Are You Making Yourself Useful?

Have you ever heard a quote that you just could not get out of your head? It is kind of like that annoying 80’s song that gets stuck in your brain and continues to play over and over, without letting up. I know you know what I am talking about! Well, I heard a quote the other day that continues to echo in my mind. The good thing is that this quote about being useful fits with what I believe is my life purpose!



The Quote

I was listening to Jim Collins speak at the Catalyst conference in Atlanta. He was talking about an interview he had with Peter Drucker. Towards the end of the interview, Peter asked Jim for permission to offer him some advice. Jim, of course, was quick to agree! Who would refuse to take advice from Peter Drucker?!?

Drucker went on to say something to this effect (imagine his Austrian accent here)…

“Jim, you keep talking and thinking about survival…(pause)…You will probably survive. You also keep dwelling on success…(pause)…you will probably be successful. (longer pause)…Why don’t you go make yourself useful?

Collins said he had no response. He said that quote has stuck with him since then.

My Response

Well, I just have to tell you that it has stuck with me as well. As I continue to hear it rattle around in my head, I wonder if I am truly being “useful.” Then I start to question what “useful” really means, in light of my faith, my (stewardship of His) business and an eternal perspective.

So I did what anyone would do this day and age…I googled it! Here is the definition of useful:

usefulLooking at the first definition, I keyed in on the words serving some purpose. Am I serving some purpose? What purpose should I be serving?

Serving Some Purpose

It is clear to me that Jesus has already told us what our purpose should be. When asked about the greatest commandment, He answered with two…”Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” His final instructions to us before He ascended was to “go and make disciples of all nations….” Now it is simply up to us to determine how He has gifted each of us to carry out, to serve, this purpose.

Of Practical Use

As for the second definition listed above, “of practical use,” it is similar, but I also see a little different perspective. I see myself as the tool in God’s hands – carrying out whatever practical work or task He has in mind for me. This requires my vision to be submitted to His. It requires me to be flexible, ready to change direction according to His will. In this definition, I see fewer grandiose projects and more washing of feet. I see God getting glory from the most menial of my tasks.


So, once I break it down…what is my answer? Am I making myself useful?

For me, I believe God has placed me in a position at the head of a family business for the purpose of loving and serving Him and others. I am to do this as a business leader, but I am also to serve this purpose as a godly husband, father, church member, neighbor and friend. Each of these roles requires a different approach and I may need to employ various methods or skills, depending on the role. Regardless, each of these roles should fulfill the core purpose Jesus laid out for me.

So, for now I will say I am definitely a work in process. I am learning and growing. I am striving to be and do those things that will result in hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I am certainly not there yet. I don’t suppose I will ever actually be there. At the same time, that is what the “making” is all about!

What about you? Are you too concerned with survival or success?

Are you making yourself useful?

What do you need to change to improve?

Originally posted 11/7/11

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  • Great post! I was at the Catalyst conference as well. That certainly was a memorable quote. It’s amazing how we don’t make ourselves useful because we’re either working too hard to be better, not believing in ourselves enough, etc. We wait. wait. wait to go out and “change the world” and so many times we miss out on the blessings because of it. 

    • Thanks Sundi Jo! You are right, but we cannot give up!

  • Huh, that’s a pretty insightful question. It really changes the focus from ourselves to others.

  • Anonymous

    Yep, I’m too concerned about survival and success — instead of focusing on how I can be useful!  This is great Chris.  Thanks for your insight.

    • I cannot take credit, but I will certainly benefit from the learning!

      Thanks for reading!

      By the way, I enjoyed my first visit to your blog…saw it on High Calling. Keep it up Susan!

  • Glad I slipped over from Hyatt’s post. Thanks for offering the link and the good thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    A great way to be useful and know your moving forward is to find, develop, and use your gifts and talents. If we focus on doing those things I believe we will live a life of purpose and add value to other people.

    • Dan, it is funny you say that about using your gifts…that is what today’s post is about!

      Take a look and let me know your thoughts.

  • Bill Marsh

    Great post, Chris. I vividly remember attending the Catalyst Leadercast and having the same stirring impression of Peter Drucker’s charge to his protege Jim Collins. Several years ago, I created a personal mission statement that has functioned as a very useful guidepost for aligning my  life with my deepest values. In the process, I’ve discovered that one of  life’s biggest challenges is living out what “useful” means from the perspective of the Gospel verses the world’s.

    • Thanks Bill! Would you mind sharing that mission statement? I know there are others that would love to see an example of one.

      Thanks for your witness.

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  • In my case it is songs of the 60s that get stuck in my mind. I heard this morning Mick Jaeger and the Rolling Stones are celebrating 50 years together…seems as only yesterday to me! Great points were made and I think of how many times I have misused tools, such as the trusty screwdriver to pry open stuck objects or to scrape away mistakes. There is a fine line between being useful for good purposes when we are placed in situations that require us to be useful in areas that we were not properly designed to function. Then I wonder – is adaptation the mother of invention of new tools! Is not God the creator and author of our personal “owner’s manual”? In the hands of the master, even a screwdriver can be used to do so much more than tighten or remove a slot headed screw. Thanks Chris… great thought to start the day.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Coach! The 60’s had some great music, too!

  • Love the thought – go make yourself useful! Many are consumed with “success” – and their success is virtually useless. Great post!

    • I agree, Michael! I can fall into that thinking trap very quickly…which is why I have to keep reminding myself of the truth!

  • What you talk about in your post about where our focus lies fits exactly with what I studied in several places this week. The gist of my studies was about having a God-centered focus rather than a man-centered one. I was reading about how the Thessalonians were able to grow in faith even amidst tremendous persecution and about how they focused on love toward one another. I think making ourselves useful involves continually growing in our faith and determining to “fix our eyes” on the Author and Perfector of our faith. Great, challenging question, Chris.

    • Thanks Kari. As a blogger, you know that some of our best questions are those we have been asking ourselves! I am certainly asking myself this tough and challenging question.

      And, you are right about the need for us to continue growing and focusing on Him. There is no other “useful” for a Christian.

      • Asking ourselves tough and challenging questions is what makes us good writers. I think that many people shy away from writing because of the tough job of thinking that we have to do on a regular basis.