(Part of “The Things Cai Taught Me” post series)
Cai was a very talented individual. He couldn’t sing very well, but that’s about the only thing he didn’t do very well. That and basketball. Anyone who ever played against Cai in basketball knows that he was a fouling machine. But in most other things, Cai was abundantly talented.
He was an excellent teacher that always challenged his students. He was gifted at making everyone feel happy. I’m sure any TBC’er will smile when they hear, “what’s kickin’ chickin’?” He was an anointed preacher. He was an invaluable friend.
One of the things he taught me is still something I’m trying to master. Cai never promoted himself. He was always doing his best to give others a shot at success. I think that might have been one of the key qualities that made him such a dynamic leader.
I struggle to do the same.
It’s like playing golf. You know the guy that is on the other team can drive 300 yards straight down the fairway every time. He’s waiting patiently for you to hit your shot. The inevitable panic of looking like less of a man sets in. So you put on your nice, white glove. You adjust your Ping visor. You make sure your golf shoes look good. You walk out onto the tee box with a swagger. You want everyone to believe that you are a good player too. You swing as hard as you can and the ball sails into the water. Three fairways over. You mask it with some excuse.
Two months later you’re invited to play again and you know that “that guy” is going to be playing. You come up with some excuse or injury to avoid embarrassing yourself again.
Cai, I’m sure, struggled with insecurity as much as anyone else. However, Cai was able to move past that. He never seemed intimidated in the face of talent. On the contrary, he looked on other’s talents, not as a threat, but as a tool.
Cai brought me to Louisiana to help make a video for the district kids’ camp. He saw a small talent in me and plugged me in where I could do some good. A year later, he did the same thing at TBC. He brought me in with nothing but praise of what I was really good at.
He provided entertainment at several banquets. When he did, he was always bringing students along.
He didn’t want to be the star, he wanted to be on a team.
He didn’t want to be the best teacher on the faculty, he wanted to help train the best teacher ever.
He didn’t desire to be the best preacher on the platform. He wanted to give the best preacher the pulpit.
He didn’t desire self-promotion. He valued putting the right people in the right places, even if it meant he wasn’t center-stage.
He viewed his rightful place as promoting others to their rightful place.
His willingness to promote and push others wasn’t his weakness. It didn’t cause him to be passed over for the talent that he was promoting. It worked much differently.
Cai was busy promoting the talents that he discovered others. That made him even more valuable. He learned to bring out the best in others rather than showcase their shortcomings. This made those who came in contact with him focus on their best and not their failures.
So many times we feel we need to bring others down so that our stature looks better standing next to them. We have to make someone look foolish so that we don’t feel so inadequate. Subconsciously we think that, if we bring others down, then other people will hold us in higher esteem in contrast to those we lower.
Cai proved that type of thinking is completely flawed. Promoting others’ talents, even those greater than our own, doesn’t make us look any less than we are. The ability to selflessly promote others actually makes us grow. Maybe that’s why Cai’s stature was like a giant to those who he pushed and promoted.
I know there were things I was better at than Cai. Ping Pong, for instance. (that’s a joke) I had talents and knowledge that he didn’t have in some areas. But without him pushing me in the areas of his inadequacy, I sometimes no longer feel adequate. Without someone devoid of my talent, pushing me to improve that talent, sometimes I don’t feel a need for those talents.
Cai taught many lessons but seeing the abilities, talents, and potential in others and learning to kill pride and exalt them instead of self is one of the more important lessons we could ever learn from him.
Perhaps the greatest talent of all is being able to look at someone and say, “I can’t do this as well as you, so use me as a stepping stone and be all you can be.” That could be why so many felt, and still feel, such void in their lives without Cai around. He was a solid foundation many who knew him could stand on.
Let us learn from that and become pedestals, not for our own gain, but so others can stand taller and accomplish more. After all, isn’t that the essence of leadership?