More or Less


Chapter 13: Your Enough Experiment

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have a never-ending conversation with my mother. She always asks how I became a creative individual, and I always tell her that I learned from her. I owe much of my creative spirit to her example. She would tell you that while I was growing up she was a stay-at-home mom, but in truth, that was only one of her jobs. In addition, she basically worked full time at our church. My dad was the pastor, while my mom led all of the initiatives for women and college students.

My mom never thought of herself as a creative individual, but every program she created had a flair that only she knew how to bring. In her unique way, she thought through every detail, from how she communicated about the event, to the ambiance of the space, to the takeaway at the end of the gathering. She created wow experiences. When you create a wow experience it is memorable, and it changes you and anyone who becomes a part of it. A wow experience is a social interaction in which a significant emotional transaction takes place. In these experiences, leaders carefully craft a detailed environment and hope for something special to transpire. A wow experience is personal and honest, touched with a little piece of the designer’s heart.

There’s a little popsicle stand in Atlanta called King of Pops1 that quickly became a favorite of our city, and word spread fast. Two years after launching, King of Pops sells thousands of popsicles every day and recently opened seven different stands in three different cities. Steven Carse is the founder of King of Pops, and when I once asked him the difference between his popsicles and everyone else, he said, “We use all natural ingredients and fresh fruits, but the real difference is, we put a little love into every single popsicle we craft.”2

It’s a wow experience every time you try their tasty treats.

Steven is a creative individual, my mom is a creative individual, and I believe that you are a creative individual. I invite you to join me and many of the individuals you’ve read about in this book in conducting an experiment. I want you to challenge what is enough in your own life. In addition to trying some of the projects in this book, my hope is that you’ll turn this particular experiment into something special: a wow experience that transforms your life.

Create a new social interaction with the potential for a significant emotional transaction. Craft the details carefully, and hope for something special to transpire. Don’t limit yourself. My hope is for you to truly change your perspective so you can see your life in a new way.

The last time you conducted an experiment was probably in a middle-school science class, which may have been recent or many years ago. You might be out of practice, but we want to help you in the process. By willingly choosing an experiment, you give yourself a test with a set of requirements or controlled conditions to determine a new personal truth. We usually conduct experiments because we think we know the outcome, but until we try it, we will never be positive. So before you commit to make drastic, lasting changes in your life, try an experiment to see what it might be like. Try a new way. Commit to a reasonable amount of time to determine if this should continue or if it is unreasonable to live your life within these new conditions.

Start with one experiment, and don’t be afraid to fail.

Dr. Malinda Schaefer, an HIV Researcher at Emory University, said that “experiments don’t usually fail; they may not give the desired or expected results, but that’s not considered failure. Even if you decide to end the experiment early, that’s still a result—you are learning something about yourself in the process.”3

The point of this experiment is to experience a way of life that counters your current paradigm and gives your brain an opportunity to see the world in a new way. The purpose is to change and give yourself the opportunity to choose generosity as a lifestyle. Your experiment seats you in a different chair at the table and allows you to see the same conversation from a new vantage point.

There’s something stirring within you: you know you have more than enough, and yet you, like me, always want more, desire more, and try to get more. Your wants have increasingly exceeded your needs. You have excess. What is your excess? Write it down:

What is the most creative and challenging way to change your perspective toward whatever you wrote down? If you cut it out of your life, how would that change your level of strength? What could you do to operate in a radically different way? Imagine a challenge that would be difficult to accomplish but would influence the way that you think forever.

That challenge is your Enough Experiment. Welcome to a new way of living everyday, extraordinary dreams with less than you desire.

Before you move forward too quickly in the details of the experiment, don’t forget why you will embark on a quest of personal renewal. Our desire with these experiments is to imagine a new way of living, to imagine how another person lives with less than we do every day. It’s important to integrate a new standard of enough into the fabric of our everyday lives because that standard forces us to transition from ignorance to compassion.

