The Call to Mastery with Jordan Raynor

Dr. John Delony (Author of Redefining Anxiety)

Episode Summary

“God doesn’t need you, but I do.”

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with Dr. John Delony, Author of Redefining Anxiety, to talk about how the gospel gives us the verdict before the performance, how to adopt the practice of academic “peer reviews” to your own work, and how the truth that God doesn’t need you is paradoxically freeing.

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 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 craft. We talk about their path to mastery, their daily habits and how their faith influences their work.


Today's guest is Dr. John Delony. He's a mental health expert with two PhDs. One obviously wasn't enough for the overambitious John. Today, Dr. Delony serves on Dave Ramsey's team as one of Ramsey's personalities. Prior to that, he was the Dean of Students at Belmont University.


John and I sat down, we had a fascinating conversation about how the gospel alone gives us the verdict for our lives before we do anything, before the performance of our lives. We talked about how to adopt the practice of academic peer reviews for your own work, and how the truth that God doesn't need you and I doing any specific work is paradoxically freeing. I think you're really going to enjoy this conversation with me and Dr. John Delony.




[00:01:33] JR: Hey, John, thanks for being here.


[00:01:35] JD: Hey, thank you so much, Jordan. You doing well?


[00:01:37] JR: I'm doing great. How about you, man?


[00:01:39] JD: Very cool, man. Doing good.


[00:01:40] JR: So, I saw you speak at a Ramsey event, and back then, you were the Dean of Students at Belmont. I'm curious, because you worked with college students for a while, was it that experience that led you to your interest in anxiety and mental health?


[00:01:56] JD: That's a good question. No, probably my own experience with it. I didn't know, beyond an intellectual understanding, I didn't know what it was. I knew that people said they had a thing and I knew enough to read about it and they told me it was a brain disease, and so I just moved on with my day and helped students with it.


It wasn't until I fell apart with it. I had stopped my life so obnoxiously above my ceiling, like what I could handle. I had connected an identity to some of these things that were unconnected to anything else, just totally an untethered life. So, it wasn't until I got laid low with it, that I went on a spelunking expedition to try to figure out what in the world was going on in my head and my heart and my physiology. What's happening?


So, it wasn't until I experienced it that I realized, man, we don't know anything about what's going on inside of us.


[00:02:48] JR: What's the backstory there for you, personally, that brought you to that low point?


[00:02:53] JD: I was just a one-track minded guy. I had a wife, I had just a brand-new baby, and it was all about – I wanted to be a college president, I’m making my way through this, to that job, to this job. I want to make this much money. I want to make sure this group of people knows how wonderful and great I am. I'll say yes to every single thing that comes down the way not because I have anything to say, but because there's a microphone there. It's all about getting to the next thing, the next thing, the next thing.


My wife is fine. She's got a great job. I put all this emphasis on where I was going to be next. All this emphasis on, “What's the next move so I can get to this imaginary thing that's going to make me okay, from the inside out or from the outside in, really?” The people in my life, the jobs in my life, everything became utilitarian, “How is this going to help me get to my next thing?” Man, you can only do it for so long before the floor starts to shake out from underneath you.


I remember at one point, I was at a university where I was over so many things, so much stuff that I could have not gone to work for a week and no one would have missed me if I answered my cell phone, right? I was walking to work and I just turned back around and walked back through the parking lot and got in my car and drove three hours to another city to meet with a buddy who is a physician. I'll never forget walking in his office and just saying, “Man, I’m not,” I didn't have an appointment, I didn’t have anything, I just walked straight into the office and said, “Brother, I'm not doing well. I need some help man.” That started a long journey back.


[00:04:22] JR: Are you a three? A performer on the Enneagram?


[00:04:25] JD: No, I'm actually a pathological 2. I say that Ian Cron tells me I’m a two. I I think I'm a four but I think I've got some pathologies about needing to help people.


[00:04:38] JR: Yeah, there's still that drive, the need to perform, the need to be seen, to grab the microphone, whatever. I'm curious. So obviously, you've gone through some healing here. You're helping others heal through a similar thing. I'm curious what the Lord taught you about ambition throughout this. I've always been curious about this question of, is ambition good, bad or neutral? What have you learned about that through your life?


[00:05:03] JD: Man, I think Bible studies can be a pathology. I think serving other people, I think, we were just talking offline, Rich Mullins is one of my favorite theologians, he’s a songwriter. He once said, “People can be as proud of the things they don't have, as people are the things they do have. It's all about the spirit of these things.”


