Are You An Idealist?

James Preston Reply 6:30 AM
Last week amazed me.  I sat at a coffee shop wondering what to write, and all the talk was Oscar Pistorius.  I was intrigued on the story and thought to write my perspective.  The response was overwhelming!

The response was mostly encouraging, but what amazed me were the amount of people who were so quick and seemingly happy to assume his guilt (of premeditated murder) and anything that challenged this opinion was rejected outright.

In light of that, I would like you to read my belief in the future of mankind.  You may ask what it has to do with last week's story, but I actually think it has much.  Have a read, and may it inspire you.  If not, please go your own way in peace.

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I am an idealist.  I see the best in people.  I trust them.  I believe what they say even when it seems too good to be true.  I believe the world can be a better place.  I believe we can change the world for the better.  I believe people will put aside their disagreements and choose to walk together to accomplish great things.

I believe mega corporations will clear up the cloudy air of "profit-at-all-cost" mindsets and operate with the environment, employee and consumer in mind.  I believe political parties will stop the mudslinging and choose to focus on what needs to be done instead of choosing to slate what hasn't.  I believe.

I believe we will see a day when cars can indeed run on pure water, and tyres never wear down.  Computers won't crash and bandwidth will be free in every country on Earth.  I believe engineers will produce never-ending batteries and clothes that don't age.

I believe cancer will be a thing of the past and HIV a virus for the history books.  I believe there will be a day when no one will ever go hungry and all will have free access to the highest quality education.  I believe there will come a time when everyone has a home of comfort with protection from the wind and rain.  I believe we will stop "global warming" and natural disasters will be preventable even at meteorological level.  I believe...

You may call me a lunatic living in a realm of fantasy.  But it is such fantasy that motivates me.

What do you believe?

I believe Jesus when He said "all things are possible".

Will you believe with me?

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What do you believe?  Are you an idealist as much as I?  Am I living in a dream world?  Or is an Earth like this possible?

Next week I reveal an extremely exciting exclusive article with our first guest blogger!  Phil Drysdale from the United Kingdom and former staff member at Bethel Church, California.  Be sure not to miss next week's post on Wednesday morning!

Is Oscar Pistorius Guilty? A Pastor's Perspective

James Preston 47 6:30 AM
Just before this post.... I have been nominated for an SA Blog Award 2014! I would really appreciate your support, just by taking literally 90 seconds to click below and vote for me in the 2 nominated categories. Thanks so much! SA Blog Awards Badge
Now back to this Post...
This Oscar Pistorious story has shocked everyone.  To the core.  No one is left unaffected by the tragedy of Reeva Steenkamp's death on Valentine's morning.  No matter who you are, or what your background, this story simply rocks you.

Before I go any further, I want to pay homage to the beautiful person that Reeva Steenkamp was.  She, and her family, is the tragic victim in this nightmare.  One of the most unfortunate victims you'll ever read about.  I dedicate this post to her and her family, who have lost an angel in their lives.  I can only imagine the pain of losing someone as close as my beautiful wife Corinne or precious son Joel.  I don't know how I would carry on.
I don't know how Reeva's family will carry on.  My heart goes out to them, along with my deepest sympathies.  Whatever the outcome of the trial, whatever is said in that courtroom or beyond, Reeva will always be the hero who deserves the highest commemoration.  This post is dedicated to her memory.

Like everyone else, I was stunned when I heard that Oscar was in jail.  Much like when the Twin Towers were struck by aircraft or when Nelson Mandela was released from prison; I will always remember where I was.  I was in my car driving to work listening to national station 5fm.  I caught only the tailend of the headlines that simply announced: "Recapping your top story; Oscar Pistorious arrested in the early hours of this morning."

I immediately went to Twitter to find out what I could be missing (the number 1 source for breaking news since 2010).  It slowly unfolded.  Oscar had shot and killed his girlfriend in his home in Pretoria in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

Surely not?  Surely I was reading a sick Twitter joke?  But as much as we all wanted this horror to be imagination; the cold hard facts slowly set in stone.  Oscar had indeed been the one to end Reeva's life with his own 9mm pistol.  It still remains unbelievable.  Oscar Pistorious.  The South African hero that united a nation.  The champion who proved to all that nothing was impossible, no matter your challenges or disabilities.

Twitter moved from Town Crier to Kangaroo Court.  People poured out their judgment with deep conviction.  How unfortunate that it is so much easier to express such conviction when sitting behind the comfort of a computer screen.

Two distinct camps have developed with a deep trench of opinion separating them.  One camp up in arms at the cold-blooded brutality of another womaniser.  The other desperate to defend the dignity of their disabled darling.

