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Success or Failure at Work

Have you ever been passed over for something you wanted?

Maybe it was to be picked for a Red Rover team, passed over for a promotion, or lost an election.

Regardless of what it was, nearly all of us have had the experience of failing to get something we wanted that we thought defined success.


When my son was in junior high, he tried out for the basketball team. Despite being shorter than most of the boys, he was a talented basketball player. He was ambidextrous, so he could dribble and shoot with either hand, and he understood the game, so he was a good team player.

Everyone who tried out got to practice the first week. At weeks end, the coach listed a set of criteria by which he was going to use to measure the skills of each player. The criteria included dribbling, shooting layups, free throws, among other standard skills. All these were skills at which my son excelled.

At the end of this testing, each player was scored on their ability. The coach then lined all the players up from tallest to shortest and picked the tallest ten players for his team.

Wait a minute.

Didn’t he set a criterion to determine his team? Well, yes and no; he did set criteria, but it is his team and he, as a coach, gets to do what he wants.

That's Life

Jim Rohn has written about success and failure at work that somewhat parallels my son’s basketball experience. Jim attempts to answer the question of why some “good people” (Jim Rohn’s terminology) do not succeed at work while some “not-so-good people” easily achieve much success.

His point is that the good people do not take all they have to offer to their work; they have other commitments which divide their devotions. These people “do not stay up late at night developing new plans to achieve [their] dreams and work hard day after day to make those dreams a reality.” The not-so-good people do.

The not-so-good people succeed because they put everything they have into achieving their goals. They have nothing else to distract them, so they can fully focus on one single success, regardless of the means and methods needed for that success.


Comparing the success of Jim Rohn’s good and not-so-good people is not a fair comparison.

The good person is attempting to achieve success at work while balancing other vital commitments to his or her family and community. The not-so-good person is attempting to achieve success regardless of the cost, which is a different goal from the good person.

My son was trying out for a basketball team following a set of criteria. The coach wanted a good basketball team knowing that basketball is disproportionately a sport for tall people, and the taller boys intuitively knew they had an advantage regardless of their scoring on the skills test. You can teach a kid how to shoot better; you cannot teach them how to be taller.

The good person at work and my son in his basketball tryout were attempting to achieve success against a set of criteria that was not in-line with the ultimate goal of the decision makers in that particular instance.

The Bible

The hard part to reconcile is that both my son and the good people were actually successful. They were successful in what they thought should have been the criteria for success. This is where we need to remember God.

God wants all of us to be successful. The difficulty is remembering what exactly He wants us to be successful in.

Jeremiah 29:11 says.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God is the only one who can tell you if your plans for success are the same as His plans for your success. 2 Chronicles 26:5 is about King Uzziah and how he relied on God and not the world to determine what success looks like.

He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.

Sure, taller kids get selected for the basketball team. Not-so-good people get promoted over good people. And bigger kids always win in the game of Red Rover. But, we need to remember our real success is only found in following the plans God has for us.

Make sure the success you are striving for is in line with the success that God has intended for you.