I believe there is one essential ingredient that is common to achievement of a truly special life of significance and genuine relationship, family, career and business success...significance and success that matter and last. In this short article, I identify it and describe how it looks in everyday living, working and leadership.
Source of the Secret
The following is an excerpt from my best-selling book, a parable titled: 7 Laws of True Prosperity. The backdrop is that Sam, that book’s main character, has veered off the better path of living, working and leading. Faced with some not so good consequences, Sam is searching for answers and discovers them in a fireside chat with his wise wife...Suzette.
When he applies them, he experiences immediate positive results.
Are you ready? Here we go!
Suzette's Advice to Sam
"In three weeks your current project will be completed—or nearly completed,” offered Suzette to Sam. “Concentrate on your construction business. When the mortgage due date arrives, we’ll figure out what to do. For now, I encourage you to just love your work. Feel blessed by it, do your best by it, and support the people who work for you.”
Sam replied, “You make it sound so simple, but it’s not. How can I not worry about keeping this roof over our heads?” Suzette said, “You have made your life—our lives—too complicated. Your focus is on prestige and making more…and more, and more money. With that as your motive, I’m sure my suggestions sound too simple.”
The words stung, and Sam remained silent.
“Sam, I know correcting our situation isn’t going to be simple.” Suzette paused, and quiet filled the room. Finally she said, “Why do we discipline and teach the children?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” Sam asked. “We do it because we’re their parents.” “I believe the answer is even more simple. If we did it just because we’re their parents, that would mean it was merely a duty—and duty can only motivate for so long. Duty isn’t our core motive. Think about it again, Sam. Why do we put so much effort into showing them the best way? There is a much simpler answer.”
Sam stared into the fire and then looked at his patient wife. “Because we want to. Because we love them.” “We love them,” echoed Suzette. “That’s our true motivating force. Our love for God, for life, and for each other flows into our love for them. Not just because they are our blood and in our care, but because they are children—ours and God’s—and we can’t help but love them unconditionally. We so naturally act on that love that we sometimes don’t even think about love as our primary motive.”
“You’re right. Of course that’s right. We aren’t primarily motivated by duty but by abiding love. But what has this to do with work and finances?” Suzette kissed Sam’s cheek. “I believe it has everything to do with everything!”
Sam looked at Suzette. Her eyes were dancing, and she appeared radiant. “Suzette,” he marveled, “you’re aglow. What do you have that makes you sparkle like that?” Suzette said, “Do you know why I work, Sam? Do you know why I look forward to receiving sewing commissions?”
Sam replied, “Because you love sewing and crafting fine clothing and linens. And because you do it so well and are rewarded for your work.” “That is part of it. Yes, it’s what I do well, and God has gifted me with these talents. And He asked me to use them for His work. He has also asked me to love, so I use my work to love others.”
Suzette paused and they both stared into the fire for a minute or two. Sam seemed to be pondering what his wife had shared. Suzette looked at Sam and smiled before continuing. “Sam, I truly love my customers—even the grouchy ones. When I sew a buttonhole, I imagine that man or woman preparing for the day. I love that person and pray for them. So I put love into that buttonhole. When I stitch a flower into a baby coverlet, I love that child yet to be born. So I entwine love into that stitching. Do my customers know? I’m not sure. But I’m not motivated by whether or not they know I love them or that I show my love through my work for them. I’m thankful God blesses me for loving others. I’ve never wanted for customers or work, so I hope my love does shine through my work. Love inspires and motivates me to work. God allows me to minister to people through my skills, and I’m blessed with joy and monetary payment.”
After a moment of silence, Sam said, “And I know, dear wife, that you’re going to tell me how this relates to me.” “Sam, you must not simply love your work or the monetary rewards of work. That is misplaced love and motive. If money is your motive, you won’t find true, lasting happiness. For people who focus on money, there is never enough of it. Instead, focus on loving God through your work. Set your priorities according to His wisdom. Love and serve people in His name in a way that utilizes your talents and skills. The true motive is love. Real, unconditional, God-centered love.”
“Are you saying I need to love the people who have asked me to build their houses or buildings?” “Yes. It’s that simple, Sam. Forget the money and concentrate on loving your customers and those who will live or work in the building. You also need to love your workers and what God allows you to create together in His name.”
“Hmmm. The folks I’m building the next house for aren’t particularly pleasant. In fact, they’re somewhat surly. I’m the only one in this area who agreed to take on their project. They can be mean-spirited, and I’m fairly sure they’ll complain at every step.” “Sam, love is not merely a feeling or emotion. Genuine, God-like love is a behavior. Just concentrate on making conscious choices to behave wisely by partnering with God to love them through your work. God doesn’t ask us to love just sweet people or those who need love. All people need to experience love. And I know God gives us the courage and strength to behave lovingly toward even the unlovable. Search your heart, Sam. God has given you the desire to love. Choose to be motivated by love in all your behavior...off and on the job. I know you too well to not be sure love is in your heart. I believe you’re afraid that if you let love be your primary motive it will interfere with profits.”
As Sam heard the Truth and wisdom reflected in Suzette’s words, he realized he needed time to take it all in. “I must think on what you’ve said,” he finally said.
