Are you as jealous as I was?

How many times have you observed someone else?  Not the person.  I mean someone else’s idea taken shape.  Someone else’s idea that belonged to you.  Except you didn’t follow through.  Yet.  Quickly enough.  Before he or she did.  Quickly enough that, if you had did it then, it would have been your idea.  Now it belongs to someone else.  Someone else’s success.  And all you can do is copy it, because someone else owns it.  Because someone else did it before you did.  Now jealousy rules!  You want to kick yourself!

When Lota and I talked about succeeding in a business venture, we concluded that the answer to success lay not so much with the originality of an idea.  It often lay with ourselves and getting the idea past the finish line.  Or, maybe just hiking our idea to and through the last mile.

A successful entrepreneurial idea generally starts with a crazy one.  Crazy because it stands out as different than what other people think.  Crazy because it represents what other people thought about doing, but what they never pushed to completion.  They never pushed it to and past the last mile.

Often, when someone actually does push an idea to and past the last mile, actually succeeding in doing something worthwhile, that person leaves others fraught with jealousy.  “I thought of that!”  “I knew that was a good idea!”  “I should have done that before the other guy or gal did it!”  You’re jealous!

I confess.  A wild hare of an idea has overtaken me from time to time.  I could have succeeded beyond imagination!  I could have succeeded, period.  I wild hare looks not so much like a wild hare in the rear view mirror.  It actually looks like a fairly well-put-together one, from that perspective.  What could have been, what should have been, what would have been, actually got done.  Someone else did it!

Getting to and through the last mile entails working through several stages.  Consider the following:

  1. Originating a crazy idea.
  2. Fomenting, fermenting and germinating that crazy idea to where you envision it happening, and want it to happen.
  3. Conceptual planning
  4. Researching, identifying the risks and obstacles to completion
  5. Detail planning, developing your business plan
  6. Funding, capitalizing your future
  7. Organizing, preparing to plant your first step
  8. Exercising faith by taking that first step
  9. Taking the plunge
  10. Figuring out if the plunge represents taking a bath or swimming with the sharks
  11. Enjoying success, self-sufficiency
  12. Sharing success, satisfaction

I suppose that wiser persons than me have articulated the above steps much more eloquently and appropriately.  That’s OK.  Jealousy hasn’t beat me up on this matter.

The logical sequence to success doesn’t always take the above described path.  Many times, it only takes the courage of a fool.  Or the faith of a disciple.  Or the ambition of one whose inspiration makes the purpose of a crazy idea great, and its achievement even greater.

As my “Crazy Idea” continues to take shape, I confess that it only began as a wild hare.  Imagine such running around without purpose or a defined direction.  Nevertheless, excitement about the prospect of a rich reward, perhaps a freshly grown carrot, perhaps the discovery of a rabbit’s new hiding place.  Imagination defined its beginning.  Imagination began to run wild, much like a wild hare.

I remember discussing my hair-brained idea with a few friends.  No one seemed overly excited about it.  But no one seemed to convince me that my wild hare had no future, no logical conclusion.

My imagination turned several directions.  Nevertheless, the risks seemed manageable, the potential rewards looked satisfyingly rich.  I determined that affordability limited the down-side, while the up-side yielded potentially significant satisfaction.  But what about the last mile?

My wild hare began turning into a wild hair.

A wild hair grows irritably in a place or in a way that makes it an irritant.  Like a colic that won’t lie down.  Like an in-growth that festers and becomes a nuisance.  My wild idea became a wild hair that demanded my attention.  It needed cutting, scratching, or release from the skin that imprisoned its emergence into sunlight.

Does personal, individual discipleship start like this?  Does the cornel of an idea begin as a wild hare, then personally bother its host like a wild hair?

Life’s success bothers me.  Strange, huh?  I’ve just about made it to the last mile.  I enter semi-retirement wondering whether I have incentivized my ambition such that my success has achieved the great purpose that I thought it would be.  Actually, I take great satisfaction from the family that I’ve helped to cultivate.  Not by myself, mind you.  But I participated.  My children and my prospects for a comfortable retirement satisfy me.  Worthy accomplishments, right?  But I begin the last mile fomenting a wild hare, turned into a festering wild hair.  I still have gas in the tank.  I still possess talents and blessings that I can’t quite count.  Numbers don’t go that high.

Something tells me that restlessness doesn’t afflict only me.  Something tells me that my wild hare of an idea might also race the mind-tracks of other retirees, maybe even talent-laden younger folk.  Maybe the itch demanding a scratch lies beneath the skin of others who realize that their talents far surpass what they need to survive, even thrive in life.  Maybe that itch represents a calling, an urge to more purposely share one’s love for and one’s blessings with one’s neighbor.  Maybe there’s a neighbor just beyond our immediate horizon, who doesn’t enjoy the same extent of blessings and opportunity as we enjoy.

I suspect that we, as wannabe disciples, often fall short for the same reasons.  We tend to take comfort in participating as followers of discipleship programs.  We might sing in the church choir, led by someone else.  We might serve on a committee chaired by someone else.  We might go on a retreat planned by someone else.  We might serve as a greeter, an usher, a communion server, a coffee server, a Saturday volunteer.  We really never needed to think about how to do it.  Someone else planned it, told us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  Someone else carried out the plan and made it happen.  We feel good about participating.  But did we really do what Jesus would have done?  Did we really, actually, carry the cross?

