Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Carey Nieuwhof. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. For ways to connect with Carey, the notes, and for links to everything discussed, check out our show notes.
Doug Smith: 00:00 This is the L3 Leadership podcast, episode number 208.
Doug Smith: 00:16 What’s up everyone, and welcome to another episode of the L3 Leadership podcast. My name is Doug Smith and I am your host. I hope you’re doing well. In today’s episode, you’ll hear my interview with Carey Nieuwhof. This was the second time I had the privilege of Interviewing Carey. You can go back and listen to our first interview in episode Number 134, but Carey actually was in town here in Pittsburgh for Amplify Church’s Future Forward Conference and their senior pastor Lee Kricher allowed me to spend some time with Carey and interview him live and in person and it was just such a joy and such an honor to be able to spend an hour with Carey for this interview and he’s just an incredible leader, but he’s also just an incredible person. I absolutely loved just getting to know him a little bit more. If you are unfamiliar with Carey, let me tell you a little bit about him.
Doug Smith: 00:57 He is a former lawyer and he is the founding pastor of Connexus Church in Canada. He has hosted the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast and he’s also the author of several books, including his latest, Didn’t See It Coming, Overcoming the Seven Challenges Which No One Expects and That Everybody Experiences and we actually spend the entire interview talking about his latest book. I just finished this book, two weeks ago and it was the best book that I’ve read this year. I’m actually making it required reading for everyone that’s a member of L3 Leadership and in a mastermind group, it was that impactful. And so, the book again is talking about seven challenges that no one expects and everyone experiences and those seven challenges. And we dive into this in the interview, those are cynicism, compromise, disconnection, irrelevance, pride, burnout and emptiness. And there is so much that you just, you need to listen to this interview I’m telling you, and then you need to go purchase the book and just read it.
Doug Smith: 01:51 So, I know that you’re going to love this interview, but before we dive into the interview, just a few announcements. If you are listening to this and you are on a leadership team of a church or you’re the senior pastor, I want to let you know about an opportunity for your leadership team that you will not want to pass up on my friend and pasture of Amplify Church Lee Kricher who I mentioned earlier, has created a 12 month leadership cohort program for you and your leadership team called the Future Forward Cohort. When you and your team sign up for this opportunity, you’ll get monthly webinars, an onsite visit to your church from a Future Forward coach, an opportunity to attend their Change Roadmap Summit in October of 2019, a personalized Sunday visit at Amplify Church for you and your leadership team and you’ll get six free registrations for the 2019 Future Forward Conference, which is where Carey spoke this year.
Doug Smith: 02:37 So if you interested in this and want to learn more, you can go to FutureForwardChurches.com and click on cohort. I also want to let you know about something I’m extremely excited about. We’re going to be hosting our first annual L3 one-day leadership conference on Friday, March 15th, 2019 at the Mariott in Cranberry Township right outside of Pittsburgh. I’m so excited we have some incredible speakers lined up and are going to have our website and registration up on November 1st. So stay tuned for that. But for now, I just want to encourage you, save the date Friday, March 15th, and plan on attending and bringing your team. We’re going to have 300 leaders in the room and it’s going to be incredible. And so stay tuned for more updates on that. So with that being said, enjoy the interview with Carey and I’ll be back at the end with a few announcements.
Doug Smith: 03:23 Carey, thank you so much for being willing to take time to do this interview.
Carey Nieuwhof: You’re welcome.
Doug Smith: And I want to spend the majority of our focus today on your new book. Didn’t See It Coming, Overcoming The Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects, and Everyone Experiences and I just finished this book last week. I think it’s a game changer and a must read for every leader, but I’m just curious from the guy who wrote it, why did you write it? Why now? And ultimately what do you hope the book accomplishes?
Carey Nieuwhof: 03:49 Yeah, I wrote it Doug, and it is good to be back, thank you. Thanks for having me again. I wrote it because I’ve become a student of leadership, like what sinks leaders and I’ve also tried to become really a lot more self aware, so part of the book, part of the story of told the story, part of the story quite a bit, is a dozen years ago I burned out and on the other side of burnout and coming back I tried to figure out, okay, how do I make sure that never happens again? And so I really try to grow my self-awareness. In addition, we are working on issues in our marriage. I was trying to become a better leader and I really started running into these issues that had sort of seeped into my life that I wasn’t, you know, you never thought you’d be cynical, you, you never thought you could easily grow irrelevant because you were the relevant 25-year-old and everything was going to be great all the time.
