Greater Than Self

I did not start my college career so well. Let me rephrase that. I utterly failed at the entire process. I started my studies at Texas A&M University, a place I hold quite fondly in my memories. A&M has a unique culture I have never experienced elsewhere. For starters, the traditions are deeply held priorities. You feel that just by walking the campus. Whether it is a small thing like staying off the grass, saying 'howdy' instead of hello or participating in a big thing like midnight yell practice, the place simply stands apart from the crowd of institutions across the country. It is a special place.

Unfortunately, I chose to walk through my freshman year without any clear pathway. Like many eighteen year olds, I felt invincible, unshakable and overestimated my intelligence level. This showed up in my naive thinking that I could attend class only when I felt like it, study at the last minute (if at all) and take tests based off my 'unique' ability to reason out logical answers on my own. While I certainly embraced all the culture of this fine institution listed above, I did not embrace the obvious reason why one spends thousands of dollars to attend college in the first place...to earn a degree. At the end of my first year, I was politely invited by the dean of students to pursue opportunities elsewhere for my sophomore year and return when I got my GPA above the radically unimpressive 1.7 I managed to summon. I can at least laugh now at forty-five years old at my dismal performance.

It was here that our lives were forever changed, and loyalty to one another and to a cause greater than self filled our hearts. 

I came across a great message etched in stone on the College Station campus this week. "It was here that our lives were forever changed, and loyalty to one another and to a cause greater than self filled our hearts" Phillip Adams. It is those three words near the end that stand out for me. A phrase that comes up often in my work - greater than self. Just 41% of employees know what their company stands for or what makes it unique to its competitors (Gallup). That leaves a staggering number of people in the workforce sacrificing forty plus hours every week for an unknown purpose. And working for an unknown purpose is exhausting in every way. Maybe you are one of the sixty percent, who are filled with sadness late on Sunday and pure excitement on Friday afternoons. Maybe you experience that underlying guilt knowing you spend the majority of your day doing 'busy' work, hoping to cover up the fact that you are unsure what it is you even do. Office Space anyone? If you are, I want to convey some hope.

This means saying no at times and losing the immediate financial reward it offers. 

There are still great companies out there who believe in 'greater than self' work. When I started Red Chairs, priority one was defining its purpose. And, I choose to only work with people who choose to prioritize a greater than self purpose, as well. This means saying no at times and losing the immediate financial reward it offers. It also means saying yes to people who join me in a journey that is building long-term rewards which are easily repeatable and scalable. I admit I did not do this well at all times in my first year, especially. I let hunger allow me to say yes more than once. But, the more I have chosen to say no, the more freedom to partner with greater than self opportunities I have enjoyed, and it is beginning to pay off. I often say it in my work - there is a cost to everything. If something good is to come to life, something must be sacrificed. It can be time, money or relationships. In every situation where a thing or a person is brought to life, something or someone is paying the price. Saying yes to a purpose greater than self will demand we say no to ourselves in some way. And we all have the choice to say yes or no.

Back to A&M. Once an Ag, always an Ag. I may have clocked in a stellar 1.7 GPA that year, but before my exit, I sat in Rudder Auditorium one April evening listening to the testimonies of fellow students of how God changed their lives. And, God changed my life forever that night, giving me the radical grace I needed to choose to follow Jesus. It was that same grace that gave me the strength and courage to leave TX, attend a small private university and study the scriptures and theology, earning my degree in a field that certainly was focused on someone greater than (my)self. It led me to so much more, as well.

I still wonder sometimes what would have transpired if I had actually studied, attended class, and worked hard that year. But not often. Most often, I am looking forward. I look forward to Mondays and embrace them with joyful anticipation. I look forward to challenging work assignments, knowing they push me to my growth edge. I look forward to new work relationships, as they strengthen my ability to learn and become equipped for more than I am currently equipped. And I look forward to accomplishing my greater than self purpose in the workplace every day.

How about you? In what ways are you pursuing something greater than (your)self?