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"One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular."He defines success as follows:
"My definition of success is to live your life in a way that causes you to feel a ton of pleasure and very little pain - and because of your lifestyle, have the people around you feel a lot more pleasure than they do pain."Such a hedonistic philosophy appeals to many seeking to live a more fulfilling life. Unfortunately, it is like trying to lose weight without a corresponding diet control. It is doing what one 'feels' right. It is one that pits pleasure against pain, and that negative things are to be avoided. However, what about the fallen nature of man? If one is able to unleash the power within, what about the sinful inclinations of a person? Can a person become so success-driven that morality takes a back seat? Success according to power, is based on one's hunger for a power-unleashed lifestyle.
"No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change."The focus of power and control is enthroned in the self. A successful person is defined as a person with great relationships. Appealing indeed, but insufficient in itself. It introduces another complicated dimension. "What is the meaning of good relationships?" Chances are, the definition has to do with some heavily motivated self-driven perspective.
Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success. Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have. (Zig ZiglarZiglar's books like See you at the Top, Top Performance: How to Develop Excellence in Yourself and Others, and Staying Up, Up, Up in a Down, Down World are popular because it reflects the inner desires of many people, especially in the prosperous societies. Like the pragmatic who believes: "If it works, do it," this kind of utilitarianism is driven from a maximal output perspective. Unfortunately, space at the 'top' is extremely limited. There can only be one US President at any one time. Even large corporations have only one CEO. There is only one Pope. Countries have only one head of state. What about the rest of the people? Granted, they will strive to reach the top of whatever situations they are in. Taken to an extreme, this appears to be a very cruel philosophy. It simply tries to pumps one's drive continuously, without enough consideration of where and who the person is made to be. Not everyone can be at the top. There will be lots at the bottom.
He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham." (Gen 24:!2)King Solomon asks for success in terms of wisdom to rule the people. God was pleased as a result. Joshua, who succeeded Moses was given this commandment with a promise:
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. " (Joshua 1:8)In the Old Testament Hebrew language, there are at least 7 different words to describe success. Many of them has to do with wisdom. Possessions are seldom the motivation for success. Daniel was given success in Babylon not because he wanted to be rich and famous. Instead he desired to be faithful to God. Another observation in the Hebrew rendition of success is that 6 out of 7 times, 'success' is a verb rather than a noun. This is insightful because it reveals that the essence of success is not in the achievement of things but an attainment of righteousness and wisdom that comes from a pure and sincere heart. It is the attitude of the heart that matters more in the biblical understanding of what success means. Matters pertaining to the soul are seen to be essential for living. Let me end with this story as a glimpse of success.
Once upon a time. There was a rich merchant who had four (4) wives.This story may seem fictional, but it drives home the point that we cannot place our hopes on things temporal but on things that are eternal.
He loved the 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to delicacies. He took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best.
He also loved the 3rd wife very much. He's very proud of her and always wanted to show off her to his friends. However, the merchant is always in great fear that she might run away with some other men.
He too, loved his 2nd wife. She is a very considerate person, always patient and in fact is the merchant's confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems, he always turned to his 2nd wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times.
Now, the merchant's 1st wife is a very loyal partner and has made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and business as well as taking care of the household. However, the merchant did not love the first wife and although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her.
One day, the merchant fell ill. Before long, he knew that he was going to die soon. He thought of his luxurious life and told himself, "Now I have 4 wives with me. But when I die, I'll be alone. How lonely I'll be!" Thus, he asked the 4th wife, "I loved you most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"
"No way!" replied the 4th wife and she walked away without another word.
The answer cut like a sharp knife right into the merchant's heart.
The sad merchant then asked the 3rd wife, "I have loved you so much for all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"
"No!" replied the 3rd wife. "Life is so good over here! I'm going to remarry when you die!" The merchant's heart sank and turned cold.
He then asked the 2nd wife, "I always turned to you for help and you've always helped me out. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?" "I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!" replied the 2nd wife. "At the very most, I can only send you to your grave." The answer came like a bolt of thunder and the merchant was devastated.
Then a voice called out: "I'll leave with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go." The merchant looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny, almost like she suffered from malnutrition.
Greatly grieved, the merchant said, "I should have taken much better care of you while I could have!"
Actually, we all have 4 wives in our lives. The 4th wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it'll leave us when we die.
Our 3rd wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, they all go to others.