Carey Nieuwhof: 04:45 And so I started to see these in my own life and then in my work with other leaders, I started to see the patterns, like connecting the dots. So, you know, I, I looked at nine or 10 I could cover and I sort of focused in just subjectively on these seven and I think they are challenges that almost everyone experiences and nobody expects. So, that’s why I wrote it and I hope the book feels like two things. I hope it feels like hope because I think we live in a world that really needs hope and most people I meet are not over encouraged. They need to be encouraged more. But I also hope it feels like help. Sometimes you read theoretical books and it’s like, well that’s a really interesting philosophy but I have no idea what to do with Tuesday. And this has really practical hacks as well as the philosophical framework. So it doesn’t matter if you like, oh, this is what happens in life, but then it’s like, hey, you don’t want to be cynical, do this, try that, try this, try that, and you can become uncynical.
Doug Smith: 05:46 Yeah. So in the book, you referred to having a conversation with Jeff Henderson and about the book, and I thought this was so profound. You said, “If God wants to go deep, it’s because he wants to take you far to let God go as deep as he wants to go.” And I believe that if leaders read this book, that God will do a great work and them if they’re open to it, I know for me that God used it significantly to the point out several things that I’m dealing with it I need to address and that could save me from a lot of the challenges that you share in the book. Can you just talk about letting God go deeper and actually allowing God to work through these challenges and what you share in the book?
Carey Nieuwhof: 06:19 Yeah. Well, first Doug, it’s horrible when God wants to go deep. I mean, I spent most of my thirties going to see a counselor just trying to work through, you know, past issues and deal with the stresses of leadership and marriage and parenting and the whole deal. And you go and you know, most, most guys I know anyway, I can’t speak for women, but most guys I know you go into, if you go to a counselor at all, it’s like, well I don’t have any issues but please help me fix my wife. Please help me fix my church. And then you realize, oh, I have issues. Like I actually have issues. So then you realize, no, I am all the issues. And it got really dark like in, in the depth of my burnout in the summer of 2006. I, I remember, you know, I probably, if I had gone to the doctor, my medical doctor, he would have, he would have said I was clinically depressed and I’m not somebody who struggles with depression.
Carey Nieuwhof: 07:15 Lots of friends who struggle with it. So I get it. But like, I was probably for a few months, clinically depressed and I remember just losing hope and I remember there was a day where my therapist at the time, he just said to me, he said, Carey, you’re going to come out of this and you’re gonna be fine, but just remember this because some people never get out. And that was the depth of it. Like I felt like my whole life got deconstructed. And you know, we talked before we started recording about performance addiction. Well, if you’re addicted to performance, and in my case somewhere along the lines, the wires got crossed when I was a kid and I thought that the secret to being loved and accepted was just to perform really well. Be the smart kid at school, be the best communicator. I get top grades, graduate from the best schools, you know, whatever.
Carey Nieuwhof: 08:10 So, or, you know, best sermon after sermon, fastest growing church, the whole deal. And you know, that, that’s just not true. That’s not true theologically, that’s not true personally, emotionally. But your whole world basically collapses when you realize that’s not true. And so that was deep and, I remember back to where you started the question. My Buddy Jeff flew up from Atlanta, we went an hour north of my place to this beautiful resort up in Muskoka, if you know Canada, you know, Ontario, Muskoka is like one of the crown jewels, just gorgeous world-class. So Jeff and I are walking down the steps to this beautiful lake, Lake Rosseau and you know, he’s 15 days into a 30-day sabbatical going “This burnout thing isn’t going away. Like how do I get this fixed by day 30?” And I just kinda laughed of like, well you can’t, you can’t just like that’s not how it works, Jeff.
Carey Nieuwhof: 09:11 Right. And it had taken me a year to sort of get back to even anything close to normal and I, and that’s when it just hit me. And I just said to him on the way down to the lake, look, if God wants to go deep, it’s because he wants to take you far. And, and he did. In Jeff’s case, Jeff’s much better now. And you know, it wasn’t 15 days. Fortunately for him it wasn’t a year, but it wasn’t 15 days and, and he got a lot better and I look at what God has done with my life over the last 12 years since I burned out, you know, I never ever would have guessed that I’d be flying all over the world speaking to leaders, you know, podcast with millions of downloads and you know, books that are this. I just found out yesterday, this is already been translated into another language like, you know, so I had no idea, but I couldn’t have handled that level of responsibility.
Carey Nieuwhof: 10:05 I wasn’t emotionally mature enough, spiritually mature enough and I mean some days you’re still like, ah, I don’t know, but, but I think we don’t know the plans that God has for us and there was a lot of me when I was burnt out that wanted to resist going deep. It’s like, can I just go back to normal? Can this just be a normal day? Can we just get back to where I was five years ago? And that was a mistake, because five years ago got me burnt out, five years ago got me unhealthy, five years ago, led me into more conflict in my marriage, not less conflict in my marriage, so God said, no, we’re going to build a new Carey and it’s going to be painful. Now, just so that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of psychobabble, the ancients called it sanctification. That is the process of being made more like Christ, and it is the process of the Holy Spirit getting ahold of your life and going, look at this, there are some lies there. There’s some untruth there. There are some things that, that are working against the Kingdom of God, and even though you’re Christian, you’re going to heaven, these are not from God. So let’s get these out of here. And it’s painful. It’s like surgery.
