Posts tagged with #Changing the world
We live in challenging and complex times where nothing is simple, nothing is exactly as it seems. There are no black and white situations, and there are no clear cut answers. Every situation we face has an immense amount of nuance that needs to be considered, examined, and thoughtfully understood.
This year has been packed full of hard stuff. Natural disasters. Racial tensions. Riots. One of the most polarizing presidential elections in recent history. One of the worst global pandemics in all known human history. Social
These are all extremely complicated situations. And yet we can learn something in them, we can grow in them, we can flourish as a result of them.
Something I’ve been learning lately is that so much of the battle is just showing up. That simple act of getting off the sidelines, picking a side, and standing with your fellow men and women to take on whatever’s coming is immensely powerful. Make no mistake - the enemy (whoever you want to think of as the enemy, be it fear mongers, racists, bigots, homophobes, religious persecutors, or any other person or power that tries to diminish the nobility of the human spirit) wants us to stay idle. The enemy wants us afraid, lazy, lethargic, arguing amongst ourselves, or anything else that would prevent us from action.
Showing up is half the battle.
1. We create a positive, forward moving mental state
So much of success in the arena is simply about moving forward. When we are still, the battle is lost. But when we are in motion, when we are fluid, when we are gaining momentum and focused on a goal, that is a beautiful thing. That motion, that movement, that momentum and inertia moves our lives forward and gives us courage to take on even bigger things.
Simply showing up is a victory unto itself, and however small that may be is enough to spark us into action.
2. We encourage others
The human spirit is strengthened by witnessing acts of bravery, of honor, of noble intent. When someone sees us getting off the sidelines and showing up in the arena, something deep inside them sparks. Regardless of whether that spark itself is enough to light a fire in them, us showing up and bringing encouragement to another is itself a powerful thing.
3. We show the enemy we’re not afraid
So much of the world is shrouded in fear, in misdirection, in misinformation that leads to inaction. By showing up, we show the enemy that we’re not afraid, that we’re willing to stand shoulder to shoulder in the arena and take on what’s coming.
So my sons, my prayer for you is that you too would show up. That you would move life forward, that you would encourage others and find others of like mind to fight together with, and that together we can stand up against the injustices and the abominations of the world. For together we stand; divided we fall. I love you boys.
Each generation stands on the hard work and tireless efforts of those that have come before. The world changes at a rapid rate, and this fact has never been more evident than it has in our lifetime. The information revolution has exponentially accelerated the pace at which the world changes, ideas proliferate, barriers are broken down, and collaboration happens.
This is the world that you will grow up in, that you will experience, and that you will impact.
As such, it becomes increasingly important to be mindful of where you get your grounding and the influences that shape you. There is no such thing as a self-made man; every man learns from others, studies those that have come before, and gets advice from those that have run ahead.
We stand on the shoulders of giants.
Never forget that. In times past, social currency was anchored on many different things; coats of arms, gold in the vault, status in society, position in a patriarch, net worth, and even physical beauty. In an age of globally proliferated ideas, social currency is being increasingly anchored on thought leadership and on the reach of one’s ideas.
I urge you to be well-learned; study the thoughts and artifacts those giants before us have left behind. Learn from them. Life is too short for us to learn everything we need to know on our own. Ask for help, seek advice, and listen to the stories of your elders. Though they may come from a different context and from a different time, there are transcendent lessons to be learned and universal concepts to be shared. And who knows, you may stumble upon a wonderful mentoring relationship in the process.
Learn from those giants. Stand on their shoulders and elevate our world to new heights. I’m so proud of you, and can’t wait to see the world that you shape.
As a kid, I loved candles. I loved watching them flicker, loved watching the glow that they made. I was always amazed at how much light could come from such a small little flame. I loved the glow; soft, warm, almost magical in nature.
As I grew older, my fascination with candles changed. While I still loved that warm familiar light that they emitted, I became enraptured with how they shone brighter when a small breeze would come through the room. The small, gentle flame would become large and fierce. It would fight to stay alive, would flame up and light up the room more brightly.
