If I want to be successful…

To be successful at work…

  • Ernst & Young taught me that I should work just half a day12 hours.
  • I should devote 1 hour a day to staying current on world events and financial markets.
  • I should maintain the speed limit on the road, stretching my average drive time to and from the office, meetings, and gym to 3 hours a day.

To be successful with my health…

  • Health magazines say I need 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Thomas Jefferson said you should devote 2 hours a day to physically strenuous activities.
  • My back doctors tell me I should spend 1 hour a day stretching.
  • Health books tell me to each day drink a gallon of water, eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, eat 6 small well-balanced meals, including 8 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid microwaves, processed foods, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup. (2 hours)

To be successful personally…

  • I should devote 3 hours a day to personal hygiene, getting ready in the morning, running errands after work, doing house chores, and “unwinding” in the evening with a favorite TV show.
  • My high school English teacher told me I should read for 1 hour before bedtime.

To be successful relationally…

  • I should devote an average of 3 hours per day maintaining friend and family relationships and being involved in social groups to grow, serve and influence others
  • I should devote 1 hour in the morning focused on my relationship with God, reading the Bible, praying, and getting mentally and spiritually ready for the day.

How much time does it take in a day to do everything I should do to be successful?  Roughly 37 hours.

I cannot do it all… but I try.  In the fear of missing out on something good, I pack my schedule tight with all good things, but find I’m too busy to enjoy any of it.  In my attempt to squeeze all the “marrow” out of life, I squeeze all the “margin” out of life instead.

24 hours a day is all we get.  And only God knows the number of our days (Job 14:5).  Why not surrender our days to the Creator of time and the only one who knows how much time we have left?  May we remember that all that’s required is only what God has called us to do in the limited time we have.  May we pray for the wisdom to know what is truly most important and not allow the secondary to interfere.    Then will we be truly “successful”.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12


Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey) lives in a world that revolves around one person: Truman.  Unknown to Truman, he has spent his entire life inside a television studio where he is the central figure and only ‘real’ person in his world while all other people are actors in his show – The Truman Show.

I can relate to Truman.  I have the tendency to think I am the main character in a story revolving around one person: Me.  I’ve been in every scene from the very beginning.  I carry on my head two cameras, two boom microphones, and a megaphone and all the people I know and see are just actors in my show.

Other people exist.  It is a truth I so often forget.  Other people exist beyond my tiny pocket of the planet and beyond my self-absorbed American pop-culture mind.  I forget that English is not God’s primary language.

Today Israeli mothers cover their children in closets as rockets rip through their homes, Chinese men and women are martyred for their faith, African children are dying of AIDS and starvation, all while American televangelists tell the rich they deserve a better life.

One American pastor recently published a book titled “Your Best Life Now”. A buddy of mine said: “There are just two things wrong with that book: ‘Your’ and ‘Now’”.  My life is not the central story.  Other people exist.  Other people matter.

Imagine if we did not see ourselves as the primary characters in our lives.  What would happen if we truly saw others the way God sees them?  May we find the courage to be caught up in something bigger than ourselves, to live knowing that we are part of a team, a family, a community, and planet that is all part of God’s story, God’s script.  I’m not the central figure; I’m in the grand stands.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” – Paul of Tarsus (Philippians 2:3)


“The best things come to those who wait.” – Heinz Ketchup Slogan

In the 1960’s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted an experiment on a preschool classroom.  He handed each of the 4-year-olds a marshmallow and gave them a choice: “You can eat the marshmallow now, but if you wait 30 minutes I will give you a second marshmallow when I return.”  Part of the class couldn’t bear the wait and immediately ate their marshmallow.  The other part painfully waited the 30 minutes; they closed their eyes, tried to focus on something else, or tried to go to sleep to pass the time, and were rewarded with the second marshmallow when the experimenter returned.

Researchers tracked these children over a 20-year period and measured them for psychological differences between those who had eaten the single marshmallow immediately and those who had waited for the second.  They discovered that the children who waited as 4-year-olds grew up to be more assertive, dependable, adventurous, and socially competent than their peers.  They also had higher SAT scores.  The preschoolers who had eaten the marshmallow immediately were more likely to be lonely, indecisive, easily frustrated and stubborn.

This study was repeated many times with similar results.  It suggests that the ability to delay gratification carries long-term reward.

The waiters know the discipline of resisting convenience now for a greater reward later: they have learned to resist buying on credit, bending the rules, or giving up on unanswered prayers, knowing that one day their waiting will be rewarded.

I pray for the same patience to wait for the fullness of God’s blessings.  May we refuse to cut-short his blessings by short-cutting the wait.  May we have the patience to wait for the second marshmallow to come.

“The LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” – Isaiah

(Isaiah 30:18)


“Money, Money, Money, Money… Money” – (Apprentice theme song)

This is also Donald Trump’s personal theme song – a man you want to emulate only if your greatest love is money.  These were among his main points at a recent real estate conference:

  • “Be paranoid”
  • “Hire the best people and don’t trust them”
  • “Get even with people- eye for eye…”
  • “Always have a prenuptial agreement”
  • “I love losers because they make me feel better about myself”

The crowd laughed nervously as he made his points.  His speech was probably over-dramatized for shock value, but he was still serious.  In as much of his character I don’t want to copy, he made one profound statement when he told his story:

In the late 1980’s Trump was worth about $9.2 Billion.  Periodicals around the world named him “Mr. New York” and touted that “Everything he touches turns to gold.”  He was invincible in his own eyes.  He had all the money, property, fame, and friends he had ever wanted.  Then, all within one year, his ‘empire’ came crashing down.

In 1990, the tax laws changed, inflation grew, the airline industry tanked, and banks collapsed – everything that could go wrong did.  By 1991, Trump was $900 Million in debt and was facing bankruptcy.  Most of his friends abandoned him.  Trump said, “The good thing about trouble is you learn who is loyal.”  He would eventually climb back out of his hole over the next 10 years, but this was what surprised me:

He said, in the early 90’s, with attorneys, CPAs and businessmen out to destroy his name, with creditors chasing him, facing bankruptcy and possible eviction from Trump Tower, “I was still able to sleep at night.” He said he could push everything out of his mind when his head hit the pillow.

If Donald Trump can learn not to worry with bankruptcy, abandoned friendships, and businessmen out to destroy him, how much more should I know not to worry – when we have eternity secured and friends who don’t care if we can’t rub two nickels together or own half of New York?

I cannot afford to worry.  We only have a limited number of minutes in a day and all we can control is our choices, not the outcome.  I can only be a good steward of my time here in the office; the results are out of my hands.  So I must do my work for the Lord (Colossians 3), using the strengths he has given me, and then I’m going home to sleep.  The rest is up to God.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 6:26-27)


“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)


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