In the Arena

Here we are again. The beginning of a new year and a time when good intentions and famous motivational quotes get dusted off and pulled out of the recesses of our minds to be put on display on our lips and the front of our t-shirts. We start new diaries and tell ourselves the same stories that we are telling everyone else. “This is the year.” “This year I’m going to do . . .” Then, come January 15th, or if we’re really ambitious, mid February and the quotes are put back in their rightful place among the dark, undusted, cobwebby shelves in our minds and are promptly replaced with excuses.

Such would-be business wizards as Bruce Judson in books like Go it Alone tell us just that – Go it alone. Hence the subtitle, The Secret of Building a Successful Business on Your Own. Those of us with entrepreneurial aspirations and inclinations get excited when we read such titles because it tells us that we already have what we need to be successful and to do something different. The only problem is, once the book is read and placed back on the shelf, the same things remain as before – questions marks and excuses.
In the church, it is not only in our theology and soteriology that we have become individualists, but also in our aspirations. If I can do it alone, I do not have to rely on others. This is where one of my favorite examples comes in. Imagine you want to make money flipping houses. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the term by now although those who have been doing it for a while loathe the term. Nonetheless, the idea is the same regardless of what one calls it: buy a house well under market value, rehab it, and resell it.
Ok, so, you have your house purchased and some money set aside for fixing it up. Here’s the question – do you fix it up yourself or do you hire someone else to do it? Most who are handy would say that the answer is obvious. Do the work yourself so that you can save the money on labor and make more profit. But is this really the right answer if your goal is to make money? If a side project to keep you busy after retirement is the object, then it’s the perfect answer. If you are looking to make money, however, you would definitely not want to do the work yourself. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? But it’s not.
The faster the house gets to market, the faster you can turn a profit. But how fast can you really get the work done by yourself? Ok, you’re decent with carpentry, but maybe a mediocre plumber or electrician at best? If someone else can do the job better, why not let them? If they can get the work done faster, that’s that much faster that you will not only get money in your pocket, but even get to start on another house – or if you’re really wanting to make money – have a couple of houses going at the same time.
Ok, ok, I’ll get to the point. There are ambitions that come out this time of year and ideas about how to achieve them. When we realize that the work is insurmountable for ourselves we set it aside only to be reminded again when we set the next year’s resolutions. This time, we actually have to start. After all, if nothing ever makes it past the idea stage, that’s all it will ever be – just another good idea. We know that we cannot change the world alone, but together, we can do great things. I think this is why Margaret Mead said “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” People. It’s what we need, what we have, and who we need to help. At IUCC that’s the business we’re in. Throw in some people from the community to team with us and let your imagine run wild for the amazing things that we can accomplish.
Since this is the season of cool quotes, I’ll leave you with one that you may have heard from me before:
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the [person] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends [him or herself] for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his/her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.    – Teddy Roosevelt
See you in the arena.

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