Recently I was asked this question. Tell us about a time in the past when you've changed. Why are you looking to change and level up at this moment in time?
In a split second I realized there were many moments I could point to that I would classify as moments I changed. One such moment jumped out and would not let me go.
In 2010 I was in Joburg, South Africa. I had recently moved there as a missionary. We teamed up with a few folks this particular week and went out to the local prison. We waited for what seemed an eternity. After finally making our way through the labyrinth of security check points we found ourselves mingling in the prison yard. My new boss Pastor William Dengler said, go person to the person and hand one of these to them. He dropped a stack of Good News Articles in my hand. As I went from prisoner to prisoner I noticed that they were locked in on sizing me up. One such individual stopped me and started asking me questions about where I was from, why I was there, and a whole host of other questions. I kept trying to ask him questions and put myself on the receiving end of information versus the giving but, to no success.
If you have known me for a long time this is something I classically do. If I walk away from a conversation listening more than I have talked than I accomplished what I set out to do. However this individual had a doctorate in investigative work (not really but, that's how it felt)
After what seemed like way too much time he stopped asking questions and waited. I am not too sure what he was waiting for but it felt like an eternity. Maybe he was pausing for dramatic effect. He said, I wish I grew up like you. See if I grew up like you, I would not have lived where I lived and got involved with what I got involved with. My life would be so much better if my environment was better. I wish we could trade places.
And in that moment he walked away never to be interacted with again.
That conversation changed me. For the next few months I started unpacking that interaction. See it is easy for me to say that guy is just blaming someone else for his own choices and he needs to own what he has done. There is some level of truth to that but there is a larger implication here. Instead what this did for me was it placed me in his shoes. I have been there more than I want to admit. I have said to myself and others countless times if this or that would just change I could have it all, things would be different, and I would not be stuck.
The reality is, I am not stuck.
A man is as free as his mind will allow him to be.
This conversation fundamentally changed me. I could no longer make excuses for why I felt stuck behind layers of prison bars. I could no longer blame the system for feeling stuck. I had to stop and ask myself, why am I here? What got me here? What will it take to get out? Do I have those resources? Does someone else?
You are as stuck as you say you are.
So, how stuck are you?