Steps to Success or Ramps to Riches

This past week I’ve enjoyed speaking for three financial conferences, in Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas. (You can always see if I’m scheduled to speak in your neighborhood by looking here: SPEAKING PAGE

Funnily enough, there were two questions I was asked twice by two separate people at two separate conferences. They were both good questions; the first I declined to answer while the second I enjoyed answering. The first was “What is the secret of making a successful marriage?” I demurred to both individuals, explaining that there is not any one secret; though I was tempted to respond, “Simple. Marry Susan!”

The second question that two different people at two different events asked me, using almost the same words, was this: “I like the size of my small business and I like the limited amount of my time it consumes. I’m content. Is it okay to keep turning down the additional opportunities to grow my business that keep coming my way?”

What a great question! I recognized that both questioners probably assumed that the question itself implied virtue. After all, surely only a wise person would know when enough was enough? And surely only a modest person would be content with what he has? I knew I had to respond sensitively.

Here is what I said: Unlike building a bridge or sculpting a statue, creating both a marriage and a business is dynamic. Once you’ve got your bridge or your sculpture, it is what it is. It may look different in the day from how it appears at night but that is perception. However, getting married or launching a business is only the first step in a process that never ends. At no point can you say, “Okay, I’ve finished my marriage,” or, “I’ve completed my business,” though you can identify the day you finished the bridge or the carving. Attempting to maintain your marriage or business in an unchanging state is as hopeless as trying to keep a rose bush static. If you nurture it, it will grow. If you diminish the care you lavish on it, the rose bush won’t stay how it is. Instead it will begin to die.

Furthermore, ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that in spiritual areas of human endeavor there is no option of standing stationary. Consider this seemingly incongruous instruction for ascending up to the altar of the Tabernacle found in the final verse of Exodus chapter 20.

And you shall not ascend with steps upon My altar, so that your nakedness shall not be exposed upon it. – Exodus 20:26

At its simplest level, this instruction to construct a sloping ramp rather than steps up to the altar is an exhortation to modesty. Wearing a robe as the priests did, lifting the knee as one does while climbing steps could cause the robe to rise or part exposing more skin than is appropriate in a holy environment.

However, ancient Jewish wisdom teaches far more deeply on this verse. There is one main difference between a ramp and a staircase.

Ascending stairs is a process of rapid increases in vertical height interspersed with, albeit brief, periods of pause. Moving up a slope implies steady progress with no pauses. On steps one can stand still, feeling no pull backwards down since one is standing upon a horizontal surface. On a slope, even if one pauses, one’s feet are still angled upwards and one easily feels oneself being pulled backwards down the slope.

The high altar, symbolizing spiritual attainment can only be reached by a ramp, not by a staircase. In other words, only steady sustained effort brings one to the heights. The force of spiritual gravity is always trying to tug one backwards and downwards. On stairs, that force is camouflaged and therefore more dangerous.

Unlike a bridge and a sculpture, building a marriage and building a business are spiritual enterprises. It follows that neither flourishes when the effort is interspersed with interludes of pause and rest. Both succeed with sustained steady effort pushing up the slope against ever present spiritual gravity doing its best to sabotage your business or marriage.

Indeed, when it comes to rose bushes, businesses or marriages, they are either growing and improving or they are shrinking and dying. One thing is for sure, they are not remaining the same. That is not an option. Furthermore, they grow best steadily, in the fashion of a sloping ramp, not in fits and starts.

If you don’t seize one of the next growth opportunities your business or marriage encounter, you will watch it start to decline. You really have no choice at all, which makes it an easy choice.

I would be remiss not to mention that delving deep into Hebrew words that relate to both marriage and business provides a prime growth opportunity. Begin right now, and see Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language.

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