The Importance of Application

The leadership team from our church and I went to the Global Leadership Summit this week. We had an amazing time. There were lectures from Juliet Funt (from WhiteSpace at Work), Laszlo Bock (former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, co-founder of Humu), Fredrik Härén (author of The Idea Book), Angela Duckworth (Professor at the University of Pennsylvania), and Gary Haugen (CEO of the International Justice Mission), among others.

It was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with leaders in other organizations, companies, and churches. I was even able to introduce one of my friends, Zoryan Hudziy, the CEO and co-founder of InVeritaSoft, to Lilya, a 14-year-old girl from our youth group, who wants to someday own her own business.

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The folks from our church that went to the conference. Lilya is the girl to the left of Katya.

The lectures were amazing. In the two-day summit, we received so much information that it’s a bit of a blur as to which lecture happened on what day. This leads me to the question: What should I do with all of this information? If we do not apply the principles we learn at conferences to ourselves and our organizations, the money we spend on registration and the time it takes to go is a waste!

Anatoliy Sapsai, a local leadership expert that works with Innovista, reminded me on the drive back from the conference that approximately 90% of the people that were there will make virtually no application from the things they learned. For one thing, there was so much information, that it was often hard to keep up; however, that is not the only factor. We also simply have a tendency as human beings to hear something, agree, and just walk away and forget. James in the Bible even warns us about this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Jamess 1:22-25 ESV

This is a problem that predates leadership conferences, that is for sure.

So, how do we break this cycle? How do we actually make use of the information that we learn at conferences, at leadership summits, or even just at church or in our daily devotions when God shows us that we need to do something? The answer: application.

Application

I like to define the process of application as three things: learning well, planning well, and executing well (which is the hardest part). This is why I actually come with two different notebooks when I go to a conference or summit. The first notebook is a knockoff of a Moleskine classic notebook. I love Moleskine notebooks, but they are even more expensive here than they are in the States, so my wife usually buys the much cheaper versions. I use that notebook to just take general notes and use as my prayer journal. I have a stack of them about a foot high at home that I can look through to see what prayer needs I had, sermons I listened to, and where I was over the past few years.

Learning Well

This first notebook helps me to learn well. I don’t remember what study it was that “proved” such a thing, but even just my own experience shows me that, when I take notes while listening to something, I retain the information and even understand it better than when I just sit and listen. We as human beings need some form of engagement in the learning process, and, for me, that at least requires me to be taking notes.

Here’s a quick link for that Moleskine note book. These are affiliate links, so a portion of the sales price goes to support our family and ministry.

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Classic Notebooks)

Planning Well

This is the part that James in his epistle leaves out, but I think it’s implied. This is why I have my second notebook, which is much simpler. It’s a spiral-bound, graph-ruled notebook. I use this notebook almost exclusively as a to-do list. Here is a picture of one of the pages that I wrote notes on after the conference:

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In addition to the pages upon pages of general notes I took in my “almost Moleskine”, I wrote down three full pages of notes like this of things that I can do to apply what I heard in the lectures.

Someone might say, “Well – there you go! You planned.” I don’t think so, though. I have it on my schedule this week to go through this list and pick the most important things on the list to do, either personally or as a leadership team. Why only the most important things? It’s because of the 80-20 rule. The top 20% of things on the list will give me top 80% results.

Execution

Here’s the hardest part. I don’t think it’s just hard for me, but for everyone. This is what James was talking about in the end – be doers of the Word! Execute! This is why I’m thankful for tools like smartphones and Google Calendar. Life has been going at a furious pace this year, and I have started to plan my schedule for daily activities up to a month in advance, thanks to having these tools.

Since I began this practice of having two notebooks and planning out my time in advance, I’ve become much, much better at executing the things that I’ve planned. Although just sticking something on my calendar doesn’t guarantee that it will get done, planning a specific time to do something makes it much more likely that it will get done. The most precious resource we have is time, as Moses wrote:

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

One of the things that helps me to actually get the things done that I schedule is not overloading myself. This is why it’s so important to pick only the most important things on that list. Also, I try to be intentional with planning areas in my life other than work and ministry. I try to plan in time to rest, time to do family stuff, time to go on a weekly date with Katya, and time to pray and read my Bible. We live in such a fast-paced world that, if we do not plan these things, we are asking for our spiritual and family lives to fall apart.

It’s as Benjamin Franklin said:

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Please pray for wisdom for us. Pray for us to execute the things that we learned from this conference, so that we can grow individually and as a church team.

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