Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

EssentialismDo you ever feel stressed out from the demands of everyday life?  Greg McKeown addresses that problem head-on in Essentialism.

The author points out, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done”  (p. 5).   The book makes a forceful argument that wisdom consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

The truth is “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will” (p. 10).  This book emphasizes self-leadership as people need to learn how to manage themselves.  This book is logically organized helping the reader to answer the question, “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution toward my goals?” (p. 18).  Here’s an outline of the book:

Part I: Essence
1. The Essentialist
2. Choose: The Invincible Power of Choice
3. Discern: The Unimportance of Practically Everything
4. Trade Off: Which Problem Do I Want?

Part II: Explore
5. Escape: The Perks of Being Unavailable
6. Look: See What Really Matters
7. Play: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child
8. Sleep: Protect the Asset
9. Select: The Power of Extreme Criteria

Part III: Eliminate
10. Clarify: One Decision That Makes a Thousand
11. Dare: The Power of a Graceful “No”
12. Uncommit: Win Big by Cutting Your Losses
13. Edit: The Invisible Art
14. Limit: The Freedom of Setting Boundaries

Part IV: Execute
15. Buffer: The Unfair Advantage
16. Subtract: Bring Forth More by Removing Obstacles
17. Progress: The Power of Small Wins
18. Flow: The Genius of Routine
19. Focus: What’s Important Now?
20. Be: The Essentialist Life

This book will challenge you to practice deliberate subtraction as you evaluate choices, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no” (p. 109).

The author quotes John Maxwell who wisely observes, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything” (p. 45).  The author challenges the reader to change one’s worldview.  He writes, “There are two ways of thinking about Essentialism.  The first is to think of it as something you do occasionally.  The second is to think of it as something you are” (p. 226).

Jesus told His disciples in the upper room,

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.  (John 17:4)

Can you affirm that you’re accomplishing the work that God is giving you to do?  If you’re ready to simply your life you will find this book a helpful resource and you may also want to read Lessons from a Minimalist Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Leadership Summit – Susan Cain

woman aloneSusan Cain will one of the featured speakers at The Leadership Summit this year.  She is the author of the best selling book Quiet and you can read a review here.

Susan Cain has an important message for the church.  She records in her book Quiet, her discussion with Adam McHugh an introverted pastor,

Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme McHugh is telling us.  If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love.  It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.  Is it any wonder that introverts like Pastor McHugh start to question their own hearts?  (p. 69)

In many instances, the church has unwittingly celebrated the extrovert at the expense of the introvert.  Jesus seemed to be the perfect balance as He was as comfortable at dinner parties with sinners and tax-collectors as He was in solitude with His heavenly Father.  Who knows you might even be an ambivert (one whose personality type is intermediate between extrovert and introvert), you can take this simple test to determine your personality preference here.

As you go face the challenges of life don’t miss the most important aspect of the day.   Let the example of Jesus guide you,

 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.   (Luke 5:16)

 I want to invite you to attend The Leadership Summit this summer on August 14-15, and you can register here.  I invite you to register soon, the early bird rate expires on June 24th.


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Difference Making Actions

postitI recently read The Trust Edge by David Horsager and I want to share with you an amazingly simple but powerful concept that may be helpful to you.   If you want to ensure you’re accomplishing what is important and that you’re not simply responding to the urgent demands of life you may want to try the Difference Making Actions Strategy.

The DMA Strategy:
1. First thing every morning, take a sticky note.
2. At the top write your most important current goal.
3. Then write the numbers 1-3 down the page.
4. Next to the 1.   Write the most important thing you could do
today to accomplish that goal. T hen write the next most
important things under 2 and 3.
5. You now have a list of the 3 most important things you could to today that would make the biggest difference in accomplishing
your goal and fulfilling your organization’s mission.  (p. 196)

Horsager notes that “32% of American workers never plan their daily agenda”  (2009 Day Timer Survey).  He presents these guidelines when writing your DMA’s,:

Focused.  Your DMA’s are the most important actions for the
day – you shouldn’t have any more than three. If you can’t boil
them down to a few simply stated tasks, then you probably
need to narrow your most important goal.

