Dane Cook is to Comedy What Benny Hinn is to Christianity

In regards to our own religious beliefs, or lack of them, it all ultimately comes down to the classic case of choosing to either overlook or focus on the best or worst of extremes and using that viewpoint as the unchangeable standard to support what we believe.

When it comes to my involvement with facebook, I’m more of an observer and less of a participant.  I’ll comment on people’s pictures and random status updates (as a way to “stay in the loop” with people I haven’t seen in years, because sometimes, there’s nothing really new to say to them, just “hey, how are you doing?”).  It may be safe to say that I tend to get the most enjoyment by reading the controversial status updates that at least 20 people comment on.  It’s just funny, if nothing else, to see the original “status updater” provoke that many people to argue with him or her, or other commenters.

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen several occurrences of this scenario involving religious sorts of proclamations.  The status updater makes a statement that at least in some subtle tone indicates that people who belong to any sort of religion (typically Christianity is specifically targeted) are gullible and naïve.  Then all those who are also non-religious and outspoken jump on the “no god wagon” which in turn provokes those who are religious to either defend themselves or their beliefs.

Benny Hinn, saying his famous catch phrase, "Be healed!"

By being a silent spectator of these events, I get to learn exactly how those who are disgusted by/apathetic towards religion became that way.  It seems a lot of the time the reason they stopped believing in God has to do with other people they saw who were in some way hypocritical.  Or televangelists who make money by telling their listeners they can become rich and blessed by giving money to the church and/or buying his book on “abundant living”.  Or judgmental church marquee signs that try to be cute by scarring people into church: “Without the bread of life, you’re toast!”  (A reference to Holy Smoke). Or because they visited a church one time and were either really bored or ignored by everyone.  Or because they never got a satisfying answer to this question: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People ? (Click that title to read why.)

Or any other of the thousands of reasons why the concept of God coming to Earth in the form of a Jewish man to die for the sins of the entire world (who was raised back to life after three days, then 40 days later ascend to Heaven) because He loves them and wants a personal relationship with them and will give them eternal life yet will cast them to hell if they don’t believe doesn’t seem logical, practical, or coherent.

And here's your host for "Your Best Life Now", superstar Joel Osteen!...

There are so many reasons not to believe.  I can see how it could be pretty easy to focus on any of them.  But just like the way nonbelievers focus on any of those reasons for a basis for not believing, I overlook all those reasons and instead focus on all the other thousands of reasons to actually believe.

At the end of the day (and more literally, our earthly life), we will have had the free will to choose which reasons why we do or do not believe.  I won’t get into all the details here, but the whole reason I exist ultimately goes back to a scam in 1973 involving some shady tent revival “preachers” who convinced my grandparents to sell all their belongs (and give the money to the church, which in turn went to the preachers) and move from Buffalo, NY (to avoid a prophesied national famine that never came) to Fort Payne, AL (the “Promised Land”, safe from the national famine).  Ultimately, my parents met as teenagers, both being forced to go to that weird church.  They got married four years later, then four years after that, I was born.

What, is it a sin or judgmental that I don't think this guy is funny? Dane, if you're reading this, sorry- I'll buy you lunch. Email me.

If anyone had a reason to be bitter or disgusted or simply just “through with” organized religion and/or God, it was my family.  But instead, they chose to recognize that they had been misled by deceptive people who claimed to be following God.  They chose to trust in God despite of other people, not allowing faulted human beings to get in the way with their relationship with God.

Of all the reasons not to believe in God, the one that I understand the least is the fact that hypocrites and less-than-perfect Christians exist.  To judge an entire religion because of the worst specimens seems unfair to everyone.  I love comedy and comedians.  I’m not a fan of Dane Cook or Larry the Cable Guy, but I don’t denounce comedy in general because of what I perceive as poor example of what a comedian is.  But ultimately sometimes it’s much easier to judge an entire group by picking out the worst examples as the mascot for the whole team.

Yes.  Greedy, selfish, hateful, people are all around who call themselves Christians.  But there are also the ones that don’t make the headlines.  The ones who demand less attention.  The ones risking their lives to help starving and dying villages in the poorest parts of the world.  But instead, Christianity is often judged by our worst examples.

And as hard as I try to be a perfect Christian and try to be a good example for everyone, I will constantly miss the mark in some way.  If I personally was the only example of Christianity for the whole world to see, it would be dangerous for Christianity.  The world would see my sincerity, my love for others, my time in prayer for so many people, my humility in my constant trusting in God for all the unseen and the future.  But they would see me mess up too.  My pride, my selfishness, and my shame.

Multiply that concept by the hundreds of millions, to symbolize all the Christians of the world.  What would onlookers choose to see?  Just the good?  Just the bad?  Both?  Whatever the answer is, that’s most likely how you see God, or don’t.

Free will is a complicated and dangerous thing.


The Modern Day Tortoise

The principle of “working smart” is often seen as the shaggy, scruffy twin brother of “working hard”. Working Smart isn’t actually lazy, it’s just that he earned an online Master’s degree in time management and puts it to good use. He’s good at not wasting his time on daily goose chases, but stays consistent with the mundane tasks plus gambles on high-end pay-offs on a constant basis. I am a self-proclaimed Smart Worker. That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard; it means while I’m working I may not look busy, but I still end up being just as productive (if not more) than those who look busy while working.

