So, what would you tell Tiger Woods? I mean, everywhere I go people (particularly men) are talking about Tiger Woods – and it’s not about his golf. Tiger has a mess. Here’s what strikes me. He has it all, and it’s not enough. The money, the hot wife, and the success of being the best in the entire world in golf are not enough. That, it seems to me, is why we’re all talking about it. We’re asking the most difficult question of all: If having it all isn’t enough than what is the purpose of life? I wonder if Tiger has seen “The Blind Side?”
It’s been a long time since I was over-the-top enthusiastic about a movie, but “The Blind Side” is so good that I have to recommend it. The highlight of our Thanksgiving this year was going as a family to see this wonderful movie about a “mess,” and the people who helped “clean it up.” “The Blind Side” tells the story of a wealthy family in Memphis who take in a student attending the same private Christian school as their children when they discover that he is homeless. It would be an awful, trite, and sappy movie if the story wasn’t true, but it is true, and Michael Ohar is the young man whose life is dramatically changed. Michael is transformed from an uneducated homeless teen to a young man who not only graduates from high school and college, but goes on to become the twenty-third draft pick in the NFL as he signed on with the Baltimore Ravens. It is an amazing success story that began with a tragedy.
Not all tragedies end with success, but when the mess is cleaned up and the foundation laid, success is given the opportunity to triumph. I have long believed that some of the general principles of success in business can be applied to our lives. After all, the idea of “Core Motivator” – the foundation of Vision For Your Life – was prompted by Jim Collins’ idea of organizations building vision from their core values. As I watched “The Blind Side” I thought of the series of articles I’ve written this year dealing with organizational change and how those same principles can be applied to our lives. In “The Blind Side” Michael Oahr’s life follows the three stages I’ve been describing: cleaning up the mess, laying a foundation and building upon the foundation.
Michael, after going from one foster home to another, because his mother was a drug addict and his father abandoned him, eventually just slept on a friend’s sofa. The friend asked the principal at a Christian school to allow his own son and Michael to attend the school using scholarship money. The school board allowed the boys to attend but soon afterward the friend could no longer allow Michael to sleep at his home. Michael, an uneducated and anti-social youth, was left homeless. His life was a tragic mess, and he knew it.
It is at this point that the lives of the Tuohy family and Michael touch. The move out of the ghetto and into a new school where he could receive a good education were necessary steps in beginning to clean up the mess of his life, but the story would not have been a great success if it had ended there. For real success, Michael needed more. He needed the Tuohy family who took him into their home and gave him a place to live.
The Tuohys provided Michael with a stable living situation, a home where people cared for him, and took an interest in his future. The family invested themselves for the long haul, not only in Michael’s physical needs but also his educational and emotional needs thereby creating a foundation for his future success. When it became apparent that he needed help learning how to study, how to play football and how to work through some of his own emotions, the family was there to guide him and champion for him. They worked to create a good foundation that could be built upon – stage two.
From that good foundation Michael was able to not only graduate from high school, but also attend Ole Miss on a football scholarship and now plays in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens- stage three. Without first cleaning up the mess and then having a foundation laid, the career and familiarity of the name of Michael Oahr would not exist.
For most of us our problems don’t begin to approach those of Michael Oahr. Our messes are nothing like his. We are living relatively comfortable lives in the suburbs, without the worries of where we are going to sleep or where our next meal will come from; but we all have issues. We all have our messes that need to be cleaned up, foundations that need to be laid and a future to be built upon the foundation. We want to do better and live the best life we can. We want to live to the fullest of who we are and be the most of who we were created to be. With the ending of one year and the beginning of the next it’s a good time for us to look at our lives and say, “What are the messes in my life? What are the first steps in “cleaning up the mess? What changes are needed? What will a good foundation look like? What will I be building on that foundation?”
Change is difficult and most of us resist change. Great change takes time and patience to work through the three stages, but as you build your life upon a good foundation you will know the joy of being the most of who God intended you to be.
So what would you tell Tiger? Here’s what I would tell him. On one hand we all understand your situation. We’re all human and we all can empathize. On the other hand none of us know what it’s like to walk in your shoes. None of us know what it’s like to live with the level of celebrity and success that you do. But I know this. It’s Christmas, and this is the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus – the great “mess cleaner upper.” The money, the hot wife and the success are clearly not enough. The Tuohys knew that they couldn’t help Michael Oahr without their faith in Christ and the one whose birthday we still celebrate, who changed the world and can still change lives.