With the recent death of my friend and mentor Bob Buford (see tribute here), I’ve been especially reflective on issues of life, ministry, and legacy.
Contributing to this season of reflection is the realization that I’ve now been in vocational ministry for more years than I spent in the marketplace as an engineer, and I likely have less working years ahead of me than I’ve left behind.
Add to that our Exponential 2018 theme Hero Maker. For me, it’s the most challenging theme we’ve had in our 13-year history. I’m challenged by the question, “Am I motivated primarily by becoming the hero in the center of my story, or am I giving the best of myself to becoming the hero-maker of others in God’s unfolding story?”
And if that’s not enough to catalyze a season of reflection, add two different medical conditions into the mix that could have (or should have) killed me during the past 2 years. All these things have naturally prompted questions about legacy and measuring what’s really important in life.
I find myself asking, “Am I being the best possible steward of the time, talents, and treasures that God has blessed me with? Am I focused primarily on pursuing a legacy by what I build, accumulate and leave behind, or by who I invest in and catapult forward to the next generation?”
You might summarize all these questions with this question, “Am I measuring here on earth what matters most in the scorecard of eternity?”
I spent last week at the beach resting, reading, reflecting, and recharging. I kept things simple. The Bible, one secular book, and a journal. A clear theme emerged: “The investment in people matters!”
Let me explain.
First, I intended to read through the entire New Testament and journal what the Holy Spirit was whispering to me during my week at the beach. I started in the book of Acts, but never made it any further. I dwelt on this one book all week. My journal notes ended up being longer than the book itself.
Here’s the thing. I’ve read Acts numerous times. I’m always energized by the same thing – the intersection of the mission-centric pioneering spirit of the apostles and the faith-saturated surrender stories that catalyzed the greatest movement in the history of mankind. The apostle Paul, the ultimate “monomaniac on a mission” is an inspiration for all Kingdom-minded, “monomaniac-wannabes” like me. Acts is our inspirational pep talk!
But something was different this time. Page after page, I was struck not by the pioneering spirit, but instead by the people stories. Not necessarily the heroes in each chapter but instead by the supporting cast members that I’ve easily skimmed over in the past. You see, I’ve always read Acts with Paul as the hero in the center of his unfolding entrepreneurial journey and story.
If I’m really transparent, I’ve always seen myself in his shoes as the hero of the story. This time, however, I read with Jesus as the ultimate hero-maker in his story, and Paul as a missionary hero-maker and supporting cast member. That shifts the focus from events and impact to people and investments.
Yes, Paul boldly and obediently pioneered three missionary journeys, carried the Gospel to the Gentiles, wrote much of the New Testament, and planted the Gospel in all kinds of new places. But his lasting impact – the impact that actually reaches out and touches us today through our spiritual lineage – is found in the mosaic of people that Paul invested in, encouraged, and ultimately catapulted forward 2000 years ago.
Paul was the hero-maker of Timothy, Silas, Cornelius, Lydia, Aquilla, Pricilla, and countless others who, in turn, became hero-makers. And we are their beneficiaries. The question is, “Will we follow in their footsteps and do the same, becoming hero-makers to the next generation?”
Don’t miss the focus on investing in people!
A second thing happened to me in my reading and reflections last week. Of the 100s of books on my radar, John Doerr’s new secular book Measure What Matters made it to the top of my reading list. It’s the one book (other than the Bible) that I took with me to the beach.
John Doerr is the chairman of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). They are considered by many to be the best venture capital platform in the history of the world, helping companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon get their starts (click here to see a sample of the over 800 companies they’ve invested in).
With their portfolio of over 800 of the top startups in U.S. history, John easily captured my attention with his new book. His approach to setting objectives and key results (what he calls OKRs) is simultaneously simple and powerful.
Every few pages, I would tell my wife Anna what a great book it is. From a secular standpoint, it’s one of the top 3 books I’ve read whose message is desperately needed in ministry and non-profit operations. But the core message and focus of his book was not the narrative that captured me.
I was most inspired and intrigued by the backstory of John Doerr’s relationship with two mentors who had a significant impact in his life. I have no idea if these men were Christians, but they certainly were hero-makers in John’s life. They show the profound impact of a simple investment in other people – an investment that is easily taken for granted.
Andy Grove was the CEO of Intel in the 1980s. He was certainly what we’d call a “monomaniac on a mission.” In John’s words, he knew what he wanted, how to get it, and was driven by an urgency and focus to attain it. Bill Campbell was a coach to some of the best business executives and teams, including Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google.
The role Andy Grove and Bill Campbell played in mentoring John provides the hidden secret to legacy impact. These two men were responsible for helping build some of the most important and impactful companies in the world, and in shaping the landscape of technology. Yes, they accumulated and left amazing things behind. But the real multiplying impact of their work is through the 100s (or 1000s) of leaders that they invested in, shaped, and catapulted forward beyond themselves.
Bill Campbell died of cancer 2 years ago. John included a special dedication to Bill’s legacy. He said, “Bill Campbell was always a players’ coach. [Now it’s] my chance to become a player coach for the next generation of leaders and partners. To follow Bill’s lead. Bill is gone, but for his many hundreds of disciples, all the executives he coached over all those years, his work goes on.”
John could have highlighted a monumental list of profound accomplishments in Bill’s life. He could have made the case for a legacy characterized by accumulation and impact. Instead, he highlighted Bill’s most significant legacy. He was a hero-maker. John’s most significant testimony of Bill’s legacy is found in his desire to “do for others what Bill had done for him.”
We all have hero-makers like Bill in our lives. Mine was my friend and mentor Bob Buford. He passionately said that he “wanted to do for others what Peter Drucker (his mentor) did for him.” I was one of those beneficiaries. I now want to do for others what Bob did for me.
Most important, I want to pass Bob’s values for hero-making onto others. Bob strongly believed and lived out the following:
- “I want to do for others what Peter Drucker did for me! I want to focus on giving others permission, encouragement, applause, and accountability for 100X impact!”
- “I’m the catapult not the plane.”
- “My fruit grows on other people’s trees.”
- “You can do it; how can I help?”
Think about it. All these axioms can be summarized by the simple practice of coming alongside others with intentionality (connecting), helping them see beyond the fog and clouds surrounding them (clarifying), and helping launch them forward beyond the fog (accelerating).
These practices are the secret to a legacy so much bigger than what we accumulate and leave behind. They are the keys to focusing on “who” we catapult forward beyond ourselves rather than “what” we accumulate and leave behind on this earth.
I had the blessing of a front row seat to Bob’s life and his learnings for the past decade. In the coming weeks, I will be doing a special tribute to his legacy. I will use the “5 essential practices of hero-making” as the context. Each week, I will cover one practice and what I learned from Bob’s mentoring on each practice.
Interested in assessing how you are doing on the 5 essential practices of hero-making? We’ve created a simple, FREE online tool that takes less than 30 minutes to complete. You will immediately see your level of hero-making on a 5 level scale. Click the button below to take the assessment.