Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous.

Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous. I brought this concept up a couple of weeks ago in a post where I mentioned a speech that Ashton Kutcher made at the Teen Choice Awards a few years ago. Now I’ve never met Ashton, nor do I know what kind of person he really is, nor do I love every single movie he has made. However, despite these facts, I feel that the speech he gave was a life-changing moment for me.

My goal today is not necessarily to get you to adopt this as your life’s motto, nor is it to get you to be a die-hard Ashton Kutcher fan, but rather to glean from three very short profound thoughts.

Be Smart

I was recently engaged in a discussion with a co-worker about the level of IQ in people. He was making the point that he has never been tested for his IQ but didn’t think it really mattered much. He said that everyone is born with their own IQ and can’t change it, so why get tested on something that they can’t actually improve. Now before you are quick to contradict him, this is a guy who graduated from college at the age of 15 and whose goal one day is to become a theoretical astro-physicist; in other words, he’s not dumb. While IQ might be a fixed point of reference, common sense is not.

Dave Ramsey often quotes on his show that “common sense isn’t so common anymore.” That is very true. Sometimes I am dumbfounded by the lack of common sense people express when making major life-altering decisions. But aside from IQ and common sense, when I think of this one part of Ashton Kutcher’s quote, I think about the intentionality behind the thought of being smart rather than the brilliance of it.

I am often thought of as a person who questions common lines of thought and brings up alternative theories not normally considered. Part of this could be from an overly-analytical mindset that comes from having an engineer as a dad while part of this is often because of skepticism. The questions I would ask and challenge you with pertaining to this concept are simple. What process do you take in problem solving? Who have you allowed to influence your decision-making process? What conditions are optimal for you to think best? Time of day? Level of coffee intake? Time of year? Be smart.

Be Thoughtful

Because of my introversion, I am often thinking way more than what I actually say. When I am the most quiet is typically when my brain is trying to process the most information. This blog is a natural outlet for me to make sense of the noise that is going on inside of my head.

Some people process out loud. I once had a boss named Bill; he was a great guy. He was always talking things out loud in front of me or other members of the team because this was a big help to him. He would often use people as a sounding board to figure out his own problems.

The challenge I have for you in this category is two-fold. First, you can’t possibly have a thought or opinion on everything in the world. The things that are most important take time to reason out in your head and make them simple. Have a thought, form an opinion, embrace a belief. A lot of weird stuff is happening in the world right now, and a large void is originality of thought. Secondly, this idea applies to how thoughtful you are of others around you.

C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Pause. Reread that. I’ll wait. I have found in my own life that I often think my problems are so big and whatever I’m going through is such a big deal, until I compare notes with somebody else. The quickest way to have less stress and less anxiety in your life is to start thinking of yourself less and start looking around you at the needs of others. In doing this, your problems quickly start to shrink and an overwhelming sense of gratitude will fill your life. Be thoughtful.

Be Generous

I have a lot to say about this. I still remember to this day the time I left the worst tip of my life. In high school a bunch of my teammates and I were at Applebee’s after a soccer game ordering appetizers and food. At the time one of my favorite drinks was called a Shirley Temple (If you’ve never had it, it’s basically Sprite with cherry flavoring.) I’ve slowed down since high school, but at that time I could easily have had anywhere from 6–8 of these during a meal and still be thirsty. At this meal something terrible happened and the waitress only gave me one… THE ENTIRE MEAL! She literally took our order and I never saw her again until the bill came. I left her a tip of $.25. That’s right… you read it correctly… twenty-five cents.

My college pastor placed a heavy emphasis on leaving good tips when going to a restaurant. His mother used to be a waitress and remembered people being rude in their gratuity. Nowadays I normally leave a 20% tip everywhere I go. I know you might think I’m ridiculous, but that’s just what I do (hey-I’ve saved a lot of time not having to download all those tip calculator apps). But when it comes to the idea of being generous, it’s so much more than how much you tip your server, your hair dresser, or your Uber driver. It’s a totally different mindset.

The Bible says in Acts 20:35, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” So I have a big question to ask you — how much of your annual income is spent on yourself compared to others? By others I don’t mean other members of your immediate family like your spouse or children, but people outside of your household? 5%? 10%? 50%? Materialism is one of the plagues of our modern society. All around us we are bombarded with ads in our social media feed, billboards on our drive home, and solicitors at our door trying to sell us something that we can’t live without.

I work in the technology field and this is such a constant struggle for me. As soon as a product is released to the general public, it is already out of date. There is always the burning desire for more. Some things I draw the line on and say to myself, “There is no way I need a customizable colored light bulb I can control from my iPhone when kids in Africa are literally looking for their next meal.” But in reality, if we are all honest, most of the things we are currently saving for, spending on, and lusting after, we truly don’t need any of them. My challenge to you in this area is three-fold…

- Don’t wait for your big break — If you think you are going to wait until you land on a jackpot of money, whether at work or by luck, to start giving, you are wrong. If you are not generous making $5 an hour, how are you going to be generous making $50,000 a month?

- Pick a cause and give — Whether it’s faith based, special needs based, or even an individual family, pick something that pulls at your heart strings and support it with your wallet.

- You will reap what you sow — There is a law of sowing and reaping in the Bible. Long story short, if you do work the right way and make the initial investment up front, it will pay off in the long run for you.

There is an old illustration that unpacks this concept of sowing and reaping; it goes something like this. A home builder is getting ready to retire and pass on his business to his protégé. The builder gives his young apprentice a project to work on and gives him the plans. The young apprentice, thinking he can cut some corners and save on costs, decides to build the house as cheaply as possible. When it comes time to complete the project, the builder takes the young apprentice aside and asks him what he thinks of the project. The young apprentice expresses how he built the house and how it is ready for the buyers to move in. The builder turns to the apprentice and with deep regret filling his heart gives the young foolish apprentice the keys to the house and says, “It’s yours.”

So after a lot of thought and deliberation…

Be smart.

Be thoughtful.

Be generous.