The NBA season is winding down and things are getting tense. The Miami Heat tend to have more pressure than some of the other teams. They supposedly put together a dream team a couple of years ago in hopes of winning a championship.
Fortunately they have been able to win back to back championships the last two years. Prior to those championships, their star player, Lebron James, appeared to struggle at key times, i.e. the end of the game. He has been labeled as a bad closer. Before he was criticized for not coming up big at the end of games with a clutch, game winning shot or play. Fair or not that was the word in the media.
Now I can’t say for sure, but is it the pressure? We all play differently under pressure. Michael Jordan loved the pressure and always wanted the ball at the end of a close game. He typically delivered.
But let’s look at the pressure in our own lives. Perhaps it’s a job interview. Some great employees are terrible at interview time. Why? Does the pressure of getting the job hurt their chances?
What about your child who just had a stellar year on the soccer field. Put them in the tryouts for the next level and they have a bad showing. Is it the pressure to perform?
Is it the constant scrutiny? More than likely it is due to increased performance expectations? As a parent it’s a trap that we can easily fall into. Over the years I have watched parents become visibly upset when their child struck out in baseball, missed a shot in basketball, or missed a kick in soccer. As if our kids needed more pressure.
Pressure. You can’t escape it. It shows up repeatedly. And when it does it robs you of joy and takes the fun away from the event.
So what can we do to counteract the downside of pressure?
1. Learn to relax. If you miss the basket, will it matter in ten years. For Lebron it may, but not for you.
2. Lighten up with others including your kids. If will be much more fun and enjoyable. It will definitely make the ride back home more enjoyable.
3. Love the pressure. Be excited that you are the one in the position to score. You got the second interview. You have the ball with three seconds left. Relish the moment and make the most of it.
4. Learn from any failures. No one, absolutely no one is perfect under pressure all the time. Learn from it and move forward.
Be honest, where are you allowing pressure to hurt your personal performance?
Mark is best known for being the writer of the Gospel of Mark. That in itself would put him in the winner’s circle. Can you imagine being one of forty different authors whom God chose to write the Bible? I cannot even imagine. What an honor. What a privilege. What a WIN!
Winning is fun. Winning alleviates a lot of pain. It makes you forget about your losses.
But Mark didn’t start out in the winner’s circle.
Actually he started out in the loser’s circle.
We first meet Mark in Acts 12:12 when the church met in his mother’s home. Mark must have showed some promise because when Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. It didn’t last long, however. For whatever reason Mark left and went home (Acts 13:13).
A few years later when Paul and Barnabas set out on another journey, Barnabas was ready to give Mark another chance. But Paul was not so keen on the idea. Perhaps he thought Mark was lazy, uncommitted, or lacked the necessary skills. He may not have been up to the travel physically. We don’t know.
Although I don’t know how Mark felt, I know to be rejected by Paul had to hurt deeply. Rejection is never easy, but to be rejected by one of your heros multiplies the pain.
A sharp disagreement ensued, and Barnabas wound up leaving Paul and sailing to Cyprus with Mark. Evidently it got pretty heated. “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 ESV). Paul is vehemently saying, “I don’t want him on my team.” OUCH!
Towards the end of Paul’s life he writes to Timothy and asks him to bring Mark with him. In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”
As you can see, Mark is now considered valuable to the apostle Paul. I’d call that a win.
Clearly there were some hard feelings earlier, but these two men overcame those and were once again a team.
You need to understand Paul’s high estimation of Mark at this point. He is a lonely man since everyone but Luke has left him. To consider Mark very useful at this point says a lot about Mark. This was the guy who bailed earlier. Paul was not afraid of that now. Obviously Mark had grown personally over the years, and Paul noticed. Quite possibly Barnabas, Mark’s older cousin, was a huge inspiration to Mark’s personal development.
What did Mark do? What can we do in order to arrive in the winner’s circle?
1. Never give up on yourself.
There are only 32 NFL head coaches. It’s hard to believe you can actually make it into that elite group and be considered a loser. But some are. That’s how hard life can be.
One reason I love football is that there are so many parallels to life within the sport. For one, attitude plays such a huge role among NFL coaches. They all experience losing. Yet they all act like winners. How? Bob LaMonte, a sports agent who works with NFL coaches, said, “When I talk to a winning coach on Monday morning, I often detect that his mood isn’t much different than that of a losing coach.”
For another, it’s a game of second chances. As I write this the Seattle Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl. The coach is Pete Carroll. Several years ago Pete coached the New York Jets and totally bombed out. He was criticized for his coaching skills. When he returned to the NFL as the Seahawks coach, he was criticized for his drafting skills. In fact, some said the 2012 draft proved he couldn’t coach. Needless to say, it was in that draft that he chose Russell Wilson, the current starting quarterback, along with a few others who were on the roster of the Super Bowl winning team.
