BY MARTIN E. WILLOUGHBY, JR.
I have found in life you can be mentored by people you know personally, and also those who influence you through their writing and/or speaking. One of my “book mentors” early in life was Dr. John Maxwell. Maxwell was a pastor for many years before putting his full focus on developing leaders around the globe. He has sold more than 25 million books in 50 languages and his organizations have trained more than 5 million leaders. I had the pleasure recently of participating in a simulcast where Maxwell spoke live to audiences around the world.
What struck me was his passion and energy at age 68 for making a difference in the world. With his success in life he could easily just enjoy his golden years in a relaxed manner. Instead, he is focused on continuing to add value in people’s lives. He shares a lot of his motivation in his new book, Intentional Living, in which he challenges readers to consider a life of significance versus just success.
We live in a success driven culture. Whether in sports, academics, or business, we are encouraged to go for the gold and reach for the highest pillars of achievement. While there are certainly many worthy goals to achieve, it can certainly lead to extremes. My son Trey is quite a talented young athlete, but my wife Nicki and I find ourselves overwhelmed at the competitiveness and pressure to succeed in 9-year-old athletics. Have we gone mad!
Maxwell helps give perspective on the topic. He notes that success is about YOU, and significance is about OTHERS. He reminds us that the opportunity in life is to value, serve, and love other people. That is the path to a life of significance.
As I consider the life of Christ, I see a model of someone who was focused on others. He did not bask in the limelight and live for the praise of his followers. He did not force his viewpoint on others or seek fame and fortune. He owned nothing more than the clothes on his back. He sacrificed everything he had including His own life for those He loved. He acted with intention and purpose but not so he could be successful, but so he could be significant. He poured into the lives of the disciples who would change the world forever. He was the ultimate servant leader.
What does that mean for us? I believe we have to check our motives. Are we living for our selves or others? Are we seeking to serve or be served? Are we seeking comfort or to comfort the afflicted? Are we seeking praise and honor or to lift up other people? Are we seeking to build a fortune or give away a fortune? I think our brains are wired to look after Number 1 at the expense of others. In a world of scarcity, that certainly makes sense.
However, the irony is that a life spent focused on our own pleasure is a life ultimately of heartache and pain. It is only a life focused on serving others that actually brings joy and peace. It seems counterintuitive but anyone who has lived long enough will recognize this to be true.
We are not all going to write bestsellers or speak to thousands like Dr. Maxwell, but we do all have the ability to live intentional lives. We can either go with the current or be purposeful in our path. We can center our lives on how we are going to serve others to make this world a better place. This does not mean that we have to quit our jobs or move across the globe. It just means that we wake up and go about our normal daily lives asking a simple question—“Who can I serve today?”