Clear and quantifiable.  The focus here is on activities, not
outcomes, so know exactly what you are going to do. “ Make
ten sales calls or “Spend two hours on the proposal” is much
better than “Sell more” or “Work on the proposal.”

Realistic.  Your DMA’s will not be effective if you can’t actually
do them.  Don’t write down that you would like to write five
proposals in one day when you can only realistically get
through two.  (p. 197)

“Now that you have them, build your day around them. Make sure
you prioritize them over all other, meetings, emails, and less
important tasks.  I hope to have my DMA’s accomplished by
lunchtime so I complete them before everything else. Then I can
respond to other things that come up, but I first did something
important that will make a significant impact on my organization
and the lives of those we serve. ”  (p. 197)

This is helpful advice to  ensure that you are focusing on what is important.  As Jim Collins warns us, “Good is the enemy of great.”   The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.   May you follow the wisdom of the Psalmist and realize the importance of seeking after one thing,

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.  (Psalm 27:4)


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Trust Edge

TrustEdgeCoverDavid Horsager asserts, “Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life.”  Horsager writes in an engaging manner revealing how “trust has become the world’s most precious resource” (p. 2).  He points out that trust is not simply a soft skill that cannot be managed but it is a measurable competency that “. . . can be built into an organization’s strategy, goals, and culture” (p. 2).

His theory of trust is built upon the following eight pillars:

1. Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.
2. Compassion: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.
3. Character: People notice those who do what is right over what is easy.
4. Competency: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable.
5. Commitment: People believe in those who stand through adversity.
6. Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends.
7. Contribution: People immediately respond to results.
8. Consistency: People love to see the little things done consistently.

 He illustrates each pillar with pertinent examples, stories, and anecdotes.  As he points out the importance of trust for establishing vision and purpose he recalls the words of king Solomon ,

When there is no vision, the people perish.  (Proverbs 29:18)

Throughout the book Horsager weaves the importance of trust into the basis of effective leadership, “Without character, there is no trust.  Without trust, there are no followers.  Without followers, leadership does not exist”  (p. 98).

A trusted leader realizes the necessity of life-long learning.  He quotes Rick Warren to emphasize this point, “The moment you stop learning, you stop leading”  (p. 128).  He continues, “In this attention-span-deprived world of mega media and high-tech entertainment, it is critical to carve out the time needed to think, learn, and reflect.  Continual learning requires an attitude of sensitivity, humility, openness, and flexibility”  (p. 128).

Horsager incorporates a number of practical lists and questions for application to help the reader apply the concepts in the book.  He cites Charles Noble, “First we make our habits, then our habits make us”  (p. 230).

The book is easy to follow with a section of highlights at the end of each chapter along with reflection questions to apply the principles to your life or organization.  If you are seeking to build trust in your personal life or organization you will find The Trust Edge a helpful resource.  To learn more about David Horsager and The Trust Edge see the website



Associate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Leadership Summit – Bill Hybels

bill-hybels-laughing-mainThe Willow Creek Leadership Summit will impact more than 190,000 leaders in 105 countries and it will be broadcast live to more than 300 locations in North America on August 14 -15 2014.  Over the next few months I will be presenting a series of blogs on some of the speakers for this year’s Leadership Summit.

Bill Hybels is the founder of the Leadership Summit and is a gifted vision caster.    If you want to learn how to cast an effective vision then Bill Hybels is an excellent role model.  In Axiom:  Powerful Leadership Proverbs, Hybels writes,

At the core of leadership sits the power of vision, in my estimation the most potent offensive weapon in the leader’s arsenal.  It has been defined dozens of ways, but for me, the crispest articulation of vision is that it’s a “picture of the future that produces passion in people.”  (p. 30)

Willow Creek Community Church is a testimony of Hybels ability to move people to follow a God-honoring vision.  Here is an example as Hybels shares his vision for the local church,

Gang, this is it!  Don’t you see it?  Can’t you feel it?  The local church is the hope of the world!  It’s the God-ordained redemptive agency that the future of the entire world hangs on.  Cancel your career plans!  Do something important with your one and only life!  Lay it down for the sake of the local church!”  (p. 30)

See what I mean.  If you want to renew your vision for your role in the local church then come to the Summit this summer.  The writer of Proverbs reminds us,

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,  but happy is he who keeps the law.  (Proverbs 29:18)

May you have the vision to see the world as God sees the world.


