Stay in your own lane, but it's okay to be curious and take some detours along the way

As a kid growing up, I had the privilege of sitting in the shadows of some great examples. My grandfather fought in WW2 and afterwards worked as a mail carrier before opening a family grocery store with his wife, my grandmother, that they both operated until he died in 1990. My father went to a technical school after he graduated from high school and he has had the same career as a contract draftsman since the early 1970's, a job that he's pretty stinkin' good at too.

No one told me growing up that I had to pick one thing and strive to do it to the best of my ability, but there was some outside pressure that pushed me in that direction. Ever since high school I knew that God was calling me into the ministry, and student ministry was always at the heart of what I wanted to do. So it just seemed natural that I would pursue student ministry alone and then, when I became older and more seasoned, I could transition out into other areas of ministry. The only problem was that, while I did have a passion for student ministry, I also had strong desires to do other things such as preach, teach, write, and oversee other ministries.

While that may not seem like a problem to you - and it didn't seem like such a big deal to me - I did have others in my life telling me that I needed to pick one thing and focus on being excellent with it. There was actually a time when someone I considered a mentor told me that I was being wishy-washy and that what I wanted to do didn't exist in the ministry setting. "You need to figure out what it is you want to do and then pursue that one thing. Narrow it down and stop being so all over the place with your ideas and desires. You won't get hired that way."

Now I truly don't believe that those who gave me that advice were out to squelch my passion or discourage me in any way. I had living examples set before me of men and women in the ministry and other fields who had faithfully stayed in their lane for decades and not once thought of bailing out. I knew that they were only trying to guide me along a path that they believed would allow me to succeed by focusing on one area of greatest need. The only problem was that I just couldn't seem to do that. I wasn't wired that way. I'm still not.

The idea of staying in your own lane IS an important concept that I do seek to practice in my own life because, if I don't focus on what it is that I am called to do right now, then the results will be half-hearted and nothing will be excellent. But what I've also learned is that I can't be afraid to take some detours along the way. It's okay - actually, it's healthy and normal - to want to pursue other interests that exist beyond the responsibilities that know you must accomplish on your every day list of things to do.

Bottom line: Don't run from what interests you. The ideal scenario is that you are working or serving in an area that satisfies your greatest passions, yet it is also probably true that you have other interests in different areas. Shoot, you might even realize that where you are working or serving right now is NOT in the area of your greatest passion and that it might be time to consider a career move. I would rather be treated by a doctor who is passionate about medicine than one who believes he's missed his calling as a landscaper!

How do we fulfill our daily obligations yet still fill the gaps of other interests that keep knocking on our doors? You feed the need. For instance, find a book on some off-topic that interests you and then read it. Before I went to be last night I read a few chapters on the Rastafari way of life (I was going to type that it was a religion but after reading a few chapters I learned that, to those who practice Rastafarianism, that it is more than that). Before that I read a book on true crime. What do these have to do with working with students? Nothing! But I believe that I am a more well-rounded leader and thinker when I allow myself to read up on areas that interest me. And reading these books also confirmed to me that I was most certainly in the right lane for my life.

And you can do more than just read books. Take a class that will allow you to learn and explore the depths of a new subject that fascinates you. Go on a personal field trip to see the lighthouses or learn about another culture. Make friends with someone from another country and practice learning their language. Spend time with people who hold different views than yours and learn from them - listen to what they have to say, even if you don't agree. 

As children we ask the question "Why?" at least a million times a week, yet as adults we often settle for not knowing the things that continue to gnaw at us. It's okay to have your curiosity peaked well into adult life! Curiosity grows the mind and will make you into a more effective and well-rounded leader. I used to feel bad about having so many varied interests when friends of mine were already settled into their field for multiple years, but not anymore. I've allowed myself to feed those other interests that continue to knock at my door while not neglecting the most important tasks that are set before me. I agree with what Brad Lomenick wrote in his book H3 Leadership:
If you're not growing, you're not going. If you're not learning, you're not leading. And while it is great to be interesting, it's more important to be interested. Stay curious.

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