(This is the first in a series of posts on Big Omaha.)

Okay, so I’m going through my nine pages of notes from the Big Omaha conference right now. On top of that, I’m sifting through the overload of thoughts I have from the past two days. I haven’t slept well the past two nights because I’ve had a lot of inspiration for life and work because of Big Omaha.

So, when I was in conversations with people at Big Omaha it would happen that whenever I brought up I worked at a church, as an Art Director, it was a conversation killer with a few people. It went something like this:

ME: So, what do you do?
ANONYMOUS PERSON: I run my own web agency. And what about you?
ME: I’m an Art Director at a church here in town.
AP: (slightly frightened look) Oh…that’s, that’s nice. (now looking for any way to get out of conversation, by any means necessary)
ME: So tell me more about your agency…
AP: ThereismyfriendwayovertherewhoIammeetingbye!

Naturally, I want to start this series of posts off with a focus on Jesus. Why start off this retrospection with Jesus? Because in the words of comedian Jim Gaffigan, “I do want everyone to feel comfortable that’s why I’d like to talk to you about Jesus.” (Hint, he says it sarcastically.)

(Really, I’m surprised this is the first thing I’d write about with the conference. )

Some may wonder what connections Big Omaha has with Jesus, Christianity, the Bible, and if you were to be in attendance and heard some of the NSFW language you might really wonder why I thought it was such a big deal to attend Big Omaha. However, there were a lot of Biblical principles that came forth in the presentations, whether people realized it or not, and it was interesting to hear how the speakers applied it to their lives and businesses. Some quick hitters from the conference:

Jason Fried (37Signals.com)

  • What matters is what you’re doing now with what you have.
  • Why focus on what could happen? Focus on now.
  • We can learn from older industries.
  • Invest into your core things.
  • Apprenticeship is going to make a comeback.

Micah Laaker (Laaker.com)

  • It’s hard to change your users existing patterns and behaviors.
  • Don’t design empty rooms for your customers, don’t reinvent the wheel. If people are on MySpace figure out a way to tie-in to it.

Micah Baldwin (LearnToDuck.com)

  • Biggest response came to posting biggest failure.
  • Open to the reality that your plan can change.

Jeffrey Kalmikoff (CallMeJeffrey.com / Threadless.com)

  • A business changes when the people (staff) changes.
  • Keep asking, “What’s the purpose?”
  • Community is fueled by accessibility, which is fueled by transparency.
  • Spend time with your community.

Ben Rattray (Change.org)

  • Do well by doing good.
  • Our best minds work on problems that don’t matter.
  • If your company didn’t exist would anyone care.
  • Time is short.
  • Are you working on the most important problem you can think of?
  • Very few businesses built around building deeper relationships.
  • If you have a true vision, and articulate it well, people will follow.

Gary Vaynerchuk (WineLibrary.tv / GaryVaynerchuk.com)

  • I love my family first and foremost.
  • DNA is one powerful S.O.B.
  • Maybe you don’t need to play four hours of Madden after work.
  • If you’re not putting out your voice you aren’t a part of society anymore.
  • Care. F*****’ care!
  • Storytelling is underrated in business.
  • People are naive until it hits them.

Granted, some of these statements make more sense when you have the context of the entire presentation, but I think you get the gist of them. If I were to elaborate on all of them this post would turn into a book. I’ll hit on a few and try to keep it short.

All the speakers have an over-arching mission statement that drives their work, but they don’t have a five year plan per se. They are all in the now, focusing in on the day and whatever opportunities, problems, variables and conflicts come with it. As Jason Fried put it, “Plans are guesses. You can’t predict or consider all variables.” I kept hearing this from all the speakers. Gary Vaynerchuk put it more *eloquently* by saying, in a nutshell, he tells people to “(bleep) off” when they present him with a five year plan. What’s this have to do with Jesus? Matthew 6:25-34 talks about it and here is the closing verse of that passage:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

The speakers are aware of the moment, of the culture, of the trends and respond accordingly with what they know and how it coincides with their mission. And they know their mission. They do not deviate from it. Everything they do drives them and their work toward their mission. They are passionate about what they believe and do. They have a single-minded focus on their mission, on their goal. This brings to mind Hebrews 11 and 12.

Hebrews 11 is the chapter which lists off famous people in the Bible who did great things by faith. Why did they do these great and miraculous things? They were fixated on one goal which fueled them. Hebrews 12 opens up with this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

The speakers have fun, some of them have families, but they do not like to constantly waste their time with stuff that takes away from their work. If our Christian faith is relegated to church services, the occasional conference/retreat and reading the latest flavor-of-the-month book, then I don’t see how we have “fixed our eyes on Jesus”. We need to be disciplined, as it says later on in Hebrews 12, and the speakers discipline themselves with their lives and work. It may not come off as that, and they may not say it as such, but they are disciplined in the way go about their mission. It’s no fluke they are successful. Nothing deviates them from their mission. Are we working toward the mission God has presented before us, or is our time taken up with playing Madden NFL for hours upon hours each day? Do we focus our time, energy and resources on problems that matter?

Of course, customers are a big part of the speakers’ missions. (Obviously, they are in business.) The online and real world community they interact with is vital. Sometimes it is easy to think business people give lip service to the customer, but to the speakers it was legitimate. They all have an established reputation of doing so. A number of them shared some of their failures and how important it is to own it right away and not make excuses. They are listening to their customers and respond to what they hear. Of course, we are to go into all the world and reach people. (Matthew 28:18-20) We are to interact with the people around us. We are to be in the world, but not of it. (John 17, Romans 12) How can we address issues if we aren’t listening to people? How can we help and serve if we aren’t engaged with the community around us? Look at how the Apostle Paul thrusted himself into communities and cultures and addressed the issues of the day by reasoning people to the scriptures. (Acts 17, 1 & 2 Corinthians) How often did Jesus interact with the crowds around him and address the cultural traditions of his day? (Matthew 5-9, 12-14, 15-16) We need to be engaged with the people around us and not be separated from everyone.

They are focused in on their customers and community. They care about them, or as some put it they (bleeping) care about them. They believe in what they are doing and people are following them. Sound like anyone from the Bible? (Minus the “bleeping” of course.)

Lots more to come, including practical application with my work…

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