Steve Jobs made me do it! In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford he told three stories from his life that wound up shaping his future. They were about dropping out of college, getting fired from Apple, and being told he only had a short while to live. When he dropped out of college, he dropped in on the classes that interested him. When he got fired, he was free to take chances and to create without the worries of trying to be successful. When faced with his imminent death, he determined to only do those things that really mattered to him.
His speech made me wonder what I would say if given the opportunity to speak to graduates or give advice to my children. What three things would I say? Here they are.
Don’t let people’s expectations shape your life.
Somebody once asked me, “Why don’t you to college so you can amount to something?” She not only had a warped view of human worth, she tried to force her expectations on me. I told her that I didn’t have to go to college to amount to something, though I did graduate with a degree.
I have found it hard to find out who I really am. No doubt, being a pastor for most of my life had something to do with that, but now I flat out refuse to be squeezed into someone else’s mold. I lost way too much time listening to conventional wisdom and being compliant. I was not being true to myself. There is no more important pursuit than finding out who you are and fumbling your way to into your true personal identity.
Relationships are the most valuable thing in life.
When I was a pastor, my family life conformed to congregational expectations. That meant that my kids sat through a lot of boring meetings, had extra pressure on them to behave, and it meant that I wasn’t there for them if church duties called. That’s sad because it is relationships that enrich our lives. Even pursuing our personal identity becomes meaningless, if we are alone in doing so.
Living life meaningfully will take far more perseverance than you think.
I lost my dream, the dream of a cutting edge church that connected with people on a real life level. Eventually, I found myself closing the church that I had tried to start.
There isn’t much in life that goes according to plan. We have to re-evaluate and re-tool many times. Our goals will be thwarted again and again. There will be many times that we will want to give up, run away, or react in a way that will not serve us well. But there always is a bright side, a new direction, something even more meaningful ahead and it is up to us to find it.
Originally posted November 9, 2010.