Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, and desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you.
Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God…
We arrive in this world with birthright gifts- then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.
We are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then – if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss- we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed.
I recently got an email from Seth Godin about an opportunity to attend a private 80 person workshop in Hastings, NY.
The application was a simple Google form asking two questions:
- Why do you want to attend this workshop?
- What product or contribution are you most proud of and why?
You can see my answers to these questions below, but first I wanted to highlight three reasons why this simple form was effective and inspiring.
First, by having to critically think through the answers to these questions the applicants are essentially selling themselves on why they want to go to the conference. My friend Patrick Bell and his wife Holly use a similar tactic when when selling their ESL Software at different Christian School conferences around the world. They run a contest during these conferences where they giveaway free software to one or two luck schools. To enter, the school representative or director simply has to fill out a form with all pertinent contact info and give three reasons why their school needs this software and how they will benefit form winning it. The 99% who don’t win the free software have basically made themselves even more qualified leads for Pat and Holly – convincing themselves further that the software is a value add to their current curriculum. Both the Bell’s and Seth’s approaches speak to the power of questions.
Second, the workshop application questions were powerful to answer, even if I did not get an invite (which I did by the way). To have to think critically and creatively and get to the root of Why would I want to attend a 2.5 day workshop that averages about $1500 per day? To flesh out what I’m most proud of was equally wonderful. Too often we wallow in discontent about our current circumstances and how we haven’t gotten ‘there’ yet; instead of pausing and evaluating what has gone well, what we have made and contributed, what we are proud of, what we have shipped. It is nice – and all too often rare – to measure backwards, recognizing the value we have created, the connections and impact we have made, and the fruit that has budded.
Third, the moment after I read Seth’s email invite that went out to his hundreds of thousands of followers, I thought: “That would be awesome.” Immediately, the lizard brain kicked in. Immediately, I began having self-defeating thoughts of why I was unworthy of getting picked. Immediately, I began thinking of excuses about why I shouldn’t apply. Immediately, I began telling myself why I wouldn’t get in, why I don’t have what it takes, why my answers to his questions were fake and laughable and stupid.
For Seth and his team, making people applying adds another step of vetting to the process of curating who attends. The applicant pool is now full of people willing to dance with fear and ignore – if not just momentarily – the resistance. And I’m proud to say I danced. I was like Pat Swayze in Dirty Dancing. I applied. (And I did in fact get picked – but that’s not the point.)
Now I haven’t decided if I am able to attend (it’s like four grand!). While I’m sure it will be great, I’ve already gained so much from just applying. Is anyone surprised that Seth made a simple two question application transformative and inspiring? I’m not. This is how it should be. Thank you Seth.
Here’s my responses:
Why do you want to attend this workshop?
What project or contribution are you most proud of and why?
Are we willing to do what is right, even at the expense of our business?
It seems to be in vogue to treat your employees with dignity and empower them to create, contribute, and collaborate. And this empowerment will result in a more flourishing business.
The economist would say to treat people and the planet right the extent to which you get a return and it puts money on your bottomline.
The karmic capitalist says that when we treat our people and planet right, profit will follow. And it often does.
But what about doing the right thing, for the mere sake of doing the right thing?
What if we slowed down to discern the ‘most right’ thing, and shifted our framework of making decisions to be about something other than ourselves/businesses/bank accounts?
Many times, doing the right thing works.
The way the triune God designed business, works. Designed to be an engine of redemption and restoration – to be an engine of “expression, connection, freedom and purpose” as Jonathan Fields puts it.
But what about when it doesn’t ‘work’?
What if doing the right things – the hard things – fails*?
What if the right things do NOT result in the abundant riches and worldly successes we hope for? What then?
It’s messy I know. There’s shareholders, and co-founders, and mother-in-laws, and a billion other constituents that share a stake in the successes and failures of businesses. There may not be a clear answer, but there is a clear call to action:
We (The Church, God’s People) must be prepared to support the leaders / the owners / the entrepreneurs / and the artists who choose to do the right things the right way and are rewarded with mockery, layoff, and ruin.