Doug Smith: 11:15 As soon as you started becoming more around those issues that were coming up in your heart, what was helpful to you? I know you talked about some people never get out of this. What was it that separated you from experiencing, hey, some issues I have to deal with and not growing more hopeless and actually taking them on and taking steps forward.
Carey Nieuwhof: 11:33 Yeah, that’s almost a, it’s a good question. It’s almost a philosophical question like there are like I was having a conversation in the last week with somebody who has a daughter who really struggles with depression, like almost bipolar. And that’s one of my questions for God. I think, you know, I think all our questions will change when we see them, but it’s like I don’t get mental illness, like I just, that is so cruel because the very thing you think that can make you better is broken. So it’s weird. It’s just weird. So I know there are people who don’t get better. I did, not that I would have my bad days, but we all have bad days, but I don’t have a bad life, which is, which is different. A few things really helped. Number one, I had to admit it and that’s really hard. If you’re a guy, I don’t want to admit I have any problems because I don’t have any problems.
Carey Nieuwhof: 12:27 Everybody else has problems. It’s not me. So I had to admit that I had problems. That was step one, step two, I, I had to invite other people into the healing process and that’s hard, like to accept help, because particularly if you’re a senior leader, like, you know, I was, you are the person who’s supposed to give help. Well, I had to receive help so I had to do that. And then we had an incredible circle of friends who came over to pray. My family was very supportive, my team, the elders were very supportive and I think that ecosystem, that environment really, really helps. And then I just had to get up and keep going every day. So that, that was important. And then there’s just grace, like there’s, you can have all those ingredients, but there’s just a grace that comes from God and a favor that comes from God in his mercy, his love, his forgiveness that kind of moves you into a new day. And that’s the birth of a new hope.
Doug Smith: 13:27 Yeah. So I know recently you tragically lost a pastor to suicide and there’s, there are people listening to this right now that could be in the middle of their burnout season or in the middle of their depression. And I know at one point you said in your depression then you actually felt like God will you, will you ever use me again? I don’t feel like I’ll ever be used of God. And you just mentioned how he’s using you today. What would you say to the person listening right now that’s like Carey, that’s me. I’m right in the middle of this. What would you say to them today?
Carey Nieuwhof: 13:54 Don’t quit, just don’t quit. I am convinced your most tempted to quit moments before your critical breakthrough. I think a lot of people, it just, you know, there is an enemy, there actually is an enemy. And my wife, Toni and I, this past summer, we talked quite a bit about that because she was going through her own stuff that she’ll write about one day. She’s working on a book right now that’ll come out in a year or two, but you know, we had no idea what God would do and again, it may not play out in millions of downloads are going all over the world or whatever, but it may, it may play out in you’re going to reach 20 more people next year or you’re going to be a better dad for your kids or a better mom or you need to be the one who just loves your spouse, right?
Carey Nieuwhof: 14:47 Like, just think at the most simple level because we often get grandiose dreams, but like God has plans for your life and the enemy hates them. And he hates you. So I think there really is a spiritual battle. I know not everybody would believe that that’s true, but I used to think it was true historically until I got into ministry. And then I’m like, oh no, this is very, like, very today. So, I’m not, I’m not somebody who believes that every time the toast burns it was Satan or like, oh, we don’t have enough money in the account. Well actually you just spent too much money, you bought too much car or whatever you did, right? Like that’s why you don’t have money. It’s not because Satan’s out to get you, but I think when they’re, when the natural explanations fail, that you have to look at supernatural things and I think the enemy wants to take us out and I, I would just hang in there. You are stronger than he is. Christ to stronger than he is and don’t quit.
Doug Smith: 15:47 I love that. And so I believe I absolutely believe that and the enemy can take us out in the lowest points of our lives. But you talk about in the book another challenge and you mentioned that I think on the opposite end is emptiness. And so now you’re on the other side. You may not be going through seasons of burnout, but now you have millions of downloads. You’re speaking everywhere. I’m just curious now that you’ve had that success. I know you shared in the book about the day your blog, one blog post had more views than ever before. On the other side of, of depression and burnout, what are you learning about success in emptiness and what would you challenge leaders to think about?
Carey Nieuwhof: 16:20 Yeah, I, I love the way you phrase the question. I think success is actually more challenging to handle than failure because failures hard. Most people are like, okay, I’ll get up tomorrow and you know, as, as Winston Churchill said, what’s the quote? He said, “Success is moving from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” That’s pretty accurate. You know, it’s like, yeah, just all you have to do is get back up one more time. Then you get knocked down and you’ll, you’ll win in the end. So, you know, that’s failure and you can get back up. And I think that’s key to those people who are in a season of failure. It’s like, well, just get up, get out of bed. And I did, and you know, today doesn’t have to define tomorrow. So that’s failure, but success is weird and you know, we’re, we’re at the point where what God is using me to do in this season of my life as far beyond anything I ever dreamed.
