133: Fellowship Ft. Adam Setser: Pulling Out All The Stops: Camping, Writing, Organs, And More
More than ever, what we all need in this complicated world is a reminder of the simple joys in life. We have become so inundated by the happenings around us that we forget to pull out the stop sign, breathe, and remind ourselves that we, too, must also live. In this fellowship episode, Thane Marcus Ringler reunites with co-founder and former co-host of this podcast, Adam Setser. Now building his life and career as a financial advisor in Valdosta, Georgia, Adam catches us up on the things he is going through in life and what he is learning. He shares to us his new obsession with camping, segueing into our need for grounding in the simple joys and mundane things of life. He also talks about the difference between living a balanced life and a passionate life. Expanding his career, Adam then talks about organ playing, his new writing endeavor, and a whole lot more. Join in on this comfortable and engaging conversation between old friends, and be reminded to find novelty and beauty in the simple things of creation.
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Fellowship Ft. Adam Setser: Pulling Out All The Stops: Camping, Writing, Organs, And More
This is a fellowship episode with one of my best friends, Adam Setser. He is a Cofounder of this show and was the Cohost for the first few years. He lives in Valdosta, Georgia with his wife, Faith, and is a financial advisor at the Kerrigan Group. He also writes and has had a long journey with health that he’s battled through many things with. He’s building his life and career in Valdosta, Georgia, in the deep South. What was fun about this show and when we used to cohost it together is that I live on the West Coast in Los Angeles. He lives in the South in Valdosta, Georgia, which provides two vastly different cultures, perspectives, worldviews. How we face things in this stage of life from those different lenses with a similar background and context, makes for fun and interesting conversations. Although he’s no longer the cohost, he’s still an important part of the Up And Comers community. It’s such a joy to have him back on for a fellowship episode, to dive into what he’s learning, what he’s going through in life and riff on all the fun things.
This episode talks a lot about camping, one of his new obsessions. We talk a lot about our need for grounding in the simple joys and the mundane things of life and returning to finding novelty and beauty in the simple things of creation. We talk a lot about living a balanced life versus a passionate life. We talk about his expansion in his career. We talk about inspiration and moments that bring passion. We talk about his organ playing and other musical abilities that he has. It’s a wide-ranging conversation. We talk about his new writing endeavors in the local newspaper, some fun conversations and ultimately a lot of interesting subjects I know you will enjoy. This is hopefully going to be a recurring thing with Adam. I look forward to more from him. For now, sit back, relax and enjoy this fun, engaging and wide-ranging conversation as ever with my friend, Adam Setser.
What’s up, Adam?
Since we last spoke, I went crazy so we have a lot to unpack.
We’ve got to unpack your craziness. One of the craziness was you were planning and may still be planning on starting a new podcast. It deals with something else that’s a newer purchase in your life or should I say elimination by addition?
What happened was we got super excited about camping because we bought a camper. We were first-time RV owners living our dream. We were like, “There are people out there who have podcasts that all they talk about is campers and YouTube people that do YouTube videos. We could do that too and make money talking about what we love.” About a year passed and all we kept talking about was, “We could do this. We could start a podcast.” Nothing ever happened. We sold the camper and downsized to a smaller camper. Our old camper was Bougie.
It was big and nice. We called her Isabelle, Issy for short because she is a diva. The new one is little, small and simple. We call him Thumper. It’s a very different vibe. I’m glad we didn’t start the show because everybody would be like, “What is he even doing? Do they even know who they are?” The answer is no. Now, I feel like we’ve got a little more traction. We could develop an audience with this thing. Come in 2021, we’ll probably be big hits on the social media scene with regard to audio and video of camper stuff.
Why has it been your obsession? It has been your obsession.
It defined 2019. That’s a hard question to answer. If anybody’s out there reading this and you have never been camping, let me tell you, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys of life. I don’t know how to quantify that except that camping is the experience that we’re all longing for when we lay down at night and we’re tired. We hear this voice in our head that says, “You did a lot and you did it good or you sucked and did it bad,” or whatever. That voice inside of us is the voice that wants to talk all the time but can’t. When you go camping, you have to make peace with it.
Not everybody does this like some campers are fools in a good way. I’m not trying to be judgmental. Some campers are super intentional. It’s almost a mindfulness camping. That’s a little bit of what I got into. It’s not to brag. I’m a pretty mindful guy. I love the adventure. I love seeing the country. All that bull aside, this is the true answer if you’re going to travel, there are only two ways to do it. There’s one travel to get where you’re going to experience a certain experience. The other form of travel would be to enjoy the journey and see the countryside.
Me and Faith, the reason we downgraded campers is that we realized we’re not diehard RV-ers. We’re not trying to jump in our car and strike out on road trips all the time. Sometimes we want to fly. Sometimes we want to travel by boat. They call it cruises. RV-ers don’t have any diversity. They got an $800 payment per month to pay for this RV, so they have to use it. What we realized is that we like diversity and when we go camping, this is what we want to be doing. The type of camping we want to do is when you want to see the actual face of the planet world, you need to go in a camper.
There’s no better way to do it than parking your camper on the side of Zion National Park in Utah and watching the sun go down and watching it come back up. You’re there chilling, eating, cooking and pooping in your poop shelter and doing your little thing like a dog, like an animal. God made you be like an animal. You get back to these basic senses and it’s there in that simplicity you find the freedom that you don’t get when you go to a big city. Your life is as much ruled by the city as it is you, your intentionality and your connection to the creator.
