Be okay with letting stuff you love & value go. These things may be holding you back from getting something better. They could be a self-imposed ceiling.
Ask the average freshman in college what they plan to do with the rest of their life.
I would wager most of them don’t know, or at best will give you a general answer. As a
freshman, I would've been slightly more specific. I wanted to be an architectural engineer. However, the summer following my freshman year I found myself questioning that path. I was at the intersection of the first important trade-off in my life.
During that summer, I discovered while I liked architecture, I loved discipleship. At 19 years old, I decided to trade a career in building architecture for a career in helping people build their best lives. Like most college students who change their major after they started, that decision was met with some resistance. It can be best summed up by a statement my grandfather made after I told him about my trade-off, “Why would you want to do that? You can’t make any money!”
From Grandpa’s perspective, I was trading away a career with clear financial benefits for a life where I would have to rely on the generosity of others. Thankfully, 19-year-olds are naive and don’t have the life experience of their grandparents. That trade-off would be a lot harder to make even now 25 years later. Yet had I not made the trade-off from engineer to discipleship I would have chosen a life of perceived security and traded away a life of significance.
10 Years later...
Ten years after I had made the trade-off to dedicate my life to discipleship I found myself at my next significant trade-off. It turns out my grandfather was correct. It is hard to make money doing youth ministry. I found myself unemployed and applying for youth ministry jobs all over the United States. After about six months of looking for a job, it occurred to me that I may need to find a different career to pursue. I wasn’t ready though to give up on discipling youth and I found a new love of coaching youth athletes. Therefore, whatever job I was going to get had to leave me available in the evenings to volunteer in youth groups and/or coach sports.
This trade-off led me to consider teaching.
Was the cost of giving up on my significant life of full-time discipleship going to be worth a steady paycheck in a job I wasn’t sure I would like? Thankfully, because I started college wanting to be an engineer, and despite my ending undergraduate with a degree in psychology, I was able to become a Skilled & Technical Science teacher (engineering, etc.) instead of a history teacher (psychology). Nothing against history teachers, I just find teaching that content boring.
After two years of educational endorsement classes and a few interviews, I finally had the financial security my grandfather was so worried about. For 13 years, I taught Skilled & Technical Science in a high school, coached sports, and volunteered in various church ministries. Teaching provided stability and allowed me the freedom in my schedule to continue pursuing what I felt gave me significance.
Over my tenure as a teacher and sports coach, I discovered the same significance that drew me into youth ministry. It all became discipleship. It took on different terms but the significance was the same: Help others be the best version of themselves.
Then this last year I came to the hardest trade-offs I have made so far.
I had the opportunity to trade-off being a teacher, and ultimately a coach, for being a career field specialist overseeing Skilled & Technical Science for my state. Transitioning from teacher to career field specialist provided me with the opportunity to move from impacting one school to impacting every school in the state. Even though I could still coach youth athletes, I was losing a lot of opportunities to disciple students. It was a hard choice to make that would dramatically change how I approached my significance.
I chose to take the job as a career field specialist. The significance I have found in this job over the last year has been amazing. But there was one trade-off I still needed to make. This trade-off I was slow to make because I wasn’t willing to give up something I loved and valued, coaching, for fear of not getting something better in return. Coaching provided a friend group, control and input of game strategy, deep influence on players, and the opportunity to continue to be my son’s coach during his senior year.
Ultimately, I traded off being a athletic coach so that I can be a father and husband sitting next to my wife in the stands for the first time ever. Also, I have a more flexible schedule to pursue speaking, training, & coaching through Leadership Harbor.
Time will tell.
I am hoping this trade-off gives me something better. However, after just watching the football scrimmage at the beginning of the season, I feel like I have lost more than I have gained. That is the reality of trade-offs. Each trade-off gets bigger but so does the significance. Each trade-off's sacrifices are felt quicker and the potential takes longer to come to fruition.
However, if you stop making trade-offs you create a ceiling that will limit your impact.
Think back to historical figures who made a positive impact on the world. What do you recall about them? What about them is worth remembering? Can you name one that didn’t make a hard trade-off that led to a life of significance? What trade-off do you need to make to increase your significance? It might just be something you love & value.
Go, and outlive your limits!