Posts by: Robb Ryerse

Who Sinned That He Doesn’t Have Health Care?

It’s a classic story on the Sunday school circuit: Jesus and his disciples are walking one day and see a man begging on the side of the road, a man who had been born blind. The disciples take this opportunity to ask Jesus a gossipy question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

721fd2cefe8e9dd2d264dc8a2ea3f155The question betrays a common belief at the time, namely that sickness was the result of sin. If someone had a debilitating disease of some kind, someone had to be responsible for it. Maybe his parents had done something which caused the blindness. Maybe the man himself had sinned in some way, bringing on the ailment.

Either way, the man was sick and it was his or his family’s fault.

When we read this now, we probably think, “Aren’t Jesus’ disciples so quaint?” We look back with bemusement that people would think that someone’s health was directly tied to their character. Do the right thing and be healthy. Do the wrong thing and be sick. We know now that it’s just not that straightforward and simple.

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Recently, Congressman Jason Chaffetz suggested that people who cannot afford health insurance under the proposed plan that repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act will have to make a choice between buying health insurance and buying a new iPhone. It was a regrettable comment for a number of reasons, and Chaffetz has subsequently tried to walk it back.

However, Chaffetz’s comment betrays a common belief of our time, namely that poor people can’t afford health insurance because they have sinned. Being poor is a sin. Whether they would say it outright or not, many believe that people are poor because they lack discipline, they are lazy, or they don’t have enough faith. Sin is the cause.

In the politicized evangelical world, it is not uncommon to hear people who receive government assistance disparaged, “The Bible clearly say, ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.’” Obviously, someone who would be so foolish as to buy a new iPhone rather than health insurance has sinful priorities or some kind of character deficiency.

Who sinned that you don’t have health care? It’s either your fault or your family’s.

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Getting back to the biblical story about the man born blind, Jesus completely rejects the premise of the disciples’ question. His answer is unequivocal – neither are to blame. And then, Jesus, rather dramatically, covers the man’s eyes in mud made from his own spit and sends him off to wash it clean and be healed from his blindness.

There are two significant things we can learn from the example of Jesus in this story.

First, we need to stop blaming poor people who can’t afford health care. 

Sure, there are unquestionably people who are lazy and undisciplined. However, poverty in America is far more complicated an issue. Generational poverty, income inequality, rural underdevelopment, and lack of access to education and opportunity are all much more likely reasons for someone to be unable to pay health insurance premiums. Not being able to afford health care is not a sin problem. Jesus didn’t judge people needing health care, and so neither should we.

Second, if Jesus took responsibility for other people’s health care, then so should we. 

Jesus didn’t just see people in need and pass them by. Over and over again, the Bible tells us stories of how he did what he could to help, which often meant miraculous healing (which isn’t going to be an option for us). But many evangelicals I know tend to shirk taking responsibility for others, emphasizing instead the notion of “personal responsibility.” And yet the example of Jesus – a willingness to take responsibility for other people’s health care – might very well mean that we prioritize people’s health care over lower taxes.

Far from being a cute Sunday school story, maybe this story has one deeply relevant and radical message. Evangelical Christians need to take their cues not from political leaders but from Jesus.

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On the Ordination of My Wife

I first met Vanessa in October of 1993. A mutual friend introduced us, and I knew immediately that she was someone I had to know more. I asked her out on our first date the very next day.

We’ve been together – more or less – ever since. Read More…

Sales and Stories and Bears! Oh My!

I am a big believer in the philosophy that “facts tell, but stories sell.”

I’ve written about it before, but I’m ready to add a very important caveat. We can’t just tell any story, we’ve got to make sure that we’re telling the right story.

Facts tell, but the right stories sell.

The illustrations, images, and metaphors we use need to be fitting to the presentation being made, thought through and well-crafted, and – most critically – appropriate to the audience.

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Let me give you an illustration.

grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, Robin SilverThis week Betsy DeVos had her hearings before a Senate confirmation committee to become Secretary of Education. She was asked by Senator Chris Murphy about her stance on guns in schools. Given the increased number of school shootings we’ve seen over the past couple of decades, this is not in anyway the type of gotcha question that is the bane of our political existence. It was a good and heartfelt question.

In response, Betsy DeVos reiterated her support for local decision-making when it comes to such issues. She illustrated her point by talking about a school in Wyoming needing a shotgun to ward off grizzly bear attacks.

Screeching brake noises. What?!?

The story didn’t sell.

You see, Senator Chris Murphy is from Connecticut. Connecticut, as you know, is home to Sandy Hook, where the worst school shooting in American history happened just four years ago. The stories about gun violence in schools that he is used to hearing are the ones told to him by grieving parents.