How has the practice of being an avid camper shaped for your perspective? How has that shifted your perspective or helped you be more balanced or even more healthy when you are at home?
It has given me so much clarity and passion to know my Creator. I feel like I understand the lordship of Christ. I understand the saviorship of Christ, but I rarely can understand Him truly as my Creator, my maker and what he’s making. I have reduced God down to a psychological figure who runs human interaction. When you get out there, one of the biggest things that it did to me is it shifted to say humanity is the actors. The creation itself is its own actor. The Bible references that. You’ve got mountains all over the Bible. Mount Sinai is one of them.
For example, I started reading the Bible differently and I realized that all of Christianity can be summed up into a pursuit of the mountain where you’re going to find God. However, there are only two mountains you can go to meet with God. There’s Mount Sinai and there’s Mount Calvary. I ripped this off from Tim Keller, but it made sense because I’m a camper now. I get this whole mountain thing. Mount Calvary is where you go to meet with God in the law and in his righteousness and holiness. You go there to please him, “Look how much I can do.” We do that so often, especially Baptist because we try to check a box and please him in our legality, a legal sense.
Jesus came to God himself and died to purchase our salvation on Mount Calvary. Anytime we run to Mount Sinai to see God, we act like Jesus never came. Those two locations speak volumes about what God did and who he is. My point is that one of the things it’s done is change my understanding of the world and God because He is as influential on locations, the beauty of those locations and the beauty of the world and the real world. He’s not psychological. It’s not like the world just set up and run and now he’s doing his thing. He’s more manifest in the creation, sometimes in humanity.
I love that Mount Sinai versus Mount Calvary. I almost feel like how Rohr even frames it in his book, Falling Upward, this first and second spiritual journey. The first journey is almost always us trying to do it on our own. That’s true of the people of Israel too. That was their journey and God brought them on that journey to show us that we can’t do it on our own. We had to come to the death of ourselves again and realize it’s not about that.
Camping has taught me as well that this was right from the beginning. What hooked me is, “I’m not going away from my life and escaping my life into an alternate reality, where I pay money for people to pick up my bags.” When you go to resorts or when I say vacation, immediately what comes to mind is I pay people to pick up my bags. It’s not refreshing. It’s an escape from reality. You come away from that going, “Why can’t people pick up my bags every day?” That’s not reality.When you want to see the actual face of the planet world, you need to go in a camper. Click To Tweet
You’re not the center of the universe even though vacations are a momentary pause where you are the center. You can have whatever you would like.
What vacation makes you feel like you’re more energized to get back to the work you do and you’re more passionate about it. For me, that was camping because when I go camping, I’m still responsible for everything. I’ve got to set everything up. I’ve got to cook, bring the food and clean it. Me and Faith, we’re in this together and no one’s carrying our bags. I’ve got to empty the poop tank myself. Faith doesn’t do that. Nobody does that. I got to do that. This is real life, yet it is a vacation. You’re getting away from your mundane cycle of life. You’re breaking that cycle but you’re doing it in a way that is super earthy, real and refreshing in a God-honoring sense. I’m very passionate about it because people throw money on vacations all the time. I don’t know that what they’re wanting, they can have in their real life. That’s the thing.
Vacation sells you on the idea that you have to retire and live in a resort. Otherwise, you’re never going to be happy and do nothing. Live in a resort and let people carry your bags and you pay them money to carry your bags. In reality, what we’re all wanting, we can have in our daily life because what nature and camping teaches you is what you’re looking for is purpose. If you go camping without purpose, it sucks. You’re sitting there doing nothing. You end up drinking too much and chilling. You’re pointless and you’re not observing the creation. If you get out in the creation of a purpose and say, “We’re going to climb that mountain and when we get at the top, what we’re going to do is take a picture and we’re going to magnify holy smokes. Isn’t that going to be an awesome moment?”
We’re going to drive seven hours to set up and do it and all this stuff. Once you get there and you invest yourself in that, you come back refreshed. It teaches you, “I can find that same purpose in my life.” I’m sitting here at my desk at home looking out the window in my office at plants in my backyard that have flowers on them and people go drive hours to go see flowers. It’s right here. My best life is the life where I see the flowers and I am fulfilled by going, “God, you’re beautiful. Look at the flowers.” It’s not, “Someone isn’t carrying my bags. I’m tired of carrying my bags.” It makes no sense.
It’s like this concept of dopamine fasting. That’s the trendy thing to say, but it’s finding the beauty and the novelty in the things that are the most basic parts of our world that we’ve lost. I can’t remember who said it but there’s a quote about, “If the stars only came out once in a lifetime, everyone will be out watching them. Instead, everyone will be watching TV and no one sees them.” It’s so true. Go out and look at the stars one night and be blown away by it. That is redemptive beauty. That’s redemptive reality versus cheap entertainment that we all fall into. It’s not to say that all of that is bad, it’s just saying that if we can’t see the beauty in the things that are richer and more fulfilling, then we’re missing out a lot in life.
