The Trajectory Principle

American culture sends mixed messages. On one hand it tells us that we can be “anything we want to be,” but then if we don’t rise to the top of whatever we pursue it tells us we are failures or at best we should be disappointed in ourselves. There are winners and losers and we are either one or the other.

But that is simply not true.

A great mayor of small town is not a failure when he/she does not desire or is not elected to the county board or state senate or governor. Being a great mayor is just fine.

A part-time pastor of a church of sixty people might be doing more important work in God’s eyes and have a more deep and abiding faith than a high profile mega-church pastor with a TV program.

An excellent departmental manager is not a failure if they don’t become CEO. Excellent leaders are needed everywhere.

Some of the greatest coaches are not working for a high profile university or professional team. The best might be a part-time coach, full-time teacher at a small high school in a rural town. Over the many years, he/she has changed the lives of hundreds of teenagers by inspiring them to overcome adversity and be the best they can be. They might have been the only positive parental role-model to some of those same teens.

The greatest music director might not be the eccentric and brilliantly difficult conductor of a major orchestra, but the grade school music teacher who inspires hundreds to love music and make it part of their lives forever.

The greatest teacher might not be in a nicely appointed office at an Ivy League university, but at a folding table in a windowless classroom in a community center working as a tutor in an afterschool program for children having a difficult time making the grade.

You get the point.

Today, I am exploring what it means to be an author and a concept I am calling The Trajectory Principle. Trajectory is the flight path an object takes after force is applied.

Every writer will have a trajectory to their writing career and will affect the lives of certain number of people.

With no apologies for my directness…a lie from the pit of hell is that your life is a failure and no one cares about you unless you are #1 in the world’s eyes and that God is disappointed with you and every time you read the parable of the talents, you feel worse.

The enemy of your soul loves to discourage and he wins when you buy the lie that God’s value for you is connected to your worldly success.

This is where the “winning is everything” or “second place is failure” thinking is extremely destructive. We’ve all bought into it.

It makes nice headlines for motivational speeches to linebackers, but lousy advice for living.

Authors have been driven to depression and creative paralysis thinking they are failures because their book trajectory didn’t meet sales expectations of themselves or the publisher.  But how many people in the world have the opportunity to affect the lives of five hundred people, not to mention five thousand people or more?

When Jesus spoke to the crowd and delivered what has been known as The Beatitudes, he outlined a counter-culture world view that is 180 degrees in a different direction than just about everything in the culture. His definition of trajectory is very different than we are led to believe.

It breaks my heart when a good writer decides to abandon writing excellent articles for the church monthly newsletter, the bi-weekly free newspaper or the local school website because our culture said they are nothing unless they are writing the great American novel for big money.

When that happens, the devil has won and is all smiles.

It breaks my heart when a good writer thinks their only valid “trajectory” is to compete head-to-head with Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or Max Lucado.

The ability to write well is a gift from God. But God calls different people to different things. He calls missionaries to forsaken places where their work is tedious and seemingly unfruitful, except for a few encouraging signs once in a while. He also calls people to do big spectacular mountain-moving things. Both are important.

If you don’t think so, you have bought the lie.

Take heart, if God has given you the ability to create with words, you should find ways to exercise that ability, realizing that it might not be for big money, or any money at all. It might be writing books or it might be writing amazing notes of encouragement and inspiration to five friends.

One to one instead of one to many.

Once every aspiring or experienced author accepts that God is in control of their trajectory, it will make the flight much more fulfilling and worthwhile.


36 Responses to The Trajectory Principle

  1. Lisa Bogart March 3, 2015 at 5:42 am #

    I appreciate this thoughtful encouragement. It’s just what I needed today as I launched into a new writing project. Yes it will have a small audience. And YES it will matter. Thank you.

  2. Jeanne Takenaka March 3, 2015 at 6:30 am #

    Dan, I love, LOVE this post. Your words are spot on. You said: :”The enemy of your soul loves to discourage and he wins when you buy the lie that God’s value for you is connected to your worldly success.” Yep, I’ve been there.

