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Bob Goff: How to Stay Focused on Your Calling

Bob Goff: How to Stay Focused on Your Calling

If you know Bob Goff, you know he’s not one for sitting still. The author of books like Love Does is famous for bouncing around to different international causes both big and small, loving nations, cities, schools, families and people with his time and resources. To say he’s got a lot of energy is an understatement, but these days, he’s trying to direct that energy a little more deliberately.

In his book Undistracted: Capture Your Purpose, Rediscover Your Joy, Goff delves into what a life with less clutter might look like. In a conversation with RELEVANT, he talks about what his mission to be a less distracted person, and what others can learn from it.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What did being distracted look like for you?

Everybody’s so in everybody’s grill about stuff that you can get distracted by coming up with a worldview that protects you. You say, this is not a safe place. I don’t want to feel rejection. So what do is fake it. Then we become caricatures. We can have these two personas going on. There’s the person that your loved ones know, and then there’s the person that strangers know. What I want to do is sync those up, or understand what’s going on and why. What’s that connected to?

Do you think that social media makes it easier to get distracted now than it used to be? Or does getting distracted just look a little different now than it used to?

What you can do is walk around really afraid, rather than walking around really engaged. Your head is on a swivel, looking for a problem, versus being head on a swivel looking for an opportunity. If your worldview is that everybody’s going to get in your grill on this and that, it’s going to happen. Then we start then avoiding people who have had a problem or made a really big misstep.

I just want to invert that a little bit. Part of living a less distracted life is to come to grips with the fact that you’ll always be misunderstood. You’re going to be misunderstood. Does that ever happen to you?

Yeah, of course.

Constantly, right? Me too. It’s going to happen constantly. We’re misunderstood, so what are you going to do when the anticipated happens? I want to assume friendship, and I want to receive that I’ll be misunderstood. To understand that this is going to happen and don’t let that be a distraction.

I’m not aiming for misunderstanding, I’m aiming for the opposite. I’m looking for clarity. But I’m not going to sacrifice who I am for clarity to a stranger. That doesn’t mean I have a high view of myself. I have just a really high view of what’s possible if we fan the flames, like Paul was saying, of this unique gift that we have and we each roll differently.

So if you do something that’s odd, I’m just going to assume you’re a really smart guy. You must have given that some thought, or maybe you just muffed it like I do. It happens.

Let me throw a hypothetical at you. You say something publicly on stage or social media. You’re misunderstood. People are offended. They’re genuinely angry, sad, disappointed. You have these two options: double down or apologize. How should we be wise and how we navigate that very public backlash?

There’s a great verse it’s Romans 12. It says: “For as much as it’s within your power, live at peace with other people.” I live at pretty much at peace with other people. Sometimes it’s harder to live at peace with myself, because you could be so hard on yourself.

I was speaking at this thing in Texas and a woman called me from the number in the back of the book [Goff famously put his cell phone number in the back of his first book and invited anyone who wanted to talk to give him a ring]. A woman called up and she says “I was at your event last night.” Awesome. How’d you like it? She said “Oh, I hated it.” Really? Which part? She said “Oh the whole thing.” Why? She said “You were cussing the whole time.”

I just don’t remember having done that. I said “What did I say?” She said “You said, ‘Oh my gosh.'”

We did not go to the same high school, because that was not a cuss word where I went, but evidently it was where she went.

I didn’t apologize to her. It wasn’t a point of pride. I didn’t have anything to apologize for, nor did I feel I needed a wave a bony finger at her and tell her, “Do you know anybody who’s in a hospital right now that you could be visiting, rather than calling a stranger in San Diego?”

Instead of that, I said “Hey, you know, next time I’m rolling through, in the unlikely event that they have me back, what if we go get a Slurpee together? I’ll buy, just give me a call. You have my number so call up. We’ll have a Slurpee.

What I’m trying to do is not swing at every pitch. God’s doing something different in her life than she’s doing in mine right now. That isn’t apathy. That’s wisdom. I’m not going to let that be the largest thing. If you have a distraction in your life, you can replace it with something bigger and better.

I meet a lot of people where faith is important to them and they’re trying to be Jesus’s lawyer. But he didn’t need one and you’re not good enough.

Sometimes, I think we get so tied up sorting our public persona and our private one that even we get a little confused on which one is real.

I get that. There’s a tension. It comes from a good place. You just want to meet people and give what they want. I don’t beat myself up over this, but I have an awareness that I want to be engaging. I’m hoping that the person that came to my event or whatever finds something for them. I don’t try to speak to the most enthusiastic person. If I have a chance to say something, I find a guy in row four that doesn’t want to be there. I tell every story to him. Find the person who doesn’t want to be there. I want to see if I could get them in the room, if I could get them.

But some of us are trying to speak to the most enthusiastic person in the room. What is that tied to? Validation? Man, if you want applause, join the circus. If you want Jesus, find the poor. Hungry people, thirsty people, sick people, strange people, naked people, people in jail. Find them.

Just practically, for those of us who are feeling very distracted, what are things we can actually do that are going to help us focus?

First you got to catch up to where you were. Ask yourself: When I checked out emotionally or even physically from colleagues, what happened while I was gone? When I just checked out of a relationship, or I checked out of something that was causing me a lot of stress, what happened while I was gone? Figure that out and just say, is there a way I can recreate something more beautiful out of that? Is this a re-model or a tear down?

Then just figure out what’s your next move. What’s the next courageous move. Always moving towards authenticity. If you’re fun and I am fun, you can trend towards being the fun guy. What I want to trend toward is being the authentic guy. Just get real. Actually show up. Not as a caricature of yourself, but actually as yourself.

You can pre-order Bob Goff’s Undistracted here.

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