Many of us consider ourselves heirs to the kingdom of God.  As we have received undeserved blessings, we will also become undeserving heirs.  Of course, God’s grace and mercy will follow us from this life to the next.  Of course!

But with the un-used, or under-used talents with which we made our way through life, will He tell us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”?  Will we find eternal satisfaction from sharing God’s love with our neighbors?  Or will the wealth of talents and blessings that we received go somewhat unused?  Will we leave our paradise with gas in the tank?  Will the satisfaction that we carry into and through retirement see its zenith?

As suggested in a previous epistle, the exercising of personal, individual discipleship beyond the institutionalized form, remains incomparable in its rewards.  Our riches, in terms of personal satisfaction, can only truly be realized by using the talents and blessings that we have developed and accumulated, to the benefit of neighbors who might not have realized as rich a vein of gold.

From a business planning standpoint, many wannabe entrepreneurs don’t complete the strategizing, assessment of risks, and detail planning involved in beginning a successful entrepreneurship.  They may not think of all the elements of success, including personal inventories of strengths and weaknesses, the effective leveraging of both, and the engagement of purpose that yields achievement in measures only envisioned in the context of a wild hare of an idea.

Many also believe that simply by following someone else’s script, they will become wild heirs to the success that started as a hair-brained idea.  They sometimes neglect to take inventory of their own talents before embarking upon a journey that might not efficiently and fully engage those talents and personal characteristics.  The last mile, though prefacing the faith required to dip a toe into the water, taking the plunge, and finally swimming like the sharks, often never occurs.  When an entrepreneur, like a talent-conscious disciple, begins the last mile, hopefully he or she begins it with the assurance that his talents have been strategically engaged, considering both strengths and weaknesses, preferences and dislikes.

I might represent a weak and crazy example.  My crazy idea of wanting to harness a few of the talents that God gave me, while I’ve still got gas in the tank, might turn out to be wasted or simply ineffectual.  But the satisfaction that I have received thus far makes future success almost irrelevant.  Consider.  I;

  1. Took inventory,
  2. Observed an opportunity (perhaps a hair-brained thought),
  3. Dreamed (a wild hare of an idea),
  4. Festered an itch to do something meaningful, worthwhile (a wild hair that needed a scratch),
  5. Determined that dependency upon someone else’s support (and realizing that it really wasn’t there, that it only appeared like a crazy idea to others) should not stand in the way (a wild heir inheritance to my eventual kingdom’s retrospective look-back, and a congratulations from my Maker, rested not with a committee’s participation or visa versa, but squarely with me),
  6. Planned enough to assure myself that I would figure out what I didn’t know, as I went along, and would make plenty of mistakes that would only contribute to valuable experience,
  7. Exercised a little faith of a wannabe disciple, a fool’s bit of courage, and some ambition to make a positive difference in at least one person’s life, to take an initial plunge,
  8. Began swimming as fast as a small fish could,
  9. Achieved the exhilaration of a new “high”, simply through the relationships that I established, and the individuals whose futures now appear a bit brighter, and
  10. Filled my heart with an inward bubble of gloating that, in contrast to that irritable itch, now wants to share some insight into achieving overwhelming satisfaction through a nearly last mile of personal discipleship, and even a bit of overly self-serving pride.

I remain a person of weak faith.  Probably like a lot of other wannabes.  I hope that a stronger faith might ensue after taking that first little step, then having to swim as fast as I could to out-distance the sharks swimming in the same pond.

Entrepreneurship is like that.  A person thinks of an idea, and either carries it through to sufficient planning, and then to that first step of faith, and then to swimming for one’s life, or revels in the comfort of a rocking chair.  With adequate dreaming and planning, that first step need not require the faith of even a mustard seed.  Like taking the first step onto a bridge that you logically believe should support you to the other side, it still requires a little faith, or simply a calculated risk.  Maybe they’re the same thing.

So, how does one get to and through the last mile?  As an entrepreneur?  As a wannabe disciple?

  1. Take inventory. Know your strengths and weakness, your likes and dislikes,
  2. Look for and find an opportunity, perhaps a hair-brained thought,
  3. Dream a wild hare of an idea.
  4. Experience the itch, the wild hair of a yearning to do something worthwhile,
  5. Quit looking around to see if someone else will committee you into fulfillment. As an heir to an eventual look-back perspective, make good with the talents that you’ve got,
  6. Plan, figure out how to make it work, and make it logically do-able, even though you’ll never know everything until you go through the experience. Incorporate planning for failure into your success track.  You’ll need it.
  7. Exercise that first bit of faith, expect failure, and leverage both into useful experience,
  8. Swim like hell, reach for heaven, and air out growing strength, as a fish might air out a jump into the atmosphere from time to time, as if excitement and exhilaration can’t keep you submerged,
  9. Enjoy the view, not only through the rear view mirror, but through your windshield to where you’re going. Enjoy the journey!

Are rocking chair disciples ever jealous?  Are they content?

I wonder how many jealous wannabe entrepreneurs continue walking around, still trying to figure out how to get from here to there?

In the United States.

In Tanzania.

In the sight of their Maker.