Accelerate out of the curve

By President Dondi Costin | December 16, 2022
Dr. Costin at Chapel
Dr. Costin at Chapel

From the global pandemic’s onset throughout its painful onslaught, we Buccaneers adopted the March Madness rally cry of “Survive and Advance” to keep our team in the tourney from beginning to end. Come tournament time, you can’t play tomorrow unless you win today, so you do whatever it takes to be a bracket buster until the final buzzer sounds. 

You’re in as long as you win. But losing means you watch others play on the court while you plop down on the couch. Do or die. Now or never. Win or lose. Survive and advance.

This harsh reality explains how Goliaths go down, how Cinderella stories are made, and how Charleston Southern’s faculty, staff, and students persisted in the face of great difficulty to climb the ladder and cut down the nets. 

Because of God’s faithfulness and our colleagues’ resilience, we survived and advanced on multiple fronts during the pandemic. New facilities, new academic programs, new academic centers, launch of a major fundraising campaign, the university’s first named college, a $1M Giving Day record, a one-year fundraising record, pace-setting enrollment, the largest number of students living on campus in university history, five Big South Conference championships, two consecutive Operation Christmas Child national records, and winning the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award provide evidence aplenty that Bucs win. Student by student, syllabus by syllabus, semester by semester, together we survived and advanced. Thanks be to God. 

Glad that’s over. Now what? Good question.

A friend of mine recently shared advice from one of his board members who is a professional racecar driver, which is not a bad gig if you can get it. Reflecting on how healthy organizations should compete when coming out of the global pandemic, this roadster encourages leaders to take their cues from drivers who skillfully balance risk and reward at breakneck speeds on their way to victory lane. 

He had me at “Drivers, start your engines.”

Racing fast cars for a living sounds like fun until you remember how violently the laws of physics work against you on the track. I don’t drive racecars for the same reason I never jumped out of a perfectly good airplane: Force equals mass times acceleration. Straightaways are bad enough when the speedometer registers triple digits, but negotiating hairpin curves at high speeds is next-level scary. 

If you think tailgating is bad on I-26, you’re not wrong. (In my experience it could more accurately be called trunk-gating on that speedway. In fact, I once saw the driver behind me so clearly in my rearview mirror that I could have done her makeup if I knew how.) But I-26 has nothing on the twists and turns racers face for hours on end. One wrong move, and mayhem ensues. No sudden movements, especially in the curve. 

Winners know how to win, though, which they do by making physics their friend. Rather than fighting the laws, they masterfully leverage them for competitive advantage. Experienced drivers and physics professors alike agree that maintaining consistent speed through the curve is the way to go. Whatever you do, don’t slow down, and don’t speed up. But when the time is right, the best drivers accelerate out of the curve in hot pursuit of the checkered flag. 

The same is true for organizations like Charleston Southern. And your family. And your church. And yourself. Now that the pandemic curve is behind us, having survived and advanced for more laps than I care to count, it’s time to accelerate out of the curve. Every single one of us. In almost every way.

Completely unaware of fuel injection as a wonder of the modern world, the apostle Paul might say it like this: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Whether pedestrian or pedal pusher, there is a right way to run the race, and to the victor goes the spoils.

While what happens in our university and our families and our churches has almost nothing to do with the laws of physics, accelerating out of the curve has everything to do with the laws of Providence. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).    

Faithfully accelerating out of the curve rests on our desire to please the One who promises to reward our diligence in seeking Him. Run in such a way as to get the prize.  

At Charleston Southern we’re gunning it by intentionally focusing on our core values, culture, and institutional priorities. Because we know He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Maybe the same could happen in our families and our churches and ourselves.

The good news is that the pandemic is in our rearview mirror as we accelerate out of the curve. The bad news is that we have miles to go before we cross the finish line. If the past previews the future, there will be potholes and pit stops and pileups along the way. Chances are that we have not seen our last caution flag on this well-traveled road. The best news is that we are not alone.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Sounds exhilarating. And exhausting. Such is life in the fast lane. 

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