Take a Risk

I’m not sure who first coined the phrase. I know I first heard it from Kevin Dedmon, founder of the FireStarters Ministry at Bethel Church.

He asks: How do you spell faith? R. I. S. K.

In his context, he’s talking about stepping out to do what God has put on your heart to do.

But even outside of church walls, I think the adage holds true. If I am ever going to reach my highest potential, if I’m ever going to reach my dreams, it means embracing my passions and taking a risk. I have to take a leap of faith. I have to cross the chicken line, get out of my comfort zone, and do something that has the potential for failure.

If I don’t, I’ll never have success. Not meaningful success anyway.

Success Requires Risk

But wait, you might say. People succeed all the time at things that aren’t risky. And in a sense that’s true.

Anyone reading this could probably get up in front of 5-year-olds and read them a story from a picture book. The words aren’t hard. The audience is fairly attentive. The teacher is probably there to make sure that if Johnny or Suzie chooses that moment to throw a tantrum, it won’t spread to the whole class. It’s not a risk because it’s easy.

It’s easy because you’ve had years of practice reading. But it wouldn’t necessarily be easy if you were six.

The newer or more unusual something is to you, the bigger the risk is to attempt it.

RISKFor instance, I know I can get up in front of a group of people and teach a 45 minute session on how to bring down personal walls. You know what they are – those false boundaries that we build for ourselves to feel like we’re protected, but that really keep us from moving forward in faith. The internal filters that keep us from embracing risk. For me, teaching that class isn’t really a risk. I know I will succeed.

How do I know I can do that? Because I’ve done it several times a year for more than five years. And I’ve done it very successfully.

But let me tell you, that first time? I was terrified! As a natural introvert, it was completely outside my comfort zone to stand up in front of a room full of people and teach. I was literally trembling with fear. My voice quivered. I read bullet points off a page. I don’t think I cracked a smile even once. And I think I ran through 30 minutes of material in about 12. I’ve never been so happy to sit down in my life.

But you know what? I lived through the experience. People learned things that helped them. I learned things too–like that it won’t kill me to stand in front of a room full of people and teach something. And almost every time I’ve done it since, I’ve gotten better at it. I feel more comfortable. I have more fun with the content.

And then there was that one time when I thought it would kill me.

Failure Can Equal Success

Once when I was scheduled to teach that same class, I stood in front of the room, completely froze, and ended up turning my material over to someone else. In other words, I failed. Big time. I couldn’t do what I had planned to do, and everybody knew it. I felt nauseous for the rest of the day. I think I even cried a little.

But you know what? I lived through that experience too. The team members who were with me didn’t tear me down for my failure. The stood with me, encouraged me, and helped me brush off what felt like a huge public humiliation. The very next day I had the opportunity to share with that same roomful of people that only a few years before I would never even have been able to stand there in the first place. I never could have taken that risk because I was too overwhelmed with fear. The very tools I’d failed to teach them were what made the real difference for me. And even in what seemed like failure, people learned something. I learned more about myself. And I became a stronger person, right then, in real time, because I took a risk.

Risk isn’t about success or failure. It’s about taking a chance at becoming more.

So, what have you been thinking about doing? What is your passion? Your dream? What hope do you harbor that you haven’t pursued because it feels like too big a risk?

I want to challenge you–take that leap of faith. Embrace the risk. The worst that can happen is that you learn something that will help you next time.

Leave a comment below if you need someone to stand with you. You’ll only find encouragement here.

Joy is Peace

I’m always on the lookout for inspirational quotes, pithy sayings, and truisms that I can use to feed my soul and my creativity. Today I stumbled across a doozy and turned it into a meme.

Feel free to share! And link back here if you can. ๐Ÿ˜‰



Everyday creativity

I’ve been a fan of “everyman creativity” for a long time. I’ve often said that everyone is creative in some way–that it’s often just a matter of learning what kind of creativity you possess.

Some people make art.

Some people make music.

Some people make friends.

Some people make money.

What is the area of your greatest creativity? Think about it and seek it out. You’ll be happier in every area of your life if you allow the area of your creativity to grow.

Here’s another article that taps into the idea that everyone is creative. Are there myths about creativity that you’ve believed?


5 tips on becoming an expert

It’s the number one question that people new to something (it doesn’t matter what, not really) ask people who are doing what they, themselves would like to be doing.

How can I do what you’re doing?

The task can be, literally, anything…

Fade To Black
Hani Amir / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
  • Writing
  • Working out
  • Playing the guitar
  • Blogging
  • Singing
  • Starting a business
  • Painting or other art
  • Becoming an elite athlete
  • Etc., etc., etc….

And sometimes the answer they get back isn’t what they want to hear.

You have to be born with it.

