and real-life examination of how people actually accomplish goals. If you spread out your efforts, you rarely get anywhere besides the desert of frustration.
I’m not the only one who’s saying this. In The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, Dave Ramsey creates an entire home economic approach around acute focus on “baby steps”. He says that while his approach may not maximize the amount of money your money can make for you at any given time, it will get you out of debt, and will make you more money and peace in the long run. It will get you somewhere positive, rather than causing you to spin your wheels. He understands there is a point where theoretical efficiency does not match up with how real-life people behave.
“The secret of life is pursuing one thing,” says John Ortberg (quoting the movie City Slickers). If we profess our love for Christ, we are to live with one focus in mind - intimacy with God. When we live lives of duplicity, we both run to him and away from him with successive steps. This eventually leads us to places of confusion. It leads us to deserts, where we find ourselves hopelessly lost (Source: John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, p. 175).
As the man of your house, it is up to you to determine the direction of your family. As I live on, I become more and more convinced of this truth. Though my wife does belong in the kitchen, I am not a male chauvinist. It just so happens she is a GREAT baker. She's also very competent and smart. She is a good leader, both socially and professionally. I look up to her and need her in many ways. Quite frankly, I’m a mess without her, as many men are without their better halves. But when it comes to setting the direction of our family, it is up to me. When I haven't made our family's spiritual growth a priority, we haven't grown, and vice versa.
So what is the focus going to be for your family? My hope is that we, like Joshua, can say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”(Joshua 24:15, NIV). For those who have multiple focuses are not focused at all.