We as a community must position and ready ourselves to gives the decision-makers the freedom to choose right and know we’ve got their back – emotionally, spiritually, FINANCIALLY.
From a community perspective – pray we are ready. There are many great business leaders/owners who need to know that we support them to do the hard work of being Jesus to the business world.
And as change-makers, artists, and entrepreneurs – pray we are like Daniel and his cronies. Ready to seek the peace and prosperity of the land in which we are exiled, yet be completely unwavering in our commitment and devotion to the Lord. Whether that brings promotion and riches (like it did Daniel) or bring flame and teeth (also like it didDaniel and his buds).
*”Failure,” that is, by the world’s standards.
Thoughts on why Sundays can suck sometimes (and how to reframe it to make them suck less).
Ahh Sundays. The last moments of rest slip into the ether before the manic-depressiveness of the week ahead.
I was digesting my Sunday paper (aka my instapaper feed on the ol’ iPad) between sips of coffee and reflective conversations with my wife and our house-guest Josh. I came across this essay at Five O’Clock mag. This is David Infante’s take on these feelings of “imprecise malaise borne of the quivering uncertainty,” – or what our family calls, the Sunday “tummy-yuckies.” Here’s David:
“Monday’s misery is easy. It’s emails that don’t stop, treadmills that won’t start, commutes that never end. I can comprehend Mondays, and I can beat them. But I don’t understand Sunday’s anguish. How can I defeat something I don’t understand? So no matter how many Mondays I meet head-on, six days later I’ll slide headfirst into the hazy slough of Sunday despond. I’ll skate through apprehensively, wondering how I got there, and what “there” even is. It could be thebooze, or the exhaustion, or the creeping awareness that my twenties are on the wane. It could be all of those things, or none of them…
Sunday is uncertain. There’s something just over the horizon, hidden equally by the curvature of the earth and the plodding second hand on your watch. At this cusp, vacuous musings gather speed and become vast existential crises, then fracture back to mundane slivers just as quickly…”
David Infante’s religious abolitionism aside, he puts to words – albeit a bit melodramatically at times – the dreadful feelings too many of us associate with the Sabbath….
But what is it that makes us see Sundays as “the hospital bed we lay in each week, reflecting on a life lived in six days while preparing to do it all over again”?
TGIM – Thank God It’s Monday
I think there’s another way.
Another way that I’ve gotten a taste of from time to time. A taste of anticipation and excitement and expectancy of possibilities and work to be done in the week ahead. And yet the Sunday tummy-yuckies still show up and need to be actively exorcised in order to maintain sanity and do the work we are called to.
One gent I follow on the interwebz is a guy named Barrett Brooks. Who built – among other noteworthy projects – an online community called Living For Monday. In a thought provoking TEDx talk he gave at UGA, he said:
“It’s time to change the way we think about work from a mindset of TGIF, where we thank god it’s Friday and count down the hours to 5 o’clock, to one of living for Monday. And it turns out that this isn’t some pie in the sky idea; there are real people showing up to work engaged and inspired every week.”
While Living for Monday is no longer operating, the foundational questions they were living was extremely powerful – How do we shift our mindsets associated with the work we pursue from a ‘thank-god-it’s-Friday’ attitude to a ‘Freak Yeah It’s Monday!’ and crush the Sunday tummy-yuckies once and for all?
In fact he has some interesting perspectives on the matter to be continually inspired by the work that we do.
He exhorts us to do work based on our beliefs, have a growth-mindset and focus on getting better everyday (kaizen for all you Japanophiles out there), and surround yourself with great people.
As my experience would have it, I agree 100% with those suggestions. Especially the community and accountability bit of keeping great company in the form of mentors and accountability/mastermind groups (formal or informal).
All I would add is to slow down and connect with ‘why’ and the original calling.
As Barrett points out, your work becomes inspiring when it aligns with your personal/professional goals and your personal beliefs and values. (And if it doesn’t align with any of these, then maybe it’s time for a change. But that’s a different conversation for a different day). We must be clear about this goals and beliefs and values before we look for work to be motivating.
