Mere Christians

Carey Nieuwhof (Host of The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast)

Episode Summary

How to do what you’re best at when you’re at your best

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with Carey Nieuwhof, Host of the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast, to talk about 3 questions to help avoid the comparison trap, how to know if you’re doing your work with God, and how knowing your chronotype can help you do what you’re best at when you’re at your best.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[00:00:05] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. Every week, I host a conversation with a Christian who is pursuing world-class mastery of their vocation. We talk about their path to mastery, their daily habits, and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ influences their work.


Today's guest is my good friend, Carey Nieuwhof. He's the founder of one of the largest churches in North America, Connexus Church there in Toronto. Perhaps he's best known as the host of the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. He's only the second person we've ever invited back to the Call to Mastery. Trust me, this is not because we're running out of amazing guests. It's because Carey has some great new content that's in line with my new book, Redeeming Your Time, that I think is going to serve you guys really well in this new year.


So, Carey and I sat down recently. We talked about these three questions we'd like to ask to help avoid the career comparison trap. We talked about how to know if you're doing your work with God and in his spirit. And finally, we talked about how knowing your biological chronotype can help you do what you're best at, when you're at your best. I think you're going to really love this conversation with my friend, Carey Nieuwhof.




[00:01:45] JR: Carey Nieuwhof, such a good episode the first time. You're back again. Welcome back.


[00:01:50] CN: Oh, man, I feel like this is rare and wonderful. Thanks for having me.


[00:01:53] JR: It is rare. Yeah, you're welcome. So, we were hanging out in person in Toronto in December. I think it was December 2019, right before the world shut down.


[00:02:06] CN: Oh, yeah. I remember those days.


[00:02:09] JR: I mean, don't you remember, those are good days.


[00:02:12] CN: I remember those days when people used to –


[00:02:15] JR: Oh, man, hang out at a hotel, or whatever. So, long two years, biggest win, biggest challenge over the last two years for you personally?


[00:02:23] CN: Biggest win, biggest challenge. Biggest challenge the early days of COVID. were brutal. So, I've been very fortunate. I haven't had COVID. Didn't lose anybody to COVID. Parents are fine. Kids are fine, that kind of thing. So, it didn't really impact my immediate world, obviously, heartbroken for the world. But I would say the biggest challenge was the first three months I was a public speaker. I thought okay, we're going to lose a little bit of income. And then it's like, “Oh, a year is disappearing in public speaking.”


So, fortunately, I ran a digital company, and within the first three weeks, we were able to pivot. We came up with a second podcast that I started. And then a couple of other innovative ideas that kind of made up for everything we lost with all the public speaking and it was just, it was the biggest problem, but it really positioned our company for the future. So, I was very grateful for that. And then pivoted to digital live events. In the end, we recovered everything we lost due to live speaking, and then some. So, the challenge became a great opportunity.


Greatest blessing, it gave me a real opportunity to — or biggest win, to rethink how I am living my life. I was on the road 150,000 miles in 2019, and I loved it. I thought it was great. But being involuntarily grounded, really made me rethink like, I really liked being home, and I really like – my dad turned 80 in 2020. So, just before the world, he has a March birthday, I was supposed to speak at South by Southwest, that got canceled. I'm like, “Why are they canceling that?”


[00:04:02] JR: I remember you post in this. That was one of the first posts where I was like, “Oh, this is way bigger than we originally thought.”


[00:04:11] CN: When South By shut down, and they're like, “Yeah, we're not doing the event.” I'm like, “Oh, okay, well, this is a real thing then.” But we didn't know. And what that meant was like, because of my schedule, we kept moving, like family birthdays and what we can't schedule. We can't celebrate it on his birthday. So, we'll celebrate it then. And then I kind of thought, “Well, you know what, I want to celebrate my dad's birthday on his birthday. I want to celebrate my wife's birthday on her birthday.” And so next year, who knows, Omicron and all the other stuff notwithstanding, we hope to be in Holland where he was born. I was born in Canada, with my parents to see the Tulip Festival. So, that's like a reshoot of my life, and I'm trying to spend more time with the people I love and a little less time randomly flying all over the world, doing things with also people I love, but trying to just spend more time with the people who are closest to me.


[00:05:09] JR: So, your dad is born in Holland?


[00:05:11] CN: He was. I'm the child of two immigrants. My dad came over as a young – well, as a teenager at 19 to Canada, and then my mom came over as a girl of maybe 10 or 11, with her parents, and they met in Canada. But yeah, I'm from Dutch Dock.


[00:05:27] JR: I love you Canadians. By the way, I have two articles of Canadian clothing that I wear almost every single day, one is a – you know where I’m going with this.


[00:05:42] CN: I know where you’re going.


[00:05:44] JR: One is a Roots T-shirt a Canadian Maple Leaf. And the other is a Roots sweatshirt, both gifts from the Carey Nieuwhof. I've never told you this, that Roots sweatshirt every single morning at 5 AM in front of my Bible, I got my Carey Nieuwhof green Roots sweatshirt on. It's a great gift. I think about Carey almost every morning at 5:10 AM. Is that weird?


