Good vs. Great

This blog topic is NOT to be confused with the book called "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. I've never read Jim's book... and for me the topic of Good vs. Great has a different meaning.

Most people talk about taking their skill from being Good, to being Great. The desire to elevate themselves from a state of being "good" or "acceptable" - at math or table tennis or water polo - to "great" or "incredible".

As I started this blog and tried to identify what it was in life I really wanted... tried to create a sort of "LIFE VISION" - I determined that this blog would be a sort of journal, or record about my quest to be more than just average - I wanted to be GREAT.

What I have realized is just how important this goal is. My LIFE PURPOSE is NOT to be the greatest hockey player, real estate guru, or sales person (I would actually settle for good at all of these). MY PURPOSE was to become a great PERSON... a great husband, father, son, friend, businessperson, and man.

I have been chasing this goal for some time now, and what I have found is a bit perplexing: If you or I EVER want to be GREAT - really and truly - there are 2 very challenging Truths we must embrace:

1. In order to become GREAT, you must first be GOOD... and there is none Good but One.
2. In order to be the Greatest, you must also be the LEAST.

Can we discuss these 2 truths - seemingly paradoxical in nature for a moment?

First: In order to become GREAT, you must first be GOOD, and there is none good but One.

If I (or any person) am not GOOD first, seeking to do RIGHT, be CLEAN, and add to the lives of others, how could I ever be called GREAT? If my singular mission is to better myself, my wealth, my life, and my goals... than even if I accomplish all of the things I try, haven't I simply TAKEN more than I gave?

The idea that anyone could be GREAT - without first being a GOOD person is actually kind of crazy. Yet in the world we see so many examples of this... athletics, business, etc. Was Michael Jordan GREAT? I would say that Air Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time - but with so much money, fame and fortune, has he accomplished greatness since the highlight reels stopped playing, and the bulbs stopped flashing? (By the way, Michael has been a hero of mine - it is just a question!)

Becoming and staying aware that we - NONE OF US - are as great as we think seems to be an important step. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The ablest man I ever met is the man you think you are". This was a laugh-out-loud quote for me. My wife would witness of this being a theme from my life... I think I can do anything, and too often fall short and am left making excuses for why it was not my fault.

Rather than worrying with who I think I am, being content to do what is right, and recognize that there has only been One who is good is a critical first step. Even Jesus Christ when called "Good Master" said that he was not to be called "Good".

What about the second principal?

The famous story of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. In Luke 9:46-48 "And there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be the Greatest..." and they were told very plainly, "Whosoever receives me receives him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be GREAT."

This must mean that if I have a true desire to be GREAT, I must also truly - deep in my heart - desire to be the LEAST.

For anyone (myself included) who has ever had aspirations of greatness, reconciling all of this in our hearts is not easy. I have felt a burning desire my whole life to do something great - and have chased my tail for years with such aspirations. Now finding a way for my feelings to co-exist with the truths that there is only One who is Good, and that I must be the Least... is not easy.

Like anything it requires PRACTICE.

I have found one situation in which these truths become easier to understand and embrace. When I spend time with my wife & children, and watch them and their great love for life. I see who they are and all they can become, and I observe my family in our struggle to survive these tough times it is obvious how critical it is that I be the LEAST.

And quietly the answer comes - if I will put them first, and be the least; if I will be Good, and keep going, never tiring from putting them first... someday without ever trying, it will happen... I will be lifted up.

Embracing this requires trust in power beyond our own, and a willingness to let go. It is so challenging to do, and do consistently. I am finding that it is impossible if the motivation is so that I can be GREAT... it is much more simple to do when the motivation is THEM.


Conform vs. Consecrate

For the last 10 years I have had a favorite saying, by George Bernard Shaw. Here it is:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself, therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man"

I remember where I was when I read this for the first time. This quote inspired me for a number of reasons. It told me I could DO and BE who I wanted. That if I held on long enough, and REFUSED to CONFORM, eventually everything would go the way I wanted.

