For me, 'Winning Edges' are 'little things'... details that matter and must be executed within the context of my faith in Christ and the truth of the Bible. Knowing my life is secure BEYOND my death is the ultimate 'winning edge' and it is a 'can't fail' .... even if I do. My sin is great, but HIS GRACE is GREATER!
I'm not sure if there is an order of these things.... they all need to be in place at once and will ebb and flow with the storms of life.
CAPTURING EVANESCENT 'SOUL DEEP' BEAUTY- Literature and music helps me.
So this one may sound strange.... but God wants us to take time to absorb the beauty and elegance of things. I have a love for music and poetry. And I still get awestruck sunsets, mountains, and stars.
The William Wordsworth poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, captures this concept as much as any poem I have ever spent time with. It portrays a speaker who has encountered a field of daffodils waving in the breeze who seem to be 'dancing' in the breeze. The beauty of nature in that moment is so powerful that the image is burned into his soul. And later, all alone, quiet and even blue- he hearkens back to that moment as it 'flashed on his inward eye'
When I am teaching quarterbacks, I will stop a drill and make them notice a sunset. I tell my young anglers to stop and appreciate the beauty around them. I will say, "Look at that fish, see his shape and colors!" And they sometimes look at me strange when I say it.... but experiencing beauty at the core of your being is an experience with God as you contemplate that He is the great designer and artist.
All of this is a minister to me and it washes away fatigue, pain, and sorrow. The beauty of any rich experience that is more than therapy to me.
COUNTRY MUSIC SINGERS
I had to add a little quip here. The lyrics of wry, witty country music captures the blues of life, but can leave us with a smile.
Try it and you may like it!
I have never liked negative people, naysayers, cynics, critics, doomsayers, or people with 'loser's lean'. I'm not pointing this towards people who occasionally suffer the blues or go through hard patches. But negative people NEVER contribute towards winning. Also, when I am suffering from acute depression or anxiety... these are the people I need to GET AWAY FROM!
I don't know where my endless hope comes from... but it has made me a really tough competitor ... because I feel like all I need is time and I will win. And I get up after a loss and believe I will find a way to get you eventually.
A come from behind victory when all looks like a loss is the most satisfying win of all.
I could write volumes on this.....
Every significant achievement in my life would have never happened if I listened to the naysayers in the midst of the struggle, personally and professionally. These voices get louder when the clouds roll in and the doubts and fears creep in.
Thankfully, I compete well against all of those and though they are ever present.... I have learned to press on in spite of the contrary winds of negativity.
THE LONG GAME
The 'long game' goes hand in hand with relentless optimism. It takes time to finally bring in the victory, especially those victories that seemed bleak and unlikely. It is the best part of my competitive winning edge... I may not beat you today, but you are going to see me coming back to try it again, and again, and again. Part of this success is not letting a loss be the end of the world. It hurts to fail... but if we embrace failure as a natural course of life that is meant to teach us how to be better, then a loss is just a rocky patch on our way to a championship. Significant success usually takes decades.... you can't measure it in days.
If you put 'relentless optimism" with 'the long game' you get one of my favorite Bible passages:
In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,  fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (ESV)
We miss the fact that many of these Bible victories took an extraordinary amount of time. Twenty years is the minimum and 40 years is the average! Moses did a double forty year stretch of doubt to victory.
Winning Edges are so small... but they majestically multiply when consistently applied over long periods of time.
ENCOURAGING AND FORGIVING ALL PEOPLE
This is the most rewarding of the Winning Edges. For some people it is extremely hard, but I think it becomes easy when you really grasp what the gospel is really about. Again, this one could take an entire book to explore... and boy, do I have some stories!
Let's explore the opposite of this for a moment. If I choose to tear down people and hold grudges, I am really only destroying myself. Sadly, I have known too many people who show this trend in their lives and I don't have words to describe their torment and misery.
I call these people 'fist swingers'... they go through life punching every single person they meet with a flurry of venom and destruction. And the result? All they do is make enemies.... and they stay tensed up in conflict, and their minds constantly calculate the deficits... and before long, they crumble under the weight of it all.
When you chose to forgive.... you take all that weight off of you and you don't feel the lust of vengeance. When you choose to be an encourager, you adopt a mindset of encouragement. You actually 'self encourage' as you encourage others.
An encourager and a forgiver finds the opposite result of the aforementioned 'fist swinger'. Open hands are less stressful. The encourager loves.... and wins more friends than he has enemies. He isn't a victim because he doesn't dwell on the wrong suffered.
I am in tears as I write this.... I wish everyone could find Jesus. When He forgives, it releases all of the poison we hold and all of the weight of condemnation and it becomes actually quite easy to live out this 'winning edge'.
