All posts by: Thane Ringler

UAC 164 | Podcasting

 

Podcasting has been slowly growing as an industry as more and more people are tuning in, and businesses, experts, and influencers are discovering its many benefits. If you are curious about what it takes to start one of your own, then this episode will be a treat! Thane Marcus Ringler interviews on the show leadership coach, business consultant, and host of Win TodayChristopher Cook, to share with us some great insights about podcasting. What does it entail? Is it worth it for you to do? What opportunities does it present? Christopher answers this and more while sharing some of the hard lessons he’s learned. Speaking about the tough times in life that we all will experience, Christopher then opens up about his own dark season right now, being vulnerable in letting us in on his experiences and how he is taking and overcoming it with the help of faith.

Listen to the podcast here:

164: Fellowship Ft. Christopher Cook: On Podcasting, Going Through Dark Seasons, And The Truth We Preach To Ourselves

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intentionality, infusing a reason why behind what we do and life is a process as we all know. In this process, we are all becoming, we are growing, we are learning, and that is what being an up and comer is all about. Thank you for tuning in and being a part of this show and this community, being a fellow up in comer in this journey of life. I’m excited to bring this episode. Before we get to this content, I’d love to share a few ways that you can help us out. If you haven’t done one of these ways or a couple of these ways yet, it would mean the world to me and would encourage and help us empower us to keep producing this show.

It doesn’t happen by chance and it isn’t cheap or easy. It takes a lot of time, effort, money and all that to say, we need your help. There are three easy ways. The first is leaving us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts. We have over 100 ratings and reviews on iTunes on Apple podcasts. That’s a fun achievement. I’m excited to get to 200 and you can help me do that. There’s so many of you that haven’t done this and it takes a few seconds. Please do that, but if you want to support us financially, you can also go to Patreon.com where you can make monthly donations to help us pay for producing and creating this show. It’s it doesn’t happen for free. We’d love your support that way.

If you have a company you want to partner with us, reach out TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. Finally, the easiest way to help us out is by sharing this episode or favorite episode with a friend, when you’re reading this episode or maybe a past episode, and you thought of someone else besides yourself that could use it. It’s a great way to share the love by sending them a link to this show or to this episode or to a favorite episode and by sharing more of The Up & Comers Show. You can find us on socials at @UpAndComersShow and we love hearing from you there or by email. As always, don’t be a stranger. Feel free to reach out. That is the housekeeping for our fellowship episode. If you aren’t familiar with fellowship episodes, they are simply more like a peer-to-peer conversation, a little more casual, a little less interview style and a little shorter.

I’m excited to bring you this fellowship with Christopher Cook. He is a leadership coach and business consultant to both Fortune 1000 and nonprofit organizations. Additionally, he is the host of Win Today with Christopher Cook, a popular weekly podcast available on Apple podcasts, Google play, and other outlets. Through his work at WinToday.tv and as a featured writer for Success Magazine, he serves as a guide to a modern soulful, wellness minded men and women to confidently design their roadmap to wholeness so that they show up each day, fully alive in their true identity. Christopher is a great dude and we got connected a few years back when I came on his show with my book launch and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. He is a genuine heartfelt dude. I love his heart, mission, work, voice and his experience.

I thought it’d be great to have him on and talk about podcasting. The first half of the conversation revolves around podcasting, what it entails, what it his journey of starting a show has been like, how it’s been helpful, what’s been hard and lessons he’s learned. Other tidbits about podcasting that a lot of you I’m sure are interested in as it’s a growing space and there’s a lot of fun opportunity and also a great experience to grow. That’s definitely worth checking out. The second half is equally, if not more beneficial in the sense, that we talked through the different seasons that he’s gone through and going through a dark season right now, being honest, open and vulnerable about where he is, which is courageous.

I’m grateful to him for his heart and his willingness to share of what it is like to go through a dark season. There are little different segments, but they’re both super helpful and I encourage you to read to the whole thing because it’s worth it. If you haven’t, go check out his show, Win Today with Christopher Cook. It’s an awesome show. Without further ado, please enjoy this fellowship episode with Christopher Cook.

Christopher Cook, welcome to the show. It’s good to see you. I love doing these when you can see each other, even though it’s still virtual, but it adds much more depth in life to these conversations than a phone call. I’m grateful for tools like video calls.

It's amazing how we refine things just by doing it. No one starts out that streamlined. Click To Tweet

I have been doing video in this forum and it’s been a game changer. I ask better questions.

We’re going to dive into a lot of things as a catch up and hang out, but I want to start with our similar role in some ways of being a podcast host. In the last couple of years, there’s been quite a rise in podcast, podcasting and people are being aware, listening in and tuning into podcasts. More and more people are curious about what it takes to start a show, what it entails, if it’s worth it, if it’s something they should do and I thought it’d be fun to have you on and share a little bit from your perspective and experience in that journey so that other people can be more formed on it. As we mentioned before we dove in, originally, you found it February of 2016, which has me beat by about a year and some change. Ours was September of 2017. Tell me about this initial idea that was the budding of Win?

It all started with a blog, honestly. As my friend, you know my backstory and because of a lot of adverse circumstances in my life, I wanted to help people, and that’s why I started this blog in late 2014. By late 2015, the blog had grown quite successfully and had a lot of readers. A few friends said, “Chris, you have an audio background, a good speaking voice and a solid communicator. You should try podcasting.” I thought, “I like writing. I’m going to have a go at it.” I wish I could rewind the clock because I didn’t launch correctly at all. I was like, “Here we go.” I had a few episodes recorded. Since I was a little boy, I’ve always loved to ask questions. In fact, I have a picture on my iPhone. I was like 2.5 years old and I had a microphone in my hand. I’ve always loved asking questions.

I launched this podcast in February of 2016, but the blog was where my heart was. I thought, “If we’re going to win now, what does that mean? We’re going to have short quick Win episodes.” Episodes were capped at fifteen minutes and it was designed to be a weekly podcast, but I lost steam and thought, “I like writing,” and it was infrequent. I let it go for ten weeks. There was a ten-week gap in the middle. I didn’t tell listeners anything. I just disappeared. Don’t do that if you’re starting a podcast and by the grace of God and a lot of sound advice and a passion from the Lord, I believe, by February or March of 2018 I went, “I think I have something to say and this is the right forum.” I totally redesigned the podcast and went more long form interview style. Honestly, I’ve been podcasting seriously for probably eighteen months, but no more.

I feel like that’s true for pretty much all of us in any endeavors that we always learn what not to do before we learn what to do in anything. I share that a lot too. I did read up on some of the advice of like, “What to do when you launch a podcast?” and all that, but I didn’t execute it and go through with it like the advice they have been given. It was the same thing as you. We want it to be weekly and then we were like, “This is a lot of time, work and effort.” We then went to biweekly. There was a season where we dropped it for 1 or 2 months.

We did say like, “We’re going to need a break,” but it’s the same thing as like, “It’s hard to be consistent.” It’s hard to know what you’re doing. It’s hard to have that strong identity of what it’s about and what your goal is because your initial idea always pivots and transitions as you do it, which is why it’s hard to have a long lasting show with it being consistent from the very beginning. I feel like most shows that are around for years are in a constant state of transition in some ways.

To your point, because I was focused as a writer, the podcast was barely a hobby. I don’t know if your readers are hip to this, but I’m an Enneagram One. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right the first time and I’m going to go big or go home. I did the podcast well, it sounded good and I do hear secrets out. I do all of the work myself. I produce it, edit it, and mix it, the whole thing myself. I didn’t know the voice I wanted to carry in the space at the time and I didn’t know what I wanted to say. That fed the inconsistency. Now, it’s a different picture and super consistent. I turned down guests, and that’s not to say I’m someone special or something like that. It’s just to say I believe in being super consistent and drilling down on a niche in a topic and I speak to a certain people and I stay consistent with that. That has changed the game.

UAC 164 | Podcasting

I’m curious because for us, it has been 4 to 5 cycles of shifting, transitioning or pivoting into more niches or nuanced way, but how many iterations for you has it been along the path? There was a big shift in 2016 and then 2018 as it became much more of a focus then, but have you seen multiple different iterations in a sense of the show?

I’ll expand your question to even mention the blog. If I were to include the blog and the answer, it’s easily five with the podcast. It’s easily three major iterations. All with the same passion point, but not as clear. I feel like, this is how I can answer that question quickly is because I know how many times I’ve changed the intro music.

That does go park for the chords. It creates a whole different vibe. To give people a picture who have no concept of podcasting, give people a snapshot of what it means and what it takes to go from idea to publishing an episode because it is an extensive process. We all underestimate it. For disclosure, we did edit it. I did edit it from the start and then I ended up getting some interns over to help, and then now I do hire a company. After we’re done here, they’re going to help take it to completion, which is an expense, but it’s also a time saver. That’s been the route I’ve gone, but I have a lot of respect for someone who does from start to finish because I did that as well for quite a while it’s no small fit.

I’m just anal. I’ll bounce an episode, print a mix and be like, “No, that fade is not right.” That’s why I do it myself. I’m frugal as well and one of my consulting businesses takes care of the podcast and all that, but I’m super compulsive. I’m a musician and I have an audio background. I know what I want it to sound like. I know what I want EQ to sound like. I know how hot I want the compression is. I’m a stickler.

Does that help to have that background too?

Enneagram One.

My wife is an Enneagram One. I’m much more acquainted now. Give a snapshot of what it looks like for you in going from, maybe even booking a guest to publishing the episodes.

Caveat, it doesn’t have to be this way for everyone because I know people who hit record, talk, hit stop and upload it and that’s it. For some people that’s okay. I know two podcasts whose audience is ten times mine and they record their audio on their iPhone in voice memo, upload it and I’m like, “What in the world?” The way I craft my show is this way. I think of it as a story arc. I’ll take you through the show format, and then I’ll talk about how guests come to the show and then how I prepare for an episode. The way I formatted the show is firstly, to know that it is an interview format. I’m interviewing people, but the way the show lays itself out is I tease the episode. Let’s say, for the first fourteen seconds, as soon as you hit play, it’s a teaser.

It’s a great short segment of what someone is saying in the interview, but it’s only fourteen seconds because I want to get to the content. I have a show opener, which is a professional voiceover with music and then it goes into me and I do a pre-intro. I still do a longer pre intro many years ago. I would almost set up a story and with music underneath, give the background to the guest and all that, but I found that I didn’t want the listener waiting 5.5 minutes before we got to the interview. Every podcast I listened to, I end up hitting fifteen seconds for it because I want to get to the content. I thought, “No, Chris. It’s a good idea, but I need to get to content quicker.”

One of the missing skills among interviewers today is the ability to actively listen. Click To Tweet

I’ve sorted my pre intro and I start with this because again, I am not the hero. I’m an interviewer, I’m the guide. What I do is establish a pain point or ask a question to the listener. “You know how it feels when this happens? Maybe right now you’ve joined us, you’re exhausted, you feel numb and you don’t know what to do?” I’ll open the story loop for the listener and then I will introduce the listener to the guide, the guide being the guest, not me, I’m the facilitator. I’m the tour guide, but they’re the actual guide and I’ll say, “Joining us on the show is so and so. Here’s what we’re going to talk about and here’s what you’re going to learn. I’m excited to dive in right now. Let’s get to my conversation with my boy, Thane Ringler.”

That’s how I set up and then we go right into it. When I do interviews, I do all the pleasantries of, “Welcome to the podcast. I’m glad you’re here.” I’ve edited a lot of that out lately. When I go from my pre-intro on the show, I’m right into my first question. I want to keep the story loop open. In film, there’s a term called the temporary suspension of disbelief. It’s when you get engrossed in the story that you’re like, “This is real.” I want to grab someone from a story perspective and add value to them. We’re right into the interview and then that interview, as I said, when I first answered it was 12.5 minutes of content.

Now, when people book an interview with me, I go 45 to 60 or closer to is pretty typical. I’m doing an interview with a friend. His name is Paul Young and he’s a good friend of Jamie’s. Last time Paul and I were on the phone, it went over two hours and I had to cut it down to 1.5 and I suspect the same will be the case. He’s a sweet guy and loves Jesus. We usually have a great conversation. I let that conversation develop organically. I have music at the end of the show, which takes me to a post show and I used to be all pithy with the listener because I thought it was cool, but now I’m like, “No.” People either turn the episode off.

Let’s be real. At the end of a main interview, how many people stick around for the outro? I thought, “I’ve got to add value quickly.” As soon as that interview is done, I say something instead of, “That was such a great interview. Don’t you guys enjoy it?” I’ll literally say something like, “WinToday.tv/episode208, that’s the place to access all of the resources mentioned in this conversation. Go there now. Next time on the show, I sit down with so and so, and we’re talking about this. Here’s a preview of that conversation.” I tease next episode for 45 to 50 seconds. It’s longer than the pre-show teaser. It’s a more robust teaser of next episode. I then come out of that simply with, “Don’t miss my conversation with so and so right here on Win Today.”

That then goes to a prerecorded outro, which is like, “Thanks for listening. Go to WinToday.tv, subscribe and get on the inner circle of email readers. Shoot me a review on Apple podcasts.” I got to tell you a thing a little ticked off because people are not quick to rate and review and I’m like, “It’s not that hard.” I’m not holding a grudge. I wish people would rate and review the podcast more. It’s all good. No worries. I would normally never talk like this on a podcast as a guest, but Thane is my boy and my friend. From beginning to end, that’s the show. Our average show length is 55 minutes to an hour. Like I said, I’m hanging out with my friend, Paul. That’ll be a two-hour episode. Jamie Winship’s a mentor in my life. Guys like Paul and Jamie, I would do a two-hour episode no problem.

Jamie’s episode 156 was over two hours and I wish that would be four. 

UAC 164 | Podcasting

You don’t want to edit any of it out because it’s all brilliant.

That’s the show itself, but on the postproduction, if an episode is an hour long, how many hours of work is it post recording for you to move from the raw components to the finished product?

I use a recording software. If the readers are reading now, I use a software called Pro Tools. It’s professional recording software and I have created a template for Win Today. Built into it are markers and the intro music. I’ve got the outro music in there. I’ve got my little sound effects, switches, all that is in the template. I open up the template before I record, save it as whatever the show number, the guest, record my audio, and then like you and I are on Skype record that I’m working hard and I have worked real hard studying Larry King, Katie Couric, a friend of mine, his name is Ken Coleman. They’re world-class interviewers. I’ve endeavored to study world-class interviewers in such a way that I anticipate not needing to edit any of the main interview.

The only post production is finding that pre-show teaser that fourteen seconds, which I put at the top of the show. Why is it fourteen seconds? It doubles as the audiogram on Instagram. It fits within one story. I do that. Usually, it’s snapping in the main interview. I do my pre show. I write that pre show after I do the interview, not before, because oftentimes the interview E will say something that would trigger a better thought than I had before I conducted the interview. My post-production including show notes prep, social media assets have 3.5 hours per episode, which is cut down. Like episode one, 2016, I took eighteen hours to edit the freaking episode like, “What in the world?”

It’s amazing how we refine things by doing it. To give people an encouragement that are hearing that, you will not start out that streamlined and no one does and that’s okay. You will get there by practice, refining it and we have to learn the ropes by doing it. A lot of the time you hear someone such as Chris, who’s been doing it for quite a while and doing exceptionally well. It sounds easy and it never is easy. We get better at and it becomes more and more easy the more we do it because of the work we put into it. That disclaimer is helpful.

You develop a flow. I go in asking myself, “What do I want the listener to know? What I want the listener to do? How can I speak to their pain points?” I have these hero targets that I go in. If I capture those, then I’m good. I don’t ever want to hijack an interview and then all of a sudden steamroll a gas, I may guide the conversation, but at the same time, I tell every guest before we hit record, “This is about lifting your voice. This isn’t about my agenda.” I can speak to guest’s development, questions and all that if that’s valuable.

If we highlight some of that, what would be in preparation for a successful interview? What are the components that you found from your experience that have made the biggest difference that have added the most value or helped you meet the best interview possible?

Debates are never a conversation. Debates have winners and losers. Debates are about my side versus yours. Click To Tweet

Study and show prep. I work with a lot of publicists on a national level who send me guests. Most of my guests come to me these days and as every good publicist will do, they’ll send you suggested interview questions and all of my closest publicist friends know this, I don’t look at them. If there’s an associated book, I’m not kidding. I read the whole book and then I’ll go on a YouTube and I’ll research prior interviews the guest has done so that I can gauge how long, how many questions I need to prep. I’ll say this as an example, if I know my body interview needs to be between 45 and 60 minutes, and I do research on a guest, then I go find 3 or 4 interviews they’ve done previously, I’ll determining an average for the time they spent on answering each question and then I’ll say, “They average between 30 to 45 seconds per answer. That means I need X amount of questions or maybe they spend two minutes on an answer. That means I need 23 questions.”

I’ll do a ton of show prep. Young podcasters, I would say this to you, if you think you’ve done enough show prep, you probably haven’t. Over prepare and go deep. Having said that thing, I go into every interview with, 22 or 23 or 24 or 25 questions. As I get into the interview though, I listen. I may set the questions that I’ve spent a ton of time on a side, because this is the key young podcasters misses, they don’t listen. They’ll fire off a question and then the guests will be answering and they’ll be preparing for the next question. I’m like, no. Listen actively that your next question may be why, or you may employ a trick called mirroring and you’ll repeat the last three words of the last thing they said, because you want to drill down deeper or a simple question is, “How’d that feel when? What I heard you say is?”

Be prepared to do all the show prep you need to do, but then go into the interview and be willing to set your questions aside and listen so well. The guest will often say something that’ll trigger a better question than you had prepared. One of the most missing skills in interviewers now is the ability to listen actively. That’s a lot easier now because we have the ability to do this over video. I heard a stat years ago and the statistics says that 85% of all communication of meaning is nonverbal. Check this out. I had a guest before and I watched his body language as he finished answering the question. I said, “Hang on. I need to slow you down.” When you said, what you did, you look like you squirmed. “Can we talk about that? What was it about what you said that was uncomfortable?”

Now, we’re having a conversation because if podcasting in this interview format was all about information exchange, it’d get boring quickly, but if we’re interested in having a conversation, our relationship is built. That’s how I roll and it’s taken time. I was nervous as a question to ask her that I did exactly opposite of what I’ve advised for the first six months of podcasting, because I didn’t know. I didn’t like the sound of my voice and all of this thing, but eighteen months on of feeling a lot more comfortable, I think I ask way better questions than I did and I’m not in a hurry, pace yourself, breathe. Some of the best questions we can ask are, “Why? Tell me more. How did that feel?” As someone with a counseling background, it’s a tactic in active listening. “What I heard you say is,” you’re reflecting and it allows them to dive deeper and it’s powerful so they feel heard.

Those were so good. To underscore that, over prepare and go deep are the two greatest pieces of advice for anyone starting out in the show when the podcast space and what you followed up with by actively listening is equally crucial. Anyone who’s heard podcasts and got a survey of the landscape, you quickly know podcasts that are prescriptive in their question asking versus podcasts that are much more intuitive. It’s the same thing with practitioners of the body. If you go to a doctor and all they’re doing is prescribing based on symptoms versus intuiting and trying to figure out what’s the root problem that’s going on here, there’s a huge difference.

The same is true in podcasting. They serve different consumers a lot of times, but the value, like you said, is found in that active listening and asking good questions is such a big part of that. I’m curious alongside that in your time as a podcaster what about this journey of podcasting? How has it grown you as a person or made you better as a human? What are the benefits that you’ve received from doing this, from going on this journey?

I’ve become a better conversationalist whether or not we’re willing to admit it. We have ourselves on our mind a lot. You’re married and so you could relate to this. You know how many times have you been in intense fellowship with your wife and she’s stating her grievance and you’re formulating your rebuttal while she’s speaking, but that’s human nature. We’re wired to avoid pain and in the presence of fear and shame to self-protect or self promote. It taught me to slow down to be curious about the perspectives of others might have and the value they bring.

UAC 164 | Podcasting

I’ve always been a curious person. I love asking questions, but as I’ve grown and matured and hopefully, wised up over the last few years, I don’t ask because I want to exchange information. I ask because I am curious about wanting to grow. I know that may be an overly simplistic answer, but the truth is it made me a better conversationalist. It’s made me a better friend. I can sit down and turn my phone off and look at someone in the eye, practice good, active listening, and care about what they’re saying. You and I hopped on this conversation and the first thing I did, is I threw my phone on, “Do not disturb.” I’m like, “This is my time with my friend, Thane, and we’re going to be focused.”

Slow down and be curious. Those are such good pursuits and results in it. It’s also a great fruit of anyone that’s trying to do podcasting well.

We live in a world that is in an echo chamber of a 24-hour news cycle, social media. We have information available to us at speeds like we’ve never had in human history and we’re getting used to rapid fire information, but the art of conversation has been lost.

What’s funny is it was replaced it for headlines, clickbait, curated images and then also debates, and debates are never a conversation. Debates have winners and losers and debate is my side versus your side. Debates produce division. Conversations and relationships are what produces unity. That is one of the biggest elements for the division that we’re facing in our country is we’re defaulting to debates, clickbait, headlines, and then these fake images of the light that we want to have or hope to have.

It’s a deadly spiral that’s going downward. Podcasts great remedy or tool to counteract that when done well and intentionally or in trying to know and understand like you were talking about before. It’s a great integrated thing that podcasts are growing in their exposure to more people and more people are tuning in and listening because this is how we learn by hearing real life people’s experiences, stories, and ideas and perspectives, and then evaluating them based on our own. It does broaden our horizons a lot.

Before we dove in, we talked a little bit about our mutual friend, Jamie. He’s played a pretty active role in mentorship in your life and I hope to have the same in my life. It’s been sweet sharing some conversation with him this 2020 so far. For everyone who hasn’t read, you have to go check out that episode. I know he’s done your show at least several times. One of the things that you mentioned before we hopped on was that you were close to being done with podcasting. Even from all the fruit we’ve talked about that comes from the show, you found yourself and find yourself in a place where you were ready to give it up. I’m curious to hear a little bit more about finding yourself in that place and that season that you’re currently in.

Anytime there’s change in life, there’s a degree of loss and anytime there’s loss, it requires grief and the inside out, outside in amount of change, loss, transition, got to a fever pitch level in my own life. It’s hard to talk about without not being on the verge of shedding emotion, which is okay and I’m okay with that, but I was tired. I had experienced a lot of loss, not compared to the level of loss I experienced years ago. It’s not that I need to put a caveat on this because I don’t live as a victim of life, but we’re humans with emotions and we feel pain. There had been such a level of continual change. Along with those feelings of disappointment and that thing, I was tired. I got to this place a couple of months. I don’t know if I have anything to say anymore.

You'll never find the healing you need until you're willing to be present with the pain right now. Click To Tweet

I’m tired and I’m working through it. I’m not through it. I don’t have this glorious testimony to say, “Look what the Lord did.” He is doing something, don’t get me wrong and I’m not living as a victim of this either. I’m a human with real feelings. I’m a high feeler so I feel and care deeply. I joke with people and say that the Lord put my tear ducts where my bladder should have been. I got to this place. COVID, for all of us, exposed some cracks in the foundation a little bit.

For me, one of the things that exposed is that my worth and value was too tied up in my ability to show up and deliver and perform. I am an Enneagram One. My predisposition in my wiring would say erroneously, that my worth and value comes from doing well, performing well, delivering, wearing the smile and none of it was fake. None of it from my end was inauthentic. It’s just that I had this foundation collapsing in me of going, “I’m tired.” Here’s the interesting thing is that through it, all my relationship with the Lord has gone to a whole new level.

You say, “Chris, how do those two coexist?” Amidst the grief and amidst a lot of change and disappointment, I’ve realized in my identity that I am okay with myself for the first time if I never produced content. If I never show up in a public space, but instead I am as loved sitting on my couch, folding laundry by the father who calls me and by name. I am, when I deliver good content or preach a good message. A lot of my personal identity has been tied up in, “Chris saved the day. Chris did it. He’s a good communicator.”

It’s tough to talk about, but I’m willing to be vulnerable with you because you’re my friend, number one. Number two, we all come to this place in life where we realize what’s driving us and when I came to the place of saying, “Lord, you created me for your purposes and your purposes alone.” Not only did that help bring some healing, but it took the pressure off I was putting on myself. I’m going to flip through my Bible it’s Psalm 57. I woke up and I was exhausted and trouble sleeping. Don’t get me wrong. Maybe there are people joined with us who is going through a rough time.

There is a time to grieve and there’s a veer real time to be present with that. You’ll never find the healing you need until you’re willing to be present with the pain. You don’t create an identity out of the pain. You don’t live in that and allow the course of your life to be defined by what is happening to you now, but it’s to say that we find ourselves in this season. I read Psalm 57. David writes, “Be merciful and gracious to me, Oh God, be merciful and gracious to me for my soul, our mind, our will and our emotions takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in you. Yes, in the shadow of your wings, will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed.” When I read that, I broke, “Father, I’m exhausted.” This plays into the broader sense of my story.

For any of us, especially if you serve the Lord and you’re reading this podcast, the day that we decide that what Jesus did for us was greater than what happened to us is the day that we’re going to take a first step into pursuing wholeness. The other thing I’ve also learned right now is that piece. This is going to sound like a platitude, but I swear it’s not. I’m a preacher so alliteration is my thing. Peace is not the absence of a problem and in our life. Peace is the presence of a person in the midst of our pain and our problem. For me, one of the things I’ve found is that the pathway to peace is found through pain, not around it, but when we avoid pain, because we don’t like it, it compounds and stays with us. Jamie has this killer talk. It’s from 2017. Jamie is talking about free radicals and oxidation of the cells and in it, he was saying, “Anytime, basically, we are in transition in life. The Lord uses pain.”

Not because he’s a hard taskmaster, but we wouldn’t go, we wouldn’t move, if there wasn’t something saying, “I got to get out of this.” That also plays into the fact that for me, when the pain of when the pain of regret becomes greater than the pain of making a change, it will make a change. That’s been the journey. I know I’ve said a lot and I apologize for rabbit trailing there, even if I’ve said too much. It’s not been an easy season. I’ve been looking for my passion once again. I’m in the middle of it. I don’t have this grandiose testimony, but what I do know is the Lord is faithful and He promises to never leave us or forsake us. What I do have is a promise of his word, his presence, a great family, a sense of purpose and calling. I don’t know how it all plays out. Like I said, I’m in the middle of a lot of change now. It hurts. I wish I could get rid of it.

UAC 164 | Podcasting

Podcasting: Transformation comes about by being vulnerable and surrendering—surrendering the results of whatever may come.

 

Even before we hopped on, you mentioned that transformation is vulnerability and surrender. That’s a beautiful framework is that’s how transformation comes about by being vulnerable and surrendering the results of whatever may come. Some of the things you said, as of going through this experience of change, that leads to lost and grief. This is something we all experienced as humans. It seems like, especially within our culture, it’s not okay to not be okay. We’re not allowed to not be okay. We’re not allowed to go through a period of suffering or grieving and that’s looked down upon. Little’s maybe swept under the rug or avoided at all costs. Why is it that this is culturally taboo and maybe even how that has affected you in this time of what maybe the surrounding culture says about it?

We wear the mask because we’re afraid. Everything in life comes down to either fear or love. I believe shame is a manifestation of fear. Shame says, “I am uniquely and fatally flawed. In and of myself. It’s not what I have or haven’t done. It’s just me. There’s something wrong with me.” I think it all comes down to fear. We put on the mask, we say face because we’re afraid and neurobiologically, we are wired to avoid pain, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Thousands of years ago, we were running from saber tooth tigers, but we’re not anymore.

We run into hard circumstances, confrontations, conflict, circumstances that provoke the feelings of fear and shame, but too often, we create this false lived identity out of those circumstances. After time, because we haven’t dealt with those, our true identity is indistinguishable from the mask we wear and we wear the mask because we’re afraid to deal with the fear. You deal with the fear. The fear is not the enemy. It’s what the fear is pointing to. The false identity. The believer of lie that, “I am unlovable. I am a mistake.” I could drill down on that to the extent you want me to, but it’s to say that let’s use COVID as an example. We’ve all experienced COVID. There’s not a person out of the 8 billion on this planet that have not experienced COVID and its ramifications to a certain extent. Here in the United States, people lost jobs and when they lost the job, it provoked in an emotion.

Let’s say the emotion was, “I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to provide for my family.” What am I telling myself through that? “I’m not going to be provided for.” That’s the core on truth. That’s what the fear points do, “I will not be taken care of.” When’s the earliest time in my life I heard, believed or received, I will not be taken care of in my life? When I was 5 or 6 years old, this situation happened. All of a sudden, now, I live through the self-protective mechanism and armor of, because I fundamentally believe I will not be taken care of in life. That fear, in men, particularly, manifests in anger.

I have to be vitriolic on social media. I’ve got to get in arguments, whatever, and I’ve not done a good job of drilling down on this specifically, but it is to say that everything comes down to the fear. The core fear is, “I’m not going to be taken care of.” Let’s go to my circumstance in the last few months. My core fear was, “I am unlovable unless I produce, I uniquely in and of myself am annoying to people.” I said that on your show, but it is the truth of the false identity that I’ve had to deal with.

Thank you for opening up about that. I relate to that deep level, especially when I was coming out of golf and having this “failed career” that was what defined me. That was my identity that I knew myself as in many ways. It was the most terrifying thing to try and leave that and go into a new pursuit, leaving this place, feeling like a failure. Even now, it’s shown up in marriage at a new level of, “Now it’s not just me, it’s me and my wife, it’s us now and what does that mean? How does that change things?” There’s a whole new dying to identity and self. If we’re not going through this, we’re not growing into who God’s called us to be not doing the actual work that matters.

For you, in this time, with this recognizing of what the fear is and what it’s pointing to, what is the process like for you? It’s not this snap of the fingers like, “We’re past this.” It’s a sledging through the trenches and a lot of ways. It’s dealing with this grief and these emotions. Like you said, being a big feeler, but not being the victim of this or the world or the circumstances is such a difficult thing. What does that dance like for you?

Peace is not the absence of a problem in our life. Peace is the presence of a person in the midst of our pain and problem. Click To Tweet

As I said, it, everything in life comes down to fear or love. In first John, he writes, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear. For fear has with its torment.” If everything in life comes down to fear or love, the core issue I have to first reconcile is do I believe I am uniquely and unconditionally loved? When I believe I am loved, I can trust because my trust issues, my drive to perform, achieve and truth be told thing came down to a lack of trust because I had been disappointed in my past so I had to take life in my own hands. I had to take matters into my own hands and I had to continually show up in order to make sure that things wouldn’t get screwed up. That’s exhausting.

It’s coming into the experience of the unconditional perfect love of a father. Maybe people reading right now are like, “Here you go again.” I don’t even know what to do when you say that. Tell him that. Confession isn’t saying you’re sorry for a bunch of stuff. Confession is telling the truth. “Lord, I don’t even know how to receive your love. Lord, I don’t know how to even spend time with you.” Say that and don’t leave. Wait, sit there. If you’ve made Jesus, your Lord, the Holy spirit of God lives in you. He’s described as the spirit of truth, your counselor, advocate, standby. The Bible says, “He will lead and guide you into all truth.” Truth is not the concept. Truth is a person who is Jesus himself. Tell him that.

I tell the Lord a lot, “I’m scared. Right now, I don’t feel like I can trust you.” That’s hard for me to say, but, “Lord, what do you want me to know about that? What do you say about that?” David said it best in Psalm 139. We read the Bible. We read these case studies in the Bible, but because it’s scripture and written perhaps in a linguistic type of way that we wouldn’t ordinarily speak, we venerate the way in which the writer’s speaking. We then go, “I can’t relate.” No. David says, “Search me, God. Try my anxious thoughts. See if there’s anything in me that is displeasing to you. God, take a shovel, go to work, please. I need help.”

That’s what I do. Like, “Lord, searched me, please. I am coming to you in truth and I’m not sure even how to put two and two together inside my own feelings, but you do and I trust you even when I don’t feel like I can, Lord. I’m asking new, according to your word, to search me and know me and try my thoughts.” I sit and listen. If I believe that the Holy spirit lives in me, that means I can hear from Him. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice and another, they will not follow.” The issue is not the ability to hear the issue is our willingness to stay so attuned and to develop a hearing ear, to develop familiarity with his voice, to develop that place where we know how, when and the manner in which He speaks to us in our true identity.

We have to come to in truth. I think that’s the starting place is coming to Jesus and truth and allowing him to do that great work, like we are incapable of fixing ourselves. That’s why earlier I said, self-improvement is junk. We’re not capable of fixing ourselves. What we are capable of is coming to a perfect loving father and saying, “I’m scared to surrender. Teach me how to trust you and then doing it.” That first step is called vulnerability, which leads to surrender and to a process of transformation as you alluded.

The other thing I want to say to this is that back to this 24-hour new cycle life that we live. Too often where event based instead of process-based the treasures in the journey, not in the destination. I know that sounds a little plasticky and a little Christianese, but it’s true. It’s cool the way Paul sets this up, because he’s talking about the Lord’s desire for us to be whole spirit, soul body, 1st Thessalonians 5:24-35 in Chapter 5 says, “Faithful is he who is calling you to himself. Long before we ever called to do something, we were called to him.” The point of this is fellowship. He wanted us, He wanted worshipers, who would through their freewill, activate the choice to live above their circumstances and to make the decision not to be victims of life, but instead worship Him in the midst of our trouble.

There’s a lot of choice in it. I start there, I start with truth. As Millennials, you and I are in a culture who has said that truth is a moving target, but I want to say fast that we need regular relationship with the word of God. We need to discern what He has said, how He thinks, so that we can discern What he is saying. God will never contradict what He has said by what He’s saying. I hear people say all the time, “Chris, I don’t read the Bible. I’m led by the spirit.” I say, “You’re under the spirit of deception.” You’re opening yourself up for deception at the very least. We’ve got to be anchored in this thing and we’ve got to read it until we hear our own voice.

UAC 164 | Podcasting

Podcasting: Shame is a manifestation of fear. Shame says, “I am uniquely and fatally flawed in and of myself.”

 

That’s the beauty of the Psalms. That moment in Psalm 57. That’s a remarkable, “Lord. My soul takes refuge in and finds confidence and shelter in you.” I made that a declaration, despite what I feel. I came to Him in truth and said, “Lord, your truth overrides my truth.” Too many of us, especially, in Christianity, we live these plasticky lives. Not because we’re intending to do so. It’s because we think we have to be formulaic in our relationship with Him. Denial is not faith, denial is unbelief. If we’re feeling a certain way, we’re not led by those feelings, we don’t make decisions from those feelings. There is a fact that I’m in transition and I’ve been going through a rough time. That is a fact, but I take my facts to Jesus and confess my truth to Him. He says, “Let me tell you my truth about you now in your true identity.” I go, “Okay.”

That is a daily thing. In going to him and saying, “I feel unseen, unheard, this and this happened and I’m frustrated by this, Lord, and I’m feeling this way.” It’s stupid to deny what we’re feeling, but it’s equally stupid to be led by our feelings and make decisions by our feelings. We hear about this thing about authenticity and authenticity is not doing what feels right, authenticity is doing what is right. We come to the Lord with the truth of how we’re feeling and the truth of our circumstances. We lay that before the feet of Jesus. We say, “Now, Lord metanoia or repentance.” Repentance is not weeping and crying my eyes out. It may involve that, but repentance is receiving the metanoia, his truth in exchange for my own truth, because my truth is subservient to His truth. I find out His nature by reading His word and then submitting myself to his active presence of the Holy spirit in my life. It’s a daily thing.

That’s a great section. If you’re reading go back and reread. what you said about, it’s stupid to deny our feelings and stupid to also be led by our feelings is such a helpful way to put that it’s in this messy, middle in the gray of saying, “We’re not suppressing and denying how we feel, but I’m also not going to allow my feelings to completely guide and direct my life and actions.” Often, we look for one or the other, it’s like, “Tell me what to do. Should I suppress and denied or should I let my feelings take control and I’m going to be led by Him?” Let the chaos begin. I need to be recognizing and not suppressing or denying. That’s my default err, is I don’t feel deeply it takes me a while to even become aware. I’m a three on an Enneagram. Recognizing my heart and how I feel is extremely hard.

My wife has helped me understand that more and more, but it’s unhealthy for me to not recognize how I’m feeling and I need to grow in that it’s uncomfortable. It’s not fun, it’s painful, but as a one and my wife is the same way a feeling is deep and you are aware and present with it and it’s the same journey in a different vein in a lot of ways. You’ve talked about going into God, taking your truth and pairing it with God’s truth and then being subservient to that, which is a beautiful process. What do you see as what lies ahead for you in this journey and this process of transformation in this time of change and going through this journey of transformation? What do you see as the process that a way to ahead?

Specifically, I don’t know, but here’s what I do know because of the promise of the Lord. This is why we take our truth, our current reality to Him in confession and tell Him our truth to receive His truth and His perspective. David wrote in Psalm 27:13-14, “What would it become of me? Had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living? His word says that he refreshes and restores my soul. His word says that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” If what I’m experiencing right now isn’t good, I haven’t seen the end of the story. His word says that he knows the thoughts, blueprint, purpose for which I have been created. His word says in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you and I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” His word says that, “He’s preparing me for a good work.” His word says that, “He is faithful to complete that work.”

His word says that, what he’s prepared for me is better than what I could imagine, hope, dream, and think of. We have to be committed to the process because in the middle of my vulnerability with you, Thane, and saying, I am in a season where I don’t necessarily have all the answers to why things are happening, the way they are happening. The thing I will say is because of the character of my father is consistent I’ve learned to abide in His truth and His love. I’ve learned to surrender these false identities to receive the true identity for which he’s created me to live in. What I do know is that he’s preparing me to step into that, which he has already prepared for me.

Some people said, “What do you mean?” You can read this case study in 1st and 2nd Samuel. David was anointed to be King as a teenager, but between 1st Samuel Chapter 16 and 2nd Samuel early on was twenty years. There is time between anointing and appointing. He was appointed King, he was anointed King, as a young boy. He was appointed King at around age 37. In between the anointing and appointing is this word called time and process, where the Lord is preparing us for that, which he has prepared for us. I’m committed right now to this journey. If everyone who’s reading this is one thing I say, yes, I’ve been vulnerable. Yes, I’m in a process of transition. Yes, there’s been grief and pain. Yes, I almost quit the podcast, but because of the love of the father who calls me by name, I’ve come back to the place of recognizing, knowing that He’s called me and created me for His purposes.

Everything in life comes down to either fear or love. Click To Tweet

How could I quit on His purposes? I think it’s a stewardship of my life. That’s the sobering thing about this. The reason I didn’t quit is because what I’m doing is a calling. I want to steward that what she’s given me well. I don’t want to be led by the way I feel. As real and as painful as this season has been, and as confusing as it has been and with the loss, transition, change and the feelings of numbness and burnout that I have felt in the season, I will not be led by those things. I will be real about those things like I am now, but I will not be led by those things because he, who began a good work in me is faithful to bring it to pass. I say that in faith because my God is not a man that is capable of lying. The last time I checked, we were not created to build our own platform and our own kingdom. We were called to advance the work of the one who called us by name.

That’s what this is all about. Why didn’t I quit? Why am I here now? Why am I here sharing vulnerably? To say, you’re not alone and let it be known on record that the testimony of the Lord is sure and once again, “He who began a good work in me is faithful to bring it to pass.” Therefore, let us run. Let us receive strength. Let us receive that revival for our souls once again, that we may look to our father and say, “I judge you as faithful. I consider you righteous, faithful, the author and the finisher of my faith and for the joy that was set before you, you endured the cross so that I could experience freedom and life.” It’s interesting that scripture I alluded to is Hebrews 12:1 that says putting away all that distracts us from Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.

The question I have for all of us, reading this blog or joined in this conversation with Thane and me is this, “What’s distracting?” When we don’t bring reconciliation to that, which distracts us, we easily get depressed and discouraged, distraction uncontained can lead to depression and discouragement. I feel like one of the greatest tactics of the enemy is distraction. I could look at what’s not happening in my life and what’s happening for other people and I could get discouraged and depressed, “Lord, why am I experiencing this?” Let us not forget that the finest wine and the finest oil on the planet though, it starts as a seed and a piece of fruit is crushed. It’s left alone in the dark where the process of maturation takes place.

It’s never easy. I like to say all the time, “Words are cheapest. Conversation is fairly cheap, but the reality is beyond this conversation of where this conversation stem from is not cheap and it’s not easy.” What I love about all that you’re saying, and what you’ve shared is that you’re not preaching to people who are reading, you’re preaching to yourself this truth. It’s a truth that we need to preach ourselves, especially, in these seasons of suffering and that’s what’s real. It’s not, “Look at us on this pedestal with microphones.”

That’s not what this is about. This is, “I’m saying the truth that I’ve been appreciating myself every day in this season of struggle and of processing.” I love those questions of, “How could I quit on His purposes? How could I quit on furthering the kingdom, not my kingdom? What’s distracting you in that?” Those were powerful to sit with. I know they’re even spring a lot of interesting thought on my end. I’m curious as we bring this to a close, what do you see as your identity from God that you’re holding onto in this season?

One of the fundamental Identity names that He’s called me as strategist. Chief Strategist was the name I received from him in 2017 and then teacher in God’s mouthpiece, but son is the most valuable. As a son, I abide in the house. I’m in my father’s house and all that he has is mine. It reminds me of the story in Luke 15 and I remember when the one son goes off and squatters his inheritance and the elder brother is like, “That’s not fair.” The father is so gracious. That whole story is not about the rebellious son, it’s about the father. We see the father, heart of God in that and the father says to the son, “Son, all that I’ve ever had has always been yours.”

That’s why the identity name son means so much because He’s given me His Holy spirit. He’s given me the resources of heaven. Ephesians 1:3, in the Passion Translation says that, “Everything heaven contains has already been lavished upon us.” You can read Paul’s writing. It’s why Paul never pray, “Give me this or that.” Paul says, “Open my eyes to see that which has already been made available. Give me a spirit of wisdom, discovery and revelation to learn how to discern, understand and receive that, which you’ve already made available to me. Your joy, Jesus, is my delight.” I’ll say this, let us not forget the long game.

Denial is not faith. Denial is unbelief. Click To Tweet

This thing called life should be stewarded well. We’ll give account for our stewardship of that, which he’s given us, but everything we do here is planting seeds for eternity. The reason I want to steward this thing well is because I want to be trusted and I want to hear well done. Eternity is forever. I cannot wait to see my mom again. I miss her so much right now. When we play the long game and we realize that we’ve been created with and for any eternal purpose, that changes everything.

It’s a good chance that tomorrow morning, I’m going to wake up and I’m going to forget what I said here and I’m going to live like it’s not true because I’m going to be pissed off and frustrated about something, not working, but it’s moments like this, where I get to hang out. I have conversations with a good friend and be reminded by the power of the Holy Spirit to know that we’re in this for the long haul, we’re in this for an eternal purpose. We are in his story. God has created us for and with an eternal purpose. Heaven is an industrious place and I want to be trusted well. That’s why I don’t quit. I pray our readers don’t quit either.

That is the place to end, I believe, and begin again the work that God has put in front of us. Chris, this has been awesome. I’m grateful for your heart, words and testimonies you’ve shared. I know that all of us as humans can relate to those experiences and what you shared. I know that it will be helpful for you and I. You sharing and me knowing and processing together, that’s beautiful. If people want to find out about your show or get in touch, where would you direct them to?

The website is WinToday.tv. You can find the show Win Today with Christopher Cook in every podcast platform. I’d say the most popular are Apple Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, YouTube and whichever podcast platform you use, I’m there.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet, leave him a rating and review. We know it won’t happen, but it wouldn’t be fun. Until next time brother. It’s been awesome.

You’re a good friend and I’m privileged to have this conversation. I want to say to your readers, Thane is the real deal. You’re the real deal. I’m enjoying your friendship over the 1.5 years. It has been fun and I want you to know that you’re doing good work and I believe in you wholeheartedly.

Thank you, Chris. It means a lot and I appreciate your brotherhood as well. Until next time.

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UAC 163 | Community Roles

 

More than anything else, what we need now in this world is unity and community. The question is what role can you play to help bring this unity about? In this episode Thane Marcus Ringler takes us back to a recent keynote, where he shared a story that illustrates the role of community in promoting individual and collective welfare. There is sheer power in bringing our unique gifts together in a collective effort towards growth and transformation. It’s time we show up and ask ourselves what we can do to contribute.

Listen to the podcast here:

163: What Role Do I Have To Play

Have you been feeling a lack of hope lately or am I the only one? We all could use a little more hope. Hope is a spark that ignites our world, fuels our progress, and spurs us upward and onward, helping us stay the course. Hope is essential. Why does it feel like there is no hope? Why do we feel hopeless? What can we do about it? I believe hope is readily available to any and all who look for it, who strives to find it, who work towards embracing it? Hope is there if only we would search for it. If there was ever a time in my life that we needed hope, that time is now. This is why I wrote Catalysts For Hope. My hope for this book is that it can reignite your passion for life through renewed energy, optimism and empowered perspectives. We each had the ability to choose hope. It’s time we started doing it. You can get your very own copy by going to ThaneMarcus.com/Hope and signing up there. Here’s to hope.

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that takes living with intention in the tension. Life is filled with so many tensions and we believe the best way to live in the midst of those tensions is by infusing intentionality into all that we do or the reason why behind what we’re doing. We’re all in this process of becoming. Thank you for joining me and us on this process as Up And Comers in life. Hopefully, we’re a lifelong up and comers, lifelong learners. If you want more information about our show, we always are on the socials and online, @UpAndComersShow. Our website, TheUpAndComersShow.com. If you want to reach us, send us an email, TheUpAndComersShow@gmail.com or reach out on socials. It’s going to be a solo episode.

Before we get there, I wanted to share a few reminders. You might have heard these before but if you haven’t done them, I would encourage you to take action. We could use your help in a lot of ways and they are simple ways. The first is leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or iTunes. We are sitting shy of 100. We’d love to get over that triple-digit mark so The Up and Comers Show can be found by more people. It’s a great way to help us spread the word. It takes about two minutes or as long as it took for me to tell you to go do it. If you could help us, that’ll be amazing. Sharing this episode or the show with your community, your friends, that’s an awesome way. It could be one person thinking of one person this episode could impact or encourage and then shooting them a text with a link.

Finally, if you want to support us financially, that would mean the world. We are on Patreon. There are different tiers where you can donate and that would be a great way to help us keep pushing this mission and show forward. We need your help. The full show notes for this episode are going to be at the TheUpAndComersShow.com/Community. Thank you for all of you who have been on this journey. I couldn’t imagine doing this for a few years. We’ve got 60,000 downloads now. It’s been a fun ride, so thank you for tuning in and joining me. I feel very honored that you’re here. I want to share my gratitude before I dive in. I wanted to share a talk I gave at an event. I thought it’d be useful to share on this platform as well. It was at a local co-working space called Green Spaces here in Denver and they’re doing a startup September month at the co-working space. It was a lot of fun to meet them. It’s been great getting to be there and work alongside with other people that are pursuing difficult things and working hard together. Check them out if you’re in Denver.

A community is impossible without individuals playing their role within. Click To Tweet

Without further ado, let me get into this talk that I gave. The title of the talk is What Role Do I Have To Play? A couple of years ago, I was in the midst of launching my first book. In the midst of launching a new book and then growing a budding speaking career, the number one thing that you tend to do more than anything else is networking. I’m trying to reach out and connect with as many types and places and people possible. Anybody and everyone who could possibly support my endeavors and provide a platform for me to speak, the more the merrier. I was reaching out to them. Through this period, I got connected with a guy named Brian Larrabee. Brian Larrabee is a tall, winky, white guy with some shaggy black hair, a little scruff and always has a smile on his face. He’s one of the most lovable guys you’ll ever meet. He wouldn’t know, but he played professionally in different basketball circuits across the country.

Brian Larrabee was who I got connected with. I was told that Brian had this mentoring group and he could have an opportunity for me to speak. I reached out, we got connected, and ended up meeting up in this trendy event in LA, which as you can expect, is in a back alley. That’s well done, so hipster looking, and all the things. I walk up to this table, there are two couples and their kids sitting at a table. I get introduced and start getting connected with Brian, his lovely wife, Allyssa, and their beautiful baby boy. As you might know, if you were talking to anybody at a table and there’s a baby or an infant present, you have about 50% of the conversation that you normally would have had.

It’s about 50% focused on you and the other 50% focused on keeping the baby alive. It’s difficult to have full-on conversations. That was the nature of this one. I have about 50% conversations with Brian, get to give my spiel a little bit, and talk about what I’m doing, what I love to do, and hear a little bit about his. He said, “I don’t have a place for you to speak necessarily, but I do this mentoring program and we’d love for you to come and check it out.” I left that conversation feeling a bit disappointed that it was about 50% of the conversation that I wanted. Feeling a little bit discouraged because it wasn’t this outlet or opportunity to speak and feeling a little bit skeptical, I didn’t think that this chance of mentoring or coming alongside high school students could be something helpful for me or them.

I was quite the knucklehead in high school and I thought that most high schoolers are arrogant, hardheaded, and rebellious like I was so what’s the point in being involved with them. That was how I came away from that initial meeting with Brian Larrabee. As I thought back on this story, it’s a common experience for most of us as humans. If we’re honest, we get into a thing because of what that thing can do in serving, protecting, or promoting our own interests. It’s from self-centered or self-promoting place. Most of us are often guilty of this and even if you ask my wife about this, you can find out that I’m still guilty of this almost every day.

UAC 163 | Community Roles

Community Roles: What we need most right now is unity and community, which go hand in hand.

 

It’s something that we easily fall into. If you think about what our communities, our relationships in life, these outlets, avenues, or communities bring, a lot of times they bring energy, optimism, resources, connections, collaborations. The relationships in our life, they bring community. If the set and setting around our lives or our daily interactions whether it’s our work, church, family, or neighborhood, if they’re oriented around community, then what does that mean for you and for me? The beautiful thing is that handful of things that were mentioned that these places and communities provide is that they aren’t possible without you playing a role in it. They aren’t possible without you playing and being an integral part of it. A community is impossible unless there are individuals within that are making it into a community.

