What if the world's view of success is God's definition of failure? What if your beliefs about marriage, children, career, or money aren't based on god's values, but on those of a broken culture?
When Dale Partridge's outwardly perfect life, marriage, and family were crumbling on the inside, he began questioning if culture's definition of success was something to seek after or to be saved from. What he found challenged everything he believed about "the good life" and equipped him to rebuild an even better life based on God's timeless design. Filled with scripture and practical application, Saved from Success is the book millions of burned-out and bedraggled Christians have been waiting for.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Dale Partridge is the founder and editor in chief of UnlearnChurch.org, a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and biblical house-church planter. With over 500,000 followers on social media and 500,000 monthly readers of his blog, Dale is a provocative influencer on the topics of church, family, manhood, and marriage. He is a trusted advisor to a variety of Christian publications and his work has been featured on Fox News, NBC, Christianity Today, Today, Good Morning America, Faithwire.com, and Huffington Post. Dale and his wife reside with their three children on their farm in Central Oregon.
Read an Excerpt
Succeeding at Failing
"I'm going to be a millionaire by the time I turn thirty."
It was a bold declaration for an eighteen-year-old to make to his dad, but I've never been timid. Plus, I believed every word.
Just three months prior, I watched my parents go through a vicious divorce that left our family in financial chaos, which meant I had to make my own way, and fast. I had just graduated high school in a small town in Southern California and was striking out on my own, determined to "make it." I walked out of my dad's house that day and dove headfirst into the real world with nothing to guide me except my brokenness and culture's definition of success.
The years between eighteen and twenty-four sped past in a blur. I worked eighteen-hour days and almost never took time off. I didn't backpack across Europe. I didn't road trip with friends. To be honest, I don't think I had one overnight trip in a four-year span. All I did was ... work. I launched a fitness company and a rock-climbing gym, a conference organization and an advertising agency. I even wrote and self-published a book.
My intensity and fanaticism did not go unnoticed. Money started rolling in, and the only thing that outpaced my salary was my lifestyle. I leased cars I couldn't afford and had parties bigger than my paycheck could finance. I even remember applying for a Best Buy credit card to purchase a ridiculous television that I "needed."
Even writing this, it seems gross. However, I was a respectful young man. I was polite, disciplined, responsible, and a Christian (which I later realized made it difficult for those close to me to critique my lifestyle). Nevertheless, everywhere I turned people commented about how I was "going places" and how I "had what it takes." Friends and family members expressed their pride and cheered me on. It became a perfect storm of affirmation that dialed up my drive, pushing me to perform harder and pursue more.
At age twenty-six, for the first time in my career, I began to feel the tension between what God said and how I lived in terms of money. Months later, I founded a socially conscious company called Sevenly, which donated a portion of its sales to good causes. In hindsight, my intentions were good; however, it was simply me slapping a big GOD sticker on my company in hopes of further validating my desperate need for approval from the moral community. And my subconscious strategy worked. Sevenly exploded to nearly fifty employees rushing around a gorgeous office in downtown Orange County just ten minutes from the beach. We generated hundreds of thousands in revenue each week, once even hitting a million dollars in a seven-day stretch.
Sevenly's success put me on the map in the world of entrepreneurship. I landed on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine and on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. I was featured on national television and radio programs. My name appeared on every "40 under 40" and "30 under 30" list in the marketplace. Jack Dorsey, the cofounder of Twitter and founder of Square, personally invited me to have a private lunch with him at his headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Then came Adobe, Panasonic, and Chick-fil-A, and even Facebook invited me to deliver a keynote presentation. I was the opening talk before Mark Zuckerberg's address at their private conference celebrating the social network's tenth anniversary.
I was the picture of success. At least according to culture's definition. I raked in a heavy six-figure salary, owned two homes, and drove luxury cars. My wife was a model, and my business was growing. People knew me and wanted to be like me. I had money, influence, and fame.
But on the inside, I was a wreck.
If you had asked me whether my life was fulfilling at the height of my "success," I wouldn't have hesitated: "Of course," I would have said, because I assumed that was what being fulfilled felt like. We only know what we've been taught, what we've seen, and what's been modeled for us. Sure, I had some issues, but what successful person doesn't? I was achieving everything the culture around me said was important.
I was burnt out and overstimulated, but I was generating great financial returns. My friendships felt strained, but hey, my social media following had skyrocketed. I didn't take time to relax; I'd have plenty of time to improve my work-life balance when I got older. My spiritual life had been reduced to scanning the daily Scripture verse on my phone's Bible app, but I wasn't a minister. I was an entrepreneur.