Unfortunately, there is no easy path or shortcut here. Life will absolutely smash you in the teeth. It will beat you down with the intent to crush your dreams. My greatest fear in this generation, is we so protect out children that thy have no context to receive the inevitable blows of life- and they sometimes come in spades!
Of course, the greatest inspiration of this comes from a later Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa-
Let me tell you something you already know. . It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. . How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!
Short for "Forget it, Drive on". This is a huge winning edge for competitors. WHEN you make a mistake, it is ok to learn from it, but DO NOT dwell on it. And never let a bad play or game beat you twice.
Every Qb I have ever coached has that 'STORM' moment in his career where the bad things happen in bunches... when it rains it pours- and all of a sudden it looks like all of the stars are align against you. It is such a spotlight position! You throw a pick six, then maybe fumble.... the crowd starts booing, the players are doubting you, and the coach starts to think you bet on the other team before the game... in those moments, you just have to play your way out of the crisis... one play at a time.. you HAVE to never show bad body language, you NEVER blame anyone else, you just make the next one.
In fishing, I tell them, "Just put your head down and fish".
To me, how a young man responds in the storm means more to me that how he handles success- though both scenarios need coaching. FIDO works for wins as much as it does for losses.... you have to forget the past and move forward.
FIDO is a very Biblical concept:
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way.... (Philippians 3:13–15 ESV)
ONE DAY AT A TIME
Just as optimism and long game go together- FIDO and One Day at a Time go hand in hand.
To win a tough competition- you just can't get in the past or in the future. You just fight as hard as you can one play at a time! If you are in a life struggle one day at a time. If it is life and death... you just make it one more step, one more minute, one more hour.
Here is how Jesus said it:
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34 ESV)
HUMILITY AND GRATITUDE
Humility is the hardest and most misunderstood virtue of the human experience. In the south, we have what I call an "Aw shucks" fake humility....
“ Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels…These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col. 2:18,23)
Biblical humility is not self-deprecation, this so-called “aw-shucks” false humility resonates so emptily in relationships. You know that person. He is the one who can never take a compliment and always understates an achievement or accomplishment. “Aw shucks, I am so poor and lowly, and I am absolutely worthless.”
I think the Biblical model of humility is selfless. It seeks to build God and others up, but not bring yourself or your institution down. True humility is not afraid of proper, Biblical boasting. Biblical boasting is an active desire to point out the Excellencies of the Father. It is a decision to give up a right or entitlement for the glory of God and service of others.
“Thank-you for that compliment, but I couldn’t do it without the Lord, isn’t He great!” or “I am so thankful to be the teacher of the year, this award deserves to be shared with all my fellow colleagues. They give me inspiration daily to pursue excellence, as unto the Lord.”
A telling sign of false humility is how one responds to questions of concern or criticism. A truly humble person is not reactionary, but patient and loving in conflict. A person of false humility cannot keep a gentle spirit in these circumstances.
A person of false humility is generally negative, and leads complaints or dissensions. A person filled with false humility does not have very many deep or loving relationships.
Our model of course is Jesus. The glorious passage in Philippians Chapter 2 teaches us that Christ willingly let go of His rights for us. A test for this humility is found only in by searching the inner man. How do you feel when a friend gets a reward or a break? How quickly do you defend a team mate if a student or a parent is criticizing him? How often do you get upset if it seems that you are not being noticed or you have to give up a privilege? How quickly do you volunteer to help a need, knowing it may cost you some time and effort? May the Lord grant to all of us through His spirit the attitude of submission and humble service to the Lord.
Humility and gratitude exist together- instead of being upset about what I don't have or that someone 'owes me'.. I learn to be thankful and count my blessings!
 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11–13 ESV)
 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17 ESV)
Romans 6:23" For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)"
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV)"
Coach Bobby Bowden used to tell a great story about a time he hit an inside the park home run. He rounded the bases and slid into home plate... SAFE! But the other team appealed and asked the umpire to rule on whether or not he touched 1st base. And sure enough, he had missed it! The other 1st baseman, touched the base and the umpire called "OUT"!
Coach Bowden said, 'Men, Jesus Christ is 1st base. If you miss him, even if you win the whole world... you lose".
The ultimate and most important Winning EDGE is a personal relationship with Christ. A trust in Him for all things. And the security in knowing that Jesus is a sacrifice for your sin. His blood was shed so that we can have life. We receive Him as a gift by faith. We acknowledge our sin and failures and trust in Jesus as our ONLY HOPE to be right with a Holy Father.
If you know Christ in this way... the other Winning Edges follow in time.... that is a process called sanctification. We are being set apart for God's glory. And one day, we will meet HIm... and that will be the ultimate win... glorification and restoration.
These are high bars that are difficult to maintain.... is there a winning edge when you don't feel like you are winning? I believe there is... and it is embracing your identity... I will explore this in the next post.