If you knew a substance was poisonous to someone else’s health, would you give it to them? Of course not, you’d give them a tonic to help cure what ails them. You’d do all you had in your power to make them better, stronger and healthier. And yet, in our culture today we dole out a toxic dose of average all the time, hurting the leaders of tomorrow.
When did excellence become D level? At times it seems we tolerate so much, that sameness and status quo are the only things that are rewarded. From 1st grade to the graduating senior, kids are pressured to be quiet, include others and rave about even the worst of performers. Everyone gets a pat on the head and a pass. Kids dress like each other, talk like each other and blend to survive. If you stand up for a higher value or a higher power, you may as well be shunned because you will be judged for judging. Those who are A level students are mocked and teased. Grade point curves bridge the gap between the high performers and the less than average.
Recently I spoke to a college student form a South Florida university in Broward who was so angry about the grade point curve in her class. She had the highest grade in a science final exam. The grade beneath hers was almost 40 points lower. Hers wasn’t curved up since it already was an A, but the D- was rewarded as an A-. Houston, we have a problem when individuality is blurred and excellence goes unnoticed in a sea of homogeneous apathy and laziness. As for the D student, I can imagine they might say, “Hey, that’s perfect! Win-win! I did nothing and came out great!” No worries in our popular society, everyone’s a winner and worthy of high salaries and a reality TV program. The entitlement message is everywhere: You are PERFECT just the way you are.
But, is that the truth? For the one who studied to get the A, it’s hypocrisy and tragedy. What happens is eventually, beaten down by the system, the bright are encouraged to shine less. Truly, there seem to be no winners or losers in our present cultural mindset at large. In our speech, our school, our workforce and our government all people are treated equally as most eligible to succeed. And the older generation of baby boomers is working harder than ever to overcompensate.
So how do we turn this around? Can we? The answer is a resounding YES WE CAN.
Through the ages, leaders have risen in the darkest of circumstances. I believe we are collectively primed for such a leadership movement. So let’s explore four practical ways we can fix what’s broken, beginning in our homes and maybe even in the mirror.
First, center yourself on God’s Word.
The Bible is the only book that won’t let us down when the storms of society rage on. That’s the tonic, the balm from Gilead that comforts us while showing us a better way. Pick 3 scriptures this week, which elevate a standard in your world and inspire you, and others, to excellence. For example, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Second, develop the leader within you.
Are leaders born or made? I’d say both. There are natural personalities and spiritual giftings that set leaders on their course. But the best leaders invest time in books and content which help them become better. Equip yourself to lead by example.
Third, instill family values and ethics everywhere.
Like the Crosby, Stills & Nash song proclaimed, “Teach your children well.” How can you lead the puffed up know-it-alls around you? Coach them. Ask open-ended questions that illicit change. Jesus did. A question does not point fingers but uncovers truth. Questions like, “How many husbands have you had?” So, become wildly curious. You’ll be more popular and you may rescue someone from being a legend in his or her own mind.
Finally, choose to stand out among the crowd.
I know a Rabbi who did this. He was a remarkable leader. Wiki definitions for the word “remarkable” and you will find words that describe “something different from the ordinary in a way that causes curiosity or suspicion.” If you think about that, Jesus did both. This uncommon rabbi gathered his motley crew and went to work demonstrating a new way of doing things. People were fascinated and followed or offended and off put. Regardless of what opinion camp they sorted into, they marveled at this extraordinary leader who did what he taught and threw off predictable norms. Not as a radical, although he has been called that, but as a timeless notable. He taught us that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Powered by intrigue, people from all walks of life are still trying to figure out if he’s a liar, lunatic or Lord. So lead like Jesus, and change the world one remarkable conversation at a time.
Dr. Anne Arvizu is CEO of Christian Coaching International, Inc. and founder of The CCI Coach Institute. CCI equips leaders wanting to integrate the skills of professional coaching into their own lives for personal development, as well as gaining the certification they need to help others. Visit www.GodCoach.com.