Have hardship, trauma, personal failure, and the like ravaged your heart, soul, and mind to the point that it feels as if big chunks of you are missing?
Life can do that.
At church today, I heard a beautiful sermon preached on restoration called, “I Don’t Look Like What I’ve Been Through.”
The thesis of the message was the idea that Christ’s power can replace our missing parts. As Christians, we have the hope of being restored so immaculately, it will be as if we were never damaged to being with.
We won’t look like we’ve lost loved ones.
We won’t look like we’ve battled addictions.
We won’t look like we’ve come from broken families.
When Christ’s restorative work is done, we won’t look like what we’ve been through.
This passage is the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. The climax of the story is not that the lives of ten men with an incurable, flesh-rotting disease were miraculously spared by Jesus.
Instead, it’s that ONLY ONE of the ten had the wherewithal to go look Jesus up, fall on his face, and profusely thank Jesus for saving his life.
After Jesus rhetorically asked where the other nine were, he told the man, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee WHOLE.”
As this man returned to his former life, he returned not with rotting of skin, missing body parts, and so on.
Instead, he returned to his community completely WHOLE.
All that he lost to the disease, Jesus returned unto him.
He was RESTORED.
He didn’t look like what he’d been through.
The minister made a beautiful analogy of Jesus’ power not only restore us physically, but to do so mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
This is certainly true.
After all, it was Jesus Himself who said in Luke 4:18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed Me to:
preach the gospel to the poor
heal the brokenhearted
proclaim liberty to the captives
give recovery of sight to the blind
set at liberty those who are oppressed
That pretty much covers it.
Jesus came to give us our stuff back. And if you believe and pursue Him to do so, He absolutely will.
Although, your experience might look a little different than the leper’s.
Restoration as a Process
Following the sermon, the altar appeal was given for the congregation to come receive spiritual restoration. The altars were flooded. No doubt many came with the expectation to receive the same instantaneous experience as the leper.
In one moment, his flesh was rotting. In the next, his body was perfectly normal.
While Christ does gives us transformational experiences that signal to us that he has begun a life-changing process in us, often restoration is just that. A process.
Ephesians 2:10 says that we are Christ’s workmanship or his masterpiece. The implication here is that we are being continually crafted by the master artist.
Hopefully many did receive some beautiful things in a moment in the altar today.
But I daresay that many did not leave with everything given back to them at once.
Perhaps you’ve had experiences like this.
You’ve cried out to God in desperation, yet that addiction creeps back up.
You’ve felt his presence, yet you still struggle with forgiving the person who took a wrecking ball to your family.
You’ve given your life wholly to Christ, yet you still have bouts of depression.
In other words, you didn’t get your 10th leper experience.
When this happens (or doesn’t happen), the temptation is to think Christ’s restorative power must not working in you.
And that’s exactly what Satan wants you to think. Because you’ll get discouraged and quit.
He wants you to compare yourself to the leper, to the person who publicly testified of being instantly delivered of all of their problems, and to the person in that article whose family put back together in a flash.
These beautiful moments do happen and my purpose is not to diminish them.
Instead, my intent is to encourage those of you who are still in an ongoing restoration process.
Because of their sensational appeal, instant restoration stories are the ones most publicized.
We should testify of these instant miracles from the rooftops. We should also believe for them to happen in our lives.
What we should not believe is that instantaneous restoration is the rule. We should not believe that if we don’t get full deliverance immediately, there must be something wrong with us.
I would argue that not only is instantaneous restoration not the rule, it’s the exception.
But that’s another article for another time.
For today, know that if you’ve asked Christ to restore you — the same Christ who said His very purpose was to restore the brokenness of humanity — His restoration process is at work in you.
And if you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe Jesus, “…and the one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37)
My pastor is the type of Christian that wears his relationship with Christ on his sleeve. He’s not pushy or self-aggrandizing in his love for Christ. But when you speak with him privately, hear him preach, watch him lead meetings, he just oozes passion for Christ.
He is the leader of four churches with hundreds of parishioners, but I honestly believe that if all of it was taken away from him tomorrow it wouldn’t matter. Because he would still have his relationship with Christ. And to him, that’s everything.
He doesn’t say that. He lives that.
But as much as my pastor loves Jesus, he, just like you and I, is programmed to drift away from Christ.
Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way…”
Peter echoed these words when he spoke to the early church.
“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)
Left unattended, our default mode is to DRIFT AWAY from Christ relationally.
Apparently, even the man after God’s own heart dealt with this issue.
Psalms 119:33–37 says this: (Most commentators agree that David wrote Psalm 119)
(33) Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.
(34) Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law
(35) Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.
(36) Incline my heart to Your testimonies, And not to covetousness.
(37) Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way
This passage shows us a man just as in touch with his humanity as he was his spirituality. David knew that He needed God’s divine help if he was going to be the true worshiper he desired.
The same is true for you and me.
Thankfully, Christ knew this too and made provision.
Grace for the Undertow
Despite the fact that we’ve been redeemed from sin, our sinful nature stubbornly pulls us away from Christ like an undertow pulling a victim out to sea. Unfortunately, this is something we’ll continue to deal with until we shed our immortality.
The Apostle Paul aptly captured this paradox when he said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (2 Corinthians 4:7–9)
An experienced swimmer knows that to escape an undertow they must swim parallel to the shoreline and out of the deadly current. Tragically, many swimmers point themselves to the shore and expend all their energy fighting the current’s direct force.
We often use the same strategy when our sinful nature pulls at us.
Instead of crying out for God’s help, we swim harder. And sink deeper.
Not Human Love
Perhaps part of the reason we are reluctant to ask God to help us love Him is we are operating under the concept of human love.
According to worldly principles, a request such as this would make true love impossible. After all, we as free-willed beings need to CHOOSE to follow Christ. This is what makes our love for him true. We choose Him over other options.
