Proverbs 27:2 and Social Media Self-Promotion

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2 (ESV)

The popularity of social media has outpaced the ability of users to wisely use this communication technology and warped our perception of ourselves. Prior to this age, only celebrities of sports, media, and politics had a following and a platform in which to express their thoughts and influence how they are perceived. They had paparazzi following them to take pictures of mundane events like shopping, eating, and family outings and commenting on their purchases, acquaintances, and vacations. With social media, users are their own paparazzi sharing pictures, stories of mundane daily events, and who they are with while doing what.

There is a fine line between what is sharing and what is self-promotion.

The proverb above, and similar admonitions not to brag, were regular parts of my mother’s admonition to a son who often could be too full of himself. “No one likes a braggart” I would hear, and she was right. On the other hand, much of business success today depends on getting your name and skills in front of potential employers and reminding your supervisors of the value you bring to the company. We have to stand out from the crowd of other candidates and, during times of downsizing and layoffs, make sure our employers know that we are doing important work for the company when we are one of many people they manage in addition to the many tasks they perform. And so the modern worker in the business arena must walk a fine line between bragging and making the case for being a valuable employee.

Building a professional platform without bragging

One of the distinctions for the professional is that bragging or boasting involves exaggerating one’s worth and skills beyond reality or hyping mundane abilities. When hiring administrators, I was often amused at the resumes that touted the ability to operate copiers, shredders, and browsers from diverse manufacturers. If you cannot operate any of these without a couple of minutes of training, you are in the wrong field. Likewise, I have seen interviewees who touted computer programming language skills melt when a real programmer asked them to explain some of the simple things about the language, commenting later that the applicant must have “walked by some programmers talking and felt he was qualified.” When crafting a resume, emphasize the real skills you have (and get valuable skills to add to your qualifications) and demonstrate the value you have provided to your employers.

Professional social networks such as LinkedIn (my profile is here) allow you to post a digital resume and have others recommend you for skills they observe and write testimonies (really, its a review!) of your work with them. This allows others, as the proverb says, to praise you. By expressing what you have done in quantitative ways (“I increased revenues 25% and added 5 new clients per year as a sales representative.”) or describing your skills (“I have developed several computer programs and two apps in the Apple iStore.”) you are not bragging but showing to employers what you have done. Writing “I’m the best salesperson (programmer) in the city” is bragging and is probably easy to disprove.

On personal social media, managing this takes additional thought. Are you bragging about your work or is posting what you have accomplished your work? One of the criteria is probably, are you trying to build an audience for your business or just trying to get attention for yourself. I know a Christian lady who publishes posts and videos of her recipes and dietary advice frequently. It is her business and social media is how she builds an audience with which she can approach advertisers and gain presentation opportunities. Posting is her business. I know insurance agents, restaurant owners, and others who sell to individuals who post relevant information and business promotions to get business. Bloggers post links to their work to get readers. These seem to be valid uses though they can be abused.

However, I’ve always been curious about “checking in” at work. Aren’t you supposed to be there? There are other posts where it seems like the person could be bragging “see what I get to do” or “can you can imagine how much I’m paid to do this?” Worse is the “oh how hard my job is” posts to a bunch of people who probably are working as hard, or harder, than the person posting. And don’t complain about your boss, co-workers, or customers ever. Not only may it cause problems, including unemployment, but future employers may see your posts and fear what you might say about them.

Boasting about doing God’s work

This is one of those fine line issues for Christians and especially those who are fully-supported by Christians to preach or do other work in the kingdom. On the one hand, I’ve seen discussions among Christians who note that discussions of spiritual work is encouraging as they see things being done in other places and have gotten ideas for evangelism or service from things other people are doing. Also, we can find out about events, such as gospel meetings and opportunities to learn or serve. Some posts demonstrate to non-Christians that we are serious about our faith and active in service to others, traits needed in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christ and His followers.

On the other hand, when does our announcing a work, discussing how tired but joyous we are having just finished a work, or sharing that we are doing some devotional service cross the line into bragging? Here is a picture of how pious I am, or the study I’m doing, or the good work I’m involved with. The “humble brag” is a term coined to describe the post where the person wants to shout how great they are but the nature of the event is such that they shouldn’t brag about it: “I am humbled and honored to be invited to speak at this lectureship knowing the other speakers are much more qualified to present” or “I am humbly thankful to have been part of this charity effort today.” We can even brag about what our church is doing. I’m not making a blanket condemnation on such posts but ask what are we trying to gain with the post? If you walked up to a casual acquaintance and said the same thing how do you think it would sound or how would you hope or expect them to respond?