At the end of the day, our work is central to our original calling. The original command “to subdue the earth.” This means compose music, engineer computer programs, balance balance sheets, build skyscrapers, and scrub toilets.
In other words – do the dignified work your hands find to do. The work we can’t help but doing as human beings. Even if it’s not the grandest or sexiest or fun-est or inspiring-ist work you can think of. (P.S. The grass is always going to look greener when doing the grunt work)
In some ways focusing on this original call can be enough, in and of itself. This is piggybacks on Barrett’s second point of cultivating the growth mindset – we must pause, meditate on, and reframe our work in it’s toughest, messiest, or most mind-numbing moments (usually the Sunday afternoon moments), in order to view work as our original call.
To view your work – regardless of how passionate you may feel about it in the moment – as God-honoring. To view appropriately as your ministry; your offering to God and others.
I used to think that professional work was somehow second-rate to full-time ministry. That somehow I would get wow-points or be closer to God by going into full-time ministry. But I’ve come to realize Jesus is about all-world missions, and I doubt he saw any distinction between the work of the tax collector and the work of the evangelist. It is all God-given and God-inspired. It’s all “ministry” and should be viewed as (one of) our primary means to bring glory to God, advance the common good, and bring peace, prosperity, and flourishing to the community in which our work touches. Whether that’s through hanging sheet rock, bootstrapping a start-up, or providing clean water to communities in Africa really is a secondary question.
I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to truly rid ourselves of some latent feelings of trepidation or some level of emotive hangover after a weekend of God-honoring merriment and revelry with our loved ones. But I do think there is a way to pursue meaningful work and frame your work as meaningful to inspire and motivate you to feel alive for Mondays.
While I haven’t boiled this down into some definitive actionable step or cure-all for the Sunday tummy-yuckies, I do think pausing for a moment to think on your work and God, and how He would have us view work, can go a long way in cultivating the grit and motivation to learn to love the grind.
Happy Sunday brave ones.
- Pick up Chip Conley’s PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow for a more in depth look at what motivates employees, investors, and customers and how to thrive in and create organizations that are truly transformational on all fronts.
- James Clear at jamesclear.com writes a great deal about small-incremental improvements in work and life, habit formation, and learning to love the work for work’s sake.
- Thank Goodness It’s Monday: Barrett Brooks – TEDxUGA
Everyone wants to make solid decisions with conviction and confidence. Decisions they can stand firm in and be unwavering.
A few summers ago I built decks and did some remodeling with a friend and mentor of mine to make some extra coin during our slow time in the summer. The buddy I worked with is raw yet gentle, loves his family and his God in a truly gritty and authentic way, works with his hands, has a beard, can lift an absurd amount of weight compared to his size, and eats cheese by the block. And he drive a pickup truck.
It was a four week span of hot days, hard work, and rich conversations that I couldn’t help but think: This is what it must have been like working with Jesus.
One of the subjects we talked a lot about was decision making – specifically decisions pertaining to God’s will. He’s made some pretty tough decisions in last years, ones that changed the path of his family (for the better), but flew in the face of conventional cultural wisdom, and were not very popular amongst even his closest friends, family, and allies.
Have you ever met (or been) one of those people who says things like, “I really felt like God was calling me to [insert decision].” Only to not follow through on that decision or change direction shortly thereafter?
Have you ever been that person? (If not, stop reading now.)
I have. I’ve been unwavering like this more than I’d like to admit over the years.
So how do we make better, sounder decisions with a high assurance that we are heading in a God-honoring and fruitful direction?
My deck-building-Jesus-like friend shared an incredibly helpful framework with me – We call them The 4 S’s. But first let’s take a look at how people usually make decisions.
Follow These 4 Steps to Make Half-Assed Decisions, Decisions You Won’t Stand Behind When the Going Gets Tough, and Decisions You’ll Most Likely Regret.
Step 1: Let circumstances put you in a reactionary state where you are responding primarily to the situation and circumstances.
