Why You’re Insecure

I remember waking-up in cold sweats thinking about how I was going to manage to pay all the bills that month. Since taking over a company holding large debts, my own personal finances had suffered. The nervousness and cold sweats were symptoms of anxiousness that came from being financially insecure. I was anxious because my financial resources were not sufficient to meet my financial obligations. It wasn’t because the world was unfair, or because Capitalism is a bad system, or because someone was mistreating me, or even because God was testing. I was insecure for the same reason we’re all insecure: when the requirement of the moment is greater than our abilities to meet the requirement. While I would like to blame the circumstances for why I was working in an indebted company in the first place for my worries, the truth is I had accepted the circumstances and was now responsible for either meeting requirements or abandoning them.

On hindsight, given the things I have achieved since then, and given the greater odds we have defied, that thing that was causing me so much insecurity was actually not so bad. In that moment I felt like jumping out my apartment window. Today, that idea seems like such a petty reason to commit suicide. I realized that I could prevent that level of anxiousness by budgeting better and prioritizing my income more. Because I had not improved my income nor my savings, I was financially incapable, and because I was financially incapable, I was financially insecure. Because I was financially insecure, I, David, felt generally insecure. That one area in my life made my whole life insecure.

This realization taught me something very important: My insecurities, they’re not simply some abstract unmanageable thing called “insecurities”. They’re the result of not having improved my capabilities in certain important areas of my life. Most of what I was anxious about could have been reduced, and even prevented IF I had developed my abilities better. This is one of the problems of lumping issues into abstract categories instead of calling them out for what they really are – an exercise that our overly-sensitive society finds offensive.

Insecurity is not a condition people suffer from. It’s the result of lack of capability. Very insecure people have simply not developed the necessary capability to handle the requirement of that area.

The sad thing is we aren’t taught this. We believe that insecurity is caused by the conditions around us, the conditions of our childhood, of our relationships, of our work. If only people were more understanding, if our parents were better, if our boss paid more, and our government gave better help, we would fee more secure. By putting the responsibility of our own security on the shoulders of others, we conveniently remove the reality that we have not learned to make wise choices independent of external factors. As long as there is someone out there to blame for our insecurities, we will not single-mindedly deal with the reality of the sources of our insecurity.

Is it any surprise that the most financially insecure people you’ll find are usually those who don’t know how to excel in their jobs nor follow a prepared budget? You’ll find that financially secure people are doing what? Saving, investing, and creating value. That’s not a coincidence.

Is it any surprise that the most physically insecure people are those who have less than ideal physical capabilities due to bad habits? You don’t see too many people who are taking care their health worrying about sicknesses. Why? Because they’re improving their capabilities in that area.

Is it any surprise that the most career insecure people are those who have not found a craft they can truly excel in? In my experiences, I’ve heard more whining from non-performers than performers. Again, that’s not a coincidence.

The good news is this: our insecurity isn’t a curse or demonic attack. It’s the direct result of lack of capability. This may be bad news for those who want an excuse more than a cure. But for those of you who want a cure, we’re given a path towards victory. By being very honest about the source of our insecurity, we can now identify the practices we need to do to improve our capabilities in that area. If you’re financially insecure, get a better job, start saving, sell stuff, stop spending on stuff. If you’re physically insecure, change your diet, stop comparing your looks to others, use sunblock, whatever, develop another identity that’s not based on looks. If you’re insecure about your relationship, look at what you’re doing that’s causing it. If the solution to your insecurity is always someone else changing, then you’ll always be insecure, and insecure people are terrible partners. But if the solution is with you, than you don’t need to wait for someone else. You can change your situation, change your decisions, change your relationships, and do the necessary things for you to succeed.

I forget this a lot and get frustrated. Then I remind myself and just move on. I don’t need others to understand. I just need to do what’s necessary to get the life results I want. I’m not insecure because others make me insecure. I am insecure because I’m not capable in that area. I’m better off working on that area than blaming external things.

So the cure to insecurity isn’t a world where no one criticizes you, nor has no issues, nor has no adversity. The cure isn’t a world of greater self-esteem. The cure is more self-mastery. The most secure people in the world have achieved a level of competence in that area of security. As long as we are incompetent, we will always feel insecure.