What I realized is when we bought the big camper, we did it because we were new to it and everybody told us we had to. In reality, after about a year, we were like, “This is getting in the way. It’s like I bought a super nice camper because I was told there was going to be a guy that pops out and carries my bags and he doesn’t. It’s still a camper. It’s like you’re buying the resort on wheels that you can tow behind you. When it gets too cold outside, you go inside and you can sit in a heated recliner or you can sit in the dinette or you can lay in a bed. You got eight options of where you can go and you have unlimited hot water. There’s all this stuff and you’re like, “I’m towing my home around behind me.” After the novelty runs out, you’re like, “I’m towing all the crap behind me that I was trying to get away from.” I still have this mindset of I need to be comfortable all the time.
Once we got through that, we realized here we are towing this 8,000-pound camper behind us everywhere we go and setting it up 30 feet, all this rigamarole so we can spend all our time outside and go back inside to sleep. What we did is we went from a 30-foot, 8,000 pounds trailer to an 11-foot 1,500-pound trailer, which is a bed on wheels with an outdoor kitchen, outdoor bathroom, everything is outdoor. If you watch Lord of the Rings, the elves in Rivendell did not build these huge mansions with glass everywhere to look through. They lived outside and there were leaves blowing through their bedroom because their bedroom was open. It was beautiful outside, it’s heaven, it’s elves. I’m like, “What are we doing? We need to get outside.” I would be in the camper and look out the window and go, “I bet it’s cool out there.” I’m like, “I came out here to be outside.”
Have you guys dipped in the hammock game at all?
We do have two hammocks we carry with us. We’ll set them up or we’ll go hike to a destination and set them up. I love it. I’m very much spend sleeping on it.
It’s something I’ve been getting into with Evan quite a bit. It’s sweet. There’s something to it. Speaking of camping too, for people that may now be interested in camping or whatever, what are the common mistakes that most people make?
Buying too much gear. People have different errors. My brother never got into it because when he got into it, he was so excited because it was the one place he could go and chill and not have to do anything. When at home, everything follows him. It taught him the value of chilling. You could go for three days and have zero agenda the entire time. That’s good because you’re living in the present and you’re serendipitously moving from thing to thing, which is super rare for Southern people to do. That was good for him.
It hits everybody differently. For me, what people end up mistaking getting into camping is on a spectrum of equipment. You either buy crap equipment because you’re too cheap like my dad and you get wet. You ruin your whole camping experience because you’re wet, it’s rainy and you’re digging a hole to poop in. A Porta Potty is $50. Buy the Porta-Potty, it’s way better. There are certain things. There’s a fine line between not enough gear and too much gear. I always would rather start with less and add as you go. Don’t be afraid of buying decent stuff. That’s one of the biggest things.
That’s good in life too. You can always add on more but quality goes a long way.
The other thing is it taught me what it means to be passionate about something. I don’t know why, but I’ve been passionate about things my whole life. This is nothing new, but it was the first thing I’ve ever gotten into as an adult that went from zero to hero. I realized I had cared nothing about camping until I got started researching it and I watched the flow. I was like, “What does it look like for a human to get super passionate about something?” What it looks like is it captures your daydreams. You bring it up in conversation to people all the time. You watch YouTube videos all the time.
I’m always on YouTube watching this next camping video, where I’m like, “What gear does he have? Where did he go? How did he handle it? What did he do this time? What did it do for poop? Here are all these things.” I realized that when you look at everything else in your life that you say you’re passionate about, odds are it’s grown stale. What does it mean to get a new life? I can talk about that spiritually but for me, what it meant was opening myself up to do things in a spiritual sense that I’d never thought that I would for a spiritual reason and letting that reignite my flame for God in a way that rocked me. If we can get into that, I’ll launch. I’m just waiting for you to go ahead.
I want you to dive into that, but I want to push pause on that because I’ll follow up. You’ve always been passionate about things. I’ve known you to be passionate about some things. As a person, you tend to gravitate towards a fixture of that passion, obsessed about it and deep dive into it. What would you say is your obsession? Is it still camping or is there a new target for that focus or that passion? I know camping has been the last year, but I’m curious that there’s something new since we last talked.
I’m developing a deep passion for what it looks like to run a deeply passionate balanced life. I write in the newspaper and do that every week. It’s been rewarding and fun. I meet with clients. Our business is growing at a level that is inorganic. It’s starting to snowball. I’ve got inorganic opportunities. That’s rewarding and awesome, family and future kids. What it means to be alive is you tolerate everything and you have a side passion that’s super exciting. People typically think that’s how it should. You work for an income so you can have an income. You get married so you can have kids or seek companionship.
Here are all these task-oriented things and along the side here is football. That’s what you’re excited about. If you’re not as excited about your wife as you are football, you got something wrong. I realize it’s the same thing for your work. It’s the same thing for everything. Some people aren’t blessed to have work they love. I get that and that’s the curse. I’m sorry that you labor with those weeds like Adam did tirelessly. Some people get to work in a way that is redemptive. They feel it, it’s a flow and it carries them. It’s so exciting. Some careers you can’t do it with, that means you probably need to change your career but most you can. That’s what I mean. You got YouTube people who get all excited about these things. This is the thought. It all comes down to this.You have to help people come to their conclusion and you can't by making a statement. Click To Tweet
Imagine if I spent every second, every minute, every hour or every interval of my life as deeply invested at that moment in a passionate way as I am about campers right now or about organ right now, or whatever it is that’s got my fancy. I realized that what it means to be a mature adult is that you have the ability to run all of that at once and imagine what you can accomplish if you give yourself to those things, not just commit, follow through with commitments, and finished tasks. You end up Google searching stuff all the time about your job, your marriage, your camping hobby, your shooting hobby and your traveling hobby or whatever it is. You end up with all your life talks together in this way that is movement.