But one only needs to look to the Cross as proof that God’s love and human love are not the same things.
Further proof of this distinction is found in an analogy made by Jesus during His earthly ministry.
A Father’s Love
Matthew 7:9 -11 says:
(9) Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
(10) Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?
(11) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
I have four children. Although they disappoint me at times, I never refuse their cry for help. In fact, I love for them to run back to me. I receive them with open arms and gladly help them love me more.
A father’s love is powerful like that. And that’s just the human kind.
Can you imagine how much more your heavenly Father loves you?
But you should try.
Especially when you feel unworthy of it.
Refusing to ask God to help you love Him is not what God wants. Nor is God impressed by pompous displays of human strength as you flail defiantly against the undertow.
What Christ wants…what He paid the ultimate price for…is for you to cry out to Him for help.
Just like David did.
Maybe this is how he became the man after God’s own heart in the first place.
So if today is your “time of need”, remember Hebrews 4:16:
“Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Do you feel like sometimes you are not as passionate for Christ as you once were?
Do you feel as if you’ve lost your identity in Him to some degree?
If so, you wouldn’t be the first.
During these seasons, it always helps for us to be reminded of who we once were in Him.
This is the strategy that the writer of Hebrews used with the early church when their passion began to wane.
As you read the passage, notice the following three things:
1. They were reminded of past commitments and accomplishments. (v. 32–34)
2. They were reminded of their WHY. (the end of v. 34)
3. They were reminded of their eternal reward. (v. 35)
Hebrews 10:32–39 (NIV)
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.
33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Upon reading the extreme persecution these Christians willingly suffered for Christ, I’m amazed that they could ever go on to struggle with their faith.
Then, I remember…Oh, yeah, humanity. It’s been the great betrayer for a long time.
And if it happened to them, it’s no wonder that it happens to us as well.
Thankfully, the same antidote that worked for them can work for us also.
Therefore, if you need to reclaim who you are in Christ, try this:
Recall Your Past Victories
What work have you done for the Kingdom of God?
What are some beautiful experiences that you’ve had at Christ’s feet?
What level of devotion have you demonstrated to Christ in the past
Remember Your WHY:
What motivated you to demonstrate such devotion to Christ in the past?
Do you still believe in that WHY?
If not, what has changed?
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (v. 35
What you do for Christ may be ignored by the world, but will never go unnoticed by Him.
My prayer is for you to have a revival of your devotion to Christ by remembering who you once were. And who you shall be again.
Marshall has worked with the likes of Michael Port, Seth Godin, Howard Behar and more. She does consulting, conducts workshops, and has written the bestselling book The Contrarian Effect.
Over the course of the podcast, Marshall expounded upon what she deems to be four stages of thought leadership.
Stage 1 – Incubation
Stage 2 – Building
Stage 3 – Momentum
Stage 4 – Mastery
My purpose in this article is not to once-and-for-all define what a thought leader is (or even to prove if such a thing actually exists).
Instead, I will present the type of career arc one might expect should he or she have designs on becoming one.
I will describe each stage then give my analysis at the end.
Stage 1- Incubation
Incubation is all about the following three things.
Answering the Call
During this stage, the prospective thought leader must realize that the call to thought leadership is a long-term venture. It’s serious. It’s a big commitment.
The thought leaders message will evolve over time, developing and deepening over many years.
The thought leader must be aware of the distinction between an expert and a thought leader. Experts are good at what they do. They may even write books, give keynotes, start successful companies and so on.
Where a thought leader differs is that he or she develops an evolutionary message over time. Growing influence and creating lasting change along the way.
Armed with this distinction, the thought leader must accept or reject the call.
Honing the Message
Before venturing out and presenting it to his or her audience, the rising thought leader’s message must be clear. As much time as necessary must be spent in the Incubation stage on message refinement.
Defining the Audience
A clear message needs a well-defined audience. The thought leader’s ideas will not be for everyone. They must know with whom their message resonates and to whom they are sent.
Once these three criteria have been met, the thought leader is reading to move on Stage 2.
Stage 2 – Building
Now that the message has been honed and the audience clearly identified, the thought leader is ready to go public and start testing the message.
Some strategies are:
writing an eBook
conducting a workshop or webinar
giving a keynote
Delivering the message will enable the thought leader to do two things.
1. Grow the Audience
As the message is publicized, fans will gravitate to the thought leader. Marshall emphasizes the importance of focusing on QUALITY followers rather than QUANTITY. The primary goal is to gather true believers who will grow with the leader over the long-haul.
The best way to gather true believers is to build a quality, substantive message.
2. Further Shape Message
As hard as the thought leader might work in refining the message during Incubation, once exposed to the public, holes will emerge. Through interaction with people, the thought leader deduces what works and what doesn’t.
The appropriate tweaks are made.
Stage 3 – Momentum
This stage signals a huge shift. At this point, the thought leader has had a significant amount of success. So much so that they now have more incoming request than outgoing pitches.
Now having more opportunities than they ever dreamed, the new challenge for the thought leader is to stave off distraction and stay true to the original message.
Many of the open doors are financially lucrative and promise exposure to huge audiences.
However, many of these shiny objects are not in alignment with the message. Consequently, if the wrong opportunities are taken, the message will be diluted and the audience alienated.
Incidentally, Marshall identified Jeff Goins as being in this stage. Just having released his fifth book, Goins resonated with Marshall’s description of this stage as well as its challenges.
At one point, Goins pointed out that the Momentum stage is “a stressful place to be.”
This is so due to the conflict of not wanting to turn down people who have opened their doors to you, yet knowing you must only choose those opportunities right for your message and your audience.
Stage 4 – Mastery
At this point, the thought leader has been in the game a long time. She’s made her money and her message has reached the masses. Instead of seeking to broaden the audience, she must now seek to go deeper with key followers.
