From Virtual to Actual in Human Capacity Optimization


Factor 3:

From Virtual to Actual

Here’s a recap…

Create action-oriented, experience 

Focus on “becoming” (vision + being + doing)


And now a third factor…

The third factor in Human Capacity Optimization
is to shift from the classroom to the wider context
of real relationships.

The genius of this can be seen in the Reality
TV show, The Apprentice. Rather than an
office interview, candidates for a job in the
Trump organization are given a series of
tasks to perform in the immediate context
of a team with whom to work and the wider
context of the real world in which to either
succeed or fail.

In a similar vein, we call MGAMES™ —
one of the social technologies designed
by the IMN — a “real” game.

MGames is a simulation of what being
on mission feels like. The user interface
for this real game is the most immersive
360-degree environment ever designed —
the real world. Your avatar for this
real game is yourself and your playing
field is your real life.

Because the game is focused on
personal and/or team missions,
it utilizes factor #1:
create an action-oriented experience.

Also, because the game is competitive
and timed, it creates a sense of urgency
and even crisis. These factors are
necessary for the brain to activate in
the way we desire.

Because the game creates an environment
for the player to live out — under a time
frame — the values she wishes to embody,
it utilizes factor 2:
Focus on becoming.

The emphasis of this third factor is context.
The game moves development out of the
classroom and into the environment in which
leadership will happen.

Leadership development becomes actual
rather than virtual. It becomes an issue
of the heart and not only of the head.
Rather than being a “presentation” of
leadership such as we might see and hear
in a job interview or in a classroom model,
it becomes a “manifestation”
of leadership in the real world.

More factors next time…

The Priority of “Becoming” in Human Capacity Optimization



From “doing” to “being” to “becoming”


As we stated in the first piece on Human Capacity Optimization,
Principle 1: The Necessity of Action-based Experience,” Human Capacity Optimization is a way of describing spiritual formation, discipleship, and leadership development.

The first principle is that
Immersive Experience that requires urgent action activates the brain in such a way that can optimize
human performance

And now, a second principle …

Focus on Becoming

Leaders who want to accomplish a task,
to win, to complete a mission
are often looking for that program,
that technique, that tactic, and that
strategy that will help them get it done.

They are doers.

In contrast, it is fashionable and common
today for some to take a step back from
such “driven” leadership styles.

It is not unusual to hear someone say, we
must focus on “being” not “doing”.

The idea is that “who we are” trumps
“what we do”. They prescribe starting
with the inner life before moving towards
the outer life.

But life is just not that linear.

We think there’s a third layer. In this layer
“doing” and “being” work together to form
an intricate weave which we call “becoming”.

Our website has this tag line: explore the
future you. This line is all about becoming.

Energy coach Jon Gordon tweeted recently,
“Don’t worry about your greatness in the future.
Just be great today.”

In this short proverb, Jon Gordon highlights
that our future self, our future being,
and our present self, our present being, is
bridged by the path of doing, the journey
of intentional action in the present.

In other words,
it’s all about becoming — the marriage of
being and doing with the preferred
“future you” in mind.

Here’s our point: when a person is
“becoming” their leadership is colored
by authenticity and becomes a source
of inspiration to others.

Vision + being + doing = becoming
Vision + becoming + mission =>
authentic and inspirational leadership

To paraphrase Jon Gordon,
do today what you imagine
your future, better-self doing.

That’s a combination of being —
who are you really? — and doing —
what actions and behaviors characterize
you — in order to actualize the person
that you would want to be on your best
day, not then but now.

Here’s a processing question:
What processes have you created or
adopted that create an environment
of becoming and how are leaders
within your context called upon
to be their best future-self today?

More principles next time…

You want to become a maven of human talent, a guide for along healthy character development pathways, and still voice that helps others become mindful of their footprint in the world. And you also want to discover, develop, and deploy your own personal genius while you're at it.









The Necessity of Action-Based Experience in Human Capacity Optimization

Human Capacity Optimization


What do we mean by human capacity optimization?

For us, Human Capacity Optimization is a way of describing spiritual formation, discipleship, and leadership development.

Why do we use an unusual term like “optimization” when describing these processes?

We use a different term (“optimization”) as a way of disrupting our normal patterns of thought when we hear the words “discipleship” or “leadership development.”

Optimization describes a process for making something as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.

This definition sounds a bit mathematical and sterile, but the process when dealing with people is an art.

