Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Think Big: The End Goal

I've been slowly making my way through Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence by Dr. Ben Carson the past few weeks.  The first half of the book is largely biographical and details Ben's childhood and much of his medical career.  He places a lot of focus on the mentors in his life.  One of his stories in particular has left me with much to think about.

In high school, he had a band teacher, Mr. Doakes, who always pushed his students to give their best and perfect every piece of music they played.  Although Ben always appreciated this teacher and his confidence in his class, other students didn't and even referred to him as a slave driver.  In time, with Mr. Doakes' instruction and encouragement, Ben rose to the top of the class, just like in every other class.

One day, the teacher announced that four students in the class were eligible to audition for a prestigious summer music camp scholarship.  This was a camp that would provide gifted students with heavy-duty instruction and the opportunity of traveling the country and performing under famous directors.  Any student's acceptance into this program also reflected very favourably on his or her band teacher.

Of course, Ben asked Mr. Doakes if he though he was good enough.  Mr. Doakes assured Ben of his confidence that he could win this scholarship.  But when Ben asked if he would recommend him, he said "No."  You see, this teacher knew how well Ben was doing in his academic work and that he wanted to be a doctor.  He knew that the intense music camp would not allow Ben to focus on his other work.  Somewhere down the road, Ben had to make a choice between either music and science/medicine.  Knowing his heart was to be a doctor, the teacher said "No".

As we can imagine, Ben was very disappointed by this.  But walking away, he realized his teacher had done the most caring thing for him.  Mr. Doakes knew Ben's potential and his gift in music, but he also knew that this intense program would require a lot of time and energy and pursuing music to this degree would take away from his ultimate goal of being a doctor.  Although the teacher could have advanced himself through Ben, he was unselfish and told Ben "No", ultimately having his best interest in mind.  As it turns out, Ben's wife received a scholarship to this music camp while she was in high school.

You can gather many things from this story, such as the importance of mentoring and guiding a young person to make right decisions, even when they won't want to hear it.  But what struck me was just the fact that this teacher would not allow Ben to pursue something that would distract from his ultimate goal.  It reminded me of a conversation I had with a mentor several months back.  He basically said that if something does not allow me to fulfill my purpose, then I shouldn't spend time doing it.  That was hard for me to digest.  That meant having to cut some activities out of my life that I liked.

I have a confession to make.  I excel at wasting time and surrounding myself with distractions.  And I don't even have a personal cell phone!  I can procrastinate and avoid tasks I don't like by coming up with a ton of good "reasons" why today is not a good day.  And if I know I really have to do something, I'll do anything to delay, even if it means checking my facebook like ten times even though I know there's nothing new there.  Yeah, it's bad.

If you consider it honestly, very few people in our culture have a clear vision or purpose for their life.  And for the few that do, there are a host of potential distractions to take away from them fulfilling that purpose.  I'm facing that challenge.  It's not that I don't know where I want to go or what I want to do.  But somehow, what should be my free time to pursue those things get filled with an abundance of trivial, unimportant time-wasters and I feel like I have no time. 

There's so many things that can take away from our goals and our relationship with God.  Sometimes the decisions we have to make are hard.  Like Ben, there are things we enjoy and are very talented in, but since they don't contribute to our end goals, then often we have to let go of them to a degree.  It usually doesn't mean that we have to forsake them completely, but we do have to limit the amount of our time and energy they consume.

What is your vision?  Have you identified your purpose or your life goals?  Whether they are spiritual, family, educational or career ambitions, are you pursuing them fully? Or are you letting other trivial things stand in the way?  Sometimes, we have to sacrifice even the things we hold close to us if they don't lead us closer to God and the vision He has given us.  But in the end, I believe we will look back and see that it's worth it.


  1. If you get distracted, what hope is there for our cell phone carrying, twittering, youtube watching culture. We're done for!

  2. Thanks for this :) While surfing the net, came across your blog and had a read thru. This is exactly where I am in my life right now. Thank you so much for this message. It has helped me redirect my way of thinking.. Bless you :)