I love taking my kids down to the river. It grants us a refreshing break from the Summer heat, from being trapped indoors during COVID, and from the aggravating notion that our entire world is standing still until this weird pandemic lifts.
The fast-flowing water and the tons of tiny fish shimmering just under its surface bring us back to the reality that so much is going on, and that a global pandemic couldn't stop nature from doing its thing. We just have to stop stirring and look.
Probably my favorite feature of a river next to our place is the bevy of smooth stones you can easily find on its shallow bottom.
I'm starting to teach Deacon, my oldest (pictured on the right here) how to skip rocks. Over and over again, I instruct him on what rocks to look for -- the light, smooth ones -- how to grip them, and how to sling them parallel to the water to maximize their number of skips as they dance across the smooth river's surface.
Side-note: The rocks in this river are perfect for skipping -- I somehow got 12 skips from one rock the other day.
See how I gave the rock credit there? Big-man move, I know...
Despite countless rocks and countless attempts being within my reach, I sometimes catch myself hesitating to throw at least one rock each time we're out there. I hang onto this "perfect rock."
I mean, this rock is literally on earth to be skipped!
But, that's just it -- it's perfection has suddenly increased the pressure to perform.
After all, anything less than 10 skips atop this water would be such a shame.
I don't want to mess up the throw, so the rock stays in my hand.
So many people do the same thing with their biggest dreams that
I do with these "perfect rocks," don't they? They just hold on to them.
They're worried that if they go after these dreams wrongly -- if their form is just a tad off, or if there is the smallest ripple of unfavorable water somewhere in their path, or if they somehow run out of room -- then they will fail.
And the fear of failure keeps them gripping, protecting, and [ultimately] never attempting to throw their stones -- and never knowing how many skips they could've gotten.
We mistakenly assume that our greatest dreams were placed there for our enjoyment. They are also there for others.
If you make them about you, then you'll forever be preoccupied with collecting the smoothest stones in your pockets. Nobody will ever see them -- they will never be able to help others. The only life they will have is in your mind -- ideas of what they could be. People who refuse to throw their smoothest stones ultimately miss out on seeing their potential.
That's not the dream, right?
But when you shake off that self-centered mindset and begin to see your greatest dreams as items placed under your feet by a greater Force -- as things that you are perfectly positioned to share with the world -- you refuse to get in their way.
They are no longer your pet rocks kept for your amusement, but personal opportunities to serve and improve the world around you. Your pockets, and you, get lighter. You worry less about making the perfect throw. You become less personally-defined by their number of skips.
You still care, but not so much that you refuse to try.
When it comes to over-gripping and under-skipping stones, please learn from the mistakes I made in the entrepreneurial realm (2017-2019).
Mistake #1: I hoarded them.
Up until five years ago, I hoarded my smoothest stones in my proverbial pockets: my mind, my journal, and my conversations with my wife.
Instead of trusting in their abundance, letting them fly, and honing my throwing motion, I built up their value and impact in my mind while they simply sat in my pocket, collecting moss.
Net result: The rocks were "all mine," and so they went nowhere; I received no experience or joy.
Mistake #2: I blamed my fear of throwing them on "bad timing."
Somehow, I convinced myself that my career in management consulting restricted me from skipping these rocks. Under the auspices of "responsibility," I asked myself questions like; "Where will I find the time to do this right?" and "What if my firm finds out about these 'other' stones -- will they think I'm not committed to my job?."
I asked these questions to condone my inaction, but when I look back, they were SAD excuses.
I now see that I had more than enough time to devote to both my job and them, and that nobody in their right mind expects a 27-year-old creative type to be completely captured by their 9-5 job.
I looked for ripples to justify my clinging to these rocks, but in reality, the water was plenty smooth. I was just afraid that they weren't truly special stones, or that I would throw them wrong.
Net result: The timing had to be perfect for "my stones" to skip like I wanted them to; I received no experience or joy.
Mistake #3: I over-analyzed them instead of letting them fly.
After lying to myself enough down Mistake roads #1 and #2, I actually quit my job (great way to add pressure on yourself, by the way) to give myself adequate time to finally throw some rocks.
Side-note: Don't do this. Quit your primary job when your stones are already skipping very well, when no amount of money will make them skip further, and when the only missing element of their increased performance is your time, focus, and energy.
Okay, back to my pathetic progression ...
There I was, evaluating my stone collection, and sadly, I could no longer identify what made any of these stones special.
