There are few creators whose legacy is as far-reaching as legendary animator and entrepreneur Walt Disney. A pioneer, Disney transformed a simple cartoon mouse into a vast empire: one that encompassed film, television, retail, and even theme parks.
It is said that Disney would rarely take on a project that didn’t have critics, because he was afraid that if the dream didn’t have critics, his dream might be too small to seriously consider. Through the years, Disney also had his share of critics.
Straight from the horse’s mouth: “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. As you go through life, there will be no shortage of persons telling you what you need to improve or what you can do better. You could label all these people as soothsayers and simply ignore them or use that negative feedback to make you better.”
“I compare negative feedback to a freshly mined diamond. On the surface, you’ve got what would appear to most persons to be a dull, ugly rock. But to a trained eye, that ugly rock is extremely valuable. All it needs is a little cut and polish. Criticism is like an unpolished diamond: It’s ugly. Here you are, trying your best, and someone comes along to tell you it’s not good enough. But much like a professional diamond cutter can take that raw, unpolished rock and turn it into something beautiful, you can learn to extract the benefits of criticism.”
As smart as you are and as hard as you work, there’s always room for improvement. Additionally, all of us have blind spots. It doesn’t feel good when someone points out you have broccoli stuck between your teeth. But you wouldn’t want them to hold back from telling you, would you?
Of course, some criticism will be flat out wrong. But even in these cases, it’s valuable–because it helps you to see your actions through another perspective, one you may not have considered. And if one person thinks it, you can be sure that others are thinking it, too.
If you’ve ever had that little voice in your head convince you to set “more realistic” goals, you may have fallen prey to complacency. There is a time and a place to play it safe, and setting your life or career goals is not one of them. While it’s normal to be intimidated by situations that seem risky or uncertain, wouldn’t you rather be the type of person who runs toward the roar?
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church, recognized as one of the most innovative churches in America, with eight locations in Washington D.C. He is also the New York Times best-selling Author of The Circlemaker, and his new book is Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small. I recently interviewed Mark for The LEADx Podcast, where I asked him all about how to aim high and run into the fray. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: Your inspiration for the book came from the story of Benaiah, who is a lesser-known figure in The Bible. Who is Benaiah?
Mark Batterson: Yeah, I mean it’s buried about 6 feet deep in the Old Testament. The Bible says that he chased the lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed it. In my opinion, that’s about the coolest verse in the Bible. If you’re going into a pit with a lion on a snowy day, you’ve got a problem. Probably, the last problem you’ll ever have.
But in this instance, somehow Benaiah kills the lion, and actually becomes King David’s bodyguard. And later on becomes Commander-in-Chief of Israel’s Army. But I think it traces back to this moment: are you going to run away from what you’re afraid of, or are you going to “Run to the Roar?”
It’s really two different ways of living. I think you can let fear dictate your decision, and if you do, you’re going to run away from a lot of things. You’re going to be running your entire life. But I think there comes a moment, when if you feel like God has given you a green light, sometimes you’ve got to go for it. Now you’ve got to pray about it. You’ve got to do your homework. But at the same time, I think you’ve got to go after that dream that God has put in your heart.
Kruse: You say “You have to be a little bit crazy to run to the roar.” What do you mean by that?
Batterson: Well, you know, I don’t want people to think of me as normal. I don’t know about you, but normal is a little bit of an insult to me. Go ahead, and call me crazy. I’ve found that when God calls us to do things, often times I call it the “Crazy Test.” Listen, it’s going to be bigger than you are. It’s going to be beyond your resources, beyond your ability. Often, it will be beyond your education. But God just seems to love to use people that are unqualified, and so maybe a way of saying it is, that he doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
And so, I think it’s this idea that, “I’m not going to play defense with my life”. I don’t want to get overly theological, but there are Sins of Commission, and it’s doing something you shouldn’t have done. And I’m against those. But there are also Sins of Omission, and it’s what you would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve done. I think that’s what grieves the heart of our heavenly Father. So in a sense, potential is God’s gift to us, and then what we do with it is our gift to God.
So, Kevin, this is more than just a little mantra, “Chase the Lion.” It’s more than a book title. It really is the motto of my life, and I think it’s a way of life. It’s playing offense with your life.
Kruse: Playing life on offense rather than defense. I think that’s great.
Batterson: Yeah. I don’t think I had a teacher quite that creative. Isn’t it interesting? That seems to me like one of the parables that Jesus taught. You know, this parable “The Talents,” where the one person buries it in the ground, they play it safe.
And I think playing it safe in God’s Kingdom is risky. And the opposite is true as well. That, you know, God has called us to step out in faith and take some risks. That’s quite a class and quite a teacher.
Kruse: You tell the story of Arthur Guinness opening a brewery in Dublin, Ireland. And he signed a lease for 9,000 years. What’s the relevance of that story?
Batterson: Well it’s this idea of “Thinking Long.” I don’t think you can dream big if you don’t think long. And here’s where I might zoom out, Kevin, and just remind us that what God does for us, is never just for us. It’s always for the next generation. He’s the God of three generations: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And so we think, “Right here, right now,” but I think God is thinking, “Nations and generations.” And so I’m motivated by this idea of, “What am I doing today that’s going to make a difference 100 years from now?”
Now Guinness was thinking 9,000 years out, but I think this idea of “Thinking Long,” is a very biblical idea. In fact, we need to think of everything in light of Eternity, there is no longer perspective than that. And my guess is if listeners are discouraged as it relates to their dream, it’s probably in part because it’s not happening as quickly or as easily as they want. And I would just remind them, that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a year or two, but we underestimate what God can do in 10, or 20, or 100 years. And so I think the importance there is to “Think Long.”
Kruse: It isn’t just one life. It isn’t just one dream.
Batterson: Yeah and that’s such a beautiful thing. Now, you know, I don’t have time to totally set up that idea, but it is an idea I take from the movie “Inception,” but it actually comes from an Edgar Allan Poe poem from over 150 years ago; this idea “The dream within a dream.”
Listen, your dream really is a dream within someone else’s dream, which is a dream within someone else’s dream. And I think it goes back to creation itself. That we are part of this dream that God had; both his creative dream and the dream of redemption. I think readers are going to love that part of the book.
And it helps me to remember, Kevin, that whatever God does for me, or in me, I hope my dream sets someone else up to dream their own dream. And that’s really what you see when you look at Benaiah and King David. And of course that’s the passage that I really deep-dive into in “Chase the Lion.”
Kruse: Your church runs coffee shops in multiple locations. One is right next to a Gentleman’s Club. A lot of this is on purpose. So why these locations?
Batterson: Well one of our core values is that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. You know, when I read the Book of Acts, I don’t see Paul standing outside the Areopagus and boycotting. I see him walking in and competing for the truth. And of course Dionysius and Damaris are two people who are probably grateful that he did. So my philosophy, Kevin, is, “Let’s criticize by creating.” Let’s write better books; let’s produce better films; let’s start better businesses; let’s draft better legislation. Come on, let’s do it better, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. “Run to the Roar.” Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-given passions. Go after a dream that’s destined to fail without divine intervention. Stop pointing out problems. Become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past. Start creating the future. Face your fears. Fight for your dreams. Grab opportunity by the mane and don’t let go.
Live like today is the last day of your life. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Dare to fail. Dare to be different. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the Lion.
Experts for this post are credited to Kevin Kruse, CEO and founder of the modern workforce.