If you look at this word ‘community,’ what does community mean? One of the origins of community is a Latin word ‘communis.’ Communis means common. It’s a group of people holding something in common. This could be intent, beliefs, resources, preferences, location or an activity. There’s a lot of things that it could be, but it’s simply something in common, a group of people holding something in common. The thing I like about the word community is that phonetically, it’s a mashup of two words, common and unity. Common-unity, community. It’s a group of people united, pursuing unity around a common thing. If you zoom out and look at our climate, our world, and culture that we live in, what do we need most right now?

It’s blatantly obvious that what we need most right now is unity and community, which go hand-in-hand. There’s a beautiful thing that our pastor said and on this topic. He said, “Unity is only possible through difference.” This is an important point because as a kid especially, I thought that the world would be such a better place if only everyone else talk like me, thought like me, acted like me, or even looked like me. If only they could be like me, the world would be a better place. This is a very childish, foolish, naive and ignorant thing to think, but how often do we still fall into that mode of thinking? I know I can. We all can and we all do in many ways.

The fault in this way of thinking is that if everyone was like me then we’d be united. That’s not the truth. What that saying is we would all be the same which is not unity. It’s uniformity. Uniformity is not unity. We should not be pursuing sameness. It’s not good to pursue sameness. It’s good to pursue unity which is only possible through difference. By bringing a group of people together whether it’s in your job, church, neighborhood, community, whatever community that is that you’re a part of your family, there’s inevitably going to be some similarities that you share. Some things that you hold in common but if we’re honest, there are way more differences than we share in common. There are way more things that are different about each individual apart from that community than is similar.

Without difference, there would be no unity, only uniformity. Click To Tweet

Every single person’s life experience is vastly different than the rest of ours. By that unique experience, we come in and bring a difference that’s important to a community and bringing unity. Back to Brian Larrabee. When I was walking into that school, APEX Academy, the first day of mentoring, it’s located right off of Hollywood Boulevard, a couple of blocks. It’s in the area of town if you’re not from Los Angeles. Hollywood isn’t necessarily what you think it is. It isn’t some glitzy glamorous place where all the movie stars go. It’s much more of a rougher area than it is as a glamorous area. I was walking into APEX Academy, which is one of four high schools on this campus in Hollywood. I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Brian circles up all the mentors. We get to share a little bit about who we are, and what we’re doing.

He provides a framework. You can see we’re all a little sheepish and not knowing what’s going on or what to expect. After that little preparation, Brian throws into the classroom with a bunch of high schoolers. What I quickly began to realize was that what started out as a pursuit of my own interests, goals, ideas, or agenda turn into a realization that this environment had nothing to do with me. I was not the point of this environment, or should I have been. My role was simply to play an individual part of supporting, encouraging, and listening as an individual within a greater community. I had no idea that first day, when I walked into APEX Academy how much the next several years would shape my life, how it would grow me, encourage me, and expand my own views, perspectives and character as a person.

I know that they gave me way more than I could have ever given them. There’s a story and I thought I’d share because it points this out very fittingly. Brian, before each mentoring time together, would provide a leadership lesson. This was simply a framework for us to talk through the ideas with the students and each other. These particular days, leadership lesson was on gratitude. As Brian framed it, he said, “Gratitude is finding the good in any situation, in any time, in any place, in any scenario. There’s always some good to be found. There’s always an opportunity to find the good and that is the power of gratitude. That is what gratitude is.” This is a powerful lesson. I was excited to get into small groups and dive into it with the guys.

We broke into small groups, girl to girls, guys to guys. One of the students, we’ll name him Adam for this story. Adam was a natural-born leader. He was a student that all the kids looked up to, both men and women. He was one of the best players on the football team and had the biggest heart even if he’s a little rougher on the exterior, he had the biggest heart of gold. Adam was a little bit somber, a little downcast sustain. We weren’t sure why. We hadn’t heard from him yet but as we got in the small group, a couple of us opened up and then Adam decided to open up and share what was going on. He said the night before, his sister had been shot.

UAC 163 | Community Roles

Community Roles: We need spaces and places where we can unite around a common goal while bringing in our unique gifts together for the collective good.

 

She was in critical condition in the emergency room and they weren’t sure if she was going to live. He broke down and was crying. You could tell that he was very sad, emotional, upset, scared and angry. We sat there stunned. We were shocked. We didn’t know what to say. What do you say? Where is the good to be found in that? This was a situation or time when there wasn’t any good to be found. There wasn’t some gratitude to be sought after. All that we could do was sit there, listen, empathize, cry, and ultimately pray with him. That’s what he needed. That’s what we needed.

As I think about the time at Good City Mentors in the last several years being a part of it, I wonder how would it have been different if I had gotten what I initially wanted, if I had been able to pursue my own interests, ideas, or agenda instead of coming in and being a part of the greater community? I can guarantee that it wouldn’t have been life-changing for anyone there especially not for me. What is the point of all this? The point is this. We grow in community and in pursuing unity. Careers aren’t life-changing, but the community is.

What we need in this time more than any other is each other. We need spaces and places where we can unite around a common goal while bringing in our unique gifts together for the collective good. We need community and we need unity. The question I want to pose to you in this time together is, what role do I have to play? How can I bring unity in community? How can I pursue growth collectively as much as individually? How can I do that here in now in my local community, in my neighborhood, in my office, in my church, in my friendships, in my circle? Thank you.

This is Thane here following-up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering, or even some sermons I’m enjoying, InThane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of InThane is released the first Sunday of the month. Again, this is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

 

We are no better than anyone else, but we have an individual calling and gifting, which makes us unique and different than everyone else. For Ben Courson, that calling is to ignite God’s hope in the hearts of his listeners. Hope is essential. It is a spark that ignites our world, fuels our progress, and spurs us upward and onward, helping us stay the course. On today’s podcast, Ben joins Thane Marcus Ringler to share how, stemming from his own bout with suicide and depression, he is pursuing his purpose of helping people rise out of despair. Ben is a bestselling author, a TV and radio personality, an international speaker, the Founder of Hope Generation, and the senior pastor at Applegate Christian Fellowship.

Listen to the podcast here:

162: Ben Courson: Flirting With Darkness: Hope For Depression, Pursuing Your Purpose, And Being Unabashedly Yourself

This is a show about learning how to live a good life. We believe that takes living with intention in the tension. A catchy mantra that means we live with intentionality infusing a reason why into all that we’re doing that is this show and that is what we are about. Thank you for being a fellow Up and Comers on this journey because we’re all in the process of becoming. We’re excited to share with you a new interview. Before I get there, I want to remind you that you have a few ways to help us out and keep this show going. If you’ve enjoyed this show, if you’ve benefited from it, if you’ve gained insight or wisdom or it’s been an encouragement in some way, we would love to have you give back and support us. There are three easy ways to do that.

The first is leaving us a rating on iTunes or Apple Podcasts. We’ve got almost 100 ratings, which is cool. I’m going to read a review by the person’s name is Rockhard543 saying, “What an amazing show, such topical and thought-provoking interviews that always leave me inspired to do better. Thane has such an excellent interview style. After each show, I feel as though I’ve learned so much about many interesting perspectives of various topics that it always makes me wish I had time to read all over again. Love, love.” Thank you for that sweet message and those kind words. I appreciate it. I’m trying to do my best and to hear affirmation is always encouraging.

If you want yours read on air, go leave one now. That’s an easy, painless one-minute task that can help us out. Another great way is simply sharing this episode either on the socials, you can tag us @UpAndComersShow, or sending a text to a couple of friends that came to mind when you’re reading to this interview and said, “That could benefit or encourage or impact this person.” It’s going to be meaningful and they’re going to appreciate hearing from you. Lastly, a great way to support us is financially. If you are able to financially support us at this time, it would mean the world. We do have a Patreon account where we have a bunch of different membership levels that you can sign up for monthly donations anywhere from being our teammate for $2 a month, buying us a coffee, buying us a meal, or helping us pay the bills. All of these are different tiers of investment that would help us keep this community going.

Go over to Patreon.com and type in The Up & Comers Show or you can go to Patreon.com/theupandcomersshow. Lastly, if you have a business and you’d like to partner, definitely reach out to us by email at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. We’re always looking for partners that align with our message. Reach out now. After the lengthy housekeeping, it is time to talk about this episode. This episode is featuring Ben Courson. Who is Ben? He is a bestselling author, a TV and radio personality, an international speaker, Founder of Hope Generation, and the senior pastor at Applegate Christian Fellowship. He has been featured on Fox, Hallmark Channel, TBN, ABC Family, and other mainstream media outlets. His TV show is broadcasted in 180 countries and his national radio show airs on over 400 stations.

He travels the globe, speaking of God’s hope and igniting revival in the hearts of his audiences. Stemming from his own bout with suicide and depression, Ben created Hope Generation aiming to help those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts to those who’ve lost hope and meaning amid their success. The ministry is shouting about the God of hope from the mountaintops to help people rise out of despair. Hope Generation is a play word that’s both a personal and collective appeal generating hope in God and building a generation of hope. That is a mission of Hope Generation. This was such a fun interview and such a fun time with Ben. I feel akin to him. He is an incredible speaker. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the skill he’s developed over the hours and hours of time he spent. I think of him as a King of the one-liners.

If there’s a catchy one-liner phrase, it will come from him. If you listen to him at any interview he does or sermon he gives, he has a million one-liners, and they’re catchy and memorable which makes it easier to learn as you listen. In this conversation, we covered a lot of things especially facing suicidal depression for ten years and his journey with that. We talk about mental health in our current society, ways to overcome depression, throwing yourself into your craft and purpose, the 10,000-hour rule, social media, and the challenge that brings, suffering well, filling the world with hope and so much more. He’s an inspiration and a guy that will get you pumped up a height man in many ways, but a deep intellect. You’re going to glean a lot from this conversation and interview. Please enjoy this conversation this interview with Ben Courson.

Up and Comers, have you been feeling a lack of hope lately or am I the only one? We all could use a little more hope. Hope is a spark that ignites our world fuels our progress and spurs us upward and onward helping us stay the course. Hope is essential. Why does it feel like there is no hope? Why do we feel hopeless? What can we do about it? I believe hope is readily available to any and all who look for it, who strive to find it, and who work towards embracing it. Hope is there if only we would search for it. If there was ever a time in my life that we needed hope, that time is now. This is why I wrote Catalysts For Hope. My hope for this book is that it can reignite your passion for life through renewed energy, optimism, and empowered perspectives. We each have the ability to choose hope. It’s time we start doing it. You can get your own copy by going to ThaneMarcus.com/hope and signing up there. Here’s to hope.

Ben Courson, welcome to the show.

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

Flirting with Darkness: Building Hop in the Face of Depression

 

Thane, you’re a legend. I’m glad we’re finally hanging out through shows, but hanging out nonetheless.

For context for people, when I was preparing for this, I knew the level of energy that you were going to be bringing. I went across the street to the local cafe steam and picked up another cup of coffee because I’m like, “I need a level up to match Ben.”

I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never had alcohol. A lot of my friends drink and there’s a debate among my friends like, “Would you go insane and have a ridiculous amount of energy, or would it have the opposite effect whether it’s not or coffee?” It would calm me down. I’ve only had coffee a few times in my life.

What was that experience like?

I hated the taste. I can drink it, but there’s no point. I know you get the acquired taste for a lot of people. I can’t get into it. This is the drink of choice, DASANI purified water, a gallon a day.

That’s such a great life choice right there. My wife has been on a big kick of a hundred ounces a day and that is a great goal. We do not drink enough water myself included. Kudos to you for that discipline. I want to hear before we dive into some more serious things. One of the things that a lot of people may not know is this addition to your life that’s named Fridge. How in the world did you land on the Fridge and tell people about it?

I can’t believe you’re bringing this up because Fridge got sick and he is leaving messes everywhere. He is going to the bathroom on everything. For somebody as obsessive-compulsive as I am, it’s gnarly. He’s an amazing cat. He’s a Persian cat. An abominable, alien-looking white fluff ball. He’s at the vet. I hope he gets better because I want him to feel healthy and I don’t want him leaving little Fridge packages everywhere. Like his name, he’s white, chill and eats all the time.

He is a container for food. He’s a fridge. I named him Fridge and I hope this isn’t offensive to any audience but I went on Google and I Googled fat kid names and I saw a Fridge on there and I knew. It wasn’t even like second-guessing. Do you remember the Fridge Perry from the Chicago Bears? He was 300 pounds running back. They put a lineman guy out running back and he plowed over everyone and scored touchdowns. That’s what Fridge is. He’s going to be one behemoth, mammoth creature, as he keeps eating, he eats nonstop. He’s going to be one fat little creature.

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

In talking to some people in context for this conversation, to give people a little flavor of Ben, I often asked people how they describe the guest in two words, and here are some of the words they used: adventurously funny, ambitious, reckless, crazy, sandy and inspiring. The sandy has a sense of wise. That sounds like a good time and someone you want to hang out with, but if you had to highlight a few or one in particular, what is one of the wildest adventures or memories that were descriptive of yourself in these adventures?

One of them I’m doing is Navy SEAL training. I’m reading a book called Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. I’m also getting trained by Chad Williams. He was in SEAL Team One and SEAL Team Seven. He wrote a book called SEAL of God. I go to California almost every week and COVID brought me there because I live in Oregon. When I’m in California, we’re going to do another round of Navy SEAL training like 800 reps. You put a chain around your body while you’re doing pull-ups and weighted vest and Atlas tosses and like 3.5-hour crazy SEAL sessions. That has brought me joy. The opioid receptors are activated in your brain because of the endorphin release.

I would say one of the crazier things we’ve done is we explored the Matterhorn and did jump kicks at the Matterhorn in Switzerland. We did these flips off this dilapidated building into an ocean in the Mediterranean Sea in France. My friend stung by jellyfish. I was at a waterfall and the scorpion jumped on me. Me, my friends, Michael, and Cody who is a professional scooter rider and Gracie and another friend went up to these triple waterfalls in New Zealand. We’re surrounded by a forest of glow-worms. We’ve had some fun adventures. We’re about that.

What would you say is on the top of your hit list in adventures to come?

If you want to come, Thane, you are invited. I want to go to North Korea.

That is lofty to see.

I already have been talking with Chad the SEAL about going to North Korea. I don’t know if I can get in but I’m trying. I know somebody in DC who can hopefully validate and activate our passport to get in, but it’s the most dangerous country on earth. I want to skate North Korea and make a short film there.

When did this idea first pop up?

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

A couple of years ago I had a dream at night that I was running through the jungles of North Korea and I loved it in my dream. It’s like inception planted in my subconscious. Years past, I read my cousin’s book about him being the first guy to surf the waves of Yemen during the war-torn Iraqi War. The most dangerous place in the Middle East that you could go to. He was surfing in Yemen. I texted him about this and I’m like, “Do you want to go to North Korea?” He’s like, “Yes.” The question is if we can get in. I got serious about that after I read my cousin’s book about him doing something gnarly and I thought, “What’s the gnarliest thing you can do now? Where’s the most dangerous country on earth?” North Korea is the next goal. I don’t want to talk about the game about it. I love the doing, not the talking about it. I am trying to get in.

Hearing a little bit of the backstory here, even when you shared with the SEAL training I relate much with that. One of the things I love more than anything in life is fitness because of how it makes you feel and the energy it brings to life. Funny enough, I woke up and my left bicep for some reason was strained. I went to yoga with my wife which core power yoga can be intense on the sculpts. I got wrecked by it and I was sore. I was depressed because I’m like, “This means that I’m going to have a week where I can’t move. I can’t exercise. I can’t practice golf and I’ve got this tournamentI’m going to play.” I was reminded of how much life exercise brings. It’s awesome hearing you speak to that.

One of the things that a lot of people will hear one side of you and not necessarily recognize the other and one of the background interviews said is that most people don’t know how much of a lighthearted goofball you are. The opposite is true. A lot of people may know how lighthearted you are, but he was highlighting the pastoral side of you and how much you care and minister to people. On the other end, you have this lighthearted goofball side. You have these two roles that you facilitate through your life. How would you describe your personality within those roles and how it interplays in your daily life?

I don’t believe the universe is comprised of duality as much as infinite complexity, both metaphysically, astrophysics, and universally when you’re talking about whether it’s astrophysics or quantum mechanics. I believe things are complex. That’s why I studied the Enneagram. I’m a 3 and a 7 if you can do that which is driven in. I don’t necessarily always prescribe to the C. G. Jung, Myers-Briggs colors and numbers strain, because it’s a little reductionist. We’re complex beings and I’m intensely serious but I’m also crazy. I don’t think those two are antithetical antonyms. They can live in a symbiotic relationship. I’m serious about my mission, which is simply to give hope to the world that sometimes I get caught up in the intensity of that. I need to unwind and have nonsensical conversations with my friends.

I always love reading dead people and that’s intense whether it’s like a manual contour, John Walker, Thomas Aquinas, and books I’ve been tackling during quarantine, these heavy metaphysical books. When I’m with my friends, I don’t always want to get in deep existential navel-gazing conversations. It’s like a muscle I’m working it that then I want to have entirely nonsensical conversations about the stupidest, silliest, we’ll make up words. We’ll talk about the dumbest things because that empowers me to then go back and do the heavy lifting. That’s how I would identify as an ambivert mixture of introvert and extrovert. I get charged by both. I go back and forth like my cat, Fridge. That’s why I love him among other reasons. He likes to be with me, but then he likes to go off on his own.

The description that you gave I connect with that deeply because that is almost identical to how I operate as a human as well, which is fascinating. I am a 3 wing 4 but also relate highly with sevens. I also gain life from an extrovert and introvert. It’s fascinating to hear you give that breakdown. I resonate deeply. I think you do highlight the complexity of the world we live in and that’s what this show is all about. You are one of the most outspoken on is hope. If we go back to the earlier years of Ben, would you say that you’ve always had this multidimensional personality? Where do these character traits, this energy, and this drive or this desire come from for you?

We inherit 50% of our spiral DNA ladder from our dad and 50% of our mom. My dad is a serious student of the Bible. He has a little bit more of those puritanical predispositions. He’s an incredible Bible scholar. I inherited a lot of the serious mind-stuff from my dad. My mom is the most joyful, hopeful person I’ve ever met. I inherit a lot of the sacred optimism for my mom. That combination has a biological component to it. I also believe in neuroplasticity that through route and repetition, we can reframe our pain and retrain our brain to run its grooves in certain directions.

Over the years, I’ve been close to the statistic of struggling with suicidal depression for ten years. When I got healed from that, it became my passion and my zeal to then spread hope to the world. When you’re talking about Sputnik 5 with Russia and the Coronavirus, the COVID-19 vaccine, think if we didn’t find a vaccine for COVID-19, but we found this rare vegetable that if you eat it, you’ll never inherit it. You would shout the thing from the rooftops. You’d be like, “We found the panacea, and the cure-all. I’ve got to tell everybody about this.”

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

I know more people have died from the Coronavirus than all the Americans combined that died during the Vietnam War, so that’s a lot of people. What people don’t always realize is that a study shows nearly half of Americans are reporting that the Coronavirus has impacted their mental health. Mental health is such an issue right now that once every 40 seconds, someone around the world will kill himself or herself. This is a disease. This is a pandemic. This is an epidemic. Suicide in 2017 was the second leading cause of death in my age group and I found this cure, this God of Hope that I then want to shout from the rooftops. That’s what curated my passion to spread hope to the world.

That’s powerful and such an internal motivator. When you talk about the suicidal depression that you had, when did this first start for you? What was this early experience of it like?

I was happy-go-lucky in high school, but I started teaching and preaching at a young age. In third grade, I gave my first sermon and at sixteen years old, I began traveling and speaking.

In third grade, your first sermon. What was this first sermon like?

Everybody was asking me. It was about Ezekiel Dry Bones. All I did was read this story. My uncle who’s a youth pastor asked me to teach that day to share a message and I shared the story of the Dry Bones. I read it and sat down. Maybe it’s the best Bible study I ever gave because I didn’t muddy it up with my commentary. It’s literate accuracy. I read the story. When I was sixteen years old, that’s when it became a regular habit for me to teach. I started a Bible study with my friends and started traveling outside of my home church to speak. At eighteen years old, I became a pastor at a megachurch. I was teaching people three times older than me and I was a senior in high school at the time. It was my senior year of high school when I left the happy-go-lucky life behind and started training to be a pastor and becoming a pastor that I started to get depressed because it felt like working at a funeral home for me.

I thought that in reading John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and some of the elder writings of Halcyon days of yore and religiosity that I had to be the super somber, serious sober, sane. I wanted to do handstands, play basketball and stuff. I thought I had to create this image and projected to the world that wasn’t true to who I was created cognitive dissonance was super unhappy. I started to stand in solidarity with Oliver Wendell Holmes, the American Supreme Court Justice, who said, “I might’ve entered the ministry of certain clergymen. I knew how it looked and acted like undertakers.” Robert Louis Stevenson is an author of Treasure Island. He went to church and wrote in his journal, “I went to church now and I’m not depressed.” He wrote it as if it was a miracle that you can go to church and not be depressed. Even Swinburne wrote, “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean, the world has grown grey from thy breath.” Talking about Jesus like turning the world gray.

That’s what I felt ministry had become for me. I needed to be more serious or less energetic or be who the generation before me was because the church has been around for so long. That caused a lot of depression. I had big dreams and I had no way of seeing those come to fruition and the identity crisis of discovering who I was. All of those things manifested existential ontological despair and not knowing who I was.

I feel like that is universal in many ways. This idea that when we enter into space for the first time as a profession or some type of activity that we’re doing and for me, it was golf. You try to be something you’re not in order to fit what you think the mold should be or the expectations of the people around you or what the image you want to portray when we just need to be ourselves. That’s a hard dance especially when you’re new to any field, whether it be golf or pastoral or preaching ministry. Do you think that’s a common thing that people face?

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

Ken Kesey wrote this book called One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In the book, the character rebels against the system, and in that case, it’s a mental hospital. He’s rebellious that they do a frontal lobotomy on him. They take away his ability to function and think because he had whipped the system over and over again by brazenly refusing to be what the establishment ordered. What happened is at the end of the book, the real climax of this classic anti-establishment novel is Ken Kesey writes, “The courage to be oneself is the bravest thing a person can do.” It’s also one of the rarest things. It’s nice when you hear on the Disney Channel, “Be yourself.” It sounds fluffy, but if you do that, there is no greater courage than the absolute bravery to be exactly who you are. That takes courage and bravery. It’s no longer a greeting card. It’s now your life’s bloody battle.

The reason why it takes much courage and we often don’t realize it is because you are risking the real you being rejected, not the fake you. If the fake you get rejected, then it’s like, “I’m more like this anyways. They don’t know me.” When you’re you, that’s when it gets risky and that’s where it takes more courage. It’s fascinating how this works.

Jim Carrey struggled with manic depression and people were shocked when he talked about being on Prozac. He talked about how he was trying to put forward this avatar to the world he called it where he was trying to project an image to the world that wasn’t who he was and that was his body telling him, “You’re not happy. You’re depressed. You’d have to stop playing this role.” That’s one of the chief causes of depression is trying to be somebody else. When Saul put his armor on David and David found it cumbersome and unwieldy, he said, “I’m going to go with my sling and my stone.” That’s when he slayed Goliath. When the King is putting his armor on you, you better wear it. If you want to win the battle, you better cast it off and take your sling and stone.

As you think about the journey of those ten plus years, what were the different phases of seasons or cycles of that depression like for you?

I would take my friend’s motorcycle and I didn’t have a license. I didn’t even know how to ride the full thing. I dirt bike to middle school and stuff, but I would ride it without a helmet super-fast, like flirting with death. I’d go up to one of the tallest buildings where I live and I would walk on the railing. It was like a makeshift lethal tight rope. I took up a knife one time to kill myself and fortunately God stayed my hand and during that season of time, I think what was oppressive about it is the future seems swallowed by an infinite gray.

I couldn’t see anything akin to a bolder tomorrow or a brighter horizon or a better future. All I saw was nothing but despair and the nihilistic, entropic, second law of thermodynamics. Everything is going from order to disorder and greater chaos. What helped me through that season and you’re going to relate to this how your personality is from what I’ve been able to tell is one of the saving things for me was something called the 10,000-hour rule.

In the 10,000-hour rule, Malcolm Gladwell lays this out in his book, Outliers: Chapter 2, but found that anybody who becomes world-class at a craft has to practice four hours a day, five days a week for ten years or eight hours a day, five days a week for five years. Practice it for 10,000 hours, whether you’re talking about hockey players, pianists, cellists, master criminals, fiction writers or whomever you’re talking about. You have to practice for 10,000 hours.

When the Beatles came to America on The Ed Sullivan Show with the British Invasion, everyone thought they were these mop-top boys from Liverpool at the X-Factor, when they had played more live shows than most bands do in their entire career before they ever came to the US. They were playing at a club that was run down in Hamburg, Germany, eight hours a night, and seven days a week. It was a brutal practice. They were terrible before that club but they were amazing by the time they left.

Science is meant to be complementary and not contradictory to the Divine design. Click To Tweet

That’s what one biographer says. When they come to America and they take the US by storm, and it’s called the British Invasion, it’s because they had already played more live shows the most minutes doing their whole career before they ever came to the US. I knew I had a calling. I knew I had a mission to write and to speak. Instead of crying, I found myself sweating and that was the cure. A lot of the cure to crying is to start sweating.

Instead of waiting for opportunities to roll up, I decided I’m going to roll up my sleeve. The classic phrase, “Faith can move mountains, but God sometimes wants to hand you a shovel.” That was it for me. Sweat is fat crying. I started to feel like, “This is hard. This is hell. This is Navy SEAL time. Let’s Navy SEAL Team Six, MI5 DEFCON won this thing.” I started practicing. I bought these three timers. I collected 11,073 hours in five years into the craft of communication, speaking, writing, studying and that was huge.

It gave me a purpose in the midst of the pain. I would say as a byproduct side note, by the way, for people who are reading this, if they’re struggling with depression, one of the best things you can do is throw yourself into a craft. Throw yourself into your purpose. Thane, I’m sure you have a lot of thoughts on this because you don’t just become a professional golfer and get the level of excellence that you achieve by crying that you’re not the level you want to be at.

That’s the way I phrase it is taking ownership and never settling. That’s the big rally cry that I’m all about. It’s the same principles at play but I’m curious is with that, there’s a lot of people reading that this is a real battle. I haven’t experienced it. I haven’t faced it personally. I can’t relate as well but for someone like you who has gone through a decade-plus of this experience, what are other practical things that you’ve found that are helpful for others, finding your purpose, throwing yourself into a craft that’s huge? Are there any others that you would give to people as tools to fight this?

There are times when it’s bad and you should not be ashamed to seek professional help. I have a therapist who was huge in getting me through this. I was the most skeptical person of psychology and psychiatry. I liked studying it by way of books, but as far as trusting it, I’m like Jean-Paul Sartre, an existentialist question, whether the subconscious even exists. We’re talking about this subconscious world that might be a figment of creative thinking and imagination.

At the bidding of my sister and her husband see this wonderful person and they’re healthy people are like, “You need to do this, Ben.” I got to the point where it felt like a demon from hell lit my brain from another world on fire with a lighter from the ’80s. The things of consciousness were my daily bread to the point where he was getting worse. A counselor who used talk therapy helped me through this. For some people that might look like SSRI. I know that’s a controversial thing, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. It might be antidepressants for some people.

Before I get into more practical stuff, in some cases, seeking professional help can be integral to healing. Paul didn’t heal people with his sweatbands and aprons in the book of Acts. He brought a doctor with him. We can amalgamate the homeopathy of the East with the pharmacology of the West. As far as some other practical things to do is bear walks. I would say that’s the biggest thing for me. I would go on these long walks and I didn’t know at the time why I knew that they were healing me. I’d go on these walks at night and talk to God. Later on, I found out that scientific research revealed that when you talk to God about your hopes, fears, and dreams, it has the same effect on your brain as therapy.

In fact, like neuro biologically what’s happening is when you pray to a loving God, your amygdala loses its power. You don’t have as much fear, anger, and stress. You develop richer, thicker, gray matter in your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for creative thinking. You get more blood flow to the anterior cingulate cortex, which gives you empathy and compassionate and warm and fuzzy feelings. You’re not going to put someone on your hit list. You put on your prayer list. You start to predict people and free yourself from the dungeon of bitterness. I love how God told Abraham to walk before me.

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What happens is you enlarge your hippocampus, which is your seat of memory. There’s stuff going on in your brain when you go on prayer walks and that was one of the biggest things like talking out loud about my hopes, fears, and dreams. Some people say, “What if I look crazy if I’m talking out loud while walking down the street?” My thing is, I go at night. I look like the schizophrenic person walking the streets and blend in or put a Bluetooth in your ear and it looks like you’re talking on the phone.

What I love about this is how much God’s design stacks up to man’s discoveries of God’s design, a.k.a. science. They’re not in competition there and it’s a complementation type of thing. It helps us understand the way that God’s designed us. It’s powerful when we start combining these perspectives and show that they meet in the middle.

Science is God’s footnotes for creation. The Bible tells us why and science tells us how. In fact, William of Ockham and Roger Bacon about 700 years ago invented science and they were Franciscan monks. They were friars. Christians invented the scientific method. The idea that we’re supposed to be at war with science is absurd. A lot of my work is devoted to science. I want to give a lot of messages about how science is meant to be complementary and not contradictory to divine design.

Before we move past this, I want to come back to what you mentioned with therapy. That’s something I think in the Christian world that’s often blacklisted which is completely hilarious and somewhat ironic. If you’re playing a sport, if I’m playing golf and I don’t try to go get help on my swing from a swing coach, is that wise, or is that foolish? There’s a little bit of both, but mainly it’s foolish because there’s a resource at my disposal that I’m not taking advantage of especially if I need help in that. We all need help. My wife and I talk about this are that we are pro premarital counseling, but after you get married, then you’re like, “You’re good.” It shouldn’t be, it should be the other way around. What is this with this stigma around therapy and counseling within the Christian world?

We have to debunk this myth that for some reason it’s evil to go to a counselor. I have no clue how people even biblically justify this. You could pull verses like empty philosophy from Colossian or something, but it is a stretch. What the Bible says, “It’s in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” The more counselors I can have, the better and the safer I’ll be. This idea that there are some stigma or taboo effects in an accident attached to seeking therapy and counsel is utterly absurd. People do not realize how many of our credenda, creeds and mantras are built on the traditions of men, but not the laws of God.

Jesus had to confront the religious order of its day for doing that exact same thing. The reality is, counseling can be a good thing. I went to a psychiatrist before my present counselor and it did not help at all. When they’re quoting a book at you, it’s like Freud in Oedipus complex, Adlerian power grabs or Frankel’s logotherapy or Jungian dream analysis. I feel like a target. You’re quoting the book at me and he called me little Ben to do a Freudian Oedipus analysis in my situation, which I understand what he was doing. The problem is I’d read up on all this stuff and I’m like, “I could read this at a book.”

That’s why I’m a big fan of the talk cure because this is what the Bible says in Galatians, “Bury each other’s burdens and bear one another burdens.” My counselor currently loves God but what I didn’t need was more Band-Aid Bible verses. I studied the Bible since I was in my mother’s womb. I’m sure my dad was like preaching it. I was attending church in my mother’s womb. That talk cure is important and talking through things. It’s big and healing. I haven’t had to go to counsel or therapy in quite a while, relatively, but I’m not afraid to go back to it when it’s needed.

We all need to hear that more. I want to come back to what you brought up with Jesus’s ways versus religion and the church. I’m curious to hear more from you on that. Before we get there, you mentioned the 10,000-hour rule and your deep dive into your calling, which was to write and to speak, to become a communicator. I want to hear a little bit more about your process as you approach this. You had this goal of 10,000 hours. What was your process in pursuing that over those years?

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Before Billy Graham was preaching in stadiums, preach to alligators. That’s a true story. He was in Florida at Bob Jones College somewhere around eighteen years old. He didn’t have Crusade side stadiums to speak to so he started out preaching to alligators. Instead of waiting for an opportunity, I decided to focus on my ability. That’s where a lot of people get confused and depressed is, they’re waiting for an opportunity when instead you have a rare opportunity to hone your ability. That’s what you need to focus on. Not one or the door’s going to open up. No, if you do your work, you’ll never ultimately be out of it. If you’re faithful with the few things God puts before you, you’ll be entrusted with rulership over many cities.

I know Jesus was talking about the kingdom of heaven and the idea of justice and judgment, but the same is true even in this life. What it looked like for me is I’d take my timer and I’d walk and rehearse sermons. I memorize over and over again scriptures. Our most effective video on YouTube is me quoting scripture for almost seven minutes and going on a one-take walk, quoting scripture. That didn’t happen. People are like, “How do you memorize?” Everybody can do that. The Talmidim by 10 to 14 years old, these Jewish students in Jesus’s time would learn the entire Old Testament. How did they do that? It’s like when I was in middle school, all of my junior high friends knew all the lines, the Dumb and Dumber. You ask any twelve-year-old girl and they know all the lyrics.

Think about how many words we’re using to have this conversation. We are capable of profound memorization. We memorize different stuff. A lot of times, it’s who the social media influencers are. I didn’t have social media for you. I was the last one to the game. I got social media after the 10,000-hour rule, didn’t have any of that stuff. What I focused on is honing this craft and this ability. What that looked like is in the morning I would write. I would get up in the morning and start timing my writing. A lot of times, 2 to 3 hours of writing in the morning, I timed that, and then I would read. I’d make sure to read a minimum of 4 to 6 hours reading and writing every day. On top of that, I would give ten sermons a week to actual audiences are on the radio or whatever.

It’s sick that now we have a TV show and all this stuff, but it didn’t start that way. I cannot emphasize this enough for whoever’s reading, whatever your craft is, you say yes to the opportunities that everyone else is turning down. If you’re too big for the small things, you will be too small for the big thing. What I did is I remember speaking at a homeless shelter. To this day, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to speak out. I’m a twenty-something at the time with no experience and these homeless people are reading to me speak and they would criticize me while I was speaking. They would shout something while I was speaking. I can’t tell you how huge that was for me. Another hard thing was high school classes because high schoolers are not going to give you any fluff.

They’re not interested. They’ll put their head down while you’re talking in class because I don’t like teaching classes. I like high energy crowd situations, not like classrooms. I was doing the classroom. I remember I would speak sometimes at old folk’s place where I talk fast and you can imagine how hard that is for them to keep up with what I’m trying to do. I would go when the opportunity arose to go to another country and speak with a translator. That hones another part of your craft. Every time you say a sentence, you have to pause for a second and that changes your brain flow. You’re working different muscles in your craft. All of that was big.

You would be shocked by how much opportunity is at your fingertips. Whoever is reading, if you open your eyes, if you have eyes to see it and that’s what the process looked for me is I was accepting everything that everyone else didn’t want to do, that they turned down. Like little kids classes, I’ll do it. I want to hone every part of my craft. That was big. Not only for honing the craft, but there’s something beautiful about having control over something in your life. My craft was the one thing I could control. I couldn’t control a lot of other things, but you can control how hard you practice and that gave me a lot of joy.

To speak to the seven-minute video, I ended up watching that in some research. I was blown away by seven-plus minutes on a walk nonstop. That was the feat for anyone, even though it has come with a lot of work. I love how you highlighted that it doesn’t happen by chance and overnight, and then it takes a ton of dedication and hard work. I love saying yes to the opportunities as they come massively important. One of the things I want to hear a little bit more about before we leave this, because what’s coming out Flirting with Darkness, your newest book. I got to read through it and was encouraged by and I think it will encourage and speak to a lot of people, especially on this topic of depression. When you look at our current society and what we’re facing in our world, what do you see as external influences that are fueling this mental health epidemic?

Social media. That’s not my opinion. That’s what the research is telling us. It comes down to social media as being one of the chief factors. I could implement other things like we become as luxurious as a culture. I was skateboarding with some friends near Santa Barbara and we skated it into a homeless camp and they were watching Netflix in their tents. I’m like, “Only in America do homeless people have Netflix subscriptions.”

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Even if you’re suffering downward mobility in this free enterprise economic system, what’s happening is we live in such a luxuriant, affluent, opulent culture that we don’t have to fight to survive like previous generations. We don’t have a Vietnam, World War II, World War I and breadlines. I know our GDP fell by 32.9% economically, but those aren’t breadlines. We’re not there yet. Some of that luxurious quality has caused us to move out when we’re 45 playing World of Warcraft at our mom’s basement, eating Sour Patch Kid’s and Doritos.

Tying this into the 10,000-hour rule by the age of 21, the average American has 10,000 hours of practice into video games. We don’t know what to fight for because we’ve already seemingly won as a culture. The biggest thing is social media. It’s not that we compare ourselves with other people and it’s not that we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reels. I can’t emphasize how important this is. It’s when we do it. It’s not that we compare, it’s that we compare at unfair intervals.

When am I watching somebody’s Instagram story? It’s when I’m stuck at a red light when I’m bored. When I feel a little lull due to homework and I’m watching your party and you’re doing the same to me. It’s when we’re watching the Instagram story. It’s changing our brain. We have an attention span that’s less than that of a goldfish. We plot our phone once every six minutes, 150 times per day. That’s why I can’t emphasize enough how important it is sometimes for your mental health, not to turn your phone on until later.

If you need to use your phone for other stuff, put it on airplane mode or do not disturb, or hopefully, you have an iPad or something where you don’t have to be seeing all these messages or social media alerts. What research has shown us scientifically is that when you hear the buzz of your phone, it has the same effect on your brain as gambling and here’s why. A dopamine loop is triggered in your brain. When you’re gambling, if you go to a casino and when you pull the machine levers, when you put a coin in, you don’t know if you’re going to win or if you’re going to lose. It’s the thrill, it’s the rush.

Like, “Is this a win? Is this a loss?” It’s addicting. The same thing happens when you hear the buzz of your phone. It’s the gambling mechanism because you don’t know if it’s a good text or a bad text, the nice comment or mean comment, a thumbs up or thumbs down on your video. It’s addictive and because of this, it’s causing our generation to become walking zombies. It’s zapping us of our joy because we compare. It’s zapping our focus and our concentration to bigger goals. It’s making us suck. We’re becoming softer so we don’t know how to handle life’s trials and tribulations when they come our way. Social media for me is a tool. It’s not something that I want to control. Social media has inaugurated a new advent that has never before been seen in human history and that is for the first time in the history of humanity, we gather as a mass crowd of people with no purpose.

It used to be when you would gather in a marketplace you would go to hear a speech, or you would go to see a play. This is the first time in human history where a mass group of people gathered together in a forum and we’re like, “We don’t have any purpose. We don’t have an objective.” We’re like, “What’s everybody else doing?” It’s aimless and it gives us a lack of a sense of direction or purpose in our lives. That is why sociologists tell us that social media is harming our mental health. I want to use it as a tool. It’s wonderful as a platform if you have a message, but it’s not something that you want to dictate your life.

One of the things that I’ve been framing for 1 to 2 years for myself is this idea of being a producer versus a consumer. Meaning like using it as a tool, you want to be a producer and use the platform for good, but I don’t want to be a consumer. I don’t want to spend my time consuming a bunch of things on social media that’s going to be detrimental to my life versus fueling my life. That’s a discipline because like you, me, or anyone else, we can all become addicted to this easily. They’re good at making it addictive. We have to have the discipline in place for that. We don’t want walking zombies and how do we do that? Its intentionality around social media is a massive factor like you said.

The knuckle-dragging nature of music, social media kids. I’m a Millennial and I’m saying that intentionality is key if you want more joy if you want to augment your hope levels.

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Speaking of hope, when I ask people about your superpowers, it’s not surprising that the two they bring up is confidence and hope. We heard the confidence side and that’s something that doesn’t happen by chance. There’s this drive that you’ve had, there’s this dedication and there are tons of hours put in that produces this inner confidence. It’s not ill-founded. Go watch that video and or hear you speak and everyone can tell that there are a refined skill and strength there. This hope side of it is a little bit more nuanced.

To highlight that when people hear you, it’s easy for others to assume, “This guy’s the teary joyful guy, the pump-up guy, the hype guy.” It seems like there’s fluff there, but behind the curtain behind the scenes, there has been immense pain and suffering that has formed that joy and that hope to where it’s not this voidless hope. It’s this deep hope. What role has suffering played in your life in producing this voice and drive of hope?

I got diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which isn’t normal PTSD. That’s the complex variety means you have multiple tragedies that hit your life in succession quickly that you didn’t process them. It starts building up and you’re lost. My sister died in a car accident. My brother died of cancer. My dad’s first wife died. I went through a romantic heartbreak after an eight-year relationship. I went through ten years of chronic depression and suicide ideation. I have a guy following me around in my speaking engagements and he will pick at me. He’s done it to my dad since I was a kid too and trying to destroy my family’s ministry.

My good friend, Jared killed himself. He’s a pastor in Riverside. I’m going to say something from a novel that I read that is going to sum it up, “Pain either has the power to break you or it is the power that makes you unbreakable. What it is, depends on who you are.” I know that’s a simple quote and I haven’t emphasized that on the media or anything yet. I know I’m long-winded in many subjects, but these few words are bought with the precious price. That’s the reality.

That’s why the SEAL training is important to me because you can either be a victim or you can callous over your victim mentality and you get hard as steel. Your soul is iron and that’s your option. It’s like either you’re going to be a victim or you’re going to become iron. That’s what I’ve chosen to be. Anybody can be cynical, skeptical, depressed and grumpy. It’s hard to continue to be a joyful leader, a heroic, stoic, a happy warrior. I want to be a happy warrior. That’s my calling in life.

It’s true and hard to earn. You have to fight to earn that. You’ve been through immense suffering and life is still the suffering for all of us at different times. When you look ahead like a future suffering hasn’t happened, how do you approach that now based on where you’ve been and what God’s brought you through? How do you walk through suffering well?

It’s always remembering that on my worst day with God, I’m better off than on my best day without God. I have weapons. I have a whole arsenal and I write about this in Flirting With Darkness. It is the whole middle section of the book. I call it 11 Weapons to Defeat the Dark Lord and Depression and I lay those out. One is endorphins. Another is prayer walks. One I call scripture scholar scuba gear and that’s delving deep into the scriptures. Another is own your oddness to know that having the courage to be who God made you be.

One is rewriting your story, realizing that God is the author of our faith and all of our days are written as Psalm 1:39. There are a lot of these weapons that I’ve laid out for myself and I use whatever weapon is necessary for this specific battle. I want to do reconnaissance to know my enemy. I don’t want to be ignorant of the devil’s devices. What is the dark Lord of depression? What weapon is he using on me so I can know what weapon to pick up to counteract that? That’s where I lay out those eleven weapons so I’m armed to the teeth prepared and ready to fight.

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I recommend people taking that up and reading that. It’s going to be helpful. That’s the bottom line. A substantial new position, which is becoming a senior pastor. This is something that I’ve heard you’ve talked about in your sermons. What you’ve shared is something that you never planned on and something you initially didn’t want. As God has arranged, aligned, directed, you have taken the role and here you are leading a church alongside being the leader and director of Hope Generation, traveling, speaking, writing and doing a lot. How do you approach this new season, this addition to an already full plate and what do you think God’s doing through you in that role?

As you get more successful in life, get more responsibility and you are overseeing more people, I never thought about this. You might tend to be micro managerial in your leadership style because you’re OCD. A lot of OCD people are successful. You’re obsessive about stuff. The more responsibility you get, the more you have to let go of your OCD side, or you will drive yourself and everyone else crazy. I love the Navy SEAL perfectionist side for myself where I have erred even in this transition of learning slowly, but surely is sometimes I’m too hard on my team and I project that onto other people.

What I have to remember is instead of getting mad at them, I need to walk through it patiently with them and help them move forward. The biggest thing for me is the delegation of teams. I cannot do everything on my own. If I’m going to be a healthy, strong, good leader, I cannot try to take on all this responsibility. I need to have trusted people in the right places and strategically delegate authority to different team members. For PR for my book, I trust the PR team. We’ve armed them with everything they need.

With the book cover, I know that they hired and I trusted them to do a good job with the book cover and then I would greenlight it if I liked it and I did. With Harvest House, the publishing company, that’s another team I work with. I talked to its vice president on a regular basis to make sure that all the books stuff’s going where it should. Then Applegate, we have different departments at Applegate. I work closely with my sister Christy. I run a lot of things through her and we do a JFK Bobby Kennedy thing where we as siblings run the church together in a lot of ways. We have this amazing administrator named Joe Strobel who makes the grounds look beautiful. There’s a staff of 40 people at Applegate. I can’t micromanage all of them. We have teams.

It then goes to Hope Generation. We have a TV producer, TV director, TV editor. This is the team I work with the closest, our Hope Gen administrator. I don’t always interact with everybody on every team. What I do is the opposite. I have one person from each team that will hone in on and focus on. We have our radio team and now I’m doing a show with TBN. I have my TBN team people that I work with, a YouTube team, and social media. All of this stuff is important and I’m learning this thing. I’m talking as I’m learning is that you can’t be micromanaging because, on top of all that, I’m still doing my hours. I’m still studying. I stopped to get a certain amount of time studying every day. I’d stop writing books. I travel. I live on the road. It’s important to let go of the micromanaging OCD on other people. Hold yourself to these high standards, but don’t be afraid to trust and delegate to team members who have proven themselves.

I love that piece of advice and that’s hard to do. In that process of learning how to do that well, what resources, whether books or people have you looked to gain maybe some of the toolkits or the know-how to help yourself in that process?

The Navy SEALs. They hold the secrets of wisdom. That’s where Paul used all these metaphorical warfare analogies, where he would say, “Endure hardship as a good soldier.” He says, “Those who are enlisted into the Army, they do not get entangled and this life to please their commanding officer.” Paul said Exodus 15:3, “Our God is a man of war.” Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are mighty in God to the pulling down of strongholds and never softening culture to be a leader.” You have to have a catalyst mind. You have to have an iron soul. That disciplined leadership in a generation that lacks discipline is influential.

Have you ever heard of Kokoro?

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No, I haven’t.

Speaking of bucket list items, this has been on my loose sleeve for years. I’m terrified of it. It’s Navy SEAL’s hell week for civilians. It’s a weekend. You need to pay about $1,600 to do it. You’re almost killing yourself for $1,600.

After North Korea, it wouldn’t get me fired.

I want to hear a few of your thoughts on the Church of Today and this is something that one of the background references thought would be fun to hear your perspective on. As we touched on briefly, often we assume that modern religion or modern Christianity is equivalent to the ways of Jesus. There are a lot of discrepancies that once we begin to understand this more, we start seeing. Being the head pastor or leading a church, what do you see as some of the discrepancies between modern Christianity and the ways of Jesus?

I think the biggest thing is putting on people and projecting on others a legalism that is birthed from the traditions of men. One of them is the phrase Christianity itself. The word Christian is used three times in the New Testament and they’re all in a negative context. Christians were initially labeled. They were called The Way or The Sect of the Nazarenes in the book of Acts. They were called Christians first at Antioch. It’s only three times in the Bible. It was a negative thing. They put a positive spin on it and made it into something beautiful. I’ll say something controversial and everyone can disagree with me. I gave a sermon on this, but I gave a message called Is Surrender Biblical. Let’s take the word surrender. That’s something that’s constantly used in the parlance of the church.

In the Bible, that’s not used as a positive thing it’s on the opposite, it does not surrender. It’s a fight, like keep fighting. This idea of even like, “I’m going to surrender to the Lord because that’s what the songs are always singing and that means it must be something Jesus taught.” I understand. We need to be noble Bereans from the book of Acts who are no better than the Athenians because when Paul preached, they sought the scriptures to see if these things that Paul was saying were untrue.

One of the things that I’m constantly trying to do is not live under the code or the creed that Orthodox Churchianity has painted into the 21st century because it’s in popular songs. These are the like, “Don’t drink, don’t shoot, don’t go with girls who do and that are Christianity.” That’s not what I see Jesus doing. The more we can get back to the radical nature of Jesus and the word radical comes from the Latin word radix, which means a root plant. Radical means returning to your roots. Remember that Jesus was crucified by the state as a rebel and a rebel of love, but a rebel than the less.

The inherent anti-establishment and bread in the nature of the Christ movement at the beginning is something that we’ve lost now where it’s become a lot more homogenized and a lot more palatable. The radical nature of the love of the New Testament, if we implemented that, all of our race problems would be solved. All of our cultural difficulties living with one another would be solved. Our ability to work with difficult people would be augmented and increased. Thinking for yourself and searching the scriptures. It’s not to judge people who use certain rhetoric or syntax or Christianese, not to judge anybody else, but to see how you’re going to live your life. Going more and more back to the original movement of Jesus will lead you to some interesting places.

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

 

That’s a good recommendation. How do we return to the original movement of Jesus and the heart of what he was about? That does solve many of these “problems.” These things serve as big obstacles a lot of times for others to even want to pursue the way of Jesus. If it’s something that’s being a hindrance or an obstacle, then there’s a good chance that’s not the way of Jesus, because his way is attractive. It’s the best way.

Easy and light. I always tell people what Jesus said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” If your walk with God is difficult and hard, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re trying to placate the vengeance of an angry tribal deity, you are doing it wrong. That’s what my dad always taught me in high school and my mom also modeled flawlessly is enjoy your walk with God. If I could say the biggest thing that religion and the message of Jesus where they contradict this day’s Churchianity and Jesus’ early movement is that walking with God isn’t enjoyable?

For Jesus, he promised his disciples three things that they would be constantly joyful, absurdly fearless, and perpetually in trouble. If you read the message of Jesus, it seems like this sums a lot of it up. You’re going to have joy and peace that no one can take from you. You’re going to be fearless. “Fear not,” he said but you’re going to be in perpetual trouble. That prepares you for it, but it’s fun. It’s enjoyable. If we can get back to that message, it will be a lot more adventurous.

