After Losing my Job I want to Tell You About How to Win (Losers should skip this one)
I have something personal to share with you today in the form of a lesson learned and a lesson I want to impart. I hope it will bring you all a little closer to holiness, which is my only-one motive for being here and doing what I do.
Brother Can You Spare a Dime
A quick update. I recently lost my job. This is a scary and uncertain time for me. With a family to provide for, I don’t have the luxury to “wait and see” how things pan out, and I have to make some moves. I’m sharing this with you for two reasons. First to let you know that I won’t be producing content as frequently as I had been up till now. But I also wanted to share that news with you because it provides a backdrop for what I want to talk about here. Sometimes winning comes out of losing. And sometimes losing comes out of the illusion of winning.
Letter from a Friend
I re-encountered a passage in St. Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth a couple of months ago. In 1 Corinthians 19-27, he exhorts them to be diligent in the faith, salvation, the Gospel, and living Christian lives. He compares this discipline to that of athletes in a race. But verse 24 really stood out to me. “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win."
The runners in St. Paul’s analogy take the race very seriously. They all want to win, so they work and train hard to condition and push their bodies to be the first across the finish line. They all commit to the same goal, but only one will win. With such slim odds of being that one winner, you might imagine how hard they work, train, and discipline themselves to increase their odds of winning.
The image reminded me of something we were told again and again during my time in the military, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.” With that message always in my mind, I always pushed myself to train harder than anyone else. And boy, did I train. I trained as though slacking off just the tiniest bit would be the difference between survival and being sent home to my family in a pine box. But when I [re]encountered that scripture in 1 Corinthians it provoked some necessary self-reflection. I had to ask myself, “Do I run so as to win anymore?” I realized that in many ways that answer was no.
Running to Lose
Whether the race is my professional life or my faith life, I realized that I hardly run the race to win it. For many years I’d been content to run the race with the hope of not losing—not coming in last place. I never ran the race with the goal of coming in first because I believed it was impossible for me. My thinking was that, for me, not coming in last was the same as winning. Winning was too hard, and there were too many obstacles that were impossible for me to overcome. It was hard enough to come in 2nd place or even 5th place. As long as I wasn’t losing, I was content. But that’s not a good attitude to have, and St. Paul’s letter made that very clear to me. I hadn’t even realized that I wasn’t running “so as to win” until I revisited that scripture. And then it screamed at me! I’m sure many Catholics have similar attitudes. Tell a practicing Catholic “be a saint” and they’ll chuckle at the idea because they don’t believe it’s possible for them to “run so as to win”
I always took my faith seriously, but it occurred to me that I never “ran so as to win.” If I’m being fair, I probably run that race harder than some others, but only with the goal of not losing as badly as I might, were I to get sloppy with my faith. My passion for sainthood (my own and that of others) has always been strong and sincere. But in truth, I always felt that I would be remembered not for being a saint but for making saints of others. As I've said, coming in 1st place, I believed, was impossible for me. “I’ll try! I’ll try hard. But realistically, I know I’ll fail. So I’ll keep trying so that I don’t fail too miserably.” That was my thinking. Not a good attitude, and not good thinking. I have to think differently. Maybe you do, too
Run to Win
Now here I am, out of work and “losing” again. I’ve always worked hard, applied myself, thought out of the box, and excelled to some degree in my professional life. I’ve never been a slacker, and I’ve done some pretty good things in my profession. But in professional life, as in my faith life, I’ve never really run so as to win. Not really. That’s going to change. I’ll tell you how I intend to change it, but first, I have a message for you.
My message to you today is to “Run so as to win!” We can’t just run to keep up or with the hope of “at least” coming in 2nd or 3rd place. We have to run as if only one person out of billions will win the crown. It’s okay to pace ourselves, as race-runners do. But our pace, stride and rhythm should be how we get our second wind, not about taking it easy for the rest of the race.
With some things in life, running just to keep up may be acceptable. For example, sometimes, when you have a family, just keeping up is a milestone achievement at the end of the day. But just keeping up isn’t good enough when it comes to the faith and the Christian life. Often we live as though practicing the faith is the same as being holy. But it isn’t. Balance is important and we shouldn’t run the race as if we’re running in terror from a thousand charging bulls. We should be balanced, and never lose our peace as we find our winning pace. But we can’t run as though we’re jogging through the park either, mistakenly believing that as long as we’re not sitting on a park bench, we’re sure to win.
Brothers and sisters, Run so as to win! We have to see ourselves as athletes born to win the race and allow that belief to guide and propel our actions and efforts. I often tell people “If you aim for Purgatory, you’ll miss it, and reach hell instead. So aim for Heaven.” We have to run so as to win.
Race to the Future
I have to follow this advice, too. But I also hope to run so as to win a different race. I’ve been in survival mode, professionally, ever since I came out of the military. I’ve had to ride a lot of waves that I didn’t get to choose. I made them work, but I never chose them. It’s “running to keep up” rather than “running to win”. This time I intend to run so as to win; creating the wave rather than riding one that I was never free to choose (or to choose against). So while searching for another job I’m also exploring the possibility of self-employment as a podcast producer (Mainly for Catholic parishes and lay-evangelizers and writers).
Podcasting is a field where I can apply my long and rich history and experience in media with a very high degree of effectiveness. I’m a good producer, and most podcasts in the Catholic space really need good production behind them. Most of them are trainwrecks that enjoy synthetic success—they get a lot of attention, but they don’t make saints. It takes more than a microphone and a computer to do a good podcast and many podcasters don’t understand that. My idea for this business is a lot more layered than this, but I don’t want to make the whole concept public yet. I want to build something that will shake the Catholic world (In a good way!) not something that will simply pay a salary.
I have no financing to start a new company but this idea has been making a lot of noise in my thoughts for a few weeks, despite my resisting it. So either God is inspiring me to do it, or the devil is trying to keep me distracted from finding another job. If God wants this business to happen, he’ll have to find a way to pay for it. In the meantime while I look for new employment I’m going to also start moving some pieces into place for the execution of this new business. If God finds financing, at least some of the major pieces will be in place.
If you’re interested in podcasting for your Substack or elsewhere, please reach out. I’m a cheap date (for now) and you can afford me. If you already have a podcast and would like help to improve it, refer to the second sentence in this paragraph.
Please do consider becoming a paid subscriber, too. I could use it now more than ever. And please pray for me and my family during this unsettling period.