Bonus episode with a podcast legend
Jordan Raynor sits down with Carey Nieuwhof, Founding Pastor of Connexus Church, to talk about the seven greatest challenges nobody expects, but everyone experiences, how we can be “dealers of hope” through our work, and how Carey made himself a morning person.
[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey everyone, welcome to The Call to Mastery, I’m Jordan Raynor. Hey, this is a special episode. You know, we never release episodes of The Call to Mastery on Tuesdays but two reasons why I’m doing this, number one, I wanted to say thank you for making 2019 such a great start to this podcast. You guys are overwhelming me with your praise of this show. I’m so glad you guys love it. I love making this thing for you.We have so many more great conversations to bring you in 2020. So this is an extra episode to say thank you.
Second reason why we’re releasing an episode today is my guest today is actually releasing an episode with me on the other side of the microphone on his podcast today. We thought it would be fun to release the episodes back to back. The very same day, December 31st 2019. After you listen to this episode, go listen to me on his podcast. Who is he, who’s my guest? His name is Carey Nieuwhof, he’s the founder of one of the largest churches in north America, Connexus church up near Toronto but you probably know him as the host of the wildly successful Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast.
Carey’s a masterful leader, he’s an exceptional communicator and we recently sat down while I was in Toronto to talk about the seven greatest challenges that no leader ever expects but pretty much every leader experiences during their career. We talked about how we can be ‘dealers of hope’ through our work and we talk about how Carey practically made himself a morning person. Without further ado, please enjoy this conversation with my friend, Carey Nieuwhof.
[0:01:49.7] JR: Carey Nieuwhof, welcome to The Call to Mastery.
[0:01:51.5] CN: Hey, thank you so much for having me Jordan.
[0:01:53.3] JR: Yeah so I’m here in Toronto, we’re recording back to back episodes so as soon as we’re done recording this, we’re going to turn the mic off, turn it back on, record your world famous podcast.
[0:02:04.4] CN: 100%.
[0:02:05.0] JR: 100%. The first time ever doing that. I’m excited, this should be –
[0:02:07.7] CN: Really? Flip the mics are fun.
[0:02:09.5] JR: Yeah. Who have you done flip the mics with?
[0:02:12.4] CN: Gosh, I got to think. John Ortberg. I have done – gosh, I’m going to get shot by all my guests now because I’m blanking. I can’t remember.
[0:02:20.0] JR: Michael Hyatt’s sitting there very upset.
[0:02:22.3] CN: Yes he is.
[0:02:25.7] JR: This is actually my first time in Toronto.
[0:02:27.6] CN: Welcome.
[0:02:28.4] JR: Yeah, I’m really enjoying the city. I went down to the holiday markets last night, the Toronto Christmas markets.
[0:02:34.8] CN: They call it the distillery district.
[0:02:35.2] JR: The distillery district?
[0:02:36.8] CN: You made it all the way there?
[0:02:37.8] JR: I made it all the way there.
[0:02:38.6] CN: That’s probably the best place to go. If you’re in Toronto, head downtown. The theater district’s really nice too, a lot of restaurants down there. That’s where the TIFF is, Toronto Film Festival. I love Toronto. Another great place for anybody who makes their way to Toronto who is a podcast listener.
I love the University of Toronto. I studied there, there’s a place called King’s College Circle and it looks like a scene right out of Harry Potter.
[0:03:02.8] JR: That’s amazing.
[0:03:03.9] CN: I went to Knox College which is still there. It was built like turn of the last century so it’s about 120 years old and honestly, they film movies there, it’s got a beautiful library that I think is still open to the public and then at the top of the circle, on the north side is University College which is where Jordan Peterson taught for many years.
[0:03:23.7] JR: Sure.
[0:03:24.3] CN: The best coffee shop on campus is on the west side of University College, it’s called Diablo’s or at least it was. I’m pretty sure Jordan Peterson and I used to hang out there. Long before anybody knew who Jordan Peterson was.
[0:03:37.7] JR: Right. That’s funny. You knew Jordan Peterson when?
[0:03:42.6] CN: Well, probably in the same room at the same time.
[0:03:43.4] JR: That’s right, there you go.
[0:03:44.5] CN: I’ll give myself that.
[0:03:45.7] JR: At least that. By the way, how long have you lived in this part of the world? Your whole life?
[0:03:48.5] CN: My whole life, yeah. I’ve lived within four hours of Toronto my whole life. So I was born in Windsor, right across the river from Detroit, the only – here’s trivia. The only Canadian city north of an American city. Believe it or not, Windsor is north of Detroit, it’s just the way of the land sits in the Detroit river. And then when I was 10, we moved up to about an hour and a half north of here on Georgian Bay, one of the great lakes, south Lake Huron called Midland and then lived in Toronto for a decade while I did law, theology and history, not in that order.
And then moved up in the mid-90s to about an hour north of here where I drove from my house down to the hotel here by the Toronto airport to meet with you and we’ve been doing ministry there for 24 and a half years.
[0:04:32.2] JR: That’s awesome. I want to get more into your story but a question just came to mind. How did you get so big in America, right? Carey Nieuwhof, very big in America.
[0:04:41.7] CN: That is, really, kind of a weird thing. Canadians have this – it’s funny because you think about all the Canadians that Americans know, right? From Jim Carey who got his start 20 minutes from here to Mike Myers from Scarborough on the other side of Toronto, we’re in Mississauga right now. And, you know, The Barenaked Ladies who are Toronto based and right through to Drake and The Weekend and Justin Bieber, who was born two hours from here. Celine Dion, Shania Twain, the whole deal. I mean, it just goes on and on. So, it’s this weird thing where Canadians have this crossover appeal.
And, it wasn’t intentional, I just – now, I did have some providential relationships. I have always been interested in US churches as well as Canadian churches so almost 20 years ago I started tracking this startup church called North Point and started reading some of the stuff they were putting out and got introduced to Reggie Joiner in 2005. Reggie and I became fast friends, I brought him up here to consult with us and then he introduced me to his boss at the time Andy Stanley.
That kind of got me in. Reggie had me and Andy started having me speak in Atlanta so that probably started the snowball down the hill and then when I started writing on my own and doing the podcast, it’s just like 80% of my listeners are American and so that’s how it worked out.
