Be Faithful: There Are No Overnight Successes

Proverbs 28:19-20

NIV- “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”

On the news these days, I seem to hear more than ever about get-rich-quicks and the “next greatest thing/overnight success”. Having a network marketing background, I heard it way too often from others in that industry. In my four years in the industry, I came across businesses I couldn’t believe were even allowed to open their doors. I heard promises of riches in a month, two months and sometimes even sooner. Way too many today are looking for the easy way. Here’s a secret: there is no such thing. If you so choose to pursue the easy way, your prophecy is right above in Proverbs 28:19-20.

In today’s business world of Facebooks, Googles and Instagrams, it’s easy to imagine smooth journeys straight to overnight success. But how many people are truly overnight successes? A lot of times we see the success and celebration of “making it”, but we rarely see the journey that led them to that point. And more often than not, it is a story that is filled with countless setbacks, failures and crushing defeats.

It’s the journey, not the success that moves and inspires people. Why? Because people want to see evidence and proof that they can be great too. Nobody would want to listen to someone get up in front of an audience to tell their story if they had no setbacks and failures along the way. Can you imagine? Their story would consist of: “Well I built this business doing X, Y and Z and we had success right away. The end.” How boring…We want to hear what worked but we also want to know what didn’t work and how people responded to the trials along the way.

In business, you can expect failures to happen along the way. It’s part of your journey and, most importantly, it’s part of your story. As verse 20 above says, though, be faithful. If you are faithful in pursuing the seed and purpose that God has planted in your heart, as the verse goes on to say, you will be richly blessed.

A few friends and I recently launched a new project called Fail Detroit. The premise of  it is this, “We all fail. Learn from it.” Those 6 words are gold. In our business and careers, we are going to experience failures and mistakes that are painful and humiliating. Bank on it. The reason we started Fail Detroit is because of what is on the other side of those failures and setbacks. What would the world be like if Thomas Edison had stopped after failed attempt #9,234 to create the light bulb? What if James Dyson had quit before his completing his 5100 experiments that eventually led to his revolutionary vacuum cleaner? Get the picture?

It’s not just your personal success that is on the other side of perseverance and faithfulness. It’s your lasting impact and potential lasting legacy. I read this in a recent post by Josh Linkner:

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites in history, but struggled for a long time. Pinterest’s CEO recently said that they had “catastrophically small numbers” in their first year after launch and that if he had listened to popular startup advice he probably would have quit.”

As a result of their perseverance, Pinterest has now made (and continues to make) an enormous impact in several ways: creating jobs which adds to the economy, giving entrepreneurs and others with hobbies ways to showcase their products and talents and offering entertainment to those who get satisfaction out of “pinning”, just to name a few.

So next time you are going through a trial or a setback, think about what is potentially on the other side. If you refuse to quit, the world will be a better place as a result of you persevering and being faithful.

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Find Your Groove and Start Dancing

Proverbs 29:10

NIV- “The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.”

ESV- “Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.”

This verse in Proverbs is a warning that we, as Christians, must endure persecution if we choose to take up our cross and follow Christ. Persecution is promised all throughout the Bible. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

And how should we respond to persecution? Persecution is something we should wear with a badge of honor. Jesus says to “Rejoice” and “Be glad”. It’s proof that we are living for something greater than ourselves. But at the same time, we are told to love those that persecute us. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

If you truly believe that God has called you to do what you are doing, here’s the best way to respond to the persecution: Love your enemies that persecute you but combat the insults and curses by continuing to pursue what you have already begun pursuing.

In the same way, as entrepreneurs and innovators, those of us that step out in faith to follow God’s plan for our lives are going to get those tomatoes thrown at us. In a recent blog post, entrepreneur and writer, Josh Linkner, likens it to dancing and calls it “following your own groove”. I’m going to re-word that: God has planted a groove in our hearts. Our job is to figure out what that groove is and start dancing to it. Josh goes on to say this:

“Ever notice the people making the biggest impact in the world?  They are the first to be shunned.  When these rule-breakers emerge, they’re told to “get back in the line” and are pressured to comply with the “social norms.”

The heroes we celebrate, from the Beatles to Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison to Dr. King, were first laughed at and sharply criticized.  Thankfully, they didn’t waste the time or energy to care much about the onlookers pointing fingers.  The jealousy and fear of others didn’t strip these renegades of their vision; the world would certainly be a much duller place if it had.”

