Last April, I stumbled upon the work of Jeff Goins. You can check out his excellent blog here.
His words caught my attention instantly. Better yet, they influenced my behavior. His ebook, You Are A Writer, was instrumental in kick starting my own writing.
Last August, Jeff published a book called Wrecked. Just like his other writing, this book was accessible, encouraging, and it called me to action.
Today, I’m excited to publish an interview that I had with Jeff about some of the ideas from his book. The post is a little longer than usual, but it’s packed with great wisdom. In the following conversation you’ll find nuggets about finding significance and meaning in our lives, and even comments about farting wives.
Austin: Describe what it means to be wrecked and a time when you found yourself in that experience.
Jeff: To be wrecked is to be disabused of the status quo. It means to live a life that is intentionally about others, and that usually begins with some sort of cataclysmic experience. Something that causes the pain of a broken world to disrupt your comfort. The experience leaves you feeling changed forever.
That happened to me when I was studying abroad in Spain for college. I met a beggar named Micah and after doing my best to ignore him, finally took him out for a bite to eat. After he had scarfed down a McDonald’s meal, he told me, “You are the only one.” When I asked what he was talking about, he explained that he’d been standing on that street corner for months — and I was the only one who stopped.
I was never able to see a homeless person the same way again.
A: This idea of being wrecked is a powerful image. It sounds almost scary, yet you explain in your book that we all need to get wrecked. Why would we want to do that?
J: Because life is not about you (or me). We find our purposes in the context of discomfort and doing hard things. Most of us confuse comfort with calling and say, “I’m not called to that” when looking at an uncomfortable situation But what we really mean is, “I’m not comfortable with that.”
However, who ever grows when they’re comfortable?
So I wrote a book exploring the idea of what a life full of discomfort would look like. Turns out, it’s the most fulfilling way to live.
A For somebody who lives in a small city, without many opportunities to encounter brokenness, how might they be wrecked? Is it possible to find brokenness anywhere?
J: Mother Teresa used to say Calcutta was everywhere; you just needed eyes to see it. There are broken people everywhere (we live in a world full of emotional and physical suffering); you just need the vision to see it and recognize it.
A: You describe both the feeling of being wrecked that many missionaries experience and your experience in Spain with vivid details. Do I need to travel to exotic places or urban areas to live the life you describe? If no, then how do I experience similar things in a more mundane setting?
J: Not necessarily. But you do need to do something uncomfortable. I often hear people say, “Well… I don’t have to travel halfway around the world to learn that lesson… do I?” And the fact is maybe. You might if that’s the last place you want to go. Again, we grow when we’re uncomfortable. If all you’re ever doing is things you like, you’re not going to grow.
A: For me, your two chapters on commitment were the most powerful, convicting, and memorable. While I listened to the audio version of your book in the car, I had to just stop and reflect on what I heard in those chapters. At the end of chapter five, you say that we need commitment in order to grow. Say more about what you meant by that.
J: We live in a world free of obligation. It’s normal to work a job for six months and then quit. Normal to have a seven-month lease or move to a different city every other year. It’s even normal to hop from one short-term relationship to the next. We are addicted to what we think is independence, but really it’s bondage.
In my experience, the greatest periods of growth in my life have been when I was doing what I didn’t want to do, serving somewhere longer than I’d like, fulfilling a commitment I was no longer excited about. In those moments, we learn that some growth is slow (most, in fact) and the things worth having in life take time.
I don’t like that lesson, but I’ve learned it. Or better yet: I’m learning it.
A: In talking about commitment, you say that you like old stuff. I have to disagree with you. There’s nothing better than opening anything brand new and smelling the fresh packaging, feeling the pristine product in my hands (like an iPhone), and turning it on for the first time. So describe some of the fruits of commitment you mentioned in chapter six. Convince me that “new” isn’t always the best.
J: Novelty is an illusion.
What happens when you drop that iPhone? When your new laptop gets a scratch? When your beautiful wife passes gas for the first time in front of you?
Things are not always as shiny as they appear. Even when they are, the veneer eventually goes away. What then? Do we dispose of the “old” and bring in the “new”? Some of us do. But others have learned the value in keeping old things around and preserving resources, even thinking more in terms of sustainability and less in terms of consumption.
“New” is always getting old. You can keep chasing it (which is exhausting), or you can embrace the beauty of an imperfect world.
A: Ok. I think I get what you’re saying about the importance of sticking with something even when we don’t feel like it. But is there ever a time when we shouldn’t commit, when it’s best to move on? If yes, how do we discern this?
J: Yep. I think when we start serving a need for ourselves (and this happens more often than you might think), when we are focused on justice or humanitarian work because of how it makes us feel or look. That’s not to say that you can’t have mixed motives (you can). It just means we need to eventually move beyond codependence or move on. I know plenty of people who have lost their souls trying to save the world and in the end don’t do anyone any good.
A: Toward the end of the book, you talk about the importance of building the right habits. You also talk a lot about this on your website and in your book, You Are A Writer. Both your books and your blog have been really helpful to me. Your thoughts about forming healthy habits and showing up to do the work God’s given us challenge me every day. For those who haven’t read your writing, explain how our habits influence who we become.
J: People talk too much about goals. A goal has never changed my life. I’ve written some stuff down and tried to make a plan, and yes, sometimes it actually happens. But most of the time it doesn’t, and I usually end up getting disillusioned.
What has worked for me is creating new habits. How do you lose weight or learn the guitar or get a book published? Habits. Slow, intentional practice over time that builds into something significant. It’s the only way we do anything that matters.
A: One last question. Seeing how much you’ve experienced in life so far, it appears that you’ve been living life to the fullest. What advice would you give to a young adult who’s trying to discern what God would have them do with their life?
J: Do something. Better yet: do the hard thing. It’ll cause you to grow like nothing else.
A: Jeff, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Your words are changing lives, mine included. It’s been a privilege to hear from you, and I can’t wait to see how God uses you in the future.
J: My pleasure!
There ya have it. Great stuff. So, what is God calling you to do?