Tension is a part of everyday life, a dance that we have to partake in every single day. The difference between a hard and a fruitful life lies in how we approach tension in order to overcome it. In this episode, Thane Ringler and Adam Setser talk about the tensions that we will inevitably come face to face with. They give important insights into the various mindsets that each person goes into when presented with tension. They emphasize the importance of allowing yourself the grace to make mistakes because no one is perfect after all.
Listen to the podcast here:
All The Tensions: Overcoming The Inevitable
This is a podcast all about learning how to live a good life. In this episode, I get to have that conversation with mi hombre, Adam Setser. Adam, how’s the deep South treating you?
Good. It was fine. You had a little Mexican flair in that intro. I do want to do a shout-out to the new taco stand in Valdosta. It’s called La Jalisco. It’s super legit. We love tacos.
They’re sponsoring the show. Taco Tuesdays for the win. If you’re new and haven’t heard of The Up and Comers before, welcome. This is a podcast where we talk about having intention in the tension as Adam coined so famously. We’re going to be talking about one of those tensions and breaking it down, breaking down life and sharing what we’re learning about this tension. Before we get there if you haven’t left us a rating and review, we’ve got 60 some on iTunes, which is pretty sweet. We know there are more than 60 of you reading so scroll down on that phone, click that five-star review, and drop us a line.
How many downloads have we had up to this point? Do you know?
We’ve got over 30,000.
That’s awesome. That’s a lot better than I expected. On an average basis, how many people out there are tuning in to The Up and Comers?
We average in the 300 per episode.
That’s a lot of people if you put 300 in one room.
It’s a big room.
We need to have an Up and Comers meet up somewhere in the Midwest at some point for a central location for everybody and we have 300 that show up.If you're a leader who doesn't ever give any conviction and answers, you will lose your following. Click To Tweet
They can already join the fam by getting their own Up and Comers merch that’s now available on the web. If you go to TheUpAndComersShow.com, we’ve got merch available. You can click the little tab up there and get yourself some sweet shirts, a crew, or the goods. The best way to help us out, if you want, is to share this episode or any others that you enjoy with a friend and spread the love. You can also support us on Patreon if you want to. We do accept donations there. There are different tiers if you want to help us keep the lights on. It takes some bills to run this thing but we do it for fun and meaning.
We’re not getting rich on this for sure, but the merch sounds like perch to me. Perch sounds like the African-American pronunciation in the south for the front porch. We should somehow weave in the fact that if you buy merch, you can hang out with us on the perch.
We can weave that in. That’ll be one of our intentions in the tensions.
Maybe the t-shirt could have a front porch on it and says, “Get your own merch off my perch.” I’m riffing here. I’m throwing some ideas out there. This is riffing on a prayer. Do you know what I’m saying?
I’m on a roll.
We are way off track. We need to dive in otherwise we’re going to go nowhere fast. The last announcement before we go nowhere fast is the 100th episode is fast approaching. For the 100th episode, we had to bring back something special. We’re going to be doing a little bit of a celebratory 100th video. If you didn’t know we are on YouTube, you can go check us out on The Up and Comers Show. We’re going to have a video coming out to celebrate 100 of these podcasts. Be on the lookout and be on the hunt because we’re out here. We were talking about how to describe this tension we’re facing in life and you had a good little slap in the face to me because I’ve been trying to nail down what it is that we’re talking about. It’s a hard thing to describe the intention of this versus that in two words. You made a great point of lovingly telling me that we don’t have to have it all figured out, which is true.
The tension that we’re trying to describe is a tension that exists in probably 2,000 different areas of our life or more that we’ve identified. We’re like, “What is the one overarching name for this tension?” What’s the biggest category above all categories that supersedes all others and we can make it this nice and neat category in our minds, website, future, book tours and all that stuff. We want to make sure we look we have it all together and all figured out. I told him, “I don’t know that there is one. It recurs over and over. I’m sure there’s one way to force ourselves into an overall definition. If we’re going to be true with it, we might need to sit with it and be willing to bear the tension of an undefined tension. Now we’re mid-tensions, we’re one step away from the tensions.”