If we, as believers of Christ, make a decision to follow what His plan is for our lives, there are going to be naysayers. Sure, we’ll have some supporters but the naysayers tend to be the loudest. They’ll think we are crazy. They’ll probably tell all our friends about how we went off the deep end. Why? Because us stepping out in faith to do something great makes them feel uncomfortable. I love Mr. Linkner’s message later in the post:

“In your own pursuits, don’t validate those casting doubt and ostracizing your fresh approach to comfort their own selves. Focus every ounce of your energy on your art, and you will change the hearts and minds of those that lack the courage to dance their own dance.

The more original you are, the more friction you’ll notice (if you bother looking). So let the naysayers blend into the background while your unique rhythmic interpretation shines. Before long, they’ll be copying your moves and celebrating your creativity.”

So figure out what that groove is that God has planted in your heart. Enduring persecution from naysayers is part of the process. But, as Josh says, let them blend into the background. If you pursue and achieve the dream God has planted in your heart, eventually the naysayers will become your biggest supporters. So what are you waiting for? Start dancing.

Three Weaknesses to Avoid as Leaders

Proverbs 29:2

NIV- “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

MSG- “When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans.”

Have you ever had a boss that makes everyone groan when he enters the room? The type of boss that, in anticipation (and fear), forces people to grip their chairs in an effort to hold on for the potential roller coaster that may ensue. I’ve heard these types of people referred to as sunshine: the instant they leave the room, everything becomes brighter again. It is my prayer that I never turn into that leader.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with and for some very good leaders in my young business career, but no one is perfect. Every leader, including you and me, has his or her strengths and weaknesses. In my leadership training, I’ve learned that it is important to emulate the strengths of leaders we admire as well as learn from their weaknesses. In the end, as leaders, no matter how hard we work we will never be perfect. However, we will only be most effective if the strengths we have outweigh the weaknesses.

Recently, I came across an article titled Five Characteristics of Weak Leaders by one of my favorite leadership authors, Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In it, he tells of a book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals which gives an account of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. While Goodwin writes about Lincoln’s overall political genius and leadership abilities, his leadership was not always perfect. During the Civil War, Lincoln appointed General George McClellan to be commander of the “Army of the Potomac”. Later, McClellan would become first general-in-chief of the Union Army. Ultimately, this ended up being the wrong decision by Lincoln.

In the article, Hyatt points out five weaknesses McClellan had: he was hesitant in taking action, complained about the lack of resources, refused to take responsibility, abused his leadership position, and engaged in acts of subordination. Based on the examples Hyatt uses to demonstrate each of McClellan’s flaws, it is easy to understand why the Union Army performed so poorly under his leadership and why he ultimately lost his job.

These are all leadership traits we want to avoid as leaders. In my own personal career, here are three more I’ve experienced:

1. Lack of consistency

This is the leader I described above. They are a roller coaster. When you see them in the morning, you wonder what kind of mood you are going to have to deal with that day. Are they going to have a Monday attitude or a Friday attitude? A rainy day attitude or a sunny and 75 degree attitude? Not only is it difficult for the leader to be effective when lacking consistency, it makes their employees’ job very difficult due when having to constantly adjust to the roller coaster of moods the leader brings to work each day.

2. The overworked

This is the “old-school” leader. A character from a TV show that comes to mind is the dad in The Wonder Years, Jack Arnold. In the show, it seems like every episode he comes home from work exhausted because he is overworked. He can’t even enjoy dinner with his family because he is so worn out, overwhelmed and stressed. This is a heart-attack waiting to happen. God makes it clear that we need to give our all in everything we do when in 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says:

“So whether we eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)

However, it’s important to work hard but we need to play hard too. Being overworked is not healthy. We need to have balance in our lives.

On the other side of this trait, the overworked too often expect their employees to overwork. No one wants to work for a leader that overworks their employees.

3. Lack of integrity

This one is simple. A long time ago, I heard this quote, “If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. If you lose a friend, you’ve lost something. If you lose your word, you’ve lost everything.” Don’t ever lose your integrity. Two of our guiding values as leaders always need to be honesty and integrity. Leadership guru Brian Tracy said this, ”The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”

It is so important we learn from those like General McClellan in order to not repeat the missteps he took while in a leadership position. At the same time, it is also important we have self-awareness. Don’t fool yourself. We all have weaknesses. Focus most on your strengths but find out what the weaknesses are and work to minimize them.