So, I think ambition, it may lean towards, watch that and be careful. I don't think trying to be excellent and having goals is inherently evil at all. In fact, I think that's a good thing. I think if you think that whatever you accomplish is going to heal you, that's where you're misguided. If it's going to solve your life's challenges, that's where you're misguided. If it's going to somehow finally help you have value, that's where you're going to run into some major problems. When you make a destination your ambition, man, you’re going to really get in a mess there. Because if you cross that finish line, it feels good for about eight seconds and then you're stuck figuring out who you are, whatever you're running from.


[00:06:09] JR: Yeah, that's a common story for a lot of our guests. I know for me too, right? Like finding that Jesus is the only ultimate answer to that question of, “Who am I? What's my identity? How do I have worth beyond what I do?”


So, speaking of what you do, you made this shift from academia to now you're a full time – what do we call you, professional communicator now? So, I'm curious, what have you seen are the keys that are common between mastering those two pretty different crafts?


[00:06:43] JD: So, something inherent in academia that doesn't get any publicity at all, in fact, the only thing that gets publicity at higher ed is how expensive it is, which is super true, and how there's a bunch of intellectuals, super true. What doesn't get enough press is the whole enterprise is, you put an idea down, you do a study, you read, you come up with some theories, you do a scientific inquiry, you put the study down, and then it is immediately peer reviewed. The moment you say something, you lay it down, and then your colleagues, your friends, they go to war against your idea. It's this iron sharpens iron idea.


So, a great example of this is right when COVID set out, a college laid a model out and said, I remember what it was, “We think 25 million people are going to die.” The politicians in the media grabbed that and stamped it in concrete, “We're all going to die.” And then they started yelling at each other for the next year, over who's the liar and who wasn't. Scientists didn't see it that way at all. It became data point number one. And then scientists around the world went, “Alright, sweet. Now we gotta game.” And they jumped in and then within a few weeks, they'd revised it down to 10 million, and then revised it again. Does that make sense?


[00:07:57] JR: Yeah, totally.

[00:07:58] JD: Inherent in that ideology is humility. This idea that, “I'm probably wrong, and I need my colleagues to help make me better.” So, the same thing coming over here, when you're working in the messy, ugly, greedy life of other people, if you ever enter that space, thinking, “I know exactly. Fill in the blank,” you're a dangerous gun. You're going to hurt people.


So, inherent in this new job, dude, I didn't have social media before I joined this. I had been on one friend's podcast. That's it. I mean, one of my life goals was to not exist on the internet. In fact, right before I moved to Nashville, one of my bosses after working at a university for four years, four years, she finally called me and said, “I have to put you on our website today.”


I wouldn't show up to photoshoots. I just didn’t want to exist there. So, inherent in this transition to this job is, be really humble, surround yourself by people who know what they're talking about, do what they say, and make sure you're a joy to be around. Make sure you are pleasant to be around. You're a person of integrity. Really, at the end of the day, now we're just exchanging ideas for one goal, and that's to help other people live better lives.


[00:09:15] JR: Yeah. One of the things we hear a lot on this podcast from people from a bunch of different vocations, is the need for rapid feedback. I've never heard somebody talk about the world of academia and peer reviews, but that's a beauty of that structure. It's built into academic learning. So, I'm curious, what does peer review look like for you now that you're this professional speaker, author, podcaster, whatever? How do you practically invite peers in to beat your workup?


[00:09:46] JD: Brother, you don't know awkward until there's a 60-inch flat screen with a speech you gave with a roomful of people with pads of paper just pulling you apart, “Why are you standing like that? Why are you making that face? Get your fingers out of your mouth. Look at your pants.” I mean, and I initially started pushing back, right? It's like, “These are just the pants I wear,” until somebody connected, “Those pants don't fit.” They were cool back Limp Bizkit was cool and Limp Bizkit he was never cool, back in the mid-90s.


Now, fast forward, you look like a slob. And when you're like a slob, you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about. And if you don't know what you're talking about, you're going to say something profound, and people aren't going to hear you. So, wear clothes that fit for crying out loud. By the way, when you stick your fingers in your mouth, I mean, just on and on and on, every time I do a media hit, I'm on the news across the country in some shape, form or fashion, whichever worksheet and me and a couple of folks will sit there and watch the hits one after the other after the other and score them, “Are you being kind? Are you being funny? Are you being entertaining?” So, it's a craft. It is learning a whole new craft.


[00:10:54] JR: What's the secret to receiving feedback well? Because it's one thing to ask for it. It's another thing to be humble enough to listen to it and purposefully practice getting better at that craft. So, give us an example, like a practical example of how you've done that.


