My session notes from the Influence Conference:

If It’s Not a Messy, Winding Road, You’re Doing It Wrong

(Or, How to Make the Most of the 20- and 30-Something Years)

What we’re talking about today:

  • what the 20s and 30s are all about.
  • concrete, manageable things you can do to get the most out of these years and set yourself up well for the future.
  • (briefly) what that means for your online self
A story from a blogging mentor of mine, Elizabeth Foss:

I’ve been thinking and thinking about being 20-something. While I was sick last week, I stumbled onto a long list of 20-something blogs. And I read through them all (or so it seemed). I’m so glad there was no internet when I was a 20-something mom. I’m so glad I wasn’t tempted to preserve in words my every whine. It’s a good thing I couldn’t record every time my husband worked long hours, every poop, vomit, or runny nose, every last little moment of discouragement or loneliness that comes with being home alone with little ones. I’m glad that wasn’t the brand I put on how I lived my vocation. I’m glad my husband wasn’t forced to see grumbling in print every time he logged on hoping to see sweet pictures of his kids and the wife for whom he was working so hard. I’m so glad my complaining doesn’t still stand as a testimony for my children to read.

(You don’t have to be a mom or wife to relate to Elizabeth’s story. You just have to have some grumpy days in your personal history. And don’t we all?)

What’s Elizabeth concerned about here?

  1. Her private self.
  2. Her public self.

But we’re here (at a blogging conference!) because we’re 20somethings and 30somethings and teens who are online. Now. So the questions for us become:

  1. What kind of women are we today?
  2. How are we reflecting that online?

What we want to do during these years is to learn and grow and edit while using our influence well.

Why “messy” and “winding?”

Messy: It’s not that you’re a wreck and your life’s a mess. I don’t mean sinful. I mean these years are complex and complicated. The 20s (and to a lesser extent the 30s) are dramatic years, because they’re full of change. Change is always stressful.

Winding: growth isn’t linear. Sometimes personal growth looks a lot like being lost, especially in these two decades. People have different personal time tables for growing up, and that’s okay.

These decades are for exploration. It’s never been easier to explore during your 20s and 30s. It helps you discover the person God made you to be—your gifts, your calling. Exploration also shows you really clearly that your way is not the only way, and that this life isn’t all about you.

There is such a thing as floundering—but real growth is often winding, and it can look a lot like being lost. But a winding road doesn’t mean you’re screwing things up.

What are the 20s and 30s about?

These years are about learning, and exploring. Generally, people cast the net wide in their 20s to learn about many many different things, and start trimming back in their 30s. The 30s are where you hone in on what you want to do with your life. (For the 20s think “wide net” and the 30s think “pruning back a bit.”)

Is it harder for Christian women?

  • We set a high bar for ourselves; we put pressure on ourselves to do things “right,” we get fixated on finding “The Plan.” It’s hard to act when you’re under so much pressure! Remember that YOU don’t need to have that plan all figured out. God has the plan, not you. That’s okay.
  • Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Make plans, but hold on loosely to those plans, because we’re ultimately not the ones in control.
  • People pleasing is futile. Just stop it!

The 20s and 30s are about exploring in key areas. Here are a few. (Not an exhaustive list!)

Get to know YOURSELF.

  • It’s not selfish; it’s necessary.
  • Learn your personality type.
  • Knowing yourself takes time. That’s okay.

Explore your RELATIONSHIPS.

  • You need mentors. Find them. You probably won’t find that one perfect person, go a la carte to find your mentors: one mentor for your work, one for marriage, one for parenting (for example). All different people.
  • If you don’t know people in your town, look online. It’s not quite as good as a 3-dimensional relationship but it’s miles better than nothing.
  • Asking someone to mentor you is awkward. Accept that–and ask them anyway.

 Explore your BAGGAGE.

  • We all have junk. Deal with it now, not later. Deal with it as soon as you know it’s there.
  • God uses your junk but it’s a lot easier for him to use it when you’ve dealt with it.
  • Get a counselor before you need one.
  • Everyone has hard times. That’s how we grow.

Explore your FAITH.

  • Faith is a component of everything we’ve talked about so far, but it’s important to explicitly explore your faith during these years.
  • In these decades, time is on our side. Use it well.
  • Just like in young adulthood, growth isn’t linear when it comes to faith. It’s winding.
  • You don’t need a Master Plan, but you do need guides on your journey. Find yourself some Great God People. Preferably, find some who live in your town today, and some who proceeded you in history.

As you’re exploring in all these areas, remember that IT’S COMPLICATED.

  • We tend to see things in black and white in our early twenties, but experience lets you see the grey.
  • There are some things that are non-negotiable, but most things aren’t that way.
  • Especially when you’re operating in the online sphere, remember that it’s complicated, and have grace for others with different experiences and perspectives.

While you’re exploring and editing in these areas, what impact does that have on your online world?

We have influence now. We’re already online. How do we—as women who are very much works in progress—use our platforms well?

  • I don’t want to focus on how not to damage our witness; I think Influence attendees are pretty smart about that.
  • I do want to look at the potential we have as Influencers; about the possibilities we have for bringing about positive changes in the world.

We have a great potential for influence as women online.

  • Influence is about vision casting.
  • You can cast that vision—while still being YOU: your 20something, 30something, work-in-progress, don’t-have-all-the-answers-yet self.
  • We need lay bloggers. We want to see what the Gospel looks like in your life. Show us!

Dallas Willard says:

“Don’t strive to advance yourself. Let God advance you. This is a deep psychological and sociological truth as well as a profound theological teaching. If you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. Give it away. God will give it back to you. Don’t make it your aim to get what you want. Serve others. Remember, God gives grace to the humble. He calls us to submit ourselves to the mighty hand of God that, when the time is right, He will lift us up.”

 My question: Isn’t this the definition of successful social media?

How are we to have influence in our 20s and 30s? By serving others.

I’m hopeful for the 20- and 30-something bloggers at Influence Conference. I have great hope for what new corners of the globe, new areas of pop culture, new corners of thought will be uncovered during our messy, winding journeys. I’m excited to see how we’ll serve our world and use our influence for God.

Get the session handout here. It includes your action items, list of resources, and links to what I referenced in my talk.

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