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Insecurity, Mr. Rogers, and the Power of Next Action Thinking

My wife and I saw, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” in the theaters recently. There was so much to be inspired by and to reflect upon. What I was struck most by was the insecurity of Fred Rogers. I watched a little bit of "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" growing up, but honestly even as a little tyke always found it a bit slow and mildly scary. Fred Rogers was definitely not your typical guy, but he was absolutely a visionary and influencer, and yet he never saw himself that way. Throughout his entire life he questioned who he was and doubted whether anything he was doing was making a difference, in spite of his growing fame and influence.

Whether our particular sphere of influence is small or vast, I think we all, at some level, can relate to this insecurity.

This week has been particularly surreal in my world with the release of the book. Having been on my mind and heart for nearly a decade, it was pretty special to see the final product on the shelves. I experienced feelings of excitement, gratitude, curiosity, pride and accomplishment. The only feeling that was stronger than any of these was self doubt. It has been more present this week than any other thought or emotion. Ever-present are voices that say -Who are you? What could you possibly have to offer? No one cares what you have to say. It’s embarrassing how you climbed on the shoulders of actual smart people to do this work. People are going to see right through everything you say and everything you share. You are a hypocrite. You are self serving and attention seeking. You are…

The battle between truth and lies is never-ending, especially in our own minds.

Over the past decade while this book idea has been percolating, the most freeing and liberating part of the process has been preaching to myself the GTD concept next action thinking. A next action is simple. A next action requires very little thought or effort to act upon. However, a next action is a visible step of obedience toward a commitment one has made.

A few years back I felt a pull, not a tug, to commit myself to writing this book. It was very clear that God’s plan for me was to pursue this (not necessarily accomplish it). I committed to doing so, but adopted Proverbs 16:3 as a life verse at that very moment. I was going to commit myself to take the next action towards writing this book and be obedient to the calling that was being placed on my heart, but I was not going to focus on it getting written, published, sold, etc. I just knew that I was to take the next action. So, I did. Then I took another. Then another. This continued for days, weeks, months, years. I met some amazing people along the way. The most influential was Mike Williams, co-author of the book, and more importantly a man who is now a lifelong brother and friend.

His wise and continual counsel to me was to stop worrying about what may or may not happen. Just “kick the rock down the road”, walk up to it, and see what shows up from there. This advice has not only described the narrative of this journey, but has been some of the most influential advice on my life.

In kicking the rock down the road, we take a single action and create movement, which generates momentum. When we approach the rock down the road, the landscape is different, the road has new features and challenges, and perhaps the road presents new turns we couldn’t see before. So, prayerfully reevaluate, and just kick it again. Then, simply walk up to it, and see what shows up. God only knows where the rock will end up, and I’m confident all that we are asked to do is use our wisdom and energy to kick it again.

Next action thinking isn’t just about productivity, or time management, or getting things done. It is a way of approaching all of life. In all areas of life - through prayerful consideration - where am I being called to put my attention and energy and what things in my life have I been gifted to steward? Work? Family? Community? Then, the only question to be asked is - what is the next action for me to take toward that end? Then move.

Insecurity creates doubt. Doubt stalls momentum, kills creativity, and diffuses energy. Doubt kills obedience.

In any area of your life - What are you called to pursue? What is your next action?

One action and a time. Ignore the voices. Let go of the results. Kick the rock. See what shows up.