I spent much of my life thus far avoiding routine. Growing up, I viewed routine as the opposite of enjoyment. The house I grew up in was a place of routine, and I tried to imagine my way out of it. Well, except for the daily times that held routine Breakfast of cereal, routine lunch of sandwiches and leftovers, and routine dinner of routine choices. I never willingly missed a meal growing up. My parents had a rule when I was little that we were allowed thirty minutes of TV per day. Eventually, that evolved to a whole hour. If my sisters and I were inside, we were reading (well they were reading and I was trying to get them come and play outside with me), or were doing chores, or we were outside. 

One time during college, Mom, Jessica and Tricia invited me to go to Panera with them on a Saturday morning. Within 5 minutes, I wondered why I was there. They weren’t talking about anything that was overly funny, world changing, or philosophical. They were talking about the details of what they were doing each day, and I distinctly remember feeling confused. How could anyone remember this much detail of what they had done and where they had been while doing those things. After that, I didn’t go to Panera with them anymore. 
Which takes me back to the part I was sharing before. When I say I resisted routine, I have another way of saying this:

I didn’t like the idea of being ordinary. 

To me, ordinary was a waste of time. I wanted a story that was bigger than that. I wanted to feel like my life was taking on more effect than just being “ordinary” as I did “routine” things. 

In February of 2016, I moved up to Boise. I went to spend time with my Mom. She was still in good enough health that she walked 2-3 miles a day a year into stage 4 cancer. Within three weeks of being there, Mom was in a wheelchair. 

Every day, I would cook breakfast, and then I would transfer her from her wheelchair to a new seat in the room, back to her wheelchair, and then to another seat. A few years before this, I had traveled to 7 countries in Africa, and climbed Kilimanjaro. Now, I was in the house helping take care of a sick parent. 
Something happened while I was there I never expected. I began to love routine. There wasn’t a rush to do many things, and in the lack of rush, things slowed down. 

Sometimes it felt like we were in a continuum, and I didn’t know when this world would change. It was maddening to see my Mom grow weaker and weaker with time. I could talk about the other challenges that happened while there, but sometime during it I came to understand the power of ordinary. 

As much as I may like to talk and feel deep, stand on mountains, and attempt to swim oceans, I found that there is nothing to begrudge about the ordinary. That’s where we live most of our lives. 
This is for every person who sees the incredible life someone else is living on social media, and says, “I wish that was me.” This is for every man turning a wrench, and for every woman changing a diaper. Or maybe it’s a woman turning a wrench, and a man changing a diaper. There is nothing glorious about the ordinary, routine moments of life except for everything about this ordinary, routine life. 

The past week, life has been slowing down around me, like the end of an episode of LOST when the music starts and the camera pans slowly across each character’s face. It is like life has slowed down, and I’ve started seeing people again. I stopped rushing through every moment, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to linger in the present moment. Where are we rushing off to anyway? 

When I’m eating with friends, I see the expressions of concern, joy, outrage, and confusion on their faces, and I love them more than I did before. I love them because I’m learning to look, and it’s not from the top of a mountain I’m seeing these views. The love is in these everyday, ordinary moments of life. This is where the power is, because this is where the love is, if we can only stop to see, experience, and accept that maybe the powerful didn’t only happen while we were on top of a mountain. It happened while we were washing dishes, writing letters, sipping a cup of coffee, crying in our loss, and laughing with our friends. The secret power of ordinary is that your life is not ordinary. The routine, ordinary moments are this life we have. There is nothing ordinary about being alive. 

What do you have when you’re down to nothing? This is a question I’ve thought about over the past few years. You can be down to nothing in relationships, or in money, education, or in work. What is interesting is that we often refer to these things as if they are what make us something. If you run out of these things, then what do you have? Once again I ask, what do you have when you’re down to nothing?

I think this is a secret Jesus understood about life. Philippians 2:6-7 says Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing…”

The one person in the universe who is as big as it gets, “being in very nature God”, made himself nothing. Jesus path took him from having control over everything to making himself nothing. Yet, the one who made himself nothing has had greater impact than all the many people who have tried to make themselves something.

There is a great power to becoming nothing.

Paul says, In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:5. In other words, we don’t have to spend our lives trying to act like we’re something. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with relationships, money, education, and work. In fact, they are great things. However, they won’t make you something, and as long as you’re trying to find yourself in those things, you wind up empty.

