How will I ever measure up?

Beginning at the age of five, I could be found shooting hoops in my driveway at all times of the day. As an inspired elementary school student, my dream was to one day play for The University of Cincinnati basketball team. Surely one day kids just like me would be wearing my jersey and chanting my name. Surprisingly, as determined as I was, it never came to pass. (Somehow the team went on without my athletic prowess.)

How did UC overlook this physique?

How did UC overlook this physique?

A more realistic dream emerged in college in the form of dollar signs. I figured rather than a rousing collegiate athletic career, success would now be defined by the net worth attached to my name. All was transpiring flawlessly until my bank account was wiped clean thanks to a helicopter ride to the hospital from the side of the highway and my earning capacity took a hit. Being dependent on others without the use of my arms or legs, I wrestled through a season of questioning how on earth I could possibly be successful now.

How will I be able to measure up?

How will I be able to measure up?

How can success be defined? What will my measuring stick be?

Is a blog post measured by how many hits or follow-up emails it gets?

In terms of hanging out with 16-year-olds, is my success determined by how many show up each week or if I see colossal growth in their maturity over the course of one afternoon? (I sure hope not.)

When I speak, is my success wrapped up in the number of laughs? The amount of people that thank me afterwards? If I get invited back?

When it comes to physical therapy, am I measured by the amount of time I put in? How much new movement I have?

Over time, God began to open my eyes to my flawed understanding of what it means to be successful. Galatians 1:10 poses the question, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” In different areas of my life, success could be measured differently depending on who I’m trying to cater to. The question is, whose definition of success am I going to go by?

I’ve come to realize that my success is not determined by society, the opinions of others around me, or how my accomplishments stack up to my peers’. My success is ultimately determined by my obedience to God.

Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah were assigned with the task of calling the nation of Israel back towards God. All three devoted their lives to this task but ended up dying without seeing much change. Were they successful? Yes. They obeyed the task given to them by God.

With hindsight 20/20, I now realize that if my plans of stacking up money had come to fruition I would still be looking over my shoulder realizing someone is making more, and I would forever be a slave to comparison. Comparing myself to others’ achievements, accomplishments, or responsibilities would have led to slow torture.

Physical changes forced a re-examination on the definition of success

Physical changes forced a re-examination on the definition of success

I once heard the analogy of God sitting at the head of the table dealing out “individual assignments” to people sitting around the table. Each person’s assignment differs greatly from the person next to them. Comparing these assignments would be like comparing apples to oranges, to the point where it would be impossible for one person to carry out someone else’s assignment. Humility is realizing our responsibility for the assignment we have and allowing others to take care of theirs. Worrying about the assignment given to the person next to me is a waste of time.

My job is to put my hand to the plow of whatever I believe God has called me to. If that is writing a book or speaking to an audience of people I’ve never met, completing the task to the best of my ability is where I should focus, rather than looking over my shoulder at what my peers are doing or where I originally thought I would be at 25.

Comparing ourselves to others is the start down a dangerous path. We each have our own race to run. Let’s finish well.

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  1. Kathleen F said:

    Very well written Ryan.


  2. Hits close to home, especially when everyone around me is starting to get big-name internships and jobs! Thanks for posting this.


  3. lisamarieluccioni said:

    Hello, Ryan!

    Aw…Sir, you look so cute in pic as kid with basketball.

    You’re right. Define your terms wisely.

    Love to you.




  4. Sue said:

    Great blog. God has given you much wisdom young man. Keep shining your light for Christ. He loves you so much!


  5. Shannon Quinn said:

    Ryan, again I enjoyed your post. How in the world did you and Kyle ever become such close friends? You do know, he was absolutely terrible at Basketball! He disliked it so much, that when he was growing up, it was what I actually used as his timeout! Yup, if he wasn’t listening, he had to shoot hoops with his little brother for 30 mins! I knew he was a PIKE brother for life the night he called me and said you guys were at the PIKE house shooting hoops & eating hot dogs. He disliked both but was so happy that night! Thanks for being a blessing to our family! Forward we march!


  6. Jay Payne said:

    Thank you for the weekly updates, they always provide me a moment of clarity and make me reflect where I stand on the topics you review and discuss.


  7. Bob Buck said:

    Ryan, thanks for another pearl of wisdom sent to us by God through you!


  8. Scott Phillips said:

    I am 51years old and feel like I am just starting to get that the lords definition of success is much different than the worlds and sadly mine. Thanks for the words of truth. And congrats on being well ahead in your spiritual understanding. I love your blog and am inspired by your life. Keep fighting.


  9. Josie said:

    You are so wise, I thank you for your very timely words. So many of us measure success by the size of our house or our annual income. You are spot on in your comments. Thank you for giving me the words I needed to hear.


  10. This is a great post, Ryan. I’m truly inspired by your story.


  11. Ryan said:

    Loved this post Ryan!


  12. Dana Dunagan said:

    Ryan, Thanks for the insightful words!

    “Worrying about the assignment given to the person next to me is a waste of time. ” This really resonated with me. I have wasted way too much time worrying about what my husband should be doing while neglecting my own tasks. Thanks for the encouragement to stay on task. You are an awesome example of a servant!!!


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