50: Thinking of a big Change? Go Ahead, Take the Plunge


Pair of feet at edge of diving board, waiting for pool to clear
If you have lost your passion for what you do, are you ready to take the plunge and move on?

This is the last in a series of shows on Passion in leadership, based on my new ebook the Power of Passion in Leadership. these episodes stand on their own but if you would like to “catch up” you can checkout episodes 46-49 for the related content.

In this episode I cover:

  • If your heart has been robbed of it’s passion, you have 2 options: get your groove back or move on. This episode is on the second option
  • A preview of my next book, “Launch Your Encore”
  • A Painpoint about “when to know that it’s time to go”

The Road to Passion Recovery Option Two: Seek a Way Out as you Move Toward Your Heart

This in many ways is the tougher option but the right choice if you can’t get your groove back.  If you are no longer a fit, face the music. When I made the decision to step out of my leadership role and pursue my heart, I had a wonderful board of directors that cared for me and helped me make that transition.  This huge responsibility of boards is often neglected–helping the outgoing leader finish well and leave well.  My board was so very kind and generous, affirming me for my twenty years of service to the organization as their leader.  Sadly, I have dear friends in leadership that were shown the door immediately when the ministry had used them up and burned them out.

I know that some of you are struggling with this question. Some of us are loyal to a fault and need to let go. How do I know it is time to move on? How do I know that God is releasing me from what he called me to do? You have to get serious about looking at your situation. You know it’s time to leave when…

  • Your job is important but it bores you.
  • Your job is strategic but you no longer have the heart for it.
  • Seventy five percent of your work is outside your sweet spot.
  • You have less than 25% overlap in your passion zone.
  • Everything on the edges of your job is what pulls your heart.
  • The juice is no longer worth the squeeze. You’re worn out.
  • You have lost faith in those above you in leadership.
  • Your team has lost faith in your leadership.
  • Better opportunities are pulling you out.
  • You have lost your calling for this position.
  • God clearly leads you to move on.
  • Your heart has left the building.

My dear mentor and friend, Peter, advised me at this time in my career, “You should think about moving on if what you see in the rear view mirror (memories) is greater than what you see out the front windshield (vision).  He nailed me with that one. After twenty years in my leadership assignment, for me the option was clear—move on and step out.

But then we wrestle with issues of timing.  How do you know when it’s time to move on?  The above list really boils down to a matter of the heart. What fuels you and what drains you? Where are you being drawn? What is your heart telling you? How would you answer that lottery question?  For me I found that the things I was passionate about were on the edges of my leadership position.  Those stars of interest were calling me more and more. The two circles kept drifting further apart.  My passion zone dried up to nothing. Activity and responsibility that at one time had given me great satisfaction became boredom and monotony. I had to jump off the diving board and follow my passion.  I will get to that final jump of mine in a moment.

I am naturally a very loyal person. I don’t know if it’s how I was raised or my German heritage. I am extremely loyal to people and loyal to my promises and commitments. But I learned along my journey that this strength can become a dangerous weakness.

For those people who work in the world of ministry, I find two big barriers to following your heart: calling and loyalty. Did you know that you can be loyal to a fault? You might find yourself in this situation: “I may be miserable but I am being obedient to God’s call on my life.” “He called me to this ministry so I have to tough it out.” I run into a lot of people in ministry that are quietly wasting away being loyal to God’s “call.” Call seems to trump misery in the Christian world of leadership.

I was hung up in this vicious cycle until God helped me break out.  I guess I blamed Him when really it was my own lack of insight into my heart.  I highly recommend you read Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings.  This book helped me jump off the diving board when I realized that there is a time to let go of loyalty for everyone’s best interest.  There is a season for hanging in there, but there is also the season for letting go.  If it’s your time, give yourself permission to let go.

I would encourage you to always follow your heart. You can trust your heart. People really do love following people whose hearts are filled with passion about the work they do. Do what you love, love what you do.  I was really encouraged during this journey by the words of a great entrepreneur who blazed a trail with his heart out front:

“There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust. But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all risks and rational argument, we believe that the path we are choosing is the right investing to do. We refuse to be bystanders, even if we do not know exactly where our actions will lead.” – Howard Schultz  – Founder and CEO of Starbucks

 So for those of you who I often meet that know you should move on but are afraid to do so, this final chapter is for you. I took the plunge three years ago and cannot tell you how exhilarating it is. I finally acted on following my heart – and God showed up for me big time. And I know He will show up for you too.