Marshall points to Seth Godin as a thought leader in the Mastery stage.
Goins observed that this must be why Godin no longer seeks to sell millions of copies of his books and speak to more and more people. Marshall concurred.
She also went on to express the need for the thought leader to keep the message fresh by applying its universal principles in a modern context. Different stories must be told, fresh examples used, sticky phrases and ideas framed in a new way.
Marshall pointed out that Godin now uses the core message of “Purple Cow” and “places a whole different frame on top of it to match our times.”
I was intrigued by the conversation between Goins and Marshall and gleaned several helpful principles.
Where I Agree with Marshall
Thought leadership is a long-haul process. To make a deep impact, one must stay in a domain long enough to experience personal transformation within it.
I also like how Marshall distinguished an expert from a thought leader. Not that one is better than the other, but it is helpful to know that thought leadership is not the same thing as being great at something.
Instead, it’s about developing a global view of the domain and how the interrelated concepts might be rearranged to create something new and innovative.
This is how complex problems are solved.
For example, both Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut were expert fiction writers. King keeps selling millions of copies, Vonnegut created the Six Main Stories theory. The former is an expert, the latter a thought leader.
While I benefited from Marshall’s ideas, there were a few that I found to be lacking.
Where I Disagree with Marshall
The Early Decision to Become a Thought Leader
Marshall suggests during the Incubation stage that the thought leader realizes what’s at stake and makes a conscious decision to take the lifelong journey. However, most thought leaders I know never made such a decision up front to be one.
Instead, I’ve had more than one thought leader look back over their career and say to me, “I still can’t believe I achieved all this. I sure didn’t envision it when I started. I would have achieved all this.”
This is not to suggest they accidentally fell into greatness. Quite the contrary.
Instead, they had their head down, they worked themselves to the bone, they developed their craft. Eventually, people began to recognize both their ability and their influence.
More times than not, thought leadership chooses the leader, not the other way around.
Waiting Until the “Building” Stage to Share the Message
Marshall mentions waiting until the audience and message have been decided upon before sharing it with the audience in the form of an eBook, workshop, etc. I
While I agree that a more perfected iteration of the message needs to be revealed at the Building stage, I must also point out that one of the main strategies for finding one’s message and audience is to connect with them through eBooks, blog posts, video, etc.
It would have been helpful for her Marshall to have made a distinction between the development of the message in the Incubation stage and the refining of the message after feedback is received in the Building stage.
No such distinction was made on the podcast or on her website, however.
To be sure, no framework is perfect. Neither are they applicable to every person in every context. However, as a proponent of the power of mapping a path to one’s dream goals, I find Marshall’s four stages of thought leadership to be helpful in this regard.
Imperfect though it may be, the quality of Marshall’s information is imminently more helpful than articles with headlines such as,“7 Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader Like Seth Godin in Half the Time While Doing Half the Work”
There’s no hack to changing the world.
But there might be four, evolutionary stages impacting it.
Now that you believe in your ability is not a fixed quantity, nor are you guaranteed success by merely showing up, it’s time to take action.
And by “taking action” I DO NOT mean purchasing a Masterclass taught by a celebrity.
I recently saw aMasterclass ad in which legendary movie composer Hans Zimmer promises that anyone can write a successful movie score on an iPad from their basement in The Bronx.
I’m not saying you can’t.
But you sure can’t in ten minutes.
And neither did Hans Zimmer.
But he won’t tell you that because you might not click on the ad and pay $99.99 for his forty-year career condensed into 5 hours of video lessons.
It’s mind-boggling how many buy into this lottery ticket strategy to high achievement.
This practice of shooting up with self-efficacy steroids while babbling affirmations of a blind optimist in the mirror as a legitimate strategy for pursuing one’s dreams is so prevalent that it has its own term.
Indulging in visions of a positive future without figuring out how to get there chiefly by considering what obstacles stand in the way has short-term payoffs but long-term costs.
In the short-term, you feel pretty great about your aspirations to be a doctor (or a legendary movie composer). In the long-term, you live the with the disappointment of not having achieved your goal.
It’s not surprising that Oettingen’s research revealed that “positive fantasizers” suffer more from depression than those with a more grounded view of their future.
My goal is not to talk you out of pursuing your dreams. My goal is to show you that there’s a better way.
And it’s rooted in thousands of years of human brain development.
In an article on overcoming procrastination, Call Newport says the following of complex planning.
“Complex planning is a subtle skill: it requires you to both conceive of future steps and evaluate whether these steps are a good idea. “
He goes on to explain why we wind up never completing those ill-conceived plans such as “write every day! work on research for one hour each morning! exercise 10 hours per week!”
It’s because our brains don’t buy it.
“…the human brain is driven, in large part, by its need to assess plans: providing motivation to act on good plans, and reducing motivation (which we experience as procrastination) to act on flawed plans.”
In most cases, broad stroke goals like the ones mentioned above are ill-conceived. For example, if you have small children and a day job, writing every day is next to impossible. If you’re a long sleeper with a night job, creating a sleep deficit in order to do deep research isn’t sustainable.
And while your brain may buy into your overall goal of writing a novel, crushing your research paper, or losing twenty pounds, it calls foul on your strategy for getting there.
And buying a Masterclass as a strategy for reaching your goal of becoming a film composer is a flawed strategy and your subconscious knows it. The sooner your conscious knows it, the further along you’ll be.
And the best way to overcome this self-sabotage and generate sustainable motivation is to… Do Your Research.
Do Your Research
Angela Duckworth relates the path Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman took in achieving his top-level goal of living and working in East Africa.
In Gettleman’s own words:
“For a very long time, I’ve had a very clear sense of where I wanted to be. And that passion is to live and work in East Africa.”
