The Deep End

I have been living outside of my comfort zone a lot this past year or two. Not by design, there have been changes in my work, in my creative life, in my relationships, in my home life, and in my ministry. No one in their right mind would choose this much change at once. But sometimes we have a choice, and sometimes we don’t.

In some ways, I have myself to blame. I have a long history of jumping into things I was utterly unqualified and unprepared for. For a guy who has lived with a certain amount of fear about everything for much of his life, that is probably the definition of crazy. But it’s true. I have an english degree and a masters in creative writing and a D. Div, so of course I have spent much of my career in high technology, designing TV studios, control rooms and large scale AV projects. I took on directing two music, song and dance groups, when I could not read music. I moved from sales engineering into managing with no preparation. I took on my first ministry at 59, after a long period of brokeness.

It’s kind of what I do. I don’t know why. I’ve never been able to figure it out. A kind of madness. I think.

I have never been inherently cocky. And growing up I was pretty much told all the time by my dad that I could do almost nothing right. I was pretty well convinced for a long time that he was right. And yet, somehow, I came out of my youth thinking, all too often, “Yeah, I can do that.” whenever something interesting came along.

Where does that come from? That is the question I have been mulling over this week in my mind. I am still not sure of the answer.

I won’t pretend taking on all these things I was unprepared for has been easy. In every case, I have had a period of abject fear. That’s the truth. I can remember going to my first graduate class in graduate school. The class was “Metaphysical Poetry”. The proof talked for an hour and a half and I knew almost nothing he was talking about. I looked around and it seemed like the others in the class “got it”. I left that night thinking “I am a fraud and I am doomed.”

I wasn’t of course. I just had a lot of catch-up to do. I read like crazy, studied stuff, figured it out and did fine. And walked out of Grad School with straight A’s. But there was such fear at the start. And I never felt like I got my head up to speed until I was a year or more into it.

That is pretty much the pattern of my life. I jump into things thinking “I can do that.”, and find out I am hopelessly over my head. I live in that “what was I thinking?” place for a year or so, until I start to figure it out, and end up doing (generally) pretty well. Sometimes (to brag on myself a little), REALLY well. And then… either by choice or fate, I leap into something else, or a lot of something elses and the cycle begins again.

This has taught me a couple of things.

One, most of us can do most things. I am nothing special. I’m a guy with a decent intelligence, a few talents and a good work ethic. I’ve had some schooling, most of it not in the things I have done for a living, but enough to learn that I can learn most things. If I can do all these disparate things, most of us can. I have put this to work both in my own life, and often in choosing employees and partners. I find myself less concerned about formal qualifications than work ethic and willingness to learn. and the reward of watching those people bloom has been immeasurable. It’s also what makes my work as a coach and as a pastor such a good fit. I know firsthand that most of us can get where we want, no matter where we are. Potential is real and can be realized. For all of us.

Secondly, I know that I’ll survive the fear. Oh yes, the fear is real. The fear of failure. The fear of letting people down. The fear of appearing a fraud as I claw my way to competency and beyond. The fear of somehow proving the dad of my youth (He became much more supportive of me as an adult.) right. So when I am leaping into my new venture, I tend to study like crazy. I immerse myself into whatever the challenge is. I read. I visit sites. I talk to people. By now, I know the learning curve. It takes me a few months to a year to get to a place where I feel competent. I probably am competent before that, but it takes me a while to feel that way. The heart is always behind the head, it seems. The important thing is that by now I know I’ll get through it and I will come out on the other side. Always. It doesn’t mean the fear isn’t there. It means I can put it in a box and do it anyway. This too shall pass. And the satisfaction on the other side of that fear is crazy good.

Third, and this is the most important thing, I learned to lean on others. I have a bad tendency to think I can do most anything, to not want to “bother” others, and the temptation is to just plow through myself. I suppose that works, but it’s generally the slowest, most painful path. I found coaches, mentors, all sorts of people to talk to and ask questions of and who would ask questions of me, and moved me where I wanted to be much faster than I would have without them. Trial and error teaches, but it’s the slowest, most painful way to get from where we are to where we want to be. It is, I think, why so many people give up before they get “there” (where ever “there” is.). Because they take the slowest path, without out others and without accountability to those others. So I had to put aside my natural tendency and call on others help guide me through. Some did it for free. Some, I had to pay to help me. Both were invaluable.

Part of me hates being in the deep water. Part of me finds it exhilarating. Both feelings are real. But no matter what I feel, I know this – I love the variety of things I have learned to do, and have done in my forty years of work and adulting (A word my son uses a lot.). I love the things I have helped build and the people I’ve helped build up and the joy of taking on a huge variety of challenges and coming out on the other side. I won’t look back on my life and wonder if I could have done something. I am stronger for it, and by my measure of success, successful. Jumping off the deep end and figuring it out on the way down is what moves me ahead.

It can, I believe, do the same for you.

Be well. Travel Wisely,


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  1. Such a great post! It is true if you just fully dive into things you will definitely conquer that fear! And we are all capable of accomplishing great things when we really commit ourselves to them

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