Algorithms for Life

(This is an updated re-post of one of my first blogs back in 2010 from whence I get my theme: Algorithms for Life)

20130418-165821.jpgI was reminded of codes recently, and you may not understand what I’m talking about. I matured into a world of computers used for the sake of commerce. Programmers were prized for their ability to write code to tell machines how to capture, process and report data.

Along the way of remembering my adult life, I also remembered a couple of code experiences from my younger years.

  • In the sixth grade my friend and I learned ASL (American Sign Language) and Morse Code so I could cheat on tests. Of course, everyone was making straight A’s, including the guy who had failed twice, so learning code was just an exercise in academics.
  • During the same time, I loved to read WWII books of code breaking (A good article can be found here: Click)

For most of my adult life I have been involved with technology. From the paper tape and keypunch card days, on to large mainframe computers with names like IBM, Burroughs, HP, and then on to modern web teams and with powerful personal computers. I have been fortunate to be a part of the changes that have impacted the way we live and the way we do business.

Part of my training and experience involved problem solving and analytical thinking exercises. From organizing data and workflow to produce desired results, and on to developing the  application systems to process data, I’ve been involved in  critically creating steps that will produce specific output. This process can be summed up in a single word, and if you are challenged by math and science terminology, then get ready to cringe!

What is this word? It is: algorithm.

One web definition states that algorithm is “…a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps…” while another definition states “…any set of detailed instructions which results in a predictable end-state from a known beginning…”

Regardless, algorithms are “rules” or “steps” created and followed to produce desired results. They will only produce results that are as good as the rules or steps created, or as good as the person is in following such logic. As we wrote programs or followed instruction to complete some task, we often used the acronym GIGO: “garbage in… garbage out…”

We see this humorously when we take an algorithm into the kitchen and try to prepare and cook a meal from a cookbook (essentially an algorithm of steps or instructions to follow to produce desired or expected results). With incorrectly followed steps we get a different meal result. With incorrect steps to follow we will also get differing results.

Authors abound in the leadership arena to provide steps on how to become successful in some venture. With a growing number of titles at Amazon, there are algorithmic books that give us 21 steps to be a good leader by one author, to following the mantra that you must first break all the rules. We seem to like the idea of a number set of steps to follow. Many have techniques to create leadership qualities in those that are already or aspiring to be a leader.

In a Father’s Day card this year, my son states that he has me to thank for what he has become – this causes me to look closer at my son as a result and judge whether my algorithms on being a Father where successful. I look over my shoulder and consider all the algorithms of life that I have followed and determine if they will produce success and prosperity, or, have they been full of garbage.

Scripture gives us an early definition on how to be successful. When Joshua takes the reins of a nation following in the footsteps of Moses, God commands him:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:8-9 NKJV)

Prosperity and success came from attending to the 600+ instructions found in the book of the law. It was not a simple task easily followed, as there were many algorithms within the law. Some tasks were designed to be followed by a select few, or even one, while other laws were followed by everyone.

Algorithms did not stop with this early law, as every leader seemed to add additional steps for continued success. Whether from prophets or kings, each generation seemed to require additional guidelines for living. Even Jesus provided additional algorithms for successful living that were built upon the law of the Old Testament:

  • Matthew 6:33- But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
  • Matthew 7:7-8 – Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
  • Luke 13:24 – Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Each of these produces results that are greatly desired, and the steps taken produce a better life. Another time Jesus was being questioned by a lawyer:

But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:34-40 KJV)

Noticed His ending comment, “…on these two commandments’ hang all the law and the prophets…” The English Standard Version (ESV) translates this statement as this: “…On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets…”

The root of instructions finds a home in the concept of Love. Not the love of this world – which will produce worldly results, but the love of God that gives us opportunity to love others as God has loved us – individually and collectively as His beloved individual and collected group of created beings.

I submit that this is the most important Algorithm of all times – Love God, Love your Neighbor.

While humans may think about human rules and results, God tells us to Love God and to Love your Neighbor! This produces results that truly create success and prosperity in a person’s life. Regardless of the algorithms that mankind has created to produce desired results, nothing; absolutely nothing will create more success and prosperity in our lives than following the Algorithm for Life.