21 Jun #178 – Words that Inspire: “Play Big”
ESSENCE: Words are important and powerful, and some words can inspire. In 2011, the simple phrase “All In” inspired the N.Y. Giants to turn around a dismal season and win the Super Bowl. This past weekend the world was introduced to a new inspirational phrase likely to go viral–“Play Big”. It is the phrase that carried Wyndham Clark to victory in the U.S. Open golf tournament. This phrase originated from Clark’s mother, who passed away in 2013, and it appears on the ball marker that Clark carries when playing. Undoubtedly, as #PLAYBIG goes viral, people will give it their own meanings. However, it is likely that most will not give it the faith-centered meaning reflected on Clark’s ball marker. In addition to the phrase, Clark’s ball marker also has praying hands and a Bible verse–John 16:33. That combination provides an inspirational recipe for faithful leaders seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities: Think BIG and Go for It; Expect to Face Challenges; Pray; Trust God; and Don’t Give Up.
If you have been reading our posts, you know we believe words are important and powerful. Some words disorder our priorities, which can disorder our lives. Some words inspire.
This past weekend the world was introduced to a new inspirational phrase likely to go viral–“Play Big”. It is the phrase that carried Wyndham Clark to victory in the U.S. Open golf tournament–his first “Major” victory–and we believe it can inspire faithful leaders seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
Refresher: The Power of Words
We have written several posts on the importance and power of words. Frederick Buechner wrote:
Words are power, essentially the power of creation. By my words I both discover and create who I am.
God created the universe by speaking, and Satan tried to tempt Jesus by twisting God’s word. The Bible tells us that words have the power to create (Genesis 1:3; Hebrews 11:3), to effect change (Mark 11:23), to give life or bring death (Proverbs 18:21), to build up or corrupt (Ephesians 4:29), to bring health (Proverbs 16:24), and to destroy (Proverbs 11:9; Matthew 12:36-37).
Words that Inspire
In 2011, the inspirational phrase that went viral was “All In”. It originated from a N.Y. Giants players chapel meeting just before Christmas that was led by a young ninth-grade teacher invited by the Giants Chaplain. The Giants were 7-7, having lost five of their last six games. Gian Paul Gonzalez’s “All In” challenge inspired them to turn around the season and win the Super Bowl (a short video about what happened is at the bottom of this post).
It looks like the inspirational phrase for 2023 may be “Play Big”. It seems to have inspired Wyndham Clark’s victory in the U.S. Open golf tournament. This phrase originated from Clark’s mother, who passed away in 2013, and it appears on the ball marker that Clark carries when playing. In 2016, Clark wrote in an Instagram post:
I’ll never truly know why God takes people form this earth at such a young age but I do know my mom is in a better place enjoying eternity with Jesus.
Clark’s story is one of overcoming significant professional challenges following his mother’s death. As described by Golf365:
Lise’s death hit Clark hard and he seriously considered quitting the sport as he battled bouts of depression and frustration throughout his college career and early years in the professional ranks.
With the help of friends, coaches and advisors, he persevered. In his words (from the same Golf365 article):
I’ve probably had three to four really defining moments in my career since college, but I’m really glad that I stuck it through.
Being here now, I just feel so blessed. It’s honestly surreal to look back and think about the journey the last seven to 10 years.
In an earlier article in Golf Digest, Clark wrote “I’ve had the support of so many people. But none more than my mom. She remains my motivation for playing.” After winning the U.S. Open, Clark commented: “I just felt like my mom was watching over me today.” It would be difficult to dispute that the words “Play Big” from Clark’s mother inspired him, but what do they mean?
The Meaning of “Play Big”
Undoubtedly, as #PLAYBIG goes viral, people will give it their own meanings. However, it is likely that most will not give it the faith-centered meaning reflected on Clark’s ball marker. We think that is the best meaning for understanding how “Play Big” can inspire faithful leaders seeking to lead with faithful integrity.
Based on an image of Clark’s ball marker posted on Twitter by Stephen Hennessey (Golf Digest), in addition to the phrase “Play Big”, Clark’s ball marker also has praying hands and a Bible verse–John 16:33:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
What we take from the ball marker is:
• Think BIG and go for it.
• Expect to face challenges.
• Trust God.
• Don’t give up.
And that is an inspirational recipe for faithful leaders seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
By my words I both discover and create who I am. (Frederick Buechner)
“Play Big” for Faithful Leaders
Let’s explore how that inspirational recipe can inspire faithful leaders seeking to lead with faithful integrity.
Think BIG and Go for It.
The ball marker says “Play Big”. For a faithful leader, this means choosing the path of business according to God’s Kingdom rather than business according to the kingdom of the world–business a better way rather than business as usual.
Back in post #045, we explained that truly seeking God’s Kingdom requires understanding and embracing a BIGGER Gospel (four rather than two chapters) that tells us why work and business matter.
As we emphasized in post #157 (The Choice), there is no middle ground. To combine our inspirational phrases, “Play Big” requires being “All In” on business a better way.
