FAILURE – THE KEY TO MAKING SUFFICIENT PROGRESS

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

33-year-old Sara Blakely is founder of a multi-million dollar women’s clothing company called Spanx.  At age 25, with $5,000 of personal savings, she patented and started her clothing line.  Four years later she was named Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeast region”.  She was also runner-up in Richard Branson’s Fox reality show, “The Rebel Billionaire”.

Sara was highlighted recently in a business magazine showcasing America’s most successful new companies.   In the article she shared an unusual factor to all of her success.  She said: “Growing up, my father would routinely ask me at the end of the day, “Sara, what have you failed at today?”  He told me that if I wasn’t failing regularly, I was not breaking out of my comfort zone, trying enough new things.”

If you’re not failing, you are not making sufficient progress.” – Anonymous

Failure is one of my deepest fears.  Perfectionism is its cover.  “If I can’t be great, I don’t want to try.”  I can feel it in my stomach at work- that pressure to continually hit home runs.  I can feel it in a precisely worded email, in the intense preparation before a cold call, the feeling that I cannot afford to make a mistake.  Yet I know my perfectionism and its fear of failing can cage me from experiencing real progress.

3,000 years ago King Solomon talked about this truth: “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”

So I can live inside my comfort zone, doing what I know I do well, creating a perfectly ‘clean manger’, a near flawless 9 to 5 lifestyle.  But if I want real progress, I must live with the manure that comes with the ox.  I must be willing to embrace risk as the theme of my life, to continually break away from what is safe and easy, and be willing to fail.

It is a reminder to constantly release control, to let go of attempts to create a perfect existence.  And even though I can strive for greatness, I must live in the reality of an imperfect world.  I must laugh off mistakes and be willing to fail again and again and still pick up the phone and dial another number.  And at the very least I will know that my place will not be with those who know neither victory nor defeat.

THE ZONE – MICHAEL JORDAN

“I can’t explain it… I’m in the zone.” -Michael Jordan

The film “Good Will Hunting” tells the story of a genius kid, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), born with a photographic memory.  He can solve complex mathematical formulas only a handful of people in the world can solve.

He says to his girlfriend, “Mozart could sit at the piano and just play.  I look at the piano and just see keys, but when I look at this (math and science problems) I could always just play.”

Will is aware of his talent, but he refuses to use it.  He poses as the “tough guy” from the wrong side of the tracks, working construction, and as a janitor while on parole. We discover he was an orphan and was abused throughout his childhood through a series of foster homes.  He is deeply wounded.  He has never opened up, never let anyone get close, and spends most of his time trying to be someone he’s not.

Will eventually learns he cannot create for himself a lasting identity; only embrace the identity he was given.  He can really only ‘just play’. The movie ends with Will driving away to find his girl and to live out his true talent- his true identity.

Talent is not created, only discovered and refined. I can work, I can try hard to better myself in different arenas, but only within my talents can I really ‘just play’.

Michael Jordan, after burying his sixth 3-pointer at the buzzer to close out the first half in game 3 of the ‘92 playoffs against the Portland Trailblazers, turns to Amahad Rashad on the sidelines as he is running to the locker room:

Rashad: “Michael, you just scored 35 points in the first half, 6 for 7 behind the arch; what are you feeling right now?”

Jordan: “Amahad, I can’t explain it. It feels like time stands still.  This bucket is huge, it’s like I can’t miss.  I’m in the zone.”

Jordan could find that zone where he made the game look effortless.  There was no thinking, no self-awareness involved; he was in autopilot and everything around him was in slow motion.  But Jordan did not get to pick his talents- only use them.  What if after getting cut from the team in 9th grade, Jordan had decided to give up basketball and instead become a businessman?  Chicago may never have won a Championship in the 90’s and Nike (along with other products and markets) may never have experienced such explosive growth.

If a talent is not used, something will be missed.  I believe we each have a mark that if not left, something won’t get done.  I believe we were meant to find ‘the zone’, to play the game that seems effortless to those that watch, to find those moments where the head and heart are in autopilot and all else is slow motion.  Talent must be used.  It is a reminder to me to slow down, to recognize those talents, to look for the feel of ‘the zone’, and to allow myself to ‘just play’.

“We all have different gifts… exercise them accordingly.”- Paul of Tarsus

(Romans 12:5)

BEETHOVEN

Ludwig van Beethoven’s final and most famous symphony was his “Ninth Symphony”.  Through the ages, his masterpiece has been widely considered the most exciting and impacting piece in all of classical music.  Yet, Beethoven himself never heard it.  At the time he composed his Ninth Symphony, he was completely deaf.

