Interesting question: How would you rate your own life?
If people truly do lead lives of quiet desperation (and I think they do), is it possible to attain something higher, a better quality of life?
Terry Smith thinks it is. As pastor of a thriving church in the New York City metro area, he pastors a congregation that is diverse and pulsing with life. One gets the feeling from reading his new book, “Ten: How Would You Rate Your Life,” that the guy is sprinting toward the finish line that Paul described long ago, back when people were … well, the same!
Smith, pastor of Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., has put his degrees in management and leadership to good use. In “Ten,” he shows a clear path to taking your four life to places you had not thought possible.
I especially loved the story at the beginning, in which he practically runs a marathon trying to find and encourage his wife, running her first marathon. A guy with this much passion to see others succeed is a much needed, can I say, commodity, in our world.
Right from the start, Smith challenges: “I don’t think people want enough.”
Now, you could say, “No, most folks want too much.”
But then I thought about what he said as I read, and, by golly, he’s right. Smith correctly makes the point that we shouldn’t want more stuff, but more life. And this isn’t some esoteric mumbo-jumbo. What Terry Smith has set out before you in “Ten” is attainable.
He also points out that we should not attain for selfish reasons: “If someone has the ability to imagine a better future and holds the power to create it, then he or she is morally responsible to do just that.”
Smith also doesn’t fall prey to the temptation to produce a book that sounds eight parts cotton candy and two parts reality. His book is enhanced by his use of gritty life stories that illustrate the capacity of the human mind.
He points out that Victor Frankl represented perhaps one of the greatest stories of overcoming ever. Frankl, who was in a concentration camp, recognized an important truth: He could not change his surroundings, but he could change how he reacted to it.
Lest you think this is some psychobabble, consider less-searing moments in your own life, when you managed to get through a difficulty in this manner. It could have been something as simple as changing your response to a bully in school, or at work.
In these vignettes, Smith shows us that though this life is damaged by sin, we can still attain a quality of life that is better than if we’d only settled for drudgery.
My favorite chapter in “Ten” is “Not Always This Way,” Chapter 14. In it, Smith relates a simple yet profound story of a man who kept failure like a close friend early on but later transformed himself into the leader his country needed.
Abe Lincoln was commissioned a captain in the Blackhawk War and failed so miserably in leadership that his own men said, “Any old woman would have made a more credible commander than he did.”
Yet, Lincoln spent the next several years developing himself as a person, eventually, of course, holding the Union together at the end of his life.
Now, don’t miss this. We have the benefit of hindsight and could gloss over this story. But here’s the key point Smith makes: Don’t think at first about Lincoln’s later extraordinary life and accomplishments. Imagine him as the scarecrow captain trying to figure out how to lead a company of men over a fence at the edge of a field!
Had he remained that man, my, wouldn’t history have been different?
Later on, Smith lays out his ideas on leadership. He makes a wonderful statement in “The Obligation of Leadership”: “This is not a self-help book. Who wants to enter into a preferred future alone?”
No, rather what he is saying in “Ten” is that a thoroughly selfish agenda for attaining a better life – if we choose to tweak the path in that way – leads to empty relationships. One of Terry Smith’s greatest gifts is motivating people properly, and when he discusses leadership, that gift is on full display. It is inspiring.
Only a man with a shepherd’s heart could write the following: “Many people who are gifted with leadership are not inclined ‘to show mercy.’ Leaders want to get things done. They want them done now. They typically have little patience for anything or anyone who impedes their progress. I learned many years ago, however, that a pastor with a leadership gift will not be successful if he does not develop his mercy gift.”
Smith has been pastor of his church for 20 years. His new book, wrapped in real-life experience and successes (and a few failures along the way!) will benefit you enormously.