Once Gettleman had a clear goal that resonated with his inner passion, needed a sound research-based strategy.
“Once I learned more about being a journalist and how that could get me back to Africa…I set out a very deliberate path that was possible, because the journalism industry was very hierarchical, and it was clear how to get from A to B to C to D, et cetera.”
Step A was writing for Oxford’s student newspaper, Cherwell.
Step B was a summer internship at a small paper in Wisconsin.
Step C was the St. Petersburg Times in Florida on the Metro beat.
Step D was the Los Angeles Times.
Step E was the New York Times as a national correspondent in Atlanta.
Step F was being sent overseas to cover war stories, and in 2006 — just over a decade since he’d set himself the goal — he finally reached it.
Step G: becoming the New York Times’ East Africa bureau chief.
A decade worth of steps. A decade worth of deliberate practice. A decade worth of paying one’s dues.
Gettleman set a goal, did his research, then mapped out a sound strategy that his brain believed.
That’s complex planning.
And this is what’s lost in the Masterclass fallacy.
Hans Zimmer’s claim implies that, with the right amount of talent, one can hop from Step A to Step G.
This article is full of useful but no-holes-barred information. Kendall, an industry insider, even gives four key steps that aspiring composers need to take.
Some highlights include which schools to attend, cities in which to live, and entry level jobs to seek.
2. Read Books
To take your research to the next level, you must immerse yourself into the world of your chosen field. The value in reading books over blog posts, watching YouTube videos, or listening to podcasts is found in the well-researched content of the former.
Often things like blog posts include one’s commentary or hot take on an issue.
A good book, on the other hand, includes a carefully crafted argument backed by sound research. Such facts are more likely to actually be factual.
Once you consume a critical mass of research-based information you will begin to detect patterns. Similarities, differences, and biases will appear, enabling you to form your own opinion.
A well-founded opinion that your brain will believe.
3. Get Experience
During the research process, you also need to be gaining experience, no matter how small it may be.
Perhaps you’ll be programming music on your iPad in The Bronx, writing your own computer code, working for a company in your desired field.
This hands-on experience provides a regular feedback loop that enables you to contextualize your research.
For example, after getting experience you will find those certain aspects of your domain that you hate, others that you love. At this point, romantic notions will be put to rest you’ll find that your “dream career” is real work.
And that’s a healthy realization.
4. Talk to Real People
One pitfall of the world now being at our fingertips is that is allows us to enables us to get information and form theories without having to talk to an actual person.
And there is still no substitute for verbal dialogue.
Mining information from someone with experience in your field is invaluable in that it allows you to extrapolate the nuances laid out in content.
This is why developing the skill of asking incisive follow-up questions will take you far.
Your potential is unknowable. I believe that.
I also believe that a great destiny awaits you.
The world needs you to walk in that destiny, getting the very most out of your ability along the way.
Achieving your destiny will require courage to risk it all.
The world needs risk takers and stubborn dreamers.
What the world does not need is for another positive fantasizer to charge out of the gate boldly, yet flame out ten miles into a twenty-four mile race.
To avoid this will require your unconscious self to be all in on your big goals and plan for reaching them.
Do your research, gain experience, and know that if you keep your brain motivated, you might go farther than you ever imagined.
Are you discouraged by how long it’s taking you to get to the top?
Does it seem like everyone else is passing you up?
Do you envy rapid ascent of others in your field?
If so, you’ve probably begun to doubt yourself.
After all, if you had the goods, you would be farther along…like all of those other talented, well-connected people.
By the time finish scrolling through your social media feed, you’re cursing yourself for ever being foolish enough to think you could do this.
The only thing left for you to do now is quit.
But you should take a break from social media break in order to focus on you.
It’s time to do just that…evaluate your own ability.
You need to zero in on your skill level, your process, and your pace. And don’t apologize for it.
Gradually growing your skills is not a mark of failure or talent deficit.
In fact, a deliberate career ascent is often a gift to you, your followers, and your future.
It sure was for one of America’s most revered generals.
“Please don’t promote me, Mr. President.”
In Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holliday recounts General William Tecumseh Sherman’s unique journey to becoming one the greatest in his field.
Sherman is widely known for his March to the Sea. This bold move to operate in enemy territory with no supply lines is noted as one of the greatest achievements of the Civil War, if not American military history.
A great campaign by a great tactician.
But Sherman’s greatest tactic had nothing to do with his command of Union soldiers. It had to do with his command of himself.
To understand Sherman’s philosophy on maturation and personal growth, one has to look no further than the time he asked President Abraham Lincoln NOT TO PROMOTE him.
“Benefiting from a dire shortage of leadership, Sherman was promoted to brigadier general and was summoned to meet with President Lincoln and his top military adviser.
On several occasions, Sherman freely strategized and planned with the president, but at the end of his trip, he made a strange request; he’d accept his new promotion only with the assurance that he’d not have to assume superior command.”
To say, I’m not ready, is practically unheard of in the ranks of the ambitious. Yet it can be the very thing that enables you to maximize your development.
This is so because while being put in a position that is too big for you may sometimes stimulate your growth, more often than not, stunts your growth and wrecks your future.
It did for former NFL quarterback David Carr.
Not Ready for Prime Time
Coming out of Fresno State, no quarterback in the 2002 NFL draft was tapped with more potential than David Carr. As a result, the Houston Texans drafted him as the #1 overall pick.
Sadly, Carr’s promising career was doomed before it ever got started.
The reason…he was promoted before he was ready.
Here’s the story.
In 2002, the Texans were an expansion team in their first year of NFL existence.
As such, they had many deficiencies in their roster. Their offensive life was the weakest position on the entire team. The job of the offensive line is to keep, huge, ferocious, defenders from sacking (tackling behind the line of scrimmage) the quarterback.
