Vanity Metrics

In the current startup environment, “vanity metrics” refer to tracking things that “make you feel good, but don’t offer clear guidance.” But the human propensity towards vanity – things or pursuits that are “worthless, trivial, or pointless” – is pretty much timeless. The definitive take came from Solomon, who took quite a bit of time to discuss the Vanity of vanities (for us English-speakers, “a Hebrew superlative expressing the supreme degree of futility and emptiness”). In a modern webby context, think page views vs. conversions.

Examples abound of people thinking that what they do really matters, when it really doesn’t. I know of startup accelerators who spend more time on PR and marketing than with their own teams (presumably the reason they exist). I know of so many startup people who attend every startup mixer and event but I’m hard-pressed to describe what value they are actually creating. Even in causes as noble as human rights, I learned this week that there are some organizations generating all kinds of marketing campaigns and attending all kinds of events which lead to pretty much zero changes in actual lives.

No surprise this simply echoes what has also been around since Solomon’s time (relatively), when the prophets lamented the false religion of going through the motions which appear righteous but lead to no real justice or positive change in the world. Isaiah and Jesus paraphrased this as “honoring with lips but with a heart far away.”

The last thing I want to do is activity that appears valuable but simply isn’t. Whether in business or any other area of our lives, may we have the humility and awareness to avoid a life of vanity and instead be grounded in what is truly real, important and effective.

Hierarchy of Holy days

I’ve always contended (well, since I was about 20) that Easter just blows away Christmas. It’s a no-brainer: the Triumph clearly trumps the Entry. But within Easter weekend (thus excepting Palm Sunday the week prior), we have a range of options to contemplate, and within these, Holy Saturday comes out first for me.

Not that the other days – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday – are chopped livah:

  • Maundy Thursday provides the chance to wonder at how Christ revolutionized the Passover, or deliverance from servitude which, until that point, had most poignantly been instantiated in the Exodus story. By offering Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, He democratized and internalized this redemption for everyone beyond my peeps.
  • Good Friday is an important moment to ponder the gritty, real sacrifice made by Christ. The pain, agony, separation and acute trial He endured purely out of love, wholly undeserved.
  • Easter Sunday is a party: a grand celebration where we can take heart that death has been overcome, the victory sealed, and we simply wait until the full implications of this attained victory fill in.

….but Holy Saturday is beautiful and heartening in its very silence. The unfolding of Thursday and drama of Friday are over, and the closure of Sunday not at all a certainty. Instead, it’s a time in the gap…a time of waiting…a time where we must choose to trust and believe, in the midst of no circumstances or actions around us validating that choice.

Thus, Holy Saturday is the most like life as we live it today: we trust and believe that something dramatic and important has happened…and completion WILL happen…but right now, we live in the in-between. The silence. The ambiguity, where we simply must choose to believe despite signals around us which conflict – or simply don’t send us anything at all.

For me, the choice to believe is a no-brainer because the alternative – a life without hope, purpose, direction or redemption – is not really a life at all, but an animalistic, nihilistic bumbling about, hoping to attain enough pleasure or numbness to cover up this sad, broken, desolate alternative reality that is so unacceptable …because it simply is not The Reality. We struggle with it because we weren’t made for it.

So I will choose to believe on this Holy Saturday, and in this life, of the in-between. Because I really have no choice.

What does the Speck-ster Bunny think?

Bring on the new

Or maybe not so new.
Tony Campolo, for one, has been around forever. Yet I’m thrilled to report that his prophetic-while-pragmatic voice has remained consistent.* Campolo is mentioned in The Root’s piece on faith implications of the New Administration…sample quote:

Where Bush has been a Christian imperialist, Obama will be a Christian pluralist.

Rather than “new”, however, I’d prefer to think of this transition as a “correction”: and not just back to the pre-Bush era, but a bit further…as in, to about two THOUSAND years ago, when Christ ushered in an era where true change can and does only take place at the heart (and not at the political) level. 
Also not new is how much this approach disappoints zealots …now, and back then, too.
*and just learned Campolo’s esteemed comrade Jim Wallis is a fellow Detroiter: hallelujah! We’ll take what we can get!