Five Things Successful People Really Struggle With

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It’s not easy being good at what you do.

I remember being invited to speak for 1,000 pastors. I said yes, and prepared my message. As I sat in front getting ready to speak, a fear like I’ve never experienced before gripped me. Voices in my head said things like:

What were you thinking saying yes?

You will not do very well!

The best thing you can do right now is get up and go. Run, Roger, RUN!

I had to calm myself down and pray. I spoke and God blessed, but I wondered if I was the only one who struggled with it. Now I know I wasn’t.

I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside, befriend and mentor some outstanding pastors. Most of them have at least three of the five characteristics I list below. This list probably also applies to other successful people as well.

Here’s the five:

  1. Often think they are crazy.

One of the greatest traits of a leader is the capacity to detect atrophy. Outstanding leaders have a sense something is not right, but see others just carrying on and believe something is wrong with THEM, not everyone else! They are able to see what’s wrong easier than others.

  1. Often have bouts with doubt and discouragement.

Pastor’s lives are often characterized by intense, stressful, busy times followed by periods of quiet nothingness. That can often lead to doubt and discouragement when the expectations (whomever they came from) were not met. It usually happens after a mountain top experience.

  1. Often have powerful opposition.

Success breeds opposition. Successful leaders wish they could just leave well enough alone, promote the status quo, stop with all the boat rocking and just mark their time until they leave. They can’t. That produces enemies. The fierce emails, long and difficult conversations, people leaving all are associated with success. That’s the side we don’t see when we look at the completed process.

  1. Often struggle in a personal area that no one knows.

The list is endless. Anxiety and difficulty sleeping (my hand is raised). Finances. Victims of past abuse in one of its forms. Addiction. Difficult marriage. Lack of sexual intimacy with spouse. Many times that happened in the past. Often it’s happening now.

  1. Extremely talented.

Amazingly they are able to function at a high level, but they do. They read, learn, and improve. They turn around churches and business. They make it work.

The next time you see a great leader and think “hey that guy/girl has it easy” think again. Pray for them. Give them grace. Its not easy being good at what you do.


Why You’ll Never Reach Your Full Potential By Doubting Yourself

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If you’re like me, you tend to second guess yourself a lot. Sometimes, you find yourself asking the following questions:

  • Was that the right decision or not?
  • Should I have said that or should I have stayed quiet?
  • Am I the right person for this task?

In mid-September, I found myself at the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Headquarters as part of some meetings to suggest ways that pastors can receive more practical training at the Masters level through the Seminary and the North American Division Evangelism Institute (NADEI). These are exactly the kind of meetings where my self-doubt tends to run wild. What are some tips that help me fight against this negative self-image? Well, the following ideas are not from someone who’s figured it all out; these are truths I have to repeat to myself over and over again, even as I’m writing this.

  1. You’re never “just” anything.
    The first day, as we were going around the room introducing ourselves, I felt like a little fish in a big pond as everyone introduced themselves as “President, Vice President, Chair, Dean or Administrator of this, that, or the other.” Being the last person to introduce myself, as well as one of two active pastors and the only millennial in the group, I said “Nelson Fernandez, just a pastor in the Carolina Conference.”I quickly realized what I’d said. Someone else realized what I was implying with that and said something along the lines of, “No, you’re not just a pastor; as a pastor, you’re one of the most important voices in here!”Oftentimes, it’s these “I’m just” messages that start chipping away at our trust in God and His ability to use us.The young prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 1:6, “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”  I’m just a kid. I’m just not good enough. I’m just not educated enough. It’s important to pay attention to the words we use to describe ourselves and be willing to be positively corrected.
  2. You’re never as good as people say you are but you’re also never as bad as people say you are.
    Those negative messages that you tell yourself can come from a variety of sources. Maybe you had a bad experience with someone in the past. Maybe you had what you thought was a great idea that got shot down. Maybe you don’t want to embarrass yourself or the people you’re representing. Maybe you weren’t hugged enough as a child, who knows! The point is that the extreme voices that tell you, “You’re the best thing since sliced bread” or “You have nothing useful worth contributing” are both distortions of our true identity as children of God. I love what Philippians 2:3-4 says on this in the New Living Translation:  “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
  3. You’re never unprepared when you fight in the armor God has given you.
    You may remember the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. Before the two faced off, King Saul thought that the best option for David’s success would be for David to fight Goliath in the king’s royal armor, an option that was quickly abandoned when David couldn’t move properly in it.David realized a truth we must all internalize. Namely, that we must be willing to fight in our own armor because when God calls you to do something for him, he gives you His own armor. Yet, unlike Saul’s armor, God’s armor comes custom fitted for each of us. Fred Bruce said, “Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.” So maybe your life experiences, both your past successes and failures are exactly what God can use to fulfill the task you’ve been called to undertake. Even those experiences that we would rather forget can be used to help teach us something about ourselves or others. How does the Apostle Paul say this?”And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Leadership has a strange paradox. The truth is that as a leader, you have to get used to (and even comfortable with) the idea that you will constantly be second guessed by others. However, the moment when you start second guessing yourself, you undermine your ability to lead yourself and those around you as well. And yet, to doubt yourself is healthy to a degree because you are reminded that success isn’t ultimately all about you.

