Tag Archives: network

BIG “G” – little “g”


In one of the classes that I’ve regularly facilitated, we do an activity called “The Parking Space.”  Participants are given a role-play scenario in which two people have to compete for a single parking space.  One person is running late for a job interview, and the other is running late for a meeting with an important client.  As one tries to back into the parking space, the other is trying to pull forward into it.  The two people get out of their cars and negotiate to see who gets the space.

What’s really interesting about the interaction isn’t who gets the space or even how they get it (and I’ve heard some really creative and unethical methods of coercion).  It’s that in the process of overpowering their adversary for the space, both people completely forget what their primary goals were – getting the job or making the meeting.  It never dawns on them that time is ticking away as they bicker about who gets to park where.  Each person fights for a win-lose outcome, but what they end up with is lose-lose, because the parking space is moot by the time they miss their respective appointments.

The role-play is an excellent example of sacrificing a Big “G” Goal (making the appointment) in order to achieve a little “g” goal (getting the parking space).  It sounds crazy, but we do it all the time.

  • We pull out all the stops to win the argument but forget that we are trying to build the relationship.
  • We prevent our top performers from transferring to other departments in order to protect our team’s productivity and end up losing them because there is no room for advancement.
  • We refuse to share information with another group because they haven’t reciprocated in the past and lose sight of the fact that we work for the same company.
  • We cut services back in order to reduce expenses and succeed in chasing off our customers.
  • We invent rules for a small percentage of “law-breakers” and ultimately punish the 99.9% of people who want to do the right thing but can’t get anything done because of the excessive red-tape.
  • We turn drill sergeant with our kids to get them ready in the morning and manage to ruin everyone’s day as we head out the door for a family event.
  • We argue with our neighbors over property rights and forget that we were trying to win them to Christ.

Our problem is that we are so focused on what’s before us that we can’t see the big picture.  We are intent on winning battles, but our short-term focus is losing us the wars.  If we could keep our eyes on the Big “G” Goals, what a difference it would make in our lives, in our work and in our ministries!

We would have so much more grace for people who don’t act the way we want them to act.   We would be able to keep a healthy perspective on the minor things that don’t go our way.  We would make better decisions in the moment as we assessed the impact of those decisions on our Big “G” goals.

Where is it that you have gotten seduced by the urgency of little “g” goals?  How could you maintain your focus on the the bigger picture?  A long-range focus informs better decision making in the moment.  It takes practice, but if you’re like me, you’ve got plenty of opportunities.

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Filed under conflict, Goals, grace, Interpersonal, priorities, Prioritize, Relationships, success

Root System


Quiz time:  What is the largest living organism on the planet?  Elephant?  (Nope)  Blue whale?  (Nope)  Redwood tree?  (Nope, but you are closer.)  The largest living organism in the world is…  the mighty and majestic Aspen tree!  (I’m serious.)  To be specific, the largest living organism in the world is a group of Aspen trees that cover over 200 acres around Salt Lake City, Utah.  The trees (nicknamed “Pando,” which means, “I spread”) have more than 47,000 stems, weigh more than 6,600 tons and are estimated to be thousands of years old as a system of trees.

They are considered to be the same organism because of how Aspens reproduce.  While the trees do use seeds and pollen, they most often reproduce by cloning, meaning that hundreds and thousands of trees often sprout off suckers from the same parent.  Scientists who have tested the trees have found that they are all genetically identical and sprout off the roots of other trees in the same system.

The implications for survival are interesting.  New trees are protected by the grove.  Young trees get their nutrients from the parent tree until they are well-established.  In addition, the grove protects itself from disaster.  A fire can actually be a good thing for Aspens.  While the fire wipes out different types of trees, the Aspens lose trees but maintain a root system underground.  The opportunistic Aspens quickly move into the burned area and replace the other trees.  As they grow from the main root system, the new trees take advantage of the nutrients released into the soil by all the burned vegetation.

As I’m writing this article, I have an email in my inbox from a Christian woman in Afghanistan. She has been suffering through persecution as a result of sharing her faith, so she reached out to her network of Christian friends this evening to ask for prayer. The people on her distribution list live all over the world, speak different languages, perform different types of ministries…but as I watch my inbox, I can see that they are stopping everything to respond to her need with prayer and an encouraging email. I know that they will continue to lift her up in prayer for the days and weeks ahead.

Maybe that makes Christians a little like the Aspen tree. The resiliency of the Aspen comes from its underground network of roots.  Our resiliency comes first from God and then from the strength of our network of Christian friends and prayer partners.  New believers can gain wisdom and godly counsel from more mature believers. When disaster strikes, we can cover a Christian brother or sister with the protection of prayer.  We can point out opportunities that they may not have noticed or feed them information and resources to help solve their problems. If we are close by, we can lend material and physical help, as well.

There is incredible power in our inter-connectedness….if we use it. Too often, we try to fix our own problems. We put on a brave face and mentally minimize the struggles we are going through. But God created us for relationship, for interdependence rather than independence. It’s possible that God is allowing the difficulty in our life or in our ministry specifically to force us to reach out and lean on others for help. When we do, a disaster becomes a blessing, and we come back spiritually stronger than before.

Come to think of it, the largest living organism on the planet isn’t the Aspen tree; it’s the Body of Christ.

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Filed under accountability, Body of Christ, Challenges, christianity, Church, discipleship, helping, mentoring, overcoming obstacles