Friday, March 30, 2012

The Power of Focus

Ever had one of those “Balaam’s Ass” moments? You know, where God speaks to you through some of the most unlikely and unexpected ways?

I definitely had one of those moments when I started reading The Power of Focus. The glistening irony is that the book was a gift from the managers of the Real Estate Brokerage that I was just about to quit working for.

Yes, I said “Real Estate Brokerage.” As in, I was working as a REALTOR®. Except that I was about to quit.

Perhaps I should start from the beginning.

Shortly after returning from Mexico last year, I enrolled in the Real Estate Licensing course through the University of British Columbia. The idea was to start a new career that would actually put money IN the bank for us, so that we could address a short-fall in our monthly missionary support that was slowly but surely eroding our house equity.

It was a risk, a gamble for our future, to re-invent myself as a REALTOR®. (It also required a new wardrobe.) We understood that, right from the beginning. And we knew that the current market conditions were, to quote Les Nessman of WKRP, “sucking canal water.” We knew that I needed to be focused.

And so, after nine years of blogging, I decided to create an exit strategy, and wrote two months’ worth of posts to bring to the kind of conclusion that I could be satisfied with.
Nothing would interfere with the demands of my new career.
Not even blogging.
All of the background reading and research that I had been doing for writing on The Kingdom of God (a sort of follow-up to Post-Charismatic?) was consigned to several thick binders and shelved in a remote storage closet.
Nothing would interfere with the demands of my new career.
Not even writing.
My guitars languished in their cases, lonely and abandoned, as the tubes in my amplifiers clouded over in the dust of neglect.
Nothing would interfere with the demands of my new career.
Not even music.
I was focused. I had ruthlessly cut out all the most likely distractions to my new career. Everyone “in the business” knew how tough things were. Weekly sales meetings reinforced the seriousness of the current economic situation in Canada. That’s why our managers gave each of us, at the beginning of 2012, a copy of The Power of Focus.

Ironically, this book functioned as a sort of “Balaams Ass” that would lead to my decision to quit being a REALTOR®.

To be sure, there were outside factors involved:
  1. My (glaring) lack of experience in sales
  2. In our city, I am virtually unknown, which means no connections
  3. The kicker: we simply ran out of money to invest in my being in the business, and therefore
  4. Instead of reducing our debt, I had only managed to dig the hole deeper (oops)
But as I read the first few chapters of this book, I was faced with this question: “What are you naturally brilliant at?” And by “brilliant,” the authors simply meant:
  1. What are you naturally good at, where even with just a minimum of effort, people take notice of your gifts, and
  2. If you invest the additional effort to hone these natural abilities, you can fairly easily become quite proficient—even professional —in these areas
And, in language reminiscent of Strength Finders 2.0, the authors strongly recommend being focused on your areas of giftedness and natural ability, versus the common strategy of working your patookus off, trying to improve your areas of weakness. (Resulting in that you suck a little less in those areas of weakness, while your strengths go undeveloped.)

Forthwith, this sorely vexed me, and lo, I was indeed greatly wroth.

I had just put away all the things that I was most passionate about, and naturally gifted at. This was perplexing and frustrating, because so far in my life, neither had been very rewarding vocationally (meaning: getting out of debt or at least making ends meet). It felt like I was cursed by being gifted at hobbies, not real work skills. (Except that my new career seemed to be even more of a sucking financial vortex than my “hobbies”.)

Then, of course, there were all those biscuits that God seemed to be tossing my way.

So, in what is either an act of faith in God’s provision and being true to myself, or the most outstandingly stupid decision I have made in a journey of nomadic proportions that would make Abraham the Patriarch’s blood run cold, I quit being a REALTOR®.

I am focused. On developing the gifts that God gave me. On using my gifts and abilities for the Kingdom. On seeking to excel at the things that I am actually gifted at.

Wendy says the real test will come when somebody asks me what I do for a living, and I can look them in the eye, and say with all seriousness and self-confidence:

“I... am a writer.”