Before we were so rudely interrupted by covid19, I had begun a series on the vital subject of disruption in commerce and how it changes history. The greatest disrupter in history was likely Jesus of Nazareth, whose brief “career” disrupted and altered the course of history for the following 2000+ years. If we set aside religious views, we can look at his life and extract principles applicable to any disruption.
No Written Words
The amazing thing about the history of Jesus is that over 2,000 years later, we have lessons from someone who, as far as we know, never wrote a single word himself. According to history, the only words he wrote were in the sand, before a crowd of people who were about to stone a woman to death as punishment for adultery. History does not tell us what he wrote, but after he had written in the sand, he stood up and said, “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” He then bent down and wrote something else in the sand, and again we don’t know what it was. One by one, everyone walked away from the scene. I suspect that Jesus was writing the names in the sand of those who had sinned, and they left because they were embarrassed.
Selection of People
So we have this man who never wrote anything, who today hundreds of millions still follow. Now let’s focus on this question: when he began this disruption, how did Jesus select the people who would assist him, and carry on his word after he was gone? Well, if you were going to start the biggest movement the world had ever seen, that would last thousands of years, what kind of people would you select?
Let’s first take a look at the “product” Jesus was promoting, for all disruptions involve some sort of product. In his case, he was promoting the kingdom of God—his message was “the kingdom is coming” and he is the king.
He only had a limited time—three years—to begin spreading this message so it would continue. If you were going to do this, what kind of people would you select? You might answer, “The smartest, the most intelligent, the most beautiful, the richest.” But interestingly, Jesus didn’t do anything like that.
Some say that he was only selecting very poor and simple people. This is not true at all. Let’s take a closer look at who he did select.
First, we must understand that it was a very different time from today. Jesus was a carpenter and so selected people who were workers like he was. The core group were fishermen. We can look back today and say, “Fishermen? Really? What would such people have to offer?”
That is a silly and shortsighted view. The Jews—and all of these people were Jews—were well educated, and could read and write. They were educated for religious reasons, so they could participate in the synagogue. Additionally, these were healthy people, both in body and mind. The people he selected for his core group weren’t needy, diseased, or broken. They were stable, hard-working, and intelligent.
Behaving as Adults
Such a person, we can observe, behaves like an adult. When we were children, we behaved like children. Today, we see far too many people, ostensibly grown-up, behaving like children playing in the dirt and throwing mud at each other. The immature behavior of our own government officials amazes me sometimes.
When you become an adult, the first thing you learn is to have an actual conversation. To listen, and really reflect on what the other person is saying.
Interestingly, Jesus’s first miracle was not like the astounding, dramatic ones that came later. He attended a wedding, and during the celebration, the hosts ran out of wine. Jesus instructed them to fill their water jars with water—but when they poured them out, they were all full of the finest wine they’d ever tasted. You might imagine what his followers were thinking—something along the lines of, “This guy that we’re following is cool! Water into wine, at a party! Wow!”
Why would he be doing such a thing? I believe the point he was making was that he was showing them the bigger picture. The picture wasn’t one of partying and having a good time, but of providing provisions when they were needed, which could be applied to life as a whole.
If you really want people to follow you, and all you’re offering is money, in the long term you’ll lose those followers. Every person, then and now, is looking for meaning. Meaning is so important that psychiatrist Viktor Frankl created a whole school of therapy out of discovering meaning, detailed in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.
I believe Jesus, in the lesson of turning water into wine, was showing his followers that the meaning in life is bigger, greater, beautiful. A celebration is wonderful when the time to celebrate is upon us. But we cannot celebrate every day—we have to work, to mourn, to weep, to take care of things—that is real life.
When Jesus was searching out people, he was not sitting isolated somewhere—he went out to where these people were. The first person he selected was Simon (later called Peter), whom he observed fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Peter and the rest of the fishermen had not been very lucky that day. Jesus instructed them to cast their nets just one more time—and they did, and they made an incredible catch of fish.
I think we forget, when we’re selecting team members, that we need to view people where they really are and see what they do and how they do it, to gain a holistic view of them. When Jesus did this, he was able to show them, in their own terms, that he would help them succeed. When he did that, they all left everything behind and followed him.
As a note, these people were all obviously touched. People don’t follow someone when they are just given false promises and feel nothing.
This is the time, with covid19, the lockdown, and everything else that’s going on, to re-establish core principles. A principle is something that never changes—an example being gravity. If gravity suddenly failed, we’d all be flying off the Earth into space, and the Earth itself would fall out of the sun’s orbit.
Just like principles in nature, real principles never change. They are timeless and universal. And Jesus had a principle that he was following, which dealt with choosing healthy and intelligent people.
He also applied the principle of collecting people where they were.
In addition, Jesus applied a principle of demonstrating a bigger picture—something he did through all his teachings. After Jesus had told Simon and the fishermen to cast their nets once more, and they had successfully made a huge catch, he told Simon that he would make Simon into someone who “catches” human lives and changes them. He gave Simon an unbelievable vision for his life. It became deeply rooted in Simon that there was something very wrong with society and that he and others had to do something about it. That kind of vision was the only thing that could have made Simon leave behind his whole life and follow Jesus.
A Time of Refinement
I truly believe we’re in an age right now in which we’re all being refined. It’s similar to the smelting process gold goes through, in which it is separated from impurities—and for us it’s a healthy process.
As human beings, we must grow up. We must shed the “impurities,” the things that are injuring us, so we can move forward. Deep inside we know when someone is behaving wrongly, but we are sometimes afraid to stand up and point it out to them.
Wrong behavior begins on the inside, not on the outside. A person is dishonest first to themselves, and then to others around them. When we want to build something everlasting and successful, good behavior must come from the inside and be demonstrated to everyone else. That’s the only way we’ll survive stably into the future.
We’re certainly not there yet—many of us have not yet learned this behavior. I also know, though, that increasingly people are not any longer willing to be victims. They’re standing up and saying, “I take self-responsibility.” We can look back at Simon at the time he chose to follow Jesus—that was an example, as he was taking self-responsibility. We can learn from that that it’s the decision that makes all the difference.
Application to Sales
How can we apply these principles to sales? There is a very applicable verse in the Old Testament book of Proverbs which says, “‘It is bad, bad!’ says the buyer, and he is going his way. Then it is that he boasts about himself.” Basically the buyer is complaining, “bad, bad!” but then walks away and says, “I got a great deal.”
For thousands of years since then, we’ve certainly known that people lie. Nothing new there!
But that’s yet another thing that needs to change, because now more than ever, we need a win-win, both for the seller and the buyer.