Before we end, we got a few one-offs here that I always like to end with. The first is, what can you not imagine living without?

A book.

Speaking of books, what book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

It’s Traitor. It is a novel by Matthew Stover. It’s a Star Wars novel. It’s about a Jedi who gets thrown into a torture chamber and learns how to embrace the pain. My quote about pain was from that book.

If you could study one other person for an entire year, who would it be and why?

Disciplined leadership in a generation that lacks discipline is influential. Click To Tweet

Alexander the Great because he understood what it’s like to need to conquer the world.

Which of your current views or beliefs are most likely to be wrong?

This is where the confidence or cockiness comes in. My goal is in my life is I want to be open to being wrong, but at the same time, I hope we’re living true that we don’t feel that way.

What are you most proud of in your work or life thus far?

I would say the behind the scenes thing is the 10,000-hour rule. I would be throwing up and sick like right before I go up to speak because I was working my immune system do exhaustion on these airplanes and stuff. That’s one of those things that you’re by yourself and people don’t see it, but that was what the behind the scenes thing to get that amount of 11,073 hours and five years into one craft. That was the thing I’m most thankful that God helped me accomplish behind the scenes.

What question do you ask yourself the most?

Who are you and what are you doing here? 2,000 years ago, Rabbi Akiva, a renowned scholar took a wrong turn on the road on a foggy night and he ended up at a Roman military outpost and the guard called down to him, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Rabbi said, “Say that again.” The guard said, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” He said, “How much are they paying you?” He said something like 30 to 90 denarius a week and he said, “I’ll pay you twice that amount of you come to my house every morning and ask me those two questions, “Who are you and What are you doing here?” Who are you? I’m a child of God. What are you doing here? You’re here to give the world hope and that’s what I work toward every day. Knowing that’s who I am and knowing that’s my mission.

To underscore that because it shows that you’re part of the collective, meaning you’re no better than anyone else, but you have an individual calling and gifting means you’re unique different than everyone else. Both of those things are exactly what God wants us to know every single day. The last question that we ask every guest is if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why?

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

Every morning I would say, “You will have nightmares. You will have dreams. You conquer your nightmares because of your dreams.”

Ben, thank you for coming on. This has been a blast. I appreciate your insights, your words, and your message. Where can people find out more from you and your book and all the things that are happening?

You can order Flirting With Darkness, type it into Amazon. Scroll down, you’ll see it there. All my stuff is at www.BenCourson.com. You can type in Hope Generation to anything like any social media, Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube. We have over 500 videos on YouTube. That’s another place.

Until next time, Ben. Thanks for coming on and for being such a dealer of hope in the world.

I love you, Thane. You’re a boss, you’re a legend. You’re living it. You’re the real deal. Let’s keep giving hope to the world.

For all you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week because we are out.

If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you will be sure to receive the next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Ben Courson

UAC 162 | Hope For Depression

Ben Courson is a bestselling author, a TV and radio personality, an international speaker, founder of Hope Generation, and the senior pastor at Applegate Christian Fellowship. He has been featured on Fox, Hallmark Channel, TBN, ABC Family, and other mainstream media outlets. His TV show is broadcast in 180 countries, and his national radio show airs on over 400 stations. He travels the globe speaking of God’s hope and igniting revival in the hearts of his listeners.

Stemming from his own bout with suicide and depression, Ben created Hope generation, aiming to help those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts to those who’ve lost hope and meaning amid their success. The ministry is shouting about the God of Hope from the mountaintops to help people rise out of despair.

Ben’s high energy, humor, and deep Biblical understanding has impacted people from all walks of life. He sincerely shares his own struggles, heartbreak, being diagnosed with complex PTSD, and the devastating losses of his brother and sister. As a social media influencer, millions of YouTube subscribers have tuned in to watch and listen to Hope Generation. Ben is infiltrating old and new media alike and spreading God’s message of hope like fire.

Hope Generation is a play on words that suggests both a personal and collective appeal: Generating hope in God and building a generation of hope. That is the mission of Hope Generation.

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Send us an email – theupandcomersshow@gmail.com

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UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

Working your way up in a company, especially a tech company, as a black woman can be very daunting, especially if you don’t have many examples to point to in terms of people who have been on the same professional journey as you. For Rovina Valashiya, the journey had her struggling with finding her identity and staying true to herself. Rovina is a Principal Product Manager at Amazon and has successfully launched businesses, both within the company and independently. Today, she joins Thane Marcus Ringler to share her journey through entrepreneurship, the challenges she faced climbing the corporate ladder, and how she shifted from a strong individual performer to a team leader.

Listen to the podcast here:

Rovina Valashiya: Being The Only Is A Strength: A Woman’s Accelerated Journey Through Entrepreneurship And The Corporate Ladder

This is a podcast all about learning how to live a good life, which we believe takes living with intention in the tension, a catchy phrase to say that life is filled with tensions we experience every day. We believe the best way to live in those tensions is by infusing intention into all that we do, a reason why behind what we’re doing. Thanks for being a part of this movement and this community, and being a fellow Up and Comer on the journey in the process of becoming. Hopefully, we can be lifelong learners, lifelong Up and Comers because that is the ultimate goal.

If you want to help our show out, there are a few ways I wanted to pinpoint and remind you that would be useful for us. The first is leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. We’ve got almost 100 and it’d be so great if you left us a five-star rating and review. You may even get it read on air. That’d be fun. The other way that’s easy that you can help us out is by sharing this episode, either on social media. You can tag us @UpAndComersShow or by texting it to a few friends, someone that came to mind when you’re reading it, shoot them a text, say, “Check this episode out.” It’s a great way to spread the word and further this community. Another awesome way is by supporting us financially if you wanted to contribute monthly by donating on Patreon. We do have a Patreon account and we also are actively looking for partnerships. Reach out to the UpAndComersShow@Gmail.com if you are a business or have an entity that would like to partner with us. We thank you in advance for helping us further this movement.

I’m excited about this interview as I usually am. It’s an interview with Rovina Valashiya. She is passionate about business strategy, entrepreneurship and leadership. She enjoys an exciting career leading a product management team at Amazon and has successfully launched businesses both within the company and independently. In 2018, she received Amazon’s Just Do It Award from CEO, Jeff Bezos, for innovating on behalf of customers to build and launch Amazon Textures & Hues, an online shop for textured hair care. Her Amazon career began in 2012 with positions in retail, supply chain, and product management while also serving as the president of Amazon’s Black Employee Network.

She independently operates a Christian streetwear brand, Fiber Sole and authored Pray for Potatoes, which guides readers on a pursuit of professional success through biblical principles. Rovina studied at Washington University in St. Louis and holds an MBA from Olin business school and an undergraduate Finance degree. Outside of work, she is an avid snowboarder, basketball player, fan of live music, public speaker and explorer of the great outdoors. Connect with her on social media, @RovinaCiarra. Rovina is a phenomenal woman. She has an amazing story and a lot of helpful perspectives. She has had to adapt to so many environments and has learned a lot along the way about herself and about leading others well. This conversation was enjoyable.

We’re both threes on the Enneagram as you’ll find out. There’s a lot of symmetry and things that we connected on so I know you’re going to enjoy this conversation. We covered a lot of things, what being a good leader entails, the importance of being curious, asking good questions. She has some good questions, discovering your identity operating as if God was your CEO, her experience of race in America, holding space for others and so much more. You’d want to read this whole interview. It was well worth your time. Check out her work at Fiber Sole and Pray for Potatoes. Both are awesome. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Rovina Valashiya.

Rovina Valashiya, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. I’m excited to get a chance to chat with you.

What is the origin of the last name?

I got married and my husband is from South Africa. It is his South African last name. I’m glad that it’s fairly phonetic when looking at it. I’m sure my parents are as they have to practice quite a bit. I’m getting used to it, but the V in my first name with the V in the last name creates a nice flow. I feel fortunate with that letter.

It does have a nice ring to it. When did you first pronounce the last name Valashiya?

It’s years ago. My husband and I met in 2016 through some mutual friends. It was pretty early in dating. I wanted to give it a try. I was like, “So Valashiya?” He goes, “Yeah, that’s pretty close.” When he said it, it wasn’t close at all. He was being nice. I’m like, “I got it.”

How did you guys first meet?

A great leader is someone who ensures that their team knows how decision making happens and folks feel empowered. Click To Tweet

I was traveling to Cape Town with a good friend of mine here in Seattle. One of my friends was in Seattle and is also from South Africa. It’s my best friend here and her husband. When chatting with them about my upcoming trip to Cape Town, her husband is like, “You can’t go to South Africa and only go to Cape Town. That’s like going to the US and only going to Times Square. You won’t get a sense of things.” I was like, “What do you suggest?” I was traveling with one other friend. He suggested we check out Johannesburg and was like, “I’ll connect you with some of my friends from law school to stay with while you’re there.” My now-husband, Zola, was my host, through my friend back then, which is pretty funny because the entire time I thought Zola was a woman because of the name. We only ever talked via WhatsApp chat. His WhatsApp photo was Chinese symbols or Mandarin. He had been working on Mandarin, which I didn’t know. The whole couple of months leading up to it, I thought Zola was this woman that was going to be hosting me.

When did you find out that he was a man?

When I saw him.

What went through your mind at that moment?

I told him, “I thought you were an Asian woman.” We were staying with him and his roommate. When we walked in, the roommate was a guy. He let us in and there was a samurai sword over their television. I’m now convinced that Zola has Asian heritage. I’m going to learn about that. Zola was still at work so he was home a little bit later. When he arrived, I was like, “You’re not an Asian woman. You need to fix your online brand.” That was one of our first two sentences exchanged.

What is his background with the Chinese either Mandarin or the samurai sword? What’s the context for that with him?

He loves languages and loves learning. He speaks seven languages. Every morning during COVID, he has his headphones in and is practicing his Mandarin. I don’t even know exactly where the interest came from, but one of my friends, they have a toddler and she’s learning at the same time. He likes to hang out and talk to Baby CC. He feels like she won’t judge his accent. He’s a language guy.

This show interviews mainly about you, not your husband. We’re going to get back on track here. I’m curious to hear what your experience of getting married in the midst of COVID and the pandemic has been because I too got married in March 2020 at the beginning of the outbreak. It was quite a wild ride.

First, congratulations to you guys. The wedding we ended up having was incredible. Everything landed the way it should, but the process was stressful. As a bride or the person getting married, you start off with this vision of your wedding. It very quickly becomes the biggest party you may ever plan in your life. I didn’t realize how big of a party it was going to be until I started planning my COVID wedding, which was 25 people in person, the rest was Livestream. We went from having this big empty warehouse where we were going to have a 150-person wedding plus reception to getting married in the chapel in our church.

It’s a 30-minute live stream ceremony. We had private family photos. I had about five family members come in town from Chicago, only one of my parents, only one of my three siblings. It was an occasion where I told everyone, “We’re getting married on June 19th, 2020 as we’ve always planned and we will make it so that you can participate however you feel comfortable, no worry from us.” As our wedding day started to approach, some of the COVID regulations started to lax. It wasn’t until two weeks before my wedding that I was able to make a hair appointment. I was able to book makeup. I was going to do it all myself. It was COVID. It ended up being small, intimate, but great that my grandmother and people were able to live stream, especially Zola’s family who are pretty much all are abroad and weren’t able to travel to the US.

It does help us become good at adapting and being flexible in an ever-changing world. Diving into a little bit of your story, one of the things I learned in some background research is that one of your superpowers that several people brought up identically is that you are very good at adapting to any type of environment. When you hear that, where do you see that adaptability? How do you see that being formed throughout your childhood or your life thus far? Would you agree that’s one of your strengths?

I don’t know what language I would put around it, but I agree when I hear you say that. The parts of my childhood that contribute to that are I was the third of four girls. You may think all sisters must be similar. We couldn’t have been more different growing up. I tested into a gifted nerdy kid school on the other side of town. I was often living in these different worlds. I went to school where I was nerdy, but everyone was nerdy. You weren’t even aware of your nerdiness. I went home where my older sisters were neighborhood cool kids and transfer some of that back to school. I’ve always been in this juxtaposition of worlds. I’m naturally curious about the people in them. Other kids or other adults even can shy away when they recognize those differences. I want to jump into the conversation. My desire to ask questions and get to know people overcome some of the insecurity in new environments. I’m able to feel more relaxed or figure out how to get comfortable a little bit faster.

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

When would you say the first time was it when you realized that you were part of a nerdy school and your sisters were the cool kids on the block? What was that earliest experience where you were like, “I need to figure this out?”

I can think of early experiences. One of the ones that stand out to me probably is going to Sunday school. That might sound super minor. As I mentioned, I went to school about 30 minutes away from my house. I didn’t know a lot of neighborhood kids and Sunday school. Our church in our neighborhood was the neighborhood kids. I didn’t go to school with them. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was not in the mix, but my older sisters were. One of my sisters, I pretended I was a grade older so that I could be in her same Sunday school class. She’s two years older than me, but I went for years pretending that we were one year apart so I could have her as my crutch moving through that space. I feel like I always had this one academic environment and then a very different social environment. It was interesting to me even though I felt I could out math or out quiz my sisters, I knew I needed them in other spaces. That’s one that stands out to me a lot because oftentimes other than that I was normally navigating things alone. For me, Sunday school was that one environment where I had someone that I could lean on to help me move through space.

When you look at the different environments you’ve had to adapt to, what do you see as some of the most ones that have taken you the longest to adapt to out of all the different places and spaces you’ve been?

Two stand out. The first one is the clearest to me and that was when I started college. I am the first person in my family to graduate college. I wasn’t the first to start though. For me, I attended Washington University in St. Louis. It’s a private university in the Midwest, but I came from a public high school in Chicago. It’s a very different school environment. I was used to being at the head of the class. There’s a clear way you study. There’s I knew the formula to do school well. It wasn’t until college where I’m a freshman. I’m away from home. I’m living in a dorm. I’m on a basketball team. College sports, when you’re a freshman, is a different level of earning your stripes happening.

In the classroom, test and learning is no longer as black and white. There wasn’t this clear answer to things. It was about reasoning, logic and building the story, telling the narrative. That first semester for me was hard. It was hard because I didn’t have my dad in my corner every day who was my ultimate height man in life. The other part was the formula I learned for school didn’t work anymore. I had to learn a new formula. Basketball was hard. The team was different. Everything was different. It was learning a new formula. That first semester was probably one of the hardest adjustments I’ve ever had. I’ve never in my life had acne other than that. I remember that Christmas break to be like that. I need to go to a dermatologist. I’m too stressed out. Something’s wrong with my skin. My whole body was reacting to all the changes.

Other than that, the second one, which is professionally. In my environment, I’m a product manager at Amazon, a principal product manager. I lead a PM team. As you work your way up in a company, especially a tech company as a black woman, I don’t have a lot of examples to point to in terms of people who have been on the same professional journey as me, who also looked me. There have been steps and people management is one of those steps where I initially felt like, “Can I not wear my Jordan ones anymore? Do I need to joke less? Do I need to start changing my personality in order to earn or receive immediate respect?” I’m grateful for mentors and candid conversations I’ve been able to have about that. I struggled with finding my identity as a team leader separate from being a strong individual contributor. It is very different. I was going through some mental gymnastics of how can I do that and still be true to myself.

It’s a helpful conversation because this is the natural progression that anybody who’s trying to work through a career will face in different degrees. Everyone’s scenario is different in that. Going from a strong individual performer to a team leader is a massive shift. What are the keys that you’ve found that have helped you transition into that?

One of the things is making sure you look at yourself as a leader and also as a human as two distinct buckets. Letting your team know both of those sides of you. We do a thing now in our team called cultural interest. When you meet someone, they tell you where they work, how long they’ve worked there and probably their title as their way to garner your respect. When we have new hires and are welcoming people on the team, we don’t mention those things. It’s like, “Let’s talk about what has shaped you culturally.” That is to whatever degree you feel comfortable. I have a cultural introduction that I give to my new hires and then we practice it. The broader team is very used to it. That’s one of those things. It’s a little bit more personal out of the gate because you need that human connection. For me, the harder thing was establishing the leader persona because I’m personable and jokester casual. Also making sure people on my team understand the expectations and giving feedback when people need either specific coaching or guidance and not letting my friendly attitude take away from the serious nature of performance.

What would you say in establishing the leader persona in your work and experience in that, what makes a good leader in your perspective?

The goals are clear. People on your team should know what your top priorities are and how each one of their responsibilities ladders up to those priorities. That’s one of the key things I do at the start of the year is around goal setting. I have my sets of goals that roll up to my leadership. I also take it a step farther and do one of those breakouts for each member of my team, “These are your primary goals, but these are some short deliverables that you should hit throughout the year. We can track to those and it feels people understand why they’re doing the work they’re doing and how they’ll be evaluated. When you have a leader that you feel you couldn’t make a decision without that person present, for me, that’s a problem. A good leader is someone who ensures that their team knows how decision making happens and people feel empowered because they are aware of priorities and they can take it and run.

In your time here now as a team leader, do you have any failures or times when you didn’t necessarily take the right path in leadership that was instrumental in learning these principles?

Yeah. I had a cool opportunity with work where I would say able to pitch a business idea to one of the leaders of the company and it was funded. He said, “Rovina, hire your team, build this thing and make it better than what we have right now. Ready, set, go.” I was super excited about that but also made some mistakes because it was a white space. I was going to get it dirty. A couple of things that came out of that, one, I hired friends or a couple, not the full team. That can create an interesting dynamic. The failure or the miss was not separating the friendship from the manager-employee.

Growth is constantly happening, and this evolution of your true self continues to change over time. Click To Tweet

It got pretty casual around you missed that deadline, but you texted me about it. I had to start saying, “This is Friend Rovina. This is Manager Rovina.” That sounds elementary, but that ended up being how I needed to make distinctions just to own or the nature of the conversation. I realized everything had been so casual for six months. How could I now think it would be any different? It’s the same way this person texted me they weren’t going to get something done. I casually text them to ask them things. It was like, “I’m not following the appropriate boundaries from that human leader standpoint.” I feel that was one where I’m starting over again and in stages where I’ve had a chance to move to a new team and hire people. I try to keep the friendship limit a much higher level in those early days.

That’s something that I experienced as well in the coaching environment. I’m working one-on-one with people. I’ve worked with friends before and that’s one of the things where you have to like, “It is clear stuff of this is coaching. This is friendship. It’s a completely different relationship. You have to be clear about it.” Leaders are very clear in expectations and responsibilities. You have to set them. That’s something I’ve experienced as well. When you were talking about with the team building and how you describe cultural introductions. What is your cultural introduction?

I’m Rovina Valashiya, born and raised in Chicago on the Southside. I would describe myself as a city slicker. I’m an inner-city kid. I don’t even grass against my skin. I love high rises and fun shopping. I grew up as the third of four girls. I was raised by my single father. I attended a private university in the Midwest, Washington University in St. Louis. I grew up in a Baptist church before then and continued with the church during my college years. My first job after school was in Minneapolis. I spent the first 24-ish years of my life in the Midwest, across those States before making a big leap moving to Seattle to the PNW. I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Seattle. I’ve had a chance to become an avid snowboarder, get involved in a local church here and have an opportunity to see myself thrive in a space where I was starting from scratch. I’ve always had teammates or classmates in every transition I’ve ever had before moving to Seattle on a random Wednesday in 2012. It’s been a fun ride since then.

It shows that you are practicing what you preach. I have many questions about that. First is you don’t have the feeling of grass against your skin. Tell me more.

I’m not super outdoorsy. It took me about 4 or 5 years in Seattle before I agreed to go on a hike. I love working out. HIIT training is my favorite. When people talk about hikes, I’m like, “You’re walking outside and convincing yourself that it’s a workout. I don’t even understand. That sounds something grandparents might be doing. Why are you doing this?” The grass of my skin thing. My college basketball team would play flag football intramurals in the offseason. I hated it because if you fall to the grass, you’re scraped. Grass makes my legs itch immediately. I told them that was a phrase I use with my teammates when I was a freshman to get out of intermural flag football. I said, “I would feel new grass on my skin.” I was roasted for four years about that statement. I only played at maybe 1 or 2 games and I would sit on the side, on top of a t-shirt and watch the games because I refuse to play.

Snowboarding is also one of my truest loves in life. How did you fall in love with snowboarding and give me a sales pitch for people who have never been?

The way I fell in love with snowboard in my first job, when I joined Amazon, I was our outdoor apparel buyer. I knew that I was going to the sports and outdoor team. I didn’t know which category I would be working on. I was looking at one of two positions, this one, which I ended up in, but the other one was the fan shop. That’s all the licensed material for MLB, NBA. I was more excited about that one upfront, but being on outdoor apparel, I was working with brands Columbia, Helly Hansen, Canada Goose, Outdoor Research, all those guys. You started learning about the gear and then every weekend in Seattle in the winter, people go up to the mountains. Every hour you drive outside, the city is bigger, better mountains.

I went every weekend with some coworkers or a collection of coworkers. I have an SUV because everyone from the Midwest has an SUV. That made me popular for road trips to the mountain. In one season, I rented for the first week. By week three, I bought all my own gear because renting was no longer reasonable. At the end of that season, I ended up snowboarding my first black, from green to black in one season. Although black, I was tricked. I didn’t know that those were the only options off the chair. We went up on a chair. There were only two ways down and they were both black so I was pretty nervous. I made it. My sales pitch for people who haven’t snowboarded, they’re not a cooler sound or feeling. I don’t even listen to music during snowboarding. I want to hear the snow. It’s so peaceful. Being up on a mountain is beautiful. Your cell phone doesn’t work, which is an appreciative experience for our time. It’s so beautiful up there.

Every time I’m up there, it brings life to my soul. There’s a pure childlike joy that you get.

It’s over by 3:00. It’s made for the early riser, which is me. It’s a well-designed sport.

Do you and your husband share the early riser?

He rises even earlier than me. He can run off of five hours of sleep. He stays up late and gets up at the same time as me. At about 10:00, I am lights out. I’m like, “I don’t understand why you want to start a TV show. It’s 10:30.”

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

 

Before we get into some other avenues, I want to come back to a couple of things we talked about earlier, the first would be your personal identity versus adapting. As you’ve mentioned, you had to figure out how to adapt and fit in with different environments, starting at a young age. In the midst of that journey, there’s also the figuring out of who we are as a personal identity and what you even described as going from a strong individual performer to a team leader. There are this dance and this tension between not losing myself, but also fitting the role that I need to play. How do you go about living in the midst of that tension? What are helpful questions to ask or perspectives to hold in embracing it?

The way for me that I’ve been able to figure out how to balance all those things is I want to make sure I’m a consistent person. This connects a lot to my faith as well. If my friends on the weekend see me with my church friends or vice versa, would there be any concerns, any consistencies in my character? That was something early-twenties Rovina would have had a much different response than I do now. I had to proactively do that. One of the ways you get there personally is by committing to yourself to be a consistent person. That has helped me the part of how it’s a little more unique professionally in terms of not losing yourself.

What’s interesting about that is everyone is constantly on this identity journey. I was jokingly talking with a friend saying, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” I’m a grownup, but growth is constantly happening. This evolution of your true self, it continues to change over time as long as you are focusing on trying to highlight the right areas of your life, improvement in the right areas, and staying connected. For me, the faith runs so closely with all the other lines that move through for this reason because growth is constant. The only constant thing we can count on is change. That is within us as well as the world around us. You have to have this understanding of I will evolve and let me make sure this evolution is for the better each time.

The two constants are always growth and decay and both have ultimately changed. Hopefully, we’re in the growth as much as possible, but it’s a constant seesaw a lot of times. When you look at your identity journey, what do you see as the phase that you are in or moving into that journey? How would you describe that?

In my personal journey, the phase I’m in right now, in my personal life as we mentioned, getting married, I have to start figuring out like family. What does that look when you’re not an independent person in terms of my decision making? There’s now someone who shares a part in all my decisions moving forward and I would expect to share and take part in his decisions. Making that space to go from being independent, I’ve lived alone for ten years before getting married. A lot of that independence, you’re joining us one. You’re recreating or reestablishing what normal is and how your household will run in those things. For me, that is the biggest transition happening. That’s the biggest one. There’s always a professional one, but that’s the one that’s most prominent to me right now.

I relate a lot to that as well. Would you say that has been easier or harder than you expected?

It’s easier. I’ve learned some very interesting things about myself. I’m pretty social. I’m extroverted, which COVID has revealed that to me. I used to describe myself as an extroverted introvert or introverted extrovert mostly because I didn’t want to accept either label. I chose them both, but now I will accept an extrovert, although I do to be alone at times and I always could do that before. Now that it’s not and we’re always here, I have to express when I want to be alone. It’s like, “Is that going to be offensive? How do I say that?” I didn’t even realize it was a need I had until it was gone. I was like, “Something’s off balance.” The living together part has been pretty fun and easy, but I have started to notice things about myself and my own personality that have always been there, but I haven’t had to label it.

You haven’t had to be consciously aware of it. That’s the thing that I’ve realized. You’re living with a mirror, someone to reflect who you are back onto you. You see yourself more clearly and that can be encouraging and discouraging in many different ways. It is a dance and adjustment, which is so beautiful. Are you familiar with the Enneagram? If so, what number are you?

Yes, I am a strong three, achiever.

We share that. What is your husband?

He’s five. Speaking of this, when we learned this, we were still dating when we took Enneagram. We were like, “This is the most perfect language for us.” I moved fast pace. He likes all the information before he does something. There’s this perception of haste that he has about me. A perception of inaction that I have about him. While he’s thinking about it, that thinking could take what feels forever, where I’m like, “Let’s start giving something a try. If it doesn’t work, switch to B. Let’s get going.” Haste and inaction, that’s our spectrum for each other.

My wife’s a one, but it’s a very similar experience in that. I’m like, “I think we like this. Let’s move forward with it.” She’s like, “We don’t even make a decision right now.” I’m like, “It feels right. I feel bad waiting. I’m going to forget it. We make up all these excuses but I’m like, “Thane, slow down.”

The only constant thing we can count on is change, which is within us and the world around us. Click To Tweet

I appreciate the patience that he’s bringing into my lifestyle in many areas.

You’ve mentioned a couple of times, your faith in the role of plays. I love it even in what you describe in your work. It might be on your website you say, “I share in many formats, strategies and practical tools to improve preparation and productivity as business leaders. These are philosophies that can be adapted to any stage of your career and are rooted in biblical principles.” When you frame your work, your business and what you share being rooted in biblical principles and your faith, being a center to that, how would you describe or explain the reason and the impact of that?

The reason is clear. I’ve always been an accelerated person. I finished a dual degree in three years and went straight to my MBA. I was 23 years old telling people I was a master at business. I had only ever worked for three months one summer. I’ve always been the upsell kid and trying to make waves and make the climb. What I’ve learned early through that pitch process is no role or no company, nothing feels satisfying, no pay increase. You immediately want the next one. There’s this constant thirst on the climb. I was in a conversation with a friend years ago and the conversation that came up and what led me to have this frame of thought is if you operate with God as your CEO, how different of an employee are you knowing that you’re working under a leader who can’t fail? Therefore, your op your obligation is to not quit. That changed my response to when work was going well, when work wasn’t going well, it changed how I prepare for meetings. A lot of my approach, the way I let work impact me and the way I let goal-seeking impact me changed a lot from that vision of if God is my CEO, how different of an employee am I?

I love how you framed it too. You said that the way you let work impacts you. That’s a necessary first step that so often isn’t taken and that is taking ownership of saying, “I’m the one letting this impact me.” What do you think keeps people, including ourselves, from taking ownership, from saying like, “I’m letting my work impact me in these ways?”

We often feel when we’re in the middle of it that things are happening to us. That’s the easiest way to accept your state. This happened to me or they did that to me. This one was my win, whatever the case may be, there’s this natural tendency to feel as though the Earth is moving and we’re caught in the wave.

One of the things that I’ve also read is a little bit about how you view church and faith differently. I’m curious to hear a little bit more about your own faith journey and how you describe the different phases or seasons or even depths of that journey.

I grew up the south side of Chicago in a Baptist Church. The pastor of our church lived two doors down from my grandmother. A lot of what I saw growing up were people in church practicing church, but I didn’t feel a lot of relationship or understanding. My view of the church was a thing you did at least one Sunday a month and checked it off the list, but I didn’t necessarily see the spiritual impact in people’s lives. When I was in college, I started going to church with a roommate who was from St. Louis. She had a local church. It was a church in a movie theater. They would perform on a stage like a band.

It was a rock show. I’m like, “What is this?” I started to get interested in worship and found my connection with church through worship, praise and worship. I never wanted to miss it. If it’s the first part of service, I guarantee, I’ll never be late. If I am, I’ll stay for the next service and make sure I get to worship. I understood I had a heart for that. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle that I grew into my personal relationship with God. I’ll explain what was the very key window of life for me. I was living in Minneapolis. It was right before Seattle. I was about 23 or 24. My father is a Christian. We were debating something. I disagreed with him, but I didn’t know enough to back up why I disagreed. I needed the Bible to help me win the argument.

I told myself, “I’m going to read this myself because it’s going to arm me better in these arguments.” I started reading Proverbs because that seemed the easiest. My goal was to get enough Bible knowledge to have stronger arguments to defend my lifestyle to my father. This is the most honest story of it. That was the first time I was ever seeking to understand the Bible for myself. The outcomes, the things I walked away learning did not help me defend my lifestyle by the way.

It helped me understand that you can know God and you can get plugged into faith before you’re old. That’s what I always thought of before. During that little stint, that was when I was also moving to Seattle. I got plugged into the Christian faith. That’s where I go to church now. That was the first time I was around young adults who seemed normal. I had no problem talking about their faith life in addition to their work or whatever. For me, going to church has so many rules. There were things you didn’t say. There was knowledge you pretended not to have about the world vice versa. For me, it was the early twenties. I was trying to arm myself with biblical knowledge to defend doing what I want. The mid-twenties was when I said, “What could life look, if the Bible honestly says God wants us to live in abundant life, deal?” I’m claiming that I’m going to cash in so what’s my side of that deal. What does that mean I have to do it in exchange? It’s been a very twisted journey. No linear path. I stayed plugged into worship at my church bands. It’s all built upon each other over the years.

Every journey is twisted and turning. There’s no linear path. That’s the beauty of it. It does apply universally and that’s what’s so cool is that God can be that universal and personal at the same time. When did Pray for Potatoes enter into the picture? Give the context and then a description of what that is.

It was a Sunday after church. I was at lunch with a friend. This is one of the people that I suggested, but we were having brunch and talking about both very different. I’m business-oriented, et cetera. She’s creative also pastoral like Masters in theology. She can translate my words into where it’s rooted sometimes. It does good conversations, good friendship staff. What we were talking about was wanting to leave a legacy bigger than ourselves. What I was describing was, “My whole life I’ve wanted to be independent.” I studied finance in college not because I wanted to become an economist or anything like that. I was pursuing financial security. I was raised by a single dad.

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I saw both of my older sisters into the world and then have to come back home and hit a reset. When I leave the house, I want it to be gone. I wanted to not come back. I had never done anything because I was interested in it. I was trying to have a strong foundation. I was sitting with my friend, I’ve been financially independent for over five years now, is this it, am I going to keep doing it? This is what I was living for. This was my highest vision at the time. There has to be more than this. She starts asking good questions. She’s like, “How did you get there?”

This is when we got into the ‘God is your CEO’ standpoint realizing like, “If you’re working for yourself, you succeed. Then what?” When I started writing, I didn’t have a plan. I started writing are actual biblical principles that I practice. It turned out to be seven of them, which is fine. I had no plan. I needed to get started. That’s probably a tip I have for anyone is you don’t need to see the end, get started. Maybe that’s the three in me also. It was the example I shared when I was 23, trying to pitch myself as a master in business. That was the first time that being an overachiever started to look a negative quality to the hierarchy. They’re like, “How can we take you seriously?” I don’t know the age of your readers, but it’s like Doogie Howser trying to be a doctor. Nobody can take that person seriously. I remember reading like there’s a scripture that talks about being lukewarm are the worst. God would rather spit you out if you are lukewarm, so be on fire or ice cold. That was my thought process for work. It was like, “My job is to be on fire. I’m the boiling water. I need to make it show that my atmosphere you feel it. When you interact with me, something is going to feel different because I will be boiling water.

That’s my commitment. I won’t show up. I won’t sign up for that thing. I can’t mentor that person or whatever it is. If I don’t feel on fire, boiling water about it, I’ve had to use that as a barometer for yes. I’m involved or no, I’m not. The other thing I have to do, no, I’m boiling water. It’s Pray for Potatoes into that space. Pray that hearts are softened for me. It was the first time where I was praying for the interviewer instead of myself before the interview. I used to pray for, let me say the right thing, let me do the right thing. Give me all the grace, thank you, God. It was my Amazon interviews where the first time that I prayed for the interviewer. I’m like, “God, I hope they’re coming in with a good mood and positive energy.” I started to feel I’ve brought all I can bring. I’m going to worry about what other people are bringing. Let me put my energy into believing that they’re going to be in the best condition possible to receive me.

What surprised you about the process of writing a book and what did you learn about yourself from it?

What I learned is I probably should have had a formula or some outline a little more structure when I got started. It makes me even look at books differently in general. I was like, “This is a part of a person.” Every book is a part of the person who wrote it. Pray for Potatoes is 100 pages. I’m a podcast listener, blog reader. I don’t read dense content. It is a book for me. I feel it’s so personal. I have a newfound respect for any book. I’m like, “That author decided to put a vulnerable part of themselves out there,” whether it is fantasy. It almost doesn’t matter the genre. It’s that person who took the time to believe this narrative is so important. They want to document it.

It’s beautiful how it does make you a better reader and it does change your perspective on books. That’s one of the greatest advantages in my opinion. The other thing that you started. I don’t know if it was before or after, but it was a company named Fiber Sole. I’d love to hear you share the story of that origin.

There was one year that was grind season for me. That year was 2017. I took the year off social media and that’s when I was launching a new business at Amazon. The business that I had a chance to pitch that launched in February of 2018. I was also working on side projects. Pray for Potatoes was one and Fiber Sole was the other. It was so interesting because I was so busy. Why did you choose one window to do everything? That’s the way my energy was flowing. I loved it. I work in the tech space. I mentioned I like to wear sneakers, preferably almost exclusively Nike sneakers. I like to wear t-shirts. If it’s an important day, I wear a blazer with my t-shirt to work. That’s like how you might know I have a big meeting. I was thinking about, why don’t I make my own t-shirts? It was that simple. If I did, what would it be? What would be a brand that I would be excited to represent me? Fiber Sole, I liked the name. I was trying to think creatively. I’m not a marketer-ish, but maybe I could be. It’s from the fibers of your head to the sole of your feet or fibers of your heart, the soul of your being. I play on those two things to say, “What I’ve recognized in my life is as I’ve become more into church hourly talking about faith, etc.”

I ended up in conversations with people who have questions that I never would have expected and in places. I could be at someone’s birthday party and someone will corner me. I remember I had someone jokingly call me “Deacon Brumfield” at a party once when I walked in. That same person was coming to me about a serious personal issue within weeks. What I learned was making people aware that you’re a space as an individual. You’re someone that is open to having these conversations about what we don’t understand, what we do understand around faith, spirituality, and how to think about living a Christian life.

Once people know you’re open to that conversation, those conversations flow in all kinds of environments. I remember having a manager who I didn’t know he married a PK and he saw me in one of my shirts and saying grace and truth. We had this whole conversation about how he married a pastor’s kid. We had this different understanding. We talked about Easter. Anyway, once you create these spaces, you end up in all sorts of conversations. For me, Fiber Sole was a way to say, “I want to speak life into myself by having words that are purely scriptural.” Not my interpretation, not a twist of the word, but actual scripture. I want to have it so that other people in this space know like, “Let’s open up these conversations. I’m open to it with you.”

Holding space for others is such a challenging dance in a sense. It’s nuanced. How do you approach holding space for other people to process important things in life, whether it be faith or challenging things you’re going through? What does that dance for you or what have you found helpful in that dance?

Holding space for other people can feel draining. It’s probably the first honest element of it. For me to feel I’m not getting exhausted by it, I try to make sure I’m getting filled at the same time. A part of that is you do have a responsibility to help other people. Sometimes that’s not always fun. After I do it, I feel great. A part of my yeses is remembering what it feels like afterward. I don’t always want to say yes immediately. I’m like, “This is going to be great when we cross this threshold and let me not be so concerned about my calendar that I am rejecting opportunities to get to know people or spread something.”

I do think there’s a little bit of giving that you have to be willing to do because the reward is on the backend. The other part about maybe protecting the space, if you do determine the dynamic is negative or I’ve had friends where it’s like, “Something about this friendship regularly rubs me the wrong way. We need to talk about it.” If that means it’s the end of this friendship, I’m to the point where I’m okay with that. I’ve had those types of conversations as well. Open yourself up to people, but also guard and protect your own spirit while you’re trying to navigate those relationships.

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What you said shows the inherent tension in that those two opposites. It is such a dance. It’s similar to working out. There’s a lot of times where a HIIT workout is not fun at the moment. Most times it can be great and fun. Even this morning I was doing to work with some buddies and it was not fun. I was constantly saying, “I’m going to feel great after this. That’s the one reason why I’m still here.” It’s true in so many arenas including fitness. What you said too is beautiful in that we have to know ourselves well. We have to be self-aware enough to know when we have the energy and ability to hold space for others.

At the same time, we need to take space for ourselves to recoup some of that energy. I love my family and my wife so much. It came to a point in time where I needed some space. We were with each other for 3 or 4 days in a row and it wasn’t against anyone or anything. I was, “I needed to go be by myself for a couple of hours straight up.” Being able to recognize that is an important learned discipline in a lot of ways to help us hold space for others in those moments. One of the things you’ve also brought up that I’d love to hear more about was your childhood being raised by a single father. What role did your father play in your life? What impact did he leave on you? How did that experience shape you?

Probably everything you would want your kid to say about you. My Father, My Hero was a young author’s book I wrote when I was in eighth grade or sixth grade. I felt my dad did a couple of great things for me. One was teaching me how to dream. I could talk to him. I can give you a great example because it happened when I was on the phone with him. As a child, I could talk to him about any idea. He would feed me how to make it possible or be like, “Let’s go.” I wanted to paint it. He bought me an easel and acrylic paints. It wasn’t a question of why did I want to be a painter?

Did I want to? I had it. I went to a gifted school. I had to test it. It was probably 30, 40 minutes from my house, a very different neighborhood in terms of racial composition, etc. I was pretty nervous about that. I remember my father telling me to go be the Jackie Robinson of my classroom, which as a kid who loves sports, it felt awesome to me. Imagine, I’m six years old. What he explains to me is Jackie Robinson was so good that he opened the doors for others to feel like, “There’s talent out there or there are people that we need to take time getting to know, etc.” My dad always helped me understand that being the only was his strength.

I don’t think I understood how much that has carried me through other seasons. To be only, you have to reach this level of confidence where you say like, “Why not me and why not now?” Those were things that my dad was teaching me without saying. Older and reflecting it. You start to see your parents as human beings. I think of myself like, “At my age, my dad was raising three kids. I was already three and I look in my own life and I’m like, “Could I manage one child now?” You have this newfound appreciation for the fact that your parents were humans while raising you.

My dad gave me that vision and voice. He talks about this. He had daughters, all daughters, no sons. We didn’t talk about this until I was in college. He said one of the things he wanted to do was give his kids a voice. When we were younger, if we had an idea or an opinion, we could bring it up to him and have these conversations. He was okay engaging me in a dialogue. Even if I was presenting an argument that was terrible about why I shouldn’t have to do the dishes. He would sit there and reason with me. He told me one of the reasons he did that was, one because we were girls and he wanted us to never feel we needed to be silent because of that.

The other thing was, he said growing up for him being from the South, there’s a different level of respect between adults having conversation versus kids. He wanted to break that barrier down. He was proactively changing something that he grew up experiencing, which I thought was cool. I was like that was a very progressive style of parenting, which I didn’t know at the time. Reflecting on those things later, I’m like, “That was great.”

I love that ideal that your father of giving a voice and a vision that’s such a powerful thing for any parent to do for their children. It’s something that I would love to aspire to do if and when God blesses us with children. The other was being the only was a strength. I want to touch on this because right now we’ve seen a resurgence of focus on racial injustice and for good reason in our country. The question of how have you experienced race in America? What is your experience with race been in America?

I feel I’ve known I was black probably as much as I knew my gender. I don’t even know a time where I was not aware of. I can remember at age six. Somewhere between first and third grade, my elementary school in Chicago. This is the ‘90s for some foundation setting. My elementary school was in a suburb area called Mount Greenwood. We had a brand-new play playground built, but we also had a black principal that was new that year. It was a pretty big deal because this area is Chicago used to have KKK rallies. Our playground got tagged the night before the grand opening and it was essentially a hate crime. The wood chips from the bottom of the playground were moved onto the blacktop into the shape of a swastika.

There were all kinds of spray paint and stuff on the playground. For me, I’m impacted in a couple of ways. One, I knew the next day at school, everyone on the honor roll was going to get twenty extra minutes of recess on this new playground. My childhood like the kid in me is like, “Now, the playground is ruined.” The news and everyone’s at school and it’s very serious. I can remember my dad explaining to me what that symbol was on the wood chips. I had never seen that. I don’t think I even knew. It’s an X, not an X. I’m trying to explain this to my dad. We get into this conversation. Race in America has always been difficult for me and many others like me, but a part of it is blackness can often be treated like a currency where you can gain it or lose it.

I mentioned, I went to private school and now, I talked about skiing. All these things where it could feel I’m losing blackness by the way I talk. Sometimes that can feel like why is it that only our race is treated like a currency where you a white male, depending on your interest, you could gain blackness as a currency. That’s always been a very confusing thing for me to try to identify like, “How can I make sure I’m not losing my blackness?” That is a burden that you carry very early and probably forever. As I’ve grown up and gotten to meet and know more black people like me, I understand that this is not a monolithic community. The visual that gets pushed or the narrative that gets pushed shows you that there’s one way to be black.

When you deviate from those things, you are less of that. That’s the way race has impacted me in America. I’ve seen racism as early as elementary school. The other thing that stands out a lot to me on this is school and profession. It connects to the only narrative for me. The key thing that I’ve experienced is in order for me to be a black woman who has a Finance degree, there were three of us, but I had to learn how to adapt to other cultures. I remember learning to play Fantasy Football. These things may seem minor, but I don’t know the show Friends. I had to start watching this stuff so I could talk to my classmates.

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In my actual career, by the time I’m in a room with peers, I may be the first black woman that they get a chance to know. I met my first close white friend when I was six. As I’m meeting people who aren’t like me, I’m trying to calibrate where are they between six-year-old me and now year-old me and their experience with a black person. I’m amazed that I may have coworkers and this happened to me. In Seattle town where someone is like, “You’re the first black person I’ve ever been able to get that deep with about X, Y and Z.” I’m like, “You’re in your mid-30s. How am I the first?” Constantly being aware and somewhat empathetic to the fact that although it has been so necessary for me to interact with other races to get to where I am, that is not the same way and the other direction. That learning curve has to be okay.

That’s one of the things. I did a Unity Series on this and we’re going to have some more coming out on that as well. One of the guys, Barry Moore talked about the concept of black privilege in, as he described it, learning both cultures versus as a white man. I’ve only had to learn one in that sense. He described it as a privilege. It’s much a harder path in that because you do have to learn both. Whereas now I’m being ignorant for so long, now I’m trying to educate and learn so that I can be able to see both perspectives and both experiences that are drastically different. Would you agree with that phrase and that idea?

I agree with that idea. I’ve never heard the phrase as clearly articulated and sound like that. I’m going to look into that and see if I fully lock-in. It’s so interesting to me how different experiences are for people that could be from the same neighborhood, but speak very differently. It’s how you grew up one block away from this person, but it is the household. I do think growing up in that dual culture can be an advantage in the long run as long as you have to have some level of self-awareness in order to not beat yourself up too much in either environment.

There’s a great book that I’ve been working through called Tell Me Who You Are. It’s written by two younger female authors. They took a year between high school and college to go from Anchorage to Charleston, asking people what their experience of race in America has been, which turned into them, telling them who they are ultimately. It’s an amazing book. I’d recommend it to people reading many different types of peoples from different places and their experience and how they’ve experienced race in America. It’s such a multifaceted thing. It’s not this monolithic reality. That’s helpful and it’s been insightful and eye-opening to me reading that. As you look at America now and where we’re at, are you encouraged or discouraged by where we are in a country as a country in this vein?

I feel encouraged. There are a few things that make this feel exciting. One is we are putting language into experiences. Whether they are conscious or unconscious that now we can describe and have conversations about. I can think of at work, we were talking about microaggressions and what are they? It was like then people were thinking, “I have experiences. I didn’t know what to call it.” As we look at race in America, a part of progress is awareness. It’s knowledge sharing. It’s recognizing that race exists, but it doesn’t have to be something you try to ignore in order to be above it or in order to not be racist, you don’t see race.

There have been these coined phrases in the past that make it so racism is a specific problem held and managed by a specific group of people either you’re racist or not. We have this new term around being anti-racist and starting to talk about what does allyship look? How do you speak up? How do you also pass the mic? What are the true dynamics of how a society looks when racism is eradicated? I feel these conversations have been very eye-opening for me with coworkers, friends and people from all generations, to my friends, parents, my parents the moment we’re in right now in America is we’ve at least called out the state. We’re giving language, resources and recommended actions around how to address these things in a way that feels more honest. Even the bad parts, at least there’s some honesty around it that I feel in my life has been absent. It’s been pretty easy for people to get away with ignoring or looking away where that has finally reached a point of fully unacceptable. Those tough conversations are now happening. They don’t always feel good, but I’m excited that we’re all acknowledging reality. I feel that is step one.

It can’t be overstated how important that is as a step. What’s cool is what you brought up is a throughline that we’ve ever seen in this entire conversation is seeing each other as humans. Even what you started out with that you’re building your team is let’s see each other as a human being here. That applies so well to what you shared. Do you have any encouragement that you would give specifically to white brothers and sisters and specifically then to black brothers and sisters at this time?

For white brothers and sisters, take a little bit of time to self-educate. Maybe I’ll put this together. Black brothers and sisters should be ready to sit in the conversation and it may feel repetitive or frustrating or shocking that this next person is at a stage that you expect them to be farther along in. My ask would be to sit there and be willing to disarm when having the conversation. What I would ask a white person is to self-educate, but then enter the conversation like acknowledging, I don’t know everything about this, but I want to learn. I want to hear. I want to know. Both people need to feel comfortable entering that conversation space. It’s going to require a little more maybe prep work for the white brothers and sisters. It’ll require a fair amount of patience, love and grace from the black brother and sister who’s reading.

One of the background calls mentioned was they’d love to hear from you, even though they said you wouldn’t maybe call yourself a feminist, but hearing your topic, hearing your thoughts on the topic of feminism, and even your experience as a woman trying to work up the corporate ladder and how challenging that often is. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.

First of all, that’s hilarious. You did talk to people who have known me for almost my whole life. I’ve had a hard time trying to describe myself as a feminist in the past. One of the reasons why I have difficulty with that is I do believe that the genders are uniquely designed to be different and complementary. There is an association with modern feminism. By modern I mean my generation’s conversations around feminism are like as, “He can do, she can do.” I don’t believe that to the fullest extent because biblically that’s not how we’re designed. A lot of my disagreement with feminism isn’t about equality. It’s about we are complementary genders as designed. Understanding that there is an order between a male and a female, it’s important.

That’s usually my gripe when talking about feminism with a lot of my friends. What they usually come back to and what I would say leads me to have a little bit of a softer understanding of it is thinking through the lens of professionally and in my own career. There has to be a push for a balance or an improved balance or that equality being even-handed, having proper representation, having a diverse set of leaders, and what does that look at all levels of an organization. Where I say feminism makes sense to me is around more around sharing the microphone and sharing the access. Much of the business world is who you know. You network your way into a lot of opportunities.

The good old boys club is a description because it has some merit there that has to be addressed professionally. For me, the more you look up in a company, the more I can understand why you need a strong enough group of women saying like, “This is not reflective of your customer base, the community, etc.” That’s where I can get behind feminism. That’s a term I’ve been in a lot of passionate debates about.

So much of the business world is who you know; you network your way into a lot of opportunities. Click To Tweet

Rovina, this has been so much fun. I have a few one-offs here before we wrap this up. Going back to where we started with you being naturally curious and the importance of asking good questions, what are some of your favorite questions to ask?

Cultural intros are fun for me. One of the things is I don’t want to ask you where you grew up. I try to ask what places on the map would you consider yourself a local? That’s my fun way of trying to get a sense of where have you lived, or maybe you studied abroad and some area well. Where would you consider yourself a local on the map? Another question that I usually try to ask people and this is more my mentors or people that I’m trying to seek guidance from. What scared you the most about me getting your job tomorrow? I’m trying to understand what are the big decisions they make that they wonder about somebody new or someone more junior not having the capacity for that type of decision making. That’s my way of getting that. Where are you the most if I had to step into your job tomorrow?

The other one that I found interesting is I talked to a lot of business leaders and I try to understand their frame of reference is what year in the future are you most focused on right now? What I’ve learned is depending on either the more entrepreneurial the person is or the more senior they are within a company, they are thinking many years in advance. I remember it was 2017. I asked someone this question, a VP of a company. He said 2024 because that’s the year of so and so. I was thinking, “How many years is that from now? How old will I be?” We still haven’t reached what he was thinking about in 2017. This guy is seven years ahead. We went into why. I like to think about what year are you planning for? That’s a question I like to ask.

What do you want to do less often, more often and not at all?

Should I consider my life like COVID?

You can interpret however you’d like.