On the opening night of his symphony’s performance, Beethoven sat on stage facing the orchestra, for though he could not hear, he could feel the musical vibrations through the floor.  The performance stunned the audience as the masses erupted in a standing ovation at the symphony’s conclusion.  Noticing that Beethoven could not see the crowd’s response from his seat, his colleagues picked him up and turned him to face the roars of the audience.  Though he heard nothing, he saw the resounding impact of what he had created.

All Beethoven knew in his later years was silence.  He also understood that a symphony’s power comes not just from the notes of the music, but from the space between the notes.  The silent pauses.  Written into the music preceding the crescendo is a brief moment of silence – as if to prepare the audience for the crescendo to come.  In the silence you hear, “Here comes the moment you’ve been waiting for!”

Throughout the Bible, God is silent.  He was silent when Joseph was thrown into an Egyptian prison, when David was hunted by Saul, and when Christ was hanging on the Cross.  In those moments, God did not bring justice.  He did not step in to ‘save the day’.  He was silent.  But the symphony was not over.  Suddenly God shows up unexpectedly.  Joseph is put in charge of the land of Egypt, David becomes king of Israel, and Christ is raised from the dead.  We discover that while God was silent, he was actually preparing to make his power known in an unmistaken way.

“When God is silent, he is not still.” – Jeff Henderson

Rarely am I completely confident I’m where God wants me, doing what He’s called me to do.  He seems to inform me on a “need-to-know” basis only.  Yet I find that the act of seeking him somehow positions me for the day when clarity finally comes.  I must remember that God’s silence does not mean the song is over; rather, his silence is preparation for what lies ahead.

May we recognize that the silence between the crescendos in life is what makes the music so spectacular.  May we use those silent moments to rest and prepare for the grand crescendos to come.  And in the silence may we hear, “Here comes the moment you’ve been waiting for!”

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” – Peter (I Peter 5:6)

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – (Psalm 46:10)

KARL MARX – THE JEWISH BOY

There was a Jewish boy who grew up in Germany many years ago.  This boy deeply admired his father.  His father led the family to their Jewish Synagogue faithfully and the boy grew up with strong Jewish values and beliefs.

In his teen years his family was forced to move to another town in Germany where there was no Synagogue; only a Lutheran church- the life of the community.  The Lutheran church was the gathering place for all of the town’s important businessmen.  Wanting to be well-connected in business, his father made the family abandon their Jewish traditions and join the Lutheran church.  The boy was deeply wounded and confused by his Father.

The boy’s broken heart distorted his view of reality and drove him away from God and religion and later led him to the British Museum in England where he compiled his new beliefs into a book.  In that book he laid the foundation for a movement that would forever change the world.  He described religion as the “opiate for the masses” and developed a world system of life without God.  His ideas became the norm for governments of almost half the world’s people.  His name was Karl Marx, founder of the Communist Movement.

The history of the world was forever darkened because of one Jewish boy’s broken heart.

Brokenness can distort reality.  I doubt I am fully aware of how much my past experiences control my worldview today.  I know there must be lies about myself I am unaware I am believing.  What is it inside me that wants to hide my true self around certain people?  Why do I feel I have to impress, perform, exaggerate stories, make people think I’m important?  Have I believed the lie that I need their acceptance for validation?

I don’t want to live like that.  I don’t want to be caged by a distorted reality built by bricks of wounds and lies I collect to where “these walls are all I know.”  Christ said he came to heal and set us free (Luke 4:18).  So I pray for healing and freedom.  I pray God would restore those broken places in our lives and lead us to become who he created us to be.

There was another Jewish boy who grew up with strong Jewish values and beliefs who would also forever change the world.  His name was Isaiah (meaning “The Lord Saves”).  He penned the words that Christ would later quote at the outset of his public ministry:

“God has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.”

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON – ENDURING COURAGE

In the early 1800s, the Napoleonic Wars ravaged the European countryside seizing most of Europe for France.  Napoleon Bonaparte commanded an army and military system of a scale never before seen in the history of the world.   After years of endless siege throughout Europe, Napoleon was defeated and exiled to the island of Elba in 1814.  But this would not be the end.

In March of 1815, Napoleon re-entered France and reinstated himself as Emperor and quickly amassed his forces.  During that period know as the ‘Hundred Days’, Britain and Prussia assembled their armies to bring down Napoleon’s troops one final time.  Commanded by the Duke of Wellington, the British army, along with the Prussians, finally and completely defeated Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of Waterloo on July 18, 1815.

