In the Trenches

In the Trenches by Dr. Robert Gerwig

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We live in a world with many self-proclaimed “experts.” There is no shortage of hubris and bravado. No field of study/endeavor is exempt. Music. Athletics. Business. Military. Academics. Leadership. Church. … It’s amazing to me how this works. And how prevalent it is (not to mention it’s quick rise – almost to the point of “normalcy”).

Allow me to give a few examples. Some funny. Some irritating. … How does a musical group (band or individual entertainer) release a “greatest hits” CD after their first CD? … How does an NFL announcer or sideline reporter (who’s never played football, at ANY level) really know what it’s like to be sacked or be in a huddle? … How does an author who’s never been in a leadership position, write a best-selling book on leadership (aside from great marketing)? … How does a teenager know “everything” about everything?

Over the years, I’ve had numerous people try to tell me how to do my job. Some had experience as a leader, a manager, a business executive, an engineer, a consultant, an educator, etc. However, many had NEVER done any of those things. Had spent zero time in the trenches. Never walked a mile in “corporate moccasins.” … Know what I mean?

Yes, you can learn from others outside your field. You can apply learnings from one field of study to another (I often do). But tread lightly. Be careful. Cautiously allow self-proclaimed “experts” to speak into your life.

Frankly, I’ll come closer to listening to a few simple words from someone who’s been in the trenches than to reading a tome of “flowery” words from someone who hasn’t. Tread lightly. Consider the source.

Does an NFL sideline reporter add value and have something interesting to say? Perhaps. Do I trust them on a deeper level to know the game like an experienced, All-Pro who has been in the trenches? No – not even close.

For me, time in the trenches is “necessary, but not sufficient.” It’s a good place to start. A good initial filter.

A caveat. Time in the trenches doesn’t automatically confer “expertise.” Time in the trenches doesn’t automatically convert to profound knowledge, expertise, wisdom, and deep insight. And yes, there are some really wise young people without tons of experience (e.g. Timothy in the Bible).

Recently, we went to Moaboal (Cebu, Philippines) for a mini-vacation (a short weekend getaway) to relax, explore, snorkel, and enjoy fellowship with friends. It was a great trip – everything we expected and more! Upon arrival, I immediately went to check out the beach. After all, I had heard great things about snorkeling and diving in Moaboal (check it out sometime). At first, I was a bit surprised. The water and surrounding area was beautiful, but it didn’t look like the pictures I’d seen in guidebooks and on the internet (showing the underwater reef and marine life) . However, when I put on my snorkeling gear and went underwater, it was spectacular! Fish! Corals! Color! Life! It was an amazing experience! … It reminded me of “time in the trenches.” Experience. Depth. Substance. … Many people can look good on the surface, but what do they look like underneath? Is there something of value there? Do they look good as you dive deeper? Moaboal withstood the test and came out looking great. There was substance and depth. Moaboal looked good on the surface AND underneath.

Make sure the self-proclaimed “experts” in your life look good underneath before allowing them too much access into your heart and mind. Whenever I pick up a book, business article, attend a seminar, etc., I always check out the author. What have they done? Who are they? How much time in the trenches do they have? Am I willing to let them speak into my life?

Who do you allow to speak into your life? How do you “consider the source?”

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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