What's Your Definition of Success?

The other night my good friend Van Metscke was over at my house recording Church Tech Weekly. It’s fun when we get to do that in person because we usually get to talking afterwards. As often happens, we talked about a wide variety of subjects. One thing that we talked about was people who work for us. We both agreed that a lot of people tend to get threatened when their subordinate starts to surpass them in knowledge or “success.” Van and I both feel that if we’re doing our jobs right, the people who work for us should surpass us. It’s a simple principle of multiplication; if we pour into them everything that we know, that gets multiplied by what they know and what they learn while working for us. Hopefully they’ll go on to bigger and better things, and we can take a small amount of pride knowing that we helped them on their journey.

Stan Sliver was the guy who got me thinking about this almost ten years ago. Ironically enough, Stan was the HVAC contractor I used when I was building a retail business (long story...). He was then in his 60’s and had been doing HVAC work longer than I had been alive. Not only did he do great work, but he also explained everything he was doing. If he thought I could do something, he’d loan me his tools, teach me how to do it and not charge me for anything. One day he said to me, “Mike, if you ever have any questions about what I’m doing or way, please ask. I’ve been doing this a long time, I can’t take any of this knowledge with me.”

I know a lot of people in our business who want to closely guard their “secrets.” They somehow feel that makes them indispensable or at least more valuable. That may work out for a short while, but here’s something you need to know. Taking that tack is not a good long-term plan. The next generation of techs will surpass us in knowledge whether we help them or not. I’ve got a few young guys working for me (as staff and volunteers) who are crazy-smart. The way I see it, I can either be part of their success story or get left behind anyway.

Anyone younger than 25 years old doesn’t know a life without computers. They don’t know how we ever existed without everything networked together. They can’t figure out why we can’t control everything with our smart phones yet. Figuring this stuff out comes as easy as breathing. If you’re an old guy like me, you can figure it out, too; it just takes a little more time and effort.

But hear this fellow old guy; while the young guys may know how to use technology, they may not always not know why. They may not know how to interact with a difficult worship leader or senior pastor. They may struggle with troubleshooting because they haven’t had as many things go wrong for them as we have. That’s where we come in. We can help them develop those skills. And if we’re really smart, we’ll be learning from them as well.

If you’re an old guy in this business, find someone younger than you to pour into. Don’t be afraid they’ll steal all your secrets and replace you. Sure they’ll surpass you, but look at it this way—when they land that big gig on a big show, they’ll get you backstage passes (at least that’s what I’m hoping for...).

And if you’re a young guy, find an old guy to work with. Ask questions, pay attention and learn from them. And share your knowledge with them, too. We’re not in competition with each other; we are all working together to advance the Kingdom here.

One more story: Many years ago, I was leading the youth group of a small church in Ohio. One of the junior high guys and I became fast friends because he was a techie geek who loved Macs. We ended up spending a lot of time together talking about technology, theology and life. I was there for most of his high school life. We stayed in touch when he went to college, after his graduation and after he started working for a national radio program. A few years ago, he got married to a wonderful woman. I was able to go to the wedding, and the impromptu “bachelor” party that happened the night before.

It was weird being there as everyone in the room was 15 years younger than me. All the guys shared something about Zach and what his friendship had meant to them. When it was my turn, I shared some things (I don’t even remember what now), and after I spoke, he stopped and told me what a huge influence I had been in his life. He told me that a big reason he was who he was because of all the time we spent together. And he said he was so honored that I would drive all the way to Nashville just for his wedding.

I’m not going to lie, it wrecked me. It also challenged me. It made me ask if I’m making a regular habit of pouring into others. Now I don’t share this to tell you how great I am, because the truth is I don’t this nearly enough. But if you’ve never had someone tell you that you’ve been a huge, positive influence in their life, you’re missing out. My young friend has already achieved more in his career than I had at that age, and I expect him to keep climbing. As for me, I’m just glad to have been part of his journey. And that’s my definition of success. What’s yours?

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