[00:06:11] CN: No, no, no. You know what, I love my Roots stuff, and we, just years ago started giving that as thank you to people who appeared on my podcast, and I get random thank you’s from some of the most, you know, I don't want to drop names, but it's like I love — sometimes it's a sock, it’s a hoodie, it's a t-shirt, it's whatever. And like, people love them, and you really can't get them in the US, which makes it so much fun to be able to ship it across the border. And full disclosure, I also bought Roots stock on their IPO and it’s in the trailer so I’m single-handedly trying to turn that around, just so you know.


[00:06:50] JR: Well, I was just going to say, 80% of the reason why I keep writing books is so I can keep coming on your show and build out my Roots wardrobe. So, I mean, that's it. For those who don't know, who didn't listen to your episode two years ago, what's the two-minute quick summary of your career trajectory? Because it's not the typical story.


[00:07:08] CN: Not typical at all. When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. And so, pursued that, got into radio as a teenager, and then had a promising career there, too, decided to go to law school in the end, which was a good choice. I met my wife. But in the middle of law school, she's also a lawyer, felt a call into ministry. Didn't really know what to do with that. So, I finished law, finished law school, worked for a year in downtown Toronto, wrote the bar admission course, got called to the bar, and then out of obedience, resigned and went to seminary. I wasn't sure what to do with this “calling”.


So, ended up on a trial basis. I thought, “Okay, I will go to some small churches north of Toronto, see if I'm even cut out to be a pastor. And 26 years later, I'm still there, and served as a lead pastor of that church for two decades, saw a lot of growth. Passed that off in 2015, to a guy a decade younger than me. So, I'm still involved at our church, but I'm not leading anymore. I had this hobby about a decade ago of writing and podcasting that kind of took off. And now, that's what I do. I just build into leaders.


I run a virtual company, Carey Nieuwhof Communications. We write books. I speak. We do a weekly leadership, podcast and produce free and paid resources on the internet for leaders. We try to bring the best of the business world to the church and the best of the church world to the business world. So, that's what I do. That's the two-minute summary.


[00:08:38] JR: Yeah. So, I want to dive deeper on what you said a few minutes ago. You said you felt this call to be obedient to the call in your life into pastoral ministry. But you're talking to an audience of people who feel like they are being obedient in working outside the four walls of the church, which is more in line with what you're doing today. So, do you feel like you're being obedient in all of those seasons of life, Carey, for you personally?


[00:09:03] CN: Yeah, I appreciate the question. And the answer is yes. Like when I was a lawyer, my biggest thing was, because I had read a dedicated my life to Christ, is how can I practice law ethically, and as a person of faith? So, I was going into “ministry” in the legal field, that was just my thing. I saw it as much ministry, and the thing about being called into vocational ministry was it was just so out of left field. To pick up on what you said six years ago, I felt like it was the right time to step out of the lead pastor role at the church, in part because succession is always so hard in a business context, but also in a church context. I had the person, I was a bit young, I just turned 50, but I'm like, “Okay, if I wait five more years, I don't think this successor is going to be around.” So, I thought, “Okay, I'll just do it. I'll take the plunge.” But I didn't know what to do.


And then what I'm doing now, which is serving the business and church world was one of those things where I wasn't sure whether it was a calling, whether it was obedient or not, and kind of prayed about it, and I felt like a couple years ago, I had a moment I had some friends praying for me. And, you know, I felt like God was saying to me, “Okay, are you enjoying your retirement now? Would you like to come back and work for me at some point?” Because part of it was it was a profitable company. It wasn't huge. It's a lot bigger now a couple years later, but I didn't have a payroll that I had to meet every month, I could accept or decline things. And I still do, but you know, I didn't have that infrastructure around me and eight mouths, eight people who were relying on me for a salary. I didn't have any of that. It was basically me and a couple of assistants.


And then it's like, “Do I really want to build something? Do I really want to build a company? Or do I just want to play at this?” It really felt like God was saying, “No, I want you to do this.” So, now we have eight staff members, and we're able to reach so many more leaders than I ever imagined. I see this very much as a calling, even though I'm not “a pastor”. In fact, probably this year, for the first time, I'm comfortable saying, I'm a former pastor. It's like, yes, what I used to be a former lawyer, former pastor, former broadcaster. I quit everything. I guess I don't know, Jordan. I plan on doing this for a long time, though.


[00:11:22] JR: So, this is interesting. It sounds like you struggled shedding that pastor label, by the way, like, I've had a hard time. Only recently have I stopped saying, Jordan Raynor, serial entrepreneur. It's like, that's not really the work anymore. I'm chairman of the board of the company I used to run. But I'm really embracing this label of, “I create content.” That's what I do. I write I podcast, whatever. Was that an identity thing for you, that pastor label? How have you thought through shedding that in a way?


[00:11:56] CN: That is a great question. I don't know that it was identity, because I was finding, even calling myself a pastor when I was a lead pastor, increasingly awkward because it almost in a post-Christian culture creates a barrier. If you tell someone you're an engineer, they're like, “Oh, that's interesting.” Or a lawyer. It's like, “Okay.” But if you say you're a pastor, it comes with all of this baggage. They assume you vote a certain way, that you're against a list of 98 things. And so, when I was younger, it was pretty easy to say I was a pastor. As I got older, and the culture kept changing, I found that people were almost allergic to you when you said that. So, it wasn't like I was walking around going, “Oh, I'm such a pastor”, and in Canada, it brings you almost no prestige. It's like, “Oh. What? You couldn't get a real job?”