[0:06:05.9] JR: I love it. All right, so I want to dig in to your story. All I know basically is the headline, right? Lawyer turned mega church pastor, turned leadership expert. You have this phenomenally successful podcast and creating great content for leaders. What’s the story behind the headline?
[0:06:23.1] CN: Yeah, a guy who really didn’t know what he was supposed to do with his life. There’s story number one, Jordan. Okay, it’s a really circuitous path, right? But I love the focus of your next book, Master of One. Although I haven’t had a chance to read it, I’ve studied it, and I was thinking, “Yeah, that kind of describes my path.” Part of it is I started out when I was eight years old, I wanted to be a lawyer so told my parents that and kind of always pursued that.
And actually ended up in law school. I was a good haul like 20 minutes form here. Ended up at Osgoode, got in there. Best thing to come out of law school was my wife. We were in first year together and I kind of noticed her and we started dating and got married halfway through law school. So, law was on the agenda but I took a whole lot of detours along the way.
When I was 16, went to the local radio station in Midland and said, “What does it take to be on the radio? Will you hire me?” They did. So at 16, I had my own show on Saturday and Sunday nights, became a radio host, did that for a few years, switched to news and then worked in Toronto here what is now the Fan 590 Toronto station and did weakened traffic of all things.
Yeah, we didn’t even have a helicopter, we just kinda made it up. Did weekend traffic and then got into law, really loved advocacy, only worked for a year in downtown Toronto in law, felt a call to ministry with the seminary as I was saying in Knox College. And then started congregational ministry 25 years ago.
But the thread through all of that which I only really – like, what a weird path, right? Then of course, started the podcast, started blogging, started writing books. So what is the one thread that is common and consistent through all those disparate activities is communication, right? Radio is communication right? Law, I gravitated immediately to court. I was in court almost every day, loved it. Just loved the idea of getting in front of the judge and trying to change his or her mind.
That was really interesting. Favorite part of the ministry job, preaching, and vision casting which are communications, and now, these days, I write books, I podcast, I blog, it’s all communication. That’s the one thing.
[0:08:32.3] JR: That’s the through line.
[0:08:33.0] CN: Yup.
[0:08:33.3] JR: I love it. I’m really enjoying the latest book, didn’t see it coming, got lots of follow up questions, but first, can you give our listeners who haven’t read the book, give them a 30 second summary. What is Didn’t See it Coming all about?
[0:08:47.2] CN: Yeah, I wrote it because there are all kinds of leadership pitfalls that people are aware of and seven that seem to consistently show up that nobody expects. These are soft issues. These are things that take leaders out or cap their potential but nobody really talks about so a smattering cynicism for example. A lot of leaders – age often makes you cynical, right? You just live long enough, you get cynical.
Burn out is another thing nobody sees coming. Pride can swell in your heart particularly with success or moral compromise. Those are some things that – there’s more than that but those are some things that nobody really sees coming and I have struggled with. Not so much, you know, moral compromise, not in the sense of making headline but just like, “Ooh, be careful not to sell your soul there Mr Nieuwhof.”
There’s that. And then pride, right? That’s an issue, I think almost all of us who has had a bit of success struggle with –
[0:09:40.9] JR: Go back to the, “Don’t sell your soul.” I’m going to press you on that. Is there an example you’re willing to share of one of those moments where you were tempted to do that and didn’t? Because I mean, we’re going to talk more about my story on the Carey Nieuwhof leadership podcast here in a minute and I spent my career as a serial founder.
I’m kind of new to this ‘personality’ business, right? Writing, speaking, podcasting. What was one of those moments? Like, “Oh I could sell out here.”
[0:10:06.0] CN: I had a vision which is really interesting in law because I entered law as a Christian and I was really committed to practicing ethical law because lawyers, attorneys have this reputation so I knew that.
[0:10:19.7] JR: You wanted to be Atticus Finch?
[0:10:20.8] CN: Yes, exactly. I wanted to be on the right side of history, that would be good. I had this picture – so I was 24 years old working at a law firm in my home town. One day at 3:00 in the afternoon and you probably have some charismatic listeners, I understand, you know, charismatic churches, I respect them, but that’s not me, that’s not my personality. I didn’t hear from Jesus today. I read the bible but he wasn’t like, “Oh yeah, turn to the gospel of Luke.”
I just try to pray and be obedient and you know, I have a bit of a Calvinist Presbyterian background, so you can fill in the blanks, yeah. Anyway, long story short, I have this experience where at 24, age 24, I see a vision myself at age 44 and I’m wildly successful on the outside but morally bankrupt on the inside. Lost my family, my kids hated me, I wasn’t even married at the time but you know, you get this vision and I’m like, “Wow,” and I concluded from that law isn’t for me.
But I also realized that even in ministry, you can sell your soul and obvious examples would be you know, waking up someone you’re not married to or taking money that doesn’t belong to you or doing something criminal or illegal. But I think in most cases, it’s more subtle than that. I would say, to answer your question directly. It was probably being addicted to work. Most of us have an addiction of some kind.
You know, it could be a porn addiction, it could be an alcohol addiction or drug addiction and those weren’t my poisons. Partly because they don’t line up with my faith particularly well and I wanted to try to lead with integrity but where I got sucked in was in work and I think in ministry, it becomes a perfect storm because you know, when I was in law, it was pretty easy to go, “Yeah, I’m not going to work at law seven days a week and every night.” I got a wife and soon we had a young son that was on the way and came into the world and I’m like, “I want to be able to be with my wife and son so I’m not going to work.”
But you know, when you’re in ministry, it’s so easy to just work more and more because you're like, “Well, it’s for Jesus so isn’t taking time off unfaithful?” Then, if you’ve got a few challenges at home, sometimes it’s easier to bury your nose behind the laptop than it is to put up with bed time or to get into a disagreement you’re having with your spouse and try to resolve it so it’s just easier to work. So I would say one of my problems, Jordan, was, I just threw myself into work.
That was a form of compromise, right? I’ve heard many spouses of pastors say, “My husband did have an affair, the spouse called the church.”
[0:13:01.5] JR: Right.
[0:13:02.0] CN: I think there was a season in my life where my wife would say, “Oh yeah, you know, Carey may not have slept with another woman,” but the church was competing for my attention in a way it shouldn’t have. Until I figured it out, that’s very morally confusing because it is for Jesus and how can it be bad and the other reality is that if you listen to Emmerson Eggerichs or people like that, you know, men crave respect, women crave affection or love.
