Read an Excerpt
THE HAPPIEST LIFE
SEVEN GIFTS, SEVEN GIVERS & THE SECRET TO GENUINE SUCCESS
By Hugh Hewitt
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Dominion Productions
All rights reserved.
THE FIRST GIFT
Let us consider how we may spur one another in order to stir up love and good works ...
—The Epistle to the Hebrews
You have an unlimited supply of encouragement to give. For as long as you draw breath, you can encourage the people in your life. You don't have to know them, or you may see or meet them only once. But you can encourage them.
I have a pal, Jan Janura, who is a remarkable man. Jan and his wife, Carol, began a fashion company many years ago that many of my women readers will know: Carol Anderson. After they sold that company, Carol and Jan began CAbi, the largest in-home clothing line in the world. Jan calls himself a dressmaker, and credits Carol with all the fashion genius and himself with the smarts to marry her. Together they are extraordinary forces for the good in a thousand ways that I can only assert here for lack of time and space.
Jan's real calling is that of an encourager. Hardly a month goes by when I don't get a card from Jan bearing the quote of some saint or leader exhorting me to aim higher, strive harder, think longer, or pray more fervently. He is always ready with a quick "That was great what you did there," or "Wow, only you could have done that." He reaches into hundreds of lives and says, "More of that, please."
A few years back, Jan read the runaway best seller Wild at Heart and was moved by the message of this now-classic work of Christian living for men. Lots of people are. Millions in fact. But Jan did more than admire and resolve to do better in his own life by God and Carol: he resolved to give the gift of Wild at Heart to as many men as he could.
First Jan sent dozens and then hundreds of copies to everyone he knew and some people he didn't. He worried, though, that even those who read the book wouldn't "get it," so he began to organize fishing trips to his cabin on the Madison River in Montana—five days of fishing, good food, wine and cigars, and deep conversation about the most serious subjects. One trip became five, and five became ten, and now after years of this calling, more than five hundred men have been on one of these adventures, and that number climbs every year. In all this he partnered with Ken Tada who smiled, nodded, and executed a vision, complementing Jan's generosity with his own.
I got to know Jan in a roundabout way after hearing about him for years. He had begun his post-college life as a staff member for Young Life, one of the great Christian organizations in the world. For eighty years Young Life has reached out to high school students to tell them about Jesus Christ in a way that doesn't send them for the exits before the conversation has begun. This is called "relational ministry" by the deep thinkers, and it has its origin in the accounts we have of Christ's life in the Gospels. Jan was very, very good at being a Young Life leader, but after a few years of being that, he hungered for a life in business and went in search of it.
You never really leave Young Life, as I have learned, and all Jan's Young Life pals remained his pals. One of them is "Bud the Contractor," whom I frequently mention on my radio show and who is my very close friend. Bud is a giver of many, many gifts to me and to many others. Somehow, he got Jan and Carol to start listening to my radio show, which figured in the launch of my friendship with Jan.
My closest friend of many close friends is Bill Lobdell, a former Los Angeles Times reporter. Before leaving the news business a few years back, he was the Times's religion reporter and columnist.
Bill picked up this beat after having a profound religious experience at a men's retreat I took him to in the early nineties. Almost everyone who knows anything about Christianity would recognize this as a "born again" moment. Bill was transformed. So he sought and gained the reporting beat that would allow him to tell stories of God at work in the world.
Knowing that, you might be surprised to learn that Bill is also the author of a book titled Losing My Religion. It recounts the process by which Bill's faith disappeared. Short version: The Times assigned him to cover the sexual scandals racking the Roman Catholic Church. Bill did, over many years and in depth, and with great compassion for the victims, whether local to southern California or in remote Eskimo villages, where nearly every young man in each of the towns Bill reported from had been molested by a Catholic priest.
At the end of his reporting—which spanned several years and other various and sundry church and parachurch scandals—Bill was one very cynical agnostic. When he came on my show to discuss his book and his faith train wreck, Carol heard him and recalled that Bud knew both Bill and me. Through Bud, she set up a meeting for Jan and me to see about rekindling Bill's internal spiritual fire.
So out of the blue, Jan Janura showed up on my back porch to smoke a cigar and drink some wine and talk about getting Bill to Montana, which happened. What has happened to Bill since is another story, not my own, and he will tell it sometime, but what I can tell you is that Jan became my fast friend even though I hate to fish, and the guides at the Beartooth Lodge on the Madison hate me to fish as much as I hate to try. But I sure enjoy being with Jan.
