Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Success to Significance? Not A Message for Future Generations

Last week I was speaking with someone about the concept of “success to significance” and its associated terms. I was asked how I defined “success” within this idea. I thought about it and gave a long pause. I could only imagine if my wife was there and telling me to just give a simple answer or some of my friends telling me not to overanalyze and not to be a rabble-rouser.

I finally replied, “Sorry, I just don’t think within such a framework. Maybe I would say it’s more about influence and impact.”

After this afternoon chat, where we touched upon other topics, I came back to the idea of “success to significance” that evening. It had been several years since I read Bob Buford’s “Half Time.” It really didn’t speak to me back then and I realized even more so today. I’ve attended some conferences inspired by “Half Time” which primarily targeted very successful businessmen in their 50s and beyond, and gained a great amount of insight and inspiration. I was one of the thirty-something attendees blessed enough to attend and learn from those with more experience and wisdom from life.

The concept of “success to significance” does speaks well to successful business owners or Fortune 500 executives in their 50s and beyond, especially those who were consumed by their drive towards their goals of success. But the yearning question for me since that afternoon chat was, “Why is a successful life bifurcated?”

The big picture concept of “Half Time” is that there is the first half of life where people focus on achieving their successes and the second half where you can refocus (or recommit to God) on being significant in your life mission for God. This would typically translate into more time and commitment to church or some ministry. I don’t believe it was intentionally stated, but this transition lessens the significance of work.

In rereading “Half Time” this past week, I didn’t understand why these concepts couldn’t be applied to those in the “first half” of their lives. This bifurcation of church and work; business and nonprofit work; Sunday and the rest of the week are concepts I previously identified (“Cultural Cocktails: Biblical Faith and Work with a Splash of Eastern and Western Philosophies”) as fruits of dualism from Western philosophies and not a biblical perspective of living our lives. The idea of “success to significance” seems to be a continuation of dualism that is core to Western culture and which heavily influences the church in the U.S.

If I were to take a cynical viewpoint of this concept, I would say that it’s excusing successful people for placing God second or lower in their lives during their first half. In reality, I know that it does speak well to many, allows them to recommit their lives to God and creates an impact for God in many areas. But this is not a message or a model for a wider audience. This is not a concept to behold for future generations.

From the start of a career, people should constantly be seeking and praying for their calling whether a corporate career, tech entrepreneur, restaurant owner, physician, school teacher or missionary. This calling is a person’s ministry and sphere of influence. Not a means to a ministry, but how God will use you to reach others. People should be constantly defining their life’s mission and aligning their goals with God’s goals for their lives.

A few years ago my parents successfully sold their coffee chain, took a year off to travel, and began praying about their next business. My mother is definitely a person that wants to work until she passes. Both of them want to stay active, but they were patient about their next business and really wanted God’s hand upon it. I remember them telling me that they regret not being truly committed to God as they worked hard, stressed out and sold their last business. They really wanted to commit everything to prayer and rely on God in all matters of their next business idea. My parents told me not to wait until I was in my fifties to realize this truth, but to really submit to God now and seek out his will. After hearing their earnestness, I heard and understood the regret in their voices. So it echoes within my heart as I write this and say to myself, “I don’t want to experience a half time in my life or to find significance in my faith after success. I want my faith to be integrated into the life I lead today.”

Originally published at InsideWork.

No comments: