Phil’s 5 Lessons from 2017

February 8, 2018

In this post, I share with you five lessons that I learned or confirmed in 2017. I purposely do not fully flesh them out here, as I’ve left that for the post-interview segment of the Think Orphan Podcast. Starting with Episode 3 of Season 4 (Arturo Barrientos interview), I expand on each lesson starting with #5 and counting down to #1 in Episode 7. I look forward to receiving comments from you about these lessons and any lessons you want to share with me.


  1. There are a lot of unique, beautiful, diverse, kind, hard-working, and brilliant people all over the world, we agree on a lot more than we disagree, and we have a lot to learn from each other when we actually listen to each other.
  • In my 2017 travels to Peru, India, Ecuador, Honduras, and all over the United States, I was able to spend quality time with some amazing people, all of whom have incredible gifts and talents. Among so many other awesome memories, I was able to break bread with these folks in restaurants and homes, attend conferences and meetings with them, walk the riverfront and national parks with others in Guayaquil, Ecuador, drink tea with friends in their home in the slums of Delhi, India, work out with new friends at a Cross-Fit gym in Bangalore, India, eat the best Chinese food in my life at a place in Lima, Peru (who knew?), connect via technology with friends on every continent except Antarctica (know anyone there?), and do life with my Honduran family at La Providencia in Siguatepeque. My friends, new and old, were from a bunch of different cultures, races, socio-economic backgrounds, and social demographics, and all had a few things in common. They were all unique, all had amazing God-given gifts and talents, and I learned a whole lot from each and every one of them. And when we really listen to and get to know each other, we realize that we have a lot more in common than we have differences and we agree on a whole lot more than we disagree. I can’t wait to connect with and learn more from many more people around the world in 2018.
  1. Collaboration is a key to excellence, but it is very hard and time-intensive to work effectively with others.
  • To do anything meaningful on a global scale (and virtually any other scale), collaboration is an absolute necessity. I’ve been reminded of this fact over and over in my life and last year was no exception. Whether on the soccer field, in my law firm days, in my orphan care work, in my home, in my writing, and in virtually everything else I do, I work with others to create synergies and make my work much better. While I could do some things on my own (like writing a book), I know that inviting others into the project not only results in a better product, but it’s a lot more fun. As I’ll discuss on the podcast, a couple movies that I watched with my kids recently (Jumanji: Back to the Jungle & Ninjago) overtly conveyed this message
  1. Our respective worldviews are critical to how we understand and address problems around the world
  • In traveling the world, I’ve seen first-hand how one’s worldview shapes the way he or she thinks about everything. I’ve seen beautiful things created and cultivated pursuant to certain worldviews, and terrible travesties furthered pursuant to other worldviews. And my research into different religions, belief systems, and cultures has confirmed that worldviews are used to further justice and mercy on the one hand, and other worldviews are used to justify human trafficking, terrorism, and other inhumane acts on the other hand. This creates massive problems in our world and perpetuates other injustices, particularly in our relativistic world where most people reject the absolute truth of Scripture. At the end of the day, we cannot have justice without this absolute truth. Justice is “making things right” so we need an absolute truth to establish what that “right” is. Otherwise, justice is a continually moving target as social norms and the “right” continually changes with different cultures and worldviews. Check out Episode 5 of Season 4 to hear more from me on this point.
  1. That studying Scripture and knowing it intimately is of primary concern to allow one to navigate the false gospels in our world today.
  • In a world full of false gospels, jaded worldviews, and relativism, it is critical that Christians actually read and study the entire Bible so that we can discern the Truth among the falsehoods. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Only when we know the Truth can we speak Truth in Love (1 Cor. 13:6), and avoid preaching a false gospel to the world. The stakes are eternal, as Paul reminds us in Galatians 1:9: “If anyone is preaching to you a [false] gospel . . ., let him be accursed.” Very strong language to remind us why it is so important for us to know what the Bible actually says and teaches us, so that we can discern the sheep from the wolves. The best way to be able to identify all of the counterfeit gospels in the world is to have a firm handle on the one True Gospel. The only way to do that is to become intimate with it by reading and studying it thoroughly, over and over again.
  1. Our personalities shape the way we see others, our jobs, our communities, our families, and virtually everything else in the world.
  • I’ve been a big fan of the StrengthsFinder test for several years, as I believe that it does an amazing job of identifying our strengths and areas where growth is needed, so that we can maximize our productivity. In 2017, I learned a lot about the DISC Personality Assessment and came to appreciate its tremendous value in my personal and professional lives. In short, understanding our own personality and the personalities of the people in our organizations, teams, families, and other areas of our lives is one of the keys to success, conflict resolution, and clear communication.

    In Episode 7 of Season 4, I’ll share more with you about how the DISC has transformed the culture of our orphan care community in Honduras, La Providencia, why some companies put their DISC letter on their cubicles, and how you, your families, and your workplaces can benefit from knowing your personalities.

What were the most important lessons you learned in 2017? Share them with us in the comments!

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