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Waiting for Permission: Hank Fortener Interview

Feb 11, 2016

AM PM too much good stuff Hank Fortener

I grew up loving AM/PM. Maybe it was the Surge Slurpee or the cheap hot dogs or the fact that you could buy 64oz of soda for under a dollar!! Luckily I’ve changed my consumption habits since I was 13, but their slogan during that era – “Too much good stuff” – stuck with me. It totally summarized my teenage visits growing up in suburban Las Vegas.

Hank Fortener

 

Speaking of “too much good stuff,” I recently sat down and talked with my friend, Hank Fortener, as part of my Overcoming Fear series. His interview was full of so much great content, I couldn’t fit it into a post of reasonable length! So, I’m splitting the conversation in two. I think you’ll understand why! Hank has always been a provocative speaker and his responses to my questions will cause you to think and reflect. I met Hank in 2008 and it’s been fun to hang out with him both in Phoenix and Los Angeles and learn from him, both as a leader and a communicator.

Who is Hank Fortener?

Scott: Hank, tell us about yourself – what you do today and what you’re involved in.
Hank: I’m the founder of AdoptTogether.org, the first and largest crowd-funding site for adoption. I am a regular TED-speaker and storyteller around the world. We launched World Adoption Day in 2014. This year, we’re launching some really cool stuff. We’re launching the Mother’s Day Fund and the Father’s Day Fund to help preserve families and build them through adoption.

I’m writing a book right now. I also give monthly talks at music venues around Los Angeles through my podcast, Typically Hazardous. Additionally, I’m a teaching pastor at MOSAIC in Los Angeles. I also do some consulting with businesses and organizations around the the influence that relationships have on business outcomes. I take everything I’ve learned as a pastor in the last 13 years and implement it into human behavior models to help these organizations excel and grow.

Scott: Wow. You’ve got a lot going on. The book thing is new. What’s your book about?
Hank: I can’t tell you! I haven’t inked anything. I can tell you I’m writing books. There’s multiple proposals and projects out there. I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert and some other people like her that talk about the art form. For years, I’ve waited for a publisher to give me permission to write a book. And I’ve learned I don’t need to wait for permission – the art itself is permission. That’s been really productive for me. It’s taken a lid off all these things inside me…I read her (Elizabeth Gilbert) book, Big Magic, and I thought okay, “I’m gonna write all the books I want to write and we’ll worry about selling and publishing them later.” The creation of them is the spiritual act, not selling them.

Becoming a Leading Advocate for Adoption

Scott: How did you develop a passion for adoption and orphans?
Hank: My mom and dad sort of brought it into our family. My mom said she was born to be a mother and my dad said he was born to make my mother happy! They had 3 of us biologically and then they started fostering kids. They fostered 36 children and we adopted 8 from 5 different countries. My passion is making sure children in vulnerable places in the world have a family. I’m an advocate – every child needs a family. If that happens through their biological family, great. If that happens through adoption, awesome. Watching those 36 kids come through our house, I watched what a lack of family does to the fragile soul of a child.

That to me is an embarrassing scar on our country. We have 500,000 kids in foster care and no immediate solution for how to get them into families. In terms of the world we have 19 million kids who don’t have a mom or a dad who they talk to everyday. So that’s what I fight for.

Hank Fortener on Battling Fear

Scott: This interview is part of a series I’m doing called Overcoming Fear.What fears did you have to overcome as you launched Adopt Together and World Adoption Day?
Hank: Fear of looking stupid. Fear of failure. Fear of messing it up. Fear of being criticized. Fear of going bankrupt. Fear of being overwhelmed. I tend to be a fearful guy, so I have a lot of fear. The fear of being underwhelming, that’s a new one. You hope what you’re doing is great because of all the time and energy. But what if people think it sucks?

I think the other one is probably the fear of missing out. Everything you say yes to is you inherently saying no to a dozen other things. So I’m afraid if I start this, am I stuck as “the adoption guy”? Now I can’t be a tech guy or a fashion designer or a singer. Not that I want to do any of those things, but I knew this would limit me.

Scott: What does the voice of fear sound like for you?
Hank: It sounds like really really practical things. I’m not afraid of imaginary things. I’m afraid of real things. My fear sounds like wisdom. My fear sounds like the guy who say, “No, we’re not gonna do that because of these things.” I don’t have weird fears like I’m going to die. I don’t have irrational fears, I have fears of things which are real. Something I say a lot when I preach is “fear is most dangerous when it looks like wisdom.” The fear I hear is the deliberative “have you thought about this? have you researched enough? Are you sure you’re aware? Let’s think about this some.”

I’m going to pause us right there. Hank has some more awesome things to share about courage, along with the motivation behind his podcast. We talked about why he’s still a teaching pastor with everything else going on in his life and he shared an awesome word to those of you who are battling fear. You’re going to want to read part two of this episode next week.

In the meantime, if you’re not signed up to received my newest posts via email, you can sign up below. Subscribe to receive part 2 of Hank’s interview next week, along with a free copy of my ebook!

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