[00:12:46] JR: Let's not forget, you're in Toronto.


[00:12:48] CN: Exactly. So you couldn't get a real job. Okay. That’s why. There's that aspect to it. But I think there probably was a sense of, like, I want my life to matter, in doing something significant for God. And former pastor, what does that mean, you got fired? Does that mean you fell in some kind of scandal? No, it means I did something for 20 years of my life, and it's not my assignment anymore. Brad Lomenick gave me – I don't know if you know Brad or not.


[00:13:20] JR: I know, Brad, well.


[00:13:21] CN: Brad told me it's not a calling thing as much as it's an assignment, that my assignment was at a church for two decades. And now it's doing this. I would say, at this point, I feel very, very comfortable with that. But yeah, you do raise identity, because I remind myself, like, we're very fortunate to have a well-listened to podcast and millions of leaders who turn to us every year. But I'm also not naive enough to think that that's going to go on forever. But then how will I feel about my identity when nobody reads my books, nobody asks me to speak, nobody wants to interview me anymore. I hope I'll be okay. But I don't know whether, like I worried about that when I was a pastor. I'm like, “Gosh, what's going to be left in my faith when I'm not in ministry, and I don't have to prep a sermon.” And the good news is on that is, it's going strong, maybe a little bit stronger than when I was a pastor. Not that there was like some kind of chronic weakness or mask there anything but just like, actually, I'm really enjoying my walk with God right now, which is good, because that told me that I have a relationship with Christ that was bigger than my call as a pastor.


[00:14:28] JR: You just published this great book, At Your Best. And in it, you say that you regularly evaluate whether you're thriving in these five key areas of life: spiritual, relational, emotional, financial, and physical. What does it look like specifically with the spiritual? How do you evaluate whether or not you're thriving spiritually?


[00:14:50] CN: It's subjective and objective. Subjective, do I feel close to God? Is it something I do in the morning like you 5:10 AM, I'm around the same time? Or is it a question and awareness of God's presence? And I really want to – when I was younger, I would have my quiet time in the morning, and then often it's like, “Oh, yeah, I'm a Christian”, you kind of forget later in the day. Now, I kind of hope and I feel like most days, it's a lens through which I see. It's how I'm viewing the world.


So, am I close to God when I'm on a walk? When I'm in a meeting? When I'm doing financials? When I'm with my wife? When I'm with friends? Am I the same person privately as I am publicly? Do my life have some of the marks? Probably a formative passage for me is Galatians 5, there's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. Is my life increasingly exhibiting those qualities and characteristics? Or is it looking like dissension, anger, faction, jealousy, discord, which are enumerated in the verses prior to the fruits of the Holy Spirit? So, I’d probably look in those categories. And then honestly, check your bank account, check your calendar, or are you actually giving to the kingdom? Are you sacrificing for it? How is your time invested? Those are some of the things I would look for to see if I've got margin, or whether I'm really running on fumes when it comes to spirituality.


[00:16:19] JR: No, that's good. Go a little bit deeper here though, because I think it's hard for people to see practically, what does it look like to know that I'm doing my work with God, when I'm building a spreadsheet at work? Or when I am building a pitch deck for a prospective client? Is it the fruit of the Spirit? Is that the mark of knowing whether you're doing that work with God or without him?


[00:16:44] CN: I think look at how you are interacting with your colleagues, your clients, your bosses, is a really good question. So again, that list, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, is that showing up in your weekly meetings? Is that showing up with your colleagues in your lunch meetings? What about with the angry client? Who's not happy with the way that you're performing? Are you just responding in kind? Or is there an actual attempt to pray for that person? To be kind to that person? And I'm not saying — I've fired clients, too. There are some people who are just toxic. It's like, “Okay, time to get away.”


But I would look to see what the quality of relationships are. And then would anyone be surprised that you're a Christian? Do people come to you when they're like, “Hey, I got something going on in my life. Do you mind if I talk to you about it?” And that could be over lunch or over a coffee break, or over dinner one night or frankly, at the end of a meeting, and do they see you as a safe harbor? I would look for markers like that, maybe, Jordan.


[00:17:46] JR: Those are great markers. I love that. I mentioned At Your Best, your book in this time management category. I released my own, Redeeming Your Time, like five weeks after yours.


[00:17:57] CN: Yeah, we didn't talk to each other until later. Right? We talked about this on my show.


[00:18:00] JR: Yeah, we talked about this on your show, which everybody needs to go listen to that episode. But I loved how vulnerable you were at the end of the episode of your podcast. You're basically like, “Hey, Jordan, you and I are duking it out back to back on the bestseller list. How do you deal with professional jealousy?” And I'm so glad you asked, because I was jealous too. Those whole weeks, like, “Oh, man, Carey’s beating me today.” And feeling sinful pride of like, “I'm crushing Carey today.” I’m curious –


[00:18:31] CN: Listen, I’m fine as long as I'm on top. Okay, that's what I want you to know, Jordan. I’m just fine as long as I'm winning.


[00:18:36] JR: Yeah, totally. How do you deal with this? How do you deal with professional jealousy?


