Eager Anticipation… Misplaced.

The highly anticipated iPhone 4 hit the shelves one week ago today. Apple announced sales of 1.7 million phones in the first 3 days alone and will likely announce surpassing the 3 million mark in the next week or so. And this is with the phone only being available in 3 countries. Wait till it hits the other 88 countries around the world where it will be available over the next few months. The buzz that Apple can create with a product launch is amazing. Is there a better, more streamlined way to launch the product that would include fewer lines and less waiting? Certainly. But those lines create the eager anticipation and buzz that push Apple to the front pages and lead news stories.

The church where I formerly served has been gracious to allow me to keep my previous iPhone until this new one was available. But, I do need to return it to them, so I had pre-reserved a phone to pick up on launch day. Yes, I was one of those crazies waiting in line. Pictured here is the line at the mall where I had reserved my phone. And for the record, I was waiting in line for 4 hours before I got to this part of the line! That day, I arrived at the mall at 4:45pm. After a quick bathroom break and picking up a drink in the food court, I got in line at 5:00pm. I walked out of the mall, new iPhone 4 in hand, at 10:53pm.

That morning I woke up particularly early. At 6:00am, I was already wide awake. At that point I was thinking, “Hey, I wonder if the Walmart down the street will actually have any units available for walk-up purchase? Maybe I could get mine this morning rather than waiting till after work today to get it.” That is how bad I wanted the phone.

Now, that particular morning I made a good decision. And, to be honest, one that I, unfortunately, don’t always make. Instead of rushing out the door to Walmart, I picked up my Bible to read. Like I said, I’m not always that disciplined. That day I did make a good decision. Anyway, I’ve been reading the Philippians and wanted to share what I read that morning as it has still been on my heart, working me over since that day.

“Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Crazy lines of eager anticipation swarm an iPhone release, yesterday’s release of Eclipse (the third movie in the Twilight series) and even many sporting events. I have, as with the iPhone, even been part of some of those swarms of eager anticipation (for the record, I wasn’t part of the Eclipse crowd!) But this short passage, taken from a hymn that Paul records in his letter to the Philippians, begs the question, “Why don’t I [we] live with this type of eager expectation for the glory of God to be revealed in me [us]?”

Why is it that I put other things first in my life? The answer is one that I don’t want to hear and involves a word that we avoid at all cost: idolatry. Yeah, maybe I made a good decision that day to read my Bible instead of race to Walmart in hopes of being one of the elect who got a phone at 7:02am, but I somehow thought that I couldn’t wait till that evening. I had to have it and had to have it now. At that point, I’m not any different than the Israelites in Exodus 32 when they built the golden calf. I am hoping for life, meaning and satisfaction from a phone rather than in Christ, whom God has exalted to the highest place. That is the definition, par excellence, of idolatry: putting hope and trust in something rather than in Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for the mountain of mercy where I can come and find forgiveness and where Christ is exalted forever as King. Make him King – exalted above all else – in my life today.

Interact: What do you exalt to the highest place in your life? What do I?

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Apple – The Purple Cow Company

While there were many aspects of Purple Cow that challenged me, I am left here with two major concepts…

  1. Remarkable rarely comes through better advertising. It comes with making a product that stands out.
  2. While a purple cow would be quite the site, after a while, even a purple cow wouldn’t seem that remarkable anymore. That leaves an organization with two choices:
    1. Soak every last drop of profitability out of their purple cow, desperately trying to hold onto marketshare.
    2. Invest the profits of the one purple cow into developing their next purple cow.

As I reflected on what this looks like, I was struck by the dichotomy between Apple and Microsoft. In the interest of full disclosure (in case you don’t already know this about me), I am a big Apple guy. That said, consider the difference of approach. Microsoft in the late-80’s and throughout the 90’s built this empire on the back of Windows. Now, they are desperately trying to hold onto their marketshare and profitability. With the possible exception of the XBox, they have done little to no innovation. They have simply tried to tout the virtues of their product.

Conversely, in the mid-90’s, Apple was dead. The multi-colored fruit company was hemoragging money and hadn’t had a good product in ages. Their major innovation in that time, the Newton, failed miserably (a bad combination of awful hand-writing recognition and being way too early on the curve for PDAs). Then, desperate for a modern OS and a new future, Apple bought Next, bringing Steve Jobs back to the company. 

Consider the course Apple has taken since then and the accompanying purple cows…

  1. In 1998 Apple introduced the iMac. In retrospect, this purple cow turned out to the hinge on which the entire history of the company turned. Many people laughed at the idea of a colored company with a hockey puck for a mouse. Well, they laughed until Apple sold millions of them and became relevant again.
  2. Instead of just riding the profitability of the iMac, Apple reinvested in the next big thing – digital music. In 2001, Apple introduced the iPod (and the iTunes music store – the first legally downloadable digital music) and had themselves another purple cow. Unlike the Newton, which was way before its time, the iPod hit just on the very front edge of digital music going mainstream. Apple sold millions and made millions. This gave Apple a two-pronged profitability structure – computers and iPods.
  3. Then, right as the market for digital music players was nearing its saturation point, Apple released the iPhone in 2007. On the strength of the money made from selling computers and iPods, Apple innovated another purple cow and completely changed the cell phone industry. 

What’s next for Apple? I don’t know. I’m not privy to those conversations! But that’s not the point anyway. The point is that instead of just trying to maintain a once-remarkable product and squeeze every penny out of it, Apple continued to reinvest and innovate, looking for the next puple cow.

Interact: How do churches ride out their once remarkable products? How could they reinvest (not profitability, but momentum/resources/etc) into developing a new purple cow?

Just for kicks, enjoy this Mac vs PC commercial that highlights well the difference between investing in improving your product versus more advertising…