In this blog, I’ve talked a lot about my goals and plans. Even my About Me page is a short chronological summary of my career goals. You’d think I’d learned my lesson by now, that God’s plans are always better than mine, and I’d thought I had to until my last Realm Makers conference.
Halfway through day one, I was wiped out. And by day two, I felt like a zombie. I funneled my remaining energy into paying attention during the classes, asking the best questions I could, and using as much charisma and charm as possible. And then I listened to Mary Weber’s class on networking, and it all clicked.
She said it wasn’t a matter of what you could gain, but what you could give. After all, those around you at writer’s conferences might need you just as much as your fans and readers—if not more so.
Once more, just like at the Speak-Up Conference, I was using every ounce of energy for pursuing my goals. Oftentimes, when I attend conferences, I go into “conference mode.” I’m better than usual at remembering names, I’m attentive to every word anyone speaks, and there’s a whole list of certain things I do with body language, vocal intonation, and posture. A lot of charisma is based on self-control. Which is great, since oftentimes, I leave a good first impression. But that combined with the two-hour difference in time zones was leaving me exhausted.
Conferences are all about connections, so I was using all of my energy to build effective ones. But here’s the thing: I was building those connections with myself and my goals in mind. I knew each connection I made could potentially benefit me, so I was making them like crazy. It took a very slight attitude shift to change the conference from wearisome to enjoyable.
Not much changed in my behavior. I still tried to be attentive, ask people questions, and interact with them, but I dropped any ulterior motives for doing so. I poured my energy into pursuing relationships rather than pursuing my goals.
As an optimist, I can guess at God’s best and pursue it, but here’s the thing: the only thing I know for certain about His plan is that it involves loving others. So regardless of what connections I’m trying to make for my career, that should be my main focus.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? We often ignore God’s plans in favor of ours, because we think we’ll be happier. Like with my allegory idea, I was pretty ticked off at God because here I had this other great story idea half-outlined. I was sure it’d be easier to do my idea instead of the one God had presented out of the blue. But I also knew if I pursued my plans, I could miss out on something even better. After all, God’s best will always be better than mine.
God’s plans will make us happier than our own—at least in the long run—because we’re designed to fulfill whatever purpose He’s given us. We’re designed not to pursue our own goals, but to pursue relationships, to love others.
I remember the last day of the conference, I began chatting with this woman. I hadn’t seen her before—she wasn’t an important agent, editor, or author (at least, not yet). Nearby, I heard Ted Dekker chatting to a group of people, and I asked myself, If this woman were Ted Dekker, how would I treat her? I always act kindly towards everyone, but I made sure to keep asking her questions about her book and her life. I kept pursuing a conversation with her, like I would Ted Dekker, just to practice loving her better.
Later, I was wandering in the store during the book signing, when I really just wanted to curl up in my hotel bed with a book, but I knew if I did, I’d miss an opportunity to love and bless others. I continued to roam the bookstore as I chatted with a few friends. I asked God, If You really want me here, then guide me to where I’m supposed to go and help me be a blessing to someone. A few minutes later, I started a conversation with an author. I invited a third person to join our conversation. The topic began with Ted Dekker and eventually ended up with each of us sharing stories of our most recent emotionally painful experience, how it had shaped us, and how sometimes the best—and only—answer to the question of suffering was faith.
It was just a minor shift in attitude and practically no change in outward behavior, but it had an enormous impact on the conference and my enjoyment of it. And all you have to do is remember that it’s not about what you can gain but about what you can give.
What are your goals? Have you ever become so focused on your plans you forget to love those around you? Or is it just me? 😉