The smartest person I know – a true story

1 09 2010

He’s probably the smartest person I know.  For that matter he’s probably the smartest person you know.  My friend Gary (I have changed his name) is one of my closest friends.  He once shared with me his stated mission in life, as a teen, was to be the smartest person anyone had ever met.  Gary succeeded.  He teaches for a living and actually learned Greek (Latin) and Hebrew to understand the context of the historical writings he was teaching  in order to have a better handle on the historical significance of what had been written thousands of years ago.  I have a hard time with Dr. Seuss at bed time with my kids.  Hebrew?  No way.  So it should be no surprise Gary’s made a huge impact on my life in so many ways.  The least of which is a seed knowledge he planted in me 9 years ago which I have been trying to harvest for almost as long.  The beauty of his brilliance is in the truth of what he said.  Fittingly, the beauty of my stupidity is it only took 9 years to figure out what he was talking about. 

When I asked Gary how he knew he wanted to teach and what steps he took to get there he shared this with me.  Gary said, “Sean – when you get to the place in your life when you can no longer look in the mirror because you are not doing the one thing you know in your soul you were made to do, you will know it is time to do whatever you have to in order to live out your calling.”  This statement changed my life.  Not at first.  At first I thought, “I am there now!”  At least I thought I was.  In fact there have been countless times I have thought I was there…Gary’s statement ringing in my head… longing to be fulfilled in my work.  What took me 9 years to realize is actually what the absolute gut wrenching process of getting to the point where you cannot look in the mirror is.  You see for me, I never have liked what I see in the mirror.  Looking in the mirror has always been wretched.  Maybe you’re like me – you may not tell anyone how you really feel about yourself – but the reason you spend all that time in front of the mirror is to try to convince yourself you’re not as bad as you think.  Maybe it’s just me.  What I never realized was Gary’s comment was less about the mirror and more about the soul.  It was nothing new to me to not like what was in the mirror, as I say I have been dealing with that my entire life.  But actually listening to the whispers of my soul?  Totally new.  Being the kind of person who tends to speak first and listens much later I have not often practiced purposeful listening.  Especially to myself.  However over the last 9 years God has been working in me – changing me from the inside – allowing growth in the areas of greatest need.  9 years after Gary’s life altering wisdom I heard my soul.  It whispered to me.  I finally came to terms with what my calling was and I no longer would let fear, self loathing, and the loud voice I have always listened to tell me I couldn’t do it.  It was finally clear – I could no longer live without living out my calling.  Whatever it takes to see that happen is what it will take.  As the famed radio announcer Dave Ramsey says, “To live like no one else in order to live like no one else.”  After 9 years Gary’s words are so clear.  I get it.  And I also have come to terms with why so many times before I thought I was at that place in my life but in fact was so far from it.  It’s not about the mirror – it’s about the soul.

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Waking up is hard to do.

25 03 2010

“Daddy!  I pooped in my pull up.  I need to change into my big boy underwear.  Can you dump my poop into the potty so I can put my Spiderman underwear on?  Daddy – your job is to clean my poop!” 

In the long line of ways to be woken up that is about the best I‘ve ever heard.  My son, all of 3 years old, clearly understands my roll.  I guess at times I may be the only one who doesn’t.  After romanticizing what a 35th birthday morning would sound and feel like my son’s needs and desires never really came into the equation however I guess I should not have been so short sighted.  My job is that of Daddy – poop dumper, ass wiper, encourager, provider, influencer, teacher, mentor, and role model to this 3 year old treasure.  He is the embodiment of all of my dreams coming true.  You know its funny, looking back at March 25th of 2000 – I never would have guessed this would be where I would wake up. 

March 2000 was the last time I found myself staring up at the ascension of a mountain range.  I was 25 years old.  I called my father from my office in the car dealership and asked him, “Dad, when you turned 25 did you feel like as much of a failure as I do?  I just can’t take this anymore.  This job, this life, this direction, this feeling of utter emptiness.”  That phone call lead to 6 months of stress leave from work, therapy, pretty much a complete overhaul of my life.  You see at that time I was pursuing my dreams on the side.  I was the lead singer in a gigging rock band, I was dating A LOT, cavorting, you know – the whole sex, drugs, and rock & roll thing.  I never wanted to get married, never wanted children, and DID NOT want to be selling cars.  Selling cars was easy and allowed me to focus on what I loved – performing.  As I reflect on that time and that crossroads I chose safe over dreams.  What was I thinking?  Have you ever done that?  Chose what you were supposed to do?  What was responsible rather then following your heart’s cry?  And nothing you do from that point on seems fulfilling?  Let’s be honest – we’ve all done it.  Maybe it’s a relationship we stayed in too long, a degree we got because we didn’t have the courage to study what was really in our hearts, chose to stay in the “friend zone” rather then really telling them how we felt (now we creep them on Google and facebook), or maybe just been terrified to even start dreaming because simply dreaming is irresponsible? 

It’s been 10 years since I looked closely in the rear view mirror.  What I discovered today looking back on the past 10 years is I have been trying to follow my dreams by taking small steps towards change without ever really executing.  Doing just enough to have the change feel like a rest but never really jumping off that ledge.  In 2003 I changed automobile brands and starting selling a different line of cars under the same ownership group.  In 2004 I almost accepted a job as financial planner/advisor but I was talked out of it by my new father-in-law so I accepted a managerial role at the car dealership instead.  In 2006 I almost went into vocational ministry until I chickened out.  Instead I accepted a promotion into a larger managerial role.  In 2007 I was weeks away from accepting a vocational ministry role again until the situation blew up and left my family, my dreams of working in ministry, and my entire church experience in shambles.  Instead of taking the opportunity to go for what I wanted I retreated into what was safe and secure and continued to run the dealership.  In 2008 I took over 2 dealerships with 4 divisions and in 2009 I moved companies for a better opportunity.  That opportunity hasn’t come to fruition so I find myself back where I started – selling cars.  I’m staring up at the ascension of another mountain.  All of this to say now is the time.  The common denominator to all of this is not bad luck, poor timing, or wrong decision making.  I haven’t been screwed over, taken advantage of, or used in any way.  The common factor in all of this is me.  I have not stood up for myself or my dreams and taken it upon myself to make it happen.  That has changed.  Its now time.  There is nothing left to loose other then more of me.  What is holding you back?  What is keeping you in the safety grooves of your life?  What would you do if you could get out of your rut?

Some amazing new dreams have come to reality in the last ten years.  I have been blessed with an amazing wife and best friend, 3 amazing children, good friends, and an amazing support system.  I have been able to dabble safely in my dreams for a few years and this allows me to know I can succeed at whatever I set my mind to.  Hey, if I can accept the role of Daddy, of poop dumper, ass wiper, encourager, provider, influencer, teacher, mentor, and role model to my 3 year old treasure of a son certainly I can do anything.  He deserves that.  I deserve that.  You deserve that.  Be the embodiment of your dreams coming true. 

“Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.” – Nelson Mandela.