[00:18:41] CN: That is something God had to wrestle down in my life when I was in my 30s, and I wasn't writing books at the time, but it applies across the boards, whether you're writing books, or building the best slide deck, for the company retreat, or the pitch or whatever you're doing. I was jealous of another communicator, and it was somebody in our church, somebody that I had led to faith, who had a real gift. I remember sitting at my dining room table, I was maybe 37 years old, I'm just going to say roughly around that time. And I remember reading the book of James and it said, “If any of you is jealous, that is not from God, but it's actually from the devil.” And if you feel that, that spirit, I'm paraphrasing of just bitter envy and strife, and it just arrested me. I'm like, “Oh, my goodness. That's exactly how I feel about this guy.”


It was creating — I was a leader, I could invite him to speak or invite him not to speak and there's part of me that didn't want him to speak because the crowd liked him better than they liked me. I'm like, “Oh.” And what I did was I went back to that passage every single day for maybe a week and I just read those few verses. And I'm like, “God, this has got a grip on my heart, and I'm a jealous person.” It's not like that's a once-and-done battle, but it's like some stronghold disappeared at that time. And so, I don't struggle with it in the same way and as I've gotten older, I've got a couple decades on you, Jordan, I have become much more an abundance thinker, much more Kingdom-minded.


I'll give you an example. Okay, very, very recent. So, let me talk about the book and then we’ll talk about something else. So, when I saw all the time management books coming out, because when I was writing draft one, John Mark Comer was working on The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry and I read one of his chapters. And I'm like, “I just wrote that chapter.” I swear, I'm not hijacking his files. He had some of the same research I did. I'm like, “Oh, crap.” And then you, me and Christy Wright from the Ramsey Group, we all released time management books, within minutes of each other.


I'm like, “How is this just in the air right now?” And then I think it's a big universe, you could give you and I the same assignment, exactly. Write a chapter on the morning routine, guaranteed yours is going to look different than mine. It's just going to, because you have two people tackling the same problem. So, I'm really in more and more of an abundance as much as I have that, “Oh, Jordan is on top of me today, or Christy is now beating both of us.”


[00:21:17] JR: Which is usually the case. Let’s face it.


[00:21:22] CN: Yeah. Well, she does have the Ramsey organization behind her. But it's one of those — And part of it is I decided I'm going to have you – okay, so here's a fun thing. If you have that scarcity mindset, and I still do, it's not hard to go back there. It doesn't own me the way it used to. Here's what you do. You push other people into the spotlight. So, my book released in September, yours released, I think it was the end of September, right, Jordan?


[00:21:46] JR: October, mid-October.


[00:21:48] CN: October, okay, or mid-October. What I did for September on my podcast, was I just invited other time management experts onto my podcast, including you. Now, yours is going to broadcast a little bit later just because of scheduling. But I'm like, I am just going to feature David Allen, I'm going to feature Christy Wright, I'm going to have Jordan over, and by pushing you into the spotlight, got to a point where I'm like, “This is not about me. It's bigger than me.” And a scarcity mindset would say, David Allen is dead to me, or Jordan Raynor is dead to me.


[00:22:19] JR: Don’t even mention his name. It's like the old political trek. Don't matter the competitor's name as if people can't google it.


[00:22:26] CN: People can't figure it out. “Coke and what? Is there another soft drink out there? I didn't think there was, no.” So, there was that, and I found that very liberating. So, you got to look at it as a really big kingdom.


[00:22:40] JR: Yeah. I think this is a big deal for a lot of our listeners. I hear this question a lot, in a lot of different vocational contexts. And so, I've actually been thinking a little bit more rigorously about this since you asked me the question on your podcast. I've written down these three questions that I just saved to a note on my phone that I pull up ever since you asked me that question, every time this happens. Number one, if I'm finding myself jealous of somebody, I asked myself, “Do I care about God's glory or my own glory?” Because if he uses Carey Nieuwhof or somebody else, to steward their life more productively for His glory, I should be able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And if I can’t, I know I'm doing that work for my glory and not his and I need to repent.


The second question, which I did mention on your podcast, I asked this all the time. I say, am I even playing the same game as this person? You wrote at your best for a general market. I did not. I wrote my book for the church. Kobe didn't compare himself to Tiger Woods, right? They're playing different games. It's not even the same thing.


The last question I'm starting to ask myself is, “Has God called me to be the best, or to do my best?” And the parable of the talents, answers this crystal clearly. The two talents servant received the exact same blessing as the five talents servants. It's about being the best about doing our best with whatever God's given us a steward. Amen?


[00:24:14] CN: Amen. That is great. The other person that really helped me with this over the years is Andy Stanley. He's got quite a bit of public teaching on this, so it's widely available. But the bottom line when it comes to envy or jealousy is, he says, the remedy is celebrate what God has given others and leverage what God has given you. And that act, which at sometimes is a discipline, it's like, I'm going to celebrate Jordan, I'm going to say congratulations on your launch. I'm going to say congratulations on being number one in our category. It's like what is the antidote to greed? It's generosity. That if you pry some money out of my hands, if you give it to someone in need, that that breaks down the greed that always lives inside me.