I want to let you know right now, that answer is the worst kind of lie. Not only is it patently untrue, it is also specifically designed to make people quit… to give up trying because, since they weren’t born with whatever “it” is supposed to be, they can never hope to achieve any kind of success. If you already know you’re doomed to failure, why would you even try in the first place?

file00035458324But here’s a news-flash for you… unless you aspire to go base-jumping without a parachute, there’s no such thing as failure. There are only stepping stones on the path to success.

I’m living proof that even someone in their 40s can become a passable guitar player. I tried in my teens and quit. I tried in my 20s and quit. But a few years ago, I became determined to learn to play the guitar. I succeeded, and even played on my church’s worship team for a couple of years before I decided that guitar wasn’t really my passion and I didn’t have the time to devote to it. Now I only play once in a while, for my own pleasure. But they key point here is, I can play.

The same principles that allowed me to finally learn the guitar, also apply to whatever someone wants to do. I can’t actually guarantee that you’ll become an expert – but if you follow these tips, you will definitely succeed.

1. Put in the time

You didn’t want to hear it, but you knew I was going to go there. If you want to learn anything, you have to put in the time. Play the instrument. Write the words. Pursue the opportunities.

You can’t win if you don’t enter.

So enter. Start doing. Follow through. Keep it up. Put in the time, and you will improve. That’s an iron-clad guarantee.

2. Learn everything you can from wherever you can

Read books. Read blogs. Talk to people who do what you want to do and ask questions. Search Google (or your own favorite search engine) for more information. Go to seminars, conferences, symposiums, and presentations. If you have the time, take a class. Most colleges and universities have some kind of community or extension program that’s open to the public. Or, you can take a class (or a dozen) online. Be willing to invest in learning what you care about.

There is more information available to you right now than there has ever been in the history of mankind. That knowledge base is growing daily. Take advantage of it. The more you know, the more productive you can be when you’re putting in the time to practice (see #1).

3. Copy someone

Fine artists have known this for years. Want to learn how to paint like Van Gogh? Start copying Van Gogh! Figure out, by trial and error, what kind of brush and stroke you need to create that kind of … ummm … brush stroke. What colors of paint do you blend to get that exact shade? What do you do to get that sense of light infusing the scene?

In some cases, you can copy by literally copying… lay a sheet of paper over a comic book and start tracing. You’ll learn a lot about what it takes to make those lines.

In other cases, you can only emulate. Try to sing like Diana Krall or Sting or Pavarotti, with their accent, inflection, and tone. Listen to that blues guitar riff 100 more times until you can play along flawlessly. Write a book in the style of Ernest Hemingway or Stephen King. Try to paint Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, or one of Andy Warhol’s Soup Cans.

You do what someone else did. Then do it again. And again. And when you get good at it, you copy something else. Again.

Eventually, all the pieces you try will create a mash-up in your head, and what comes out when you create will not be like any of them, but will be a little bit like all of them. Keep what works for you. Discard what doesn’t.

4. Experiment

I’m always amazed at the story of Ian Anderson from the classic rock band Jethro Tull. He taught himself to play the flute by picking it up and figuring it out for himself. It wasn’t until his daughter took flute lessons many years later that he learned many of his fingerings and other techniques were absolutely dead wrong. But who cares? He has a unique and iconic style that might never have existed if he hadn’t figured out his own way of playing. (The full story is on this page, if you care to read it.)

Don’t let yourself make excuses about not having the background or training necessary. Want to write? Start writing. Want to paint? Start painting. Want to dance? Start dancing.

5. Fail Spectacularly

For me, the hardest obstacle to overcome when trying new things is a fear of failure. I desperately hate looking stupid, and when people are there to see you blow it, sometimes you look incredibly stupid. But the easiest way to learn what works is to discover what doesn’t work.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but it isn’t. Success comes from being willing to fail in public.

You will never know if you have what it takes to be a comedian if you won’t tell a joke to your friends. You’ll never know how people will react to what you write if you aren’t putting it out there somewhere. You can’t learn if you’re creating art if there is nobody judging your efforts.

You can’t succeed if you aren’t willing to fail. And you haven’t really failed until someone has seen you do it. So put yourself out there. And when you blow it, shrug off the embarrassment, figure out what you did wrong, and try again.

That’s it. 5 tips on becoming an expert. Now, get out there and get on with it. If you have passion and drive you are certain to gain skill. If you are blessed enough to also have natural talent and amazing luck, you might be able to quit your day job and pursue your passion for a living. But even if you don’t, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you put everything into it, and you will know more about that hobby, skill, or endeavor than you did before you started. You might know more about it than anyone else you know. And that makes you a bona fide expert.

Keep up the amazing work!


This is my new blog

I know, this post doesn’t have any real content and it’s kind-of ridiculous. But what the heck. Every blog needs to have a very first post. This one is mine, for now. I may delete it at some point in the not-too-distant future. But for now this is what you get. Like it or lump it.

But just so you don’t get too bored, I’m including a few pictures that I took when I was in Redding, CA last November. The first two were taken at the Sundial Bridge early one morning. The third was at the pond at my hotel.