Pride Goes Before the Fall

Proverbs16:18

G.K. Chesterton once said, “If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.” In my opinion, pride is a major problem in today’s world.

Leadership author, John Maxwell, wrote a great article about this proverb a few years back, titled Pride Comes Before the FallIn it, he discusses how we are able to point to famous athletes, actors and businesspeople who are living examples of this proverb while others seem to thrive professionally in the midst of having big egos and pride:

Muhammad Ali’s brash egotism did not prevent him from triumphing in the boxing ring. Charlie Sheen’s sickening smugness may have burned relationships at CBS, but he has never been more popular, selling out several nationwide tour dates in a matter of minutes. The conceit of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been noted by competitors, colleagues, and friends alike, yet he ranks among the world’s wealthiest men.

What can be said, then, about pride? Is arrogance really as dangerous to leadership as some people would insist? On the surface, it seems that pride does not necessarily hinder success. However, I maintain that pride is every bit as destructive to the welfare of a leader as the ancient proverb forewarns.

Along with the propensity to see themselves as superior to others, Muhammad Ali, Charlie Sheen, and Larry Ellison share in common the attainment of enormous success. However, each also appears to have left a wake of destruction relationally. While their pride may not have cost them professionally, privately it seems to have taken a toll.

In its truest sense, success involves more than material wealth and career accomplishments. When considering the implications of pride, we must remember to see the whole picture. An individual may be standing atop the world with respect to a career, yet still fall to the deepest depths.

The opposite of pride is humility. Albert Einstein once said, “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” I know there have been situations in my life where I thought I knew everything only to find out very abruptly that I did not. And most of those times, I learned something new once I made the decision to humble myself and change my attitude.

We learn the most when we have an attitude of curiosity and openness and miss out on important lessons when we are too busy pretending to be know-it-alls. C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

Pride puts the focus on “me” instead of others. If you want to be a leader, you need to be a servant. True leadership starts with being willing to humble one’s self and serve other people.

How To Stop Worrying and Start Looking For Solutions

Do you spend more time worrying than you should? Recently, it seems like I’ve been running into a lot of worried people. Many about job security. Others about company revenues being down. Some are worried about reports from the media that say economic statistics may be pointing towards another potential recession. And, among others, is health.

While there are some things we can and should be worrying about, we need to look for the silver lining and make sure we are worrying about things that we actually have control over. It’s easy to get caught up in things happening externally, like the negative news in the media. The problem, though, is that many of the worries we experience are out of our control and, as a result, we waste much-needed energy on them.

If you worry is job security. This is something you can control. Same thing with your health. Instead of wasting much-needed energy worrying about these types of issues, how about we look for solutions. If you are in danger of losing your job, set personal goals that will lead to an improved performance. Up your sales goals, come in a half hour early, stay a half hour late, join a personal improvement class, join a networking group to expand your personal network. At the same time, improve your health by eating a well-balanced diet, joining a gym, exercising regularly and dropping alcohol and smoking.

Maybe you’re worried about the government’s actions. As someone extremely invested in politics, this is one area I struggle. I find myself, at times, getting worked up about politics. While you can speak to your local representative (or even run for office) to make your voice heard, in the grand scheme of things, there’s only so much one can do. Make your voice heard and do your part but don’t lose sleep over investments that you cannot directly control.

If the media and news is causing you to worry, while you cannot change the news, there is something you can do. Turn off the TV/Radio/Internet! Stop worrying because it is out of your control. Instead, put good things in your mind. Philippians 4:8 says this:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Instead of buying into the negative that closes your mind, fill your mind with positive. Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Your mind is like a parachute. It only works if it is open.” I see entrepreneurs and employees that, because of negative economic reports, allow the news to affect their jobs. By chance, all of a sudden, there are no opportunities out there. Look at the glass half full. When we are looking at the glass half full, we are looking for the opportunities, rather than feeling bad for ourselves.

I love the quote, “You can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution.” When we are worrying about things that are out of our control or not taking actions to fix worries that are, we are allowing ourselves to be part of the problem. Next time you find yourself worrying, ask yourself this: Is this something I can control? If so, take the necessary steps. If not, save your energy for the things you can control and start looking for solutions.

What types of worries do you have on a daily basis and what are some solutions?