So, celebrate what God has given others. Push them into the spotlight, celebrate it, applaud, that is going to break down a stronghold in your life and then leverage what God has given you. Yeah, and I've got some ideas on time management too, hopefully they can help. So, just leverage your gift. Don't be envious, and celebrate what God has given others. I've found that to be so helpful.


[00:25:17] JR: I really did love At Your Best. I loved the first chapter on building the life you don't want to escape from. I think so many people, especially within the context of work, have fallen in this trap. They go to work so that they can one day escape from work and move on to what they see is really meaningful, really pleasurable things in life. I'm curious, as a former pastor using that label very intentionally. How can the biblical doctrine of work, help our listeners build careers they don't want to escape from?


[00:25:53] CN: So, there is a sense and I had to correct my teaching on this as a preacher where I thought work was something and you do a great job in your book of pointing this out, that work was something that was introduced after the fall. No, work was something pre-Genesis chapter three, work is present in chapter two, where you're supposed to go and have dominion over creation, be a steward of creation, and you're supposed to go work the garden. What happened in Genesis three is that work was cursed. So, you do a launch and it didn't go the way you expect it. You were hoping to have a record quarter and you lost money. Right? So, you have that kind of thing as of Genesis three. Repeat the question to me again, Jordan, just I got off –


[00:26:35] JR: No, this is good. Like, how does an understanding of Genesis two and Genesis three, allow us to approach our work in a way that we don't want to escape from it? Because work is curse. Work is hard, right?


[00:26:49] CN: Yeah. Well, and the bad news is there's work in heaven. Everybody thinks it's like one big golf game, right? But we know we're going to be given a job of at least judging and ruling and whatever that means, nobody's 100% sure. But it doesn't appear to be the big cruise in the sky that we imagine it is in popular culture.


So, what I think, theologically, we need to do is we need to bring – so, the Kingdom of God, when Jesus came with the Kingdom of God, there's a sense in which we say, “Oh, the Kingdom of God is one day. One day when Christ returns”, et cetera. But Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is here, and the Kingdom of God is near, and the kingdom of God is among you.” So, I think what happens is we go to work, and we get caught up in this whirlwind. And I call it the stress spiral. We're overwhelmed, overworked, over-committed, and we think the kingdom of God is one day, so maybe, you know, it's like, well, that's Friday at five o'clock, or that's the weekend away at the woods. Jesus is like, “No, no, the Kingdom of God is here.”


And so, what I was trying to do with At Your Best, or what I am trying to do with At Your Best is trying to say, “How do we redeem the work?” You're the guy redeeming your time, how do we redeem the work? How do I redeem Monday? I think that is when you bring a sense of Sabbath into your day, and you start every day that way. That's when you learn the power of saying no.


One of the things that most people wouldn't believe and as a preacher, you run into this, and I always enjoy preaching this. But Jesus said no, he was very good at saying no. You would assume the way we treat Jesus, that He healed everybody who needed healing during his ministry. That's actually not true. There are times where the crowd is pressing in on him, and he's like, “Okay, that's it for today, we're going to go”, and people are like, “Well, there are people to be healed, and people are hungry.” And he's like, “We're going.” Gone. And then he disappears in the wilderness and you don't even know where he is. And then eventually he comes back.


What is he doing? He is figuring out how do I build a ministry that doesn't clobber me? How do I – because he's fully human and fully divine, how do I find a place where I can give people what they want, but also commune with my heavenly Father, so that this work is from him, and sustainable? I think that's what we've lost. We're just, as Ken Blanchard has famously said, “Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.” And a lot of us just go at it five days a week, 70 hours a week, and we're like, “Well, I'm still a rat. But now I get to go to the lake” and I'm like, I love my life. And this is why five years, six years post pastoring, I hope I get to do this for 20 years, and I'm sitting, I don't know if you can hear it or not. We got the door open a little bit. But I got the ocean to my right-hand side and we're sitting here in Southern California, doing some remote work for a little while and it's fantastic. And there's a rhythm and a pace and I don't need to escape and I'm going back to the snow of home on Friday.


But you know what? I want to live at a pace where I'm not like, “Oh, I can't wait for summer. Oh, I can't wait for the weekend. Oh, I can't wait for.” Meaning is not something you just get from your job, it's something you bring to your job.


[00:30:01] JR: So, how do you make this pace sustainable? I’m hearing so many people, especially leaders right now blaming COVID for their crazy season of life. That, “Ah, man. Yeah, work is really busy right now because of COVID.” It's like your life was crazy pre-COVID. I remember. So, how do you make the pace sustainable? You mentioned Sabbath, this weekly idea, but what can we be doing week in, week out, day in, day out, to not burnout in the work God's called us to do?


[00:30:32] CN: Well, I think COVID as an excuse has to go because yeah, it was crazy for two months when nobody knew which end was up. We're moving into year three of COVID. If you're using that as a reason, I used to do that pre-COVID. I would go to a family gathering, and they'd be like, “Where were you this week, Carey?” And it's like, “Ah, I was in Dallas, or Memphis or whatever.” “And where are you going next week?” “Los Angeles, whatever.” I would always say it's just a busy season. And then eventually they began to call me on it. A few years ago, I realized, seasons have beginnings and they have endings. If your season has no ending, it's not a season, it's your life. I think a lot of us just tell ourselves, well, it's really busy now. But after Christmas, after Easter, after the summer break, after COVID, after — It's like, no, you're going to be 90 years old playing that tune.


