Monday, February 20, 2012

Winning Beats Losing III

When talking about winning or success, the assumption can be that it means that everything will always go right and mistakes cannot or will not be made. We think that those who succeed always got it right. This is a big misconception.

Failure must be embraced as part of the process of winning if we are to succeed at anything. As Captain Haddock says in the Tintin movie, “Don’t let your failures defeat you.” Unfortunately, fear of failure is one of the greatest obstacles to success. I know this is a fear I continue to struggle with.

I have always been competitive. As a kid, I had a friend who did much better in school than I did. (We are still good friends.) After every test and report card we would compare grades. He would always come out ahead. After a while I expected to lose to him and decided not to study as much as he did. In my mind, I thought, “I could get grades like Bres if I wanted to but I just choose to not study as much as he does.” The reality was I feared that even if I studied all out, I still wouldn’t do as well as Bres (short for Breslin – everybody was called by their last name. I was Corc.) In reality, Bres just had a better work ethic and I let the fear of failure defeat me.

Recently, I began writing a letter to myself at the instruction of my leadership coach. The letter was to list what I will achieve this year. The idea of the letter is that I could read it a year from now and celebrate the victories. Instead of writing assertively, I couched my words carefully to cushion myself for failure. I said things like, “I hope you will be at your ideal weight.” And “You should have spent time with your kids.” I did this instead of being assertive and saying, “You will have lost weight.” My letter reflected my fear of failure.

Seth Godin says, “If failure is not an option than neither is success.” If we are too afraid to positively assert our goals and try bold things that might not work, we will never be successful, we will not win. Winning by its nature means we have to risk losing. In sports, two teams or individuals compete knowing there is a possibility they may lose. It is that tension which brings a dynamism and drama to sporting events. The team that never steps on the field will never win a game or experience the thrill of winning.

If we are not risking failure, we aren’t trying. And to risk failure means we will fail at times. If we wish to win, we must embrace failure as part of the process of winning and success.

As a person who fears failure I return to Teddy Roosevelt to inspire me to get over fear. He said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or how the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Citizenship in a Republic

How do you overcome a fear of failure?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winning Beats Losing II

I have been thinking about my blog from Wednesday, February 8. In reflecting on it, I thought there were a few things I would like to add when it comes to our attitude and winning.

First, I would add that winning and succeeding and what that looks like will be different for different churches depending on their circumstances or context. A little church in a country town and its success looks much different than a church’s success in an affluent suburban town. If a person has a mountain of debt, winning and succeeding is going to look much different than someone who has a fully funded emergency fund.

Second, even though I like to win, I must add that sometimes I don’t like to do the things I know will make me successful. I choose self-defeating behaviors. I have been trying to lose weight in the New Year and get down to my ideal weight. When I started a 90 day plan to lose weight I planned to give up alcohol and coffee except for a few special occasions during that time. The special occasions have multiplied and I am not reaching my goals because I am choosing to drink coffee and alcohol. I am choosing self-defeating behaviors.
We all face times when we may say we want to win and succeed at something but don’t give our maximum effort or cheat ourselves. Sometimes we even subtly sabotage ourselves because we fear failure and if hold back in some way then we have an excuse for not making our goal. In those cases we have to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “You are the problem.” Losers blame their circumstances and others for failure. People who win are willing to take responsibility for their failures, including their fear of failure.

Third, I by no means want to play down the importance of grace when it comes to success and winning. We cannot succeed without grace. When it comes to getting to the next place as individuals or organizations, we need outside help. If we already had the capacity to get to the next level, we would be there. We need God’s grace that comes both mystically through prayer and the sacraments and very tangibly through the help of other people. Grace is available to those who chose to avail themselves of it. The choice is ours.

Fourth and last, I think we have to overcome a culture of losing. Individually that means overcoming a mentality that says, “I am always going to be broke. I am always going to be at this weight. I am never going to have a great relationship with my spouse or kids.” Many Catholic churches have developed a culture of mediocrity and losing. They say, “No one wants to come to Mass anymore. This next generation just isn’t interested in God.” These are excuses to fail that come from a culture of losing. The way we fight a losing mentality or culture is to stop believing the lies and to get some quick wins and celebrate them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Winning Beats Losing

I like to win. Winning is fun. And if you don’t want to win atsomething or succeed at it, then why even attempt it? This is why Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.” Many people wrongly misinterpret that quote to mean you should steal and cheat to get ahead. Lombardi didn’t mean that at all. He meant the reason his players practiced and worked hard was to succeed. Lombardi loved to win and he won 5 NFL championships because winning wasn’t everything it was the only thing.

