by Carrie Householder
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Pic by by fotopitu
I often tell God that I would like to be a prolific creator. It doesn’t seem to be enough for me to create something…I want to create everything. Volumes of works for the world to see. The desire was further fueled in me when I finished reading Willie Nelson's autobiography a few weeks back. Willie is prolific, and I am in awe of his ability to produce consistently over the last six decades. According to his book, he recorded 24 albums in his seventies - the strongest decade of his career (he's 82 now). Because of Willie, I'm convinced we can all grow our creative productivity as the years roll on. May we never peak.
However, once I completed the book, I was perplexed as to why this controversial and beloved icon was so remarkably fruitful? He's not exactly a role model. Aside from his medicinal proclivities (you know what I mean), he was a self-professed scoundrel. A quiet but charming womanizer with a mischievous side, who liked to hang with troublemakers because they were just more fun to be around. All-in-all a pretty average, middle-of-the-road, hanging-on-by-grace kind of guy with no special heritage or upbringing. Granted, he was born with gifts, though plenty would argue that singing isn’t one of them. So why was he able to accomplish so much in his life?
Before I read his story I thought Willie was exceptional, and he is. And I came to realize how very sad that is. Not because someone like Willie shouldn’t be exceptional…but because everyone should be. Exceptional by definition is: unusual; not typical. So exceptional things only exist as a measure against what is normal. Willie Nelson was as ordinary as anyone else, but he did not live an ordinary life. He lived an extra-ordinary life. I want to live an extraordinary life. I’m going to take the liberty of assuming that you do too. And if you’re anything like me (or Willie) you are probably also very normal. So what is the difference-maker? In my attempt to bottle his formula for success, I found four key principles operating in Willie’s life that strike me as exceptional:
1. HE LOVED JESUS. Yes, Jesus. Willie loves Him to this day. And since he was raised by church-going grandparents, his introduction to music was basically acts of worship every Sunday. Does anyone get a better start than that? When you love Jesus and you create with Him, your very life becomes an act of worship.
2. HE FOUND THE SWEET SPOT. He found that place where his gifting met his passion and he worked it. He worked it in front of anyone who would listen. And maybe most importantly, he worked it before the money had a chance to matter. So while he was writing broke and playing broke and moving all over the country to find other broke people who would write and play with him, he was getting excellent at his craft. And when his bad choices made all kinds of crazy waves in the sea of his life, waves that were eventually big enough to sink his financial ship, his sweet spot was his life jacket. Money is great, don't misunderstand me, but the more you make the trickier it is to clear your head of its influence and find your sweet spot.
3. HE FOUND HIS PEOPLE. Willie is known for community. Too many have confused creative integrity with a spirit of control and it drives them into isolation, which was never God’s design. The trinity is a family, and so are we. Willie didn’t do life alone and he didn’t create alone. He found his people and he created with them. He stuck by them in and out of season. As my pastor likes to say, “Find your people, find your destiny."
4. HE NEVER QUIT. He got tired. He got angry sometimes. He got lazy. He got burned. He lost people he loved and nearly everything he had built in his life. But he never got bitter, he never changed his focus, and he never gave up.
Feeling the pressure to bring this to an elegant close, I started to write, “Of course there’s no guarantee that these principles will give you an extraordinary life…” But then I realized that's just not true (and it’s trite). Instead, I will give you my guarantee. I guarantee that if you live out these 4 principles you will live an extraordinary life in the truest definition of the word. It may not come with all the perks of being Willie Nelson. But then, if that’s how you define extraordinary your normal must already look pretty darn great.