In the late 1980s, I was pastoring a church that had a huge Christmas outreach. Since it was a church plant, we had no building, just a tiny office. I asked a Chrysler dealership to let me use their showroom floor for our Christmas food and toy distribution program. He agreed.
I wrote the CEO of Chrysler about the dealer’s kindness. I received a letter signed by Lee Iacocca, acknowledging the use of the showroom. He is one of my heroes in management. He died a few weeks ago. I read a lot of blogs about him.
He is best known as the father of the Ford Mustang. He took a Ford Falcon, gave it a long hood and a short deck, added bucket seats, floor shift, and made it fun, sporty and affordable. The 1965 Mustang sold more vehicles its first year than any other car in the automotive industry.
In 1978, he was let go from Ford where he served as President. A few months later, he took over the reins of Chrysler where he turned it around from near bankruptcy and introduced the Minivan to the automotive world.
Many of the blogs said he would be remembered for being the father of the Mustang as well as saving Chrysler from bankruptcy. But others were critical, accusing him of not addressing the problem of the Ford Pinto that would sometimes explode in rear-end collisions. They also complained he wasn’t a fan of seat belts, airbags, or anti-pollution equipment and would be remembered for that.
I don’t remember a line of candidates applying to take over the reins of Chrysler in 1978. It was said that had he known how bad it was, he wouldn’t have taken the job. But he did. And he stayed. And he finished the job.
What does this have to do with the book from my teen years? When I turned 13, my sister gave me a book entitled, “2001 Insults; an insult for every occasion.” One of them said, “He builds himself up by tearing other people down.” Let me encourage you that the more you accomplish, the more you become a target for critics. People don’t care about you when you aren’t doing anything with your life. But, when you begin to accomplish things and demonstrate leadership, they’d rather “tear you down.”
What encourages me is a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt on April 23, 1910. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
If you are in the arena, your face is covered with dust, sweat and blood. You are a leader. I heard one leader say, “I don’t listen to the critics. I don’t read their comments. I’m not going to let them get inside my head. God has a destiny for me and I can’t let anything detract me from it.”
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the president/CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.