Think Small: Pick Only a Few Things. Do Those With All Your Heart.


Scholars agree that the Crane Technique, if done right, cannot be defended. Mr. Miyagi pointed this out in the Eighties and it’s since been tested by roughly every single one of the humans who were boys in that era. I refer, of course, to that cinematic masterpiece, The Karate Kid. After I saw that movie, I ran around kicking air, punching boards, and, most importantly, trying out the Crane Technique. Whatever I saw in a movie, or heard about in a story, I wanted to do and be. I was Caspian, Tonto, Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, and even Luke Duke of The Dukes of Hazzard. Yeeeaaaaa-hoooo! (Cue Jeff Foxworthy.) Whatever I saw, I wanted to be.

I haven’t really changed much. Oh, the things I want to be and do have changed, sure. I no longer want to ramp the General Lee off convenient hillocks to escape the bumbling cops of Hazard County, or win a Karate championship using the Crane Technique. But I do want to write like C.S. Lewis, parent like Clay Clarkson, make people laugh like P.G. Wodehouse. I hear an excellent podcast and I suddenly want to cast my pods in an excellent way. I watch Liverpool playing soccer and want to coach soccer, or maybe, just maybe, work really hard and become a professional player at the age of 38.

That one brings me back to reality.

Answering the question, “What am I to be and do?” is not easy.
But part of it is actually pretty simple. I’m a husband and a dad. I’m unquestionably called to provide for and serve my family in love. Like Jesus. That’s an easy one. No, no, no. Not easy to perform, just easy to discern a clear calling.


We live in an era of distraction. We will not survive the day without hearing a call to help these hurting ones, to do this noble thing, to support this worthwhile project, or to try this brand new technique for having a perfect family. Facebook was designed to multiply these insidious opportunities to do good. Guess what? We can’t do it all. We can’t do all we want to do, or be all we want to be. I have some simple advice for me and you.

Pick only a few things. Do those with all your heart.

Think Small and Carry On

Jesus didn’t seek out crowds, though crowds did come. He poured into 12 men–often just three. Those men, by the Spirit, shook the world. It’s still shaking.

Our lives, poured into a few worthwhile people and projects, will ripple out in a million unseen consequences. We need imagination to see it.

But it won’t happen if we are constantly distracted by every new personality or project we feel an envious itch to chase down. You can’t be like that celebrity who is such a great mom with her new cookbook and her flat belly and her amazing career and her quietly smoldering hunk of a husband who is so cute holding that adopted baby from Tragicostan. The Crane Technique may work every time, but a life built on envy doesn’t.

Envy is in my DNA. I want what feels just out of reach, like a particular fruit I was told not to eat. Ecclesiastes is full of wisdom on the subject, but here’s a hammer-blow to envy from chapter 6.

“Better is the sight of the eyes, than the wandering of the appetite.”

The corners of our eyes are a paradise of lies. Don’t believe them. Go forward and do the few things you do. If done right, no one can defend against them.


  1. Ah – so good, Sam. I fall into this trap so easily. I’ve actually unsubscribed from a certain blog because I noticed the feelings of envy that would overwhelm me as I read about the author’s seemingly perfect life. it’s yours Just kidding 🙂 But seriously, I found that I needed to disconnect in that case because of the unnecessary temptation to envy.

    This is so good. I especially love this: “Go forward and do the few things you do. If done right, no one can defend against them.”

  2. This is a message we need to tell ourselves daily, even hourly! Thank you for today’s reminder, Sam!

    I especially like this quote – it may find its way into my commonplace book: Our lives, poured into a few worthwhile people and projects, will ripple out in a million unseen consequences. We need imagination to see it.

  3. Ha ha, Chinwe. That’s funny. I HOPE it’s not me. Gah.

    I can totally relate about needing to disconnect form something that isn’t hitting us in a healthy way.

    Also, it’s very hard to negotiate the success/struggles dynamic publicly. At least for me.

    I know this past year has given me an appreciation for the costs of even moderate success. nothing worth doing is easy, that’s for sure.

    God bless you, my friend. Thank you for your frequent comments and encouragements. We Africans have to stick together in this weird country. 😉

  4. Amen, Preacher Sam!

    I have found that discontent is built on a pyramid scheme of envy. (if I could mix more metaphors in there, I would)

    I am aware of it snapping at my heels, and so that’s why I consciously limit my online food intake. Few things truly build up my desire to serve the Kingdom, rather than lead me down a path of distraction…away from my family and home, and the “very few” other things the Lord has placed before me.

    Thanks for your honesty and your faithfulness!

  5. What a wonderful way to begin my day 🙂 Thank you SO much for this, Sam. I love this and it helps to keep you grounded in what is true, good, beautiful and real! Being a mom and a homeschool mom I find myself frequently being distracted from what I need to focus on by all of the pretty things trying to catch my attention and change the intentions of my day. You are truly right too about how if we look too much at the tiny part of other’s lives that they are sharing (especially on social media) that can leave us feeling deflated and uninspired to say the least. Many times I totally disconnect from things like FB since it can consume too much (time and emotion) and always feel much better when I do. Pick only a few things. Do those with all your heart…Multum non multa 😀 Blessings and peace for a great day, Sam!

    1. Ann-Marie,
      I’m so glad this rang an affirming bell for you. Grace and peace to you as you battle on.

      And I wish I’d been tuned into multum non multa before now. I have some digging to do there.

  6. Late to the party, am I. Distracted I was.

    Sam, this has been the fight of my life (or at least 3/4 of my life). I’ve been driven almost to despair these past few years, wondering which things are worth that focus — and how on earth to get there.

    Maybe this is the year.

    Also, I may or may not have just lifted a potential song lyric from your prose. Thanks for that.

    1. I’m with you on the struggle, brother Peter. I feel lie I’m starting to see it. Now it’s just about how to get there?

      I hope your hit song, “Plagiarism,” brings you much happiness.

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