There is a well-known saying in our culture that “Good is the enemy of great.” If one can attain good, one has arrived; he can move on to the next chore or another task; he can seek a different accomplishment. There is nothing at all bad about good. And yet there is something inspiring about those who move beyond to something better, even extraordinary.
On October 10, organizers held the 49th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco. Earlier in the year, Travis Gienger put pumpkin seeds in the ground for this year’s crop in his home state of Minnesota, dreaming of being a contender. His aspirations drove him beyond big. As he said, “Minnesota has a great midyear, but spring in our parts is really, really tough. So to [produce a prize-winning pumpkin] in Minnesota, it just shouldn’t happen. It’s like winning the Tour de France on a big wheel. You know, you can only hope, but it worked.”
The horticulture teacher made the 35-hour drive from his home with his enormous gourd to compete in the event. And he did much more than compete: Travis Gienger’s pumpkin set a new U.S. record for the heaviest pumpkin, weighing in at 2,560 pounds. Extraordinary!
This goes to show that thinking big can yield huge dividends. In fact, Tom Peters, best known for his book In Search of Excellence, believes individuals can and should distinguish themselves by thinking big and striving for accomplishments beyond the ordinary.
Peters recounts the story of a college graduate who distinguished himself in the art of resume building by highlighting the exceptional. He wanted, you see, for his accomplishments to stand apart from the pile of resumes potential employers would receive from outstanding hopefuls. The young man took stock of his positives. Grade point average? Outstanding. Organizations and leadership roles on campus? Above average. They were good. These accolades, however, were too much like other graduating seniors seeking their first jobs. What’s a young man to do?
He took what some might consider a whimsical accomplishment and placed it at the top of his resume. In his tenure as an undergrad fraternity member, he participated in a giant fundraiser that highlighted a bigger than big cookie. He and his team created an impressive 2,000 pound chocolate chip cookie. Why not place that at the top of his achievements, he wondered? And it worked. That cookie grabbed the attention of his future employer; he secured his first job, coming in first amidst a huge field of contenders. Extraordinary!
In my adopted hometown of Lexington, the annual Barbecue Festival this past weekend featured a pig-themed sand sculpture that drew big crowds. Eight days before the festival began, sculptors assembled materials and helpers at the designated site to construct a 50-ton sand masterpiece that would astonish passersby from far and wide. Ordinarily, one would find sand sculptures at the beach and the created castles would stand proud until the surf came in and carried them away.
In land-locked Lexington, the gigantic artwork will stand for weeks after its creation through all kinds of weather. It is difficult to believe the beautiful creation is made entirely of compacted sand, and it is a testimony to the artists that something so lovely is made from such a common medium. The big display in uptown Lexington is, year after year… Extraordinary!
Big thinking and huge plans truly create tremendous outcomes, taking the ordinary and super-sizing it.
As Jesus followers, we are perhaps used to the extraordinary; our God is, after all, awesome, and it is sometimes too easy to forget the amazing power that brought incredible love to all of us.
Thanksgiving will make way for Advent soon, and this season of anticipation will give way to the big celebration of love gifted to all who trust in the name of the Lord. The season engenders not an ordinary hope but a big hope: A Savior comes to restore creation to the Creator, the coming of a love so great as to be incomprehensible to the mind of man. A God-sized love John writes about in his gospel: “For God so loved the world [you and me] that He sent His only begotten son [Jesus the Christ] that whosever [again, you and me] believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (3:16).
Indeed, our awesome God planned and fulfilled the miraculous event that guarantees abundant life in Jesus. Extraordinary!
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children