Saturday, July 19, 2014

5 Steps to 3 Ways You Can Do 2 Things Better

The title to this blog is confusing, isn't it?
But did it capture your attention?
It probably did.

The last two months I have been writing for GovLoop - an online network of government professionals who share tips and techniques for providing top notch government programs, leadership and services. Writing for GovLoop was a challenge. I had to come up with 12 articles in 12 weeks, but believe it or not, that was not the challenge.
The challenge was creating the right title to get people to actually READ my article.

When my first few articles posted on GovLoop, I noticed the editor had changed my titles. For example, I wrote an article entitled "Change or Die" which was changed to:
"How Can You Make Real Change? Use the 3 R's!"
Wow, big difference. Was this my article?
Then I wrote one about management mistakes entitled "Leadership Achilles Heels", and that was changed to "7 Common Leadership Mistakes." Hmmm..noticing a pattern here?
Finally, I got with the program. For my last few articles, I started using numbers and/or the word "You" in the titles. In fact, the article I wrote last week about why employee evaluations fail was a real struggle. Why? I had 6 reasons why they fail and I REALLY wanted to get to that magic number 5! I tried. My personal editor-friend (Let me just give a shout out to Karen Guthrie right now!) said in her usual candid and professional manner: "Ah, Hope? You really have six reasons here, not five. Nice try though!" Anyway, I have one more GovLoop article which comes out this Monday and it was all I could do not to give it the title you see at the top of this blog:

5 Steps to 3 Ways You Can Do 2 Things Better (in Government)
Now, that would be funny.
But it would probably be the last time I ever wrote for GovLoop. Or anyone else for that matter.

I don't blame the GovLoop editor for changing my titles. She actually taught me a lesson - the most important lesson of all in writing - WRITE FOR YOUR READER. Government employees, heck, PEOPLE only have so much time in their day. They want simple solutions. Easy to read advice. Get-to-the-point guidance. If your title doesn't interest them, they will never take the time to read your article or story, so make your title an "attention grabber", make it personally RELEVANT to your reader. I am very thankful GovLoop drove that message home because it will improve my writing.
I also learned that sometimes things just aren't that simple. They can't be packaged into 3 neat little steps.

  • 3 Ways to Say Thank You to Mom for All She's Done Your Whole Entire Life
  • Make The World a Better Place in 5 Easy Steps
  • Drought-Schmought: Learn the California Rain Dance in 5 Minutes!
  • 30 Minutes to Peace in the Middle East 
  • Want to Be Close to God? Just Do These 3 Things Now!
The last one in particular doesn't work. (I am tempted to try to the California Rain Dance. We're so desperate for water in California that the State is asking us to water our lawns with SPIT. In 3 Easy Steps of course!)
I cannot be closer to God in 3 Easy Steps.
I can't be closer to anyone in 3 Easy Steps. So why do I think it would work with God? Just bing-bang-boom and God is all mine! Can you guess what those 3 easy steps would be?  Hold on, let me try Googling this and see what comes up... 
Alright - here are the results...
Oh, oh. Evidently it takes more than 3 steps.  
My Google search came back with 10, 7, 8 steps to getting closer to God, but not 3. Evidently, that is too simple, but with just a few MORE steps I CAN get closer to God. And you guessed it, here are the most common suggestions...
Repent, Pray, Read Your Bible...

Sorry, I've done all the above and I can't say that it has made me closer to God.  Maybe the second one a little bit, but the other two? No. Could be me. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. As for "repent"--that one I have particular trouble understanding how that makes me feel closer to God. Admitting my failures and screw-ups (again!) will make me feel closer to God? Maybe what the author meant by that step, "Repent" (sorry I didn't have time to read the entire article - too many steps!) is when I realize how forgiving God is, when I truly understand how he is always there to take me back like the prodigal daughter, THAT will make me feel closer to Him? I guess "Repent" just isn't the right word, at least for me. As a recovering Baptist, I hear the word "Repent" and I think: "Repent of all your sins if you want to be close to God, otherwise you cannot be in His presence or you will burn up like a dry, diseased California Eucalyptus tree after 3 years of a massive God-inflicted draught." That doesn't exactly facilitate closeness with God now does it?

Anyway, my point is twofold:  (Now You Can Understand My Point in 2 Easy Steps!)
1)  Being close to God cannot be reduced to "Easy Steps"
2)  Most things cannot be reduced to "Easy Steps" 

Even though we like our advice and self-help packaged in bite sized chunks, it just doesn't always work out that way. Life is complicated. People are unique, different, complex and interesting. God is all of those characteristics and more, but He is also a God who wants to be found, to be understood, to be loved. Remember the children Jesus let sit in his lap? Remember how he asked us to be like them? He wants us to trust Him and be open to his love - not trying to figure out all the steps we need to take in order to be the right kind of Christian or to climb the staircase to God. In fact, there are NO steps to God. He is right here, right now.
Mother Teresa said she feels closest to God when she is serving the needy. I agree. She didn't provide steps to do that. (I can see it now--"Mother Teresa's 3 Easy Steps to Loving the Unlovely!") She didn't make it sound easy. She just did it.  And she did it every day, for a long, long, time lovingly and generously, in places and for people it was desperately needed and even then, she admitted (read her letters) she didn't always feel close to God. If Mother Teresa can feel far from God sometimes, than my guess is it isn't simple to have and maintain a close relationship with God or to always feel him near. There are so many reasons why. As I heard a pastor say this morning, "We don't always want what we know we should want." I want to be close to God, but then again sometimes I don't. Complicated, huh?  My point exactly. Doesn't mean I give up on God. Just means I don't try to reduce Him or my faith journey to some trite religious step-by-step formula.
Honestly, I am tired of all the "easy steps".  I want to rest like one of those children who sits with Jesus and I am starting to do just that. I pray simple prayers. I tell God the truth. I listen. I question Him. I plead. I look to see how I can be a blessing to others. I ask Him to help me. I fail. I apologize. I get confused. I try to be OK with it. I don't try to package up my faith into a perfect little formula that guarantees me heaven. It doesn't work that way. Because it's just not that simple. There are no easy steps.

Except in government. ;)

PS) You can check out my GovLoop articles here: 1 Click Step to Hope's GovLoop Articles!
Hope A. Horner, 2014
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Contact author on gmail at hopeh1122

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