My wife and I had the great opportunity to drop the kids at grandma’s house and celebrate a wedding anniversary last week. Because the kids are still so young, we aren’t yet able to take extended trips, but an afternoon out is a treat indeed for us at this stage of life. First, we took in some premium tacos at a favorite Mexican restaurant south of Atlanta, then we went shopping in the Atlanta Underground. But the real treat came when we decided to visit the World of Coke! For those of you living outside the Atlanta area, you may not be aware that Coka Cola was invented in Atlanta and there is a tremendous history museum in the Centennial Park district today that is well worth the sixteen dollar admission fee they charge for an adult visitor.
Not only were the employees at the WOC very inviting, hospitable, and helpful, but they all had a shared goal of making guests feel happy. The entire exhibit was actually a propaganda piece designed to create an association between Coke and happiness, but it was couched in enough memorabilia that I could tolerate the non-stop infomercial for the two hours or so that we enjoyed the display. WOC was full of signage from years back, advertising pieces that spanned more than 100 years of corporate history, interactive displays including a working bottling factory, and even a soda tasting room featuring Coke products from around the world. The word awesome comes to mind thinking about the entire experience. If you should find yourself in the Atlanta area, I would encourage you to visit at least once.
As fun as the day was, there were several important leadership reminders wrought by the presentation that I just could not ignore. I am sure that the Coke people did not intend to communicate these lessons, but they spoke to me just the same.
First, I was astounded by the initial history of the Coke brand. Coke was invented by Dr. John Pemberton of Atlanta who sold the drink in his community drug store. At its height, Pemberton sold nine Cokes per day and made a whopping $50 profit the first year of Coke. Unfortunately, his expenses to manufacture the drink left him $20 in the hole. In the second year of Coke’s existence, Asa Candler entered the drug store, bought a Coke from the soda fountain, and knew right away that the product was marketable. Candler bought the recipe and rights to Coka Cola for $2300, or approximately 47 times the annual revenues of the product. Candler’s expertise in marketing made the difference in success that Pemberton never discovered. The Pemberton strategy was to offer Coke as one of many products in his soda fountain, trusting in the physical location of his drug store to produce the sales needed to justify Coke’s being on the fountain menu. By contrast, Candler saw Coke as a commodity intended for a larger audience and not just the offering of a single store. To Pemberton, the drug store was the product, but for Candler, Coke was the product. I couldn’t help but think of this lesson from a church leadership point of view. Pemberton and Candler had the same product, and the same opportunities for success. What separated them was the strategy of getting the product to the customer. In our churches, the product (if you will) is the gospel. A church can choose the Pemberton approach and declare that the church is here for anyone who would like to come and get the product. The gospel is available to anyone who would come into the store and check it out. Rather, the Candler approach seems to be more in line with the great commission…taking the product to the people and using various strategies to create interest in the product. Like the spread in Coka Cola’s popularity, the reach of the gospel, and its return, is far greater if the church takes the gospel in some fashion into the community. Methods of gospel propagation vary, but the idea is to be Candleresque in recognizing the value of the product over the building where it is on tap, and to take the gospel to the people rather than expecting the community to come to the church. An attitude that says to the community…here we are with the gospel, if you are interested in learning about the gospel you can come and see about it in here…is sure to leave a large segment of the target unreached. There are people all around that don’t yet know that they are interested in the gospel, who may never set foot in our churches, but who would drink of the gospel and love it if it were brought to them.
The second leadership lesson that I learned had to do with the sudden sale of Pemberton’s product to Candler. Pemberton worked hard to develop the unique recipe that is Coka Cola, but sold the product in only two years. Could it be that Pemberton might have found success similar to Candler with the same product if he had only stuck with it? One of the great attractions at WOC stated that Pemberton was a great inventor, but not a good marketeer. That may be true, but Pemberton certainly could have made more of it with a greater commitment to success, a little more initiative, gathering of the right resources, and a little vision for what Coke could have become. So many times we sell out on an idea too soon, when we may be just a short step away from startling success. Likewise, we often fail to see the value of what is right before us and cheapen it in our own mind and hearts.