Being Content With Your Station in Life

Proverbs 30:21–28

21 The earth shakes under three things; under four things it is not able to bear. 22 Under a court official that becomes king; and a fool that satisfies himself with bread. 23  Under a hated woman that is married; and a female slave that dispossesses her queen. 24 Four things are among the smallest things of the earth; and they are extremely wise. 25 The ants are a nation that is not strong, they still prepare their food in the summer. 26 The rock badgers are a nation that is not powerful, they still fashion their homes in the cliff. 27 There is no king for the locust, they all still march forth divided in groups. 28 The lizard is regularly caught by hands, but that animal is in the palaces of a king.

by Trevor Tarpinian

Are you familiar with Mickey Mouse’s performance as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” in Disney’s Fantasia? Do you remember the disastrous series of events that follow his attempt at playing sorcerer? Of course, Disney still manages to pull off its trademark happy ending (even to a Goethe poem!). No one can stay mad at Mickey Mouse. In fact, we might even sympathize with Mickey and applaud the cunning scheme that he devises to avoid doing his chores – until that terrible moment when he loses control. Everything falls apart because he was not yet ready to be the sorcerer or wield his power. Walt Disney saw the lesson to be learned in being discontent with one’s position or status, just as Goethe did centuries earlier, and the writer of Proverbs 30 before him.

Let’s observe a few select features of the passage:

Monarchies and empires in the ancient world operated by the divine right of kings. If God appointed a leader, anyone who usurped a king’s reign disrupted divine order. This explains David’s hesitancy to lay a hand on Saul, the “Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 24:6). Prov 30:22 highlights the upheaval caused by a servant’s usurpation of his king’s throne. The Hebrew word translated “servant,” might be better read as “court official” here (cf. Neh 2:10, 19; 1 Kings 1:47; 2 Kings 24:10; 25:24.1 ). If so, it paints an even more sinister picture of a trusted official betraying his king. In either case, it demonstrates gross disrespect for the divine appointment of a king.

The word for “fool” in v.22b is found elsewhere in the OT. In 2 Sam 3:33–34 it means “lawless one” and is parallel to “sons of wickedness.” In Isa 32:5, the “fool” parallels “the rogue” or scoundrel” and next in v.6 describes one who occupies himself with evil, practices ungodliness, and spreads heresy. Jer 17:11 describes this person as one who gains wealth by injustice. Psa 14:1 describes this person as a vile evildoer. Prov 17:21 and Job 30:8 demonstrate that this person is a disgrace and a dishonor to their kin and community, possibly even divested from an inheritance. Given this character profile, the “fool” deserves physical punishment, disinheritance, and death. His consumption of food runs contrary to this in two ways. First, it reflects society’s permissiveness toward the fool. His ability to eat well demonstrates that society rewards rather than ostracizes him. Second, his nourishment gives him sustenance to continue his evil.

Examples of the “hated woman” in Prov 20:23 occur in other OT passages. Gen 29:31, 33 refer to Jacob hating Leah. Deut 21:15, 17 describe a married woman who is despised in comparison to another wife. These texts refer to women that were already married and lends support to understanding the woman in Prov 30:23 as already married (so the NIV; contra the KJV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, NRSV). Since this despised wife is in harmful competition with another, more favored wife, the “earthshaking” feature of this line is unrest in the sphere of the family. It negatively demonstrates that God intends tranquility in the sphere of the family. Anxiety, disfavor, and competition – all symptoms of a despised wife – metaphorically shake the world’s fundamental social institution to its core.

The use of the number four in Prov 30:21 and 30:24 provides us introductions to two separate, but related proverbs. It helps us structure two units of thought that we can summarize in the following:

Unit 1 Summary: Prov 30:21–23 observe four things that turn the world upside. They run against the grain of God’s intended social order. Usurping power because of disloyalty (servant) or seduction (maidservant), especially among public figures, corrodes polity and society. Further, an evil “fool’s” provision attests to society’s permissiveness toward unjust gain. A disfavored wife shows distress and upheaval at the family level, a place in which God intended tranquility and safety.

