For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall (1 Pet 1:5-10).
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways (1 Cor 13:11).
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-8).
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man (Prov 6:6-11).
A while ago, a friend gave me the book Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller. This is a (very good) book about leadership. The book tells the story of a man named Blake, who takes a job as the new CEO of a heavily under-performing company and, to be able to meet the task of turning the company around, takes mentorship from a retired CEO.
Fairly early in the book, Mark Miller delivers a very simple principle, but one that drives home a tremendous point:
One of Blake’s VPs, John, doesn’t want to get on board with Blake’s plan for everyone to develop a personal growth plan. John says that he has years of experience and he just wants to do his job. Blake responds by laying this down, on page 52:
“If you’re not growing, it’s really just one year of experience repeated over and over again.”
What a phenomenal principle! And it exactly matches my own experience!
This is my tenth year on Chi Alpha staff. Until this year, I’ve always been a leader in the background, largely invisible. I’ve supported the guy up front; I’ve never been the guy up front.
But this year, I was made the director of the international ministry at Missouri State Chi Alpha. And, despite having nine years of experience, a Master of Divinity degree, and having tried to develop the skills for front-line leadership that I’ve wanted very badly, I find myself messing up in some simple leadership things. At times, I’ve had to ask myself: What have I been doing for nine years?
Don’t get me wrong: I knew I’d make mistakes. Every new leader makes mistakes. But these are mistakes in very simple matters. How on earth am I not ready for them?
I am not a natural leader. I’ve worked hard to get the skills I have, and I’m working even harder to get the skills I’ve failed to acquire thus far. Being the guy up front is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I was a lot less prepared than I thought I was.
And a big part of that is because I got comfortable being in the background. I have some ingrained habits from being in the back, which are poisonous to being in front.
Honestly, I’m very—very!—focused in the now. I set about the work that is before me, and I do it as well as I can, and I get it all done. I hang out with the people I see regularly around me.
Which means I’m naturally not very good at planning ahead and at keeping connected with people who aren’t around me. These are things I have to intentionally build into my schedule, or I just don’t think to do them. Because I’m busy doing everything I can with what’s and who’s before me.
So it’s no small wonder that I fell into the trap of not being prepared. I thought I was, but I didn’t pursue these skills as intentionally as I should have. And I—and my ministry—am paying for it now. Fortunately, I have some very forgiving people around me, and the Spirit of the Living God to guide me!
Do not make this mistake. Prepare yourself for the next step in your life. Grow!
“But I’m in college!” You might protest. “This is the very definition of preparing for the next step!”
Academically, yes. You are growing in your knowledge and the basic skills for the profession you want to go into. Absolutely.
But what about the rest?
Are you preparing yourself financially for the next step? Have you started putting money into savings? The earlier you start this, the more money you will have later, especially in retirement. Are you putting even $100 into a basic savings account every month?
Are you preparing yourself emotionally and mentally? Are you intentionally pursuing maturity and self-discipline, or are you hoping it just happens to you as you go through college? I mean, that’s what college is really about, right?
No. Not really. College just falls at a time when you’re supposed to be doing that anyway. You don’t have to go to college to become mature, and not everyone who passes college is mature.
Are you preparing yourself spiritually? Are you intentionally spending time with God every day?
And are you preparing yourself for your profession beyond just your courses? They teach you the basic skills, but what about the advanced skills? Are you finding part-time or even full-time entry-level jobs in your field? What about internships? What about finding a mentor in your field? And are you networking, making connections that will get you employed after college?
Ask yourself these things. Identify your next step. Set a goal that will take you towards that. Set up at least one action step that will take you towards that goal. Set a deadline for that action, by which you will have it done. And then share it with a partner.
You need to grow. Now, not later.