Recently, I have been going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University again. Dave over and over again will say, “That’s how you win.” Dave’s passion is to help people win or succeed with money. He has failed with money and knows what does not work. He discovered what did work and put it into practice. He won with money because he likes winning.

Winning is better than losing. Unfortunately, I have discovered that not everyone likes winning or will do what it takes to win. A few days ago I had a conversation with someone from the archdiocese. He was talking about how many people in the Catholic Church don’t like mega churches. He said his response is, “What don’t you like about mega churches? That they are bringing people to faith in Christ?” The point is that many people don’t like mega churches because they are winning. They are winning at making disciples. They are succeeding in core business.

Whenever we see someone winning with money or business or in relationships or in business or in Church world or in any endeavor, we have one of three options: we can learn from them, ignore them or mock them. When we ignore or mock them, we are essentially saying, “I like losing and I don’t want to win.” The Bible calls people who like losing “scoffers.” Psalm 1 says, “Happy are they who do not sit in the company of scoffers.” Scoffers criticize and they mock but they never do anything great.

Hans von Balthazar said holiness can be killed but it cannot be refuted. Likewise, winning can be criticized and mocked, but it cannot be refuted.

Our larger Church culture is losing because to some degree we like losing. We have become comfortable with losing. What is needed is a generation that hungers and thirsts to win for Christ. Our losing culture is largely self-inflicted and does not need to be. The revival of the Catholic Church will come when enough people want to win and find a holy discontent with losing.

Do you believe God wants his Church to win?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Not Fair

As a staff we have been rereading Good to Great by Jim Collins. Reading it again and discussing it has been refreshing and insightful. The book is excellent and simply a must read for anyone who leads an organization in any endeavor, including a local Church.

In one chapter, Collins describes great companies as having a “culture of discipline.” He compares Kimberly-Clark , who had the courage to sell all their paper mills and invest in consumer products like Kleenex with another company in the same industry.

He writes, “I had an interesting conversation with some executives from a company in the paper business. It’s a good company, note yet a great one, and they had competed directly with Kimberly-Clark before Kimberly transformed into a consumer company. Out of curiosity, I asked what they thought of Kimberly-Clark."

‘What Kimberly did is not fair,” they said.”
‘Not fair?’ I looked quizzical.
“Oh, sure, they’ve become a much more successful company. But, you know, if we’d sold our paper business and become a powerful consumer company, we could have been great, too. But we just have too much invested in it, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it.’”

Essentially this executive admitted his company didn’t have the discipline and the courage to change. They lacked the courage to change what they knew would lead to certain success.

Success and winning when we apply our minds to it is really predictable. In my business of running a local Church, we have been successful, but what we do is not rocket science. We are not any more talented or smarter than anyone else. We have simply followed and learned from successful models and applied them to our setting.

The sad reality of the local Church is that there could be so many more successful parishes if more leaders had the humility, discipline and courage to simply go where God is blessing and what God is doing.

Do you think I am oversimplifying the matter? Or do you agree we just need more Churches willing to follow the principles and practices that are winning?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Growing up I always wanted to be on championship teams. My most fervent prayers as a kid were for my baseball, basketball and football teams to win the championships. I remember time and time again begging God that our team would win it all. I especially remember one year praying for my baseball team and begging God for a miracle when the song “All I Need Is a Miracle” by Mike and the Mechanics was on the radio. Our team didn’t win that year.

I’m not sure what it reveals about my character, but I never desired to be the star on any team. I did desire to play a role and be an important element in a team’s success. I desired to make a difference and matter, while enjoying the contributions of other members.

The desire to be on a winning team remains in me. It is incredibly satisfying to be a part of success where you contribute your talents and enjoy the gifts and talents of others. At the same time, I think teams are so difficult to achieve. Our ego gets in the way. We can easily start thinking more about our contributions or our needs rather than the good of the whole team.

I’m not sure I have anything to offer on the mechanics of how a team works. But I do know no solo effort can ever be as satisfying as a team effort. It feels good to achieve results, but it is always better sharing victories than achieving them alone.

Tonight I got to witness a great team effort by our small groups team. People came together, worked hard and created a great environment. Winning feels good. Winning with others feels better.

What great experiences have you had working on a team? What do you think is the secret to creating a great team effort?