Step 2: Find people (really anyone) to give you input on the decision you are already leaning towards according to the circumstances you are in (usually these people aren’t close enough to call us on any bullshit you are convincing yourself of, and we likely find people who will simply affirm what you want to hear). These people will perpetuate the lies you’re already telling yourself, like:
“You deserve this.”
“God just wants you to be happy.”
“God would never ask you to give that up.”
“You’ve got to do what’s right for YOU.”
And other various forms of horse poo.
Step 3: Then, scan your bible and cherry pick the verses that affirm the decision you’ve already made or are convincing yourself to make (either subconsciously or consciously). Simultaneously ignore any Truth that may cross your will or cause you to go in an uncomfortable direction.
Step 4 (Optional): Consult the Holy Spirit about what decision you should be making.
This is how most people make decisions (including myself at times). Yet this is backwards of how we need to be making decisions as leaders.
The Result: This process generally results in whimbly bimbly conviction, no perseverance, and zero resolve in your decisions. Unwisely changing course, abandoning ship, and burdensome questioning are all results of this faulty decision making framework. You wonder why you feel misled or unsure of your decision shortly after you make it – specifically when thing get hard. This often leads to feelings of failure, discouragement, and no progress.
When our decisions are rooted primarily in circumstance it is too easy to lack the conviction and perseverance, and be wishy-washy (that’s a technical term) when the time comes to standing on and behind our decisions.
…or you can…
Follow These 4 Steps to Make Bulletproof Decisions You Can Stand Firm On (The 4 S’s)
Step 1 & 2 (generally done in parallel): Scripture + Spirit
When decisions need to be made the first place you go (and should already be) is to scripture where you encounter the Holy Spirit. (Ideally) you are already resting and abiding in Truth daily in order to make sound decisions when the need to make them arises. You are consistently communing with Him throughout your days, weeks, years…and lives.
Step 3: Saints
The next tier of guidance and support in decision making must come from the saints in your life. These are the men and women – mentors and peers – who ask the hard questions, give no-BS guidance, and support you in the decisions you are working through. These are not surface-y friends who you go to to get affirmations or for them to tell you what you want to hear. That is what facebook friends and the “like” button is for. These are saints who know the difference between feedback and pushback, and tend to give you the latter.
Step 4: Circumstances*
The final, and optional, step to making sound decisions is circumstances. Often, if you’ve engaged the Spirit in scripture (step 1 & 2) and sought Godly counsel (step 3), then the circumstances will command very little attention and hold little weight in your decision making process. If you’ve effectively progressed through steps 1-3, you will be in a proactive state and be resilient and uninfluenced when the circumstances change and new ones arrive.
*I know that Circumstances starts with a C, but phonetically it sounds like an S and “The 4 S’s” sounds way better than “The 3 S’s and 1 C of Decision Making”…I’m sure you can appreciate this. ;)
The Result: Bulletproof Decisions
The result is sound decisions you can be certain of – the kind that lay on the solid bedrock of scripture and calling. Our Spirit-led decisions, based on and in Scripture, having been put through the critical gauntlet of Godly friendship and mentorship, are less likely to be clouded with doubt or swaying. And the confidence and conviction in our decision is far more than the reactionary, circumstance-based decisions made by the rest of the world.
“We will not be rushed or distracted by external noise.” -Ryan Holiday
When faced with decisions we must try:
To be unhurried.
To balance contemplation and action.
To be in a proactive state.
To remove circumstance as a primary factor.
To be objective and self-aware of our emotional bent.
To seek first His truth.
To be open to letting God cross our will.
To encourage not just feedback but pushback.
(Remember, when talking about ‘art’ think: pursuing meaningful and engaging work. In our case – the craft of building world-changing and edifying businesses in a dignified way.)
Here’s an excerpt from Edith Schaeffer’s Hidden Art:
…a Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively. We are supposed to be representing the Creator who is there, and whom we acknowledge to be there. It is true that all men are created in the image of God, but Christians are supposed to be conscious of that fact, and being conscious of it should recognize the importance of living artistically, aesthetically, and creatively, as creative creatures of the Creator. If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.