As long as we’re bad at handling our money, we will be financially insecure.

As long as we have unhealthy habits, we will have physical insecurities.

As long as we’re not the best at work, we will have career insecurities.

As long as we’re not really humbling ourselves before God, we will have spiritual identity insecurities.

This isn’t a self-esteem or dignity issue as popular advice wants to call it. It’s a maturity issue. It’s a competence issue. It’s a self-mastery issue.

I want to end with this idea: Feelings of insecurity is a wonderful indicator of that which we need to grow in. Just like a headache makes us focus on our head, insecurity points out areas that we need to heal, need to develop, and need to master. When we address insecurity issues with “self-esteem cures”, it’s like trying to cure a diarrhoea with a pain reliever. Nice try, but you’re still going to crap like nuts – on everyone around you. The problem isn’t the pain. The problem is reason behind the pain. That reason is inside us. That’s what we need to be dealing with. The pain is a gift to point that out to us before it hurts us and others even more.

**Bonus Section: Beyond You**
When thinking about this issue, I asked a few people, live and online, about their thoughts on insecurity. They were helpful in helping me write this post. One thing I noticed is this:

In general, we are so caught up in our own financial, physical, emotional, and relational requirements, that our days go by simply responding to these requirements. Very few, and I mean very very very few, are truly diligently working on a life that’s bigger than himself or herself. When you live a small existence, why be surprised that you feel small and insecure? Of course you feel small. You are small.

Here’s my advice: Live your days beyond you. Make it a point that each day is building towards a greater impact in the lives of others. When you’re busy with things much bigger than yourself you’re forced to grow, to mature, and to expand. You’re forced to be bigger so that you can meet the requirements of your big goal. What happens when you continuously grow towards a grand purpose? You develop more and more mastery. That’s where confidence comes from. Confidence doesn’t come from someone nicely lying to you, telling you you’re a good person when you’re really inconsequential. Confidence comes from know you are consequential. Your existence makes a big difference. The lives of others won’t be the same without you.

If you want self-esteem go for self-mastery. If you do you’ll have both. But if you seek self-esteem before the mastery, chances are you’ll never have either.

Note:

Feel free to interact with me on my Telegram Channel. I would love to hear your thoughts.

#DB

Uncommon Sense: A Framework for Life

Uncommon Sense: A Framework for Life

On Ideas
There are a lot of ideas floating around.

There are a lot of compelling ideas, some good, some bad, and for some the verdict is still out. Choosing which ideas to accept and practice can be quite confusing. In this information age, you’d think that having more data should help us make better and “more informed” decisions. Instead, despite still being more informed, we can’t say our decisions are better. I find, at least in my experience, “more informed” many times leads to analysis paralysis or information overload.

From Ideas to Life
Since too little information can lead to ignorance and too much information can lead to confusion, it’s important to know how to navigate through all the different ideas and pieces of information, be able to come to useful conclusions, and make the right decisions. This is how one succeeds in life: To discover one’s own life purpose and make free wise decisions that its accomplishment. It’s not about knowing more, being more efficient, or having more experiences. It’s about committing to a great picture in your head and making that picture a reality. That great picture can be for one’s family, nation, business, industry, or whatever area. Success is turning your vision into a reality. So don’t get caught up in trying to read every new must-read, or doing every new life hack, or experiencing every new must-experience. Much of those are distractions. Instead focus on these three things:

  1. Understand What Is
  2. Practice What You Ought
  3. Create What Will Be
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These are what lead to success in life.

To Understand What Is means to understand Purpose (what it is and what your’s is), understand Principles (what they are and which govern your purpose), and understand People (who they are, what they do, and why they do what they do).

To Practice What You Ought means to Do That Which is Purposeful, meaning to be deliberate about working towards that which you want to achieve. It also means to Do That Which is Right. And what is right? That which satisfies the Principles that govern your Purpose. Lastly, it also means to Do That Which is Loving, meaning, do things that are honouring to God and improves the lives of others.

Finally, focus on Creating What Will be, which I’ve simplified to Build (construct things into existence), Bear (incubate things into existence), and Bridge (connect things into existence).

