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Thought for the Day: Managed Growth in Avodas HaShem

The G"ra is reported to have made detailed investigation of the first eight chapters of M'silas Yesharim and not found a single extra word.  I don't believe that meant that the G"ra found that the first word of the ninth chapter was extra; rather that the G"ra felt that was enough checking to be confident that the rest of the sefer followed suit.  As, in fact, R' Avigodor Miller, z"tzl, notes in his introduction to the Feldheim edition.  One has a right/responsibility to analyze and understand the precise wording of each topic presented.

A topic that comes up several times in various guises is that one cannot make progress in avodas HaShem without careful analysis of one's current position: one needs to be changed, what needs to be strengthened.  The mashal used is one of a businessman.  One must take stock of the current situation, do an inventory from time to time.  Look at the profit centers and look for places that are causing losses.  When changes are required, the changes themselves need to be managed, but their deployment also needs to be managed.

Chazal tell us that while there is no Torah among the nations, there certainly is chochma.  I work at a company that provides and online service, servicing tens of thousands of transactions daily.  The transaction are not simple and we have demanding customers.  We need to add new features, improve response time, and fix existing bugs.  That sounds a lot like the way M'silas Yesharim describes our life in this world.  We are online businesses whose product is Kiddush HaShem.  We have to respond to changing conditions, upgrade our service, and fix existing issues.  I decided, therefore, to ask our VP of change management how she manages changes to the production system.  She has the responsibility at the end of the day to say go or no go.  A no go/revert decision risks losing customers because we can't keep up with their demands.  A decision to proceed risks bringing the system crashing down due to unforeseen interactions in are complex product offering.

She told me three things that made a big impression and I believe are directly applicable to growth in avodas HaShem.  First, one needs to know the players as well as the product.  For the business, that means the knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the developers and managers.  For avodas HaShem, that means knowing yourself and your midos.  Me sitting in beis medrash learning is one player.  Me at work is another player.  Me at home with my wife is yet another player.  We each fulfill many roles; some we do well, some need improvement.  You need to know yourself; your strengths and weaknesses.

Second, never make a decision based on a "gut feeling".  Gut feelings are useful in directing investigations and searching for strategies.  At the end of the day, however, the decisions need to be based on a weighing of all the relevant factors and coming to a logical decision.  That's another reason you need to know yourself (your players).  You can feel when you are confident and when you are making it up as you go along.  Either way, your gut tells you where you need to do more research.  Do the research, then make a decision.

Finally, one must act.  Indecision is worse than a bad decision.  The yeitzer hara loves to keep throwing hypotheticals at you until are paralyzed into inaction.  Speaking from personal experience; inaction is always wrong, action is only usually wrong.

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