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The illusion of the quick fix

Mark Cook is the program coordinator for the Institute for Global Engagement, a partnership between Denison Forum and Dallas Baptist University. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Dallas Baptist University, and completed his Masters of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School and Truett Seminary. His ministry background is college ministry, and he has served both on a church staff as well as within campus ministries.

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An older man and a younger woman try the Thync neurosignaling device at the Thync Salon in San Francisco, July 2, 2015 (Credit: Thync via Instagram)

Need to find a quick way to feel more energetic? What about help with calming down? If a good old cup of coffee just isn’t cutting it for you anymore, or you’re having a hard time relaxing, a new piece of wearable technology wants to offer a solution to your problems. Thync’s new product, worn like a patch near your temple, delivers electric pulses to different nerves in your head corresponding to your desire for more energy or more calm. Promising instant results, the system is controlled by, you guessed it, your phone.

I could write an article about the irony of a product aimed at providing calm that is controlled by a product that is ubiquitous for making us more distracted and socially stressed out, but I will not venture down that path. Instead, I want to focus on how this product represents the larger issue of something that applies to both our individual lives as well as our work in organizations: the quick fix.

Is there anything inherently wrong about grabbing an espresso to provide a jolt of energy for that afternoon lethargy? As long as you don’t become like Kramer in the café latte Seinfeld episode, I think we’d all agree that a little caffeine is just fine. But when you become chronically fatigued, cranky every afternoon, where you need that caffeine boost to make it through the day, that’s when a problem emerges. Every caffeine high is followed by a crash of sorts later.{source}<iframe style=”float: right; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #c0c0c0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”320″ height=”180″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/E0jYDYynBps?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}

The better way to tackle your afternoon fatigue problem is to improve your diet, exercise, and sleep patterns. Endless research, as well as common experience, points to these basic habits as the main ways to improve overall health and well-being.

We have a penchant for wanting the quick fix, though, both in our personal lives and also when it comes to our leadership decisions as well. If you have ever gone over a poor quarterly report in a meeting, you’ll recognize the tendency we have of wanting to immediately turn that red into black.

Jim Collins describes this proclivity as the search for a “silver bullet” in his bestselling How the Mighty Fall. “The key point is that they go for a quick, big solution or bold stroke to jump-start a recovery, rather than embark on the more pedestrian, arduous process of rebuilding long-term momentum.” Collins contrasts this grasping for silver bullets with a disciplined approach to excellence throughout the book, offering long-term strategies and solutions as the best way to turn around a failing endeavor.

We often wonder why our solutions don’t ever seem to solve the biggest problems facing our organizations. Why isn’t the church growing? Why has my profit not risen the last 3 quarters? Why has enrollment dropped? Perhaps the reason our solutions so often fail is that they are mostly quick fixes that do not address the underlying root issues.

In sports, the best and most consistent teams are the ones who draft well and focus on player development rather than simply trying to lure free agents. Healthy churches are ones where there is a concerted effort to disciple and train people at all ages rather than simply offering gimmicky programs and flashy marketing campaigns. Consistent schools focus on nurturing and developing students, alumni, and donors.

The solutions to our problems are often not that novel. Consistency, development, discipline, and excellence may not appeal to those who are used to thinking that what is needed is always something new. There is a critical difference in novelty and creativity. An infatuation with novelty mistakenly thinks that you’ve got to find that elusive silver bullet, but true creativity recognizes that an old solution may be the best solution, simply needing creative application.

The Christian way is not one of quick fixes. Jesus isn’t interested in a two-week turnaround, he’s committed to a lifetime of renovating your heart to be more like his. The Psalm 1 life, planted by life-giving streams of water and yielding seasonal fruit, does not grow overnight. The quick fix is a dangerous mentality that offers the illusion of satisfaction without the lasting results we truly seek.