I want to do less TV watching, which didn’t use to be a problem and less cleaning. I have to find a better way to stay organized because we’re in the same space so much. I want to stay clean, but I want to clean the list. I want to do more reading. I’m very heavy into listening to podcasts. I enjoyed catching up on several episodes of Up and Comers, but I want to get into reading more. I’ve tried to set out this rule of one book a month. It’s not going great for the year. I’ll keep trying. I also want to do more creative cooking. That’s been a fun part of being married and being in quarantine is we make all our meals at home. I’ve started to get a little experimental and I’m liking it.

I want to try new recipes, more recipe experimenting. I want to do more being outside in the nice weather. The lack of vacations is sinking in. More time on the water and then none. I would to fully cancel all dishes, washing, loading, and unloading. It’s a never-ending task during COVID. I don’t think I ever understood the use of dishes the way I do now. I don’t even know how I’m going to deal with it post-quarantine. This has been a sad saga of always doing dishes. Maybe something that’s more useful. I don’t know if it’s no more, but a lot less driving. I mentioned my husband is from South Africa. He doesn’t have his license here yet. I’m always the driver. It is taking a toll, which is funny because I’ve always driven me around. Now that he’s here, I feel he should be driving me around. I don’t know why, but I would like a better balance of being the driver.

If you could study one other person for an entire year, who would it be and why?

I would study Beyoncé because Beyoncé, one, is a businesswoman but not natural. She had to hone and grow. I’d like to see what caliber she performs at. The other part that I find interesting, and for me why I wanted it to be a woman with a family, is that vision of how you balance being a mom and being a professional is one that I want my own little secret tunnel vision into to get any pro tips. I would be a plant in Beyonce’s house for a year. There’s nothing but the knowledge to be gained.

What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

I would say The Power of Now. Maybe a lesson I want is called Shoe Dog. It’s the story of Nike written by Phil Knight who founded Nike. I found it pretty interesting because he journeys through decades with the company. I like to read business or nonfiction and quotes. He has this quote that’s like, “The losers never started and the quitters died along the way that leaves us.” Sometimes he’s brutally honest about the path to success is not quitting. What does that look like over the decades? It was cool to learn about the mind behind the brand.

UAC 161 | Entrepreneurship

Pray for Potatoes: Pursue Professional Success Through God’s Love

The last question that we ask every guest that comes on the show is if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why in a daily text they get every morning from you?

I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t want it to be too long. I would say commit to being boiling water now. Pray for potatoes into your space. If any eggs come in, maybe they’ll crack.

Rovina, this has been a blast. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your life and experiences. Where’s the best place for people to find you or connect with you and reach out if they want to know more?

On social media, I’m primarily on Instagram. I hardly tweet, but I’m @RovinaCiarra. That’s the best way to find me. Other than that, LinkedIn is always a good way too if it’s more professional, but I will say I spend more time on Instagram than on LinkedIn. It’s up to you.

Rovina, thanks again for coming on. This has been a blast. I’m excited to see what the future holds as God keeps leading you and you keep growing.

Thank you so much. It’s been great. I appreciate it.

For all you reading, we hope you have an Up and Coming week because we are out.

Following up with one last thing to note, if you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening, to quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Rovina Valashiya

UAC 161 | EntrepreneurshipRovina (Broomfield) Valashiya is passionate about business strategy, entrepreneurship, and leadership. She enjoys an exciting career leading a product management team at Amazon and has successfully launched businesses, both within the company and independently. In 2018, she received Amazon’s Just Do It Award from CEO, Jeff Bezos, for innovating on behalf of customers to build and launch Amazon Textures & Hues – an online shop for textured hair care.

Her Amazon career began in 2012 with positions in retail, supply chain, and product management, while also serving as the president of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (2016-2018). She independently operates a Christian streetwear brand, Fiber Sole, and authored Pray for Potatoes which guides readers on a pursuit of professional success through biblical principles.

Rovina studied at Washington University in St. Louis and holds an MBA from Olin Business School and an undergraduate Finance degree. Outside of work, she is an avid snowboarder and basketball player, fan of live music, public speaker and explorer of the great outdoors.

Connect with her on social media @rovinaciarra.

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UAC 160 | Vulnerability

 

Vulnerability is scary. We have evolved the tendency to protect ourselves at all cost from possible embarrassment and humiliation that we often shy away from revealing our innermost thoughts and feelings. But once you get past the fear and gain the courage to dig deep, you’ll find that vulnerability has something great in store for you. In this episode of Couch Conversations, Thane Marcus Ringler is joined once more by his lovely wife, Evan Ryan Ringler to trade thoughts and stories that demonstrate the power vulnerability. Thane and Ev practice what they preach, and their courage to become vulnerable is palpable in this conversation. Plus, learn about Ev’s new endeavor that she is extremely excited and vulnerable about. 

Listen to the podcast here:

Couch Conversations With Evan Ryan Ringler: On Vulnerability And Ev’s New Endeavor

Have you been feeling a lack of hope or am I the only one? We all could use a little more hope. Hope is a spark that ignites our world, fuels our progress, and spurs us upward and onward helping us stay the course. Hope is essential. Why does it feel like there is no hope? Why do we feel hopeless? What can we do about it? I believe hope is readily available to any and all who look for it, who strives to find it, who works towards embracing it. Hope is there if only we would search for it. If there was ever a time in my life that we needed hope, that time is now. This is why I wrote Catalysts For Hope. My hope for this book is that it can reignite your passion for life through renewed energy, optimism and empowered perspectives. We each had the ability to choose hope. It’s time we started doing it. Catalysts For Hope drops on September 1st 2020. You can get your own copy by going to ThaneMarcus.com/hope and signing up there. Here’s to hope.

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life, which we believe takes living with intentionality. We say living with intention in the tension because life has many tensions that we face on a daily basis. Thanks for tuning in for being a part of this movement, community or tribe, whatever you want to call it. We are here and we are doing it together one episode, one week and one day at a time. Thank you for being a part of it. If you wanted to do a couple of things that could help us out, there are several easy ways. The first is leaving us a rating and review on iTunes as an awesome way to help our show be found by more people. We’re almost a triple-digit. If you could push us over the edge, that would be helpful oApple PodcastsYou can also leave reviews on wherever you listen to them at. If you wanted to share our episode with a few friends or a family member, someone you thought of when you are reading itthat is another great way to help our spread our show and our message. 

Finally, if you want to support us financially, you can do so on Patreon where we have monthly donations available there. If you have a company and you’d like to partner with us, we are looking actively for partnerships. Email us at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. It’s a great way to spread the word for your business or for your work. Let us know and if you have any thoughts, comments, questions and concerns, you can always email us there. You can find us on the socials, @UpAndComersShow. Tag us, send us a shoutout. We are out here. That is housekeeping. I’m joined on the couch by my lovely wife, Evan. It’s good to be here. It’s been a long day. We’ve worked hard and rewarding ourselves with a show and some water. It’s the simple things in life and a beer after we’re going to walk down to Platt Park Brewery. They’re not our sponsor, but if they were, that would be awesome. We love them. What do you love most about them? 

It’s tasty. 

What does it taste like? 

It tastes like a Sour Watermelon Jolly Rancher. 

I was going to say it does. That’s how I described it. 

With sparkling water. 

Vulnerability is the first thing we expect in others and the last thing we are willing to give. Click To Tweet

It is a refreshing and enjoyable combo. We have dinner in the oven. My lovely wife has been killing the game in the kitchen. I’m a little jealous because this meal is a new creation, parm chicken orzo. She’s been outpacing me in the kitchen, so I need to step my game up. 

I beat you to it. We both love cooking. 

It’s fun. I mainly cook lunch and you mainly cook dinner, but we do help each other out on both ends. 

That’s one of our fave activities. 

We are going to chat a little bit about a few exciting updates and things we’re learning as we tend to do on these. We hope they’re helpful to you. It’s us sharing our lives with others in order to try and provide encouragement or maybe a few nuggets that can be taken into your own. One of the things that we’re going to talk about is vulnerability, which can be a scary subject. I’ve enjoyed hearing from you on this because there are a couple either things you’ve heard from other people, phrases or ways you put it that help us understand the importance and the benefit of vulnerability. What is that phrase? I don’t remember but I’ve heard you say it multiple times. 

UAC 160 | Vulnerability

 

I reference Brené for vulnerability. She has megaload of information on it. She maybe says this, “Vulnerability is the first thing we expect from someone else and the last thing we expect to give.” 

I love that because it resonates with any human being deep. It is hard for us to open that door but was it the sermon by Judah we were hearing? By podcasts, we’re hearing from a pastor, someone about small groups and how the first person likes to open up. It always takes one person to be real and be vulnerable, and then you see a slew of people follow. I was in her leadership training too. It’s funny how as humans, we wait for someone else to be vulnerable because we don’t want to take the dive in because it’s scary. No one may follow us. It’s risky. There are a lot of things that keep us from being vulnerable. 

That sermon was by Judah Smith and his metaphor was about how in small groups like, “We’re going to do the prayer requests thing.” I love this about guys. One guy will be like, “I’m going through this. This thing is hard.” He’s like, “Thing about guys, we won’t ask what it is.” We’re like, “That thing, that’s hard. We’ll pray for that.” It takes one person to say, “I’ve struggled with this.” Everyone else is like an outpouring of the soul. 

It’s often sexy to talk about leadership. We all want to be leaders, not all but a lot of people want to be good leaders like, “What does it mean to be a good leader? I want to be called a leader or I want to be looked at as a leader.” It’s not sexy. It’s usually scary. Being a leader means you’re the first one to admit you’re wrong, your flaws and the first one to be honest about the hard things that you’re experiencing right now. 

UAC 160 | Vulnerability

 

We’re considering helping to facilitate a small group at our church. One of the things that were said at our training that was good is, “If you want your group to go thereyou go there first.” That’s true for anything. That’s what you’re speaking on with leadership. As I’ve been thinking about what keeps us from being vulnerable, I’ve narrowed it to 2 or maybe spheres of one, it’s embarrassing. We have this narrative of, “I’m not that person. I want to be this person. This is the person I should be. I’m not going to share this because that takes away from that.” Sometimes it’s out of a good heart of, “I don’t want to be selfish and share or make this about me.” That’s what I’ve narrowed it down to, but I’d be curious if you have more thoughts on what keeps us from being vulnerable. 

Embarrassment, selflessness and the other is pride. That’s a huge one, and trying to be something we’re not. We all love an image and this ideal that we think we are or we view ourselves as, but the way we view ourselves is subjective. Even in marriage, I’ve been grateful that you helped me gain objectivity that I didn’t have before of myself. We will never get objectivity especially about ourselves if we’re not vulnerable. In a marriage, you don’t have to be vulnerable but for your marriage to be healthyyou have to be vulnerable. I’m grateful for thatdesigned by God in that. Pride is probably huge for menIt’s a combination of embarrassment and pride usually. You don’t want to be seen as weak. We don’t want to be the only one that’s flawed. We’re all flawed. These are these narratives that get stuck in our heads. 

We had one of our neighbors and his daughter over for dinner and talking about self-development, self-growth and why people shy away from it. A lot of the time, it’s because of this huge, scary endeavor. I don’t want to have to unpack child wounds. My challenge with being vulnerable to relate those feelings back to vulnerability, because we can put those same things on, “If I open up, that’s scary. I could be hurt.” It doesn’t have to be scary and Brené talks about that too of we can connect or connotate vulnerability with fear or disappointment, negative words. That vulnerability is the gateway to love, being understood, understanding, and it’s powerful. 

I’m thinking about my own journey in this and where I’ve struggled and had grown in. I almost think we have to be shocked out of our facade. We almost have to be broken of our facades that we can be vulnerable with others and that’s what the story is for meI had to be broken of this image I was pursuing. For a lot of my high school and college years, I was creating this image of what I wanted other people to see me as. 

Maybe building the container as Rohr says,First half of life. 

It happened again in college where everything exploded on me, and all of my double lives and double standard I’ve been living in different circles came out at the end of my junior year in college. That was a huge breaking point of this idea that if my testimony or the story of my life was to matter, then it needed to be honest. It needed to be real. There’s something to it and I think part of it even goes into love. We want to be loved and we create this image that we think other people will love when that’s the most fearful place to be is living a lie so that others can love you, versus living your true self and being loved for who you truly are. There’s nothing better than that, yet we chase it the wrong way. I know I did for so long. Since then, that idea of living with integrity has been compelling and helped me strive for this more than I ever used to. It’s a daily battle still, but being the person that I say I am and living with integrity. Vulnerability goes handin hand with integrity because you’re letting people in to see who you are. What are you going to say? 

A few things. They’ve escaped me but they’re coming back. I was going to share an example of vulnerability that happened to me. There’s something else I wanted to say about what you shared. Think about all these people that you most connect with, influencers or people you don’t even know and the people you know, the people that are in my life that are unapologetically themselves. I’ll speak for myself. I have that much more respect for them. I adore them that much more because they’re being them and they aren’t afraid to say, “I messed up here and this is what I learned from it. This is how I’ve grown from it or this is going on.” We’ve heard people shy away from being vulnerable because we can make excuses for it. As we’ve talked through this morewe’ve been seeing that we shy away from being vulnerable with excuses, “They don’t need to know that about me or my life, or I don’t want to be an open book for everyone.” There’s truth in that if you let your inner circle into your innermost parts. I agree that you don’t have to share your heart with everyone to the depths of your soul. 

Vulnerability is the gateway to being understood. Click To Tweet

That’s the sermon piece. That’s the piece that there’s the right time and the right place for sharing, and that doesn’t mean every person in every situation. If we are open to sharing, that’s what matters. We’ll know when the right time is, but if we’re never open to sharing those intimate pieces of our story. The one thing I would add to that is it doesn’t have to be someone in your inner circle. It could be maybe someone you met for coffee and something they shared where for some reason, the spirit sparks, this piece of your story in your mind you’re like, “This could be encouraging to them or helpful at this moment.” That’s also an important part of it is the posture of being willing. 

Try to be spiritled in, “I don’t want to share this, but God has prompted me to.” The other thing I would say is we’ve heard people say like, “I feel like everyone has this perception of me that I’m perfect.” If people have that perception, you’re not sharing. I don’t think they could hold that perspective of you if you’re sharing your struggles and hang-ups. All that to say, I’m proud of you for going there. 

I’m proud of you as well. Before you get to this example that I’m excited to hear and have you sharethe other thing to add is that a big part of why people don’t see a true version of others is because they’re basing their view of others on images or posts. That’s a danger of social media is to associate what you see in a virtual setting as who they are and all of that is interpreted. We’re interpreting all of that and it’s not even reallife person-to-person. It’s a check on us to be like, “I don’t want this to be influencing my view of this person. If it is in a negative way, then maybe I should not be consuming what they’re putting out there.” 

The second is like, “How can I strive to be as honest as possible in what I share or what I produce that’s true to me, to what I believe and what I think or who I am or what I’m going through?” It’s a double challenge for us in that. Speaking of vulnerability in your life, I’d love to also share a little context in that. This was a theme for you and we’ll share a little bit more of this. I love how spiritled you are on that because with that theme, there was an intention by God and what he brought even and thats a testimony in your story youre going to share. I wanted to preface with that Im proud. 

UAC 160 | Vulnerability

 

Ill probably get emotional. 

It’s something else I love about you. 

Vulnerability has been my focus. One of my challenges was to be vulnerable in whatever shape that takes because I do consider myself an open book. I’m like, “If people want to know, I’m happy to share.” I’ve learned to not be embarrassed about my circumstances or my past choices because those are in the past and I’ve learned from things as we all have. With that, I experience anxiety when I am in people’s weddings. We don’t have to dissect all of this and a lot of that stemmed from the year I graduated. I was at fifteen weddings. For whatever reason, that triggered me towards the end of having a lot of anxiety around being in front of people. I’ve never liked to be in front of people. With that, I would fight through it and I would commit a year in advance and then I would think about it at least every day, leading up to, “I don’t want to walk down the aisle.” It’s not even about me and that’s why it was frustrating. 

For those of you who experienced anxiety, I’m sure you can relate with, “This is frustrating because it’s not about me and it feels like it’s becoming about me because I’m worried about whatever.” I had a dear friend give me a call and she asked if I wanted to be in her wedding and I was and am honored. I had goosebumps when she was asking me. I was like, “This is cool.” I had a little maybe ten-second pause after she asked of, “Do I say yes and don’t bring her into what I’m experiencing? Do I bring her in, loop her in, be vulnerable and share?” There was a real fear of, “She could be mad at me, or what do you mean?” Think differently of me because of my experience with anxiety around being in weddings. 

UAC 160 | Vulnerability

 

I decided to share and did the whole, “It isn’t about you. It is not personal. I want to bring you into this space of this is what I experience and I am for you and your partner.” Without skipping a beat, it was right when I stopped talking, she was like, “I want you to be a part of it. To whatever capacity you’re comfortable with being a part of it, that’s enough for me.” I feel like that’s the start to the path of redemption for me and that sphere of experiencing anxiety being in weddings. I felt the grace of God extended to me, “No problem. I understand everyone has their thing. What are you comfortable with?” I felt heard, seen, better known. I’m grateful. 

It’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I love that story, that testimony of the power of vulnerability because we’re focusing on it, or talking about it doesn’t mean it gets less scary. It’s always in that moment going to be scary of like, “This person could say something hurtful. This could be dividing versus unifying thing. This could be blank and blank.” Whatever it is, fill in the blank to have the courage to do it and to follow the lead of like, “This is what I needed to do here.” 

Even sharing now, I’ve felt myself getting hot and what are people going to think? “What do you mean you don’t like to be at weddings?” Honestly, I asked myself the same question as, “It’s not about me. I get to wear a cool new dress. I got to support my friend.” For all of those things for whatever reason, I experienced anxiety around that and I didn’t want to lose months of sleep over something that could be cured in one conversation, which it was. Something to say, if my friend had a negative reaction, that wouldn’t be a reflection of me and my vulnerability. It would have been a reflection of her. It’s a sweet thing to remember this person loves me and if this person loves me, I’ll be met with love and grace. 

In those situations when we aren’t, we can always extend grace to people in that. I can’t remember who said this quote but it sparked to my mind, “We suffer more in imagination than reality.” One of the biggest benefits of vulnerability is we can end that imaginary suffering of scenarios because we get it out there and we play out the scenario in real life, which eliminates a lot of the mental suffering that can come when we fail to act. It’s not saying every situation will be that way, but that’s the benefit of being vulnerable. Speaking of vulnerability there’s something else that you’ve been vulnerable with. 

I feel like this whole episode is on vulnerability, which is right on. 

We’re living it. We’re practicing what we preach. 

The start of quarantine in April or Mayhowever long ago that was, a lot of women from past circles had been reaching out and sharing. I felt like one of the common themes was women settling whether that be with, “I don’t work out anymore. My body is it is what it is. I’m dating this person, but I’m not always happy.” For the record, relationship is not about happiness. The point was like, “I don’t know if I’d be able to find anyone else or I’m in this job and it’s okay.” I felt called and prompted by the spirit to do something for women and I kept coming back to Jesus was all about the one. Whatever it was, even if I could affect one woman for betterthen that would be enough. 

I’m off of all social media. I was praying through what avenue made sense. I landed on a weekly newsletter and I send out a weekly newsletter and it’s outlined by Stay the Course, Stay Curious and Stay Light. The hope is to encourage and empower women on the journey from someone who is also on the journey and a place where we can share what has been helpful in bringing our best selves to the day. Staying curious, what are we learning? How are we considering all sides of an issue or a topic? Stay light is how can we laugh? Lanny Hunter, one of our friends said, I’m paraphrasing, but he never travels any too great distance without someone who can laugh. Humor is a beautiful and important gift. 

We suffer more in imagination than in reality. Vulnerability eliminates a lot of that mental suffering. Click To Tweet

What is it called? 

It’s called Worthy A Weekly Reset. It drops on Monday mornings right to your inbox. It’s been challenging and beautiful. It’s been rewarding. I’m grateful to be a part of it. 

It’s sweet to see you go from spark idea and then marinating on it and then taking action and being vulnerable. Lo and behold, here we come. Our topic is vulnerability. Here we are, we happened to have a show, which is ironic but also divine in a lot of ways. If there are women out there that would like to be involved, is there a place that they can go to? 

Yes. I don’t know off the top of my head the URL.  (https://www.GetRevue.co/profile/worthy/)

I’m excited to see what comes from Worthy and how you continue to encourage others. What’s cool is we are more blessed by trying to bless others. If I’ve learned anything from podcasting and writing, it’s that I’ve benefited ten times more than others have. I’m excited because that will be true with you and worthy as well. It already has been, which is sweetI love hearing from the women that it has reached and impacted. It’s the coolest thing. If you’re a woman out there, hop on it. 

The last thing I’ll say about it is it’s been overwhelming in a sweet way to see how universal a lot of our struggles or circumstances are as women. I asked for some feedback and a lot of the feedback was on body image and that was ranging from 19 to 60 years old. It’s cool to know that. Speaking of vulnerabilityby putting something out there and then having all these people say, “Me too,” that’s been powerful. 

You’re not alone. We are not alone. To end, we thought we had to mention the habit we are working on building. What habit are you working on building? 

I’ve been working on building a few. 

UAC 160 | Vulnerability

Overachiever. 

That’s you. The one I’ve been most consistent with is water intake, and it does take intentionality. I feel better on the days I get my number of ounces and I try to get 100 in each day. There’s no universal consensus on if it’s, “You’re supposed to drink your body weight in ounces or half your body weight.” I landed on 100 ounces besides more frequent bathroom breaks, that’s the only negative thing. I feel my brain is clear, my skin is brighter and all the wins, and I know I’m taking care of my body. What would you say? 

The habit I am buildingI haven’t thought about this so let me think. I would say two things that come to mind. The first is trying to get better at entrusting things to God. What I mean by that is relying on his power and timing and not my own. It is a hard thing for me to do. I like to hustle and I like to put in the work and the hours and the effort, and try to make things happen. I don’t think that is the best posture for me or for people trying to follow the way of Jesus. For me, it’s being okay with accepting where I’m at and being diligent, but not being not entrusting the results to myselfThat habit is more mental than anything. It’s a mental discipline. The second would be for us, I would say the habit of being conscious of our connection. I hope I’ve been getting better at that. That’s an important thing in a relationship, you are much more in tune than I am by nature. Itstrength of yours and a weakness of mine. It’s been fun to try to be more conscious of that and try to adjust as needed in that. That’s the two that would come to mind. 

I feel I’ve seen you grow in both of those areas. 

This has been fun. We’re both hungry and thirsty. Couch combo numero tres is officially done. Until next time, my love. 

I love you, Thane. 

I love you. We hope you all have an up and coming week. 

This is Thane here following up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time. 

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About Evan Ryan Ringler

UAC 160 | Vulnerability

Evan Ryan Ringler is my wife. (Woot Woot!) She is one of the most thoughtful, caring, and intentional individuals I have ever met in my life, which is why I had to wife her up! In all seriousness, she is a powerhouse of a woman that I can’t wait for you all to get to know better. She grew up in Overland Park, KS, and quickly gravitated to her natural athleticism, centering in on the sport of soccer.

She competed for four years at the University of Arkansas on the soccer team before graduating with a degree in International Relations. After graduating she spent time at Garmin and Children’s Mercy before deciding to move to Denver for a new adventure in the Rockies. After almost two years as the Rocky Mountain Regional Manager for Life Equals, she decided to venture into her own pursuits as a consultant, pouring time into a few other passion projects she has as well.

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UAC 159 | Retail For The People

 

The specialty retail industry is going through challenging times now with COVID-19 going on, but the principles of success in the industry remain the same. Retail strategist Krista Boyer teaches these principles to business owners through Retail for the People. Having been through the ups and downs of physical store retail herself, Krista knows the struggles and challenges of retail owners and has accumulated a host of ingenious strategies that center around recreating the retail experience for the client. She aims to serve 10,000 local retail businesses and is excited to lead them through the massive shift the industry is experiencing. In this conversation with Thane Marcus Ringler, they talk about a lot of topics, including how to listen well to others, leading with kindness, her childhood entrepreneurial endeavors, her time spent as a ballerina, her path to retail, what she learned from her different roles along the way, the current state of retail, and future goals. The most important takeaways from this interview are from her powerful stories, so make sure to listen close!

Listen to the podcast here:

Krista Boyer: Retail For The People: Stories Of Perseverance From A Seasoned Entrepreneur Reinventing Local Businesses For The Better

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that takes living with intention in the tension, a catchy phrase to say that life is filled with many tensions between this and that, that we face every day. We believe the best way to face that tension is by infusing intentionality into all that we do. It’s a reason why behind what we’re doing. That is the goal of the show. We aim to accomplish that by interviewing other people and sharing their stories of their journey on the process of becoming, learning, and growing that we are all on hopefully our entire lives. Thank you for being a fellow up and comer and joining us on this beautiful dance and this wonderful ride.

We’re glad you’re here. There are a couple of things to note before we dive in the show. The first is if you want to connect with us, we are on all social channels, @UpAndComersShow and you can also send us an email at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. We always love hearing from you. If you want to support our show, there are a few easy ways. The first is by leaving us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you leave a review, it may get read on air. This was a review left by Wax and Wicks titled, “This show makes you think and will stick with you for a while to ponder the content, like seeing a good movie that you think about the next day or two. Beautifully produced, and I can tell a lot of thought goes into this show. I highly recommend.” Thank you, Wax and Wicks. That’s very kind and I’m glad that you’re highly recommending it. That means that we’re on the right track, so thank you. If you haven’t left us one, it takes a few minutes. That would be a great way to help us out.

Another easy way is by sharing this episode or one that you enjoyed with a few friends. Send it by text, tag them on socials or just tell them about it in a conversation. That is the best way to spread the good word, by word of mouth and referral. We’d love it if you would be our teammate in that. Finally, if you want to support us financially, we are on Patreon where you can subscribe to monthly donations to help us keep the show going and provide for the expenses associated with it. If you have a company and you’re looking to partner with us, we are actively looking for partners. Be sure to reach out by email at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com.

That gets us to the interview. This is an interview with Krista Boyer. Krista Boyer is a retail entrepreneur, consultant and coach. She is the Founder, President and Chief Retail Strategist for Retail for the People, a retail firm she started in LA and is now based in Jacksonville, Florida. Her passion lies in equipping retailers, both individuals and businesses, with the tools to succeed in brick and mortar retail. She simplifies the process and helps them identify their corporate brand strategy, store design, retail operations standards, team training, as well as identify the reason to make their customers loyal and return. She founded Retail for the People in 2016 with a focus on reinventing the physical retail experience, specifically through pop-up shops and team coaching that is centered on both operations and the in-store experience. Her work has been featured in Fast Company and WWD.

She serves as a Retail Consultant for the Economic Development Collaborative in Southern California and loves equipping and coaching specialty retail stores, spas and boutiques. Krista also serves as a mentor and judge for the New York City-based YMA fashion scholarship fund. She was a speaker that 2019 ReMode Conference in LA discussing the topic of retail and how to rehumanize brick and mortar through pop-up and team training. She has a huge heart for boutique retail and specifically loves working with the store owners and store managers. While most of the retail industry is moving online, Krista and her team strategically serve retailers through personalized coaching and training for store owners and managers so they can have the tools, strategy, and community support to succeed in the digital age.

She believes the future of retail hinges on people and she aims to serve 10,000 local retail businesses in the coming years and is very excited to be a leader in the shift the industry is experiencing. She is a gem of a person and I enjoyed this interview. We covered a lot of topics, including how to listen well to others, leading with kindness, and her childhood entrepreneurial endeavors. Also, her time spent as a ballerina, her path to retail, what she learned from her different roles along the way, the current state of retail and future goals she has. As well as some of her lowest moments, what she’s most proud of and so much more. It was a fascinating conversation hearing a lot of her background, her stories from her life. I know that you’re going to relate to a lot of what she has to say. She was vulnerable and opened up about some beautiful things. Enjoy this interview with Krista Boyer.

Krista Boyer, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Thane. I love being here.

One of the things that I appreciate about you and many that we’re going to get to is your ability to connect people. I want to thank you even on connecting me with Houston Kraft back in the day. That was a fun experience we shared together, getting to go hear him speak as a gifted speaker, but you are a very gifted connector.

Thank you. I appreciate that. That goes a lot with what I love to do being a retailer in specialty store spaces as an owner.

Talk to me about how you describe the work that you’re doing when you talk to other people or when you have conversations with people you meet. How do you go about describing your work?

I call myself a retail strategist. I’ve been obsessed with retail for more than seventeen years now. My journey wasn’t exactly quick, it didn’t start yesterday kind of thing. I love specialty retail, specifically a boutique store, a smaller localized business. It could be a vacation community or it could be a resort community, or it could be the boutique down the street from where you live. There is something wonderful when people put their dreams in place and curate a beautiful assortment of goods. The idea is you come in and you get to learn something new about yourself or about the world or about society at large. You also get to participate in an economic flourishing in a way through the selling of these goods and employing different people. I like to say that I’m a retail coach, retail strategist. We help specialty retail stores thrive. We simplify it. It’s complicated and I love being there to help them and to coach them. I love beautiful spaces and beautiful stores. I’m driven by having a good experience that’s exciting, safe, wonderful and magical.

We’re going to dive into all things retail I’m sure. Before we get there, one of the things that a reference ended up mentioning in a background call was a character trait that I wanted to hear about first. It ties in, in the sense, that your experiences in retail may be a part of how you’ve developed this characteristic. This friend said that she never judges anybody, which is what I love so much. She’s always saying, “Let’s hear what the other side has to say.” She’s very good at listening and doesn’t jump to conclusions and gives people a second chance. I bring this up because even if we look at our context in society in the world, these are character traits that I believe we would do so well by embodying and embracing more. I’m curious to hear from you how you’ve developed an ability to at least give the appearance of not judging others, whether or not that may be true. Who knows? This is hearsay, but I want to hear what your perspective is on hearing that and how you cultivate an ability to listen to people that they are without judgment.

It’s sweet. Whoever said that, I appreciate that. It means a lot. I’ve been in sales my whole life, my whole career working in retail, working in a store. From day one, you never know who’s coming in your door and who’s going to spend a lot of money and who’s not. You have to treat everybody with kindness, respect and empathy. You have no idea what’s happened in their life or what’s happened that day. You as the person in the store right there have that opportunity to show kindness, to listen, to say hello. Sometimes even greeting someone and saying, “Hey,” makes the biggest difference in their life in that moment. It’s years of being in stores and being around people that that’s become a natural.

I hadn’t thought much about it, in all honesty. It’s how it’s been and listening and loving hearing people’s stories. When you’re in the specialty retail space, it opens up an opportunity to communicate and to talk to people in a way that large big-box retailers like Target might not be able to do. We get to understand why someone’s coming in, what they’re hoping to find, what they’re struggling with. How could it meet their needs in a special way? We support them emotionally. We support them with products that benefit their lives, but then we also listen to them. Learning how to not judge them or, “Can they afford this product? Do they need this product?” and getting to understand people. I didn’t even realize that I did that.

It’s cool to have that even subconsciously at work. What do you think helps us with becoming good listeners? What helps with good listening?

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

Retail For The People: Being in the specialty retail space opens up an opportunity to communicate with people in a way big-box retailers can’t.

Looking people in the eye. It’s the first step. The second step would be don’t cross your arms. When you cross your arms, it’s instant. It’s like you close the conversation. You’re like, “I’m too busy,” or “I’m too cool,” or “I don’t care enough about what you have to say.” If you uncross your arms and your eyes are making actual eye contact, you’re telling other person, “You matter to me,” and you have something valuable to say.

It’s giving other people dignity. It’s amazing how something as simple as crossing the arms, the energy that gives off, even if you don’t even consciously register it, it is felt and known or understood.

Crossing your legs too. It’s also years of working on a sales floor. It’s like an improv. You open the conversation based on your body language. Even saying hello or nodding or acknowledging someone goes a long way.

Speaking of sales calls and that environment, do you have any favorite memories of maybe times when you didn’t perform so well or it didn’t go how you hoped or maybe it was a failure that was very meaningful and what it taught you?

Most of my failures, I don’t know if I would call them failures, but honestly, it was my being very naïve and not realizing who is in the store with me in that moment. The number of celebrities that I have talked to and sold product to and had no idea who it was until after they left is absurd. You would probably roll your eyes and be shocked at it. The fact that I treated them like a normal human because that’s who they were, and I listen to them, that’s a failure, so to speak. I didn’t realize who I was talking to at the time. It was a very genuine interaction. I pay a lot of attention to the bottom line and to numbers and finances and sales. I’m never going to sell you something if I don’t think it’s going to help you. I will tell you, “You don’t need this. You don’t want this. They have something better across the street.” As far as failures go, I try not to have a lot of bad sales, a lot of bad customers, or a lot of bad experiences. Off the top of my head right now, my biggest ones would be not realizing who’s there and maybe swooning over them because they were on the store.

It speaks to another story that I heard where your fiancé or soon to be husband, when you first met, you appeared to be a celebrity. Is that correct?

He jokes about that. I don’t know why. It’s crazy but that’s what he thought.

Tell me the story. What happened?

I was coming from being in LA and I had this look. I had this leather jacket I wore all the time and jeans and a certain pair of shoes. That was my Downtown LA outfit. I was in Florida and we met very organically and ended up going to dinner. When I showed up, I was so different from anybody else in this part of Florida that he thought I was a celebrity or what. It’s a very sweet compliment and I love it. That’s what it was. I had on a leather jacket. I had a look.

You know when you see it, so that’s good. Where did your start in retail come from? What was the origin of your love for spaces and creating atmospheres that people can connect with and products that they ultimately can benefit from?

I believe it starts when I was little. I’m a lucky kid that we traveled a lot growing up. My mom loved museums, history and art. We went to the Louvre and we went to the National Gallery of Art. We went all over the country and all of the world to see Picasso’s and Monet’s and different things. Whenever you’re going to art galleries, you’re experiencing beautiful buildings and beautiful spaces. You’re experiencing the masters in a way. I was very lucky that I got to see a lot of beautiful, good art and beautiful spaces and beautiful stores. I developed a passion for fashion and magazines and I was always reading Vogue and things like that when I was younger. When I was fifteen years old, one of my best friend’s moms heard that I wanted to go to school for fashion when I graduated from high school and she said she knew a friend.

It was this woman who owned the high-end beautiful boutique selling a lot of designer goods, handbags, shoes, clothing. She was like, “Would you like to meet her and maybe talk to her and see if you can ask her a few questions? She’d been in the industry at this point for twenty years and knew the ins and outs and went to Paris to buy her products and all this stuff.” The fifteen-year-old in me was so excited and said, “Yes, of course. Please.” I couldn’t drive yet. I didn’t get my permit until I was sixteen. I was a year behind and all that. My mom drove me to the boutique on a Saturday midmorning and I had my little questions. I was going to ask her a bunch of questions about fashion and retail and what did I need to study? What school should I go to? What brands do I need to watch? What are the emerging ones?

The store got surprisingly busy halfway through our little meeting. The story goes, this is what she tells everybody that I jumped in and ran to the back into the stock room and started finding shoes for people and pulling shoe sizes and helping a lady in the dressing room. When it all calmed down, she was very impressed that I took the initiative and didn’t wait for the customers to leave and started helping and started selling. She offered me a job. She said, “Do you want to come and work on Saturdays?” I started working with her on Saturdays and then I’ve been working with her on and off ever since in different capacities. It’s been a wonderful relationship. She’s been a mentor to me since that day and we’re almost like family.

That initiative that led to you taking ownership of the situation at fifteen is remarkable. That’s something that isn’t necessarily there with most. It wasn’t necessarily there with me at fifteen. Did you have siblings? Was it your parents’ upbringing? What do you see fueled that ability to take initiative even in high school?

A lot of people don’t know this, but I was homeschooled from pre-K all the way to twelfth grade. From a very early age, my mom always taught us to ask questions and to be curious. We had a very classical education where we studied Latin and logic, but we also studied Math and English and everything else. That more inquisitive way of growing up and connecting the dots and different things through her good lesson plans are what taught us. You jump in and you take action and you do something. You don’t sit around and wait.

Do you have siblings?

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

I do have a sister.

Older or younger?

We are 2.5 years apart.

Are you the oldest?

I am.

Did you see the same initiative in her? Was it different being the youngest versus the oldest? What do you think on that front? I know there are a lot of studies and science and thought process around being the young child or being the old child or even your placement in that, or an only child. Did you see any of that play out in your background?

I’m the oldest and I definitely like being the oldest. I’m fortunate. I probably had Sarah be my little helper a lot of times in some of my projects and endeavors. Anything I did, she wanted to do too and wanted to do better, and that’s how siblings go. When I was fifteen years old going and meeting the wonderful Ms. Marsha and spending time with her in her store, I had several businesses. I was obsessed with entrepreneurship from a young age. My first business, I was not quite middle school yet, and my friend, Olivia and I, we would watch the Oscars and the Golden Globes and see all the pretty jewelry and stuff that the celebrities were wearing.

This would happen in February, March time. I would spend the next couple of months babysitting so that I could earn enough money to buy a bunch of jewelry supplies. I would go and spend the next 2.5 months making jewelry, necklaces, and earrings with Swarovski crystals and all kinds of different things and take them to my ballet studio during the end part of May. While all the moms were sitting around, waiting for their students to practice for recital, I would sell them jewelry. In three days’ time, I made $1,500. I would do that every time during there was a recital and I did that a lot. Being a little kid, I was always very entrepreneurial. That went along with it. I thought I was going to be a millionaire by 22 when I was twelve. It was hilarious.

How many years did you do that?

I danced until I was in my twenties, so I made jewelry probably for five years.

That was one. You said there was another entrepreneurial business before fifteen.

I did the jewelry. It was called Krista’s Krystals. Very cheesy, KK, little cards. I also had a baking business and we live in a neighborhood that had a lot of families and a lot of moms who were busy and working. I love baking and I love the creative aspect of icing all these cookies and cakes and finding recipes. I put together different packages of different baked goods and when kids were having a party or an after-school function or whatever, the moms would buy desserts from me. I had a little business doing that. I hired Sarah, my sister. She helped me bake cookies and ice things, and it was hilarious. I did that. In high school, I wanted to be a fashion designer before I went to college. I started a clothing line that we carried in a local boutique and sold that and learned all how hard it is to make clothes and try to market them. At the time, I had no idea how to market anything outside of word of mouth. It was fun. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and creative and more in the retail space, I would say, without even trying or planning it.

I have to ask, was the baking business called Krista’s Kookies? What was the clothing company?

It was named after my dad’s mother, Jean Boyer. I was going with the French. My dad’s side, their last name has a French heritage to it. I went with the whole French and fashion and whatever. It’s great when I think about it and think about all these different things.

What were your parents like during this time? Were they encouraging? Were they letting you figure it out on your own? Did they provide resources or help? Is your dad an entrepreneur? Where did this come from for you?

I have awesome parents. They have always said, “Be anything you want to be,” and they supported 120%. I’m very lucky. My mom is good at organizing things and making lists and doing strategies. She helped me. When I was doing the jewelry business, I forget how many quantities of things to order and how many things to buy. We would measure people’s wrists. “It’s going to take an average of these many beads and we need to order these many if we’re going to make 13 or 20 bracelets.” She was good at helping explain things like that.

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

 

What did your dad do for a living?

My dad is an accountant and he’s been doing that forever and he is awesome at it.

That’s a cool combination because one of the things I’ve heard in how people described you, two people both said dreamer as one of the words. One of them gave a descriptor of focused and someone else described you as an operations guru.

I am not an operations guru at all. That is where my weakness lies.

Even if it may feel like a weakness to you, there are still some strengths involved in that. Even starting three businesses before college is pretty remarkable in and of itself. When you think about raising your own family and kids in the future, what do you want to instill in them to provide a framework or foundation that could give them an opportunity to follow in your steps or whatever steps they want to? How does it inform how you want to raise your kids?

For me, I’ve always known from my parents that they loved me and that no matter what, they were going to support me. I could have been the biggest screwup or failure and they’ll still love me. I don’t ever doubt that. It’s huge. You can take on the world when you feel that way and when you know that to be true. I will admit I’m a complete dreamer. If I have children one day who dreamed that sky’s the limit and they can be anything they want to be and hope to be and they want to change the world, I would be thrilled.

I want to hear some more on being a dreamer because I share a lot of that. As dreamers, we can get a bad rep and get dismissed as being a dreamer or whatever. There can be a lot of negative along with the positive. In your opinion, what makes being a dreamer helpful and what makes being a dreamer unhelpful?

The version of me when I was younger, the dreamer version was that nothing is impossible and nothing can’t be done. As I’ve gotten a little bit older and had a few failures here and there, I’ve realized sometimes all dreams aren’t always the best of dreams and they’re not always going to work the way that you expect them to, but that’s okay. Part of being a dreamer is you have to try and you have to be willing to take a risk and it might not work, but that’s part of it. Those who dream are the ones who do something usually.

In current life or current context for you, is there anything that still holds you back from those dreams or from pursuing those dreams?

The biggest thing in the world is probably what everybody has, fear of failure and disappointing people. That is my absolute crippling, biggest thing. Every day, you have to go against that.

What do you think is bigger between the two? Fear of failure or fear of disappointing others?

Disappointing others and then fear of failing.

What is the self-talk like when you’re working through this? What does that inner dialogue that helps you put it in a better perspective or reframe it or move past that?

It’s looking at past experiences and thinking through like, “Why did I think this way? How did this happen? What can I learn from it?” It’s something that is probably a journey that you’ll be on your whole life trying to overcome and not believe in the voices in your head that tell you one thing and you give an affirmation to prove that, “No, that is not true. No, that is not who I am.”

For people who are reading who maybe have never taken that first step, who at twelve years old didn’t take that step of starting the business they wanted to and they don’t have this history to look on of experiences in times when they were able to overcome that self-limiting belief or thought process and do what they felt called to do. What advice would you give them or how would you coach them or talk to them about taking that first step and overcoming those fears?

The first step is you have to have someone who’s supporting you and encouraging you. Some people like to say in the context of a supportive community or you have a friend that you can ping pong your idea off. You have to have someone there that will listen to you and encourage you and remind you when you’re wrong. The first step is you have to have a supportive community. It could be your friend, your brother, your significant other, your mom. When you start to fear and doubt yourself, they remind you who you are and who you can be. It’s good to have that close friend or family member, whoever it is that you trust. Build those things back in you when you have forgotten them due to being stressed, tired, or having experienced something tragic.

There is something wonderful when people put their dreams in place and curate a beautiful assortment of goods in a beautiful space. Click To Tweet

What was it like being a dancer growing up and what traits did that instill in you?

I was a ballerina through and through and some might say my ballet career was my first big failure. I was going to be a ballerina. That’s what I was going to be when I grew up. Fashion and retail were second place. I studied and I was in a lot of ballets and a lot of recitals. I was lucky enough to get to dance in St. Petersburg, Russia. I participated in different events over there and do a little bit of dancing in New York City. I was on the top of my game and I broke my foot. When you’re a ballerina, your career doesn’t work when you hurt your foot. That happened right as I was starting college. It would be either ballet or college and I chose college.

What was that process like for you? I’m sure that had been one of the lowest or hardest points in the journey thus far, but what was that experience like? How did you end up breaking your foot?

It was through a series of being very stubborn. The one good thing about being a dancer, being an athlete is it teaches you work ethic and it teaches you how to commit to something and focus 125% and how to give it 150% every time you show up. There’s no going backwards. There’s only going forwards and you are focused. Whether it’s on mastering a specific dance choreography piece or getting into a certain training program or getting accepted into a certain company, whatever it is, that is your focus and you don’t let go of that. Sometimes in that relentless pursuit of excellence and molding your body to be this crazy, flexible, strong thing that ballerinas are, you do stupid things. I had hurt my foot and had slightly sprained it. One thing led to the next and stress fracture, and then it gets worse. I danced on it for over six months because I had an amazing part in Sleeping Beauty. I was the Lilac Fairy and I didn’t want to give that up and let it heal. I did a stupid thing, I danced on it. There were multiple in Sleeping Beauty for this particular part. In the middle of the very first solo, I came crashing on my behind and the whole thing is such an absolute blur, but it was miserable and tragic and it hurt so bad.

It had to have been crushing. With that being a decision-making point, did that make the decision easier in giving up something that you had dedicated your whole life to or was it still a battle?

For me, a big part of my life story was that ballet had become an idol and ballet had become a God. It’s the grace of God that He took that away and said, “No. Are you going to pay attention to all these other things or are you going to have a relationship with me?” My journey as a Christian started because of that experience.

The breaking. Yes, I am very familiar with that.

Being an athlete and then having a circumstance that’s not the best, it’s very humbling.

Sports are such a beautiful realm. We learn so much in any performing art, any sport, and especially the child. It gives us a lot of the structure to learn about life that we wouldn’t have otherwise. As kids, we receive instruction in that realm a lot better than we do from parents or others telling us about life. I love those arenas and what we learn from them. What would you say are the things about being a ballerina that you miss?

I miss going and stretching. You’re so in tune with your body and your balance, and there’s something about it, your toes and your muscles and where everything is. It is all in alignment in a wonderful way that you have to be working out, stretching and using those ligaments and everything all the time to feel that way. Ballet is so incredibly expressive when you start dancing and even how you hold your fingers and everything that you do, there’s so much emotion in every part of it. I love how you can express yourself. If you’re feeling sad or feeling happy, you can convey that in your movement. It’s beautiful to watch people when they don’t care about the world around them and they are dancing. They’re being totally them. When you’re not dancing, you don’t have that space to create in that way. I’m sure you can dance in your house and dance in your living room or whatever, but being able to dance on stage and do that thing is something I do miss.

Do you still dance recreationally?

I have not. I was exploring the idea right before the Coronavirus happened and I was looking at different studios and things like that.

I also enjoy dancing and I was going a little bit off and on in LA. With moving to Denver now, there are no places open. I haven’t even been looking, but I do miss it. It’s such a fun activity.

The first grown-up ballet I ever saw was in Denver. That would be Denver Ballet. Cinderella when I was little. At the time I watched, they were the most amazing. They’re so great. As a little kid sitting there and watching them do eight pirouettes at a time.

Back to the decision in college, you made the decision to go to college and pursue your second passion, which was retail at the time. Is that correct?

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

Retail For The People: You can get to create whatever version of yourself you want to be through your clothing choices and you can use that to empower others.

I went under the guise of fashion. Honestly, I did not realize the difference between retail and fashion and how they connect. I knew I wanted to be in The Devil Wears Prada and wear glamorous clothes and wear Chanel. I was lucky that by the time I went to college, I’d already gone to France a few times with Marsha who owns the beautiful boutique. I had gone to New York a ton of times with her to do market meeting or market appointments and even showroom so I can have an idea of what was going on. I thought I was going to be this fashion executive. I went to a small school in New York City so I could be around all the fashionistas and be close to the action and all that stuff.

What I did not realize is that you can’t jump into fashion and have any major that you want. I started out in school studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at a small private liberal arts college. The Economics part was informative and helpful, but the Politics and Philosophy I quickly realized were not exactly what I needed to be studying if I want to make it in fashion. I love being in New York and I love being around that energy. I ended up transferring back to a school in Florida that had a good marketing and retail management program. I figured if I studied retail management and I studied marketing, I can merge the two since there seemed to be the core elements of these successful high fashion companies. I transferred and ended up graduating from the University of Florida.

That’s parallel to so many people’s experience because we always have these fantasaical ideas of career paths. What we see on in the magazines or in the movies is this overnight journey or short journey from college to that play. We forget that it’s very complex and complicated. We don’t know. We’re naive. I love hearing that pivot you made. It shows that your experience as an entrepreneur paying off, even in the decision of what to study in college and how it connects and relates. What did you find from that point and coming out of college? How did your mindset or even your focus shift as you entered into the workforce in the real world?

During my junior and senior year of school, I was lucky. I had a couple of great professors. One is Dr. Watson. Another one was Cecilia Schultz, and then another woman by the name of Betsy. They were advocates for me and encouraged me to pursue different things in retail and in that space because they knew I loved it. There was a scholarship competition that they told me about. It’s called the YMFASF, the Young Men’s Fashion Association Scholarship Fund. It’s this group of people that work in fashion and retail. They’re headquartered in New York and they come up with a prompt and they ask different college juniors and seniors all around the country to write a response.

It’s like a thesis or white paper discussing this current retail fashion topic and how would they respond and how would they solve the situation, so to speak. The application and the prompt is a massive undertaking to do and to write it. It’s like an eighteen-page paper that you’re putting together explaining all of this while you’re on top of doing all of your regular schoolwork. I was working and felt it’s way too much. I didn’t want to do it, but my teachers kept prodding me like, “Krista, you should do this. Please do this.” I remember Cece, she messaged me and she was like, “Come to my office.” I went up to the office and she was like, “Have you done the application yet?” I said, “No,” and she goes like, “Give it to me.” I was like, “I’ll do it.”

To make a long story short, the topic was on dressing rooms and how to make the dressing room experience more customer-centric in retail and personalized. It’s a dry, boring topic, but it’s incredibly important when you’re trying to sell something to someone. I wrote my little piece and I did all-nighters and submitted that. Lo and behold, I was one of the scholarship recipients that year for my application entry and thoughts on redesigning and reimagining the dressing room. I got to fly to New York, go to the award ceremony, which is at Cipriani’s, and because of being a scholarship recipient to this fashion award, we were considered and labeled future fashion. Any internship or things that I had after that, my internships were paid. That never happens in fashion.

I had two internships after that and I got paid. It’s amazing. You get a cash prize that you can put towards your future life working in the fashion retail industry, which was great because as soon as I graduated, I moved back up to New York and started working. Since I was a recipient for this particular scholarship, there were a lot of big companies and plans that you have access to and that you could connect with. Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, all these big household names in fashion. Because I was fortunate enough to be a scholar, that opened a lot of incredible doors for me and that solidified, “I’m going to be the retailer.”

What an opportunity to get connected to such great companies and people early on. That is such an advantage. What misperceptions or what things did you view differently at that time that you learned later on in your career that would have been helpful to know earlier on?

