These are my summary reflections from the Catalyst East Conference in Atlanta, GA.  The theme this year was “The Tension is Good”, so the speakers mostly used their talks to explore various tensions we all feel in Leadership.  I don’t summarize every speaker.

Andy’s first talk was brilliant, as always.  He explored the tension we feel because of our appetites – drives for food, fame, sex, etc.  He gave us this framework for understanding appetites:

Our appetites create tension in our lives because they always want more.
  1. God created appetites.  Sin distorted them.
  2. Appetites are never fully satisfied.  We live as though there’s something or someone out there who can, so we always experience tension.
  3. Appetites always whisper ‘Now’, never ‘Later’.

He then took us into the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25.  Esau, the older brother, trades his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.  Andy asks, “Who would trade his birthright for a bowl of stew?”

Actually, most of us would, thanks to how our brains manage our appetites.

Andy cited two psychological phenomena that make it hard to say NO to our appetites:

  1. Impact Bias – When we want something, our brains magnify that simple appetite out of porportion.  Essentially, our brains tell us that the object of our desire will satisfy said desire to a far greater degree than it actually will.
  2. Focalism – When we want something, our brains focus our attentions on the object of our desire to the exclusion of everything else.

So given that the temptation we all have to give into our appetites, how bad is that really?  Andy asked us to consider how history could’ve changed if Esau had reframed his desire for a bowl of stew in the larger context of his birthright.  Eventually, God would’ve introduced himself to Moses like this:

I AM the god of Abraham, Isaac and Esau.

But since Esau took the bowl of stew, it all changed.  No one was there for Esau to reframe his appetites.  And no one will be there for us either.

So ask yourself, Where do I want to be in 10 years?  And what’s my bowl of stew?

We have no idea what God wants to do with our lives.  So when it comes to our appetites, we have to reframe and refrain.

Knowing the bigger picture is a cure for our appetites.  What a way to start the conference!

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