I hope you find the following articles useful but I don’t mean this framework to be comprehensive. This is a personal guide that I’m sharing, a guide I’m fleshing out mostly for my son, Elijah. Don’t place your faith in it but use it to inform you in formulating your own framework for living. The responsibility of learning how to live is your own, no one else’s, because the responsibility of the results (or lack of results) is your own.

Now that we’re done with the introduction, let’s go into more detail, starting with Understanding What Is. #DB

 

How Do You Know If You’re Mature?

How do I know if I’m mature?
How do I know my calling?
How do I know what to do?

These three questions are very connected. They lead into each other, validate each other, and inform each other. Let’s explore these connections.

I was talking to a potential new member for senior management at Bridge. It’s generally quite tricky to hire for Bridge, given our intense culture, strictly defined values, incredible goals, and life stage (startup). It’s extra tricky hiring senior management because we require not just skill and experience but the hunger, eagerness to learn, and work endurance usually more associated with younger people. This person I was meeting with has all the qualities above, which is why we were on our second meeting.

During our conversation, she asked me about our young leaders, and she said something very insightful, “Given the way you’ve structured Bridge, this will require a lot of trust between your leaders, especially between your junior and senior leaders. How mature are the business unit heads?” I thought about her question, and proceeded to answer it the same way I answer most questions asked to me, with more of a description than a direct yes or no. Here’s what I said (paraphrased):

“Our team is young. But they’re hard working, they’re hungry, and they’re teachable. They’re all different personalities and different levels of skill and experience, but to be a leader in any of our organizations, you need to be willing to embrace your accountabilities, face the gap between who these accountabilities need you to be and who you are at the moment, identify what you need to do to start bridging that gap, and work extremely hard to do so. Our leaders are like that.”

Then she said, “That was what I meant about mature. That’s good to know.”

Fast forward to this morning. It’s 5:33am, and I’ve been thinking about this concept of maturity since I woke up around 3:30am. My alarm is normally set for 4:30am, but many times I’m woken up by something I can only describe as a call. When I try to explain this to many people, the response I normally get is a mixture of “Wow, that’s admirable. But you’re crazy.” and “You’re crazy for getting up so early.” and “You’re too intense.” Then there are those who, without saying anything, look back with recognition. Their faces show, “I know exactly what you mean.” These people excite me. They remind me of a C.S. Lewis quote, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” With these people I go further and explain to them what that call is, and the usual response is, “I’ve known that for a long time. It’s only now that someone has captured the idea for me in words, but I’ve always somehow understood that.” And I can see the validation lighting their eyes up, that all of sudden all the quiet plodding, all the courageous counter-culture decisions, the thankless hard work, the invisible soul wrestling, and the shedding of ease, made sense for them. They were not being kill-joys, or corny, or missing out on the good life or being cool. They were answering a call, their call, a call unique to them so cannot be validated by someone else’s experience but their own meditation on who God wants them to be.

Too many times, when I hear someone, particularly someone asking me for money, say, “God’s calling me to this…” I find myself thinking about what my next meeting is or wishing I had an eject button to send either of us elsewhere. It’s a very commonly used and commonly misused statement. So I like to ask, “How do you know God’s calling you?” And the usual answer is, “I felt it. You know, when you feel something is right. You know it.”

Famous last words. In my opinion, a calling is less a feeling and more a recognition of something or someone reaching out to us. Who or what is reaching out to us? The “who” are our stakeholders, the people we have commitments to. The “what” are our commitments themselves. A calling is not something we’re very interested in or very “passionate” about (another abused term), but the recognition of an accountability to someone or to others. Answering a call is not about finding the job that will never feel like work but about courageously, selflessly, and effectively heeding the summons of your life’s commitments.

And this is where maturity not only comes in but is necessary. It takes maturity to recognize life’s calls because it takes maturity to embrace life’s commitments, and to understand that commitments are accountabilities, meaning, there are consequences when we fail. A mature person faces the fact that we need to make commitments in life, the scary truth that failing in our commitments have consequences, and the very real risk of failure, without giving up or whining.