Well, it is much easier to get respect at work than it is at home sometimes.
[0:13:32.4] JR: Yeah, it’s a big challenge.
[0:13:33.6] CN: It’s earned but you know, it’s cause and effect. It’s like, “If we do this initiative, we’re going to grow by another 10% or 20%.” At home, you come home and it’s like, “Take out the trash,” and you’re like, “Aah.” I definitely got sucked into that.
[0:13:47.6] JR: Yeah, we talk a lot on this podcast about all and we’re going to talk – I’m going to ask you some actions about this in a minute but all work is meaningful, all work is a means of loving neighbor as self or can be, right? Work at this legal and good and god honoring and aligned with –
[0:14:03.9] CN: Few parameters there.
[0:14:03.8] JR: Few parameters but not many. But, there’s this spectrum, right, of what we believe the meaning of work to be and I believe that scripture refutes both the polar opposite ends of that spectrum. On the one hand, viewing work as a meaningless means to an end. Work isn’t important at all, right? The bible teaches us that work is worship.
But then, on the other end, where you struggled, where I’ve struggled is, work is this ultimate thing. Work is idol, right? This disconnect between idleness and idolatry, right? That’s a particular challenge for driven type A individuals like us, right? Interesting.
All right, so I got to be honest about something. When I’m looking at the seven things that you didn’t see coming in your career, cynicism is one that really stuck out to me and I want to talk about that for just a minute.
I’ve been struggling with it as I have plunged deeper into this world of content. Into books, into podcasts and speaking. There’s just so much content out there. When I see another book, when I see another podcast, I even thought about this as we were launching this podcast recently, I’m thinking, “Does the world actually need this stuff? Is this actually going to solve people’s problems?” And I think that’s cynicism. So talk a little bit about, have you struggled with that level of cynicism and like, what is going on there? What is the cause of that unrest and that cynicism towards those types of things and those types of things.
[0:15:33.6] CN: Well I hear two things in your question. First, just to get the easy one out of the way, right? Do we really need another podcast? Do we really need another book? Do we need someone else’s take on leadership? It’s a great question to ask. I think what’s happening now is we’re drowning under a sea of content. Some days, I miss the three channel universe.
It’s like, “Someone decide for me what to watch. Okay, it’s 8:00, Seinfeld is on.” Good, done. Back in the day. That day is no more but I think what this gives us an opportunity to do and I think one of the reasons that the platform that I lead has grown so much is people can come to see you as a trusted voice and I think curation is – I read an article this morning actually, that independent book stores are making a resurgence. Because when I go on to Amazon, like obviously I searched out your book and your bio and the whole deal.
But there’s a gazillion books on Amazon, right? What do you do? You go to a well curated independent bookstore and they’ve limited the choice to I don’t know, 2,000 titles or something and they’ve got them beautifully displayed and you can grab a flat white or you know, a nitro cold press or whatever you’re going to be drinking and you can just kind of browse around and someone else’s taste and someone else’s curation has made your decisions easier.
I think there’s a growing market for that.
[0:16:56.7] JR: There’s a tremendous amount of value there.
[0:16:58.3] CN: You know, I think as this podcast grows, people will trust that you are going to bring them hopefully good guests that they can have some reasonable assurance that when they hit play, it’s like, “Oh, Jordan’s going to bring me somebody good,” right? I think there’s a good market for that but yeah, it is easy to get cynical and easy for people to throw their hands up.
Cynicism – ironically, I was surrounded by cynical lawyers here in Toronto. The law didn’t make me cynical. I wasn’t in it that long, didn’t make me cynical at all, but it was ministry where I really found my cynicism growing.
Because I think we all have dreams, right? You’re a serial entrepreneur. I’m like an entrepreneurial driven type person and it’s like, “Our church is going to be the best church in the world. It’s going to be the most amazing thing ever,” and then it doesn’t quite like –
I have tremendous story for which I’m incredibly thankful. But if you look at my head, it was up here, right? And then the reality is it’s a notch lower and so you kind of frustrated and then the team that you hired didn’t work out and some of the people left your church, “What’s wrong with them? Nobody should ever leave my church. It’s the best church ever,” and I found myself growing cynical. There was one couple in particular that really hit me. Our church is when I started 25 years ago, very small. One had an average attendance of six, we could have met in this hotel room. You know, it would have been easy – had room left over, and long story short, four, five years later, the church had grown to hundreds of people. We were at a potluck lunch and a guy, I’ll call him Roger, not his real name, stands up and announces in the middle of the potluck lunch that he’s leaving the church. Now, this is a guy –
[0:18:35.9] JR: What a dramatic way to –
[0:18:37.7] CN: Really embarrassing. Totally inappropriate. And when the church was little, we had pumped so much into this family. They were lower socioeconomic status, they had all the needs associated with that. When you have a small church, you have lots of time to visit so I would go and see them at night and counsel them and try to help them with their problems. We gave them hundreds of dollars of aid, bought them groceries, paid their heat bill in the winter one month, that kind of stuff. And he stands up, announces in front of everyone, makes a scene, “We’re leaving the church. You don’t care anymore.” And I’m devastated.
[0:19:09.8] JR: Jeez.
[0:19:11.5] CN: He gathers up his family, goes to the parking lot. I chase him out there. I’m kind of like just shell shocked. I’m like, “Roger,” he’s getting in his car and I’m like, “Roger, what is going on?” He just says, “You don’t care anymore,” and I said, “Listen, with all due respect. I think if I look at these last four or five years, there is no family I have spent more time or money on than your family. How can you say I don’t care anymore?” He gets in the car, he slams the door, and he drives off.
That was it, that’s the end of the story. No reconciliation, no apology, and that day, Jordan, it felt like something in my heart died. Then the next time – you know how sometimes people remind you of people you’ve met, as our church grew, I saw other people and I’m like, “That’s a little bit like Roger and Mary.” And I thought immediately, “I know how this ends.”
And that’s what cynicism does, it shrinks your heart. And see, cynicism is rooted in knowledge. If you really look at – that’s why cynicism and age are often frequent companions because when you’re young, the reason you’re so optimistic is you’re kind of stupid, right?
[0:20:16.8] JR: Right. You have no idea.
