Monday, April 13, 2009

Success Redefined

Whenever we think about innovation, our minds immediately turn to success. We imagine the moment when our idea sees the light of day and the world is changed - or at least something is changed. That is what drives innovation.

But how is success defined? In our individualistic culture, we define success very much as a person's perseverance against the odds to engage a problem and find a solution. In Malcom Gladwell's most recent book, Outliers, he helps dispel this idea of success and instead paints a picture that is much more real. He shows how opportunities, culture, tradition and community make success possible. This is a huge lesson for us as missional innovators.

Here are some of the key takeaways:
1. Key Opportunities Make a Difference: Gladwell shows how Bill Gates, hockey players born in January and Italian immigrants in a specific Pennsylvania town had opportunities and surroundings that made success possible. Think about your world. What are the key opportunities that God has given you specifically? How will God use those to advance His kingdom?
2. 10,000 Hours: Gladwell shows that anyone who has broken down the barriers and succeeded has practiced for at least 10,000 hours. Whether they were a programmer, a musician or an athlete, there is something that happens when a person spends enough time on a certain activity. That proficiency is key. What are you good at? Are you spending enough time working at it? Or are you getting caught up in TV or other distractions?
3. Culture: Gladwell talks about how your Southern states view honor, how some countries view power and how Asians farm can impact success. Do you understand the culture that you live in? Are you aware of other cultures and observant about how you interact? Your heritage plays into your reality and impacts success.
4. Genius: Gladwell dispels the notion that genius alone equals success. He shows how other factors play into whether a genius will be successful. How are you using the skills and intelligence that God has given you?
Now one of the major factors that Gladwell doesn't address in success is the will and actions of our God as He works through us to accomplish His will. That doesn't mean that each of the things that Gladwell talks about aren't true. But it does mean that there is another factor out there for us to consider. When we are broken and surrendered to Jesus, He can use us in ways that go beyond our culture, our intellect, our opportunity and our investment in our skills.
As I read this book, I realized how complicated success is and why so few people achieve it. I also rejoiced knowing that the success in God's eyes is very different. Success in His world is judged based on sacrifice, surrender, humility, faith, hope and love.
So read this book. It is a powerful tool to help you see how earthly success happens. And then be thankful that beyond these real world rules is a God who works through us to innovate and birth new ideas.


Brian said...

Excellent post, Jon. I may not comment often, but I do read them. I filmed an interview with Gladwell last week in NYC, and they are both on Youtube in HD. Here's one of them:

He mentioned he's a speaker at Catalyst in Atlanta in October if you want to meet me there!


Jon and Mindy Hirst said...


Thank you for sharing these. I will post them for our group to check out.