When I was in High School, my entire life revolved around sports. I wasn’t interested in being a learner, I didn’t like reading books, I preferred friends and playing outside, and I LOVED playing basketball.
From my Freshman to Senior year, I played three sports; track, football, and basketball. I was best at football and track, but I played a tremendous amount of basketball. I never missed a day lifting weights, and I never missed a plyometrics training session even while playing in multiple basketball leagues, camps, and teams.
I played so much sports, that I was NEVER fully rested. During my high school years I was an absolute jerk in the mornings and sleeping in was the equivalent to heaven it seemed.
While I was in High School, I was never interested in school, I wanted to sleep my first four classes away, and I was never fully ready until about 1:00pm, which made my grades suffer a ton.
I HATED waking up, and my mornings were always awful….. but they got much much better the day I finally started to drink COFFEE.
It wasn’t until after I quit being an athlete, that my rut of life changed enough for me to try different things such as WORKING, and DRINKING COFFEE.
Every morning I wake up and enjoy the great taste, and addicting feeling from COFFEE. If I could go back in time to when I was in ninth grade, I’m convinced my entire life would have been changed by introducing a cup of coffee to my younger self.
Coffee changed my life in a really good way, because it helped me overcome a tremendous weakness that my faults and behaviors had created.
I’m going a little far here, but coffee has really enhanced my life and allowed me to get much better since I started drinking it because it was a simple step to begin working on a major character flaw I had. I was operating in a manner that would have lead to a pretty low job forecast and my ability to grow would have been absolutely devastated if I didn’t overcome that character flaw.
While I was in public school, that character flaw of tardiness & non-engagement didn’t really matter because I could sweet talk the detention attendant as well as keep my grades hovering above absolutely failing. To this day, I’m surprised how I actually graduated because I LITERALLY don’t remember doing ANY homework my senior year in High School.
I had a serious problem, but I just brushed it off during my high school years because it didn’t really matter. But when I finally started to work at the restaurant I was at and then the retail store, it became a hinderance. It wasn’t until someone really exposed my character flaw through loving but authentic feedback, that I started to manage some of these weaknesses.
So I wanna talk about this idea that we all have flaws about us that we’ve become self deceived about…. there are things about the way we interact and relate to people that’s handicapping our ability to relate well and then there’s some tough realities that we often don’t want to confront about our propensity to GET THINGS done and achieve…
What are the things about you that are kind of like food on your face that you don’t know about, or holes in your pants that you’re unaware of? Do you like going about life totally unaware about much of the food on your face? Are you humble enough to admit these faults and then get to work to improve them?
Imagine this for a minute:
If you were to email a totally anonymous survey out to 20-30 of your closest friends, coworkers, leaders, and family members, how would they respond to these questions:
What’s it like to be around you when you’re at your best?
What’s it like to be around you when you’re at your worst?
What’s this person’s critics say about them, even if you don’t agree?
Does this person authentically build relationships with people?
Is this person aware and humble?
Does this person avoid excuses and get things done?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you in this person’s ability to improve on each of these?
How would you react to hearing this feedback which was given anonymously?
Back to sports:
When I was in High School, I was such a jock that I never missed a day of lifting weights or a plyometric workout even while I juggled performing in football, track, and basketball. My entire families life was beholden to my needs and schedule, and I developed into a really selfish and arrogant person.
During my 9th-12th grade years, I had some terribly unhelpful character flaws that were allowed to fester and languish because I refused to accept the reality concerning them. I didn’t think I had anything that needed changing or working on in my life, because things were going so awesome for me in sports.
I was so focused on doing what I wanted in sports, that I had become totally uninterested in learning, engaging in school, GOING to school, being on time, and staying awake when I was there. I was floating on through with barely passing grades, and totally unable to manage my own schedule or workloads. My Mom made sure I was wherever I needed to be, and then I floated through the rest.
I had developed some major character flaws that everyone else was experiencing, but I was too proud and arrogant to allow someone to speak into my life. I viewed other people’s advice as something below Me.
It wasn’t until I started to engage with scripture again, and had a good Christian mentor, that I started to recognize and acknowledge that there were some seriously broken things inside my character, which were killing my integrity.
My attitude when I was 19 was so arrogant and unaware, that I remember saying outlaid to people “We’ve done our learning, I’ve gotten through school, now I just need to go to college and get my degree and I’ll make a ton of money”. I can still remember it…being 19 and being convinced that I knew it all and “I’ve done my learning”.
My relationship with my Heavenly Father was ignited when I started to read the scriptures more because as I read them I realized that PRIDE is the king of all sins.