Something that I would have valued from knowing when I was graduating instead of five years down the line is honestly how unglamorous fashion and retail is. You work late nights, weekends, holidays, Christmas, New Year’s Day or whatever it is. It’s not as glamorous as it is in the movies. It is a lot of hard work. There are moments of beautiful store openings and beautiful, wonderful product launches and big parties, but there’s a lot of math, Excel and a lot of boring admin side of things. That was a little bit shocking. At first surprising, and maybe it’s disappointing that it’s not glamorous all the time. It’s like work. That’s what work is.

What about the fashion side did you enjoy the most during that time?

What I still love about fashion is that you are a world creator. You get to create whatever version of yourself you want to be through your clothing choices. You can use that to empower others or you can use that to make others feel significant. Hopefully, you choose to dress in a way that inspires and encourages other people by helping them be you. I love that you can participate in something that can seem somewhat magical. That’s the dreamer in me. You create a moment when you go into a store, you enter into a world, into this bigger picture of something and your clothing choices and how you’re put together, that furthers that story. I love that. It’s very magical. It’s very Alice in Wonderland-esque sometimes.

When did you make the shift then from fashion to more of a retail focus? I know that your studies had you in retail management and marketing, but when did that shift happen for you?

My only two corporate jobs ever were internships. There was that Tommy Hilfiger and Juicy Couture. Both of them were amazing experiences. My first job right out of school when I moved to New York was for John Varvatos, which is an awesome men’s wear brand that has locations all over the place. It’s very music inspired. It was on rock and roll and the good clothes that are associated with that type of life. Denim and leather and all kinds of good things. I’ve been in retail, working physically in stores, in management, leadership, and sales associate positions, and running the whole gamut of operations and everything for fifteen years.

All of it has added up to your experience now, but what positions or places where you worked were the most beneficial for your experience or expertise now? Where did you learn the most?

I learned different things from different places. From Kate Spade, I learned the value of operations and clearly articulating who your customer is, what she does, why she does it, how she does it, and what matters to her. I don’t reference it when I train stores, but I think of it as a framework as I’m creating curriculums for them and for their unique situations and how consistent and how concise. The whole onboarding and training there was the best I’ve ever experienced at a retailer. Something that I learned from a brand called Billy Reid. It’s originally from Florence, Alabama. It’s a great men’s and women’s brand. I got to be their operations manager for the New York store, the Bowery, and that’s a magical place. What I loved about that space and what I learned from them is the power of hospitality and retail.

I had never seen it to the capacity. That brand is built around food, around music and around having a good time. Those are the pillars of the ideal Southern culture and that’s embodied through the clothes. This idea that our retail stores are more than a place you come to and buy things, but it’s this whole experience and we recreate that experience on a weekly basis in a way that welcome people in and they have fun and relax and be themselves. That was cool. Billy Reid did that well. Learning the idea of how hospitality goes hand in hand with retail, that shaped me in a lot of ways.

That is powerful and something that most people, myself included, underestimate. When I think of retail and stores, I think about the style of products, price points, promotions, convenience and some of those other things. It’s so easy to miss how it makes you feel by being associated with that brand and wearing that brand. That is a lot of understated value for most of the consumers that we know, but we maybe don’t even think about.

Part of being a dreamer is being willing to take a risk that it might not work. Click To Tweet

What’s the why? Why are we wearing this? How do we feel better about ourselves? What needs does this product solve? Maybe wearing that great leather jacket makes you feel like a million bucks. Because you feel like a million bucks, you’re confident. You go in and maybe you’re wearing that jacket on a date and it goes great. You feel good about yourself or you’re going and buying a dress and you’re wearing it to an interview or to your wedding or whatever. You feel like the best version of yourself. That’s an experience too.

Not that you’ve worked there, but what other brands do you admire or what would-be role model brands for you in this space?

I appreciate Sid Mashburn and Ann Mashburn, a clothier out of Atlanta. They may have locations elsewhere now, but they are rooted in good quality tailored basics. No matter who you are, when you walk in, you feel like a million bucks and you’re treated well. You’re offered a drink, a chance to hang out, play ping pong if you want. They give you service with a smile. They’re good. It feels like that old school good way of specialty retail. They have locations in DC, LA, Texas and Atlanta. They’re not this small little one-off store anymore.

I don’t remember all the brands, but I’d been in certain stores before they give off that atmosphere and that presence. It is refreshing, to say the least. It does make you want to support them. In your time in retail, how have you seen the space change? The culture and the economy and everything within the world changes, especially now, at such a rapid pace. What have you seen over your years in retail and where do you see those shifts or the space going in the future?

Some people might agree with my answer. Some people might not. Some people might think it’s ridiculous but it’s my opinion. When I was in school still and starting to study and be interested in it, we were focused on these big malls and these big places, big-box retailers, if you like to call it, that were focused on convenience. You go to Target, for example, and you have 3,000 options of laundry detergent. You go to buy cereal and you have a plethora of options. You’re even in the section where you have t-shirts and you have 25 red t-shirts to pick from or blue t-shirts. You have this overwhelming choice. I remember when I was getting started in this business, our malls were ginormous. They still are mostly ginormous, but big stores that had a lot of options for everything.

It’s almost overwhelming. Over the last few years or so, it’s been this evolution of the internet has started. You have the opportunity to have an unlimited array and assortment of goods delivered to you. You are online on your computer and then you can buy it anytime at any place. You don’t need to go to these huge malls. You don’t need to be in these places that take an hour to park and to walk and to find the store. This idea of going to a huge retailer that has 1,000 choices for you isn’t what we want anymore. A long time ago, people wanted to have a lot of convenience and had a lot of choice. Now the way the industry seems to have shifted is it’s going back how it used to be a long time ago.

It’s this idea of a general store or this idea of a very curated smaller business that is focused on the needs of that community and the needs of that neighborhood. Maybe it’s a space that has an interesting edit or assortment of goods. That is a different perspective. Maybe it’s a store that focuses only on paper products and stationery. They might have a more vast array of it, but it’s still specific and it’s still focused and you’re not going to have 500 planners in there and 50,000 thank you card options or whatever. In my opinion, we’ve seen it go from big to now starting to come back and be a little bit smaller. I love that because it’s more specialized, more focused and curated. I know that word is overused, but I like that word.

The bigger brands are even taking notice. Nordstrom have their little local shops. There’s the one on Melrose. In LA, there’s a great Nordstrom local and it’s smaller. It tailors to the needs and wants of that community and that demographic. Target is doing this where they have the neighborhood markets. They’re small scale stores. The footprint is 5,000 to 8,000 square feet in comparison to the ginormous superstores and markets. This idea of this smaller, more accessible, easier to navigate, more focused curation is what we want when we’re going to go to a store because then we have unlimited options online. We don’t need that in our business space.

I see that a lot myself, even as you say that. When you work with companies and even in this time, what do you see holding retailers back? Meaning when they see a need to make a shift or they see the culture changing, what are the most common things that hold a retailer back from making the necessary changes to adapt to the ever-changing environment?

It’s the same thing that will plague anybody at any time. It’s fear. Fear of failure, of not wanting to try, of not wanting to take a risk. With the Coronavirus, we’ve seen the need to pivot in so many ways, specifically for retail. It’s a horrible time for retail, but we’ve had some clients that have done well because they’ve started to do things they’ve never done before. They sell online or sell on Instagram. They’re amazed at how many new customers and clients they’re finding because they did a little pivot and tried something new. The big box stores like JC Penney’s, all these places that we’re hearing about, unfortunately, we’re seeing them have challenging times right now. If you look back through the course of it, there are certain decisions that they’ve made that have put them where they are now. Had they identified who their customers and what they wanted and what complete service they were offering to them participating in their business, they would be in a very different situation right now. Many people did it because, “We’ve always done it this way,” instead of, “Who’s our customer and what do they want?”

When did Retail for the People first come about? I’d love to hear a little bit from you about what is in the name and what the intent or reason is behind the name?

Retail for the People is because retail is a human experience. I started initially because I wanted to give store owners and brands the opportunity to create safe spaces where their team can thrive, where they can thrive, where their brand can thrive. One day, the name hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I struggled for a long time coming up with a name and it didn’t seem right. I had no idea what I was going to call this and it didn’t make sense. One day it was like, “Retail for the People.” That’s what this is about. Retail is a people business. It’s about the people. You’re helping them and you’re helping your customers. That’s what this is for. The name was very organic, but it speaks to what we do for the people.

When did this first come about? What was the initial spark or idea and what was the process of getting this going?

Retail for the People was more of an organic business startup. I was working in LA at a wonderful retail brand in Downtown LA. We looked a lot of emerging artists, a lot of emerging makers, different people, beautiful and special space. That’s where I originally met you. We did a lot of pop-ups in the store and it’s super exciting and a lot of fun. Through that, I met different individuals that had brands and have products and people would ask, “Can you help out with this? I’ve got a question. Do you mind meeting up for coffee and we can talk about this? I want to do a pop-up. What pricing should I do?” It was pretty organic. I like to talk to people and people would come in and ask questions.

It started very naturally. I did a lot of different consulting side projects before I ever made the business and registered it. A lot of the stuff I did, I did for free. I wasn’t even getting paid. I did it because I liked it and like the people and want to help them. There was a company called The Giving Keys that we all know and they wanted to renovate an Airstream. The president at the time came up to me and was like, “Can you do this?” The dreamer in me was like, “Of course, I can.” Have I ever renovated an Airstream? No. Do I know about Airstreams? I knew they were cool and expensive and they did neat things. They were like, “Can you do this in two months?” “Yeah, sure.”

Retail for the People started with that crazy, wild yes. A lot of good ideas start because of wild, crazy yeses and risks. You don’t necessarily mean for it to become what it does. I got a friend named John and he had owned multiple Airstreams and he did all kinds of construction work and was building sets and stuff for movies. He’s incredibly talented and he can do anything. He had renovated multiple Airstreams for himself. I frantically was like, “Can you help me with this?” He was like, “Of course, I’d love to.” We were the dream team that he and I went up and found an Airstream. We gutted the whole thing, built the thing out. There were over 30 coats of white paint on the inside to make it a glistening white color. We turned it into a pop-up shop for them. They used it for a couple of years and a lot of great memories and a lot of good times, but that’s essentially how we got started doing it. It was with pop-ups in this fun, interactive, experiential way.

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

Retail For The People: People used to want tot have a lot of convenience and choice. Now, industry seems to be going back to how it used to be a before big malls and internet shopping.

 

I remember I did a little part-time work at that pop-up. That was a fun season. I enjoyed the time there and a lot of good memories with that Airstream.

For your first project, to be able to do a pop-up that goes to The Grove that is exposed to 20,000 people or whatever, what a great way to start.

After being in the space for a bit, what are your favorite projects to work on?

I love working with store owners. We’ve done a lot of work working with brands. We’ve done a lot of work doing pop-ups. I love the store owners because they have so much passion and they have so much heart, but they sometimes forget a little bit of why they got started. Helping them refocus then recalibrate and get back in and along with where they want to go with their business is special.

What do you see in the years ahead with Retail for the People, but also for the space in general? What are you envisioning for the future?

I think because of COVID and everything that’s happened and how stores are changing, I do think specialty boutiques are going to continue to rise. There’s going to be a lot of real estate available. Landlords are going to be more flexible in their terms and willing to take a risk on brands and people and to try something. We’ll see pop-ups go up. They’ll change, but we’ll continue to see those. We’ll continue to see specialty smaller stores that make an impact in the community. For Retail for the People, what I want to do is create curriculums and create content that helps retail store owners succeed in their business to understand their cashflow, understand how to hire their managers, train their managers, create this experience that makes a customer want to come back and be loyal.

My focus is over the next few years, I want to help 10,000 retailers, which is a lot, but we can do it because of the internet and because of everything going on and how people are more open and curious about doing things digitally over Skype and Zoom and all that stuff. I’m thankful the Coronavirus has increased the speed of people being able to try something new and to learn. Hopefully, we will be able to offer them solutions to some of the problems and some of the questions and help them grow their business.

I love the specific lofty goal. It’s beautiful. I want to come back to the online experience and what that may provide, but one of the things that you mentioned was how you help store owners or other entrepreneurs in that sense because a store owner is an entrepreneur. Maybe get back to why they started the business or even recognizing blind spots that they have. How do you encourage entrepreneurs or founders in embracing their blind spots?

It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to build a little bit of rapport and trust with them before you’re like, “You’re not doing this right.” We start with a simple process where we go through and we rewrite their business plan. It might not necessarily be formal, but we do a lot of one-on-one coaching with store owners. We go through that process. What is our mission? What is our vision? What is our why? Who are we serving? Who’s our ideal customer profile? What is our competitive advantage? We go through these different things. We work through cashflow analysis and understanding how much they’re spending, how much is coming in, talking about fixed costs, variable costs, all these different things. Through that, you build trust and rapport and it takes time. Once people can articulately look at and see how things are going, it’s not until they can look at the numbers and look at the metrics and the data themselves usually before they realized, “I’ve got a blind spot here. I’m selling this and I’m not making any profit on it. This is taking so much of my time.” We have to give them the data usually before they are willing to try something else.

We’re hard to change unless there are proven reasons why. That’s pretty human of us. I’m interested too on that front. In your experience in retail, what is the typical threshold of time where you start getting a lot more of these blind spots in as an owner? I’m sure within the first year of starting, everything is so fresh. You’re way more aware of all the things in your store or in your business that you’re selling. You may be on top of things more, but is there a time threshold you see? Is it several years, maybe five years where things start going through the cracks? Because of your routine or habit, you start having a lot more of these blind spots that are tanking your business per se.

For a lot of people, the first year is very exciting and it’s very fun and everything is new. It’s like a new toy. We’re stoked about it. We’re capturing customers’ information left and right. We’re doing marketing. We’re taking all sorts of cool Instagram pictures and work on finding new emerging brands. We’re spending a lot of time in our window displays and how we merchandise them. It’s great and it’s exhilarating. After a while, you get tired. It’s the nature of dealing with the general public. When you’re a small business owner, specifically in retail, you don’t have a big team. Those stores have I would say 5 or 6 people, and that’s it. It’s not that many. You start to get burnt out. Usually, if you don’t have handbooks and systems and things in place or a business plan or an idea for beyond why you’re doing what you’re doing other than, “I liked pretty things,” or “I wanted to open a store by year two,” you’ll crash and burn. You’re fed up, overwhelmed and exhausted. You don’t know which end is up and you need help.

Another question someone mentioned in a background call about asking you that would be interesting to hear from is in regard to the leadership and working with leadership. What do you see as the danger of toxic leadership in a business setting and how would you define toxic leadership and your experience as well?

In retail, toxic leadership is micromanagement. It ruins more store managers, key holders and good people because they are not given the space to thrive and do their job well and you’re not trusted. Trust is one. Micromanagement is two. Those are the people killers.

How do you encourage people in letting go of control and letting go of this micromanagement or in trying to build more trust maybe more quickly with your employees, staff, or even the other people involved in your business or even the consumers? What are the encouragements that you give in those scenarios?

You hired them. If you hire them, you have to expect that they’re going to do their job that you hired them for. Why are you doubting them? You need to believe they can do until they prove wrong.

If we go back to the online world and the virtual world that a lot of what businesses have shifted and pivoted to, what has it been like for you as you work on creating a curriculum or even online courses? What are these online offerings that you’re excited about and how has the process been in creating those?

Retail is a human experience. It is a people business. #RetailForThePeople Click To Tweet

It’s been quite fun and a lot harder than I would have thought. Lantz and I have been doing it together. He joined Retail for the People in 2019. He’s got a good background in entrepreneurship and sales. It’s a little bit different, but he’s worked at bigger scale projects than I have, and so I appreciate that. We essentially had about twenty clients that we had and we worked on together in 2019. We were coaching and working with and learning the commonalities in the specialty retail space, the smaller businesses. These are retail businesses that are doing under $500,000 a year. They are on a small scale as far as specialty businesses go. Working with them and realizing that through the course of these 18, 20 stores, there were a lot of similar problems that they’re having. We kept having to go over the same communication and the same scenarios.

He was the one that was like, “We need to make and put this in a curriculum that’s easily digestible, that these learners and people can access at any time whenever they want and make it so that anybody in any place can learn.” That’s the biggest roadblock is a lot of people don’t go to school for retail and it happens naturally or accidentally or you get into it because you like it or you’re retiring and you don’t know what else you’ll do. Maybe you’re a designer or you’re a hairstylist and you have a salon. Your retail becomes part of your business to support your main thing, but then it takes up all of your time. What are you going to do? Through Lantz and I were working on those with those different stores, we’ve been able to articulate a lot of the process that helps specialty boutique retail. That right now is our big focus because we love how there’s such a big element of a neighborhood and important part of a community.

What has surprised you or what has been surprisingly difficult about creating an online course?

I overcomplicate is the first problem. You wrote a book, so you know trying to get your ideas short and concise. I can ramble for a very long period of time. How do we condense this and how do we use language that someone who might not have been around this for a long time could pick it up and understand? It’s been challenging because a lot of stuff you use and some of the terminology and some of the things, I’m so used to it, it’s ingrained in my brain or Lantz’s brain and other people might not know what we’re talking about. Going backwards and finding those things and finding those gaps with the first few rounds of this course, we’ll probably have to do some refinements and ask people, “What does this mean? Help explain it again.”

It is so challenging. I sent one of my coaching pamphlets to a buddy for some feedback and it was humbling. There are so many buzzwords we use and we throw these things around like candy, yet what does that even mean? How do we get this to a simplified form where everyone can understand it regardless of buzzwords that can mean a million different things or maybe loses half the people that read it anyways?

For us, it’s important because we revised our mission statement. Our mission statement for Retail for the People is, “Retail made simple.” That is our biggest filter. How can we do this? You don’t have to go to school to even understand this. You can be a business owner that has a profitable business because you know these core things. Simplifying what is necessary. What is fluff? What is distracting? When you google retail math formulas for successful business, there are 50 formulas that come up. If you don’t know which ones matter and which one to compare, it’s overwhelming. We’re not experts yet, but that’s what we’re trying. That’s our aim.

What does the rest of the year look like for Retail for the People?

We are relaunching our website and having a lot of great things. That’ll be at the end of the month, August 31, 2020. We are going to slowly drip out additional products. We’re going to launch it with an eight-week course. You can sign in and buy the course. Every week that you complete the assignments, you’ll get the next lesson and you’ll be able to become a better, more successful retailer when you’re done. It’s not retail one-on-one but turned on its head as related to COVID and different things. We have a few products that you’ll be able to download and utilize, a store manager onboarding, a whole thing on interview questions on your job description and offer letters, expectations, what should their time be used for? What are the different KPIs that are good to set for your manager? We find that if you don’t have a clear job description, clear expectations, in six months, everyone’s frustrated. You feel like that’s a huge pain point that a lot of retailers have. We’re going to help them with that and give them a whole packet on here. You literally put the person’s name in this and sign it at the bottom and you’re good to go. There are three different products that we’ll launch and one hopefully later in September 2020.

It’s going to be sweet to see what comes from it.

I’m excited too because I’ve never had products. We’ve always been a service-based business, one-on-one. Due to everything that’s happened in the world, this is a logical step in order for us to help 2,000 retailers and do one-on-ones with everybody. We’re still doing it. We still do one-on-one coaching with store managers and store owners, but it was much too many of it.

I’m in the midst of launching one as well. I’m with you in that. It’s definitely a good route to take. I’m excited to see what comes from that for you guys.

I’m excited about yours. I didn’t know you were doing that too.

It’s all about developing discipline. That’s the first one and hopefully, there will be a second one on developing awareness in short order afterwards. It’s exciting times. As you look at your career and your life thus far, what are you most proud of?

I feel like I’m proud that I love my family. That means a lot to me and I haven’t given up. I feel like there have been a lot of curveballs and different things, and I’m proud of having not given up.

Talk to me about the journey it’s been with your family. I know there was a move and what sparked that and what that’s meant for you and your values in life and your family?

I was in LA for five years and then before that, I was in New York for five years as well and love big city life. I love the fun, vibrant, exciting place. I was sitting at a place in LA called RVCC. It’s a cafe in the Arts District one day and got a phone call that no one ever wishes to get and found out that my dad had stage four cancer in his lung, spine, and brain. I was completely shocked by that. The world went upside down. This was at 3:00 in the afternoon. I got on a midnight flight and flew from LA to Orlando and then from Orlando to Jacksonville to be where my parents are. My mom and dad were in the hospital. I have no idea exactly what was going to come to pass as a result of that.

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

Retail For The People: With everything going on the market, the specialty retail industry will change, but it will continue to flourish.

 

It’s hard and scary and all those kinds of things. It’s been a very good journey, even though it’s been very hard and my dad is doing fabulous. He got a new form of medication and all his tumors have shrunk. He went from being stage four cancer to being a cancer patient now that they argue about that even still exists. That was an amazing, complete God moment. There’s nothing else. The medicine totally helped. It’s amazing, but I don’t know any other way to put it because cancer is intense. During this time of my dad getting diagnosed, a week before that happened, this was in October and we had a bunch of pop-ups on the docket that we’re opening in November. We had nine that we were opening and it was like organized chaos.

I was here but then still coordinating things and going to New York and going back to LA and going back to Florida. It was this ping pong of craziness. It was hard because I wasn’t focused. I remember every time I got on the plane, I would cry. I was like, “What if something horrible happens while I’m gone?” Even I’m only to be gone for six days or whatever it would be to do work. That back and forth, initially we didn’t know that my dad was going to do so well. I made the choice. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. My family was more important than this business and these different brands of people that we get to serve.” It was hard, but I packed up and I moved back to Jacksonville so I could be with them and still was commuting back and forth to LA a little bit. Now with Coronavirus and everything that’s happened, I can stay here a lot longer. It was a very hard season. I’m thankful for it though.

How has this season changed your view on life and even on your family?

You hold your family a whole lot closer and you realize what’s important. I can’t tell you how many Christmases that I either came home late or Thanksgivings that I missed because I’m a retail person and you work on those holidays. Now it’s one of those non-negotiable holidays together. We’re going to have moments together and we’re going to be together because if you don’t have your family, what do you have?

The second one you mentioned was that you haven’t given up yet. When was the closest you’ve gotten to giving up and what was that moment like?

I have to say in the midst of everything that was going on with my dad being sick and being very busy, I made some bad business owner mistakes and they’re ones that are pretty common, but they affect you in profound, horrible ways. I had a lot of clients and we were making good money, but I failed to do what was the hard thing and collect all our past due invoices and get these different clients. These different people are paying me for the money that was for work that we had done. It got to the point where I was paying my team with my own savings. I got to a point where I was owed a lot of money for projects, but I was too afraid to collect it. I was scared to collect it because I didn’t want to be the bad guy and I didn’t want these clients to not like me. The accounts receivable department was me and clearly, I wasn’t very good at it.

I went through all of my savings, which was multiple years of savings, and paying everybody to do all these projects and to work and got me where I had $1,000 left. I told my crew, which was a handful of people who were all wonderful and it still breaks my heart that this is what happened. I told them, “This is how much money I have left. I don’t have any money anymore.” It was very humbling and they each were very sweet and they worked however many hours within that amount of money. I was like, “I want to bring you guys back when I can when we can get this back up and running.” I felt like the biggest failure in the world.

I disappointed all these people and I let them all down and they were employed by me. I didn’t keep up with the accounts and the money that was owed to me, it ended up affecting not just me. It affected all of them and all of their lives and it was the worst. Now, because of going through that and dealing with that, I’ve learned this whole thing. Here I am trying to help retailers, but I can’t help my own team. I understand this idea of cashflow and I understand the importance of that. That now makes it so that we are better coaches and we are better consultants because I’ve experienced what’s at stake where you don’t do this. When you look like you failed because you’ve run out of money.

I am learning that I’m not the only one that’s done this. It’s very common. More businesses fail because of that. At one point, I was very highly considering, “Should I throw in the towel because I’m so embarrassed and mortified?” but Lantz was great. He was like, “No, you’re not going to give up on this. This has been your dream. You’ve always wanted this. You’ve worked so hard for this. You’ve worked all these years for this. Just because you made these mistakes doesn’t mean that business is set to fail.” That’s what happened and I’m thankful that he’s encouraged me to not give up on this dream.

That is such a beautiful story as well. Thank you for sharing. It’s so helpful. That’s what the beautiful thing about shows like this is that a long-form conversation or interview gets to show that when we see someone, we see this image of success. There are a lot of things that aren’t successful or don’t look like success along the way to create this outer image. That’s human. We’re all in that journey. There’s no one that’s immune to that. Everyone goes through that, especially when they’re trying to do something as challenging as starting and running your own business of any type. It’s admirable and honorable, especially because of the inevitable failures or things that aren’t going to live up to our hopes and dreams along the way. It’s important that we do share those. I appreciate you doing that.

Thank you. It’s good. It helps me help my clients better.

Before we end, one of most unique things about 2020 has been the Coronavirus and I know that you were planning on being married at this point and having a wedding. Talk to me about the experience of being one of the COVID fallouts of weddings and having to shift and pivot with the nature of the crazy times that we live in.

I know I’m not the only one because I know for you, your plans were a little changed a few times too. I have a handful of other friends I know that this whole spring, summer season definitely was not what we expected. I had a bridal shower on a Friday and it was wonderful and beautiful and so much fun. We were so excited and then come that Monday morning, everything started shutting down. We had to make the hard decision that so many other people had to make is we need to postpone this. The venue recommended it also for the safety. We didn’t know what was at stake. My dad having lung cancer and now that he’s doing great, we were concerned about that and our grandparents and different people that we cared a lot about.

Postponing was hard and that wasn’t fun. We’re still going to do in October 2020, so that’s exciting it was turned that way. I want to go home and my dad walk me down an aisle and have a wedding. Everything that we’ve been through with his cancer, that’s something I remember sitting in the hospital, crying and thinking, “If he’s not here, I won’t be able to do that.” That’s something I’ve always wanted my whole life. To me, that was important. I’m so thankful that we’ll get to do that.

In regard to working with your fiancé and soon to be husband, what is it like either working with him or co-founding your business with him alongside and how has that affected or impacted your relationship?

It’s a good thing because you get to see all sides of everybody. I’m not always the nicest person. He’s maybe not always a nice person. He’s nice most of the time. I get stubborn. When you work together, you see the good, the bad, everything. I liked that. Now that we work together, we understand how we deal with conflict and understanding how we deal with disappointment, with joy, how we overcome stress. There’s a lot of it. There’s still a lot to learn, but it makes your relationship better and stronger when you get to experience all of these different things a lot early on instead of twenty years down the road. Working together is a crash course.

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It does unveil a lot. It’s going to be an exciting season for sure for you guys. I can’t wait to see what comes. Krista, this has been such a fun conversation. I’ve appreciated your willingness to share the experiences you’ve had. Before we’re done, I have a few one-offs that I always like to end with. We can tell people where to find you. The first one is, what can you not imagine living without?

Coffee. That’s probably what everybody else says.

Do you have a morning coffee routine?

No, but my dream in life is to be able to sit and have a coffee and stare at pretty plants with the ocean every day or something like that. You can spend an hour and think, ponder and relax.

That’s equivalent to my dream. I try to simulate it on my little porch here now, but there is no ocean. There’s a field, a school play playground across the way, which is still nice. I’m grateful. I’m not complaining at all. I’m trying to take as much advantage as I can. What do you believe to be true that you wish everyone else believed?

Something I believe to be true is that God is good. Sometimes it’s a hard question to answer, but it is true all the time, even in good and bad. Something else I believe to be true is that kindness goes a lot farther than you can imagine. Saying hello and being nice. We underestimate the power of saying, “Hey.”

Before we do a few more here, what role has faith played in your life and how do you define faith now?

When you go through a lot of somewhat hard experiences, you get to choose, “Am I going to blame the world? What am I going to trust in? What am I going to think about? What am I going to believe?” There are lots of things to distract you. For me, I chose to follow Christ and to read the Bible and to learn through that. That is the best rock and foundation that you can have. There’s a lot of wisdom to be found in it, whether you’re religious or Christian or whatever or not. That’s a necessary important part of life. If we don’t believe in something, what’s the point? If you don’t believe in God, what’s the point?

It brings so much more meaning and purpose to life, doesn’t it? It’s truly remarkable. What new habit or belief has most positively impacted you in your life?

It goes back to the story that I was telling you about my thoughts and feeling and running out of money and not running a business successfully. That whole every day we get to try again, so that’s who we were yesterday. Are we going to believe that today? Are we going to try? It’s not easy, but every day we get to choose. For me, it’s the biggest new habit. Who am I going to be today?

What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

A book that I like is one from this gentleman by the name of Donald Miller and it impacted me a lot. It’s called Scary Close. I remember I picked it up in a bookstore at the airport and read it on an airplane. The book is all about choosing to impress lesser people and connect with people that matter and understand what it is in your story that’s holding you back or keeping you from doing the things you want to do and why. It’s written so casually and so wonderfully. I bawled my eyes out when I was reading it on an airplane. That book made a huge impact on me a few years ago. I love that book. Another book that shaped Retail for the People and what I do a lot is the book that’s been very popular called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Everybody loves it.

It’s a good question of asking why we do what we do, what motivates us, what drives us. If you don’t know that, you’re brushing through life. I liked that book a lot. A book that I find very important and necessary is the Bible, specifically the Proverbs. It has a lot of wisdom, religious or not. They talk about how to gain wisdom, how to gain understanding, how to deal with difficult people, how to manage your money, how to run a business. There are all kinds of great knowledge packed in there for anybody who should choose to open it and to read.

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

Krista, the last question that we ask every guest that comes on is if you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why? This would be a short message from you that they receive on their phones every morning.

What I would want to hear is that you are amazing. Believe in yourself. Today is a great day. For a coach that has a lot of wisdom is, what healthy risks are you willing to take today that will get you further where you want to go?

Krista, this has been such a joy to speak with you. Where can people find you? Where’s a great place to connect with you or learn more about Retail for the People?

RetailForThePeople.com is our website. We have a blog or on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. All of it is @RetailForThePeople. Personally, I am on Instagram and Twitter, @KristaJBoyer.

Krista, thank you so much. This has been awesome. I’m so excited for Retail for the People and what’s ahead for you guys. It’s going to be sweet to see the impact you have on 10,000 retailers.

I’m excited too. It’s going to be great. Thank you so much.

Thanks so much for reading. We hope you all have an up and coming week because we are out.

Following up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Just go to ThaneMarcus.com/InThane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released the first Sunday of the month. This is just a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Krista Boyer

UAC 159 | Retail For The People

Krista Boyer is a retail entrepreneur, consultant and coach. She is the Founder, President, and Chief Retail Strategist for Retail for the People, a retail firm she started in Los Angeles, CA and is now based in Jacksonville, FL. Her passion lies in equipping retailers (both individuals and businesses) with the tools to succeed in brick and mortar retail. She simplifies the process and helps them identify their core purpose, brand strategy, store design, retail operations standards, team training, as well as identify the reason to make their customers loyal and return.

She founded Retail for the People in 2016, with a focus on reinventing the physical retail experience, specifically through pop-up shops and team coaching that is centered on both operations and the in-store experience. Her work has been featured in Fast Company and WWD.

She currently serves as a Retail Consultant for the Economic Development Collaborative in Southern California and loves equipping and coaching specialty retail stores, spas, and boutiques. Krista also serves as a mentor and judge for the New York City-based, YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund. She was a speaker at the 2019 REmode conference in LA discussing the topic of retail and how to re-humanize brick and mortar through pop-up and team training.

She has a huge heart for boutique retail and specifically loves working the store owners and store managers. While most of the retail industry is moving online, Krista and her team strategically serve retailers through personalized coaching and training for store owners and managers so they can have the tools, strategy, and community support to succeed in the digital age. She believes the future of retail hinges on people and she aims to serve 10,000 local retail businesses in the coming years and is very excited to be a leader in the shift the industry is currently experiencing.

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UAC 158 | A Greater Story

 

God has a greater story in store for everyone. We just have to strive to know ourselves and discover our purpose in accordance to His plan. Nothing is impossible with God if we just believe. Pastor, speaker, writer and TV and radio podcast host, Sam Collier drives this powerful message home as he sits down in this interview with Thane Marcus Ringer. There is so much to learn from this conversation as Sam and Thane talk about the power of belief, knowing yourself, finding your purpose, the secret to success and the importance of mentorship – all of which are beautifully elaborated in Sam’s book, A Greater Story. Plus, Sam gives his take on the racial divide and racism in present-day America.

Listen to the podcast here:

Sam Collier: Expanding Your Box: The Power Of Belief, Knowing Yourself, Mentorship, And Discovering Purpose Through A Greater Story

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. What does that mean? That means infusing intentionality into all that we do, a reason behind what we’re doing. That is the journey and emphasis of this show as we walk through life together as fellow Up And Comers. What that means is we’re on the process of becoming, we haven’t arrived and we hopefully never will because we can learn our entire lives. That is what this show is all about. Thank you for being a part of the Up And Comers community and being a fellow Up And Comer on this journey. It’s great to have you here.

There are a couple of quick things to note before we get into this episode. The first is there are a couple of easy ways to help us out. We love doing the show but it takes work, effort and money. We need some help from you. If you enjoy this show and enjoy reading it, we would appreciate you doing a few small things for us. First, it would be leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. It takes about one minute and helps us get seen by more people. We’re at 98. If we can get over 100, that would be amazing. You could be a part of that.

There is a review that I will read. This was from A.E. Bray who said, “I am relatively new to this show but so far, I love the Up And Comers episodes. The interviews and topics are interesting and relatable in everyday life, which I appreciate. Thane is a great listener. I’m always impressed with his attention to detail. I love the show. Keep up the great work.” That is very kind. I am still working on improving my listening abilities as I can always grow in that. Thank you for those kind words and that review. I’d love to hear more of those. If you have a review, drop that in.

The second way to help us out is by sharing this episode or one that you were encouraged by with a friend, family member or someone that could benefit from it. You can tag us on the socials, @UpAndComersShow is a great place to give us a shout out on any of the socials. The third and final way to help us out is if you want to support us financially, you can go to Patreon.com, where we have a place that you can subscribe to do monthly donations to help us keep this show going. It does take money and it can be expensive. If you want to help us out, we’d appreciate that. If you have a company and you’d like to partner with us, we are actively seeking those out. Send us an email, TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. You can always send us any questions, thoughts or comments that you have as well. I love hearing from you.

Our episode is an interview with Sam Collier. He is a pastor speaker, writer and host of A Greater Story with Sam Collier TV show and radio podcast. He is a speaker and host at North Point Ministries founded by Andy Stanley. He also communicates nationally and internationally as a speaker and contributor to the ReThink Group, Orange Network, Orange Tour, Alpha International Leadership Conference, Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, Culture Conference and more. He has also been interviewed on numerous TV shows, podcasts and radio programs. Sam lives with his wife, Toni and their daughter in Atlanta, Georgia.

That’s a little snippet of this man who does so much. He’s an amazing voice and spirit in this society. This is a shorter interview as he’s in the middle of a book launch and a lot of PR with that. We didn’t have as much time as we normally do. He is very generous with his experiences, his wisdom and shared so much even in the shorter episode. We talked about purpose and having to try stuff and experiment. We talked about success happening in circles. We talked about some of his favorite failures and things that didn’t work out. We talked about mentorship and the importance of having and seeking out mentors in your life. We talked about expanding our own boxes.

We talked about his advice of maxing out and not burning out, which is helpful. We end by touching on our cultural climate in America with race and the racism that has existed within our country and the effects of it. Sam has a breadth of knowledge and an energetic spirit that is sure to inspire you and others. Please enjoy this interview with Sam. If you want to find out more about his book, his podcast and all the things, go to AGreaterStory.org. You can find him on Facebook, @SamCollierTV and on Instagram, @SamCollier. Please check them out and get a copy of the book as it’s going to be empowering for you. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Sam Collier.

Sam Collier, welcome to the Up And Comers Show.

If I’m on the show, does that mean that I’ve made it?

Are you talking about arrival?

Success is inherited, not created. Click To Tweet

Have I arrived like up and coming? Am I next in line? What’s happening?

That brings up a good point. What does it mean to you when you hear an up and comer? What does being an up and comer mean to you?

I hear that and it sounds like when LeBron was in high school. He was up and coming. He’s the next. Kobe Bryant getting right out of high school, rookie in the NBA, the next one in line. Jordan is still the King, but Kobe is on the way.

A lot of the heart behind this show is that I listened to a lot of podcasts. I loved them but a lot of them are from people that have “arrived.” They’ve reached the destination. They’re speaking from that place retroactively on their life and experiences. I wanted to start a show about people that are in that journey and still moving towards that goal. We can be lifelong up and comers, learning our entire lives. That’s the heart behind this. I loved that’s how you wanted to start this thing out. Speaking of professional basketball, I want to hear a little bit about how you would describe your goal. From what I’ve heard and research, your first goal was professional basketball being the next LeBron or at that time, probably the next MJ. It was then the next Usher. I’m curious what that next is that you’re pursuing.

I went from next to, “Who am I?” God did a stripping of my dreams. I remember when it was. It was right around the Usher phase, the Christian Usher phase. I was walking down the street in Pasadena. I feel like He said, “Would you trade your dreams in for mine?” It was in that space where the goal switched from being the next, whoever or following in the footsteps to, “God, who do you want me to be? How do you want me to be? Where do you want me to be?” That’s when I threw my hands up and said, “If you want me to work at McDonald’s, if that’s the purpose that you have for me, that’s where I’ll go.” I am chasing after myself now. I’m chasing after who God made me to be and chasing after the kingdom, but whatever it is that God made me to be, I’m chasing after that, so chasing God, chasing me.

That speaks to a lot of what your work is on and a lot of what I would love to hear you dive more into, in the sense that discovering who you are is such a monumental task for most people. It takes a long time and it’s a constant process that we’re in. How would you describe that process that you’ve gone and helped take others through in the sense of discovering who you are? It’s not that one day we wake up and all of a sudden, I know who I am. There has to be an intentional, like you did, asking, “I have God ask you, will you trade your dreams in for mine?” Going through that journey with him, but talk to me a little bit about the process of self-awareness and discovering your identity and your purpose.

Andy Stanley said it best when asked the question about purpose. He said, “Sometimes you have to try stuff and figure out what you like, figure out what sticks to you, figure out what doesn’t stick to you. As you’re doing that, some things will stay and some things will go. Even when I first got with my wife, and I know we’re talking more about marriage later, she was in a process of discovery. I’m like, “I’m going here. I’m doing this. God has shifted me.” I’ve now constructed some roadmap around what God has already provided. I always think the whole faith without works thing. It’s a delicate dance because you’re asking, “God, what do you want me to do?” You feel like you get a vision, a leaning or a leading from Him. You’re like, “Let me try to put some structure around it to be a good steward of what you’ve given me.” It’s then a little bit, “I’ve got to back up a little bit because now you’re coming back in and you’re shifting me again.”

I had constructed this world based on what I felt God was showing me. When I got with my wife, she was at the beginning of that process. I’m asking her about, “What world have you constructed that?” She was like, “I’m still figuring out what I want my world to be or what I love.” I had my whiteboard out. I’m writing stuff down. I’m like, “Tell me your passion and tell me this.” We were there for an hour. At the end of the hour, I said, “You might still be on the playground. You got to try to monkey bars out.” She was like, “That’s where I’m at. It’s been an hour.” I’m like, “It’s fine.” With all of that being said, she’s tried a lot of different sports. She’s been in a lot of different stages and she’s done that.

She has arrived at, “I want to enjoy this but I also think I’m called into this.” One of the things that I won’t talk too much about her because I leave it for her. She’s like, “You’re talking for me.” I would say that she has a brand called Broken Crayons Still Color, which was interesting. I had A Greater Story and then she had Broken Crayons, which was phenomenal. Within that, it’s a ministry focused on young women and helping women that have felt broken, which has probably every woman and every man. We all felt broken in some way. It started to pick up. With that, I remember in the beginning, she was like, “I’ve never connected well to women. I don’t know if I know what to say to women, but I feel like they want to hear from me.”

She was in this weird place of like, “I don’t know if I want to build something for women.” Now, all her life is women. She had to get out there and figure it out. That was a long answer to your question about purpose and about discovery. You got to get out there. You got to try some things. I’ll say this as a caveat that at some point you do have to make a choice or a decision on what is sticking and what’s not. A lot of us get on the playground and we would want to stay there. You can’t stay on the playground because somewhat we find comfort in stability. For some of us, instead of choosing, I’ll keep jumping because the idea of jumping has now become stable. We’re running away right from what we would see as the unknown.

UAC 158 | A Greater Story

A Greater Story: My Rescue, Your Purpose, and Our Place in God’s Plan

There’s a great book. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, but I found that to be a helpful resource. It’s all about when to quit and when to stick. It’s short but it breaks down that idea beautifully. You have to try stuff. It is about experimenting. I want to come back to marriage and we will in a little bit. Do you have a favorite failure or an experiment that didn’t stick that helped you discover what you are called to do?

I failed at some things. Let me go ahead and say that first. This is not me going, “I’ve never failed.” I’ve failed. I’m trying to figure out do I have a favorite failure? I write about this in the book that came out, A Greater Story. It’s on Amazon and all that. This is coming out a week after the book dropped. I’m extremely excited about that and honored. In the book, I talk about this defining moment. It is that moment where I said to God, “What do you want me to do?” I was doing music, Christian Usher. It was one of those moments where it didn’t make sense to me why it didn’t work beyond. God shut this door. I got to the highest of the music industry, Motown, Universal, Interscope, Alicia Keys.

How old were you at the time?

I was 19, 20. I remember sitting in the President’s office at Motown, in New York City. I’m in an iconic city at one of the most iconic labels in the world. You don’t go up from there. She had broken her leg. She’s got this cast on. Whenever we think about wealthy CEO women, they have a little dog. She had a little dog. She’s carrying the dog around. It’s like I made it. All I needed was the dog. The dog is here. I’m good. I’m ready. I’m singing for her. I’m like, “This is it.” You do showcases and music. You usually are doing them with the A&R. With the A&R, there’s a vice president of A&R. There is the Executive Vice President of the company, the General Manager and then the President. To get a yes done, you’ve got to make it from one level to the next. I’m at the highest level. I’m like, “She could say yes right now and my life will change forever. This is it.” I got my guitar. I’m giving it everything I get when I’m singing for her.

She said, “I love it.” I’m like, “This is it.” She said, “I cannot sign you.” I’m like, “Why?” “I love your look. I love the music. I signed someone like you. I cannot sign an identical.” We know what that is. When you’re on a label and you’re in a business, it’s like, “I need to get a pop star. I need a country star. I need an R&B.” It doesn’t make sense. “I’m going to sign the same artist?” I’m like, “Maybe it’s a male. She can get around it.” She pulls out a picture. She’s like, “Look.” The man looks exactly like me. It’s the same age as me and plays the guitar. He hadn’t come out yet. She had already signed him. That was one failure, but this was the biggest one.

This was my last attempt. This was the one that broke the camel’s back. I had given up. I’m like, “I’ve been to the top. It didn’t work.” This happened three times for me. I’m like, “It didn’t work. I’m done.” My manager was like, “Come on, let’s do one more.” He said, “I will bring out all of Atlanta.” Every music industry executive in Atlanta will come in. I’m in ministry now. He’s like, “I’ll bring Michael Jackson’s attorneys here.” I said, “I’ll give it one more.” He does it. He brings the entire music industry scene out to my showcase to see me. I’m from Atlanta, so these are the people I’ve been trying to get meet. I have dancers, I have a full band, everything. I get to the venue and they’ve taken the microphones. There are no microphones in the building.

I’m like, “Where are the microphones?” I don’t know if you heard Babyface, but Babyface was a huge R&B star. He’s like Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, some of the largest R&B stars. They say Babyface has come and he needed the mics. We had to give it to him last minute. Babyface takes my mics. I don’t have microphones. I cannot perform without the microphones. We had to go down the street to another studio and rent mics from another studio and bring it back. We get back to the studio. Every executive in Atlanta is in the room waiting to come in. The mics don’t work with the system.

They’re not compatible. I don’t know if you ever heard of squealing mic. The mic is squealing all over the place. My dancers are walking out of the door. I said, “Where are you going?” They said, “We’ve got to go to another showcase.” I’m chasing them out. I’m running down the middle of the street. I run back. The microphones aren’t working. It’s squealing the entire showcase. Everybody’s off beat because we can’t hear. It’s the worst showcase in my life, big failure. That was the moment I gave up and said, “God, it’s obvious you’re doing something.” That’s a favorite failure.

You’ve done quite a few interviews. You have your own podcast, which is also worth listening for everyone reading this. One of the ones I heard, you mentioned a quote where you said success is more inherited than it is created. I loved that line in that concept. I’d love to hear some more on that idea from you and how you’ve been able to maintain a patient persistence in your work even from informed from some of those failures and how God’s worked through those.

The idea of success being inherited than created is I thoroughly believe and I have a concept. Maybe I’ll write about it one day. I believe that success happens in circles and not squares but circles. I say circles because there was a moment in my life as I was pursuing success and wanting to understand the inner workings of how it worked. I had a moment where you got to all these seminars. You hear about, “Make your plan. Do this, do that.” I said, “I don’t know if that’s the only thing that works or nor do I know if that is the secret.” I do think that’s a part of it. It’s one thing to read about it. It’s another thing to do it.

People that change the world aren't special. They simply refuse to believe in defeat and the impossible. Click To Tweet

It’s one thing to watch people swim. It’s another thing to get in that water and go, “The backstroke doesn’t work well for me. That’s not exactly how you do.” As I started to try all of these different things from reading books, I said, “There’s some things that you’re not telling me here.” You do these things to try to create it. What I realized was that the last 10% that they didn’t tell you about was that you could make all the plans in the world, but if you don’t get in the right circles, you’ll be planning and planning. At some point, you’ll get tired or you’ll give up because the dots won’t connect.

I realized the circles for me was this age-old adage of, “It’s not about what you do, it’s all about who you know.” I said, “For me to get where I need to, I’ve got to meet the right people.” As I started meeting the right people and fighting for them, I started getting in their life and they started bringing me into their circle. The next thing you know, success started hopping on. I was like, “What is happening?” An example of it is I’m doing a lot of big things in ministry by the grace of God. I could lose it tomorrow, so I know it’s not me.

A lot of people are looking at me, “You are in a lie. What has happened?” I don’t deserve it all. I started with Bishop Eddie Long, which was a 25,000 African-American church. Usher would be in there all the time, Tyler Perry, all the other people. One of the biggest things is when I stepped on the stage with Andy Stanley at Andy Stanley’s Ministry, which is a 40,000-member ministry. On the front row at any given campus, because it’s one of the largest churches in the city and it is focused on executive, you’ve got the President of Home Depot. You’ve got Vice-President of Chick-fil-A. If they’re not there, they’re watching online. You have all these influencers and people from around the city that come in and people start going, “Who’s that guy on stage?”

Let’s say I was doing the same thing at a different type of church that didn’t have all of the influence that church had. Maybe it was 200 members, maybe it was 100 members and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I could be doing the same thing at a different place and have a different result. That’s my point. You can be the best basketball player in New York City, but if you don’t have the right agent, if you’re on the right team, if you’re not moving with the right people or even the right strategy, nobody cares that you’re alive. There are people in New York right now better than Michael Jordan, better than LeBron, but they didn’t have the strategy nor the connections to put them in the same room or in the same rooms that LeBron was.

I was listening to a story from LeBron and some of his teammates, him and his agent, they grew up together. When they were in school, he had a choice whether he was going to go to the majority white school, the majority black school. He said he realized that the majority white school was going to help him get positioned to go to the league in a greater way. He chose the white school over the black school because of where it was positioned. As he did that, he soared. Success happens in circles. It’s more inherited than it is created. What is inherited?

It’s the idea of, “You didn’t create this, you stepped into it and it fell on you because you were in the right place at the right time with the right people.” If I were to give advice to anyone, we talked about this idea even in A Greater Story. I know I wrote a lot about that in the book. It is to fight for the right relationships. I would venture to say that if you don’t feel like you’ve gotten where you want to get, one of your biggest issues may not be that you’re not talented enough or you don’t have the right ideas. One of your biggest issues might be that you’re not in the right place. That’s what I say.

Fight for the right relationships. How would you encourage others to fight for the right? What does that look like? We all know the unfortunately bad stereotypes of people. You see a lot of this in places like LA where all people care about is, who you know and what you can do for them. That’s not the right way to fight for relationship, but how do you encourage others? How have you fought for relationships in your life?

Once I realized that relationships were one of the biggest keys, I started to prioritize it over many things. I remember I had a guy who’s an incredible pianist and producer and needed him in my life. I said to him one day, “Can you mentor me? Can you take me under your wing?” He was like, “I would love to but I don’t have time.” I said, “Please. I will cut your grass every day for free. I will babysit your kids to be in the same place with you.” He was like, “What?” I said, “That’s how much it matters to me.” He said, “You don’t have to do that. Show up next week.”

He said, “The reason I did it was because I knew that it mattered that much to you and it was going to be a good investment. I get people ask me all the time, but what are you wanting to do?” I give you another example. He’s a big mentor of mine who is a UN ambassador. At the time, he ran an organization called SESAC in Atlanta. His name is Cappriccieo Scates. He’s worked with everybody from Michael Jackson to Beyonce, all types of people. I remember coming to his office, asking him to manage me as an artist at the time. He later became one of my biggest advocates when I stopped doing music and went more to social activism and ministry. He helped me a ton, but it’s because we had relationship.

I asked him to manage me all the time and he said, “No.” He said no to me twenty times. I kept showing up and sitting in his office. He ends up managing me from afar. I would come and sit in his office and go, “What would you do if you were in this situation?” The next thing you know, he would open up doors and we became good friends. Now we’re the best of friends. He’s a mentor and now I’ve helped him out spiritually on some different things. We exchange. He’s one of my biggest business mentors. I’m one of his biggest spiritual mentors. I write about him a ton in the book and what he did for me. Even more that I’m not sharing. He’s a UN ambassador, but we’ve been in relationship forever. I fought for that even down to sitting for hours and waiting for years.