    It is so easy to base our success on what the world tells us success looks like. What matters most is are we doing what God has called us to do? And, are we finding our value and identity in Him or in what others say? If we are walking where God directs us to walk, we are successful, regardless of the output we produce.

    Thank you for this post.

  3. Connie Almony March 3, 2015 at 6:35 am #

    AWESOME post!!! Thanks Dan.

  4. Becky Jones March 3, 2015 at 6:39 am #

    And I was just reading about the potter and the clay last night! This is so important. God has shaped us all for different things. We’ll probably be pretty surprised someday to see what all those little, faithful trusts amounted to…

  5. Afton Rorvik March 3, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    Thanks so much for these wise, perspective-setting words!

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 3, 2015 at 7:35 am #

    Great post, Dan.

    One of the things that moto slogans never mention is the amount of sacrifice that is necessary to achieve “the heights”.

    I’m not talking about sweat or fatigue or anything easy like that…relationships have to be sacrificed on this altar, because there are only so many hours in a day.

    I’m not saying one shouldn’t make the effort for the goals one would like…I do, after all. But one should have a clear view of what one is giving up on the way, that can never be called back.

  7. Richard Mabry March 3, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    Dan, thanks for a post that is both accurate and encouraging. I have made peace with the fact that I’m a mid-list writer (at best). I don’t know where my trajectory is going, but I do know that the influence I can exert is more important than sales figures. Stephen King can rest easy–I’m not chasing him any more.

  8. Terry Whalin March 3, 2015 at 7:46 am #


    I hope many writers take the time to read this post and see the wisdom of what you have written. Thank you for putting it together.


  9. Patti Jo Moore March 3, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    Thank you for this post – – excellent reminders that I’m sure many of us needed (I certainly did!).
    This is going into my Keeper Files. 🙂

  10. Mocha with Linda March 3, 2015 at 8:16 am #

    YES! Thank you for writing this. We all need the reminder.

  11. Angela Breidenbach March 3, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    Dan, the last thing I expected was to have a loyal following for my Fe-lion, #Muse, on facebook. I thought it was just silly cat posts to send a grin. I didn’t think it was important. Then I started getting private messages from all sorts of folks thanking us (my cat included) for helping them through divorce, Cancer, grief, etc. I realized I was the one who was wrong. God uses even the simplest of writing to touch lives. It humbles me and has become an important part of my writing life. Posting to facebook for free wasn’t something I’d ever have thought was valuable. But it is. I write little snippets regularly just to make those fan-friends smile and lift their day. I still write novels and lead CAN, but I no longer think a book is the end all. Not after the lessons I’ve learned from some amazing people going through hard moments.

  12. Grace Fox March 3, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    Thank you, Dan. I totally agree. God calls us to be faithful stewards of the time, talent, and resources He’s given us. That looks different to different people. Regardless, our job is to obey and leave the results to Him.

  13. kathy March 3, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Well said and amen!

  14. Robin Bayne March 3, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    Great article! The title caught my eye, looks like an episode title from “The Big Bang Theory.” But your point is a very good one, something we all need to keep in mind.

    • Dan Balow March 3, 2015 at 8:49 am #

      That reminds me, it is time to get some hot cocoa.

      • Brian Thoresson April 11, 2015 at 1:36 am #

        Many thanks for that. I also believe that if God gave it to you, he will take it further. We must believe. Can I join you for the hot drink?

  15. Pamela S. Black March 3, 2015 at 9:06 am #

    Wow. Dan, I think that was the best post you’ve written so far, at least in my opinion. I’m forwarding this to my husband who is a coach and high school teacher in our small rural town. He could do so many other things, but he knows his calling is to do exactly what you described, to minister right where he is.

    What a great post!

  16. Sandy Faye Mauck March 3, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    Dan that was so good!
    These scriptures came to me while reading this:

    But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
    (Matt 23:11)

    His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (in heaven!)
    (Matt 25:21)

    And Matt 4:8,9—
    Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

    And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

  17. Amber Schamel March 3, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    What a great article.

    “With no apologies for my directness…a lie from the pit of hell is that your life is a failure and no one cares about you unless you are #1 in the world’s eyes and that God is disappointed with you and every time you read the parable of the talents, you feel worse.”
    That really hits the nail on the head. We writers all know this, but sometimes it is easy to forget. This article is going in my folder “for when I’m discouraged” and I’ll keep it for when I need to hear it again.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Dan.

