Saturday, December 29, 2012

My ONE WORD for 2013 Is…

Back in 2006, I was part of a small team of people that participated in an all-day “team-building exercise” at our then Manager’s house.

Like any good team-building exercise, we had a pre-meeting homework assignment. She asked us to come prepared to share our “one-word equity”—the ONE word that best described us, and why.

I’ll never forget obsessing about my one word before I finally landed quite happily on the word STEADY.

I nervously tested it on Joy—who knows me far better than anyone else. She overwhelmingly affirmed that I had made the right choice.

Even when I shared it with the team at our meeting that day, the whole room lit up with smiles and affirming head nods. There was no doubt that I had nailed it. And if you know me that well, you’re probably smiling and nodding right now, too.

Steady is SO ME.

And I’ve always been steady. When I was a kid, my mom would get frustrated (with good reason) because whether we were early or late, I would always put my shoes on at the same speed. In high school soccer, the coach kept me on defense because I had a fantastic foot, but I was a terrible sprinter. I just don’t have a category for high velocity. Some even jokingly called me One-Speed Scotty.

You’re already starting to see that being so steady definitely has its downsides.

At face value, steadiness is a sought-after trait by those with high highs and low lows. They wish they were more like me. I’m a picture of endurance and stability in a relationship, a long project or a difficult trial.

But like any word that so deeply defines a person, steadiness can have serious drawbacks.

I have a lot of dreams that I defer for the sake of being steady. I have a lot of big ideas I bury in my quest to be steady. Most of the time, I walk around feeling like I could be doing a lot more with the ideas in my head, and the skills in my hands. And I’m generally OK with that.

I don’t have a raging fire in my belly. I have a pilot light that will never go out, and I keep the kindling just out of reach.

Yesterday while I was in bed fighting a cold, I watched a documentary about a team of remarkable skateboarders called the Bones Brigade, who revolutionized and reinvented the sport back in the 80s. I was an avid skateboarder during that time, and idolized these guys, most of whom were only tweens at the time.

The documentary told the story of their epic journey to iconic skateboarding superstardom. By being together, they pushed each other to do tricks that had never been done before, or ever thought possible. As soon as one would do the impossible trick, the rest of the team would learn it, and do it.

I can only describe their rise as being defined by a persistent inner hunger to reinvent what was possible. One of the skaters, an amazing freestyler named Rodney Mullen, said in an interview,

“What makes us all do what we do at a high level is an inspiration that comes from so deep. It’s like a controlled desperation. And if you can’t tap into that, then it extinguishes. And you can’t find it up here [in your head]. It’s way down here [in your heart].”

Although it fascinates me, I have a very difficult time mustering up the desperation to do something.

Being steady and being desperate don’t really go together. Steadiness is like a rock. It’s enduring, but passive. It isn’t inventive. It isn’t desperate, or driven. It isn’t HUNGRY.

So for 2013, I want to challenge my heart to carve out a category for HUNGRY. Hungry to follow up on ideas I’ve been ignoring. Hungry to finish projects that have gone untouched for far too long. Hungry to go after opportunities without dwelling on everything that could go wrong. Hungry to grow in my faith. Hungry to take a calculated risk here and there, and see what happens.

It may take me a few weeks, but I’ll steadily get there.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for the year? What is it, and how do you hope to live differently in 2013?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp

All of us dream of going on some kind of big, hairy, audacious adventure at some point in our lives. It could be anything from a foreign adoption, to a new business venture, to a cross-country drive in a convertible.

On many days when I merge onto Interstate 75 in our city, I’m struck by the fact that this road I’m on connects Canada to Key West. I wonder about all the stories and secrets it holds. I’m allured by the adventure of passing my exit up, and driving another thousand miles, purely for the adventure.

God has wired us to be restless, in varying degrees. It’s what moves us to build better things. To ask questions. To see more than meets the eye. To create movements and lead change. It’s part of being made in His image. It’s a good thing.

Sadly, this is perhaps the good, God-given impulse we suppress the most as an affluent Western society. We are risk-averse to a fault, trusting our safety and security more than we trust our Savior.

Shawn and Maile Smucker have co-authored a great new book called How To Use A Runaway Truck Ramp that reminds me of how often I treasure safety and security more than my Savior in everyday life.

The book is a true story that took place earlier this year. It’s a very tangible telling of the raw emotions, second guesses, nagging fears and mountaintop moments (literally) they experienced with their four young kids on a 4-month, 10,000-mile road trip around the United States. And they did it in a borrowed 40-foot tour bus formerly used by Willie Nelson (which I think is so incredibly cool!).

With wisdom, humor and grace, they helped me to see the character-building value of adventure, in a society where adventure is suppressed more often than not.

At places, my heart raced as I careened with them over narrow mountain passes, pumping the failing brakes on their old bus. At other places, I could taste Shawn’s fear of a father stranded with his family, leaning up against the side of the bus, not sure what to do next.

But in every situation, he and Maile helped me see that the adventure was well worth it, despite the difficulties. No. Because of the difficulties.

You’ll be challenged by Shawn and Maile’s story. As you live the adventure with them, they’ll show you that stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy, but it’s eye-opening. It’s not rational, but it’s rewarding. It’s not logical, but it’s life-changing. And that there’s so much to gain from choosing the harder, somewhat crazy road sometimes—even if the brakes are a bit spongy.

Thanks, Shawn and Maile, for letting me tag along on your grand adventure.