[0:20:17.2] CN: You have no idea. You’re like, “Everyone’s going to love it here, it’s going to be perfect, we’re always going to ship on time, it’s going to be the best ever,” and then you know, you realize your own limits and you realize the problems of people coming and going and human dynamics, and so you grow cynical and you think, “I know the kind of person you are,” or “I know how this ends,” and it gets very dark very fast.
I’m naturally an optimist but after decade of full time ministry, I would say I was 5% optimist, 95% cynical. That was a real problem. Plus, we had a couple of personal friendships implode as well, and it can be very difficult as a pastor, if you have any pastors listening, to build friendships in the church and then we had a couple just dissolve overnight and I got to the point years ago where I just said, “That’s it. I’m done making friends and I’m going to stay in ministry but I’m finished with the people part.”
[0:21:11.3] JR: You know, the part of ministry.
[0:21:15.5] CN: I got very cynical fast.
[0:21:17.2] JR: How did you fight it? How do you fight cynicism as a leader. I mean, there’s lots of people we’re seeing into this show who are varying stages of their career. All of us are going to have to fight cynicism at some point? How have you done it?
[0:21:28.1] CN: It was really hard. I went through a year basically where I kind of closed my heart to people and after that year, you know, I started – I went through a period of burnout around the same time, started the battle back from burnout and come back from burnout but I felt like God was saying to me, “So here’s what I need you to do.”
I was like 40, 41. I wasn’t that old and he’s like, “You put your heart into this concrete shell. I need you to get a hammer, break it apart, take what’s left of your heart and I want you to put it in your hand and I want you to move forward and I want you to,” – really, it was the gospel. It’s like “I want you to trust again. I want you to hope again, and I want you to believe again.” That was really hard because cynicism, you stop trusting, you stop hoping, you stop believing. You’re like, “I already know how this ends and it’s bad. I already know I get hurt, I already know – maybe we’ll keep growing but you know what? I’m just going to phone it in because that’s just what you do.”
God’s like, “No.” But I know all this stuff. It’s like, “No, you got to hope again, you got to trust again, you got to believe again.” That was really hard but what I’ve realized in all the years since then, it’s been about 13, 14 years ago that that happened that most people are trustworthy. Most people are not out to stab you in the back. Most people are afraid, they’re hurt and they’re looking for someone who will just connect with them on a human level. People who are safe.
I found nine times out of 10, it actually works out beautifully well. We live in a – I think even a more cynical age than we did a decade ago. But, we need dealers of hope and I think leaders, the best leaders are dealers of hope.
[0:23:19.7] JR: Yeah, that’s good.
[0:23:20.8] CN: It’s this idea that we’re just not going to make a product, we’re going to make a difference. We’re just not going to make a dollar, we’re going to make the world a better place, and we do that through the church but I think you can do that through your businesses as well. You know, I’m like – my company now which runs the podcast, all the communications I do, you know, our mission is to help people thrive in life and leadership and so me and my little ninja team, that gets us – there’s seven of us – gets us out of bed every morning and we’re like how can we help leaders to thrive in life and leadership, right?
What can we produce that will give the people that we serve an edge? I think there’s always a market for that.
[0:23:55.9] JR: Yeah, it’s interesting to me that you describe your one thing as communications. I mean, that makes sense because I think from the outside looking in, you could also say you’re a masterful leader but typically, really exceptional leaders are masterful communicators, right? It’s interesting that you make that distinction.
[0:24:16.1] CN: I had a friend – just to add, not to cut you off but a good friend of mine, the guy who is actually my successor at the church, he said, “When I look back at how you led this church for 20 years, you led through communication,” and there’s a lot of truth to that. Yes, we put in a structure, obviously you’ve got the budget, you got staffing, you’ve got structure. We went through a few building campaigns so you can’t just get by on communication.
But if there was a problem, I would try to vision cast and strategize my way out of it, or I would just be like, “I’m going to project a killer series, right? I’m going to blow this thing up.” I do think you can lead without great – but inevitably, you know – I have another friend, Jeff Henderson who says, “Leadership eventually comes with a microphone.” He’s right. That at some point, every leader is called, whether that’s in a board room or a staff meeting or a retreat, you’ve got to inspire the troops. You’ve got to clarify the vision.
I think that communication is at the heart of effective leadership.
[0:25:15.7] JR: Yeah, I know, I think that’s right. What do masterful communicators do that their less masterful counterparts don’t do? What’s the delta between good and exceptional communication?
[0:25:30.5] CN: Yeah, you know what? You work really hard on terms and you’re taking me into this morning before I got in the car and drove down here for this. I’m on round four or five of chapter one of my next book which will be out in September of 2020. We’ve been through four titles. And I’m the word guy, okay? I’ve taught some of this material for three years and a course, I offer called The High Impact Leader and I talked about time, energy and priorities. I want to design it into this cycle and so we’re working on – I’ll take you into the real world of like –
There’s three commodities every leader deals with. Time, energy and priorities. You think of it every day. Your wedding day, “Do I have time to go golfing with the guys before the ceremony?” or you know, if you’re on the beach, “Are we going to go into town today, or are we going to stay on the beach?” That’s priorities, and energy, you know, high energy, low energy, all day. 4:00 in the afternoon, it’s like, I’d better get that flat white or I’m going to die, right?
It’s time, energy and priorities, and we have spent – my editor and I went back and forth on Saturday, I’ve been through multiple revisions, so what is it? No time, low energy, hijacked priorities. Well, now, it’s scattered time, low energy and hijacked priorities but what’s on the other side?
We’ve reinvented those phrases so the stressless strategy I’ll be sharing in the book is probably going to come out as, “From scattered time to focused time, from low energy to leveraged energy and from, what is it? Hijacked priorities to liberated priorities.” Three of those words switched over the weekend but the fifth time, and I’m like, because a single word, like ‘liberated priorities’. I might have to camp on that for a decade.
If the book does, right, if the book does what you hope your book will do –
[0:27:23.8] JR: You’re going to have to say that a thousand times.
[0:27:26.0] CN: In the book, I called it ‘good priorities’.
[0:27:28.6] JR: Just kidding.
[0:27:30.0] CN: You know, I came up with a better word. That is I think it actually is wordsmithing and then clarity. You’ve got to be able to be clear so when I’m teaching about burnout, I’ll say something like, “If you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.”
