The So What Factor

The combination of “nit-picky perfectionist” and “creative” can be a hazardous mix. The “creative” side is always seeing new ideas and new ways of doing things. The “nit-picky” side can see little glaring imperfections in the creative output that are so minor that no normal person would even notice. Properly fueled, these two characteristics can create a self-perpetuating cycle that is harder to stop than Congress on a runaway spending spree.

As you might guess, I understand this syndrome on a very personal, first-hand basis. A good example occurred last weekend, when I spent an entire day cleaning up some obvious cosmetic problems on the CaseStudies web site. I had done some layout changes a couple of weeks before, but it still wasn’t “right”. The buttons weren’t quite the right size, or in the exact location they needed to be. It was annoying me so much that I just had to fix it. Hours later, I asked Sharon, who has a great eye for layout, for her opinion. I had to point out the changes to her – she didn’t even notice them. I spent the whole day on something that nobody else on the planet would notice – now that’s great time management!

I was discussing this syndrome earlier this week with a trusted counselor, who advised me to start applying the “So What?” factor to every task or project that I take on. It’s deceptively simple: before beginning a task or project, envision the goal or finished product, and someone looking at it, saying “So What?” Then, answer their question – and listen to your answer. If you can’t give them a good, convincing answer, it’s time to re-evaluate whether this task or project is worthy of your time.

It’s not as easy to do as it sounds. Things that I’m sure are important, when processed through the “So What” filter, may not be so important at all – but I still feel as though they are important. To effectively implement the “So What” factor into my decision making, I have to change my way of thinking – not always an easy task, but necessary.

Adding in the eternal element often helps. Will my snazzy Javascript change anyone’s life? In light of eternity, does the size of my buttons really make any difference? It’s true that we need to make our presentation attractive enough to capture our audience’s attention, but how much valuable time could we redirect into areas of eternal significance if we stopped wasting time on the stuff that doesn’t make much difference?

Right now, my snazzy animated buttons on the web site are working fine (if you have a Javascript enabled browser), except that the text in the images that appear when you pass the mouse cursor over them is slightly offset – the text shifts a tiny bit when the images swap. It annoys the dickens out of me. It shouldn’t be that way. I used the same alignment technique on all of them, and they shouldn’t shift like that – the old ones didn’t. So what? Is anyone going to boycott the site over it? If I fix it, will it lead anyone to Christ? Does anyone else even notice it? No, NO, and no. So, I’m choosing to ignore it. I may fix it some day – but than again, maybe not. Leaving them there to catch my attention is a constant reminder to apply the “So What?” factor to everything I do.

So, you go to church. So what? So, you say you’re a So what? So, you’ve got a lot of “stuff.” So what?

Can your faith pass the “So What” test?

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