When it comes to leading at the top, we have to be all in or all gone. One of my own senior leaders pulled me aside one day and said, “Hans, we need a one hundred percent leader. You need to be all in or all gone. There is just too much at stake.” It took a lot of guts for him to say that to me, but he was right. When I got over my anger and defensiveness, I realized that God was whispering to me through this man. We leaders need to move on when our passion has left the building. That man saw it in me, and had the courage to call it out. It is not fair to the organization or the team to hang on for the wrong reasons. It’s better to leave too soon than to stay too long. Tentative leadership kills the momentum of the whole ministry.

So, after twenty years in the first chair, I decided it was time for me to step down as the leader of our international ministry. I was no longer all in, so I needed to be all gone. It was a job I once loved, but no longer enjoyed.  I asked the board to start the process of finding my replacement.  This was one of the hardest decisions of my career, but a good one. The number one issue for me was passion. My heart was no longer engaged in my job—the fire had gone out.  My heart had left the building.

 Like most little kids, I was afraid of the high dive at our local pool.  Do you recall climbing up that long ladder to the high dive and slowly walking out to the edge and looking down?  I was terrified.  I am afraid of heights and it took a lot of courage for me to climb up there, and much more courage to jump off!   I eventually became very good at diving, once I learned that there was no danger and that I would not die when I hit the water.

Well, I finally jumped.  And the results became a great new beginning.   I have never once regretted jumping.  What I do regret is that I took too long to jump… and wasted some good years in the neutral zone that I could have spent in my sweet spot of passion. I have gone on to start up a new career since I left that position two years ago.  I am doing what I love and loving what I am doing. Jumping out was the best decision of my life… scary but exhilarating. One of the Joshuas in the ministry I left took over for me and is doing a great job.  That is what I call a win-win for everyone.  I get to follow my heart and my former ministry is doing just great without me.

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway, ” so said John Wayne.  I saddled up and began to ride a long path of transition.  During that ride, I learned a lot.   I was not going to a new job, but creating something out of nothing. It would have been an easier road to look for another paying position, but like I have already said, I was led to stop trading hours for dollars. Instead, I decided to follow the passion of my heart and create something brand new from scratch.  In today’s economy, more and more people are doing this.  Especially later in life as an encore career.

Sometimes we live in the “land between” for a long time of transition.   I chose to write a journal in those days of leaving behind all I had known for decades in my secure job, to the new calling that was not very clear.  Over a period of eighteen months, I journaled  158 pages on my laptop.

Donna and I felt a bit like Abraham and Sarah, who were told to leave their home and all they had ever known and “go to a place that I will show you.”  That is where faith really comes into play…when the new plan is not all that clear.   I chose to document the journey and watch and see what God would do to lead us.   He gave me a few very precious promises that I hung onto.

I want to share just three of those promises with you in case they might encourage you as they did me:

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, My fortress where I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1,2 NLT

I had to learn that God would take care of me.  When everything I had known in my career seemed to be eroding like quicksand, I learned that at the bottom of all that sand is His rock. When I so often leaned on my gifting and resourcefulness to bail me out in my life, I had to learn that He alone was my fortress and strength.   He totally came through for me.

The other great promise God gave me in those moments of looking back with regrets and being overwhelmed with self-doubt and fear, was Isaiah 43:18,19. This is an amazing promise of God to make streams in the desert places. For me those were the places I hoped to go and the dreams I hoped to realize. He promised me that I would not fail. That we, Donna and I, would not become destitute. There was not a wilderness and a wasteland awaiting us, but a place of abundance and success.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19

After I jumped, God opened up so many new opportunities that I realized I was living my encore.  Every promise He made to me he kept.  They are the real deal.  I am mentoring and coaching leaders, podcasting, writing, speaking and working side by side with my wonderful wife, Donna, in so many great pursuits.  I put that baseball cap on and still go on walks wearing it.  And I always smile and give a quiet shout out to God for leading me to have the courage to now do what I love and love what I do.

 Launch Your Encore

The more I thought about the idea of an encore act in life, the more I wanted to write about it in another book. My friend, Rick Hicks, and I have written a book for all of you in your fifties and older, “Launch Your Encore”, Finding Adventure and Purpose Later in Life.” You can check out our website on the book and find some great resources for doing just that… launching your encore. And get the first chapter as a free download.

In the words of Max Lucado, “Your last chapters can be your best. Your final song can be your greatest.”

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2 Responses

  1. Wow! Powerful message, remarkable courage, encouraging words! Thank-you, I am sure I too will follow this advice when the time is right.

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