Therefore, it was a given that whoever played QB for the Texans was going to get relentlessly hit, harried, and hurried.
The Texans’ brass had a decision to make. Should they place the battle-tested, yet less gifted veteran QB Tony Banks in this volatile situation, or throw the promising yet inexperienced rookie to the wolves and let him figure it out?
Unfortunately for Carr, the Texans chose the latter
Practically every time Carr dropped back to pass, defenders were in his face. They knocked the ball out of his hands, bruised his ribs, and blocked his passing lanes.
This constant chaos and confusion made it impossible for Carr’s raw talent to develop and mature into that of a professional NFL quarterback.
The only records Carr went on to set were dubious ones.
In only five years with the Texans, he was sacked 249 times.
To put that into perspective, Tom Brady has only been sacked 417 times in his entire sixteen-year career with the New England Patriots.
When Carr was fired by the Texans, an evaluator with the team remarked, “He was a shell the player who first came into the league.”
Carr’s shattered confidence never returned and he spent the rest of his career as a benchwarmer and a cautionary tale of what can happen when one is promoted to a position too big for them.
What the Texans’ decision makers should have done was taken their time with the young prospect. They should have set up a timeframe that allowed for an adequate roster to be built around the young player. Carr should have been given a whole season just to learn the playbook and gain experience in smaller pieces along the way.
The Texans didn’t do this because they were in a hurry.
This begs the question: Why are we in such a hurry to get to the top?
One reason our naive view of what promotion actually is.
The Problem with Promotion
At face value, promotion appears to be this awesome life-booster. After all, promotion comes with an increase in power, money, and prestige. What could possibly be better?
A closer look at the implications of promotion reveals another side altogether.
Despite its positive trappings, promotion also brings with it more responsibility, more problems, and more fallout from poor decisions.
These heightened stakes demand of us greater skill, more authority, and sound judgment born out of experience.
If we are exalted before our time, such a weight can crush us.
Sherman knew this and took measures to prevent it.
“At this point in time, Sherman felt more comfortable as a number two. He felt he had an honest appreciation for his own abilities and that this role best suited him.
Imagine that – an ambitious person turning down a chance to advance in responsibility because he actually wanted to be ready for them.”
This career-defining deferral of responsibility was only made possible because Sherman knew how good he was. More importantly, he knew how good he wasn’t.
And it’s this ability to accurately self-assess and act based on these metrics that allow us to constantly place ourselves in the best possible position to maximize our development.
This is why Holiday said, “One might say that the ability to evaluate one’s own ability is the most important skill of all.”
How well do you know yourself?
Instead of chasing promotion, are you preparing diligently preparing yourself to meet the demands of promotion when it comes?
You should be.
And his type of preparation takes time.
However, this is not to say that you’re never going to step up, be aggressive, and take that big risk.
Being reluctant to take on a challenge isn’t the same thing as being tentative, unmotivated, and cowardly.
When your time comes, you’ll step up.
Just like Sherman.
Delivering in the Big Moment
“Building on his successes, Sherman began to advocate for his famous March to the Sea – a strategically bold and audacious plan, not born out of some creative genius but rather relying on the exact topography he had scouted and studied as a young officer in what had then seemed like a pointless backwater outpost.”
“Where Sherman had once been cautious, he was now confident. But unlike so many others who possess great ambition, he earned this opinion.”
Although Sherman was once reluctant to take on the full weight of superior command, when fully matured, he was quite the opposite.
When his big moment arrived, Sherman leveled up and made history because he had prepared himself to do so.
How are you preparing for your big moment?
Take some time to visualize what it would be like for your big moment to arrive? What will be required of you? Who will be looking to you?
With this image in mind, do everything you can to prepare yourself to meet that moment with full force…to absolutely crush it.
Along the way, don’t get discouraged by the rapid ascent of others.
Instead, shut out the noise and laser focus on your situation, your ability, and your preparation process.
Then work the process. No matter how long it takes.
Where we live is a central life factor that affects all others – work, education, and love. Richard Florida.
The single greatest impact on your career arc is not your talent, alma mater, or work ethic. It’s where you choose to live.
Ernest Hemingway’s career bears this out.
As an aspiring writer, Hemingway followed the advice of Sherwood Anderson and moved to Paris to join the writing scene there. The people he rubbed shoulders with in Paris were the making of him. It’s hard to believe that Hemingway would have become the writer he was had he stayed and worked in Chicago.
Uber successful blogger and bestselling author Jeff Goins recently stated on his podcast that there is no way he could have experienced the level of success he’s enjoyed without having moved to Nashville, Tennessee and it’s thriving community of online bloggers and entrepreneurs.
Despite what it seems like on the surface, moving to a different city to boost your career is not always a no-brainer.
While relocating can certainly be the making of your career, it could also be the breaking of your well-being.
For every person who’s found great success by uprooted their life and heading to their domain’s epicenter, millions more have nothing to show for their pilgrimage but broken relationships and a mountain of credit card debt.
In short, relocating can super-charge your career, but it isn’t for everyone.
What about you?
Should you or shouldn’t you?
As you mull the question, here are a few things to consider.
“When people – especially talented and creative ones – come together, ideas flow more freely, and as a result, individual and aggregate talents increase exponentially.” Florida refers to this as Clustering Force
This is how domain epicenters have been created.
A few of the more commonly known ones are:
New York – finance
Nashville – music (and more recently blogging and online entrepreneurship).
“Some genetic expression lies dormant in all of us, waiting for the perfect environmental circumstances to trigger it. This phenomenon is called “cryptic genetic variation”…”
An example is the growth of type 2 diabetes in America.
While type 2 diabetes is a highly heritable trait, the gene is increasing at about the same rate as the obesity level of our country.
Our environment of unhealthy eating habits and fast-food chains on every corner has triggered previously dormant genetic expressions of diabetes in many.