Betsy DeVos didn’t know her audience. She didn’t tell the right story. And as a result fewer and fewer people are buying her as Secretary of Education.

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But this article isn’t about Betsy DeVos. It’s about how telling the wrong story can derail the sales process. I’m sure it’s happened to all of us at some point or another.

I remember once being on a sales call with my manager. We were talking to the owner of a local chain of pizza restaurants. We were trying to convince him to do some advertising with us, and he was throwing up every roadblock he could think of. It was a spirited and lively conversation.

In the course of the conversation, my manager kept coming back to the same illustration, over and over again. He kept describing the difference between a BMW and a Hyundai. Both can get you where you need to go, he would say, but one gets you there a whole lot better than the other. It was clear – BMWs are good and Hyundais are bad. It’s a decent illustration, one that my manager really liked because I heard him use it often.

However, we were talking to a good ole boy who drove a pickup truck. His pizza places are known for their $5 hot and now offer. Honestly, he’s not the BMW of pizza restaurants in our area. He’s the Hyundai of pizza.

We couldn’t convince him to buy from us. As I reflected on that meeting later, I wondered if the story we relied on actually made it harder for us to make the sale.

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Here’s something I’ve learned about telling stories in the sales process: you can’t just wing it. You can’t always fall back to the same old illustrations you’ve used a thousand times. The zip and passion and energy won’t be there. The clear connecting of dots for your client will get fuzzy. And you’ll end up telling a story that makes selling harder for you because it doesn’t fit your audience.

So, before your meeting, think about who you’re meeting with. Think about their personality, their motivations, their experiences. Think about which stories are the best to tell and which are best to leave out.

And when you’re ready, go tell a great story.

Because facts tell, but the right stories sell.

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Your Church Is Probably Lying to You

In a recent speech, Donald Trump was distracted by a baby crying somewhere in the crowd. As a pastor who has experienced firsthand what it’s like to have your train of thought jump the tracks because you hear a crying infant, I immediately sympathized with him.

I even appreciated how he handled the situation.

“Don’t worry about that baby; I love babies … I hear that baby crying; I like it.” Trump said. “What a baby, what a beautiful baby. Don’t worry … Don’t worry about it.”

Imagine the baby’s mother in the back of the room. She knows her child is being a distraction to people. She’s desperately trying to keep him quiet. She wants to make sure her child is comforted, and she wants to be considerate of others. Read More…

Granny Shots and Selling Great Ideas

I am a sucker for minority reports. I love anything that questions the conventional wisdom. As soon as everybody starts to think the same way or have the same perspective, I begin to wonder if we’ve got it all wrong.

rickbarryIt’s for this reason that when I heard that one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, was going to be doing a podcast called Revisionist History in which he was going to reinterpret something from the past, I knew I would be in. It’s a 10 part podcast, and my favorite episode has been #3 – The Big Man Can’t Shoot.

The Big Man Can’t Shoot is about taking granny shots – underhanded free throws. They look silly but they are far more effective than overhand shooting from the line. With two notable exceptions – Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain (especially in his 100 point game) – nobody shoots this way. Even though it’s better.

In the podcast, Gladwell talks to a sociologist named Mark Granovetter about the Threshold Model of Collective Behavior. The basic idea is that we are all influenced by the behavior of others, but we have different thresholds at which we’re willing to change our behavior. Some people won’t try something new until everyone else is doing it. Other people are early adopters who’s threshold for change is very low. Most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle.

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It’s high thresholds that keep good ideas from catching on. 

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In sales, we’re trying to get people to change their behavior, to try something new, to adopt a new idea. It might be a new brand or a new strategy or a new system. For us to be effective, we need to figure out the threshold for change that our buyers have.

Some buyers have a low threshold. They want to be innovative. Appeal to how you can put them on the cutting edge, far outpacing their competitors.

Some buyers have a high threshold. They’re going to need to see case studies, proven results, and examples. For these risk averse buyers, you’re going to need to mitigate the fear of change.

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To determine a buyer’s threshold, you’ll need to be direct. Here are some questions you can ask to help determine your buyer’s threshold for trying a new idea:

Tell me about a time that you tried something new. How did it go?

Generally speaking, do you (or the company) tend to be open to trying new things?

What holds you back from making a big change in your strategy?

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Your idea, your product, your solution is a great one. It’s what everybody should be doing. It works. Just like a granny shot. But it’s not going to catch on until you figure out the thresholds of your buyers and customize your approach to meet them where they are.

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