The 2nd wife is our family and friends. No matter how close they had been there for us when we're alive, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.
The 1st wife is in fact our soul, often neglected in our pursuit of material wealth and sensual pleasure.
Guess what? It is actually the only thing that follows us wherever we go. Perhaps it's a good idea to cultivate and strengthen it now rather than to wait until we're on our deathbed to lament.
Material wealth is either a window through which we see God, or a mirror which we see ourselves.Indeed, the external things we have (and our attitude toward it), can be used to mirror our inner selves. It tells us how we are doing inside, exhibited by our attitudes toward possessing them.
“Long ago in ancient China, the king wanted to reward a loyal citizen. The king gave this simple man the right to mark out as much territory as he wished, and [said] that the area would be his. All he had to do was walk around, marking off the boundaries of his desired reward, and then return to the king to claim this land.While it is true that being rich can free one from the worries of poverty, one must be on the lookout that there is a terrible bondage that can make our hearts captive to the chains of greed and the bondage of covetousness. "Do not covet" is the last of the Ten Commandments, but perhaps the most effective wrapper to keep together all the other earlier commandments. We do not covet after other gods otherwise that will mean idolatry that will anger God. We should not covet a 7-day work week in the name of beating the competition, for that will erase that essential Sabbatical rest day. We do not covet after the attractiveness of worldly possessions, for that can easily lead to theft, murder, adultery, false testimony and anything else that does not belong to us. Covetousness is the cancer that spirals in uncontrolled growth and will never be satisfied until the entire body is brought down to its ultimate death. It has been said that a cancerous cell is one which seeks to draw all attention to itself, where growth is never controlled, and where the purpose of a cancerous molecule is to consume limitlessly and grow at the expense of others. Nash and Stevenson observe and were themselves 'discouraged' by the consistent failures of people who have attained the societal's definition of worldly successes. They prescribe the following:
“The man set out, and on the first day he walked three miles. As he turned back to the palace in the far distance, he changed his mind. Perhaps he’d need a bit more, maybe just as far as the eye could see. A week later, he had finished walking this distance. But what if there was a drought or flood? Wouldn’t it be better to mark out enough land for farming and fishing, and maybe a woods for hunting?
“It took him a year to complete all these goals. As he set off to return to the palace and complete the circle, he thought about his children. Would this be enough to pass on to them for 10 generations? Maybe they should have access to the ocean, in case they wanted to become shipping merchants. He walked further. By now he was quite tired, but on he went, inspired by the knowledge that each step was increasing his holdings.
“Ten years later, he began his journey back, an old and tired man. Just as he entered the palace, he dropped dead. He never realized the ambitions he had continually adjusted upward. His children had no land. He never enjoyed even a fraction of the good life he sought because of his bondage to ‘never enough.’”
Our model is absolutely counterintuitive to the advice that tells you the secret to success is passion and focus, focus, focus. Interestingly, research in complex decision making suggests that it is actually possible to reach a constructive sense of limitation more easily in a complex landscape than when you seek one big, far-off goal."" [Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson, Just Enough, (John Wiley 2004), x-xi]They have essentially two objectives. Firstly, they want to help one to handle 'legitimate performance difficulties' in today's business world. Secondly, and more importantly, they yearn to link such skills to something deeper in order to create an 'authentic view of success.' (xii) In other words, any forms of methodology or success can only last as long as its anchoring beliefs. The more solid the commitment to a lasting set of values, the more reliable and dependable are the methods and means to achieve success. In contrast to a world of greed and ambition, the Harvard professors advocate that once the evidence of success in terms of HAPPINESS, ACHIEVEMENT, SIGNIFICANCE and LEGACY are attained, the key is to be able to say "JUST ENOUGH." Embedded in such a belief is the cultivation of meaning and understanding what a satisfying activity looks like. Their model is summed up as follows:
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. (Ps 9:1)This is another reason to read and meditate on Psalms regularly. It takes a truly thankful heart in order to be able to express joy in gratitude for all the little things we have. Truly, a little feather held with an open palm of thankfulness is much more satisfying than a gigantic boulder grasped with two grappling arms of covetousness. The former feels free and willing to let go. The latter is worried about security and fear that others may come and steal one's property and belongings. Cultivate a thankfulness. The Chinese have a saying: "拿得起放得下, 会让你获益良多" (Willing to take up, willing to place down, brings great benefits). That is another way of saying how we need to learn to include "Enough" more frequently in our vocabulary of life. Let me conclude with one of Marva Dawn's insight:
