Tag Archives: success

Self-Esteem: A Fast Track to Success – Or Not?

     cat-and-lion     Without self-esteem, we cannot have the kind of authentic self-confidence needed to drive our dreams and visions. But for all the talk about it, what really is “self-esteem” anyway? The dictionary defines it as “a liking and respect for oneself”. The problem is that achieving self-esteem seems to have been so over-emphasized in recent decades that, for many, it now qualifies as an end in itself. However, the fact is that self-esteem is a consequence of other actions, not a goal which can be realized independently.

     Self-esteem is not something that anyone can provide for another person. And yet that’s what our society has been trying to do for a long time. Trophies for participation, grades no lower than a B, promotions based on criteria other than performance, and “freebies” doled out right and left are all giving many people a sense of superiority for accomplishing very little, if anything. Unfortunately, the consequence of this mentality has not fostered success for people, but rather a sense of being entitled to success simply because one exists.

     The tragedy is that when people take no opportunity to earn success, then they likewise have no opportunity to respect or esteem themselves.

     While it’s true that self-esteem is necessary to possess the self-confidence we need to pursue our goals and visions, that only happens when a person has three things which, together, are the true recipe for self-esteem.

     First Thing: Accountability. First of all, before anything else, people need to learn that they are accountable for their own actions, and furthermore, that if they are not, then consequences will follow. Unfortunately, many in our society seem to feel that it’s “mean” to hold folks accountable for their behavior.

     I remember years ago when I was a know-nothing student teacher covering a study hall one day with a very large group of students who set out to take advantage of the know-nothing student teacher. (Talk about being thrown to the lions.) Two girls in particular went out of their way to be disruptive and rude and the more they were asked to stop, the more they laughed and cranked up the behavior. They didn’t think I could or would do anything about it. Unfortunately for them, I had been told by another teacher that if I had any problems with students, I could assign them a Saturday detention. Knowing this, I was nice enough even to warn the girls what their next Saturday might look like. Evidently, they didn’t believe me and pretty much dared me to go there. So I went there.

     It turns out that these two particular young ladies were members of the school’s ski club. And on Saturday that particular ski club was going skiing. None of my business. Until the school principal came to me with the girls in tow, explaining how sorry they were and that they would like very much to go on the ski trip. They even cried to prove the point.

     Now if their behavior hadn’t been so deliberately in-your-face, I’m sure I would’ve said some version of no harm, no foul; have a good time. However, that not being the case – at all – I said no, that they needed to serve their time. I was looking down the road at what they would learn if they were sent merrily up the ski slope: that their atrocious behavior held no consequence and that they would never be held accountable for it. Future consequences for bad behavior could, after all, be far more serious. Unfortunately for me, the principal did not see it my way. To the best of my recollection, he was not happy with me. He believed that it was more important that these girls have fun than that they learn accountability. The girls did serve their time and I’m pretty certain that, to this day, they have not forgotten the experience. I like to think that once they had children of their own (it happened that long ago), they would’ve seen the situation in a different light. At least I hope.

     Second Thing: Responsibility. In order to foster a sense of self-esteem, a person needs sole responsibility for a job, a chore or an assignment of some kind. It is this kind of responsibility which gives a person a chance to earn success through hard work, problem-solving, right choices, overcoming challenges to motivation, and perseverance.

     It is that success in the midst of challenges that fosters self-esteem.  

   But what if a person is not able to achieve success? What if she fails? The fact is that sometimes – especially if a person is not particularly trying to succeed – she needs to be allowed to fail. Sometimes the success lies in the dusting off and beginning again. It’s these situations which teach us that we have what it takes to persevere, and it’s that discovery which breeds self-esteem. However, if a person has someone continually rescuing them from failure or even from having to work hard, that discovery is never made.  A person who has no responsibility for anything cannot truly earn success, and it is that earned success which actually gives a person a sense of self-esteem.