Brennan Manning wrote about this in his memoir All Is Grace, when he realized the things that he could acquire by gaining more success might not actually be pretty:

I was roused one morning from a startling dream. The dream was essentially that I had achieved all my aspirations of status and station. You might call it “the pretty dream”—pretty wife, pretty exclusive home, pretty fast car, pretty great money, and pretty impressive literary awards.… I woke up in horror to explain, “My God, there’s got to be more!” For a twenty-one-year-old about to set sail on a course for “pretty,” the dream was nothing short of troubling. I thought I’d finally found some direction and purpose, a path to be me. But that dream stopped everything in its tracks when I felt that having it all wouldn’t be enough.4

When we create a new way, it always forces us to walk paths others may not have walked before. You choose a new way that has the potential to become transformational for others. They may not understand at the beginning, but they will see something different about the choices you make. Soon, others will ask your advice as they begin a journey of enough for themselves. You gain influence by doing something. You do something significant, and you will become a person of influence in your community.

Dream

Begin with a Theory

At the start of your Enough Experiment, try to predict your results. What do you think will happen? Create a hypothesis for the sake of argument and investigation: this is your unproven assumption.5 This starting point will create a comparison for your actual end results. We all need a baseline measurement to assess our results (which may be positive or negative). This theory could simply be your assessment of how you feel about your excess. Write down your impressions in a journal, or discuss them with others. Your theory might also be something more tangible like a quantifiable amount of money, physical materials, or even miles walked.

The method you use to assess your baseline theory should be used to assess the end result so an equal measurement can be made. Don’t be consumed by your theories throughout the experiment, but consistently evaluate your progress. Whether your theory is later proven or disproven is not the point; I hope the end result will lead you to a value by which you can live in the future. Determining an ultimate value has the ability to define a new way of living.6

Questions

What is your starting theory, hypothesis, or premise?

Why did you choose this experiment?

How do you think your life will be different because of this experiment?

After finishing this experiment, what do you hope will be a new value you live by?

What is the end result you are hoping for?

Choose a Person in Solidarity

When I started writing this book, I shared how I believe that out of our excess we can address issues of need and suffering. By choosing to embark on an Enough Experiment, you voluntarily offer your life in solidarity with others. Solidarity means “to suffer with” someone. When you voluntarily choose an act of suffering as your Enough Experiment, it will increase your stakes in the experiment overall. Your lack of excess throughout the experiment will seem meaningless when compared to the reality others live through daily. Have you ever voluntarily chosen to suffer with others? I can promise you that making this choice will add depth to your character and experience.

Here are a few examples of others living in solidarity with a hurting community.

Chris Seay, a pastor in Houston,7 chose to do an experiment for forty days in which he ate the same food at every meal as the child he sponsors through Compassion International. Chris Heuertz is a codirector of Word Made Flesh,8 which is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and he voluntarily wears shorts and flip-flops everywhere he goes as an act of solidarity with the street kids that their organization interacts with all across the world. The kids wear shorts and flips-flops, so Chris wears shorts and flip-flops, even on the cold and snowy days in the frigid Omaha winters. You read earlier that my wife, Andre, made a conscious choice to walk to work and back home for forty days. Andre is a physician assistant and serves many impoverished patients living in low-income communities around the city of Atlanta. She chose to walk to work in solidarity with her patients, to know what it feels like to walk through the doors of her clinic sweating, out of breath, and tired. Chris Seay, Chris Heuertz, and Andre each chose to voluntarily suffer with friends as a sign of solidarity.

You may not know another person with a relatable need or concern. Here are a few responses you may have to this portion of the process, along with potential outcomes, as you prepare your experiment or act of solidarity:

1. You know a person with whom you will choose to walk in solidarity throughout the Enough Experiment. How will you keep that person in constant thought throughout your journey?

2. You know of a people group that is suffering an injustice in the world today, and you would like to walk in solidarity with them through your Enough Experiment. How will you share this injustice with others to raise awareness of the problem?

3. You can’t think of a person or injustice that relates to your personal issue of excess. The person or issue with which you want to suffer may not relate to your Enough Experiment. That’s okay. You can still choose a person or specific injustice to highlight during your experiment. The act of thinking, praying, relating to, and suffering alongside a person or problem in our world will only deepen your compassion. How will you relate your solidarity with that person or problem to your Enough Experiment? How will you keep the injustice at the forefront of your mind throughout the experiment?