Carey Nieuwhof: 17:15 And it goes to your head and it can make you proud. I mean, that is the biblical narrative, right? So just read the First and Second Kings or Chronicles. It’s like, well, there was this king and he was very humble, but then it became successful and that he became proud. It’s like over and over and over and over and over again. And it’s just, yeah, of course, that happens because you give yourself a lot of credit. And, and the other thing that I think, and this is what I wrote about in the book that is super challenging with success is you think, you know, I’m not very happy right now, but one day when I get married, one day when we have kids, one day when my kids leave home, one day when I retire, one day when I become the senior leader, one day when my book sells, you know, 10,000 copies, when I get a million downloads on my podcast, it’s going to be amazing, right?
Carey Nieuwhof: 18:06 Whatever. Whatever your marker of success is. Or, you know, whenever I can take a month of vacation, it’ll be, it’ll be the best. So pick your poison, whatever that is. We set these markers and then we get there. So, you know, I’m a writer, I write a blog as well, podcasting and know the blog kind of took off when I really six years ago when I really decided okay I’m going to blog, seriously, you know, overnight traffic tripled. Went to 100,000 downloads a month and I’m like woo, this is amazing. And then it got up to a million over the course of a year. But you know, on an average day it was maybe six or 7,000 page views, which is really good traffic for a guy who writes out of his house. Like that’s pretty good. So. But you know, sometimes I had a post that will go 20,000, 25,000.
Carey Nieuwhof: 18:56 But then there was one day three years ago where I wrote on a subject and by the end of the day 436,000 people had read that post. Like what? By the end of the week, it was a million and I’m like, okay, that is actually viral and I’m not Beyonce, right? Like I’m not famous. So that was pretty cool, but I was surprised at what that really did know. It was just a reminder because I’ve had this moment throughout my life where all of a sudden you start thinking, well, a million people aren’t going to show up next week, are they? And then am I going to be happy writing for 10,000 people, 15,000 people? What if, what if this is as good as it gets? Right? The Jack Nicholson question from that old movie, maybe it doesn’t get any better than this, and why am I feeling empty? And so I think this, this a problem for people.
Carey Nieuwhof: 19:44 I saw this when I was in law. It’s a problem for Christians. A lot of us are very grateful. It’s not that we’re not grateful, we’re very thankful. You know, we God has been good. But being grateful doesn’t necessarily leave you feeling full and that’s different. And so the emptiness of success, what is that? And so many people have it. Pro athletes have it, lawyers have at, politicians have at, you when all of a sudden you got the seat and you’re like, now what? I thought it would feel better and last longer than it does, or you get your dream house or whatever. And next thing you know, the basement is flooded, right? So you’re like, why is this so empty? And so for me, what that is, Doug, is because this one was probably of all of the issues I tackled in the book, even as I was writing it,
Carey Nieuwhof: 20:30 what is that? What is that? It was almost like a journey of discovery. And the way I’ve framed it, in Didn’t See It Coming is, and I think this is, you know, that was over a year ago. I wrote the book. It just came out. But you write a year in advance. It’s like, yeah, I think that’s it at. At least it’s it for me, it’s, there are two kingdoms at work in the world, the Kingdom of God, then the other kingdom is the kingdom of me. And the Kingdom of Carey is selfish, it’s greedy, it’s, it’s egotistical, it’s all about me, whether you know, you’re walking around, struttin’ your stuff or you’re just like checking your stats every hour or whatever it happens to be. That’s the kingdom of me. The Kingdom of me leaves me feeling empty and the Kingdom of me as a sad kingdom, the kingdom of me, nobody wants to work for the Kingdom of Carey. But then there’s the Kingdom of God and that if you can, you can have success.
Carey Nieuwhof: 21:25 But if you truly, and I think this is a heart thing, it’s a yield thing, it’s a posture thing, but if it’s really okay, God, this is just, you know, as I remind myself regularly, there’ll be a day where nobody listens. There’ll be a day where nobody reads. There’ll be a day where nobody wants me to speak. And am I okay with that? I hope so, you know because this isn’t really about me. It’s about God and how God uses it. Mark Batterson, it was interesting. I was telling her church on Sunday, cause I, I preached the message the section on emptiness on Sunday and so I gave them a current version of it, so I took a screenshot from Amazon where my book has been number one, two and three in religious leadership for two months now. And it’s like, how can that hold down all three top spots?
Carey Nieuwhof: 22:13 Well, hardcover followed by the audiobook followed by the Kindle, so all three top spots for two months with very few exceptions. That’s pretty incredible. How does that feel? Weird. Cause then you think, well, why is it not number one, two, and three and all of leadership or all books on planet earth. Right? And your mind goes into a very bad space. And then I remember something, Mark Batterson told me, he said, every book sold is a prayer answered. Wow. When I first heard that, I thought that’s a really nice spiritual thing. Thank you, Mark. Right? But, that has really been my, my song over the last couple months and he’s right because it’s not about whether it’s number one or number 11 or number 1,872 on a chart. It’s about what God is doing in people’s lives as a result of it. When I keep that in mind, I have no problem feeling full. When it slips into the Kingdom of Carey, it’s pretty miserable.
