We all know how to get ahead in life. We see examples portrayed in the media. We observe how things work in our schools, workplaces, and neighbourhoods.
You get ahead by finding the smart people, the rich people, the influential people, and others who have some social advantage. Sometimes, they provide direct assistance, but perhaps more importantly, they offer you access to their social networks where you can find things you’re looking for, investment advice, an employment opportunity, the phone number of a good cardiologist, or something else that matters to you. Developing a relationship with these people allows you to take advantage of the benefits they have to offer. These are valuable people. Try to add as many of them to your circle as you can.
Of course, these aren’t the only people you’ll come across in life. Others are much less useful because they are at more or less the same level as you or below you. These people mostly serve as distractions and energy drainers, keeping you from reaching your goals. The strategy with these people is to ignore them as best you can, once social niceties have been observed.
Lastly, there will be a few people who, in one way or another, are in competition with you. They are after the same things you are and sometimes try to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities for advancement that you have your eye on. You ignore these people at your peril. You have to defeat them in the sense of getting ahead of them and staying ahead of them.
This seems obvious and simple. Follow this strategy and little by little, you’ll be able to get ahead in life. I once asked a group of about 150 people how they felt about this and no one objected. Our western culture is permeated with this idea. However, you’ve probably already noticed that, while it works, it doesn’t work perfectly. It never works as well as we’d like it to. That’s because, it’s not designed to work. God intended for us to cooperate, to work together, to benefit mutually from each others’ strengths and to meet each other’s needs.
God designed human society in such a way that the highest ethic is love, each looking out for the best interests of the other. What’s more, He designed it to work across the board, without distinguishing the categories into which we put people, consciously or otherwise. Jesus once said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (See Matthew 5:43-48)
The bad news is that this doesn’t work perfectly either, because some will always choose to act out of self-interest. However, the more people live by the love ethic, the better it is for both society and the individual. While this may not get you ahead in terms of reaching your own goals for your life, it goes a long way in aligning you with God’s purpose for your life. If, ultimately, you are looking for happiness and fulfillment (and who isn’t?), following God’s agenda to fulfilling His intentions for you is highly preferable to reaching the goals you have set for yourself.
So the bottom line is this: the way to really get ahead in the grand scheme of things (not the petty day to day ones) is to revolutionize the way you live by doing it the way God intended.