"How much life insurance do you have?"

According to a recent blog by Seth Godin, Zig Ziglar liked to say that -with that one question, you could tell if someone was a successful life insurance agent.  "If they're not willing to buy it with their own money, how can they honestly persuade someone else to do so?"

Godin went on to note that if you are in the music business, but you never buy tickets or downloads, can you really empathize with the people you're selling to?  

His favorite:  If you work for a non-profit and you don't give money to charity, what exactly are you doing in this job?  "And the shame of it," Godin adds, "is that this inaction on their part keeps them from experiencing the very emotion that they try so hard to sell."

Hmmm….

Godin is on to something here.  Something that runs much deeper than business.  Namely, how easy it is to embrace an ideal, a value, even a mission, and not participate in it yourself; to exhort others to do what you yourself do not.

And how impotent it leaves you in achieving whatever it is you most desire to achieve.

For example, I interact with a good number of church leaders, and I am sensing a breakdown precisely along these lines.  

They attempt to lead a church that reaches the unchurched, and admonish their folk to reach out to their unchurched friends and invite them to attend, but they could not name a single unchurched person that they have personally invited.

They desire to start churches filled with people who will die to themselves for the sake of the kingdom, but neither they nor their family seems to be willing to serve in the bowels of the ministry, whether mopping a floor or tending a child.

They love to preach and teach, but not listen or learn.  Or as Gordon MacDonald once noted, we can be willing to travel across the country to give a sermon, but not walk across the street to hear one.

Result?  Ministry becomes little more than a way to create a platform for our own fulfillment and ambition.  And then, as Godin insightfully notes, we do not experience the life we so energetically try to sell.  And the more that disconnect grows, the less we will succeed.

I am far from immune from such temptations.  So let me put myself into the mix with every other leader and say that for many of us, here's a great New Year's question to ask:

"How much life insurance do we have?"

Sources:

Seth Godin, "Watch the Money," at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/11/watch-the-money.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fsethsmainblog+%28Seth%27s+Blog%29