Exchanging Balance for Rhythm

A review of Inside Job: Doing the Work within the Work by Stephen W. Smith

reviewed by Susan Martins Miller

Leaders work hard to succeed but often at the cost of their own souls. This is the problem Steven W. Smith identifies in his book Inside Job: Doing the Work within the Work. Too often leaders’ effectiveness is evaluated—by themselves or others—through external measurements of what they accomplish.

The author writes for leaders because of his own experience of being a burned out pastor of a large church and then cofounding Potter’s Inn, a Colorado retreat center offering “soul care” to leaders in both ministry and the marketplace. At its core, though, the book is not about leadership techniques as much as living well in the midst of a call to lead at whatever level—workplace, ministry, community, family.

In his accessible style populated with stories of both Bible characters and people he has known as well as his personal experience, Smith counters the popular notion that busy people need more balance with an argument for rhythm. Talking about balance is a response to feeling out of control and running on empty. We think balance will fix this. What we really lack is rhythm, the principle that God offers and which we see in Jesus’ life. We were created to work in one span of time and rest in another. We complain about being overtired without truly resting the way God intends. Embracing rhythm means modifying our behaviors, being mindful of our choices, and sticking to them—such as not being constantly available to the requests of others or never fully unplugging for a few hours or a few days.

Success has to do with character, the inward transformation, rather than outward assessments. Smith says, “The Inside Job is about learning to live for what is really important, for what truly matters. … The real work is about becoming the person you were created to be” (p. 192). Smith piques honest examination of the interior of our lives that we may be hesitant to confront. Getting where you want to be begins with the arrow that says, “You are here.” His roadmap to rhythm and living well revolves around the virtues of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. Rhythm is God’s way of helping us live in productive resilience rather than burned-out exhaustion. Leading well first of all means living well, and out of living well comes the ability to stay connected to the ways spirituality is expressed in various dimensions of leading.

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