So, let’s talk about this process.
I want to describe a  few  principles for Human Capacity Optimization. These principles have been extracted from our own action-oriented, field-based research.


Let’s think about learning as changed behavior.
When behavior changes, learning has happened.
When behavior remains the same, nothing has
been learned.

Under this definition, how does learning happen?

Optimizing Human Performance happens through “lived” experience that requires not only a change of thinking but of actions and behaviors, moods and attitudes. Learning happens when these lived experiences have consequences, are urgent, and require repetition.

In contrast, for many, spiritual formation (as well as leadership development) happens in the head.

For example, we teach a principle or lesson in a Sunday service and expect the audience to be changed by it. Or, for example, we have a discipleship class.

Think about the contrast between theseexploringthecontours
approaches and the process of Jesus.

Jesus is a person on a mission who calls others
to join him on his mission.

The contrast in these approaches begins to
explain why the end result is so radically different.

Jesus ended up with disciples.
We end up with members.

The desire to add an “action-based” process
to our leadership development arsenals was
the reason that, over the past 10 years,
The International Mentoring Network
experimented with multiple
tools for field-based, action-oriented spiritual

The main distinction of these tools is that they
happen largely on the field, not in the classroom or in a service. The leader of the group is less a teacher than a guide, a coach.

Here’s one thing we learned:

Motivated followers of Christ were relieved
by the opportunity to actually “do” what they
felt they needed to be doing all along.


Acting on their faith not only changed their
behaviors but their perspectives.

Here’s the principle:

changed behavior is guided best through
lived experience. Learning happens
in real time, real world action.

Immersive Experience that requires urgent action
activates the brain in such a way that can optimize human performance

So, Here’s the question: what tools are you using
that focus in action-oriented, field-based equipping?

Here’s a suggestion: Make it an
Action-based, Immersive Experience.

More principles on the way…

Strengths Finder Vs Talent Code

Here’s a formula for what I call Human Capacity Optimization.

td + PD + SD + rp + rld = HCO

Recent research in talent development suggests that extraordinary skill can be earned through
the trio of deep practice, ignition, and master coaching (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code, 2009).

Talent —understood as the possession of a repeatable skill that is not dependent
on size— is not something with which someone is born. Neither is talent hardwired
into our being at an early age.

In other words, the “natural” is a myth. Talent can be grown or earned or developed.

On the other hand, many who utilize the Gallup tool StrengthsFinder™ in
their coaching practice, build on the premise that talent
is hard wired into the brain at an early age.

In this framework, talent — defined as a recurring pattern of feeling, thought, or behavior that can be productively applied — must be discovered.

Yes, a raw “talent” must be developed if it is ever to become a strength, but the key to excellence is to focus on the already optimized patterns of feeling, thought, or behavior. Thus, the StrengthsFinder Assessment tool helps participants discover their innate raw talent.

So, are we born with talent or is talent earned?  This is a question that has many expressions: Are leaders made or born? Are entrepreneurs made or born?

As most of you suspect, the answer to this question is not black and white. Some people, for example, seem to be born with a higher risk tolerance than others. This would seem to be a quality necessary for an entrepreneur. But, it is not the only reason people take risks. While there is a genetic component, environment, nurture, and circumstance all play a part. (See, Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?).

While StrengthsFinder and the newest IMN Coaching Tools are premised on different understandings of the brain, they also reinforce one another. Both put emphasis on the development of talent.

Coaches who use the StrengthsFinder must, in the end, design practices and experiences that develop a talent into a strength. Knowing your strengths is not enough. Developing a raw “talent” (which is what the Strengths Finder assessment discovers) into a “strength” will take deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.

Strengths development is aimed (through deep practice) towards a goal that motivates the person (ignition) who is being coached (master coaching). Their talent will surface as they face their “what do I do now” moments in life.

For a real world example of talent development, take Odell Beckham. I was watching the New York Giants play the Dallas Cowboys when I saw Beckham make the greatest catch I had ever seen in my life. As a former quarterback and wide receiver, I have a special appreciation for this kind of feat. I was so moved, I tweeted about it right away.

Here’s the video. Watch the entirety of it for the closeup view. It’s sick. (Note: the NFL won’t let this video open here, but click anyway and watch the video on youtube. The audio reaction of the commentators is worth it).

I watch this and just marvel. But was this just a phenomenon of natural talent? Of course, the man is a beast of natural ability. I was amazed when Talent Code author Daniel Coyle discovered and shared the following video. This is even more amazing than the actual catch. Are you ready for it —Odell Beckham actually trains for this moment.

