The Purpose Trumps the Plan

Years ago we established a family mission statement. A number of books we have read emphasized the need for this but The Thomas Jefferson Education got us to actually do it.

The Jordan Family Mission:

We work together as a team to steward God’s resources, create a welcoming home, share with others, encourage one another, learn and explore new ideas and pursue our God given purpose.

That should be seen as a work in progress. In fact, it is still in draft form and is revisited regularly. But what is included? Cows? Pigs? Money? Only as “God’s resources”. Money, that great bug-a-boo, is a means not an end. The end is learning and personal development. Enlightenment. We use money to buy books and to heat our home so we can read in comfort. It’s just a tool. The cows are a way of caring for the land and generating a little money (so we can be warm and can buy books). Cows are just a tool. A means not an end.

feb cows

We don’t bother to name tools in the mission statement. We don’t specify plans either. The mission statement is the what, not the how.

I have this vision of what could be. A preferred future. I have written about it before so I’ll just go on. I have a plan to get there. 11 cows today. 5,000 cows tomorrow. Simple as that. Oh, along the way I’ll have to learn about sales, I’ll have to accumulate more land, time will pass, money will be lost, money will be made. Then I get old, they bury me in the family cemetery and succeeding generations continue to succeed. The Jordan family grows to eclipse the Rockefellers.

No plan of battle ever survives contact with the enemy
-Helmuth von Moltke

The cold, hard reality of the world can’t be planned for. My detailed, step-by-step agenda could include my great-grandchildren building long-range ships to ranch all of Mars. Will it happen? Is that important to the objective? Cows on Mars is not the objective. Honoring God, welcoming people and seeking personal growth is the objective. 

So if the plan goes awry…well, we’ll survive. If we fail as farmers we are still a family. If we fail as a family the farm won’t be needed. What is important here?

What is important is that each of us see the big picture.

Plans are useless but planning is indispensable
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Since we have a farm we should try to do something with it. So we make plans. These plans don’t make or break our family. Julie plans to get rid of clutter on a weekly basis. Is that time wasted if the house burns to the ground or is carried away by a tornado? I don’t think so. The weekly exercise has forced her to change her thinking about our possessions. It has helped her to focus on the objective and certainly helps make a welcoming home. But the weekly exercise is not the goal. The welcoming home is the goal. By planning to clean a little more each week we inch closer toward our objective.

The focus is not on the plan. The focus is on the purpose.

The cows are part of the plan. The cows are not the purpose.

Cleaning the house is part of the plan. A clean house is not a purpose.

Money is part of the plan. Money is not the purpose.

Johnny Cash’s music is part of our family cultural heritage. Johnny Cash’s music is not our family purpose. (lol)

It is not always so easy to distinguish plans from objectives…especially when emotions come into play. But I think we are off to a flying start.

Now what?

Now we pray/hope/teach our kids to recognize the objective. We make a few plans. We turn the next generation loose and get out of the way. The most important thing I can do is to give control to the next generation as soon as possible. I am beginning to notice that I am not as fearless as I have been in the past. Maybe it’s time to move myself to an administrative position in our organization. I am reaching the point where I am no longer fit to lead the troops on the front lines. I have raised a generation of creative, intelligent, hard working children. Their intelligence and creativity exceeds my own (thank God). Our objective is personal development. The farm is the incubator for that development. It’s almost time for them to fly.

If I retain control the farm will stagnate. We’ll have cows. We’ll have chickens. We’ll have pigs. I’ll blog. I’ll write books. But what won’t I do? We will continue moving toward our purpose but the toolset will be limited. The kids may continue the livestock but add in Android applications, cookbooks, automated cattle fencing and a series of rental cabins on the farm. I can’t even imagine what they will come up with…and I’m excited to see it.

feb dot

So rather than close them out, rather than force them to move on and seek funding for their own ideas, I would rather move into an advisory role. To offer them counsel and financial enhancement (but not dependence!). College? Sure, if you want. Seminary? Sure, if you want. Recording studio for a podcast? Sure, if you want. Come up with a plan. Show me how it fits into the overall purpose. Even if the plan fails, the purpose remains.

And my children know our purpose. We defined it together.

We work together as a team to steward God’s resources, create a welcoming home, share with others, encourage one another, learn and explore new ideas and pursue our God given purpose.

Kids, I’m here for you. I love the work we do together. I hope we can always work together. And I’m excited to see where you take it next. Whenever you are ready. We’ll fulfill our purpose together. And as soon as possible, pass it on to your children.

Beyond The Thomas Jefferson Education, the following books have been valuable in directing our family purpose:

You might think it’s funny for po’ folk like us to read books with lofty titles like those. It’s not funny. It’s inspiring.

Also, portions of this post were influenced by this series. Hats off to Project Managers everywhere.

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2 thoughts on “The Purpose Trumps the Plan

  1. You’ve opened a can of worms to read now. Thank you for reminding me to have the broad goals, because then the details can work out.

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