What is the truth?  Will we ever find out?  I believe we will.  But I have a feeling that one of those camps won't believe it is indeed the truth.

I wanted to write this post from my perspective as a pastor.  When I read in the Sunday paper that a pastor had visited Oscar in prison on Saturday, I obviously thought of myself as a pastor, and how I would have dealt with the situation if I were asked to minister to him.

To be vulnerably honest with you; I don't know what I would've said.  There are many a times when a pastor doesn't know what to say.  Despite what you may believe about pastors, we do not have the answer for everything.  This being a classic case in point.

Oscar has made a grave mistake, whether intentional or unintentional   Premeditated or accidental.  But reminding him of how big a mistake he has made will never bring Reeva back.  He will carry the weight of his actions for all his days.  If he allows, Jesus will gladly heal him of the hurt he has experienced.  But even Jesus' healing power will not remove the memory of what has happened.  And Jesus knows that.

We cannot allow our insatiable desire for justice and revenge make Oscar a scapegoat.  We must trust the legal system of our country.  And despite what many of the South African doomsday naysayers may believe; our legal system has a lot going for it.

Oscar is up against one of the most prominent, effective and ruthless prosecutors in the world; Gerrie Nel.  Anyone who wins a case against Advocate Gerrie Nel must be telling the truth.

Oscar's affidavit of what happened was read out in court yesterday at his bail hearing.  He is saying that he heard noises in the bathroom and thought immediately it was an intruder.  You can read the full statement here.

Why would anyone of Oscar's pedigree lie under oath?  Has our society so degraded into the abyss of immorality that we no longer trust the sworn statements of our heroes?  What have we become?

We allow deceit, infidelity and promiscuity to become our staple media diet, but we expect people born under the same diet to somehow act differently?  It's like praising fish for their ability to swim, but when they jump out the water we are shocked at their inability to walk.

Having said that, I don't believe Oscar Pistorious is of the same ilk that is portrayed in our favourite movies, novels, sitcoms and pitiful "reality" TV shows.  I believe he is a man of at least some honour.  Enough to tell the truth under a sworn statement in the highest court of law.

Like everyone else who has walked this planet bar Christ Himself, he is by no means perfect.  But despite the shortcomings of the produce of our society, the good within humanity is far greater than what we give ourselves credit for.  Without descending into the depths of theological debate on the depravity of mankind; I believe there is good at the heart of humanity.  And Oscar deserves the same faith.

I stand to be corrected.  I am even happy to be wrong.  But what ever happened to the classic principle of common law that declares suspects "innocent until proven guilty"?  This is where I stand at this point in time.

Oscar must be innocent until proven guilty.  This is how humans should deal with one another.  Always (yes, always) extending the benefit of the doubt.

I don't know if Oscar Pistorious is guilty or not.  But right now, I believe his statement.  I don't believe his statement because he deserves my faith in him, I believe his statement because that's the humane thing to do.

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How do you feel about this tragedy?

Do you remember where you were when you first heard the news?

Do you believe Oscar Pistorious is telling the truth?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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3 Ways To Win The Battle of Focus

James Preston 2 6:30 AM
I received one of the most satisfying compliments I have ever received the other day.  I overheard a colleague and friend of mine say to another "James is definitely not ADHD".  While outwardly I pretended not to notice and carried on with my Email composition, inwardly I was flabbergasted.  Shocked.

The reason I was so astounded came down to an inward battle I have fought for years: the hunch that I may well live with ADHD.

I am hyper.  And I battle to focus.  I am an "all or nothing" type of guy.  Go big or go home.  I mean, I get headaches from shouting too loud at sport games.  Even the TV.  Heck, even from singing too loud in the car!  Yep... hyper!

And focus!?  Watching TV... I can't help but check my phone in case I have a new message.  I can barely read one page of a book without glancing somewhere else or starting to think about a new idea.  My brain is constantly fighting a deluge of ideas and information.

One day, whilst merely considering the possibility of taking Ritalin, I had a revelation; God created me this way.  I hadn't had a terrible upbringing in front of the TV, I didn't own a PlayStation until I was 17.  And Satellite TV was a luxury we looked forward to when visiting rich cousin's houses.  There was very little reason for me to have become ADHD.

Considering my upbringing, surely this was who God made me to be?

From that day forward I made a conscious decision to embrace the man God created me to be, but at the same time make a concerted effort to focus on one task at a time, without getting too caught up in thoughts elsewhere.  Focus on what was in front of me.

And it has paid off.  Clearly.

