2007 RAAM Start in Oceanside, CA. Photo: Kayvo...

Image via Wikipedia


I’d like to share a few leadership insights about counting the cost to finish well.  Recently I was part of an 8-person cycling team that raced across America in the 29th annual Race Across America bicycle race.  It took our team 6 days, 14 hours, and 55 minutes to complete the race and cross the finish line as the 5th place team in the 8-person team division and 14th overall.  As I look at the map and reflect upon what we did, I am still amazed that we were able to finish the race as well as we did.  And I’d like to tell you that from the very beginning, I had no fears or worries at all about completing the race; however, the truth is, I had some significant fears and worries about being able to do it because I had never done anything like that before.  Plus, the fact that the race is actually called the toughest bicycle race in the world, I had a pretty good inclination that it was going to be a huge challenge for me and our team.  In all seriousness, I was very concerned about the challenge of taking 14 people across 14 states, 3,005 miles, 24 hours per day, over 100,000 ft of elevation through the mountains of Colorado and West Virginia, the sweltering hot deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, and the windy plains of Kansas and Missouri from the West Coast of California to the East Coast of Maryland.  In other words, I was nervous about the magnitude of the endeavor and needed to seriously sit down and count the cost of what it was going to take in order to finish the race.    

Do you know that this is something we must all do anytime we want to seriously do something in life bigger than ourselves?  Therefore, I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned about counting the cost to finishing well with any significant challenge.  In retrospect, as I think about the Race Across America experience, I’ve come to realize and appreciate that my fear of starting the journey and potentially not being able to finish it, actually challenged me in some very positive ways and required me to ask myself three very important questions.   

The first question was: “Do I have what it takes to finish the race?    

In Luke 14:28-31, the Lord teaches the principle of counting the cost to finish well by sharing, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it —   lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”  This is a scary thought and I can totally relate to it through my experience with RAAM.  After my friend Scot and I received approval from the Ochsner Executive Leadership Team to sponsor a RAAM team named Team Ochsner to support the fight against childhood obesity, the reality of meeting the RAAM challenge began to soberly set in as we left the executive meeting and walked down the hallway.   Our unspoken thoughts and fear was, “Do we really have what it takes to finish the Race Across America?”   

To adequately answer this question, each of our team members had to consider our foundation of health and fitness as well as develop an effective training plan to build upon it.  You just don’t decide to do Race Across America one day and then the next day get on a bike and ride all the way across America without having a significant foundation of health and fitness.  It really takes years of building a firm foundation of riding capability and physical health to even consider RAAM.  For me personally, it was 10 years of training – 3 years spinning and 7 years riding outdoors.  Additionally, to help me be accountable to my personal training plan and to my team, I began recording my daily training activity with the iMapMyRide training tool as well as sharing it on twitter.  Simply put, accountability for any project or endeavor, big or small, begins when you first tell others that you are going to do something and it continues every day when you daily affirm that decision by your disciplined actions towards completing that project or endeavor.    

Leadership Insight #1: Without a solid foundation, the discipline to build upon that foundation, and the commitment to be accountable to an effective training plan, it really doesn’t make much sense to attempt the achievement of something bigger than yourself.   

The second question I had to ask myself was: “Is God with me in this race?”   

In my walk with the Lord over the years, I’ve learned that things go much better when God is with me; therefore, with the Race Across America challenge, I needed to make sure that I wasn’t going to be picking up a load that God did not want or intend for me to carry alone.  In my prayer time, I had to seek the Lord about this matter and get the green light of His peace to proceed.  James 4:13-16, says “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit?’ whereas, you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”   

For me, embracing the Race Across America challenge was more than just a huge potential accomplishment. It was actually something I felt the Lord leading me to do.  As a result, even though it was a tremendous weight for me to carry, I was well equipped to carry it in the strength of the Lord because I knew He was with me to do the race.  In my spirit, He was softly speaking to me, “From faith to faith, strength to strength, and glory to glory, I will take you.”  With that personal word from the Lord to me, I knew that He would give me the strength and everything else I needed to complete the race, although I still had to trust Him and exercise my faith every step of the way.  And now that the race is over, I can honestly tell you that God was so tremendously faithful and the only reason that we were able to finish so well is because the Lord was with us.    

Think about this.  We rode day and night for 3,005 miles from California to Maryland and we did not have a drop of rain nor did we have any significant head wind. For me, this is a miracle and a true testament to the awesome faithfulness of God and His goodness!  Additionally, while we were in Kansas riding through the plains, one of my team mates decided to ride along with me while the wind was at our backs.  And I can tell you, it was so much better to have the wind at our backs propelling us forward than to have it working against us as a headwind.  Similarly, it is the same way with God for any endeavor purposed in your heart.  It is so much better to have Him with you to strengthen and help you accomplish the endeavor He has put on your heart rather than trying to do something big on your own and God has not given you His grace nor His favor to do it.   

Leadership Insight #2: Don’t dare go if God says no; but in faith go large if God is with you to help push the barge.   

The last question I had to ask myself was: “Who will go with me and what character do they have to meet the challenge?”    

I knew that this race was going to be tough and everyone was going to be tested along the way; therefore, I knew that I needed to choose team mates with the strength of character to withstand the testing and be willing to work together as a team to overcome every challenge and adversity in faith.  Proverbs 17:17 states that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Furthermore, Matthew 7:24-25 says “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Without much exception, the people on our team were strong believers in Christ which helped us to lift one another up during the tough moments and demonstrate that the foundation of our team was built on a rock of strong character in the Lord.  And when the testing came – and it did – everyone overcame the challenges despite our differences along the way.  There is no doubt about it, without the character and commitment of every person on the team to do their part, stay in faith, and work as a team, the Race Across America would have been an impossible challenge for our team.   And this holds true for any team with dreams and goals bigger than themselves.     

Leadership Insight #3:  Everyone on a team must do their part, stay in faith, and work together as a team to see God do the impossible in and through them as a team.    

All praise, glory, and honor be to the Lord for strengthening my Race Across America team and protecting us every pedal stroke of the way!   

Counting The Cost Copyright 2010, The Make It Happen Learning Institute.  You have permission to reprint the leadership article, Counting The Cost, in its entirety only, and forward to your colleagues and friends, provided the copyright notice remains part of the reprint and transmission.  All other rights reserved.