Jesus devoted significant attention in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:1-18, chiding those who gave, prayed, and fasted in order to be seen by others. In the rebuke of the givers he condemned those who literally “tooted their own horn” to draw attention to themselves though the givers probably rationalized it by saying they sounded the horn to make sure those in need knew where the alms were. Regarding fasting and praying, Jesus said not to bring attention to yourself in this service.  In fact, in Luke 17:10 Jesus said we should conclude such service recognizing this is what is expected of us: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’.” Our challenge is to be content with God’s observation of our service and to let all things be done to His glory and not ours.

I’m not offering hard and fast rules, only suggestions that we check and double-check our motives for our social media posts. Is the good that can be performed improved by informing others about this? Are we trying to draw a crowd to where we are preaching or let people know we are in demand? Are we wanting people to think we are hard-working and generous people in case they have their doubts? Do we just need attention and validation?  As I’ve asked myself and others before, can you live without Internet celebrity?

 

Proverbs 18:17: One Side of the Story

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17 (ESV)

Cross-examination is a key element of our justice system. A lawyer can craft a compelling story, peppered with supporting evidence, that appears to reveal the hidden motive of the defendant and their role in perpetrating a crime such that the jury is ready to drag the accused to jail themselves. This certainty often fades when the defense attorney rises and tells an equally compelling but different story, disputes the prosecution’s use of the evidence and perhaps reminding the jury of evidence that casts doubt on the prosecution’s case, and presenting another interpretation of the defendant’s life that either justifies their action or disputes their involvement. The jury mentally puts down the torches and pitchforks and cautiously considers what the truth could be.

The American adversarial judicial system prevents the problem highlighted in the proverb. Our passions can be ignited by one side of the story leading to regrettable actions because we neglected important facts. What seems like an obvious course of action built on logic leads to serious and expensive tactical mistakes. It is easy, but lazy, to defer to a confident and knowledgeable person when we should react with skepticism and due diligence. The person may be correct but they should be proved correct.

Sales presentations

People make poor decisions in their personal finances and business by falling for well-designed sales presentations and advertisements. Many people have timeshares and other “investments” (Beanie Babies) that they cannot unload because they succumbed to the logic and appeal of an inspiring presentation, time pressure (“this deal ends today”), trusted a salesperson and organization they didn’t really know, and they didn’t read the agreement. The best salespeople and sales organizations are trained in psychology and use this knowledge to design the pitch. I’m not criticizing the approach but reminding you to be aware that the car salesperson and telemarketer has been trained with many crafted scripts to address our concerns, questions, and rejections. They have an answer for everything that will appeal to your pride, anxiety, and insecurity. I’ve been through sales training where you are taught to create and then solve FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

I am not anti-sales. On the contrary, sales is what drives the economy and starts commerce. Through sales we learn of products that we really need that we didn’t know existed, medications that can help us with serious issues, and solutions to problems we want solved. However, in most cases there are multiple solutions or products that can fulfill our need  and we do not need to “buy now.” Buying from the first pitch without considering what another vendor has to offer or listening to another expert who highlights potential issues with the initial offer is foolish. More information will help clarify your needs, evaluate what is really offered, and provide insight on alternative products and solutions that may be a better fit or help you negotiate a better deal.

Personal relationships

The wisdom of the proverb will also help us with conflict in the workplace and our private lives. A manager or friend will be approached by a person who is having problems with another person. They will weave a tale of unfair treatment and unkind words and explain situations that have caused this person distress. Being the good friend or manager you confront the other individual about their accidental or intentional injustice. You may be surprised and embarrassed when you find the person is offended and insulted by your accusations and tells a compelling story that counters the first person’s account, supplies important information the other person neglected to mention, and even has witnesses that supports their view of events. Far from solving a problem, you created a bigger problem that existed before and now you have a starring role in the drama.

Although we want to be a good leader or loyal friend, we must remember that one side of the story is always imperfect. It is usually foolish to get involved in another person’s disagreement though we can provide godly counsel to help them resolve the conflict. The other person may see the same situation differently. Our view is colored by many things: experience, worldview, age, gender, personality, and many more characteristics. We filter our view through these things and respond accordingly. If you must intervene because you are a manager, make sure you get lots of information, ask follow up questions, look for evidence or information that provides some clarity, then act in the way that seems appropriate to the situation. But don’t react to one side of the story.