     Third Thing: Acceptance. A person certainly needs the acceptance of others in order to have self-esteem; making him responsible for his own actions or for a job of some kind does not mean that he doesn’t need support. The challenge to others is for that support not to become enabling. But for a person to know that he is accepted for who he is and supported as he “tries his wings” is essential to a sense of self-esteem. If a person works his tail off and yet cannot find acceptance and support, he may come to believe that working longer and harder is the only path to acceptance. In the meantime, his developing sense of self-esteem becomes based on performance: he is only valuable for what he does and not for who he is. The good news to anyone suffering from a lack of acceptance and support is that we have a Father in heaven who is happy to provide those for us.

     If a person is continually rescued from disappointment and failure or simply allowed to quit when things get tough, he will develop a belief that that rescue or that “freebie” is owed to him. Furthermore, if he is not given a responsibility to hone his character, he will never experience success and so, deep down, will not esteem himself. Finally, if he does not have the healthy support of those he respects, he will conclude that his worth is only based on what he can produce.

     Sometimes we need to take an inventory of our own sense of self-esteem and ask ourselves one question: Is it helping us or hurting us?

 

Myth #33: “Fear of Success”

No Fear 2Have you ever heard someone say that they just can’t do “it” (whatever “it” is) because they’re being held back by “fear of success”?

Let’s face it – fear of failure is a thing; fear of proving you can’t do something is a thing; even fear of becoming successful and then losing it is a thing. But “fear of success”? Can I just be perfectly blunt about that?  There ain’t no such puppy.

Who’s afraid of success, really? Think about it. If you’re truly afraid of succeeding, then what’s the point of even trying? You might succeed. And that would scare you.

No, the fact is that people might be afraid of a couple of things connected with success – but not success itself.

Thing #1: Some people are afraid to try that thing they’d really love to try because – what if they can’t? That would be the end of the fantasy that “I could if I really wanted to – I just don’t want to. But I could . . .” We’ve all had those fantasies. And so we don’t try that thing because we don’t want to prove to ourselves (and everybody else) that we really are not capable of doing it.  Entering that contest, starting that diet, trying out for that team . .

Actually, I see this type of thing with students all the time. “I can’t write,” “I can’t do math,” and – everybody’s favorite – “I can’t give that speech!” (meaning “if you make me, I won’t just fail, I’ll die”).  So because they believe they can’t, they simply won’t – and they’ll fight you not to have to try.

Is it okay to mention that trying won’t kill you?

Sure, you might be embarrassed – who hasn’t been? But what will kill you in the end is regret – regret that you never did try.

Thing #2: Some people are afraid of achieving success – and then losing it.

“What if I’m successful and then I’m not good enough? Or I can’t maintain it? Or . . .”

You start that business and it’s going well. Success! But then, well, not so well. Or you apply to that college and get accepted. Success! But then you fail some courses, or run out of money, or even flunk out entirely. Or you actually start a relationship with that cute girl or guy. Success! But then it crashes and burns . . .

That’s not fear of success, that’s fear of losing success. But it’s truly true what they say: “You win some and you lose some.” And sometimes you win some and then lose. It happens. Don’t let the fear of it hold you back.

Thing #3: Fear of imperfection. That’s right. What if you can’t do “it” perfectly the first time you try?? OMG!

Seriously, some people get stuck on this. Again – I have students who will try once (if they try at all) and if it doesn’t work perfectly, game over. Period.

I used to have this problem and sometimes still do. But I didn’t realize it for the longest time until I had a student who would pitch a royal fit, swearing and throwing things, if he couldn’t do something flawlessly the very first time he tried it. And in the middle of his rant, he would yell, “I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid!!!” 

That’s the day I realized why I got so upset when I couldn’t do something perfectly the first time: I felt really stupid; I felt as though there was something actually wrong with me.  I personalized my failure instead of simply chalking it up to “just not my thing; I guess I’ll have to work at this one.”

Frequently, I have students who hate to write because they find it hard and so they have this mistaken idea that if they were any good at it, it would be easy. So I get out my notebooks and show them how much writing and re­-writing I have to do before I get a story or an article right. It’s true. Writers write – and re-write. Musicians practice and then practice some more (except for Beethoven – he never practiced). Athletes work up to that 500lb weight or that four-minute mile or that 200th pull-up. No one ever starts out doing “it” perfectly. And that’s okay.

