Divine TailwindsMar 22, 2022
One of my mentors in faith used to say, “Trust that God is on the move and that He’s ahead of us.” Depending on your age and whether you have a faith background, you may have heard it a different way from Henry Blackaby, the author of Experiencing God, when he wrote, “See where God is already at work and join him.”
I call it “divine tailwinds.” Simply put, it’s the divine work at your back. And you definitely want divine tailwinds.
Divine tailwinds don’t mean that everything is easy, but it means there is momentum, something tangible that is pushing you forward in a significant way. If you’ve read the book of Acts, you get a picture of divine tailwinds. Even as the local religious authorities and the Roman government sought to stamp out the early adherents of Christianity, the faith grew and spread. The author is quick to say that it was the work of God that was moving the church forward.
In my experience, the same is true in all of life. Not on the same scale as the book of Acts, of course, but the principle holds true. Divine tailwinds exist in our world, and if your life and work are spent pushing against them, it doesn’t go well. But if they’re at your back, you’ll find yourself going somewhere—and often fast.
Divine Tailwinds in Business
I’m a big believer in divine tailwinds, but my working hours are not spent in a church. Most of my time is in the world of business and organizational leadership. What do divine tailwinds look like there? Can you spot them on an Excel spreadsheet, a P&L, or an org chart?
If you know where to look, yes. Definitely.
Business leaders may not know the phrase “divine tailwinds,” but they definitely know the word “momentum.” Momentum is like air conditioning in your house. You can survive without it but only for so long, and when it heats up, you’re looking for a way out.
When I coach business leaders, I look for momentum in the four wheels of effective strategy—customer, offering, people, and financials. I find myself asking this question over and over again: “Where is your momentum?” For example:
- Are customers flocking to you?
- Are people easily attracted to your offering (service or product), or do you have to prop it up with a bunch of incentives for it to work?
- Do you have abnormally great employees and partners?
- Are investors attracted to your company or NFP?
Is there a place where your calling and gifting—and that of your team—matches up with the current demand of the market? If so, you may be sensing a divine tailwind.
Figure out where your momentum is and play to those strengths. Peter Drucker said, “A person can perform only from strengths. One cannot build performance on weaknesses.” For example, if your momentum is in people—if you have talented people in the right spots who are hungry and work well together—then get your people talking and collaborating and trying new ideas.
Momentum is particularly important at certain points in the life of a business. Businesses move from concept to launch to proof to scale, and it is particularly in “proof” that momentum matters. Proving a concept is hard enough. (The market has a way of proving up your concept and saying, “This is no good.” Doesn’t it?) If you hit proof with no momentum, you’re going to be forced to change something quickly to have any chance at survival.
But if you can make the necessary adjustments in proving your business building off your existing momentum, then you can create a flywheel. Once you get into the flywheel, linking your points of momentum, then the flywheel cranks itself, and you’re rolling.
Are you in the flywheel stage? Or do you sense that you are always trying to create your own momentum, dragging your business along behind you?
If you’re trying to create your own momentum, it’s exhausting. But what if, rather than creating momentum, you could identify where momentum already exists. That is the principle of divine tailwinds. Where is God already at work, before and beyond what you can control, giving you ingredients for possible success?
And yet …
Two quick notes of caution I must mention.
First, not all momentum is a divine tailwind.
There’s a song from about twenty-five years ago that said, “I get turned around / And I mistake my happiness for blessing.” People of faith can do that really easily, and we can do it in business. We can very easily mistake momentum (or profits, or a key hire) as God’s blessing, a divine tailwind.
So, pressure-test your tailwinds. Is this a human-engineered prop-up, something or someone fickle that is going to quickly go away? Or is it momentum that you can build on? Is it momentum that is pulling you forward at an unsustainable pace (warning: personal burnout ahead), or can you figure out ways to slow down if needed? Sometimes, after all, you need to stop momentum.
Second, the call to look for divine tailwinds is not a promise of a silver bullet. In any organization or business, there will be seasons of endurance, picking up the pieces from the past day in and day out, slogging in the present, and researching for the future. Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.”
You also can’t simply focus on your areas of momentum and trust you’ll figure out the rest eventually. You have to focus on your problems as well and stay there at times.
Even though I have my notes of caution, I’m a huge believer in divine tailwinds. Where is God, the creator of all things, including planning and strategy, providing things better than you could have with all your effort? That’s probably a good place to focus for now.
If you want to drive change in your life or work, the first question I’m going to ask is, “Where do you sense the divine tailwinds?” The answer to this question doesn’t always promise the path ahead, but it almost always points the way forward.
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