Doug Smith: 23:10 One thing you mentioned in this chapter that was so interesting and you talked about a little already, but you shared about the progression of success and accumulation. More, better and different. Can you just share that? Because when I read that, I’m like, wow. And that really, really challenged me.
Carey Nieuwhof: 23:25 Well somebody told me that when I was in my twenties and if they’re listening to your podcast, please identify yourself. It was Trinity York Mills, Toronto in the nineties. Okay. It was incredible. Anyway, but they said that. And I saw because I was a lot the time and I saw that. So the idea is, think back to your student days, you’re broke, you have no money, and so you’ll take borrowed furniture, stolen furniture, you know, goodwill, furniture, you’ll take it, right? So you’ll take anything you can get your hands on, but then what happens when you get a job and you have a little bit of money in the bank, you’re like, Oh wow, you know, I can afford two boxes of cereal, so you get to. Or I used to have one pair of jeans, now I have three. So the cycle of accumulation starts with I’m going to get more, I’m going to get more.
Carey Nieuwhof: 24:14 And then you have more and you’re like, okay, I’ve got a closet full of stuff. I’ve got a maybe now I have two cars because that little tiny economy car, the compact, that’s our second car. Now we got an SUV for the family. But then you sort of look around and everybody’s got more and you’re like, okay, that’s not special. The thrill is gone. So what’s next? Better. It’s like, well, how do you were going to get a new SUV. It’ll be the top trim level. Okay. It’ll have like all the leather, it’ll be all the electronics. It will be amazing. And then you’re like, well I’m not going to have Cheetos anymore, it’ll be handcrafted artisanal cheese puffs that cost $8, I’ll get those because that’s fancy. So that’s better. Right? And that’s like, well we’re not just going to camp this here, we’re going to go to Disney, we’re going to have the better vacation, we’re going to get out of our starter home and we’ll have our custom home that we’ll design it, we’ll build so it’s better.
Carey Nieuwhof: 25:07 And so you go from more to better. And then eventually it’s like, well all of our friends are driving the top trim lines and they’re building their houses. So now what? Well, this is where the wealthy go. You go to different. It’s like, Hey, do you know you can only get this tee shirt at one infinite loop. You know? And, and that’s true actually. If you go to the actual Apple store at one infinite loop, because I’ve been there a couple of times, there are things you can only buy there. You can’t get them online. They have tee shirts. Actually, I have one, but this is a no, but I have one, it’s got like little facebook emojis on it. It’s kind of cool, but you can get stuff only at one infinite loop. And so I’ve got a few of those. Same with the original Starbucks store in Seattle.
Carey Nieuwhof: 25:47 You can get swag there., you cannot buy it online. They will not ship it. You have to go into the store. But that’s where they’re like, you know, if you’re a wine collector, it’s like, oh yeah, they only made 500 of these bottles. There’s only five left and we’re going to have one tonight. And you’re like, whew, that’s special. Or here’s a 1937 in addition to the Hobbit signed by Tolkien. Right. It’s like, Whoa, okay, well that beats your, you know, classic literature version that you bought for $5 at Books A Million. So, that’s where rare and unusual, and you know, well this is our home, but we have a summer home up north and then we have a winter home down on a private island. More better, different. That’s a cycle of accumulation. So I, I was reflecting on that in light of Ecclesiastes and like, you know, Solomon had it all.
Carey Nieuwhof: 26:39 He was loaded. So Bezos just recently he moved into the richest guy in the world position. I had a Bill Gates probably because Gates has given most of it away, right? He keeps giving it away. So he makes Jeff Bezos look poor. And when you look at him on a global scale, how rich you have to be? Because this is actually written in scripture. I think it’s historically verifiable. He devalued silver. That’s how rich he was. Can you imagine being so rich that like a natural substance gets devalued? It says that silver was as common as stoneware. Right? So this guy is loaded. He is known around the world. Israel is a superpower and he has so much money. And this is actually in the pages of scripture because he says everything’s meaningless. I don’t know what to do, so I, I threw parties, I got drunk every weekend, that wasn’t very good. I built homes for myself. I built gardens. I was the greatest of all time. You know, he took on Lebron, like I’m the greatest of all time. And, and he goes, what does it mean? It’s meaningless. So, where does more, better, different lead? Solomon was right it leads to despair because you’re like, well, okay, I’ve got this amazing life now and it’s still not enough. What is that? It ’s the Kingdom of me. That’s what it is.
Doug Smith: 28:02 I love that. And yeah, so your advice for someone caught in that cycle is just become aware?