REFUSAL TO CONFORM... hmmm. Anybody that knows me would probably concede that this has been a theme in my life... and by following this quote as a defining creed, both good and bad have come. I have accomplished some pretty incredible things, and am smack dab in the middle of a lot of pain as a result of the arrogance adherence to this quote manifested in me.

So what about the greatest being that ever lived, Jesus Christ. I think that everyone would agree that He certainly didn't CONFORM to the leadership of His time. BUT - unlike the quote from George Bernard Shaw, Christ did NOT persist in trying to adapt the world to Himself, either. Some might argue that He tried to change things... and we certainly know that He changed EVERYTHING... but his was not a life of refusal to CONFORM. His was a life of CONSECRATION. He did what he did because he had a sure knowledge of His Father, and sought only to do the will of His Father.

We have all heard the saying, "You can't change others, you can only change yourself." Imagine the arrogance of my quote, that basically postulated that I would refuse to change! How much pain might I have avoided by recognizing the principal of CONSECRATION vs. CONFORMING.

A few quick examples:

Person trying to "lose pounds" struggles to CONFORM to that "new diet". Person who is converted to healthy living chooses to CONSECRATE his diet choices to a deeper mission within him / herself.

Person wanting to live on a budget is frustrated when they continually fail to CONFORM to the strict budget... but when the pain of being a slave to finances becomes great enough, suddenly each refusal to splurge is CONSECRATED to the cause of financial freedom.

As I have chosen over the past weeks and months to continue to CONSECRATE things unto causes greater than my own plans, life has taken some very tough directions... and to someone observing me, they might perhaps perceive that things just got bad enough that I was "broken" into a place of humility, and finally a willingness to CONFORM.

Make no mistake - CONSECRATION requires humility... a humility & trust in principles and powers outside of my control that I never could have believed I would feel. Somehow, in CONSECRATION the humility is a WISH, almost a desire - deep within. In CONFORMING humility might be born of being forced.

I believe fo CONSECRATION to exist, we must have a belief or hope in or for something so far out of reach, that CONSECRATION comes natural. Despite the struggles that have been heaped up, the difference between CONSECRATION and CONFORMING has helped me to keep going. In CONSECRATION, the events that are transpiring are results of my choices.

EVERYONE should have causes that they are engaged enough in to CONSECRATE pieces of our lives to. Many people do this naturally... like a parent making sacrifices for their children... but these "sacrifices" are not really sacrifices to the parent, because the parent is CONSECRATING the sacrifices to the cause of the family.

I hope that the lesson of CONSECRATION vs. CONFORMING may assist some reader to take action toward a higher purpose, and do so joyfully, even though it may not be easy.


Living Without

If you ever want to appreciate something, try living without it for awhile!

Recently I went 1 week without internet access (except on my phone)... what a frustrating feeling of being disconnected!

More significantly, every time I travel or am away from my beautiful wife and children for several days, I am overcome by the sense of missing them, of anticipating seeing them, and when I finally do it is like a treasure. I a love to observe how quickly my children grow. My second youngest daughter is four. She told me yesterday about the movie "Monsters vs. Aliens" and she said, "that movie is hilarious Dad, you HAVE to see it!" Something about the way she said the word hilarious caught me off guard, and nearly brought me to my knees... my children are growing up!

Imagine a world where just a few of the things that are a part of your normal life are now GONE. What if you were suddenly forced to live without hot water, or heat in your house? Okay - those are pretty big ones. What about living without a Washer and Dryer? Would you hand-scrub and hang your clothes? Or are you simply confronted with the inconvenience and expense of heading to the Laundry? What if you had to go a week or two without your car, or a day without your cell phone! What if you couldn't reach your family and friends - anybody for a whole day, a month or a year?

The other day I went to traffic court - and plead guilty to a speeding ticket (10 over). While in the courtroom, I waited as the Judge met with about 10 individuals who had been in jail. Some for a few nights, and some for several months or even a year. As I observed these people, I felt something. I imagined what it must be like to be alone in there. This made me very uncomfortable.

