About Blue Ocean Families

After writing my scathing critique of entertainment I realized I missed something important. I’ll share more about that next week, but for now, it’s time to pause and reflect on what I’m doing with this blog.

Two days ago I was almost ready to call it quits. Surely my kids need me more than the world needs another blogger, but I didn’t let myself get out of my Friday deadline so easily and instead forced myself to re-define my purpose and find clarity. The result is renewed energy and a new “About” page, so this week’s post is the reveal of my new About page. Comments welcome.

blue ocean boat

Why Blue Ocean Families?

One day I watched a lecture on Blue Ocean Strategy for businesses, not because I know anything about business (I don’t), but because the words “blue ocean” sounded lovely and I could not fathom how anything lovely could be connected to a business strategy (I told you I don’t know anything about business). I watched enthralled, not because I was inspired to start a business, but because I couldn’t help thinking how all of it applied so beautifully to family life. It sounds crazy, but I couldn’t let the idea go.

After the better part of a year I decided to start this blog to explore and develop how Blue Ocean Strategy could be adapted to fit family life. It is a place for me to organize my thoughts and receive feedback from other thoughtful families.

In a nutshell:

Blue Ocean Strategy: Don’t beat the competition, make it irrelevant.

The creators of Blue Ocean Strategy illustrate their idea by envisioning traditional markets as a bloody red ocean of cut-throat competition. They propose that businesses should leave this deadly environment and carve out untapped market space (i.e. a customer base nobody else is reaching). They call this unique market space a blue ocean and explain how to create one in any industry.

Blue Ocean Families: Turn the competition into community.

The red ocean is where we try to keep up with the Joneses and fight the mommy wars. A blue ocean family doesn’t follow the status quo, but celebrates and develops its uniqueness while living in community with other families.

How can we leave this frantic modern life and carve out a peaceful blue ocean for our families?

I don’t have the answers, and I see only dimly the path before me. I treasure your company on the journey.

Please leave a comment or use the private feedback form to let me know what you think and share your ideas. I’d love to hear from you!

I wish you gentle breezes and smooth sailing!

The Lie of Entertainment

The entertainment industry wants us to take a break, relax, and enjoy life instead of working so hard. “You deserve a break!” they say. I used to believe it, but I’ve found it to be a lie.

empty starbucks

Rest vs. Entertainment

Yes, rest is important for our bodies and souls. We cannot work constantly or our quality of work degenerates. Yet the best kind of break is true rest, not entertainment.

Sit quietly, take a nap, meditate, or pray. These forms of genuine rest leave us feeling refreshed and ready to face a new challenge.

Mindless entertainment leaves me feeling empty and often just as tired, if not more so, than before. I enjoy it in the moment, but it’s like eating candy – it’s a temporary enjoyment that leaves me feeling a bit sick – especially if I overdose.

Different Work Is a Break

The other option for taking a break is to do some other necessary or meaningful work of a different type. It is temporarily hard to engage in work when I’m tired, but if I get up and start sweeping after writing at the computer for an hour then I start to feel invigorated by the physical activity and regain my energy and capacity for mental thought.

A Vicious Cycle

If I’m tired from the physical effort of cooking, cleaning, and running after four kids the last thing I want to do is more work. I want to do something for me! At times like these my old self would self-indulge in a puzzle or game only to have my problems come crashing down on me again a few moments later. I would delay the horrible moment of realization by extending the self-indulgent time. Instead of taking a well-deserved break, I would slip into a vicious cycle of sloth and guilt.

A Virtuous Cycle

If instead I discipline myself to sit down and rest my body and put my mind to work, I can brainstorm solutions to a problem in family life and stand up again feeling energized and full of new hope. If I’m too tired to even think I can sit down and snuggle or read with the kids and get some rest as well as invest in their emotional well-being.

Afterwards I feel refreshed, productive, and ready to take on another challenge. A little initial effort creates a virtuous cycle of productivity and energy.

Rest energizes. Entertainment drains.

Even a small amount of rest helps, but entertainment is never enough. It leaves me wanting more until I finally break away and despise myself for wasting so much time.

Since I’ve realized the lie of entertainment I’m more rested, get a TON more done, and am much, much happier.

You Decide

Nobody can define for us what is rest and what is entertainment, and I’m not suggesting we abstain from all entertainment. A little candy is a good thing, and so is a little entertainment. The trick is to listen to our hearts and not social media or the incredibly sophisticated advertisements of the entertainment industry.

Do you agree? How do you use entertainment responsibly?

Update: See my own response here.

Stop Fatalistic Thinking: How To Be an Agent of Change For Yourself

Last week we discussed how our cultural orientation can lead us to accept our own situation as unchangeable and therefore prevent us from making positive change in our lives. We ended with a promise to look more closely at how to spot such fatalistic thinking in our own lives and cull what does not connect to our deepest values.

Culture is a Good Thing!

