“Play it safe” vs. “Go for it!”

Seth Godin writes today about two approaches to work, the Abundance approach and the TBR approach. He summarizes:

an approach of Abundance and an approach I call Technically Beyond Reproach (TBR).

Abundance means that you look at every problem spec and figure out how to make it bigger.
TBR tries to make it smaller.

Abundance means that you spend a lot of time imagining how you will overdeliver.
TBR means you start from the beginning making sure that the work you do will either meet spec or you’ll have a really good excuse.

entrepreneurs have a hard time with the TBR approach, because it has never ever worked for them. VCs and customers and competitors give few bonus points for excuses, even really good ones, so the only approach that wins is the abundance one.

An abundant-approach employee shows up early so she won’t need the “train was late” excuse on the day of the presentation. The TBR employee gets a note from the Metro. (true story).

An abundant-approach minister grows his church from 200 families to 3,000 by constantly reinventing what he does all day. A TBR minister does a very good job of consoling the sick and writing sermons.

People make mistakes. Sometimes when we’re trying our hardest, or extending ourselves to do something good, reality reaches out and bites us. Failure happens. What Godin calls the TBR approach seems paralyzed by the fear of failure – so it plans for it to happen. If failure doesn’t happen, well, that’s ok, but at least I’m covered when it does. Not failing, or worse, not being counted responsible for the failure, becomes the goal. (“I was just following the established procedures.”)

If your job is of little consequence, I suppose the TBR approach might be good enough. Godin mentions chefs as one profession he doesn’t want to function with the TBR approach. For me, that’s of little consequence. If I eat at a restaurant and the food is bad or mediocre, it just means they won’t get my business any more.

But in the church we’re in the people business. God has entrusted us with the lives – in some ways, the eternal destinies – of the people around us. As Jesus tells us in the parable of the talents, TBR won’t cut it. If as Tom Wright reads this parable, it’s not so much looking forward (saying, “Someday Jesus will return and judge people”) as it is looking at the current scene: “The King is here now, Israel. God has entrusted you with great gifts and responsibilities. What have you done with the mission to be a light to the nations (Gentiles)?”

The TBR approach says, “Let’s play it safe. Let’s make sure we enjoy the blessings of God, enjoy our own (legalistic) righteousness. The Gentiles deserve what they have coming to them.” Christians would say something like, “I’m going to heaven when I die. That’s good enough. Oh, I’ll pray for God to send someone to help those people.”

The Abundance approach says, “People are lost. God has graciously saved me and enlisted me as part of his effort to extend his salvation to all people even to the ends of the earth. What can I do to join in that effort now?” This approach is risky. It’s unpopular. But it sure looks like what Jesus wants.

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One Response to “Play it safe” vs. “Go for it!”

  1. Pingback: Shawn Jooste

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