Tag Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

What Makes a Winner

Kurt Vonnegut

Best selling author Kurt Vonnegut tells of a life-changing conversation he had when he was 15 years old. “I spent a month working on an archaeological dig. I was talking to one of the archaeologists one day during our lunch break, and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went ‘WOW. That’s amazing!’ And I said, ‘Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.’

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: ‘I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.’

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could ‘Win’ at them.”

Kurt Vonnegut’s telling of this pivotal conversation when he was a boy prompted me to reflect on the many stories I know of people who did something great for God, most of them in the Bible. Few of these people had a lot of talent and ability or were winners over others. Often, God called people to a task who seemed least likely adapted for the task. A frequent result was that it made them more dependent on God.

If we only did that which we could be the best at doing, then we’d do very little! A lot of good gets done by people doing the best they can do, though it may not be better than what someone else could do. The fact is, we’re often in a unique position to do something good when no one else is where we are who might be able to do it better. We’re it, and God can help us do what needs doing!

We’re not called by God to be better at doing something than someone else, we’re called by Him to do the best we can! We’re not always called to be successful (certainly not always in terms the world around us would suggest). But we are always called by God to be obedient to Him. We may not always feel qualified, but He will qualify us to do that for which He’s called us.

Opportunities and challenges are a call to do our best, not necessarily to do better than someone else. They’re set before us to teach us things, encourage us to grow in different ways, help us be more the person God wants us to be, and to change the world around us in some small way. This is what makes us a winner at what we do!

Words to a worker by his boss in one of Jesus’ parables, words that we can hope to hear from God to us when we get to heaven: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:23