A few years ago, I was a marketing executive for a major market TV station. I had also done marketing for a major airline and a global entertainment giant. I enjoyed a six-figure income and a great benefit package. I won awards, hung out with celebrities, and negotiated some pretty sweet deals. Yet inside, I was hungry for something different, something more.
I thought about starting a business to help nonprofits with their marketing efforts. Instead, I dove in head-first – marketing FOR a global nonprofit. It was baptism by fire, and I laughed that I felt I was back in school – mostly because the job was 200 miles from my house. Every Monday morning before dawn, I would pack my belongings and drive the 3+ hours to my office. Every Friday, I would drive home. The sacrifice was worth it all, because I believed with all my heart that I finally had found my dream job.
That dream job promptly ended 18 months later, when an economic downturn resulted in layoffs. I was one of the last hires, I was for all intents and purposes homeless, and my goal to expand the organization’s brand throughout the US couldn’t be accomplished with reduced budgets.
I remember walking into my boss’s office, talking about the terms of my severance package, hugging everyone, and driving home.
I had believed that, because I was pursuing purpose rather than profession, my job wasn’t just a title – it was a natural expression of who I was. But for months, I was depressed.
Without that title, I felt lost.
All around us, leadership experts tell us to avoid distractions, stay the course, and keep the main thing the main thing. We’re taught to manage our time and manage our emotions and manage up and manage to always win.
I have people who count on me to get things done. I want to honor the opportunities I’ve been given by tending to them well. What I’m sharing isn’t about being irresponsible or reckless.
Rather, it’s about perspective.
What if I said disruptions are just what you need to achieve your dream?
I’m not just talking about major life disruptions – a birth or a death or a job loss. I’m also talking about the subtle things, like disappointments or delayed dreams.
So, why do you need disruptions?
Disruptions slow us down
I don’t know about you, but I feel the pressure to DO, the pressure to RUN, the pressure to achieve. And that pressure to succeed quickly, to be a first-mover, an early adopter, a leading or bleeding edge entrepreneur can have us running scared.
Scared that we will miss the window. Scared that we will come in last. Scared that someone else will get the prize.
In Psalm 46, war is breaking out all around. Nations are divided – it’s pure chaos. The pressure is on to fight and to win – and take no prisoners.
And God disrupts it with these words. “Be still – and know.” I love the Message version – “Step out of the traffic and take a long loving look at Me.”
Disruptions can come to slow us down, allowing us the chance to take a hard look at our motivation, our fears, our focus.
Slowing down allows us to see things about our dream we hadn’t seen before. Perhaps a new or different way of approaching our goals.
Slowing down allows us to catch our breath and look around at resources or community that we may be neglecting – but desperately need – to achieve our dreams.
Disruptions move us along
Now, sometimes the same fear that can cause us to run blindly ahead can also cause us to stall out. We’re afraid to take the next step, afraid to make a bold move, afraid to even start planning.
Sometimes it’s not fear – it’s complacency that’s got us. We know there’s more, but we don’t take the steps necessary to achieve it.
We only dream in our sleep.
Sometimes it takes a disruption to wake us up, move us forward, and put a fire under our feet. Sometimes, disruptions remind us to be more like ants and less like us. Ponder these words from Proverbs.
You lazy people can learn by watching an anthill.
Ants don’t have leaders, but they store up food during harvest season.
How long will you lie there doing nothing at all?
When are you going to get up and stop sleeping?
Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs.
Suddenly, everything is gone, as though it had been taken by an armed robber.
Disruptions invite new dreams
Sometimes, things can be moving along quite nicely – we’re staying on track and making great progress toward our goals.
When disruptions come in moments like this – do we look at them as opportunities or irritants? If you’re like me, it’s likely more of the first than the second.
But even those disruptions can have a purpose in helping us achieve our dreams too, because those disruptions can open our eyes to what’s new.
A new dream.
A new community.
A new story.
A new perspective.
Isaiah 43:19 reminds us that the same God who created all that is seen and unseen is still in the business of creativity.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Losing my dream job forced me to slow down and take stock of my true purpose. It propelled me forward, and it opened the door to new dreams. I became a consultant and mentor, and for a season managed communications for a multi-venue church. I now work for another nonprofit, traveling the globe to tell stories and to serve the poor and oppressed. A book is being written about grace-filled leadership, featuring women from around the world who have taught me how to not only learn from disruptions but to delight in them.
God has plans for you that can only happen through the gift of disruption. When they come, allow them to have their work – slowing you down, moving you along, and inviting new dreams into your journey.