Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: the definition of insanity

Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.
- Narcotics Anonymous
I've heard versions of the above quote many times and have even quoted it myself on several occasions.  It's been attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin and probably even Gandhi.  These so-called sources are all misattributed.  The words were from a 1981 manual for Narcotics Anonymous.  The amazing thing is that in less than three decades the quote was able to sprout legs and walk into so many famous people's mouths.

Not only that, but the quote--which I think is a pretty good one--has been has been altered in some insidious ways.  The most famous version of the quote (the "Einstein" version) has taken on an interesting twist over the last 35 years.  Here's what it's now become:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
- (not) Albert Einstein (and, yes, the emphasis is mine...actually, no, the emphasis is fake-Einstein's...why not?) 
See the difference?  The original was to help addicts change their bad habits; the fake version was a call for anyone to change.  Both can be helpful, but only one is even close to being consistently true.

I'm already getting bored of this post a little, so let's leave aside the "definition of insanity" part.  Here's what I'm getting at: it's not crazy to keep doing the same thing and expect different results at least eventually.

I'm not talking about mistakes or lack of planning.  I'm not talking about being lazy or half-hearted.  I'm talking about the times when you did the best you knew how.  You woke up in the morning focused on the goal.  You were introspective.  You prayed about it.  You ignored the criticisms.  You put in the work.  Everything seemed to be pointing you to that one thing and it felt like the right thing.  And it didn't turn out how it was supposed to turn out.

Then the second-guessing starts.  All of the sudden you can't be introspective enough.  Of course, the criticisms get louder, life gets lonely and you wonder why God led you to a dead end.  Especially when you tried so hard to do the right thing and do it consistently.

I'm not recommending that people don't learn how to change.  It's a necessary thing.  But from my experience, many times that fearful change is not a change of deeds, but one of method and approach.  Many people know what they ought to be doing but have a hard time persevering in those things.  I'm no exception to that.

This is why the witness of your "rightness" cannot be determined by results and certainly not immediate ones.  The build-up to any level of success is much more likely to be slow and derived from a lot of wise counsel from many different people.  The results will vary widely and you'll have mixed emotions about it fairly often.  You'll find yourself doing many of the same things you've always done and both praise and criticism will slowly become muted as you realize it really doesn't make that much of a difference.

This is the lesson I learned in 2015.  How?  I did the exact opposite of insanity: I did mostly the same thing over and over again and didn't expect anything good to come of it at all.  At least not really.  (After all, it's been a string of pretty tough years.)  This year things just started to happen at my job, in my ministry, in my family.  There's so much I could say, but it would probably come out far to "me-focused".  Maybe if you see me in person and ask me about it and I'll be able to say it better.  But let it be sufficient to reiterate: it was consistently doing a lot of the same things with a lot of wise counsel from a lot of different people.  And I'm thankful.

Now what could happen in 2016 if I actually expected different results?
Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
- Jim Rohn (or possibly Jim Rome, but who cares really?)

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