If you’re looking to connect with other people and make a difference in the world, here’s one place you can start:
You have actually experienced it already. You may have just missed it up until now…
To see what you’ve been missing, I need you to re-connect with your inner child for a couple minutes and dust off your imaginination.
You’re sitting around a campfire with friends. It’s a late night in the middle of nowhere. After the conversation goes quiet, one person unexpectedly opens up in a transparent way and then the rest of you follow suit. Twenty minutes later, as the fire crackles and pops, with the moon bright overhead, you realize “Wow, this is super vulnerable stuff we’re sharing!”
You’re hiking with friends, when someone discovers a pond. Someone else throws out the idea of cliff jumping. “No way! That’s just stupid!” Everyone is a little leery until some brave soul decides to jump first. And because the brave soul is a 9 year old girl, everyone else follows suit! Your heart hasn’t raced that much since you wanted to ask your crush to prom!
You’re in a meeting. You start thinking about something to share with the group. But you feel fear rising up inside of you and your heart starts racing. But in spite of fear, you decide to open your mouth and start talking. After you finish, you are surprised to discover that you weren’t the only one with that thought.
Ready for my favorite mental image?
A bunch of people show up to a “pool party” but no one is getting in the pool. Out of nowhere, someone does an unexpected cannon ball into the deep end, splashing all the timid girls who are just dangling their legs over the edge of the shallow end. Once the water settles, Mr. Cannonball gets an earful…along with company in the water. (This mental image was inspired by a scene from my favorite childhood movie).
In her book, Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace, Anne Marie Miller calls this kind of community-building courage “the gift of going second.” In her writing, she describes how it often takes one person’s courageous vulnerability to show other people the way. When we go first – whether it’s jumping into a scary situation, sharing our story, admitting weakness or taking a leap of faith – those watching suddenly (and “magically”) discover the courage to go second, third, fourth and so on.
Jumping in shows others the water is fine. Telling your story gives others permission to acknowledge the struggle and share their own.
Paul Angone is a terrific example of this. He’s currently giving all of us the gift of going second.
I met Paul last year through his blog, All Groan Up, where he focuses on “empowering college students, twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings with overwhelming amounts of truth, hope, and hilarity as we save ourselves from a ho-hum life”. As a recent member of the Thirty-something Club, I wish I had found Paul’s writing when I was in my early 20s. It would’ve saved me a lot of mistakes and heartache.
I’m grateful for my connection with Paul. He’s been very supportive of my writing, allowing me to write a guest post on his site and endorsing my new ebook, Greater. (You can get a free copy of Greater here.)
Today, Paul released his new book, All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! I finished the book this past weekend and I loved it!
In the book, Paul writes transparently (and often humorously) about his struggle as a twenty-something, graduating from college and pursuing a life and career. Paul pulls no punches, sharing his unedited thoughts along with some unflattering moments. Paul goes first in sharing about this difficult, awkward and disillusioning season of life, calling us to continue forward with courage.
I believe this book (and Paul’s writing in general) accurately identify the speed bumps and roadblocks our twenties bring us, while equipping and empowering us to discover the gifts which emerge from the challenging and uncomfortable experiences. Even if you’re not in your twenties, I think you’ll laugh your way to some great insights about the unexpected life you are living.
For several years, I’ve been convinced two of the most powerful word in the English language are “me too.”
Everybody has a story to tell and it is easier to do so when someone else goes first. Today, there is someone in your life – a family member, a friend, a coworker or teammate, someone in your church – who feels the urge to start. They know they need to jump. They want to open their mouths but they’re afraid.
They need you and me to go first. When we do a cannonball in the deep end of life’s scariest moments, they’ll be able to dive in too.
Our courage will set them free from their fears. Like Paul, our willingness to courageously share our struggles and even our unflattering moments will offer them permission to do the same.
Think about it. Who do you need to give the gift of going second to today?
Grab a copy of Paul’s new book, All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! Regardless of your age, you’ll laugh and be moved by Paul’s story. If you know someone graduating from college this spring, this is one of the best gifts you could give them. They’re going to get a copy of Dr. Suess’ Oh The Places You’ll Go from someone else. Buy them All Groan Up They’ll thank you later.
As a friend of Paul’s, I was generously given an advance copy of his book. I was not obligated to share a positive review, nor was I compensated for publicly promoting it. Any book I recommend here, I’ve read and benefited from myself. I’m sharing this so I don’t get in trouble with the government, who apparently has time to worry about these things.