I see the fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare” as a visualization of Working Smart vs. Working Hard. The tortoise isn’t bothered by the hype around him; he stays on the steady path. He knows the importance of patience. He keeps his eyes on the prize as his competitors burn their best energy on passing him. And later on when they grow tired or bored, his consistent progress wins him the prize.

As Dr. Phil says, “you do what works for you.” I have been Working Smart, not hard, my whole life. It was officially 1992 (5th grade) when I realized I wouldn’t actually need math beyond basic algebra, or science beyond a baking soda and vinegar volcano, since I knew I’d never want to be an engineer or doctor. I also noticed that though I had never studied for a spelling test, every week I got “105” for my score (I always got the “challenge words” right too) and that my Reading and English classes required little effort, yet those classes challenged me in a fun way. Instead of trying to be an all around great student, why not just focus on what comes easy for me and get by on the other stuff?

Stress causes cancer, heart disease, and loss of hair. Working Smart involves avoiding unnecessary stress when at all possible.

I was the dreaded nightmare to school officials when it came to those yearly standardized tests to measure the school system’s progress; I only tried on the English and Reading sections because they entertained me. For the rest of the subjects, I either marked “C” or made a cool diagonal design down the Scantron. Then I just daydreamed afterwards. Because it didn’t effect my personal grades and I knew it. I had proven my true intelligence by knowing not to worry about a Communist test that couldn’t hurt my individual grades.

When it came to gym class, I Worked Smart too. Dodge Ball was my favorite. While all the aggressive kids ran out to the front lines when the game began (and got hit right away) and made ballsy moves like attempting to catch the opponent’s ball in mid-air (causing a higher risk of getting out if they missed the catch), I just walked around, looking busy in the back row. Ten minutes into the game, I would actually start playing. And that’s when I got aggressive. I usually at least made it to the Top 5 every time because by that point most of the biggest threats were already out of the game. Tortoise vs. the Hare. Working Smart vs. Working Hard.

When I chose my major in college, I obviously ended up being an English major. (Enter joke here that I earned a “B.S.” in English.) My first couple of years of college I got by with B’s and C’s, because I was forced to take Science and Math classes I would never use.) But I ended up graduating on the Dean’s List. Why? Because my senior year was nothing but “400 level” English classes. Nothing but my specialty. So of course I’m gonna graduate on the Dean’s List my senior year of college when I only do what I’m good at and love.

I knew that unless I wanted to work in a specialized field (like being a lawyer or banker) that my English degree would be general enough and well-rounded enough to help me get a decent job. And my plan worked. In a general sense, what I do for a living is hire clients looking for a job- a sort of staffing agency. I have a quota to meet every month. This has been my job for the last 3 ½ years and for almost every month, I’ve had the highest numbers in my department. In fact, last month I had the highest numbers ever of anyone in the recorded history of our company.

And it’s not because I’m “the best” or “really good at what I do”. It’s because I work smart. I learned the art of personality mirroring: I mimic the pace, accent, and amount of aggressiveness of the person on the other end of the phone. I look for red flags that indicate a client would be a dead end for me and if that’s the case, I get off the phone as soon as possible so I can be available to talk to the clients who are most likely to be a fit. I am painfully truthful about the pro’s and con’s as I talk to clients. And they notice it. That builds trust. It’s a formula I follow. Follow the formula and the equation will work itself out.

I see life in a unique way; there is no gray, only black and white. Either something is, or it isn’t. My subconscious has directed me to Work Smart in all I do. Every day as I drive on I-65 to work, there is a two mile stretch on the interstate that slightly curves to the right. I stay in the “slow lane” going about 67 mph, while all the drivers who want to go fast stay in the “fast lane” travelling at about 80 mph. But since I am in the inner lane, I stay parallel to the “fast” cars for the entire two miles, yet I don’t risk my safety by breaking the speed limit on a curve.

A Smart Worker is to always keep a high-end pay-off project on the backburner; a passionate hobby that one day could make income on the side. For the first 12 years of my life, I wrote and illustrated stories. For the next 13 years of my life, I wrote and performed songs. And since I’ve stopped doing that, I started writing non-fiction.

For me, I can’t escape a lifestyle of Working Smart. Looking back, it’s why I hardly ever dated in high school and college- I Dated Smart. It’s why I’m on the Dave Ramsey plan for finances (every dollar is accounted for in a budget, are credit cards are the devil) – I Spend Money Smart. It’s why I’m so strict on what I will and will not eat- I Eat Smart. It’s a matter of focusing on what is best for future, not the most fun at the present day. But a future that is better planned for, will eventually make a better present time.

I should never be a motivational speaker for school kids on this subject, granted. Just the idea of “working smart, not hard” is offensive or misunderstood by many. Working Smart isn’t superior to Working Hard, but it is my way of life. I know no different. I get bored and uninspired when I Work Hard. It seems to work for a lot of people though.

The truth is, the world is full of people who Work Smart, not hard. These are the Mark Zuckerberg’s (who created facebook at age 21 and now at age 25 is almost a billionaire) of the world.

I choose to Work Smart:

1) Focus on what comes easy and exploit it. And just BS through everything else.
2) Time is more than money- time is life, so spend it wisely on what matters.
3) Less stress equals better quality of life.