#029 – Faith As Usual – The “Success First” Pill

We believe there are five common Placebos of what we call faith as usual that can lead well intentioned leaders down Side Roads in their effort to integrate their faith and their work.  The fifth Placebo (after The “4-Hour Content” Pill, The “Save or Give” Pill, The “Add Some Faith” Pill and The “Bless You” Pill) is The “Success First” Pill, which commonly leads to the Side Road of Interimizing.

The “Success First” Pill

While The “Bless You” Pill starts leaders out with a corrupted “WHY” (it puts faith/work integration in the same bucket as Six Sigma, TQM, JIT, Lean, etc.–something that has helped others prosper and is worth a try as long as it works), The “Success First” Pill starts leaders out with a corrupted “WHEN”. The “Success First” Pill says that getting the organization up and running and successful is the first priority–faith/work integration can come later.   A leader may swallow The “Success First” Pill for any number of reasons:

  • The leader has crossed the Sunday/Monday Gap but not yet crossed the Sacred/Secular Gap, resulting in faith/work integration being seen as a “nice thing to do when the time is right” but not a priority.
  • The leader has also swallowed The “Save or Give Pill” and believes that “giving” will be enhanced by first getting the business successful.
  • The leader has also swallowed The “Add Some Faith” Pill and is afraid that adding overt faith “frosting” before the business is successful might impede its success.
  • The leader has heard or read (and misunderstood) a “success to significance” message and sees faith/work integration as firmly in the second stage of “significance” after the business has achieved “success“.
  • The leader is overwhelmed with getting the business to “work” and sees faith/work integration as an added burden for which there is insufficient bandwidth.
  • The leader anticipates pursuing/is pursuing/has obtained financing from partners who do not understand or value faith/work integration, and the leader fears it could jeopardize the financing that is needed for success.

When you put money first and the spirituality second, you actually reverse the entire order of creation. You put the effect before the cause, the result before the process, the coinage before the content, the profit before the purpose. (Rabbi Michael Shevack)

The “Bless You” Pill leads to taking the right actions for the wrong reasons (in the hope of receiving God’s blessings), and The “Success First” Pill leads to delaying taking action for the wrong reasons (misunderstanding of faith/work integration and God’s interest in the organization, fear of worldly failure/disapproval or lack of trust in God).

Because we believe “Why” matters for an organization, we believe “When” also matters for faith/work integration.  If faith/work integration is delayed until the organization is “successful” (i.e., The “Success First” Pill), the leader is likely headed down the Side Road of Interimizing. 

As we have emphasized in prior posts, the risks of relying on a Placebo and stumbling down a Side Road include:

  • Missed purpose for the organization
  • Missed calling for its leaders
  • Missed flourishing of its people

The “Success First” Pill puts the pursuit of worldly success ahead of what we believe God calls us to in stewarding organizations of humans pursuing their humanity through work.

SPOILER ALERT:  One of the key “mind-shifts” in the first stage of Integriosity–RENEW–is The Time Is Now.

PERSONAL FOOTNOTE (from PM):  I effectively swallowed The “Success First” Pill because I pursued my career without any idea there was such a thing as faith/work integration.  My faith was renewed and I crossed the Sunday/Monday Gap and the Sacred/Secular Gap long after I had achieved “success” by worldly standards.  Bob Buford’s bestselling book Half-Time: Moving from Success to Significance has helped many people like me–people who wake up to their faith later in life after building their business or becoming established in their vocation.  But it was in conversations with faith-driven millennials that I began to have reservations about the original “half-time/success to significance” message when delivered to people under the age of 50.  The half-time/success to significance message given to someone under 50 can be interpreted to say “get successful first, then worry about significance”–and it is a seductively attractive interpretation to a “20-something” or “30-something” starting a business or starting a career and wanting to “have it all”.  In my view, THAT is potentially swallowing The “Success First” Pill and taking an unfortunate detour sign down a Side Road.

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