What you’re speaking to as well is in adulthood, it’s a journey towards full integration of saying, “This isn’t separate boxes that are a part of my life. They’re all my life.” It’s full integration. That’s what also God calls us to is he doesn’t want to compartmentalize your morning devotion time or your Sunday time at church. It’s full integration into everything. That is the journey from adolescence into adulthood and also returning to that child-like wonder and awe that we all should still long to have. It’s that adult version that’s still integrating that into the life that we do know. It’s a pretty beautiful journey. It’s also extremely hard.
The long answer would be I’m equally as excited about writing as I am about campers, my work, my wife, and the Lord, He’s all over that. The organ is thrown in there.
We’re going to get to the organ but first, let’s get to the writing because that’s a newer addition. That column came out of nowhere. Tell me about writing in the column of the newspaper. Was that something that you always wanted to do? Have you ever imagined yourself writing in the local newspaper? What has been the learnings from this first season of doing that?
I don’t think I ever imagined myself doing much of anything that I’m doing right now on a daily basis. I also joined Rotary Club and I’m joining Toastmasters, which is a speaking club. I’m in two civic clubs now. Toastmasters is the craziest of things that I’m like, “Why would I ever do that?” You get together and do public speaking and public shame yourself with this group of people and you get no money for it. You pay money to do this. There are dividends but it’s another story. Writing has always been a passion, but I never imagined myself writing for the paper.
It wasn’t prestigious but at the same time, I always did love the physical paper. I always was romantic about it. One day I want to write for a paper or anything like Valdosta Daily Times would want me or that I have anything offered them or that it was a big deal. What happened is I almost died about a few months ago. There were some things that happened at work that shook me awake. It wasn’t anything dramatic. I realized that I’m bored. I was like, “I can’t be bored so I’ve got to find a different career.” I almost was like, “Maybe I should change careers.” I realized, which is why I have anything to say at all valuable is because I’ve been through this where you’re like, “I’m doing the same thing over and over. What’s the point? There is meaning here, but it’s not exciting and I’m dying.”
What do I need to do now? I had two theories. One, I shop around. Two, I deepen my experience, so I did both. I can tell you shopping around was depressing because all work is depressing if you shop around like that. The only meaning you found in work is once you get in there and uncover it. It’s very rare that you shop for jobs and you’re like, “Right from the get-go, this is where all the redemption is. This is where God is. This is how I’m going to be fulfilled. This is all the meaning. This is all my talents match up.” College kids drive me crazy with all their shopping and career planning. I’m like, “You have no idea what that career is even about. Go into the general direction, don’t overthink it and in ten years you’ll change because you’ll finally figure out who you are. That’s okay.”
You’ll then rinse and repeat and do it again.
I realize how blessed I was to end up where I am that has so much ceiling for growth. I had that conversation with my partners at work and I said, “I can’t check the box and do the work. I need to accept this as a mission, which means my purpose statement is changing from Adam exists in a work way to help people be financially free or promote their financial flourishing or whatever. Adam exists to promote the financial flourishing of the entire community of which his personal one-on-one clients are the groundwork.”
My point is my mission changed to be bigger than myself, bigger than my people and bigger than my revenue. That captured me at a level that I said, “Put revenue aside, what would be super fulfilling? If that’s what satisfies me, how do I do that?” I realized that means I need to be more vocal than I’m being. I said, “Who is going to promote the financial flourishing of the community, the mayor? He doesn’t have time. Nobody’s got time. Nobody cares. Who cares and who gets paid to do that? I’m like, “The financial professional does.” It’s my job not to get clients or to persuade people to be my client or whatever. That’s not my job.
My job is to get paid to stand in the gap and say the things that no one is saying about finance and promote that to finance it, to speak about it and all this stuff. If I give myself to that, that’s a mission that people will join in with. It’s not about them anymore. It’s about us as a community. It’s bigger. I realized that writing is a great way to do that. Along with that, I read some books that were very important like one called Power by Andy Crouch and one called To Change the World by James Davison Hunter. He references Crouch and has a different take. It’s super helpful to say, “If you’re out to change the world and if my mission is to change the world to promote the flourishing of it in a financial way, particularly I need to go to the power centers.”
I can’t start from ground zero and go, “I’m going to start a blog and it’s going to change the world.” If you’re a Christian and you want to influence the world with truth, you can start your own little blog or you can work your fanny off trying to earn your stripes to get into The New York Times. There’s something different about The New York Times versus your blog. I realized that The Valdosta Daily Times is my New York Times. When I realized that, I marched up there. I wanted to see the editor. I got my way into his office for 5 minutes and 20 minutes later he said, “You can write whatever you want.” It was that clear. I don’t have any contact. I don’t have any agenda except to say, “I’m telling you this is my mission. This is why I’m here.” He felt the passion. That’s been a few months ago.
