I recently came into possession of a book titled Anatomy of a Great Executive by John Wareham. Wareham was a successful executive headhunter who published several big-selling books on assessing talent and achieving success.
Success books have interested me since I got married and my father-in-law showed me his massive collection of what he referred to as America’s wisdom literature. He didn’t offer the label uncritically as he is a Wheaton grad from way back and a serious student of the genre.
Working my way through the volume in question over lunch, I found a profile of an executive designed to show you how to get to know whether a person is really oriented toward success. There were a number of valuable attributes listed in the profile, but the one that caught my eye was one that noted the executive in question did not have a high standard of living and thus his need for money was low. This fact about the person was a NEGATIVE. You see, the person does not NEED to succeed financially because he doesn’t have an enormous mortgage and a Bentley.
Now, through Christian eyes we would look at a person living below his means and think that the individual is probably a good steward, prioritizes the right things, isn’t materialistic, and maintains financial margin so as to be able to follow God wherever He leads.
Not so in the anatomy of a great executive. The man who buys a gorgeous estate and two Mercedes-Benzes is sending a message that is reassuring to the world system. “I MUST succeed in order to satisfy my appetites. And I have the confidence to incur significant debts because I KNOW I WILL do it.”
One of the most valuable things Intervarsity Christian Fellowship ever taught me as a college student was NOT to think this way. And it has served me well throughout my adult life. When I speak to young people, I invariably warn them against acquiring golden handcuffs (as a man “wearing” them once described them to me).
But I warn you, friends. The world may not view your independence as a positive indicator. “Success”-oriented individuals may think you are a bad bet because of the modesty of your hunger.
– Hunter Baker teaches political science at Union University in Tennessee.