Success ultimately lies in God’s hands.

So go forth and remember these truths!


Post #GCSA15: 5 things Adventist Millennials can do after the General Conference

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It. Is. Finished.


Now what?


These are 5 things that you and I can do in light of, and in response to, what has happened.


1) Speak up.


Even Twitter didn’t see it coming – the interactive contribution of SDA millennials across the globe displaying the most effective use of a hashtag I’ve seen till date.


If Twitterverse has told me anything during the past week, it’s this:
Millennials have a voice. And we want to be heard.


So speak up. Raise your voice. Do whatever it takes to shake up the status quo, either in your local congregation or community. Do so in a manner that shows the clearest picture of Jesus.


And lest we forget: Few millennials with a relevant message spoke up once with a passion fueled by the fire in their bones.


Now they are 18 million strong. And growing.


2) Get connected to your local church.


Our current demographics within the Adventist church reveal that we are not the church of tomorrow, but the church of today. In light of that fact, the gross under-representation of young adult delegation at the GC could evoke in us one of two responses:


1- Express angst and continue to find reasons as to why we should have been better represented, or


2-Ensure our representation in #GCI2020 by getting plugged in now.


This is what Elder Gilbert Cangy, the youth director for the General Conference, had to say when interviewed about the process of becoming a delegate at the General Conference session:


“The General Conference, as an entity, does not choose delegates. The delegates are chosen as close as possible to the local churches. It only makes sense to trust the leaders closest to the local churches to know the individuals who can contribute in a significant way to the (future and direction) of the church (at large). Each division of the world church ensures the credibility of its delegates by “screening” them through the responses of union presidents and local church pastors.”


He later went on to say that when a young adult is faithful to the principles of our faith and is an affirming, empowering voice at the local church level, chances are that he or she will be noticed by other local leaders as someone who has the best interest of the church at heart. After that, it’s only a matter of time till their name is referred for nomination.


All this tells me that the surest path to becoming a delegate at the GC session always starts at the doors of your local church.


Get involved at your church. Lead a ministry. Be proactive.


3) Be informed


The GC session can be a cure for “denominational myopia.”


Let me unpack that.


As millennials, we have a high-functioning radar which detects anything from an ugly logo to an inefficient system. Scrutiny and critique can oftentimes be effortless.


So let me be the first to admit that it’s easy for me to get distracted by something that happens to me at church and indiscriminately color my perception of the church at large with a large, hairy, brush – all the while not realizing that I’ve haphazardly colored over some other things as well.


Myopia is simply being hyper-focused on what lies nearest to you that you fail to include the larger context. And I was myopic about my denomination.


Experiencing the GC, albeit for two days, significantly lessened this myopia by exposing me to the larger context of the world church.


Listening to the division reports, interacting with those from other cultures and nations, and seeing God’s activity among them showed me that the ‘church’ is more than just what happens to me in my local church.


The GC reminded me that the ‘church’ is bigger than its issues. The more I was informed, the less myopic I became. The more I got to know the larger context, the less I reacted to the smaller ones.


What we do is greatly impacted by what we are up against. Therefore the more we are informed about what’s happening in our local congregation, community, and the global Adventist community, the better we are suited to be game changers for the Kingdom.


4) Find a Christ-centered mentor who has your best interest at heart.


Nuff said.


5) Dig deeper into Scripture.


As I was scrolling through my twitter feed on the day of the big vote, I couldn’t help but wonder:


What if millennials were half as engaged and committed to spending time in Scripture as they were on their Twitter feeds?


What would that look like? How would that look like in their personal lives and in the lives of their communities?


Iconic theologian and author A.W Tozer once made this provocative statement:


“Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.”


Boom. *drops mic*


Friends, we are not just millennials but Seventh-Day Adventist millennials: a special group of people who have been entrusted with the end-time message of a living Savior to be shared with a dying world.
For us to be bold in the world, we need to first be humble before God in the prayer closet. The more we dig deeper into Scripture, the more leverage and arsenal we have along with the adults and leaders of our church.


Our cultural relevancy is largely dependent on our Scriptural fluency. When we are well-versed in Scripture, not only are we able to speak the language of other demographics within our denomination, but we become better influencers of those outside of it.


A lot of hurt and frustration has understandably ensued in light of Wednesday’s vote. I am right there with those who are disappointed. I’m sure those who are at the brink of leaving have legitimate reasons for doing so. If that’s you, my friend, I appeal to you sincerely – We need you and your pain. Some of the biggest turnarounds and movements in history occurred when a small group of people harnessed their collective dissatisfaction in effective and constructive ways. If you want to move forward, these 5 steps maybe a start. If not, hit me up. Let me listen.


These are just 5 things. What are YOU going to do after this session? Please leave a comment in the spaces below!