Define Clear Boundaries

The next important phase in preparation for your Enough Experiment is to determine the parameters or rules. These are the dos and don’ts, so you know your personal boundaries once inside the experiment. I love how soccer is played in this way. There are clear boundaries for the game to be played, and the ball must always stay inside of those chalked lines, but the players can freely run, play, and explore the game from outside the line and not be penalized.9

As much as this experiment is meant for you to practice suffering alongside others, it is also meant for you to enjoy within the boundaries you set up for yourself. It should help you explore a new way of living. So create clear boundaries for the experiment. This is not meant to put you in a box; rather it gives you a place to explore. If the rules are too complicated you will probably be unable to see the experiment through. Fewer boundaries will create a much stronger result, so choose five or fewer boundaries that you can easily share with others. Lastly, determine your experiment’s start and end date.

Questions

What are my Enough Experiment boundaries?

Boundary #1

Boundary #2

Boundary #3

Boundary #4

Boundary #5

Are the boundaries too easy? What would make them more difficult?

How should I simplify these boundaries to clearly communicate to my peers?

When is the start and end to my Enough Experiment?

Give Excessively

The only gift is a portion of thyself.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Gifts”

I’ve said it many times before: when we choose to live with less, we gain the opportunity to give away more. When you choose to sacrifice a portion of what you have, the result may be the greatest gift you’ve ever contributed.

The question then becomes, to whom will you give your excess? This is where you will find great joy in the experiment. As you prepare for your journey, determine who will benefit from your sacrifice. Most likely, there will be two forms of excess that will result from your Enough Experiment.

The first kind is the excess that you will just choose not to use during the experiment while you live in solidarity with someone else in need. My one request: don’t simply reallocate your excess, lending to another area of your life. Instead, consider giving that excess, whether it’s money, time, clothing, or something else, to a person, need, or cause that can use it.

Second, there is the excess that you discover but didn’t realize you had throughout the experiment. Share this excess with others when the experiment is complete, if you feel compelled. Giving out of a selfless act of courage is like a little tick forward in the restoration of humanity. Let me take the chance now to affirm you and thank you for your contribution.

Questions

What will I have in excess because of my Enough Experiment?

How and to whom will I give my excess throughout my experiment?

When will I give away this excess?

Invite Friends

Determining what is enough in life is a very difficult task to tackle on your own. Mike Metzger defined community as “working together.”10 So while it may be a personal decision, the process works best when you work it out with others. You have already made a series of great decisions in preparation for your Enough Experiment; now you have the opportunity to engage your friends to join you. A friend can join you and complete the same experiment that you’ve already designed. Or a friend can create their own experiment and work out their “enough” journey for themselves while processing with you along the way. Finally, a friend can simply encourage you, process with you, and celebrate with you during and after your Enough Experiment. Any and all options are good. It is your responsibility to invite others into the process. The more you share with others, the more deeply the lessons you learn will become part of your future.

Here’s a tip: to be sure that you bring others into the process, create an event for the completion of the experiment before you begin. Set a date, make up an invitation, and send it to all your friends. This will also create accountability to help you see your experiment through to completion. It will also create a support system for when you reach your benchmarks, as well as for when you feel you might be in over your head.

Questions

Who in your life would you most like to invite into this experiment with you, and why?

How will you approach your friend in a winsome way to invite him or her to join you in this experiment?

Who should you tell about your experiment? Who will encourage you along the way, and what are specific ways they can help?

How will you communicate your progress to your friends throughout the experiment?

Do

Begin with a Bang

When you start your Enough Experiment, your emotions, excitement, and energy will be high. Feel free to begin big, but be careful of the distractions that might keep you from following through. Regardless of your passion at the start, along the way, you will probably experience a dramatic shock to your system that will tempt you to not complete your experiment.