As a starting point, the way I initially thought about it was the difference between practice and performance but there are a bunch of different words I used to describe it. The difference between receiving and achieving, following and leading, reading and saying versus quantity and quality. Grit versus grace, and training versus war. There are many different tensions. When I initially talked to you about it, we were talking about practice and performance.
I’ve got some stories.
We’re talking about the difference between practice and performance but you started going into a couple of areas in your life and how you experienced it.
You talked about practice and performance and I get that because I practiced for four hours a day for piano and I performed once every quarter at the most, maybe twice a year. I would just practice and practice. I got used to practicing that performance was an odd thing. I had to learn how to perform. There is a tension for sure there and I associated it with something else. Let me talk about the piano. In piano, when you practice, you’re practicing performing but you’re not performing. When you practice, you are opening yourself up to mistakes. When mistakes happen, you’re taking note of them, thinking about and how you can do it differently for the performance. The performance mindset is a unique train on the tracks. This train is not stopping the feeling of you do not look back or question yourself ever.
Everything you do in performance is perfect. That’s what you have to tell yourself and be in that mindset. Otherwise, you start to doubt yourself. You look backward, get behind the flow and what would happen to me is my fingers were going ahead of my brain. When that happens, you have that moment of, “I sure hope my fingers know what’s next because I’m not there with them.” Typically, they’d bail me out for sure but the performance mindset is different from the practice mindset. There’s a tension between two because you have to dance back and forth. I’ll tell you the other story when you’re ready for me.
I was going to comment on that one too. It’s the difference between hyper-analytical versus the hyper present.
You have to lose yourself.
This is where this all stems from for me, this whole thought process. In training for golf and getting myself tournament ready, I had to be hyper-analytical. You’re talking about where I’m messing up, why I’m messing up, where I’m making mistakes, where they come from and practicing not making those mistakes or having the right mindset. I’m being hard or critical on myself in practice so I can get better. If I’m hard and critical on myself in performance, that’s going to hurt my performance like you were saying.
I had to make the switch from this hyper-analytical to more of a presence and being mindful but not critical of where I’m at and not remaining in the mistakes but moving past those. It’s easy in golf to focus on what you did wrong and how you’re not being perfect in the moment, which leads to more mistakes versus focusing on the desired outcome and showing yourself more grace than not for those mistakes. Looking back on my career, that was one of the biggest areas or bigness weaknesses that I had. It was making that shift from practicing to performing because I suck at showing myself grace and being non-perfectionistic in that performance mode.
I saw a TED Talk about this where the guy was talking about presence and how important it is, how hard it is to achieve and also the addictiveness of being in the present moment and how being in the present moment is such a freedom that it’s addicting. He equated that to endurance athletes and he had run IRONMAN triathlons. He had run ultra runs, 100 mile runs, and all these crazy stuff. He did it and he was not an athlete, to begin with, but he did it because of this phenomenon of when you get out there, it forces you into the present moment. Otherwise, you will not finish because of your fear of the future moment and you remember some of the past moments, how painful it was and stuff like that.Conviction is what convinces other people to join your cause and move the world. Click To Tweet
For him, endurance athletes like that was a way to force him into the presence. The way he did that was by counting because he read or heard one time that, “If you are judging yourself in what you’re doing wrong, you’re criticizing yourself and being analytical, you aren’t giving 100% of your effort to that thing. You are watching yourself do the thing. You’re going to be losing lots of effort in that process. He said, “The only way to make sure your mind is truly focused on the thing you’re doing is by counting.” He would count from one to however far he could go without ever letting his mind wander. This is about the present moment. He said he finally got the 4,000 one time and he counted from 1 to 4,000 without ever losing the train of thought and without ever letting something else control his thoughts. On the front end, he got to ten and he said, “Try it right now. Try counting from 1 to 10 and all the while the only thing on your mind is that number and the next number.” He would do that. He’d run and count. As he counted, time would pass it and it wouldn’t feel like it was passed.
It’s the power of meditation and mindfulness too that’s why it’s such a movement because we’ve lost a lot of that ability naturally. There’s a quote in a book I’m reading called You Are the Placebo. It’s an amazing book on the placebo effect and the power of belief in the mind and healing the body. This is a quote of meditation, and it fits beautifully. He said, “Meditation takes us from survival to creation, from separation to connection, from imbalance to balance, from emergency mode to growth and repair mode, and from the limiting emotions of fear, anger and sadness to the expansive emotions of joy, freedom and love.”
