A few weeks ago I spent some time in conversation with good friends, plus a few people I don’t know as well. It was a wonderful conversation, but it was also an incredibly frustrating one for me.
The conversation turned really deep, really fast. We talked about who we are, and what we care about, and how we are—or are failing to—bring those things to the surface in our own lives, and our kids’ lives.
This conversation gave me the perspective I needed to see a handful of my own habits in a new light. It made me face up to the fact that I wasn’t doing the things I knew I should be doing. I was frustrated with myself, and I was frustrated with some of the others for the same reason. They knew what they were supposed to be doing, and it wasn’t that hard, but they still weren’t doing it. Why couldn’t they just do it already? And why couldn’t I?
It was eye-opening. But I felt like a jerk.
In the following days, I spent a lot of time reflecting on that conversation. I went for a few walks with just the thoughts in my head for company. I stared at my calendar for a solid hour. And I made some changes.
That experience—and my own frustration that emerged from it—compelled me to change. As it turns out, frustration is a terrific motivator. But frustration was undoubtably my motivator, and that made me feel like a grump. Why couldn’t I have changed because I was inspired, and not because I was cranky?
(You know where this is going.)
Emily didn’t know anything about my recent inner battle with my own frustration, and yet that’s exactly what was on her mind.
We were talking about big picture stuff, and Emily started talking about big ideas: how to know when you find them, how to recognize them for what they are. She said that every big idea needs frustration, passion, and hope.
Frustration, huh? That grabbed my attention.
Frustration serves as a spark, if we let it. It’s a cue, an arrow: something that points us in the direction we need to go.
Passion enables us to follow-through. Without hope, we become cynical. But it’s frustration that gets the ball rolling. And not just for cranks and curmudgeons.
Emily stunned me by then quoting Dallas Willard, a man I greatly admire (and who wrote one of the books that changed my life. Willard writes about the spiritual life, and he said the most important question in spiritual formation is What’s bothering you?
Your answer is telling: Who are you? What are you doing with your life right now? Where do you need to go from here?
Are you frustrated right now? That’s okay. That’s good, actually. It doesn’t mean you’re a grump or a grouch. It means you have a spark. It’s the beginning of a big idea, the beginning of change.
Can you tap the passion, dig for the hope? Or maybe that electric combination is already in you.
Frustration is the beginning.
The key question is: what happens next?
P.S. Emily’s 3 questions to ask yourself before you change the world unpacks her idea in a little more detail. Recommended.