As my coaches liked to say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
I have learned that skill can be learned. All skill is a form of memory.
Skill is the way our bodies remember.

But developing skill requires 3 important inputs.

  • The first is a profound and resonating passion that motivates.
  • The second is targeted deep practice.
  • And the third is the power of deep listening and guidance from a master coach.

Great coaching is attentive to

  • (1) what motives the person and connecting at that level
  • (2) the design of practice that targets the necessary improvements
  • (3) deep listening and observation.

In my own coaching practice, I rely more and more on the newest brain research. I find it a powerful framework for transformation. My own Master Coaching formula has become

“talent discovery + practice DESIGN + skill DEVELOPMENT + RESONANCE with passion
+ real life deployment = Human Capacity Optimization. 

What do you think?

Cannabis and Church Leadership: a comment

Thanks to Greg for his comment on the Cannabis Question. The original scan hit from our “dispatches from the future” is pasted below Greg’s comment.
Greg Borchert, Guest Writer. Greg is a health enthusiast, business owner, and executive search professional.


On the marijuana question, I think those who are uninformed tend to lump it all together.  First, pot in some forms is an effective medication.  You have to separate recreational pot use from medical pot use.


Would you dismiss an Elder who was taking pot medically to control chemotherapy nausea?  Would you dismiss an Elder who was orally ingesting cannabis medication to handle chronic pain?
The insanity of our pharmaceutical culture is that people are fine taking dangerous prescription drugs, often with negative side effects and at great financial cost, but not OK with various natural forms of medication.
When I crashed my bike last August and broke my acetabular, requiring major surgery and now two six inch screws in my pelvis, I was on powerful painkillers.  That was necessary in the hospital but I wanted to wean myself from them as quickly as possible.  The doctors sent me home with 240 30mg Oxycontin, a smaller number of Oxycodone, and two or three other medications.  They expected that I would be taking this crap for months.
The Oxycontin was certainly effective for pain, but it also meant cold sweats, waking up in the middle of the night with damp bedding, hallucinations of sorts, active dream states while awake, and an inability to be mentally sharp at work.
I immediately established my own tapering schedule as you can’t just stop taking these things all at once. I worked my way completely off all of them 10 days after hospital discharge, and then switched to a strong Indica cannabis hybrid to help me sleep and adjust to the pain.
Since I live in Colorado, this was of course legal and readily available.  The cannabis was very effective.  I slept well, no cold sweats, and woke up the next day comparatively clear headed.  I did this cannabis treatment for another 10 days and then quit all treatment completely and got back to my normal life.
The surgeon told me that I would be in a wheelchair for 10 to 12 weeks minimally, and in rehabilitative therapy for another 4 to 8 weeks. I was out of the wheelchair and walking 4 weeks after surgery, and the physical therapist assigned to me stopped seeing me 2 weeks later because I could already do her full routines.
The biggest health problem in our culture is that people don’t think for themselves. They don’t take care of their health, don’t eat right, don’t exercise, and delegate the most critical aspects of their lives to medical practitioners who at best have only partial answers.


So, would a congregation dismiss me as Elder because I do what I need to do to take care of my health?  I think that’s the real question.
Also, again, people who aren’t very knowledgeable about cannabis should be aware that it’s extremely varied in effect.  Sativa cannabis strains are entirely different than Indica cannabis strains.  The problem with grouping it all together is that a little bit of Sativa might be like a glass of wine, and a little bit of Indica might be like a pint of Everclear…grain alcohol. One might be intellectually stimulating and energizing, and the other knock you on your butt and put you to sleep.

What we have in this era of hybridization is an extremely varied mix. There are strains now that have very little THC and no euphoric effects but high cannabinoid content and high pain effectiveness.


So, it’s dangerous to lump it all together.
I think much of the problem is that pharmaceutical companies don’t want people to self-medicate. They want to sell us drugs.  There are currently scores of different medical trials around the world using various cannabis-based substances. There are two pharmaceutical drugs on the market right now where the active ingredient is a form of cannabis. As soon as a big pharmaceutical company can sell it to us, it’s all OK.
I personally separate this though from recreational drug use.  I think implementing cannabis use into religious worship would be completely off the mark.  I would question why anyone thinks that’s a good idea. I also think that someone whose life is out of control because of any form of substance abuse, whether prescribed or not, might need some guidance and help with treatment and healing.  If I was a Head Elder I would first honestly evaluate the situation and see how I could help.
And here’s the ORIGINAL SCAN HIT to which Greg replied.


