Most everyone born in the later half of the 20th Century is familiar with the 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire (Best Picture, Best Original Music Score, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design + 3 additional nominations), featuring the story of runner Eric Liddell. The Olympic gold medal recipient has influenced many following his days on the track, leaving various quotes and statements in his interviews while also demonstrating them in his life of service. One such statement has proven to be a North Star, of sorts, for me, and the longer I work with industry professionals it proves itself over and over. Liddell said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
Eric lived a meaningful and impacting life because he was able to triangulate his course with three fundamental tracking points to reach his destiny: Purpose, Personal Strength, and Passion.
For Eric, life was not simply about running from accomplishment to accomplishment, stepping up the ladder to success. While certainly he achieved great things, his ultimate goal was to influence the lives of others. He was not secretive about his beliefs, and (spoiler to those who haven’t seen the movie) it cost him to live by his religious convictions. Yet, knowing he was living for his Creator brought him stability and confidence to act accordingly.
Here in LA, everyone talks about the dangers of becoming jaded following numerous rejections, broken promises, and let-downs. Every year, tens of thousands of young people show up here with stars in their eyes, ready to to get their name in lights, yet the ones who generally make it are not the ones who are all about themselves; the ones who know (or learn) they have a direction and are willing to invest time and energy are the ones who will ultimately find a level of success.
God gave Eric a special superpower, if you will. The Scotsman was fast. Nurturing a natural strength, he got faster. Ultimately, the platform where he found himself offered additional opportunities of influence.
It took me some time to discover my personal strengths. I had always been athletic and extremely competitive, thanks largely to the sibling rivalry that existed with my twin brother, and while I am devoted to physical fitness today, those early years of athletics and even coaching on the collegiate level have built a tenacity to completing the task and a choosing to run up the hill instead of walking. At some point in my early adult years I began seeing that I had a keen way of grasping project goals and influencing small teams while also maintaining a creative perspective, or, according to Sally Hogshead’s How to Fascinate testing, I’m passionately creative while remaining alert to the details — a trait only found in 8% of the human population. In essence, I was built with the ability to connect and communicate with creatives in meaningful ways AND maintain a solid grasp of the overall process toward project completion… elements that lend themselves to producing/directing film and television, designing and building experiences, etc. And, in my spare time it allows me to reach into my community by coaching a high school volleyball team or teaching a class how to shoot and edit video.
It may take some time, but begin exploring your unique gifts. God has made you as different from the rest of the world as your fingerprints; we all have them, and none are the same. I’ll add here that one ought to look through the losses and closed doors as well. Surviving a personal tragedy can at times open doors of influence to a beautiful audience that God has been building and waiting for you to be ready to influence just as much as Eric’s story gave him a natural audience. So, each perceived weakness can be utilized as a strength when embraced.
For Eric, he did what he did for God’s pleasure. He ran for God’s smile. He served for God’s smile. With such a desire to live with a higher calling in life Eric would not be swayed by the trivial. He drove forward knowing that there was a smile from Heaven aimed in his direction.
Let me say here that, at least from my experience, zeal trumps knowledge. Your degree, your knowledge, your ability to complete a task — none of these is as valuable in today’s marketplace as your ability to demonstrate your enthusiasm for what you do in a first meeting. And if you get a second meeting or land your dream job/project, your passion is what will separate you from everyone else who is able to equally complete all of the things you can do. Too, like Eric, keep your eyes off of self. Have an eye for excellence, for service, for quality, for others before self, and amazingly, you will see your relationships deepen, and through serving you will rise up when the time is right.
Purpose + Personal Strength + Passion: three tracking points to help you reach your destiny. Live with just one and you will wander the landscape. Live with just two and you have greatly increased your chances of arriving near your target. Choose to lock in on all three and you have what you need to accurately plot your path to reach your greatest level of success and impact.