Thankfully, the inverse of this genetic principle is also true.
We should think about this when considering where to live and work.
We should ask ourselves which traits we seek to grow in our lives. Then, look for an environment that triggers them.
This is the thought process of many who move to LA in hopes of being the next great filmmaker, so on and so forth.
It’s exciting to think that there might be latent genes of greatness in us just waiting for the right environment to spark them to life.
This sure looked to be the case for Goins and Hemingway.
This hope has led many to sell out and head for the hills of their domain epicenter in search of career riches in the same manner of the forty-niners during the California Gold Rush.
But before you tell your spouse to put the house on the market, consider this.
You should only relocate to boost your career after you and your family have carefully considered what you truly want out of life. And life is more than just career.
Richard Florida explains.
“For some people, career and wealth are big components of their happiness, but that is far from everybody. Many of us know people who left good jobs and prosperous careers in law or engineering to do something they truly love.
Others move back to their hometown after college to help run the family business or to be closer to family and friends.”
Florida goes on to cite a study by Nattavudh Powdthavee that attempted to put a dollar amount on the value of living in a place where one can see friends and family regularly.
How much money is that be worth to you?
Powdthavee’s findings may surprise you.
“Powdthavee found that if you relocate from a city where you regularly see your family and friends to one where you would not, you would need to earn $133,000 just to make up for the lack of happiness you feel from being far from those people.”
I’ve found this number to be fairly accurate in my own life.
In fourteen years of marriage, my career has taken me to three different cities. Two years ago, after having our third child, my wife and I move moved back home to be around our family and lifelong friends.
I’m not sure what the monetary value is of being able to walk down the street to see my parents on a random Tuesday afternoon. I don’t know the exact price of watching my kids play in the pool with their cousins for hours on end.
But I do know this.
In this season of my life, raising my children around family and friends is more valuable than any career boost I might see as a writer by moving to Nashville or any other writer’s paradise.
To be sure, the place you live can increase your ability, expand your network and be the difference in an average career and a stellar one.
On the other hand, uprooting your family to chase career grandeur might be the worst thing that ever happened to your personal well-being.
So before you move, know what it is that you truly want.
Richard Florida said it best, “The thing to remember is that when it comes to place, like most other important things in life, we can’t have it all. There are real tradeoffs to be made.”
When considering where to live, don’t look for that place where you can have it all. Instead, find that place with that something you can’t live without.
“Hopelessness is a really toxic and dangerous state.” Cory Booker
Hopelessness will destroy you from the inside out. It will drain your energy, sap your motivation, and eventually cause you to despair of life itself.
Unfortunately, hopelessness is a widespread emotional state that many are suffering from today.
Perhaps you’re one of them.
The precursor to hopelessness is helplessness. Many feel that they have no power to change their adverse circumstances.
Before I continue, here’s a disclaimer:
My goal is neither to trivialize life’s complexities nor minimize tragedy. I also don’t want to push you into shortcutting any grieving or waiting process that may be an important part of your emotional health journey. And as a personal disclaimer, my ultimate source of hope is and has always been my faith in Christ.
But since this post is not about faith but about pragmatism, my aim is to pass along a concept that I believe will move you from passively waiting for hope to come, to actively generating it in your life.
Research suggests this is entirely possible.
Many define hope as a combination of self-efficacy and optimism.
Self-efficacy refers to your belief that you can master a domain.
Optimism refers to a general expectation that it’ll all just “be all right.”
But research of positive psychologist Charles Snyder reveals that “hope” can mean something else altogether.
Gettleman stated, “Once I learned more about being a journalist and how that could get me back to Africa…I set out a very deliberate path that was possible, because the journalism industry was very hierarchical, and it was clear how to get from A to B to C to D, et cetera.”
Step A was writing for Oxford’s student newspaper, Cherwell.
Step B was a summer internship at a small paper in Wisconsin.
Step C was the St. Petersburg Times in Florida on the Metro beat.
Step D was the Los Angeles Times.
Step E was the New York Times as a national correspondent in Atlanta.
Step F was being sent overseas to cover war stories, and in 2006 – just over a decade since he’d set himself the goal – he finally reached it.
Step G: becoming the New York Times’ East Africa bureau chief.
Upon realizing that achieving his goal would take a decade of sacrifice, Gettleman could’ve thrown up his hands and quit.
Like many, he could’ve helplessly settled for a career path that was less invigorating and more easily attainable.
Instead, he mapped out a strategy and pursued it with determination.
He created his own hope.
What about you?
Is there a situation in your life that you’ve deemed to be hopeless?
Take a closer look and evaluate whether or not you are truly helpless. Or is there something…anything you can do to swing the power pendulum in your direction?
If so, don’t waste your energy trying to positive-talk yourself into a heightened state of self-efficacy. Don’t hype yourself up into a blind- optimism frenzy.
Instead, get out a sheet of paper and start creating a strategy. Start creating hope.
Are you $100K in debt?
Write down what you need to do first…second…third…fifteenth.
Do you want to move to a different city?
Write down what has to happen in order for you to get there. Then, create a realistic arrival date.
What dream-goal seems totally out of reach?
Your path to achievement might not be as clear-cut as Gettleman’s but come as close as you can to outlining the steps.
I can’t overstate the importance of refusing the temptation to exaggerate the analysis in your favor. Counterintuitive though it may be, the more brutally honest you are, the more hopeful you will become.
After completing this exercise, research says you will have begun to feel more hopeful.
“According to Hope Theory, emotions follow cognitions, not the other way around.” (Kaufman)
Seth Godin says it like this, “We don’t take action because we believe. We believe because we take action.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Disappointment is sure to happen. Obstacles will arise that seem insurmountable. Tragedy may strike.
Those things are out of your control.
But hopelessness…you’ve got a say-so in that.