Carey Nieuwhof: 28:08 Leave the planet, just leave the planet, go to Mars, start over, you know? No, it’s actually, that’s not the advice. Yeah, you’re right it’s die to yourself. It’s, I’ve got to die to the sad little kingdom of me. You know, a life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone. And I, I learned this as a boss years ago, particularly as millennials, were just sort of emerging into the workforce. Millennials are, and I think this is an accurate label. They’re very mission cause-driven. They don’t want to just get a job and work for a company and get the pension when it’s time. They want to know that they’re making a difference in the world. And I think that’s getting and realized the best way to motivate a millennial is not like you work for me. Nobody wants to work for me. I don’t want to work for me.
Carey Nieuwhof: 28:55 We work for a cause. So you know, at our church we lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus. That’s very motivating. If as long as my leadership’s about that, I’m going to do okay. If it’s like, well, I said so and I’m your boss, bad news. And then in my company it, which does the blog and the podcast, we, at first it was just me and an assistant, but now we have a team. And so we crafted a mission statement together. It’s simply to help leaders thrive in life and leadership. That’s it. We want to help people thrive in life and leadership. Well, we all roll out of bed every morning trying to do that rather than working for Carey because nobody wants to work for me. So it’s that higher purpose, that higher cause, and I think that makes everything better. I think that makes family better. I think that makes friendship better. I think that because if it’s all you, we live in a very narcissistic age, it’s just empty.
Doug Smith: 29:46 Yeah. So to segue into another challenge that I loved was irrelevance and I think it goes right along with that and we live in a church world where we’re taught you have to reach the next generation. Everyone on stage has to be the age of the people you want to reach, right? These are common pieces of advice that we hear and so for leaders who are 50 and up there saying, okay, I’m no longer the ones on the platform, they can start to fear irrelevance or that they’re going to be irrelevant or maybe they think they already are just because they’re a little bit older than the next generation. Can you talk about that and you said that in the book that growing older does not necessarily mean growing irrelevant. Speak to the people who are either fearing that or feel that right now.
Carey Nieuwhof: 30:22 Yeah. Well, I do think that irrelevance is almost inevitable unless you’re aware of it. Because what happens at 25, you’re not irrelevant unless you’re like really esoteric who probably not irrelevant because you speak culture in the native language, but what happens is you set a lot of your patterns in your twenties. So, this is actually fairly well researched. Most people, their musical tastes like the kind of music they like solidifies in their early twenties. Some people pinpointed to age 23 like so what you’re listening to at age 23, that’s why you get these deadheads who are 70 years old. The Metallica dudes rocking out at 60. It’s like, well that’s what they were listening to when they were 23. Right? And it was, it was cool that it just kind of weird now. But what happens is you’re pretty relevant in your twenties, you’re relatively relevant, your thirties, but around 40 there’s a dividing line at around 50 I go out to breakfast with friends of mine.
Carey Nieuwhof: 31:26 I’m over 50 and like they’re just complaining about everything. How technology is bad and young people are bad, workers are bad. And I’m like, oh gosh, okay. So, yeah, you know, irrelevance, it’s two things. What is irrelevance? Irrelevance is the gap between how quickly you change and how quickly things change. And if things change faster than you, you will become irrelevant. So when you look at the churches, he said, Doug, what’s changing faster? The church or the culture? Hands down the culture. So, and why does relevance matter? Because people are like, why does it even matter? You know, relevance is a bad word. No relevance is simply permission to speak into the culture. That’s all it is. Because if you’re irrelevant, the culture has a hard time hearing you. They’re like, wow, you’re some quirky, weird guy from 2003 or your somebody stuck in 1968.
Carey Nieuwhof: 32:19 Like what is going on with you? Like you’re weird. It’s like running into a hippie who doesn’t realize Woodstock was 50 years ago. Right. It’s like you’re just weird now. If you meet a modern hippie that’s a little bit different, but you know, some guy who’s like guys to sixties or over, like what is with you? And you see that in decor and design all the time. Right. I used to do a lot of home visitation. I’d visit people in their seventies or eighties and it looked like the 1970s. Like it was crazy. It was avocado appliances and shag carpet before it was cool again. I’m like, how does that. Yeah, exactly. Well, I asked myself like, how does that happen? And then I realized it because like we were talking about before with the cycle of accumulation, you know, when you’re in your twenties, you take anything you can get your hands on and you’ll take it used.
Carey Nieuwhof: 33:09 But then you save up money and you go buy your own set. But it’s not the good set. It’s just, it’s better than the hand me down stuff. But then you hit your forties and if you’ve done okay, you’re like, okay, now we’re getting the living room set, now we’re finally going to get a bedroom set. Right? And that’s great. It’s fantastic. But then you hit my stage of life and that was a decade ago and it’s starting to look a little dated and you’re like, but it’s not broken. We spent a lot of money, sunk cost bias, right? And why would we fix it? If it’s not broken, then all of a sudden you realize that’s how this happens. And 30 years down the road you’re sitting there and the leather couches exactly like it was and 2018, but now it’s 30 years old.
