Archives For talent

Everyone wants to be a Peyton Manning. A Bill Gates.  A (pre-Waterworld) Kevin Costner.  A Chris Daughtry.  A Jimmy Fallon. I would give anything to be a Tiger Woods (for the golf people…the golf).

An extreme talent with extraordinary gifts. All the opportunity. All the intangibles. The ability to emerge from anonymity because we own a skill very few others possess.

So we nobly work hard at doing something that that no one else can do. To differentiate ourselves.  To rise above the crowd and be noticed.  Sometimes that even includes complete stupidity (see: any cast member of MTV’s Jersey Shore or with the last name Kardashian).


But the older I get (and the longer I’m in leadership), the less impressed I am by people who can only do things nobody else can do. Sure, that’s one way to stand out. But what if there’s a more accessible way?

Here’s a little idea I’ve been throwing around (you can have this for free):

Instead of solely pursuing the difficult things that few can do.  Try being diligent with the easy things that few will do.

Anyone can set an alarm clock and get out of bed in the morning.

Anyone can be respectful of other people.

Anyone can show up when they said they’d be there.

Anyone can give their best effort every time they’re called upon.

Anyone can arrive on time (or maybe even a few minutes early).

Anyone can lay their ego down and serve someone else’s interests.

Anyone can tell the truth and keep a promise.

None of these things take any special talent. Any God-given prodigy.  Or 10,000 hours of practice.  Anyone can do them. But they will make you stand out like no one else (because very few people actually do).

So here’s a little secret to add to a repertoire of living a life that matters:  Do the easy stuff that everyone can do, but very few will do. Then you might actually still be around when that opportunity comes to change the world.

If you’re feeling a little paranoid, guilty, or that I’m talking directly to you, that’s OK.  I probably am.

Because I’m talking to me, too.

Just Worship (Remix)

Erik Cooper —  March 12, 2010 — Leave a comment

Sorry for another video post, but I have to put this out there.  Love bragging on other people, and my friend Mike Perez deserves some major kudos (not just for his talent, but because he embodies in his life everything he expresses in his art).

Many of you have already heard Mike’s spoken word piece “Just Worship” that he so powerfully shared at the close of our City Community Church message series called [blank] last month.  Well, Mike and one of my other favorite creatives, Adam Bocik, re-recorded the audio and set it to music along with visual images.

Enjoy…and do us a favor, pass this along to other people who need to remember what real worship is all about.  Thanks for the reminder Mike.

Painter or Artist?

Erik Cooper —  November 25, 2009 — Leave a comment

My friend Davy has really impressed me over the years. When I first met him, I knew him as a stellar, young guitarist who joined the music team I was leading.  A few months later, I found out he was an absolutely fabulous singer (think Adam Lambert’s range without all the, well…disturbing stuff).

About a year into our friendship, I learned he was into graphic design.  I thought, “awe that’s nice, this kid likes to draw.”  Then a few months later he took up photography (like, from scratch…never done it before).  I was impressed.

But the world was going the way of the internet (not sure if you heard that or not), and he didn’t really know how to do web programming or development.  Until he did.  Taught himself. Did this kid ever stop?

Watching Davy helped me realize something important.  He isn’t pencil sketcher.  A painter.  A computer designer.  He doesn’t just take pictures or write web code.  He is an artist.  And he’s willing to use whatever medium presents itself to bring to life what was is really inside of him.

I want to be the same way.  But how many of us get caught up in the expression of who we are instead of, well, who we actually, really are?

A lot of people have asked me if I miss doing music full-time.  In some ways I definitely do.  Music has been a life-long passion, and the piano a technical pursuit since I was just four years old.  I was just beginning to see my dreams of songwriting and record production come to life when we stepped away to start City Community Church.  Sounds crazy.  But I’ve tried hard to define myself by what’s inside of me, not by the way it comes out.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and my purpose is to bring God’s Kingdom alive in the world. Today that expresses itself, not through music, but in co-leading a brand new community of believers.  Through speaking and teaching.  By writing and blogging.  Through sitting across a table from real people as they process life, what it means to genuinely encounter Jesus, and if they really buy into all that or not.

I’m not a musician or songwriter, a teacher, a writer, a pastor. That’s just what I do.  And hopefully I can effectively use those expressions to accurately bring the redemption of Christ to life in this broken world.  I want to constantly work on who I am, and who God is becoming in me. The outflow always starts from there.

What’s driving your expression? Is there any substance behind what others see?  Are you nurturing what lies under the surface?  What’s at the source?  Are you an “artist” or just a “painter?”  What defines you?