Finally, I learned a great lesson that was echoed by a ministry mentor years ago who said “maximize your victories and minimize your defeats.” I was eight years old when the Coka Cola company trashed their 100 year old formula for success and introduced to America a product called “New Coke.” New Coke was supposed to be an improvement to the original formula, but I remember tasting it as a child and realizing, even in my juvenile innocence, that New Coke was a bad idea. It didn’t take long for the customer base to react with negative sentiments towards New Coke, and the Coka Cola company realized that they had flopped in a big way. Here in the south…especially in Atlanta, people protested the new drink by pouring it out in the street in mass numbers. It took less than three months to return to the old formula, which had been completely eliminated from the market with the advent of New Coke, and to correct the atrocity by introducing the old recipe under the new name “Coka Cola Classic.” America breathed a sigh of relief. A little research about the New Coke fiasco will yield quite a bit of information to demonstrate just how big a deal this was in 1985. Peter Jennings even interrupted general programming to inform the country of the historic life changing news…that Coke was back! Yet for all that hype back then, the World of Coke had not a single piece of New Coke memorabilia…not a poster, bottle cap, empty can…nada, zilch, nothing. I was looking for it the whole time…and if it is there, I certainly did not see it. In our own lives, and especially in church life, we will do well to minimize our defeats and failures…and yes, we all have them. Every church, just like businesses, families, and individuals, has failures in its past. Zig Ziglar had it right when he said that “the road to success always goes through the valley of failure. Failure is an event, not a person.” If we allow ourselves, or our churches for that matter, to dwell on failures, then failure begins to define us. Coke did well to forget the New Coke quarter of its negative history, and focus on what it does well…creating joy and happiness for the customer. Part of creating happiness for us was their knowledgeable deletion of that historic failure of epic proportions called “New Coke.”
A few years ago a friend caught in addiction shared a key insight to success in breaking the addiction. He noted that it was vitally important to break from old friends and old places, or to phrase it in his own words, “new play mates and new playgrounds.” What my friend was actually citing was the Biblical principle that the influence of our peers has a profound affect on our personal growth and development. The Bible repeats this principle numerous times, but for the purposes of this moment, a look at just one passage will suffice.
The book of proverbs contains the writings of Solomon, who was once purported to be the wisest man who ever lived. A proverb is a short pithy saying that communicates a life principle that is usually, but not categorically true. This means that while there are exceptions to these life rules, that more often than not, they hold true. Regarding the company we keep, Proverbs 13:20 speaks volumes; “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Restated, we reap the rewards of the peers we choose to associate with. If we spend our time with wise people, then we increase in wisdom all the more. Likewise, if we spend our time with foolish people, then we tend to increase in foolish trends. This is a general principle from the Bible for successful living.
So, how does wisdom or foolishness manifest itself in our lives? I believe that there are three outlets of wise or foolish behavior. First, behavior manifests in our thoughts. Decision making, for example bears out the possession of wise or foolish thinking. But not only that, the thoughts that we have…topics we dwell on often reveal the company that we are keeping. Second, behavior manifests in our words. Words are powerful, and while intangible, are not without substance. The Bible reveals the power of God’s words, in that He spoke and the universe was created. Likewise, the New Testament describes the words of men as the spark that starts a fire and the rudder that directs a ship. When words are used in a wise way, they start good fires; fires of motivation, passion, inspiration, meaning, transformation, and the likes of these. However, foolish words lead to destruction, hurts, destruction, character assassination, bad advice, and the like. Finally, behavior manifests itself in the activities of our flesh. The activities in which we engage are often determined by the presence of absence of wisdom and foolishness. When people do foolish things, it reveals foolishness in the heart, and likewise, when people do wise things, it reveals wisdom in the heart.
Recognize also that the company we keep in this modern age goes far beyond the real flesh and blood friends that we share our time with. Today, digital friends are present to influence us in the form of television shows, internet communications, facebook friends, the movies we watch, and music lyrics, just to name a few. Ask yourself this question: If you would never hang out with a friend who would encourage you to be unfaithful to your spouse, then why would you watch a television show, such as Desperate Housewives, that encourages such behavior? Likewise, if you believe that sexual intimacy is reserved for the marriage relationship, then why would you watch something that demonstrates a lower moral position and encourages premarital relations? You would never hang out with people, at least for long, whose language was foul and offensive, but do you pay good money to rent movies where the language is foul and offensive? May I suggest that whether the influence is a personal friend or a digital friend, that either way, wise or foolish ideas can become uploaded data to our minds…and once it is on your mind, you shouldn’t be surprised when it exits your mouth or manifests in your flesh. One writer succinctly stated, if you ever get it on your mind, it won’t be long until it is on your hands. Be careful who your friends are, even if they aren’t real. Unreal friends can have a very real influence on your behavior.