After the battle, the Duke of Wellington was reportedly questioned as to how he was able to finally put an end to Napoleon’s reign after so many armies before him were unsuccessful.  They asked him:

“Were your soldiers better trained than those of Napoleon?”

“No.”

“Were they better equipped than those of Napoleon?”

“No.”

“Were they stronger?”

“No.”

Finally the question came:

“Were they more courageous?”

“No… But they were courageous for 5 minutes longer.”

According to Wellington, Enduring Courage won the day.  Not just courage, but persistent, enduring courage- the kind of courage that weaves its way through every great legendary tale, every super hero, every Rocky, Rudy, and Karate Kid story through the ages.

Rocky endures 15 brutal rounds with the Russian before knocking him out in the final seconds; Rudy, after two years of punishing practices, runs onto the field to the wild cheers of 80,000 Fighting Irish fans; Daniel Caruso, on one good leg, pulls out the ‘crane technique’ to win the final point of the tournament.  In the end, against all odds, enduring courage prevailed.

Andy Stanley, senior pastor at Northpoint Community Church, keeps a card on his desk that reads:

What in my life today demands courage?

Enduring courage is a daily act, a moment by moment decision to persevere to the end.  May we know that the difference is often made in the final moments, that history is shaped by men who refuse to surrender, and that we are called to be “courageous for 5 minutes longer.”

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – God

(Joshua 1:9)

THE CAN OPENER – THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS

The Biltmore, located in Asheville, North Carolina, was completed in 1895 with 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces and 3 kitchens on 4 acres of floor space.  The live-in cooks worked around the clock to feed the family, their guests and the more than 35 full-time workers, yet they kept only a few small shelves of canned foods on hand.  Almost all the food stored in the kitchens was non-canned food that spoiled quickly.  In the early 1900’s no one was buying canned foods.  Why? Because the can opener had not yet been invented.

When canned food was first invented in 1813, instructions on the cans read: “Cut around the top with a chisel and hammer.”  Though minor improvements were made to can opening devices over the years, the modern can opener with a serrated rotation wheel was not invented until 1925 – over 100 years after the birth of the metal can.  No one bought canned goods, not because the food was bad, but because there was no easy access to the food.  The food was fine; it was getting to the food that was the hard part.

 

Imagine the exponential increase in production and distribution of canned goods all over the world throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s had the can opener been invented.  How many more people would have bought canned foods had their simply been an easy way to open the cans?  How many more cans might have reached the poor, providing them with cheap food that didn’t spoil?  Yet year after year the world waited, without even knowing it, for someone to give them easy access to the food inside the cans.

 

Like the can opener, maybe the biggest barrier to spiritual growth is easy access to someone to show them how to do it!  The truth is the same; it’s getting to the truth that’s hard!  To me, it’s also the story the Christmas.  For thousands of years people followed the Law given through Moses – it was good for sin management, but it couldn’t give them easy access to God.  The law could point out and condemn sin, but it could not remove it.  The world waited for a savior.  We celebrate Christmas because Jesus’ birth, for the first time in history, created a way to have easy access to God.  Jesus told his disciples, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen my Father as well.”  The curious thing about Jesus was that he had to authority, he held no positions, he did nothing that usually accompanies success, yet he had the greatest influence of anyone who ever lived.  He mostly hung out with 12 guys for 3 years and today we celebrate him as the central figure of the human race – not because of what he did, but because of who he was.

I often forget that God is more concerned about who I am than what I do.  There’s something in me, and in probably most, that dreams of being the superhero, the all-star, the guy who saves the day, wins the prize, or galvanizes the masses.  But the people who have the most influence in your life often have the least Authority.  Easy access to those in your sphere of influence.  It’s great to have ambitions to one day reach the poorest kid in the smallest villages of Africa, but what am I doing today for the kid down the street?  How can I be his “can opener”?  I may be the only Bible someone ever reads.  The can opener is a reminder that family and friends truly are the greatest gifts in life, a reminder to cherish those quiet moments, and to be grateful that we have a savior that provided easy access to God.

“Despite efforts to keep Him out, God intrudes.  The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities:  a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb.  Jesus entered our world through a door marked ‘No Entrance’ and left through a door marked ‘No Exit’.” – Author Unknown

WHAT DRIVES VALUE?