CANNABIS. Majority of key swing-state voters support legal weed. In a recent session with Pastors I asked them to imagine a world in which Pot had the same social status as wine. Would the use of cannabis in their minds disqualify an elder from service?

To take things a bit further, I was recently chatting with a friend of mine, Gene, who works with college students. In our conversation I told him that I imagine that within 5 years, we’ll see a church incorporate cannabis into its worship experience. It could be a new church launch or it could be an established church. Either way, it will make having church in a nightclub or pub seem like the good old days when morality still meant something.

What do you think?

Three Crucial Issues

One of the keys to understanding social change is to keep your finger on the pulse of culture. In my book, Makers of Fire (November 2014), I call this the fuel of the triangle of combustion. Let’s put this in the form of a question:

Where are the trigger points that are shaping the narratives of faith and culture?

Over the next year, I want to focus on several cultural issues that are shaping the narrative of both faith and culture. Here are three of these issues.


There are more singles today than ever. Divorce rates are high. (So high, for example, in Montreal that, in anticipation of a likely divorce, newly married couples must pay an additional administrative fee to legally change the bride’s name to her new married name). The acceptance of Gay marriage is changing the meaning and usage of the word marriage.

Young urban affluents write about the negative economic impact of having children. Others express concern over how bearing children taxes the environment. Still others write about killing their children to reduce their carbon footprint. Recently one young lady even filmed her abortion to show that it was no big deal.

In the future children may be incubated within artificial wombs, raised by nanny-bots, and live out their lives in a world of fewer children.

Tech magazines write about porn as if it were a normal and acceptable aspect of society. The rise of sensitive robots points to a potential future of unprecedented human-machine relationships. We will see a rise in the legal commercial sex industry around the globe.

Needless to say, mindsets are changing.
We often acknowledge how things are changing, but do we stop to consider how we are changing.. and being changed?

What is the future of marriage? What is the future of sex? What is the future of the family? What is the future of children?

How might followers of Christ understand the changes that are underway in light of their story? To draw upon biblical imagery, where is the spirit hovering upon the face of the deep, upon the chaos of our present moment?

the spirituality of leading from the future
Preorder your copy…


For millions of years before the rise of humans, living things experienced suffering, pain, and death. Multiple species of humans walked on Earth before the emergence of modern humans. New knowledge of this kind shakes the underpinnings of many who read the Bible as a chronological history.

The rise of Islam brings to the forefront billions of people who believe that God wrote a book. And millions of Christians feel the same way about the Bible that Muslims feel about the Qu’ran.

At the same time, are we hearing rumblings that some western Christ followers will want to distance themselves from both fundamentalist Muslims and Christians? Meanwhile, a conservative and fundamentalist Christianity rises in the developing world and promises to be the global religion of the future.

What might be the future relationship of the Christ following faith to its scripture? Is the Bible a divine book? Or is this bibliolatry? Is the Bible only human literature? Or is this blasphemy?


In his book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakariah argued that The United States is no longer the epicenter of global culture. Where might global culture be going? In another book, The Next One Hundred Years, George Friedman argues that the United States will remain the center of the world for the next 100 years.

Where might current trends of immigration, an aging population, and military prowess be leading us? What might North America look like towards the end of the 21st century and how might that impact what we do today?

These are three critical issues (among many) which will require answers from us in the very near future. They represent some of the trigger points that are shaping our cultural narrative. Where do the cultural narratives and faith narratives merge and where do they diverge? How can followers of Christ, regardless of geography, frame a Christ following mission for the next century and beyond? What does 21st century discipleship look like in light of massive cultural changes? As cultures change and paradigms shift, where is our own story taking us? How can we respond to the competing narratives around us and tell the story of Christ (and where faith is taking the world) in a compelling way?

I hope these questions primed the pump of your imagination. They have mine.

Join Alex McManus, author of Makers of Fire, for IMN 2015 in Orlando, Fl on Feb 2-6. He will discuss, during the Master Class Certificate sessions, the skills necessary to understand and navigate these kinds of rapid cultural changes through the analogy of Making Fire.

IMN 2015

Strategic Leadership (February 3-5)
Human Capacity Mentor (February 3-5)
Master Class Cultural Architect Certificate (February 2-6)

Preorder MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future

Pastoral Training in the 21st Century

Today, I have four tasty morsels (with a little commentary) for you…

Alex McManus Founder, M Futures Network
Alex McManus
Founder, M Futures Network

(1) What were we saying about 21st century ministry and mission in the late 80s and early 90s?

