Comfort in the Scalable

From time to time our Pastor challenges us with the question of “How many people have you witnessed to today? How many people have you brought to Bible Class?” Because I’m usually at home, and have not had opportunity to go out into the world and witness to anyone, my answer is usually… no one. Plus I’m just not a naturally garrulous person so I tend not to speak to grocery store checkers, sales clerks, other exercisers at the Y, etc. Not surprisingly then, the challenge usually provokes a certain amount of guilt in me.

However, I’ve come to see, again, or perhaps with more clarity (or more belief that it’s true?) that talking to grocery store checkers is really not my calling. And surprisingly there were some principles in The Black Swan that helped solidify that.

At several points throughout the book author  Nassim Taleb mentioned the importance of having a lot of uninterrupted solitude, the kind “a nontransactional life” provides, in order to think. Thinking takes a lot of time and energy (as I’ve discovered for myself  recently after days filled with wall-to-wall activity left me devoid of energy and words). In any event, if you’re alone thinking, you aren’t out witnessing to people.

And that’s where learning the difference between the non-scalable work characteristic of Mediocristan vs the scalable work in Extremistan has changed my perspective. Though I may not be out there talking to a lot of folks personally (Mediocristan), my books (and even this blog) have the potential to reach far more people than I could physically interact with on a day-to-day basis.

I don’t keep track of lifetime copies sold, but at one point not long after Arena had been published I figured it had probably been read by a minimum of 30,000 people. Even if I was garrulous, outgoing and extroverted… and tirelessly active, I don’t think I could personally reach 30,000 people in a year. Certainly I couldn’t speak to those in China and Thailand, where readers have reported that my books have shown up.

Thanks to Taleb’s clarifications on this matter, I realize I no longer have cause to beat myself up over my not so social lifestyle and the not so many people I am able to witness to in person on a daily basis. Friends who have known me for some time might remember that I’ve come to this conclusion on a previous occasion and wonder why it seems more significant now. I don’t know, it just does. Maybe all I really needed was the reminder, and that coming from an unexpected source.

Of course, given that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, I had no cause to beat myself up in the first place, but sometimes these doctrinal concepts need a little twist of perspective to make them real. Or at least, more so. (Our world is not at all hospitable to the notion that as believers in Christ we are already perfect and whole and blameless in His sight and can’t do one thing to make ourselves better than He’s already made us. But that’s a post for another day.)

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