[00:11:09] JD: I think there's one answer, and normally I'm kind of a wishy-washy guy because there's so many like, “Well it could be this,” there is one answer to that. You ready for it?


[00:11:19] JR: Yeah.


[00:11:19] JD: My identity is not in this job. If Dave Ramsey fires me tomorrow, I'll go, “Man, that's a bummer.” I've set my life up. Me and my wife have set our life up financially. So, we live below our means. My car is an ’06. I park next to Anthony O'Neal who drives in his red Porsche, and I've got this ‘06 truck. I am more interested in playing the long game. Anthony too, he makes more money than me, but that's a whole other conversation.


All I want to say is, if Dave fires me, that would really be a bummer. And then we go find the next fun thing. I've been a high school teacher, a college professor, I worked at Burger King for four years. All my jobs, I’ve liked them all. I like this one more. It pays well. It's a blast. I feel like I'm in a great – I’m using my skill set well, but my identity is not wrapped up in a job title anymore, and it used to be. What that meant was, I had to be psychotic about keeping that job title, keeping everyone happy, keeping this appearance up. Now, my identity is being a really good husband, being a really present dad. And then these assignments as they come up, all focus back to, I'm a guy who helps people. I'm a guy who helps people have a better tomorrow than they did ahead of today.


So, that can be – not at Burger King, you're going to have a worse tomorrow if you eat too much Burger King. But whatever that is, high school teacher, basketball coach, track coach, we just crossed a million views last month on the internet, YouTube, right? Whatever that looks like, my identity is not in this gig. That means when somebody says, “Hey, you can do this better.” Sweet, I'm going to do it better. I can hear that now because you're not insulting me, you're just helping me get better at my craft.


[00:13:12] JR: Yeah, I was just writing a devotional on this. Yeah, I think we Americans, I think this is true largely around the world. Today we look to work to provide this ultimate verdict for our lives. We know that there is something deeply wrong with us. We, as Christians, know that’s sin and we work crazy hard to prove that we are valuable, and that we belong in the room, that our existence is justified. When you do that, you're really working out of a sense of fear rather than freedom, right? Because you have something huge to lose, you have yourself to lose. If you lose the job, if you lose the job title, if you lose the promotion, your very self crumbles. It's only in Christ as Christians, we get the verdict before the performance. That's radical.


[00:14:00] JD: Esther Perel talks a lot about the shift of the last couple of 100 years that we have systematically in our culture, withdrawn faith, systematically withdrawn, she's a secular author by the way, withdrawn faith, withdrawn community, withdrawn a singular extended connected family. And suddenly, all we have left, we put all of this pressure to feed us, to fulfill us, to give us value, as you said, is our job. Jobs aren’t designed for that much pressure. We have dumped everything into it and then we've got corporations that are feeding that. You don’t have to leave, “We will feed you here, you can do your laundry here. We got a gym here. We’ve got all these things.” Or we've gone the other way, which is that the workplace plays a significant part of our internal value. We are made to work and we've moved to a gig economy. We only value enough to give you a job tomorrow, “You can come work today and I'll let you know tonight, not tomorrow.”

So, we've just bifurcated it all overnight. We've lost this tether into a much bigger sense of who we are and what our value and purpose is.


[00:15:12] JR: Yeah, work is good. It's just not the ultimate.


[00:15:14] JD: Yeah, that's a great way to say that.


[00:15:17] JR: So, I'm curious, we talk to top performers about routines, habits, what does a typical day look like for you, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to bed?


[00:15:25] JD: Man, I'm kind of a lunatic about this. Is that cool?


[00:15:30] JR: This is great. I can't wait to hear this.


[00:15:33] JD: So, I am a nut job about my morning routine, and about taking care of the things that I can control to start my day so that I'm in a place that can start my day. I also hold, it’s going to sound like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, I hold it pretty loosely. I'll explain that in a second.


But I get up super, super early, between 4:45 and 5:30 usually, and I will grab some coffee and head straight downstairs. I've got a routine, man, started with the meditation practice from a professor who's also a monk about 10 years ago. I will go through a gratitude journal, go through, I copy parts of the Sermon on the Mount every single day of my life. Then I’ll read, maybe a secular author, but just some reminders about honesty, integrity and discipline. But I make sure I'm reading some of these things every day. Make sure I'm in – for me, scripture is an important part of that morning. I journal every morning.