I’m really amazed that Jesus would make himself nothing. It isn’t logical to me that God would choose to become a human, and humble himself even to dying on a cross for our sins. I love this lyric by Hillsong United, “Faith makes a fool of what makes sense, but grace found my heart where logic ends.”

Here is something I believe to be true. Jesus was able to make himself nothing because he knew who he was. It wasn’t that Jesus was nobody, or just anybody. He understood he was somebody who was here for a purpose, a greater purpose than any other human has ever known. Because Jesus knew he was somebody loved by God, even that he was the Son of God, Jesus was able to make himself nothing. What’s the secret?

When you know the God of the universe loves you and is with you every step of the way, you don’t have to prove anything to anybody. You can let God love you. You can walk away from defining yourself by the relationships, money, education, or job that you have. You don’t have to try to become something to impress anybody. Instead, you can rest in being who God made you to be. You can enjoy the great power of making yourself nothing.

A lot of people chase after becoming something, but all the things they chased after slip through their fingers. They thought they would have everything, but now they’re down to nothing. The chase to become something never ends. That’s why I like the choice Jesus made. He didn’t randomly end up down to nothing. It was a choice as to how he would define himself, and how he would go through life. When you make yourself nothing, you realize all you have is all you need. What is it that you have when you make yourself nothing? You have the one thing God gave you that no one can take from you, but you can give to everyone. Love.

Are you experiencing more clarity or more confusion as you venture further into 2017? A lot of people start the year with a bang, but then certain levels of resistance show up, and they slowly shrink back from their objectives for the year. The clarity they had gives way to confusion. That’s a big reason why I decided to launch The Convergence with David Skidmore, a podcast designed to help you live with clarity and connection. Life can become overwhelming and confusing, and this podcast will help you live and lead with clarity and connection. In each conversation, you have the opportunity to learn from focused leaders who are making an impact in their environment. You can listen to the podcasts on iTunes (Mobile or Computer) or on SoundCloud.

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The format of The Convergence with David Skidmore is a conversation with high impact leaders who give practical advice to help you live and lead with clarity and connection. Here are the episodes we have made for you so far in 2017:

#1. How To Set Goals and Stay Focused with Bryan Clifton. In this conversation, Bryan and I  talk about some practical ways so that you can stay on track in reaching your goals. Bryan shares three specific types of goals to help you succeed over the long haul. This episode will help you clarify your goals and stay focused on what you want.

#2. Rhinoceros Success: How To Build with Endurance with Dale Bresee. In this conversation, we talk about how cows plod through life (slow pace of life). On the other hand, rhinos charge hard, and then go jump in a mud bath (vacation/rest.) We talk about how to plan your year by using three specific types of days, and how to set yourself up to charge hard so that you can build a great business.

#3. How To Pull Off A Large Creative Project with Brianna Gaither. If you want to learn about the process of pulling off a large creative project, you are going to love this conversation. Brianna is an expert in this area, as she just finished writing and recording a new album called “Vanity”, and simultaneously filming and directing Resonate: A film to help you identify and unlock your creative potential. You will hear us talk about how God created us to create, and an idea of what it looks like behind the scenes on a creative project. You also will get to hear a sample of two of Brianna’s new songs.

#4. How To Overcome The Fear of Rejection with Catherine Brown. Has the fear of rejection been holding you back from realizing your dreams? If so, you’re going to love this conversation with Catherine Brown, the founder and president of Initial Call. In today’s conversation, Catherine and I talk about what happens in your mind when you’re afraid, how we interpret and internalize rejection, and some excellent tools to help you kick the fear of rejection in the face.

After you check out the podcasts, would you do me a favor, and rate/review The Convergence with David Skidmore in the app if you have found it helps you live and lead with clarity and connection. That would mean a lot. Thanks for all the love, support, and feedback.

Listen to The Convergence with David Skidmore now on iTunes (Mobile or Computer) or on SoundCloud.

 

Saying Goodbye

December 27, 2016 — 2 Comments

Awhile back, I was working for an organization, and I noticed around the holidays that a lot of us in the organization seemed to start checking out. We were showing up to work, but we weren’t getting much work done. Looking back on it, I think the calendar was controlling us, more than we were controlling the calendar. What do I mean by this? There was a sense for many of us that we were done with that year. We were ready for the new year.