There’s multiple principles under why that statement is memorable. Number one, it’s contrast so there’s contrast there, “If you don’t take the Sabbath, Sabbath will take you,” there’s a little bit of repetition in there because ‘Sabbath’ shows up twice. Sometimes you can do a literation along the way. There’s different principles. Contrast, rhyme, echo, alliteration and metaphor make a phrase memorable. So as a communicator, I think about those things all the time. And every sentence, you know – sentences have rhythm and there’s certain prose that works in a good way and some that doesn’t.
But every couple of pages in a book or certainly for every time you give a keynote, you should have one statement that kind of summarizes your main argument and you want to make it memorable. You know, “If you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.” That’s pretty memorable.
[0:28:35.7] JR: That’s pretty memorable. I was talking – I’m considering a children’s book based on Called to Create, based on my previous book, and I was talking to somebody who has had a tremendous amount of success in writing children’s books.
Their number one piece of advice was, “Never sacrifice clarity for creativity,” right? Never sacrifice clarity for style and I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that for anyone who communicates at any level, whatever their work is.
So, all right Carey, I love this particular line in your book. You are talking about humility and you say quote, “You need to submit to it, crave it, hone it, develop it and nurture it.” That aligns really well with the research that I did for Master of One. So for Master of One, we interviewed, I don’t know, 25 or so Christ followers who are world class at their crafts. NFL Hall of Fame coach, Tony Dungy.
C.S. Lewis’s step son, Douglas Gresham who produced the Narnia movies with Disney. Scott Harrison, founder of Charity: Water. So really, really masterful Christians and they all kept coming back to this idea, this theme of humility. So my question is, what are some of the practical expressions of humility as you seek to become a more masterful communicator and leader? How does humility express itself in your work?
[0:29:52.1] CN: Well I think one of the things that can compete with humility, at least in my life, is jealousy or envy. Almost all of us who are leaders no matter how successful you are can find somebody who is better than you are. I remember, this is like back in the 90’s, Ted Turner had made a donation of a billion dollars to the UN. Some people might remember that and I remember him being interviewed about it and he was asked, “How does that make you feel?”
And he says, “Well, not great” “What do you mean not great?” And he goes, “Well a billion dollars is something but compared to Bill Gates I am poor. He could do so much more,” and like “Oh wow,” like you think about that, right? But as a communicator you can be very envious. So here is the temptation of leadership I think with humility. Narcissism drives a lot of pride but I think insecurity drives more pride and depending on how you define pride.
I define pride as an obsession with self. So narcissistic people are obsessed with themselves. Insecure people are very obsessed with themselves and as a young leader, I had trouble. If I thought you were better communicator or a more interesting person than I was, I would have had trouble bringing you into the spotlight. I might have said, “No, we are not going to invite Jordan on the podcast or I am not going to invite him to speak at our church or at my event. You know I want to be the star of the show.”
And God really wrestled that down in me and a principle that I learned from another incredibly masterful communicator, Andy Stanley was, leverage what God has given you. Sorry, celebrate what God has given others, and one of the best ways you can do that is to push other people into the spotlight. So I have been very intentional over the last 15 years of trying to give smarter people, more articulate people, better known people the spotlight and it is not all about me.
As C.S. Lewis says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself,” because there is false humility, right? It’s like that was a great talk. You know, “Well, oh God gave it to me.” Well actually, God wouldn’t have better job than that but thank you. I appreciate it. But it is thinking less of yourself.
[0:32:02.8] CN: And so it’s just like, “No you are really talented, you are really gifted. You get in here, take the microphone. Why don’t you take my spot,” and as you know, you know Jim Collins in Good to Great discovered that the only difference between a level four leader and a level five leader was humility. Same skillset, same ability, same just that huge ability to be successful but the best leaders had humility.
And he fought that research because his team came back and said to him, in interviews I have read with Collins, “Hey, we found this thing called humility,” and he’s like, “That can’t be right, go back and scrub the data” if they can –
[0:32:40.1] JR: Yeah, “That can’t be it. That can’t be the delta,” yeah.
[0:32:42.5] CN: Yeah, no that’s it. That’s the delta, so I think it is really important and to me it is a discipline and so I remind myself of that phrase all the time, “Leverage what God has given you. You are not as funny as John Acuff, you are not as articulate as Andy Stanley. You are not as whatever is whoever but you just leverage what God has given you and you just celebrate all of those other people,” and that is such an expansive universe.
[0:33:04.8] JR: It is and there is so much wisdom in just remembering that there is always going to be somebody better than you. Always. We are not called as Christians to be the best entrepreneur in the world or the best writer in the world. We are just called to do the most exceptional work that God has created us to do. Be the best versions of ourselves. Be the best image of God that we possibly can be in the world and let God do the rest and celebrate with those who are better than us.
And be able to see the image of God shining through more vividly and more perfectly in other people, right? That is a beautiful thing.
[0:33:36.9] CN: Well, most of us are pretty disappointed, Jordan, with who we are, because we see our weaknesses every day, right? And I see like my grammar, I get a Grammarly report every Monday. I write more than 99% of people. I use more inventive words than 98% of people but I am more accurate than 38% of people. Im like, “Okay, so I’m messy and I make a lot of typos right? I am a communicator this is what I do. I am not improving in that area,” but you can hire an editor.
And I have to be okay with who God made me to be and that is a journey that I think you have to take with Christ and you have to get to the point, “No, this is how you made me. This is how my brain works. This is how my personality is,” and most of us are disappointed in ourselves more than we want to let on.
[0:34:23.4] JR: So in Master of One, I talk about this concept of frequent discomfort. One of the keys to mastery, right? Masters always believe that better is possible. They are always putting more weight on the bar professionally. What does that look like for you?
[0:34:39.4] CN: Yeah, you know a friend of mine said to me, “Carey you are really good at strategic quitting,” and I think that is true. I get comfortable with something and then I step away from it, which is a really interesting thing because you look at that path of radio. I was offered big jobs in Toronto and big salary in my early 20’s and I am like, “No,” and then I pivoted a lot. Same thing, I exited, they were like, “Why don’t you just stay? Here is how much we are going to pay you. You can get on the partnership track.”
“Okay, no,” moved into seminary and now that was a long run in ministry for 20 years but handed it off when it was the most successful it’s been and everything always takes risk and even this little hobby because in 2012 was probably the first time that I am like, “I am going to be a serious blogger.” My blog had been around but it was start-stop-start-stop. You know how those things go. I’m like, “I am going to start writing and then I am going to dive into books.”