1. You Can Accomplish Anything!
I cannot stress enough the things that you are capable of.  If you put your mind to it, if you make the decision, you can achieve almost anything.  And that's a very small "almost".  It is for this very reason that my life's motto is "Dream Big, Never Give Up."  Dream it, see yourself doing it, and then never give up.  If you have the willpower to see it through, no matter how long it takes, you will see success!

The point is... in a world of information overload, we need the ability to FOCUS more than ever before!  Focus is a precious commodity.  And if you would hone your skill to do so, your proverbial market value will go through the roof.

And it's not that difficult to do.  It is simply a mental fight...

2. Learn To Fight In Your Mind
When conducting a specific task, stick to it.  Every time a thought comes to your mind to do something that takes you away from that specific task, don't do it!  Simple!

So if you're writing a letter, and your phone vibrates, don't check it until you are done with the letter!  If you feel the urge to check your Email or Facebook notifications, DON'T!  Push through the inundation of distractions, and stick to your task at hand.

3. Remove Distractions
If distractions are too tempting, remove them completely!  Turn the radio or TV off.  Close your internet browser.  Turn your phone off.

While these may seem a bit unrealistic for the type of day you face, I can assure you that it's not.  This is the kind of thing that looks really tough, almost impossible, from the outside, but when actually take up, is far easier than imagined.

At first, it will seem difficult.  But trust me!  A little bit of practice and you will eventually find yourself focussing on one task at a time with ease.

And eventually, friends will compliment you, too. ;-)

Have you ever thought you are ADHD?  Why didn't you check it out?

Are you ADHD?  How different is life once you've taken Ritalin?




Hey AngloGold! Productivity is More Important Than Time

James Preston Reply 4:30 AM
In case you haven't yet realised this: you were born to change the world.  And I am not talking about giving a beggar a bowl of soup (which by the way is extremely important to Jesus!)  I am talking about changing entire societies.  I believe the Bureaucratic way the world works of systems and admin and paperwork and diplomacy will be done away with for easy "yes" or "no" solutions that will change the way this world runs!  America will have tighter gun laws quicker because there will be less "wasting time" in Congress trying to convince delegates to pass the bill.  Communist dictatorships will bow before a democratically free government trusted by the people where decisions will be made easily because the people trust them!  We will get there.  I see a perfect world.  It is possible.  It will happen.  It's your job and mine to start the process of making it happen.

Now, in today's blog I want to talk about a serious society change.  Especially in the Capitalistic corporate society of the West.  Desks have become the new rock-crushers, and computers the chains that keep us there.  (I'm all for computers but go with the analogy).  I believe in a day when top corporates will believe in productivity being more important than "time"...

Last week I opened my blog post with "Productivity is more important than time."  That may sound a bit of an oxymoron, but if you think about it, it's not.  The traditional way the corporate world operates is within certain hours.  People arrive at a certain time, and they leave at certain time.  It used to be 9am-5pm.  It's now closer to 7am-5pm.  Many companies would have check-in and check-out systems in order to "check up" on how much time their employees were putting in.  This was all based on the assumption that the more time they spent at work, the more work they would get done. That's a serious assumption.  And it is flawed on so many levels.

What counts is not the time put in, but the atmosphere created for the work to be accomplished.  Motivating your employees is paramount in getting the most out of them.  A happy, relaxed, feel-good working environment.  Good remuneration.  Recognition of special achievements.

Having said that, I am in no way against set working hours.  In this crazy society we live in today, it is vital for people to know when offices are available etc.  Good working hours are good practice.  But there is a better way for employees to operate within these working hours.  Like shifts.  Days off.  Etc.

Places like Google, Facebook and Virgin are leading the way of a "new corporate environment".  Adam and Eve operated from Rest.  Jesus restored us to their state (and beyond!)  We should now operate from His Rest.  Work 4 days and rest 3!  Work 1 day and rest 6!  Work 6 days a week at 9 hours a day and rest 1; for 30 days straight, and then rest 30 days straight!  Work within the parameters of the job at hand.  What does the job at hand require to be done?  If it requires high intensity labour, work within human capabilities and always keep labourer's joy as a priority.

Big corporates who try and find the cheapest labour possible in order to make the maximum profit will soon be stung by their employees.  It is inevitable.  You let your emplyees know you value them, their families, their talents, their passions, and you will get high productivity.  No matter what they do.

So, this is a small taste of a new world.  Hopefully the next Larry Page or Richard Branson is reading this, or better... Prince William or Barack Obama.  If that's you, then think of this philosophy.  Productivity is more important than time.  As is your employees and "servant's" joy.

