5 Keys to Any Successful (School, Work, Parenting) Venture

Always live backwards.

Now, my Grandma, she wouldn’t have scoffed at that for even one back road minute, though the slick productivity gurus might.

She’d have just looked over at the calendar, at all the first days and new seasons beginning, then set out her bowls and lived it because she actually believed it:

Always live backwards.

Think of the goal, think of where you want to end up, of where you want to land, think of eternity — and live backwards from that.

First, see it in your head — then your heart will make your hands and feet make it happen.

So I lay out the calendar, the report cards, the planner, and the kids and I do things backwards around here this year. We print out report cards the first day of the year, post them in our line of sight. Because how can you hit the bullseye, if you can’t see a target?

Simply: We write where we want the days to end up — so we start every day right.




Now, it’s a true thing, and the kids and I all know it before this new season begins:

We’ll muddle it and get off track and it won’t be all neat and pretty or tied up in any dollar store bows, but when were the best stories ever like that?

There’s no story that doesn’t have various rewrites and drafts and editions.

Rewrites don’t mean you’re doing it wrong — it means you’re doing exactly what it takes to get it right.

If your story goes sideways, just turn the paper and write on.


Five words sprawl across the chalkboard like they could be the spine of the story we’ve set out to write.

Five words like scaffolding on which to build our days.

Five words that are our refrain on repeat, our habit of being here.

Simply be:



  1. Conscientious


The greatest predictor of successfulness is conscientiousness.

Conscientiousness is doing everything with wholeheartedness. Press back the sheets with the palm of your hand, sweep back the floors and make way for swaths of light, lay out the day’s work like the King may come.

Pay attention to the details so joy pays attention to you.

Get up and make your bed. You can’t change the world if you can’t make your bed.

Brush your teeth, read the Word, make a list, follow the list, attend to the details so joy attends you.

Enter each moment with all your attention and give it all your attention— because God who meets you in every moment deserves all your attention. 

Maybe conscientiousness means: Do everything wholeheartedly because He has all your heart.

Maybe the thing is: You’re become more conscientious when you’re become more conscious of how you completely love Him — and how all things are completely for Him.

2. Consistent

Consistently be consistent.

“Forty-five percent of what we do every day is habitual,” posit researchers. “This means — everything is performed almost without thinking in the same location or at the same time each day, usually because of the subtle cues.”

Our days are songs and each note we play becomes a subtle cue for another note to always follow: rise and pray. Or check the internet. Or go for a run. Day after day we practice our chosen series of notes, the actions cued by other actions. Our lives become a song. As Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

Even more than focusing on self-discipline, we need to pay attention to our rituals, what we consistently do consistently, the beat of our days.

Compose a string of notes.

Choreograph a series of steps: bedrooms, laundry, breakfast, Scripture’s Living bread with every meal.

Consistently be consistent and create your rhythm, a harmony of habits that are orchestrated by a series of times and places. Turn chaos into cadence. Keep time with the time there is for every needful thing under heaven.

3. Center

This old whirly gig world tilts on an angle and spins and we constantly, inevitably, lose equilibrium unless we centre.

What centers is to come back to center: Communion with Christ.

Stopping to pray stops the chaos.

And hard stops for prayer is literally what keeps you from life wrecks.

So there’s this lighting the candle before open scripture in the morning. And returning to centre again and again before the light of His word.

Set the clocks to pray throughout the day and you get the reprieve of resets throughout the day.

Psalms calm.

4. Calm

Keep calm — and that’s all.

Keep calm in all things — because that’s what you need to do all the things.

Grandma, she told me once when she was bent over a pot, peeling the night’s potatoes:

Your job isn’t to calm or control the storms.

Your job is to ask Him to keep you calm. 

Every storm passes.

And we recover, because that is what people do. Resiliently recover. 

But when your calmness, your happiness, is contingent on circumstances, your days are out of control.

Calm is a superpower. Ask Christ for it.

Centre in Christ through prayer and ask for constant, unwavering calm.

5. Cruciform

Our days transform into our hopes when the form of our days are cruciform.

The form of the cross is the form of meaningfulness, of wholeness, of belovedness.

Spiritual formation, life transformation — is ultimately cruciformation.

Cruciform, that Cross, is the form of what transforms: a thousand, countless ways, His love showering you with grace down the vertical beam — and a thousand ways to be love, to live given like those horizontal beams stretching out into meaningfulness.

Draw a cross on the wrist and let that anchor you, centre you. Centre yourself with the Crossyour identity, your security, your sufficiency, your sanity, your guarantee, your priority. Centre yourself by looking to the Cross — and trust that everything that dies will rise.

And it’s etched on the chalkboard, those five words, and all the things will be smudged and muddied and messed — and even this will be okay.


The difference between nailing things and failing things — is whether you show up. And we will keep showing up again and again. Because successfulness is simply, always, only faithfulness. Show up and bend down.  

When my grandmother used to look up and smile — it was like you felt the smile of God. Felt like you could always live backwards from that.


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