3 Hard Lessons I Learned in 2021 That I’m Taking Into 2022

Today’s guest post – “3 Hard Lessons I Learned in 2021 That I’m Taking Into 2022” – was written by Mark Batterson. Mark is a New York Times-bestselling author and lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C. His latest book on habit formation, Do it For a Day, was just released. 

During his forty-five-year career as a composer, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote 722 symphonies, sonatas, and concertos.

And you may know, many of those compositions were written after Beethoven had gone deaf. When he first noticed his hearing loss, Beethoven was devastated. Unable to hear the music he made, life felt meaningless. 

At first, Beethoven played so loudly that he injured his hands. Not to mention listener’s ears! Eventually, he was able to not only adapt to his hearing loss but also innovate a new sound.

An analysis of Beethoven’s music by the British Medical Journal reveals that high notes accounted for eighty percent of his music in his twenties, but only twenty percent in his forties. 

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ranks as one of his greatest musical achievements, and it starts with a series of notes that have become iconic—da, da, da dum. The amazing thing? It was written after Beethoven had lost his hearing! How is that even possible? 

“As his hearing deteriorated,” notes Arthur Brooks, “He was less influenced by the prevailing compositional fashions, and more by the musical structures forming inside his own head.”

Instead of being influenced by the musical trends of his day, Beethoven trusted his internal voice. He composed out of his convictions. 

There’s a question I’ve been asking of leaders lately. What percentage of your thoughts, words and actions are a regurgitation of the media you’re watching and the social media your following? And what percentage is a revelation you’re getting from God’s word? 

We’re bombarded by breaking news and fake news all day, every day. Online advertisers use clickbait to compete for our attention. Social media algorithms are designed to keep us in our echo chambers.

If we aren’t careful, our default settings become opinion polls, and we take our cues from cultural talking points. This is when and where and why leaders need core convictions. 

Here are seven of my core convictions: 

  • I want to be famous in my home
  • Criticize by creating.
  • Truth is found in the tension of opposites.
  • Brag about people behind their back.
  • Never lose a holy curiosity.
  • Playing it safe is risky.
  • Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands

Here are a few more: 

  • If you do little things like they’re big things, God will do big things like they’re little things.
  • When you stay humble and stay hungry, there is nothing God cannot do in you or through you. 
If we aren’t careful, our default settings become opinion polls, and we take our cues from cultural talking points. - Mark Batterson Click To Tweet

I’ve had the joy and privilege of leading National Community Church in Washington, D.C. for a quarter century. The last two years have been the hardest years, hands down.

And it’s not just a COVID crisis that shut down our city more than most. It’s the racial tension and political polarization that’s causing so much division.

We’re doing our best to stand in the gap as peace makers, grace givers, and tone setters. And we’ve adapted and innovate in some amazing ways. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier! 

Here are three lessons I’ve learned recently.

#1. As a communicator, it’s never enough and it’s always too much.

Words matter, now more than ever. If you say the wrong thing, it can get you cancelled quicker than you can delete the tweet.

Of course, Jesus was no stranger to this. The Pharisees were baiting and trolling him non-stop. That reminds me of another conviction: Thou shalt offend Pharisees.  

#2. As a leader, I reserve the right to get smarter later. 

As a leader, I feel less qualified than I ever have. All of us are past our paygrade!

At the beginning of the COVID outbreak, I met with an Admiral who attends our church. He actually did a stint as Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to the President. He manages crises day in and day out.

His modus operandi? I reserve the right to get smarter, later. 

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately! “He who thinks he knows,” says I Corinthians 8:2, “does not yet know as he ought to know.” Leadership starts with listening, and lots of questions! 

Leadership starts with listening, and lots of questions! - Mark Batterson Click To Tweet

#3. As a husband and father, success is when those who know me best respect me most.

Here’s one more lesson for good measure.

Even if your name is Moses, and you come down Mount Sinai with stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God, you should still expect some opposition.

It’s the Diffusion of Innovation Bell Curve—16% of people are resisters. And that doesn’t make them bad people. Their opposition can actually refine your vision if you take time to listen to them!

You may not win them over, but you will win their respect.

The bottom line? You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time. 

I have a simple definition of success: When those who know me best respect me most. That’s my wife and my kids.

With all due respect, when I stand before the Judgment Seat someday, you won’t be on it. And neither will I. The fear of people is a snare!

If you live off of compliments, you will eventually die by criticism. This is a moment to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. 

If you live off of compliments, you will eventually die by criticism. - Mark Batterson Click To Tweet

“Having Done All to Stand, Stand”

It seems to me that cynicism and skepticism are at an all-time high, at least in my lifetime. And some of it is justified because of so many high profiles failures.

And we’ve let celebrity culture find its way into the Church! When a high-profile leader fails, we all receive a black eye.

My advice? Long obedience in the same direction! Keep on keeping on!

I recently had lunch with an 82-year-old friend and pastor. I have a standard question I ask my elders: What is God saying to you?

