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So, what have I learned?

Well, the semester is over.  I graduated from CGA last week and now I’m gearing up to leave Gainesville and drive back home to Buffalo.  Now that I’ve got a journal full of notes and five months worth of experience to take with me to my next season, here are a few of the important lessons I’ve learned:

1.  I actually love teaching.  Who knew?

Early on in the semester, we talked about “redemptive gifts,” which are the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12: giver, teacher, ruler/leader, mercy, servant, exhorter, and prophet.  After taking the assessment and learning about each gift, it was apparent that I was the teacher, and by a very big margin. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with that result

The irony of this is not lost on me – I originally went to college to be a teacher, then after finally realizing that I didn’t want to do that after years of denial, dropped the education part of my degree at the last minute.  Since then, I’ve kind of had a bad taste in my mouth regarding teaching.

However, over the course of the semester, I’ve had a few opportunities to teach again, culminating in an end-of-the-semester assignment when we each had to teach the CGA class for a full hour.  I’ve realized that I really do have a gifting and passion for it, just not necessarily with kids or in a traditional classroom setting. “Redemptive gift” turned out to be a fitting term.

2.  Failure is actually not that big of a deal.

I’m going to take a second to hop on my millenial soapbox and say that it’s not true in the slightest that we don’t care about competition and achievement. (Nobody ever wanted a dang participation trophy – we all knew those were stupid).  If anything, the opposite is true. Even as we’ve finished school and moved on to “real life,” we’re still in that mindset that everything is for a grade and we must avoid failure at all costs.

But in the real world, there aren’t report cards.  Failure isn’t an end result – it’s a teaching tool.  You’ve failed at something? Cool, what have you learned?  Found something? Awesome. Now try again. If you haven’t failed at something lately, you might not be aiming high enough.  We miss out on too many opportunities in life because we’re afraid to do something we’ll be less than good at.

3. You have to know, lead, and love yourself before you can know, lead, and love others.

I think we all know this on some level, at the very least in theory.  But in practice we forget about it, especially in a Christian culture where service is encouraged, lauded, and maybe even idolized.  I also don’t think it a coincidence that there’s a lot of burnout in full-time ministry.

The first month of CGA was introspective and intense.  We spent our time deeply looking at ourselves, our weaknesses, our brokenness, and getting well-acquainted with who we were.  While on a surface level that doesn’t look like it’s conducive to ministry and leadership, but we didn’t stop there. You can’t build a house on a shaky foundation, so we bulldozed ours to rebuild it stronger.

And another principle to think about: If you are to love your neighbor as yourself, you can only love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

4. Start with “Why.”

Successful innovators, like Apple, Amazon, and even REI know something that gives them a huge advantage: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Your vision and plans for life all have a “what,” “how,” and “why.”  The what and the how will change, but the why is what determines both of them.  With a solid why, you can always be pursuing your passion even when the others change.  What you do always proves what you believe.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it would take me way too long to write about everything I’ve learned from my time here at AIM.  This is actually my final blog from the CGA page, as I’ve moved on to a new website for my year in Swaziland. Read and subscribe at

I also want to take a moment to thank a few groups of people:

-My CGA classmates, especially the ladies of “The Farm,” for being an awesome group of people to be in community with for this past season.

-The CGA Staff – Travis, Ana, Carson, and Ben – as well as all of the guest speakers and Adventures staff that have invested in us.

-All of my supporters and readers – your financial support, encouragement, and prayers have been more valuable than you will ever know!