Work: Curse or Blessing?

IMG_1136The Curse of Work

How many parents get up in the morning dreading another day of work?  How many of you students are sitting there reading a biology chapter or working out an algebra problem, asking yourself, “Why do I have to know this?”  Work can be a curse. Adam experienced a major life change when sin entered into the world.  He and his wife made some bad choices that brought on God’s wrath…

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,” Genesis 3:18-19

But is Work really a curse?

God’s Work

God is always working.  We see Him at work creating the world in six days.  On the seventh day He is resting.  Did God get tired?  I don’t think so – but He does model for us a week’s worth of work, and then goes on to rest.  He looks over His work and is pleased.  It is good. God seems to enjoy the work He has finished.

In the New Testament we see Christ at work.  In fact, He is “Caught” working on the Sabbath – healing a man.  When questioned by the religious leaders, he points back to the Father. The Father is at work – the Son is at work. Christ is doing the work of the Father.  That is all He can do.

“ But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working… greater works than these will He show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life  to whom he will.”  John 6:17-21

Man’s Work

And then there is man’s work.  Is it the curse so many are trying to free themselves of?  Have you heard people excited to see Friday, the end of the work week?  Are they talking about early retirement or grumbling about getting through another day?  Are students doing the same thing, just enduring through until graduation – and hoping the American corporate dream is better than school?  I hear these comments all the time.

Did you know that work existed before the fall? In fact, God was working at the very start of creation – and you might argue that He was at work before creation ever started.  Then, as man was formed, God planted His garden, and put Adam in it to continue the process.  This all happened before the fall.

“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that he had done in creation…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:3,15

Work was part of Adam’s original design.

Three Pillars of Success

This month I have been taking the Raising Entrepreneurs Mastery Group through the various steps of starting a successful business.  On March 26th, 2014 (4 PM) I will be kicking off the first of 5 detailed sessions – walking through the steps an entrepreneur should take to build a successful business.  But before we get there, it’s important to understand Biblical work. When man has the wrong view – work becomes burdensome.  In fact, for many of us – it has become an idol.  The very thing that we look to for fulfillment and security.

The problem with idols, as we see throughout the book of Judges is, that rather than actually providing fulfillment and security, they make their subjects into slaves.  The workaholic is a perfect example. How many marriages have broken up over a spouse pouring their life into work?

Later this month I will be going through practical steps of creating and building a business – with Biblical work principles at the foundation.  But in order to do that – we will first have to set the stage for how to view that business, and how to avoid becoming a slave to it. This is the trap most entrepreneurs fall into…it’s common.

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Freedom – And Where to Find It!

Work was part of God’s world before we were ever created.  As I review Genesis, it seems clear that being created in His image includes being involved in His work.  That’s what Christ is saying in the John passage I quoted above.  He is going about doing God’s work.  But in Genesis, we see that part of God’s work was creating an earth and planting a garden.  And then setting up Adam to tend it.  That too was God’s work, or His assignment to Adam.

As Tim Keller points out in his book, Every Good Endeavor, man is set free when he is doing what he was designed to do.  Like a fish – set free from water, man is not truly free when he is operating outside of his God-given design – this fish is free, but dying.  But like the fish in water, when man is free from idols, operating in the world he was placed in – in harmony with God’s design, and carrying out the things God has designed him to carry out,  he is indeed free.

It is this perspective that sets all of us free from the drudgery of work, and sets us free to accomplish great things.  It was Martin Luther who pointed out that the Church had somehow made full time ministry into something greater than a “regular job”.  He argues that, our work, when done as called by God, brings order to this world (dominion) and demonstrates love to those around us.  Our jobs, in this context, become part of the fulfillment of the second greatest command – to love our neighbor.

Find Out How to Join Our Next Raising Entrepreneurs Mastery Group Session and Prepare for The Future.

© 2014, David Stelzl

Effective vs. Efficient – the 80/20 Rule Applies

Are you effective?  Are you efficient?

Effectiveness vs. Efficiency. They’re very different.  The people around me seem to value efficiency. The successful businessman – he’s hard working, attending lots of meetings, working late, taking work home, and even working on the weekend.  He’s popular with the management team – announcing his 80 hour work week.  This is what the high school graduate has to look forward to when they enter the workforce.  A work place that values hard work, and completing more tasks than the next person. He’s efficient with his time – hard working, and getting everything he’s asked to do – done! Is this good?

It’s not.

This same thing applies in school.  Is it necessary to spend the whole day in school, reading, writing, computing, coding?  Is the school work being done with great efficiency, fitting more in?  Are you spending more time than the others around you – to get ahead? This is what people admire.

Is the assigned work actually helping you become a person of great wisdom and understanding?  Is the work that guy is doing, actually making the company more profitable?

