Competition brings out the best and worst in us. How we compete is just as important as the outcome—in fact, likely more so. The ends do not justify the means. Nicholas Pearce in his book The Purpose Path says “The means are just as important as the ends, and some might go even so far as to say that the means are themselves the ends.” I could not agree more.
Pearce points out people who have done strange things in competition, revealing cracks in their character. In the 1980 Boston Marathon, Rosie Ruiz disappeared during the course, only to reappear later near the finish line. Lance Armstrong had all of his Tour de France championships revoked after it came out that he had taken steroids. And Pete Rose will likely never be included in the Baseball Hall of Fame because he had gambled on the outcome of games he coached.
But these scenarios remind us that competition is not about winning, as much as we make it about winning. But in God’s economy, that’s not the purpose of competition. As Nicholas Pearce said, the means are just as important as the ends. There is something larger at stake in the process of competing. In God’s eyes, here are three purposes of competition.
Are you a spider or an ant? Which insect do you resemble more? And which one do you aspire to be?
I’m not talking about whether you live in a web or an anthill. But we can learn a lot by observing these small creatures—especially about ourselves.
Here are three ways to evaluate how you operate in a professional setting based on observations of the spider and the ant.
When I was in sixth grade, I was pretty good at guessing. I couldn’t see the blackboard that well from where I sat, so I learned how to recognize the patterns of the letters and numbers. But when I was preparing to go to junior high, I thought it would be worth getting glasses so that I could see the board. I knew I would be at a new school with new kids I had never met before, so I figured that would be a good time to make the change and get new glasses. If I wanted to see the board, I realized I would have to make a change. I couldn’t expect to see the board without doing something different. As much as I didn’t want to have glasses, I wanted to be able to see the board more. So I was willing to make a change. Because new situations require new paradigms.
You will face similar situations in your life. You may not want to have to change, but you will feel the pain of not changing is greater than the discomfort of doing something different.
I tell my clients all the time that if you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you’ve always got. The thinking that brought you to where you are is not usually the thinking that will get you to where you want to go. You have to be willing to change the way that you think. Because new situations require new paradigms.
Based on the parable Jesus told in Luke 5:36-39, here are three ways people resist making changes in how they perceive things.
Here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where I live, we have horses on our property. But these horses are skittish. If you approach one of the horses by walking toward it, the horse will run away from you. It will think that you are a predator coming after it. In order to approach the horse, you cannot walk toward it directly. You have to walk like you’re going somewhere else, and approach the horse indirectly. If the horse thinks that it is the focus of your pursuit, you won’t be able to get to the horse. But if it thinks that you are pursuing something else, then you will be able to get to the horse.
That situation is like so many other things in life: You can’t focus on what your goal directly, or else your goal will prove elusive. You have to pursue something else in order to get to your ultimate goal. Because the goal is the pursuit, not the goal.
Here are three situations where you cannot focus on your destination, but instead you must focus on the journey.
You’ve heard the phrase “Opportunity never knocks twice.” But I take issue with that phrase. Opportunity doesn’t knock on your door. If you’re waiting in your house for opportunity to knock then you’ll never meet it when it’s walking down the street. And even Jesus would agree with that.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force (Matthew 11:12). For a long time I did not understand what that phrase meant. I thought it meant something about violent people trying to get into Heaven. But it doesn’t mean that. To understand what it means we have to look at that phrase in context and the flow of the entire passage, and we have to look at what the individual Greek words mean. If we do that, we see that the phrase has as much to do with this life as it does with the next life—because opportunity doesn’t knock.
In that passage, Jesus was explaining who John the Baptizer was. And he told them John was the “Elijah” prophesied hundreds of years earlier: the messenger in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Lord (Matthew 11:7-14; Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 4:5-6). And Jesus invited whoever had “ears to hear” to listen to what he said (Matthew 11:15). He invited anyone to process what he said, but he wasn’t going to make it plain to anyone who wasn’t willing to put forth the effort. Opportunity doesn’t knock.
If we break down the phrase about the kingdom of heaven, we see that “suffering violence” comes from the Greek word biazo which means to allow to be seized. And the word “violent” comes from the Greek word biastes which refers to someone who is forceful or energetic. And “take it by force” comes from the Greek word harpazo which means to seize. So if we put all that together, it means that the kingdom of heaven is to be seized and the energetic seize it. Opportunity doesn’t knock.
This spiritual principle has application in the natural. You can’t wait around for opportunity to knock. God doesn’t work that way, and life doesn’t work that way. You have to be willing to risk stepping out in faith. Here are three ways this applies to you.
The future workforce will be looking for something beyond a paycheck. Of course, they want to make money, but they don’t want to just make money. Today’s workforce is realizing that there is more to life than money, and you as a leader need to know what they are looking for if you will be successful in attracting and retaining top talent.
The Millennial generation is doing the rest of the workforce a favor in bringing these concerns to light. But it’s not just the Millennials that have these concerns. Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas In their book, Dark Horse, explain that even successful and established people are looking at themselves and saying, “This is not who I truly am. There is more to me than this.”
