Get going early!
Saturday, 4 February 2017
| Ian Hore-Lacy
Being a Christian means expressing our beliefs as activity that, over the long term, utilises the gifts God has given each of us and is aligned with his purposes in the world. From the vantage point of school or university, how do we discern those purposes, and how should we get on board with them? How do we orient our lives so that personal money or status are deliberately secondary to serving others and meeting human needs?
More fundamental is working out what sort of person each of us is called to be as a disciple of Christ, and how that contrasts with alternatives. Does our lifestyle express our values? How do we spend our money? And how do we stand apart from consumerist culture?
The whole business of post-secondary education with the implicit assumption that vocational life starts after graduation, and the intimidating effect of big organisations with development programs for new recruits, can put one off being proactive and taking initiative early in life. It should not. There is huge scope for any energetic and thoughtful young person to make their mark even as a teenager, and certainly in their early twenties.
In your early years, wherever you find ideas are matched by opportunities, take them - without any need to factor in considerations of long-term vocational commitment! Be ready to step forward and take responsibilities, exercise leadership and have a go at any stage of life. It is never too early! In school, university, church and community organisations there are many opportunities for young leaders - though there will also be plenty of places where upstarts are discouraged, but that is simply a challenge to be met and overcome. Turning ideas into action in collaboration with others can be both exciting and interesting for you and a blessing to others. The ideas may be for events, ongoing functions or entrepreneurial activities.
Taking on responsibilities and exercising initiative early in life are both good training for the long term and a good indicator of gifts. So, in general, don't hold back when opportunities arise, and be ready to find and create opportunities well before they are offered to you on a plate.
A person who is able to pick up on management, organisational and leadership skills as a teenager is set up to be able to be used in God’s kingdom in many different ways for the rest of their life, as a person who makes things happen. Acquiring early a mindset of proactive service and then applying this without necessarily getting anything back in return is a wonderful attribute, and once again is something that God will really be able to use throughout your life.
One of the founding fathers of the USA, Benjamin Franklin, said that a lot of people die by the age of 25, even though they are not buried until their 70s. Don't be one of them! Nurture your vocational passions! Have some significant line items in your CV by the time you are 25!
As Jesus’ disciples, we need to perceive purpose, significance and real meaning in each day's activities throughout our lives. And we need to understand that work is a characteristic of God who is creator, part of his commission to all of us. The Bible has much to say about work as a normal human activity and about its purposes.
There is a view of work that is essentially about just putting in the time and average effort. Without becoming obsessive workaholics, we need to do a lot more than this. First class performance needs to be the standard, with reliability and cooperation being the characteristics. Build quality relationships even with people you do not esteem, where humility is a real challenge, and look after your colleagues' interests, not just your own. This applies throughout life.
The intersection of talent, passion and market/need/opportunity is where to aim. Don't dissipate your efforts simply because you have wide capabilities. Be distinctive! Set out to work so that other people benefit and flourish.
Ian Hore-Lacy is a founding Zadok board member (1978-98), author of Responsible Dominion - a Christian approach to sustainable development, and now Senior Research Analyst with World Nuclear Association. He is co-author of Down to Earth Discipleship, a pastoral ‘book’ on the web: www.downtoearthdiscipleship.com. This blog is adapted from chapter 11.