Carey Nieuwhof: 33:55 And all the young people come in and they’re like, what is with you? But they don’t tell you. So it’s like sales guys who they learned, you know, you got to make 10 calls a day. I’m not a sales guy, so maybe that is what you need to do. But they got their method honed in the nineties or the two thousands. And now it’s like guys things have changed. Like if you’re still selling encyclopedias door to door, it’s going to be a hard thing, man. Good luck. So, and, and it’s permission to speak into the culture. That’s all it is.
Doug Smith: And any tips you have for staying relevant?
Carey Nieuwhof: Yeah. Uh, get around younger leaders. What, what does tend to happen a lot, particularly for those of us who start things, is you start things with your friends and 20, 30 years down the road, everyone on your senior leadership team looks like you,
Carey Nieuwhof: 34:42 and is 50 years old. Big Mistake. So, my team, this is embarrassing to say, it’s like 20 to 30 years younger than me and they are naturally relevant and give them permission to call you outgoing no, nobody really does that anymore. Another thing I do is I do upgrade all my devices so I try to stay current because you beat that guy who’s like hanging onto his blackberry from 2009. Right. And it’s like, well I’m not trading this in as long as it’s working, but there is so much you just miss and so I try to stay up on culture and I think so surrounding yourself with young leaders and if you’re not in a hiring position, just do some reverse mentoring, like ask a 25 year old if you can take them out for coffee and ask them questions or a 19-year-old. Like you can do all that. Having a lot, a constant supply of younger people in your life really, really helps. And then let your kids call you out on stuff like ,
Carey Nieuwhof: 35:37 “Dad!”. Yeah.
Doug Smith: Yeah. 15-second review, I know you just got the new iPhone. Are you loving it? Loving it?
Carey Nieuwhof: 35:43 You know what I do and I don’t. I said to my wife on the way over, I spent half an hour today resetting things, so I have the 10s max and there’s a known issue with charging, so I get to go pick up a wireless charger. They say they’re going to fix it in iOS12.1. But like charging is bad. It’s not syncing between devices. So should you upgrade? I would say at this point, I’m not sure. I almost, I’ve still got my 10 at home. I might go back to it but they’ll, they’ll get all these bugs worked out, but it’s probably the buggiest month I’ve had in tech. So I upgraded to Mojave. I upgraded to iOS12 on all my devices and nothing’s syncing. Right. So I’ve called Apple and they’re like, yeah. So that is the review, but the camera is super sweet. It is really, really nice. And I still haven’t made up my mind about Macs, verses, my wife has a 10s, so I really liked the feel of the 10, sort of a hybrid, but the picture of the video quality is outstanding on it. So if they can get rid of the bugs, I’m going to be a happy camper again, but it’s buggy.
Doug Smith: 36:53 Love it. The last challenge I want to focus on before I just let you leave leaders with an open-ended statement is cynicism. So you talked about all your 50-year-old friends you’re out to the coffee they do is complain, but I see this all the time, especially even in young leaders who may or may not be getting their way or what they want. You said this in the book, the more successful you become, the more pain you’re likely to experience and you can get to a place where you no longer see people for who they are, situations for what they could be, just potential hurt and as a result of you close off the people and God. Can you talk to anyone who’s been hurt and as a result has just become a cynic?
Carey Nieuwhof: 37:27 Yeah, I think cynicism is way more of an epidemic than I even thought it was when I wrote the book because now we have feedback from thousands of people who’ve read the book and they’re like, oh, I’m a cynic as well. And what’s really been shocking to me is how young cynicism is seeding in the lives of people. So, yeah, cynicism. Most people I think when they’re younger, unless you have a really different story, Doug, most people are optimists, right? Like at 18 you’re like, I’m going to take on the world and yeah, everything, the world’s my oyster and here I go and nobody sets out to be cynical, disillusioned, jaded and bitter by the age of 35. But it happens all the time. So I started to look at, that, happened to me in my thirties. I’m like, how did this happen? And as I went through it, I studied it scripturally, I studied it and just sociologically. I think cynicism routes itself and knowledge.
Carey Nieuwhof: 38:23 So one of the reasons you’re so happy when you’re so young is because you’re honestly, you’re stupid, you’re just kinda dumb. It’s like, it’s like, Oh yeah, our church is going to grow every month forever, then it doesn’t? Or I’m going to hire staff and no one’s ever going to quit. Right. So you just. And that’s good. That’s good. So you’re naive and you get out there. The world knocks you around a little bit and people leave and the whole deal. And I tell the story of the book about this couple that I poured into for years that ended up leaving our church. Long story short, they stormed out one day, said you don’t care about us anymore. And I pulled him aside and I said, man, like, and they weren’t rich. And I said, listen, we’ve done more for you than anybody in the last five years and I’ve spent more personal time with you as a family than anybody in the church.
