We sometimes hear people make this statement: “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” And there’s much truth to that. Many people can look good for a short distance. In fact, in a sprint even a slower person might take the lead for a step or two. But a successful life is not measured in minutes or hours, days or even weeks, but in years. A good start does not guarantee a good finish.
However, comparing life to a marathon falls short in one respect. In a marathon, runners compete alone. There might be people along the course to cheer and encourage, and perhaps volunteers offering water or other refreshment. But for the most part, marathon runners engage in a solitary pursuit – perseverance, pushing through pain for the joy of reaching the finish line…alone.
In real life, however, no one reaches goals or achieves success on their own. Especially the most successful people. Celebrated executives, accomplished physicians, notable inventors, the most famous athletes and entertainers might have had visions and dreams, and worked hard to refine their skills and talents, but they all needed help along the way.
Years ago, one of the most popular American TV shows was “The Lone Ranger.” It featured a lone crusader against crime, determined to right what was wrong and bring bad people to justice. He did have a faithful companion named Tonto, but the Lone Ranger would suddenly ride into a town, take on the criminals and overcome them, and just as suddenly depart without even saying good-bye. The town’s citizens would look at each other and ask, “Who was that masked man?”
History teaches that trying to succeed as a “lone ranger” in the business and professional world is a recipe for failure, even disaster. We all need accountability, administrative support, encouragement, help from people with experience and expertise different from ours to reach our objectives. The Bible speaks much about this. For example:
Strength in numbers. Teamwork and mutual support are hallmarks for success in any endeavor. “Two are better than on, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!… A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Sharpening of focus. Just as the edges of two knives can be sharpened by being rubbed together, people can sharpen one another as they also “rub against each other” as they work together, often resulting in creative and constructive friction. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Diversity in capabilities. We each have unique abilities and talents, and by merging them and working together, we can accomplish far more than we ever could working alone. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men” (1 Corinthians 12:4).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
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1. What comes to your mind when you hear the statement, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”?
2. At your workplace, can you think of someone – perhaps even yourself – that functions as more of a “lone ranger” or a marathon runner than as a team player? How does that kind of approach to work affect his or her performance – and those of the people around them?
3. How effective are you in working with other people, particularly as part of a team? Can you think of ways you could become a better team player? Explain your answer.
4. Think of an example you experienced or observed when individuals collaborating together definitely brought about a better outcome than if assignments on the project had been carried out independently? How might the principles of “two are better than one” and “one person sharpening another” have been demonstrated in the situation you have in mind?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Philippians 4:9; Hebrews 3:12-15