Plodding vs. Pontificating

blog brett johnson brett johnson biz brettjohnsonbiz food for thought plodding pontificating Nov 16, 2021

There’s a difference between perpetually pontificating and persevering. The editor of the Manchester Guardian once said, “Comment is free; facts are sacred.” Every day billions of opinions are tweeted as facts. Zillions of sage advice tweets and posts might give the impression that there are billions of people doing amazing things. I too have opinions. While I am not prone to untamed tweeting I am in danger of confusing perseverance with pontification. It is one thing to hold an opinion and quite another to back it with the actions that lead to an outcome. 

A little phrase caught my eye: “You need to persevere.” Like many of you, I am in the midst of planning for the next calendar year. This usually involves several months of revisiting old mind maps where I listed an unreasonable number of things I hoped to work on, then tweaking them for the coming year. I have done this long enough to know the difference between dreaming and planning. It is possible and often necessary for us to have dreams we must hang onto for decades before they come to fruition. There is also a danger, unless those dreams get legs, such dreams become a deception. 

The full phrase that I read is a lot more pointed than “you need to persevere.” 

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. – Hebrews 10:36

Some of the dreams I had 15 or 20 years ago sounded like promises: it seemed inevitable they would be concretized. As the years rolled on it and the material expression of the dream seemed almost as far away as when I first saw it I have wondered, “will it ever happen?” Persevere, do, receive. Every week I need to put myself on the path that intersects with the promise. I must take baby steps: update a PowerPoint, discuss it with a friend, dialog with God about what he said those many years ago, express belief that it will still come to pass. Plod, next step, persevere. I ask myself, “Have I done all I can do so that the door is opened for God to do what only he can do?”

There’s a fine line but tremendous difference between an “acting in faith” perseverance and “perpetual pontification.” The former is expectant; the latter espouses what should be done but lists all the obstacles, opposition, and circumstances that prevent it. So I must monitor my speech: am I talking about what will happen, or am I sprouting about the many reasons why it will be hard to achieve? 

I once held a workshop on LEMON Leadership® which talks about five types of leaders: Luminaries, Entrepreneurs, Managers, Organizers, and Networkers. A mathematician approached me during a break and said, “E – r = L.”  I looked a little confused so he clarified. “Entrepreneur minus risk = Luminary… I used to be an Entrepreneur but lost my willingness to take risks… so now I am a Luminary.” Inspiration without activation, ideas without action, dreams without dogged obedience… all of these can make me an expert in what cannot be done. Perseverance that plods in the path of a promise—even when the provision is not apparent—yields an outcome. So I must be careful to match my opinions with actions otherwise I risk becoming a member of the growing band of modern-day Pharisees who see more than they do, dream more than they dare.



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