The bottom line is this: before you can achieve your dreams and fulfill your destiny, you have to face your fears. And before you can face those fears, you have to identify what they really are. If nothing else, remember this: your failures are not a reflection of who you are. They’re simply an indication of what you need to work harder at doing. That’s all. And if anyone ever tells you anything different, just tell them they need more work on their social skills.

The only real failure is never trying.

No Seed, No Harvest.

    Empty FieldOne of the most important principles of success in life is that of “seed”. To make the point, I’d like to share a picture the Lord once gave me. 

     In the pic, I saw a man standing in a field that had been plowed and had rows of fertile black soil.  The man was looking at the field and it was clear that he was waiting for growth to appear.  However, the problem was that no seeds had been planted.  The man was waiting for something to occur which would never happen. 

A field that has not been planted with seed cannot yield a crop.

     I asked the Lord what the scene meant and He showed me that the man represented many people who are waiting for a harvest in some area but have planted no seed.  He emphasized that “seed” doesn’t just mean money as we often hear it referred to by people encouraging others to “sow seed” for a “financial harvest;” rather there are many other kinds of seed in the spiritual realm exactly as there are in the physical realm.  And when we sow seed in a particular area, we reap a harvest in that same area.   This is a fact that has its source in the principle that God established at the creation of the earth when He decreed that plants, trees, and flowers would “multiply after their own kind.”  This means that maple tree seeds reproduce as maple trees, watermelon seeds reproduce as watermelon, and sunflower seeds reproduce as sunflowers.  In other words, grape seeds don’t produce lima beans nor do acorns produce daffodils.

     In the spiritual realm, then, this means that if we’d like a “harvest” in a particular area, it would be a good idea to plant seed in that area.  And this principle applies to everyone, not just Christians. While I refer to “sowing and reaping” as a “biblical” principle, it works whether a person is a Christian or not. Every day you can find examples of people who are not Christians and yet, because they’ve sowed good seed in a particular area, they’re reaping a good harvest. In the same way, many Christians are still waiting for their harvests to come in because they haven’t planted any seed. Listen, Christian or not, if I want watermelons to grow in my garden, I need to get out there and plant watermelon seeds.

     I once heard a story about a lady who had grasped this principle in her quest to have a baby.  The woman had had many years of infertility, had been to many doctors, and had begun to lose hope that her prayers would ever be answered regarding having a child.  Then she learned about sowing seed in a specific area and so began to hold baby showers for, as she said, “every pregnant woman in my church.”   As a result, she did become pregnant – twice – and now has two beautiful children. The principle is clear: giving in any particular area – whether money, material resources, or actions of a particular kind – is one type of seed.  So, if we’re seeking salvation for a loved one, for example, we can sow seed by witnessing to others about Christ.

     Another type of seed is preparation: get ready for the harvest you’re asking for.  If you’re praying to get married, begin planning for a marriage: read books on developing a great marriage and begin putting aside items you’ll use once married.  If you’re praying for a job, make sure you’re ready for it when it comes.  Have child care lined up if necessary or get your work wardrobe in order, or whatever your preparation may require. Realize that a farmer doesn’t wait until after the harvest comes in to build the storehouses nor does a pregnant lady wait till the baby comes to buy diapers.  (That would be most unwise . . .) 

     Finally, a third type of seed is prayer: pray for others who are seeking the kind of harvest you are.  If you’re asking for healing, pray for others to be healed; if you’re asking for a promotion or an opportunity, pray for someone else who needs those things.  If you’re praying for – well, you get the idea.

     Seed is all around us and it is well within our power to plant some.  Just look around and see what it is that you can give, do, pray, or prepare for as you seek to sow seed.  And then don’t quit; realize that some seeds take longer than others to produce. Oak trees, for example, take a good deal longer than leaf lettuce.  So while you’re waiting, just keep watering your seed by praying for a harvest – a good harvest – just as you would keep watering and nurturing real seeds.  Don’t keep standing in an empty field any longer; plant the seeds of your dreams and do it today!

     Remember – it’s a biblical principle.  It can’t not work.

It’s Time to Cast Your Net.

