This is the (long) third and final post about Big Omaha. It’s so long I split it up in two parts. To read the previous posts click the appropriate link:
Big Omaha…and Jesus (click here)
Big Omaha…and the City of Omaha (click here)

One week later and I’m still buzzing from Big Omaha. There was plenty of fun, insight and absurd. (I still laugh at the sight of me at the kickoff party, a taping of Wine Library Tv where people sampled wines, and I’m at the bar drinking a ginger ale.) It was, and still is, all good.

Jason Fried kicked off the conference and his takes on failure to inspiration was great. He started off with a missive on failure and wondering when it became cool to fail. I had never thought about failure like this, but as I delved into the topic I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing. I know of instances where people who almost take pride in their failure. Why? Failure is not a prerequisite for success. (I think of this especially with students who try and out do one another with their testimonies at Christian functions by highlighting and embellishing their sins before following Jesus.) Yes, we can learn from failure, but we shouldn’t mire ourselves in it. Our approach to life should not be a process of elimination.

Sidenote, when he was talking of failure it took me back to my days as a bad skateboarder. Despite being bad, skateboarding is one thing you can fail at and still have some success. As long as you are “falling with style” people will “ooohh and ahhhh”. I just remember watching skate videos with some of my fellow skaters and the end of the tape would have all the failed tricks. I remember the failed tricks more than the tricks that were pulled off.

He also launched into how planning nowadays is foolish. This was echoed later by Gary Vaynerchuk who said he tells people in so many words to “F*** off” when they hand him a one year business plan. (Not to mention Micah Baldwin and Jeffrey Kalmikoff brought up the same point.) All plans show are how every projection is going to go up and up. You can’t predict or consider variables. How can you even know what is coming? Five years ago would you have factored Facebook or Twitter? Of course not, so how can you predict five years out when tech and culture nowadays almost goes through a life cycle in five years? This goes back to knowing your mission, sticking to it and being focused in on the now. You need to be aware of trends, but focus in on the now and not what might be. Because what might be is anyone’s guess.

Jason also hit on focusing on your core things. So often companies and organizations spend inordinate amounts of resources on things that detract from their core mission. It’s not that a company like Amazon isn’t branching out into thing, but they focus a lot of their resources on shipping and distribution. That’s their bread and butter and if they worry more about developing some social network on their site that takes away from shipping and distribution, someone else will come in and steal their market share. For churches, do they remember to focus in on their mission and core doctrine, or do they sacrifice that to start something contrary to their foundational principles?

Micah Laaker followed up and showed how a so-called nerd, who sketched Lord of the Rings characters in high school, would go on to work with some of the most prominent hip-hop acts in music today. He can speak all sorts of programming code, and that was present in his talk, but a few things stuck out. He brought up how “services are expensive to build and maintain” and that “it’s hard to change your users existing patterns and behaviors”. He hit on this and said to not reinvent the wheel. If people are on Facebook, for example, don’t design some new social network that no one will go to. Once again, the church is guilty of this. There is some go-to-site online, but then Christians design their own version of it. Why? Why not leverage Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to your advantage? I’ve had this thought for a long time and it amazes me when churches just miss a huge audience because they are scared off by the “secular/worldly” site. It’s stupid, and hardly anyone outside your circle (and that is being nice) is going to come to your little portion of the web and invest themselves into your site when they can go to the real thing one click away. Laaker hit on this and told of how Yahoo! is doing this with their site. (Micah Laaker works for Yahoo!)

Next up was Micah Baldwin who has been a part of a number of start-ups, like Lijit (which I use), and has a bit of legendary status on Twitter having started up #followfriday. He shared a lot on his failures and how his biggest response online was when he discussed his failures. I think that is true in Christianity as well. When someone will share their own sin and shame, and how they overcame it, the response is almost always positive and uplifting. And, it can be inspiring to others. However, we can be so afraid of sharing are struggles and shame that we never overcome it. The shame bogs us down until we are a shell of our former selves.

(Part two will be posted tomorrow.)

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