Let's change this world together.  For the better.

What do you think is wrong with Corporate Society of the West?

Is the West a primary culprit?  Is greed the problem?

How To Reach Peak Productivity

James Preston Reply 6:30 AM
I believe productivity is more important than time.  If you think that how much time you spend on a project equals how successful you were, then you might be missing something.  Don't fall victim to the assumption that, for example, 2 hours reading your Bible will inspire you better than 30 mins would.  It is not about quantity, it's about quality.

Here I have outlined some basic tools that I've learnt over the last 10 years that should be taught at school level.  Why I didn't is beyond me, maybe I missed class that day?  But if you understand these basic tools, you will be well on your way to becoming a highly productive individual.

1.  Set Goals - Use a To-Do List
If you don't have a To-Do list, where have you been hiding?  Get one!  Now!  Grab a piece of paper, and write down what you need to do today.  A simple start.

I was born pretty disorganised, but as my responsibilities in life increased, I have realised the importance of a To-Do list.  I started keeping one religiously about 5 years ago.  It used to be on a notepad once a week.  And I would cross out what I had accomplished, and re-write the unaccomplished tasks on the next week's paper.

I have since turned digital.  Todoist is one of the greatest online apps I have discovered on the internet.  It is completely free and runs online, on your smart phone, as an app on the computer, you name it.  All tasks can categorised by projects, given due dates.  Etc.  The features are endless.  If, like me, technology is your friend, open a free account today!

On top of my digital To-Do list, I often use a piece of paper for the day.  I jot down the basic things I absolutely need to get to in my day ahead.  My online version has my tasks for the day, but sometimes planning my day ahead on paper can give me the extra clarity I need to get things done.  This could be basic things like "buying tickets to the soccer".  But if I don't write those things down, I might just forget and I might miss out.

Write things down.  Get more done!

2.  Prioritise Your To-Do List
Identify which tasks are more important than others.  Don't just get the things done that you like doing. Get the things done that are important first.  That way, you won't be stressed when you get round to those important tasks later.  And if you don't have time to complete all your tasks in one day, at least it is only the lesser important tasks that get moved out.  Get the important stuff done first.

Sometimes, getting one important task done in a day holds more weight than accomplishing 10 less significant tasks. Prioritising your task-list will make you more effective than ever.

3.  Focus On One Task At A Time
In a world of information overload, this is becoming more and more difficult.  With Smartphones that beep incessantly, ads in our Email vying for our attention, Social Network notifications, it is becoming an enormous task to focus on one thing at a time.  But the benefits of doing so remain tremendous.

I am an easily distracted guy.  And focussing on one thing at a time requires serious concentration.  Even when it is reading a 4-paragraph email.  But I can promise you...  it is a learned skill.  The more I have practiced doing this, the more natural it becomes.

When doing a task, concentrate on getting that task done before doing anything else.  And I mean anything.  Don't respond to your phone, your Emails, or even ideas that pop in your idea (write those down for later!).  Check all those things in between tasks, and don't give more than 5-10 minutes at a time doing so before moving on to the next task.

By concentrating on one task at a time, you will prevent yourself from getting distracted and risking not coming back to that task and not getting it done.

4.  Plan Your Weeks
On top of my To-Do list, I can't live without my calendar.  Google Calendar has helped me become more productive than ever!  I don't actually log on to Google Calendar, I just have a Google Cal account, and use my BlackBerry calendar and my BusyCal App on my computer for the Google Cal accounts.  (Note:  iCal for Mac has been playing up with Google Calendars, I recently switched to BusyCal and have been very impressed!)

I write all my appointments down.  Sometimes even times with my family, friends, and sport games!  This is to ensure nothing clashes in my week!  And because my BlackBerry is on hand 24/7, I enter new appointments immediately.  Those appointments then get synced straight to Google Cal, which in turn sync it with BusyCal.  And if I am not near my phone or my computer, I can log on to Google Calendar wherever there is an internet connection.

Now that you have a calendar, plan your week ahead.  On Monday morning (or in my case, Tuesday), sit down and look at your week ahead.  Then, in your mind, plan when you will work on what.  This could be anything from prayer to working on a hobby to spending time with family.  What blocks of time in a week are most conducive to the tasks on your To-Do list?  Then plan accordingly.

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That's just a basic run down of how I have come to get everything I want to get done, done.  It may be very basic for some of you organised folks, but I am acutely aware many people today battle with planning their time.  These 4 principles can help you immensely if you start putting them into practice.

What are some of the ways that have helped you become more productive?  

What apps / tools do you use to organise your life?

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