And then I head off, and I've got a gym that I've built at my house over the last several years. Hey, man, all you gotta do is wait for these CrossFit gyms to go out of business and you can just pick up pieces and pieces. Over the last few years I've created quite a cool garage gym, about 1/1000 of the cost.

[00:16:53] JR: That’s amazing.


[00:16:54] JD: I've got a gym here. I've got my cold tub that I've got. I've got my hanging upside down thing, which is important. I'm really big into being outside, even when it's 31 degrees outside, with no shoes on and sometimes just shorts and that's it. Making sure I'm grounding myself and feeling that discomfort of the cold or feeling that comfort because it's warm, making sure I'm connected to nature. And then the morning is about being with my kids and making sure – that’s why I get up before they do, so that I can spend some fun quality time with them, and make sure me and my wife are on the same page. One question we ask each other every single day, “What does your picture of today look like?” Not, “Hey, what are you going to do today?” But I need you to paint it for me. So that we are in sync together before the day gets going.


I'm usually late to work, like always, that's my big – that’s my thing I'm trying to work on man, all the time. I make sure every day I call at least one person that I'm connected to and that I love. So I'm talking to somebody, especially during COVID it has been tough to see people and so I'm making sure I'm connected to somebody. Then get to work. And then I get home, I try my best to unplug. I really try to not get on electronics in the morning. Sometimes I do, just because I'm being lazy or a bum but I try to stay off those electronics until I get to the office.


[00:18:13] JR: I love it. So, you say you're a nutjob about routines, I am too, but you hold them loosely. What does that look like, to be disciplined, routine driven, but not to be married to it?


[00:18:27] JD: I think something that's been important for me is that discipline is a practice that you have to – you’re playing a long game here, right? Going back to the ambition question, when you get so obsessed with, “I'm going to hit this number on a scale”, you can get there, man. You can starve yourself, you can cut off your foot. You can get to that number. Are you doing it in a way that is going to actually change your life for the better? Are you doing it in a way that is sustainable? So, why are you doing all these things in the first place?


Well, I'm in my early 40s now, and my goal now is to make sure my brain is working in a way that I can best honor the people that I'm in contact with. I want to be able to roll around on the floor and be a good grandfather ninja when I'm 90. So, that means I gotta exercise and move my body in certain ways right now. I'm playing a 40 or 50-year game now. That also means, like a couple of mornings ago my daughter got up, she just had this weird wake up that she doesn't really know, she's five. She crawled into bed with me right before my alarm went off and dude, I reached over and shut that alarm off and we hugged for an hour. Just curled up in there.


I can go through all the neurochemistry of why that was good for me. I can go through that I've been working out for how many days in a row and a rest day is not going to hurt anything. In fact, it’s going to help me. None of that matters. Because the most important thing was, those hugs are finite, man. My 30-year-old daughter is not going to crawl up in my – that’s going to be weird, right?


[00:19:59] JR: That would be odd.


[00:20:00] JD: Take these moments and not be loose with it, but I'm going to be really disciplined and I'm also going to be a person of integrity, a person of a higher identity. What am I doing this for? For them. What am I doing this for? So that I can be whole and part of being whole are those holy moments when your daughter crawls up in your lap, and I'm not going to miss.


[00:20:21] JR: Hey, you talked about not wanting to be found online. I'm curious if the motivation there is because you know that these tools cause anxiety. Is there a connection there?


[00:20:33] JD: Yeah, as we've seen this stuff roll out, this comparative technology, this idea that we're communicating with one another, but we're not connected to each other. I mean, we are melting from the inside out in really dangerous ways. Now, you can see that we talk to each other, we talk to caricatures of one another, and the way we treat people, we would never do this because there's so many other social signals like body positioning and eye crinkles and your how your mouth moves, and all these other things that make no sense in the real world, suddenly, it's okay to call somebody down on social media or a thumbs down or make a rude remark, or it just is this avenue for the worst parts of us.


So, it's a necessary evil as a part of this job. I'm trying to be a really smart steward of it. But even then, I'm challenging me and my team and all of us, “Is this is really the right way to be using some of this stuff?”


[00:21:27] JR: Yeah. So, I'm curious what that looks like for you practically? What are some of the routines and habits you put in place with technology specifically, that help you use these tools and in a healthy way?


[00:21:38] JD: So, I won't use Twitter. I found out recently, I've got a Twitter handle that people take things that I say in speeches and things, and they'll just clip parts of them and put them out there. I will probably end up doing away with all of it simply because it's the most reductive of all, right? It's so hard to communicate humanity in such a tiny space. Some of these platforms are more conducive, or not conducive. I've committed to making one post on one thing a day and I'm fortunate in this space that there's a team of people who will take that and move it to another platform and to another platform in that way.


