trade off good now or great later

Now that I’m working actively in the business world I’m re-learning a life lesson that my Dad taught me long ago. It’s a concept I’ve also learned over and over in 20+ years of Pastoral ministry.

Most GREAT or WORTHWHILE achievements happen because somebody makes a TRADE OFF.

My Dad’s version was,

“Anything worth doing is usually going to take hard work.”

There are tons of inspiring examples of people who understood and practiced this principle. Thomas Edison traded sleep (and the comfort/happiness that went with it) for a higher level of productivity. James “Jimmer” Fredette traded the typical teen life to attain the goal of playing in the NBA.

As I’ve been engaging in the hard work of developing my own income streams and ways of providing for my family, keeping a ministry blog and podcast alive, and spending adequate time with my wife and kids, I’ve seen more powerfully that I have to make trade offs again and again to get to the place I want to be (and know I need to be).

But there are 3 main things I’ve got to get straight in order to really make a trade off that will count long term.

1. I have to understand the main obstacle to a “trade off” mindset and how it affects me.

The world we live in is so steeped in a “right here, right now” mindset that it’s hard to convince people nowadays that there are actually things worth waiting for… things worth sacrificing for. At the very least many people settle instead of striving for better. They (and I, all too often) seem to think, “Yeah, I could work harder to achieve something great, but the way things are now is good enough. I’m good.”

Yes, things may be good. But they are not great.

None of us are put on the planet to simply be “good enough.” We are meant to maximize what we’ve been given (Matthew 25:14-46) and make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16). That doesn’t mean we become imbalanced workaholics who can never say, “No.” It means we have to adjust our thinking. We have to change what we believe about WHO we are and WHY we are here.

We are not here to:

  • Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
  • Do crazy, stupid, foolish things because, you know, YOLO (you only live once).
  • Enjoy ourselves.
  • Get more stuff.
  • Build a name for ourselves.

We are here to utilize, maximize, and put into practice everything the LORD has given us so that we make a difference in the lives of people, for whom His Son Jesus died. That may happen through an intentional conversation. It may happen through a well prepared and well delivered sermon.

Or it may happen in a well designed and executed product or service. Whatever it is for each of us… God has wired us to do it uniquely and He expects us to make the trade offs required to see it done.

2. I have to understanding what the trade off really is and what it requires.

There are some universal, fundamental truths that underlie the trade off. They are true for everyone, everywhere, at all times. They are “rules” that very rarely have exceptions, and no, you are not one of them.

Here are 4 of the ways I’ve come to think of the trade off…

1 – “Good” is not good enough when God has equipped you to reach “great.”

2 – “OK” in the here and now is often the enemy to getting to “excellent” later.

3 – Great does not come to you, it is accomplished through God-inspired, diligent, sweat-of-the-brow hard work.

4 – Greatness is not something that happens to you, it’s something that you achieve.

Don’t hear me saying that personal greatness is my goal… I’m not saying that. What I AM saying is that if I am to accomplish all that God intends me to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10), then I am going to have to work. Hard. I am going to have to think long-term goal instead of short-term gratification. I am going to have grit my teeth, knuckle down, turn off my email and internet, stay up late, and simply do it – because it is my responsibility TO do it. And when I finally reach “it” (probably not until heaven), it will be glorious.

3. I have to learn how to keep my head on straight.

Getting into a “trade off” mindset can easily create an obsessed person. Folks who go that route become impossible to enjoy because all they can talk about, think about, encourage you toward, or BE about is the “one thing” they are obsessed with. That’s not what I’m recommending.

What I am suggesting is that I without the right “end goal’ in mind, I’ll make all kinds of imbalanced trade offs that will hurt more than help. So I’ve got to know what the right goal is BEFORE I’ll be able to think RIGHTLY about the trade offs it’s going to require.

Dave Ramsey talks about this in an interesting way… and it’s been helpful to me for some time. I went back to review it again while writing this post and it fits here quite nicely.

Dave says it this way as he describes what he calls “the momentum theorum”…

The INFINITE (God) times FOCUSED INTENSITY over TIME equals UNSTOPPABLE MOMENTUM

The way I translate it is this:

Here’s why I’ve changed up the terms, and what I mean by them:

  • I’ve changed the word “infinite” in Dave’s statement to God/Calling – because if I’m not working toward a Godly calling, not only will it not be worth it, I also won’t follow-through on it. On top of that, (and here’s how it relates to the “trade off”) I won’t be willing to trade the temporary things I have now for the more important, eternal things that could come later. I have got to be clear and convinced that what I’m headed toward is what GOD has told me to be headed toward. How clear are you on that in your business/life ventures?
  • Dave’s phrase, “Focused Intensity” is a good one, in that it describes what is needed both in attitude and in action when it comes to carrying out goals. I’ve got to stay focused (on God’s goals for my life) and I’ve got to be intense about it (ready and willing to make trade offs). I see it as repeated acts of “faithful obedience” to the calling He’s given me. Practically that means that God is the one guiding me to make the right trades for the right reasons. Are you staying intensely focused on what He’s called you to do?
  • The phrase “over time” didn’t need any tweaking… because very few things that we accomplish in life are instantaneous successes and because I’m already talking about getting to “great” later rather than “good” now. This is the hard work part of my Dad’s version… it’s when we persevere, gut it out, keep at it, never give up… until we begin to see the results that God has in mind from our actions coming to fruition. How are you doing here… are you persevering through the hardships and struggles or are you about to give up?
  • Unstoppable momentum didn’t need any tweaking from me either, because it is perfectly understandable given the rest of the sentence/formula. If I am truly called, and am being faithfully obedient to that calling, and faithfully continuing in that over time, then the result will be unstoppable momentum because God Himself is the one empowering my obedience and the results of it. He’s the Architect at the outset and the Power plant throughout the process.

People like Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, and Ozzie Smith (see the 4th paragraph of this) who are all retired, understood the basics of the trade off… and they are the type of guys our culture tends to laud as noble and worthy examples.

And remind me… what were those guys trying to accomplish? They wanted to be the best at a game. A Game.

A GAME.

What are you trying to accomplish. My guess is it’s much, Much, MUCH more important than a game.

In fact, I KNOW it is.

You can do it. You HAVE to do it.

Overcome the obstacles. Understand the trade off. Get your head on straight.

Where do you see yourself in this progression? What do you need to change to make the right trade off?