Pete Carroll never gave up on himself.
Neither can you.
2. Surround yourself with people who have your back. You need at least one person who is going to hang with you and encourage you. For Mark it was Barnabas. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Who is going to go through the tough spots with you. Oprah once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
How often do think about the company you keep? How often do you think of the influence they are having in your life? Are the people in your life the ones who will help you get to the winner’s circle?
Some are with you only because it’s convenient.
3. Add value to others. Near the end of his life Paul said Mark was helpful to his ministry. That is, Mark brought something to the table. Not only was Mark valuable to Paul, but Mark also spent time with Peter, another of the apostles (1 Peter 5:13). And we would all admit that the Gospel of Mark has added tremendous value over the years to millions of people.
Think of several ways you can add value to someone: Have a cup of coffee with someone and offer encouragement, spend time with someone, run an errand, etc. You could give someone you know a book on marriage, finances, ….Abraham Lincoln said, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” The list is endless. Start today adding value to others.
Had Mark given up, Paul and Peter would have lost out. The world would have lost out. If you allow failure to define you as a loser, you will never make it to the winner’s circle.
Several years ago our family took a road trip out west. Actually we have taken several. On this particular trip we were visiting the Badlands in South Dakota. To set the stage it was hot and unbearable weather to camp in.
So we planned to leave and drive east until we found a hotel to stay in. Unfortunately as I returned to the car, anxious to leave and get out of the heat, I noticed we had a flat tire.
Of course, flat tires are not a big deal. That’s what spare tires are for. However, I’m not a fan of changing tires in 100 degree temperatures.
I was able to talk the rest of the family into leaving, much to their chagrin. We had brought along a 12-volt air pump so I was able to put some air in the tire. I knew that with the heat, if I kept driving the tire would stay hot enough to retain adequate air pressure.
Now I am not recommending you try that unless you have the heat in your favor as well as the size of the hole in your tire. Let’s face it, if you have a slice in your tire this will not work.
Be that as it may, we pumped up the tire and jumped on to the interstate. Exits are not close together, but I did stop at the first exit to check the air pressure. It was fine, so on we went.
We finally found an exit with a really nice hotel. In fact, we actually fell in love with the place. It had very clean rooms, large indoor swimming pool, and a nice breakfast.
To top it off there was a full service gas station right across the street which made it easy to get the tire fixed before anyone got up the next morning.
Too often in life we allow setbacks or unfortunate circumstances to dictate our mood. Yes, I have actually succumbed to such things.
But if we had not had the flat tire we would not have found a hotel chain that we wound up staying at again at a future time.
Not only that we had a great time and all of agreed that the flat tire turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
We are several days into 2014. Like me you have your trip planned out, but have you thought about the setbacks? They are coming, and you may have to rewrite your travel plans.
Before you know it you have drifted so far up or down the beach nothing looks familiar. Or you have drifted so far out that you begin to panic.
In life it happens all the time. We tend to think drifting only happens at the beach. Yet that is not the case at all.
One of the most noticeable types of drifting is marital drift.
Ask any crowd of married people who is planning on getting a divorce and few hands go up.
So why is the divorce rate so high? Because couples drift until they grow so far apart that very little is left to the marriage. Typically by the time a couple senses that they have drifted, they have drifted so far away from the shore it’s almost impossible to paddle back in.
Let’s use the acrostic D.R.I.F.T. to describe and better understand the deadly affects of drifting. You may be drifting now and not know it. Here is what it looks like.
Distraction – Sometimes I feel like the king of distraction. I’m watching a ball game and get up to go do something. Then I get caught up in a project and do not return to the game for thirty minutes. In marriage couples get distracted by work, kids, activities, and television.
Rearrange – Soon our priorities change. A couple who used to go out for dinner once a week no longer makes it a priority. Something else has taken its place. The couple who used to take long walks has allowed time on the computer to take precedence.
Immune – Sadly it no longer bothers us. No dinner date for six months and no sign of remorse. Yet it is typically at this point that we live in denial which leads us to the letter f.
Fake it – However, as we venture out into the public eye everyone thinks we have a great marriage. In fact we so good at it that when a couple breaks up it is not unusual to here, “Wow, I had not idea their marriage was in trouble.”
Top it off – In marriage it may be an affair. In one spiritual life it may be that he bails on God.
Here’s the question. Do people have affairs all the sudden? Do people bail on God overnight? Do we become obese in a week? Does our house fall apart over the weekend?
We all know the answer, but how many of us are asking the real question: Am I D.R.I.F.T.ing in my life, in my marriage, or in my physical health?
Often it is easier to drift than paddle back to shore. However, it’s time to quit drifting and start paddling!