Welcome back to the End Average Fundamentals series! If you are new to this, please begin reading the series from the beginning by clicking HERE. Although the messages work on their own, there will be more context for you if you follow them in sequence. Make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter and I’ll send these directly to you so that you never miss a new post. You can sign up right on the EndAverage.com homepage. Now let’s get right to it!
There’s an old story I’ve heard from a few different places that I think captures the concept of choosing your influences with intentionality and wisdom. It goes like this: so a boy and his grandfather are walking through the woods. The grandfather tells the boy “there are two wolves fighting inside your heart at all times. A good wolf, and a bad one. The one that wins the struggle will direct your actions and the outcome of your life”. The boy thinks about it for a few minutes then looks up at his grandfather and asks, “Grandfather, which one is going to win in me?”. The old man smiles and says “the one you feed”.
As we’ve been going through the fundamentals series I hope you’ve noticed a trend in what we’re talking about. This trend is the message that the core of ending average in your own life is establishing growth habits. These are the things that you repeatedly do daily, weekly, and so on. There are rarely single occasions that will change the course of your life. However, every day you have the chance to direct your actions and attitudes. You have the daily opportunity to change the destination of your life by changing your course in a positive direction, even if that’s only by a few degrees every day. It is up to you to choose habits that are in line with God’s word, it is up to you to deny tendencies that would anchor you down, it is up to you to feed the right wolf.
Your influences change you
Ta-daa! Amazing concept right?! Of course we all know that the things we listen to, watch, engage with, and consume change who we are! But wait, why don’t we act like we know that? How is it that I go to church and sing about wanting God to be my all, but I spend about fifteen minutes or less praying or reading the Bible every day? And how is it that I will mindlessly scroll my newsfeed, allowing absolutely any random thing that catches my attention to entertain me, instead of actually spending those moments with my wife and other worth-while things. See where I’m going with this? Everything I’m about to say comes from the exact same struggles you’re having. The reason the topic of influences belongs in the relationships category is because your decisions here directly influence who you are, and in turn will determine what you find funny, interesting, or conversation-worthy. In the next fundamentals post we will get into choosing your crowd and seeking mentorship, but for now let’s talk about practical ways to be intentional about your own growth.
We have an absolute tidal wave of information poured onto us every single day. We’re also developing the addiction to our screens that opens the the floodgates for that tidal wave before our feet even hit the floor in the morning. We could spend all day talking about what is good, bad, or ugly media, but that’s a topic for another time. Right now I want to give you permission to take a break from social media for a week to see how your outlook on life changes. I challenge you to put your phone on airplane mode during dinner and family time.
Now I don’t want you to think that I’m a social media basher – I’m on it and I love the connections that happen there! Technology is a tool that can be used for good, but if you look at how you use technology, I’ll bet you’ll see that you are actually just a sucker pulling in all the advertising they can pump into you while you’re scrolling. Here are some basic things that can help moderate this:
1- Limiting your time is a good place to start. One hour a day? Half hour? If you have a kid who is nine or older do you realize you’re half way to having a grown up? Maybe that time is better spent on them.
2- Go ahead and hide or delete all the people whose posts are incendiary or include useless rants. Remember that every idiot has the same volume on social media (myself included). I have a personal “two eye-roll” policy before you get the boot from my feed.
3- Unsubscribe from the groups and pages that put out constant drama or immature humor. Yeah it might give you a chuckle, but remember that everything you read either makes you a better person or a worse person. I’d rather take in constructive information that motivates me to grow.
4- If you really have an addiction to social media and the above things seem ludicrous to you, it might be time to talk to someone about it. Delete your social media app from your phone for a week so you have to actually use your brain to think while you’re in line for five minutes at the store. If you truly need help then email me, I want to help.
I’m not a fan of TV. I understand the need to “decompress” after a long day at work, but a walk or a book achieve that much faster for me. I’ve gotten quite used to being completely out of the loop on the latest binge-worthy shows out there. Tube time is an American pastime that can be just as addicting as social media. It’s not to say that we don’t watch TV in our house, but we do try to be mindful of what and when we watch things. A lot of the same principles apply as the ones we mentioned above, but here are some more:
1- Limit time and make humans a priority. Please don’t have the TV on in the background of your home all day. I don’t need to quote studies for people to understand that it’s not good for you or your relationships. Mindless influences put you at the mercy of the directors and media stations. They want to sell advertisement time and they are very good at crafting media that will pull you in as long as possible.
2- Go through your DVR and delete the shows you record that you wouldn’t watch with Jesus (or your grandma) sitting on the couch next to you. Garbage in = Garbage out. ‘Nuff said.
3- Intentionally choose shows that are educating, motivating, or constructive. There are millions of hours of documentaries or educational shows that will ignite passions in you that you have forgotten. My wife and I learned that cooking shows bring us together, and they have upped our food game tremendously! We also love watching nature documentaries with the kids, and are constantly learning new things about our planet!
4- Turn it off. If you’re out of recordings or are surfing to find something, just shut the darn thing off and read a book or take a walk! Go on, try it!
5- Limit your news intake. I’ve been in combat zones watching news being reported on the exact place where we were at. It was wrong every single time. The focus was on the wrong things and the stories disappeared too fast to ever give resolution. You will be in fear every day of your life if you trust what is being reported on any of the major channels. Anxiety isn’t useful. Turn it off.
I travel a lot for my work, so I have many hours behind a windshield. Even if you don’t have hours at a time like me, even if your commute is only 20 minutes, you’d be able to add that time up to over three hours in a regular workweek. I love music so I do have a lot of time listening to that, but I balance that time with growing my mind. Here are some suggestions to grab that time to grow:
1- Podcasts. It’s been a few years since podcasts hit the scene, and now there are podcasts about absolutely anything. Search in iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you can find them and find something constructive to listen to. My favorites range from theology, to business, to financial planning – I am absolutely certain that I learned more from entrepreneurs and business experts on podcasts than I did getting a formal MBA. By the way, they are all free!
2- Audiobooks. Did you know that your local library most likely has audiobooks for you to check out for free? If not, you can go download classic books online for free and load them up on your phone. If you want the latest bestsellers you can buy them on Audible or other apps like that. Point is, if you have three hours a week commuting to work you could get through two whole books a month without turning a single page. I think that beats the “top 10 pop music” chart you’ve heard four hundred times.
3- Don’t listen to anything at all. When’s the last time you just took some time to think about your life. What if instead of being constantly entertained from passive influences we all took some time each day to just daydream about our passions, hopes, or dreams. What if you defang that problem you’re having by just thinking about possible and real resolutions. Sometimes it’s nice to just pray, think, or dream, and since you’re busy driving you can give your brain a chance to flex.
Feed the positive wolf
This information is not new to you. We all know this stuff. So why are so many people stuck in this routine of average mindless influences? The decision is yours to choose a few things from the list above and to actually try them out. Once you start to feel knowledge and new ideas trickle in, I pray that it will quickly replace the mindless entertainment that is keeping you stuck, or worse, feeding the negative wolf in you.
Take the steps you need to take in order to use the influences around you for growth. You can become the father your kids need you to be, the husband your wife deserves, and the man God intends you to be if you consistently spend time taking in uplifting influences and removing negative ones. I know you can do it. I promise you that it’s worth it!
Let’s end average together.