Thursday, December 31, 2009

Results of this Year

I thought I'd note some significant changes and progress from this year, what I learned and how I changed. I would say my blog title lived up to be the theme of this year. My goal has been to make all of my activities ones that I perceive as adding value, particularly the value of knowledge (I esteem knowledge as extremely valuable). It has been about exposing my deficiencies and confronting them head-on.

Some examples:

1. Confronting my math deficiencies.
I have my current job because several others turned me down for lack of strong math background. There is a fairly low glass ceiling for people with business econ degrees without a demonstration of high math competency. You can't avoid it.

I have always struggled with math while developing a greater admiration for it in recent years. So, I enrolled in Calculus 2 in the fall and earned an A. This is the first time since junior year of high school that I haven't had to repeat a math course. It required a lot of late nights, early mornings, and long hours in the library working problems. A tough 5 hour class added to my on-campus workload. I plan on enrolling in Calc 3 in the spring and continuing onward as long as I get to take 1 class for free every semester (employee perk).

2. Confronting my physical deficiencies.
My wife and I made a conscious effort to confront them together. I've shed some pounds and am closer to my college weight than I have been since '02, but am in much better physical shape overall. And I'm still pushing forward.

3. Confronting intellectual deficiencies.
That's sort of the theme of my life-- learning is about the only thing I really enjoy doing and a day where I don't learn new things is a wasted day for me. As a college instructor, I'm always under pressure to know and understand things that I don't currently and I'm always humbled by how much I don't know. 2008-2009 were busy years in the economy, so it was difficult making sense of all the policies being implemented, the theories behind the policies, and figuring out where I stand on them. And then teaching deciphering it all for undergrads. My Money & Banking course was the best example of it, I pushed the students hard to learn (a lot on their own) and most did far beyond their own expectations and I was quite pleased and proud.

Some changes:
Being busy with 1, 2, and 3 and a fun family means other things had to be cut out. In evaluating what to cut out, I simply asked "What value does this add?" Sometimes it boiled down to "Will this activity help me get a job later, or not?" Sometimes it was "Am I going to be a committed contributor--adding value to this activity for others--or not? If not, then I'd be better off not engaging in the activity." Lately, it's been reduced to "Does this activity make me stronger, faster, or smarter?"

It meant cutting back on a lot of watching and developing emotional attachment to sports. I'm still struggling with the morality of most college sports programs and the lack of what I perceive to be value added by professional sports (and I find most Christian friends and pastors unwilling to engage in that conversation with me). NASCAR offends me the least and the winners are basically good scientists and engineers, so I like seeing smart people get rewarded. I consider college football to be my vice-- I have trouble justifying my love for it. I don't love basketball nearly as much as I used to.

My thoughts on church are constantly evolving under the value added framework. If God calls us Christians to "be perfect as He is perfect" then why don't we push our institutions and programs to also be perfect from a NT standpoint? Why don't our churches look like the NT and why do so many of our resources go to once-a-week "smorgasboard-style" flagship services? I find myself rejecting the models of most of the SBC's flagship churches and mission programs as either incorrect biblically or unsustainable economically. Again, shouldn't we strive for absolutely optimal churches and agencies? Shouldn't we strive for optimum efficiency?

This has also meant a re-evaluation of my own budget and habits. I feel we're pretty good at budgeting, and I enjoy teaching it to students every spring. My wife gets 99% of the credit for this. However, could there be improvements? For example, if helping widows and orphans is "pure and undefiled religion" as James says, then shouldn't I be doing more of that? Do I need to rearrange my schedule to intentionally engage in more of that? Apparently I do, or else my conscience wouldn't bother me about it.

That's a long enough summary of thoughts over the last year. I wonder how many years will go by before I look back and cringe at them.

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