Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Blaine, Inc.

Years ago when I was a sales manager I had to deal with a lot of problems that my team would present to me. Most of the problems brought to my attention were from sales reps who were not meeting their goals. No surprise there; salespeople who are doing well are usually the first to claim all credit for their accomplishments, while those who are not are quick to shift the blame away from themselves.

What was most frustrating to me, however, was that the majority of the “problems” that were used to explain away sub-par performance were also things that I could do absolutely nothing about, anymore than I could change the color of the sky.

“See, it’s that blue sky, Blaine. It’s killing me. I need the sky to be green.”

“But the sky is blue. I can’t do anything about that.”

“Yeah, I know. But if it was green; man, I’d be rocking. You’d see some sales then.”

In my efforts over the years to coach, mentor, & encourage, I came across an article that I shared with my sales team called “Ten Things Successful People Know That You Don’t”, by Marta Kagan.

I’m not sure how much of an impact it had with them (sometimes we only want the excuses, not the solutions), but I liked the bluntness of the article, especially the very first thing on the list:

You are the CEO of your own life.
You are completely responsible for the level of success that you experience personally and professionally. You are equally responsible for the lack thereof. Your success will be defined by the vision you create and the choices that you make to support it. There may be no such thing as "control" in this world, but there certainly is "responsibility." Take responsibility for your actions, your choices, your future.

You are the CEO of you own life. I’ve never forgotten that. I have, however, had to give it some additional thought in the years since I first read it, because although it’s easy to see how that statement fits into the secular world, I couldn’t help but wonder if it also fit into a Christian one. After all, if I’m the one in charge, where does that put God?

What I discovered is that not only does that statement fit into a Christian worldview, it actually applies to Christians even more than those who don’t believe in God at all.

There a lot of similarities between us and the CEO of a company. For instance, most CEO’s (not all, but most) have been placed in charge of an entity that they themselves did not create. They didn’t start the company, but they have been selected to run it.

I too, have been placed in charge of something that I did not create. My body, my mind, my soul; all of these things that make up “Blaine, Inc.” were created by God, not me. I’m not sure why God did that, but I would suspect that He had a reason.

A CEO makes decisions and sets the course for his company. What they’ll do, where they’ll do it, who they’ll do it with, etc. I too make those very same decisions about my own life, or at least, I have the opportunity to make them myself, even if I sometimes shy away from them. And I know that I can make any decision I want and God will not interfere. He has never once stepped in and said, “I’m sorry Blaine, but I’m not going to let you do that.” If that isn't full decision making authority, I don’t know what is.

A CEO has to be prepared to deal with things he did not expect. Natural disasters, a downturn in the economy, labor disputes, new regulations, a competitor that didn’t exist the year before; maybe even a new technology that will make his entire product line obsolete.

When these things happen, no one wants to hear an excuse from the CEO. People want to know what kind of forethought the CEO had done ahead of time, what contingency plans were put in place, or, at the very least, they want to see how his leadership will pull the company past whatever obstacle they are currently facing.

We too, have to deal with the unexpected. The death of a loved one. The loss of a job. A tree falling on the house. A bad car transmission. But this is also where we as individuals really do a pretty bad job of being a CEO, because how often do we face these problems and push through them, and how often do we instead embrace the excuse, pity ourselves, raise the white flag, and lament about what might have been?

If only my parents had been rich. If only I could have gone to college. If only I hadn’t married so young. If only the sky were green . . .

I would suggest that if we ran a company the way most of us run our own lives, we would have been fired a long time ago.

A CEO has customers that he must please. So do I. I have a wife and children. I have friends and family. People I work with, people in my community, people in my church. All of them depend on me to do certain things. When I am successful, they benefit, and when I fail, they suffer. It’s just that simple.

A CEO has shareholders. Ah, yes, shareholders. Thousands and thousands of shareholders who are the real owners of the company and who all have a vested interest in how well the CEO is running this company that they own.

I don’t have thousands of shareholders; I just have one. I may be the guy running Blaine, Inc., but make no mistake, God owns the company, and I have to believe that like any other shareholder, He too is also very interested in what I’m doing with it.

Finally, a CEO has to make a report. Every quarter he has to get on the phone with his shareholders and tell them how well the company did, and what the company will be doing in the next 3 months.

We too, also have a report to make to our shareholder, but this is where the similarities between an earthly CEO and us as individuals start to break down, because we only get to make one. There will be no “next quarter”. We will not have the opportunity to say, “Well God, you know it was tough down there, and I know I wasted a lot of opportunities, but I’ll tell you, I got a whole new plan this time. This time it will be different.”

It’s not going to happen.

I don’t know how Judgment works. I know that as a Christian – as someone who has accepted Christ as his savior – a place has been reserved for me in Heaven when I leave this earth. The Bible is very clear about that. There is no fine print. As for everything else? Well, I just don’t know.

But I do know this: On that day when I’m standing before God with my whole life spread out before Him, and all of the good things I’ve ever done are displayed on Table #1, and all of the bad things I’ve done are stacked up on Tables 2 through 67, I have to tell you, I sure would like there to be something worthwhile on Table #1. Something that would show God that, however much of my life I may have squandered, His investment in me was not a complete waste of His time.

You are the CEO of you own life. What have you done with it so far? More importantly, what are you going to do with it in the time that you have left?

One life. One report.

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