By 2014 I was drowning in success and my health was paying the price. Without warning, panic attacks would pounce on me, leaving me shivering midday in my bedroom. Insomnia had me wandering the halls of my house in the early hours of the morning. Over time, strange manifestations of stress emerged: rapid heart palpitations, stabbing stomach pain, and mysterious nerve twitches in my calves and cheeks. I rushed to the emergency room every few months for fear that I was dying.
The poor health of my professional life bled into my home life. I had married a wonderful woman in 2010, but our marriage was a disaster. I wasn't leading, and she had no one to follow. An unrelenting pressure descended on our house every time I walked through the front door and dragged my office stress in with me. In the evenings we would often sit just a few feet away from each other but felt miles apart. We were close, but we weren't connected. Women have a strong sense of intuition, and Veronica is no exception. She knew that her emotional protection, my health, and our spiritual well-being were not my priority. As a result, we lived like roommates playing house who shared a bed yet lived independent lives.
My life was constructed of toothpicks, and it finally collapsed on April 9, 2014, when a member of Sevenly's board informed me that I was being fired from my own company. Due to a recent algorithm change in how Facebook presented information, the company's growth had slowed dramatically. But more than that, I was informed of my blindness. My staff had turned against me. I lost their trust. I lost their respect. Ultimately, my pace of life and my prideful persona had caught me by the shirt and ripped it straight off my back.
There I stood, a few months shy of my thirtieth birthday. A millionaire. A broken, empty, miserable millionaire. I had lived up to the promise I'd made to my father twelve years earlier, but it had cost me more than I ever imagined. I thought I was succeeding at success, but I was actually succeeding at failing.
Bumping Into Truth
Someone once told me that there's no feeling more depressing than climbing the ladder of success only to realize that you're on top of the wrong building. I realized how true that is after I was fired from Sevenly. Over the next year, I was brought low. Awkwardly, painfully, humiliatingly low. I tried to hide it. To justify it. To spin it. To ignore it. In every possible way I was running from it. But I knew I needed to make some serious changes in my life. It was like I was withdrawing from a drug. I had been addicted to culture's definition of success, and I was in desperate need of rehab.
Veronica and I realized we needed a new start, so we sold our homes, packed up, and moved our family to a small town in central Oregon. The pace was slower, the traffic lighter, the air fresher. I felt confident that I had made the right decision for our family.
Shortly after arriving, Veronica and I had a fight. We were sitting upstairs in the tiny apartment we were renting, but the conversation made me feel as if we were back in our house in Orange County. She was crying over what seemed to be a relapse into my previous behavior and unreasonable work schedule. I argued, "I'm so close to creating the dream we've been talking about. Slowing down doesn't make sense right now." And at that exact moment — ding! — I received a text message from a pastor whom I hadn't spoken with in months. It read, "Dale, God wanted me to tell you this: 'Dale, I love you and I am for you. Your dreams will happen by My strength.'"
Like a wave of love crashing over my soul, I immediately broke down in tears. The timing was too precise not to be divine. Veronica wept as well. We realized that the God of the universe was literally listening to our conversation. This faith we had and this Jesus whom we followed were real, and in that moment, we genuinely started our new lives.
Just a few weeks later, I attended a birthday party for my friend's son. That's where I met Matt, a six-foot-three, gray-haired guy with eight kids. From the moment we first spoke, I realized Matt had a level of calm and maturity I'd never encountered before. He was kind and compassionate, embracing me just as I was, but he also was honest in speaking the truth. He had an extraordinary family, a thriving marriage, and a level of spiritual authority beyond any Christian I had known.
I'd had several mentors since deciding to follow Jesus twelve years earlier. I had even spent time with renowned counselors, coaches, and pastors. But I had never been discipled by someone until I met Matt. Together, we began to think critically about what success meant. From family and marriage to money and maturity, I began unlearning and relearning what the Christian life was intended to look like.
One of the first questions he asked me was about the Bible. Did I believe it was "the Word of God"? I wasn't sure what he meant, so he asked it another way.
"Is your heart yielded to the Scriptures or do you simply have a smorgasbord approach to your faith?"
I'd never heard the phrase "smorgasbord approach," but it wasn't long before I realized that's exactly how I was living. I took the Bible seriously only when I understood it or when it made sense to my emotions, but I ignored its commands in those areas that were culturally costly or difficult to swallow. Ultimately, the way I was living wasn't consistently matching up to the way God instructs us to live.
So it began. Over the coming months we met almost daily. Whenever I would begin reverting to my previous view of success, he would place a passage of Scripture before me and say, "Here's what the Bible says on that. Now what are you going to do about it?"
