Be the 5%

Back when I started working in politics I went to a few trainings and learned from some great folks. One of the key lessons I learned then and has stuck with me was something Matt Lewis said – “95% of the people in politics don’t know what they are doing. And that number is probably low. They just copy what someone else did that happened to work. But they don’t know why.”

I have found this statement is true across the board, regardless of industry. And recently it dawned on me that this 95-5% ratio is probably true throughout all of life.

But before you start determining if you fit into the 95% or 5%, let me lay out a few more things.

For those 95%, the biggest fear they have is not knowing. When we don’t know, we are not in control. And people love being in control – or at least thinking they are. This goes all the way back to the first sin in Genesis 3. The Fall is all about being in control.

Here’s something else – many people claim they don’t like change. Non-sense. It’s that we want to be in control of the change. Change itself doesn’t bother us. Without being in control, the 95% will resist change to some degree, without even knowing why sometimes.

So who are the 5%. You might initially think they are the ones who know what they are doing. I don’t think so. the other 5% don’t know what they are doing either. They are just willing to admit that they don’t know and that they are making it up as they go along, or using someone else’s ideas.

This frees the 5% to be more successful. It frees them from being in control and from knowing. It frees them to experiment and be curious. It frees them to try and fail and to do it all over again. Thomas Edison is a great example of this. You see, it’s easier to fail and try again if you admit at the start that you don’t know what you are doing. It also frees you from having to have a certain pre-determined result. If you know that you don’t know, then you don’t know what the result is supposed to be either. You might actually end up with something better than you were expecting.

I think this pandemic is highlighting this 95-5 divide. Remember, 100% of us don’t know what we are doing. Sure, we might know something about some area of life, but not all of life. There is no one who have all of life figured out. No one ever has.

While COVID-19 has been terrible, I’m starting to think there is a worse virus – one that has been roaming creation for a long time. It’s the virus of willful stubbornness and toxic individualism. These viruses have a safe spot, a petri dish if want to think of it that way, when we are insistent that we know and are in control. These viruses grow within us when we are so certain of something that we think we can control others.

The only anti-virus I know for this is Jesus. And what I mean by that is when we follow Jesus, we are admitting we aren’t in control. We are called to love our neighbor and God. Yes, even the ones we would rather not. And we do it because we aren’t in control.

Toxic individualism causes great harm and death. We see it in gun violence and gun deaths, refusal to get vaccinations and follow health protocols, racism, sexism, white supremacy, and toxic nationalism, greed, seeing the planet as a profit machine, etc. Toxic individualism is the idea that unless something impacts me directly, it is not my concern. It is the idea that I am in control of me and that no one else has any impact on me. In some ways, it is no different than a child telling their parent “You can’t tell me what to do!”

If you are going be the 5%, and I hope you want to be, then you need to get rid of the virus of toxic individualism. Because you don’t know, just like anyone else.

And since we don’t know, you might as well admit it.

I’ll start – I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making it up as I go. Which is why I need you and you need me. We’re both trying to figure out this thing called life together. It’s more enjoyable figuring it out together.

But hey, if you’d rather continue lying to yourself that you have everything figured out – be my guest. Let me know how that works for you.

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