Here are three common distractions that cause incomplete Enough Experiments:

1. DIFFERENT IDEAS

When the experiment gets difficult, you might be tempted to shift to a different experiment altogether. Scott Belsky talked about this in his book, Making Ideas Happen. He called the place where one idea gets hard and the energy for the project drops the Project Plateau. Belsky said, “The easiest and most seductive escape from the project plateau is the most dangerous one: a new idea. New ideas offer a quick return to the high energy and commitment zone, but they also cause us to lose focus. As the new star rises, our execution efforts for the original idea start to fall off. The end result? A plateau filled with the skeletons of abandoned ideas.”11 When it gets hard, we need to cross the plateau and limit our distractions. If we cross the plateau, we’re certain to reach new heights.

2. PERSONAL FEARS

Every person who has ever done anything significant has always faced doubts along the way. We all must overcome our fears in order to do what we know we ought to do. Steven Pressfield talked about our fear in terms of the “Resistance” within ourselves, which keeps us from pursuing the greatest good. Pressfield said, “Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.… This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”12 We cannot let our fears keep us from pressing on.

3. JUSTIFICATION OF EXCESS

As you begin your experiment, there is a phrase that will creep into your mind: “Your excess is not as excessive as …” This evil statement is moving your remarkable experience into a comparison and ranking game instead of keeping the focus on solidarity with people who have much less. Make sure that when you critique your experiment, you keep your focus where it started. You will be tempted to compare your excess with those who have more than you, but you’re trying to change your thinking to suffer with the poor. This distraction is natural but is a distorted view of truth, and it will ultimately take you away from an experience that will shape new thinking. It’s easy to justify our normal way of life, but we are not seeking justification; we are seeking a new way of living.

Questions

What other ideas might distract you from finishing your Enough Experiment?

Write these new ideas down so you can pursue them after this experiment is complete.

What is the greatest fear you have at the beginning of this experiment? How will you overcome this fear?

With whom do you naturally compare yourself, and why?

Track Your Progress

Every person writes things down in different ways. You may record your findings in a journal, in a blog post, through a tweet, in an email, in a video message, on sticky notes, or with a sharpie on your wall. The format is not significant, but capturing your internal thoughts so you can remember what you are learning is important. Ask yourself, “What am I learning today from my Enough Experiment?” Hopefully, your answer will continue to change and progress over the course of the experiment. This is a great question for your friends to ask you along the journey. When you get to share your experience with others there is an incredible opportunity for world-changing conversations.

Jim Doggett is a cultural architect in the identity movement and founder of The Avalaunch Group,13 where he works with individuals and organizations on a series of assessment tools to help them find their personal callings and to identify overall potential. I have had numerous conversations with Jim that sparked change. His philosophy? “The only way to change the world is to change the conversation.”

We don’t control everything happening around us, but we do have control of what we share in conversation with others, right here and right now. Jim also frequently says, “To change the world, we must change our country. To change our country, we must change our city. To change our city, we must change our community. To change our community, we must change the room. To change the room, we must change the table. To change the table, we must change the conversation. The greatest way to change the world is to change the conversation. The more world-changing conversations we have, the greater chance for the world to change.”14 Jim’s philosophy has turned into a mantra with young leaders he mentors across the nation. He and one of his significant clients, Boosterthon, started printing stickers with the letters “CTW” (short for Change The World) that they freely give to others. Whenever Jim engages in a world-changing conversation with someone, he asks everyone at the table to sign his or her name on the sticker, and then he places it under the tabletop. It’s a street campaign for change. If you ever meet up with Jim for coffee, notice that the first thing he does before he engages in conversation is to look under the table. He dreams of going to a place for the first time, looking under the table, and seeing that world-changing ideas have already interrupted the ethos of the table at which he’s seated.

Questions

What am I learning today from my Enough Experiment?

Who should I share my new thoughts with to create intentional conversation?

Research the More or Less

Take time to learn more about your personal struggle of enough. There is always a deeper story that influences why you want, demand, or desire more of whatever it is. Perhaps the history of the product you’re focusing on will give you a glimpse into why it matters in your life today. Research the history and how it was marketed to meet a need of consumers. Also, find out who might need this particular product. Make a game of knowing this product better than the person selling it to you does. If you own the story, if you know the tactics and the marketing gimmicks of the seller, you can adopt a more educated response and perspective. Try to discover who makes the product, and then find out who benefits when you buy it. Learn about their living conditions and any other positive and negative aspects of your purchase.