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Have you ever had those moments when you showed up, but you weren’t really all there? I think it’s easy to do in these final days of a year. You may be thinking about what new thing you want to start in a new year. You may just be feeling exhausted from this year, and want to be done with it. I understand that feeling. Before you finish 2016, I want to encourage you to do something.

Take time to say goodbye. There are probably some habits, transitions, or moments in this year that you need to which you need to say goodbye. When we don’t end things well, they continue on into our future. Those bad habits, moments, or changes that don’t have an ending to them often grow around our future like a weed, and choke the life out of it. Yes, it is easy to look into the future, and hope for a better year. However, simply hoping or wishing for something better does not mean it will happen. When we are able to articulate what we want, and what we don’t want, then we are able to take steps towards becoming the kind of person we want to be.

When I took inventory over this past year, I noticed that in the transitions I experienced, I was often searching for solid ground to stand on. Rather than live on the foundation of Jesus Christ, I often lived for the approval of what others would say about me. I know what it is like to be co-dependent in my approach to life. If we’re not careful, those old habits will choke out the good things growing in our lives like a garden weed. I needed to say goodbye, so I did. And I will keep this, and other things I said goodbye to in front of me in this new year. For me, the statement looked like this.

“I am saying goodbye to letting my life be guided by a fear of what other people think of me. I choose to live in my Father’s love, and under His approval and affirmation.”

Do you have some things you need to say goodbye to in 2016? Are there some things that you need to end, so that you can start well in a new year?  I hope you take some time to say goodbye to what you need to so that you can gain some momentum as you head into this new year.

Question: What do you need to say goodbye to in 2016?

Most people I talk to have unreasonable and unrealistic standards of comparison for their life. I find this to be especially true about twenty-somethings. This happens when you find a model of “perfection”, and then measure yourself in comparison to this model. If you’re an athlete, maybe your standard is Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, or Russell Westbrook (Sidenote: Russ is doing such ridiculous things on the court this season that if you’re within 3 hours 8 hours of OKC, go watch him this season.)  If you’re measuring yourself in business, you could find a model standard like Buffett or Zuckerburg. If you’re aspiring in fashion or modeling, maybe you’re standard is a Kardashian or Tom Ford. When you begin to compare, you can think that perfection is a level to attain. One of the reasons why measuring yourself based off your perception of perfection is that perfection is a moving target. (Photo from Daily Mail.)

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When do you ever arrive? The answer is, “You don’t.” Your standards aren’t static. Who you compare yourself to will change with time. Standards are meant to be broken, and perfection is something we don’t reach. This is how we are wired. And it’s not just you. (Do you think the Kardashians don’t have someone they wish they looked more like? Do you think Russell doesn’t wish he had a few traits of someone else in the NBA, past or present?)

The question is what do we do with our standards of comparison? Even if you don’t refer to the standard as “perfect”, you can make yourself miserable trying to measure up to the success you perceive that they have. When you fail at reaching a standard, you will probably do one of two things.

  1. You will keep trying to reach that standard. You will keep aiming for the moving target, and find yourself frustrated that you never hit it. That’s the nature of comparison.
  2. You will pretend like you don’t care about the standard anymore. Instead of making progress in the areas you once made progress, you’ll probably make excuses based off your perception of your own failings. Internally, you’ll likely make comparisons, but it will just be a reminder that you’re not as far along as you wish you were.

If these are the likely outcomes of comparison, then how do you keep yourself from always missing, or being cynical about life? I would like to propose a third way of going about the comparison game.

First though, I want to give a bit of background on my thoughts about most people. Here is what I believe. You are probably doing better than you think you’re doing. Sure, there are some areas where you’re not bringing your A game. You’re not perfect after all. It’s hard to remember that when you measure yourself based off of others. So here is the third way.

“Create realistic standards of comparisons with yourself.”

Many people create standards of comparison for themselves. I am saying to compete and compare with yourself. You know your default mode better than anyone else does, and better than anyone else ever can. You know when you are likely to quit. You can continue to challenge yourself, and create genuine growth in your life. I know it may sound a little bit crazy to turn the comparison inward, but you can actually begin to see how much you’ve grown over a long period of time when you compete with yourself. Compare with yourself. Compete with yourself.