UAC 158 | A Greater Story

 

That’s one of the things I’ve heard a lot from you in different interviews and through your podcast, A Greater Story. Your book is the role of mentors in your life and you’ve had a plethora of them throughout your life. How do you encourage others in pursuing mentorship or what do you see is the value of mentorship?

We talked about this idea of circles. There were several things that we started to help people with as we had a nonprofit several years ago. One of the goals was to sit down with different young adults and help them think through how to be successful, how to connect the kingdom principles to their life, how to get a dream out that God had given them. One of the things that we started noticing is we had our five-step plan. You had to have a plan. You had to have a strategy. You had to do all of these different things. Even after some of them would do that, it’s the circle principle of getting at the right place at the right time and the right people.

We noticed that the last piece for them many times was that they did not have someone in their life that had done it before. It’s different talking to someone or being led or mentored by someone who is excited about what you’re doing or thinks that they know how to get there. The difference between them and someone who’s done it, who’s been there. You podcast, if somebody was trying to train someone on podcasting, but had never done podcasting, you say, “No, this is how Skype works. This is how Zoom works.” The blue mics, you would be able to call a spade a spade and without having to be there and someone could tell you what’s going on. You could diagnose the problem over the phone and go, “Here’s what I did.”

You’re like, “It’s the secrets that you get from doing.” The best teachers are the ones who have done it because they can tell you, “I know how it feels to do that pivot. I know how that feels. I bet you feel like so and so when you do this.” That doesn’t come from me reading, even though you need to read and have knowledge. That type of wisdom doesn’t come from that. It comes from experience. There are secrets that you learn only from doing that pale in comparison to not. Mentorship is everything. If I had to give a top five. I would give it a two.

I’ll give one to figuring out the direction of your life and what you want to do and figure out what God is saying because without direction, you don’t know which mentor to get. I will give it a very close second. The next thing you should do is find someone who has been there. Some people are going,
“My dream is to be the next Tony Hawk.” You’ve got to go find Tony. They’re like, “What?” How much does it matter to you? This is when we start getting into success. When we start talking about success and the idea of accomplishing a dream, people like to make it all mystical.

What else God will do is He’ll open the doors. Many of us don’t see God do the miraculous in our life because we don’t believe He can do it, believe we can do it or give Him the opportunity to do it. What I try to tell people is I’m like, “When did you learn that life was in this box?” For some reason, we’ve built these ideas about life that is “I can only get from this place.” Many of it is because some of us are from small towns or from small thinking families or from whatever. We grow up with this idea of life in a box. We miss out on the possibilities. The people that change the world aren’t special. They refuse to believe in defeat and the impossible. I love what Will Smith said. I’m not counting Will Smith as a Christian, but I do think we can learn something from his mentality.

He was in an interview once and said his dad taught him about doing some big things with the family. Jada, his wife said, “What did you learn from that?” He said, “I learned that nothing was impossible.” When you look at Will’s life, I’m not getting into the details of his origin or even if he’s a Christian, I am saying he believes that nothing is impossible. Whether he’s a Christian and let’s say he’s not a Christian. We don’t know. Let’s say he’s not. How was he accomplishing all of that without God? Could you imagine what we can do with God? For many of us, we let people in culture that are not following God out believe us. How is it that the people that don’t know the creator of the universe and have success?

I always give the story about Jesus in the boat with the disciples, the storm breaks out, Jesus is asleep. They wake him up in a panic. Jesus looks at them. He says, “Where’s your faith? You have little faith. You have the creator of rain in the boat with you.” We have the creator of success, opportunities, industries, gifts, talents and money and we somehow are limited in our understanding of what we can accomplish. Think for a minute. We think too small and because we think so small, we then go and demonize those that are in the kingdom that think big. We try to make it about prosperity. It’s like, “No, he believes in the impossible.” God met him at his level of faith.

We know the talents about the man that took 5 and turned it into 10 and turned it into 20. What did we learn from that? We learned so much, but we learned that God is a God of growth. We learned that He wants to increase our territory. If we live small, we’ll never get the greatest story that God has. That’s why we wrote the book because people are not living in their greater story and they should, but it all goes back to belief. I want to grab people by the face that are believers and say, “Nothing is impossible with God.” You cannot go around his wheel, but there are many things that are within his wheel that are at your grasping for you, but because of your low-level thinking and what he can do through, you stay in a box. Don’t get me started.

I want to hear from you personally. I love this idea of expanding our boxes and blowing up the small boxes we find safety and security in. What would be a box that you’re currently expanding within your own life perspective or outlook.

We will defeat racism in our generation if we work at it. Click To Tweet

It’s a lifelong journey that you can get now. It doesn’t have to take you that long. It is constantly going, “What can God do? How do I position myself at the optimum level to do that?” Specific to duplication, I’ve been thinking a lot about the internet and what the possibilities are. This is before COVID-19. This was when we rolled up Netflix and jumping on Disney. I have come from some circles or I’ve been involved in some circles that have a little bit of that small thinking. For me, it’s believing that God can do so much more than what we think He can do. He wants to do it. It’s been filling my life with people that are doing it that are even at my age. There are a couple of examples and God is getting the glory. I’ve been focusing on rebuilding my circle so that I can get more people around me that are thinking at the highest level.

We talk about the 5 to 10, how to take this 10 or this 5 or 1 that’s in my hand and building actual systems and strategy around it to get the messaging of Christ, the messages of purpose and the messaging of A Greater Story out to more. I told my PR coming into this process that I want to do as many interviews as possible. We did 50 interviews. I didn’t even realize it. It is a great question. I want to max out and not burn out. I want to push myself to get everything that’s in me on the outskirts, out of me. Bishop T.D. Jakes and many pastors have said that the graveyard is the wealthiest place in America. There are people that die with potential on the inside of them, books, dreams, TV shows, businesses, nonprofits, churches and all types of amazing things that the Lord had put in their hands or that He had deposited in them to be delivered to the world. They didn’t max out. I want to max out.

Max out not burn out is a great rally cry. I want to touch on diversity in your work in that space because as you’ve said and in other places, your background is so unique in your ability to talk and connect and reach two sides of the fence. Coming from 25,000 predominantly black church, and then going into an equally big white church primarily and being able to communicate on both sides of that racial divide that we’re experiencing a resurgence in the focus on. I’m excited about that. What is that experience in your life taught you? How have you experienced race in America? It’s a core question here, which is a very big question. Are you encouraged or discouraged about where we’re at in our country and in our culture?

I am more encouraged than I’ve ever been. We’re starting to finally have the conversation that we were supposed to be having the entire time. The history books have not been good to us. I’m going to go a little deeper than what I usually go on this. What people have to hear and understand is that when you have 400 years of oppression, 200, 300 years of slavery, you don’t get rid of everything in 70 years of move from Jim Crow era. It is easy to believe in our generation.

I want to take us back a little bit. I don’t know if you go back often in your mind, but when you study that era and you studied the era before that during slavery, there was a spiritual wickedness that was so deep and dark that was overtaking people. It was insane. You know it because we’re talking about it. A lot of my white friends’ grandad was in that era and great granddad. My dad’s still, there are some. Racism is a sickness. What we have to understand is that sometimes we underestimate where people were back then mentally. They were upset with black people, very dangerous and diabolical.

Look at the history. Whenever you talk about it, my white friends, they get so nervous. They hate what happened. To be that diabolical, you set up systems that would keep some of this stuff going on. What people have to understand is that there have been systems set up from long ago that were very strategic and they’re still making it now. There’s a reason that they leave that side out of the history books. It’s so that we repeat it, so that we don’t know what happened, so that we act like it didn’t happen. There can be a sense of no accountability so that we don’t fix the things that were put in place. I’m more hopeful now because this is the conversation we need to have.

What I want my white brothers and sister and everybody to understand, no matter what color you are, it’s like we got to finish the job and we got to know how diabolical this stuff is. We have to begin to wrestle with, what it’s going to take to do it? We’re doing it now. We have what I call a breakthrough over these last couple of months. As it pertains to the idea of racism and the racial climate in this country, and I want to speak prophetically and say that we will defeat this in our generation if we work at it. We put everything we have on the line. We will write the wrongs of history. We will change this. We will shift it dramatically for our kids and our grandkids.

What people have to understand is America is browning. By 2040, they’re predicting, there will be no more majority in the country. That means your kids are going to be marrying minorities and vice versa, which means that your grandkids are going to be mixed. They’re going to be black. What kind of world do we want them to live in? You can’t control who your great grandkid marries. You can’t control it. Why would you want to? We got to get in the business of preparing this world for what it’s going to be and getting it to a place where we finish the job that many have tried to stop, not in this generation potentially, but from previous generations. It was a system set up long ago to take us all day and to keep us separate. We’ve got to fight against that.

I’ve been having my eyes opened a lot to this, which I’m thankful for. A couple of books I’m reading right now, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and another book called Tell Me Who You Are, which both are phenomenal, but especially for people who are white, what would you recommend for resources to get a better education to start moving forward from?

I would read any book. The New Jim Crow is a great book. Brian Stevenson, he’s in the movie, Just Mercy. He’s an attorney. Equal Justice Initiative is his nonprofit. Get any book that he has. Anything he writes is incredible. White Fragility is a great book. There was a book by Latasha Morrison called Be the Bridge. I’m giving you authors that if you’re white or mixed or from another culture, and you’re trying to read something that meets you where you are and brings you forward in a much more nuanced and massaged fashion, those are some great authors to start with. They’ll walk you into the conversation. From there, there are some hard books talking straight at you. Start with them because they give you truth, but they massage it into you, so it’s great. That’s what I’d say. I love A Greater Story. A third of it is me talking about growing up black in America.

UAC 158 | A Greater Story

 

Who is A Greater Story for and give us the snippet of what it will bring when you read it?

It’s for three audiences. One, for the people that find themselves in a mess and are in need of a miracle. It walks you down the pathway of how to prepare your life to receive the miraculous because God is still in that business. Also, it helps you understand how God turns a mess into a message and into a miracle, especially in the time of COVID-19 when we need Him so bad. It is for those people. The second group is for people that are asking the question, “What is my greatest story? What’s my purpose?” You’ve been asking that question for a long time and you cannot answer. It’s a hard question to answer. I went on a three-year journey to discover the answer to it and we found it

I can confidently say we found it. We spent three chapters on it, but the whole book is about it. Read it and I promise you this, you will get a lot closer if not writing in your purpose. You will discover it. It’ll be like a light bulb. We’ve done it so many times. Finally, it’s for any person that is wanting to understand what it means to grow up black in America. We spend a large time on explaining and resources and all of these things in research that we’ve done. I grew up on Auburn Avenue across the street from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center on the same street that MLK grew up on. It’s close to Martin Luther King’s daughter. I wrote about her in the book. It gives you so much of that. We didn’t write the book on race. I’m black. I grew up in the black world. To tell my story, I have to tell that. That’s who it’s for. You’ll get all of those things when you get it. It’s not about making money, but it is about helping people that feel locked up. There is A Greater Story available for all of us.

The last question, Sam, that we ask every guest on this show is if you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, a short message from you that they’d receive every morning, what would you say and why?

UAC 158 | A Greater Story

 

I would say your belief must be so strong in yourself that it trumps everyone else’s collective disbelief. Pick your friends wisely. It’s usually not anyone else’s fault that you aren’t where you want to be. It’s usually up to you.

Sam, thank you so much for taking a bit of time out of your hectic schedule with this launch. I’m excited to see how this book will bless others. Thanks again for coming on and sharing your story and a piece of it here.

Thank you.

Until next time, we hope you have an Up And Coming week because we out.

Following up with one last thing to note, if you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying. In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Just go to ThaneMarcus.com/InThane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Sam Collier

UAC 158 | A Greater StorySam Collier is a pastor, speaker, writer, and host of the A Greater Story with Sam Collier TV show and radio podcast. He is a speaker and host at North Point Ministries, founded by Andy Stanley, and he also communicates nationally and internationally as a speaker and contributor to the ReThink Group, Orange Network, Orange Tour, Alpha International Leadership Conference, Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, Culture Conference, and more.

He has also been interviewed on numerous TV shows, podcasts, and radio programs. Collier lives with his wife, Toni, and their daughter in Atlanta, Georgia.

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UAC 157 | How We Change

 

To change is human, but only as long as you realize that you need to do it to yourself as much as you want the next person to do it. How do we change, exactly? It is often easier said than done. A quick look at any aspect of human existence will show you how resistant we are to change when it comes to ourselves. In this rapidly changing world, we need to constantly check on this important responsibility to ourselves and the world around us. Join in as Thane Marcus Ringler brings this powerful message to us in this episode. Plus, tune in for Thane’s six reminders when facing change in our lives and in our world.

Listen to the podcast here:

How We Change

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. That is a catchy phrase my Cofounder, Adam, coined, but what it means is living with intentionality, a reason why behind what we’re doing. That is what this shows about, unpacking stories of people that are on the process of becoming alongside us in that journey. Thank you for tuning in for being a part of this community and this movement and being a fellow Up and Comer. We’re glad you’re here. If you haven’t done it yet, one of the greatest ways to help us out is simply by leaving a rating and review on iTunes.

That is such a sweet, simple, short way that you can support our show. We’re almost at 100 reviews. I wanted to read one that was left by someone named Katie My Baby. She said, “I love this show. Thane gives motivation. He is uplifting and offers great tips. He does a fantastic job of asking intentional questions and then listening to the answers. I love the show he does with his new beautiful wife. They are the perfect match. This is a no brainer when it comes to the show.” Thank you so much for that sweet review. If you want your review to read, definitely go over to Apple Podcasts and drop that rating review, five stars would be ideal, but you don’t have to, you can leave wherever you want.

UAC 157 | How We Change

 

There’s a couple of other easy ways you can help us out if you haven’t. One of the greatest ways is to share this episode. You can share it with a friend, maybe a family member, or send it out to a couple, if several people come to your mind while you’re reading that the sign indicator, a prodding that you need to send them a text, including a link to this show. Another awesome way is by tagging us on socials @UpAndComersShow. We love having shoutouts from you guys. Another great way is by reaching out by email starting a conversation. You can reach us TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com.

Lastly, if you wanted to sports financially, we do have a Patreon where you can submit monthly donations to help us keep this show going to pay for the bills and keep producing weekly episodes. If you have a company and you want a partner, the last way that we like to support others is by partnering with businesses that are like-minded. Send us an email if that includes you. This is a shorter episode, which I haven’t done in a bit, but it’s going to be a solo episode where I share a few musings and thoughts on something I’ve been pondering or learning.

UAC 157 | How We Change

 

This one, I titled How We Change. In the midst of all that’s happened in 2020 and all the changes we’ve all experienced, I wanted to offer up some reminders for facing change in our lives and our world. This has been going on for a while and this desire ultimately led to a series of blog posts that I did in April and May offering up a handful of reminders that we often need when facing change. They are helpful refreshers. I’m going to say them again here, but if you wanted longer discourses on all of those, go to ThaneMarcus.com and you can find those on the blog. Here are the six reminders when facing change.

Reminder number one, regardless of how much change we are going through, we can always remain grounded through practicing our daily rhythms or our cornerstone habits that keep our lives in place. Reminder number two, sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to show and extend more grace to yourself and others, especially in tumultuous times of change. Reminder number three, change causes us to operate out of fear and assumption but if we want to thrive in the midst of uncertain times, we must strive to operate out of love and belief. Reminder number four, change itself is a neutral reality. What we do with it is a result that can be either good or bad. Reminder number five, the experience of change is drastically different winning community versus isolation. Reminder number six, beauty can be found in all things if only we would look for it.

Facing external change is often an easier pill to swallow than internal change. Click To Tweet

These are the six reminders that I’ve found helpful for myself and can be helpful for others when we think about facing change. All of these reminders are geared towards the external reality of change, the way we experienced a change in our environment, and in the world around us. The other important facet of change is an internal reality. How we, ourselves change and grow throughout our lives. As with most things in life, changing the environment or the external is usually far easier than the internal. Even facing external change is often an easier pill to swallow than internal change. We are all scared of change to some extent. We are scared of becoming someone different than we once were.

On the other hand, we all want to be somewhere else and where we are. We’re in the midst of this tension of being scared to be someone different than we once were, but also longing to be somewhere else than where we are. In order to arrive at a different destination, we have to do the work within ourselves to reach that desired goal. One of the aspects of change that’s interesting to note is that we’re able to see the need for change in others far easier than the need for change in ourselves. If we’re honest with ourselves almost on a daily basis, we’re telling ourselves or others how much we wish someone else would change and often so that they would be more like ourselves in some way.

UAC 157 | How We Change

 

As narcissistic as that is, we can all relate to that. We have a lot of conversations on how we wish other people would change to be more like us. This is comical because we are often blind or ignorant to the ways in which we need to grow and change ourselves while we become experts in diagnosing and addressing the way someone else needs to change. It’s a human malady, a human condition. We missed out on the change that we need when we constantly address the change we think others need. The other aspect of change that is important to understand is that we never change someone by telling them to change.

If we think back on childhood, what was our typical response or any child’s typical response when any adult, especially a parent says, “You need to do this.” It is always often a compelling and resounding, “No, I’m not going to.” There’s a rebellious nature, or even what could be called an independent nature within our bones that responds with repulsion anytime someone tells us what we “need to do.” This is true and we see this everywhere, even within ourselves, as adults. It points to that we don’t change others by telling them they need to change.

UAC 157 | How We Change

 

In our world and especially within America, there are a plethora of areas where we want to see change. Race in the way that we see human beings differently. We want to see a change in politics, promoting unity and said division based on generalizations, whether you’re left or right, liberal or conservative, all these general terms. We want to see a change in media or news outlets, where we see perfect pictures or clickbaity headlines. We want to see the change in businesses and corporations that care solely about the bottom line and not about the humans on the receiving end and on and on it goes. There are many areas within our world, especially in the midst of America, where we want to see change.

Typically, we want to see it in other people first and this is where a few quotes come into play. The first one is from Dallas Willard, he says, “It is human nature to resist deep inward change for such change threatens our sense of personal identity.” This goes back to one of the fears we face with the change that we are fearful of changing from who we once were. It threatens our sense of personal identity, as Willard says. Another quote by Kerry Patterson says, “As much as others may need to change, or we may want them to change, the only person we can continually inspire, prod, and shape with any degree of success is the person in the mirror.”

As a person changes their own nature, the world’s attitude towards them also changes. Click To Tweet

What Kerry’s pointing out is that we always want other people to change, but the only person that we can continually have success in changing is ourselves, the person in the mirror. Finally, the quote that’s often attributed to Gandhi is, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” What I’ve found out is that Gandhi, didn’t probably say that, and what he said is more likely this quote that, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” This is a little bit longer way of saying the same thing, that if we want others to change, if we want the world to change, we must change ourselves.

We must look inward and focus on internal change if there’s ever going to be external change. Thus, how we change is as follows, at least in my perspective. First, recognize the need for change in ourselves. Robert Pirsig said, “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” We need to first recognize the need for change in ourselves. Second, we must have a greater desire for change than the inherent obstacles that oppose that change. Brad Sugars said, “The formula for change is when the desire for change is greater than the resistance to change.”

UAC 157 | How We Change

 

Third, we must go through the process of change internally. As James Holly said, “Only death is static. The principle of life is change.” We have many deaths and rebirths to transit if we’re to lead meaningful lives. Forth, rinse, and repeat. Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change.” To be perfect is to have changed often. The four steps of how we change are one, recognize the need for change in ourselves. Two, have a greater desire for that change than the inherent obstacles that oppose it. Third, go through the growth process of change internally, and then fourth rinse and repeat.

You may be thinking, “What about changing others? How do I do that? Isn’t that what we’re after?” I’m often thinking the same thing. Hopefully, though we can readily assent that we don’t have the power to forcibly change others. Along with that, we can realize that telling others to change isn’t helpful. It leads to others doubling down and entrenching even further in what they believe. We all do this. If someone comes up to you and says, “You’re wrong. You need to change.” What are we going to do? We’re going to get defensive and we’re going to entrench in our position, stance or idea. That’s what we all do as humans.

UAC 157 | How We Change

 

What do we do in trying to promote change? We must first focus on changing and growing within ourselves before we ever are ready to look outward at others. Once we have been in the growth process for some time internally, it may be helpful to reconsider ways that we can influence and encourage others to grow. Usually, it comes from the things that we found helpful or useful for ourselves. When this time comes, there’s an important focus we must maintain, and that the focus of empowerment, instead of instruction. Fred Rogers said it best, in my opinion.

He said, “There’s a world of difference between insisting on someone’s doing something and establishing an atmosphere in which that person can grow into wanting to do it.” Fred said it beautifully. When we focus on empowerment, we focus on creating an atmosphere, space for others to change instead of giving them instructions on the change that we think they need to make. Holding space for others to be fully themselves is essential for creating an atmosphere that encourages growth and change because few of us live fully into our identities on a daily level, if any of us. If you want more on that, see Jamie Winship‘s interview as he shares a lot on that idea of living in our true identity.

The best way we can change is by first focusing on ourselves and then second, by holding space for others. This is how we change, foster growth and we walk forward together as a family, community, society, and humanity. To accomplish this, we need an abundance of patients for ourselves as much as for others. It’s a long journey, but it’s a road worth traveling. I want to end by another quote by Merle Shain and she said, “Loving someone means helping them to be more themselves, which can be different from being what you’d like them to be, although often they turn out the same.” May we all embrace this process of change together. Thank you.

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UAC 56 | Unconflicted Life

 

Conflict starts internally. To live an unconflicted life, we must learn how to live fearlessly in our true identity – that precious gift that God gave out of his love for us. Armed with this powerful, faith-centered philosophy, Jamie Winship spent decades bringing peaceful solutions to some of the world’s highest conflict areas. The same philosophy powers Identity Exchange, a training and consulting company he cofounded. In this conversation with Thane Marcus Ringer, Jamie tells powerful stories of radical faith that brought him closer to God and his true identity, as well as his thoughts on the growth process, the role of fear, the conflict narrative, the need for forgiveness, and so much more. Learn how a deep understanding of God unleashes our true identity, eliminates internal conflict, and enables us to smash the conflict narrative that pervades the world we live in.

Listen to the podcast here:

Jamie Winship: Living An Unconflicted Life: Stories Of Radical Faith In Unleashing True Identity

Thanks for being a part of this community and being a fellow Up and Comer. We’re so glad you’re here. A few ways to help us out. If you haven’t yet, please leave us a rating and review on iTunes or Apple Podcasts. This is an awesome way to help us be found by others. We’re up to 95 so we’re about 5 away from 100. I would love to get to the triple-digit mark, it would be awesome. If you can do that, that’d be such a great way to help us out. Another awesome way is by sharing an episode with a friend, a family member, or someone you think would be encouraged by it. This is a great episode to do that.

You’re going to be blown away by this interview and my guest. If you would be so kind to share the good word and spread the Up and Comers Community, we’d love that immensely. Finally, if you want to support us financially, you can go to Patreon.com where we have a page where you can do monthly donations to help support us and keep our show going. If you have a company and you’d like to partner with us, we’re actively looking for partnerships. Send us an email to TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com.

This is an interview with Jamie Winship. He has decades of experience bringing peaceful solutions to some of the world’s highest conflict areas. Starting with a distinguished career in law enforcement in the Metro Washington, DC area, Jamie earned an MA in English and developed a unique process based on the Identity Exchange premise which is identity transformation is the key to acquiring new levels of learning and creativity in any field. His unconventional efforts to bring about societal and racial reconciliation led him to Indonesia, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Israel and now Seattle. Jamie has worked with leaders in a variety of sectors from police departments, pro football teams, churches, and other faith-based organizations.

Along with his wife, Donna, Jamie is the Cofounder of Identity Exchange, a training and consulting company committed to teaching people the transformative power of living fearlessly in their true identity. This is an amazing conversation and in this interview, we talked through many things, including always being in a growth process, the reality being God’s best friend, breaking your “jar,” how to maintain hunger, experiential knowing, the role of fear, Jamie’s own journey to discovering his true identity, the conflict narrative, how forgiveness is essential, what it looks like to hear from God, questions to ask yourself and so much more. It was such a joy to listen to Jamie, his stories and amazing testimonies of faith. Please read the whole blog. It was well worth my time in doing and it will be well worth your time in reading. Follow along with what Jamie’s up to and the life that he’s living. It’s transformative.

If you want to find out more about Jamie and his work, be sure to visit their website, IdentityExchange.com for all the resources they offer there to help people on their identity journey. The most popular is their Knowing Rediscovered video series which is designed for small groups but also available for individuals. For those who want more personal training, they have a team of Identity Exchange coaches that offer online coaching sessions. Jamie also does his work in non-faith setting through the corporate arm of his company, Identity Method. For more information, visit that website. To stay up to date on all the latest resources and events, please follow on Facebook and Instagram @IdentityExchange, @IdentityMethod and @TheJamieWinship. You can subscribe to receive emails through their website. Be sure to check those resources out. Please sit back, relax, and enjoy this interview with Jamie Winship.

Jamie Winship, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I’m glad and excited to be here.

It’s going to be a fun conversation. I’m doing research and every single conversation or interview that I heard from you was unique and you told a story I’d never heard of before. One of the references I talked to said that your superpower is storytelling. That will be on full display now. Speaking of storytelling, I had a little plug that I thought might be interesting to begin with. Someone mentioned that it would be good to ask them about the Bedouin tent story and the sand dunes. What is the Bedouin tent story and the sand dunes?

I don’t even know which one they’re talking about. The one that comes to my mind is we were working on this project and I was on a small team. There were three of us on the team. The other two guys on my team are very high-level professionals in what they do. It so happened that all three of us were believers in that little situation, but we believed differently about God and the supernatural. I would say the two guys with me love God but they were a bit skeptical about the miraculous and that kind of thing.

Back in the States, they had challenged me on that topic because they’ve heard me tell stories about it. I said, “Why don’t you come with me to a place that I don’t even like to go to and let’s see what happens?” We’re working there. In my experience I don’t think any of it is supernatural. It’s all part of reality and the kingdom but the level of God’s intervention in scenarios depends on the level of the scenario. The more intense it is, that’s the more intense God becomes in it. We went in this situation and we were out in the middle of the desert in another country. It was just the three of us.

I told the guy that when we get into this place, this is the customs of how they work. We have to go in at night, alone, unarmed and we’ll spend the night. When we wake up in the morning, they’ll set a table in the tent. These tents are huge. They’ll set a table in the next room of the tent. It will be on the floor. They’ll set food for us and they’ll wait for us to finish eating before they come in. They won’t come in. It’s rude to sit with your guests and watch them eat because then your guests won’t eat as much as they want. That’s their custom.

Reality is God’s best friend. To try to remain the same is counter-intuitive to what reality is all about. Click To Tweet

We get up and there are three of us. The table is set on the ground and there are four plates. Every meal that the three of us have together, there are four plates set. One of the guys with me kept saying, “Why are there four plates for three of us? Is it a custom?” This is my fifth time in this place. I said, “No, I’ve never seen them do this before. I don’t know what they’re doing. I’m not sure.” It was driving him crazy and the other guy didn’t care. We get into these intense meetings and we would be considered enemies by them from foreign policy and religious standpoint. We are polar opposites of one another.

Our job is to bring reconciliation and get them to not be part of any insurgency movement in the region that was forming. These guys were good fighters. They were tribal and we knew that if they got involved in the fighting, it was going to be a bad situation. Our job was to help stop that from happening. Our way of doing it is with the kingdom. That’s how we operate. We’re all in these intense meetings and in the fourth night, we’re sitting there drinking tea with the leaders. They’re cool, hearty and tough people. My friend said, “I’m going to ask him about the plate.” I’m like, “Go ahead.”

He can speak the language and he’s asking them, “Why do you set the fourth plate?” The leader said, “Because there are four of you, why else would we set four plates?” My friend looks at me and he goes, “Why are they saying there are four of us?” I said, “I don’t know, ask him.” He said, “Why are you saying there are four of us?” They said, “There are four of you. There are three of you and your security guy. Isn’t that your security guy?” We’re like, “Our security guy?” They said, “The one that stands guard all night while you guys are sleeping. He’s outside right now. He doesn’t come in with you as your security guy. He’s not part of the team in terms of the negotiations. He’s just your security.”

I knew exactly what it was immediately, but the two guys with me were like, “We don’t have a security guy.” The tribal guys started laughing and whispering among themselves because they realized that we couldn’t see him. They switched the words they were using. This group has a weird Arabic blended language, but they use the Arabic Quranic word for angel, Malaika. They started saying, “It’s Malaika, it’s an angel. You guys have an angel security guard.” They got all into it and excited about it. We got excited about it. My friend said, “What does he look like?” He was dying to know like, “Why can’t we see him?” They described him. They said, “He looks like you but he’s bigger than you. We knew he was security because he has a sword.” That’s what they said.

They were all in awe of our security guy’s sword. They thought it was cool that he must have been good at hand-to-hand close combat and he carried a sword. It’s like a Gurkha security guy would do. When we left that night and we were back in our end part of the camp in the tent, the guy with me was so freaked out. He was like, “They’re seeing things around us that there are four of us that we can’t see.” To whose benefit it is to know that we have a security guy?” We already have that sense but it’s for their benefit. After that, when we would go into these meetings, then the leaders that would come into the meeting would know that we were sent by God because God put his own security with us. It made the process move. What it did in the personal lives of the other two guys was so dramatic and beautiful. It affected their marriages and all kinds of other things because it raised their own view of God.

That is remarkable. I want to dive into this theme that is one of many that I hope we can cover. The theme of raising awareness and enlarging our view of God. I want to go back in your own life and your story. In our prior conversation, we got to talk a little bit about your process through the police force and then going into your work beyond that. There’s a moment with a friend that was pivotal even in discussing whether you’d go forward outside of the police force with the CIA even. In your journey with God, when was this shift from what you’ve been taught to what you’ve personally experienced?

My wife and I were even talking about it because you’re always in this growth process. To me, the most attractive thing about following Jesus or the life in Christ is the constant transformation and renewing of our mind that’s supposed to be the normal part of it. We’re not conforming to patterns that we encounter in the world but we’re being transformed constantly by the renewing of our mind. That transformation process is occurring all the time because things that are growing are constantly transforming. Reality is God’s best friend. No tree is the same from year-to-year. To try and remain the same or in control or find a formula is counterintuitive to what reality is all about. It’s moving, in motion, has beginnings and going towards something.

The big moment is when you realize this is a journey of transformation. If I think I get God or I’ve got this whole thing explained, it means I don’t get it. That was a big stunner for me. It was when I would meet these people that would talk to me like, “You think you get this? Do you think you get God? How can you?” My challenge for me was like, “I do think I get it. I’ve got it. I know who the good and bad guys are. I know the right prayers to say and I can explain scripture. I’ve got this thing locked up so how do I use it to my advantage?” It was always these individuals that you intersect with in your life and they break your jar. They see your container and they smash it. The reason they do it is so that you’ll get a bigger jar because your jar is full and there is a lot more to put in it. That’s why Jesus is a very beautiful opening to the whole Sermon on the Mount discourse, get empty and blessed are the poor in spirit.

If you don’t come empty, then you can’t receive. If I come to God full already of all my knowledge, understanding of wisdom and theology, there’s nothing that I can receive from Him. If you follow the Beatitudes as a process and not as a sermon in the West. The beginning of the process is get empty because that’s the kingdom. Yours is the kingdom. If you’re coming to God empty, you will never be full. This is the beauty of it. It’s what gives us joy. The emptiness leads to mourning. You’re asking Him, “What do you want me to mourn for or long for?” He goes, “I want you to long to live in remote places with Muslims. That’s what I want you to long for now because I will comfort you in that journey.” If you’re longing for security and whatever, there is no comfort there. You can try and find it there, it is not there. You have this progression which leads to meekness, hunger and thirsting. What do you hunger and thirst for? What is right and true about me and my relationship with Christ?

I’m hungry for it every day. When you’re not hungry anymore, it’s over. Not because it’s over, it’s like a champ working his way up to the championship and he wins it and it’s like, “That’s that,” but the next hungry guy will beat him. The hunger drives and Jesus is challenging. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst all the time for what’s right because I will fill them like manna, not once for all but every day. Come back hungry tomorrow, but you’re not going to starve. I’ll fill you and blow your mind, but then we’re going to do it again tomorrow and it produces transformation all the way up to you beyond persecution.

Persecution won’t even slow that hunger, thirst and mourning. It won’t even slow. It won’t even kill you. We got past that long ago or you’re going to fail. That’s all part of the process. You’re past that stuff. It’s not that you’re brave, you just know what’s true. There is no death. It’s individual. That’s what I call it. They kept breaking my jar. I learned this new thing about Christ and I’d be exploring it. I get like, “I think I get this.” You’re living it. Out of his love and mercy, he keeps saying to the disciples, “Did you get that? Let’s go.” “We’re not staying here?” He breaks your jar so that you can get free again to move, “You’re too fat, lazy, and slow, you can’t move. Move.”

UAC 56 | Unconflicted Life

 

For you personally, how do you maintain hunger? I love that idea of, how can I be as hungry every day as possible? What is it for you that helps you remain hungry? It’s a daily process as you said.

It seems like what you want to do is get to a place where you’re safe, you got it and you’re okay. That’s the life of the enemy like you’ve made it, you got there, and it’s okay now but that’s never scriptural. How do you stay hungry? For me, everything is about experiential faith and knowing with God. It’s not about intellectual knowing but it’s experiential. You should experientially know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Not just intellectually know it, you live it. God’s word is now your flesh. I was working on this book project in 2019. I woke up one morning and I was fearful. The fear is the thing that’s telling me I’m afraid of the hunger. I don’t get hungry anymore. I want to be full and the fear is warning me.

It’s a beautiful warning. I said to the Lord, “Search me, know me, and reveal to me where is the fear. What’s my fear? Lead me into what’s not true of you or offensive to you. What am I believing that’s not true that’s producing fear in me?” The response was, “I’ll never finish this writing project. It’s too big. It’s never going to get done.” My confession to God then is, “Here’s what I believe to be true right now. I will never finish this.” The Lord always says to me, “What does that say about you then? What’s the identity statement in that? I am what? What do you believe about yourself?” I said, “I am a person who doesn’t finish things.” It almost broke my heart to say it out loud. That’s confession. I’m not saying I’m sorry. I’m saying this is what I believe about myself, that I’m not a finisher.

The Lord said to me, “I want you to say everything in your life that you started and never finished.” I was like, “I don’t want to go that deep in it. I don’t want to dig down in that truth.” The guy that mentored me was like, “Don’t play a game. If you want to play, you play but don’t goof now. You asked for wisdom and He gives it to you, do it. Don’t ask Him and then try and decide. It doesn’t work.” I did it. I started with first grade. I went through and it was painful. I’m not even out of bed. I’m doing it because the spirit is leading me in all truth. It’s challenging wrong belief and leading me in all truth. That’s what the spirit does towards into Christ. I went through everything up to the present tense and it was painful. It was almost tear-producing in me. I finished and I’m like, “That’s everything I know that I’ve started and never finished.”

That’s confession. Now comes repentance, the beautiful part. Now let God say something. That was me talking. I came into my office here and I said, “Lord, you say what’s true.” This is what He said to me, it’s beautiful. He goes, “Nothing is ever finished.” It was like, “Oh my gosh.” He said, “Are you ever finished being married? Are you ever finished being a parent? Are you ever finished following me? The book will never be finished. You might get tired of writing it, try and send it to a publisher, but it will never be finished. Will it? If it’s finished, then what else is there to think about?” It was so beautiful so I wrote it down here. I never finished anything, confession. Repentance, nothing is ever finished, walk into a new way. He said, “Except one thing is finished.” Jesus said what it was, “This separation is finished. Don’t ever bring that up again.” That’s how I stay hungry knowing that whatever I’m doing, it’s not finished.

It’s profound. It’s so helpful. I was thinking about this. I’ve been practicing a bit more golf for a little qualifier I’m playing in. I haven’t competed in a couple of years. I’m excited but also a little nervous. I can feel the old tendencies of identity creeping in of hanging on or playing out of fear. It’s been a more frustrating week with my game because of that. Seeing those lies come in and to know that it’s not finished yet that you’re always in process, it practically applies to everything. It frees us up then to live not out of fear but of empowerment and freedom. It’s such a beautiful reality when we do live in that, which is such a hard thing to be consistent in. The question then is, when do you feel like you’re not being consistent and living in that reality? What do you see as the things that cause that inconsistency?

The whole thing is what Jesus is doing, and what the whole Bible is showing in these beautiful case studies of all humanity through all-time at every age, gender and everything. We call it the game. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Infinite Game Theory Versus Finite Game Theory. If you’re playing a finite game, it means there’s a beginning and an end, there’s a winner and a loser, and there are boundaries. You don’t want any mystery. You want to know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, how to win and no surprises. That’s the world we live in. That’s the lie that we live in every day which we call the lie, Satan, the prince of the air. It’s this idea that you’re in a game and you’re either going to win or lose. It’s going to end. You have a time limit, there are boundaries, and the goal is to win. Everything we do is built on this lie.

In the infinite game theory, the goal of the game is that everyone plays and the game goes on forever. That’s the goal. There are no boundaries and no end time. There are only horizons that you’re moving towards and horizons keep moving. They’re there and you can see them. You can go towards them but you never get to them. That’s the beauty of a horizon. God is saying to us, “Trust me, you don’t want to get there. That’s not what you want.” The liar comes in and was like, “You’re never going to get there. You’re never going to be a good parent and husband. You’re running out of time.”

That’s the lie. We have bought into that lie hook line and sinker. We teach it in leadership training and in church. It’s all this like, “There are winners or losers, my friend. You have enemies in this world that you’ve got to beat.” In our mindset, we measure progress by control. How much have we gained control of everything? First of all, you can’t control everything. That’s not even true, but in the infinite game, it’s all about surprise. That’s what we want. We want mystery. It scares us but to be free, alive and operate in joy, we need mystery and moving horizons. We know what happens when you make it, you get the medal, you win the game, and you get the million.

What do we start doing? We’re finding something else to do. Whatever it is that we’ve got to do, Jesus is quite simple on this. It’s a very beautiful journey. The way you know you’re on the journey is you’re motivated and activated by love. Another beautiful progression that Paul gives us is that love produces joy, joy produces peace, peace produces patience, patience produces kindness, kindness produces gentleness, gentleness produces faithfulness, faithfulness produces self-control, and you’re almost back to blessed are the poor in spirit.

The process is quite simple. Seek first the kingdom. There it is. The lie is very insidious and it looks so good. It looks nice and safe, “If I could get there and I wouldn’t have to worry about this.” You grow up in it and you breathe it every day. It’s two stories. It’s who I am or my story, and then the world story. What’s my true identity? I’ve got to discover that before anything else. How does that true identity work in a scarcity model lie world? That’s what we’re trying to bring transformation to. It’s the scarcity lie that we’re dying and perishing in it.

Don't define life by death. Define death by life. Click To Tweet

I want to come back to that, as well as the infinite game theory, but I want to go back and touch on what you began with. It was breaking your jar or having someone break your jar. Could you give an overview of the different jars that have been broken within your own faith journey?

It’s interesting because I can do it by relationships that came into my life. The human longs for a joyful relationship in the present tense. That’s what every human wants. That’s how we’re built. The lowest level of our brain is seeking attachment in the present tense based on joy. That’s the goal. That’s why the greatest commandment is to love God, love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself. That’s a joyful, love-based, other-focused relationship. That’s what it is. In my life, I remember these events more by the person than what occurred because what occurred is never-ending. The first person I encountered that ever shared the gospel with me in a way that made me wish I could be a believer is a nurse.

She broke my main worst jar that God is mad at me, that most of what I think is sinful, selfish and dirty. Jesus died for me and he took some of the rafts but certainly not all of it. Every thought of my heart is continually evil and I’m deprived. I have to ask Jesus into my heart every day because I was so concerned about how evil I was. This amazing nurse sitting next to me in a hospital room starts communicating to me an accurate and truthful picture of God. I’ve never heard of it. There’s an alternative view than the wrathful, vindictive and retributive God. This amazing person who’s not a pastor, a theologian or an expert is causing something to occur in me that I can’t even stop even if I want to. It’s called love. That’s what she was doing. She was loving me. I was pushing as hard as I could against that love. It was like sticking my arm into another dimension. My arm would vanish and she’s still there.

I couldn’t push her where there was nothing to push away because she was absorbing my hostility. I’ve never seen anyone do this before. I was cussing her out, calling her names, doing everything, and she would absorb it. That’s the way to say it. She would absorb it and it would go away. Her love was far more powerful than my anger, but not in a verse and a theory. She was doing it to me. I was experiencing and she was living it out in front of me by absorbing my hostility. She would tell me she was doing it. She did it for five days in a row. I was discharged from the hospital. That is the first time I ever said, “I want to be exactly like her.” It had to do with Jesus because she kept telling me that. She kept saying, “I’m only here in the capacity that I’m in because I’m a single mom. I’m from West Virginia and I had to go to night school.”

She’s telling me all these hardships in her life but she’s saying, “Look at me, I’m here in this role and vocation as a nurse to heal your soul and spirit.” I was like, “Her vocation is nurse but her identity is healer.” That’s the first time I ever saw a true identity in a vocation. She’s bringing identity to the vocation and not getting identity from the vocation. I couldn’t articulate it well. I was seventeen and this is what I prayed when I left. I said, “God, I want to be a police officer like she’s a nurse.” That’s the only way I could say it. Whatever she’s doing in her vocation, because there are a lot of great nurses on this floor, nobody is reaching inside of my heart and healing me. She’s the only one doing that. She’s not doing some cliché gospel presentation. She’s doing surgery on me and I want her to. She was the first and that’s where I met Christ was through her. I started pursuing that.

The next one was a wrestling coach in college who taught me how to be contemplative. It was these most unlikely people. For me, that was important because I was raised in a religious world. God has always spoken to me outside of that world. It’s been very beautiful and precious to me that that’s how He’s done it. That’s not for everyone at all. I’m just saying that in my identity, He’s always made it clear to me, “When I come to call you, I will not come to you in the form of the church because I don’t want you in church. I don’t want you part of the church.”

The nurse, the wrestling coach, then it was overseas. It was the guy that trained me to work with Muslims. He’s the next one that blew up my world by teaching me that I didn’t know my identity. Since then, it’s been more of a journey on my own deep relationship with the spirit of God. Those particular individuals shattered my jar. It didn’t take five years. They did it in a day. They busted it open. Richard Rohr talks about, “You have order, it gets smashed, you go into disorder and then reorder.” We just want the order part. We do want reorder but we don’t want to go through disorder, but you can’t reorder without disorder. There has to be the death before the resurrection. We want it but we don’t want to die to it.

That’s why it’s important to pay attention to who you’re in a relationship with, even in a moment in a day like, “Who is this person? What is this? Is there something here?” It’s not always but there are times when, “Wow, what that person is doing and pouring into.” I would say those were the three biggest. It’s how I came to Christ. That’s how I learned to hear God which I use all the time as a police officer and then it was okay. Now that I can hear what about identity? The right view of God, then how to hear that because I didn’t want the angry God. Why would I want a life of hearing the angry God? I then met the true God. I was ready to learn how to hear that God. The wrestling guy taught us how to do that. He taught his team how to do that. It was okay and now that I can hear him, what does he call me?

I love that because that’s so helpful. I’m curious to hear what you think. Do you think this is a universal process? Do you think that those are the stages we all go through?

Yes.

First is knowing the true God, you’re hearing God and then getting your identity from God. I want to focus on the first one here because we share some of that background. My history is knowing God through the Scriptures as intensely and deeply as possible, which largely if not entirely leaves out the experiential knowing. You haven’t been in America that long. You grew up and you were gone for about twenty-plus years, then now you’ve been back. I’m thinking about the American church. You can view it however you want in this question, but in the Christian of this world or in the American church, where are the largest discrepancies of what we think is God versus the true God?

UAC 56 | Unconflicted Life

There are a couple of things when I think about that. It’s interesting because these discussions are ongoing all the time. We always need to be asking God, “What do you want me to know? What do you want me to do in relation to this? Are we on the right path? My wife and I were doing it like, “Are we doing what you have for us to do? Are we living inside of our identities?” We’re always asking those questions together because it’s a never-ending, beautiful and fascinating discussion with the Lord.

Number one is the whole idea of the retributive God. The God who’s isolated, solitary, angry, and not relational. He’s that guy over there. That whole idea and everything that happens is like, “If we would repent, this wouldn’t be happening.” It’s like everything negative that happens goes, “There you go.” That hammer is always waiting to fall on you. The angry father that has to kill his son to pour out his anger and that whole thing. I was raised in it and the key to all of that wrong view is you can’t have Jesus inside of that wrong view. You have to make Jesus stand over there so we can maintain this angry God. You can’t have the gospels. You can only have the Old Testament and selected parts of the New, but you can’t have Jesus. He ruins the whole thing.

You then have to have Sola Scriptura. You have to have the text. You can’t have Jesus talking to you or the spirit because Jesus is going to say to you, “Do you see that enemy over there, that person that killed your entire team in Mosul? Love him. They’ll find biblical ways to kill him, die for him.” That’s hard in the lie that we live in, the finite game that we live in. The whole victory becomes self-preservation and self-promotion. That becomes the victory of the angry God world. It’s interesting because you’re mostly protecting yourself against this God. You have to protect yourself against God.

I’m not serving God because I love him, I just don’t want him to be mad at me. You have Sola Scriptura but then the problem you run into is that the Bible is not the word of God. Jesus is the word of God. That’s like, “Do you want to talk about the word of God? There it is right there. It’s not here.” If you want to talk about who’s the foundation and the cornerstone of everything I believe and understand about God, it is not the Bible, it’s Jesus. This is what the Bible is telling us. The foundation of this whole thing or the cornerstone that was rejected is not the Old and New Testament, it is Jesus. That’s one part of it. We have to move away from the isolated, lonely, separated God. There’s a big chasm between me, God, and all of that. We have to walk across the Jesus bridge over the flames. It’s a very clever imagery if you’re the enemy but it’s not true.

That’s one side. How do we come into it? You have this very beautiful relational watching Jesus. The author and perfecter of my faith is Jesus, not the Bible. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. That’s a high bar rather than like, “We need to have the backbone to stand against the evil people.” That’s not a high bar. A lot of people can do that one. To consider joy, to go and die for your enemy, despising the shame, that’s a high bar. When Jesus dies, God doesn’t forsake Him. Even in death, He lives and He released the captive. He’s saying to us, “You’re not going to die.” We get this out of the way right from day one, you are not going to die. You need to live this life not trying to avoid death. Don’t define life by death. That’s what we do. Define death by life. It’s a part of life. It’s beautiful, don’t be afraid of it, embrace it. That’s one thing. Staying in that beautiful trinitarian balance of the love relationship between father, son, and spirit which God is the relational God whose identity is love. That’s the balance of it.

The enemy is smart. He’ll keep you back there but if you want to go this way, he will overdo this one. You then get way into this dramatic supernatural thing that gets way out of proportion. My experience with Jesus is He’s quite not dramatic. He’s funny. The Holy Spirit is not this super theatrical dramatic. Not in the life of Jesus. The spirit is like, “Let’s go out in the desert and meet.” There is the spirit. Let’s talk about what’s true in the world. Let’s talk about how do we live Christ up in this scenario. It’s not this super dramatic power encounter thing, yet the Lord is quite intense when the intensity level is high. Stay in that beautiful simple, calm, incredibly profound mystery but not trying to make it into something. Let it calm as it will to you. They are beautiful and when it needs to blow your mind, it will.

What I love about that is how you speak to the balance of simplicity with mystery. That is necessary because we can air on either side of the fence way too far. We all do every single day. To be on top of the fence versus on my side of the fence is such a challenging place to live in but that’s exactly where God is. He’s on the fence.

It’s like they say, He’s the cruciform life. He’s the intersection between the vertical and horizontal all the time. He’s right in that place, in the paradox and mystery of it all. That’s how we should live. We want to live in the intersection of all those different things and not get out too far out on either any of them because extremes always comes from fear. It’s always a result of fear. I’m afraid no one is going to come, follow and read my book or whatever. I’ve got to make it as dramatic like the times in my life like with that angel story I told. One of the guys, if you ask him about that story, that will be the last part of it he’ll tell. What he’ll tell is what happened in the tent that night when he learned and realized that the God above loves him so much that He protects him out in the desert. This guy didn’t do anything to get it to happen. He didn’t even believe in it. When he understood that, it made him ask God a question about his marriage. That was the life-changer for it, not the angel.

What you brought up has got to be the crucible for that false versus true God. That is fear and the scarcity of fear. How do you talk through this with someone who is stuck in religion and believing in God but not necessarily the true God? They’re striving in the structure and system of religiosity. How do you explain or help guide to comprehension and how do you use fear in that?

I never like it when people think because this person disagrees with me or they’re out of bounds, that they’re dumb or evil. I don’t like that thing. For all of it, it’s simply this. We believe something that’s not true. If I’m with a person who’s stuck in that world, my question is always along the lines of conflict and here’s why. We call it a conflict narrative. If you ask the text or the scriptures and reading the narrative, what’s the cause of conflict in humanity? There’s only one cause, there’s not multiple. James says it in James 4, “The reason that you have wars is because you have a war in yourself.” That’s it. That’s how complicated all that is. The reason you have an external conflict is because you have an internal conflict. A person with no internal conflict will never have external conflict. They’ll only have external challenge. It will not be a conflict to them.

