Emmons with medals

Three time Olympian Matt Emmons has won over 50 medals in his career.

Whether you’re a worker bee or an elite, Olympic athlete, vision matters. But, so does execution.

True story: Athens, Greece. August, 2004. Matt Emmons, a 23 year old kid from New Jersey, was hot on the trail of his second gold medal.  It was down to the last round in the 50 Meter Rifle 3 Positions he had a solid, 3 point lead. Get near the bull’s-eye, scoring 8 points and the gold would be his. The place got really quiet, Matt exhaled himself into position, and took aim.

Associated Press gives us the story:

“Matt Emmons was focusing on staying calm…

Emmons fired at the target…

‘On that shot, I was just worrying about calming myself down and just breaking a good shot… When I shot the shot, everything felt fine,’ Emmons said… [but] no score appeared, he gestured to officials that he thought there was some sort of error with his target.

‘On those targets, sometimes every once in a great while, it won’t register. The shot just doesn’t show up, so that’s what I thought happened.’

A perfect score — dead center in a bull’s-eye that is smaller than a dime — is worth 10.9 in the final round, but all Emmons needed was an 8.0 for gold. His shot …was an 8.1, but it didn’t count, of course. Because the right placement on the wrong target is worth 0 points. [italics & bold mine]”

Ever hit the right mark on the wrong target?

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time helping people, business leaders, and churches connect the dots between vision, strategy, and execution. Vision is about “where we’re headed and why”; it’s the target, destination, cause or “30,000 foot view”. Strategy is about “what to do”; it’s the plan or the map and the barriers between here and there. Execution is about “how it’s done”; it’s engagement, manner, or delivery – rubber meeting road.

Most companies and churches have written, sometimes prominently displayed and framed, mission statements, but in my experience, most men and women don’t. And, many who do are aiming at the bull’s-eye on a temporal target – building merely toward their retirement or their children’s future (consider, Prov. 13:22), rather than some spot on an eternal target “what impact with this make on eternity” or “how will this expand God’s eternal kingdom”?

Once we’ve determined the right target, I find strategy and execution unfold pretty naturally. From there, leaders have to guard against “mission drift” – that thing that happens when we take our eyes off the target. But, without a mission statement, how do you know if you’re drifting? Matt Emmons was millimeters from the right spot, but his eyes had drifted from the right target? How you doing with that?

Aim Doesn’t Just Happen, It’s Something You Take

A woman who’d been sick for 12 years (Mark 5:25) elbowed her way through the crowd to touch Jesus’ cloak in hopes that the Messianic promise of Micah 4:2 would be true and she’d be healed. She found healing at the intersection of vision and execution, didn’t she? She had no guarantees, but like Matt Emmons, she at least took a shot at what she believed to be the right target. Let’s hear it for execution, right?

What Kind of Heat are You Packing?

People often ask me about what apps I’m using, about life hacks, and tricks for productivity, but I no longer answer them without first addressing vision. It took a variety of mentors years of nagging before I came to the conclusion that execution alone is like a shotgun – good breadth, low precision, short to mid range at best. Short term goals: shotgun… 

If I wanted to excel at God’s greater and eternal purposes, higher power, greater precision, and serious range. Mission statement: rifle with laser sight. Question – are you aiming at someone else’s target with a shotgun or have you zeroed in on the bull’s-eye of God’s specific and unique destination for you? Craft a personal mission statement.

So, What Do I Do?

The wisest, godly men I’ve come eyeball to eyeball with have told me the same things:

  1. Get out of your head and into your heart.
  2. Pray deeply.
  3. Fast and listen.
  4. Answer any or all of these questions:
    • What bothers you?
    • What burdens you?
    • What absolutely FIRES YOU UP?!
    • Where do your God-given gifts line up with your passions and dreams?
    • Why would God assemble your 86,000,000,000 brain cells into your body and place them here at this time, in this place, around these people, with your talents, abilities, propensities, and passions?

Put it on paper… on purpose… and place it prominently where you can review it regularly.

Steadfast on mission and in it with you,