Perhaps you’ve been guilty of accepting defeat too quickly in certain areas of your life.
If this is the case, I challenge you to get out of the doldrums of apathy, drag yourself to your desk, and start drawing up a hope strategy.
When I tell people how much counseling is improving my mental health, I get the same response. “I really need to do that. How much does it cost? Do they take insurance?”
While lot’s of counselors would be glad to take your insurance, high co-pays and deductibles raise a financial wall that many hurting American’s aren’t willing or able to scale. I spoke with Donnie Underwood, a licensed counselor here in Louisiana who clarified the issue.
“…the issue I’m seeing is that so many people I counsel with have insurance but are responsible for the first $4,000 due to their deductible, so they decline services.”
But just because many Americans are refusing mental health services doesn’t mean they don’t need them.
In fact, according to research by NYU Langone Medical Center., this issue is so widespread that America finds herself right in the middle of a full-blown mental health crisis.
NYU’s decade-long study revealed that there are more people suffering from serious psychological distress than ever before. (SPD combines feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and restlessness that are hazardous enough to impair people’s physical well-being.)
Unfortunately, this rise in demand for mental health care hasn’t been matched by a rise in supply of mental health services.
Lead study investigator, Dr. Judith Weissman reports. “More Americans than ever before suffer from serious psychological distress, and the country’s ability to meet the growing demand for mental health services is rapidly eroding.”
According to Weissman, many are paying the ultimate price due to the crisis.
“Based on our data, we estimate that millions of Americans have a level of emotional functioning that leads to lower quality of life and life expectancy,” Weissman continues, “Our study may also help explain why the U.S. suicide rate is up to 43,000 people each year.”
Although mental health issues are no respecter of generation, the timing of the mental health crisis couldn’t be worse for Generation X.
There are four reasons why.
1. Family Pressure
Family is one of life’s great paradoxes. Relatives can be our greatest source of joy and our greatest source of stress simultaneously. The cliche that pressure can both create diamonds and burst pipes explains why geysers are erupting all over the place among families my age.
Family pressure is particularly acute among Generation X due to the unique combination of raising dependent children on the one hand, while dealing with aging parents on the other.
Dependent Children and Aging Parents
Raising children is beautiful. Raising children is also physically, financially, and mentally taxing. I have four of them and they explore both the far reaches of my joy and exasperation daily. Children invade your sleep, tax your emotions, and empty your bank account.
Although it may sound like I want to put mine up for adoption, nothing could be farther from the truth. My children are an incalculable blessing, and every sacrifice I make for them is worth it ten times over.
With that said, they really, really, stress me out.
While the crucible of child rearing is not new to Generation X, the added strain of aging parents is. This phenomenon was birthed because….well…Gen-Xers waited so long to give birth.
Unlike previous generations, Gen-X delayed married. We waited even longer to have children.
Case in point. I got married at twenty-six and had my first child at thirty-two. Conversely, my father was married at nineteen and I came into the world when he was just twenty-one.
This comparison explains why Baby Boomers raised their children at a time when their own parents were much younger, more vigorous, and more independent than those of Generation X.
Once again, my own family is an example.
Due to some unfortunate health issues, my father is partially paralyzed and struggles mightily with his health. Furthermore, my mother has debilitation migraines that put her down for several days at a time.
She commented the other day, “We are only sixty, but we struggle to get around as if we’re eighty.” Sadly, it’s true.
As a result, one moment, I’m worrying about them. I want to take care of them should they no longer be able to care for themselves.
In the next moment, I’m writing a check for summer camp, my crying one-year-old is pulling on my pant leg, and I can’t shake that nagging feeling of guilt that I’m neglecting my quiet five-year-old.
These are tricky waters to navigate. The guidance of a mental health professional helps tremendously.
But they cost out-of-pocket money.
And money has always been a problem for Generation X.
2. Financial Pressure
Midlife is an awkward financial season. Namely, because it’s a time in which you are carrying the full financial weight of raising dependent children, yet you’ve not worked long enough to get ahead.
Here’s how this is playing out in my own life:
My regular, monthly expense of raising four children these days is quite hefty.
My oldest son developed epilepsy three years ago which doubled our health care expenses.
My wife’s student loans aren’t close to being paid off.
I had an unforeseen job transition that cut our household income in half.
While this financial situation is commonplace among midlife parents, the financial baggage that Generation X carried into it is anything but.
Gregory Thomas summed up our financial journey best.
Therefore, as Generation X staggers beneath the weight of the midlife financial burden, we do so while having a complete lack of confidence in the economy to be there for us when we need it most.
Because it’s never been before.
This marriage of financial stress and family stress creates a perfect storm of pressure that calls for an accomplished level of coping skills
Generation X could use the anchor of affordable and available mental health services to ride out the storm.
Instead, many crash on the rocks.
3. Midlife Crisis
Generation X has arrived at midlife crisis. We must proceed with caution.
In a paper published in 1965, Elliott Jaques, then 48 and a relatively unknown Canadian psychoanalyst and organizational consultant, coined the term “midlife crisis.” Jaques wrote that during this period, we come face-to-face with our limitations, our restricted possibilities, and our mortality. (Carlo Strenger and Arie Ruttenberg)
Strenger and Ruttenber go on to argue that midlife crisis has gotten a bit of a bad rap
In fact, they say, “Midlife is exciting because it is a time when people have the opportunity to reexamine even their most basic assumptions.”
While I agree that midlife crisis can certainly be a healthy step in the maturation process, it can also be an atomic bomb that vaporizes the family unit.
It’s all in how you handle it. And successfully negotiating midlife crisis is no easy task.
“As we age, things often don’t turn out as nicely as we planned. We may not climb up the career ladder as quickly as we wished. Or we do, only to find that prestige and a high income are not as satisfying as we expected them to be.
