Like most books published in the last 20-30 years, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is not full of new or novel ideas. However, author John Mark Comer weaves modern knowledge and science into a lens through which he studies Jesus. Because Comer is a preaching pastor of a mega-church in California, and he reads the audio version, I highly recommend it.
Another reason this story connected with me is the phase of life I was in when I read it. I was starting my firm and struggling with the minutia involved in that process when I read, er, listened to this book. This mantra of eliminating hurry and slowing down was always a part of my personal life, but it was my professional life where this was so profound.
In some cases, your work environment can be as critical as your home environment, which was certainly true in my life. I have experienced numerous organizations stuck in the cycle of hurry in order to keep up with the mountain of things to do. The leaders of those environments were mentors who were, as Comer describes, "late for an appointment, behind on (their) unrealistic to-do list, trying to cram too much into (their) day. (They) ooze anger, tension, a critical nagging—the antitheses of love."
You cannot be in this type of environment without it infecting you. Throughout much of my early marriage, I was not steering my ship, which is a story for another time. I was just a mere cork in the ocean, floating where the waves led me. Those waves were leading down an unsustainably busy and stressed path. Comer describes it this way, "The problem isn’t when you have a lot to do; it’s when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry."
The hurried life was not the life in which I was raised. My parents were intentional throughout their marriage, creating an unhurried life. Following in their footsteps, Talan and I chose to be in Abilene instead of a big city for that very reason. We wanted an intentional, unhurried life. However, I unknowingly surrounded myself with people who never "slowed down long enough for the merry-go-round blur of life to come into focus".
From a faith perspective, an area in which my life mirrors that of Comer was this: "The church tradition I grew up in made much of theology and ethics; but little to nothing was said about lifestyle. But lifestyle is where the money is. As long as we’re riffing on Eugene Peterson, he once wrote this about Jesus’ metaphor of the way: 'The Jesus way wedded to the Jesus truth brings about the Jesus life…. But Jesus as the truth gets far more attention than Jesus as the way. Jesus as the way is the most frequently evaded metaphor among the Christians with whom I have worked for fifty years as a North American pastor.'”
Balancing the lifestyle lessons with the truth lessons took a lot of work as an adult. Enter Mark Rogers, the king of habits and creating habits. Mark's daily disciplines were so inspiring and infectious that most people would pick up one or two after just a few encounters with him. After walking through life daily with Mark, Talan and I finally began developing a better daily rhythm. Two of our favorite books about habits are Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Atomic and Power show how to create habits and the reasoning behind them, and I want to dive into them later in the year. However, Comer does an excellent job of pointing out the habits of Jesus. Mark Rogers was the closest human I've ever known who modeled the Jesus I envision: larger-than-life, magnetic, funny and serious, brilliant and self-deprecating, purposeful, and loving. I could go on for days.
The point is, this is the model I want for my life. Jesus is the model for my business. I will never again succumb to the pressure of the hurried world around me. Mark 8 verse 36 says, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
Comer adds, "Karl Rahner, who was one of the most important Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, had this haunting line: In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we learn that ultimately in this world there is no finished symphony."
Transitioning to my business, I will use words from Comer to do it, with a few changes to fit my purpose, "And now for the question you’ve all been asking: What does any of this have to do with [finances]? That is, after all, kind of my gig. I’m a [financial planner and a CPA], not a therapist, self-help guru, or time-management consultant. Sadly. Motivational speaker does have a nice ring to it. But I’m more likely to say, ['Let's look at your tax return.'] than offer a tip or technique on how to make your dreams come true or lay out a protein-to-carbs ratio to revolutionize your morning routine. If only."
Talan confidently tells people that the decision to launch my own business was our best decision ever. Keep in mind that as I type this, we are less than two years away from the Rogers family accident, the day our world turned upside down. Fear was the feeling that once ruled my decisions, but my fear died with Mark. No longer am I afraid of failure. Fear and risk mean different things now. Fear is waking up at 90 years old and wishing I had lived with intention and purpose. Risk means losing the relationships I still have, not money that I might accumulate.
Talan and I now schedule time to unplug and rest. We see the model more clearly than ever and are building our habits around it. We began resetting our lives around these healthy habits before Mark died, but it has hit
warp speed snail's pace. I liken my life to the story of Jesus healing a blind man. Jesus spat in the dirt and rubbed that in the blind man's eyes twice. The first time the blind man could see, but his sight was blurry. (One day I'll tell of the first moment, which is our story of trials through marriage.) The second time, the blind man could see clearly. For me, the second bit of clarity was losing Mark. I fully understand the saying, "Ingorance is bliss." I think I preferred to be blind. In time I will write much more about my anger, sadness, and doubt.
Mark’s death heightened every one of my senses; it made me realize that every day is a blessing, every moment an opportunity to do something worthwhile. Why else are we here on this Earth if not to be good stewards of our time? Because time is our greatest treasure.
So it is with my time with you. You are not a transaction or a number. The definition of enough, to me, is the people around me. I am more present than ever, more aware of my purpose and the needs of those around me. No longer will I allow society, or my employer, to tell me that "more" is the goal. The best thing I can do for my clients/family/friends is to be present. (As Comer reminded us, love is spelled T-I-M-E.)
In order to be fully present, I am committing to the following principles:
- I will make enough time "in the wilderness" with God, practicing mindfulness and building strength.
- I will not spread myself too thin chasing more.
- I will stop at fifty clients.
- To be fair to each new client, my family, and myself, I will only bring on two new clients a month, preferably one.
- I will stop working when my kids are home.
- I will protect my clients from personal distractions.
- I will protect my family from work distractions.
- I will not work on weekends.
- I will protect "the Sabbath."
- I will surround myself with friends who build me up.
- I will build others up.
Again, Comer summarizes his book well, "the solution to an over-busy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters."
I am following the path of the easy yoke. I cannot promise you will find it, but I hope to be a calming and capable helper along this journey. Life is different than we dreamed, but we can still be intentional with what we have left. I would be honored to journey with you.