Are you tearing your hair out over the 22 year olds who’ve rocketed to fame and fortune doing the thing you have labored on for years?
Ever feel like a loser because it looks so easy for everyone else? Or like someone else has gotten there first, so now your thing is not just behind, but redundant.
I want to talk to you about that. Let’s go to Northern California.
Most people say they believe in the law of gradual growth, but we sure don’t act like it. We admire Redwood trees but forget they’ve endured centuries of weather, fire, wind, pestilence and chainsaws to get to 300 feet tall.
I regularly catch myself expecting a Redwood tree outcome, when I’ve got a sapling’s time and weather invested. What helps is to observe the trees I’ve planted that are growing and thriving. They’re not 300 feet tall yet - but of course they’re not, that only happens on Instagram.
That beautiful, wild thing you’re doing, you need to keep doing it, and here are three tips to help.
Tip One - fire is important.
Did you know Sequoia trees need fire to reproduce? The big trees are pretty fire resistant but without intense heat, their cones won’t open and release the seed. Plus, as the lesser trees around them burn, the Sequoia seeds have a better chance to establish and grow.
Have you been taught to pray away the fire - as though something unusual were happening to you?
The Apostle Peter said don’t do it, instead rejoice in the suffering, so later you can be amazed by the glory. Fire is what fueled the glorious Mariposa Grove in Yosemite and people come from all over the world to see it.
Tip Two - Breakthrough is a myth.
I hear people say all the time: “I’m praying for breakthrough.”
Well ok, but breakthrough is defined as a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development. That’s not how it works for Sequoia trees. Some of Northern California’s are 3000+ years old.
Usually, what we call a band’s “breakthrough album” is their 7th or 8th after 10 years of touring. That’s not sudden. It just seems like it, because the day before you heard of them, you’d never heard of them before.
Here’s how breakthrough works for me:
After much searching, I find the key to open the door. Yay breakthrough!
Then I walk into the new room, with another locked door.
And I get to start searching for that key.
The effort it takes to find the keys is a critical part of my development that God won’t let me skip, so when my album does break through, I have the experience and character to sustain my beautiful creation.
Can you think of any rocket-ship famous people, who have seem to have skipped a few rooms?
Tip Three - Compare down not up.
The best way I know to do this is to delete Facebook and Instagram from your phone. I did it, and it’s annoying because I’m addicted to them.
We inadvertently trained our brains to look for dopamine hits in those apps. Back when people still posted pictures of frat parties and kittens, that probably worked.
But now, people make money off what you see, so it’s in their interest to make it as commercial as possible. We’re still in the habit of looking for a fun, little dope hit, but it isn’t there anymore. So not only is your brain chemically disappointed, it’s also observing that everybody has a better, career, family, vacation, and body than you do. So not only are you disappointed, you suck too.
That’s the whole point of advertising. It’s crazy we still scroll.
However, if for some reason you can’t live without FB and Insta, (really?) notice your patterns of comparison when you’re on them.
Are you looking at Rachel Hollis and thinking you’ll never be the blogger she is? (She’s been at it for 15 years BTW) Or Jennie Allen from IF:Gathering and thinking your ministry sucks. (She’s also 15 years in).
Instead, try comparing yourself to someone who isn’t as far along as you are. Whose insta feed looks like yours did three years ago.
I know that sounds crappy, and of course your best self would only ever compare you to you yesterday, but sometimes your best self is out to lunch. So why not employ your neutral self to say, “I remember what it was like to be there. I’m out of that stage now, go me.”
It actually works.
Now, don’t get self-righteous about it, but since you think it’s “normal” to compare yourself to superstars and feel deflated by it, why not compare yourself to people you could actually mentor, and notice the height of your saplings.
but Whatever you do, keep going.
If you will stay in your lane - the super well-aligned one that God designed for you - keep your eyes on the prize, and not quit, even through the fire and the time; enjoying the shows where only ten people show up, eventually you will birth something magical into the world.
What the Redwoods know is this: Between seed and harvest, there is time, sometimes 3000 years.
Whatever, who cares. Do your work.