    Amber Schamel

  18. Shauna Letellier March 3, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Very encouraging. It reminds me of a quote I heard on Moody radio last spring. Edith Schaffer was asked by an interviewer, “Who is the most influential Christian woman?” She answered, “The world does not know her name.”

  19. Jennifer Hallmark March 3, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Thank you for the reminder.

  20. Lisa Taylor March 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Amen and Amen.

    I get authors coming up to me all the time asking what they need to do to “succeed” (this happens once they find out I’ve worked 20+ years in marketing). One entertainer turned author said to me, “I’m so over performing for crowds of 30, what do I need to do to make the big time?” (The new book he was launching was on his journey with depression.)

    I find this overwhelmingly sad. A crowd of 30 children God loves. Whose lives He wants to touch. What an honour to have an opportunity to work with God to lift them up and bless them. How sad that because someone we know is “touring Europe” that we miss how precious each of these people is. How sad that we lament rather than being filled with joy at being called to this work.

    The road to depression is paved with Satan’s “success” lies.

  21. Beverly Brooks March 3, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    As you can see Dan – you helped us.
    Thank you.

  22. Carolyn Miller March 3, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    Thanks Dan, for a great reminder on perspective. It is so easy to get caught up in worldly values, where success is counted in the tangible. How good to remember things of worth in the kingdom of God are often immeasurable, and our value in God’s eyes- priceless.

  23. Jenelle. M March 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm #


    I’ll be first to admit that the lies you addressed can be easily believed, especially in an industry that is subjective. Getting rejected over or feeling unsupported over and over by reputable people in the business can put the doubt bug on ones ear. It has for me. I believe that this agency understands that and they have done a superb job in reassuring it’s followers to stay the course.

    A writer may not see their work on the self, an painter or photographer may never seen their work in a gallery, but like you wonderfully said, we need to be obedient to our calling by God and stay the course. We have no clue who will be encouraged by our work.

    Great post!

  24. Peter DeHaan March 3, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

    Dan, thanks for providing some valuable perspective, for writers and everyone!

  25. Jean Brunson March 3, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    Thanks for the encouragement. Just today, I talked to a man who writes amazing stories, but has never self-edited or sent anything to be published. He feels like a failure. He needs to read this, so I put it on my Facebook page.

  26. Kathleen Jaeger March 3, 2015 at 11:32 pm #

    Thank you for these encouraging words. You have out to words that which has been mulling around in my head for awhile, yet they are even more encouraging to hear here.

  27. Robyn March 4, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    I look forward to Tues. so I can read your blog. This one is a winner winner chicken dinner. Thanks for your constant encouragement and wisdom.

  28. Judith Robl March 4, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    Dan, I’ve read through all the responses and can think of no better way to say it without being repetitively redundant. 🙂


  29. Julie Yuccas March 5, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    Thank you!

  30. Kim Fredrickson March 5, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

    Dan…Thanks so much for this post. Your words are truth that reflect the loving, accepting heart of God. He has gifted each one individually and has a plan of those He specifically wants our words to touch. This post has done that for us. Gratefully…Kim

  31. Linda Glaz March 6, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    Absolutely WONDERFUL! post, Dan. And so true! Thank you for sharing.

  32. Kara Swanson March 6, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    Thank you so much for this! Such an encouragement and a great post! So true…we often weigh ourselves on the world’s scales of prosperity. But, ultimately, our lives our to bring God glory. If we are doing our best to fulfill that call, than there is no way we can think that we are failures. Even if it means that we do so out of the spotlight and broke. 🙂

  33. laurabennet March 7, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    Thank you. So true. We need to keep hearing this too because while we all understand that “publishing is a business, after all” writing is also a ministry. Sometimes those go hand in hand, but often they don’t line up. I want to be in line with where God says to be at any given time and with each project.

  34. Liz Lassa April 28, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    I love this article so much! Thank you Dan for telling me about it. I plan to share it with others.

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