The noble human spirit shares this beautiful quality; it is a peaceful glow that flames up fiercely under adversity, fighting to stay lit and illuminating all those around it in the process.
Jesus said that “in this life, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” - John 16:33
In this life, we are assured trouble, trials, difficulties, struggles. That’s a fact, guaranteed. The true measure of a man is how we handle these trials. When the wind comes, do we carefully nurture that candle so that it gets just enough wind to let it fiercely light up our spirit? Or do we turn that candle straight into the wind, letting it blow out completely?
One of the hardest things a father has to do is to not stop the wind even though he sees it heading straight for his children. I pray for the discernment for you to know how to nurture that candle so that when you need it to, it will shine brightly in the night. There is much darkness all around us, and the world will need more candles to keep us in the light. May yours be one that shines brightly, and may it bring light to all those around you!
This world often measures us by our results, by our accomplishments, and by the amount of impact that we've had based on our finished products. While results are important, they pale in comparison to the journey that we take to get there.
It is the process of refinement, of improvement, of becoming and not being that is of utmost importance.
For we know that character is not innate or automatic. Rather, it needs to be built, refined, tried, tested, and improved upon. It is worked on with great effort, with great intention, and with great patience. And it is not easily built alone.
The more we are able to find others to walk life with us, to challenge us, and to encourage us on that journey, the greater our chances of success. The more that we find ourselves in an environment that praises not our talent but our growth and our learning, the more we are able to improve and to better ourselves, and in so doing are better able to produce those results that our society so covets.
As you know, I love the epic, the inspiring, the mountaintop experiences that give you a breath of life so exhilarating that words can only describe but a glimpse of the experience. Those are the experiences from which we take away our life's greatest learnings. As David Brooks says in his book, The Road to Character:
"Moral improvement occurs most reliably when the heart is warmed, when we come into contact with people we admire and love and we consciously and unconsciously bend our lives to mimic theirs."
I love that sentiment, that from these people that we admire and love, we bend our lives to mimic theirs.
And so to that end my challenge to you is to make sure you've surrounded yourself with people who encourage you to become more than you are, that challenge you to dig deep and to work on yourself, and that share the belief that to be is not nearly as important as to become.
People do things for a myriad of reasons and motivations, but at the end of the day, it generally boils down to fulfillment, meaning, and purpose in this life. No matter how cynical the individual, mankind was made for advancement. We were made with the innate desire to move forward, to advance the state of our species, to strive to be ever greater than we were before.
This quest for fulfillment and for forward progress can be a good thing.
The differentiating factor then is in the semantics of what brings you that fulfillment. What is it that ultimately makes you feel satisfied after having done something? What is it that you're ultimately looking to achieve?
I read a very pointed quote the other day that speaks to that:
"A creative man is fulfilled by accomplishments and a competitive man is fulfilled by beating others"
I love that contrast. While at the end of the day, both men may be accomplishing something, the motivation and drive that propels them to action is critically important. Not just because the competitive man cannot feel a sense of fulfillment on his own, but because the competitive man is not looking for the betterment of others, and hence becomes limited to achievement that is defined by others that he is trying to beat. Because his fulfillment is found in comparison to others, he will always look for the next competition, the next person he can beat to remain fulfilled.
The creative man on the other hand, is a man who finds fulfillment not in beating others or in the praise of others, but rather in having accomplished that which he set out for. There is a saying that sometimes the best reward for having done a thing well is to know that one has indeed done it.
My challenge to you is to consider what you're doing, and why you're doing it. Is it to beat others? Is it to please someone else? Is it to demonstrate that you are worthy of something? That you are better than someone or something? Or is it genuinely for the betterment of others and for the sake of the accomplishment itself?
Ultimately, I want you to live a rich and fulfilled life that is not dependent on others' praise or demise, but rather is made significant by the things that you strive for, and the accomplishments that you achieve. Because that is something honorable, something noble. That is how the world ought to be.