Success myths

Many business titans and successful people in many fields have a success myth. It comes out in interviews, is the subject of articles and books, and the person may even cite the one or two things that made them a success. Author Ryan Holiday begins his book “Ego is the Enemy” by telling his own success story then promptly reveals the important information left out that also contributed to his success and things that made him successful in one area that led to failures in another. He concludes by warning readers of CEO biographies and business success books that these stories, based in reality, are still myth. Important elements are missing. For every billionaire founder who skipped college and followed their passion to create a powerful company there are hundreds or thousands who followed the same path to poverty. We hear about the success stories but failures do not make headlines.

Glean what wisdom you can from success stories but realized that there are important nuances and situational differences that also contributed to the outcome. Perhaps they developed a product that hit at the right time, hired key individuals that contributed more to the success that is recognized, and had more luck than they are willing to acknowledge. You will not be able to mimic their success by doing everything they say they did. Someone can point out how they wrongly assessed the reason for their success, succeeded despite what they did, or how what led them to success in the past could lead to failure for them, or you, in the future.

The world is very complex though we desperately want it to be simple and will reach for simple solutions or obvious answers. But to be personally and professionally successful we must give kind attention to what we hear, but turn an investigative and skeptical eye to see what we are missing and what more we need to know. The story may be good, but wait to hear the other side of the story.

I Don’t Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up!

In a world of seemingly limitless opportunities, bright young people can be frustrated trying to narrow down what career to pursue. Most don’t have enough work experience to know the great variety of jobs available. Others have aspirations but don’t know how they can make a living pursuing their passion or interests. They search the Internet, talk with parents and guidance counselors, and perhaps talk with friends but cannot discern the path they should take to a fulfilling career.

I wrote an article previously with general advice for young people on choosing a career that is satisfactory and allows them to glorify God in that vocation. In it I provide advice on handling adult criticism or worry about non-traditional career paths (social media manager, artist, trades) and how to use the career to support godly service. However, they may feel like they are trapped in a room full of doors wondering which one to choose. If this is you, I hope the advice below provides some important considerations and ideas for selecting a door to open.

You will probably have several careers

In contrast to my parent’s generation who generally stayed with one company for most of their career, you will probably work for several companies throughout your career. On the job you will likely start in detail-oriented production work until you become an expert who manages, jobs, projects, and/or people. As your skills develop you may discover new ways to maximize your joy and increase your income by pivoting from your initial career path to something you find more challenging or fulfilling. This may happen within one company but will more likely be a couple of moves within one company and moves within other companies as well. You may even be freelancing, that is, doing several projects or jobs (possibly quite diverse) for multiple companies while working for yourself.

Many pursue a course of work for a decade or two then change to something quite different that uses their knowledge and experience in different ways. The marketer becomes an inventor. The accountant becomes a consultant helping other businesses with financial decisions instead of detail money tracking. The successful businessman becomes a preacher. The stay-at-home mom becomes a nurse or teacher when the kids leave home. What you choose today may suit you for a period of your life until you choose something else to pursue.

Start with the tasks not with the title

Much of the frustration I had, and shared by some of my children, is not knowing what job “title” to pursue. We are accustomed to a person with a job title doing a particular job and our challenge is to uncover the one that is suited for us. I want to suggest a better path that will produce less anxiety: focus on what you want to do instead of what the job is called.

Choice Of Career OrientationThink about what you want to do in a job, not its title, who hires for that work, or will it pay enough to support you. Think about what kind of tasks you want to do every day (understanding that every job has some tasks that are unpleasant but necessary) or accomplishments you want to achieve. List those tasks and/or accomplishments and think about what skills you will need to do that work. You can search the Internet for the tasks or objectives (i.e., writing, computer programming, welding, building houses, helping people recover from illness…) to determine what skills are needed and perhaps read about individuals who are successful in this work. I would suggest being broad in your thinking and have similar overlapping options of the things you want to do. For example, if you are interested in gardening, consider skills in landscaping, food cultivating, and hydroponics as they are distinct but related.

Next, search to see how you can develop those skills today. There are many things you can study online, watch YouTube videos, read books, or learn how to use specific tools, whether the tool is a complex machine or computer software. You can also discover what trade schools, colleges, or apprenticeship programs teach those skills. An important boost to your career is finding hobbies that use the skills for personal enjoyment. Use this knowledge to determine how you can start learning the skills now, even if it just learning the fundamental principles until you can go to a college or trade school. Think of ways you can use the skills now as a volunteer (help in a hospital or nursing home) or experiment on personal projects  (i.e., building web sites, apps, animations, furniture, rebuilding an engine…) to gain practical experience you can demonstrate to employers. Following this path, some jobs and employers may find you!