Beyond the financial figures…

What are the intangible components that add value to a business?  What truly adds value to life, to a family or community?  What are the keys to finding proper balance, priority and fulfillment in every role and season of life?

WhatDrivesValue.com is a random log of observations from a business appraiser’s perspective, looking beyond the numbers, to discover the intangible attributes that drives value in business and in life.

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TEDDY ROOSEVELT – MESSAGE TO DELIVER

The year was 1912 and Theodore Roosevelt was campaigning for re-election.  By the evening of October 14 his campaign had carried him to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he was to deliver a speech in the city’s public auditorium.  As he was leaving his hotel to be driven to the auditorium, a saloonkeeper named John Shrank, approached Roosevelt with his pistol and fired a bullet into Roosevelt’s chest, knocking him down.  As bystanders subdued the gunman, Roosevelt stood up, surveyed his blood-spattered shirt and bullet wound, and forced himself to cough, as he had learned from his army days, to see if he was coughing blood due to significant internal bleeding.  Finding no blood in his saliva, he demanded that he be driven to the auditorium to deliver his speech.

The bullet had penetrated a copy of the speech notes he was carrying in his jacket, which had slowed the bullet down enough to save his life.   His doctors later found the bullet lodged between two ribs, a half-inch from his lung, and decided it too dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet, so Roosevelt carried the bullet in his chest until his death in 1919.

That night of October 14, 1912, Roosevelt convinced his entourage that his message and the ‘matters at hand’ far exceeded the significance of his own life. He was driven to the auditorium and made his way to the podium to the crowd’s utter shock and disbelief.  Still wearing his torn and red-stained shirt, he pulled out his blood-spattered notes and gave his speech:

“I have a message to deliver, and I will deliver it as long as there is life in my body.”

Roosevelt’s speech lasted 90 minutes before being helped to the hospital for treatment.

How can a man believe in something so strongly, that in the moment, the message outweighs the importance of his own life?  I believe each of us has been given a distinct message that is uniquely ours – that if that message is not shared, something would be missed.

To truly become who we were born to be, this message must be delivered.  Roosevelt’s story is a challenge and a call to discover that unique message, to live a life engaged in a vision bigger than ourselves, where the message becomes more important than the man, and to deliver that message “as long as there is life in our bodies.”

“For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” – Peter and John to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:20)

PLANET EARTH

In 1977, NASA launched the satellite “Voyager” on a one-way mission- straight out away from the sun to take pictures of our solar system.  13 years later, Voyager had reached the edge of our solar system, 3.7 billion miles away.   Carl Sagan, the leading voice of the day, along with his team of astronomers, instructed Voyager to turn and take one final picture of Earth before it exited our solar system.

When the astronomers finally received the image back from Voyager, the photograph shocked the entire scientific world.  From 3.7 billion miles away, the earth was a tiny dot against the backdrop of a huge black expanse.  Up to that point they knew the size of Earth in proportion to our solar system, but in that moment, they saw it for the first time…

For years scientists have known that light travels 186,000 miles/second- that is 7 times around the world in one second!  The Sun is 93 million miles away.  It takes 8 minutes for the Sun’s light to reach the earth’s surface.  How far does light travel in a year?

(60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days = 31,536,000 seconds in a year)

31,536,000 x 186,000 miles = 5,870,000,000,000 miles/year.  5.87 trillion miles (a light year) is what scientists use to chart their way through the universe.

Astronomers say our Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years across. We live on the outer fringes of the Milky Way between two spiral bands where it’s safe for our solar system.  Our Sun is one of billions of stars in our galaxy, among hundreds of billions of galaxies in our known universe.  Relative to the universe, our Milky Way is the size of a quarter in an area the size of North America.  Somewhere in that quarter of a billion plus stars is one star called the Sun, and orbiting around it is a tiny planet called Earth.

Carl Sagan, knowing all of these facts, and now looking at this image of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, penned these words:

“We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.  Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” (Carl Sagan- 1990)

We are a very small part of an unimaginably large universe.  My tendency is to exaggerate my importance.  I forget that my life is not the central story – that I am only a speck on a speck called Earth.  I can take life too seriously.  In all my straining and struggling to hold my life together, I must remember there is a God bigger than the depths of the universe, who still knows each one of us by name.  If God can call the universe into existence with one thought, all I can do is rest in his control and enjoy his creation.  My problems are not very big.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” – God speaking to Job (Job 38:4-5)

I am a speck of dust on planet earth – a speck of dust in our solar system – a speck of dust in our galaxy – a speck of dust in the known universe.  Yet God knows everything about me