God created us to be in community. He designed us to live with others, to experience life with others, and to share our journeys with others. And with that shared journey comes the ability to be inspired by, and to inspire. To be challenged by, and to challenge. To be loved, and to love. To be taught, and to learn.
That's what mentoring is about.
It's about sharing the things that you've learned with others, and in turn learning from the experiences of others. It's an acknowledgement that you can't learn everything there is to learn in life on your own.
It's a commitment to another person saying that I will walk this next part of my journey with you. I will share things that may be uncomfortable or even unpleasant with you for the sake of our mutual trust and learning.
It's about building a bond of trust to allow someone else to see into your soul and to allow them to speak into it. It's about having the grace to look into the heart of another and treat it with care. It's about truly embodying the statement that together, we are better than the sum of our parts, and that "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another".
I've been blessed in my life to have a small number of phenomenal mentors over the years. These men have poured into my life, have relentlessly pushed me to be better, and have shared with me pieces of their lives and their faith that have helped reveal to me the type of man that I want to become. And I am eternally grateful for their faithfulness.
In turn, I try to do that with others, and try to pour my time, care, and effort into their lives as well. As your mother has helped me discover, the legacy I want to leave is to be known as a person who inspires others to be the best that they can be.
And so my prayer for you is that not only do you find good mentors that will help you through the journeys that you'll go through, but that you too will walk alongside someone else and aid them in their adventures and be a guiding post for them as well.
I love being inspired.
One of the most inspiring things is witnessing the things man can accomplish. Watching a painter pour their soul onto their canvas, experiencing for the first time a new piece reflecting a musician's inner turmoil, reading a short story written to celebrate life's great virtues, or walking into the great architecture of the ages built as places of worship or safekeeping - all of these things inspire me to be better, to reach higher, and to aim for the stars.
It's a beautiful thing about life, this ability to create. We are all created beings, created in the image of God, in His likeness. That means we have God's spark in us, and with that spark comes the ability for us as created beings to in turn create. Now, obviously we don't have God's omnipotence, so we can't make something from nothing, but we have a glimpse of his creativity and imagination, and can in our own way create beauty where there was none before.
Whether it’s taking a year to write your own symphony or taking an hour to paint a sunset, I believe that something within us pulses stronger when we create. It is in that moment, that space where we forget about the world, abandon its distractions, and focus solely on the object of our creation that we are elevated from the temporary into the timeless. We see the world from another angle; we gain a new perspective, and with new perspective comes new understanding.
Have you ever noticed how things of great beauty are often epic and awesome in nature? Sunsets, canyons, monuments, masterpieces, mountaintops - all of these things are vast in their being, and bring us to a place of awe and wonder.
I believe that the wonder we feel is the creator in us resonating with the creation we're experiencing.
And so with that, I'll leave you with a challenge. Create! Build, paint, compose, craft; express the experiences, thoughts, and dreams that are uniquely you. Because you are beautifully and wonderfully made.
One of the constant pressures that you'll experience in life is the pressure to conform, to be successful as our society defines success, and to follow a number of predefined "acceptable" paths. While there's nothing wrong with those paths, I want to challenge you to own your choice. Be deliberate about picking a path, whether it is a popular, acceptable one or not. Don't be afraid to veer onto the road less taken; often that's where you'll find many of life's hidden gems and adventures!
The verse your mother and I picked out as your life's verse is Romans 12:2, which urges us to "not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you can test and approve what God's will is; his good, pleasing, and perfect will."
Our prayer for you from the time that God was still knitting you together has been that you will be a man that does not conform to what this world dictates is acceptable, and that you will be intentional in deciding for yourself what your life will be. I love this quote from the late Robin Williams in the movie, Dead Poets Society:
“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering - these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life! … of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer: that you are here, that life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
The world tells us that our identity is found in the job that we have, the clothes we wear, the people we are acquainted with, the school we graduated from, and how much money we have. While all of these things matter and are worth thinking about and pursuing, they can only define us if we allow them to. I urge you not to allow yourself to be defined - and hence tie your intrinsic sense of worth to - the external things of this world, but rather on the man that you are, the thoughts, values, and morals that you have, and by the character that you have developed.