Know everything you can about that thing that you have in excess and the people who need it more than you. Finally, set aside a time of self-reflection to determine why it consumes you.

Tips for Research

1. Find out the big-picture story and history of the product. Why was it originally created, and by whom? What problem did it hope to solve?

2. Develop a series of questions you hope to answer about the items targeted in your experiment, then find the answers or people who can answer those questions for you.

3. As you search for answers, take note of interesting facts, ideas, and findings that stir your curiosity; then feel free to learn more.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask someone a question. You will be amazed at what you will find in research through the power of “the ask.” If you find a phone number, make a call. You will always get further and faster when researching information when you talk to a person.

5. Social media is powerful. So if you can’t find enough information in your research, ask your question to your circle of friends through social media platforms—you will be amazed by the communal response.

Celebrate Big

You have completed your personal Enough Experiment, so let me be the first person to congratulate you on your accomplishment. You have gained my respect and admiration. You are the type of person who others want to become. You created a discipline for yourself, set a goal, and achieved it. You challenged the status quo in your life, recognized your own excess, and did something significant. Out of your excess you were able to help others in great need. You also chose to journey in solidarity with people who have not experienced the same privilege we’ve been given.

Often creative individuals are not good finishers, but you actually finished what you started. Often self-proclaimed social innovators wanting to make a difference in the world are great at starting a project but bad at finishing one. You did both. I have a feeling that completing your experiment was not easy.

Our team created an exciting but simple way to complete tasks that stretches our attention spans and acts as a great incentive to finish. We celebrate big! What does this mean? When there’s a lull in the project, when the details seem greater than the end result, when you are just plain tired, when all excitement and passion has left the building, and when you feel like giving up—that’s when we stop everything and dream about how we will end. How will we celebrate? What is the big finale?

Your initial response will be to immediately consume whatever you refrained from throughout your experiment, but I do not recommend that. Be cautious not to have your celebration revolve fully around this thing, whatever it is. You’ve just completed an epic experiment; don’t throw it out altogether without adequate reflection on your reformation. Plus, if you shock your system too quickly, it may backfire.

A friend of mine experienced a negative celebration after a positive journey. This story does not require any names. So I will just call this story “Exhibit A: How Not to Celebrate.”

My friend chose to fast for forty days, limiting his food intake to only soups, water, and juices so he could focus on praying through a major decision in his life. When he finished the fast, he decided to celebrate with a dinner at Chili’s. He loved their famous baby-back ribs. It sounded like the perfect celebration, but his body wasn’t ready for the large amount of food. While he and his wife drove home after dinner, it began. His stomach started growling. He needed to go to the bathroom fast. Something was not right. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

Sometimes our celebrations may sound great in our minds but are not fitting for our bodies. Choose a celebration that is an appropriate invitation back into your life. Choose a celebration that somehow brings dignity to the person that you walked in solidarity with for the past days. Choose a celebration that will inspire you to complete your task when you want to give up. Celebrate big, celebrate well, and celebrate in an appropriate way.

Questions

How will you celebrate the completion of your Enough Experiment?

In what way will you celebrate your friend in solidarity?

What would be an inappropriate way to shock your system in celebration?

Who do you need to invite to your celebration to join you in the completion?

Tell

Write Your Story of Enough

The easiest thing to do at this point in your journey is to move on. The hardest thing to do now is to reflect on your experiment.

Choose a day to stop and reflect on what you’ve done. Go to a special place; take paper and a pen and nothing else. Leave your phone, your computer, and any other technology at home or at the office. Start by writing down why, what, and how you did the experiment. Consider the big picture of what you learned from your time of refraining from excess. Consider the questions below as a guide for your reflection. Remember that your story cannot be replicated—only you have lived out this experiment, and your story needs to be captured and shared with others. Reflect on how this dedicated time in your life will impact the rest of your life.

Questions

What are the major differences between your original theory and your findings?

Write down the big picture of the experience: why, what, and how.

Write out the turning points (moments that caused a change of thought) in your journey of enough.

How will you live differently after completing your Enough Experiment?

