I’ve always been a bit of an exhibitionist. Supply me an audience, a collective of people for whom I can win their approval, and I’m all in. Fear vanishes as any collateral damage is worth the cost of their admiration. And the larger the crowd, the more real whatever I’m performing feels. It’s why I avoided practice, favoring playing the game where I could be seen.

I know I’m not alone. I recently attended a basketball game for players between the ages of four and six years old. They would run the ball down the court, make the basket and promptly examine the audience for their parents. The expression on their face was telling: did you see that — recognize what I did? Do you love me extra?

Even though we avoid similar levels of neediness as adults, we do, however, employ terms like ROI and measurables in search of recognition. For instance, boasting about an increased commission, selling x amount of homes, becoming ripped at the gym, or participating in a health fad, etc. We do this because as He Reads Truth writer Nate Shurden points out, our position in life is correlated to our performance. “You won’t get to second grade if you don’t pass first grade. You won’t receive a raise at work if you don’t meet quotas” or have someone swipe right unless you post the perfect selfie. 

Those ROIs and measurables become sweet, sweet tangible praise. And as much as they make us feel significant, they perpetually leave us empty and jonesing for something more meaningful. Something that finally seems real.

I think that’s why I have always admired someone as influential as Walt Disney: his determination, creativity, and legacy. Yet after screening Won’t You Be My Neighbor, I reasoned it is not Walt Disney that I aspire to emulate, it is Fred Rogers. Walt Disney was in the business of building a make-believe show. Fred Rogers used a make-believe show to create something real.

Unfortunately, that which is real—what actually matters—is rarely measurable: leadership qualities like wisdom and moral attributes according to psychologist Robert Sternberg (an outspoken critic of standardized tests because they heavily favor what is measurable, not what truly matters). [1] 

For example, in the church realm, it’s easier to measure the number of chairs filled on Sundays than it is to measure the number of people maturing in their faith — becoming disciples — throughout the years.

Don’t get me wrong; pastors desire as many souls to pack those seats in hopes people encounter God; however, we wish for our ministerial value to extend beyond the measurable.

For anyone, to be appraised beyond the measurable is a big ask. Again, because performance proceeds promotion, it’s common for us as leaders to discard what is real and difficult to measure — mainly relationships — by forming quick, superficial connections. [2] And it’s these empty relationships that undermine our purpose and diminish our influence.

Why? Kris Vallotton from Bethel Church explains it well: “You can’t find your purpose until you have found your people because your ultimate purpose is in your people.”

Influencing lives, which demands knowing others and being known by them is the main purpose.

Fred Rogers understood this well (actually believing the space between the television and his viewer to be “holy ground”). He led, in my opinion, admirably because he not only found, but cherished his people. Unquestionably, he knew them, and they knew him.

The question is: Have you found your people? Author of multiple Habitudes books, Dr. Tim Elmore, believes if we find and maintain relationships with the people listed below we will displace our urge to perform with a willingness to be present with people — fulfilling our ultimate purpose. 

Role Models

These are individuals whose character and values we admire. While some may be inaccessible, hopefully, we have at least one or two individuals that personally lead us. (A helpful first step is reading this QARA article: “You Don’t Need A “Mentor,” Do This Instead.“.) 

Heroes

These individuals differ from role models in that they often represent an ideal that inspires us. Personally, Batman is a hero of mine because of his relentless pursuit to be incorruptible. A hero should push us toward positively impacting humanity.

Accountability Partners

These are individuals whom we’ve given permission to call us out. In a way, we’ve placed ourselves in their care knowing any correction is not judgment but evaluation. These are the individuals who make us better because they see us for who we will become.

Inner Circle

These individuals genuinely know the true us. Research shows that with the rising use of social media and nomadic lifestyles we live, we have less intimate friends; some having none. We need fewer acquaintances and followers and more friends who love us despite our imperfections. We need friends that love us because they recognize our innate worth.

Mentees

These are the individuals who experience life-change due to our dissemination of wisdom we’ve gleaned from the preceding people. It’s been said, and proven in my own life, that we learn best when we teach.

Spiritual Parent

This is a new relationship I would append to the list: a connection with God. Only He is uniquely qualified to bestow our identity upon us. We can seek Him for our status and purpose.

Fred Rogers states that what is real and what matters most “is invisible to the eye”— it’s seldom quantifiable. Equipped with this revelation, start filling your “neighborhood” — your tribe — with your people so that you can pursue and experience success in the things that can’t be measured. The things that honestly matter.

[1] Prusak, Larry. “What Can’t Be Measured.” Harvard Business Review, 23 July 2014, hbr.org/2010/10/what-cant-be-measured.

[2] Granberg, L. I. (1967). The Minister Meets Personal Problems. In R. G. Turnbull (Ed.), Baker’s dictionary of practical theology (p. 194). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

C.J. Wetzler is the student pastor at The Message Church in Lubbock, Texas. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments, connect with him on social media: @thecjwetzler.