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