Now that they were no longer the forbidden fruit, they were far less appealing.
Now that I was on such a tight budget, I couldn't "test" them the way I wanted to.
Even though I could finally let it rip, I realized that I had NEVER thrown these kind of stones before. Like, ever.
After a few tiny failures (that felt huge) and tons of confusion (which I now see is just part of the process), I decided to help other entrepreneurs hurl their best rocks.
I witnessed a lot of stone-throwing and learned that these other entrepreneurs' ideas weren't necessarily better than mine. They were just willing to think less, throw their best stone the best they could, and hope for lots of skips.
It was motivating to watch, and I finally started to grasp the concepts that I'm sharing with you now.
Net result: I stopped grasping "my perfect stones" and helped others, I gained experience.
[finally, my big mistakes were over...]
In addition to letting go of the results a bit, I learned from these other entrepreneurs that focusing on throwing ONE stone at a time was pivotal to maximizing their skips.
Good, you'll have an easier road.
When the next smooth, good-looking stone revealed itself underneath the rushing water of my now-thoroughly-entrepreneurial existence, I snagged it and tossed it the best I could.
I sold it to others and built a team around me.
We invested money into it.
We sold it to big players in the market.
We negotiated strategic partnerships.
We witnessed some very exciting early skips.
Hell of a stone, right?
I was on my way!
Well, what do you think happened next?
I actually walked away from it.
To provide a tad more detail, I was one day away from signing an agreement with the Defensive Team Captain for the Dallas Cowboys. The deal would've proven our business model and, through his Agent and Financial Advisor, given us inroads to partner with some of the biggest names in pro sports.
Umm, Chad -- why the HELL did you walk away from that?
That is a longer story, and one you'll inevitably hear as we continue our walk together, but in short, I found that my best stones -- my relationship with God, my wife, and the lives coming into the world under my headship -- were actually far "smoother" than the most "impressive" stone in the world's eyes.
Going down that path -- signing that contract, traveling all around the country to do deals, doing whatever I could to get in front of the next big-time athlete brand -- wasn't what I felt called to do.
The stone was gorgeous in the world's eyes (and, in many ways mine), but my soul made it VERY clear to me that I was not called to live that lifestyle.
Weirdly, it wasn't hard to walk away from it.
I remember hearing the awkward, mystified pause from the players' Financial Advisor when I broke the news to him; "Umm.....why?!?!"
And in that moment, my heart hollered (Net-result): It was finally not about me and "my smoothest stones."
I had finally realized that my smoothest stones -- ones that others would kill for -- were already skipping on and on and on beautifully. I had thrown them so naturally and instinctually that I had underestimated their beauty and perfection.
I had gained a great level of experience, and felt a great degree of joy.
I've made many, many mistakes when it comes to skipping the rocks -- exploring the dreams -- of my life, but I really only have one regret: trying to make everything perfect vs. just doing my best and leaving the results on the water.
Your hesitation to chase your dreams is based in your fear of failure. You must learn that "failing" is the path to achieving that dream (or identifying a better one).
I get that you have dreams. I get that you want to skip these things up freakin' mountains until Kingdom Come. I get that you have a deep sense in your soul that those achievements are the reason you're on earth (and they might very well be). Welcome to my world!
But I've really gone after it, and here are some things I've learned:
Some of the shiniest, smoothest rocks you''ll ever throw will skip just once before going "kerrplunk" down to river bottom. Perhaps that one was all about building your faith, loosening up your arm, or placing that rock closer to another stone-seeker.
Conversely, you may very well get tons of skips out of rocks you barely wanted to throw. Perhaps they hit the water just right. Perhaps something supernatural happened to your arm in that moment. Perhaps that rock had been waiting for decades to be thrown, and sprouted it's own invisible wings right then and there.
However absurdly far I need to take this analogy, my point is that there are things we just cannot control, or understand, when it comes to the stones we throw. We don't have to have all the answers.
Net-Net: We just have to be willing to keep reaching down for that next rock, throwing it as best we can, and keeping our heart's intentions right: doing it for others, not ourselves.
That -- not achieving the greatest successes, skipping rocks for eternity, and getting your name in lights -- is what leads to purpose and fulfillment. That is the real destination.
Some questions for you:
1. What "smooth stone" have you been waiting for the right time or situation to finally "let fly?"
2. If it skipped just once and fell to the bottom, how would you feel, and what would your next move be?