As your knowledge grows and your skills improve the career options and  perhaps people or companies that will help you pursue your passion will start to appear. In fact, I don’t think some job titles or career paths will become evident until after you have started the journey following your interests and have accumulated knowledge and skills. So explore what interests you, what brings you joy or excites you, the things you can get lost in and truly enjoy doing, or the things you have enjoyed doing since you were a kid. Chances are, if you take a broad interest approach as described above, you will eventually discover what you cannot see by anxious seeking.

 

 

Proverbs 27:23 – Know Your Numbers

On the surface, it would appear that such a pastoral proverb about managing flocks would have no relevance to a capitalistic technological economy. However, when considering the applications we find that not only is the proverb relevant, it’s wisdom is often ignored.

“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds,
for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?”
Proverbs 27:23-24 (ESV)

On the surface, it would appear that such a pastoral proverb would have no relevance to a capitalistic technological economy. However, when considering the applications we find that not only is the proverb relevant, it’s wisdom is often ignored.

Maintaining flocks and herds meant knowing the numbers of each kind of animal, the distribution of ages and gender, and the health of each animal. A diseased animal would need to be quickly quarantined so it would not spread disease to the other animals and provide treatment not only to heal the animal, but also preserve the investment. Wise animal husbandry can identify which animals should be bred to develop stronger and better flocks and herds and how to deal with the weaker members. Consistent attention to the health and the needs of the flock would yield great results and careless inattention would lead to a loss of animals in the short and long term, weaker offspring, and lower profits. The animals would not manage themselves.

Business Application

Marcus Lemonis, billionaire CEO and host of CNBC’s The Profit, has a consistent lesson for small business owners he is trying to assist: know your numbers. His surprise and derision is unleashed on those who cannot give him their specific costs, profit, inventory and receivables turns, expenses, revenue, primary customer revenue, and other key numbers that determine whether their business will be a success or failure. This admonishment is justified because it is a keen awareness of key metrics that can indicate what decisions an owner should make and the general health of the business.

Many businesses fail because owners and managers fail to know the key financial metrics of the company, the true condition of their company’s image in the marketplace, and the health of customer relationships. Companies are blindsided when an important customer abruptly leaves for a competitor noting that they didn’t feel like an important customer anymore. Valuable employees quit because they feel their management does not care about them or recognize their important contribution to the success of the company. Failure to manage the finances and relationships of the business, knowing the status instead of assuming the condition, will disrupt and could ultimately destroy a company.

“For riches do not last forever” Success can breed complacency. Assuming customers still love you because they used to love you is dangerous; you have to constantly compete for their business. Assuming that your products will always be desired and profitable is foolish and a wise company will plan for the replacement of their product lines with products better suited for future needs. Yesterday’s results to not promise profits tomorrow.

Personal Finance

This principle is also important in personal finance. Do you know how much insurance you have and if it will cover the risks to your person and property? Some people have home insurance but find out too late that it didn’t cover flood or fire damage that destroyed their house. Do you have a retirement plan in place or hope that money will materialize somehow in your future? The key is having specific information about your income, expenses, insurance, investments, and anticipated future needs.

Tracking expenses, like tracking calories when dieting, can indicate that you are spending more than you think in a particular area that is contributing to being in debt. When you look at your expenses you might see opportunities for savings that you can invest in the future, areas where you are overspending and could get better discounts, or big bills that you need to plan for long before they are due. Knowing the status of your finances will help you not overdraft your checking account, keep debts low or eliminate them altogether, have investments for the future, and have money to use for helping others and doing good. However, you have to know the numbers in order to make such wise decisions.

Productivity

This proverb can extend even into matters of productivity. Do you know the status of your projects and required tasks? Past success does not guarantee future success. You need to manage your time and energy and use it to work towards your goals which requires a frequent assessment of your opportunities, capabilities, and obligations. If you do not maintain the status of these things your life can become chaotic and unproductive. Organization does not happen by accident, only by design. Maintain the status of your actions and projects or you can lose whatever gains you have made.

Proverbs 21:5 – Planning for Life Success

Proverbs consistently encourages diligence in work but this verse adds an important contrast: planned versus impulsive actions. It is not enough to be busy, a person must be diligently working on the right things to be productive.

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)

Proverbs consistently encourages diligence in work but this verse adds an important contrast: planned versus impulsive actions. It is not enough to be busy, a person must be diligently working on the right things to be productive.

Planning Is More Important Than Plans

Winston Churchill, incorporating the wisdom of military planners such as Moltke the Elder, observed that ““Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” (1) Though game plans may need to be abandoned or significantly adjusted once the game begins (or, Moltke’s assertion that plans do not survive first contact with the enemy), the very process of planning allows a person to make wise decisions to adapt to the changing environment.