We go from clinging to the known to embracing the unknown. That’s also some of the differences between practice and performance. One is clinging to what you see and know and trying to correct it and fix it, the other is embracing the dance and the unknown of performing and the acceptance of the unknown in a lot of ways. The power of meditation or whatever that practice looks like counting to 1,000 or 4,000, it’s such a powerful tool to help us in that because we all get there by practice eventually. If we don’t practice, we won’t get there.
Another way this tension exposes itself to me is through leadership and following. That’s two words I use with you. It’s something I experienced in college for the first time where all my life I had known, and this is from a spiritual context, spiritual leaders like pastors who as leaders are very confident. Only after college did I find out that that confidence is key to their leadership. You can’t be an effective leader and openly expose lots of doubts and questions. If someone asks you a question and you go, “Let’s consider that. Let’s toss it up.” Everybody’s going to go, “Don’t you have a conviction and an answer?” If you’re a leader who doesn’t ever give any conviction and answers, you will lose your following quick. Unless your following follows you strictly for your open-mindedness, which is a new age thing.
Most people in a spiritual context want answers. I understood that. When I went to college, here I am learning and I found that I learned at the most rapid pace imaginable when I threw all that off. I was like, “I don’t have any answers. Don’t ever come to me for answers because I’m learning. I’m in the process.” That is an extreme left side of that which is I’m following someone else. I’m looking, learning, open and vulnerable. I realized how people look to me at the time even for answers. There’s this tension that we feel about, “I need to present myself in a conventional way.” It depends on your role but especially if you’re a leader in a career environment, spiritual or anything else. You need to present yourself with conviction. Conviction is what convinces other people to join your cause and move the world. You have to do that but at the same time. You have to be adaptable, open, vulnerable, willing to learn and there’s that tension that’s like a balance. It’s not a balance between that open-mindedness but the conviction.
That’s true. There’s a book called The Servant by James Hunter. It’s an amazing book on leadership that I got assigned to this group I’m with. He paints a picture beautifully of what a real leader is. Jesus is the ultimate example of what a servant leader is. Laying your life down, definitely having convictions, but not only shoving it down people’s throats but helping them get there on their own in that empowerment form. I remember Colonel David Hackworth in his book, About Face. I remember a quote from him and he said, “Leaders do not cry to their men. They are resolute islands in the center of all the insanity.” There’s an element of you that has to be that rock and foundation for people that you do lead. You also have to be the servant in that relationship, serve and love them and also be vulnerable and authentic knowing that you don’t have all the answers, even if you are a leader.
There’s an insane tension there in that role of leading and following. We still have to have the capacity to follow even if we are a leader. That is sometimes missed. I know it’s easy to get into a leader mode and you don’t ever follow or submit to others. That’s when I know I can get in trouble. If I don’t practice the habit of submission, I start getting self-dependent and self-reliant. Which definitely can start leading to trouble pretty fast if I don’t practice submission either to God or to others in a practical sense.
The tension shows up there as well. Where else do you experience this dance? I know one other big component that I experienced a lot is when to show myself grace and when to be hard on myself. When do I err on discipline and be like, “No. Don’t give yourself the easy out or excuses,” like in the gym versus showing myself grace and be like, “My body is beat-up. Don’t go to the gym because I need to rest recovery?” Grace is a good thing. That’s one example. Where else do you experience this tension?
When people are reading about these tensions, the way to bring it home to yourself is where do you feel you get off balance somewhere. Wherever you feel you’re off balance, that’s where you’re in that tension. There’s some tension that you’re in and you don’t feel it or realize it, but you have gotten off-balance one way or the other on this issue. For me, another way about leading and following would be questions and answers. It’s similar but this is its own thing to me because in life, we have many questions and I am quick to jump to a near answer. As long as the answer fits and it’s what I see and it’s close, I apply it.