In closing, let me state categorically that the people we are around are not the exclusive importers of wisdom or foolishness in our lives, but they are a significant factor in personal development. Certainly, wisdom is attained through prayer and meditation, reading the Bible and other worthy books, sitting under the teaching of wise men, and things like these. But we must acknowledge the power of the group upon us. The group influences us to stay or go, to act or not, to risk for a worthy cause or on pure silliness, to live with high morals or no morals, to practice integrity or to compromise rights for sordid gain. So be careful to choose wisely those persons that you call your friends. Be sure that the persons present in that group are the kind of people that you want to become as you grow into the person that you, and God, want you to become.
If you want to be successful, you need good goals. Whether losing weight, starting a business, or leading your church or ministry, you need a set of goals to serve as a catalyst towards achievement. Earl Nightingale taught us that a lack of vision is similar to setting a ship with no captain loose on the open sea. Ninety nine out of one hundred times,that ship will become lost at sea or a derelict ship washed up on a beach somewhere. By contrast, a ship with a captain at the helm, pointing the ship towards a specific port, maintaining a heading towards a specific destination is likely to arrive at that destination ninety nine out of one hundred times. A lack of clear goals in your life will lead to a life of wandering, personally, finically, in your family, in your business, and otherwise. Generally speaking, without goals, any accomplishments that come your way will be the product of pure luck. Conversely though, if you will learn to set goals for your life, then more often than not, your life will by characterized by success, and not failure. So how do you set good goals for yourself…whether it involves losing a few pounds or earning an academic degree?
Here are seven questions to answer for successful goal setting.
Is your goal specific and clearly defined? Goals should contain specifics and not be laden with generalities. For example, a poor goal would be stated as follows: “I want to lose weight.” The problem with this goal is that it is too general and unspecific. A better way to state this goal is: “I want to lose ten pounds over the next six months.” Notice the difference when specific goals are stated. A clearly defined goal that specifically and precisely defines what you want to do, and when, is the first step to success.
Is your goal significant? Your goal should be worthwhile. Ask yourself, is this goal significant enough that it warrants the attention of my time. Not everything that we can devote our attention to is worth devoting our attention to. For example, your goal may be to keep a sharp point on all the pencils in your desk, but if keeping the pencils sharpened becomes so consuming that it detracts from your productivity at work, then an insignificant goal has dominated over significant and productive goals. Your goal should help to better your life and should not serve as a distraction from more significant priorities.
Is your goal values driven? Those core values that are precious to us, that define who we are, how we think, the use of our time, etc., are the catalysts for passion in our lives. A good goal is one that is advanced and consistently informed by the values, morals, ethics, and passions of your life. Without passion, goals turn to dust and those who pursue them fizzle out. Values are both personal and corporate. For example, your personal values may impact business dealings with your customers. An ethic of fairness, honesty, hard work, and service to your customer should direct your goal so that these values are enhanced and never compromised. If you are tempted to violate a personal value to achieve your goal, such as misleading a customer to move a few extra units, your values will restrict such an unethical behavior. Further, corporate goals should also drive your goals. If the corporation that you serve holds a set of uncompromising values, then you should allow those values to impact your goals within the organization. Of course, this also means that your personal values and the values of the corporation that you serve should be congruent values. Therefore, before taking a job with the corporation, you should be able to clearly define your own core values, so that these may be compared with the values of the corporation for the sake of capability.
Are your goals measurable? How will you know when the goal is met? There needs to be an instrument (or series of instruments) to measure success as you attempt to reach your goal. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds in the next six months, then it is not enough to merely start dieting, join the gym, and exercise more. Without a plan to step on the scale, to have your body mass index analyzed, to check your heart rate periodically, perhaps even a physical exam, there is no measurability that you are achieving your goal. Without a means to evaluate your progress, you may or may not achieve your goal, but how would you know?
What are the milestones to your goal? As you work towards completing your goal, you will need milestones along the way. Milestones are more frequent evaluators that indicate progress, or the lack thereof. If your goal is to lose ten pounds over the next six months, then in order to meet that goal you need to lose a little over a pound and a half per month. You will need to keep track of your starting weight, and weigh yourself at least monthly to determine if you are successfully reaching your goal. Should you find that you have failed to progress towards your goal, then adjustments can be made mid course so that success does not become allusive.