First, we must realize that we will never be fully removed from the water we swim in, and we shouldn’t be! A common culture allows us to connect with people and function in daily life efficiently and effectively. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. We want to build on what aligns with our values and eliminate what doesn’t.

Since we want to examine our culture thoughtfully, not reject it, we can take our time and start with simpler problems. Just as with exercising, building the habit is more important than any one act, but the habit is built out of many little acts. The more we do, the better we get.

Each time we spot a fatalistic thought and choose to move toward more productive thinking, we strengthen our ability to notice and alter our unproductive thoughts and change our situation for the better. With time, we can take on more difficult problems, but for now, start simply – or simply start!


Pay Attention To Your Excuses

It is easy for us to imagine we would have strength if we were in a different situation, yet we give ourselves plenty of excuses for staying where we are. We tell ourselves “I have no choice” and “my hands are tied” and “that’s just the way it is” and thus block ourselves from the possibility of change.

Perhaps even more dangerous is saying “I can’t now, but I will . . .” because we think we are taking a stand when we’ve only postponed being strong to the future.

Here are some examples of lies I’ve told myself in the past. Do any sound familiar?

  • I’m a pregnant mother of 3 kids under 5, I can’t get up early, I need every bit of sleep I can get.
  • I’m the foreigner in this church, I can’t say “in America we . . .”, so I need to just accept everything that happens.
  • I think so differently and have made so many different choices that I can’t expect people to understand my life or when I need help, so I have to live life alone, without asking for help.
  • I can’t do anything else during breakfast, so I might as well read comics and check email.
  • I’m so tired when I come home from school that I need to relax on the computer first, I can always put my bag of books and homework away later.
  • I just had a baby so I can’t go running and do sit-ups, so I’ll plan a regimented exercise routine to start in 8 weeks. For now, I’ll slouch and say I don’t have time for 10-minute post-baby exercises.
Ask A Friend, If You’re Brave

Perhaps the fastest way of discovering lies we live by is to ask a trusted friend where we might not be the wisest with our time. This could be dangerous, though. Make sure you pick a gentle and honest friend and go in willing to listen rather than defend yourself. It’s not so easy!

In my experience this is the hardest step. Once I’ve identified a fatalistic thought it is much easier to stop whining and think of creative solutions.

Have an Honest Conversation With Yourself

Here are some questions we can ask ourselves that can help us shift from downward spiral fatalistic thinking to productive problem solving.

  • Is it true?
  • Is it only part true?
  • What exactly is the problem? Put it into words.
  • What is my need? Be as specific as possible.
  • Whom could I ask for help?
  • If a friend said the same thing to me, how would I advise her?
  • What simple change could I implement NOW that would have a positive impact on the situation? (Don’t waste your time on grand schemes for your future self to implement, but do think long-term. A little change repeated over time will have a huge impact.)

I never said change was easy, but the key is to start. Start simple. Start anywhere.

Do you have other ideas for stopping fatalistic thinking? Please share!

Seeing the Water We Swim In: Why Cultural Context is So Tricky

I recently talked to a mother who had just had her second baby. I asked how she was and she answered it was a little stressful because in her culture, young women have the last place in society, which means that when the many aunts and uncles and cousins come to visit to congratulate her on her new baby, she is expected to cook a three course meal for them. She pointed out that when she becomes a grandmother she will not continue the backwards tradition of putting more stress on an already exhausted young mother.

She also eloquently explained why she is upholding the unhelpful tradition for the sake of honoring her elders and maintaining the peace with her extended family.

Then she went on to say at least she wasn’t from country X where women are treated even worse. She has a friend who married a man from country X and this friend was required to maintain a full-time job and cook and clean every day for her husband and his entire family.

“If I were her I would never put up with that,” she said resolutely. “I would tell him ‘forget it’ and leave.”

How easy it is to judge from the outside what can, or should, be eliminated! I bet the friend living in country X has equally eloquent reasons for submitting to the cultural context in which she lives.

The conversation was a good reminder of how tricky cultural context can be when we consider creating a Blue Ocean. I use her example because it’s easier to see where others are inconsistent than to see our own lives rightly. It’s hard to spot our own excuses as excuses because to us they sound like solid logic.

I hope this young mother has the strength to break the unhelpful traditions of her culture, but I can imagine that after decades of serving young and old, when she becomes a grandmother and finally has the cultural right to be served, she might be so fed up with being treated like a nobody and so unpracticed at standing up for what she believes is right in the face of social pressure, that she might not have any strength left to gift her daughters the help that today she so resolutely believes she will give them.

Of course, if I stop here I will be making the same mistake. I should use the conversation as a mirror to my own heart and faulty thinking. What do I accept in my own life because of fatalistic thinking?

We need to focus on what we can influence today and not get side tracked by future battles or battles that are not our own.

Next week we’ll explore ways to spot our own fatalistic thinking and stop it in its tracks!