My grandfather once asked me, “Bruce, why is experience the best teacher?” When I look befuddled and said, “I have no idea”, he responded, “Because it is the most expensive!”  Wow, what a clear insight into reality, how things really work.

If experience is the best teacher, and the most expensive, are there any shortcuts that can take us to “a better place” more efficiently and effectively. Let’s explore a sampling of the options.

Learning from others

The alternative to learning from our own painful and expensive experiences is learning from others.

Some of the ways we learn from others include:

  1. Professional Journals
  2. Conferences and webinars
  3. Classes and courses of professional study
  4. The experience of others

shutterstock_304967867.jpgOne of the important ways we learn from others is digesting the aggregated information collected from peers about any given subject.

One useful  way  information is gathered and digested is through surveys.

Most of us are deluged with survey questions. It is important that we set some criteria for which survey we will answer, and which ones we won’t.

Here is a list of criteria for you to consider: 


  1. Is it timely?  We are all busy and sometimes we can prioritize, make the time available, the time, and sometimes we can’t. Simply acknowledging that reality is helpful.
  2. Is it relevant?  Does the topic and content of the survey fit into a subject category that ties in with either my responsibilities and/or my priorities?
  3. Are the results important?  Will the results of the survey inform me in a way that will be helpful either professionally or personally?

If the answers to all three questions are “yes”, then participate. If not, “Pass”


An example of a survey for you to consider

The Faith Based Retirement Plan Survey that Envoy administers in conjunction with Christian Leadership Alliance is a good example. The survey is conducted with Leaders of Christian ministries, and it’s focus is on the executives that are responsible for the ministries retirement plan, or would be if they had one.

Further, it’s goal is to accumulate relevant information from both small and large mission sending, church and faith based non-profit organizations or ministries, about their retirement plan. What information or perspective  is important to them, how it works, and what challenges exist within their plans? At the same time, to collect relevant information about the needs and decision making process within other mission sending, church, or faith based non-profit organizations or ministries that do not have a retirement plan at all.


Applying the 3 criteria to the example

  1. Is it timely? If you are either a retirement plan administrator or have some oversight responsibility for your plan, or a member of an organization that thinks you need a plan, you will make time to answer a 12-minute survey on these topics. If not, you won’t.
  2. Is it relevant? Clearly if your ministry responsibility includes benefits or the finances associated with them, you will answer yes. This includes the key members of an executive team, down to the pastor or administrator of a very small ministry. It is relevant. You will participate in the survey and look forward to learning the results.
  3. Are the results important? Knowing what others are doing provides a benchmark to evaluate and help define best practices as you consider implementin a new retirement plan. It also provides a gauge to measure what you are currently doing.


This example is fortunately a real one. Use it as a prompt for yourself. Can or do you answer all three questions in the affirmative? If so, you should participate in the Faith Based Retirement Plan Survey now. Here is a link to take the 12-minute survey, be enrolled in the $300 drawing, and then receive an Executive Summary of the results at no cost. Click Here!

Keep in mind the three criterias the next time you are asked to take a survey:

Is it timely?

Is it relevant?

And are the results important?

You can get helpful, time saving information from surveys. You can also waste time if they don’t fit the criteria. The unique insights are an important way to leapfrog the pain of your personal experience. Applying the criteria is a way to save time.

By the way, the results of the last two Retirement Plan Surveys may be of help too!

So, happy learning from the experiences of others.

– Bruce Bruinsma

 Again don’t forget to participate in the Faith Based Retirement Plan Survey today!