It also means being intentional about pursuing that choice. In earlier posts, we described the four important aspects of the intentional leadership needed to lead an organization with faithful integrity through business a better way, while avoiding the pitfalls of “faith as usual” Side Roads: Commitment to a WHO Identity, Commitment to a Bigger WHY, Commitment to Cultivating Culture, and Commitment to Authenticity. Go back and take a look.
Every organization has a culture (whether intentional or unintentional, healthy or toxic), and an organization without intentional leaders will have an unintentional culture. Unintentional cultures tend to become unhealthy or even toxic cultures based on self-interest and the behavior of the leaders.
Expect To Face Challenges.
John 16:33 says “In the world you will have tribulation.” A faithful leader of an organization committed to leading with faithful integrity through business a better way will face challenges. We are seeking the BIGGER Kingdom but doing it in a broken world.
In his book To Change the World, James Hunter warns: “To enact a vision of human flourishing based in the qualities of life that Jesus modeled will invariably challenge the given structures of the social order. In this light, there is no true leadership without putting at risk one’s time, wealth, reputation, and position.”
Back in post #091 (Trust in God), we identified these challenges as resistance, dilemmas and risks.
• Resistance is certain when challenging “the given structures of the social order” in a fallen world. The Bible warns that those following God’s commands will have trouble (John 16:33), be persecuted (Romans 12:14), suffer affliction (Romans 12:12), be accused of wrongdoing (1 Peter 2:12) and suffer unjustly (1 Peter 2:19). Resistance may come from employees, customers, vendors, owners, regulators and communities.
• “Dilemmas” are likely. Because an organization is operating in a fallen world, there may not be “easy answers” to organizational challenges–leaders are likely to be faced with choices that involve two imperfect alternatives.
• Risks are necessary when facing resistance and resolving dilemmas in line with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
The ball marker has praying hands. Prayer is essential in equipping leaders to face the spiritual challenges of leading an organization with faithful integrity through business a better way in a fallen world dominated by business as usual, and it is one of the six Covert-Overt Continuums of Integriosity®.
The Prayer Continuum should always be the very first one addressed by leaders pursuing business a better way, because Prayer will facilitate the heart-change in leaders needed to RENEW their understanding of God’s purpose for work and business, it will guide how those leaders RE-IMAGINE the Purpose, Values and Culture of the organization and it will guide how they address and implement RE-ALIGNMENT along the other five Continuums.
Although Prayer can take many different forms, depending on the discernment of the leader and the existing culture of the leadership team and the organization, the same God who calls leaders to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way will be present to guide, equip and protect those who are called.
John 16:33 assures us that we can have “peace” and that Jesus has “overcome the world“. Leading an organization with faithful integrity through business a better way in the face of resistance, dilemmas and risks requires faith, and faith requires trust in God. Trust in God is trust in His sovereignty and promises and trust in His commands.
To once again mash our two inspirational phrases together, “Play Big” requires being “All In” on trusting God. Dr. Skip Moen says it well:
Faith is my active attitude of total reliance on God’s absolute trustworthiness. That means that my “faith” is demonstrated in the action of putting myself in His care, no matter what the circumstances! Until and unless I act on His reliability, I just don’t have faith. I might have a set of written beliefs that I can recite, but I won’t have any active relationship. Faith is only found in the action, not the declaration. . . . If faith is the action of trusting Him, then I either act or I don’t act. I either trust Him, or I try my own way. There is no half-full measure here.
Don’t Give Up.
We think “Play Big” includes “Play Long”. Remember what Clark said about persevering: “It’s honestly surreal to look back and think about the journey the last seven to 10 years” and “I’m really glad I stuck it through.”
God’s story is full of people who patiently waited and persevered (the first cousin of patience) a LONG time–a VERY LONG time. There are also stories of characters who got impatient and tried to short-circuit God’s timing (and God was not pleased). There are also numerous Biblical passages about not giving up in the face of challenges–here are just a few:
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:36)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:7)
Leading with faithful integrity through business a better way is “playing the long game”, and that takes Biblical-sized patience (and perseverance). It is the “long game” because it requires “heart-change” throughout the organization.
Organizational culture develops and changes over time through many small steps and intentional decisions by many people–patience (and persistence). Organizational cultures do not change unless the leaders are committed to continuing to pursue faithful integrity through business a better way in the face of resistance, dilemmas and risks–no matter what.
It’s time for faithful leaders to be #ALLIN about #PLAYBIG.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): I have the privilege of knowing Gian Paul Gonzalez, the young high school teacher who inspired the N.Y. Giants in 2011. We met in 2012 when he shared his “All In” journey at an event NCS New Canaan organized for cadets at West Point.
Gian Paul is now a motivational speaker who has gone on to inspire thousands of people around the world with his “All In” message. I was excited to hear him speak this year at the Westchester County Prayer Breakfast and get a few minutes to catch up personally. During his talk, he held up “All-In” jerseys and memorabilia from sports teams and military installations around the world who have invited him to speak.
Gian Paul continues to inspire with the “All In” words, and he remains a model of humility.
ESPN "All In" NY Giants Story
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Photo Credit: Original photo posted by Stephen Hennessey on Twitter