So that year in 2012, I wrote my own solo book for the first time, which was brand new and then I started blogging for the first time, which was brand new and then two years later I launched my podcast, which was brand new, and then I am always changing the rhythm and the pattern of how those work. I am doing way more in person interviews now because I think you get a better interview.
[0:36:05.0] JR: It is way better, yep.
[0:36:06.4] CN: Yeah, I will use Skype if I have to but you know and next year will be my last year on staff at the church. So stepping away from the security, and people are like, “Wow, you’ll barely be 55.” I’m like, “Yeah, but there is new horizons calling.” So I actually experience that as excitement but there is some nerves. When I stepped out as the lead pastor role four years ago, both of our sons were still in university. Those are the most expensive years.
Unfortunately, if your kids are in diapers, it only gets worse financially just so you know. You’re like, “Oh one day they won’t eat baby food and be in diapers.” No, you have college coming and so you know I took a pay cut when I did that and what I am doing now in leadership wasn’t paying then what it does today, we have been very blessed, but it was a real like, “Okay God, you’d better come through,” but that risk is frightening/exciting.
So that kind of discomfort and then I love the joke for leadership, for me has been for years, as soon as it starts to seem like there is an equilibrium, I take a stick of dynamite into it, blow it up and just see what happens and how we can innovate beyond that and that totally lights me up. I love doing that.
[0:37:14.4] JR: That is the story of my life. I mean my average tenure doing anything is two, two and a half years.
[0:37:20.1] CN: That is a short wick.
[0:37:21.3] JR: It is a very short wick. Now, there’s been one through line through all of that, through my career. It is all been entrepreneurship. It’s all been strategic quitting or selling of a company so that is a natural quitting point but no, I think there is a lot of wisdom in there and I heard you talking to Michael Hyatt about this on your podcast and he is very good at this. Knowing when to pivot, knowing when to double down on something that’s like working.
And just growing faster than the thing you were doing. So Carey, you are super productive, very curious about your routines and some of the keystone habits in your life. What have you been doing? What are some of your habits that work that you have been doing for years? Not something you’re experimenting with, something you have been doing for five, 10 years that you swear by that makes you super productive in life?
[0:38:08.4] CN: I express it differently now but I look back over the last decade. I think you basically as a human being have three to five productive hours in a day. Now you got to live 24 but really, if you look at particularly in the line of work that you do and I do whether you are launching things. You are in a senior leadership position, what is your most important work? So for decades for me that has been writing new messages pretty much every week.
Whether that is a new sermon, these days, a new blog post, a new chapter in the book, a new podcast content. Whatever that happens to be, I am writing and I am creating. There may be a robot out there who can do that eight hours a day that’s not me. You know by 4:00 in the afternoon I am sluggish. So I have learned that my peak hours happen between about 6 AM and 11 AM. I am a morning person, I made myself a morning person, and that if I can get those – they say slay your dragons before breakfast.
So I protect that time like a hawk. Even today, we set things up for the afternoon because I rewrote chapter one of my book this morning and made sure that everything was lined up for the week before I jumped in the car to head down here for the afternoon interviews and that has been a cornerstone, keystone habit for me that has, I think been, resulted – that people always comment. They’re like, “Your output is insane.”
Some of that is gifting but a lot of it is discipline and there is a lot of other things that will completely compete for my time in that window. Breakfast meetings I have almost entirely eliminated from my life in the last six or seven years largely because you get up, you shower, you get out the door, you go to breakfast, you come back for the office or wherever you’re working, your home, it is 9 AM or 9:30 by that point you got five texts and 17 Slack messages.
And you’re like, “Oh okay” and then it is noon and then you have lunch and then when your day just evaporated in front of your eyes, whereas if I can discipline myself to have that time and do my most important work and the other part of that is knowing where is your greatest value. What is that thing that you are most uniquely positioned to do and you are largest gifting where you are able to actually produce what moves the needle to get your mission moving.
So that has been a key thing. Another thing that I have really doubled down on the last 15 years is rest. I literally for the last three years have been tracking it every night with my Apple watch on the sleep app. So I go for at least two to three hours of deep sleep every night to try to get seven to eight hours because I find I can set that time aside but if I am not mentally clear, if I am exhausted, if I had a really big dinner at 9:00 the night before and then went straight to bed.
I am like, “Ah brain fog.” Your body feels bad. So it is trying to eat right, trying to get enough exercise, get enough sleep and then leverage those three to five hours, five days a week. Some days I feel honestly, I could just stop at 11 AM, I did everything I needed to do today. I could just go walk in the woods for the rest of the day.
[0:41:09.8] JR: Yeah, well Cal Newport talks a lot about this, right? That deep work, the cap on deep work in his opinion is four hours. I think it is something like five but it doesn’t matter, right? But the fact is there is a finite amount of will power that we all have and so optimizing your day, I hate morning meetings too. I hate it, all of my meetings are in the afternoon right? The keynote speech I am giving is at 8:45 PM tonight, right? Which just kills me because that is actually deep work, you got to be on, right? You know I have thought about it. I might do it.
[0:41:42.1] CN: I would totally do it.
[0:41:43.2] JR: After we get done with our interview I might take a nap and get ready for the speech but no, there is a lot wisdom in there. All right, so you said you made yourself a morning person. A lot of people who come on this podcast talk about mornings, mornings, mornings. Mornings are so critical for doing your deepest work. How did you make yourself a morning person? Because I am sure there’s people out there who’d be like “I wish I was a morning person but I don’t know how to do it!” How did you do it?
[0:42:05.3] CN: So when I was here at law school, undergrad, I picked all of my courses as late as possible because I was terrible with diet and exercise and the whole deal. I’d go to bed late, I’d get up as late as I could. So I did two things. Number one, I got married and I had a wife who liked to get up at eight. I’m like, “Okay, all right I am going to get up at eight” I love her.
[0:42:24.8] JR: So find a spouse who likes to get up early right.
[0:42:27.0] CN: Find a spouse who likes to get up early. Secondly, become a parent and then all the bets are off right? 3:30 in the morning all of a sudden is not the time I am going to bed, it is the time I am getting up because he is crying and so those two things did it and then the pressures of leadership. So I have gradually, in the last decade I will get up, this morning I got up at 5:15
And normally I am up depending on my travel schedule, when the sun is up, when the sun goes down I will get up between 4:45 and 5:30 every morning and I just find that those first few hours of the day, the first is devotion time. I will give half hour to an hour easy on that and it gets easier the more you devote to that and nobody is texting you and I have my phone on do not disturb anyway most of the time.