So, we've got to look at how we spend our day. And you're right, Sabbath is a really good practice. But it's kind of like telling an alcoholic just to stop drinking on Tuesday. It's like, yeah, take one day a week, just take it off, and then go back into the crazy. That's why even vacations aren't a good answer. Because there'll be a number of entrepreneurs listening to the show, or Christians listening to the show, who took two weeks off. They know how to do time off well. But time off won't heal you when the problem is how you spend your time on, because you come back Monday, first Monday back at 11 AM after a wonderful rest, and you're like roadkill by lunch. It's clobbered you.


So, the key is to think about how to spend your time. You've got some amazing time management tips. One of the things that really helped me was energy management. So, we have 24 equal hours in the day, but the hours don't feel equal and they don't produce equally. So, I know you well enough and you outlined this in Redeeming Your Time. You're a morning person, right? And you have a very disciplined routine. So am I. What I used to do before I figured out the principles in At Your Best, the thrive cycle, is I used to do a lot of breakfast meetings, and I would just meet people, because that's often when business people want to meet. But the problem with breakfast meetings is the morning is my best time. Those are my three to five peak productivity hours in a day.


So, I get back from breakfast meeting not at 8, when I thought I would because it went until 8:30, but then I go to a drive-thru and I get some coffee. And then I go into the office and you're chatting, and then you sit down at your desk and you've got seven text messages, I got to respond to. And look at that, 14 emails. And then it's lunch and you're like, “Okay, I better go get some lunch”, and then you get called into a meeting, you go back at the office, and then you work on your slide deck, and then you're tired. So, you go for a break, and then you catch up on email, and then the day’s over and what did you accomplish? Answer: nothing.


[00:33:15] JR: I don't think our audience knows what you're talking about. I don't think anybody has ever experienced this.


[00:33:20] CN: I know. That only happened to me, ever. So, what I did, and this, what I encourage your audience to do is divide your day into three zones, green, yellow, red, all the brain sciences you know Jordan says that most people only have three to five peak productive hours in a day. So, for you and I, those happen in the morning, we’re bright, lucid, clear ideas flow relatively easy. Some people are night owls, that might be between 8 and midnight, or 10 PM and 2 AM. I can't do that. I'm a zombie at that hour. And other people peak midday, maybe 10 to 2 are their best hours. It doesn't matter. You got 3 to 5, identify them, that’s your green zone. And then we all have a couple hours in a day no matter how well we rest an exercise where we're kind of dragging. I call that the red zone. Do you have a couple hours or an hour in the day, Jordan, where you're like not as sharp and you're tired? And it's like, I better get some caffeine. When does it happen for you?


[00:34:15] JR: It's when I check my email in the afternoons, late afternoons, yeah.


[00:34:18] CN: So, you start to fade a little bit. For me, that's 4 to 6 in the afternoon. That's when I'm like, “Oh, either I need to work out, take a nap, or do something.” A lot of people as I've asked them the question, they find it between 1 and 3 is just sort of the witching hour for them at work. They're just having trouble staying awake. Regardless of all that, that's your red zone. You have one or two of those hours in a business day and then everything else is yellow. So green, your best, red your worst. Everything else is yellow. The secret is to do what you're best at when you're at your best.


So, if for me when I was a preacher, the most important thing I could do was write my weekend message. And what happens if you live the day the way I described earlier with the breakfast meeting and at four o'clock you got nothing done, guess what I have to do as a parent of young kids, I got to bring my message home. And then when my kids are trying to watch TV or game or play with me, I'm like, “Sorry, kids, I got to work.” I did that for too many years when my kids were young. Well, if I just dedicate that green zone and say, no meetings, no appointments, no disruptions, no distractions, I'm going to work on my message. Boom.


I was talking to a journalist today, it's blown me away. I mean, we've had 20,000 leaders go through the content now, in the last couple of months. And he's saying, “Carey, this has been so powerful.” He said, “I was always behind on deadlines.” He was interviewing me for a publication he's working on. But he says, “I just love the book.” And he said, “So, what I did, I killed all my breakfast meetings. I just write one or two articles in the morning.” He said, “You didn't talk about this in the book. But the financial impact of this has been huge for my family.” To the point, now, where I'm so far ahead, I am taking the month of January off.


[00:35:55] JR: That's awesome.


[00:35:56] CN: And I'm like, “Dude, way to go.” But what happens then like, think about what whatever that is your pitch, your slide deck, your Excel spreadsheet, your quarterly report, your strategic planning for the next quarter, whatever that most important work is, if you can do that when you're at your best, you're going to do a much better job. And when that's finished, let's say finished by Tuesday at 11 AM, it almost doesn't matter what happens for the rest of the week. Because you're like, “Oh, yeah, you want to pull me into that meeting? Fine. I got 17 emails, fine.” Because your big stuff is done, and then when you go home, you're not pulling up a laptop at eight o'clock going, “I just need a half-hour.” You don't need a half-hour because you got your most important stuff done. When I made those changes over a decade ago, about 15 years ago, changed my life, Jordan.


