May you be challenged to stand out from the crowd as we begin a new school year. A message from Dr. Rick Lytle:

After working with undergraduate business students at two universities for nearly twenty years, I’m very proud of the many who stand out from the crowd.

But I can also tell you that many students desire to be average or common. Most freshmen cower regarding greatness. They begin their collegiate experience attending to generic life. Their visions are shallow, myopic, and focused mainly on personal survival. Their benchmarks are set predominantly by their peers and society at large.

Few students have visions of excellence or distinction when they enter college. That is why I have dedicated my life to “higher education” – which is another way to say, “education from above” that is powered by God’s perspective. I seek to create visions of excellence and produce a brand of education that is eternal. I hope and pray someday all my students see their true potential.

Each year, my first attack against the notion of generic comes at the beginning of the semester. I have my students stand in our first class together and read aloud Charles Osgood’s poem entitled “Pretty Good.” I read the poem aloud. Students repeat the refrain, “pretty good.” Imagine the classroom scene the first day of class as a freshman.

There was once a pretty good student who sat in a pretty good class.
And he had a pretty good teacher who always let pretty good pass.
He wasn’t terrific at reading. He wasn’t a whiz-bang at math.
But for him, education was leading straight down a pretty good path.
He didn’t find school too exciting, though he wanted to do pretty well.
He did have some trouble with writing because nobody had taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems, pretty good was regarded as fine.
Five plus five needn’t always add up to ten. A pretty good answer was nine.
The pretty good class that he sat in was there in a pretty good school.
And this student was not an exception. On the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good school that he went to was there in a pretty good town.
And nobody seemed to notice, he couldn’t tell a verb from a noun.
This pretty good student in fact, was part of a pretty good mob.
And the first time he knew what he lacked, was when he
looked for a pretty good job. It was then, when he sought
a position, he discovered that life could be tough.
And he soon had a sneaking suspicion, pretty good
might not be good enough. The pretty good town in our story
was there in a pretty good state, which had pretty good aspirations,
and prayed for a pretty good fate. There once was a pretty good nation,
proud of the greatness it had, which learned much too late,
if you want to be great, pretty good, is in fact, pretty bad.

All too often, the pretty good student wants opportunities to participate in the best classes, premium internships and high-paying jobs. Unfortunately, on earth and in heaven, pretty good earns few opportunities and rewards. time and again the “good enough” worker wonders why she was released from her job. Too often the “average” business finds itself in decline and financial turmoil. Ordinary church leaders discover, to their surprise, that the body is dying. Run-of-the-mill husbands and wives find their partners solemn and their marriages falling apart. Mediocre parents struggle over the moral and spiritual drift of their children. Please know that lives of distinction never result from ordinary living. Good enough never is!

Once while teaching in the marketplace, Jesus told a great story about true value. An employer gave three workers money according to their abilities. Two workers doubled their money. A third worker buried his money. When the employer asked how they were doing, he was happy that two of his workers doubled his investments. He was furious at the one who had buried the money and returned the same amount. The employer said the third worker could have at least put the money in the bank to draw interest. Then he fired the third worker, calling him a wicked, lazy servant.

Burying your talent is easy. You need no desire to be great, no set of deliberate practices, ¬†and you certainly have no need for a distinctive and compelling set of promises and actions. You won’t stand for anything, and no one will follow.

On the other hand, if you want to do something extraordinary with what you have been given by God, you are moving toward the starting line in the race to build a brand that matters. You can take your talents and multiply them and not only bring your employer but your Creator a great return on the investment in your life.

 Excerpted from Abandon The Ordinary, by Dr. Rick Lytle