There are many things that were awesome in that especially moving from individual to the community. You do have to start on the individual level. Can I create or change individuals in this way and shift into a larger form once that’s a proven reality that you can embrace? The mission does change. I want to hear about in those few months of writing at the column, what did you expect coming in and what has changed in your perspective about it or how has it surprised you?
I expected it to be super businessy. I’m in the business section and I pitched for the business section. What I’ve found is I’ve gotten more encouragement and it’s trended this way to become way more holistic. If I were to name the column, I would have started by naming it, financial planning or something stupid, something very financially. I was trying to keep my nose clean and do a good job. I realized that people don’t care about that. People don’t need you to fit the box. They want to be interested. There are two other columnists that do columns every week.
There are three of us in the business section and the other two have their own shtick. Every time you read it, you know what you’re getting is consistent, which is great but no one reads it anymore. No one cares. Here’s mine where every week it’s me and I’m genuinely pushing the envelope of what I know. Every week, I learn something new. It’s fresh and it’s me. It’s business but it’s also life. It’s a philosophy and it all connects. Here I am trying to break the mold, but I can do that in a small town because they don’t want anybody banging on their door.
I can’t tell, “Be the same way as Wall Street Journal.” They’d probably kick me out by now because I did not follow through with my proposal. That’s the been the surprising thing is how encouraging they’ve been and everyone else to say, “You’re right, business is everything.” Right from your face perspective, right about what you think about business from God’s perspective and other stuff like that. The last column I wrote about was taking a business concept called the FIRE Movement, which is Financial Independence Retire Early. You can YouTube FIRE Movement. There’s a bunch of young Millennials on there talking about how they retired at 35 and they’re living in a trailer or whatever.
They made it happen and they saved over half their income for ten years and ate peanuts. They retired and they live in a trailer. I responded to that saying, “What about that small voice in your head that says, ‘You’re doing good, son?’” At the end of the day, all you’ve done is sit there because you were financially able to “retire.” What’s the point? Retirement is not biblical. Even more than that, early retirement is even less biblical. We’re called to work and work hard. If we’re not happy with how much we’ve accomplished, then go do more. At some point, you have to make peace with your maker and when you do, you work out of joy, but you won’t go sit down and chill. He made you do something. It’s a business article, but it’s not really.
Usefulness too is an important means of fulfillment in life. What you’re doing in that FIRE Movement, I haven’t heard about it before, that sounds like you’re dangling a carrot in front of people saying this is what you want. Anytime that happens, we can safely be assured that’s not what’s best for us.Clarity is not necessarily going to win the day. It's going to be clarity with a bit of ambiguity that draws people into thinking. Click To Tweet
That article challenges the entire American conception of retirement in general. It could go a lot deeper. Here’s one thing I have learned that’s done well for me. Instead of preaching some truth, present the details and present the flaws as well as the perception of positives. If you’re going to preach, ask questions and give maybes. It’s super powerful to leave it open-ended and ask your audience to think for themselves. I rarely ever say, “It’s wrong. This is stupid because of this.” That article ended with the statement, “If you accept the FIRE principles, when you lay down to bed at night, the voice that tells you, ‘You did good,’ will be your own.”
My point is it won’t be God’s. You have heard His, but then it won’t be. You’ll be telling yourself a lie. That certainly is more preachy than I normally get, but it’s convincing and roundabout. That’s something I’ve learned in communication. You have to help people come to their conclusion and you can’t by making a statement. Clarity is not necessarily going to win the day. It’s going to be clarity with a bit of ambiguity that draws them into thinking. That is the art of writing. If you can say, “Here’s a theme” and straight through the middle of that theme, “Here’s the thesis,” like an arrow. If you give the tip of that arrow ambiguity, you’ve done your job.
The curiosity takes over on the person that receives it and the job’s done for you. It’s even better because it’s them doing it, not you. That’s where the power comes.
If I were to look back from where I started, where I am now, my articles have changed so much. My voice is starting to appear. I’m more personal. I couldn’t do that to start with. There is a natural progression where I feel like I’m now crawling. One day when I’m 50 and I’ve done this for 25 years-ish, I’ll finally be able to write some good stuff.
It’s hard to do but recognizable when you read it. There’s a book that has seem to lead, Antifragile. I’ve been in the middle of that for a while because it’s a long book. It’s like seven books in one. His style is one of my favorites because it’s so him. There’s no other writer that is the same as his style. It’s very conversational. It’s very nonchalant but it’s also very deep and in the weeds. It’s all this blended into one. He’s also incorporating his unique worldview in a way that’s refreshing because you can tell that he doesn’t care about any preconceptions about how you should write. He’s going to write how he wants to write in his voice and he does it well.
It is refreshing to have that. I love what you brought up about being you, but learning something new, especially for this genre of Up And Comers. A lot of times, we’re thinking about starting new projects or trying to take a passion for more of a career, whatever it may be. If we can remember that, strive to be you. Don’t try to pretend to be something that you’re not. Do it for the sake of learning for yourself, not for the sake of giving other people something. Make whatever you do worth it. That’s such a helpful foundation to start anything from like we started this podcast from. It’s like, “We enjoy these conversations, let’s record them and share them because they’re helpful for us. Maybe they’ll be helpful for someone else.” That’s where we started. I thought that’s a beautiful place to begin for anyone. We need to get back to Ford versus Ferrari.
