The value of cataloging your own personal axioms

Have you considered the value of cataloging your own personal axioms gained from the crucible of your life?  I started reading the book of Proverbs  again this morning and chapter 1:1-9 presents a convincing argument for the value of the proverb. 

Several years ago I began assembling a list of personal proverbs that have been guiding principles for my life. These are pithy sayings that I picked up from a variety of sources that have become oft quoted rules of conduct for my life.  Of course a number come from the Bible or at the least rephrase Biblical truth.  But many are phrases ingrained in me from repeated sayings from my parents, teachers, coaches and other mentors in my life.

The idea of compiling them was prompted by a message I heard by Bill Hybels at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.  Bill’s message was about how he had been prompted to catalogue what he termed “leadership axioms” that had been gathered from his years of ministry.  He later published the book Axiom in which he chronicled his own seventy-six leadership proverbs.

His challenge to his listeners to formally record and define our own collection of leadership axioms really resonated with me.  About that same time I had been deeply impressed by the Lord one morning during a time of prayer that I was to “labor to leave a legacy.”  The idea of recalling and recording my own set of proverbs, uniquely ingrained in me throughout my life, took on significant meaning.

And so, since that time I have been in the process of writing well over fifty axioms of my own.  Besides being fun to do, like mental scrapbooking; it has given me insight into how my thinking is often influenced and guided.  The axioms also provide portable truisms that can easily be conveyed to others to shape their thinking and behavior as well

Here are some samples from my storehouse of personal axioms.  I also have my own leadership axioms which I can share at another time.

I had a high school Latin teacher (boy, does that date me) who repeatedly told us “Try won in the battle of can’t.”  Strangely enough that stuck with me.  I don’t remember any Latin, but I’ve used that saying frequently in my life.

My father repeated many gold standard axioms like “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”  But there is another one I am reminded of every time I’m driving on a two-lane highway.  Nearly all the highways were like that back when I learned to drive.  He said “Remember every time you meet an oncoming car you’re inches from death.”  Now if that doesn’t scare you into driving defensively I don’t know what will.

And then I had a coach that used to say “Don’t get your dauber down.”  I didn’t know what a “dauber” was, still don’t, but I understood what the saying meant.  And to this day, when set backs come, I now know who the glory and the lifter of my dauber is.  It’s the Lord.

I picked up many axioms from my spiritual mentor Don Pfotenhauer.  Serving the Lord with him for over twenty years and sitting under his teaching deeply impacted my development as a man of God and as a pastor. 

One axiom of his, which is actually a quote from the Bible, has always been a time management principle in which to balance the demands of ministry.  Don would often quote “The poor you always have with you.”(Mark 14:7)  He would share this whenever the ministry needs could easily gobble up every spare minute of time, and it would be a reminder of the greater priority of replenishment time for God’s servants in the presence of the Lord.

I’d like to challenge you to begin making your own list of personal proverbs.  Do you have any insightful ones you’d like to share?

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