In order for you to attract top talent to your company—and keep them engaged—it is important for you to know what the workforce is looking for. Here are three things the future workforce wants to find in a job or career they will pursue.
Several years ago, I oversaw some annual events for the organization I worked for. Sometimes several dozen people would attend, sometimes a smaller number. But regardless of the number of attendees, there were innumerable details that had to be coordinated. And to handle all those details, I turned to Beth. I knew as soon as I handed the event off to Beth, it was as good as done, because she came back to me only if she had questions. She handled every single detail with perfect ease. She could run an intimate event, a small conference, or even a large convention. That’s because she took ownership of whatever she was asked to do.
I remember the many phone conversations with Beth. I would ask her, “What do we need to do about this?” And she would inevitably say, “Already taken care of.” While still on the call, I would think of something else and ask, “Have you been able to deal with that?” And again, she would say, “I’ve already got it covered.”
Beth led by taking ownership of her role. She understood what was expected of her, and she expanded her role by thinking through everything that was involved with her responsibilities. As a result, her job was done well, and the organization benefited as well.
By being willing to pitch in and do what is necessary, you will become invaluable to everyone around you. You do not have to wait for someone else’s permission to take ownership of your situation. Your boss wants you to take charge of your job. Here are three specific actions you can focus on in your workplace to take ownership of your role.
Many years ago, I worked at an organization that had horrible morale. To make matters worse, my boss was oblivious and even indifferent to the workplace culture. Despite his lack of interest in the culture, he was open to my starting a weekly prayer meeting at the office.
I invited anyone and everyone on the staff to participate. I didn’t expect many people to join me, but Joe and Tom did. Sometimes only two of us showed up for prayer, but more often than not the three of us were there.
Long after we started praying together, Tom surprised me one day. He said, “I know the only reason that I have been able to make it through is because of our prayers.” He directly attributed that small prayer gathering to giving him the peace to survive the toxic work environment. Things at work didn’t seem to change that much. But Tom, Joe, and I were changed. And that helped to change the morale of the workplace—at least from our perspective.
Even if you are not the one in charge, you can make a difference—because you can choose to do something. If you are willing to put the needs of the team ahead of yourself, people will ultimately look to you as a leader—because you are already leading.
Here are three ways that you can improve morale even if you are not the boss.
Building the ark was a daunting task for Noah. With only his three sons to help him (Genesis 6:10; 7:13), he built a boat that was approximately 450-500 feet long, 75-85 feet wide, and 45-50 feet tall. Using the tools available at the time, this feat could have taken him 120 years (Genesis 6:3). During those 120 years, Noah no doubt dealt with ridicule from his neighbors. The people around him would have thought it absurd that water might cover the whole earth. People likely laughed at the man building the big boat. Noah must have persevered with extraordinary dedication through the mocking and laughing to accomplish his task.
Noah had to prepare his mind to appreciate the significance of his work in order to complete it. The mindset you bring to your work significantly affects what you will get out of it. Kenman Wong and Scott Rae summarize this idea well in their book Business for the Common Good.
Our job may not feel like we are doing God‘s will, but how it feels to us and what it actually is may be two very different things. … Our work can well be our ministry [because ultimately we] all serve God full-time. … The term full-time ministry should be used to refer to one’s attitude toward service more than an arena of service. The term should describe an orientation toward serving God, rather than specific activities … that are deemed to be serving God.
Building a boat may not have seemed like a spiritual thing to do, but Noah’s dedication to that work honored God. Your dedication to your work—or your dedication to serving God through your work—is a spiritual decision you must make every day. You can choose to be dedicated to your work every day. Here are three things you can do each day to help you develop that dedication.
Many years ago I worked for a guy I’ll call Greg. Working with Greg was awkward. He badmouthed his boss in the office, but in public he spoke favorably about him. To outsiders, he seemed like a good team player, but those of us who worked for him knew otherwise. Then Greg got a promotion that gave him even greater autonomy. His role involved more travel and he had more opportunities to represent his boss and the organization. While he was competent at what he did, he still did not have a positive opinion of his boss.
One day, Greg’s opinions caught up to him. He was dismissed for disloyalty to his boss and to the organization. Despite getting caught, he did not express remorse over how he handled the situation. Instead he blamed his boss.
When Greg said disparaging things about his boss, it was less a statement about his boss and more a statement about himself. While he represented his boss he also represented himself, and what he said about his boss within the office reflected poorly on himself.
When you represent your boss, you also represent yourself. How you conduct yourself representing your employer says a lot about you. Perhaps you complain about your employer to others so that they will join you in complaining about their employers. At best, it drags you down to a lower level. At worst, it poisons your relationship with other people and damages your prospects at getting employed elsewhere.
It is up to you whether you change your attitude and choose to represent yourself and your employer in a way that honors both you and your company. No one can improve your attitude for you. You have to be the one who will decide to change your attitude.
Whether you deal directly with customers or not, you represent your employer to people in your sphere of influence. Here are three areas in which you should monitor your attitude to represent yourself and your organization well.