4th Place Disappointment
In 2016, following an extended period of injuries, setbacks and a lengthy recovery, Kara Goucher attempted her comeback for the U.S. Olympic trials. Though she had a strong performance, spending much of the race keeping pace with the woman who finished in second place, when it came down to the last stretch, she didn’t succeed in advancing as far as she needed. She finished in 4th place. Runner’s World called this “the worst possible spot. It would seem less painful to have missed qualifying by a lot than to miss it by only one spot.
But what’s the reality here? Kara Goucher, whether on the Olympic team or not, is a world-class athlete, accomplished as a runner at a level that very few people will ever be accomplished at anything. While you couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her on that occasion, she has nothing to be ashamed of.
The Value of Doing Things Well
It’s great when people are able to win, to come in first, and to be the best. Most of us don’t get to know what that’s like. The good news is that it really isn’t as important to finish first as it is to learn to do a few things well. A talented athlete who finishes in 4th, 5th, or 10th place still has much to gain from achieving great knowledge, skill, or character because of their dedication to their sport.
One of my favorite examples of this is Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic. Adams talks in his book, Win Bigly, about the value of acquiring and stacking skill sets. He’s had great success in his life by putting together a variety of skills at which he is reasonably proficient. This is where Dilbert came from.
He had corporate world experience, he was a decent observer of people, he could draw reasonably well, and he has a decent sense of humor. Adams would readily tell you that he isn’t “the best” in any of these areas. But because he can do all of these things well enough, they came together in the form of Dilbert, and it has opened many doors for him. To succeed, he didn’t have to be the best. He simply needed to do what he could, as well as he could, in a way that allowed his strengths to build on each other.
Doing What You Can
I have found increasing joy in trying to contribute what I can in the ways I am able. I have especially enjoyed the Research Spotlight section of this website, as it represents a passion of mine combined with several areas of moderately proficient ability. I am a decent writer. I have above average skill as an analytical thinker. I’m techy. I’m blessed with many talented friends and contacts in ministry who’ve done great original research. I am a reasonably good conversationalist. I decided to try and stack these things together to create a series of video interviews to highlight people’s ministry research findings. In fact, I even used my musical skills to record a jingle for the video intro and outros.
Here was my thinking: Most people with Doctor of Ministry degrees like mine are in full-time ministry. Even though we’ve done pragmatic research on the practice of ministry, our work obligations prevent us from being able to write or publish much about our findings, and the sad reality is that almost no one is likely to read our dissertations. On this website, I’m trying to create a space where I can share and celebrate what people have learned in the pursuit of their education, especially for those like me who have limited time or opportunities for sharing our research.
Again, I know people who write and think better than I do or who have a better presence on camera than I do, but just the same, I’m finding joy in trying to contribute something useful for whoever would like to use it. I believe what I’m doing will potentially put great resources in an easily accessible place for church members. I’d like to think that there are a few things about what I’m doing that not just anyone could bring to the table.
The great news is that the same is true for you. Think about yourself and the life experiences that have made you who you are. What strengths and opportunities might come from these things?
- Did your upbringing give you any especially strong skills or areas of awareness?
- Have your various jobs or vocations provided you with useful knowledge you could share?
- Are there talents or gifts you possess that people acknowledge about you?
- Is there something you value, that weighs on your heart, about which you wish you could do something?
- How might all of these things stack together in a way that will benefit other people?
Rather than wasting your time holding back because you aren’t “number one” in one specific area, start asking what God might be able to do through you, specifically because you’re you. Look for how your many proficiencies might come together to become something more than any one of them alone.
Do a few things well, and do them for a good purpose, and you won’t need to be the best at any of them to add value to people’s lives and opportunities for your future.