This past Monday, I used 65 lbs dumbbells on . When I finished my first set, a guy sat down on the bench next to mine, and started pushing up 90 lbs dumbbells. Instantly, I felt like I was weak. Then, I remembered the story of this year. On January 1st, 2016 my sister, Tricia took me to the weight room She was five months pregnant at the time, and she put me through a workout. In this workout, I used 15 pound weights for bench press, curls, lunges, and anything else we did. I was in such bad shape that 20 minutes into the workout, I threw up. It was embarrassing, and I felt discouraged. But I stayed with it. I did a Beachbody workout at home. The first three weeks, I only used resistance bands. Then, I started using a gym, and went to 35 lbs dumbbells for my bench press. Now, I’m up to 65 lbs. I plan on continuing to grow in this, and reach some of my weightlifting goals as I go forward. A year ago, I would have struggled to even pick up 65 lbs dumbbells. I was telling myself a story that I was failing, because I was comparing to someone else. I needed to be reminded of who I am actually competing with, and that is myself.

You probably have some areas in your life where you have grown a lot over the past one, two, or five years. You’re probably doing better than you think you are, but it’s hard to accept your growth, and lean into future growth when you hold on to unrealistic standards of comparison. Create realistic standards of comparisons with yourself. What are you capable of doing in work? How would you approach your spirituality if you were challenging yourself to go beyond what you normally do? How would you go about giving in your relationships if you competed with your past efforts? How much better of a listener could you become if you were to set a realistic standard of comparison that would help you become better than you were in the past? You are probably doing better than you think you are. If not, it is simple enough. Create a realistic standard of comparison with yourself, and then go to work competing with your past efforts.

Question: What is one specific area you want to improve in that you can compete with yourself to become a better version of yourself?

Transitioning well is one of the hardest things you can do. Many people find themselves thrown off the tracks by transition, and have a hard time moving forward again. One of my friends is a coach for men in transition because the transitions he went through were so difficult they almost decimated him. Change is a big deal in life. God set change into the fabric of the universe. You can choose how you will go through change, but you can’t change that change is going to happen. How do you want to go about change? Here are five ways I’ve learned to navigate the changes and transitions of life successfully.

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1. Transition with Honesty. When you’re in transition, it is paramount that you are honest about where you are in transition. While this is important in all areas of life, if you gloss over the realities you are currently facing during a transition, you will most likely suffer the consequences of this later.Navigating change effectively requires difficult work. If you don’t do the difficult work now, you will have to face a lot more of it later. When you’re in a transition, the change stirs up things inside of you. Take time to admit what is being stirred up inside of you.  Some things in your heart you might rather not acknowledge we’ll be pressed on. Some of these may be wonderful moments you cherish, or they could be emotional wounds that haven’t been redeemed and are infected. It may be sad memories, fearful tendencies, or bitter feelings. Go ahead and recognize those. You cannot change or heal what you do not acknowledge. Transition is an excellent time to work things out with a journal, and a counselor can help you navigate these areas as well.

2. Transition with Thanksgiving. Gratitude changes the climate of your own life. When you are thankful, it reminds you of the good things in your life. Transitioning with thanksgiving reminds you of what you have come through, and even acknowledges that good things come about in time from change. Does this mean that everything is something you’re thankful for? No. You don’t have to be thankful for all things, but there is something sweet about being thankful in all things. Throughout the challenges, may gratitude lead you forward. A grateful heart is a heart that can both give and receive, which is crucial during transition.

3. Transition with Prayer. I can’t overstate the importance of praying through transition. Prayer is wonderful. Prayer is often abrupt, and it doesn’t need to be planned. However, writing your prayers down during a transition can be very powerful, because you can look back and see how God worked through your transition. When you face a big change in the future, you can remind yourself of how God has been faithful in the past. It is also important to remember that the Holy Spirit guides us into the goodness of God, and when we pray, we are inviting God to guide us. One of the things my Grandma says about prayer is this. “God will change the situation, God will change the other person, or God will change me.” I often find that the one being changed most through prayer is me, and I believe that is because prayer is connection with God. The more time we intentionally connecting with the Lord, the more time that God will shape us through and in our prayers.

4. Transition with Guidance. Don’t try to walk through transition alone. It is important to have some friends around you who will encourage you, and some mentors who can guide you through these times. I remember some very special conversations with six of my mentors in Tulsa when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. They were both a comfort, and an encouragement to me. I see so many people trying to walk through their difficult alone. I hope you transition with some people who you can trust. By the way, if you’re not in a difficult transition, go ahead and find some mentors now. Their voices will be a blessing to you now, and when the days of change come, they can help you navigate through those moments better than you would on your own.