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations. (Ps 57:9)
"How fettered is our hope by the plethora of goods we have and think we need, by the notion that we can fix problems if we just have enough stuff! How small is our picture of the Triune God manifested in Christ that we might think, under duress that He is not enough." (Marva Dawn, Unfettered Hope)Let the rich person with plenty cry out enough. Let the poor plead to be able to say, give me just enough. Let the Christian always be able to say: "Give me Christ. That is all I need for only in Christ, we can truly say: "I have enough." May the following be our prayer (Proverbs 30:7-9):
“Leadership is a relationship – a relationship in which one person seeks to influence the thoughts, behaviours, beliefs or values of another person.” (Walter C. Wright, Relational Leadership, Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2000, p2)Jesus builds relationships constantly. Whether he is doing his miraculous works, or rebuking wrong teachings, he is demonstrating leadership to people around, the onlooking spectators, his disciples and even his enemies. Jesus was popular with the poor, the needy, the marginalized and the outcasts of society. He was hugely unpopular with people in the higher echelons. Yet, Jesus is demonstrating leadership, in the midst of both positive and negative perceptions. That is a key thing. Leadership should be life-giving, based on truth-telling rather than popularity.
“We are coming to believe that leaders are those people who ‘walk ahead,’ people who are genuinely committed to deep change in themselves and in their organizations. They lead through developing new skills, capabilities, and understandings. And they come from many places within the organization.” (Peter Senge)I rose up this morning thinking about leadership and faith. As one who loves to conjure up creative acronyms, I came up with the following:
“The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.” (Warren Bennis, On Becoming the Leader, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1989, 45)Though Bennis compares the difference between the manager and the leader, I believe he is highlighting the essence of a leader rather than simply downplaying the importance of a manager. A leader is essentially one who does the right thing because he believes in that right thing. Having established a belief, he holds on to that value and live a life of faithfulness. If we believe strongly in the institution of marriage, should we not be faithful to our spouses? If we believe in the Trinity, should not community figure more prominently in our daily lives?
“A Christian leader is someone who is called by God to lead and possess virtuous character and effectively motivates, mobilizes resources and directs people toward the fulfillment of a jointly embraced vision from God.” (George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church, Nashville: Word, 1998, p107)Barna hits it rightly. A ‘jointly-embraced vision from God’ cuts across all ranks. Being inclusive means mobilizing all available resources, all people who catches the vision of God. We cannot exclude people based on any form of human-differentiated device.
“One of the first signs of an endangered leader is a decrease in his willingness to hear and learn from the experiences of others. Beware of this trap! Remember, fifth-rung experiences come from God, not your own superior abilities or character. Protection and direction come from listening, hearing and aligning with the truth others have to tell us.” (Thrall et al, The Ascent of the Leader, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999, p154)That is a wonderful reminder that leaders do not stop growing and learning. They must remain teachable. That is a mark of a leader.
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader. ” (Max de Pree, Leadership is an Art, New York: Doubleday, 2004, p11)Max de Pree’s book is becoming one of the classics on leadership. It is a short book but long in valuable insights about leadership. It is also very Christian. The gospel writer Mark sees Jesus from the lens of a servant leader, one who is humble to come to serve and not to expect to be served.
“The great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his greatness.” (Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership, New York: Paulist, 1977, p7)I should end with a story from the desert fathers.
A brother went to find Abba Serapion. According to his custom, the old man invited him to say a prayer. But the other, calling himself a sinner and unworthy of the monastic habit, did not obey. Next Abba Serapion wanted to wash his feet, but using the same words again, the visitor prevented him. Then Abba Serapion made him eat and he began to eat with him. Then he admonished him saying, 'My son, if you want to make progress stay in your cell and pay attention to yourself and your manual work; going out is not so profitable for you as remaining at home.' When he heard these words the visitor was offended and his expression changed so much that the old man could not but notice it. So he said to him, 'UP to now you have called yourself a sinner and accused yourself of being unworthy to live, but when I admonished you lovingly, you were extremely put out. If you want to be humble, learn to bear generously what others unfairly inflict upon you and do not harbour empty words in your heart.' Hearing this, the brother asked the old man s forgiveness and went away greatly edified.