Dr. Clayton Christensen is quite an accomplished fellow. He was a Rhodes Scholar before earning his MBA from Harvard Business School. He is the author of five best-selling books. Today he teaches at Harvard Business School.
He makes this observation about all of the talented people with whom he went to school:
My classmates were not only some of the brightest people I’ve known, but some of the most decent people, too. At graduation they had plans and visions for what they would accomplish, not just in their careers, but in their personal lives as well. Yet something had gone wrong for some of them along the way: their personal relationships had begun to deteriorate, even as their professional prospects blossomed. I sensed that they felt embarrassed to explain to their friends the contrast in the trajectories of their personal and professional lives.
At the time, I assumed it was a blip; a kind of midlife crisis. But at our twenty-five and thirty-year reunions, the problems were worse. One of our classmates, Jeffrey Skilling, had landed in jail for his role in the Enron scandal.
Personal dissatisfaction, family failures, professional struggles, even criminal behavior these problems weren’t limited to my classmates at HBS. I saw the same thing happen to my classmates in the years after we completed our studies as Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University. To be given that opportunity, my classmates had to have demonstrated extraordinary academicÂ excellence; superior performance in extracurricular activities such as sports, politics, or writing; and significant contributions to their communities. These were well-rounded, accomplished people who clearly had much to offer the world.
But as the years went by, some of my thirty-two Rhodes classmates also experienced similar disappointments. One played a prominent role in a major insider trading scandal, as recounted in the book, Den of Thieves. Another ended up in jail because of a sexual relationship with a teenager who had worked on his political campaign. He was married with three children at the time. One who I thought was destined for greatness in his professional and family spheres has struggled in both including more than one divorce.
I know for sure that none of these people graduated with a deliberate strategy to get divorced or lose touch with their children much less to end up in jail. Yet this is the exact strategy that too many ended up implementing.
I am sure that many of you reading this are wondering how so many people who seemingly had so much going for them, ended up with such personal problems. Yet, from my work with businessmen, I have learned this: it is so easy to focus on our outer, public world while ignoring our inner life what Jesus referred to as our innermost being.
It is so easy for us as men to be consumed by our outer, public world, the world that is both visible and measurable. It is the part of our lives that other people see and by which they judge us. The titles, toys, and trappings of life are a scorebook of sorts. Our public world is filled with demands upon our time, our money, and our energy, and this makes it hard to ignore.
In the process, our inner life is often neglected and can be easily ignored; it is not as demanding. At least we think that is true until we experience what Gordon McDonald calls a sinkhole-like cave-in. And so often, we don’t even see it coming.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us some teaching that is pertinent to the sinkhole experience:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who build his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Jesus is telling us that His words and His teaching must flow into our minds and down into our souls. And that we must put into practice that which He teaches us. He tells us that in the process we are building a strong foundation for our lives that will keep us from experiencing this sinkhole-like cave-in.
As God’s people, if we will take time to nurture our souls and establish the care of our innermost being as the top priority in our lives, we will have a strength and stability in our lives that will weather the most furious and potentially damaging storms of life.