Did you see that movie, Ford versus Ferrari?
I need to. I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s been amazing.
It was my favorite movie of 2019. I’m not a big movie buff but I love to go to movies with my wife. 2019 was the first year that I had complete flexibility at work to produce. That sounds awesome and everything, but it comes with a lot of pressure. It was the first year I’d ever gone to a movie during work hours. Here I am in a suit and I go see Ford versus Ferrari at 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon. I was so overwhelmed and I’d caught up essentially, but it was like I need to nap and watch a movie. I went in there thinking, “Okay, cool.” The next thing you know, that movie is my favorite. I started crying. It was profound.
The reason is because it touched me somewhere down deep about this idea of racing and what it means to race and giving it your all. When I see a scene like in Ford versus Ferrari, it’s essentially about the story where Ford won their first Le Mans. There’s a scene where it’s late. It’s a 24-hour race. He’s exhausted. He’s pushing through his grind. He’s driving the perfect lap. You see that perfection and that overcoming, and it brought me tears. I was on the edge of my seat. I’m like, “Why am I this way?” I’m looking around me and the eight people that were in there were not moved at all.
Later, I saw it with my wife and I was watching her a little bit. She’s not moved at all. It’s cool. It’s racing, but there’s something in me. I was willing to admit what if I’m experiencing something that’s a trigger from my past that I’m the only one that can experience. It’s not true. If I were to say that, it freed me to say what undone stuffed I have down deep in my psyche that is responding to this. That was the first time I’ve had that deep inter thought about myself in a while. What it led me to see is that I’m most alive when I’m racing. There’s something about racing that God has geared me to love. I spent years of my high school and college life training to race. I know all about it and lots of tactics.
I obsessed about it, but it wasn’t just an obsession. It’s something deep down in me about when Paul in the New Testament uses the language of the Christian life being a race and running as if to win. I came away from that realizing I have been maimed. I’ve been limited by my illness but God has still called me to be a racer. I was crying because I realized I’d never get away from that. I always thought he’d taken away from me giving a Lyme disease. If you don’t know my story, go back to the first episode and give me grace. I’ve come a long way since then, but I still struggle with my health. I still struggle with limits. Limitations to me are limitations.
I wrote an article about this issue. It’s essentially about two men and how they handled limitations. What I’m not telling you in that article is that I ripped it off from a Jordan Peterson YouTube video where he says, “Choose your D-sacrifice.” His point is you don’t get the option of not sacrificing. If you’re a human and you are called to sacrifice, the best option you have is choose it because whatever you’re given and your limitation, your sacrifice, it’s been given to you and there’s nothing you can do to reverse that. If you don’t choose it, you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to get away from something you can’t get away from.
If you choose it and in return, you embrace it, what that limitation is it’s coming up to you. It’s grabbing you around the neck. It’s trying to choke you out and you have to hug it. If you hug it and you make peace with it, there’s no limit to what you can’t do. One guy in that example was the first blind guy to ever climb Mount Everest. He had this epiphany. “I’m blind. What am I going to do about it? I’m going to sit here or I’m going to hug my blindness, accept it. It’s dead to me. What if I’m not blind? What do I do now? I climb Mount Everest.” He did. He kayaked the whole Grand Canyon. He did the hardest rapids ever on a kayak blind. He did all this crazy stuff. It’s taught him more than if he had his eyes. It’s been better for him than if he has eyes.
There is one quote he talked about in his story. I saw him at a conference that blew my mind. His name is Erik Weihenmayer. He was talking about climbing and kayaking. They were climbing Everest and there were near the peak on this ledge that’s about a foot wide and you have to crawl or barely make it up this ledge. At that point, the sun was blotted out by a cloud. It was late at night anyway. They had zero light. The moon was blotted out. It was dark as pitch. Everybody started freaking out about how dark it was. He chuckled to himself because he was like, “Now you know what it’s like. I’m fine. Let’s keep going.” He led. He started taking the lead because he’s like, “I know this.”
Back to racing and giving it your all, which I want to also interject quickly. My roommate had on the NFL mic up version of the Super Bowl that’s dramatized. They had music to it. They make a story out of it and you hear the players and their conversations throughout the Super Bowl. The Chiefs is getting a win. I had piqued my interest a little bit more in this. I started watching it. I was fired up. It was like 7:30 or 8:00 PM. I’m like ready to go to war. It was the same thing with me. It’s like something about that gladiator-type competition of going towards with your brothers and against all odds. I remember there’s a scene where Tyrann Mathieu, who’s crazy. He has a screw loose.
They’re down ten. It’s the fourth quarter and you see him on the sideline and he’s been pissed. He’s been upset because they’re losing and they’re not playing well. He starts getting up and he goes, “I love this. This is what I love.” He starts going on the sideline saying that for ten minutes. They ended up making the most outrageous comeback and winning. Something about that also is the same experience for me of that passion, that igniting in my soul. Hearing you talk about that, I want to sit with that myself and see, “What is that? What’s underneath that?” It hasn’t gone away with golf going away. That’s a powerful process that I’m excited to go through.
