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The Princeton Event – Day Two, Afternoon Session

June 13, 2009

I almost forgot to mention how awesomely spectacular my luncheon address was. Which, hopefully is the part that all of my loyal Blog readers are so dying to hear about. “The debut of Bradley J. Moore!” I imagine you thinking, “We have been waiting months for this, since last July when the Blog started!” (That, by the way, is equivalent to about 32 years in internet-Blog-time). So there we all were, the thirty or so participants, seated comfortably in a private dining room at the Princeton Theological Seminary. The room had a bit of that ivy-league country club feel: paneled walls, wooden floor, gilded portraits of the moneyed forefathers, etc., etc. After everyone had pretty much finished lunch, I stood up at the podium and began to speak. Finally, here was an audience who, by all appearances willingly sat before me with rapt attention! It was quite a dream come true for this humble Blogger.

I read a couple of my stories to the audience about my loopy journey along the spiritual-business continuum, and hopefully inspired the participants in some small way. No one threw food or dining utensils at me, which was the first indication that things were going pretty well. And then, as I got into it, I only noticed one or two people secretly tapping into their blackberries. Victory!

It was all said and done in about thirty minutes. The glory of the applause died down quickly, though, because we all had to get right back to work. You see, we had spent the morning session in small groups trying to work out what our Spiritual Accelerators and Antagonists were, along with our Spiritual Purpose for work. Big Questions, no doubt. Then we came back together as a group and shared what we each had come up with. What was interesting was that everyone’s answers were a little different. There was no pattern or theme that fit the entire group. Each individual had different ways of connecting their work to God’s purpose, and different triggers for what would unravel it. Mine, for instance, were answered thusly:

My Spiritual Accelerators: I look at my career and every day work life, and ask, what gets me excited? What am I good at? What can I do in my company better than anyone else? The things that give me energy and enthusiasm at work are my best spiritual accelerators. For me, it is the ability to bring clarity and order out of chaos, inertia or ambiguity. This is what I am good at. I constantly look for opportunities to help people in the organization through strategy, planning, or problem-solving sessions. This is how I feel God is using me, and when I am bringing value and usefulness to those around me.

Another Accelerator would be helping or coaching others in their jobs, and in navigating their careers. I like investing in people’s personal and professional development.

Both of these “Accelerators” involve me working at my best. It is here where I am having a positive, productive impact on people and on the organization.

My Spiritual Antagonists: I can be my own worst critic and enemy. There are all these little voices in my head just waiting to tell me that I screwed up, and I have to manage that. I don’t know where they come from, why they exist, or the psychology behind it, but I know that if I don’t fight it, I can get sucked into some pretty destructive self-talk. Thankfully, over the years I have gotten much better at handling that.

Also, fear of failure, or feeling out of control can be a Spiritual Antagonist for me. I can get very anxious and worried when I feel out of control with a project that is not going as I had planned. It is hard for me to let go and trust God.

My Higher Purpose: I believe my spiritual purpose for my job involves bringing a blessing to others in my company by giving them something of unique value based on my God-given personality, talents, and experience. This is how I think God works his kingdom for all of us: blessing others through our unique gifts and talents. For me, I have a desire to bring clarity and to create clear paths for a project or team to help move them forward to a higher and better future. This is one way in which I can bless people, and my organization.

As the group compared notes, and got ideas from each other, we then prepared for the big test: So, what are going to do about it? The last question we had to tackle involved the dreaded Action Plan: developing, and committing to, practices or tools to better enable us to stay aligned with our spiritual purpose, to fight the antagonists and remain open to the accelerators.

Okay, so how was this going to work?

Once again, the groups split off into their little corners of the Erdman Center, to create their strategies for sustaining a high-octane spiritual connection at work. By this time, I noticed that in our little group we had starting going quite deep in our discussion. Answering this question required us to open up a bit, to be transparent with our new friends, and to even ask for their help. You could see it later on, too, when the larger group gathered together late in the afternoon to share stories and strategies. It was obvious that most small groups had formed some new kind of spiritual bond. Many of the Action Plans involved tapping into the small group members themselves – they created some level of accountability, checking in with each other from time to time. People had all sorts of plans. Some said they would begin meditating or reading scriptures in the morning. Some committed to saying a prayer at work before every meeting. Others promised to go out for a walk during the day, join a small group, or just take better care of themselves.  