Is your goal sustainable? If you are able to meet your goal, is it a goal that you can continue to meet? Certainly some goals are fulfilled only once, like learning to tie your own necktie. Once you have accomplished this goal, you need not re-achieve this goal, but only live with the rewards of having achieved the goal. Nonetheless, many of our goals bear the need for sustainability. It is far from impressive if you meet a sales goal to become top salesperson in January at your firm, but are unable to sustain the practices and principles that earned you that position. One of my first jobs was as a salesman with a pest control company. My colleague and I learned very quickly that we could sell a high volume of our services in very poor sections of town where residents were quick to sign a service contract. We enjoyed calling in our sales over the radio to the home office and requesting that our sales figures by written on the “sales board.” There was pride in coming into the office and seeing our sales figures above those of the other salesmen. However, we learned a hard lesson when our new clients were unable to pay for the services that we had delivered, and the cost of those services was demanded from our commissions. For a few weeks, we sold more services than any one else in the office, but our sales were not sustainable. In fact, the cost to us in the long run far outweighed the accolades that we enjoyed for those three weeks. Make sure that when you set a goal, that the goal is one that can be met, and sustained.
Is your goal beneficial? Your goal should be of some clear benefit to your corporation, your church, your family, to society, or to yourself. Working towards a goal that doesn’t benefit anyone is a waste of time, and may be detrimental. Think through your goals to determine how the achieving of them will impact people around you. When I was younger and newly married, one of my goals was to be a professional traveling musician. I had begun to work towards that goal by starting a band, rehearsing hard, booking gigs that allowed us to travel, incorporating the band, acquiring resources, and things like these. I was so encapsulated with my goal that I never stopped to think about how being away from home would affect my wife. When we started to have children a number of years ago, my goals completely changed. I lost all desire to be a traveling musician, because that was a goal that would do more harm than good. For me, it was more beneficial for my family that I be home to raise the children and to support and nurture my wife, than it was to play rock star in a different city every night. So look at the big picture and determine if your goal benefits those you love most, your corporation, your community, your church, and yourself. If the only person who benefits is you, then your goal may not be a good one.
So, now that you have answered these questions about your goal, what now? Remember to get a GRIP on your goal!
G-Game Plan. What is my game plan to accomplish my goal? This is your strategy. Now that you have defined your goal, what will be your plan/strategy to accomplish it? What steps or process will be necessary to accomplish your goal?
R-Resources. What resources will you need in order to accomplish your goal? Your goal may require you to attain more education, devote more time, invest more finances, obtain facilities and stock, to advertise, etc. Determining the necessary resources up front will prevent you from falling short of your goal when the accomplishing of it requires more than personal effort.
I-Influence. What persons of influence will be necessary to accomplish your goal? It may be very important to enlist the support, permission, or influence of a particular leader, a supervisor, a board of directors, an expert, a civic committee, a governmental office, etc. It is important to do some research in advance and to communicate with others about your goal who can help you to achieve your goal. Be advised that there are people who can stop the success of your goal, and if they are not in support of you or your goal in advance, they may hold more influence that you do to defeat your goal. I once saw a very good proposal with 99 percent support overturned because of one man; a very influential gentleman who offered not one good reason to defeat the proposal, but merely stated that he did not think it was a good idea. The proposal was almost unanimously defeated.
P-Personnel. Who needs to be actively involved to complete your goal? Will you need to hire employees, have help from family or friends, utilize a superior or a mentor? Defining who is critical to the success of your goal will ensure that you are properly staffed for success.