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Leadership Involves Sacrifice

SwensonToo many people view leadership as perks and privilege rather than duty and responsibility.   I recently watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk,  Why good leaders make you feel safe.   He starts his talk by relating the story of Army Capt. William Swenson who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in one of the most hard-fought battles of the Afghan war – in Ganjgal Valley in Kunar Province on Sept. 8, 2009.  As Sinek told this story he asked, “What causes people to sacrifice and care for people like this.”   I was arrested by his statement,

In the military they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice so that others may gain; in business we give bonuses to people who are willing sacrifice others so that we may gain . . . we have it backwards.

Do we realize that leadership involves sacrifice, putting others before our own needs.  I remember this from my days in the service in that we first always took care of our men.  We lived by the principle that “the officers eat last.”  We made sure our men were cared for and only then did we consider our needs.

Actually this is nothing new – this is Jesus’ model of leadership.  Jesus taught his disciples that their view of leadership was different from the world’s view of leadership.  When His disciples inquired about leadership Jesus responded,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

You may be wondering, “Can I learn to lead like Jesus?”  The good news is you can if you’re willing to sacrifice.  And if you want to learn how to be a better leader I want to encourage you to make time for the Global Leadership Summit, August 14-15 2014.  It will be an investment well worth your time and expense.


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Life Up Your Eyes

Harvest fieldHow often do you see the world from God’s perspective?  We can become so inundated with the minutia of life that we can miss what is significant from God’s perspective.   The disciples also had this problem at times.  Jesus admonished them,

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.  (John 4:35)

What do we see from this verse?   Jesus emphasized that the harvest is already here.  It may easy to put things off and wait but the reality is now is the time for action.  One of Satan’s strategies is to get Christians to put off what is important – he doesn’t necessarily deny the good – he just makes you procrastinate.

C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters reveals insights into Satan’s strategy.  Imagine the following dialogue as a group of demons are deciding how to put a stop to the spread of Christianity.

“We’ll make them think there’s no such thing as God!” one suggested.

Satan disagreed, “No. They think we’re real. They’ll think He’s real. Besides, they want Him to be real. They need Him to get them through the hard times.”

Another suggested, “Just make them think He’s an impersonal God. Like He’s an energy force or something.”

“No, they want Him to be personal. If He wasn’t they’d make it up.”

“What about showing everyone else that all His people are hypocrites?” another suggested.

That one almost passed until Satan found the apparent flaw. “No, sooner or later the hypocrisy is revealed for what it is. That wouldn’t last too long.”

Finally, from the corner of the room, a small whisper came. It was one of the younger demons. Hesitantly, he suggested, “You’ve missed our most effective strategy . . .  Just tell them they have all the time in the world to decide. Tell them it’s not that important. Tell them to wait another day . . . ”

Mark Twain said, “Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.”  We can be like the person who said, “My parents told me I’d never amount to anything because I procrastinated too much. I told them, ‘Just you wait’.”

Notice the verbs in John 4:35.  Jesus said lift up your eyes and look on the fields.  Sometimes we become so involved in our world that we need to lift up our eyes and see the world not as we think it is but as it really is.  The word look connotes the idea to behold, view attentively, or contemplate.   

You must realize that good can bethe enemy of best.  What is God calling you to lift up your eyes and see?


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Back to India

2014-04-27 09.02.32A small team from First Baptist Church and LifePark had a great opportunity and privilege to travel back to India!   Sensing God’s clear leading, Ron and Libby Dillon and Rick Higgins embarked on a journey to India to encourage and equip Indian pastors and their families.  Here is a brief synopsis of our trip:

Thursday, 24 April 2014 - We left Charleston an hour late and made our connecting flight in Newark. We took off in Newark after sunset and landed in New Delhi the following day after sunset. We checked in to our hotel Saket in New Delhi.