Both in work and at school, it would seem that the majority of the work is more like busy work.  It makes us feel great to say we finished all of these tasks or we put in this many hours.  But in reality, the busy work hasn’t really lead to greater wisdom or greater profits.

Tim Ferris, in his book, The 4 Hour Work Week puts it like this…How is it that everyone in the world requires the same 40 hours (or more) to get their job done.  The same could be said of school.  How is it that every student requires 7 hours of class, plus homework time (or however much time you schedule for school) to complete their assignments?

Are we spending enough time figuring out what really needs to be done before kicking off the day?

Today’s Homeschool Lesson – Understanding Effectiveness

I was meeting with my 18 year old son today – part of our weekly homeschool routine.  Yes, he’s  graduated from high school, but school is not over.  Even if he never enters the university system, school will never end.  There’s always more learning to do.  But that doesn’t mean sitting in class all day.

Today we spent time reviewing his business plans.  We talked about effectiveness.  You might consider the same.  If you’re in school or teaching homeschool, how effective is your school program?  If you are working on a business – the same question should be asked.

Both of us are running businesses, and both of us could easily spend 80 hours working this week.  But is that necessary?  It turns out that the 80/20 rule usually applies here. It applies to school, and it applies to business.

If a small business looks at their numbers, 80% of the profits will come from 20% of the customers in most cases.  In school – well, it’s probably true that 80% of the academic work is filler over the four year span.  The catch is figuring what is really profitable.  But as David and I discussed today, figuring these kinds of things out is more important than even the money itself. If the student could really learn how to maximize their business – and know which tasks are really the ones to spend time on, then starting a business would be much easier.

© 2014, David Stelzl

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Commenting on: Teaching Entrepreneurship Is in the Startup Phase

book“Forget medical school or law school,” writes Bill Aulet in a recent WSJ article on entrepreneurship (Teaching Entrepreneurship Is in the Startup Phase.)  Note: You may need a subscription to view the linked article – but it’s in the Wall Street Journal.  My father sent this to me the other day and somehow it struck a cord in me…

I was meeting with a friend, former employee, and entrepreneur as few weeks ago while doing business in Florida.  He shared with me the following progression…

1. Get a job and work hard. This is the common goal of most students planning to attend college.  Once they graduate, they’ll assemble a resume, and go out to sell themselves to someone willing to take on an entry level employee.  From there it’s a hard climb upward.

2. Manage the employees.  Once the job is “secured”, its time to move up into management.  Managers make more and do less of the heavy lifting – however, don’t underestimate the stress of managing people.  The biggest problem here is that middle managers often leave behind the skills that actually lead to profits, taking on the day to day paperwork.  If they don’t make the executive level cut, they may find themselves on the street without a viable skill set to land another job.  Middle managers are a dime a dozen – I know from experience.

3. Own your own job – this is code for working for yourself.  Most of the “companies” people start are actually one-person independent contractor type companies – people working for themselves. They are the key person or only person in that business.  From there a good business will grow, requiring more people (and therefore creating more jobs), and allowing that business owner to move up – less of the work, and more of the oversight.  This is a good position to be in.

4. Owning the company – or many companies, but doing less or none of the actual work.  The top end of this progression comes only to a few entrepreneurs who figure out how to create passive income or a business that can be largely run without that person being there every day.  A great example would be something offered or sold online…orders come in while you’re sleeping and a fulfillment house or staff ships it out.

While most will start at number 1, the above mentioned article indicates that more and more students are realizing that number 1 & 2 are very time consuming, often unfulfilling, and don’t naturally lead to 3 and 4.  With this in mind, universities are working on programs to help students get to 3 & 4 sooner, or right out of school.  The problem, as spelled out in the article, is  – there is no formula for starting a business.  At least there isn’t a proven method.  Only about 4% will make it to 10 years, so spending 100K on a degree to help you understand the path might end up being a wasted investment.  After all, how many professors really know how to start a business?  And if they did, would they still be teaching at the University.  In fact, if they are really passionate about entrepreneurship, would they still work within the confines of educational bureaucracy?  Unlikely.

My recommendation is to seek out as many entrepreneurs as possible and spend some time with them.  Each one has their own story – and each one will have a different take on where to start.  If there was ever a good time to be thinking about starting a business – this is it.  Corporate life is hard, unfriendly to the family, and politically charged.  The idea of commuting to work every day, being required to attend hours of meaningless meetings, and being asked to take the smallest salary possible in order to increase company profits just isn’t that interesting any more.  Especially when there really is no security in working for a large company.