Jesus is the only human we’ve ever seen that is completely unconflicted internally. Even in the garden where he’s wrestling with something, He doesn’t move around with internal conflict. The question for us then is, what does Jesus have that we don’t have? What produces internal conflict in a human? What produces internal conflict in all humans is fear. They’re afraid of something, no matter what scenario I’m in when the person that I’m with wants to go to war with me, if I’m with a believer that wants to argue about gay rights and abortion, they just want to go to war. My question to them is, why are you in constant conflict? This is not how Jesus operates. This is not what He does. He’s not boycotting people. We’ve got to get the right leadership and empower Him. That is never how He talks because He’s playing the infinite game. He’s not trying to win a political battle and not trying to put a company out of business because they disagree with him. He’s not doing any of that because he’s unconflicted inside.

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He’s not afraid of Caesar, government, taxes or any of that. Why isn’t He afraid? Because He knows exactly who He is. He doesn’t get His identity from anything external in the world. What He has, what He does, and what people think about Him. He gets His identity from God. In that identity, He knows who He is and that informs his vocation. He’s the son, His vocation is Messiah. He lives in unconflicted life. I did this with a company. I don’t have to know the person or explain anything to them, I just ask them this question, “What is the main negative emotion you deal with on a regular basis?” That’s all I ask them.

When they tell me the truth, all they’re saying is, “Where the internal conflict is.” That’s all they’re going to say. Most humans, their main negative emotion is fear. They’re worried and stressed out. What are you afraid of? I’m afraid that my business is going to fail. I’m afraid that I’m going to die of COVID. You’re zeroing in on what’s the source, false identity. What does that mean? What does it mean you’re going to die of COVID? Say it in I am statement. “I am what? I am going to die. I am going to fail. I am unprotected.” That’s the identity statement. I am the unprotected one. What are you going to do with that identity?

I’m going to protect, and then there you go. Here comes the conflict because you can’t protect. You think you can. You can try and tell yourself but deep down, you’re afraid because you know you can’t do it. You’re in the lie. How are you going to protect yourself? I’m going to accumulate money. I’m going to get secure and make sure my kids go to the right school. It’s all the lie and it can never get out of the conflict. You get the school but what if you don’t get them on it? What’s pointing to the conflict? It’s negative emotion. Negative emotion is our beautiful gift. It’s the indicator light on the dash saying you better open the hood right now. It’s not telling us exactly what it is. It’s saying you better start looking because something is wrong. Lord, what is this? What am I afraid of? Search me and know me.

When you are doing that with the person, what are you afraid of? This is what a young man says to me, “That God is against me.” “What does that mean about you?” “I am completely unprotected. Not only does God not protect me, I’m not sure God is for me.” You have to say you’re afraid that you’re unprotected. The fear of falling and loud noises are our only two human innate fears. All other fear is learned. Where did you learn to be afraid of the fact that you are unprotected? Where did you learn that? Who taught you that? It’s not true. There it is. I am the unprotected one. I am the failure. I am the one who disappoints. We have to cope with all of these.

We’re going to dress them up in religion. “God is not just mad at me. He’s more mad at,” and then you start naming the bad people. We’re mad at them and I’ve got to prove that they’re bad to make myself good. I’ve got to go to war because I’m at war inside myself. I’ve got to cope with this war inside myself and the fear drives the war. The fear is not trying to drive the war, the fear is trying to tell you to go the other way and find out, what is it that I believe about my world, myself and others that’s not true? That’s what fear is telling you. Any human, the fear is telling you it’s the inverse of the great commandment. The fear is telling you that God is not for you, that something is wrong with you, and the other is a competitor to you. It’s the inverse of love God and love your neighbor the same way you love yourself. It’s the why version of that.

That’s all you have to do. Why are you so upset? What’s that emotion that’s like, “We’ve got to stop this in our country?” What’s that emotion? It’s anger but anger is secondary. What’s the first one? You’re afraid they’re going to take over this country, aren’t you? What does that mean? Their God can’t stop them unless you do it. I would lay in bed at night terrified all the time. Jesus didn’t say go into all the world and stop evil and fight crime. He didn’t say that. He said, “Disciple the nations in everything that I showed you and taught you.” About what? Love God and love your neighbor but you can’t love them unless you love yourself. You, my friend, do not love yourself.

That’s a fascinating point because this is something I’ve been curious about. There is a resurgence in loving yourself. This idea of loving yourself and how important it is, then there’s the unhealthy version of that, which is narcissism and that’s self-centeredness and selfishness. I want to be able to communicate and think through this with others and myself. How do you think about loving yourself that’s healthy and not narcissistic? Where does that lie in the process of healing and living in light of our true identity?

Narcissism is all fear. It’s not love. It’s this obsession with, I’ve got to prove that I’m amazing. When people stop looking or saying, “You’re amazing,” that person will die. We’ll go back to love God. I find this more powerful to people than anything we’ve done lately with people, both believers and people who wouldn’t consider themselves believer, Christians, is this commandment. If we could boil the whole thing down as Jesus does, what are the two great commandments? He says, “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” My question is, do I love God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength?

I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know if I love my wife with all of my heart, to be truthful. Do I love my wife every day with my heart? No. I can honestly say that I don’t. How do you love the unseen one with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength? Is it like there’s a guy over there and you’re supposed to love that guy? That’s impossible. That can’t be what it means. What is Jesus saying? We have to go back about what is God. God is love. It’s not like God is loving. God is love and God is spirit. Everything that God does is motivated by love.

It is love and that’s what Paul says, “If you do anything without love, it’s a waste of time. I don’t care what it is. We love Him because He first loved us. It’s all love. This is what Jesus is saying. We’re limited to words. He’s saying, “Love love with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.” God is the ground of all being. He’s not just one dude somewhere, which is beyond what we can think. He’s omnipotent and omnipresent, but we can’t think about what does it mean to love love? How do we love love? Jesus says, “Let me tell you how to love love.” It’s by participating in it and abiding in it. “Abide in me. As I am in the Father, the Father is in me. We are in you. Abide in love.” How do I do that? By loving what love loves. What does love love? Love loves you. The greatest act of worship that I can do every day is to love what love has done in creating me. It’s loving the true me.

It’s very humbling. It gets you on your knees, “Lord, I love who you’ve made me to be.” Not what you need me to do but what you made me be. I’m loving what love has done when love knit me together in my mother’s womb. What do I want to do with that? I want to love that and other people. When I love me and I’m like, “I’m going to look for that in you and I’m going to love that in you.” It means you don’t have enemies. It means you even love enemies because the enemy is not an identity. God didn’t knit together an enemy in their mother’s womb and put them there in front of you. He knit together a beautiful work of art that doesn’t know it yet who’s in opposition to you out of their fear. Love them. Love what God made in them because I love what God made in me, which means I’m participating in them. Can I love that with all of my heart, mind and soul? We can get there. Does it make me narcissistic? It’s the opposite. It makes me other-focused and sacrificial. It makes me unconditionally want the other to love them because we’re participating together in love. If you do anything without that love.

UAC 56 | Unconflicted Life

 

I want to repeat that framework because it is beautiful. What does it mean to love love? It’s by participating in it and abiding in it. How do you do that by loving what love loves? Love loves you but it’s loving the true you who God has made you to be. Because of loving the true you, then you want to love that true identity in other people, which means there are no enemies. That is true freedom and true joy. It makes perfect sense because it’s so simple yet it’s always this dance and mystery. I want to insert here a story because it’s easy for us to hear this and say, “That sounds great.” We can know the right word but that doesn’t mean that we’re doing it and what that looks like. You brought up the story of loving this guy who killed your whole team. That’s a real-life story. I’m curious if you can share that as somewhat of an illustration on how this played out in real life and how you’ve experienced it or lived it out in yours.

That one is a little broad. I have an even more specific one that leads up to that when I was working in a country and this was early on. In the kingdom of God and the kingdom of love, the oxygen we breathe is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the greatest example of love. It’s canceling the death. God demonstrates His love to us in that, while we were His enemies, Christ died for us. Forgiveness is the absolute air we have to breathe in the kingdom. It is what love is. Whoever is in a position to forgive is the person with the greatest power, so keep that in mind. I’m teaching at an Islamic university. Some of my students were radicals inside the university, working and stirring up the student movement. There were other great people in there. I’m teaching this class and by far the smartest guy in the class was one of these radical leaders.

One day in the class, we have been working hard. It was very difficult. I’d already been arrested and put on trial in this country. One of our team members, they had broken into his house at night, held him up in front of his kid, and stabbed him multiple times, and left him for dead. He got medevaced out. He survived but his kid wouldn’t talk for two years because of the trauma. The third guy on our team, his wife had a nervous breakdown. He had to go, so me and my wife were alone. We were the only ones left. We’re working in this very intense situation. One day in class, this student stands up in the class. This is an Islamic classroom so there were very strict rules on the authority of teachers. They were like gods. He stands up and he says, “Can I say something? I think I understand what you’ve been trying to tell us all along.” I’m like, “Okay.” I’m teaching discourse analysis.

I thought he was going to talk about discourse analysis, but then he goes, “You’re talking about God a lot and you want us to understand that Allah wants us to know that He loves us.” This is one of the most radical mean guys. I’m like, “That’s exactly right.” He said, “You’re saying that Jesus is the expression of God’s love to us.” I’m like, “Here we go. Here comes the people movement. I said, “Yes.” He goes, “The love of Jesus is the love of God being poured out for us on the cross. He died for us.” “Yes.” He walks up to me in the class and he goes, “I want to tell you what I think about that love,” and he spits in my face.

A couple of students in that class liked what we were doing. They jumped up because if that was an Islamic Muslim professor, that student would have been killed. They would have killed him on the spot. This is the way the culture worked in where we work. There are often people caught stealing or something and they were killed on the spot by the people. Two students jumped up like this is not allowable. For me, in this moment, what does love do? I know what the retributive God would have done. I could have easily hurt that guy very badly and quickly. Not only would it have been justified, it would have been considered honorable, but what does love do?

What does the God who He described do to his enemy, to someone that spits in his face? This is where we’ve got to tell Jesus to leave the room. “Can you leave the room right now because we’re going back to Leviticus? We can’t have you here. I’m sorry. We can’t turn the other cheek because then it’s weak.” In an instant, it’s in my mind. That’s when you have to hear God. That’s what takes the inner conflict away. Jesus says it, “Do you want to know how I live in an unconvicted life? I can hear the Father and I can see what the Father is doing.” There’s no conflict in what to do. I know what to do. The question is, do I want to know what the loving God would do? I know what He would do. He would turn the other cheek.

The problem was in that culture, if you turn the other cheek, it shames you and the people that want to defend you and honor you. The guys jump up and I’m like, “No.” They’re looking at me like, “Then you do it. We will stand here. We’ll watch the doors and you do it.” That guy knew that that was going to be the cost of what he did, but he believed I wouldn’t do it. I had to make a decision on the spot. I folded up my stuff and walked out of the room. I hated doing it. I walked away and I was like, “God, there’s nothing good about what happened there. They’re all bad in every way and the enemy won that one.” I left and the news spread like wildfire, “You are a coward. The Christian won’t do anything.” The guys I knew in the class were dishonored by it. Here’s what I thought about it. I thought about Peter watching Jesus let them take Him. He’s watched Jesus all along. People ask him questions and he gives the best answer. He can walk through a crowd that wants to throw him off a cliff.

All of a sudden, he wimps out of everything. I think this is why Peter denies Him. Peter is not afraid of anyone. He’s like, “I don’t know that guy. The Jesus I know would have stood up to this. He walked through it. He wouldn’t have bowed His head like a coward and let them take Him away. He healed the guy and I defended Him. I caught that guy and he healed him. That’s an insult to me personally.” On honor culture, that’s an insult. I think he’s hurt by it. I pray like, “Lord, if you’ve got a plan on this thing, I know in my heart it was the right thing to do, but it doesn’t feel like it.” Three months later at night, I get a knock on the door. It’s the same guy. The first thing I think is, “I’m alone with you now. I can do what I want to do to you.” I let him in.

He said, “I got awarded a scholarship in another country but the scholarship won’t pay for me to get to that country. I don’t have any money.” He was the leader of the militant student organization. He said, “I don’t have any money. I’ve asked my Muslim friends and no one will help me.” I was like, “You’re kidding. You’re coming to me to ask me to pay your way.” That’s what he asked me. He said, “I feel like you’re the only one that might help me. Will you give me the money to get to this full scholarship in this other country?” The Lord said, “Here you go. You want to win an infinite game, then you need to do it. Not only forgive him but pay his way, and do not ask for it back. Do not let him repay you because I didn’t ask you to pay me back. All the times you insulted me, spit in my face and mocked me.”

I gave him the money. I gave him cash and I said, “All I want you to know is that when you take this money, the one who’s giving it to you is Jesus. I want you to say that you understand it because you saw your own friends said no. I want you to know that it’s only because of Christ that I can do this.” That’s how he came to faith in Jesus, through that action, and I’ve never seen him again. He vanished into the night and he went. I’m sure he’s wealthy somewhere. We had been praying, “Lord, give us a way to be in a position to forgive these people so they can understand you.” That’s a dangerous prayer. That’s in a position where we can forgive them on their offense in order that they understand you. That’s what happened. That hostility can be deep. If we had been able to do that in Mosul before that event happened, that event would have never happened but it was too quick.

Thank you for sharing. That is such a powerful testimony. It shows that love and action. I love what you said that in the kingdom of God, forgiveness is the air we have to breathe. Before we come back to the overarching framework of knowing true God, hearing God, and getting our identity from God, I want to unpack some more of that with you. I want to hear more because everyone I’ve talked to and everything I’ve heard from you after having twenty-plus years overseas, primarily in the Middle East from what I know, it’s rare to find or to have people that have the experience and know how to speak truth without creating friction, offending or being argumentative in a way that people can’t receive it. That’s something that unarguably you’re exceptionally gifted at through God’s gifting and experience, particularly with Muslims. I’m curious how you approach that goal and how you think about it in a way that helps you be loving and see real transformation in partnering with God through that.

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I’ve heard William Paul Young speak on this and I’ve been with him alone when he’s talked about this. He says, “In the Bible, the word responsibility doesn’t exist.” Your responsibility doesn’t exist in the scripture. God never looks at someone and goes, “This is all on you. This is your responsibility to do this.” The word that’s in there is the ability to respond which is a very different idea. It’s the idea of God inviting us into things where it’s on Him. He’s inviting us to respond. When we went to Iraq or wherever the places we’ve lived, we didn’t go there thinking it’s our responsibility to win the world.

I know that’s how it’s taught a lot. That’s not right. We were invited to respond. God said, “I’m going to do something in Iraq that your identity would love to be involved in. Will you come? Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men. I’m inviting you into becoming fishers of men.” Who’s going to make us that? I am. You ask a person, “Who’s going to make you a good parent.” They think, “I’m going to have to make myself a good parent.” “Who’s going to make you a good spouse?” “I’m going to have to do it. I’ve got to go to seminars. I’ve got to read books.” That’s not true. “Follow me and I will make you become a great spouse.” He will make your true identity into a great spouse.

He won’t make you into the model of the person at the seminar. He doesn’t work this way. When I’m talking to a person that’s counter to me, disagrees with me or wants to argue with me, here’s what I know. It’s not my responsibility to convince them of anything, but I can invite them to respond to the voice that they’re going to hear right now if you’d be quiet for one minute. We listened together. I’m not going to change their view on women’s reproductive rights or gender. We always say, “Don’t tell a person what to know, teach them how to know how to know.” We learned and it took a long time.

As I’m telling you, we were in a lot of conflict in the Muslim world in our first five years. It’s brutal. It was not fun and joyful until I met the guy who said to me, “You don’t know your true identity.” That turned the whole thing around. I knew how to hear God, but I didn’t know who I was. We came to this place so then you experienced it. Is it possible for God to communicate to a Muslim the divinity of Jesus without me explaining it to him? Do I believe God can do that? If I don’t, it’s on me to do it. It is hard to do. To explain the hypostatic union of God-man is very difficult to do to a person that thinks it’s idolatry and he’s going to go hell if he believes it. That is a tough call.

Either you have to go for people that already hate Islam, fringe people as we call them, and get them but you’re never going to get the hardcore. You’re never going to get Saul of Tarsus. How did they get Saul of Tarsus? He heard God. He heard Jesus. They didn’t tell them about Jesus. That’s a whole other style. I wasn’t taught that in campus crusade and all those other great organizations, but I’m going to present the truth so compelling, it’s going to blow your mind. We decided, “Let’s ask God if he can talk to a Muslim without me doing it, and we’ll invite them into the relationship like John the Baptist will remove all the obstacles to meeting Jesus and then we’ll get out of the way.” It’s like, “You want to meet this guy. You don’t want to meet me. I can tell you about this guy. It’s not going to be anything listening to him. I try and explain it to you, it’s going to be limited. How about I introduce you to him, I’ll be quiet and you listen to him.”

We thought, “That’s what John the Baptist is doing. Why aren’t we doing that? Let’s keep moving the obstacles so the person can meet Jesus and then we’ll let him listen to Jesus in the spirit.” How do you know? We tried it in the Middle Eastern country. I told our team like, “Let’s try this and see if this works. If it works, we’re going to do it. If it doesn’t, we’ll ask the Lord, ‘What do you want us to know and do?”’ This is a mystery. There’s no formula. The first person that we did that with is another turning point. This Muslim guy comes back to my apartment with one of the young guys on our team. He’s a smart guy. He’s a Palestinian Master’s degree in Linguistics from Moscow University. He’s next to me. We’re talking and he says, “Jamie, I have a question as a Muslim about Jesus and you believe Jesus is God. What’s your view of Jesus?” I said, “I could tell you my view, but what if God can tell you a way to think about Jesus? Wouldn’t you rather listen to God or me?” He said, “I’d rather listen to Allah.”

I said, “Let’s ask Allah about it.” The reason I wouldn’t do that is because I’m afraid that God won’t show up. That’s on me. I’ve got to explain it. Where in the Bible does God not show up? Not only does He show up, He’s always there. He’s never not there. We sing all these songs, “God, please come.” Where do you think He is? He’s right there. We got down on the floor because that’s how he was praying. I had a young guy with me to watch and I’m like, “I’ll try it. If it doesn’t work, I’ll take the blame. We’re not going to die.” We pray and I said, “God, my friend here wants to understand Jesus. Would you help him have an understanding about Jesus?” I never said another word. The guy starts to cry. We’re there for a few minutes. He sits up, we sit together on the couch, and he’s wiping his eyes. He goes, “Wow.” I said, “What happened?” He said, “When you ask God explaining about Jesus, I saw myself as an infant lying in the dirt, in the mud. The Christ comes along, picks me up, washes me off as a baby and tells me I need to be born again, and then it stopped. What does that mean?”

I get the Bible because the scriptures are corrupt. I show him the story of Nicodemus. He cries his eyes out and he goes, “I am Nicodemus. I know my religion but I don’t know Christ. I’ve never been born again and I want to be born again now.” He was the first guy that became the leader of this movement. What that did in that short time, we were together an hour or whatever, he changed his view of Jesus and the Bible. All of it changed. It was a long journey forward from there but you should have seen him stand up in a room full of Muslims and say things like, “How many of you think Jesus didn’t die and was raised again?” They’re like, “We’re Muslims. We don’t believe that stuff.” He goes, “Let’s ask God about it right now.” He would lead the room in it and God can defend Himself. It was very not dramatic. If they didn’t come away with the conclusion that we hope, it’s okay. We’re not getting our identity from the success of the event. We’re free but let’s do what we do.

That has to be one of the biggest obstacles in America. It’s that culture of achievement and success. I don’t know how much of a fan you are of the Enneagram which I’m curious to hear, but I’m a three on the Enneagram, and being in America is fuel on the fire. You try to live out the faith without the metrics of success. It’s like I’ve been living a different type of faith a lot of times. If we understand that there is no such thing as success that we take credit for in the reality of God, then it does free us up to be okay with whatever.

I’m a seven but the guy that trained me on identity was a three. He was a three to the max. It was beautiful to watch him because, talk about hunger and thirst, he worked way out in the crazy places when he was training me and he would come back. I would say, “How did it go? He would say, “It goes well. We had the head of the mosque come to faith and all the people in the mosque come to faith.” He burst into tears and I would say like, “Are you crying with joy?” “No.” “Why?” “That was only 70 people. There are 3,000 people on that island.” He would weep for the others. That’s a three. He was like, “If I die, we’re doing it.” He never saw that it’s on him. He’s like, “I’ve been invited to win this game and we’re going to win.” I’m a seven so I’m like, “Let’s try something different. Let’s see.”

We worked well together. Those numbers are healthy so no man seeks first the kingdom and these other things come. That’s the promise. It’s not like, “Don’t pay attention to any of that other stuff.” For me, if God is going to call you into being a person who attacks conflict, then do it at the highest level that you can possibly be doing it. When you do that, certain things come with that, position and prestige in that field or whatever. That’s fine but it’s not my goal though. My goal is the kingdom. Jesus said, “These other things come with it.” The enemy will go either way on it. It’s like, “Come on, let’s go and get all the riches,” or “You’re getting rich off this. That’s not right. You’re selfish.” He’s an accuser. I’ve seen very good people leave their position because they think they’re prideful and they’re not. It’s the enemy and they think it’s God. Who’s saying you’re proud?

UAC 56 | Unconflicted Life

 

This is an interesting idea. As a rule, anytime we hear accusation, it’s the enemy and anytime we hear advocacy, it’s God. Do you think that is a safe rule to follow?

That’s where that beautiful emotion is. It’s like a warning or a force field around you. When it gets violated by what’s false, it goes off. It’s like, “I feel like I’m so prideful.” That’s not how Jesus talks. He doesn’t come in and accuse people of things. When you have this thought, how does it make you feel? It’s kids’ kindness that leads us to repentance. He’ll turn you but He’ll do it with His kindness and His mercy. He doesn’t come in and go, “You’re the most arrogant person I’ve ever met.” He won’t do that. He says it to the Pharisees because they won’t tell the truth. He’s like, “Tell the truth. What you’re saying is hypocritical.”

He’s not saying, “Your identity is a hypocrite.” It’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying, “This whole thing that you’re presenting is not true and it’s hurting other people because they think it is.” Even if you told the truth, you would say it’s not because you know it’s not. When God speaks and says to me, “Jamie, you’re thinking too much about money.” I can already tell because I’m already anxious. My spirit has already gone off. He was like, “Why are you lying in bed?” He said to me, “Stop counting things.” I’ll say, “What am I counting?” Think of the things you’ve got. You count money, people and hits on the website. Stop counting things because whatever you count, you start counting on that thing. top counting other things. Let the other things come and they will, but count on me. That’s what you want to count. You can’t serve God and money.

That’s such a good word. When you’re counting, you’re going to be counting other things. It’s universally true. Going back to the simple jar breaking framework of knowing that you’re hearing from God and getting your identity from God. The one that I know I still am grasping at and so many people that I know would struggle with or try to understand better is that second one of hearing God. For people that either come from paradigm boxes that say that’s impossible or from people who had never experienced it, what will you say to encourage them to listen and hear from God? How do you explain it?

You want to try and keep it as uncomplicated as possible or as simple as possible. We think of it like this. Hearing from God is the free flow of thoughts that come to your mind when you fix your eyes on Jesus and ask a question. That’s what it is. I even think that’s narrow but that’s a good way for people from a Christian background to think about it because it scares us. We think that the enemy is going to be the one talking. How often should we be fixing our eyes on Jesus and asking Him a question? All the time. That should be what you’re doing. That’s praying without ceasing that Paul is talking about. We should be doing that all the time. Practicing the presence and abiding. That’s what you’re doing. When I’m doing anything, I’m like, “Jesus, how would I think about that one? Is there another way to think about this?” Jesus doesn’t talk all the time. He’s like, “I told you what to do in this. You have a brain. Go figure it out and enjoy it.”

He loves for us to figure stuff out. He’s not standing there like, “Turn left.” We never see Jesus doing that. When you have a question, come to Him. It says, “The disciples came to Him and asked him. He explained everything fully to them.” If they asked about the parables, He explains the parables. If they don’t ask Him, people walk away going, “That was a dumb story.” The ones that come back and go, “I didn’t get that part.” He’s there to speak. He wants you to know the deep mysteries but He wants you to come and ask Him. It’s those beautiful free flow of thoughts. When I’m driving down the road and my fists, my blocks or my rationalities are down. I’m drifting around and very beautiful intuitive mind. The intuitive mind is the way to know God. That’s what it’s for. Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is the master creator. The rational mind is the servant.” We have made the servant the master because we don’t like mystery.

We want to know five ways to be a great leader. That’s all we want to know. Rationally, tell me how to do it and I’ll do it. No discovery works that way. It’s all intuitive because discovery and invention are going out to what’s not known yet. That’s the intuitive mind. You want to live there and then keep bringing it down to the rational. How would that work? The other thing people say is, how do you know it’s God? If it’s God or thought from love, it produces certain emotions in us. It produces joy, peace, patience, goodness and faithfulness. Faithfulness means you start to hunger for it. You become faithful to that idea like, “That will work.”

It energizes, pushes and moves. It domesticates your passion. It will aim like, “I’m worried about this.” It focuses you. That’s the result of truth coming from love. A thought that’s not from God that’s accusatory produces other emotions like fear, guilt and shame. “I’m a procrastinator and I’m lazy.” You’re already off Jesus now. You’ve already drifted away. You’re accusing yourself. One of the things I’ll say about that, “If I’m praying with Omar, my Muslim friend, and I ask God to speak to him, how do you know Satan is not going to speak to him?” Here’s my answer to that question. That’s a fair question. Where in the Bible have you ever seen a person ask God a question and Satan answers?

That is the most not possible thing ever to happen. In fact, if you research it, anyone that takes glory from God, He never tolerates it. I’m like, “What kind of God do you have? You ask Him a question, He let Satan answer it and let you think it’s Him.” That does not happen. That itself is a lie. All that lie does is makes us afraid to ask God a question and it works. Ask God a question. Does that thought come to my mind? Do they violate the text in any way? No. Do they produce fear or guilt and shame in you? No. Do they give glory to God? Yes. Do they energize you? Yes, then move on it.

When you’re saying that I remember I took a class on Job in college. What was fascinating to me is the only time that you see in that story is Satan talking in response to God. It’s only in response like God will summon him or God wants to initiate. It’s funny how we get it mixed up. We have them on a higher plane than it deserved.

That’s one of His great strategies. We give the enemy either way too much credit or no credit. It’s a balance. That’s the beauty of the text is you can watch Satan through the narrative of the history of humanity and you can see the limits, what’s possible and not. That’s why you want to know the scriptures. Here are 52 case studies on Satan. Read them, understand them, learn from them but don’t give them more than that. He goes by rules and he has to follow the rules.

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The free flow of thoughts that come to your mind when you fix your mind on Jesus and ask Him a question. What a beautiful synopsis and so actionable, which I love because that is the key. Faith requires action if we’re going to walk by it. That’s always the scary part. That’s where fear comes back in. That’s where it leads to our third process which you spoke about, which is identity from God. I know that in the last couple of years, a big part of the transition that you’ve been making with your wife is this new vision called Identity Exchange of the work you’re doing. I would love to hear more about how that came about and what it’s brought for you guys as you worked in that realm. With that, I’d love to hear how you approach people that are believers or followers of God versus people that have no context, understanding or knowledge of God.

The beauty of the way you’re doing this is great. You can see these very clear themes through everything like God is so thematic. You want to know the themes in your own life so you can keep looking. Do I see the theme there? Is the theme there a good play or something? They have the theme song that runs through the whole thing. You want to be able to look at your life and go, “Where’s the theme?” That helps you to know, am I following the theme or am I way off on something else? I ask people all the time, “What’s the theme of your life? What’s the rhythm of your life? What’s the theme of how God communicates to you?” He doesn’t speak to me in the church.

There’s nothing good or bad about that. It’s not how He deals with me because I’ve realized He doesn’t want me. I could have very easily ended up in some full-time ministry position but He didn’t want it. He doesn’t talk to me there, so I won’t get stuck there. He wants me over here, but for other people, it’s different. Identity is asking God, “How do you see me? What are you calling me? How do you refer to me?” Not just a big onetime identity like Gideon or someone like that. That’s fine but even in certain situations, I like to ask guys who I’m talking to, “Ask Jesus.” The reason we focus on Jesus as opposed to God is because God is too big and Jesus is the exact representation of the invisible God. That’s why we fix our eyes on Jesus because He is God.

It’s not that Jesus is God that’s so amazing. It’s that God is Jesus. That’s what’s amazing. That’s what God is like. That’s what people don’t understand. We’re trying to prove Jesus is God. That’s not the big point. The big point is that God is Jesus. That’s who you’re praying to. They are not different. It’s not a good guy or bad guy. That’s God right there. How does God treat enemies? I’m sorry. You can throw the whole Old Testament at me and I still can show you where He’s doing it out of love. Ask Jesus these questions, “Jesus, when you look at me as a parent, what do you see? When you look at me as a husband or whatever, what do you see?” Let him tell you what your identity as a parent. People are afraid to do that with Jesus because they think He’s going to criticize them.

There’s the old image but what Jesus says to people all the time is like, “You’re an amazing spouse.” Anybody won’t leave it there. We need to get to the next level of amazing. That’s how He does it. It’s so beautiful. It’s His kindness that leads us. “Let’s cut down on the drinking.” That’s how He talks. “Let’s end the alcohol because why aren’t you doing that anyway? You’re afraid.” It’s very beautiful how He does it but it cut true. Truth always liberates. For myself, especially when I’m fearful about something like, “What do I believe about myself? What do you say about me in this scenario right now that I’m in?” He says fascinating things like, “You’re my voice right now. Speak and talk about this.” That’s gone after that incident. You’re in this constant fixing your eyes but you might have a big thematic identity like healer or militant peacemaker’s mind. It’s this continuous journey with Him.

When I’m praying with believers or people from a Christian background, this is why we call it Identity Exchange, you can’t hear the true with the false. You have to empty out the false, sweep the house clean, become poor in spirit, get rid of the false, confess the false before you can receive the truth. There has to be an exchange. The cross of Christ is an exchange. It’s our fear, guilt and shame exchanged for the truth of who we are in the righteousness of Christ. It’s not a covering, it’s an exchange. The first part is always we have to be able to say as clearly and truthfully as possible what we believe about ourselves that’s not true. It’s painful as it can be. I believe about myself that I disappoint people there. You learned that. You were taught that. You may have disappointed some of them but it’s not an identity. You’ve got to be able to confess it because the Lord wants to take it away.

That’s the beauty of confession. It should be done regularly. With a believer, it’s a negative emotion. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel stupid. That’s an identity, I am stupid. That was the first time in your life you learned that you were stupid. You had to be told you were stupid. You had to accept that as true. Now you’re living in it even though it’s 50 years later. We’ve got to get to that route. I believe I’m stupid. It was in third grade, whatever. We’re going to give it to Jesus. Let Him have it. Watch what He does with this. I love doing this with people. Watch what He does with the “I am stupid” identity and Jesus gets rid of it.

He separates it from you as far as the east is from the west then remembers it no more. That’s what he does with that. He gives you or tells you the true that’s always been there. It’s always been true. It’s not suddenly new. When was Gideon a mighty man of valor? From the day God knit him together in his mother’s womb. He didn’t know it or believe it. The angel says, “Go in the strength you already possess and lead these people. I’m not giving you some special new dramatic. You’ve always had it. Live in it. Let’s go. I’ll lead you in it and then it will be different day-to-day.” That why we called it the Identity Exchange. The beauty of that is Jesus is doing it with everyone that He talks to.

He’s calling out the false by only speaking to what’s true in the person. You are not a prostitute. That is not true. That is not an identity. That is the symptom of a woman who is isolated from her true self and the God who loves her. That’s what a person does when they believe that about themselves. “They call you prostitute, you call yourself a prostitute, men call you prostitute, I don’t. I call you daughter. Here’s the challenge. Go and live like a daughter would live. Thank you very much. Have a good life.” That’s all He says to her. A daughter would never be doing this. What would a daughter be doing? Go and live like a daughter. That’s how He talks to people but she is bringing the false to Him and giving it to Him. He won’t take it. I love it.

He’s like, “That’s been rough. You’ve been nasty as a prostitute.” He doesn’t even want to touch it because it’s not true. He speaks the truth. With believers, you can walk through those examples with a person that doesn’t know the Bible or doesn’t like the Bible or whatever. You go back to love. I’m doing full course with a company that’s completely non-Christian. The curriculum writer that’s working with me on it is phenomenal. She gets it and she’s done this process. If you asked her if she’s a Christian, she was saying, “No, not at all.” That’s not what it is. Jesus is not making Christians. He’s calling out the true identity in everyone He talks to like Romans or Samaritans.

For the person that doesn’t have the Christian language, I do the same thing. What’s a negative emotion you’ve often experienced? Where does it come from? What does it say about you? Tell me what it says about you. Make an I am statement. They make the statement. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to hold that I am      statement. I am a victim. Hold it in your hand. Imagine you’re standing and unconditional love is in front of you. Give that name to love and tell me what love does with that name. Love does what love does and it separates them from that name as far as the east is from the west. Ask love what love calls you? Love would never call you that.

UAC 56 | Unconflicted Life

Unconflicted Life: The intuitive mind is the way to know God.

 

What does love call you? Truth or lie or whatever. They hear it because God is love. God is light. Jesus is walking around going, “I’m the door, I’m the way, I’m the bread, I’m all of it.” Here are all the words you can use in reference. David says, “He’s like a shepherd.” Isaiah said, “He’s like a King, high and lifted up.” All of those great voices said God has 1,175 ways to reference God in the scriptures because he’s all words. He’s every word that could ever be said about what’s true. He’s love and light. We do the exact same process. The key is we’re not telling the person what to be, do or hear. We’re letting them hear and then they know it’s not themselves doing it. The way they know is they hear words about themselves that they would never have caught themselves. It’s embarrassing to them. It’s too high.

I tell the story about this one guy. His identity when we were praying together was internationally famous academic. He was a middle school math teacher with a stuttering problem. Here’s what God called him on the day we prayed together. “You’re an internationally famous academic. Say it out loud.” He goes, “This can’t be right.” I was like, “Do you call yourself in there?” “No, I would never call myself that.” “Would Satan call you that?” No. “Who would ever think of you that highly?” It’s the love for it. “Here’s love’s challenge to you. Why are you a middle school math teacher?” That’s great. That’s okay but did you stop there? He’s an internationally famous academic. That opened up his whole future to him. That’s what he’s always been.

I love this and I’m excited personally because these are things that I’m going to be sitting with. I’m excited for more of what God is going to bring in that. As you mentioned in that whole story, your identity as a militant peacemaker, I’d love to hear if you’d be able to share the story of when that became clear for you and what that means to you.

It’s an interesting journey because it’s even become more and more clear than that name. good friend of mine, Abby, called me and I have it in my wallet. She gave it to me from a verse in Mark and it says, “He was a teller of stories and untier of knots.” That’s it all the way down to the bottom. Militant Peacemaker is an untier of knots and it’s a description of Jesus in Mark. I do it through narrative. I do it through walking people through their own story, telling them a story to get them to move. The guy that broke my identity jar was watching me talk to Muslims. I’m a fast learner in those environments. I knew I could do what he was doing and I could do it well. I didn’t have the same impact he did with people so I was frustrated with it. One day, he was watching me and he pulls me aside because I was hurting his achievement level.

He says, “You don’t know your identity, do you?” I was offended and I do what all good Christians do. I lied and said, “Yes I do know my identity.” He goes, “No, I don’t think you do.” I said, “How do you know?” He said, “You’re imitating me. I’m already here. We don’t need me. We need you, but we need the real you. We don’t know who the real you is and neither do you. We’ve got to do something about that.” It hit me hard. How much of our life is trying to imitate someone else? He said, “If you’re a musician and you love a certain band so you imitate the band to practice and get good. If you don’t become your own sound, you’re just a cover band for the rest of your life. You need to know your own identity so you can tell us what it is and we know what to do with it.” That rang true. I said, “Okay.”

He sends me to this other guy who was their identity guy. I’m from a very traditional background. This is a little bit weird to me even that far into my journey. I go to this guy and I’m thinking, “What is this going to involve?” He sits with me and he doesn’t do an exchange. We’ve developed it since those guys, which I love. He said, “We’re going to ask God what’s the block for you here in understanding your identity or something like that.” We do that and the Lord says to me, and it scared me. He said, “You worship what you know about me more than me.”

That hurt my feelings because here I am in my sixth year overseas in these awful conditions. We’ve gone and put on trial, and all this other stuff. He’s like, “You don’t even know me.” For some reason, it caused me to cry my eyes out. It cut my heart. I had this image in my mind of this bookshelf of all my theology books, being shoved off the shelf because it was an altar. It was a high place. At my high place, I worshiped John Piper and John MacArthur. That was my altar shelf. That’s not God. It’s like a Buddhist having an altar shelf.

It’s the exact same thing. I’m praying to these guys that you have got. There is no one before me, nobody beats me. I don’t care how much you love and respect them. You come to me. I could hear God and this was another level he was calling me up to. He’s like, “We’re getting rid of the high places in the country now. I want all of them gone.” It was heart-wrenching to me. I went through this thing in my mind where I saw him shoving all these theology books off the shelf because I was not looking up high enough. I was looking and stopping there. He’s like, “Keep going.”

I looked up at him and he said, “You are my warrior.” It’s very moving to me. It made every theme of my life line up. Every place the enemy accused me of something, the enemy would say, “You’re a disappointment. You’re not brave enough.” That was always what he said to me my whole life. It is always counter to true identity. I can name the people that said it to me. My dad was one of them. My dad said to me the day I came to faith when I came home from the hospital and said, “I’m not playing sports anymore. I don’t need them. That’s not even what I want to do.” He said, “Yes because you were injured and you’re not brave. You’re a disappointment now to me.” That’s what he said.

The greatest statement of my life is I met Christ’s disappointment and you use it as a coward. Until that day I met with that guy, that was killing me. I proved to men older than myself that I was not afraid that I was not going to disappoint Him. We both know the level of moving into excellence and I wept. He said, “Don’t you ever believe anything different than that?” He’s never called me being brave because I’m not. He said, “You’re courageous in the sense of your encouraging.” I began the journey of what kind of warrior and battles and then it gets more and more specific. It’s before moving horizon. I’m now down to, “You’re the teller of stories and the untier of knots.” I looked back and I’m like, “That’s what I’ve been doing the whole time.”

It’s so affirming to hear that because one of the questions I always ask people when I talk to them in background calls is, “How would you describe Jamie in two words?” One of them said militant peacemaker, but the other words were courageous messenger, fearless advocate, relatable and purposeful. It’s not that you saying it. It’s other people saying it that know you and love you deeply. Another question is asking them, “What is Jamie’s superpower?” One of them said along with storytelling, which speaks directly to that.

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The other is building people’s faith through his encouragement of them, encouraging them to go further and deeper than they thought they could go, and speaking the truth in a way people can receive it. To continue to affirm you, that is directly in line. This is what I want to touch on before we wrap up. It’s the one thing we haven’t talked to much and I haven’t heard much on. It’s the other superpower that someone mentioned. They mentioned your other superpower being Donna. I’d love to hear what life with Donna has brought for you and how you’ve been able to walk together in this work and even in your faith journeys individually but also together.

We met when we were nineteen. Number one I can tell every young couple is Donna has never gotten her identity from me. That is so important in relationships. You do not engage in a relationship to get identity from the other person. First of all, it can’t work and it will put pressure on the relationship that can’t be met. When I look at her and say, “I got recruited to move overseas and we’re going to go to Egypt.” She’s Jewish. I never was afraid that she would say either, “I don’t want to but I’m going to do it because I’m going to be submissive to you.”

I hate that kind of thinking but I never had to worry that she would be afraid and say no. She did say no at first because I’m a seven and she’s a six. She thinks about all the ramifications of it. Because she moves in her own identity and she can hear God on her own, I know that when we get back together to discuss something that she’s going to come with her own identity and capacity to hear God. What she’s going to say is going to impact me. It’s going to affect me and vice versa. I’ve never laid in bed at night going, “This is going to ruin my wife because her identity is independent of me.” It’s a great relief and then your kids don’t get their identity from you either and you don’t get your identity from your kids.

It allows freedom in there. That’s one of the biggest things about her. For a Jewish woman to spend 27 years of her life in militant Muslim locations, it taught me more about forgiveness and grace than anything I’ve ever seen. She would work with women and men that would insult Jews all day long because they didn’t know she was Jewish. They would tell jokes about Jews and how they’re out to kill Jews. In some situations, she would walk out of their room and cry, dry her eyes and come back in the room and engage again. It’s called forgiveness. It might be a year later when that person encounters Jesus and she tells them that she’s Jewish. It explains the whole thing to them about what this is all about.

How do we break down walls for forgiveness? Grace. Loving you in spite of the fact that you hate my guts and everything that I represented, so my people every day, and you don’t even know what you’re doing. It’s like what Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” I’m seeing her do that and raise her Jewish kids in a Muslim world. I’m not going to God like, “What do you do? You’re ruining my kids.” Trusting God that not only our kids would maintain their faith in Jesus, ethnicity and Judaism, and their commitment to that tradition while being in schools where all their friends are Muslims for most of their lives. Trusting God is able to do that. I was a Christian, it didn’t affect me. Watching her do that was like having someone share the gospel with me every day. My joke was always like, “I get to work with the kingdom and then I get to go to bed with the kingdom. It’s incredible. I’m with the kingdom all the time.” We’ve had our times, dark spells and all of that but her faith has always astounded me.

I love what you said about never getting your identity from the other. I’m not too far into a marriage or partnering with a spouse but I can already see how important it is to let each other be who we are. As much as we are a union now, we still have two individuals and that is that dance of the fence. I’m curious hearing you talk about both of you pursuing God together, listening to God, and partnering with each other in that. What advice along with that would you give to young couples who are beginning on that journey? They are both pursuing and receiving from God those identities, but then partnering together to support each other in that dance.

I would say two things on that. I never speak publicly on marriage, parents or any of that stuff because it’s so unique to the identities involved. I don’t like when patterns are given out for marriage. There are some amazing couples I’ve met and they’re so different, the way they relate to one another and God. It’s the beauty of God’s whole unique and beautiful world. The enemy is always trying to make things into patterns and formulas. It takes all the beauty out of it but there are processes that are important. One is to hold each other accountable to living in your true identity. All humans should be doing this with each other, but Donna will look at me and she’ll say, “This is not the true you.”

Accountability is not a holding people accountable to scenarios and avoiding scenarios. It’s holding them accountable to what’s true about who they are. We did it with our kids all the time. It’s like, “Where’s my real son? What happened to him? What is this false identity that wandered in here? We’re not going to let the false talk in here. We’re not doing it.” That’s one, and holding each other accountable to be in the name that God calls you. I’m not calling you that, He calls you that. I’m here to help you be that because that identity and my identity is what’s the gates of hell can’t stand against. I’ve only married a few people in my life and done the ceremony, but I will only do it if they let me join them in their true identities. I get to say it out loud, “I am the timeless life-giver to the pioneer of the faith.” Those two together are what’s going to change everything. The other one I strongly suggest to people is always tell each other what you’re most afraid. Don’t hide fear because that’s where the enemy is.

Jamie, we’re going to have to do round two sometime because there are two more hours at least in here. I’d love to end with a few short one-offs here and then we’ll be done. The first is this is an interesting question and it’s a challenging one. Which of your views or beliefs are most likely to be wrong?

It’s a touchy one because I came from a police background and I’m in a different world. I’m wrong about how I view the United States of America.

That’s a big one and that’s a whole other episode.

UAC 56 | Unconflicted Life

Unconflicted Life: Accountability is holding people accountable for what’s true about who they are.

 

That’s a deep one I know. I rest with that one right now.

There are a couple of interviews I’ve heard of you. One shared some powerful illustrations to give more context to that police work that people that have read this would benefit from as well. What question do you ask yourself the most?

What am I most afraid of? That’s the question. That fear question is a question I ask my kids all the time when I’m talking to them. I was like, “What are you afraid of?” That’s where the enemy is lurking. Other question that I ask them and myself is, do you have joy? Those are my two big questions. Joy is where the spirit is. Fear is where the enemy is. If you don’t have joy, something is off. If you have fear, you want to check it.

Those are phenomenal. What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

I wish I had it with me. I’m reading a book called The Christian Imagination and I can’t think of his name. He’s a black author. It’s the history of how the Jesuits used the Bible to justify marginalizing people groups in countries that the Spanish and the British were conquering. It’s stunning. It’s broken my heart even my own people because my mom is white and from the South for many generations. They were fierce loving Jesus and incredibly racist. How can you do that? How can you love the Bible and own another human? That was a tremendous book and white writers don’t write about it. That’s been good to me. Richard Rohr’s book, What Do We Do With Evil? I love that. It’s a short book. It’s a fantastic book about the lie systems that we’re in and our wrong view of evil.

I’m going to have to check those out. Those both sound great. The last question and the question we ask every guest that comes on the show is, if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why? It would be a short message they get every morning from you.

It would be the question God asked Hagar. The only woman God spoke to since Eve in scripture. The first woman that has an appearance of Jesus and her child is named by God. One of seven is Hagar, the slave woman, the Egyptian woman, the marginalized. He asked her these questions, “Where have you come from? Where are you going?” Those are the questions. Where have I come from? That’s identity. Where are you going? That’s destiny. Where have I come from? How did I get here? Where am I going? Those are the questions.

Jamie, this has been a blast. I can’t thank you enough for coming on and being so generous with your time, experiences and testimonies. I’m stoked about it. Where can people find out more about what you’re doing and connect?

We have two websites depending on your background. IdentityExchange.com, it’s heavy Christian language terminology. That’s the language of my people. We have IdentityMethod.com, which is the language for people that didn’t grow up in the church or the Bible. Those two are good places to start.

Jamie, until next time. Thanks again. This has been such a treat and I’m grateful for you and your life.

Thanks for having me.

For all of you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week because we are out.

Important Links:

About Jamie Winship

UAC 56 | Unconflicted LifeJamie Winship has decades of experience bringing peaceful solutions to some of the world’s highest conflict areas.

Starting with a distinguished career in law enforcement in the metro Washington, DC area. Jamie earned an MA in English and developed a unique process based on the Identity Exchange premise: identity transformation is the key to acquiring new levels of learning and creativity in any field. His unconventional efforts to bring about societal and racial reconciliation led him to Indonesia, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, and now Seattle.

In recent years, Jamie has worked with leaders in a variety of sectors, from police departments to pro football teams to churches and other faith-based organizations. Along with his wife Donna, Jamie is the co-founder of Identity Exchange – a training and consulting company, committed to teaching people the transformative power of living fearlessly in their true identity.

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UAC 155 | Communicating For Change

 

In our quest to be perfect all the time, we sometimes forget to allow our human emotions to flow through and guide us towards becoming who we really are. Often, there is so much to be gained from allowing ourselves to be without any fear of being wrong. In this episode, Thane Marcus Ringler interviews George Towers, pastor at Denver United Church, to help us tap into the very human emotions that we tend to keep ourselves from feeling. They cover a range of topics from developing as a speaker who communicates for change, becoming a helpful contrarian, and noticing more, to understanding race and injustice in our country and living in the nuance. Plus, George further takes us into self-awareness, role models, perspectives on the bible, grit and tenacity, and more! Dive deep into this jam-packed episode where you’ll find how there is more to life if we allow ourselves to let go and learn from others.

Listen to the podcast here:

George Towers: Communicating For Change: How To Be A Helpful Contrarian, Noticing More, Maybe Being Wrong, And Living In The Nuance

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that takes living with intention in the tension. What that means is that life is filled with tensions that we have to live in the midst of daily. The best way to embrace and live in the midst of those tensions is to infuse intentionality into all that we do, a purpose or a reason why we are doing what we’re doing. In this show, we interview other Up and Comers on their journey that they could share from their experiences and perspectives along the way and help us as we all journey forward in this dance called life. Thanks for being here and being a part of this community and this Up and Comers’ movement. We’re so glad you’re here.

If you want to help us out, there are few easy ways to do so. First is sharing this episode or one that you enjoyed with a friend or family member, or someone that you think would benefit from reading. The best way to spread is always word of mouth and referrals. If you want to tag us, we are on all socials at @UpAndComersShow. Our website is TheUpAndComersShow.com. If you want to send us an email, you can always reach us at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. The other great ways to help us out is simply by leaving a rating and review on iTunes. That’s an awesome way to help us be found by more people. We’re up to almost 100, so if we could push through, that would be a huge blessing. If you want to support us financially, we are available on Patreon for monthly donations, or if you have a company and want to partner with us, definitely send us an email and we’d love to get a conversation going.

That’s it for the housekeeping and announcements. I will get straight to it because I have an interview that I am excited to share with you. I’ll interview George Towers. He was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He’s a pastor at Denver United Church, a husband of a PhD cancer researcher, Christina, and the father of two future comedians, Noah and Levi. In his spare time, he enjoys golf, sour candy and heated debate with a close friend. He is short and sweet, but he is an amazing guy. In this interview, we discuss how to develop as a speaker. He’s gifted in what he does as a speaker, preacher and pastor.

We talk about rational and irrational fears, self-awareness, role models, the power of noticing, being a contrarian perspective on the Bible, grit and tenacity, understanding race and injustice in our country and his perspective on it, and so much more. I know that you are going to be blessed as much as I was blessed in this conversation. He’s a standup, genuine and authentic guy. Some of the ways that people described him was being an encourager. That ring true even for me within the conversation. There are a lot of encouragements that he gave and I felt. Other ways that people describe him is a brilliant, innocent brotherly love. There are lots of endearing things about him and he’s a great guy. I can’t wait for you to know about him. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with George Towers.

George Towers, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

I’m excited to share a lot more conversation. One of the things that I love about getting to hear or virtually see you in an online church is your ability to convey a message for your words and to craft a message that impacts a heart but also does it in an entertaining, engaging and a thoughtful way. That’s what a good speaker does. What makes a good speaker in your mind? What does a successful or impactful speaker look like?