This was an important opportunity for me to reflect on all of the things I am the most grateful for in life... and also think about all of the little things I would appreciate if faced with a similar circumstance: A hot meal, a car to drive, internet access, the ability to work to provide for my family, and I thought about each member of my family... all of the things I would miss most, along with all the things I plan to do as I continue to be a part of their lives.

There is a travesty in this principle! Why is it that many people get caught in the trap of taking things for granted? How is it that too often we must lose something in order to value and appreciate it as we should?

As I listened to the conversations these prisoners conducted with the Judge. Each one seemed to promise reform... convey to the judge a commitment to do better, and to be more. As I sat there... I could not help but wonder, "Am I any different?".

The answer is YES! I choose to be different.

As I reflected, I concluded that generally most people react similarly. Once we lose things, we start to appreciate them. In that way perhaps we are all alike. Most people are more worried about the things they don't have, than they are grateful for what they have. Here are two more important things I believe can set us apart from being caught in the trap:

1. TIME & DISCIPLINE (Patience). If I will choose - be WILLING to live without a luxury or comfort for a period of time, appreciating the value of it, and choosing to sacrifice it for today with the hope of finding even greater appreciation and more joy after the period of sacrifice, I AM different than someone who simply loses things and then regrets the loss.

When I cam home from living in Germany I bought a car I loved with the help of a friend. It was a nice car (in my opinion) but it had no CD player at all. I can remember being encouraged by several people to buy the CD player, get "A system" and deck it out - but I was willing to wait. I worked hard to save money and pay the car off. I saved much of my money to get a down payment on a condo, and buy my wife a wedding ring. Every purchase I made at that stage in my life was rewarding because I waited, worked, and truly considered each choice, and when I made a decision I made a decision based on value, and not immediate gratification.

Somehow and at some point, I regret to admit that I lost track of this character trait. I become egotistical, and had to HAVE to be happy, instead of being willing to work to BE happy within myself. Hidden in the negative pattern I am describing is the second secret to being different:

2. A GOAL GREATER THAN MYSELF. At the heart of MISSING something is a longing for something or someone that we seek for. What is it we seek? A car, more money, all of these luxuries, in their very nature SERVE ME.

What if instead of LONGING for, or SEEKING for a luxury, our seeking is focused on SERVICE, LOVE, PROVIDING. This simple shift is the difference between me working hard at my business to gain success and conquest, and working to PROVIDE. If providing is truly what I seek then when I accomplish it - I am filled with joy and satisfaction, instead of a desire to have MORE, MORE, and MORE conquest.

So the next question for me is SUSTAINING the correct goals. One of the most difficult things in the world is to SUSTAIN. I blogged about this topic last year when I wrote about REPETITION = GREATNESS. In that post I committed to write this blog. While I have come to realize that blogging SEVERAL times per week may not be in line with my priorities, I will continue to post... because that is the essence of SUSTAINING.

Perhaps the only thing I have learned relative to being able to sustain an effort, and keep it going is to have a GREATER PURPOSE IN LIFE. To set for ourselves a GOAL that fills every inch of our hearts and minds. For me the goal is clear... and big enough that despite any amount of adversity, the goal burns in my heart and moves me to walk toward it. Unfortunately, it took the collapse of the economy, and the subsequent collapse of my ego to recognize the importance of this goal that I had lost track of, or put on the back burner to my conquest... and to recognize some of the safeguards or habits that I either chose never to form because I believed myself too strong, or that falsely believed I could get by without.

In response to this post, please consider something that you take for granted, that living without would turn your entire world upside down... and commit NOT to take it for granted.

And go find that REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BIG GOAL that is the one thing you want most. And then, if you are serious about it, try LIVING WITHOUT something you love or enjoy for awhile until you progress toward your goal. My guess is that if you are unwilling to go without for awhile, either your goal is not really your goal, or you are not ready to do what it takes to achieve it.