Move beyond a high-school mindset

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I wouldn’t be a good tutor. Here’s why. If I had to teach math, I’d be tempted to be really honest with my students.

“You need to know this now, but here’s the deal. Unless you enjoy it, just get through it. You need to know some basics, but most of this stuff you’ll never – ever – use again. I took algebra, trig, even AP calculus in high school, and I haven’t touched it sense. I add and subtract on a regular basis. Beyond that, I use a calculator. If you can do that, you’ll succeed in life.”

See? Not good advice for a high schooler. Here’s why.

In high school, if you’re not good at something, you’re told to get better. If you’re good at and enjoy science, you’ll skate by, while spending all your time to master history.

That may be good in high school. It’s probably good to have a foundation in everything to see what you like best and excel in. But that’s not how success works in real life. But because of how we’re raised, we often try the same thing. We try to be good at everything instead of mastering a few things. In the end, the things we’re truly good at suffer in an effort to be mediocre at everything.

Instead, we’re most valuable if we get really good at what we do well and stop trying to do everything.

That means trying to spend at least 80 percent of our time where we’re effective, productive, and fulfilled. We’re all going to have to do some ‘other’ stuff because of the nature of any job. But as much as it depends on us, we need to focus in on what we do well.

For me, this means building teams, equipping them to do something they care about, and empowering them to go and do it. It means it’s OK to focus on those things, even though they may ‘seem’ like less hands-on ministry. I need to spend my time working with leaders who work with people. It’s not an excuse to hide from others – I need to be in touch. But it’s a choice to use time in a way that will multiply influence.

Maybe doing everything works for high school, but it doesn’t work for the rest of life.

(In the “credit-where-credit-is-due” section, I think Andy Stanley has talked about something like this before. And I’m sure other people have, too. Now you know.)

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Move beyond a high-school mindset

3 thoughts on “Move beyond a high-school mindset

  1. on a paralell, but non-intersecting thought process I talked about the changing dynamics of specialization and accessibility vs. traditional heavy handed education: http://strangeculture.blogspot.com/2007/06/accessibility-and-eduction.html

    I think when it comes to service in the body of Christ (or even in careers) it is a challenge for many people to even know in the first place where they should be spending 80% of their time. How will you know where you’re gifted and best used if you don’t have the opportunity to be involved in ministry on a more complete level first. Perhaps you expirement with a variety of ministries (or jobs, etc.) until you and others can begin to identify skills.

    “Maybe doing everything works for high school, but it doesn’t work for the rest of life.”

    I agree, BUT I think sometimes we have to be patient and expirement in finding where we fit best, which sometimes means doing everything at first, and having the freedom to step back and bail out when we realize it’s not for us.

  2. After reading “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham, I have wholeheartedly embraced this philosophy. I have spent way too much time trying to better my weaknesses than improving my strengths. I sticking with my strengths now.

  3. @RC – You’re completely right, sometimes that process takes time. I’m still learning. But we also need to feel freed to focus on those things we’re best at once we find them.

    @John – That’s actually a book I’m still wanting to read. I’ve read First, Break All the Rules, but haven’t had a chance to read the second one. I’m looking forward to taking their StrengthsFinder test…

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