In January 2010 something remarkable happened. I was two years into starting a business with my family and on the outside things seemed to be going well. Internally, things were a mess. I was 23 years old and asking myself, “Who am I and what’s my purpose?” I tried a lot of answers to those questions but nothing satisfied me. At this point I had been attending church faithfully for a year, but on this night the light came on. I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
This January marks 10 years I’ve been a Christian. I can’t imagine my life any other way. I’ve learned a lot over these 10 years, so here are 10 things of faith and leadership that I’ve learned over this time.
1. Being is more important than doing
I’m tied between an enneagram 1 and 3. By nature I’m an achiever and achieving is where I find my identity. If I don’t achieve or if I fail, it crushes me hard. I will resort to self shaming tactics to motivate me to do better, work harder, and achieve more. It’s pretty bad and very dangerous. I have to work hard to trust in who God says I am and not what my inner critic says about me. My life verse and mantra has become:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20, ESV
2. Smaller is better
I used to think that everything I do needs to be big and it needs to happen fast. I’ve learned that this may look great but it’s not always healthy and is often short lived. Starting something small allows me the opportunity to learn and grow at a healthy pace. When things get bigger I actually have the competency to lead on a larger scale. I believe that this kind of pace is the way that God intended things to be done (Mt. 13:31-33).
3. Love is a feeling and an action
In my Christian upbringing love was always defined as an action and was based on what you do for God and others. The idea that it could be a feeling was something that was often frowned upon. I was told that in large part that I should not be led by my feelings nor trust them. I understand what these gracious people were trying to say, but it became detrimental to my faith because I never validated the way I felt. Perhaps I was too young to know how to weigh the two. Love felt like this cold transaction I must complete.
I’ve learned that feelings are extremely important and sound the alarm for serious things internally and also help you experience great joy and happiness in life. I ended up stuffing my emotions and it always came back to haunt me. I learned how to do Christianity and I failed to learn how to be a Christian.
I know God loves me by the fact he sent his son Jesus to die on my behalf so I can have life here and for eternity. Love is also something I feel from God based on the fact he sent his Son. I think these moments of feeling God’s love are very life giving and give me the ability to have the stamina to keep going. However, just because I don’t “feel” God’s love doesn’t mean I don’t know God loves me. God loves me regardless of how I feel about it. Everything needs to be in its proper place.
4. Play the long game
As I get older I think about things like a crock-pot and not like a microwave. I want to develop a faith and things that will last. Patience has become a valued virtue. Less knee jerk reaction and more waiting on the right timing. Less urgency and more patience. God always has a way of doing things in his time and its always the best.
5. Integrity is better than reputation
As a young and ambitious man, I want to do great things and be known for it. I want my accomplishments to speak for me. I want a reputation as someone who works hard and accomplishes much.
When I step back, all of this is wrapped in doing. This cycle has led me in an endless spiral of a works based life where I will never be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished and always feeling that God is never satisfied with me. This thought pattern leads me feeling like I always need to accomplish more.
Instead I want to be a man of integrity. I want to be known for being the right person. I believe it is people of integrity who always accomplish the most important things, but don’t always have the spotlight.
6. People pleasing is not God’s will
At the age of 33 I have figured out I can never please enough people. When I go down the route of people pleasing I find out that I become who everyone else wants me to be instead of who God has designed me to be. I lose myself and my identity. The image of God is distorted in my life because I’m too busy trying to look like what people want me to look like.
Paul writes in Galatians that when we become people pleasers we are no longer servants of Christ (Ga. 1:10). Here’s a layman’s way of saying it: “You can’t people please and follow Jesus at the same time.”
The tough part about this is when you transition from people pleasing to God pleasing, you lose people along the way because you no longer fit their agenda. However, being on God’s agenda is the most fruitful and joyful life you can ever imagine!
7. Self care is not selfish
Over the last two years I have focused more on self care than ever before. I could not sustain the pace I was going. A lot of this had to do with my people pleasing tendencies. I didn’t wake up to this until I got married and I realized how unhealthy my pace was for my wife and myself.
I’m thankful for a wife whose life mission is health: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. She has been a God send to me. When I’m healthy, my marriage is healthy. When I’m healthy, my work is healthy. If I don’t care for myself, everything else suffers.
Over the last two years rest and health have become a priority to me and I’ve implemented new daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly rhythms to insure this kind of self care.
8. Leadership is king
I wholeheartedly believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. Leaders create ceilings. Some are short ceilings and some are tall. If they are short, your best leaders will leave because they are suppressed and you’ll gather a bunch of “yes men” around you. If they are high, you liberate others to create and do their best work. If we want better workplaces and better churches, we need better leaders. My life work is to become a better leader and to equip and deploy better leaders.
9. Perfectionism is one of my greatest enemies
One of my core values is excellence. It kills me when I can’t do something to the best of my ability or the best that it can be. Everything needs to be perfect. This type of thinking has kept me from doing my best work because I’m always waiting on something to be good enough.
Deep down I know that perfectionism is not real, but I still want what I do to be good. However, the only way to make it good is to execute, assess, and re-configure. In some ways, going public with something that I don’t think is up to par is the perfect way to bring it up to par because it gives people the opportunity to celebrate it or criticize it. If I don’t share, I’ll never know if what I’m doing is worth value or not.
10. Family First
I saved the best for last. If I miss this, I miss it all. If I accomplish much, but leave my family behind, I’ve failed. Leading a family is difficult and joyful, hard but good. It is the greatest training ground in leadership I’ve ever known. It is a place where God brings me back to reality. God has been gracious to give me a wife that sharpens me more than anyone and challenges me in the best ways.
I hope at the end of my life my wife and kids know that I loved them fiercely. I hope they know they were always the most important people in my life. First and foremost, I want to be known as a great husband and father!