Unit 2 Summary: In contrast to four social upheavals that can cause headlines and commotion in the world, Prov 30:24–28 show four creatures that unceremoniously demonstrate wisdom in overcoming their limitations. Ants and rock badgers accomplish their self-preservation by storing food and building fortified shelter respectively, despite being small or weak. Locusts overcome their bulk by acting in solidarity. Lizards, although vulnerable to capture, have the ability to find safe residence in palaces.

In our first proverb (vv.21–23), we observe four people that act out of dissatisfaction and profoundly disrupt social order as God has ordained it. In our second proverb (vv.24–28), we observe four ordinary but wise creatures in the natural order that seem to get by just fine with the resources at their disposal. What significance does Prov 30:21–28 have to your business practice? Let me offer some suggestions for implementing two principles from these proverbs:

  • Be respectful to the authorities in your realm of business because it helps maintain order and stability, especially for your clients.

Think your derisive comments about upper-management are inconsequential? You might set office precedent and subsequently become the object of similar hissing from your subordinates next week. If you are an independent professional who doesn’t report to anyone, think of how your attitude toward vendors, companies, regulators, and legislators might influence peers in your network of influence? A few words could sway them to change their business practices, ultimately affecting the products or services to their clients. Have you ever known better than an experienced superior, only to realize down the road how ignorant you must have sounded and how disastrous your ideas would have been if implemented? Consider writing one of these memories down (or better yet, submit it to FailDetroit) and reflecting on it the next time you’re dissatisfied with an authority. Their installation in a decision-making position might be harmful rather than orderly, but your involvement might be even worse.

  • Find contentment in the rhythm and cycle of your work.

We shouldn’t expect a 3,000 year old proverb to be any less counter-cultural. We value constant upgrading and upsizing – our meals, phones, computers, cars, houses, careers. We like novelty and change (unless it’s Mr. Obama’s variety). We get bored quickly and most of us find routine to be a threatening tedium. In fact, this may be an implicit motivation for the earth-shaking actions of 30:21–23. Yet the sage points to four unremarkable creatures and illustrates how easily they flourish within the confines of their “routine.” Consider the challenge employee retention poses for many companies. You feel under-appreciated, under-paid, under-challenged? So does everyone else. What would it mean for your retention if you could model contentment to your employees? We all experience burnout and boredom. We go through the motions in any job. How valuable would your experience be to your employees if you could share the tricks that got you through their position for eight years? You’ll never be able to share it if you haven’t done it. What message do you communicate to your colleagues and customers if you change jobs every three years? What does it tell them if you have established yourself in a single industry for two decades, despite recessions, markets swings, and legislative challenges? It doesn’t take a sage to know your clients want long term consistency and stability from the people with whom they work. Identify aspects of your work that offer you fulfillment. Use them to get yourself and others through the dry seasons so you can ensure long term benefits to your clients and yourself.

It could always be worse. You could be pointlessly carrying water buckets for a sorcerer.

Trevor Tarpinian is a financial representative for all things insurance at TFI Insurance & Benefits, a Michigan native, and a beer league hockey player. When he’s not watching the Detroit Red Wings, he’s helping professionals and business owners manage risk, minimize tax exposure, and strategize succession planning. You can contact him via e-mail at Trevor.t@tfiins.com or follow him on Twitter at @FerrisBueller66 (Personal) or @TFIInsuranceBen (Business).

1 So Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15–31, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 494.

Be a Diamond: Take the Road Less Traveled

Recently, I started a new exercise routine. While my goal for running is to run a 10k, my journey has begun with shorter distances in order to build up my endurance. After running these short distances for a few days and needing a new challenge, I decided it was time to bump up the distance. About halfway through my run that day, I started to hit a mental wall. The pain was coming on and I was trying to push through it in order to finish. Thankfully, I made the decision to keep going knowing full well that I would be happy I did in the end. And I was. It’s a great feeling knowing that you pushed yourself past what you mentally thought you could handle.

Out of my running that day came a leadership lesson. In our lives and in our careers, there are going to be periods of pain time. There are times when you just have to push through the pain. You don’t quit. You persevere. During these times of trials is when personal growth occurs which leads to new heights, new opportunities and, ultimately, the “potential you”. Toni Sorenson said this:

“Strength comes from struggle. When you learn to see your struggles as opportunities to become stronger, better, wiser, then your thinking shifts from “I can’t do this” to “I must do this.”

