The Shortcomings of PowerPoint

In a world and culture obsessively focused on the tangibles—statistics, output, productivity rates, and the much adulated “metrics” repeated as a mantra in today’s business schools—it’s easy to forget about intangibles.


As I struggle with the agonizingly slow pace of carving out a new chapter in my life and career, one of the biggest challenges for me is the fact that I can’t “see” any signs of progress. There’s nothing I can point to as if I needed to prepare a PowerPoint presentation to prove that, yes, I can chart my rate of productivity or maturity or insight on a graph.


Parents of young children can track how much bigger and more learned their offspring are. Employees can offer paystubs, sales figures, and meetings attended. Artists and actors can use catalogs or playbills to demonstrate what they’ve achieved. All good things. But what about the rest of us? Those fellow travelers who are having a rough go at satisfying the need for black and white results? Surely, there’s more to life than what can be measured. How do we reconcile this with what Western culture reasonably expects?


Each day, I grow more aware of the necessity to balance my drive for demonstrable results with the fact that much of what I am doing here in Washington, living with my father, trying to pull together this next chapter in my life cannot be measured in such terms.


In Corinthians 2, Chapter 4 verse 18 the Apostle Paul writes, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”


How, for instance, can I measure or even be sure of the positive impact I am having by being companionable—whether it’s with my dad who craves company and truly appreciates the meals I throw together or the temporary lift I strive to provide a cousin whose son recently passed? What about the simple, genial atmosphere that’s created when I pop in a Bull Durham dvd, open a bottle of wine, and invite a neighbor to come watch? Or when I took the time to tell the manager at my gym what a nice, careful job some of his maintenance staff was doing?


None of these gestures amount to a hill of beans that can be “counted,” and they certainly don’t move forward my agenda of re-booting my career, but I know they matter. I know this because of the honest motivation to connect with people on a sincere level. They may not count for much and such gestures may not make a measureable difference in the lives of the people they’re aimed at, but I believe there’s a whole world, unseen, which exists and thrives way more brilliantly then this one. I just can’t prove it.


My point is this: even when you believe you have little to “show” for your efforts, if you are genuinely making that effort; if you are being honest and authentic in your endeavors to keep your little corner of the world swept up and tidy—it all counts. Give yourself credit because I know how hard that can be in a world and a culture that demands productivity statistics, public accolades, and Power Point presentations.


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