I try to convince myself it’s the right one because I’m eager for answers. If I’m the leader, I apply it to what I said, needing conviction and all that, sometimes you’ll jump to a conclusion so you can have the conviction. There’s part of me that realizes that there is a balance. Sometimes I get out of balance trying to come to convictions too quickly and not bearing with the unknown. Let’s put this tension on a scale. I’ll draw a line on the paper. On the left side of the paper is complete ignorance. On the right side of the paper is complete dogmatics or complete assurance and conviction. In the middle is the mystery. Mystery, what I want it to mean in this conversation is it’s an educated grasp on ignorance. It’s realizing what you can know, what you can’t know and being convicted in your position on that line. You don’t have to have all the answers but you are completely convicted that this is where I should be. That is as good as leadership as being on one side, extremely. That’s a huge takeaway right there.
I remember when I was doing some pitch evaluations at a conference I spoke at for collegiate entrepreneurs. The biggest thing that stood out to me in listening to their pitches and giving feedback was, “Do these students know what they know but more importantly, know what they don’t know?” If you don’t know what you don’t know, that’s when you get in trouble.
We focus way too much on what we know.
Knowing the extent of what we know is such an important characteristic of living a good life. We’re all trying to learn how to do in the show and we all can improve in that. That’s why the older you get, the most common thing you hear from people is, “I’ve been learning the greater the extent of my own ignorance.” The more you know, the more you don’t know. There’s a reason why. The sooner we can get to know the extent of what we know, it’s going to help us in our ability to be in that mystery in that middle. A lot of this conversation is almost an overview of the tensions of life because we’ve hit on a lot of different tensions that are all related but they are all different in a lot of ways.
I do like the questions and answers. That’s an interesting one to evaluate even for me. How much am I asking questions versus giving answers? Even now I was doing mentoring for Good City Mentors here in LA. Brian Larrabee was on the show. Check out episode 86. Even in a mentorship role, the temptation is too much to give feedback, answers and info. That’s not empowering. That’s not producing as much learning as reading, asking and interrogating in a good way. I’m asking you to go deeper into whatever they’re saying, but it’s always hard. I thought it would get easier to do that and it has not gotten easier. I still have that temptation.
Another example that hits me is my hobby in writing. My writing is good when I’m writing from a position of conviction. To me, that’s a nonfiction exercise of here’s all the information I know and stuff. The only people that are going to be interested in that are people who are interested in that actual topic. When you’re talking about dealing with the unknown, let’s spin a story and peer into the unknown through art and how art takes on fiction or how it takes on different meanings and stuff. Creativity and opening yourself up to artistic works as human forces you more towards the unknown and the mystery. That’s why when you look at our culture and realize that we are at a post-industrial revolution. We are at a scientific age and into a postmodern era where we are super materialistic in a philosophical sense, not only our values. We believe that only material things exist. It’s even more ingrained in us that our bias is way more to where the arts were typically a good balancer for everybody. Everybody was involved in the arts that balanced you out from being business and daily life minded. As a culture, we’ve gotten off.
If we’re looking at tension, everybody is a little bit right of center. Our generation is having this comeback towards the left. That’s the artistic push of even urban cultures and stuff but not in my culture. There’s no push. My generation is still much towards the right. What we could say is if you find yourself on this scale and you find yourself to the right, one of the antidotes for you is probably learning to appreciate art. That forces you to deal with the mystery because most art doesn’t have one meaning and is frustrating for right-minded people or left-brain if we’re talking about the brain. Exercise the other part of it because all of life is in that balance somewhere. I know people in my life who are left-brain and mathematical in their view of life and I’ve taught math. I often wish that they would sit down with a novel. That would be therapeutic for them and more helpful than digging into more mathematics or theoretical crap about how to solve their problem.There are times we need to receive grace both from God and from ourselves. Grace for not being perfect, grace for not being the best. Click To Tweet
We do that by practice. The reason why they’re strong is because they’ve practiced using that side of the brain. That was me. I grew up a numbers and math guy my whole life. I hated English or anything creative. My sister has all the creative juices. I don’t have any. I wrote it off like that. In college and once I got into golf, I started opening my mind up to the possibility of being creative or having the ability to be creative. That’s what put me onto this path of starting to create more and exercising that side of the brain. It always starts with the belief that you can change before you start changing. A lot of it is exercising that side of the brain. When we don’t get in the habit of doing it, we’re not going to ever start because we get more and more good at exercising one side of the brain we like.