Saturday 26 April 2014 - We met one of Rick’s former students (Thilak) in New Delhi, it was a joyous reunion. Thilak invited us over to his home for lunch and we had a great time of fellowship. Thilak took us for a brief tour of the area and then back to Saket.  We went out to a Western-style mall that evening and had dinner at Geoffrey’s – I had a wonderful Indian dish for dinner.

Sunday 27 April 2014 - We caught the early morning train to Haridwar,  (Hindi: हरिद्वार) which is an ancient city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India. The River Ganges flows through the city.  Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places of the Hindu religion.   We had an enjoyable ride to Haridwar and had some good discussions with  people on the train. Upon arrival we were greeted by some monkeys at the train station.  Our host, Wilson,  took us to the SRS Lakshya Hotel – nice accommodations.

We went to the market in the afternoon and then down to the Ganges river at sunset where we saw many religious pilgrims.  One man in uniform asked for my name and wanted money, but he finally gave up in frustration when I refused. We had some interesting conversations with some of the locals – there is much work to be done.  The words of Jesus in John 4:35 became evident,

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”

We returned to the hotel sensing God’s protection in our return trip. We had a nice dinner at the hotel,where  I had Paneer Lababdar, which was delicious.

Monday 28 April 2014 - We started teaching this morning with a wide variety of ages including children.   Later in the afternoon our host had a special surprise for us as we went on a Safari through the Rajali Game preserve. It was an amazing experience seeing a wide variety of animals  including many elephants, deer, monkeys, and exotic birds. The preserve revealed many of the natural beauties of India as we journeyed on a 36 km trek through grasslands, foothills, and across wadis.  We enjoyed a late dinner with our host family and our co-worker Emmanuel joined us. It was a full and a fun day.

Tuesday 29 April 2014 - We had a good day of teaching and then in the late afternoon we traveled up to Rishikesh which is the Yoga capital of the world.  Rishikesh is located near the headwaters of the Ganges River and is a popular tourist destination for those seeking spiritual enlightenment. We saw many people dip their water bottles into the Ganges River and drink the water.  Rishikesh is where the Beatles came for spiritual enlightenment.  Chotiwala is a popular restaurant in the region and it is named after a rather colorful figure.

Wednesday 30 April 2014 – Our sessions went well and we’ve 2014-04-30 04.11.20enjoyed working with the pastors and the children.  There were about twenty children attending from a local orphanage and it was refreshing to see their enthusiasm.  After our classes we took a brief tour around Haridwar and visited a local mall.   That evening we boarded the train to Delhi and had a nice, albeit crowded trip arriving around midnight. We took a taxi to the Suryaa hotel for a good nights sleep – which was a welcome relief after the long, hot, and crowded train ride.

Thursday, 1 May 2014 - After a good night sleep and a wonderful breakfast we went to Dilli Hatt for some shopping. The shop owners were quite eager to prey upon the tourists. The temperature in Delhi was 112 degrees – but it’s a dry heat.   We returned to the hotel and enjoyed a nice meal and then made our way to the airport for our 8,000+ mile journey back home.

Friday, 2 May 2014 - We left Delhi at 10:50 p.m.  and and landed at Newark at 4:30 a.m. – a 14 hour flight.  Our flight from Newark was delayed but we arrived back in Charleston late Friday afternoon – thankful for God’s provisions throughout the trip.

Have you been overseas recently?  India is a great country with many service opportunities.  Perhaps we can go together some day.

शुभ यात्रा (śubh yātrā) (Translation:  bon voyage)


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5





The Testimony of a Godly Man

power-of-prayerHe is risen – He is risen indeed!