Casting NetsLynn had failed over and over. Not once or twice but multiple times she’d pitched her business idea to investors and each time was rejected. To say she was disappointed is hardly an exaggeration. All Lynn had ever wanted to do was to open her own business so she took business courses, researched different opportunities, and developed a business plan.  

Lynn believed!

But no one else did. Finally, after several years of trying to secure funding and failing, Lynn quit.  She was heartbroken.  It was the death of a life-long dream. Until one day when, out of the blue, the Lord said to her,

 “Now go out where it is deeper and cast your nets.”

“Who? Me?” Lynn responded, somewhat bewildered.

“Yes, you,” said the Lord.

“But Lord,” answered Lynn, “I’ve worked for many years searching for investors and failing. But, if you say so, I’ll try again.”

So Lynn set out once more to find investors for her company except that this time, she sought bigger, more lucrative investors. After all, the Lord had instructed her to fish in deeper waters.

The next day, Lynn got a “bite” from an investor saying he was definitely interested in Lynn’s company and suggested even more money than Lynn had sought. Not only that, but two other investors had heard about Lynn’s business and were interested in investing as well.  In the end, Lynn ended up with two investors and her business – Chinese restaurant trucks (just like ice cream trucks except with egg rolls, General Tao and chopsticks) was a huge success!

So okay, yes – this is the same situation in which Jesus directed Peter to “’go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish.’”

Peter, at first though, isn’t so sure. He responds, “’Master, we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing.’”  Then he adds, “’but at Your word, we’ll try again.’”  The story ends with Peter’s nets so full they began to tear (Luke 5:4-6).

What’s it all mean?

First, the Lord tells Peter to “’let down your nets’”. Note that God didn’t just drop the fish from the sky (although I hear that’s been known to happen).  Rather Pete had to work for it.  The take-away here is that God loves to co-labor with us; He doesn’t want to do “it” alone (whatever “it” is) nor does He want us to have to do it alone. He wants to have partners.

Moreover, sometimes the Lord may tell us to go “deeper”. While “going deeper” can have many applications, in the sense of fulfilling a vision or destiny, it means to seek larger territory, more impactful opportunity – to go big!  At the same time, going deeper, seeking bigger things, might be a bit scarier and require more faith.  However, the risk of “going deeper” did pay off for Peter.

Then there’s the timing. Apparently, in Peter’s day, nighttime was the accepted time to fish (idk) but Jesus instructed him to fish at a time that others might’ve questioned – even ridiculed.  Often God will instruct us to do something in the off-season or during a time that just seems wrong.  However, He’s in touch with all of the logistics of a situation and we are not.

Finally, notice that Jesus says to Peter, “’Now go out . . .’” When God says “now,” it’s best to move.  Considering that God often saves the “now”s until we don’t expect them, it never hurts to be prepared. (The virgins and their lamps come to mind . . .)

So – even if you’ve been through a long season of “try and fail, try and fail,” it may be that that season is about to end. After all, fishermen are supposed to be successful at fishing and you are supposed to be successful at whatever you’re called to be – or God wouldn’t have called you to be that, would He?

So get ready to cast your nets. Get ready to go deeper.

“The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

Green LightHave you ever wanted to follow a dream so you asked God about it – and then waited? And waited. And waited.  There was no angel Gabriel appearing with a message in the dead of night.  God didn’t give you a prophetic word – even though you hit 7.5 prophetic meetings (you know you did).  And then there was the fleece: you said something like, “Okay, God, if the sun rises tomorrow, I’ll know You’re saying ‘yes,’ and if it doesn’t, it’s a ‘no’.  Got it.”  And then the sun didn’t rise so you kept asking because that wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

Ever been there?

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had three servants to whom he announced that he would be going away for an extended period of time. But before leaving, the master gave each of the servants talents ($) to invest, saying that when he came back, he would expect to see a return on his investment.  Then he gave a different number of talents to each servant according to his abilities.  But it’s not the number of talents that’s important; the way the servants invested them is the point.

The key thing in this parable is that the master distributed the talents – and then left. The servants weren’t able to call him on his cell or message him or email him to ask what they should do.  The master gave them the freedom to do whatever they thought was best with their talents – as long as the results benefited his kingdom.  So what did they do?  The best they knew how to do.

