There was a Nebraska farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.
“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”
The farmer had what Stephen Covey calls an “abundance mentality.” An “abundance mentality” says, “There’s plenty to go around.” A “scarcity mentality” says, “There’s not enough to go around, and if he gets some, that means less for me!”
Maybe we’ve got this competition thing all wrong. Sure, we’ve got to compete with other companies for market share; we’ve got to compete on the playing field or around the track; we’ve got to compete when we want to be chosen for a new job or opportunity… but what about on our teams or with the people at the same organization or even in the Body of Christ? Should we compete with each other in these groups?
As I look around, I see the net result of some of our competition: teams reduced to groupings of individuals who happen to work for the same boss, departments in silos that won’t benchmark with other departments because they will give away their “secrets,” plenty of “us-them” thinking, gossip, resentment, bitterness… Even on the same teams, we can’t be happy for someone who gets a great opportunity or who God uses in a special way. We delight in the misfortune of those we see as “competitors.”
Are we limiting the quality of our own corn just because we won’t share some of our best seed corn with our neighbors? What could we learn from them if we were willing to give up something that cost us something? Could helping another department, or team, or church actually help us to improve?
I had a boss one time who put it this way, “Michael, when I retire, I don’t plan to collect my retirement check from just this department. By sharing resources and what I know with other parts of the company, I help us all to be more successful.”
Amen. And if you belong to the Body of Christ, consider that your “retirement check” will not be based on your individual contributions as much as it will be based on how you advanced the Kingdom together with your brothers and sisters in Christ.