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Being Inspired (Part 2)
Every great writer knows the key to great writing is the profound answer: one who writes. Those expecting some trade secret are deeply disappointed to find the lack of any silver bullet. Artists are simply people who don’t give up.
They keep doing whatever it is they do. It is not that they are particularly profound at it. It is simply the discipline they make to keep doing it. Day in and day out they do it. Eventually the rest of the world sees their tenacity as vindication.
And to do it well some have had to root out things that took control of their life. They have had to fight simply for the normalcy and frame of mind to do what they do. That’s why they are fighters. They have learned to fight off things.
They know how many things come against vision. They know how many things will come against the daily habit of committing to something. The average person will simply not have the will power to stick with something so profoundly.
Do we have the courage to do the mundane things necessary to get something off the ground. 90% of the work is simple, daily, checklist stuff that simply needs to get done. Little steps one by one by one...rolling the ball up the hill.
Leaders know that you push long enough on those details and against that ball pretty soon you are at the top of that hill. The ride down will be much different. There is nothing like that feeling of knowing you are almost to that edge.
Most people quit just about there. Before they can experience the fruits of their labor they stop. Seeds left to their own accord without proper care will not flourish. There is too much against a fresh root making its way healthily into this world.
Do I have what it takes? That is really the question isn’t it? Or that is at least what we think is the question. The question secretly assumes there is some magic formula to successful people. They have some special qualities I don’t have. Wrong!
Success is actually a matter of rather boring insignificance. Do I do the things day in and day out that “prove the sincerity of my love?” Do I actually do the activities? Do I honestly evaluate and take the next steps, however small?
It sounds like will power, or working harder than anyone else. Not really. It is not exclusively a work ethic issue. It is more about what Bill Hybel’s called “Grit.” It is the determination to continue in the face of adversity with face like a flint.
It embraces the conflicts necessary, it doesn’t try to resolve them. No matter what things come up it is not looking for cheap vindication. Adversity is not a “sign” that this is not the right thing to be doing. It proves it is!
It is focus. It is clarity. It is mindfulness. It is listening. To your own life. It is all built right into it. It is there. Inside us. Everything we need. We will need help interpreting, unlocking the mystery inside. That is one of life’s great challenges.
Being Inspired (Part 1)
In the end what makes someone great is not ability or natural talent. It’s receptibility. If we have any sort of true definition of inspiration (something being “inspired”) then the shift goes from the person making the stuff to the spirit inspiring it.
We have all sat through novice performances of someone who definitely believed they were inspired but clearly (painfully) were not. They may have loved it dearly, but natural talent and grace were clearly missing. What of such people and occasions?
Were they missing the real voice of inspiration? Was it a bad spirit? Were they simply misguided and confused? Did they stubbornly refuse to hear correctly the actual truth (they were forcing it rather than receiving it)? Good questions.
Such exceptions are important to study but probably prove the rule more than break it. Inspiration finds its way to the right people. And the right people may not have the most talent and may at first be hard to believe are inspired. She picks who she will.
Over the centuries we can also think of a handful of people who became the right people for their generation without proper training or background in their area. They were exceptions to the rule that showed what mattered most.
What some call the “zeitgeist” is simply the ability to animate (or be animated) by the spirit of the age. Certain people are picked as mouthpieces for their time. Against all odds they make it to a place of authority or renown where their voice is heard.
Why them? Why their voice? We don’t know, except to say it seems like the forces of nature came together to make it happen. There is a sense of destiny, inevitability, mystery. God worked in them to get something across or done.
It almost seems there is a common thread of reluctance, or at least passive reception. Think of Jospeh. He had dreams. Yes. Vision? Yes. Passively received. David. He had ambition. Yes. Courage? Yes. Was not seeking to be king.
Those with too much specific ambition to get a certain category or recognition seem to be missing the point. Even if they do end up “winning,” what have they won? Not the hearts of the people. The people are attracted to the zeitgeist.
It’s why Youtube can’t support already-made-it celebrities. They have already “won” their prize, Youtube is essentially for people who refuse to play the traditional systems and can still, through perceived natural processes, win a category.
How someone succeeds matters to people today (far more than it used to). Their story is an inevitable part of their branding. People’s work is not taken at face value (think the local FW poet who used an Asian alias to get the same work denied published).
We have purists at every step of the way, checking not the credentials of our last name or pedigree (artifacts of the past), but making sure we did not get an unfair advantage. Content is not enough today, we have to have a story!
The Power of YOU (Addendum)
Competence is such a slippery concept. It is tied so directly to our worthiness. What makes us think we can do what it is we do. There will always be scoffers, people who think we are not qualified to do the job we have been called to do.
Sometimes we are the scoffer. We mock ourselves enough. We literally struggle to see how it is we can do what we are supposed to do. “I’m in over my head.” We’ve all sensed that feeling of being over-whelmed, but who says the “over” part?
In other words, who tells us we are out of our league? Who gets to define the league. It is ultimately us. Certainly many of the challenges we face will be new to us. Others will seem to be seasoned pros. All they have is experience, not expertise.
That’s the qualifier we often forget in self-loathing. Just because people have been doing it longer does NOT make them better. Their experience creates a mirage of confidence and competence that simply may not really be there.
Competence sounds so official, so definitive. Our tendency is to let others define what competence is. In our utilitarian ways we base it on the “average.” “Well, compared to others...”, we create a whole system upon computing average competency.
The implied message is that we “should” be competent in every area. To be a fully-functioning human (what some call a “contributor”), we need to have a working level of competence in basically every area of life (think the subjects in school).