© 2013, David Stelzl

The Old Schoolhouse Expo – Tuesday Night at 6 PM ET

Tonight I’ll be speaking at The Old Schoolhouse Expo – homeschooling conference on building businesses while in high school.  A lot’s happened since I spoke at last year’s conference.  My oldest son has graduated, we’ve worked on new business ideas, started an entrepreneur’s workshop program – which we run in Waxhaw, NC, and my own business, speaking and consulting in the high-tech industry, continues to grow and change.  But why consider your own business in the first place?  Why start a business?  And how early do you start? Consider this:

  • The world (TWP) preaches early retirement – spend your young years working like a slave, day and night, save as much money as possible (living off of as little as possible), and then, when you’re just getting to that point where you need more rest and can’t get around as well, you retire somewhere, away from your family and try to hook up with others who did the same.  Sounds depressing.  In fact, this plan assumes that what you do for work is something you want to get away from as soon as possible. Why not create a business designed around the things you are gifted to do, meeting the needs of real people.  The relationships that come out of this type of work are what bring joy and purpose to life.  Why be so anxious to end it all just so you can sit around and play cards or rock on the porch?
  • TWP: Join a big company and work up the ladder – get into leadership, earn your way into a six figure income, and manage lots of people.  I would rather own the business from the start and hire in managers as needed to deal with the headaches that come with personnel management.  Create a model that offers flexibility so that you can do the things you enjoy doing in the business – hire others to do those things that you don’t enjoy. And when it’s time to take a week and go fishing or you really want to play cards, take off and do it.  For me it might be backpacking or spending the week in the mountains in a cabin with my family.  And why limit this to two or three weeks of prescheduled time?  Instead consider taking off during those months of the year that seem to be slower.  In my business July is often a slow month…take advantage of it.
  • TWP: Get into a company with stability – financially sound, so that you have job security.  Does that company still exist?  Expect these larger companies to find a way to replace you when they think you’re getting old.  You can’t get laid off from your own company (assuming you are the sole owner).
  • TWP: Sacrifice your personal life so that you can get ahead and make lots of money.  Is that what you really want – lots of money?  You might make the same, or you might make less with your own business.  You might even make more.  But making lots of money while losing your family to divorce, having heart problems from stress, or just not having enough time to go do the things that really make life fun, doesn’t sound like a good trade.  Instead, build a business around something meaningful, invest in the lives of others, and create a business model that offers a great balance of work and family.
  • TWP: Get as much education as possible before doing anything meaningful…then start at the bottom and figure out the career side of things.  Why not start the business now and learn along the way.  If you can get started in high school, while your parents are supporting you, you’ll be way ahead by the time you hit the 20s.

Tonight I’ll be sharing 7 principles you’ll need to succeed, and some simple steps to get you started.  I hope to see you there…(CLICK for More).

© 2013, David Stelzl

Becoming an Expert – Challenging the Status Quo

Can you develop training material, write an article, speak on a subject, or advise in some area?  Do you need a degree to do it?  The answer to the first is yes, the answer to the second is no.

A Simple Formula

Read and study the top three or four selling books on a topic and you will likely know more than 80% of those involved in that field.  If you can assimilate the material, summarize it, and apply it to real life scenarios you are ahead of most.  Americans don’t read any more – in fact, most have stopped learning all together.  Those in college are studying from out of date text books and those working in the field have generally moved over from other disciplines and don’t actually have any formal training in the field they work in.

Twenty years ago I started studying marketing principles.  My degree is in computers, not marketing.  The first time I went out to consult with a marketing team I was afraid I would completely make a fool of myself.  I expected to enter a room full of top-notch marketing executives like you might see on a television program.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  None of them had been to marketing school, few had read any current marketing books, and from what I could tell, they were all doing the paperwork, but none of them were developing the ideas or strategies.  This is typical.

Become an Expert

Here’s something you should be doing – that is if you plan to be in business.

  • Brainstorm. Make a list of the areas you need to be an expert in, or want to be an expert in.
  • Find three or four great books on the subject.  Consider the New York best seller lists or use Amazon and search out your topics of interest.  In both cases you want to eventually go to Amazon’s reviews and see how many people have commented and what their comments say.  Also consider input from successful people you know on what books you should read.
  • Get out your hi-lighter. Reading these books is not enough.  I want you to study them.  Some people read a lot – that’s not what I am saying here.  Your goal is to discover 3 or 4 authors that have thought this through.  Once you’ve identified these people, you want to study what they say.  If I really like someone, I’ll read their book, but then I will go online and see what else I can find from them. That might be blog posts, YouTube videos, or other books they’ve written.  Study their works, evaluate them against Biblical principles, and then think them through in light of the work you have done or observed. In some cases you will discard some of their ideas, in other cases you may expand or improve on them as you go.
  • Begin to make applications.  Summarize what they’ve said and consider how to apply it to different circumstances.
  • Consider your people group. People group is something I’ve written about before – but we’re talking about a narrow group that you hope to market to in the future.  The more niche this group is the better, as long as their is money and a need that is not being effectively met.
  • Find a way to monetize.  This last step is one I’ll be writing more about in the future – there are many ways to monetize something.  It might be the development of educational material such as training or a book you write.  Or there may be a product that can be developed or resold.