[00:36:45] JR: I love this so much, and it jives with something I talked about in Redeeming Your Time. I think a lot of night owls listen to podcasts like your podcast, like mine, read books on time management, and they just feel defeated. Because they just can't will themselves to be morning people, which is what they've been told their whole lives. The science says that God has designed roughly 30% of people to be night owls. What I love about your At Your Best framework, is it gives us people grace to say, “Hey, it doesn't matter when you're at your best. What matters is that you do what you're best at when you're at your best.” So, if that's in the afternoon or evening for you, God bless you, go for it. Take meetings in the morning, do your email and your shallow work in the morning, and in the afternoons or evenings, do your deep work.


Have you found, because people reading Redeeming Your Time have been like, “I've never heard this before I.’ve never been let off the hook for not being a morning person”, are you hearing the same thing from readers of At Your Best?


[00:37:46] CN: Very much so. A lot of liberation. And the whole idea of energy management is probably the most revolutionary idea in the book. And of course, when you say it as simply as we've just discussed it people are like, “Duh?” Even the journalist I was talking to or I could drop some names, I will do it because these have been private conversations. But very well-known preachers. I had one guy tell me — and he preaches, he influences thousands, if not millions around the world. He says it's like there's two Johns. He said the John before I read At Your Best and the John after. He says when I was trying to write in the afternoon, I was a disaster. He said my preaching is known around the world. But it was hard. And he said since I switched to the morning, it's been so much better. And again, if he was a night owl, he would just carve out like devote 10 PM to 2 AM.


All you have to do is tune out the distractions whenever your peak time is. And the other thing that I think was revolutionary for people is that these are repeating patterns. We like to think of ourselves as creative, and everything is so ad hoc. The reality is, we're creatures of habit. If you don't believe that, put the toothbrush in another drawer or take the way home from work. You're going to be totally confused and lost. So, those rhythms will play out almost identically day after day after day, as long as you're not messing with time zones or awaking baby or that kind of thing. You're usually in this season of life going to be best in your morning, in the afternoon, or in the evening. So, you can count on it much the way you can sunrise and sunset. It's pretty predictable. So, you just know, generally speaking, I'm going to get three to four really good hours in the morning, or in the afternoon or in the evening, I got to protect those and treat them like they're my most valuable asset, because they are.


I almost wanted to call the book and you can't do it for obvious reasons when I tell you. I almost wanted to call it The Three-Hour Workday, because there's a certain sense in which if you can leverage those three peak hours well, you are going to be in great shape, and if you blow them, it doesn't matter what you do to make up, you've kind of blown it.


[00:39:51] JR: That's a great title. I mean, I get the Tim Ferriss problem, but that's a great title. I really dig it. So, you mentioned the season of life when your kids were young, you have two sons, right?


[00:40:03] CN: Yeah, two sons. They’re in their 20s.


[00:40:05] JR: They're in their 20s now. Can I ask for a bit of parental counseling here, Pastor Carey Nieuwhof?


[00:40:10] CN: Sure.


[00:40:13] JR: I think a lot of our audience shares this question. I've just been super convicted lately, that I am not nearly as intentional and strategic about leading my family as I am about leading in my work. And objectively, this is absurd. God can call anyone to do the work that I do at my laptop, but he has called me alone to be a husband to Kara and a dad to Ellison, Kate, and Emery. Did you ever figure this out? And if so, how can we all ensure that we are as strategic about our families, as we are about our work? What's the secret here?


[00:40:47] CN: One of the great regrets of my life is that I didn't know this, I hadn't figured it out in my 30s. I've told my kids this, and I feel bad about it. I wish I could go back and figure out like, I'll give you an example. So, this morning, we're sort of on a family working vacation, and I definitely had stuff to do and things didn't ship. But my oldest son needed to return a motorcycle he rented to a place 20 minutes away. We were trying to figure out how to make it work in the day, and the only time it really made sense was in the morning. So, I gave up my green zone, and some productive time to take him back and then drive him back to the house.


I would not have made that decision when I was in my 30s. As I was driving up, I'm like, “Gosh, I wish I knew this stuff.” To me, it's a no-brainer. We actually miss something in our company that didn't go out on time. You know what, that'll go out on time, but this is really special time. I think the problem with a lot of us, actually, this is quantifiable, Deloitte, the big accounting firm, released a study in the summer of 2021, that said, 82% of executives and CEOs go home feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, at the end of every workday. In other words, they left it all out on the field, they gave it all to work. I used to do that when I was in my 30s, and I don't want to do that anymore.


So, what I would say to parents, particularly in your case, in your textbook, like I was not writing books in my 30s. You are Jordan. But maybe it's like an hour a day, where you've got to reduce your expectations as a parent of young children. It's like, “Okay, I'm tired. The baby's still waking at night. My green zone is like one hour right now. One day, I might be in my 50s, and I'll be an empty nester, and I'll have a four-hour green zone. But right now, mine is one hour.” And then the other thing I would say is on weekends and again, stuff I wish I could get back, I'm a little bit of a neat freak, a lot of a neat freak. I would spend not knowing I had a green zone, my most energetic hour is like mowing the lawn, washing the car, getting all that stuff off my list, because I love to have it off my list. By the time it came for the relational stuff, I'd be tired.


