Obeying Fear is True Failure

“What have you failed at recently?”

~Dave Ramsey

When I first saw the above question posed on social media, it caught me off guard. As if failing was a good thing! But why would failure be a good thing? The answer is simple: If we are not sometimes failing then we are not taking risks. A risk-free life is a life of unrealized potential. A failed life. Fear is one of our main barriers preventing us from taking risks in life.

Many of us harbor desires and dreams in our own minds and hearts about the kind of work we would do if we could do anything. But few actually take any meaningful steps to accomplish those dreams. The vast majority, even while wishing to be doing something they enjoy, spend their years in merely tolerable jobs, never moving closer to realizing their fullest potential. Most people choose the slow torture of a job they hate, or at best tolerate, continuing to age along in their life.

Why do people choose to suffer in this way? Yes they may gain a sizable retirement account, and there is certainly great value in the daily plodding of faithfulness in one place over many years and decades if that is what the Lord has called you to. But so many of us are hiding behind a mundane job at the costly expense of suppressing the gifting and calling The Lord placed within us. Is there any reason for us to believe that we should enjoy our work? Do the deeply suppressed dreams within ourselves bear any legitimacy? If you love your work then keep crushing! But many of us have given up on the idea that we could do work we enjoy.

Let me be clear. As a Post-millenialist Christian, I believe all work is God-glorifying. I am not saying that working a job you hate is inherently wrong or sinful. In fact, I have spent much of my life struggling through jobs that I did not enjoy but taught me valuable skills. There is a place for that in life, especially when you are a young man. But God has planted within each man a mission, a calling, a set of skills and giftings. And it is our job to work hard to figure out what good works He has planned for us, and boldly step out in faith to accomplish them.

In Ephesians 2:10, when discussing the salvation and work that God has done in us in Christ Jesus, Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Before I discovered the biblical eschatology of Post-Millenialism- something about which I am still learning- I interpreted Paul’s words to be primarily referring to invisible, spiritual things. But now I believe that the good works which God has prepared for us to walk in should be applied to all of life, including the kind of work we pursue.

Maybe you don’t need to be convinced that the desires, strengths, and giftings within you are from the Lord. But you are still not pursuing them. Why not? What excuses have you prepared to explain why you are neglecting the good works which God has prepared beforehand for you to walk in? I would argue that if we really drilled down deep, most of your reasons could be boiled down to one thing: fear. You are afraid of something. There are a lot of things to be afraid of when considering stepping out and trying to find a way to be productive and glorify God with your gifts. In future posts I will write about each of the possible things we are prone to fear and give some tips about how to overcome those fears. The remainder of this post will address the fear of failing financially.

The Fear of Failing Financially

If you are like most men, you may feel hindered by your fear of financial ruin if you were to leave your current job to pursue a job that better fits your strengths and passions. You may fear that it will require all your hard-earned savings or maybe that the endeavor you pursue will take so long to monetize that it will cause financial ruin while you are pursuing success. All of these are wise things to consider. But they are not without solutions.

Incremental Steps

I often tell my children that when we are afraid of something what is often going on is that we are believing a lie instead of truth. As Christians we truly have nothing to fear because we serve the Living God and King of Kings. He is the sovereign and omnipotent One. Our worse fears pale in comparison to the eternal hope secured for us who are in Christ. However, sometimes we still need practical steps to help guard us against our fears. One approach to guarding against such fear as we move toward pursuing our dreams is to take incremental steps. Instead of leaving your job outright, it can be wise to begin pursuing your dreams as a side hustle, gradually developing it into a growing income that can sustain your family over time. This could take 6 months or it might take 3 years. It all depends on what type of work it is, your vision for it, and how much of your resources you are able to give to the project. This approach will test the genuineness of your interest in such an endeavor without costing you your current career. In his book, Durable Trades (see https://thegrovestead.com), Rory Groves suggests that while we may not be able to drop everything and leave our current job to pursue other interests, we certainly can begin the process of picking one or two interests with our wife and children at our side and begin the process of learning some new skills over time. While this approach may be necessary for many, some people need to consider making a hard break from their current job.

Build Multiple Income Streams

While gradually building your dream job as a side hustle may be a good approach for some, others may feel the need for various reasons to make a hard break away from their current job. If this is you, one way to guard against financial struggles is to set up multiple income streams. By doing this, you are insulating yourself from major problems if one income stream does not work out. There all kinds of ways you can do this. I am doing this right now while I grow my Inspired Resolve motivational business. I teach part time for an online Christian school; I work as a Realtor helping people buy and sell homes (something I have done for the past 8 years); I drive for the Lyft ride-sharing app; and my family and I are working on growing our property into a productive working small farm. We recently purchased 18 chicks that will be laying eggs soon. We hope to sell the eggs for a small profit to our household. Other things I have heard of people doing are running an e-commerce store, tutoring, teaching music lessons, buying and selling things on social media or eBay, editing/proofreading, or building websites for people. If you have multiple income streams flowing into your household that are not too time-consuming, you will be able to be freed up to pursue your dream job around those other projects as well. One word of caution for this approach is to not commit yourself so much to side income streams that you have no time to work on your dream job.