(2) What are “Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to be Trained for the 21st Century”?

(3) What was I teaching about mission to western culture 5 years ago?

(4) Where can faith leaders learn to think about the future and about engaging culture today?


As I was organizing my files, I stumbled upon a workshop I led in the early 90’s called, The Church in the 21st Century. It was interesting to revisit what I was thinking about 21st century mission and ministry more than 20 years ago. Here’s the “listening sheet”.

click to enlarge

The Church in the 21st Century circa 1992Click to enlarge

Honestly, even when I presented this in the early 90s I thought it was more about the (then) present than the future. But I think I could have written this list today and it would still sound future-oriented to many.


Because I regularly scan for items with “future” or “21st century” in the text, I caught a recent post by Thom Rainer, the current CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, called “Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to be Trained for the 21st Century“.

Rainer’s first point that 21st century Pastors need to learn the language of social media is spot on. (I will post an article on “Thinking In Story” and on “Thinking Social” later this month.) What’s most interesting is that this list of “ten things” could have been presented 20 years ago. (With the exception of the first point about social media).

What does this tell us about pastoral training? Perhaps it tells us that Pastoral training is going to be more or less the same throughout the ages. Or, perhaps it tells us that our pastoral training systems still lag behind.

Either way, I think it’s important to help bring pastoral training into the 21st century and I think this article points in the same direction. Personally, I am a lover of history. I also affirm that context and tradition are important for understanding how the ancient Christ-following faith evolved into our modern 21st century expressions. Still, we need to see more of these kinds of articles that require us to think about the future.


Four years ago I taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Bethel Seminary titled, Footnotes for the Human Journey: Mission in the post-Christian and trans-human Century.  To Bethel’s credit, while many others were still offering courses on “mission in a postmodern context” or on “mission and the emerging church”, Bethel was an environment that allowed taking things further. Even though this course is fairly recent (five years ago), I have updated many, many things about it today.

Here’s the course description and objectives as it was then (2010)…

Course Description
This course is designed to help you explore the new wild, wild west of western culture. In a similar way that the terms “postmodern” and “postchristian” became code words for the cutting edge of mission in the 1990s, “post human” and “trans-human” will become the
code words for forward thinking mission in the second decade of the 21st century.

It’s time to move beyond “mere Christianity” –what does it mean to be a Christian?– and spark a discussion about “mere humanity” — what does it mean to be human?

This is a course designed to stretch your imagination, orient you towards the future, and increase your sense of wonder and humor.

Course Objectives
The participant in this course will be able to…
1. Discuss the meaning of the gospel to an increasingly “post-Christian” and “post-human” culture
2. Assert the gospel confidently in a pluralistic context
3. Discuss the future meaningfully
4. Explain the “GPS” and trajectories of the Christ following movement
5. Construct a personal definition and theology of what a more human future looks like
6. Help others reconnect to God through their own humanity

(4) The International Mentoring Network

I hope that seeing these three perspectives on “pastoral training” in the 21st century has your brain spinning and your imagination going about “what’s next?”.

And, because there are so few places and opportunities for faith leaders to think about the future (in ways that don’t include “Left Behind” kinds of faith fictions), I’ll take this opportunity to make a shameless plug for the M Futures network (aka, the International Mentoring Network). The M network is a community of futurists, creatives, and entrepreneurs. We offer unique experiences to help faith leaders think about the future. To get a feel for the culture of M, check out the main site.

Welcome to the future. You belong here.

Born or Made?

entrepreneurruns Are leaders born or made? Are disciples born or made? Are entrepreneurs born or made? Regardless of your industry, you’ve probably wondered about this question.

My thoughts below were inspired by  the article,  Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Part of the difficulty we have answering this question is the mystique that surrounds the word “entrepreneur”.

“An entrepreneur is an individual who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so. It’s first known usage, by economist Richard Cantillon, was in 1723. Today, an entrepreneur is defined as someone having the qualities of leadership and, additionally, is an innovator of ideas regarding manufacturing, delivery, or service needs (or any combination of these).”  Wikipedia

In other words, an entrepreneur is a business person. So, let’s ask this question, “Are business people born or made?”

Somehow this seems less controversial.  Sure, some people may naturally prefer  the structure of working for someone else while others may prefer the freedom of working for themselves. But, when we substitute “entrepreneur” with “business person” the mystique diminishes.

