“Never Mistake Activity for Achievement.” John Wooden
The scene opens as a throng of onlookers surround a boxing ring raucously cheering their favorite fighter on. The signal is given to box and one fighter immediately begins a series of intimidating karate kicks, spin moves, and athletic gyrations as the other boxer looks on. This animated fighter continues to actively move about the ring and finally proceeds to make an aggressive marital arts forward somersault move towards his opponent. As he completes the tumbling pass and springs up to his feet, he is met by his opponent, who uses one solid swing to knock the fighter out cold!
The scene comes from the movie “Never Back Down”, and it serves as a vivid illustration demonstrating ‘activity vs. achievement’. The one energetically active boxer though his movements and gestures would create momentum, intimidation, and somehow aid him in achieving victory, but he ended up being sadly mistaken.
In our busy world, it is essential that we evaluate the commitments we make and the time fillers that fight for our daily attention. We need to remind ourselves that a ‘busier’ schedule is not necessarily a ‘better’ schedule. An organization or business desiring to improve its performance will not automatically achieve its objective by adding more programs. In fact at times it is more advantageous to eliminate activities that consume time and energy and don’t achieve desired results.
Wooden’s adage does not condemn recreation, rest, idleness, or even non-productivity, but it serves instead to exhort people that want to live a life of purpose and impact. It is a reminder to evaluate the activities and actions that consume our time and make certain these activities lead to their desired achievements.
In the book ofLuke 10:38-42, there is an account of Mary and Martha, who were both followers of Jesus Christ and were hosting a dinner that he would attend. As Christ joined them for dinner at Martha’s home, the ladies each had different responses to this occasion they were sharing with the Lord;
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken from her.”
These two women have sparked much discussion and even disagreement regarding their attitude and behavior while Jesus was visiting. If Christ had not made his feelings clear in praising Mary for her actions, the natural response would be to give Martha the ‘Good Housekeeping’ award, and send Mary off to ‘reform school’ to improve her level of effort and cooperation. Instead, Jesus gently rebukes Martha for being caught up in the preparations of the dinner and commends Mary for her choice to spend the time sitting with Him. Both of these women were sincere in their faith, but Jesus discerned that Martha was perhaps too caught up in the activities of the meal’s preparation, instead of the fellowship that was taking place at the meal..
It would probably be helpful for each of us to occasionally examine the programs and projects that capture our attention and make certain that they clearly align with the goals and achievements we are actively pursuing.