Thursday, June 23, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 4 of 4 - Purpose

OK! So here we are at the final part. This weapon is the most POWERFUL of the underdog's arsenal. This last aspect of the underdog pulls, Pt. 1 - PreparationPt. 2 - Perseverance, and Pt. 3 - Grit together for the final conflict.

Purpose - No underdog can prevail without purpose. Think about it. Luke Skywalker's purpose was to turn Darth Vader from the dark side of the force. Rocky was avenging Apollo Creed. Nacho Libre reigned victorious for EncarnaciĆ³n and the orphans.

Whether it's for good over evil, friendship, or love, you must have a purpose OUTSIDE of yourself.  Why is this so important? Lets see what our three traits literally mean.

Preparation - any proceeding, experience, or the like considered as a mode of preparing for the future.
There must be a point in the future that preparation is moving towards.  Without purpose, preparation will be unfocused, inefficient, and undisciplined.

Perseverance - steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
Perseverance is persistence towards a purpose! Without an ultimate purpose one cannot persevere as with an ultimate purpose.

Grit - firmness of character; indomitable spirit.
How does a person begin to embody a firmness of character? By having a reason to do so. Think about the things that do not matter to you. Will you be firm in your decisions or actions? Think about the things that matter a great deal. You will have a firmness in character, or grit, in those things.

What is purpose? 
"The reason for which something exists." I like to think of a person's purpose as "calling." A calling is a summons from someone or something. What is your calling? Why do you exist? Stop for 5 seconds and ponder this . . .

What was David's purpose?
In I Sam. 17:46 David tells Goliath why he's fighting him. David challenges Goliath with this: "This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel." David's actions all point to this calling. He has been preparing for a future event and is now fearless in the face of intimidation and adversity. He doesn't let a lack of resources deter him, and no one can stand in his way. He is resolute in his actions to prove to all that "there is a God in Israel."

What's an underdog story without an ending? Remember when David promised he would take Goliath's head with a sling?

"As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran."

Find your purposeprepare for it, persevere to it with grit. Join the underdogs in a dramatic and memorable victory in your life-changing encounter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 3 of 4 - Grit

So far, we've found out the first two characteristics of an underdog.  In Part 1 - Preparation, we determined that underdogs are prepared first, then have an opportunity. They do not necessarily prepare for the opportunity at hand.  In Part 2 - Perseverance, we saw that underdogs maintain a single-course mindset.  Although they may be derailed by events, circumstances, and discouragements, underdogs return to a path that will lead them to their life-changing encounter. This time, we'll see the inner resolve of an underdog and their dogged determination to keep getting back up.

Grit - One of the things that makes underdogs so fascinating is their ability to keep getting back up. At first glace it seems as if these characters have resilience . . . and they probably do. But upon a deeper examination, it can be seen that underdogs have more than resilience. They have grit.

Grit is that intangible, immeasurable inner strength that gives birth to mental toughness. Think of Rocky. In his fight against Drago, he is getting absolutely destroyed. Rocky is much smaller, he's bloodied, he's tired, and he's expected to lose. Somehow, somewhere inside, Rocky continues to find the inner strength to keep standing back up. The only way Rocky will not stand is if he cannot physically stand. But his mind won't listen to his body and he continues to rise . . .

David shows the same mental toughness, but against a different foe: intimidation. We last saw David attempting to wear Saul's armor. He's not used to the armor and probably cannot move around well so he decides not to wear it.  Instead, David goes and equips himself with a weapon that he can use. "[H]e took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand . . ." I Sam. 17:40.

So David is heading into battle with his shepherd's staff, which is basically a thick stick, and a sling-shot with five rocks . . . David heads out to Goliath. A man that stands over 9 feet tall, with 125 pound chain mail, a bronze breastplate, bronze helmet, bronze shin guards, and a spear with a 15 pound spear-head.

Goliath sees this small, ill-equipped youth and lets David know his fate. "Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field." I Sam. 17: 44.  Goliath isn't going to beat David up . . . He isn't going to humiliate him . . . He's going to kill David, and then leave his body for hungry scavengers! At this point I would start thinking about the reasonableness of my situation. But David doesn't! He has grit!

David tells Goliath, "I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases [sic] of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth." David is no only threatening Goliath with death and decapitation, but that Goliath's entire army will be devoured! Does David expect to take off Goliath's head with a stick . . .?! Or slingshot . . .?!