At the same time, high expectations about the future adjust downwards. Midlife essentially becomes a time of double misery, made up of disappointments and evaporating aspirations.”
This insidious “double misery” is often painful enough to push midlifers to walk away from their marriage, their children, and their career. Often, such extreme decisions made during this time of mental volatility end in disaster.
Fortunately, I’m now finding my way out of the fog of midlife crisis and can affirm it to be an enriching experience. But as one who has gone toe-to-toe with it, I got enough of a taste to know that surviving midlife crisis, with your sanity, your family, and your future intact is not for amateurs.
Seeing a counselor once a month during this time has helped me tremendously.
And no, he doesn’t take my health insurance.
4. Unresolved Childhood Issues
I’m not a proponent using one’s childhood as a scapegoat for immature middle-age behavior. However, putting the microscope on one’s childhood is a necessary step on the journey to healthy self-discovery.
And Generation X has some unique childhood experiences to confront.
The Birth of the Latchkey Kids
“From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, divorce rates in the United States more than doubled. In addition, between 1969 and 1996, the number of working mothers in the workforce also doubled.
Consequently, many households were headed by working single moms. It’s estimated that as many as 40 percent of Gen Xers were latchkey kids who returned home from school to empty houses.
Their childhoods and youth were marked by a lack of supervision, and excessive household and family responsibilities.” (Jenx67.com)
For Generation X, not only were an unprecedented number of children dealing with splitting parents during their formative years, they were doing so while being left unsupervised for unhealthy lengths of time.
“The pendulum swings wide on the consequences of the latchkey childhood. Unsupervised Gen X children and youth ran the gamut of those who watched too much TV and didn’t do their homework to those who fell into escalating levels of crime.
According to Coupland, inwardly-focused Baby Boomers sometimes regarded their children as “obstacles to their self-exploration,” and thus resulted permissive parenting of grand proportion.
In addition, on top of spending many hours bored and lonely, Coupland also concludes that Generation X was “rushed through childhood.”
Although I wasn’t a latchkey kid, many of my peers were and have the emotional baggage to prove it. As they now take on the crucial task of raising their own children, many of their unresolved childhood issues are surfacing and wreaking havoc on their parenting and marriages.
These childhood stumbling blocks are by no means insurmountable. They are, however, complicated to untangle.
Trained mental health professionals would be glad to help out with this.
How much remains on your deductible?
Every generation has their own challenges and triumphs. I’m by no means saying that we Gen-Xers have suffered more than any other generation past or present. What I am saying is that we have arrived at a critical, high-stakes juncture in life. And to proceed forward while taking our mental health for granted is a grave mistake.
Family and financial pressure, midlife crisis, and unresolved childhood issues, when stirred into the cauldron of emotional ignorance creates a deadly and unconscionable potion.
And while it would be just great if our legislators woke up and allocated an appropriate amount of tax dollars to meet the ever-rising demand for mental health services, I’m not holding my breath.
Nor should you.
What you should do, especially if you are one of the 50 million born between 1960-1980, is Google “counselors near me” and go talk to one next week.
Even if you have to cancel dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant to do so.
Because every person knows what fear feels like. Every person knows what intimidation feels like. Every person knows what it means to be a coward.
At least temporarily.
We all want something. That big something. The treasure of our lives.
To be a mom. To move to the big city. To leave the big city for those wide-open spaces.
We’ve got to write that screenplay, start that business, ask that girl out above our station.
But we can’t have it. We can’t have our treasure because it’s guarded by that dragon. That fire-breathing, dream-stealing, vigilant and vengeful dragon.
The dragon we have no chance at defeating. At least…very little chance.
So we stay home and carry on our safe, dragon-less, treasure-less lives.
It’s not that we have no purpose all without our treasure. We have our laughs, make our money, raise our families, live a nice life.
It’s just that we don’t feel whole, complete, satisfied, without the treasure. Or at least knowing we tried everything…absolutely everything to get it.
That, we could live with.
But being a coward…as time goes on, we can no longer live with.
So finally, we say it out loud.
“I’ve got do this. I’ve got to try or I’ll never be able to live with myself.”
Then, the push back. From family, from friends, from the spirit world, from our own subconscious.
“Don’t do that. It’s a fool’s errand. You’re walking away from all this for….for what? A shot at some trumped-up, Hollywood-script shot at glory? Bah-humbug. You’re a fool. This is just a phase, you’ll get over it. Besides, have you forgotten? The dragon.”
But you haven’t forgotten.
You know you’ll probably lose.
You might fall along the way. The journey itself is fraught with peril.
And if you do make it to the castle dungeon, the final test, your greatest test, the dragon test, is stacked against you.
So why do you go?
You finally go face your dragon because self-respect among the fallen, is better than cowardice among the living.
So what’s your dragon-guarded treasure? Don’t say you don’t know. You do. It’s just that you’ve buried it down deep within your memory. Or you are flat out lying to yourself out of self-preservation.
So jog your memory with me.
Ask yourself: What pursuit have I been avoiding that if sought after would make me feel like my life really, really counted?
But your answer can’t be of the low-hanging-fruit variety. You’ve gorged yourself on that to the point that a single whiff turns your stomach.
No, this treasure must be fought for. It must cost you something. And it must scare you.
When informed of the rigor and toil and sacrifice required of Jedi warriors, a gifted yet immature Luke Skywalker defiantly responded to his master Yoda, “I’m not afraid!”
To which a battle-tested Yoda responded, “You should be. You should be.”
Luke thought he was showing a sign of courage. Far from it.
For courage is not the absence of fear. It is taking action in spite of it.
Your treasure will require no less out of you.
What do you want?
What scares you?
What internal shift must you make for you to take action anyway?
When you can answer these three questions, you’re ready to take the first step on your journey to transformation.