When I was fifteen years old, I moved into the room over the garage at my parent’s house. With my own bathroom and personal space, I felt like a king. I was ready for high school, independence, and life on my own.
Ten years later, my wife and I moved back into that same room. I was a broke salesman. The real estate bubble had burst and left me holding the bag. To add insult to my already injured ego, I had acquired a rental home in South Florida that was $100,000 under water, a $700 per month SUV payment and an investment property that was bleeding me dry. Each morning, I opened my eyes to the nostalgia of my old room. The sting of bad decisions was fresh and humble pie left a bitter taste in my mouth.
In order to survive, I took a job with North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance. I knew nothing about the insurance business, but I was great with people and had a knack for sales. That was nine years ago.
This past weekend, I gathered with more than eight hundred insurance agents across the state at our annual sales conference and for the eighth time in nine years, I was recognized as a Top 75 Best of the Best Agent—an award given to the top ten percent of agents with our company. When I walked to the front of a full banquet hall to receive my award, I was humbled. But it was much different from what I felt while living with my parents. Instead of being humbled by my circumstances, I was humbled by how faithful God has been in the process.
But I share all of this to say, what most see as success has come with its share of costs. Too often, I failed to count those costs. Here are a few thoughts on the cost of success, embracing your day job, and living your dreams.
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The Cost of Success
My career in insurance began with a survival mindset (and I really wanted to move out of my parent’s house). I loved my family and I was grateful for the shelter they provided, but I desperately wanted to redeem the mistakes I had made. I wanted to prove myself as a man. But I’ve learned that when we’re hell-bent on proving something we lose sight of what we might be sacrificing in the process.
Within a couple of months, my business was growing and competition had subtly became my motivation. Winning felt good and I could easily justify it as “hard work”. But behind the facade, I had sacrificed my marriage on the altar of success. I hit rock bottom so hard that I bounced. When I regained consciousness, I realized that I was losing the very thing I treasured most—my wife. Reality can be painful, but if we refuse the pain and refuse to get honest, we refuse the opportunity to grow.
My wife and I had inadvertently built a wall between us, each adding our fair share of bricks. Even worse, my faith was convenient at best. I believed in God, but I rarely listened to what He had to say. But my new view from the floor gave me the perspective I needed to see the error in my ways.
Success had come at the expense of my faith and my marriage. And, it wasn’t worth it. You can take my advice, or you can go broke trying to figure it out for yourself. But I promise you, no one is rich enough to buy the wisdom that can only be learned through pain.
Embrace Your Day Job
Marriage counseling and reprioritization got us back on the right track, but God threw us a curve ball. Within sixteen short months, He blessed us with three sons. I chuckle now because His sense of humor always comes with a deeper lesson in humility.
This season of life was diapers, all-nighters, and Disney Jr—our new normal. Life fit comfortably into its compartments and I became incredibly efficient as a way to cope with its demands. There was my faith box, my family box, my work box, my social box—you get the picture. The truth is, I was exhausted from failed attempts to keep the boxes full. Life balance was a myth that sounded good, but it didn’t really work. I was sliding further and further away from who God had called me to be.
To force clarity and gain perspective on what I was wrestling with, I began writing. It seemed an odd answer, but I’ve learned that God rarely gives us what we expect. In fact, He offends our expectations to trade them for His purpose. I published my book, Redefine Rich, as a testimony of what I had learned and pretty soon, people began inviting me to speak.
This new passion energized me and inspired a hidden love beneath my salesman persona. But sadly, I was so passionate that I began to sacrifice my career on the altar of my dreams. I’d convinced myself that the insurance gig had to go if I was going to be an author and speaker. Instead of embracing my day job, I began to resent it as a stumbling block. My efforts to construct life on my own were failing.
Live Your Dreams
I’m a huge fan of living your dreams. But I’m not a big fan of the “day job/dream job” tension we’ve created. A scarcity mindset never results in abundance. When the world calls us to pick “this” or “that”, I’m reminded that God is a God of the “and”. He’s a God of abundance. In order to live fully in each of life’s capacities, we have to live fully in all of them. We experience success and abundance when we live the and.
The only year I missed the Top 75 Award was the year I lost my perspective. That’s incredibly clear to me now. When you begin to resent your day job, you become unfaithful with what God has given you. As a result, you miss out on your dreams. You can’t be unfaithful with what you have an expect something else to magically appear. Excellence and purpose and gratitude aren’t a destination that you’ll reach someday, they’re what you must bring into every waking minute. Learn to be grateful for what you’ve been given and exhaust each moment for a purpose greater than yourself. Then, you’ll discover abundance.
As the lights dimmed on this year’s sales conference, I realized that I am living my dream right here and right now. I am loving God with my whole heart, being present with my family, serving my clients, and pursuing my passion for writing and speaking.
Culture had nearly convinced me that I had to take the leap, but God has taught me that it takes courage to stay. Living your dream begins with the faithfulness of embracing the adventure along the way. God will bring your desires to life. We realize our dreams when we begin living the ones God’s already given us.
If you’re building your own kingdom, one that neglects His voice and seeks its own gain, it will crumble under the weight of circumstance. If you want a successful legacy, one that cannot be shaken, build an eternal kingdom that is defined by God and fueled by His faithfulness.
Along with Zondervan author, Kevin Adams, Matt Ham is the co-founder of YouPrint, a Faith Development organization. Learn more at www.youprint.life