They usually have a ready answer! Without skipping a beat, my friend quoted the Apostle Paul: “Having done all to stand, stand.” 

There is a wear and tear to leadership! Lots of bumps and bruises, and decision fatigue is real. Leadership is hard right now, but this is when leaders lead.

Can I be so bold as to offer an exhortation? Don’t give up the ground you’ve gained. Keep standing on the promises of God. And while you’re at it, try to enjoy the journey. 

Keep standing on the promises of God. And while you’re at it, try to enjoy the journey. - Mark Batterson Click To Tweet

Fight One More Round

On September 7, 1892, a boxer named Gentleman Jim Corbett entered the ring with arguably the greatest boxer of all time.

John L. Sullivan was the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing and the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing. In 50 fights, he was undefeated.

The only fight Sullivan ever lost was this one! Gentleman Jim Corbett knocked him out in the 21st round, became the Heavyweight Champion of the World, and gave the prize money to his church! 

Corbett had a motto: Fight one more round. 

I think the Apostle Paul would have loved that. I’m not sure if he was a flyweight, featherweight or heavyweight, but Paul said: “I have fought the good fight.”

If you feel more tired than usual, don’t be discouraged. This too shall pass! It’s a season. That said, don’t be in such a hurry to get out of your current circumstances that you don’t get anything out of them. 

Don’t be in such a hurry to get out of your current circumstances that you don’t get anything out of them. - Mark Batterson Click To Tweet

Learn the lesson! 

Cultivate the character! 

Curate the change! 

I’ll let Gentleman Jim Corbett have the last word:

“When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired that you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round. The man who fights one more round is never whipped.”

3 Hard Lessons I Learned in 2021 That I’m Taking Into 2022

17 Comments

  1. Richard Dawson on December 13, 2021 at 9:30 pm

    What a brilliant post. Thanks Carey for allowing this onto your feed and thanks to Mark for going ‘one more round!’

  2. Kimberly Terry on December 13, 2021 at 8:16 pm

    “Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands.” Good article, but this is my favorite line in the entire article.

  3. Gregory Swartz on December 13, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    “When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired that you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round. The man who fights one more round is never whipped.” – Gentleman Jim Corbett

    I’ll go one more round.

    Thank you, Carey!
    Greg

  4. Doug Edwards on December 13, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    Good words of wisdom! I just passed them on to our Elders and Staff. Thank you!

  5. Frank on December 13, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    Just what the Holy Spirit ordered. Thanks

  6. Charles Baboo on December 13, 2021 at 10:58 am

    This is the best so far. What a beautiful post. It’s something that pushes you to gallantly face whatever 2022 may throw at you. One more round, please.

  7. John Maralack on December 13, 2021 at 10:49 am

    Great encouragement. May we, like Beethoven, lost our hearing for the voices of this world. Let him who has ears hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

  8. Cary Duckett on December 13, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Good stuff!!! Thank you for encouraging me and other readers.

  9. Elizabeth on December 13, 2021 at 9:53 am

    I needed this today, and I didn’t even know it.
    Thank you

  10. Naomi on December 13, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Wow. These are such uplifting words of encouragement. Thank you for sharing this timely truth today! This has been the most intense year of ministry yet for my husband and me. We’ve been reminded through a season of walking in the valley that God is Good all of the time. He is what is best and gives what is best. We love you and your wife, Toni. You’ve both encouraged us more than you know. Blessings.

  11. Brian Rice on December 13, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Really encouraging thank you

  12. Rachel on December 13, 2021 at 8:26 am

    Thank you for this message. It was very uplifting and much needed. This year has been difficult for our small church. I was starting to feel the weight of my leadership role. But your message to fight one more round is very inspiring. One more round it is!!

  13. David Geroux on December 13, 2021 at 8:21 am

    Appreciate your encouragement, Tim!! Lots of growth through the pain and also the realization of how I contributed to the break down. He is faithful!

  14. Martha M on December 13, 2021 at 7:26 am

    Golden insights. Thank you Mark!!

  15. David Geroux on December 13, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Sharing. Carey, thank you for sharing your platform with SO many top shelf guests. You and they continually add value to my life as a Jesus follower, husband, dad, and a re-aspiring pastor (after being fired from my first opportunity as a small groups pastor…just being real). This post especially encouraged me in the area of just staying in the fight and not short-cutting my way out of this season in the wilderness. Lessons learned now are the seeds of lives (mine included) changed and harvested for Christ later. Many thanks again.

    • Tim Trussell-Smith on December 13, 2021 at 7:24 am

      Praise God you are trying again after being hurt. Keep being faithful!

      • Emmanuel Alabi on December 16, 2021 at 10:51 pm

        There is a wear and tear to leadership! Lots of bumps and bruises, and decision fatigue is real. Leadership is hard right now, but this is when leaders lead

        This is so on point for me at the moment.

        Thank you for sharing.

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