Proper planning includes the evaluation and elimination of alternate plans or ideas that might be use in the changing circumstances. Likewise, the evaluation of a course of action might indicate where following the plan would lead to a disastrous outcome though, initially, the plan seems to provide a desirable result. Evaluating such plans in advance allows one to refuse the tempting option in favor of another alternate plan that will provide better results. Additionally, the planning process should generate contingency plans that can be followed when problems strike. NASA, as featured in the movie Apollo 13, documented and trained on unusual scenarios and had documented plans of actions to deal with problem situations.

Using Priorities To Plan Purposeful Action

The danger of keeping to-do lists is that some people list tasks to complete without asking if they should delegate the work to others or even do the work at all. An important part of planning enabling the diligent to be successful is outlining goals and performing actions that lead towards those objectives instead of wasting time on things that might make one look busy but distract from a worthy goal. Plans help us say “no” to actions that are unproductive so we can say “yes” to tasks that bring success. Planning programs such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Successful People incorporate goal development and visioning to create plans that allow productive people to determine what tasks to perform, delegate, or eliminate.

Spiritual Application

Though the proverb has initial application in business success, the same thinking can help us grow spiritually. Do you have spiritual goals such as learning sections of the Bible or becoming more useful in God’s service? Do you have a plan for daily meditation, purposeful prayer, and teaching others? Sometimes we do not grow spiritually or produce fruit because we are satisfied where we are or do not think about what specific steps we need to take to grow in knowledge and be more active in the kingdom. The same principles apply (principles in bold, examples in italics):

  • From your Bible study, identify ways in which you need to grow as a Christian. 
    • I need to be engaged with my brethren in their time of need.
  • Specifically define and write down how you would describe having achieved success in the identified area of development.
    • Every week I am sending cards, calling, and providing assistance to brethren in need in addition to daily prayers on their behalf.
  • Write down what would be needed to achieve this goal.
    • I need a contact information directory of the brethren handy, a weekly list of who needs prayers and some type of service, a weekly reminder to initiate actions or plan actions for later in the week, and a reminder to check at the end of the week to see if I have accomplished this goal. It would be good to have a collection of greeting cards and stamps to prevent procrastination.
  • List specific actions required to achieve this goal and schedule the actions as appropriate.
    • Make a list of everyone announced who is sick or in need. Schedule a recurring appointment on Monday morning to pray over those in the list and list by each name a specific action (or actions) to take this week. If unable to write the cards or make calls at this time, add phone reminders (or add to calendar) for what actions to do at what times. Perform the actions as scheduled. Set a recurring reminder on Saturday morning to review progress and see if additional action needs to be taken (i.e., follow up phone calls). Give thanks to God for the ability and opportunity to glorify Him by serving others to honor Him.

Following a plan like the one above for a month or two may actually develop a habit that may not require a specific schedule (though it would be good to keep in order to block times in the week for particular actions, though habitual). If the plan is not working examine to see whether you need to get more specific in your planning (“do good” is a great goal but not a defining action), actually do the actions you have planned (instead of snoozing reminders), or determine if you have chosen a goal you want to achieve versus what you think you should do but really do not want to do.

Haste Leads to Poverty

The second part of this verse is equally important. Impulsive action generally leads to poverty. Much debt is accumulated through impulse buying. Hard feelings result from impulsive words said or actions taken against others when deliberate thought about what to say (or whether to say something) could have alleviated many problems. Business have brought legal problems on themselves for acting hastily without thinking about the consequences of their actions.

Though bold action is often praised in business and the cinema, bold thoughtful action is what brings consistently good results. When we act impulsively, we are reacting to emotion or situations. We are allowing how we feel in the moment (which is ever changing) or the priorities of others to dictate our course of action. If you do not have a plan for your life, there will always be others to press you into service to achieve their goals and you can end up reacting to everything in life and suffering financially and professionally as a result.  It reminds me of the interaction between Alice and The Cheshire Cat in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: Oh, no, no. I was just wondering if you could help me find my way.
Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: Oh, it really doesn’t matter, as long as…
Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go

(From IMDB)

If you don’t have a plan then any way seems right because you are drifting with the tide or blowing with the wind. When you have a goal (destination), and a plan (map from your origination to your destination), you can cut through the tide, sometimes steering against the wind, to reach your objective. Haste wastes time; planning redeems it.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV)

(1) Strategic Plans are Less Important Than Strategic Planning, Harvard Business Review