Scott’s themes and axioms

Scott Forbes (3)My direction in life was indelibly set one weekend when I was 14 years old and in Grade 9. A friend and his cousin invited me to a youth conference at their church; I had never been to such an event. But that was the weekend when I finally understood that Jesus was offering me forgiveness of sins – with no strings attached.

And that was the weekend that I decided to be a missionary. The latter decision was the result of the contagious enthusiasm of Burt Kamphuis, the Canadian director of Operation Mobilization. That whole weekend, Burt talked about the fact that God would not only forgive my sins, but that I could go anywhere in the world and God would be with me and go ahead of me.

Fast forward 37 years, and I can now be found working for International Justice Mission Canada as a spokesperson for victims of violent oppression in the developing world.

In the intervening years my wife, Karen, and I progressed steadily along a trajectory defined by the two pivotal themes from that weekend long ago: sins are forgiven in and through Jesus and the concrete reality of God’s global sovereign presence.

Looking back on our decision-making, I can best describe how I arrived at this point by referring to several of my life axioms. Axioms are phrases or sentences that you will find yourself repeating as life moves along. They provide an internal decision-making guide. At 20 years of age you are living by the axioms held by your parents. By 50, you have refined and replaced those axioms with truths that fit your time and circumstance.

Here are four of my axioms that may have value to you:

1. Go far and go fast

Default to options that involve the potential for getting away from your home turf. We have both a college and a university in our city, yet I required all of my children to choose their post-secondary education elsewhere. The closest of the four choices was a university only 200 km away from home, while the farthest choice was 2200 km away and involved a two-day drive.

Why such a principle? More personal growth takes place when everyday decisions are not second guessed by Mom and Dad.

2. All things being equal, do the hard thing

Default to options that involve new learning in order to be successful. This axiom does not mean that you are to make life unnecessarily difficult for yourself. It means that you should stretch your capabilities and add value to your skill set by taking on more difficult and complex tasks.

Even if you fail, you will learn important life lessons.

Why do this? This is the way to build fearlessness in a fast changing environment, where leaders are always looking for new and younger leaders to develop.

3. Never let money be the deciding factor

Do not default to the highest paying job or the school with the cheapest tuition. Money should always be kept in its place. It is only one factor amongst many that you will consider when making decisions. For example, it is trumped by axioms one and two.

A chance to move outside your comfort zone – taking on new tasks or meeting new people – is preferable to staying put within the same environment even if the status quo pays more money or costs less.

4. Remember that decisions are cumulative

Do not fall prey to the idea of “isolated decisions.” There is no such thing as an isolated decision. Each decision moves you forward and leaves certain other decisions and opportunities behind. It takes many small decisions in the same direction to become the best in your field or an alcoholic.

But it’s okay to change your mind. Sometimes it is only in the act of taking the next step that we realize that it is a step in the wrong direction. If this describes your situation, you can and should turn around sooner rather than later.

Scott Forbes is married to Karen and they live in London, ON, Canada. The have lived and served in Africa and Canada in a variety of capacities. For the last four years, Scott has been working with International Justice Mission Canada. Scott is the Director of Mobilization and Development for Eastern Canada.

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