I do try to put out positivity in the world. The world doesn't need any more negativity. We're good. And so, can I help somebody rethink of something else? Can I help somebody laugh hard, and they haven't laughed all day? So, I try to put things out that will spin somebody's day more positive than it was negative. And then here's just me being vulnerable and honest. I taught about this stuff, and also taught grad courses and education and counseling. I talked about the data, about the addictive nature of some of these things, but I didn't have them.


Some of this stuff, dude, I found myself just scrolling mindlessly, doing the exact thing that I know I shouldn't be doing. This stuff is in us. It goes below a cognitive level. Because I know the data. I know how dangerous it is. I know how every part of my life and legacy would be better served with me kicking a soccer ball with my son. But here I am, in my bedroom, with the door closed, just scrolling on something.


[00:23:17] JR: But I think it's helping to just recognize the exponential power that these services have. I have an Instagram account. I love my Instagram account. But I have hard lines in the sand of where and when I use that tool. Pretty much the only tool I use. I was actually just writing about this for my next book, 2007, three things happened. Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone. Second, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Americans started a 10-year 59% decrease in productivity compared to the previous decade. And third, anxiety exploded off the map. That's not a coincidence. I mean, you’ve studied anxiety way more than I have.


[00:24:07] JD: It's everything. We landed in this place where we all thought the economy was going to go bananas for the rest of our lives. In 2008, and ‘09 we suddenly realized we're mortal. Like, “We can't control this stuff.” Or a few people, and we learned this in 2001 and we forgot it over the next decade, a few people acting in a way that is not in the best interest of everybody, can make everything go away for us. When you take that and suddenly, we're communicating with each other in characters, in zeros and ones, black and white text, or we're talking to each other in these curated photos, or we're talking to each other, not connecting. We're completely distracted and when we're talking to real humans, we're just nodding and scrolling. Suddenly, you find yourself and your spouse sitting on a couch, and one of you got an iPad up and the TV's on, the other ones just scrolling on her iPhone and you’re two meters apart but you’re 2,000 miles away from each other.


It just started this arc. So it doesn't take a huge – one splinter changes how you walk and then 20 years later, you gotta get a hip replacement. So, it didn't have to be big for us to completely get off the rails. Now, I don't know anybody, I don't know anybody, Jordan, who regularly hangs out with more than one or two neighbors, at most. We don’t know who lives next door to us. We keep talking about these grandiose, “Jesus is calling me to do” – we don't know our neighbor.


[00:25:44] JR: Love your actual neighbor.


[00:25:46] JD: The human that lives next to you. And especially if they vote different than you, look different than you, act different than you. We don't know our neighbor, dude. But we have a bajillion friends on the phone and nobody to help me change a tire in my driveway.


So yeah, we've just completely become absorbed, we just swandove into this little digital box. So, go get back to asking for intentional things. I've got my Instagram on another phone. That's all I use that phone for. And that way, when I get home, I can leave it in my car and I can go outside and be a human being and be intentional with my family. I don't always do a great job of this, man. I’m being honest. But it's the intention.


[00:26:28] JR: I delete it every day.


[00:26:30] JD: Oh, good for you.


[00:26:31] JR: Because I find that it's a pain in the butt. I won't redownload it every day. I download it about three o'clock, when I'm done checking my email, I post something, I check messages my assistant has flagged for me, and then I leave. I delete it.


I want to go back to this idea of the neighbor thing. My wife and I were really convicted of this a few years ago. Because a lot of the content that I put out is all about how our work loves our neighbors as ourselves, our coworkers, our customers, our whatever, our employers, but I was just convicted of, yeah, I don't actually know my personal neighbors. We’ve just been really intentional about that. And by God's grace, I mean, we built this great little community here on our street or he's built it through us rather. But yeah, it's super important. So, I love that you called that out.


You talk about Jesus, what Jesus would care about. You talked about your daily quiet time, coming back to the Sermon on the Mount. I'm curious how that shapes how you think about your work, day in and day out? What are some of the things that Jesus said in the Beatitudes or otherwise in the Sermon on the Mount that you think about as you're going throughout your work day?


[00:27:37] JD: So, one of the cornerstones, when I ended up, there's a whole thing, we could do a whole other podcast on this someday. When I recognized, “Man, I'm not well. My anxiety alarms have spun out to the point that I'm incoherent. The life I'm leading in my mind is not reality.” And that came to me from close community, my wife, some friends reached out to me and I ultimately had to take that step and go get well, start a journey to get well.


