Thursday, May 19, 2005

When The Rules Change

I’ve received several messages of encouragement this past week from friends all over the world. Since I made the decision to resign from the organization I’ve worked with for fifteen years to launch out on my own, the typical comment has been, “Sorry to see you go, but not surprised.”

One colleague wrote saying that he, too, felt frustrated and wondered about his future? He said that within his organization things have changed and felt like he was being squeezed. His story was not unlike mine, so I reminded him what Bob Buford wrote in his most recent book, FINISHING WELL,

“You can choose the game, but not the rules…Every game has its own rules and you don’t get to make them up. You choose your game and adapt to its rules.”

Like my friend, I chose the game in 1989, knowing what the rules were. I followed the rules and played the game well, doing what God has gifted me to do. In 2002 the rules changed. I don’t fault the organization for changing the rules, though it affected my life and of course felt their decision was a breach of promise. The changing of rules is not really the issue (United Airlines recently reneged on a promise of pensions. There is nothing in life that is guaranteed). What IS important was my response to what happens when the rules change. Buford continues,

“…if you find that the rules chafe, restrict, and don’t allow expression of your potential, you either CHANGE GAMES or CREATE YOUR OWN. The game you choose is your context. Once you know your core, you need to find the context that brings forth the best from your unique gifts and abilities.”

My friend’s dilemma is that he is in a financial corner. He suffers through the bureaucracy of his organization because he knows he will lose support if he refuses to play by the rules of the game. He feels trapped, at this time, as he can’t jeopardize his family’s welfare. My advice to him is to continue to follow the rules while seeking God for a different context. That’s not disloyalty, that’s taking control of your own life and asking God to direct your steps in the process (Pr. 16:9). I do not see this brother as an entrepreneur, so he won’t be creating his own game, but he will probably find another game that is more suited for his gifts.

But some people do indeed create a new game. Jim Collins, author of GOOD TO GREAT confesses, “I’m constitutionally unemployable. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak…I had to create my own organization…I eventually realized I had to find a context that would fit me like a glove. At a gut level, I think, there’s a need for a self-created context when you’re not wasting energy battling the fact that you’re in somebody’s else’s context.”

Maybe that’s what my friends mean when they write, “Sorry to see you go, but not surprised.”