This is why you’ll find, over and over, that people who tend to have a lot of free time, flexibility, and less responsibility usually are less productive, less effective, whine more, complain more, criticize more, and breakdown easier, than very busy, very structured, and very responsible people. It’s not a question of busyness but of maturity. A lot of people who appear to have “control of their time” because they have a lot of free time are the most lost and ineffective people I know. Their “control” is a myth, because they’re bad controllers. They’re bad controllers because they don’t have discipline. So they’re actually not controlling anything. They are controlled by their feelings, by random events, and by what others are doing. This is obviously a sign of an immature person.

The answer to “How do I know if I’m mature?” is this: Do you know what is required from your life by the people around you? And do you courageously, selflessly, and effectively embrace this accountability, along with the potential benefits and consequences of success and failure?

Do you know what is required of you as a son or daughter? Are you embracing this requirement?

Do you know what is required of you as part of a team or group? Are you embracing this requirement?

Do you know what is required of you as a follower of God? Are you embracing requirement?

Do you know what is required of you as a spouse? Are you embracing this requirement?

Do you know what is required of you by your customers? Are you embracing this requirement?

Do you know what is required of you as a person living in a free society? Are you embracing this requirement?

Whatever your role in life, recognizing your accountabilities in each role, embracing the requirements of these accountabilities, and courageously, selflessly, and effectively meeting these requirements is what mature people do.

That’s how to know if you’re mature. If you don’t know your role, if you don’t know what’s required of you, and/or if you don’t effectively meet these requirements, you have your indicators of a lack of maturity.

So we’ve answered the first two questions about maturity and calling. Callings aren’t some weird fuzzy feelings or interests. They are very simple recognitions of my roles in life (follower of Christ, husband, father, son, leader, friend, etc…) and what they require of me, and maturity is heeding this call with courage, selflessness, and effectiveness.

This leads me to the last questions: How do I know what to do? The answer is very simple.

You should do what your calling requires of you. You should do what your accountabilities require of you.

What time should you wake up? You should wake up at the time required of you.

What books should you read? You should read the books that help you fulfill your life’s requirements.

What should you eat? You should eat the food that helps you fulfill your life’s requirements. (And you won’t be able to fulfill it if you’re dead.)

What should I wear? You should wear what helps you fulfill your life’s requirements.

What job should I take? You should get the job that helps you fulfill your life’s requirements. And sometimes that means getting a job that’s boring or difficult simply because your life requires you to grow up, move out, and learn how to be independent, more than it needs you to be comfortable. For me, my most difficult job and searing learning experience came from having to take over our old family business. It wasn’t my brilliant foresight that made me take it on. I was so scared about the business for years, sweating profusely despite being in an air conditioned building. But it was what life required of me in that moment. It didn’t require me to be cool, or to eat in fancy restaurants, to enjoy the trapping of success. It required me to sit in banks and ask for grace. It required me to beg for terms from suppliers. It required me to go to work at 6:00am and get comfortable with all nighters. It required me to grow as a manager and leader. It required me to trust God at a level I had never done so before. It was what my love for my family was calling me to do. It was difficult and I wouldn’t not wish it on anyone. But it was beneficial. More than the lessons, there was the character building, the cultivation of virtue that can only really happen through difficulties. Even more, I hope, that God was pleased with my reliance.

Your basis for what you should do is not how you feel, or what others are doing on social media, or what your social calendar says. Your basis for what you should do is your deep understanding of your roles, your accountabilities, and your requirements.

This is why I never tell people to follow their passions. I tell them to follow their responsibilities. You will discover more about yourself, cultivate stronger character, and achieve more impactful results by getting good at being the guy who makes and keeps commitments than by being the one who has the benefit of little responsibility living off of someone else’s maturity. This is also why I vehemently disagree with people who say, “Some people are really just like that. You can’t expect them to be mature. They were never taught.” Saying this means we have automatically concluded that these people will a) never face the many consequences of immaturity (they will), and b) they will never enjoy the satisfaction that only people of achievement experience. It is not true that people who were not prepared to be mature are exempt of the consequences of immaturity and it’s not true that just because someone did not start out mature, they are not able to develop maturity. They can and should.

#db

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