Network

One of the best ways to put yourself in a position of success with your career goals is to talk to people. Find people who have figured things out already and are doing well in the type of work you want to be doing and ask to talk to them. Offer to buy them lunch or a coffee and prepare them that you will be asking them a lot of questions about how they got to where they are today. Bring a notebook and take notes about your conversation. Ask if you can meet them to shadow them or watch them work. I know a man who left a career as a corporate trainer. He had a passion for making useful and beautiful things out of reclaimed wood. He opened a small store front in a growing small town, stocked his store with wood material and things that others and he and his staff have made out of reclaimed wood, installed a wood shop in the store, and hired staff. His business is doing very well. If you have a passion for wood working, you could walk into his store, introduce yourself, and ask to meet for lunch to learn how he got to where he is today. He has paved the way for you. He learned mistakes along the way that often times guys like him are ready and willing to share with others. You will find that most people love sharing their story and the lessons they have learned along the way.

The Key: Move Forward

While there are many reasons one can give to stay where you are and never move to pursue your dreams, we are called to something greater. The Lord created you with a purpose in mind. He carefully and lovingly made you with certain skills, strengths, desires, and passions. We have a responsibility to cultivate those into long term meaningful work that brings glory to God. Take time to pray about and consider how you should move forward to honor God with the gifts He has given you to bring Him honor and glory.

Purpose in All Things

Do you believe everything happens for a purpose? Everything? That is a question my wife and I had to struggle with intensely the dreadful night the doctors told us our six year old son had a tumor in his pelvis and they believed it to be an aggressive soft tissue bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. I will never forget that moment. I am sure you have life experiences of your own which cause you to wrestle with whether there is a purpose to everything that happens.

This morning I came across an article on a popular Christian site called Desiringgod.org. John Piper wrote an article entitled “10 Resolutions for Mental Health”. Each of the resolutions struck a cord with me, especially number 10: He writes, “Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.”

zachary with anne and the other kids after his surgery
Zachary getting a visit from his siblings after his hemipelvectomy.

As we walked through Zachary’s cancer treatment we had to work hard to see how our theoretical faith played a real life role in giving us comfort in the midst of the most difficult trial of our lives so far. The idea that God is good and loving, even in the midst of difficult life trials, was comforting to us. But it goes further. God is not only good in the midst of our trials, but we are firmly convinced that God is good and loving by giving us our trials.

God loves us so much that he cares about our eternal happiness more than our temporal happiness. The Lord is always working in our trials. He has a purpose. I think of the number of people who were encouraged and touched, the number of people who touched us, the number of people whose lives were changed forever by encountering our sweet, joy-filled, always-smiling, never-complaining son as he endured all the intense pains, difficulties, and struggles that go along with his treatment.

zachary's xray after his surgery
This is the X-ray after Zachary’s surgery on December 9th, 2014. This was taken two days later. You can see the two straps which are drains as well as his staples. They removed portions of his pelvis on his left side where his tumor was. Over time his pelvis grew scar tissue fusing his femur back to his pelvis. However, upon completion of the surgery, his femur was completely detached from his pelvis. The two were fused back together over the next two years naturally. The doctors’ plan worked beautifully.

God is doing things, big things, good things with your trials. This brought us much comfort in the midst of the trial. We could rest knowing that every aspect of that difficulty, no matter how it turned out in the end, had a good purpose. What comfort to know that our God was involving us and our family in His grand plans to pour out His love on others, and in the process was intentionally loving us through the trials He was giving us. One day maybe we will get to see a more clear glimpse of how God used Zachary’s cancer to glorify himself by loving us and the world around us. Until that day, we trust.

The Glory of the Daily Grind

In “Break Free from Our Self-Adorned Chains”, I discussed the need for us to stop limiting ourselves with a focus on our own limitations. I challenged you to identify an area in your life where you have been limiting yourself based on your own false self-limitations. Too often we live our life wishing we could accomplish things we see others accomplishing, but never trying because we falsely believe they are beyond our grasp. However, breaking free from self-inflicted limitations is only the first step of accomplishing your lofty goals. If we are to accomplish much in our short time on this earth, we must not only be inspired but live daily with resolve to work at our goals, even when we don’t feel inspired.

I was sharing with my wife how discouraged I am because at 37 years old, I feel like there is so much I wanted to have accomplished by now. She encouraged me that great accomplishments happen through the mundane daily struggle of daily faithfulness. That is the key! It clicked in my heart at a deeper level than ever before. If I wanted to learn to play the piano, it is not out of my grasp; it is very achievable if I am willing to practice every day. If you want to write a book, it is not just a pipe dream that you should think you will never accomplish, it is very achievable if you are willing to sit down and do the work.