Several things and in no order of importance or ranking. Any good communication or communicator leaves you wanting a little bit more and not a little bit less. We’ve all been in those environments where someone goes on and on. It was good, but you went a little bit too long and you left me feeling like, “I wish you would’ve stopped seven minutes ago.” For me, I’d rather always err on the side of leaving people wanting a little bit more than a little bit less. Another thing is, do people remember what you said? You can have a bunch of fun, you could be moved, you could be challenged by any piece of communication or preaching or whatever your context is, but if you walk away and someone says, “How did it go?” “It was amazing.” “What did they talk about? What did you talk about?” “I have no idea.”

If it wasn’t clear and sticky, I don’t think we’ve done our job as communicators. For me, those are a couple that comes to mind. Leave people wanting a little bit more. Is it sticky? Does it engage them? Does it take them on a journey somewhere? The last piece is it has to be meaningful to me. If I’m talking about something that I don’t think is that powerful or that meaningful or that transformative, it’s not going to be that for you. If I think this sucks, it’s going to suck for you. At the same time, it’s free. That’s what I tell a lot of people, “Is this good to you?” “The thing you’re preparing to say, do you like it? Has it moved you? Has it changed you in some way?” If that’s it, give that to someone else and let it be what it is for them. If it’s good for you, it’ll be good for someone else.

It’s similar to Jeff Sheldon, who I had on the previous episode. He is a designer but then turned into an entrepreneur. He runs a small business. He creates products that he needs and that he wants more than anyone else. That’s why he’s successful because he’s filling the need that he has and then inherently, there are other people that have that.

I’ve heard another communicator. He said it this way, “What we can do sometimes is we get communication or creating a product and we want other people to like it. We want it to be good.” That’s good. We should want it to be good and helpful for other people, but there’s a different way of approaching it that I’ve tried to embody a little bit more of the past few years. Before I go up and preach or go speak, it’s like, “I’m going to have this experience. I’m going to go do this thing for myself.” All of you reading, you’re more than welcome to jump on. I would love it if you did, but I’m going to go do a thing right now.

Any good communication or communicator leaves you wanting a little bit more and not a little bit less. Click To Tweet

A lot of times, that will be what I pray. Before I go up and speak, I was like, “God, you’ve already shared this with me. I’m going to do this thing. I’m going to have a lot of fun and hope that anyone wants it.” It’s like Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Whoever this is for, I hope you come with me, but I’m going to have a great time, regardless of if you like this or not. It frees us from the opinions and all that of other people we are trying to please. It’s more about like your friend said, “I’m going to create something I need and if you all want it, I would love for you to take it.”

I even listened to Hugh Jackman’s podcast on the road trip. He’s a stud. If you haven’t ever heard him before, he’s a thoughtful guy. They had him on The Tim Ferriss Show. He talked about this concept of 85%. When you want to perform your best, it’s typically around 85% of your effort. In the Olympics, it was a sprinter from the US and they interviewed him and they tried to figure out, why was he beating people? He got beat on the first 40 meters and he was behind and then he’d always kill everyone else on the rest. They are like, “How does he do it?”

If you look at him, his expression, facial and body features are the same in the entire race. Whereas his competitors are starting to strain and that you see their face strain, their neck strain and everything straining, but he’s cool. He’s 85% and that gives him the most speed. Similarly, with golf. If I’m going out there and I’m trying to make it happen, I’m trying to force it, it’s not going to happen. You have to have that 85% threshold of having fun. That enjoyment mixed with the ability and the training and the free expression of it.

I have another friend of mine, Pastor Tim Ross of the Embassy City Church down in Texas, outside of Dallas. If you listen to me talk at all, you’re going to hear a lot of Tim Ross because he’s my favorite communicator. One of the things that he said, and this goes along with the 85% thing is, “Anytime we’re preparing something, go for good.” Sometimes good is good enough, especially if God asks you to do it. For all the Bible people that are reading to this, and if you’re not, this is for you too. When God created the universe in Genesis 1 and 2, and whether you believe that happened literally or figuratively doesn’t matter. After he was done at every face, he said, “It’s good.” He didn’t say it was awesome or it was perfect. If God can be content with good, we should be content with it as well. Sometimes we get intense because we want whatever we’re doing to be perfect and amazing. We stress ourselves out trying to make it amazing. It’s like, “Just go for good.” Sometimes doing the next good thing is good enough. Eighty-five percent is good.

Why does that feel so wrong to us? Most humans would fall into, by default, a perfectionist tendency. Why is that do you think?

We want to be significant. A lot of it probably comes from good motives. We want to do something in the world that leaves an impact. Even if it’s for the next 27 minutes, when I give this talk, I wanted to do something significant, which comes from a good place. It has a shadow. Sometimes it’s about you, “I want people to think I’m amazing.” I’m not going to say that, but I want you to be like, “Thane is the most thoughtful, handsome and smart.” If we’re honest, a lot of it is we want people to think well of us, which is a natural human need, but that’s not sustainable.

I don’t think we can go on in the long-term trying to impress people. It’s not to settle on the other side and say that we do bad things or things that aren’t good, but good is good. The other thing Tim said is, “You stay up until 3:00 AM trying to make that thing perfect.” I’m going to go to bed at 9:30 and be okay with it being good. That difference between my emotional and physical wellbeing is going to allow me to do another good thing when you settle with the one amazing thing that probably wasn’t as amazing as you thought it was. It’s pride. We want to be awesome.

As you said, there’s a piece of that which is good. You want to have something that’s meaningful and purposeful, but when it’s centered around self, it’s when it shifts into the shadow side.

That’s good that you said that. Where is the energy coming from? Where’s it pointing? That’s the difference. You can work on something for hours and hours and give years of your life. I’m not saying cut corners and don’t pour yourself into it, but if it’s pointing back to self, I want people to think better of me versus I have a gift that I want to give to people. That’s the motive that’s a little bit different.

We started with irrational fears. Rational or irrational, it depends on your interpretation. Another one that depends on interpretation is speaking. A lot of people have immense fear around speaking and standing in front of an audience doing anything. Let alone sharing words, which is intimidating. That can be irrational and rational at the same time. Have you ever faced a fear of getting up in front of people and talking or has that always been natural to you? Do you think that’s natural or developed in that sense?

Yes, every single time. Every time I get on a stage to do anything, my heart is beating. I could be going up to like, “George, can you go up and pray fast?” I don’t think that ever goes away. Maybe for some people, but I’m speaking for myself. A lot of people will say, “You look so comfortable and natural.” I was like, “Maybe but I’m also nervous.” I don’t think those things are independent of one another. You can step into something, look and feel natural, but also respect the moment enough to be like, “This is significant and I get to do this.”

Any good communication or communicator leaves you wanting a little bit more and not a little bit less. Click To Tweet

There’s a healthy fear and respect for the moment. For me, for your first question, I’m nervous every single time. You can learn though to push past it. That’s what probably some of the best communicators do is they learn to feel that energy and allow themselves to lean into it versus allowing it to swallow them and they sink into that feeling. Sometimes people are weirdly surprised to hear that, but it’s a skill that can be developed to not allow that to push you away but to pull you in a little bit.

What is the gift of speaking? What does it give you as a speaker? How does it grow you as a person?

It forces you to have to go there first, before you try to talk about something like, “Is this real? Is what I’m about to say important?” As a parent, I know what I want my kids to do, but it’s not enough for me to have a goal or desire for them. I have to be able to communicate it in a way that works, that produces a positive outcome for that person. That’s part of the way is I grow through communication. It’s like, “Here’s what I’ve experienced, learned, felt and where I want to try to get people to. In 30 minutes, how do I get them to a place where they can see it for themselves and produce a positive outcome or fruit in their lives?” It’s a puzzle. It’s not enough to get up and say, “Here’s what I learned. Here’s what you should do and here’s why.” It’s not that simple. It’s like inception in a way. You have to come to it for yourself and it’s a challenge. It forces you to go deeper as an individual and to be honest about how has this affected you because sometimes we’re asked to communicate on things we don’t believe in and that never works.

In putting the puzzle together, what’s the process that you go through in putting that together, in preparing, getting ready and presenting?

One of the books that I’ve read that helped frame much of how I communicate to whatever extent it’s good or bad is a pastor named Andy Stanley that wrote a book called Communicating for a Change. His approach is what’s known at least in preaching Christian communication circles. It’s like having one-point messages. For me, that’s a way that I like to go about it. I rarely will have 5 or 3 points because I don’t remember them. I want you to walk away with one thing. I don’t remember anything else, “What’s the one point of this message?” That’s how I build my communications, “What’s the one thing I’m trying to get people to understand or to internalize? What’s the one question I want them to ask?” I then build backward from there.

My prep looks so different every time I do something. Sometimes it will involve me writing four pages of thoughts on an idea. Sometime it’ll start with a picture that I saw and I’m like, “That’s weird.” I’ve done it with index cards where I’ll write one word on an index card and organize them. It always is different, which is frustrating. I don’t have any formal process or template for how I do something. I’m always trying to communicate one thing at a time and trying to figure out how to make it as sticky as I can.

There’s another guy who’s a speaker, Houston Kraft. He came on the show. I remember, he broke it down similarly. It’s like a keynote is one idea with a bunch of different angles on that one thing. You can see it from different lenses. A workshop is a lot of points about one thing. It’s like getting things covered in a comprehensive way. That was a helpful framework for reference. One of the things you mentioned is the intuitive nature of the process that you go through. I want to hear a little bit about what level the intuition or the gut plays in how you prepare, but also when you’re speaking, how much of it is intuition led in that?

There are different styles and contexts of communication. I understand that. For me, I’m not looking at it as, “I’m standing up here to give you a lecture, so I’m going to read this thing to you.” Andy Stanley talks about it in his book. He uses this whole metaphor of a truck delivering things. The first step that he talks about is securing the cargo. Before I go off and start driving on the road, if I don’t tie down the stuff on the back and they’re not with me, then I’m going to pull off and everyone falls off at square one. I’m doing my thing and no one cares.

The intuition of that is gauging the room, “Am I staying present enough to the people that you’re talking to say, ‘Are they with me? If they’re not with me, I can’t move on.’” A lot of the stuff I’ll do in communication is trying to make sure people are with me. That’s why a lot of people will start with stories or start with something, “Is everyone with me? Am I trying to answer a question that no one’s asking?” You have to build some buy-in, but a lot of that happens in the preparation, “Is this important to me? Is this a question that’s meaningful to me?”

That takes flexibility at the moment to realize those things, “Are people with me? Are they understanding it? Do they care about this?” Part of that is why preparation is important because in the moment, I have to be able to read that. If I don’t know what I’m talking about, if I haven’t put in the work to know where I want to go and what I’m trying to do, I’ll be stuck on my notes instead of stuck on the people in the room. That’s been a phase for me that I’m learning is I don’t like to communicate with a piece of paper in front of me. A lot of people can and it blows me away how well they’re able to go from their paper to your face and flow. I can’t do it. I get stuck on the sheet and then I’m no longer gauging the room and figuring out, “Are people with me? Do they care? Are they confused? That guy is sleeping.” There is some intuition with that, but I have to prepare in a way that I can remember the big blocks of what I want to say, but it’s not so I can try to be impressive. It’s because I want to be able to stay in the moment and with the people because that’s the most important.

UAC 155 | Communicating For Change

Communicating For Change: It’s helpful to be able to see things from different perspectives. If we can’t do that, then we end up surrounding ourselves with people who are clones of ourselves.

One of the things I’m hearing a lot from you that’s important to underscore is this level of self-awareness. This ability to see yourself, who you are and what you need versus what other people need. That’s such a developed thing. It’s such a thing that comes from time and it’s such a thing that we would all do well to embrace and grow in. For you, in your journey, in your life, when did you see that shift take place for you from learning the universal principles from those around you or those in your field or in education or whatever it may be to start understanding yourself and what you need out of those?

Early on, whenever you start something, you need a role model. You need someone to look at to say, “How did they do it?” For me, Tim Ross was one of those guys for me and so many others. There comes a point where you get stuck in trying to do things like them. That’s one of the hardest places is finding yourself like, “I can’t be Tim. I can’t be Judah Smith. I can’t be Christine Caine. I can’t be these people, but they can’t be me either.” There is a level of discovery to say, “Who am I? How do I think? What’s my flow? What’s the natural thing that I do?” because you’re always going to be a lot.

You’re never going to be that person. One hundred percent of me is better than 75% of Steven Furtick or whoever. How have you created me to do this? Maybe no one else does it that way. For me, you’ve put this in me to do it or say it this way. For the first time that you start doing anything, you have to learn from people and you have to pull from different sources. I would say the last many years have been where I’m finally feeling like I’m starting to find my voice and the way that I’m supposed to say it. Not the way that other people have said it, but trying to find that. I would say it’s been the last few years of trying to understand that and to see the importance of it. We were talking about communication. We are the medium. We are the vessel. You can say something and I could say the same thing, but it’s going to be completely different because it’s coming through you, your experience, gifts and perspective. It’s realizing that being yourself is probably one of the most important things.

What would you say if someone said, “Who are you?”

I love to laugh. I’m an observer. I love finding little stupid, weird, quirky things and laughing at them and noticing them. I like to challenge things. I feel that’s a part of who I am like, “Here’s how we do it here.” “Why?” “It’s because we always have.” That’s stupid. I like to observe. I enjoy thinking about things and trying to understand that. My mom told me a story of when I was a kid. They thought I was taking a nap. They went into the room and I was awake. It had been a couple of hours and they said, “Do you want to come out and play?” They told me that I said, “No, I’m thinking about some things.” They were like, “Okay,” and they shut the door. I stayed in there for another 30 minutes and came out when I was ready. I was like, “That’s weird.” I enjoy that.

A lot of the things that I end up talking about come from those things. The reading of a line in the Bible, I think it’s 2 Timothy towards the end of the book. After Paul said all these deep theological things, there’s a little line where he says, “When you come back to see me, Timothy, grab my coat that I left over at that dude’s house and also bring my papers.” I was like, “What?” He forgot his coat. I’m thinking like, “We know the Bible is inspired and it’s the word of God. Does that count?” These are little things that I like to notice and dive into. I’m like, “Why did Paul ask for his coat? What does that mean? What scripture is and what does it mean for us? What are we supposed to take from that?” I’m learning that a lot of the things that I enjoy talking about the most come from those few things, observation, humor, noticing the funny, stupid things in the Bible, talking about them and exploring.

I want to hear a bit more about noticing, because I think that is a lost art. There’s a newsletter called The Art of Noticing, which is good. What helps you be a better observer or noticer in daily life?

Our pace has a lot to do with that. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years and I’m certainly not good at it yet, but slowing down. If we’re anxious to get to the next thing, then you won’t notice much of anything. That’s an issue that I know I have in my life and that I’m working on. I’m not a big worrier. I don’t get too far out in the future. I don’t tend to live too far in the past and deal with regret. I don’t go too far, but I have this bracket of plus or minus 10 to 15 minutes of my life. If I’m on the way home, I want to be home, or I’m thinking about the dumb thing I should have said 15 minutes ago when you asked me the first question.

If we’re never here now fully and completely, we won’t observe, we won’t notice. It’s slowing down enough to be present, to be where you are, to not be in a rush, to move slower, to not feel like you have to control an environment but to observe it. Those are all things literally slowing down the way that you speak or the way that you are walking, “Why am I walking so fast? I’m in no rush.” It’s doing things like that to slow down the way that you move and the way that you reach for that glass of water, do it slower. You open up your eyes to notice some more things. I was driving down the street and I haven’t thought about this sense. I noticed a girl who was on the side of the road, walking the other direction that I was driving and she was crying. She looks sad. This is a great story that I went back and prayed for her. No, I didn’t. I moved on. It’s like, “God, did I miss an opportunity there? Were you trying to show me something that I was busy, that I walked by an opportunity and I was moving so fast?” Pace, rhythm, slow down and take it in a little bit.

What reminders do you give yourself the most in that or what practices help you slow down or be more present with your pace?

My kids. I have a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old. They just go and go. There’s such a temptation to want to control them like, “Calm down. Put that. Stop.” There are all that, but they’re a reminder for me. I’m failing at this and probably miserably, this whole idea of pace and rhythm, but they are the biggest reminders for me. When I see them living their lives, they have no care. Levi was trying to catch a butterfly for fifteen minutes, holding his hands out, waiting for the butterfly to land on his hands. He has nowhere to be, he has no cares. He’s here and he wants to watch this butterfly.

Go for good. Sometimes, doing the next good thing is good enough. Click To Tweet

For me, watching how they are is a constant reminder to me of, “Be here. Where do you have to go? Where do you have to be?” Knowing that if I’m not here, I’m missing so much. Even as a parent, I’m missing this opportunity, watching them jump on the trampoline because I’m stressed out or worried about something else. They’re a constant reminder of what it looks like to live at a worry-free and stress-free pace, and also the encouragement to do it as well as for them. I know I’ll wake up and they will be eighteen and not wanting to hang out with me anymore. They’re a good reminder. Parenting is a practice.

The other thing that you brought up is being a contrarian. One of the background calls that you mentioned that you were very strongly opinionated contrarian, but good-hearted. I’m curious because I think the nature of our current moment in history and society is one that’s opinionated and diametrically opposed to each other in every arena. We are very divided. We experienced more contrarian encounters with people. Unfortunately, they seem to not be always good-hearted or they come across in ways that aren’t good-hearted, even if it is from a good heart. What posture do you hold in that to be helpful in opposing what’s commonly accepted or maybe the popular opinion among the people you’re with?

I’m the type of person who has strong convictions weakly held. Sometimes I come across strong like “This is what I think,” and then I’m like, “Do I care as much as I’m coming across now?” We should all have convictions. We all think something and we all think we’re right, or else we would think something else. For me, it’s more of an exercise. One of my favorite things to do is debate. I love to argue. I’m going to argue with you about anything. Halfway through I’m like, “Do I even think this or am I having a good time arguing?”

It’s helpful to be able to see things from different perspectives. If we can’t do that, then we end up surrounding ourselves with people who are clones of ourselves. It’s realizing that there’s a whole bunch of people that viewed this issue, whatever it is, completely different than me. Especially, when you go on social media and you won’t have to flick your index finger a couple of times of scrolling before you’ll see a post that says something like, “I don’t understand why the,” and then they go on to say something about an opinion that they don’t agree with. The first few words of that, “I don’t understand,” stop there.

“You gave it away. I don’t get it.” The problem is probably not with that view, it’s with your ability to understand it. For me, I love thinking and listening to people who don’t agree with me because I want to understand it. I don’t want to be ignorant and say, “I don’t understand how anyone could vote for this person.” Why don’t you try? “I don’t understand how anyone could have opposed this movement.” Why don’t you try? That might be your problem. Part of my personality is that I try to approach it from that point. I probably get it wrong a lot, but I want to be able to understand other perspectives. The truth is I might be wrong about a lot of the stuff that I believe. We think a lot of other people are wrong. We could all grow from looking through someone else’s eyes for a second and trying to understand it.

That’s such an important phrase to embody is, “I might be wrong.” What if we all embrace that idea? Because we’re wrong about a lot of things and that doesn’t mean that your identity is at risk and who you are as a person is in jeopardy. We take it like that and I think that’s a problem.

That’s a line I’m trying to put into my vocabulary more. As a pastor, a lot of times people will ask me, “What do you think about whatever?” Whether it’s theology or anything. I try to preface most of it with, “I’m getting more comfortable acknowledging that most of what I currently think is probably wrong.” Here’s why I am right. I asked for the right to change my opinion. If all of us could go back and ask the version of ourselves that existed fifteen years ago of what we thought, I hope you’re going to get some different answers. If you think the same thing that you thought about everything when you were seven, versus when you’re 27, that’s sad.

Sometimes that’s presented as noble like, “I’m committed to my beliefs.” What if they were wrong? We want to grow. We want to expand. That can only happen when you acknowledge, “I could be wrong about this.” That doesn’t mean you don’t have to have convictions or don’t have to have beliefs, don’t have to have opinions, but don’t put the death grip on them. You don’t have to hold them tightly. Keep an open hand with your beliefs and say, “I could be wrong about this. If I am, I’ll change my opinion but here’s where I am right now.”

One of my favorite quotes by Muhammad Ali is, “The man who views the world at 50, the same as he did at 20, has wasted 30 years of his life.” I love the idea of strong convictions weakly held. That’s a great stance. Honestly, even asking for permission to change your mind is so helpful. There’s another quote that Alan Watson said, “You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago.” I say it to myself all the time because sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Even when me and my wife, if I get stuck in a rut, I’m like, “I don’t want to change,” but then you can change. Don’t be the same person you were.

If you’re in a bad mood because you and your wife got in a fight, everyone’s tense and you said, “You could stop. You don’t have to keep doing this.” At any point in time, I’m under no obligation to be the same person that was fifteen minutes ago. I could stop and be happy.

That consistency bias is so strong in us but that’s so helpful to remember. Some intellectual honesty to say, “We change and that means growth.” We should be growing in our whole lives. Either you’re growing or decaying and both are changed.

UAC 155 | Communicating For Change

Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication

My younger son, Levi, is four and already smarter than me. He asks good questions. He’ll ask questions about God or faith. I find myself having to give him answers that his 4-year-old can contain. He thinks like a 10-year-old. He’s going to grow up thinking some things about God that I hope will evolve when he’s 24 or 54. Sometimes we hold so tightly to the things that maybe aren’t wrong, but they’re incomplete. We’re not always asked to abandon our belief, but maybe widen it, maybe go a little bit deeper into something. It feels like a threat. In most areas of our life, change is a good thing. It’s something that’s celebrated. Have a conviction, a belief and an opinion, but don’t die on that hill. Maybe you want to go deeper or maybe you need to go a different direction at some point.

Speaking of change, what is a belief that you formally held to be true that you no longer believe?

This is probably connected to a broader one. I’m a church guy, that’s a big part of my life and who I am. As a kid, I grew up believing and also feeling like I had to believe, maybe someone didn’t tell me that, but it was baked in that God created the universe physically, literally in 6 to 24-hour periods. If you believe that, I’m totally with you. I don’t think that’s true anymore. I don’t think I have to believe that in order to believe everything else. I used to believe my dad was the strongest man in the world like every kid until you realize he’s probably average. One of the things that’s changing for me is what the Bible is and what it isn’t. I’ve moved on many things within those brackets while still believing that it is the inspired word of God, at the same time, which makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. The first one is maybe an indication of a movement that I’ve had. That’s part of a larger movement that’s happening.

There’s another quote from Oswald Chambers, “God be as original with you as He is with you.” We get nervous when we hear things where, “God seems a little different to this person than He is to me.” George, you’re different to me than you are to your wife, but you’re the same person. It’s a personal relationship that we’ve missed that so much. I want to hear a little more about this. In your current view or perspective, what is the Bible and what is it not if you had to put some words to that?

People will ask, “Who wrote the Bible? Do you believe God wrote the Bible?” No. I don’t believe God has a pen. I believe that God is spirit. He’s not male. He doesn’t have an Adam’s apple. He doesn’t have an XY chromosome. For God to write it, he would have had a pen, a hand and a thumb, but I don’t think that’s what God is. People wrote it. If we can’t start there, I don’t know where else we can start. “Did God breathe on it and breathe into it?” Absolutely. I don’t know if this is where I’m at, but I think it’s close. I believe that the Bible is not a static view of who God is. It’s not like, “I have this book and here’s who God is.” It’s more of a progressive view and it’s not even a book. It’s a library of a lot of different books written over a long period of time. In that library, we get to see a progressive view of who people thought God was at the time that. At the time, it was such a move forward in the right direction that God decided to breathe on it, to breathe life into it and to inspire it, which is what the inspire means to breathe into.

Within that, we see these movements take place throughout the entirety of scripture where I don’t believe God is changing, but people’s understanding of who God is changing. God always has to meet us where we are. Where else would he meet us? He meets people where they are to move them forward into a fuller understanding of who He is and who He’s been the whole time. That’s a part of it, which is why you see crazy stuff in the Bible that it seems like God is doing and saying. If you believe God is static, then you have to do some weird gymnastics to try to make it all make sense. Whereas for me, I don’t feel like I need to do that. I can be like, “That’s what they thought.” That seems a little wild. It’s a lot more nuanced, gray and weird than we want it to be. That’s a movement that’s happening for me of seeing everything in scripture as being a static picture of God, almost like God’s word to us. I’m seeing it more of like our words about God and our attempt to understand the infinite. God working with us along the way to bring us to a full and complete understanding of who He is, which ultimately is expressing the person of Jesus.

That’s one of the most helpful constructs that I’ve heard. I would relate with a lot of that. Who people thought God was and the progression of that as a framework, a lens for looking at the Bible is so helpful. That’s where everything becomes helpful for a minute. Especially, for people who look at the Old Testament and this is an Old and New covenant and are like, “These two don’t seem compatible,” but if you think about it in a progression, it makes perfect sense. At our core, at our fundamental level, we want justice. That’s how our heart believes. The Old Testament God is a God of justice. You would see that in very extreme ways. If you remove all of the modern evolution and progression that we have as adults in America, if you remove that and you get to the core like, “Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad,” we long for that. That’s why every movie is like that. That Old Testament perspective on God is needed. We need to know that He’s a God of justice.

This is where it gets nuanced, “Try to follow me and don’t go where I’m not going.” If you’re the type of person that believes that everything in the Old Testament God tells people to do, that God was telling them to do that, I’m not coming for you. That’s totally good and right. I’ve bumped up against many people over the last decade of my life that have walked away from Christianity because of things like that. I’m coming to the place where I’m comfortable being able to talk to that person and say, “If they don’t believe God told someone to do that, maybe he didn’t.” I’m like, “Cool.” Take the book of Joshua in the Old Testament, which is essentially a group of people in the Middle East, the Israelites going through and conquering city after city, killing a lot of people because God told them to.

There are certain places where God gets upset because He’s like, “You all didn’t kill the women and the children. Go back and kill them all.” We can romanticize that in our head like, “Thanos snapped them and they disappeared into nothing,” but no, these were like sharp pieces of metal that people were shoving into people’s bodies because God told them to. I know a lot of people that check out right there because they’re like, “I can’t believe in a God that would ever do that and say that.” There are some people that would make this argument and this is what I’m comfortable making. I’m not saying I agree with it, but I’m comfortable with it to say, “Every nation in that time had a version of a God that was a warrior, that told them to go and take other people’s land and kill everyone there. Is it crazy to think that a lot of people would have thought God was telling them to do that when he wasn’t?”

I’m totally comfortable making that. I’m okay with that. Is it possible that they got it wrong? It’s hard to reconcile some of that with Jesus’ teachings on, “Pray for your enemy and be kind to them.” Unless it deals with land, then go slaughter them all. Is it possible that a group of people thought God told them to do something that God was like, “I never told you how to do that?” Have you ever thought God told you to do something and then you get 5 to 10 years, 5 to 10 minutes away from the moment? You’re like, “I think I was wrong about that.” The only difference is someone didn’t write it down in a scroll to be studied for thousands of years. I’m not saying that it’s true, but I’m becoming more comfortable having some more latitude in how we understand what these things are and who God is as represented in these stories and passages.

This is such an important conversation too because this is a theme that we see, especially in many avenues and lens. This is the idea of, “If I take this first step, it means that the tenth step will be next.” If I say, “This may not be exactly how it went down,” that means the rest of it is in jeopardy.

We could all grow from looking through someone else's eyes for a second and trying to understand it. Click To Tweet

It’s a rational fear. I totally get that. The truth is those things are already there. We’re already working around a lot of stuff that we’re not comfortable with and don’t know what to do with, so then we don’t talk about it. One of the other big ones for me, in the last chapter of Leviticus, there’s a portion of scripture there at the end, this is God speaking and he starts to give the monetary value for human beings, “If you want to redeem a male person between this age and this age, here’s how much they’re worth.” It’s these many shekels or whatever. The woman’s worth is 2/3 of that. If it’s a male teenager, “Here’s how much it’s worth and it’s less.” I’m like, “Does God actually think that women are less than men monetarily?”

It’s in the book and God is saying it. If you have a rigid view of what scripture is supposed to be, you’re stuck unless you say, “The new covenant got rid of all that.” It might be a little intellectually dishonest. It’s like, “What do I do with that?” You’re already on a slope. I’m starting to grow, to reject the slippery slope argument as a whole. I don’t think it’s honest. It’s like, “No, you don’t have to throw out the whole thing. Let’s deal with this one thing and do right by this and try to understand it.” My point is, there’s already a lot of that stuff that’s in there that people don’t want to read or don’t want to think about, but there’s a whole bunch of people and as a pastor, I’m concerned with this, they are walking away from Jesus and Christianity for things like that. I’m like, “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

That’s true in politics, in this conversation around race in America and in a lot of veins in. If sitting in a politics, “If you agree with this, then you must be over there.” That’s the first and tenth step. That’s not fair to anyone. Let alone yourself, because if you were above that standard, you would be in a lot of box that you don’t want to be, especially God. This speaks to the big picture version. How can we look at the picture as a whole? This is a little piece of the whole. It tells us a little something about the whole.

I learned that this is a very controversial statement, but I don’t think it is. Going back to what we were talking about what is the Bible to me and what is not? It is probably one of the most important things that we have. I’m thankful for it. I can’t stress how important it is. I’ve given a large part of my life to teaching the Bible but here’s the truth. There were a whole lot of Christians before we had the Bible. Remember the first time I said that a few years ago to someone and they started sweating and getting all red? It’s like you know that the Bible is not the foundation of Christianity. Christians existed before they had the Bible because it was still being written. No one in the decades after Jesus’ death could be, “Romans 6 says,” because Romans hadn’t been written.

We built up almost a separate religion like Bibliology. It can become an idol. When in fact the root of Christianity was a bunch of people saying, “I saw that dude die and then I saw him again and we had fish.” I’m going to go with that. Thankfully, people had experiences and wrote them down, but all of this sits on a person. Any person that left because of the Bible, I’m like, “Christianity isn’t built on it. It can’t be. Christians existed before we had it. Come back, let’s re-examine. Let’s talk about that verse that was weird, but you don’t have to throw the whole thing out for something that’s not the foundation.”

That is such a foundation and an important point. Speaking about the Bible, and there’s a whole spectrum of views, but a lot of my background and a lot of the conservative side replaces the Holy Spirit with the Bible and the Trinity. That’s a bad exchange. How has the Bible changed you and shaped you as a person? What impact does it have on you as a book?

I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you without it. The fact that we have it is crazy. All of the stories of the Old Testament and much of the New is about a very small group of people of the Middle East thousands of years ago. How many other things happened back then that we don’t even know about? The fact that we have it is incredible and the wisdom of God through it, the calling that all of us have as human beings to live into, that we see illustrated in these books, the selflessness, it’s so relevant.

Do we think climate and care for the Earth is a new idea? Read some of the Old Testament. It peaked over the horizon of time and saw all that we would ever go through. It’s not new, whatever you’re going through right now, some people 3,000 years ago went through some version of that also. It is hugely important. I wouldn’t know about Jesus likely if someone hadn’t written something down and people traveled around the world to tell someone a long time ago.

As you said, replacing the Bible with the Holy Spirit, Jesus said when he was getting ready to go to sin, “I’m going to go away, but don’t worry because when I go, I’m going to send you the Holy Spirit and it’s better for you that I go away.” He didn’t say, “I’m going to go away and don’t worry because I’m going to send 66 books bound in leather that is going to explain everything to you.” That’s how we act sometimes that he said he was going to give a book that would lead us and guide us into all truth. While the Bible is huge and important, one of the most important things to me, it cannot replace the value of the Holy Spirit that will lead me and guide me into all truth. That’s God’s job to do. He uses many different things to do it.

I want to hear a little bit about your childhood. You spoke to role models a bit earlier, and I know we were speaking more in the realm of speaking and communicating. What did you want to be when you were a kid? What do you want to be when you grew up and who are the role models you looked up to?

UAC 155 | Communicating For Change

Communicating For Change: Have a conviction, a belief, and an opinion, but don’t die on that Hill.

The first thing I remember saying that I wanted to be when I grew up was a mountain climber or a pizza maker. Those are the two things that I like and I’ve done neither of those things. For those of you that don’t know, I’m black. For a lot of kids growing up, you wanted to go to the NBA. That was one of my dreams. I played a lot of basketball and wanted to do all of that. As far as role models growing up, you had people that you looked up to like Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Dwayne Wade. I would sit out in my garage and practice the crossovers.

I would say a couple of different categories. One was my parents. I was blessed to have such amazing parents. Both of my parents are amazing. My mom was an engineer. At the time and probably still now a lot of ways, to have a lot of women in that field was unlikely, but also black women that were engineers was not a thing. She went through a whole lot of stuff but seeing the grit and the push-through-it-ness displayed through her. Not only that, but she’s also a three-time breast cancer survivor. Seeing them push through adversity and do it with faith, with grace and tenacity and like, “You won’t hold me down,” type of a thing.

Seeing that in my parents and my grandparents made you feel like you could go do whatever you wanted to do. The odds may be stacked against you in certain ways, but who the hell cares? Go do the thing that you’re going to do and don’t let anything stand in the way. My parents and family are huge role models. Then we were growing up in the church. There’s a handful of individuals over the years that took me under their wings. I started playing the drums in church when I was thirteen. Getting to hang out with different music pastors at the time that would pick me up from basketball practice. Go to the church, practice and play. Go to guitar center and help him pick out a keyboard. Being around the church and being around people that believed in me.

Looking back on it, at that time, you didn’t know how much they were sacrificing, but these are grown men with kids and families, but you’re coming to pick me up and spend all this time pointing to me and teaching me. It doesn’t make any sense looking back on it. I would say those are probably the two categories of role models that had the biggest impact on me. It was my parents and a younger brother, them in general and different church leaders over the years. They poured sacrificially into me and that was huge.

I love that story of grit and tenacity from your mother. Do you remember specific times in your childhood growing up when you faced a moment where the deck was stacked against you, you knew it and you were trying to figure out what you were going to do? Were you going to go through it, or were you going to try to go a different route? Do you have an illustration or example from a moment like that where your parents or another role models were able to come alongside you?

One that sticks out to me was there was a point where my two passions collided like sports, basketball, music and church stuff. When you’re 14 or 15 years old, that’s the biggest crisis. When I was playing basketball, I made the team at high school, but there came a point where I had to choose. The schedule didn’t work out. You can’t play ball and be involved in church at the same time. I went to my parents who were my role models and I said, “Tell me what to do.” They didn’t tell me what to do. It was like, “Do what you want. What do you want? We’ll support you.”

It wasn’t as much as what they said in moments like that. It was what they modeled. That moment for me modeled that they trust me to make a decision, that I probably have it in me. I have the strength. I have the ability to make a hard choice. Either way, it’s going to be hard. Seeing that trust or feeling that trust from them to make that decision is a moment like that. It’s more watching, it’s more to see. So much you pick up is through osmosis. You see them grinding and see them doing their best to succeed. A lot of it was not what they said, but what they didn’t say. I don’t remember them making a lot of excuses in front of us and complaining about why they didn’t get this thing and someone else did. They probably felt that way and they probably had a lot of validity to a lot of things, but there was a, “I’m going outwork you,” type of mentality. The absence of complaining, excuse-making and all of that, is probably impacted me more than I even know.

You mentioned what your mom overcame as a black woman becoming an engineer in a field where that’s nonexistent. How has your childhood experience as a black boy growing up in America? How was it similar and how was it different even from what you’ve heard from your parents’ experience?

It’s probably similar. My parents grew up in different parts of Oklahoma City in Tulsa. My granddaddy died a few years ago. He was that guy. The most rugged intense guy you ever met. He’ll look at you, point at you with his whole hand, “I’m trying to tell you something, Jack.” He said stuff like Jack. He was in a military and police enforcement railroad detective. There was a time where they moved and at that time, he was like, “All the white people lived on the North side of town and all the black people lived on the South side of town.”

Granddaddy moved my mom and her brother. We’re moving to the North side with all the white folks. He went around and he knocked on every door in the neighborhood and said, “My name’s Robert Wright. I just moved into the neighborhood. If you have a problem, you come to talk to me. If you mess with my family, I’m coming for you.” Every door and he never had any problems. My mom and uncle grew up used to being one of the only black kids in the neighborhood. That was my experience. We grew up in Parker, Colorado. We grew up in a predominantly white space all throughout the time I was born until middle school.

I was used to being the only black or any nonwhite person in the class. I talked to a lot of my white friends and like, “Have you ever been in a situation where you were the only white person?” It’s amazing how that for a lot of people has never happened. That’s how I grew up. I got used to that. I got used to knowing, and feeling that I was different from everybody else. It has to shape how you go about it and how you engage in like, “Do I try to fit in?” Everyone has an image in their head of what black people are. “Should I try to be that for them?” I know that those are things that my parents went through growing up as well.

Believe others before you try to defend or offer an alternative perspective. Click To Tweet

What was that like for you as you were in that experience or that role? I remember in a unity episode, I had a buddy of mine, Barry Moore, he talked about how he’s half-black and on one side of the family, he would interact or talk or even be in a way that they can understand and on the other side, he’d be in a way that they could understand. He was living in the tension of both, but his parents did an awesome job of letting him be free to be both in that sense when needed versus making him choose. What was that like for you as you were navigating that growing up and how did you live in that culture?

I probably didn’t have a lot of overtly negative experiences. A lot of them were more passive probably. I would say a lot of that tension was maybe felt internally and within the black community. I hear people say this all the time. It’s funny if someone’s talking about a black person and they’re describing them and you’ve probably heard someone say stuff like this, “He’s super sharp, very well put together and well-spoken.” “Are you saying that most of us shouldn’t be that?” Growing up in like an all-white space and all my friends were white, I might to the black people had not been black enough.

To the white people, you don’t fit in quite either. It’s this weird space of feeling like, “I don’t fit all the way in any other space.” Luckily, the one space I did have that was instrumental was our church at the time. In late elementary school, early middle school, it was a very diverse church. That was a home base to be around a whole bunch of different types of people. It is challenging to feel like as the only black kid in the room, you are the representation of a whole bunch of beliefs for those people. You’re the only one they might ever have seen or know, or that they’re going to see in this neighborhood. There’s a weird pressure to represent who we are, but not to try to cater too much to what you want me to be, but then struggling when you go back to the black, “You talk white.” First off, what does that even mean? Feeling like, you can’t all the way fit in either space.

That feels like a place where you are living in a constant state of tension and inner tension, especially. It makes sense to see the time to what we’ve talked about what you’re navigating, as you think about the Bible, about communicating and about all the things we’ve talked about is things are nuanced. They’re complex. The only way you can sit and live in nuance is by being comfortable with tension. You’ve grown up in an environment of tension in a lot of ways. As you look at this resurgence of a focus on injustice and how America has been a very different experience for different people. I’m curious to hear what you think is helpful for several of the communities? The white community, for the black community and even for their church. I’d be curious to hear what you found or what you want to encourage people with into those communities? Each community needs something different.

This is something I’ve been trying to process and to work on for myself because most of us in one form or another have participated or currently participate in some form of privilege or benefit. Me being a male in our current society, I have certain benefits that some of our white female people reading this don’t have, by the nature of being a man. There are probably so many other spectrums that we could talk about. One of the things I’m trying to do and trying to make a part, a habit for me because this is not going to be the last time that this happens is when someone in a non-privileged position or someone that’s being hurt or oppressed or whenever they tell me something, listen to them.

It sounds so simple but believes them. As a man, if a woman comes in and tries to talk about, “Here’s my experience that I’ve gone through being the only woman in this corporation and what I felt when I walk into the meetings.” If they’re trying to tell me that, and my first thing is like, “You’re welcome here.” My first thing is to defend a position. I’m probably missing it. Believe her, she’s telling you something. I would say to my white friends and what I’ve encouraged to see so much of is like the first step is try to believe people when they tell you, “Here’s what I’m seeing, feeling and experienced.” Believe them before you try to defend or offer an alternative perspective.

It could feel like you’re writing off me and what I’m trying to say. That will be a good one. I would also say maybe for my white friends there are a lot of people who will say things like, “My ex-roommate’s best friend is black. When we talked, so I’m learning about the black perspective,” Deon doesn’t provide a full representation of the black perspective. If people ask me that, I wanted to get the black person. I’m like, “I’ll give you my perspective. Here’s what I’ve gone through, here’s what I’ve seen and here’s what I’ve experienced,” but we’re not a monolith.

There isn’t one perspective on black people no more than there is one perspective on white people or one perspective on rich people. It’s a very wide issue. Don’t think just because you heard Don Lemon talk about something or you talk to one guy that I understand it. It’s a very wide stream with room for a lot of different perspectives and opinions. It requires you to dig in, to be a student, to learn and to listen. Those are a couple of things that would be helpful. You asked about a couple of different categories.

The church is another one.

I’ve heard a lot of people in church circles say things along the lines of, “This is good that we’re doing this,” “We’re talking about this,” but like “When can we get back to the main thing,” or a lot of people that don’t even want to talk about it. We shouldn’t be talking about this. We’re being distracted from the main mission and call of the church. Why are we talking about racism? One of those things makes me want to explode. If we’re not talking about this, what are we doing? What else should we be talking about? If we can’t care about this, what does that say about who we are and what we stand for? Lean into this. One of the most frustrating things is sometimes we act like we’ve been having this conversation for six years with this level of intensity. People are like, “Can we move on?” It’s been three weeks? Wake me up in nine years if we’re still talking about it every single weekend and we’re spending all of our resources and time on it.

UAC 155 | Communicating For Change

Communicating For Change: You’re doing better than you think you are. You’re not perfect, but you’re good. Sometimes good is good enough. Keep going forward.

I’m not even saying I would agree with you then, but I would understand the need for, “Can we like the move?” You see the unrest for the church and for so many people where if we spend three weeks talking about racism, there are so many people that like, “Can we move on to the Jesus stuff?” “No, we can’t. Jesus said I came for the oppressed. I came to set the captives free.” If it’s not this, then what is it? I know it’s uncomfortable. The church is awkward. It brings up a lot of feelings that you don’t know what to do with and I don’t want to do with. We want to move on. We want to go back to talking about prayer. Something that’s a little more comfortable that we have a box for it. We don’t know what to do with these things. A lot of it is probably because it gets co-opted and pulled into political categories. We’re not arguing about racism, we’re arguing about politics. We have to defend our candidate, or our position or our party. That’s why we want to move on because it gets pulled into a political issue when it’s not. We don’t like discomfort.

The last one was to the black community, to fellow brothers and sisters in it.

The thing that comes to mind that I would say is, I have a lot of friends who had been involved in this work of racial justice for a lot longer than I have. sometimes there can be a perspective of things are getting worse or maybe things have not gotten better in the past 100 or 200 years. I get that perspective because we have so much work to do. If I could get my granddaddy on the podcast, someone who had dogs from the police let loose on him and sprayed with fire hoses and couldn’t go in certain places physically, that he would probably smack me in the face. It can be maybe a level of disrespect for the fight from people that came before us to say that it hasn’t gotten any better, that it’s worse than ever. It’s not. We have come a long way.

The fact that I have a voice to say anything, wasn’t the case, not too long ago. At the same time, can we also recognize that we do have a long way to go? You’re standing on the shoulders of people that have come before us. Let’s not diminish what our grandparents and their grandparents have done in the sacrifices they have made by saying things like, “This is the new form of slavery and it’s worse than it’s ever been.” At the same time, there are people that want to use that argument to say that there’s not much left to do and the fight is pretty much already over because we signed that document back in the ‘60s. My perspective would be the road ahead of us, is probably longer than the road behind us.

We probably have more ground to make up than we’ve covered, but can we pull from that past progress and use that for encouragement, for fuel to propel us on the road ahead? I haven’t seen this amount of rallying of people being willing to say, “I’m with it. I believe you. We’ve got work to do.” That gives me a lot of encouragement. To the people in the black community, we should be encouraged, not by what is wrong, but by the ground we’ve covered and by the number of people that are waking up to the reality that we have a lot further to go than we’ve traveled. That should feel you’ll us to some with some amount of encouragement.

I used a football metaphor when I was talking to my cousin about this, “We’re probably not going to score a touchdown on this drive, on this current possession, of racial injustice fight. We probably won’t solve all the problems right now, but let’s move the ball. Let’s flip the field, let’s get a little bit further. We might have to punt. Something’s going to happen again in 1 or 2 years and all this is going to come back up, but when we get the ball back, we won’t have to start on the goal line. We can start at 25 or 40.” I won’t have to talk to my friends again about racial bias and implicit bias. We don’t have to start there again. We can start a little bit further and I want to leave this place better for Noah and Levi when they’re 33 that they’re not having to fight the same battles that I am. That’s what I would say, be encouraged, don’t grow weary, you got a lot of allies, a lot of people that want to fight with you.

For people wanting to educate, learn more, especially for people like me that are white, what are good resources? Where do you steer? Where do you point people to? One of the things I watched with my wife was The Help. I’d never seen that before but what a great movie. I was inspired and in the same sense, saddened to see a real depiction of that. What do you recommend? What resources for education, learning and for growing in that realm do you give out?

Before you go to resources, one is a psychological mindset exercise before you go diving into research. It’s getting to the realization that this is not ancient history we’re talking about. Even the stuff we want to act like happened a long time ago if we could get ourselves to understand that like it wasn’t that long ago. To think that we could have hundreds of years that are comprised of legalized slavery, segregation, and ripping resources away from people and giving them to another group. If we think we can have that happen for hundreds of years and in the last 45 to 50 years, we’ve got rid of all the residue, we’re mistaken.

That stuff is still floating around in the culture, in the air, in some of the systems. Can we wrap our minds around that this is not ancient history we’re talking about? Once you do that, go back and look at what happened. Do your own research. I have some specific things that come to mind that could be good resources. One is the documentary that we were talking about on Netflix, that’s called 13TH of looking through what happened with the 13th Amendment, what happened post-slavery, how incarceration had played a role in, and what it’s doing now. I’m not trying to say everything in that documentary is 100% right and true.

I don’t know that, but it’s a helpful portal into saying what happened in the past and how is that affecting what’s going on right now? Reading some books are good. We are reading with our church something called Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin and Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison. Two incredible women, that can speak to on this issue of racism in America and specifically to the church, how should we respond? Those are a couple that is good. Second to the last would be movies. Go watch some movies and do it with beyond the goal of being entertained for 95 minutes, but try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes and say, “How would I feel if that was me?” Exercise some empathy there.

The road ahead of us is probably longer than the road behind us. Click To Tweet

The last thing I would say is relationships. Conversations with people in your life. If you’re a white person who has no nonwhite friends, talk about it with your white friends, ask them, “What do you think about racism in America?” open up a conversation. Maybe if you don’t have any non-white, friends that says something too, “Am I surrounded myself with people who look and think exactly like myself?” If you’re a black person, that has all black friends, maybe that says something about who you’re surrounding yourself with, and maybe you could benefit from hearing some other perspectives from other people.

I heard Carl say this one time. He talked about how distance creates distortion, but proximity creates passion. If I’m far from an issue, I can theorize it, I can come up with all these weird beliefs that end up distorting the reality because I’m not close to it. If I’m close, if there’s proximity, that creates passion. The racial injustice conversation, if you’re distant from it and you don’t have any friends that are have been affected by that in the lives, it’s easy to distort it. What will change everything is if your roommate is Hispanic and they’re telling you about their experience and what they felt growing up, it creates a passion in you that that’s a result of your proximity. I would say, make it personal. Talk to people about it. In your life, ask them questions, be slow to speak, be quick to listen and slow to get angry. Listen without thinking about what you want to say next and let it sink in. All those things would help.

The idea of listening and believing them, that’s something that even on a relational level, that’s something I can work and grow in with my wife. Even if you are not trying to defend something, but listen and believe.

“When you did that, it made me feel like this.” Instead of being like, “Wow,” we want to be like, “But you shouldn’t feel like that.” No. Listen to her and believe her. I do that too. I’m failing too.

It’s hard but it’s good. It’s such great reminders. What can you not imagine living without?

Sour candy.

What’s your top sour candy?

Sour Patch Watermelons. Until I hit 40, I’m going to stop.

Imagining your 50-year-old self, what advice do you think you’d give your current self?

Slow down.

What question do you ask yourself the most?

UAC 155 | Communicating For Change

Communicating For Change: We get so bogged down with what we’re not doing. The problem is we’re with ourselves every day that we don’t get to see our growth and the ways that we’re doing better than we were the day before.

 

What will my great-grandchildren think about my podcasts or my messages? What will they be able to clearly see that I was wrong about, that I’m blind to right now? That’s a question that drives so much of what I do is trying to think about not what will people think of me right now, but what will everyone in 100 years so clearly be able to see that I can’t see now and trying to unearth that now. Be willing to be wrong today so I can be right tomorrow.

If you could be one other person, who would that person be and why?

Maybe like an Albert Einstein-type of dude. What would it feel like to be the smartest person in the room? Maybe you invented the time machine that you didn’t tell anybody about. That another passion of mine is time-traveling weird quantum stuff.

If you could give a TED Talk, what would it be on?

It would be on something with the Bible, what it is, what it’s for, what it’s not, something with all of that.

If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why?

Probably something along the lines of, “You’re doing better than you think you are. You’re not perfect, but you’re good. Sometimes good is good enough. Keep going forward. You’re doing better than you think. Be encouraged.” Something along those lines. We get so bogged down with what we’re not doing, but the problem is we’re with ourselves every day. We don’t get to see our growth and the ways that we’re doing better than we were the day before.

To underscore that, some of the people I talked to, one of the ways they describe you was as an encourager. That rings very true with those words. George, thank you so much.

Thanks for so much for having me on. This is amazing. You’re a phenomenal guy. I want to be more like you and appreciate you taking some time to have a conversation.

Where can people reach out and say hello or find out more about what you’re saying on the podcast and some of those?

Be willing to be wrong today so you can be right tomorrow. Click To Tweet

I work at Denver United Church. You could jump on our website, DenverUnited.com and find some stuff that I’ve said or some podcasts that we’ve been a part of. I don’t have a website. Look me up on social media and say, “Hi.” My name’s George Towers. I’m a black dude. You’ll probably find me there.

Thanks again and until next time. We hope you have an up and coming week because we out.

If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.Com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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