Part of that process was, I got connected to a buddy who was a professor. We didn't get along very well at first, but he was also a monk. He's smarter than me by a factor of a hundred. When school's out, he would head to monastery and just be out, and then he would come back. A very sound guy. One of the things he believed is, if you believe that Jesus was a human, let's just go out on a whim and say he's probably the smartest human that ever lived. And if he's smart, and he's going to just take a minute and rattle off a way of life, maybe that'd be a good place to start.


So, I know that there's all this history in the Sermon on the Mount and all the mosaic stuff, I get all that. But there was something clarifying about just sitting down and looking at the architecture of that talk. Number one, it starts out with talking to a group of completely broken, annihilated people. It doesn't start with, “Here’s where you all screwed up.” It doesn't start with, “Let's go back. We'll get them guys.” It just started with, like, “Hey, you're loved. You're good. You're broken. You're busted. You're trying your best. You're really reaching for this. You're all good. You're good. Okay. People are going to stomp on you. I want you to know, they've been stomping on us for years. You're loved.”


And then from there, out of that, that's the anchor into the bedrock. You're loved. Now, you can't look at your local church leaders as the pinnacle. There are cool sparkly jeans and lots of smoke machines and lasers behind you. Let's look past that. You want to know what it looks like? Here's what it looks like. It looks like, “Dude, don't even hate people. Somebody wants something from you, give them two of it.”

I'm thinking back, when the government asks you to do something crazy, do it twice as much. Stop complaining about it. Just go. And then it works for some very tangible things to what I think is, for me, is the ultimate message of this, of Sermon on the Mount is, stop worrying about everything. Stop. You're accomplishing nothing, except shortening your lifespan and making the people around you an electrified buzz saw. Stop. It's going to rain on wealthy people and evil people, and it's going to rain on mean people and poor people. It's going to rain everybody. Chill out. Stop.


“You can't accomplish your way to this thing. You can't feel your way out. Just stop. You're loved. You're good.” So, there's this recentering thing and for me, it's become a faith reminder, but it's become wisdom literature. It's become an action plan for the day, and it's become all of that in one for me, and it's really just a touchstone that reminds me, “Hey, somebody's going to say something to you today. Don't hit him back. Someone's going to say something today, and you're really smart and you're going to want to show how smart you are. Just shut up.” It's just this daily reminder, “This isn't about you, man.”


[00:31:16] JR: Yeah, it's not. Speaking of worry, I think this is connected, at least it is in my brain. We'll see if it's connected in your brain. I think in the church, I think one of the things especially young people may be worried about the most is “finding my calling in life” to the point in which we've elevated calling to idle status.


[00:31:37] JD: Dude, you’re about to get me fired up and it’s just the middle of the day here.


[00:31:41] JR: Please, just go. I’m not even going to ask the question. Preach.


[00:31:44] JD: So, yeah, a few years ago, I just kept hearing this phrase in faith circles of all kinds, “Find your calling, what's that one magical thing God wants you to do?” It sounded very similar to when I was growing up, “Who's that one person God selected for you to marry?” I kept thinking, there are billions, with a B, people on earth who are trying to find enough food for today. What is their calling? Did God just leave out those billions and just focused on me? “I get a good interest rate, and suddenly, I was called to buy this” – shut up. Completely off the wall.


So, I actually went back to Scripture and tried to figure out, what is the thing about calling here? Can I tell you what I walked away with? The last thing on planet earth I want to be is called by God for a thing. Because if you are called in the Scriptures, your life ends terribly. And then they write about it and 2,000 years later, people call you cool. It does not end well for you. So, I don't want to be called. I want to live a quiet life in service of my community, to my God, and I want to live to be a humble person for the folks around me. This obsession with finding this, this and this. Here's the other thing. We like to duct tape God to something we want to do, and we say things like, “I got called to leave my job and go do –” Just say, “Hey, I really want to go do this thing.” It's okay.


I guess you don't need this extracurricular spiritual backing. I hope I’m not saying something sacrilegious here. I think we just superglue God to whatever it is we want to do and here's why that's dangerous, because sometimes it gets way outside the bounds. Much of my friend and network community are not believers, Jordan, they aren't into this. They love me and they love my family. They are not believers. And they ask me, “Your Jesus says to do what?” And I'm like, “No, bro.”


[00:33:52] JR: Nope, he didn't say that.