There’s a book I’m reading called To Have or to Be? by Erich Fromm. He hits what you hit on the industrial age kicking us into this consumerism, acquiring culture, and how we can acquire autonomy, individualization and we start defining ourselves by what we have versus being. That produces this closed-mindedness and fear that produces greed, envy and all these things that drive us that don’t fulfill us. It’s totally a secular and he’s a psychoanalyst. He’s making the point that we don’t get joy fulfillment from having, we get joint fulfillment from being in life and not from acquiring, but from inquiring. It’s having an open mind, inquiring about life and seeing it with fresh eyes and the meaning in life of being in human relationships and ultimately a relationship with the creator too, as we believe and know.
It’s counterintuitive because it’s counter-cultural but you did make a good point. I do think that our generation, the generation below is starting. One of the positives about it is we’re starting to make that shift. Now, minimalism is coming back and there’s a lot of good elements there to fight that acquisition or consumerist mindset of we don’t need these things to be happy or to have a good life. There’s some good healthiness to that bounce back. Any other thoughts on this tension? We haven’t defined intention. That’s okay. That’s part of the tension.
I feel that we’re all over it. You’re going to love this. Let’s exercise the right brain a little bit. There’s the tension between the trunk and the flower. I’ll get you some of that. The trunk of the tree is the dogma that must be there to ground us. That’s a great verb for that analogy. It ground us into our roots into our nutrients that come from our roots and out of that comes is beauty and flowers. It’s something that is pointless. Why do you have a flower that’s not holding the tree up? What the tree and the trunk by itself don’t mean that. We’ve been talking in a left-brain way about this entire tension. Let’s add some tension back in and talk right brain a little bit about it and talk about the mystery of this tension.
A mysterious way towards it is to say that we don’t know what it’s called and we don’t know why we experienced it except that somewhere in God’s divine plan with the world, we bump up against needing to be sure and needing to be open. We as humans want to be either/or. We don’t need both. In God’s world requires us to be both at different times that’s why the grounding principle for all of this is knowing him, how He made the world and being able to determine at that moment. What did God make this moment for? The heart of wisdom is grounding yourself into the truth and applying the truth correctly. That process is what we typically call wisdom.
That’s why at the end of the day, what God emphasizes most is faith, love, and obedience for sure too. Faith and love are not at all dogmatic things. Those are the mystery. Those are things that are squarely in the middle. It’s a choice and it’s not based on full information and it’s not clearly seeing the picture. It’s accepting the known and the unknown. I do love the flower example because it gives a good picture even of the proportion of each. It takes a lot longer time for the flower to grow, but once it does, the beauty comes.
It’s not about those high moments of beauty. It’s about those that come from the long plotting in a direction that gives you the roots that are holding that plant in and the strong stock to bring that flower to be. It’s the same with practicing and performing. There’s a lot less performance than there is practice. You have to have way more practice to get that good performance in. That’s what produces that amazing result that we get to be in awe of but they’re both an important part of the process.
Let me blow your mind and say that the practice is the performance too. Let’s take the tension and let’s mush it all together because what happens is we place things on a binary and we say practice versus performance and left versus right when in reality they are an upper story and lower story. Practice is lower story and performance is upper story. You live in both. You dip in and out at different times and sometimes you live in both. There’s a mezzanine and you’re literally doing both at the same time. Let’s say you’re practicing piano or you’re practicing golf and you’re doing that. If you look at that moment of practice as a means to performance, you will miss the point of that moment.
The point of every moment of our lives, for example, is to display our lives as an article or a flower to God’s tree. God is looking at every moment of our life as a performance. All the world’s a stage. We are on performance every moment. The discipline we’re involved in, whether it be golf or whatever else is sub to the other discipline we’re also involved in, which is being an ambassador of God and being a child of God. We have several of these going on at once. I’m going be practicing in golf in a complete practice mindset, but above that, I am performing to my God as His child in my practice. It’s crazy.
What that means is you go up to the highest level and let that be your determiner to the big picture of what am I doing here? The top-level is always the child of God if you’re a believer and if not, self-esteem or your legacy or something. That gets me excited because whatever we do, we do it to the glory of God. What that means is we consider everything we have as performance to him realizing that He’s not expecting perfection. All He wants is our heart and our heart’s desire to please him. That’s the heart of freedom to go, “Even this practice, which is left brain is all right brain because it’s all a gift. That’s where you get the freedom in the practice.
