Where Leaders Come to Think

Being Picked Last



Life has a funny way of working things out. In years past I remembered times in my life when I was the athlete picked last to play in the kick-ball game. Being Picked Last has always bothered me. However, it is one of the main reasons that I learned to grow. If I were never last, I certainly would not have learned to work hard or employ a champion’s desire. These forces rose from within as I faced the mirror of my own imperfections.

In a way, being picked last has molded the person I am today. A person dedicated to life-long learning, faith and sharing what I know so that other people can experience extreme personal growth. I admit that a struggle still exists within me when I get chosen last.

Until being picked last became a successful business strategy. (Now I love it.)

As a professional speaker, I fill out my share of speaking proposals. There are many times I get selected and many other times I do not. It could be something simple like my topic didn’t resonate, or my fees were too high. Heck I’ve been in situations where my fees were too low. When you serve in this capacity, it is an ever-moving target. However, I finally found a new way to market myself that made me deal with the old inner ghost of being last. I have learned the trick of becoming a great “fill-in” speaker. Yea, it’s a lot like getting picked last but when people are in a bind being picked last is a great way to be of service.

When it comes to being picked last this little strategy changed my mindset.

  • First, I realized that being picked at all is an honor. As a matter of fact, when I think about the movies and stories I like the most they are all about the underdog coming through in the end. Rather than letting being picked last hurt me at an emotional level I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to write a bigger story for my life. To serve well when no one expects it – and then do my utmost to leave a great impression.
  • Second, My desire in life has always been to be a person of character. In my heart, I long to be truly noble. The problem was in how I viewed nobility. I used to think nobility meant being the king of my castle. However, a person of character who is noble means they serve. Not for a little while but for a life time. This was a big idea to Jesus of Nazareth He always went around trying to teach us the essential charter traits needed to be truly noble. He said things like, “Who ever wants to be great must be humble like this child” “The first will be last” “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be a slave of all.” – Understanding these ideas have made me a better leader and set the stage for many great opportunities.
  • Third, it’s not over until it’s over. Many times we do the right things by following proper protocol and then, simply give up. I am finding that life is worth a second effort. Reaching out to potential opportunities that rejected you gives them a refreshed opportunity to reconsider. It shows you care that you understand things don’t always work out and that you are humble enough and willing to step in and save the day.

Really I’m OK with being picked last.

Someday I would like to perfect my craft and be the king of the speaking circuit castle. However, I realize that no matter how far we go in life we must be prepared to peer across our walls of pride and add value by serving others. To lead in any area of life, we must remember that the first often times are those whose mindset allows them to remain last…and then over-deliver.

Do you have any stories about being last in life, and then coming through in the end? (Please share your ideas in the comment section below.)

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  1. RAB

    As a youngster I experienced this when there was a pick-up game of football in the backyards I started out being picked last because I was 4 years younger than the other boys in the neighborhood. Between games I practiced, either literally or just in my mind visualizing positive outcomes. Near the end of those days I was one of the first picked because I over-delivered. I tackled those other kids with everything I had with no concern for our age differences! They got up after a tackle by me slower than after a tackle by someone their own age.
    A few years later during church youth group dances, I started out being one of the last picked to dance. I didn’t grow-up in the church so the kids knew less about me than each other and had low expectations of my dancing expertise. Again, I practiced in my mind visualizing positive outcomes. Near the end of those days I was one of the first picked because I over-delivered. What I lacked in dance acumen I made up for in effort. I spun those girls every which way but loose, and faster than any of those kids they’d grown up with.
    Next, I fast forward to my karaoke days. As the new guy, I started out being picked to sing once or not at all, with the local talent getting the spot-light. I practiced alone daily and 3-4 times a week in front of others. Near the end of those days I was one of the first picked because I over-delivered and became part of the local talent, even participating in a local competition and placing well.
    Most recently, raising my children comes to mind. In their formative years I relied on me. I taught them the value of hard work and the difference between right and wrong. We attended church regularly however my litmus test was still “right and wrong” instead of “honoring and dishonoring”. Only as the kids have become young adults have I been picked to treat them as the prodigal son, where I previously would have laid out all of their obvious inappropriate decisions, a hearty hug and sharing a meal are in order these days. I think we’re all a work in progress but practice and over-delivering keep us keep on the right side of honoring and dishonoring, until we’re picked again.

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia05-30-2013

      Thanks Roger, my favorite part of your comment was “I spun those girls every which way but loose.” To me, this seems like a great date night challenge where we can both test our dancing acumen with our wives. Let’s see if you still have it? Keep over-delivering on the important things!

  2. Heather Thomas
    Heather Thomas05-25-2013

    Great insight. It’s about finding the silver lining in all situations.

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia05-25-2013

      Thanks Heather. I agree, and do enjoy a good silver lining now and again.

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