[00:33:54] JD: That's not accurate and I'm sorry. But the more you start trying to figure out ways to shove that puzzle piece of Jesus into whatever it is you want to do, then you get into some really messy, messy territory. That's when you see Jesus turning tables over.


[00:34:09] JR: I've come a long way, I think, in my thinking on this topic, because I do think – I’ve been thinking about this more lately, that calling is an adjective and not a noun. It's not a thing. I use the marriage analogy. No offense to my bride, but there was not just one magical person on earth that I could have been a good partner with.


[00:34:28] JD: Yeah, we all all picked each other.


[00:34:30] JR: We picked each other. We made sure –


[00:34:31] JD: Every day, you gotta say, “She's going to be it for me,” and she's going to look at you and be like, “Jordan, I picked you.”


[00:34:40] JR: “I picked him.” That's exactly right. But it's not this magical, calling is this adjective of, “I'm doing this work that I think, based on how God has designed me, I could do exceptionally well in service of others.” But inherent in that because it's not a noun, we have great freedom to choose. So long as we aren't out of line with biblical commands, we have choice. I don't think God cares at all what specific work I choose to do in the world. He doesn't need me to do anything.


[00:35:15] JD: Nope. He cares who you are on the journey.


[00:35:19] JR: And he cares deeply – I think God cares deeply about us doing everything for His glory. I mean, that's crystal clear in Scripture. First Corinthians 10:31, “Do everything for the glory of God.” So, I think, part of that is trying our best to do our work, whatever our work is, as dads, mothers, husbands, fathers, entrepreneurs, whatever, with excellence. But the specific work we choose, I really don't think he cares. He has this great big mission for His church, His glory, and in His grace, has said, “Hey, you have freedom. Go choose how you're going to go.” Do that. You said something, I could be misquoting you, so forgive me, John.


[00:35:54] JD: Bring it on, dude.


[00:35:56] JR: I'm putting words in your mouth. I heard you speak at that Ramsey influencer event we were both that and you said something like, “God doesn't need – you don't need God to approve your plans.” And you kind of like moved on from that, I was like, “I think this is where he's going with this.” Is that where you were going? Is that what you were trying to say?


[00:36:14] JD: Yeah, if you are living a life of your particular values, let me put it this way, one time, I was in Las Vegas, and I was walking through this lobby, and I ran into Chuck Liddell. I am a lunatic fight fan. I love professional fighters. They are just another class of human and I think they're extraordinary. I did some training with them. They are just incredible. Chuck Liddell at the time was the Light Heavyweight Champion. He was the baddest dude on Earth when it came to fist fighting. You know what he didn't do when I met him? He didn't tell me how tough he was. He didn't flex for me at all. He didn't shove me or swing. He didn't have to. He had nothing to prove. You know why? Because he knew that maybe two or three people on planet Earth could beat him up in a fist fight. He’s got nothing to prove, nothing to prove to you.


So, I feel like when we walk into rooms and announce all the time, “Hey, I'm doing this for –” I mean, you are reminding everyone in the room that you're probably not. Any guy who would walk into the gym and be like, “Anyone want to know how tough I am?” It would be a line of people to [inaudible 0:37:31] them into the gym, because you're not very tough. It's the folks that, you know, Jesus would heal somebody and say, “Hey, don't tell anybody about this. The point here isn't to make for myself a big name, because we could have done this whole show a lot differently. I wouldn't have been born in a manger. We could have done this thing with lightning bolts and neon signs. We don’t even have neon signs and we could have made some, that's not the point here.”


So, there's something about that announcement. If you want to go be a singer, go be a singer. Do it the best you know how to do, and get around people who will help you be a good singer and who will tell you, “Hey, you're not that good. You probably shouldn't be a singer.” Or, “You got something special,” or, “Fill in the blank.” You don't have to attach it to this other thing that's going to make it more cosmic or give you more internal approval. I think that comes from a sense that we're not actually tethered in, so we are desperate for labels to stuff, to give credence to our actions. Go be, man. Be a great husband. Go be a great father. Go be a great community member. Be a good church member, whatever that thing's going to be. You don't have to attach all this stuff to it, right?


[00:38:37] JR: Yeah. Now it's good. All right, John. That's a great note to wrap up on. But real quick, three questions we love to wrap up every conversation with. Number one, which books other than your own, of course, do you find yourself recommending or giving away to other people?


[00:38:54] JD: [Inaudible] They’re like, “Dude, you gotta tell people about your book.” Easily, a book that I give away the most is a book by Terrence Real called, I Don't Want to Talk About It. It's probably the most eye-opening book of the last decade for me. It's about male depression, female depression, but it's about how we have lived relationally and how this stuff has just shifted on us overnight. It's usually the book I pass out the most to folks.