My action plan involved creating a deeper awareness of the Holy Spirit working through me at my job. I had confessed to my small group that I tend to focus too much on my performance as the means for God to bless the work that I do (“God, please help me to be successful, and I will then be able to bless a whole bunch of people, I promise!”). But that doesn’t always work, spiritually. I get uptight, anxious, spending too much time wondering if I am hitting those standards I set for myself. But as a result of the discussions with the new friends in the group, I have made a subtle but monumental shift in my perspective. Now, I see the work I do simply as a way to help other people, in their work. Pretty basic, I know. But something I needed to figure out: My work is not about me – my performance, my impression, my perception. It’s about the Holy Spirit working through me to manifest God’s purpose, in touching the lives of others. Really, I am just here to help people in their jobs, in their lives. I’m here to bless those around me. To reveal God’s purpose.

Performance vs. Purpose. That is truly an interesting juxtaposition. I come to work every day, plug in and get busy. I like performance. I like to set and hit targets, to prove what I can do. But now, I’m thinking: Is my work really just about my performance? What would happen if I based my work on God’s purpose, rather than my performance? What if I viewed what I do at work as a way to help the people around me, rather than helping myself? I think God would like that.

At the end of the day David Miller, the Director of Princeton’s Faith and Work Initiative came by to spend a little time talking with us about some of the concepts he has developed on faith in the workplace. You can pick up his book and read about it here. He really is one the most brilliant minds out there devoted to attacking this subject, and it was the perfect way to end the program. I wish he could have stayed longer.

The seminar was done. We all exchanged our business cards, said our goodbyes and headed home. My small group made plans to get together in early July, to check in with each other. Almost two weeks have since gone by, and still every day at work I am thinking about that question: Do I base my work on my performance or on God’s purpose? It’s causing me to think very differently about how I approach my work. Really, I think something is changing.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2009 9:18 pm

    i have faith that something is changing you from the inside out.

  2. June 15, 2009 10:41 am

    Bradley, as you know, basing your work on God’s purpose is hard. When things go well, it’s relatively easy. When things fall apart or blow up, it’s hard. You spend toomuch time soul-searching, wondering if you did something wrong (inevitably, we do, but that’s part of being human). I’ve had one of those times recently, and I had to tell myself that if it was all supposed to blow up, then I had to trust Him.

    That trust is day by day, and sometimes hour by hour.

    And more than that, I had to be thankful. I’m quick with the thanks when it’s good stuff that happens; thanking Him for the bad stuff is hard.

  3. June 15, 2009 8:09 pm

    🙂

    I loved this little tidbit…

    “I only noticed one or two people secretly tapping into their blackberries.”

    The measure of a good talk. (Well, or… hey… you hadn’t done the old “please turn off your cellphones and all other electronic devices” announcement, had you?)

  4. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    June 17, 2009 4:59 pm

    Glynn – THanks for the gut-wrenching honesty. We have all been there at times. THanking God for the bad stuff for me usually takes a while after the fact. No perfect cures here.

    LL – Yeah, next time? Definitely will collect the Blackberries and Cellphones. THanks for the tip, you seasoned professional, you.

  5. June 25, 2009 12:45 pm

    Glad it went well, Brad.

  6. June 25, 2009 12:52 pm

    I’m glad it went well, Brad.

  7. Karyn permalink
    June 30, 2009 7:16 pm

    “My work is not about me – my performance, my impression, my perception. It’s about the Holy Spirit working through me to manifest God’s purpose…”

    A similar thought is beginning to seep into my mind: all my alignment with company goals, all my goal-setting, all my self-assessment… keeps me moving and growing, potentially, but it inevitably leads me off-track into some hollow, questioning place.
    This morning, in my woozy waking-up prayer, as I questioned the next major changes in my life at work and at home, it was as if God was winking at me and saying, “Hey, why don’t you just take what comes to you and let it play itself out? I’ll be directing it; you just be you and have fun.”
    “That’s all I have to do?”
    No answer… but I think it’s time for me to sample the life of an instrument. Can I really be a part of the music by just being there?

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