It’s quite interesting whenever I go somewhere new, the way people react to me; it varies from place to place; especially when it comes to my accent. When I’m home in Scotland, they say, ‘Colet, where did you get that American twang in your voice?’ If I’m in the States they say, ‘Colet, we can hear that Scottish coming right through’. When I’m home in Chennai, with my family, they like to tease me, a little bit, just as families like to do. They also like to tell stories of me, embarrassing stories of me, when I was a kid.
In the pursuit of integrity and excellence in my life, I’ve found that it’s the alignment of my purpose that determines that integrity and excellence. The foundational purpose is to abide in Christ and to enjoy Him.
One of the stories that they like to share is of the time when I was a toddler. All toddlers like to explore the world by putting things in their mouths, that’s natural. But, I was particularly fond of little black objects. If something was little and black, I would put it in my mouth as a toddler. One particular day, I was playing beside my parents, as toddlers do. I suddenly darted off into one direction, crawled as fast as I could, grabbed a little object and put it in my mouth. My parents knew something was wrong, so they rushed to me, grabbed me by the cheek and forced me to spit out a black millipede. I’m no Bear Grylls, so I’m glad that my parents were there to prevent me from eating that little black millipede. I’m also glad that I grew up out of that habit of reaching out for anything that was little and black. I wonder sometimes, did I grow out of that underlying habit of turning away and reaching out for something that I believe is my heart’s desire, and for that desire to be unsatisfactory, probably lead to an upset stomach. Why am I talking like that? Well, in the pursuit of integrity and excellence in my life, I’ve found that it’s the alignment of my purpose that determines that integrity and excellence. The foundational purpose is to abide in Christ and to enjoy Him. So, that’s one of the reasons why I’d like to share three stories with you. The lens that I’d like to share my stories with you is through the lens of abiding in Christ.There have been other opportunities that I've had to say no to because my ultimate purpose is not the praise from people but a smile from Jesus.- Colet Selwyn Click To Tweet
The first point I’d like to make is, abiding in Christ during times of success. Many people have different definitions of what true success is. It might be how much money you have in the bank, it could be the number of titles that you get in the end of your name, it could be the number of likes that you get on Facebook- that gives you that dopamine, it gets you started on the addiction cycle. It could be like me- you could have once thought that success is the time it takes to get to the restroom. Well, I think I’ll need to explain that a little bit.
I had the honour of singing with the Gaither Vocal Band. This is a gospel group that I’ve looked up to ever since I was around nine years old. I was just thrilled, ever since I was nine years old, I heard their gospel music. Their music encouraged me so much. One of the first groups, within that entire series, to ever give me a chance onstage was a group called ‘Ernie Hasse & Signature Sound’. I’ll never forget that moment, I think I was around sixteen years old at that time, when they gave me the chance to sing with them. I remember, after the rehearsal, it took me under five minutes to get to that restroom. After the concert had started, after I had went out and performed my best; during the 30-minute interval I could not get to that same restroom. Do you know why? Because people were stopping me, asking to take selfies and showering me with praise. As I was showered by this praise, in my heart, I thought this is what true success is. I’m grateful for this opportunity, I am so grateful for Signature Sounds’ friendship and their mentorship throughout the years; but at that moment of success I took away something from that good opportunity that I shouldn’t have- the pursuit of praise from people.
There have been other opportunities that I’ve had to say no to because my ultimate purpose is not the praise from people but a smile from Jesus.
So I went back home to Scotland and did a few concerts there and I came across a little fishing village. In this fishing village, there was a little church and a small crowd. I started singing away and there was a sailor sitting in the front row. He had his arms crossed and facial expression didn’t show any signs of happiness or content, and while I was singing, I was all the time looking at him and I was like- why am I doing this? Why is he just not responding at all? Why am I here? As I was saying, I had this conversation in my heart and I said, ‘Lord if I continue to look to the audience and look for their approval while singing this gospel music I can’t do this anymore’. At that moment, Jesus lifted my eyes to His face in order that I may seek His smile in all that I do. My purpose was realigned to fulfil my foundational purpose, in which I was called to abide in Christ and look for His smile. That choice has made an impact in the way that I’ve accepted and declined musical opportunities, great opportunities like singing with the Gaither Vocal Band. There have been other opportunities that I’ve had to say no to because my ultimate purpose is not the praise from people but a smile from Jesus. That’s something that I learned during that time of success.
The next point I’d like to share is about abiding in Christ during times of disappointment. To tell this story, I’ll need to take you back to the start of my work career as a Business Analyst. I was fresh-faced out of university, ready to take on the world and I had been given the opportunity to work for a company that I really admired. They only gave me two weeks’ notice to get accommodation so it was a very quick and hurried look for accommodation. I finally found a nice place that I thought would be good, and when I went to my new rented accommodation, I found out that I had quite nasty neighbours, namely pigeons. These little birds made their home above my front door. Every morning when I opened the door to go to work, there they were, they swooped down and tried to get rid of me, away from their home. Every evening as I came back, there they were, and I tried to get rid of them but they just brought back family. I mean, it was just intense living there next to these pigeons – they wouldn’t let me go. Of course, the pigeons weren’t the entire story, but at the back of my mind, I thought I just need to get somewhere better to live. So, I went to work and enjoyed it. Within a few months I got a promotion and I was so eager to work there but at the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘If only I could live somewhere better then everything would be perfect. Wouldn’t it?’ So I made plans to find a better place and better accommodation.