Probably the second book, in fact, I just had to buy another one because my wife was looking for it and I was like, “I think I gave away the other one too”, is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. It was just an eye opening read for me.


Probably the most recent book that I've picked up that I thought, “Man, I think everyone should read.” It's a little bit of, I could just do this one all day, Jordan. I'm kind of a dork. I like to read books and give them anyway. Johann Hari wrote a book called Lost Connections, which is a masterpiece and dovetails with that nicely is The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris about aces, adverse childhood experiences. That's just a masterpiece as well. So, there are some great books out there. I’m a nerd. I read too much, I’m sorry.


[00:40:05] JR: Me too. It’s the story of life. You guys can find those books as always at John, who do you want to hear on this podcast? Somebody who loves Jesus and is great at what they do. They're probably not a pastor or they're just a really good, I don't know, banker or plumber or whatever, like who do you want to hear on this podcast talking about these topics?


[00:40:27] JD: What I'm most interested in, is what you just said. I think there has been a, for lack of better terms, literally online job description, it says personality. There's been an obsession with these cults of personalities. I am much more drawn, this afternoon on my show, I'm going to have two counselors who just go day in and day out, who are doing hard, grindy work. They have no podcasts, they've got no show. I'm interested in talking to people who wake up every day and do it again and again and again and again.


[00:41:03] JR: It's my favorite guest, no offense. One of my favorite guests on the show.


[00:41:06] JD: Absolutely.


[00:41:08] JR: I just recorded an episode with a middle school principal.


[00:41:09] JD: There you go. That's it.


[00:41:12] JR: It was awesome.


[00:41:15] JD: Danger for personalities is that we stop doing the work and we start talking to people who do the work. But we talk about it as though we still remember, and you forget real quick, man. So, it's important for me that I'm always back in the community, always having these hard conversations. I’ll never give up working with people individually because of that very thing. So, good for you. I want to hear from people who are just grinding it out every day.


[00:41:35] JR: That's really good. All right, last question. One piece of advice to leave this audience with. They come from a bunch of different vocations, some of them are entrepreneurs, some of them are plumbers, some of them are writers, whatever. What they share is the love of Jesus Christ and a desire to do great work to serve other people well. What do you want to leave them with in terms of advice?


[00:41:57] JD: If I had to sum that up in two statements, it would be this, God doesn't need you, but I do.


[00:42:06] JR: That's good.


[00:42:07] JD: I've stopped asking the world, “Where's God?” When bad things happen. I've started asking, “Where's God's people? Where are these people who are claiming this?” They show up. So, God doesn't need you but I do, and you are the hands and feet. The second thing I would leave people with is every vocation is holy.


[00:42:27] JR: Amen.


[00:42:28] JD: Period.


[00:42:30] JR: Me and my buddy, Luca Lefever, who you know, talk about this all the time.


[00:42:34] JD: Every vocation is holy. Unfortunately, we have turned some into, “I need to be doing this full time because I'm a minister, I'm not a painter.” Man, everything, whether it's gardening, or bricklaying, or cleaning somebody's toilet. When I was at a university, the senior leader at the university, I could not go to work, Jordan, for a week. No, no. But the people cleaning the bathroom, if they stop cleaning for a week, that place shuts down. So, who's the most important person there? Man, every job is holy.


[00:43:05] JR: I've said it once. I'll say it a million times on this podcast, Jesus spent 85% of his adult life as a carpenter. When he decided it was time to start building the kingdom and his three-year ministry, he didn't call Pharisees, he called tax collectors and fishermen. All of us matter, in this massive Kingdom building project.


Hey, John, I want to commend you for the important, redemptive work you do every day. Thank you for helping us ensure that, like Jesus, our burden is light. Brother, I hear that undertone, in everything that you do, and I'm so grateful for it. Hey, John's got a great book that I skimmed when it came out last November, Redefining Anxiety. It's terrific. You can find John at John, thanks for hanging out with me.


[00:43:52] JD: Thanks, brother, Jordan. Appreciate you and take care.




[00:43:56] JR: That last part on calling, the idol we’ve made of calling, this is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. If you want to hear me go deeper on that topic, by the way, in a more structured, systematic way, shoot me an email at I would love to hear that feedback. Hey, if you're enjoying the show, do me a favor, take five seconds right now. Go search for the Call to Mastery in Apple podcasts and rate the show. Thank you guys so much for listening. I'll see you next week.