On an archway in Delphi is written a phrase: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, which means "know thyself". The Greeks understood that life's true pursuit is to know thyself, to understand who one is, and to have the integrity to stand strong in that knowledge, regardless of opposition; and from that position, make your mark on the world, forge your path, and write your verse.
I want to leave you with a quote that I've found very inspiring in my own life.
“This is the test of your manhood: How much is there left in you after you have lost everything outside of yourself?” – Orison Swett Marden
My hope is that as you’ve grown up, you’ve begun to discover things that inspire you, things that provoke your thoughts and challenge your world view. These things can come in many forms – experiences, images, poetry, books, movies, music. The one thing that all of these inspiring mediums has in common is that they all tell a story. They may tell that story through a vibrant splash of color on an otherwise dark canvas, or through an uplifting major chord emanating amidst a dark and minor passage. They may speak to us through a surge of feeling as we stand atop a vast mountain range, surrounded by the breathtaking view of creation all around.
Whatever it is that inspires you, it has a story to tell.
Most of the highly influential people in my lifetime have been great storytellers. Whether they’re recounting an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity in their youth, or reminiscing about their first love; whether they’re channeling their innermost fire and rallying their audience to action, or expressing condolences to those that have lost, every great storyteller has the ability to bring you along with them on their journey, captivating your senses as you live in the moment that they create.
And what is it that so intrigues us when we listen to the stories of these inspirational giants? What is it that draws us into their universe and allows us to hear every sound, feel every touch, and sense every feeling in the world that they’re painting?
Every great storyteller tells stories that are wrapped in the consciousness of their existence. Whether they are ideas that resonate with them, challenges that they strive to overcome, experiences from their past, or dreams that they long to have fulfilled, every great story is laced with the soul and life of the storyteller.
Great stories are told simply. This isn't to say that all great stories are simple or that their contents are necessarily rudimentary; rather they are told in a way that is accessible to all who would listen. They are remarkable in their simplicity, yet can be equally expansive in their depth. The greatest stories can be understood by young children and studied by sophisticated adults all at the same time.
Finally, the greatest stories are timeless. They speak of virtues, values, and topics that span generations. They inspire us to look beyond the temporal and focus our thoughts on things that last, things that stand the test of time.
And so my hope is that you tell stories. Tell stories that inspire others to be better, to think of better things, to imagine the world as it ought to be. Tell stories that challenge your listeners to love recklessly and to dream big. Your mom and I deeply believe that you were meant for great things; no matter what you decide to do, who you decide to be, we will love you and support you every step of the way. My challenge to you is that no matter what all that is, that you tell your story to everyone who will listen.
By the time you read this, I hope that you are starting to understand the difference between things you know and believe because you know and believe them, and things you know and believe because you've been raised to know and believe those things.
When I was your age, your grandfather and your uncle Tim were heroes to me, and I took their word as truth and believed what they taught me to believe. Things like right and wrong, goals and aspirations, what was honorable and worthy of pursuit; these were all based on what they taught me. Even my faith was founded in the stories and truths that they shared with me.
But over time as I grew up, and that wasn't enough anymore.
There comes a point in every man's life where he needs to know and believe things for himself, based not on someone else's authority, but on his own experiences. He will need to evaluate for himself, to test and approve, and to be come convinced of his values and beliefs.
In his book The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes,
"It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs … that are plausible rather than ridiculous and offensive."
We live in a world that has faith deeply engrained in its very fiber, and in a time where faith, religion, and spirituality is slowly surfacing to the top of social awareness. The more prepared you are to give a reason for your faith, and the more thought out your answers are, the better equipped you will be to add value to those faith conversations, and to make an impact on the world.
There will come a day in your life where you'll be tested. Your values will be questioned, your beliefs examined, and your faith scrutinized. When that day comes, it will not be enough to have those values and beliefs founded upon the authority of someone else; you'll have to defend them and stand up for them on your own authority. My prayer is that on that day, you will stand strong with your head held high and your faith strengthened from the victory of knowing full well who you are, and what you believe.