It’s hard for people to transition from what they know to be a life-giving center in their past to what could be now. I’m never going to race the bike again, but that doesn’t mean I can’t experience that. For me, with my health, I was told that I shouldn’t experience that because when I do, my body is over-driven and that’s true. I’ve experienced that. There is a line there where it’s like, “Yes, but does that mean I should shut it off forever?” There are chapters of your life. This chapter is finally where I can start pushing it a little bit wiser. When I mean push it, all I mean is focus more instead of going to be out a lot. I don’t mean exercising. I still can’t do that.Only from God does vision and faith come. Click To Tweet
That led me to the realization that I am called to be a young man. I give it my all and push hard. Just because there are 50-year-olds around here who don’t, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. I’m not 50. God has called me to soar on wings like eagles, like Isaiah. There will come a day where I run and don’t go weary. I’ll walk and not faint. Finally, I do faint because life’s over. However, this is not that day. This is the day where I soar my wings like eagles. It’s okay. What can I accomplish if I give myself to something? That was the thought and as part of that, I took a concert on the piano where someone asked me to play and I said, “Yes.” I hadn’t played a concert in several years.
I played a concert for the widows and widowers at our church, typically an older group. It was 75 people and I played 4 or 5 classical pieces, but I was almost in tears the entire time. Tears were streaming down my face as I was playing because I was so connected to the purpose of it. It came from this thought. Out of that was so much beauty and glory of God. The next thing you know, opportunity opens up for me to play on a regular basis. What happens is I watched the movie, I’m like, “I’m ready to start racing again.” I think about my church experience and I’m like, “I’m here, but what would it be like to race for God, at church even?” That means to perform.
I’m like, “Here we go. What am I supposed to perform in?” Our organist quits five days before our candlelight service and they got nobody to do it. It’s Christmas Eve, candlelight service and there’s no organ. My pastor calls me up on conference call with our music minister and he goes, “Adam, Mark is here with me on the phone. Our organist quit. We’re wondering if you could step in and fill in?” What are you going to say? It’s five days away. Our pastor is calling me. It’s rigged. This is church life. I was like, “This is God.” I said, “Yes, but I don’t know how to play the organ. How do you play the organ?” The organist came and showed me a few things, showed me how to work the organ, which was huge. There are lots of knobs, buttons and pulls and such. Our church was built in 1899 and it’s got an old organ in there from probably the ‘90s. The pipes, who knows how old they are, but this is a for-real legit pipe organ with lots of stops. You know the phrase, “Pull out all the stops,” that’s an organ playing. You pulled out all the stops and all the pipes are blowing. All these are manual organs.
I get up there and I’m like, “What do all these things mean?” There are presets, thank God. I pushed presets and loaded them to where I could go from quiet to the loud with just buttons, which is easy. I don’t know how to work the feet. That service was a disaster. It was fine, but I didn’t play any feet. I was super simple in the hands and when I tried to use a foot and it’d be like lagging on my hands at that point. The last note of Silent Night where all the lights go out and everybody holds up their candle and I’m playing and everybody’s singing.
I was supposed to go acapella so I can drop out. I’m like, “Sweet.” I start in on the last verse. About that time, I realized it’s acapella because I don’t hear the piano playing. I stop. The organ is out because I forgot and everybody continues. I’m sitting back like, “I ruined Christmas.” About halfway through the chorus, the music minister looks back at me and waves his arm up like “Come back in.” He comes back in, so I’m supposed to come back in. I punch the button because I turned it off, push a button, turn it on, find a place and come back in immediately.
I’m freaking out and I get the last note and I’m like, “Watch this.” I’m about to play the bass note with my foot. I overextend myself and my focus, I hit the foot pedal and I missed the hand a little bit, but it was by one note. I found the right note immediately because I knew it went wrong, but it sounds like a jazz note. That has begun my organ playing. The next Sunday I showed up to fill in, “I’m here to play the hands, nothing else. You’ve got to figure this crap out because I’m not an organist.” On the back of the bulletin is all the stuff that’s listed and I’m always there as a collegiate minister. I was on there as Adam Setser, collegiate minister/organist. It was my second day on the job and now I’m an organist. I don’t know how to play this thing and I’m a complete fraud and no one knows it.
Ever since then, I’ve played with the stipulation I have one week off because I need to go travel with the camper. I didn’t want to play the choir parts, the choir songs because they’re harder, but now I’m doing it anyway and I’m doing the prelude. I’m starting the service with the organ on the prelude. I’m not playing Bach and stuff. We’d go to the hymns and the hymns, I’m starting to play big regal stuff, not like stuff. It’s like the intro is regal. I modulate up to different keys. It’s regal. I got alternate harmonics and it’s like marching down as you go. I also play the organ wide open as much as I can. This is something I’m passionate about now. I go on YouTube and watch pipe organists. I never would have thought. Who would have thought?
It all comes down to you saying yes at the end of the day. There was God opening a door and you said yes. What’s cool about that whole story is the fact that God used a movie to ignite the flame in your heart and for you to ask the question, what does it mean? What can I accomplish or what does it mean to race for the Lord at church? In that same time period, this organist quit and they ask you, it’s like this is so divine. When we pause and look for it or be aware of it, these moments are present all of our lives. The problem is we’re not looking for them. We don’t have eyes open, ears open. We don’t see or hear it happened because we’re not aware. It’s almost like how we can become more aware of that still small voice and to the inner workings of our lives so we can say yes to an opportunity like that when it comes because of the fruit that will come inwardly for us in that experience.