Rock Stars

Erik Cooper —  October 7, 2009 — 5 Comments

Most of us are oblivious to what lives inside of us.  We live in slow motion, in monotonous routine, because somewhere deep in our souls we don’t believe we have influence, that we matter, that the world has any need for the things that we allow to lay dormant inside of us.

We’re in a culture inundated with inspiration, self-help books, mind-stimulating podcasts and messages, more self-esteem builders and delivery methods than any time in all of history.  Yet I’m convinced that most of us fight feelings of worthlessness and mediocrity more than we realize or are willing to admit.  We’re blind to our own potential.

We’ve ingested, perhaps even subliminally, our personality-driven culture (definitely prevalent here in America, but becoming a reality in all areas of the developed world).  We all want to be rock stars (yeah, I see you playing air guitar in your office to those old Journey tracks you just downloaded from iTunes).

Our approach to life proves our underlying belief that if we’re not gifted in something that gets noticed by the masses, then we’re really not gifted at all.  And in this new age of technology and a flattening globe, our self-defined value is becoming tied to things like blog subscriptions and Twitter followers.

And because we can’t determine how to influence thousands, we choose to influence…no one.

In risk of turning this into just another self-help post, you really do have something of value to add to the world. You were created to make a difference in someone else’s life.  You just may not believe it.  You may have to dig a little deeper to find it.

Don’t confuse creative capacity with artistry. Just because you’re not a singer, a painter, a writer, a front-of-the-room communicator doesn’t mean you don’t have amazing creative potential to offer to the world.  In fact, just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you’re creative.  I know plenty of artists who are just cheap copies and phony imitations of others.

So what has God placed inside of you that needs to come out? To be expressed?  To find life and breathe life?  You may never be globally known, play a stadium gig, or write a best-seller.  But will you cheat the world of the innovative capacity you were created to bring forth? What if the very thing you have to offer could drastically change one person’s life, but you never pursue it?  What if you choose to give in to your own insecurities?  To believe that only mass influence is real influence?

What do you need to risk?  To release?  To create?  To invest?  Will you live the adventure or just play it safe?  Don’t be blind to your own potential.  The possibilities are endless, but you have to realize what’s inside of you that just might need to come out.

Using God

Erik Cooper —  September 30, 2009 — 4 Comments

Confession time.  I think we use God.

Now maybe that statement takes you back, or maybe it’s as obvious as the nose on Owen Wilson’s face.  Either way, it’s true.  If we’re really honest…I mean really honest…most of us would have to admit we like having God, or at least the idea of Him, in our lives for relatively selfish reasons. It can easily become more about the pursuit of happiness than truth.

And in America, more than any other country on earth, the “God-subculture” provides big opportunity to capitalize on that self-interest.  There’s big possibilities in the “God-business” (and not just for full-time ministers).  We have Christian versions of everything: music, movies, television (God help us all), books, schools, seminars.  Even our churches themselves become big platforms for aspiring artists, speakers, teachers and thinkers.

And (hear me very clearly here…seriously, are you listening?) none of these things are wrong in and of themselves.  In fact, there’s a lot right about it (except for Christian television…I’ve got nothing there).  I’m glad we have talented believers in Jesus Christ dreaming big, creating cultural goods to launch into the world, reigniting creativity and the arts, making our local communities and church gatherings full of vibrancy, and life.  I hope I’m one of them.  But here’s the haunting question:

Are we ever guilty of using God, His Kingdom, His people, His Name as just another of the many available avenues to fulfilling our own, self-promoting aspirations? Is the Kingdom we’re pursuing truly a call to service, to death-to-self, or is it just another vehicle for self-absorbed people (who maybe couldn’t make it to “market” through more traditional means) to achieve their 15 minutes of fame?  I don’t like asking that question.  It makes me uneasy.

The Message paraphrase of Matthew 7:23 puts it in another uncomfortable way:

“All you did was use Me to make yourselves important.”

Ouch.

I don’t enter this dialog with judgment or condemnation.  I’m just learning to live in the tension, to never allow myself to fly forward unchecked without moments of deep introspection or wrestling with the difficult questions.  To never stop diagnosing my motivation, what I see, what I’m pursuing, and why.  I’ve learned my broken humanity too well.

So, what do you think?  Do you ever use God? Is the Kingdom you’re pursuing a way for you to give, to serve, to bring God’s hope and new life into this broken world?  Or is it just another method, an avenue, a vehicle for you to get your fair share from the system? Have you simply invited God into your story, or have you allowed your true purpose to come alive in the role you were designed and destined to play in His?