Today, the (in)famous business researcher Jim Collins came to speak at CSU as a gift to graduating business seniors like me. And one of the first things he did was pose a question to us on a topic I have been thinking *a lot* about lately. We’re all starting from roughly the same point, but in 30 years, we’re all going to be somewhere else, and there’s going to be a few of us that end up as the greats, and others of us that will be the comparisons. What will separate the greats from the comparisons?
This stopped me cold in my tracks because he was asking the same question I have been wrestling with for the last few months, but from a completely different angle.
Over the last few months, I have been startled with the realization that God seems to be primarily worried that we are moving too fast, not that we’re moving too slow. We want to do more, accomplish more, move faster. But God seems almost preoccupied in slowing us down. Yes, even when what we’re trying to accomplish is for Him.
Some Biblical examples of God’s meddling in and slowing down of human affairs includes the flood, the confusion at the tower of Babel, the mosaic law, and Jesus’ own life.
In the mosaic law, there was a sabbath every week where you are not permitted to work at all. Even the animals are to be given rest. Your fields must be rested every 7 years. And every 49 (7*7) years, there was a year of Jubilee where everything was reset, all the land returned to its original owners, slaves were freed, and pretty much all economic output was nil. (we have a similar concept, 10-20% of our workforce is unemployed, we still have economic output but it shrinks drastically, and ours happen every 5-10 years. It’s called a recession and is a point of pain, not a celebration. Oops. Personally I think the Year of Jubilee is a much better idea.) And Jesus was crucified because he wasn’t moving fast enough to take over as King. (and, 2,000 years later and counting, we continue to wait)
Why? Why is God so interested in slowing us down, having us move at what seems a glacial pace? Personally, I think there are several really good reasons, but the one I’m most interested in comes from Andy Stanley’s The Next Generation Leader. “Your talent and giftedness as a leader have the potential to take you farther than your character can sustain you.” (p.131) Andy goes on to explain that, for a driven leader, success is basically a question of when and not if, that success carries with it the great expectation of more success, and that if you’re not careful to develop your moral capacity ahead of time, your success will drive you to break the rules. In other words, your gifts and abilities have such great potential that you will quickly find yourself in situations where your mere force of will cannot stop you from doing what you should not do. Andy’s advice is to start working on your moral development now. And he’s absolutely right, but I feel like that’s incomplete.
Slow down. Take a sabbatical every week. Pray and devote daily. Get away every year. I like the way Rick Warren once put it: “Divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.” Slow down so that your progress never exceeds your moral development.
The answer I would give to Jim Collins’ question about what will separate the greats from the comparisons? I think the most striking thing will be what the greats didn’t do. The greats are the ones that will never take on more than they can handle, even if they aren’t sure at the time. The future greats are the ones that won’t spend all their time worrying about how much they should accomplish, they will worry what their success would do to themselves, their organizations, their followers, and most importantly of all, their families.
Greatness is achieved not by the things that you do, but by the things that you don’t do.