Seth Godin and Spiritual Transformation

I read this from Seth Godin in one of my favorite books, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.

  • Substitute the word spiritual for the word creative, 
  • substitute the phrase truly transform for become a professional, and
  • substitute the word life for work… 

… and you have the secret to spiritual transformation:

Lots and lots of people are spiritual when they feel like it, but you are only going to truly transform if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your life and not your hobby. 

That’s why I believe that the best thing we can do as spiritual people is choose to become “professional Christians“, and do the work, day in and day out.

 

Seth Godin and a Gospel Life

Seth Godin is understandably one of the most popular and compelling writers and thinkers today. He’s been pretty influential in my circles, and I’ve definitely internalized some of his thoughts. I’ve seen him speak a couple times, and read 2 or 3 of his books.

All in all, it’s good stuff.

However, I’ve had on- and off-again tensions with some of the concepts, especially as they are confronted by, well, the gospel.

(Let me just say that I am “owning” that this is probably just my own baggage; I’m merely throwing these thoughts out there because they’ve been on my mind lately.)

Most recently, I’ve had to come to terms with how the desire to be “extraordinary” and a “linchpin” (some of Seth’s key concepts) intersect in my soul to do some not-very-good things…

You see, for someone who struggles with pride and arrogance, hearing the call to make your world all about doing “something amazing”, or “living your strengths”, etc., etc., can be a little like trying to control a modest outdoor fire in your backyard by pouring kerosene on it.

Even understanding that the point of “being extraordinary” is to serve people, or an organization or mission, feels remote.

For a narcissist (struggling or otherwise), the world ALWAYS revolves around them. They are ALWAYS seeking to be extraordinary, to be noticed, to be the smartest/cutest/strongest/most talented person in the room. It’s a normal (though pathological) state of mind.

For me, I need to balance “linchpin” thinking with the constant realization that I am sick. Recognition and accolades (that often come with being extraordinary) feed my false self, this scared, insecure child that needs to be reminded how special he is.

To counteract linchpin thinking, I need, to stare into the void, to quiet the obsessive and compulsive thoughts of my false self, and to return to the smaller, quieter voice of God that says, “You are enough.”

To learn humility.

To learn to serve.

To learn to focus on others.

To learn that being a linchpin is NOT all there is to life.

(Even though sometimes it’s fun.)

I still love Seth; and I will continue to read his books and wrestle with this stuff, but I just thought I’d put these out there.

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Professional Christian Redux

I’ve written before about becoming a “Professional Christian.” To reiterate, most people think that a “professional” refers to someone who is remote, and only committed to something—a business, a movement, a faith—because of what they can get out of it, particularly monetarily speaking.

A lot of folks think that a professional is defined only by the payoff.

However, as great writers and thinkers like Seth Godin and Stephen Pressfield point out, a true professional isn’t defined by the payoff she might get; rather a professional is defined by their commitment to their craft.

A professional isn’t governed by their feelings; they show up, day after day, to do the work that they’ve been called to do. They stay in it when things get difficult, and they don’t deviate until the job is done, the book is produced, the art is finished.

A professional is faithful.

Doesn’t that sound like a disciple?

As part of my job, I spend time with a variety of different people. I’ve recently been hanging out with a nineteen year old guy who is pretty talented at a variety of different things—music, programming, sports, etc.—but who is having a difficult time focusing his efforts.

His life lacks a little momentum.

We started going through (of all things) Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I told him, “We’ll mutually agree on reading chapters. If you show up and you haven’t done the reading, you have to buy me lunch. Otherwise, I’ll pay.”

(So far, he’s doing fine.)

Two weeks in, however, he set aside his book and told me, “Hey, I need to talk to you; I’m kind of struggling spiritually… I’m just not ‘feeling it.'”

We talked about all of the things that could be behind this situation, but essentially it boiled down to the fact that he simply wasn’t “showing up.”

