I think I would be safe in saying that most everybody wants to be successful—however they may define success. I’ve never met a person whose goal in life was to fail or to see themselves as a failure. 

My understanding of what success is and looks like has changed through the years. I love a song by country singer Alan Jackson called “The Older I Get.” In the song are these words: “It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff that makes you rich.“ 

From my observations and experience, it seems to me that success is often thought of in terms of:

  • Position
  • Power
  • Possessions

At this stage in  my life, I put a lot of stock in healthy relationship the Lord has placed in my life beginning with my wife Susan, then my four children and seven grandchildren. 

Bill Plaschke is a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, a paper we have delivered to our home. On Monday, May 23rd he wrote a piece about the Pasadena Marshall High women’s softball team which he titled, “Redefining what it means to win.” You might also call it “Redefining what it means to be successful.” 

I think it’s good from time to time to revisit my/your view, philosophy and working definition of what winning (being successful) in life is really  all about. This is especially true for Christian leaders, who often feel pressure from within and from without to produce, get results for their efforts—be successful, fruitful for the Kingdom.

Try this on for size: 

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” A well-known quotation in sports. It’s attributed to the UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell (Red) Sanders.

In Plaschke’s article there are two quotes (to contrast with Henry Russell Sander’s quote) which really got me thinking:

“It’s not about winning. It’s about forming bonds, creating friendships, growing together” Rosie Agdaian, senior pitcher

“Sports is about never giving up on your team, never quitting, no matter how hard you want to quit. Sports is all about winning? That’s as far from the truth as I can imagine.”  Maddie Stukel, junior catcher

Both these ladies are downplaying “winning” and playing up relationships.

A few facts about this softball team:

  1. They finished the current season with a 0-18 record
  2. They were outscored in the current season 294-32
  3. In the last three years they’ve won only one non-forfeited game

Their coach said, “They keep coming out because to them, togetherness is more important than winning.”

The last few words in Plaschke’s article are: “You’ll never guess who’s coming back. (Or maybe you will.) Everybody!”

Some thoughts:

  1. Winning/being successful is not the only thing, but neither is it nothing. No sports team has as a goal to lose, especially not to have a losing record year after year. Nor does any group, organization or business. But how are we understanding and defining winning/loosing  success/failure? This is where some serious reflection needs to take place. As leaders, Are we leading people with a biblical understanding of success or a corporate/business/worldly understanding?
  1. Relationships are more important than winning in the long run. We have all heard of and read about leaders who did some pretty awful stuff in order to “Win” at any cost which resulted in compromised integrity, fractured relationships, loss of spouse/children, and in some cases jail time.
  1. We all should desire to win (be successful) in what we are called and gifted to do, but we need to be very careful not to win at any cost, especially the cost of compromising our integrity and abusing and hurting people in the process.

I’d love to hear from YOU on this critical topic!