Over time, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I began to transform my thoughts from cultural to Christian. I learned that who I come home to is more important than the house I come home to. I learned that people are more impactful than places. I learned that God's approval was more significant than earthly fame. I learned that money isn't the measure of my worth.
Matt lived by the slogan "If you believe wrong, you'll never live strong." In other words, the way we think determines the paths we take. And I was thinking unbiblically. I had accepted lies as truth.
Our mind-sets and our results are deeply connected. Because many leaders today have a broken view of success, they live broken lives. I was one of these leaders. But through my relationship with Matt, I began to redefine the terms I'd been living by. I was saved from "success."
Popular, Meet Superior
Before we dive in, let's perform a little thought experiment. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine that you're continuing down your current path with your current definition of success. You keep working as hard as you're working. And you keep prioritizing the things you're prioritizing. And you keep experiencing the strains that are weighing you down. What will your life look like in three to five years? Will your relationship with your spouse be stagnant or thriving? Will your connections with your children be healthy or hollow? What will be the state of your mental and physical health? And what about your relationship with God?
If you're anything like I was, imagining your future can be underwhelming at best.
Most Christians don't know they're on the wrong road. Most of us have good intentions for prosperity and wealth and influence, but deep down we know our hearts have veered slightly off track. We somehow forget that our small detours from God's way of living become big canyons in the not-so-distant future. We fail to remember that a little bit of the world's way can prevent us from His way. For many of us it's not on purpose. It's a slow fade — like a lobster in warm water too oblivious to realize he's being cooked. The trick is waking up, turning back, and moving Godward.
The world's definition of success according to the Oxford dictionary is: "the attainment of popularity or profit." The thesaurus's list of synonyms includes prosperity, affluence,wealth, fame, reward, and opulence. While most of us might not admit that our definition is this shallow, the things we devote our lives to tell a different story. My journey has taught me something important: a fish doesn't know it's wet.
So what if I told you that success is the opposite of what you have been taught? What if I showed you that everything you believe about achievement and fulfillment is faulty? What if I said that you've spent your life pursuing a lie that will only lead to disappointment? Would you be offended? Would you reject my suggestion as wrong?
The older I get and the longer I live, the more I realize that culture's way of success is simply foolishness. That the direction of the majority is actually the opposite of maturity. That what is popular is almost never superior, and trendy does not equal better.
The world's "advice" will often take more than you're willing to give and leave you in a worse place than you started. For example, most people are in debt, most people watch television, most people look at pornography, most people work for someone else, most people don't have a retirement plan, most people get divorced, and most people rent their homes rather than own them.
Do you want to be like most people? Me neither.
One of the wisest men who ever lived, the apostle Paul, once wrote, "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."
Veronica and I have always been extremely cautious about doing "what most people do." In our experience, when we see a metaphorical crowd, we stop and ask, "Why is everyone running over there?"
Most people are fighting for a vision of success that, in reality, is a failure. Most think their notions of success are rooted in wisdom when they're actually rooted in folly. Most people are straining to be rich and famous but have ended up relationally and morally bankrupt. Most people don't even think twice. Most people just chase what everyone else chases. Most people desire what the media and culture have taught them to desire. In turn, most people create the same life everyone else creates.
Interestingly, this isn't my idea. The Bible clearly warns us about the risks involved in a life lived inside the majority. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:13–14, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (emphasis added).
Convinced yet? You may be thinking, Dale, I'm a Christian and I follow Jesus. I go to church and I already understand what's right and wrong. How does this apply to me? The Bible says, "Take heed lest [you] fall." Sadly, Christians are not exempt from this cultural-success disease. Some may be creative at sanitizing their actions to appear holy, but in my experience, many if not most church-going Christians have been infected with this counterfeit definition of success deep in their bones.
Ultimately, you don't have to be like most people. You can choose to go right when everyone runs left. You can cultivate a deeper and more fulfilling life by embracing a biblical way of thinking and living. What this world calls "the smart direction" isn't the right direction. What is trendy or common is actually foolish and unwise.
True success is often counterintuitive to how our culture defines it. In other words, being weak is strong. Being quiet is loud. And being last is first. In the pages that follow, I want to take you on the journey I started years ago under Matt's discipleship. To challenge what you've come to believe success looks like. To put the Scriptures before you and say, "Here is what the Bible says. Now what are you going to do about it?"
Excerpted from "Saved from Success"
Copyright © 2018 Dale Partridge.
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.
Table of Contents
Critical Introduction xi
00 Succeeding at Failing 1
01 Marriage 19
02 Children 37
03 Money 55
04 Purpose 67
05 Influence 81
06 Freedom 91
07 Youth 105
The Golden Calf 115
Finishing Well 125
About the Author 131