I began to wonder how many small businesses there are in the United States and visited the Small Business Administration site and discovered that …

  • The 23 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.
  • The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people.
  • The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.

“Furthermore,” the SBA website added, “the small business sector is growing rapidly. While corporate America has been “downsizing”, the rate of small business “start-ups” has grown, and the rate for small business failures has declined.”

  • The number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49% since 1982.
  • Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs.

Whether entrepreneurs are born or made,  their importance in economic development seems pretty clear.  To those of us who work with leadership development and entrepreneurship,  the question,  “are business people (aka entrepreneurs) born or made?”,  is similar to the question,  “Are leaders born or made?”  My own take is that “history” (i.e. the social conditions that exist) gives rise to leaders.  So an important part of our task  is to develop people of character because we never know who “history” will tap on the shoulder.  And, as the SBA website suggests, when it comes to starting or running a small business, many people will get “tapped”.


Recent research seems to indicate that there are genetic traits that may give some an advantage in leadership and entrepreneurship.  That’s not really news.  We all know “the type” that sells, gets things done, perseveres, and takes risk.  But we also know that environment and opportunity and human choice are also important elements in who can start or run a business.

Next time you drive down the road count the number of small local businesses you see.  You’ll count hundreds,  if not thousands,  of stores and shops of all kinds.  If you’re in a city you may even see street vendors — signs of the informal market economy–  around you.  Ask yourself,  were the people who started these business born or made to start them?

There is a spectrum between pure nature,  nurture,  and pure human choice.  Not every businessperson is an extreme risk taker – a genetic freak of nature. They are usually your ordinary human who finds a need and fills it in such a way that makes them and their customers happier than the alternatives.

What do you think?


The Stinking Rose: A Lesson in Focus and Clarity

Leadership is about making choices.

Some of you are engaged in the art of starting new enterprises. As you begin, you face important decisions.

  • What business are we really in?
  • Who is our audience?
  • What else is out there?

I recently flew into San Francisco to visit with social and spiritual entrepreneurs, Gordon and Leanne Wohlers. Gordon and Leanne are engaged in a very challenging field and I wanted to treat them to something special. So we headed over to a restaurant Leanne had heard about in North Beach called The Stinking Rose. It was there that we learned something about the power of focus.

The Stinking Rose is a restaurant that loves garlic. Loves.

We began our evening with an appetizer called a “bagna calda” which is a dip of garlic cloves, olive oil, and a hint of anchovy all soaking in a hut tub.

We ordered three dishes. The first dish was a Zuppa di Pesco which is a soup comprised of mussels, crab, fresh fish, calamari, and shrimp in a spicy tomato and brodetto in a garlic sauce.

The second dish was a Chicken asparagus pasta which included fettuccini, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and pine nuts.

The third dish was a garlic prime rib –served medium rare– infused with garlic and basted in garlic served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a creamy spinach.

Are you smelling a theme? Everything on the menu had garlic. The text at the bottom of the menu read:

“We season our garlic with a little bit of food.”

Talk about focus.

Have you ever wondered how narrow or broad your range of products or services should be? If you’re starting a cafe do you feel like you have to cater to multiple audiences? If you’re starting a new church do you feel like you have to offer all the programs and services of those larger churches? If you’re a photographer, do you feel that you have to take any job that involves photography, even if it’s not your speciality? Whatever business or movement you are starting, the Stinking Rose is instructive.

Imagine those early meetings when the idea of a garlic restaurant was first discussed. I can hear the objections…

  • What about those people who don’t like garlic?
  • Does every dish on our menu need garlic?
  • Won’t people mind if they leave smelling like garlic?
  • Would it kill us to have one dish without garlic?

But focus brings clarity. Once the focused vision to launch a restaurant that specialized in garlic was birthed, it shaped everything.

Q: Who is the audience?
A: Everyone who obsesses over garlic.

Q: What should we have on the menu?
A: Garlic with food on it!

Q: What about the people who don’t love garlic?
A: There are many, many other restaurant choices for them. But how many restaurants exist specifically for people who love garlic?

Q: Does everything need garlic?
A: Of course we can create dishes without garlic, but why? We are The Stinking Rose.

Whatever your enterprise, consider the exercise of focusing …and focusing until the thing you seek to do becomes really clear.

Focus helps you know who you are and what you are all about. It helps you make decisions because of the clarity it brings.

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