Tag Archives: success

When one thing is wrong it means nothing is right

f grade questionI have never thought of myself as a perfectionist. I don’t think I am one to try to make everything the absolute best or nothing at all. I mostly think that we do our best and then move forward with what we’ve been able to do – hopefully giving our best as we go. And yet, I have come to realize something a bit disturbing about myself. I’m not sure how to label this (like everything must have a label, right?), but it’s definitely a thing.

For those who read my blog regularly, you know this is often my confessional. It’s a place where I am not afraid to explore my faults and failures – which is good because it gives me lots of raw material to work with! And that little clause right there is indicative or symptomatic of my problem. I see my faults and failures, at times, far too easily. And, I see my faults and failures more than any successes. And that’s a bit troubling to recognize.

So, am I a pessimist? A defeatist? An Eeyore?

Life is full of tasks and events and hopes and plans. Many times, if I look back at my day, there have been many things that went well. If I were to list all the things I did in one day or one week I bet I would be batting over .500 in terms of things that went off without a hitch or went well. My struggle is that I see the other side more than those successes. One thing can go wrong, one thing can be falling apart, and then in my mind, nothing is right.

I quite often view the whole of my life through the lens of my failures. Oh, I can put on a happy face and I can still do things that are good and successful, but I am mostly surprised by those things when I get into this place in my head. When one thing goes wrong, in my head it feels like nothing is right. And that’s not a good place to be.

So, why do I tell you this? Well, part of me just needs to say it “out loud” (yes, writing it in a blog post counts). Part of me also wants to work through – out loud – the other side of this. I use these posts to remind me of what is true as opposed to what I feel. And, with that, I hope others who feel similarly might also benefit.

So what is the truth? The truth is that life will have moments of good and bad, failure and success. The truth is you can’t count on your success to save your life and you don’t have to let your failures doom you to a dismal life. The “truth” that comes to my mind is in John’s gospel:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)

Now, in fairness to the Apostle John, he is quoting Jesus as Jesus talks about real and significant persecution in the world. The kind many Christians in other countries face on a daily basis. But one thing I have learned about the Word of God is that God will declare a truth in one context which applies in others. So, while my trouble may be in my head, while my trouble may be my own faults, failures and inadequacies, the truth still holds – Jesus has the power to overcome that trouble.

The key for me is to remember that my identity is in Christ, not in what I accomplish or in what I fail to do well. I am neither a success nor a failure, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My peace cannot be found in what I do well, and my anxiety is unnecessary in where I fail. I am close friends with the Lord of all a pluscreation, brother to the King of kings. That is not only enough, that is tremendous.

Bottom line – it means that everything is right even if it all goes wrong. That turns my world upside-down. And for that reminder I am thankful.

Hope that helps you in your daily walk through the world this week.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

I wish I were Peyton Manning

Okay, it was bound to happen. Football season is upon us. My blogs may not always use football analogies and stories, but it will happen. It is one of my favorite hobbies. So, if you are not a sports fan, I apologize. I also promise you won’t have 4+ months of these analogies.

Last night there was a game played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos. It was a highly anticipated game because one of the current stars of the game was making his debut on the Broncos team after being off the field for over 12 months. Peyton Manning had spent the first 14 years of his pro career with the Indianapolis Colts. He had a neck injury that required multiple surgeries and sidelined him for the last season. Then, this Spring, he was traded to the Denver Broncos. He is a great talent and holds a number of NFL (National Football League) records. And, I wish I could be him.

Now, I don’t mean I want to play quarterback in the NFL. I really like football, as a spectator and a fan. If I were on the field then I couldn’t see what’s going on, and that won’t work for me.

No, I want to be Peyton Manning partially because of the way he carries himself as a person even in the midst of his success. But mostly, I want to be Peyton Manning for the way he commands and leads his team. When he steps on the field people believe he can help make things happen. When he steps up to the line of scrimmage (his offense trying to move the ball down the field while the opposing team tries to stop them), he surveys the field, makes what he believes to be the right adjustments and gets his teammates in a position to be successful in that moment.

I like the way he helps those around him be the best they can be. I like the way he leads his team and helps them be in a position to succeed. They don’t always succeed, but he tries to help them see how they can.

Okay, I may be star-struck and thinking too highly of an NFL quarterback, but the point is this – often times, the best thing we can do for others is help them succeed, help them accomplish their task. As a leader we can help our “team” by looking out over the situation we face and figure out how to best utilize the gifts of the people around us. We won’t always succeed, but hopefully we’ll learn.

I also know this, Peyton Manning cannot win a game by himself. Most times success comes by means of people working together for a common goal. Success comes when we are willing to offer our gifts and put them under the authority of one who has been called to guide our efforts. And if we are that one, then the best we can do is know our teammates well enough that we know how best to engage them in the work.

So, I say I want to be Peyton Manning, but I really don’t. I just want to be the best I can be at what I am called to do. I enjoy watching Peyton Manning play because he seems to be a good man, a humble person, who tries to go out and do the best he can do to help his team. What I really want is for God to pour His Spirit into me in such a way that I give myself to the work of the Kingdom in the same way.

I really am just glad to be part of the team. I hope you are as well.

Oh, as to the game last night, Peyton Manning did an awesome job leading his team to a victory. He didn’t do it by himself, but he did his part well.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

Failure IS an option

I’ve been taking some long walks with my son, Andrew, lately (long for this out-of-shape 40-something any way). We have some great conversations. He is well read and a real thinker. One of our main topics is leadership and living life in a real way. We both have a sense that attaining “success”, as defined by many these days, is not the life worth living. We both agree that the greatest work we can do is work that contributes to the lives of others.

Along with that conversation of success and achievement comes the idea of failure – and the fear thereof. To engage in any work or mission means taking a risk and one possible result is failure. No one wants to fail, but the truth is, to be successful failure has to be an option. It’s not an option we shoot for and not one we’re happy about, but, at the same time, it’s an option that doesn’t have to cause us great anxiety either. If we accept it as an option we can live with then we take away its power to hold us back. Recognizing the possibility gives you the opportunity to move past it when it happens.

I think about Jesus’ instructions to his followers when he sends them out into the villages. He tells them that they will have moments when things don’t go as they would hope – times when people don’t accept them or their message. Here’s what he says:

“Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:4-5)

If he didn’t tell them upfront that failure was a possibility (and in a sense, name it as an “option”) they could easily have taken that rejection as a debilitating, mission-ending failure. Jesus tells them that the best thing to do is to move on.

That’s close to what Andrew and I have talked about. You have to be ready to face failure. You have to be ready for things to happen that OTHERS would see as a failure. But, you also have to realize that God is always at work where we let him work. God is there to take us into the next task, the next challenge. Failure is an option because failure is not the last word in life – God is.

It comes down to this – will you trust God and take a risk, or will you only trust your own imagination and nerve and play it safe? Will you confine yourself to living up to the generally accepted standards of this world, or will you explore new possibilities even when others would criticize your actions as foolish?

When failure is an option and God is at your side you can accomplish more than anyone would expect or even imagine. Question is, are you ready to fail?

Holy high-five to you,
Mike