Getting Out of My Way

I’m on the road to recovery. For years I was one of those chaps who would waste time, energy, and resources trying to find the solution to a problem on my own. I can’t recall how many wheels I’ve reinvented, but I know it’s up there. I resisted the sage advice of seasoned professionals. I had Google, what use would an expert be?

So what’s changed? Well for one thing, I’m getting over my phobia of asking questions. I’m learning to step outside of my comfort zone to engage people who know what they’re talking about instead of trying to do it all on my own. For so long I resisted the common sense approach of asking questions in search of what I thought was a better, purer way, but it turned out to be rooted in selfish and egotistic motives. If I had to ask someone else the question, then they would get the credit. Naturally I assumed that if I could discover the answer on my own, I would get the credit. Sound logic, right?

This is corrosive behavior. Now I have a difficult time being open to collaborative opportunities, I’m stubborn, and I tend to think that if I didn’t come up with an idea myself, well, then it’s probably not worth pursuing. I struggle to be enthusiastic about other people’s ideas and I plateau quickly in my cycles of learning because I’m unable to reach that next level that requires me to ask the questions. My lack of openness to learning from others on a personal level has left me devoid of some very necessary characteristics for ministry work. In short…I’m a bad team player. But it gets even better…

I love playing guitar and writing songs. I’ve been doing it for over a decade and it’s one of the few things I can say I’m passionate about. In fact, I taught myself how to play guitar by writing songs. I was awful for a while, but I gradually got better. But ten years after I picked up my first guitar I’ve plateaued. Why? I should be pretty good by now, right? Well, because in all of my “teaching myself” I wasn’t learning from anyone else.  I wrote all of my own songs and learned very few of the songs that had shaped my musical tastes in the first place — songs that would have challenged and improved my skill as a guitarist. Instead, I was an island unto myself. I developed a one-dimensional approach to my songwriting and guitar playing because I wasn’t seeking out those influences that would have made me better. For this reason, I haven’t improved much in my playing or writing skill for many years. And I know I’ve developed a bunch of bad habits that are going to be that much harder to unlearn when I finally buckle down and hire a guitar teacher to get me on the right track.

“Great. You’ve pinpointed it. Step two is washing it off.” – Tommy Boy (1995)

Let’s just cut to the quick here. There’s no shortcut to success in this area. We either are, or we aren’t, asking questions, asking for help, and learning from others. We have successes and failures along the way, but if we are purposeful about the change I can guarantee we’ll see some major improvements in our relationships, learning ability, and lots of other areas. The hardest part is getting out of your own way.

Like I said, I’m recovering. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I’ve got a decent start. What about you… is this something you struggle with or are you naturally a question asker?

7 Answers To 7 Questions You Didn't Ask

You didn’t ask for this, but here it is anyway. I have now been married for 3 years and 5 days and I can honestly say that I have learned more in the past 1,100 days than in all of the 24 years I spent on my own. There are some really basic, but really foundational things I’d like to pass on to you… married or not, it’s good to hear them:

  1. You are not that special – she is. It will serve you very well to realize that the woman that married you could have done much better but for some reason she felt pity and compassion on your sorry existence. You owe her a bigger debt than you can repay.
  2. It was clear to God that a man couldn’t handle the job alone. This should probably prompt a spirit of humility.
  3. Pay closer attention. If she has to come right out and say it… you’re missing the boat.
  4. You can never help out too much. Get off the couch and get your hands dirty. Responsibility doesn’t stop when you leave the office.
  5. Praying together can be awkward… but it brings you closer to each other and strengthens your relationship with God.
  6. If she sleeps on the couch because she’s mad at you… go get her.
  7. The most important thing in her life is now the most important thing in yours.

You’ll thank me one day.