Are you satisfied with where you are as a leader?

I hope not. I hope you’re still hungry to keep growing. But if we are really honest, we all have a tendency to say, “Good enough.” We get comfortable. We stagnate and settle into mediocrity.

The word mediocre comes from two latin words: medial, which means “middle,” or “halfway,” and ocris which means “rugged mountain.” Mediocre literally means to go halfway up a rugged mountain.

You were made for more than mediocre. But when we get complacent, when we slow down and stop pursuing growth and next steps–when we settle for mediocrity–we settle for halfway up the Everest-sized dream God has for us.

The real difference between ordinary people and extraordinary people is not their talent, but their commitment to keep improving.

In late 1997 Tiger Woods  decided to do a complete overhaul of his swing. The notion seemed absurd; a tweak here and there is one thing, but to take it apart and rebuild it? That seemed unnecessary. After all, he had already won six PGA Tour events in less than two years with that swing, including the 1997 Masters, where he won by 12 strokes.

But there was a method to his madness. Sure, he could crush the ball, routinely outdriving other players by 20 yards. But his swing was too dependent on perfect timing. If everything was in sync, it worked. If not, everything was up for grabs. Tiger Woods wasn’t satisfied with a great swing. He wanted more accuracy, and to develop the nuance and subtleties in his game that would make every shot like poetry.

When asked about the investment in changing things up, Tiger said, “I was very one-dimensional; everything was pretty high. I couldn’t hit a half-nothing eight iron from 120 yards. It wasn’t part of my game. My swing plane and the things that I was doing in my game didn’t allow me to hit that shot, so I had to fix it.”

Tiger was the best in the world, and yet he was constantly looking for ways to take his next step as a golfer.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi, he was already a successful church planter, and one of the premier leaders in the Church. But instead of pushing the “pause” button or going on cruise control he writes in Philippians 3, “I haven’t arrived yet. But I keep going, taking next steps, so that I can grab ahold of the purpose that Jesus took ahold of me for” (DDV | Dave Dummitt Version).

Following Jesus is a verb; it is walking through this life with Jesus, step after step after step. And so it is not where you are today, what you have achieved thus far, what you have built, what you are maintaining–it is your constant commitment to taking next steps.

Here are 3 important things to know about taking next steps:

Taking next steps has an end-goal.

It’s great to take next steps as a leader, as an athlete, or any other role you may have. We should invest time to maximize the skills and opportunities God has given us. We should strive to take next steps to be better family members, friends, employees, and community members. But the most essential end-goal of taking next steps is that we love God more and more and consequently look more like Him.

On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas is a portrait of a man with this inscription underneath:

“James Butler Bonham–no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.”

No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that, “As the Spirit of the Lord works in us, we become more and more like Him,” (The Living Bible). God’s goal is that we look like Jesus so that when the world sees us, they will recognize the one who died for our spiritual freedom.

God is constantly calling you to a new level. He is always inviting you to a deeper relationship with Himself. We are to grow to become more loving, more self-disciplined, more compassionate, more faithful, and more like Jesus as we take next steps following Him.

Taking next steps is a life-long process. 

Knowing Jesus and becoming like Him requires our entire lives. We cannot afford to stop or stagnate. Life is constantly changing, and this side of Heaven none of us has “arrived” so we have to continually lean in, take next steps, and pursue growth. But we also keep our eyes on the end-goal while giving ourselves grace and patience that we aren’t there yet.

If you’re reading this, you have not yet crossed the finish line. Keep going. Keep running. Don’t sit down in the middle of the race, and don’t give up on yourself because you haven’t reached the goal yet.

Which brings me to my final thought on next steps:

Taking next steps means never quitting.

Some of us have tried taking next steps before and we’ve failed. We failed and we feel bad about it and the thought of trying again either scares us or makes us feel like a hypocrite. We get tired, we get beat up, so we’d rather live in mediocrity because it’s safe and familiar.

Don’t give in, and don’t give up. As prize-fighter James Corbett once said, “Fight another round, for the man who fights another round is never whipped.”

God is the God of second chances. And third chances. And fourth…He’s not giving up on you and has promised to see through the work He has started in making you look like Jesus. Stand up. And get moving. Taking next steps is a life long process, but we don’t have to take next steps alone; we’ve got God’s help.

The Best Is Yet To Come,

Dave