His spirituality was governed by how he felt, rather than his commitment to putting himself in front of God (and to putting God in front of himself) frequently and consistently enough to allow God to grow and mature his faith.

This, my friends, is what “amateur spirituality” looks like.

It’s governed by emotionalism, by whether or not we “feel like” praying, worshiping, meditating, serving, etc., etc.

The long-term results are a shallow, lukewarm faith, and ultimately apathy.

Rather, I think we need to learn to cultivate a spirituality that shows up, day after day to do our part in allowing God to form His Spirit in us. It’s not easy; it’s not automatic; it’s not quick.

But professionals don’t care about any of those things.

Professionals are committed to the long-term “win”.

They’re committed to the project.

To the art.

To the vision.

Here’s the thing: God wants you to grow. He intends for you to become Christ-like.

This is no far-fetched, strange notion; it’s actually the entire point of our existence. IF we take seriously the fact that God created us as icons—images—of Himself (Genesis 1v27); if Jesus really meant that we are supposed to “greater things” than he did (John 14v12); if we really are meant to grow up into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 3v19), then we have to take seriously the idea that we have work to do (even as God does His work in us).

So why not commit to it, as a professional?

How can you become more “professional” in your spiritual life? In what ways do you need to simply start showing up, day-in and day-out?

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Actually, Cover Bands DO Change the World…

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

One of the great slogans in the Seth Godin/Linchpin world (which I actually enjoy poking around in) is, “Cover bands don’t change the world.”

It’s a call to be unique to seek to strike out to do something bold and new in the world, to be disruptive, to reach for something that’s never been done.

It’s also obviously a bit of a slap in the face to anyone who may be a feeling slightly more conservative or iterative. Folks who are not as “disruptive.”

(It’s also an insult to cover bands, but who’s counting?)

As usual, the truth behind the slogan is a bit more cloudy, because in a sense cover bands have changed the world, and actually continue to do so, primarily because many of the most iconic and world-changing bands in rock history started out as cover bands.

Beatles? Cover band.

Stones? Covered blues.

The Who? They called their versions of Motown songs they covered, “Maximum R&B”.

The Band? Started out playing rockabilly covers in honkey tonks all over the midwest.

James Brown? yup.

(Now, I get that these artists are all “old guy” bands, but I’m taking the approach that the verdict is still out on how much Arcade Fire, The National, Coldplay, etc. are going to change rock and roll. That being said, I know the Black Keys at least know blues really deeply, and I’ve heard at least a couple covers from them.)

Now,I get what Seth is saying: you really do need to find your own unique voice. But here’s the deal: all these artists who later changed the world were cover artists for a significant and formative time in their career.

So what’s the point? Well, I’m not just being contrarian. Being in a cover band has its advantages, and in fact provides critical experience for working your craft.

Because when you’re in a cover band, you get to learn

You get to learn what makes a great song…

You get to learn how to work in a group with others…

You get to learn how to work a crowd…

What gear works in a bar, versus in your bedroom…

What outfit looks ridiculous on you…

Don’t get me wrong: aspiring to something great is absolutely critical and something to be encouraged.

But before you change the world you might want to be good at your craft. Lots of bands start out wanting to change the world, but their ambition greatly (and almost tragically) outstrips their ability.

So maybe you’re in a “cover band” right now…

… Maybe the organization you’re in isn’t as wildly creative as you’d like;

… Maybe the position you’re in isn’t the perfect fit;

… Maybe your platform isn’t in front of the “right people” yet.

If this is the case, than here’s what you do:

  • You get better. 
  • You dig in and learn. 
  • You figure out how to with others (particularly a drummer who doesn’t keep time well and a singer who doesn’t always sing on pitch).
  • You learn what “excellence” looks and feels (tastes and sounds?) like. 

Your “cover band moments” are not wasted. They can be the crucible, the workshop that helps you develop and hone your craft for the moment when the world comes calling, and needs you to give something to it.

… Now go practice.

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