Except for one of them.

When the master returned, he was pleased to find that two of the servants had invested their talents and produced a return. But the third had not; he’d simply hidden his talent and then handed it back.  The master, not pleased, asked him why.  The man’s response?  “I was afraid.”  Unfortunately for him, that was not an acceptable excuse to the master.

Want a message from God?  He’d much rather have you try and fail than never to try at all.

As Pastor Andrew put it, “The light is green until it’s red.”

In other words, go.

The fact is that God wants us to move forward and if we’re headed in the wrong direction, He’ll throw up the road block or close a door (or something). Recently, I had an interesting experience to prove that very point.

Last week, I decided I wanted to take a reputable on-line writing course but it was a little pricey. S0 – should I or shouldn’t I?  I checked in with the Lord (in case He had any thoughts on the matter) but really didn’t hear anything and registration was about to close.  So I made an executive decision: believing the course to be a benefit, I registered and paid for it.  By the next morning, however, I still hadn’t received any links to the course or even a receipt for payment, so I emailed the folks in charge and asked about it.  Someone emailed back, saying that they had no record of my registration or payment.

Red light.

Though they invited me to re-register, I took the hint from the Lord and decided that now was evidently not the time. I believe I probably will take the course at some point but, in the meantime, I keep moving.  As Pastor Paul Wagner used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”

“But,” you argue, “what if I try and fail?” You probably will.  Everybody does (it builds character).  But then you get back up and try again. 

Over the years, I’ve seen people move forward and follow their dreams – regardless of failure. My family once moved to another state after my father retired from the military because he’d had a job offer.  However, it didn’t work out and we moved back to NY.  No harm, no foul.  I tried a business one time and discovered it really wasn’t what I thought it would be and while I lost some money in the process, it was an “acceptable loss.”

The “acceptable loss” principle is huge when making a big decision and can often make clear whether you should move forward with a dream or not.

An “acceptable loss” is simply an assessment of what, if anything, you can afford to lose if a situation doesn’t work out. For example, if you invest money in a dream, is it an amount you can afford to lose if it doesn’t happen?  If not, then don’t do it.  If you take a new job, are its requirements something you can deliver?  If not, red light.  I once turned down a job because I found out that it would require evenings and weekends (as well as days) and with a baby and a toddler at home, I decided that their well-being was not an acceptable risk.

Red light.

What college should you go to? Any one you want – if you can afford it.  Don’t risk going to a college where you’ll rack up 100K in debt for a major that won’t allow you to make enough to pay that debt.  Not an acceptable risk.

Should you marry a particular person? Not without considering Biblical principles such as being equally yoked and seeking wise counsel.  And if you consider marriage an “acceptable risk” (meaning divorce is an option), then that’s a red light.  A really bright one. Continue reading “The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

Fear Not. Dream.

If Your Dreams Don't Scare You . . .    

      Recently, I had a conversation with some friends and we discussed our dreams: What were the things that we hoped and dreamed we’d accomplish some day?  What did we really believe we were called to do? What were our secret hearts’ desires?

     As we chatted, it became clear that every one of us- and there were about a dozen – had a dream.  And they varied.  Some were as big as to start a company which would assist churches in starting their own businesses in order to become financially independent to another who wanted to produce a worship and CD to another whose heart’s desire was to become a wife and mother. Others included a woman who dreamed of building a house that could be used as a retreat center for others and a man who wanted to return to school and become a minister. My dream? To write thriller-type novels with spiritual warfare and political themes.

     Despite our dreams, however, there was one common thread – well, two, actually: doubt and fear.

     Now we all know that we’re not supposed to have any of that.  And sometimes we talk a good game.  But the fact of the matter is that doubt and fear come in all shapes and sizes:  “What if I can’t get the education I need to become __________ ?” (Fill in the blank.)  “What if people laugh when I try to  ___________?”  “What if I don’t have the money I need to accomplish ___________?”  “What if I’m not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, influential enough, talented enough????”  What if?  WHAT IF??  WHAAAAAT IFFFFFF????

     “What if I try – and fail . . . ?” Continue reading Fear Not. Dream.