“Me? A leader?”
It was only in my 30s did I begin to realize that I was called to leadership. That’s because I was already leading. It occurred to me one night, when I was about 31, as I shut the lights off in my house at night. I realized that on that particular night, there were 15 people sleeping under my roof. This included my wife and I, our children, and various guests who stayed at our home.
And I realized, that to a degree, I was responsible for all these people. I was responsible to keep the house locked and safe. I was responsible for the home. And it was then I realized – that although I felt like an overgrown kid, lacking in maturity, that I was already a leader, like it or not.
That realization put me on a journey of self-development. I turned 40 this month, and I’d like to share with you three key areas of self-development that you can pursue long before you turn 40. And doing so will help you position yourself as a leader for the next generation.
I was once taught that maturity can be defined as delayed gratification. Waiting for what you want. It’s so simple, yet so difficult. I failed in this area many, many times, and I still struggle in this area.
However, I found that the key to growth in my maturity is to bring my cares to God. To share with Him the things that are on my heart. To tell Him about the things I want. Everything from my strong desire for social validation to a mint condition copy of Amazing Spider-Man 328 (seriously).
It’s important to realize that your deep desires simply cannot be met by other people. In fact, not even the people closest to you can answer all your needs. Not even your parents, or your spouse. And definitely not your favorite musician, author, artist, or filmmaker (as I once thought).
Consider the following Bible verse:
“Do not trust in a friend; Do not put your confidence in a companion; Guard the doors of your mouth From her who lies in your bosom. For son dishonors father, Daughter rises against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household. Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.” – Micah 7:5-7 [NKJV]
Sounds harsh. But today I get it. When I come to human beings with my deepest needs, and not to God, I set myself up for disappointment. I set them up for disappointment. Because human beings will always fail you, and you will always fail them. And in time, members of the same household can become enemies.
But if I look to God and wait, I defuse this powder keg. I bring peace into my life, and into my home. A person who brings his or her cares to God is a boon to society. I believe that this is what maturity is.
So how do I bring things to God today? It takes time. It takes intent. It means waking up an hour before the rest of my household, at 5:00 AM, so I can have that time. And I use that time to share with God what is on my heart, and to raise my concerns to Him.
Developing a lifestyle that seeks first to connect with your Higher Power, has been key for me to grow in maturity. (And God is my Higher Power – He’s the only one that works)
For years I’ve wanted to develop a running habit. But to me it seemed impossible. I had a whole list of excuses: my lifestyle, my stress levels, my health, my children, etc. But after a while, those excuses starting getting old, I got tired of hearing them in my head. And one day, about four years ago, I just woke up and started running.
I didn’t run very far or very fast, but what amazed me, was that I got up and ran the next day, and the next day. Then it became a week, and another week. Somehow, I became a runner. Three years later I completed my first marathon.
My first goal as a runner was to run four kilometers per day. I reached that goal pretty quickly. One day I decided to push myself – I decided to run five kilometers. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did it. And that became my next daily goal, 5k per day.
A few months later, the city marathon was coming up. I decided I wanted to run ten kilometers of it. I joined up with the half-marathon runners (something you’re not supposed to do), and ran with them for 10k. It was an amazing feeling.
The next year, I ran a half-marathon. The year after that, a full marathon. The whole time I was setting goals. I did not meet all of them. The year after I ran my first marathon, I ran again, and got injured. I hobbled back home. It was hard. But a week later, I was back with a new goal.
The point is to set goals. You may not make all of them. Adjust accordingly. I know of a guy who’s big physical goal was to walk across the room without having to sit down. That’s where he was at . And he set that goal, and he reached it. Now he’s moving forward from there.
The story of Caleb in the Bible talks about a guy who gets promised a certain piece of land at the age of 40. Yet he only actually receives that land at the age of 85. And even then he still has to take it by the sword. But he said this:
“…here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me…” – Joshua 14:11 [NKJV]
He was as strong at 85 as he was at the age of 40. Because I believe the Bible, having a biblical precedent like this helped me. It inspired me to get as physically fit as I can by the age of 40. And now I’m challenged to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even to my 80s. I want to have the strength I have today at the age of 85, like Caleb. In fact, I want to be even stronger.
There are so many factors at play when discussing each individual’s financial situation – especially if they have a family. I had been in debt for almost my entire adult life. Maybe you can relate.
“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
For me, the first step to getting out of debt was to measure. If you can start by measuring your finances (your spending, your account balances), you’ve done the first step in managing your money.
I’ve been doing this for years (today I use YNAB for this). And it was hard to see very little change in our finances for those years. But although we were yet to get totally out of debt, measuring our finances helped us not go deeper in debt.
We also budgeted our money. This means we didn’t just record all our spending, but we started to decide how we were going to spend in the future, month by month. This was a big mental shift for us. To actually not have your life dictated by your expenses, but do decide intentionally how you’re going to spend your money. Over time you’ll find that it’s not your expenses that dictate how you send your money, it’s your values.
Finally, at one point, we were blessed. We received part of an inheritance. This lifted us out of debt. Now we’re free to conduct the same lifestyle we’ve been conducting for the past years – the same frugality, the same budgeting. But we can do this from a place of “being in the black”, instead of “being in the red”.
In other words, even if you receive some significant sum of money, what’s to say you won’t spend it all and be back in the same financial place you were before?
Years of financial planning helped us here. And now I can say that at the age of 40, I’m out of debt, I’m physically fit, and I’m on the path to greater maturity.
I want this for you too.
You will never lose your youth
It was at 40 years of age that Moses left his parent’s home. He became independent, he became the leader of a family, and a leader in the community.
It might be that time for you. I want you to turn your upcoming 40th milestone into a launch into leadership, and a thriving lifestyle, instead of some mid-life crisis.
Start by developing a spiritual walk that first and foremost acknowledges your Creator and Savior, and brings your heart’s desires to Him.
Then set goals to get your body into shape. Seek a sustainable lifestyle that will keep you healthy for years to come.
Then be sure to account for all your spending, and budget accordingly. Even if things look bleak – or impossible – keep measuring, keep managing. When the breakthrough comes, you will be positioned in the right place to handle it.
Turning 40 is not the end of your youth. It’s another step in discovery. You will never lose your youth, as you are always young when facing the eternal. And it’s my responsibility to face the eternal every day.