I pray that you’ve had an encouraging Easter.  We had five great services at LifePark and I’ve included two songs that were a blessing to me and I pray they will encourage your heart:

Christ Is Risen

Victor’s Crown

Easter is time of hope as we reflect upon the resurrection.  I would like to request your prayers for a few significant matters.  I invite you to join us in prayer for a Godly man – our son-in-law Matthew.  Matthew is a great son-in-law and here are some excerpts from a recent letter why I consider him a Godly man how you can pray for him:

I am 33 years old and appear quite healthy. I never envisioned myself writing this email. Even as I write it, I am not without hope. In fact, Elisabeth and I both have a plan and expectation for success.

After work on Friday, I received a telephone call from the radiation oncologist in Atlanta. She called to inform me that the bone biopsy results arrived and confirmed presence of cancer in the bone. Not only was cancer found in the bone biopsy, but it’s the same kind as the tumor that we already knew about. She described it as stage 4 metastatic cancer. She, very compassionately, described what they would recommend for treatment but that there is no cure to be offered. They only have attempts to “control” or slow the progress of the cancer. The same, or very similar, combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery is all that can be offered, but without expectation of cure.

What do you do with news like this? Well, it was hard for us to receive. A real emotional blow. We have received the encouragement and support of Jesus and our dear friends and family . . .  You might ask, “Why do you feel safe right now, Matthew?” Here is why, another excerpt from “The Gospel According for Job” by Mike Mason: “The moral here should be evident: God’s surest protection can sometimes take the form of apparent obstruction, of darkness and difficulty and pain. Indeed there are times when the very safest place for a believer to be is in the midst of obscurity and suffering, to all appearances cut off from God . . .   I need to say one more thing here. Just in case you are concerned that I have a fatalistic, Que Sera, Sera kind of attitude here, I don’t. I intend to approach every obstacle and part of the sickness with the intent to conquer it. I want to destroy it like a hated enemy. Elisabeth is with me in this. You, our dear friends and family are with us.

With love and thanksgiving,  Matthew

I would also appreciate your prayers for these items:

Please pray for me as I’ll be leaving this week to teach Pastors in India. Pray for God to bring forth much fruit, fruit that will remain (John 15:16).

Please pray for the Lord’s anointing as I teach and disciple His people (both here and overseas).

Please pray for our family, that we will be strong in the Lord and a support Matthew and his family during this time and that God may bring His healing touch to Matthew.

Thank you for your prayers, please let me know how I can pray for you.  Thank you for your partnership in ministry.


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Holy Land Key

Holy land keyThere seems to be a incessant fascination showing how world events intersect with the teaching of the Bible.   The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives of God’s People in Israel by Ray Bentley reveals how the Bible provides insight into current events.

Bentley writes, “Two concepts revolutionized how I read the Bible and can be especially helpful in reorienting our study of prophecy:  learning to identify and read God’s patterns, and applying the principle of ‘first natural, then spiritual’”  (p. 113).  He applies this principle throughout the book as he discusses the phenomenon of lunar eclipses, “A total eclipse, as opposed to a partial one, causes the moon to appear blood red.  The very rare occurrence of four blood moons in succession in called a tetrad” (p. 190).  When a total lunar eclipse tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days there have been significant events in the nation of Israel (e.g.  the 1967 – Six-day war or shortly after Israel became a nation in 1948).   The next tetrad will occur in 2014-2015.  “After 2015, there are no more tetrads of blood moons on the Jewish feast days for the rest of this century” (p. 192).

Bentley  is not an alarmist as he acknowledges the truth of God’s word that we cannot make specific predictions, we can only know the season,

Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.  (Matthew 25:13)

Bentley writes, “Will something happen in the Middle East in 2014-2015?  I don’t know.  Only God knows” (p. 192).   A cursory glance at the headlines reveals the Middle East is a geopolitical hot spot and a significant event involving Israel is a distinct possibility.

Bentley writes with a pastor’s heart as he points out, “The Bible has 365 verses that whisper, shout, admonish, exhort, comfort, and encourage us:  Do not be afraid.  Fear not.  God has not given us the spirit fear.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  Be anxious for nothing. (p. 187).   It’s a comfort to know that as we look at the events in the world that God is in control and He is working all things out for His good.   If you have an interest in biblical prophecy, then you may find this an interesting book.   (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5