“The aim of the boy is to tell the world ‘I am a force to be reckoned with.’” Having known four boys quite well, I agree. Here are some thoughts on boys finding their callings.
On a morning walk through Krutch Park in downtown Knoxville, I notice something that should not be there.
The juvenile scrawl, in black Sharpie marker on the creek-side boulder, proclaims to all who pass “Bogey was here.” Other stones bear witness to the date and time of the visit and to Bogey’s love of soccer. One displays a drawing of a flag, firmly planted in the rock. Bogey left his mark.
When I come across the vandalism, I am confused and even angered. How can a child be so selfish? How could he have so little respect for the beauty of the setting, provided by the goodness of another? And even the self-righteous “Where was his mother?” These are valid questions, but not the most interesting. Instead, why did Bogey do it?
I think of the upcoming events of the day. We are in Knoxville for Owen to compete in the decathlon in an attempt to qualify for the National AAU Junior Olympics . During record 105 degree heat, he would later run, jump and throw his way in to 1st place and a trip to Houston in July to do it all again. Why did Owen do it?
Bogey, each of you, and almost every man I know all have something in common- you have an inner drive to achieve something, to get attention, to make your mark on the world. Is this good? Is this bad? I am not totally sure . . . mostly it is just true, a fact, a part of who God made you to be. So in that way it is good. Much like other appetites, you have an appetite for making an impact. And like other appetites it needs to be satisfied yet controlled, celebrated yet directed.
Your Dad and I once attended a Daystar parenting seminar, in an effort to learn how to parent Owen. (Just kidding Owen, we needed help with John too!) The speaker said that the aim of the boy is to tell the world “I am a force to be reckoned with.” Having known four boys quite well, I agree. I have also heard that as a boy becomes a man, early boldness is often replaced with a question, “Do I have what it takes?”
Neither phrase is specific. A force for what? Have what it takes to do what? The drive is there- how is it to be directed? The question is there- how is it to be answered?
Growing up is about figuring out the specifics. What kind of force will you exert? What vision do you have for how you are going to make your mark? How will you know if you have what it takes?
Living in a family of boys and attending a boys’ school, competition has been in the air you breathed since day one. At age four, after a soccer coach told him they were just playing to have fun, Andrew responded “but Coach, winning is the most fun.”
In 142 years of educating boys, your high school has found that competition is fun and it motivates boys to learn and grow- to figure out the answer to that question of “do I have what it takes” in a particular area of interest.
So you have competed . . .in everything . . . math, science, debate, public speaking, chorus, for class office and in many sports. Your school even had a competition of sorts called a “poetry slam.” (I am still not sure what that is!) You have found things you enjoy and areas of strength. You have also experienced failure – all of you – but that only caused you to keep trying new things.
The competition you have faced has been worthy. You know that if you can do something well relative to your peers at your school then you have real ability. It’s a bit like the old song about New York, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” Or, more relevant to your life- it’s like you have grown up playing football in the SEC.
Some people – the “everybody gets a trophy” sort- think competition is bad. But most of the time it is just measurement. You gain information. In a given competition, someone wins and someone loses. But losing isn’t always bad, and winning isn’t always good. Both teach you something you need to know.
I have heard your dad say that in business, it can be good to fail quickly, adapt, and move on. You aren’t going to be good at everything, and you won’t even enjoy everything you are good at. Keep trying. Keep failing.
Competition helps you discover your abilities and passions. It is not enough to love a pursuit- you need some external validation that you have abilities, a way to add real value to someone or something in a particular area. Competition provides that validation.
As a part of His creation, God made man and gave him the responsibility for subduing and caring for the earth. The fall doesn’t change that- it just makes it harder. It is a fact that God has given every one of you gifts to be used in service to Him, to do His work in the world. It is your job to be a good steward of the gifts and talents that you have by working hard to develop them.
It is false humility for a man to refuse to strive- to flee from making an impact for good in the world.
If you keep striving, you will find the area where your greatest abilities and passions meet with the world’s greatest needs. There you may find your calling. There, you will make your mark.
Bogey tried to take a short-cut – demanding attention for accomplishing nothing and making a mark without earning that right. Grown men make more tragic efforts to grab attention – like the unthinkable crime staged for dramatic impact that shook us to the core this week. Short-cuts tempt when paths to success are not visible . . . or, when failure is feared.
For each of you, many different paths to success beckon, and all indications are that you can make your way down a number of them. Enjoy the walk, and don’t settle for scribbling with a Sharpie on someone else’s rock.