Jesus says that "you will have suffering in this world" (John 16:33 NIV). It is a certainty, and as much as I would lay down my life to keep it all from you, I can't. You too will know suffering just as Jesus did, just as we all do. The true test of a man's character, then, is how he deals with that suffering, how he responds to it, how he chooses to live his life in spite of it.
As you already know, I love the epic. I love the pursuit of greatness, the passion for the human spirit, the desire to "have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). In light of this suffering, my charge to you is to love recklessly as a response.
By the time you are old enough to read and understand this, I hope that U2 is still around and you'll know have heard the song Pride, which puts it in such a beautiful way:
"In the name of love! What more in the name of love?"
Pride pays a tribute to the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King (the last verse sings of April 4th in the Memphis sky, which was the date and location that Dr. King was assassinated), and is a response to the legacy and example that he lived. Despite the assassination, the song writer poses the question, "what more in the name of love?" What more can we do, in the name of love? How can we follow this example, in the name of love?
When we love recklessly and focus on seeing, believing, and fighting for the good in people, it doesn't only change our world; it changes us too. When our response to conflict and tribulation is to ask what more we can do in the name of love, we change our perspective. To be reckless means to choose to take an action, despite rational thought telling us otherwise. The more we choose to be reckless, the more our rational thought adjusts to compensate. This in turn removes the inhibitions of what we believe is possible, allowing us to think of the world not as it is, but as it ought to be - and that is certainly a good thing.
And so my prayer for you is that you respond to the obstacles in your life not with frustration, anger, or disappointment, but with a response that throws reason out the window, and just loves.
One of the things that I hope you learn about me is how much I love the epic. The epic story, movie, music, view, experience, ride - I love it all. C. S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity says that "Music is the closest thing to heaven we will ever experience on earth." What a beautiful statement of a deeply emotional, primal, overwhelming experience of music, and what a magnificent description of the epic; it is the closest thing to heaven we will ever experience on earth.
And that's what we all want, isn't it? To experience heaven in all its glory, to experience perfection, to experience existence - friendship, relationship, joy - the way it ought to be.
Ayn Rand considers this the definition of Romanticism with a capital 'R'. In the preface to her book, The Fountainhead, she writes:
Longevity - predominantly, though not exclusively - is the prerogative of a literary school which is virtually non-existent today: Romanticism. This is not the place for a dissertation on the nature of Romantic fiction, so let me state - for the record and for the benefit of those students who have never been allowed to discover it - only that Romanticism is the conceptual school of art.
It deals, not with the random trivia of the day, but with the timeless, fundamental, universal problems and values of human existence. It does not record or photograph; it creates and projects. It is concerned - in the words of Aristotle - not with things as they are, but with things as they might and ought to be. And for the benefit of those who consider relevance to one's own time as of crucial importance, I will add, in regard to our age, that never has there been a time when men have so desperately needed a projection of things as they ought to be.
I've spent much of my youth thinking about things as they ought to be, and trying my best to turn those thoughts to reality. Now that you’ve just turned 4 months old, I realize that my thoughts have shifted slightly; the grandiose statement I would spend hours thinking about - how the world ought to be - now has a minor shift in it.
I now think of how I believe the world ought to be for you.
If there's anything I've learned over my short existence, it's that life is what you make of it. The pursuit of something greater, of something epic, of making the world a little more like how you believe it ought to be; these noble pursuits take a series of events and elevate them into something much more than the sum of their parts. They take our lives and give them meaning, direction, and purpose. They allow us to exercise passion, ingenuity, excellence; beautiful qualities of the human spirit.
And that is certainly the way the world ought to be.
And so my hope for you is that you too would live life looking for the epic, basking in the moments when you find it. Take time to think about the world as it ought to be, surround yourself with people that share that vision, and remember that passion is contagious; if you dream big and continue dreaming big, those around you will start doing the same.