Does this mean that we should all drop everything to concentrate on trying to develop into great artists? No, of course not. [DAN: This is where Edith and my opinions diverge. If you define art as the pursuit of meaningful work – in our case business and entrepreneurship – then the answer to that question is ‘yes’ (and more often than not, as any entrepreneur will tell you, it’s a “bellz yes!”)] But it does mean that we should consciously do something about it. There should be a practical result of the realization that we have been created in the image of the Creator of beauty. Whether you are married and have a family; whether you share a house or a flat with one or a number of people; whether you still live with your parents; whether you live alone and have guests in from time to time; whether you are a man or a woman: the fact that you are a Christian should show in some practical area of a growing creativity and sensitivity to beauty, rather than a gradual drying up of creativity, and blindness to ugliness.
She goes on to talk about how looking at other great artists or studying art appreciation can leave us feeling discouraged. Any entrepreneur or starter will tell you of the emotional and manic-depressive roller coaster that is starting and growing something meaningful. It’s too easy to get mentally bogged down with doubt and dissatisfaction while looking at other change-makers doing so well. She continues:
We may thing ‘If only…’ – If only I weren’t so tied down with the mundane things of life. If only I had had a chance to go to [business] school. If only I had time to develop instead of being caught in this job. If only I hadn’t this endless round of housework and crying babies to overwhelm me. ‘If only…’ feelings can distort our personalities, and give us an obsession which can only lead to more and more dissatisfaction, as well as making us into ‘Eeyore-ish’ and uncomfortable-to-be-with people!
…it may be helpful to consider some of the possibilities all of us have of really living artistically, but which are often ignored. People so often look with longing into a daydream future, while ignoring the importance of the present. [DAN: a trap many ambitious and forward-thinking entrepreneurs fall into constantly.] we are all in danger of thinking, “Some day I shall be fulfilled. Some day I shall have the courage to start another life which will develop my talent”, without ever considering the very practical use of that talent today in a way which will enrich other people’s lives, develop the talent, and express the fact of being a creative creature.
(Underlining added by me.)
Dancing with fear. As I’ve written about before, this is arguably one of the top attributes an entrepreneur or catalyst business person must master to continue pushing the envelope and making meaningful change in their career (and the world). Fear- like all other emotion – makes a wonderful slave but a horrible master. Only when we can control it (or at the very least – dance with it) does it become a powerful tool in our personal and professional development tool belt. Over the past month I’ve been leading our tribe through Seth Godin’s Kryptonite Course titled Go: How to Overcome Fear, Pick Yourself, & Start a Project that Matters.
8 Tactics & Strategies to Dance with Fear & Produce Art
In session #1, after an intense discussion about fear and the role it plays in producing art (read: meaningful work in our businesses and lives), we generated a list of tactics and strategies we’ve all used to dance with fear and produce our art. Here’s our short list and remember – success doesn’t come from tactics, it comes from mindset… (more…)
What if what we measured was trust?
Or authentic connection?
Or the advancement of the Common Good?
What if we paused working to impacting the world?
What if we started working to have an impact on ourselves (first)?
What if our focus was off performance and onto the process?
What if we were interested in means rather than ends?
What if we focused not just on what we are doing, but how we are doing it?
What if our focus was on We? (not Them & Us)
What if we fought to internalize that money is a side effect, a rule to the game (not the game itself)?
What if we lived these questions?
It was my first year at Miami University playing for the Redhawks (then Redskins); I had worked hard to earn a spot on the starting XV (the first team for those non-rugby-connoisseurs out there) over a senior starter, and had just been asked to represent Ohio at the Inter-Territorial Tournament in the fall. Things were looking good (and truthfully I was probably a bit too big for my britches because of these early successes).
As the season progressed the dates for the All-State team’s tournament were scheduled on the same day we had a union match for our University team. There were three of us from Miami that had been selected to the All-State team and we were now forced to make the decision to choose between our brothers in red and representing the state of Ohio. At the time it wasn’t an easy decision.