Pride means that we believe our way is best. We don’t invite external feedback, advice, wisdom, or coaching. We lift our heads above others, and believe that our way is the best way.
The core of my problem was that my pride and lack of character had strained my relationship with the outside world, and the outside world’s relationship with me was no better. Things needed to change, or else I’d be unable to develop into a more fully orbed person.
But it all started with allowing someone to speak into my life.
What is it that you’re doing wrong, or less than optimal, and it’s all about a character flaw that you’re inept at identifying, accepting, or conquering?
What would your biggest critics say about you, even if you don’t agree?
How do people characterize you, or what is their perception of you in terms of performance and relationships?
You see, the first step in having a relationship with God – which leads to eternal life through faith in Jesus – starts by setting aside your will and ways for doing life.
It says in the Bible that God actually OPPOSES the Proud (James 4:6). If we hang on to our own pride and stubbornness, we’ll not only have a life marked by strained relationships and unrealized potential, but we’ll ultimately be cast into the lake of fire when we face God and tell Him that we refused to humbly submit and repent from our ways.
Three critical things that impacted my “Wake”:
1 – Develop my obedience to God
The first is that I viewed my life to be almost like a Video game. I started to see that reading and living out God’s principles would help my life build momentum – which is kind of like “leveling up in a video game”. I knew that I wanted to build momentum to head upwards and forward towards greater careers and healthier relationships with my friends, family, and coworkers. But this all started with trying to install the commands of God into my mind and heart by reading and applying the Bible. But nobody is able to start that endeavor until they submit to the idea that God’s ways are better than our own ways. So the first thing that changed my life was reading the Bible and asking God to help me integrate it into my mind, my heart, and my behaviors.
2 – Humbly submitted to a Christian Mentor
The second thing that really helped me start to relate better with people and achieve more, was to get a Christian mentor and invite them to speak into your life. The guy that really start this process for me was my general manager that I worked for at Best Buy, a great Christian man named Chad Mcdermott.
I’ll never forget Chad. When I first met Him, He had an authentic desire to meet you right where you were, and to try and lift you up. SO often the managers in organizations think that their career will advance through self exaltation and jockeying. But the best leaders, like Chad, know that servant leadership is far more effective because they are committed to serving and growing their people. The best analogy is that self-exulting managers will stand on the backs and shoulders of their people to lift themselves up for praise, promotion, or financial rewards while the servant leader kneels down and tells His people to achieve more by standing on their backs and shoulders. Chad gained my respect immediately because He slapped a “Ten” on my forehead, and started to find ways to serve Me through challenging me to live up to that expectation.
Chad gave me authentic feedback, and also modeled to me what it meant to live out my faith in the work environment.
I gave Chad permission to speak into my life, and work life. I tried to learn from Him and I allowed Him to criticize and hold me accountable for things. I let down my pride to let Him mentor Me, which was a huge step.
So the second thing that I did was find a wise, biblical, Christian mentor to speak into my life, rather than acting like I had it all figured out.
So I started reading and trying to apply scripture and I got a Christian mentor. But the third thing came later and was one of the most helpful things I’ve ever done.
3 – Exposed my blindspots through a formal awareness exercise.
When I eventually went to work at Eagle Brook Church in Lino Lakes Minnesota, I had the opportunity to go through a formal “awareness exercise” where I invited about 30 of my peers, leaders, family, and friends to provide COMPLETELY anonymous feedback about Me in order to help me become aware.
They were asked
-What’s it like to be around Rob when He’s at His best?
-What’s it like to be around Rob when he’s at His worst?
-What’s Rob’s greatest critics say about Him even if you don’t agree?
-Does Rob authentically build relationships with people?
-Is Rob aware and humble?
-Does Rob avoid excuses and get things done?
-On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you Rob can improve on each of these?
The feedback, mixed with scripture and Christian mentoring, really put the screws to my character. The results where absolutely haunting to hear – and that was 4 years ago when I did that.
To this day, my weaknesses that I became Highly aware of during that awareness exercise have been a priority for me to manage and fix. I”m so grateful for the opportunity I had to be able to really hear the voices of the people in my life about my ability to relate to them and my ability to get things done.
Reading Scripture, Getting a Christian Mentor, and then going through a formal awareness exercise of sorts are the three things that helped me most with my character flaws – and I’d encourage you to do the same.
I want to end this thought with a verse that guided me through this process.
Three Important Proverbs about feedback:
- Fools have no interest in understanding, they only want to air their own opinions.
- Better to be criticized by the wise than to be praised by a fool.