Thus an encouragement machine was installed in my life. I already had one, my wonderful wife, and another in Bud and a third in Coach Jerry, more about whom later. But as wonderful and necessary as encouragement from a spouse is, it is not the same as third-party encouragement. When you speak or write words of encouragement to someone outside your family, you are kindling their self-esteem. (Ask yourself right now, who is the encouragement machine in your life? Then ask for whom are you that machine?)
Self-esteem is a fascinating quality. Too much makes a man or a woman at least a bore and perhaps even a narcissist. Too little turns him or her into an insecure shadow of a fully developed adult. The right amount, though—that is a wonderful thing. And also a precious, passing thing, like gas in the tank of a moving car. It needs to be refilled, mostly by self-generation and the right appraisal of efforts undertaken and jobs well done. This is what Arthur Brooks, the president of the country's most influential think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, calls "earned success." Earned success brings about self-esteem, but encouragement provides a valuable assist in creating and replenishing that self-esteem.
Do you think Sinatra, the Beatles, Bette Midler, Lady Gaga, or the next big thing were indifferent to encouragement? Certainly they relished it when they were not yet superstars.
How do I know that? Because I have interviewed a lot of great entertainers and read their memoirs, and all of them—among them Andy Williams, Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke—know and crucially name the people who thought they had the stuff of stardom when they were far from it, who gave them a break, who, in a word, encouraged them.
We tend to think encouragement matters less and less as we get older, but it matters more and more as the number of people in the sort of relationship capable of delivering that encouragement grows smaller.
It matters in an obvious way in the aftermath of defeat or failure, as when a friend has lost a job or a young person has been cut from a team or denied admission to a college or a grad school. It matters to every writer who has ever written a book, and to every producer, director, and actor who has worked the stage or screen, small or big. Musicians, chefs, preachers, and athletes all need encouragement. But so do accountants and bus drivers, stay-at-home moms and dads, and every teacher in the world. "You are very good at what you do" is gold.
But not wholly like gold because you have a limitless commodity of it at hand, as does every single person. At every moment of every day there is an opportunity to encourage if an e-mail can be sent or a comment made. You don't even need to know the person you are encouraging. If you observe a worthy thing—any job well done or action deserving of praise—you are empowered to say so.
The people most in need of encouragement in your life are those you are most closely connected to, including spouse, children, and parents. (I didn't say above that a spouse's encouragement wasn't a necessity, just that it wasn't sufficient in itself.) You can throw kindling on that fire of self-esteem every day, and you should.
I think the most important encouragement I have ever witnessed was that given by my wife to our daughter in the days after our first granddaughter was born. Our daughter was exhausted from the delivery, overwhelmed by the neediness of the baby, full to overflowing with new hormones and emotions, and though supported by a great husband and new dad, she needed to hear the truth from someone who had truly "been there and done that": she was doing a great job and would be a great mom. And she has been a terrific mom and will continue to be. That's what Betsy told her would be the case then, and that's what every new mom needs to hear and to continue to hear. I am sorry for those who don't have their own moms to hear it from. I hope others will whisper encouragement in their ears as nurses and doctors and neighbors so often do.
Experienced teachers encourage new men and women at the front of the classrooms. Those senior teachers owe the younger ones no gratitude, but they do provide great pick-me-ups after long first-times around the block. Older coaches do the same for younger ones.
In his book Work Hard. Be Nice., Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews tells the story of two out-of-their-depth and overwhelmed Teach for America rookies from the Ivy League who were thrown with little preparation into a tough inner-city Houston school. I will talk about these young men and what they started later in this book, but understand now that they were taken under the wing of an experienced African American woman used to the rough environment, who was skilled in producing achieving students. She taught these rookie teachers and, most important, kept their spirits up. Because of her encouragement, the rookies were later able to start a brand of charter school—KIPP or "Knowledge Is Power Program"—which has swept across the country revitalizing neighborhoods and providing genuine education to tens of thousands of students who would not otherwise have had it. All because one veteran teacher encouraged two rookies.
Chances are that someone encouraged you as a youth, as a young adult, and perhaps as a senior citizen. If that happened, it is likelier that you are yourself an encourager. If not, it is easier to understand why you haven't been giving away encouragement. It is a learned behavior.
Over and over again I have found that the people I most admire for the quality of their lives have been inveterate encouragers of others, always looking to push, prod, compliment, or cajole.
If you are not experienced in this habit, here's a suggestion: Start with the next complete stranger you encounter across a counter, whether at Starbucks, a movie theater, or an airline check-in. As you wait for your service, imagine what the best thing you could say to that individual could be, what might possibly be remembered later that day after they are home and off their feet, a recollection that would redeem a hard day or make a good one even better. "You are very good at this job," is the most obvious of all candidates. Give it a whirl.