[0:43:12.6] JR: Amen, preach brother preach.
[0:43:14.4] CN: Yep, silent and do not disturb, but still, if you see there is five texts and you notice that, I am going to be tempted to respond. So nobody is texting me, nobody is emailing me, it is quiet and when it is quiet I love it. It gives me a peace of mind and I just have a groundedness to starting the day that just doesn’t happen when things are frantic. Now, I don’t have young children waking me up every morning and the whole deal but you do and you seem to resonating with that.
[0:43:45.1] JR: Yeah it is a little crazy. So my routine has changed a little bit with kids, right? So I no longer have a predictable wake up time and I get up early as it is. I typically get up at five, 5:30 but my kids get up even earlier. I mean there are – some days they’re up at 5:15 so it is a little crazy but I love it. I would rather than be early risers than sleep in until 9 AM so I absolutely love it.
So I want to shift gears for a minute, I want to talk about this intersection of fate and work. And I want to go back to your time shifting from law to “full time ministry” a term that I am not a huge fan of. So you left law to become a pastor. What would you say to the person who is listening to this episode who is still practicing law? Actually, I know my brother in law, Sean, is listening to this episode. He is still practicing law or is working outside of the four walls of the church doing something else. What would you say to that person about the eternal significance and meaning of their work?
[0:44:43.6] CN: Yeah, I think it is huge and I love the fact that you don’t like the phrase full time minister.
[0:44:48.7] JR: I hate it. I didn’t want to jump on you too.
[0:44:50.9] CN: What would you call it, pastoral ministry?
[0:44:52.9] JR: So I think this is the problem why we keep saying full time ministry. We don’t have another good term for it. So what is it? Let us make one right now, vocational, pastoral?
[0:45:01.2] CN: Vocation ministry, pastoral ministry, church leadership –
[0:45:03.0] JR: Sure, let’s call it pastoral ministry, church leadership, I like that. Ministry leadership, church leadership, there we go.
[0:45:09.1] CN: Because I think it is full time ministry, and before I felt that call to ministry, to vocational ministry, to church leadership, and I still see it – my wife is a lawyer as well. I see that as a full time ministry and that is how I was processing it. It’s like, “Lord, how can you use me?” Because law is fraught with you know, every industry, every trade has got pitfalls in it but I was like, “Lord, how are you going to use me in this?” So a couple of things.
Number one, and this is borderline heresy but I think it is true, Aeneas said, “The glory of God is man fully alive,” it is not the full glory of God but that is an aspect of the glory of God is that it is humanity, men and women fully alive. What does it mean for you to be fully alive? Well, you know, my wife and I love going to concerts. We saw John Mayer, love him or hate him. We saw John Mayer here in Toronto,
[0:46:01.9] JR: I love John Mayer.
[0:46:02.6] CN: I love him too, a few years ago. That guy is one of the best guitar players alive
[0:46:05.9] JR: He is unbelievable. He is one of the best live musicians I have ever seen. He is incredible.
[0:46:08.6] CN: He is. So when you see him and I am getting goose bumps thinking about it and he is playing his guitar and he is into it, there is something transcendent about that and you are just like you know, the live albums don’t even capture what you see and you experience when you are in the room. It is like there is an artist who just paints the most indescribable paintings. You are like the glory of God is reflected in that.
[0:46:36.5] JR: Are you familiar with the Celtic theology of thin places? Have you heard of this?
[0:46:39.2] CN: No.
[0:46:39.7] JR: So the Celts had this idea, they called it thin places. This idea that there are things on earth that so incredible, typically in the arts, right? They are just so beyond what words can express, like John Mayer playing the guitar. We had a guy on the show named Kevin Cloud talking about the first time he saw Hamilton on Broadway thinking this is inexpressibly great and it is this place where the veil between our current world and the future Kingdom of Heaven on a new heavens, new earth.
There is just this thin layer between them and you can glimpse that. It is really impossible to put into words. N.T. Wright does a really good job writing about this in Surprised by Hope but I think that is what you are talking about, right?
[0:47:24.1] CN: It is, it is exactly what I am talking about and you know it is moments like that that reinforce my belief that there is a God and that Jesus gave us gifts. He gave us these gifts. So I think when you are at the John Mayer level of development of whatever gift that is and honestly, if you have the spiritual gift of spreadsheets, Excel. I mean you know as an entrepreneur that without that accounting department, without the admin piece, without the details, without the eyes dotted or coders.
I have a son who is a coder, he is a computer software engineer. There is such a thing as beautiful code. Oh my gosh you know you want beautiful code and so a lawyer, the art of advocacy, of standing up in a court of law and making the best possible argument, not one you stumbled into because you looked at the file for 20 minutes before the judge called your docket, right? It’s like no, you actually prepared, or a communicator who just gives a talk that goes over the top or whatever you are doing.
Whether you’re casting vision or clarifying vision for your company, when you do that and you lean into the gifting and the skill base that God has given you, you are – I mean it is 1 Corinthians 12, you are being the body of Christ. You are fully alive in the gifting that God has given you.
[0:48:45.1] JR: You are fully alive, you are fully who God made you to be. You are also loving your neighbor as yourself by delivering exceptional work products into the world and you are revealing the character of a creative, I would argue working, and productive God. Genesis 1 opens up with a God who works, which is totally unique in the history of world religions and the origin stories of the world.
So Carey, your podcast is fantastic. The book is great but, you know, you know this, I don’t have to tell you this, a lot of the stuff that you are saying, I don’t think anybody writes anything new, right? People ask me, “What was new in Called to Create.” I am like, “Nothing, absolutely nothing.” I am saying it in a different way. There is nothing new under the sun and a lot of the leadership concepts in your books are ones that non-Christians would agree with, right? They are just universal truths.
So here is my question for you, what do you think would be different about your work and your content if you weren’t a follower of Christ?
[0:49:46.8] CN: Oh, nobody has ever asked me that. That is a great question. I don’t think it will have the lift it does, the hope it does, or the tone it does, because I think I would have grown cynical, perhaps too cynical to write. Perhaps too cynical, you know, you have really made me think. I don’t know that I would be doing this, because even though you are right, there is a generic sense to that and increasingly so as my business, I got a book today from a CEO of a $500 million company who listens to my podcast.
