How do you prepare for a year you cannot control?
The most significant events of this year will likely be surprises to you.
There will be setbacks. Perhaps someone you love will face a health crisis. Or you’ll have to navigate a problem in a relationship and financial stress.
There will be breakthroughs. You might get an unprecedented opportunity. Or you’ll meet someone who will become a great friend. The possibilities are endless.
Think about it the unexpected moments that came for these famous names recently.
Kirk Cousins has been an underdog his whole career as a quarterback. He goes into the offseason as a backup for the Washington Redskins. Then in August 2015, his head coach names his the starting quarterback over number one draft pick, Robert Griffin III. Cousins goes on to have a record-breaking season.
Rachel Platten is about to give up on her music career. She’s over writing songs for other people to sing and singing the songs other people write for her. She wants to write her own! She writes one final song, more honest and strong than any she has penned thus far. Fight Song becomes a Top 10 hit and turns 2015 into a break-out year.
Bono is preparing for a huge year going into 2015. He thought he was getting some great exercise when he went for a speedy bike ride in November 2014. However, he fell from that same bike, sustaining major injuries. He broke his eye socket, his shoulder in three places, and his arm in 6 places. spent most of 2015 recovering from his injuries. U2 canceled their weeklong residency on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Bono spent the next six months recovering before the launch of their latest tour, Innocence + Experience.
For each of these people, an unexpected event produced an unprecedented opportunity. In each instance, the good and bad events led to thriving futures.
Kirk Cousins made the playoffs and got a big paycheck via the NFL’s franchise tag. My 3 year-old son now asks me to play “the life song” when we get in the car. Platten’s released another single which is getting major exposure on Top 40 radio. U2 picked up massive exposure and their recent tour became a roaring success, critically and financially. (Their show in Phoenix one of the highlights of my year in 2015.)
The New Rules for Surviving, Thriving and Flourishing
If our unexpected moments become unprecedented opportunities, how do we prepare to respond well? I’ve been thinking about that question. I think we need some new perspective. These four new rules will help all of us not only survive in the new year, but thrive and flourish along the way.
1. Be patient like a farmer.
I’ve learned a ton about fear and courage recently from the interviews I’ve done for my Overcoming Fear series. In the fall of 2015, I interviewed my friend, Jon Mertz, an incredible businessman, author, and the leader of ThinDifference.com. He shared with me how he learned to be patient and the difference it makes.
“I am a farmer’s son. What I learned by being a farmer’s son are several things important to be courageous. Farmers control very little when you think about it. They can choose the crops they plant, and they can mostly choose when they plant. Care for the land is essential as well. Beyond this, what happens is uncontrollable. Weather brings bounty or wreaks havoc. Farmers have no control, yet they plant seeds each year. Farmers have a steely faith. This is a faith in what is possible, along with a faith in overcoming obstacles. Farmers pray. Farmers give. Farmers plant for growth.”
If you’re going to thrive and flourish in the new year, you’ll need to be patient and plodding. Put your head down and don’t look up until the work is done!
2. Embrace adversity like a grapevine.
In the summer of 2013, I toured a Northern California vineyard. During the tour, I saw irrigation lines on a vine. I asked how often they water the vines. The tour guide said, “We try not to.” I was surprised by his explanation – “we make our vines chase the water.” He went on to explain to me the difference between table grapes & wine grapes – table grapes get lots of water and become plump and nice looking. He said they’re great for eating but make terrible wine. The best wine grapes are small, tough and strong, which is the product of roots which have had to “chase water” deep in the soil.
This conversation reminded me of an event I was at a couple years ago. I overheard this conversation between a wine expert and some tourists from the midwest – I think they were from Iowa. They asked if Iowa made any good wine – he said, “no, your wine is terrible.” And these people were a bit taken aback by his statement. He said – “it’s not the problem of the people involved – it’s your soil. Your soil is too good. Your soil is great for feeding us – wheat, corn, barley. But is not rough enough for grapes. The vines don’t have to work at all to find nutrients and so they’re weak.”
We need to change our perspective on adversity, difficulty, and suffering. Our culture is shaping us to avoid those things at all costs. If we think like a vine, then we embrace adversity and realize it’s the struggle that actually shapes us into the people we were created to be. Adversity is the environment we can thrive and flourish within.
(For more on this subject, check out my talk on grapes, vines and do-overs).
3. Face your fears like a performer.
For the last 9 seasons, my friend, Valerie Peterson, has been Contestant Manager for the hit TV show, The Voice. In an interview with me, she shared what she has learned from these incredible performers.
“I take a lot of inspiration from the contestants and artists that I work with. After all, it takes a lot of courage to walk on to that stage and sing their heart out. For many of them, they’ve been hearing ‘no’ for years: ‘you’re not quite what we’re looking for’ or ‘you’re too old’ or ‘you’re too young, we’re not really feeling your style.’ It takes a lot of persistence and a LOT of courage to keep with it. The great thing is, just like we all have the similar doubts and fears, deep down we all have courage and it only takes a spark to light it on fire.”
Valerie’s contestants face their fears each time they walk on stage. Their courage in the face of fear, like ours, can lead to a life-altering performance.
4. Seize opportunities like a dying man.
If the stats are right, some of you who’re reading this post will breathe your last in 2016. However, we shouldn’t have to get morbidly dark to be awakened to the reality of our fleeting opportunities. Author Pete Wilson once said, “the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of that opportunity.” The greatest opportunities are not around for long. So we must seize them with ferocity.
Make that call. Send that email. Accept the new project. Embrace the new challenge. Say yes…or say no! Ask yourself, “what would I counsel someone else to do?” OR “What would I regret more – failing at this or not taking the chance?”
In the long-term, we regret missed opportunities far more than we do mistakes. Seize the opportunities God is sending your way like you’re a dying man. Because, at the end of the day, life is 100% fatal.
You can never be completely prepared for a future which surprises and catches you off guard. But you can prepare yourself to respond well. These four new rules for surviving, thriving, and flourishing will make a big difference as you navigate new challenges and opportunities.