© 2013, David Stelzl

Mission Or Money?

business leadersThree points I read this morning in Inc.magazine that I felt were important to pass on…you don’t see too many business owners, especially when things get busy, living this out:

1. Focus on the culture first.  Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, gives culture and people a lot of attention.  Talent is not enough – Inc. writer Ross Mantle states it like this when speaking of employees, “They need to have a strong moral compass and be true believers in what they are doing.”  I would add, “They need to buy into the beliefs of the business owner.”  One thing I have added recently to my two page business planning process (the one I use in my Business and Strategy Workshop) is a column for belief system.   Many companies state their core values – but values change with the economic health of the company.  Beliefs in my world are founded on scripture and are therefore non-negotiable. Every employee in my company would need to buy into our purpose and belief system (not speaking here of religion) – a “One accord team.”

2. Focus on the endgame.  This is your VISION or what Michael Gerber, author of eMyth Revisited, calls, The Strategic Aim. It also reflects the WHY talked about on Simon Sinek’s video (The 17 minute video I have point to numerous times in this blog).  When I was in college our Intervarsity Christian Fellowship leader use to always say, “You know they are getting your vision when you hear them mimicking you or making fun of you.”

3. Putting Mission before Money.  This is hard to do when money is tight.  Mantle notes here that entrepreneurs usually talk about money first – at least that is what is really on their mind.  Quoting Luis con Ahn in the article, “In mission based companies it’s the opposite: Get the mission right, and the money will come.”  In our workshop we talk about setting your mission and identifying a people group you aim to serve.  When you meet real needs, the marketing and selling part becomes easy.

© 2013, David Stelzl

Are You A Trained Teacher?

John Wesley

John Wesley, Right next to my hotel in downtown Melbourne

I’m just beginning my work week here in Melbourne, Australia, after a restful weekend of site seeing and adjusting to the local time. You can see more pictures of the city here:

As I travel around there are always opportunities to meet people – which is something i come to really enjoy…Just yesterday  I met a couple from Boston and we got to talking about and family – and of course, homeschooling came up.

Are You Really Homeschooling?

Do you get asked about your homeschooling?  I really believe homeschooling is the best way.  So when someone starts asking about homeschooling, I like to have answers – good answers.  If homeschooling really is the best thing for my kids, I don’t want to be on the defensive.  Rather, I’d like to leave those I am talking with, questioning their own values and belief system.  My program should sound better than theirs if they’ve simply followed the state run education program…

One of the first questions  this couple asked me was, “Do you teach them yourself?”  Well, if you homeschool, the answer should be “Yes!” – this goes for fathers as well as mothers.  Fathers, please don’t say, “My wife does the teaching.”  If that’s your answer, your homeschool needs some re-engineering.

This couple mentioned that they have some friends in Boston who some homeschool – however their friends, along with several other families, all send their kids to a man who is a “Trained” teacher, and he teaches them. This is not homeschooling – it’s a small private school.

I know the state would not recognize this family’s “private school” as such, but it is in almost all respects.  Homeschooling happens within the family, so I explained the difference.  With prepared answers we have an opportunity to share Biblical principles and Christ with others…when people hear that our approach makes sense, it causes them to question their own philosophies.  It also provides a way to share Christ as we share the wisdom of Biblical principles.

Are You A Trained Teacher?

My favorite part of the conversation was when they asked, “Are you a teacher?”.  If you homeschool, you are a teacher – or a discipler and mentor of your children.  I have 20 years of teaching experience.

But that’s not what they meant.  They wanted to know if I have been trained as a teacher…formally trained as a teacher.  But since they didn’t ask if I had a degree in teaching, I was able to say “Yes!”  In fact, I’ve been formally trained to disciple people through various discipleship oriented organizations I’ve been involved in such as Intervarsity, and the homeschool organization we’ve been involved in from the start.  And as I explained what we are doing in our program to equip our children to function in this world, both the husband and wife started to agree that this was far superior than the average public school education.  It got them thinking about the disaster our society is reaping from our local school system.

We’ll be covering some of this in our upcoming Raising Entrepreneurs conferences – check out the events page – I hope you will join us.

Questions Present Opportunities

When we have great answers, and are able to share them, not in a flippant or arrogant way, but rather in a way that allows people to a glimpse of God’s wisdom, it opens doors.  Make sure you have well thought out answers – and make sure your homeschool program really is all that it can be.  We have a tremendous opportunity to bring lasting change to this country as we raise up sons and daughters that have real wisdom and understanding, and who are not indoctrinated by worldly thinking.

© 2013, David Stelzl