One of the ways I love thinking about this too was grit versus grace. Grit is a lot like some of the spiritual disciplines that we do in following God. It takes grit sometimes. We don’t always feel like it so we can’t follow how we feel. From that grit, we get to experience freedom from practicing the discipline because of the fruit it produces in our lives. We get to truly receive grace in those moments, which is hard to do. Receiving grace is one of the most underrated experiences. It has to be one of the hardest things. For me, to receive something you don’t deserve, I hate it. It sucks. It feels wrong.
That’s one thing. It’s realizing there are times where we need to receive grace both from God and from ourselves. It’s grace for not being perfect. It’s grace for not being the best at X, Y and Z or messing up here. Give yourself some grace because I know for me on that tension, I am way too hard and gritty on myself. Let’s end with making this practical because we are ethereal it’s not even funny. I’ve got some ideas but to make it practical, what helps you out in living with intention? We’ve hit a lot of tensions. If we could describe a simple way. Maybe known versus unknown and that tension that we face. What helps you from a practical daily level in having intention in that tension?
Number one, it’s realizing that that tension I’m in is underneath another one. The way I solve that is I say, “I don’t have to know everything. God knows everything so I’ll defer to him.” That’s one huge one. As you’re talking, the story that came to mind is practically from a business perspective. When I’m spending time with my clients, if that client is a smaller client as far as their revenue to the firm, I should spend less time with them. If that client is a bigger client, I should spend more time with them. As far as revenue goes, I’m trying to run a business here. It makes sense. I don’t look at it that way. The reason is that I approached the business mindset with a divinity background and my background tells me all humans are created equal. As long as I can keep my doors open, I’m going to keep treating everyone as if they’re all million-dollar clients.
That is me solving the tension of business, which is boots on the ground and practical. As far as tension goes, that is the grit. The grace side of it would be treating everyone equal. At the same time, grace if went way overboard, you’d say, “No. Every client deserves all my time. I should spend all my time every day with all my clients.” I burn out and I’m no good to no one. There is a balance there. The way I solve that, for example, at work is realizing that I approach every day and it’s not my job to figure that out. It’s my job to help solve problems, serve people and use grace as my mentality. I don’t worry if they’re a million our client or not. I serve them to the best of my ability and trusting under the main tension that I’m human. I can burn out but God is sovereign. He’s not going to let me burn out as long as I’m in His wheel and all that. For me, it’s treating everyone and realizing that I believe that I can get more done with less time if I approach everyone and try to solve their problems. Not just spend time with them and check the box but solve their problems. You can get it done way faster than you think.We don’t get joy and fulfillment from having. We get joy and fulfillment from being in life, not from acquiring but from inquiring. Click To Tweet
I like that. You know me. I love breaking it down to steps. First, you have to see yourself clearly in where you’re at on that spectrum. You have to act accordingly in where you’re at on the spectrum. It’s because of the training of golf, I’m prone to be extra hard on myself that I’m now prioritizing rest and emphasizing showing grace to myself and others because I’m weak in that. In the season of rest, I’m trying not to work as much or only work to not be proactively working but being active in what God brings by faith and not hustling for more. I tend to be too hard on myself showing grace to myself in those moments is what I need. I’m seeing myself in the day and trying to recognize what I need on that day. For people reading, if you can see where you’re at and what you need at that moment, it’s going to help you know where you’re out on the spectrum and know what you need that day. It’s like what you were talking about with your clients. If we can love God and love others, that solves all our problems.
Those are great points. The audience will appreciate this because all our minds wander all the time, but mine happened to wander in on me and her name is Faith and I’m always wandering. That was a great point, Thane. Faith, literally the person not the virtue, walked into my life and pointed at me. She pointed her stomach and said, “Hungry.” That means it’s time to go.
It is time to go. We definitely rambled quite a bit. This is a good exercise of not knowing. We practice that well. Maybe that’s also how we should end, have some faith. To all of you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week.
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About Adam Setser
Vocationally I am a Financial Advisor at The Kerrigan Group, but my background is in divinity. I graduated from The Masters University in Los Angeles with my BA in Biblical Languages, and am on temporary leave from my MA in Theology at SBTS.
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