“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
– Matthew 19:30
Once I was invited, along with other candidates, to submit a proposal for facilitating a team-building workshop, not an unusual request in my line of work. I presented what I thought was an excellent proposal, followed by a personal interview that seemed to go extremely well. I felt certain the project would be mine. A few days later, however, I learned that someone else had been awarded the engagement. Normally, I take such things in stride, but this time I felt deeply disappointed. . . that is, until not long afterward I learned there were some severe dysfunctions within that organization that would have been disastrously disruptive to the workshop. That’s when I realized that in this case losing was my good fortune, I had dodged a bullet.
There are times we win when we lose, and times we lose when we win. That may seem like a hard concept for those of us who are bred to compete. But my experience above was a case in point. Of course, in most competitive circumstances we should strive to win. If playing in the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Masters, or competing for an Olympic Gold, go for it with all you’ve got. But first place sometimes comes at the expense of a greater loss, while sometimes last place positions us for future victory.
In his book Leaders Eat Last Simon Sinek sets out to prove this very concept, gaining much of his theory by observing the United States Marine Corps, where it is customary that officers eat last. “When you are with Marines gathering to eat,” explains George J. Flynn (Lt. Gen. USMC Retired) in the book’s Foreword, “you will notice that the most junior are served first and the most senior are served last. When you witness this act, you will also note that no order is given. Marines just do it. At the heart of this very simple action is the Marine Corps’ approach to leadership. Marine leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self- interest.” Seems consistent with Jesus’ message, doesn’t it? “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” There are times we win when we lose, and times we lose when we win.