Editor’s note: Tony Turner, lead pastor of NorthBridge Church, recently published a book on leadership. It covers the deeper side of leading, how to handle the American rat race and how to establish healthy practices for life, business and community for the long haul. Below are excerpts from Chapter 3, titled The “Simple” Choice.
Growing up, there was a little taco place in my hometown. They made one thing and they did it very well. Guess what they made? After a few years of incredible success and a couple of sister locations springing up in other local communities, this little taco hut made a terrible decision. They started adding more and more things to the menu.
After a few years, they did taco pizzas, Mexican salads and enchilada pies. Their menu went from a 3-by-5 card to a four-page booklet. As you could imagine, the quality went down and wait times went up. It was harder to get well-trained employees who knew how to correctly prepare their items. And, of course, their prices soared. The restaurant had to make up for the food that expired in their refrigerators.
I owe all this to the ever-expanding menu. They became overbearingly complex and complicated. Now compare this story to the franchise success of Five Guys, the East Coast hamburger chain.
You can go to their website and find the question, “Does Five Guys plan to add any menu items (i.e. milkshakes, chili, etc.)?” Here is their answer: “Five Guys does not currently have plans to add any items to our menu. We follow the philosophy of focusing on a few items, and serving them to the best of our ability … .”
There you have it, a success model for food service: Keep your menu small and excellent. Perhaps this should be how we approach life: Keep our activities manageable and excellent.
Many of us are like that taco shack. We experience a little success and we begin adding more and more onto our list of things to do. We add layer upon layer of complexity to our lives. Before we realize what is happening, we find ourselves in survival mode just trying to keep up with our over-paced life. Make no mistake, this leads anyone and everyone on a direct path to burn out and ultimately to failure and disappointment.
A sure principle to live by is that all things lead toward complexity and clutter. If you do not believe me, think about your office space or your car. If I do not take proactive steps to clean the inside of my car and vacuum it every once in a while, I begin amassing quite an impressive collection of fast food straws and receipts from gas pumps from all across southwest Missouri. It takes deliberate effort to keep my car clutter free and simple on the inside.
We must work and think ahead in order to protect our lives from clutter and complexity.
So how do we do this, practically speaking?
The answer lies in becoming clearly focused on why we exist, what is truly important and what is it that is truly necessary in life. Business gurus and life coaches will call these things your mission, vision and values.
Once you determine those things, begin to live them out. You will want to make your decisions based upon them. If you are doing things that do not line up with the items on your list, then stop doing them. In other words, say no to more and yes to less.
What I am talking about is creating a simple life for yourself. Do not confuse this concept with living in the 18th century or joining a commune somewhere. What I am writing about is the concept of aligning your outward world with your core values and your ultimate definition of success. Living a simple life is not about doing less with less; it is about filtering your possible assignments and options through a matrix of what you really want to define your life.
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