What it means to have eyes and ears is it means you have senses. Just because you hear and see, doesn’t mean you have a sensibility for what you’re seeing or hearing. It’s a mental thing. It’s going back to the old school 19th-century and before understanding of vision. You have to have vision to be able to see and hear. What vision means is an interior ability to see what you don’t see otherwise. It’s interior. It’s not exterior. It’s like you have to work on this thing. I don’t have an easy explanation, but people typically miss stuff because they don’t know what they’re looking for. God is right in front of you, whatever God’s pointing you to and yet, you lack vision. You lack vision because you don’t have any faith because you’re not pursuing God. Only from God does vision and faith come. I know a lot of people who are stuck in the doldrums of their life. There are cues all around them of answers. There are 1,000 different ways they could go, but they don’t seem to see any of it because they don’t have any vision.
It’s similar to hearing and listening. When you listen to something, it’s different than when you hear what’s going on. You can be listening to music but not hear anything. You can be listening to it, but maybe my mind is focusing on writing something, so I’m not hearing the words that are being said. It’s similar to if I’m working in a cafe or something like that. We’ve all had this experience. You’re there. You’re focused on something, but then this couple next to you or this person next to you has a conversation and you hear something they say and it piques your interest. All of a sudden you can hear what they’re saying. You’re paying attention to it. You could have been listening to it, but now you’re hearing it.
The same is true in a conversation. This conversation with you, if we weren’t as focused and weren’t paying as much attention, you may have said something that had an underlying meaning that I completely missed because I wouldn’t be hearing. Every single day we have opportunities with every interaction to truly hear someone, to truly see someone and not just listen to what’s being said, so you can get onto what you want to say. These simple things like, how can we hear each other better? How can we see someone and meet their needs? Maybe it’s opening a door for someone. That’s what it means to love each other well. It’s a simple human need that we all have. It’s been like a resounding theme for me that I don’t know how much progress I’ve made, but I want to keep focusing on it because it is crucial. Vision plays a big part in that. Vision is the same thing with the eyesight as hearing and listening is in a lot of ways. We pulled out all the stops on this one. Give us your closing thoughts.
There’s one lesson that I learned I did not expect and that is the incredible power of experience. The experience of life and of something to drive the reality of it. The moment by moment experience. When the play starts, when the play stops, that’s the experience. We typically talk about the play after the fact. Here’s all the analysis, the critics and stuff like that, but the play is the experience. It’s not the afterthought. It’s not the commentary. It’s not the rational value of it or the intellectual value. It’s the experience of it, whatever you want to call it. Some people like to call it emotion, but it’s way more than that. It’s life. What I found in the practical sense is if I was stranded on a desert island, I would become the worst version of myself by a thousand-fold.
If you extrapolate that into reality, if I didn’t have anybody to play the piano for, I would fall out of love with it. If I didn’t have anybody to share what I’m reading with, I would not read. If I didn’t have anybody to share the beauty of a sunset with, I would overlook it because left myself, I’m a bastard. I’m selfish and bored. I want everything to jump out at me and entertain me all the time because I’m broken inside. I’m saying that’s humanity. That’s the fall. What I’m saying is that when people come over, I jumped at the opportunity to show them the house or the yard or a piece I’m learning on the piano or share with them what I’m learning or share with them a podcast I enjoyed or share with them anything. If they bite and experience it with me, it’s ten times the experience it would have been if it was by itself.
I’m learning the power of that and embracing it to seek out to say I’m not entertaining people when they come over to my house. I’m not being hospitable. I’m being enriched because when people come into my home and we get to share all of our life with them, our stories, our stuff, our passions, our experiences, they’ve brought so much life. If you look at people and judge them by the face value of, “Are we alike or not?” You’re looking at a play and you’re saying is it true or not? It doesn’t matter. It’s not the point. The play is meant to be an experience to lead you to a certain result, to enrich your life so that now you’re a different person. It changes you. It’s the same thing with people. That’s the value of relationships. Even if the guy’s a complete idiot, I’m going to value him and accept him in my life because the sharing together will bring about something I have no idea. It’s so powerful. It’s like magic and God is there. You know that. We’ve talked about that before, but it was powerful for me to learn that.
We’re going to keep learning that as we always do. I love to reiterate what you said, it’s the experiences of life and sharing amplifies that experience both ways, both to the sharer and to the receiver. It ultimately enriches it, which is a good word. I also love what you mentioned that left to ourselves, we become the worst version of our self. That is so true on many fronts. I know I experienced that a lot as well. For me, it’s newer in a relationship, but if I am left to my own thoughts and my own thinking on anything without roping her in, it starts becoming the worst version of myself for us. That’s not helpful, for her or for me or for us together. I had to learn that I can’t isolate myself. This is a team. This is a partnership. It’s life and it’s being human. It’s ultimately being connected to one another because we all are connected in this thing called life. It’s way more beautiful with others and by yourself. That is the truth. This has been legit. It’s always a pleasure being on the mic with you. Until next time, we hope you have an up and coming week.
- Adam Setser
- Kerrigan Group
- Falling Upward
- To Change the World
- FIRE Movement – Adam’s article
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