What I would do now is flip it, spin the relational time doing your relational things, and hang out with your kids, go play with them, do some fun, take them to the park. And then later on, when you're a little bit tired in your yellow zone, yeah, go mow your lawn, like it doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter when that happens. But again, stuff I wish I could get back, and that's one of the reasons I'm really committed to the messages of this book is I know most of my readers will be in their 20s or 30s, and maybe this is the different story. I'm reading a different story now. But it's not the same as if I could go back 20 years and pick it up then.


[00:43:32] JR: Yeah, I've just been convicted of, I haven't started this yet, I'm planning to do it in the new year. But cutting 30 to 60 minutes off of my workday at the very end, just to work strategically on personal projects. For example, my kids just finished, I've been walking through Tim Keller's New City Catechism with my kids, and we finished it. I want to find something new to disciple my kids at breakfast every morning. But that takes time and I'm exhausted. It's 7 o'clock, 7:30 when they go to bed. I'm not going to do it then. So, just making the time for that during my workday. And thank God, I have the luxury to do that. But it's so funny. You talk about mess driving you nuts. That's me. I will find myself, instead of spending time with my kids and playing a game, picking up stuff around the house all afternoon. I'm just trying to discipline myself. It's like batshit, when they're watching TV for 15 minutes before bed, that's when I will pick up the house. Just making that pre-decision enables me to not constantly be a neat freak, throughout the day.


[00:44:40] CN: I hear you, though. All those things, but you're catching it in real-time, which is fantastic. I would just say continue to pursue that.


[00:44:48] JR: Well, I feel like a failure most days. But at least it’s good to hear I’m doing some things right. Hey, all right, Carey, three questions we wrap up every conversation with. Number one, which books do you find yourself recommending or gifting most frequently to others these days other than of course, At Your Best.


[00:45:07] CN: Or Redeeming Your Time, right? I find I'm often gifting, recommending, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s, hard name to say, Leadership: In Turbulent Times. I'm always suggesting that. Another one that I've given away a lot of and done a team study is Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer’s, Netflix, No Rules Rules. Really love those books.


[00:45:32] JR: Okay. I have been talking about No Rules Rules nonstop for –


[00:45:39] CN: Is it not amazing?


[00:45:40] JR: It was by far the best book I read last year. No questions asked. It was so good. That's a great one. All right, guys, you can find those books at All right, Carey, who would you most like to hear on this podcast talking about their faith, talking about their work, their pursuit of masterful work?


[00:45:58] CN: I will listen to endless conversations with Tim Keller. He's not doing many interviews right now.


[00:46:03] JR: That's a great answer. I love that.


[00:46:05] CN: Did you have him on at one point?


[00:46:07] JR: I did. He was promoting – gosh, I can't remember, it was the Uncommon Ground book with a bunch of collaborators, and he was great. And actually, so you interviewed Tim in person right before the pandemic. Am I remembering this correctly?


[00:46:23] CN: Yeah, you're remembering exactly right. We were talking about it after and it's like we probably had COVID all around us and we didn't know. It was February of 2020.


[00:46:31] JR: Yes, that's right.


[00:46:33] CN: Right before his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. So, he had cancer within him and we had a pandemic around us and we didn't know.


[00:46:40] JR: That's right. And I talked to him, I don't know, the second or third week of March of 2020. I'll never forget, before we started recording, I don't think it's a problem to share this. I was just like, “Hey, how are things in Manhattan?” And he was like, “Way worse than the news is making it out.” He's like, “Every single person I know, knows somebody on their street who has died.” It’s in the third week in March. This is before it got nuts. I’ll never forget that. That was wild.


All right, Carey, last question, one thing from our conversation today, you want to reiterate before we sign off?


[00:47:17] CN: I would say that last part of the conversation between you and me about stages of life, don't wait. You'll have a lot of time to reevaluate everything in your 40s and 50s. Don't wait. If you're young, do it now. Make the changes you need to make, you won't regret it.


[00:47:32] JR: That's good. Carey, I want to commend you for the exceptional, eternally significant work you've done as a pastor but also as a lawyer and now as a podcaster, and leadership guru. Thank you for giving us some great tips on how to be at our best. And just thank you for reminding us that a pursuit of masterful work at the office and at home is just part of our response to this belief that this life matters for eternity. What we do today will pay dividends for eternity. Thus, we should be fully engaged with whatever our work is.


Hey, guys, Carey's great book is At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, and Priorities Working in Your Favor. Carey, thanks again for joining us again on the Call to Mastery.


[00:48:16] CN: Jordan, it’s been a joy. Thanks for doing what you're doing. Really appreciate you.




[00:48:20] JR: I hope you guys loved that episode. Hey, it’s December 22nd, Merry Christmas everybody. Take some time as you examine the Christmas story to praise our savior for our unmerited salvation, but also look beyond the baby in the manger. Look at Mary, look at Joseph, and look at how remarkable it was that God chose to place Jesus into the home of a carpenter named Joseph. He could have placed Jesus in the home of a Pharisee. He could have placed him in the home of a prophet. Instead, he put them in the home of a carpenter knowing that Jesus would spend the majority of his adult life making things with his hands the way many of us do today.


Thank him for the good gift of work, but thank him most of all, for the gift of salvation that comes from Christ alone. Amen. I love you guys. Merry Christmas. I'll see you next week.