According to the Bible, King Solomon is the wisest man to ever live, he notably was also the most foolish. He is proof that you can know better and not do better. He experienced wild success as a developer, businessman, and King of Israel. He had more houses, land, riches, fame, and power than any other person on earth has or ever will experience. As his life drew to an end, he realized that though he had done everything he set out to do and had everything he ever wanted, he had nothing without God.
As he reflected on his life, its meaning, and his accomplishments he left us with 12 powerful strategies for success (Ecclesiastes 11). His seasoned perspective is peppered with both encouragement to “follow the impulses of [our] heart” (Ecc 11: 9 MSG) and warnings against misplaced pursuits of futile success. His wisdom tempered with both experience and heartache, offers us advice on how to be successful in both our personal and professional pursuits.
12 strategies for Success:
1. Practice generosity and patience (Ecc 11:1): We must remember, there is no return without investment, be that time, energy or money. Charity offers a high yield of return because God faithfully restores those who restore others. We are also reminded to be patient and play for the long game. It is worth our while to invest in spaces that will come back in due season knowing that what we sow, we will eventually reap.
2. Diversify your portfolio (Ecc 11:2): Successful people like King Solomon develop as many of their talents and pursue as many opportunities as time, money and energy permit. Diversifying your assets, investments, and skill sets is vital to mitigate risk.
You never know when misfortune will strike (enter a pandemic). As a millennial I have great experience with tragic, world changing events. First it was 9/11 just before graduating high school, then the great recession as I graduated college. It would be just my luck to get married and buy a house at the height of a housing market crash, and then have children starting school at same time as a global pandemic. The best advice my grandparents gave me was, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and be a jack of all trades, the master of one will eventually be bored.” Turns out, that’s godly wisdom.
3. Don’t worry about things you can’t change or control (Ecc. 11:3): Solomon understood that some things are out of our control. We cannot expend our energies on things we cannot change, instead we must channel our energy on what we can. Instead of allowing circumstances to disable our plans, we must be willing to do what we can with what we have in the moment. Unfavorable circumstances aren’t permission to stop working.
4. Be faithful and be flexible (11:4): Our circumstances are constantly changing, sometimes we are required to be flexible and pivot. Regardless, we don’t stop working, we adjust, pivot, or refocus and keep moving. A small step forward is still moving in the right direction. Always look for the next first step. Hone the godly trait of diligence.
5. Don’t wait, start now (Ecc 11:4): Don’t give power to circumstance that is often only happenstance. There will never be a perfect season to start anything God ordained; we can expect to be met with trials (1 Peter 4:12). Often, we attribute these trails as signs to abort mission; however, many of these trails are nothing more than happenstance that require your faith to push through. The Bible constantly reminds us that regret waits for those who don’t start, so don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today (Proverbs 6:4-14).
6. Submit yourself and your plans to God’s will. (Ecc 11:5): Sometimes starting looks like submitting. Acknowledge and accept that you will not know everything before you start, but limited knowledge doesn’t mean limited action. Start with prayer, ask God to reveal step one, then commit to looking to Him to continue to reveal your next steps (Prov. 16:3). We won’t always understand the circumstances that we are up against, but we can trust that God works all things together for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
7. You’ll never know until you try (Ecc 11: 6): Don’t get caught up in what you think may or may not work. Try anything and everything and know that what doesn’t work out now, may pan out later. The only way to know the unknown is to move into it; you can’t know what you don’t try. Be diligent and trust that your work is not in vain and will not come back as void. A lesson accompanies every action in life.
8. Acknowledge the seasons of life (Ecc. 11: 7-8): Enjoy the good with the bad, the ups with the downs, and the victories with the losses; enjoy it all while it lasts. There is something to be learned in every season of life; apply the hard lessons learned so you can rejoice in the wisdom gained that will lead to later victories.
9. Realize that success is momentary, and it doesn’t define your life. (Ecc 11: 9): This might be the most important success strategy. We must understand that true success doesn’t lie in anything that can be stripped from us. Earthly success is momentary, and it doesn’t define your life, your purpose or you. Admitting that removes our bondage to the fear of failure. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, do what you can whiles you can. Make the most of your time, money, and energy while you have it. Enjoy success when it comes and while it stays but know that it will eventually fade.
10. Do everything with integrity (Ecc 11:9): We must have perspective, our earthly success is momentary, hinging on temporary elements; however, our lives are eternal. Therefore, we must ensure that what we pursue all things with honesty and integrity, knowing we will have to answer to God. Anything gained in dishonesty will be stripped away from us (Proverbs 13:11).
11. Live a balanced life (Ecc 11: 10): Live a life that allows you to keep healthy habits. Don’t allow doubts, fears, and worries to cloud your judgement or derail you from your purpose. Practice maintaining your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Fleeting success isn’t worth a broken heart, a broken body, a broken mind, broken relationships or a broken spirit. If you want to assess how much time, energy, and effort to put into something, take time to evaluate its meaning 10 years down the line. Is it worth it? What good is something you can’t guilt free and surrounded by loved ones?
12. Keep your priorities straight (Ecc 11:10)- Recognize that everything will come to an end. Practice being content and enjoy what you have, while you have it. Once the fire is out, smoke ceases to exist. Perspective is everything. He who is faithful with little things will also be faithful with much.
As King Solomon came to realize, a day will come when you can no longer do the things that once came so easily to you. Our days have been numbered and we never know when the productive season of our life will come to an end, be it gradual or abrupt, we can be sure that it will eventually cease. It's important to be productive in the moment. Be grateful for what you have in this moment and build a legacy that will outlast you, and above all, do all things with an eternal perspective. Our greatest gifts are yet to come.