Gaztelugatxe Church: A Permanent, Narrow Mission

Inigo Lopez was a Spanish lord who issued decrees signed by the authority “Gratia Dei”, or loosely, “by the Grace of God” as he sought to elevate his own standing to that of the king, Garcia Sanchez III of Navarre. Up until that time, it was uncontested that the king in a Christian monarchy was appointed by God, and then the monarch could appoint subordinates that acted pursuant to the authority by the king. Lopez’ logic was that, if a king were appointed by God and exercising authority that flowed from that, the power of the appointments must also be vested by God as well.

Lopez was a political genius in that he allied himself with the most powerful monks at Spanish monasteries and gave them a distribution of the taxes as a quid pro quo for their agreement that he was acting through a right that came to him by God.

As Lord of Biscay, Lopez spent the equivalent of three month’s taxes building a Church at Gazetelugatxe honoring John the Baptist and dedicated to his principle of baptism and the renewal/cleaning of past sins. This beautiful Church, atop hundreds of stairs overlooking water, has a simple mission: honor John the Baptist’s legacy under the stewardship of the monks of San Juan de la Pena.

That’s it. That’s the mission that is regularly and meticulously executed.

This church, established in the year 1053, has endured fires and raids, including one launched by Francis Drake’s seizure of artifacts in 1593. And yet, it still survives to this day.

The Gazetelugatxe Church has perpetuated itself through simplicity. It knows its task, and the monks do not get distracted from it.

In this modern American day and age, the focus is on diversification, diversification, diversification. Whether someone is a wise financial planner or a buffoon as one masquerading to get their hands on your assets, you will hear the phrase “diversified portfolio.”

When parents rear their children, they talk about “not wanting to close doors” and keep “options open.” Narrowing yourself to a specific task, vocation, or subset is deemed risky. What if you don’t like it? What if you change your mind? What if the company or industry fails?

Those risks all exist.

But there is also a set of risks that come as a result of being a generalist. Every moment that you choose to keep your options open, someone out there is dialing in and acquiring more expertise than you in an area that you only pursue whimsically.

Americans would do well to keep this risk in mind as well. Yes, there is a risk that comes as a result of closing off opportunities. But there is also a risk that comes with not committing. While you execute Step 1 in Area X and Step 1 in Area Y, someone out there has just completed Step 2 in Area X and another fellow just completed Step 2 in Area Y. Focused efforts deserve more credit than they currently receive.