Recently I was reading a book by Stephen Covey in which he wrote that “we are where we are today because of choices that we made yesterday.” Life, Covey said is an accumulation of our choices. When we choose to save our money today instead of spending it, we choose to prosper financially tomorrow. When we choose to pursue a higher education today, we choose to prosper intellectually tomorrow. And so it goes that in virtually every area of life, the choices we made in the past have a profound impact upon our present state of being. If we are bold enough to admit that our current state of affairs is not the fault of circumstances or conditions, but rather, the result of choices that we made in the past, then we discover a sense of peace and ownership of our current state…whatever we should find it to be. As I understood this concept from Covey’s book, I had an additional thought that Covey did not express. Believing that human beings have the power to change their destiny by changing the way they think, I applied Covey’s idea to the concept of change. If you should find yourself in a predicament that you do not like, then the power to change that predicament rests in a change of thinking and choices. A few years back, for example, the Hardee’s fast food company found itself in an awful predicament. In the early 1980’s the company made a poor decision in an effort to cut costs and changed their signature hamburger recipe. They sacrificed quality for profits, and paid the price in lost business. By the end of the next decade, the company was facing financial ruin. With their hamburger reputation shot, they attempted to draw customers with roast beef sandwiches and fried chicken…warring for the business of Arby’s and KFC. By the turn of the millennium, Hardee’s had lost its vision to sell hamburgers, and was widely known as the worst of all fast food options available anywhere. The temptation was, I am sure, to blame external conditions or circumstances like the community, changing consumer tastes, bad advertising, or 10 other external excuses for why the company was facing financial ruin. That sort of thinking…avoiding responsibility for personal decisions that lead to demise, cost the company its clientele, and ultimately its ownership, and in 1997, the company was sold to new owners. It took a few years to clean up the mess and recast a vision throughout the company, but by 2003, Hardee’s had eliminated secondary products that distracted them from their true vision of being a dynamic hamburger joint, and refocused its attention on selling the best hamburgers available from a fast food place anywhere. They revamped their hamburger recipe and dedicated themselves to quality. Additionally, they refused to blame circumstances or conditions for their demise and accepted the responsibility that success for the company required a change of thinking, and doing. Their first advertisements accepted responsibility for poor quality and lousy food in the past, but then promised the consumer that if they would try a Hardee’s “thickburger” now, that the last place they would ever go for a hamburger would become the first. Hardee’s swallowed the hard pill of accepting responsibility for its demise, stopped blaming external factors, and realized that the choices they had made in previous days were the reason that they found themselves in their predicament. How do you apply this to your own setting? You are where you are because of decisions that have been made in the past. We must understand that the choices we make today will determine where we are tomorrow. An honest ownership of where we are, acceptance of responsibility that we are here because of our former choices, a renewal of a Biblical vision for our lives, and an action plan to pursue that vision is critical…if tomorrow is to be any different than today.
At least two New Testament texts speak to us as employees about the attitudes that we should bring to our workplaces, Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3. I am going to break with my own traditions just this once and unpack these scriptures from one of the best contemporary translations, the NLT. While in Seminary at Liberty Baptist Seminary, I was given a copy of this translation from Tyndale House Publishers in order that I, and the other language students there, might preview the translation prior to public release and provide feedback to the publisher. I was quite impressed with the translation. While I would not use this translation as a tool for in depth Bible study, it has tremendous merits as a devotional Bible, particularly when readability is desired. With this in mind, my goal today is that we would extract from these texts four qualities of a good, godly, and positive attitude that you will certainly want to apply to your life today.
Respect-Approach your workday by putting on the quality of respect. This manifests in three specific areas: respect for yourself, respect for your employers and fellow employees, and respect for your customer. Treating all people with respect is a guard against hurtful actions and speech, and also leads to good manners. It is hard to have a good attitude at work while exposing another person’s negative qualities. Respect for others not only benefits them, but also makes you a more pleasant person.
Service-Serve your employer as though you were serving Christ directly. By putting on the attitude that even remedial tasks are being done directly to Christ, the Christian can maintain a positive attitude at work…even when the boss is a jerk. We can maintain joy in our less than fun tasks at work by remembering that as we serve our earthly masters, that we are giving our workday as an act of worship to Christ. In this, he allows us to be His representatives/ambassadors to the workplace. Getting the job done well with a positive attitude reflects well on Christ in the workplace. However, grumbling about the day’s tasks and dragging your feet with poor service is a detriment to the reputation of the Lord. I once worked in a retail environment with an employer who was not a churchman. He remarked to me once that he loved to hire students from the local Christian university because they brought a positive attitude, good morals, and a good work ethic to his store. It was encouraging to know that Christ was being honored before the world in the way that our Christian employees conducted business each day.
Ethic-Understand that although the watchful eye of your earthly employer may pass, that the all seeing eye of your Heavenly Father stays on you all day long. Therefore, avoid the pitfall of working more diligently when the boss is looking and slacking off when his attention wanes. Be consistent in your work ethic, conscious of the attitude to work for Christ, who sees whether we are truly putting in an honest day’s work or not.
Enthusiasm-Bring an enthusiastic quality to your workplace. Start each morning by deciding to think positive. Remember that negative thinking leads to negative results, but that positive thinking leads to positive results. For example, if you think that your day is going to be rotten, that you will have trouble all day long, that your relationships are going to be poor today, that nothing will go right…you will usually get what you expect. However, if you expect the day to be great, relationships to flourish, things to go your way, and a productive day of making a difference in the world, then chances are…that is what you will get! Abraham Lincoln was right when he said that “most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Summary: A positive attitude reflects the qualities of respect and manners for yourself and others, a heart to serve just as if Jesus Himself were your boss, a work ethic that is so honest that you can finish the workday feeling as if you have honored Christ by giving your best, and a spirit of enthusiasm that expects the day to be great.