Encouragement doesn't require sainthood or even near-sainthood, just an eye for accomplishment and/or effort and a willingness to remark upon it in a habitual, indiscriminate but truthful fashion.
Have you encouraged anyone today? Do you recall how they reacted to that word? Nothing is for sure, but genuine encouragement is almost everywhere and every time met with gratitude and joy. Sometimes sheepish. Sometimes embarrassed. But rarely insincere.
THE SECOND GIFT
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.
—The Book of Ecclesiastes
Louis Zamperini vanished from the public's mind for more than sixty years. The Olympian and World War II hero had come back from captivity to national acclaim, then to eclipse and a nasty fall into alcoholic despair. Then, as told by the amazing Laura Hillenbrand in Unbroken, Zamperini was back on the front pages of every paper and in the collective consciousness of a first shocked, then surprised and admiring country.
Years before Unbroken soared to the top of the best-seller list, my friend Linda Roberts had given me an autographed copy of Zamperini's memoir, Devil at My Heels. Linda and her husband, Mark Roberts (theologian, author, and my dear friend and pastor before he decamped to Texas), had known Louie as a fixture at Hollywood Presbyterian Church where Mark's mom had been on staff for years and where Mark began his pastoral career after his undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard.
Linda and Mark are the sort of deeply grounded Christian friends that everyone should have, and to whom everyone should listen. But when Linda suggested I read Louie's memoir, I didn't. So I was as surprised as the next person when his extraordinary story of heroism, endurance, and grace became as well known as the latest reality show star.
I reached out to Louie through Olympian John Naber who, as a fellow USC Trojan, was helping him navigate the rush of media invites Louie received after Unbroken appeared. Despite my love of Trojan bashing on air, the always-amiable Naber worked out a date with Louie, and the two arrived at my Orange County studio for an interview.
I asked my producer, Duane Patterson, to meet them in the parking lot and show them the way to the elevator. My studio is usually reached by a double flight of stairs, but Zamperini was over ninety, and I assumed—bad thing for a journalist—that he'd need the elevator. But no, Louie fairly leapt from the car, waved off Duane's directions, and bounded up the stairs, bursting into a studio that included my wife, my sister-in-law Jody, my niece Anne, and a few others. He embraced them all with hugs and handshakes and crashed into the studio itself with a hearty "Let's go"—which we did, live and on air for an hour. Then he was up, out, down the stairs, and off to a book signing for more than a thousand people, through which he sat cheerful and animated, a wonder and an inspiration.
Louie Zamperini embodied the gift of energy that day, an amazing flow of life and love that transformed every room into which he walked and person with whom he talked. He has the gift of energy, and he gives it away.
For a decade, I cohosted a nightly news and public affairs show for the Los Angeles PBS affiliate, KCET. The program was titled Life and Times, and my on-air colleagues included Patt Morrison, Kerman Maddox, and Ruebén Martinez. It was essentially a talking heads show of the sort that are common now on Fox News and MSNBC, but which didn't exist outside of the weekends in 1992.
Our senior producer was (and remains) an amazingly talented television professional, Martin Burns. From my first show to my last—I left the series when my radio show moved to the afternoon drive slot in 2002—Martin would crouch before the panel just as the green light was about to flash and say, "Energy." He knew energy in the hosts was the secret to good television. He may also have known it to be the secret to nearly everything that needs doing.
Energy is simply that, and needs no definition. It's the means to any end, and it can be given away in amazing amounts. Its opposite, lethargy, is just as easy to spot and carries exactly the opposite impact of energy.
People with energy energize others. Proximity is all it takes, which is a good reminder to stay close to the energetic. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis supplied the image of a fountain of energy. "If you are close to it, the spray will wet you," he said, "if you are not, you will remain dry."
I have been a runner for years now, though these days a slower, heavier runner than in my speedier days in the early eighties. (Amazed youngsters cannot believe my personal best of 3:13:42 in the 1983 Marine Corps Marathon, but look it up, o ye of little faith.) Two of the reasons I still get up and get out there are two guys—older than I am by more than a few years—whom I see on my regular rounds, one fellow with a big white mustache in my neighborhood, and the other invariably wearing a Purdue T-shirt down by the Huntington Beach pier. Both men cannot be said to be gliding anymore than I am, but both seem to be enjoying themselves and are motoring along as they have been for years and years. Their commitment, their example, their energy inspire me. They are, I think, at least a decade ahead of me in years, so I tell myself that as long as they are out there, I have at least ten years of morning runs ahead of me. They have kept their energy for running going. So can I.
Excerpted from THE HAPPIEST LIFE by Hugh Hewitt. Copyright © 2013 Dominion Productions. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.