There was this article that was written around The Voice UK TV program, and the title read, ‘Cool, Calm and Colet’. One of the things that the article was trying to convey was the calm way with which I took the stage on The Voice UK TV program. People often say to me, ’Colet, what was the most difficult thing about that entire competition?’ I tell them it was actually backstage, while waiting, that was the toughest point.
After much searching on the internet, here and there, I thought I had found the perfect residential area to settle down. It was an area that everybody wanted to stay nearby; it was highly competitive and so I had to make many phone calls and many requests to the landlord. As I kept striving for this place, it seemed like it was just so hard but I finally signed the dotted line on that new rental agreement. I thought to myself, the work is good, the rental agreement is good, life is perfect, and I can put my roots down here. The day after I signed that rental agreement, my manager called me into his office and he said, ‘Colet, I’ve been talking with the higher-ups and I’ve been seeing if there was a way out of this, but I don’t think so. We’re going through a different time and we’re going to need to lay some people off, and you being the new recruit, you’re one them. We really like your personality, but it’s just a tough time that we’re going through’. I remember the HR officer in the room with me, she started crying, and my manager – his face was all red. He just looked at me, I felt that tough tearing out my heart, as I felt a sense of betrayal, a sense of finality. I remembered, I just signed that rental agreement and this is all my savings- they’re just going to go up in smoke. I remember that tough walk back to that new rental house and it was just a dark place. Although my contract wouldn’t be renewed, I still had a commitment. The workload was still very high and I had to go in day by day to finish my contract and to get the job done. During this time, one of my colleagues came up to me and he said, ‘Colet, if we had heard the news that you had heard, we wouldn’t be putting as much effort into this work. All the others have already gone, they’ve taken their holidays and just left, but you’re here and you’re showing a lot of integrity by just doing the job and working your hardest even after that news’. As I look back, I see God’s grace in it all, and I see His hand lifting me up. How did that happen? How was I be able to show integrity during that tough time? As I look back, I see fellowship with Christian believers is so important. I remember the prayers spoken to me by friends and colleagues, I remember my parents reminding me of gospel songs like Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow and Abide with Me. So it’s through fellowship with believers, and fellowship with God in prayer, and in all these little things that we take for granted, that God used to give me strength to show integrity during this tough time.
The final story that I’d like to share concerns abiding in Christ during times of waiting. There was this article that was written around The Voice UK TV program, and the title read, ‘Cool, Calm and Colet’. One of the things that the article was trying to convey was the calm way with which I took the stage on The Voice UK TV program. People often say to me, ’Colet, what was the most difficult thing about that entire competition?’ I tell them it was actually backstage, while waiting, that was the toughest point. It’s that time when you’re anticipating to go on, really raring to go on, and still have to hold back and just wait. It’s as those seconds tick by into minutes, all those monotonous minutes, and it’s as you’re waiting during that time. Imagine, just raring to go on, and stretch those minutes into hours, into days, into months and into years, because that is the majority of our lives, isn’t it?
In my life, I know the waves of monotony can erode our excellence. We know from practical things, don’t we? If we don’t brush our teeth, that’s not going to end well. What do we do with our hearts? How do we stay consistent in excellence? Well, the next few things that I’d like to share are just practical things that I have found immensely helpful. One of the things I know about my own heart is the tendency towards complaining, and so to cultivate a thankful heart whenever I see something, or enjoy something, or taste something good, like chicken and sweet corn soup as I’m drinking that. I’ll take a note of it, and write it down and I’ll thank Jesus for it. That’s a way in which I have found that helps cultivate a thankful heart. Another thing that I found, is how I spend my time during the commute. You might spend 50 minutes or an hour maybe two commuting, I found that’s a wonderful time to spend listening to sermons or good audiobooks. That’s a time that I found I can nourish myself just before going to work. You may be thinking, ‘Colet, just before work or after work my brain is frazzled. I can’t concentrate on sermons or anything like that. I can’t do that’. Did you know that there is a software available that helps you memorize scripture by repeating the same song over and over? Did you know that you can do that? It’s available!
We do this all the time, if you go to the shopping mall and they play that pop song and it repeats over and over again, you’re not trying to memorize it; it just happens. By the time you get back, you’ve got those lyrics in your head. Why don’t we do that with Scripture? It’s such a great opportunity. Why don’t we use this time of commute? These things that I’m sharing with you, these practical things, are things that I have found helpful. With all that I’ve shared today, it’s not about a to-do list. If you create a to-do list of the things that I’ve mentioned, that’s not really what I wanted to for you to take away. It’s not a to-do list, rather I would like to share what really impacted my life and helped me to apply it in my life. It is what Jesus said in John 15:4, ‘Abide in me and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me’. It’s this word from Jesus, as I’ve been thinking and meditating upon it, He’s shown me areas in my life which I could use to abide in Him all the more. As we abide in Christ, may we learn to look to Him all the more. As we abide in Christ, may we be filled with the fruit that comes from abiding in Him. As we show that fruit of integrity and excellence in the workplace may we be a light in all the places that God has called us to be in.