5. Transition with Hope. When you are in transition, it is crucial to make the change with a big picture of hope in the future. When we go through difficult changes without a sense of hope, we will often do everything we can to avoid, numb, and pretend the transition isn’t happening. Real hope is one of the most powerful agents for moving through transition well. The sun will rise again, and good will come again. You are not alone, and your best days are not behind you. The best is yet to come. Don’t give up in the transition because you can’t see what’s before you. There is hope.

What would it look like if you went into transition with honesty, thanksgiving, prayer, guidance, and hope? How would you respond if you saw these as paramount to making changes in a healthy way. Imagine what you might gain from making these decisions in your transition.

Questions:  Which one of these five choices is most difficult for you to do in transition? What is one specific way you could choose to incorporate that choice in the changes of life?

Do you ever wonder how this year went by so quickly? It is amazing how much change can happen in one year. Life moves at an unbelievable pace. This year, I have lived in three different cities (Tulsa, Boise, and Oklahoma City.) I ended a contract with a non-profit/church fusion in Tulsa, and left to help take care of my Mom in Boise for 6 months. There, I was able to experience seeing her transition from this life into the life to come with the Lord. After Mom passed away, I began another transition. This changing season included learning a new normal of life without my Mom’s presence involved in the day to day. I also moved from Boise to Oklahoma City, and began to work in Oklahoma City as a consultant. I ended my pursuit of a master’s degree, and enter a leadership training experience for young leaders. Oh yeah, I also sold my 3 bedroom house in Tulsa, and then moved my 3 bedrooms of possessions into one bedroom, changed lifestyle habits, and began to find a new church home. That is a lot of change in one year.

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When I was a freshmen in college, I took a Psychology class. They said that people who dealt with enormous changes as listed above would be overwhelmed with stress, and that seemed to lead towards nervous breakdowns or like responses. Don’t worry, I haven’t had a nervous breakdown. In fact, this year has been an incredible year of growth, relationship, and opportunity. Endings are hard. Beginnings can be hard. Yet, change provides opportunity for growth. A friend reminded me today, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” Change is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.

What do you do when everything changed? Sometimes, this happens with relationships as you grow distant from some, and closer to others. You may have a changed worldview. Maybe the things that were once important to you changed, and you have a different outlook according to your values.

Here are three things not to do during big transitions.

  1. Don’t Pretend The Change Didn’t Happen. This isn’t helpful. Accepting the changes is one of the more important shifts you have to make. Burying our heads in the sand pretending everything is how it was will keep us from growing, and keep the thoughts of what was spinning in our minds. When we hold on so dearly to what was, we cannot fully embrace what is, and what can be. Yes, there are moments, people, and memories to cherish.
  2. Don’t Predict Your Emotional Responses In Advance. Brené Brown talks about this in The Gifts of Imperfection. When we plan out our emotional responses, we are numbing from the reality of the experience. When you numb the sorrow, you also numb the joy. One of the most important resources for you in a difficult time is joy over the good things, but it is hard to find the joy when you have numbed yourself to what is gone. We all have our own ways of medicating or numbing what  hurts. The important thing is to recognize your medicating habit, move away from it, and in the meantime drop the guard of predicting your emotional behavior. Instead, allow yourself to feel the depths of sorrow, and the heights of joy. This will help you move through the changes you experience so that you can metabolize them, and then move forward.
  3. Don’t Let Fear Control Your Decisions. We’re all afraid. When you have gone through significant changes, it is easy to let fear dictate your next step. In an effort to make sure you don’t disrupt the good relationships you have had, you might try to be the person you were before the change happened. You aren’t the same person you were, and you don’t have to live in fear that people won’t accept you. If they cannot accept the person you are growing into, there may be an ending to the nature of the present relationship. You may not be as close as you once were with someone, but it is better for them to reject the real you than to love a lesser form of who you are. In my experience, the ones who love you for who you are will be thrilled about positive changes in your life, and will be excited to grow into a new season with you. I encourage you to be strong and courageous. Maybe you’ll feel weak and fearful. It’s okay to feel afraid. After all, that’s when courage counts most. You can act with courage.

Question: What have you found to be helpful in facing big changes?