I am like, “Wow, I have been praying that God would open doors into the business community because I’ve got roots there and an affinity for that and a heart for business leaders,” because in that brief time in law, I saw so many leaders who had everything but had nothing and you know that story, right? In the business – and a lot of leaders might be listening to this podcast and they’re like, “Yeah, I got it all. I got the house, I got the car, I got the family, I got the vacations and I am miserable.”
And I am like that is my church, that is who I pray God gives me the opportunity to speak to over the next few years and so I am trying to figure out a way to communicate to that audience in a way that really connects with where they’re at but underneath that even if every paragraph doesn’t say Jesus in it or every paragraph doesn’t have a Bible verse, the hope of Christ beats in that writing and I say to my audience all the time and we are fortunate to have a large audience.
But I want this to be a place for the good people to live on the internet, the people who are not on either end of that crazy you know, whatever perspective we have now or the tribalism that is going on and politics and public discourse. I want the people – I want us to be brokers of hope. I want us to help people and that all springs from my belief and who God is and who Jesus is and so whether it is explicitly there with chapter and verse.
You know one of the things that kills me as a pastor is sometimes you see the Bible being used as a weapon and it’s just being used to beat people down and the Bible is pulled out as a way of saying, “Here are 15 reasons you are wrong Jordan, boom- boom- boom- boom- boom. You misinterpreted Ephesians,” Ugh, you know hey, if there is a gross heresy, you know, we should probably address that, but let us do it love the way we are commended to. So I just think that that probably is the reason I write so I don’t know that there’s –
[0:52:23.7] JR: That is a really good answer no but it is hope. Hope is the core, yeah. All right, three rapid fire questions I always end interviews with. Number one, which books do you recommend or give to others the most? Other than your own, that doesn’t count, yeah.
[0:52:38.3] CN: Well, the probably my all-time favorite book is a bit of a weird one. It is a Henri Nouwen book, which is not weird but I think it is the first one he wrote. It is called The Genesee Diary and he was just starting to get a bit of a career as an academic if you can think that is a Jesuit or not a Jesuit but as a Roman Catholic academic and he was finding some soul challenges with that: the fame, the notoriety, being invited to conferences.
So he went to a monastery in upstate New York for six months, and just kept a journal and then published it as The Genesee Diary and it is a story of a man trying to find his soul in the midst of success and there is no real conclusion. You just get to go behind the veil of the man that was becoming the Henri Nouwen that we all know and we all love. So love that book, it is called The Genesee Diary and I think it was the Trappist Monastery in Genesee County upstate New York.
Anyway, so there’s that one. The Advantage by Pat Lencioni. I just love Patrick and his stuff. Another book that I found really helpful, Cloud and Townsend have written such great books but Necessary Endings is really, really helpful because we live in a culture where people quit too soon or they stay too long. In the church, I see people staying way too long. Way too long. It is like, “You should have been gone a long time ago. Your passion left a long time ago, why haven’t you?” So I find those three books that have been really good books.
[0:54:06.8] JR: Good answer. What one person would you most like to hear talk about how their faith influences their work?
[0:54:14.6] CN: Living or dead, John Calvin.
[0:54:19.2] JR: That is a good answer.
[0:54:19.7] CN: I would love to know. I did a thesis on Calvin in my final year on his preaching but he is such an influential figure in history and seems so austere and very removed, very clinical, the Calvinists of course a more Calvinistic than Calvin ever was but I think it would be John Calvin. I have studied him quite a bit, I have read The Institutes. I would just love to know what made him tick and I’d love – I think there is a heart that comes through in his original writings that got lost amongst the Calvinists and I think it would be very –
You know he did things like Michael Servetus and so on and Geneva and whatever but I think he’d be fascinating to hear.
[0:54:59.1] JR: That is good. All right last question. What one piece of advice would you give to somebody listening today who is pursuing mastery of their craft? Whatever it is that they are doing vocationally, what one piece of advice would you leave them with?
[0:55:10.1] CN: This may be in your book. Find that center point between your passion, your gifting, “I love doing this, I am good at it,” and that place where you either gain an audience or can get paid for it.
[0:55:23.1] JR: Yeah that is good advice. That is the heart of Master of One. There you go, you are reading from the script. See, nothing new under the sun.
[0:55:30.4] CN: Absolutely, nothing new but if you can do that and that is trial and error. That is a –
[0:55:35.8] JR: Yeah it is a lot of experimentation. A lot of experimentation and figuring out where you feel God’s pleasure, where you’re just doing work that is producing exponential fruit that you can’t reasonably take credit for. The divine multiplication of effort. Hey Carey, I just want to commend you for the exceptional work that you do. Thank you for serving pastors and other leaders through your excellent content and thank you for helping us apply the truths of the gospel through our work.
I love the book. If you guys are listening, check out Didn’t See it Coming by Carey Nieuwhof. I highly recommend it and go listen to Carey interview me. We are going to turn the mic off, restart it, go listen to the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. We are actually releasing these episodes on the same day, right?
[0:56:18.5] CN: Hey, how about that? It is amazing. I love it.
[0:56:19.3] JR: How about that? At New Year’s day so Carey, thanks for being here.
[0:56:23.3] CN: Thank you. Thanks for having me Jordan and let’s kick off 2020 together.
[0:56:27.3] JR: Yeah.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:56:29.8] JR: I loved chatting with Carey. I am so grateful that he came on the show. I hope you guys enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. Hey, go listen right now, now that this episode is done, go listen to Carey turn the mic and the interview over to me on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. In that conversation I shared a lot about practically how we made the transition from me being CEO to executive chairman of Threshold 360 and we also talked a lot about my new book, Master of One.
And by the way in case you haven’t heard, if you pre-order that book today, you are going to be entered a chance to win a seven night European Cruise, a tour of La Sagrada Familia and dinner with me in Barcelona. I am going to fly to Barcelona, take you and the guest of your choice to a great dinner. So go to jordanraynor.com right now to pre-order and enter the sweepstakes and of course, that link is right there in the shownotes.
Hey, thanks for listening to The Call to Mastery. Thanks for making this a great 2019. I will see you tomorrow, we have another new episode of The Call to Mastery on New Year ’s Day 2020. See you then.