Carey Nieuwhof: 39:13 Like I don’t know how you can say you haven’t done enough. They, they didn’t care. They left, they didn’t come back. Then there’s no happy ending and I know I felt for the first time in leadership when that happened, like something in my heart guide and the next time a couple walked in and I saw them at the back of our church and they reminded me of this couple who had left. I thought, oh, I know how this ends and that’s how cynicism starts. Because you’re like, oh, you’re getting married. Good. And in your brain, you’re thinking wonder how long until you guys have problems or yeah, whens the honeymoon’s over and you’re, you know, and all of a sudden you’re like, whoa. You start believing the worst. You go from assuming the best to believing the worst and you,, because it’s based on real problems that you’ve had in the past and you go from, yeah, you just become this person in a cynic’s friend is knowledge.
Carey Nieuwhof: 40:06 It’s like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I can tell you all the problems going to have with this podcast. I can tell you all the reasons people won’t listen to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, what dies is cynicism is hope. And, and you know, a cynic, a cynic won’t change the world, they just tell you why the world won’t change. That’s what a cynic does. So you, what I, when I found myself as a former optimist and most cynics are former optimists, when I found myself as a former optimist getting into the place where I was just cynical about everything, I’m like, this is bad. And so I think the antidote to cynicism is hope. That I had to learn, years ago. I have to hope again, I have to trust again. I have to believe again. And that’s really hard because a lot of cynics, they got hurt.
Carey Nieuwhof: 40:56 That’s why they’re cynical, right? This is, this isn’t relationship number three that went bad. This is relationship number 30 that went bad. So I know what all men are like or I know what all women are like. And it’s like, well, wait a minute. If you’re going to pronounce and you’re gonna, let your past pronounce a death sentence on your future, you haven’t got much of a future. So it’s, I got to hope again, I can’t be stupid. I got to take all this knowledge I’ve learned, but I have to reclaim my optimism. I have to hope again. I have to believe again. I have to trust again and that can be hard.
Doug Smith: Well, Carey, this interview has been fantastic. Thank you so much for writing the book.
Doug Smith:: 41:34 Is there anything you want to leave us with today?
Carey Nieuwhof: 41:36 No. You know, other than these, these are all solvable, like pride, cynicism, burnout, all that, compromise, moral compromise. It is solvable and it isn’t inevitable if you don’t see it coming. I think those things will happen, but that’s why I love hearing from young leaders who are reading the book. It’s like, no, you don’t have to burn out. No, you don’t have to grow cynical. If you do some of these things now as you can, you can keep an optimistic framework and still not be an idiot. So I really, I really have high hopes for leaders and I hope that their lives are better and that they are spared a lot of pain as a result of this work.
Doug Smith: 42:20 Yeah. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for again, speaking to my generation, hopefully, we won’t have to navigate these as poorly as-as others have, so thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Carey Nieuwhof: Love what you’re doing too, thank you for building into leaders.
Doug Smith: 42:36 Hey everyone. Thank you so much for listening to my interview with Carey. I hope that you enjoyed it. You can find notes and ways to connect with Carey and links to everything that we discussed in the show notes at L3Leadership.org/208. Also, as I mentioned earlier, if you enjoyed this interview, I’ve also interviewed Carey in episode number 134 of the podcast and so I would encourage you to go back and listen to that, so much wisdom in it and so I’ll make sure you do that as well. I want to thank our sponsor, Henne Jewelers. They are a jeweler, owned by my friend and mentor, John Henne, my wife Laura and I got our engagement and wedding rings through Henne Jewelers and we just think they’re an incredible company. Not only do they have great jewelry, but they also invest in people. In fact, they give every engaged couple of books to help them prepare for marriage and we just love that.
Doug Smith: 43:18 So if you’re in need of a good jeweler, check out HenneJewelers.com. I also want to thank our sponsor, Alex Tulandin. He’s a full-time realtor with Keller Williams Realty, and if you’re looking to buy or sell a house in the Pittsburgh market, Alex is your guy. He’s a member and a supporter of L3 Leadership and he would love the opportunity to connect with you. You can learn more about Alex and connect with him at Pittsburghpropertyshowcase.com. As always, if you want to stay up to date with everything we’re doing here at L3 Leadership, you can simply go to our website, L3Leadership.org and sign up for our email list and you’ll start to receive weekly emails. With
Doug Smith: everything going on here. As always, I like to end with a quote and I’ll quote John Maxwell today. He said, “I have yet to meet a highly successful leader who wasn’t a learner, and the best part is that it doesn’t take talent to learn. It doesn’t take experience, it just takes the right attitude.” Love that. Thanks for listening and being a part of L3 Leadership. Laura, and I appreciate you so much and we will talk to you next episode.