This past week, I attended a conference for my Christian student organization with over 16,000 fellow members. With 21 pages of notes and over 30 original summary Tweets (not including retweets or conversations with others) in 4 days, “I learned a lot” is an understatement. While there were a lot of nuanced ideas I captured, they all shaped a new paradigm for me that I believe captures the meaning of life: find your niche and help complete our world as it was intended. God designed our world with excellence to be enjoyed, which has since been messed up by sin, and is now restored through Jesus Christ. I won’t summarize everything I’ve learned, but pulling from three experiences in business school, academic research, and music performance, I have paralleled those experiences to what I’ve recently learned:
To survive in business, you must provide a good or service of value that a consumer is willing to pay you for. Competition dictates that not everyone can produce the same goods and services, so differentiation is required. What is often described within industries is that there exist unreached pockets of the market, or “niches” that still have needs unaddressed, and this creates a market opportunity. In my “Business Changing the World Track,” the themes between seminars can be summarized as “God has given us entrepreneurs a lens to look around the world and see what is missing. We may then go about our means of business plans and finance to bring it into being, with profit being the indicator of growth and the measure of sustainability.” The first characteristic we know of God is that He is a creative God (Genesis 1:1), and extends that characteristic to us in His image.
In the world of academia, learning leads to research, which serves the purpose to “contribute to the existing body of knowledge.” If we already know a good deal about how the water cycle works, someone investigates it in terms of how it is affected by pollution. I need not go into how many topics we do not yet fully understand, such as diseases, behavior, zooming in to cellular structures and zooming out to explore economics. Knowledge impacts decisions of use and affect, and is ultimately for better use of resources, or to better serve and interact in others in relationship. God intended us to not only enjoy the world, but to understand it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15).
Music is richest with different layers, twists, and sounds contributing to it. While the emphasis is on lyrics and melody, percussion establish rhythmic structure, bass establishes the melodic structure, guitars and pianos dance around the melody to complement it and embellish it, and strings or synths fill the space in between. One of the things musicians (and event organizers) can’t stand are repetitive roles, such as multiple guitarists playing the same strumming pattern or drummers unable to work with the complexities of world percussion (i.e. Latin), because every instrument has its place, and to be effective is to be different. Christians are not conforming robots, far from it… in heaven diversity is valued, and “the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (Revelation 21:24). We should all celebrate differences, and use them and share them with others.
Yes, “God loves you,” as we’ve perhaps even been beaten over the head with by Christians in our past, but I’m happy to report that I’ve discovered this aspect is only the first part. We’re designed to collaborate with a King, who urges us to desire that “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). I’m convinced this is the root of our ambitions, our dreams, and our desires to both enjoy our world along with others in it, so I’ve committed myself to seeing my corner of this kingdom restored. And if you’d like to experience this, I’d urge you to join, because I’ve only had my first real taste and I’m excited about it more than anything in the world.