Aug
31
2015

I think most of us would agree that the right equipment can spell the difference between success and failure. You wouldn’t want your surgeon using a chain saw or your dentist a woodworking drill. I’ve noticed that professionals are quite particular about their tools. Whether it’s a surgeon, a dentist, a fisherman, or a mountain climber, professionals know that their success depends on using the right equipment.

I’d like to suggest for your consideration that it also takes using the right equipment if we are to experience the kind of successful, satisfying life we all long for.

Wouldn’t it be great if life came with a set of instructions designed to keep us from colliding with reality in painful ways? Hey, talk about a piece of equipment that could make the difference between success and failure. Figuring life out can be like trying to work a giant jigsaw puzzle without a picture to follow, or, even worse, with the wrong picture to follow. But what if there was a kind of “owner’s manual” for life that we could rely on to always give us the right picture?

“Not so fast,” somebody says. “I don’t need a set of instructions. I trust my own “seat of the pants” navigation, you know, just doing what seems like the right thing for me.” Let’s consider that for a moment.

Lee Iacocca may be the best-known U.S. automotive executive since Henry Ford. Navigating life by the seat of his pants, Iacocca, described as an aggressive, dictatorial leader, clawed his way to the top of the heap, first at Ford, then at Chrysler. He expected his success to provide satisfaction and significance. Sadly, when he reached the top of the corporate ladder, all he found there were pigeon droppings. “Here I am,” he wrote in his autobiography, “in the twilight years of my life still wondering what it’s all about. I can tell you this, fame and fortune is for the birds.” Few things in life, as someone said, are as tragic as being successful at the wrong thing.

Iacocca’s story illustrates a phenomenon called “positive illusion,” which is psych speak for our tendency to have a warped perspective when it comes to anything involving ourselves. Do you know why 25% of people believe they’re in the top 1% in their ability to get along with others, and why the vast majority of us consider ourselves above-average? Positive illusion.

Positive illusion is what’s wrong with “seat of the pants” navigation. Lee Iacocca is a smart guy. No doubt he was aware that most people’s experience is that money doesn’t buy them happiness. But because of positive illusion, he concluded that he would be the exception. It didn’t work out that way.

In wrapping this up, I refer you back to the owner’s manual idea. What if there were a storehouse of information, understood to apply to all, with maxims warning, for example, against “seat of the pants” navigation. Maxims such as, “What you think is the right road may lead to death.” And, “Wisdom is worth more than silver; it brings more profit than gold”? If Lee Iacocca had taken heed from such a manual, how different his story might well have been.

The above citations are maxims from – no surprise here – the Bible (Proverbs 14:12 and 3:14), which claims to be “the owner’s manual” for life. But can we depend on the Scriptures to reveal how life really works, to protect us from “positive illusion” and similar hazards that can lead to a wasted life? You might want to check them out for yourself.

Dr. Jim Furr

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