If you did your experiment again, what would you do differently?

Through your act of solidarity, what will you remember the most?

What conversations did you have with others about your experiment that you will never forget? Why?

What new values have you found that will determine your new way of living?

Share Your Results with Your Community

You completed your Enough Experiment and captured the story in some way. Now it’s your responsibility to help educate others about your findings. Remember, if anyone asks about your Enough Experiment, you should be thankful and feel validated—they genuinely affirm your commitment—but you should never demand that others take the same journey you did. If we judge our friends harshly, we will lose the opportunity to influence them when they truly need our voices in their lives.

Three different types of people will engage you in conversation when your Enough Experiment ends. Be prepared to share with all of them. Don’t be offended or surprised by any conversations you have about the experiment, no matter the length. Prepare yourself for each of the types of people who will engage you:

1. The One-Minute Minded—This will be the most common response from your community. They will start the conversation with you by saying something such as, “How did that thing go that you were doing—wait, are you done yet?” They are looking for a short response. “What is the gist of what you did, and how did it turn out?” Have a quick response that communicates what you learned, but not in detail. They don’t want the details—just the facts.

2. The Five-Minute Conversationalist—These friends want to learn from your experience. Based on how you respond to the first couple of questions they ask, it could turn into a thirty-minute conversation, or it could simply come to an end. It is best to share the big picture of your project: the why, what, and how. Based on how you respond, they might begin to dig into things you say that strike a cord with their lives in some way. Share honestly and graciously without expectation about where the conversation will go. You should always hope to share about your deep transformation and about what you learned in the process. If you can share these things with your friend, perhaps you can start them on the road to new thinking. Don’t be surprised if they bring up your experience again down the road; they will think about it, and you won’t even realize it.

3. The Sit-Down-for-a-Meal Learner—These are those friends who want to know everything. They will give you the opportunity to share in as much depth as you want to share. These friends want to know your feelings and thoughts throughout the experience. They want to know the values that you learned and how those values will change the way you operate in the future. Share as much as you desire. Think through how to relate your experience to their lives free of statements of judgment. Think through the questions that inspired you to perform your Enough Experiment. Ask these great friends if they’ve ever wrestled through similar questions and how they found resolve. Explore this conversation to its fullness; these friends are usually the people who matter most in your life, and their questions should tell you that you matter to them.

Enough Talk

Now that you have completed your Enough Experiment, we want to hear about it and share it with others so they can gain from the lesson you learned. Write your story, in five hundred words or less, and upload a relevant picture to our website. Please share your story with us so others will be inspired to do their own Enough Experiment. Share your story at: www.moreorlessbook.com/#story.

NOTES

1 To taste King of Pops for yourself, check out www.kingofpops.net (or visit them on the corner of Highland and North in Atlanta next time you are in town).
2 Steven Carse, “Plywood Presents Making Ideas Happen Interview” (interview at Plywood People event).
3 Dr. Malinda Schaefer, conversation with the author. Used by permission.
4 Brennan Manning, All Is Grace (Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2011), 88.
5 Merriam Webster Dictionary Collegiate Edition, s.v. “theory,” www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/theory.
6 Inspired by a quote from Ignazio Silone, The God that Failed (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 102: “Liberty ... is the possibility of doubting, the possibility of making a mistake, the possibility of searching and experimenting, the possibility of saying No to any authority—literary, artistic, philosophic, religious, social, and even political.”
7 Ecclesia, www.ecclesiahouston.org (accessed August 17, 2012).
8 Word Made Flesh, www.wordmadeflesh.org (accessed August 17, 2012).
9 TMBbrand, “TMB Panyee PC short film,” YouTube, March 13, 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU4oA3kkAWU.
10 “Dear Artists...” catalystspace, April 29, 2008, www.catalystspace.com/catablog/full/dear_artists.
11 Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen (New York: Penguin, 2010), 71.
12 Steven Pressfield, The War of Art (New York: Black Irish Entertainment LLC, 2002), 14, 22.
13 Avalaunch, http://avalaunchgroup.com (accessed August 17, 2012).
14 Jim Doggett, email to the author. Used with permission.

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