Sway by Ori and Rom Brafman
Some of you might know the Ori Brafman from the very good book, The Starfish and the Spider.” Since I loved that book so much I figured I would give this one a try. This did not disappoint. Sway is subtitled “the irresistible pull of irrational behavior.” You could rephrase that as, “why smart people do stupid things.”
Not only was this book was as readable as a Malcolm Gladwell book (that’s very readable if you don’t know who Malcolm Gladwell is), but it was extremely helpful and insightful. Telling lots of stories, they gave me some language and perspective to understand why I and other church leaders often make dumb decisions.
One thing he writes struck a significant chord with me,
“The more meaningful a potential loss is, the more loss averse we become. In other words, the more there is on the line, the easier it is to get swept into an irrational decision.” (22)
The most significant loss we had at The Well in recent years was when my co-pastor, Brad Jackson, had to move on from the community earlier than expected due to financial reasons. Looking back, this was the right decision for us and for him. Hard, but right. It’s clear to me that God wasn’t absent in this process.
But, I have also realized that we waited too long to make this transition. By waiting to act as long as we did , we ran the financial resources of the church down further than we should have. This put The Well in a precarious financial position for the next year or so. (Basically, when we he left, we had no money. Obviously we have recovered well since then.).
Some might take the opinion that we were idiots, or worse, selfish. Perhaps we were. But I don’t think that’s the what happened. Sway gave me language to describe what I’ve always felt about this situation. What really happened is that we were so emotionally invested in this community that we were blinded to the road we were on. We were just convinced that we could turn it around. And, like someone who is holding onto a stock that keeps dropping in price and eventually has to sell their fortune for 29 cents a share, we too held on too long. It’s not that we were stupid. It’s not that we were selfish. It was all done with great intentions and perhaps a little naiveté. But, if nothing else it has served as a great learning experience. This experience has been valuable. It really makes me step back from decisions and try and see them in a more objective light.
Again, Sway helped give me language to understand this part of our story in a way that I haven’t been able to put my finger on in the past.
Of course, this whole post assumes that I am a smart… hmm…