And while there is a general sense to where a working knowledge of all subjects is helpful, our tendency is to want to be great (or “the best”) in every area. We compare ourselves with experts in each area and beat ourselves up for not being better.
As we get older (and hopefully wiser) we learn to accept our limitations, but some still with a tinge of bitterness. Instead, let someone great in one area inspire you to be great in yours. Who cares that you are not good at someone else’s “what.”
Don’t let anyone else define for you what success is. Many people will cut in on your race and offer suggestions. Don’t let them. They will try to make you their version of whatever it is. They have no authority or responsibility to do so.
We are alone held accountable for our lives. We can not blame anyone else for our ultimate decisions. Who we deeply are outside even of our actions is the person we have to listen to. No one else knows that person like we do.
The most well meaning people can be the most dangerously dead wrong. Listen to your life. Listen to the deep voice inside yourself. Certainly we can gather insight from trusted people on who we are, but it is us doing the asking, not them.
My race is no one else’s. Finishing my race implies NOT finishing yours. I am not accountable to finish someone else’s. That means I must know my race. That alone may be the one single, solitary, most important thing we ever do. God help us.
The Power of YOU (Part 7)
At some point you will get to the very edge. Some things will be going great. Some things will be bombing. Nothing will be easy. You will wonder the inevitable but un-answerable question: is it worth it? Is this worth the sacrifice?
What’s at stake in the push? Well, our families, our health, our well-being, our financial security, our future, our balance. All those things have to go into the realm of secondary when we really believe their is a calling on our life from God.
Of course there are rewards along the way. There are little celebrations that remind us why we do it anyway. There are also temptations. There are new opportunities, both to succeed and to fail. And in the end, there is the question of who we are.
Who am I, and what do I think I am doing here? Who do I think I am to lead such a charge? Do I even have what it takes? Do I, more importantly, even want it? These are the questions that resonate deeply, out of which creative tension gives birth.
It is exactly the fact that we can not answer those questions ourselves that we dive in. “Wisdom is vindicated by her children.” We don’t so much get to “prove” ourselves worthy, rather our work itself and its outcomes alone can justify.
There is something, in other words, in the work itself that we need to discover who we are. People will poke and prod at us, in the process up we will have early critics and others who challenge us not to do it. They are stuck on the “how.”
Like Abraham and Moses they had no “proof” God was with them. Moses asked, “suppose I go and they ask who sent me? What shall I tell them” (Ex 3.13)? Even after being answered then he again asks a bunch of questions and doubts.
“What if they don’t believe” (4.1), “I am slow in speech,” (v.10, and finally “please send someone else” (v.13). Moses was after something could not full be gotten before going. He was wanting definitive proof before he took a step toward Egypt.
No matter our excuses for not initially doing that thing that resonates deeply inside us we eventually don’t win the debate. “But...um...how...?” get replaced with the simple but profound “go...go...go.” We ultimately move toward trust or we start to die.
We can not say “no” to life. That is not really an option. Of course people do, but they pay the price. It is steep. Saying “no” to life means denying it, and ultimately saying “yes” to its opposite. “Losing our soul” (Lk 9.25) is the necessary response.
It’s hard to estimate the “opportunity cost” for the times we have said “no.” God is a God of “yes” (2 Cor 1.20). We would rather him say “no” at times. We would rather him make up our minds for us. The universe, though, humbly submits to our wishes.
Our sovereignty is protected throughout. No one can make the decision for us. No one can will for us. Not even God. He simply submits the option and waits for our discretion. “What will we do?” Yes. Simply decide. It is yours!
The Power of YOU (Part 6)
It is easy to see ourselves mostly in light of what we produce. We get very attached to our contributions to the world. We are excited to use our skills to make a difference. That is a good thing. Our skills will not always be there for us.
And many times our contributions to the world become more about us than about the world. In other words, we need it more than anyone else. We get used to things going a certain way and we learn to expect and almost need it to go that way.
Sometimes our deep desire to contribute comes not from a place of benevolence and concern but of self-doubt and the need to “prove” ourselves worthy. There is almost no escaping this need to prove in a world so full of vocal doubters.
It forces us to really qualify ourselves and what we are doing. Why are we doing it? What is it we are really after? Am I the right person for the job? Do I really have a sense of calling about this? What is it am really after here?
Somewhere in this process of self-defining and differentiating we find it. We find the core thing we are really about. We thought it was over here doing this but really it is farther out being this. It’s not usually the thing we thought it was.
What we do is not usually the thing. How we do it, or Who we are is what makes it so special. There are a thousand other guys that do this or that. Quickly surveying the vast sea of “whatters” can make you feel completely insignificant.
Our outputs are always replaceable. Our outcomes are not. No one else can effect change the way we do. No one else can represent the things we do. No one else can be the presence we are. No one else has our unique voicing.
That is the true power of you, or at least those that understand the enormous potential in their concept of self. There is no one like me. I am necessary, inevitable, compelling because I am self-realized. There is no greater power to connect and lead.
Without self-realization we can not realize the self in others. In other words, if we are left wanting of ourselves, we will apply the same to others. Understanding our own unique calling and vision is essential to helping anyone else find their voice.
It does come down to resourcing. But as every young adult knows, getting money with old strings attached is not worth it. If we are going to do what we need to do right, it needs to be funded the right way. We need to find the right money.
That is the last step of the generative process: reflect, create, and realize. Realizing our creative vision means much more than simply creating the work. We need to realize it in its full cultural context. This step requires great resources.
I have made it one of my life’s main goals to help generate the incubation capital for really creative and worthy initiatives. Resourcing means far more than simply providing money, I mean to provide support, marketing, “mavening” and sales.