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The Marketplace magazine September-October 2019 issue

Applying spiritual principles for secular success

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - January/February 2018

Soar and The Hollywood Commandments are books about applying spiritual principles to entrepreneurial success. Both men are New York Times bestselling authors who testify that their career path is directed by their Christian faith.

Soar book coverSoar! -Build Your Vision from the Ground Up By T.D. Jakes (FaithWords Hachette Book Group, 2017 239 pp., $25 US)

Hollywood Commandments book coverThe Hollywood Commandments -A Spiritual Guide to Secular Success By DeVon Franklin with Tim Vandehey (HarperOne 2017, 248 pp., $25.99 US).



Franklin is a motivational speaker and preacher who heads up a movie production company that works with 20th Century Fox. He was dubbed one of the “Most Influential Christians Under 40” by Beliefnet, a website that provides information on many different faiths. He has overseen both mainstream box office hits and faith-based movies.

Thomas Dexter Jakes, the founder of the 30,000-member, Dallas-based Potter’s House Church (among the largest in the US) and TV ministry program, has written more than 40 books, produced Grammy award-winning music and several films.

There is a certain amount of overlap in the themes covered by Franklin and Jakes. Both books give helpful perspectives on the proper way to view setbacks and failures.

Both writers name-check their encounters with U.S. entrepreneur and TV personality Oprah Winfrey.

In Franklin’s case, having his first book featured on Oprah’s talk show was a big break. For Bishop Jakes, Winfrey’s counsel about changes in the entertainment industry helped him to not become too attached to a project that he withdrew from after one season.

Franklin argues that not only are secular and spiritual success not opposed, but they are interdependent. He offers 10 commandments for life-changing success, mixing spiritual truths with hard-nosed assessments of what it takes to get ahead.

He draws on the Old Testament experience of “Hebrew boys” Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego (Daniel, chapter 3) to illustrate the importance of using spiritual convictions to succeed in a secular environment.

For Franklin, success equals deep peace, “and we find the most peace when we live out our true calling and fulfil the purpose we were created for.”

His account of the path to success is laced with aphorisms that he has undoubtedly used in many sermons. Service precedes success, success is not an elevator, it’s a staircase, you can recycle the box people try to put you in, and humility must accompany talent are among his prescriptions.

Franklin includes a frustration prayer that he encourages readers to use to overcome a mindset he deems a waste of energy and time.

Encouraging anyone you can is an important habit, he said, noting that the most successful people he knows are the most generous with encouragement.

His definition of prosperity is particularly helpful. “Prosperity is simply the condition of being successful or thriving,” he writes. “You can be prosperous without money — and in fact, some of the most prosperous people are those with moderate incomes, but healthy families, healthy bodies, and strong relationships with God.”

Soar draws on Old Testament scriptures and the innovative experiments of flight pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright to suggest pathways to get businesses launched, keeping them airborne, and flying to new heights.

Female entrepreneurs are enjoying a strong updraft, he noted. Women now run more than 9 million firms in the U.S., 30 per cent of the total. He cites an American Express study stating that the number of female-owned businesses grew by 74 per cent between 1997 and 2015, 1.5 times the national average.

African-American women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the US. The number of businesses owned by black females grew by 332 per cent over the 18 years of the AMEX study.

Jakes makes a compelling case for finding help wherever you can get it, finding “crew members” of supporters, advisers and mentors to assist at various stages.

He also advocates for managing stress by recognizing your limits. “Being stressed is not just about burnout and depleted energy levels,” he writes. “The real source of the stress is the increased weight added by new roles and responsibilities as well as unexpected conflicts and complications. Stress is about lacking the structural support for the weight you are carrying.”

Being a good detective is also an important skill for those who aspire to entrepreneurial greatness, he writes. “It’s how you integrate and assimilate the knowledge gleaned from your research and how you use it to influence your own designs that make the difference.”

Many famous businesses started by accident, he notes. Coca Cola began when a pharmacy assistant spilled soda water into a glass his boss was using to create a headache cure. Play Doh, Silly Putty and Viagra were all unintended consequences of other efforts.

A desire to make money can’t be the primary motivation for launching a new venture or it will limit how high the business can fly, Jakes says. A start-up “must be tempered by a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and the sheer passion for whatever field, industry cause or product you hope to bring to the rest of the world.”

All new efforts should also be studied through the effort-to-impact (E2I) ratio, he argues. “Misplaced priorities can cause your E2I ratio to be as powerless as an impotent swing at the monster in your dreams.”

Whatever the business plan, Jakes cautions against actions that don’t incorporate faith.

“If we put together a Hall of Fame for great entrepreneurs, I guarantee that entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, George Washington Carver, Shonda Rhimes, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Mary Kay Ash, Thomas Edison, and Tyler Perry could each attest to the role that faith played in their ascent.”

Both books are easy and entertaining reads. Surprisingly, it is Jakes, the professional pastor, who delivers the greatest amount of widely applicable advice on entrepreneurship. ◆