Brown M&M’s and @freakonomics

“FreakonomicsRadio” podcast, 7/10/14

This episode of FreakonomicsRadio struck me because it drew a parallel between two things that have a special place in my heart: Biblical Wisdom and Van Halen.

We all provide a ‘check and balance’ to what we do and what we expect to happen as a result, the question is how well it works and if it provides a clear picture of what is most important to us.

This episode is all about a part of ‘game theory’ which allows for errors and issues to be found easily, as well as quickly and discreetly. Certain traps or tripwires which ensure that attention to detail and correct action is taken. “Teaching your garden to weed itself” is how Levitt & Dubner refer to creating checks within a system that are not easily identified, but tell you what you need to know. Weeding out the truth if you will.
Do you have something in place that makes sure the right thing is happening?

The real life example? David Lee Roth, at the time with the band Van Halen, would place the requirement for M&M’s with all brown ones removed deep within the contract rider for all big concerts. It ensured that all promoters were approaching their large scale shows with the utmost care and diligence. The rider was 53 pages long, and some would skip over the details before signing on the line.
Brown M&M’s meant they needed to check the complex light and stage setup before they played.

The philosophical example of Solomon solving the problem of what to do with the 2 mothers but only 1 living baby. The solution presented proved the heartlessness of the one who was not the mother, and the love for the child presented by the real mother.
She would rather give the child away than have it killed so both parties would have a piece.

A great example that is not in the podcast, but found its way into the comments on the website, was how students would make sure their professors were actually reading their assignments. Usually by adding some obscure line to the middle of a paragraph.

A friend of mine actually included in one such assignment: “The playful kitten chased the bouncing ball across the kitchen floor”, among other such unrelated and hilarious lines in his assignments. We were all convinced that there was no way our teacher was actually reading the literally hundreds of pages of material he would receive from all of us each week. My friend got top marks, while some would have lines underlined and harshly critiqued.
Next to the paragraph in question the teacher wrote in bright red letters, “These are great insights!”

System fail.

Bad Capitalism

Screenshot (9)

Thank you National Geographic for posting this!

Do you remember one of the major effects of the Soviet Union falling?
This picture depicts one of the impacts of a totalitarian reign coming to an end.

For Russia, it needed to go through a wave of anarchy and bad capitalism. In fact, it still seems to be doing so. If you do not recall, there were a huge number of small businesses that started up with little or no governance. Some in the West were shocked, others were monopolizing on the new frontier, but for the average citizen it appeared to be mayhem.

This picture of Romania causes me to question how we help people move from a totalitarian regime to a healthy nation for all citizens. The dollar sign in the background tells me one thing remains at the forefront of consideration. Freedom that has no concept of boundaries is simply another prison, with only a changing of the guards. It is almost as though a nation must find the value of humanity in the middle as it moves from tyranny to anarchy, and settling upon the middle.

What is interesting though, is how many nations in their pursuit of freedom seek capitalism as the ideal. At the end of the day, the capitalism they fight for does not seem to be the answer, only an extreme they must jump to in order to know that it does not work. There may be plenty of good and gracious humanity happening in the midst of the change, but history seems to point at pure capitalism being the turmoil before the stabilization of a nation that works. For my American friends, the unfortunate reality you are fighting for in all nations is just not true. You are a form of socialist-democracy, and everyone knows it. That process to get where you are took a long time, and so it seems to be the case for every nation that is unshackled from oppression.

My response to this picture, beyond the shock I initially experienced?
Capitalism, everyone striving for their own good and their own gain, fails humanity. It forgets the person before the profit. It inevitably creates a space where no one strives to live in community, but simply competes to sustain their commercial value.

When Convictions Collide


Went through my old material on Remembrance Day, and this one stood out. So enjoy the reblog!

Originally posted on realational:

Winnipeg Free Press on Mennonite’s at war

Remembrance day is an interesting time for Mennonites. Having met some of the individuals referred to in the article, I can easily recall memories of convictions held by two communities.

Church and state.

But in the middle, as always, was the third conviction. That of the individual who must decide on the previous convictions. Pacificism in many ways is easy to pick on because it stands out. But there are a whole slew of others, some lesser, others greater, which we decide on daily. On the spectrum of our two communities, we land personally and with wide variation.

At the end of the day we are individuals within a community to which we have chosen to belong.
So how do you work out convictions that collide in your context?

View original


“A person who sees the gloomy side of everything.”

