February 9, 2020

How To Get A Standing Ovation

We all want a standing ovation whether we admit it or not. That is to say, we all hope someone else is grateful for the work we do. Yet, it's not everyday that most of us get a standing ovation in front of hundreds of people. Yesterday, at the 171st Council of the Diocese of Texas I received one. It was humbling and flattering but it also demonstrates something important in today's culture.

To get a standing ovation you have to make it all about you. Your accomplishments, your track record. But that is never enough because this always requires more. More accomplishments. More records broken. There is only so much that one human can accomplish and this only ends in exhaustion. So, in order to be truly successful at this you must demonize someone else. You have to make a straw man out of the other. You must build on their failures, their misfortune, their mockery. We are suckers for a common enemy and will fall for this appeal for applause every time. But here's the thing: it's not really about you then is it?

There is another way to win an applause.

Over the last few years, I've been less present on social media and my podcasting frequency has waned. Instead, I've put thousands of miles on my car so that I could show up in cities, towns and neighborhoods. I go on walks, drink coffee and share meals. Most of my work is a mix of mundane and ordinary with normal, everyday people. Most don't have Twitter accounts. Most are not professional Christian leaders. Rather than tell people what I'm doing, I listen to what they're doing. I earn the right to be heard and, when invited, I share what I know through my experience rather than what I read in books. I try to build on the gifts, experience and the contextual realities of those I work with rather then tell them they're doing it wrong, don't have the right title or live in the wrong neighborhood. I do my best to lower anxiety, instill hope and confidence, and convince people that risking failure or embarrassment is a worthy risk.

To get a standing ovation, do your work in a way that when people cheer for you, they know they're cheering for themselves too.

That is how you get a standing ovation.

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