Successful people see opportunity where others see hard work and that is what sets them apart. Thomas Edison said, “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Too many people today want a handout and a free lunch. If we are going to reach our God-given potential and ultimately be successful, we have to be willing to dig in and persevere when it is least convenient.

Also, we have to learn to see the bigger picture. That requires us to think bigger. Thomas S. Monson said, “Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty.” I know this is easier said than done but what are your goals? What are your aspirations? If you give up and quit when the going gets tough, will you still have a chance of reaching those goals you have set for yourself? That’s something you have to answer for yourself.

Life is never going to be perfect or easy. We are going to go through professional, personal and maybe even physical pain moments. In our jobs, we are going to deal with a situation that is less than ideal. Furthermore, we’ll probably go through a hard personal situation at some point. And when these trials happen, the easy route to take is to quit. But remember this: there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just like diamonds are formed under extreme pressure, leaders are formed in challenging times.

Thomas Henry Hamblin said, “The world is divided into two classes of people: those who overcome life, and those who are overcome by life.” Life is going to have forks in the road. A barrier we may face is an example of a fork in the road and, in these pain times, we have a decision to make: we can go left or we can go right. As the poem suggests, my advice is to take the road less traveled.

How Our Thoughts Create Our Future

Proverbs 18:7

NIV- “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”

I’ve never understood why people kind of snicker when they hear someone talking about positive thinking and attempting to have a positive attitude. It’s as if striving to improve our lives is a bad thing.

I’d argue that those that accomplish the most in life 9 times out of 10 make an asserted effort to be positive. Think about the person you respect most in life. My guess is that that person doesn’t tell themselves or others that they will never accomplish anything. They probably have a lot of confidence in themselves and strive to maintain a positive attitude.

According to Norman Vincent Peale in his book, The Power of Positive Thinking:

“the words we speak have a direct and definite effect upon our thoughts. Thoughts create words, for words are the vehicles of ideas. But words also affect thoughts and help to condition if not to create attitudes. In fact, what often passes for thinking starts with talk.”

Think about if you’ve ever done this. In conversation with friends, you are talking about someone famous who has accomplished what most would consider something great in their life. I’m shocked at how often I hear people follow that up with this comment or something similar, “Must be nice. I’ll never be able to do anything like that.” And the conversation topic may be different but the follow-up comment is always similar. By making those comments, people subconsciously convince themselves verbally that they will be average and mediocre. A lot of times without even realizing it.

The majority of our lives (outside of sleeping) is spent talking to ourselves in our heads. Yet most of us, during this time, spend a large part of it subconsciously beating ourselves up and telling ourselves we won’t accomplish what God’s plan and His definition of success is for our lives. We probably rarely ever realize it.

You’ve probably heard this saying: “Your mind is like a parachute. It only works if it is open”. When we make negative comments, we close our minds. Because our minds aren’t open, they just assume what they’ve been told and don’t think any different. As a result, we stay mediocre and never truly accomplish the plan God has for our lives.

What lesson we can take from this?

The goal in life should be to live a life honoring of God and to accomplish what His calling and plan is for our lives. When we tear ourselves down verbally, we are actually counter-actively working against ourselves as we strive to accomplish that. If you are a person who finds yourself subconsciously negative, you can change that by changing your thoughts.

The following is another great Norman Vincent Peale quote:

“Watch your thoughts; They become words. Watch your words; They become deeds. Watch your deeds; They become habits. Watch your habits; They become character. Character is everything.”

Realize how important our minds are? If this is the progression, we need to first focus on changing our thoughts. Since we saw earlier that our words play a role in our thoughts, we can start by consciously changing the words we are speaking. Also, it is imperative we pay more attention to the types of things we put in our minds.

For example, what types of people are we spending time with and do their actions and words give us healthy thoughts? Also, are we reading the Bible and books authored by leaders we respect? Are we listening to podcasts that contain information that will make us better people?

I believe that verses like Proverbs 18:7 speak truth about how important and delicate our tongues and words are. Another favorite of mine is Proverbs 18:21 which says:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (NIV)

Going back to my post a few backs on the principle of sowing and reaping, our words are seeds and we need to think of them that way. If we want our thoughts and words to bear fruit throughout the progression, we need to plant carefully.