This is the word of the day.
I believe in social media terms this may be the word of the era. There definitely is a lot of crap to be distributed and discussed. Except for all those people trying to flood some platforms with pictures of flowers and baby animals. Although, that makes me more angry than gloomy, as I did not sign onto social media to see a bunch of cutesy pictures. Sorry.

Any time we put ourselves in a state of prolonged exposure in a social setting or group we will get gloomy. This is truly where absence does make the heart grow fonder. There is wisdom in that saying. Social media does not allow for separation or absence as a healthy part of relationship or self understanding. It requires that we are present and accounted for, acknowledging that everyone else is doing the same. There is not a lot of complexity in this relationship, and our minds expect more.

Gloominess can result when we try to place items we need to wrestle with personally into the hands of the masses, and expect to receive a suitable response every time. Those pieces usually cannot fit. Why? Because they are not our own. We have given them over to others to validate, process, and ultimately, own.

Occasionally separating yourself from a situation helps you gain clarity. Maybe even appearing less gloomy than first perceived. Maybe even soliciting a better response from us as the beholder. Maybe.

10 Days of Gratitude

Gratitude. We all want it, but have the hardest time giving it.
This was a great exercise. It strained me, but was so worth while.
Are you able to consider for what you are grateful every day?
Here was my ’10 days of gratitude’ challenge:

Day 1 thanks:
1. The finished work of Christ, without which none of us would have a hope or a prayer.
2. 40 great years on this earth, which I could never have scripted on my most imaginative days.
3. 20 years with Mindi Marshall Friesen, who continues to bless and amaze me time and time again.

Day 2 of the 10 day gratitude challenge:
1. An earthly father who seems to defy age, and has given me keen insight into the heart and mind of my heavenly Father.
2. Connecting with good friends today reminding me that it is good to be known in community.
3. My beautiful daughter Ariel Friesen, who still holds my heart no matter what.

Day 3 of the 10 days of gratitude: (The 3 men of my household)
1. C, for his strength of character and unswerving fortitude, tempered by amiability and desire to learn.
2. L, for his compassionate heart and sense of justice, tempered by humour and good nature.
3. J, for his deep questions and constructive spirit, tempered by his imagination and strong will.

Day 4 of the 10 days of gratitude:
1. Close friends that have grown out of ministry together.
2. The opportunity to grow in my ministry role.
3. A church that has been open to this kind of growth.

Day 5 of the 10 day gratitude challenge:
1. Our small group which came together as a project and continued into friendship.
2. A home that has been security for those who dwell here, and a welcome space for those we have the opportunity to invite in.
3. A country to live in that is so free I can complain about my healthcare and taxes, yet still be cared for without question and my children can receive some of the best education in the world as though it is just the way things are done.
Globally, that is called privilege.

Day 6 of the 10 days of gratitude challenge:
1. Water that runs and does not carry things that will kill me.
2. Freedom to move, drive, visit new places.
3. A pantry full of food.

Day 7 of the 10 days of gratitude challenge:
1. Our sponsor child. Hearing her stories, praying for her and her community, serves as a reminder of both need in the world and our God-given ability to provide hope.
2. 4 seasons. As much as I curse the cold winters, I do love seeing and experiencing the life cycles of our earth.
3. Memories. The ability to cherish and reminisce about how God has bent the road we are on is uniquely human. Never take this for granted.

Day 8 of the 10 days of gratitude challenge:
1. Celebrations in community like we had tonight.
2. Music. Especially that which is created in my home everyday. It is like prayer without words.
3. Technology that allows for us to become closer than we’ve ever been, and share meaningfully if we so choose.

Day 9 of the 10 days of gratitude challenge:
1. A great group of young adults we call college and career. They love to meet and have grow tremendously over the past few years.
2. My extended family. Same DNA but oh so many variations on the mix, adds to my personal story and the stories of our children’s futures.
3. Clean clothes.

Well here we are, day 10 of the 10 days of gratitude challenge! ‪#‎gratitude‬
1. Faith. The ability to abide with the One who knows the way, even if I am unsure.
2. Hope. Knowing that He has a plan and a desire for all who trust in Him, to bring all things back to where He wanted them from the beginning.
3. Love. The drive behind all the change that takes place in the world, from how we see ourselves, to how nations reconcile differences. Our desire for and ability to love is an amazing God given trait.

I know, I know, this last entry is a bit of naval-gazing, but I do truly believe these 3 are the greatest gifts God has blessed us with. So there.

Performance Management or Performance Leadership?


Well put!