Having Slept On It
After dressing for work, Sam ate breakfast. He kissed Suzette goodbye and went to work with joy in his heart.
He met his crew at dawn at the cleared site. The men stood beside stacks of lumber and stone, awaiting Sam’s orders. But Sam just stood there and looked at them. Then he looked at his shoes. He looked up and his gaze wandered to some distant trees. Finally he turned to the crew. “Men, I need to ask your forgiveness. For some time now I’ve focused on making money instead of serving our customers by doing quality work and adding the special touches that make our projects outstanding. With God’s help, I’ve discovered my priorities were wrong. So now, with your help, I want to focus on giving our customers the best house we can build. Today we’re more than laborers; we’re also dream makers. We need to work within our budget, yes, but I encourage you to do your best work even if it takes a bit more time. And if you think of extra features we can easily add to the project for minimal cost, let’s discuss it. I want us to be proud of what we accomplish and have customers who are well pleased with our work.”
At first the men were stunned. They stared at him, expecting that any moment his usual scowl would appear and he would return to his Authoritarian style of leadership by barking orders.
Sam went on explaining his new Servant approach to leadership. “Men, today we’re going to add something to our building materials that I’ve been leaving out for too long. Today we’re adding something more permanent than mortar, more enduring than stone, and more valuable than fine wood. Today we’re going to add love.”
The crewmen glanced at each other and then back at Sam, revealing their uncertainty about how to respond to this new approach. They remained silent, fidgeting uneasily. What’s wrong with the boss? was their unspoken question. Most seemed uncomfortable, and some were frowning in irritation.
In the back row, one man leaned close to a coworker and said, “I’d heard he was having money problems. Has it finally driven him over the edge?”
Their confusion was broken by Sam’s firm voice. “Thomas!” The crew snapped to attention. “Thomas, you will lead the crew today in making forms and laying stones for the foundation. I want each stone to be set meticulously, taking care to make sure the layers stay level. And, Thomas, we’re not going to use substandard timber for the flooring as we’ve done in the past. Instead, we’ll use the best wood available. Do you know why?”
“Because the owners of the house asked for this?”
“No, Thomas. Because we should always do the right thing, do our best and take healthy pride in our work. These people, their children, and someday their grandchildren will walk and play on these floors. Because we truly love and care for them, we want the floors to be sturdy and pleasing to the eye. We want the owners to have peace of mind that the floors will wear well and resist rotting. We want the floors to reflect that we care about the project, but even more, that we care about the people we’re building for. As we construct the stone foundation today, let’s think about this new approach. Let’s remember that this foundation is going to support a fine floor for people we care about. Let’s work!”
And so they did. As they constructed the foundation on the neatly graded dirt, the men whispered among themselves that Sam obviously wasn’t quite himself. And though it took some getting used to, they were intrigued by Sam’s new approach to leadership. Gradually they rediscovered the pride and satisfaction that came with working hard and doing their best. By lunch break, the crew welcomed Sam’s new tone. By the middle of the afternoon, some were whistling while they worked. And by the end of the day, a sturdy, well-crafted, level foundation was finished.
“Thank you, men,” Sam said. “Together we have done a good job today. I’m blessed to have you on my crew. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Have a good evening.”
That night Sam recounted his day. “Suzette, at work today, I applied your words of wisdom last night on priority and motive. I think the men found it a bit puzzling and maybe even a bit amusing. But, from now on, I intend to stress that building this house is a labor of love for the people who will make it their home. And at the end…”
“At the end, Sam, we’ll see what money we have and visit the moneylender. For now, that’s the best course, is it not? So let’s sit down and enjoy this soup and bread I’ve prepared.” Then Suzette’s eyes twinkled as she added, “I prepared this meal with love because I knew you would be eating it!”
Each evening Sam told Suzette of the progress, and each evening Suzette welcomed home a man who had a lighter step and seemed to have a lighter heart. Sam was a man who counted his blessings, realized how rich he already was and served God by living and leading by God’s priorities, including loving the work and customers God blessed him with.
Thank you, Suzette, for teaching us the importance, power and practical application of two of the 7 Laws of true Prosperity...The Laws of Priority and Motive. You are a genuine difference-maker who teaches us that outstanding individuals and leaders like you aren’t afraid to call out phonies, even when they are our spouses! You took the initiative, rose to the occasion and spoke up about what you strongly believed in. You spoke Truth in love and consequently challenged Sam to examine his priorities and motives. You did not sit idly, shunning action, but took the plunge when presented with the opportunity.
Like all special people and significant leaders, you knew there is no place for misplaced priorities, mixed motives or anything less than the best. Because you cared deeply about Sam and the people he led and served, you provoked and lit a fresh fire under him about the priorities of God, Christ-like character and love…teaching him and us to not neglect God as our first priority, to seek to become like him, to receive his love and not dam it up, but pass it along at all times and to apply his wisdom for Kingdom business rather than the goals of worldly commerce. Consequently, Sam became a person of highest integrity and a passionate, thoughtful and compassionate individual driven by unshakable convictions, highest motive and godly priorities…off and on the job.
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About the Author
Cecil O. Kemp Jr. is the award-winning author of 27 books and a sought after leadership mentor, life coach and keynote inspirational speaker. Click here to learn more about him, and here to inquire about booking his services.