I am currently listening to an audio book by John Maxwell called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. In Chapter One he tells a riddle that goes something like this: 4 turtles were sitting on a log in the water. Three of them decided to jump into the water. How many were left still on the log? If you think the answer is 1, you are wrong. There were still 4 turtles left on the log. Why? Because 3 of them only decided to jump into the water. If they were going to accomplish it, they still needed to go from deciding in their minds to actually doing.

So as we begin to work on changing our own self-perceptions and beliefs, we still need to take another step–actually begin to do. And that is a very hard step to take. You see it can be easy to motivate ourselves to take the first step towards our goals. (Indeed, you are reading this blog because I made the first step towards executing my decision.) But the real success comes when we commit ourselves to the daily faithfulness of working toward that goal.

I can tell you right now that I am not making rapid progress in learning the piano. I only sit down to practice once or twice per week and usually only for 15 minutes at a time. This blog was exhilarating and exciting for me for the first 4 of my posts. (I am actually surprised it lasted that long without my excitement waning). But today was a different story. My goal is to write and post something every day. But when I sat down to write this post, I initially felt uninspired and unmotivated, and did not feel like doing it. Thankfully, I was able to fight through that feeling, and I hope you are the better for having read this far.

We love beauty. We are wired for it. We vacation to places where we can behold the beauty of the majestic creation. We listen to beautiful music. We enjoy watching professional athletes because they manifest an element of beauty as they compete to be the best at their craft. We appreciate beautiful furniture, clothing, cars, homes, etc. But the greatest violinist or the most gifted ballet dancer, or the most beautiful opera singer did not become that way without hours upon hours of hard work in the quiet places and in the early morning and late at night. They did not work at practice and discipline only when they felt inspired and only when they felt refreshed and motivated. They had to commit themselves to discipline and practice on a daily basis. They lived their daily life with inspired resolve. For while it is easy to pursue your goals when you are inspired, you need resolve to pursue them when you can’t find or remember the inspiration that led you to make the goal to begin with.

As you walk with me on my journey of living with inspired resolve, I hope you and I will both commit to growing in the seemingly boring, mundane, grind of daily faithfulness working towards our goals. For it is in that boring world, that we can truly accomplish great things.

 

An Open Letter to Cody Parkey

Dear Cody Parkey,

What a devastating field goal miss last night. Valleys can be so dark when you are in them.

You don’t know me. My name is Brian Carnesecchi. I live in Detroit. I am 37 years old, married with 4 kids, and I’m a lifelong Bears fan.

I just finished watching the Bears’ loss to the Eagles with my family. I know you must be devastated about missing that field goal to lose the game. Even though the loss can be placed on the whole team, I imagine you are haunted with a lot of regret about that miss.

I am writing to thank you. When I put my 10 year old son to bed tonight, I told him how much I would commend you for being out there and trying. I know you gave it your best. It is no small thing to have accomplished being a professional football player.

And you failed in that moment. But I would rather have a son who was out there trying to be great than a son sitting at home criticizing everyone else for their failures. I pray you see how blessed you are to be in this situation.

This loss will hurt for a while. And I would not be surprised if you have nightmares about it for a while. However, after swallowing this bitter pill, I pray that you use it in your life to become a better person. We all have trials and setbacks. What matters is how we respond to them.

You see Cody, my son Zachary, who is now 10 years old, will never have the chance to be in a position like you were in tonight. When Zachary turned 6 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. The doctors found a tumor in his pelvis. After 12 rounds of chemotherapy, he had a massive surgery to remove about 30% of his pelvis on his left side including his left hip socket. Once his body recovered enough, he then had 27 more rounds of chemo. It has been 3.5 years since his last chemo treatment and Zachary is currently doing great.

However, although he has found a new boyhood love for football and for the Bears, he understands that he will never be able to play the sport. It would be too risky for his body and his athletic abilities have been significantly diminished from his surgery. He now runs with a limp and struggles to keep up with his 8 year old brother.

I don’t feel sorry for him or our family though. We know everything happens for a reason. Going through that trial and now living every day always aware his cancer could return has been the hardest thing my wife and I have ever had to go through so far in our life. But it has been such a blessing. It has given us so many opportunities to be an encouragement to others. And it has taught us to measure life with more gratitude and sobriety. Our priorities have been recalibrated according to what matters most.

So although this loss hurts and that field goal miss leaves you with a pit in your stomach, use it to become great–whether ┬áin football or as a human being. Grow from the struggle.

By the way, you can check out a facebook page we used to chronicle Zachary’s cancer story on facebook @ZacharysStory.

-Rooting for you,

Brian Carnesecchi (bscarn@gmail.com)

 

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Zachary about a week after his surgery.

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Zachary is on the right between his sisters. Right before singing at a Christmas choir concert.