Originally posted on Attila Ovari:

Last month I attended a training session called “the psychology of performance” presented by Dr Samantha Johnson. The session was run by the Australian Institute of Management. It was a good session on performance in the workplace and ways to improve workplace performance. Dr Johnson challenged us to think of performance as an attribute of leadership, rather than of management.

What do you think of when you hear the words performance management?

My experience with the words of performance management is that they have been hijacked by what I would refer to “management of underperformance”. This is unfortunate, as I believe that there is so much to be gained from having processes and practices in place to grow or improve performance. I am going to assume that we all want to improve our performance and the performance of our teams. If this is the case then what can we do…

View original 160 more words

Leadership: Sociopaths need not apply

This is the week of landmarks for me.

10 years at the same church, and 40 years on the same earth. The second one I cannot speak much to, as my birth was not my decision. I will continue to celebrate it like it is mine to own though. But the first was a move by decision, and continues to be so. 10 years is a good time to consider a few factors which have grown out of that decision, and so I will.

There have been a number of leadership developing moments over the years, but if I had shortlist them, they would look like this:

  1. Abide by the values you hold dear in your life. Make them known, if for no other reason than to remind yourself. If you do not have a list of personal values, then you might ask yourself why.
  2. Change, accept, or deal. Whatever ‘it’ is, you can apply it to any of these ways of figuring out a difficult or tough situation. Do not fester or become passive; change it if you can, accept it if you can, deal with it if you cannot.
  3. Light. Do not allow things to be hidden in secrecy if they are worth upholding. Shed light on things so they cannot grow up in darkness. It will always come back to haunt the whole community otherwise.
  4. Disagree, but do not be disagreeable. This is part of creating peace and harmony in as much as we are able, knowing that we are constantly called to create new things. Those items do not always play well together.
  5. Agendas. Everyone has one, including you, so be aware and be open about it if you expect others to do the same.
  6. Grow in character. Continue being shaped and formed into a complete person in Christ at all times.
  7. Haters be hatin’. Goes with the whole list really, but it is the acceptance that not everyone is going to be your best friend. Do not make decisions based on constant approval.

I guess 7 could have been separated, but they seemed to go so nicely together.

I remember moving into my new office 10 years ago, trying to get a grip on what my 3rd vocational ministry role would develop into. I did not think I would be in that same space 10 years later. But as the years went by I realized I was in for the long haul; as circumstances changed around me; people came and went; as some of the stereotypical ‘shoulds’ of a pastoral length of stay came and went; as my attitude towards leadership and ministry continued to be shaped. Thankfully, I could not have predicted anything that was down the road. Many good lessons, many great God moments for me, my family, and the community in which I serve. But as I look back I realize there is another that could be added to the list:

  • Mirroring appropriate emotional responses. Not felt, but faked. Usually to get the right response. Either you are out of touch with your emotions, or do not have a ‘read’ on others.
  • Manipulating emotions within situations. Once it can be copied, then it can be manipulated for our personal gain.
  • Power plays. Every conversation, discussion, casual interplay, becomes a play on power. Sociopathic behaviour relies on being able to understand power and how to gain the upper hand in each scenario. Without knowing this, they are uncomfortable.
  • Empathy lost. Cold and calculated is the worst case scenario, but at any rate you are unaware of how to empathize with others. Very little human element is realized in interactions with others.
  • Outcomes over relationships. Outcomes are manageable, people on a journey are not. So, if you can bring everyone into a formulaic approach to doing community, then you can manage how they are performing.

There are many who struggle with these things because it is part of their personal profile as an individual. And so you can imagine how it might be difficult for them in a vocation which requires empathy and emotional attachment. This list can however be compared to those who go through some form of burnout or acedia. It is the place where emotions have rubbed raw, people are only seen as issues, and conversations are only problems to be solved. Those who see church as an establishment to be run, celebrate the sociopath in leadership. This has always been at tension in my personal ministry; finding a way to interact in public ministry in a ‘real’ way, not allowing it to thrive on cold formatting over a personal walk with Christ in community.

Two quotes have stuck with me as I consider how to keep sociopathic tendencies out of my ministry:

The late Peter Gomes on asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?”: “…the question we should ask, ‘What would Jesus have me do?'”

Dr. Cornel West, “You can’t lead the people, unless you love the people. You can’t save the people, unless you serve the people.”

To sum it all up, just imagine you are the one washing the feet of your friends hidden away in a room right before you know you are going to die. Better yet, imagine the Saviour doing this for you, right before you enter your next meeting, have your next conversation, or you have to talk shop about the church community. And then hear the words of Mark 10:45 whispered in the background…“For the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.”

That changes the way you lead.