Under some well-intentioned-yet-foolish council from a former alum, myself and one other of the All-State selectees decided to stay home and play for the club rather than going to the Inter-Territorial Tourney. We chose the University game over playing up with the All-State team. The third of our All-State selectees chose to play up and go to the tournament.
I don’t remember all the reasons why we chose to stay rather than play up, but I think it was easier (read: safer) to stay in the comfort zone. To be playing with my team in a position I knew and in a game we were confident we’d win VS. playing with, and against, a bunch of other all-stars from around the midwest, where the risk (and likelihood) of failure was much higher. Fear of not performing as well, or fear of not living into the hype, or fear of being “found out” that I wasn’t as good as they thought, caused me to sabotage any successes I might of had playing up. It’s alwasys easier to be the all-star in the minors than risk playing in the majors and failing.
After our third player returned from the tournament and told us of his experience – I was convinced I had made the wrong decision. He told of how great coaching was, how he developed by playing with other great players, and how much he took aways from the professionalism of the experience as a whole.
I told myself I’d always take the opportunity to play up.
Flash forward 5 years later, I’d taken my own advice and had represented both Ohio and the Midwest on the All-State and All-Midwest select sides. I believe playing up led to my captainship and leading our team to the national stage (we took 3rd place in the U.S. for D1AA). I was able to parlay these moderate rugby successes and some connections I’d made to move to Scotland and play for The Edinburgh Academicals (or “Accies” as they are called) – in pursuit of playing at the highest level I could.
Scotland was great. I lived with some great fellas, our flat was nicer than any living situation I’d been in (we had an elevator that came right into our apartment), and my heart was satiated being around a great rugby-appreciative culture. #HappyDan
About halfway through the fall/winter season, and under a bit of peer pressure, I began playing with another – albeit, less competitive, less seasoned, and less well-coached – club. Eventually I left the first club I had been with to play for this new team. I rationalized this for a number of reasons – the biggest being that the “banter was better” and the Accies were a bit “clique-y.”
Fear of being “found out”
I could say I let banter – as great of a things as it is – come between me and my goal of playing up at the highest level I could. But after more introspection, it was fear.
Fear of failure.
Fear of not being the best one on the team (or not making the jump to the next level).
Fear of not be the biggest fish in the pond.
Fear of being “found out” that my early successes were just a fluke and I was not as good as I/they thought.
It was this fear that drove me to not push hard into playing up.
But these were all fears I had overcome before…hmm.
In both of these instances I ended up regretting not seizing the opportunity to play at the higher level. I had learned the first time but when things got a bit harder, environment and community changed, it became easy to go to where the comfort and safety was rather than pressing into the uncertain.
When presented with an opportunity to have an easier “more fun” path, all it takes sometimes is a bit of pressure to move us off our goals and away from the things we desire most. We are fickle little beings.
Tactics and questions:
Write down and regularly review your goals and enduring traits and continue to build a code of character. One of the cornerstones in my code of character is “I always play up. I learn up. I lead up. I love up. I pray up.” …in my marriage…in my business and work…in life. In other words, when given opportunities and talents do you take and used them?
Are you seizing the opportunities around you to “play” for better coaches? Are you attending killer conferences, reading the works of great minds and thought leaders, being developed by your job, and do you have a mentor?
Are you seizing the opportunities to “play” with other all-stars? Start building your tribe. Start meeting with a like-minded accountability buddy (or two…or three) throughout the week to make sure you are staying on track with the things you say you desire most. Start building your support team and putting your goals out there to be held accountable to. Start getting plugged into other tribes and interest-groups that will be positive peer-pressure forces, going to professional developments, etc.
Are you taking the opportunities to “pray up”? Sometimes it’s hard to discern which well-intentioned, yet sometimes (often) foolish, friends to listen to. Spending quality time with and engaging God and the Holy Spirit will help you discern and direct who to allow to speak into our lives and which decisions you should be making and the direction you should be moving.
Playing up sometimes means having icky conversations, or letting people go, or sticking up for what you know to be right, even in the face of opposition. Playing up means dancing with fear and choosing the long hard road that begets perseverance and mastery. Playing up means working to align what we do with how we do it.
Good talk. See you out there,