There is an inner strength that all underdogs possess.  It is a unstoppable drive to keep moving into the direction of the enemy. To keep rising from the mat. To keep bearing down into the battle. Why have you not encountered your life-changing battle? Did you stop pursuing your dream for fear of failure? Did you stop defending your position because the company is too big with too many resources?

If you want to win, you cannot quit. You must have "an indomitable spirit." You must have grit.

Stay tuned for the final characteristic tomorrow . . 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 2 of 4 - Perseverance

Last time we examined how underdogs are fully prepared for their lifetime opportunity. You can read it here: Part 1 - Preparation. This time we'll explore the underdog's ability to stay the course to reach that opportunity through . . .

Perseverance - Think about your favorite underdog (either from part 1, or on your own).  I'll use Luke Skywalker.  Luke had many setbacks, failures, discouragements, and fought seemingly insurmountable odds.  However, not once did he question whether he would finish his training and battle Darth Vader again.  Perseverance is not just the ability to keep going when it's tough (we'll examine that in part 3).  Perseverance is the dogged perspective that the path ahead leads to one thing: the life-changing encounter. Luke understood that every step on his path would lead to an encounter with Darth Vader. Everything he did increased his skills and abilities for that one opportunity . . . That one chance . . . That one battle.

Let's look back to our case study of the once and future king, David.

Once David decided he would face Goliath, nothing would sway his mind. He knew that any circumstance that befell him would not deter him from facing the giant.

King Saul let David use his armor for the showdown. David, a shepherd, probably never had put on armor before. As we learned in part 1, he fought a lion and bear, without armor, and was victorious.  When David begins to equip himself for a real battle, against a 9 foot armed man, he feels awkward and cumbersome. I Sam. 17:39.  He even says that he's not used to the armor and will not use it! That could be the beginning of discouragement, or even a valid reason to quit!

This does not deter David though.  Even though he is going to fight a heavily armed man, not having armor of his own does not dissuade him! He still knows he is going to fight Goliath.

If we are going to fight and win our unlikely battles, we must know that we are going to fight them. We cannot have a contingency plan and we cannot let limited resources hinder us. We cannot allow any circumstance, failure, or setback to blur our vision for our ultimate battle.

We must have Perseverance: "a steady persistence in a course of action."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Divining Your David: How to Tap into Your Inner Underdog. pt. 1 of 4 - Preparation

David vs. Goliath. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. Rocky vs. The Russian. Nacho Libre vs. Ramses. What does the first party in each contest have in common? Each of them are winners. And we love winners.

But each of them was also an underdog. And we love the underdog. We love rooting for someone that has their back up against the wall with nowhere to turn. We love seeing a more apt, more powerful foe succumb to the perseverance, grit, and determination of an unlikely hero. When we read, hear, or see stories of underdogs winning, it makes us feel like we can conquer the world!

So what makes an underdog an underdog, and how do we tap into our own inner underdog? We'll find out through the story of David and Goliath, which can be found in the Bible in I Samuel 16-17.

Before we get to the traits of a winning underdog, lets look at one underdog and his competition.  David was the youngest of eight brothers. He was a "youth" of small stature (some scholars think about 5 feet tall) and ruddy (meaning "red," probably from being in the sun all day). I Sam. 16:7, 10; 17:33. Goliath was a "champion" that stood about 9 feet tall, wearing an armor plate that weighed about 125 pounds, and armed with 15 pound spear. I Sam. 17:4-7. Saul tells David that Goliath was a man of war since his youth. I Sam. 17:33.

I think that if you examine most underdog winners, you'll find that each has four specific traits. We can deliberately embody these traits and win our unlikely battles.

Preparation - Yes, preparation. Even though the underdog seems to have less resources, less experience, and even less confidence, the winners on our list were ALWAYS prepared. The kid in our case study, David, was only a shepherd confronting a huge man.  However, listen to his response when Saul tells him he can't defeat Goliath: "Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered [the lamb] out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and smote him, and I slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear . . ." I Sam. 17:34-36.

David had been prepared for fighting Goliath by killing much fiercer combatants. He didn't blindly challenge him without skill or practice. And he didn't sit around waiting for an opportunity to then prepare for.  He was already prepared to take the opportunity when it presented itself.

We also need to prepare for the opportunity.  We need to prepare now! When the challenge presents itself, we will be ready to win, through diligent planning and preparing. What do you need to do? Study an area of law? Get to the gym in your off-season and increase muscular endurance? Finish your degree? Rise up to your future challenge by preparing now.

Stay tuned for the next trait . . .