Elev8Life is overjoyed to share a snippet from Dr. John Stahl-Wert upcoming book release “Grow Up!” Our leadership intensive, iDENTIFY IMPACT has been blessed by Dr. John’s generosity in utilizing his books amidst our curriculum’s 4-year cycle. Our “TLT” Tomorrow’s Leaders Today have enjoyed John’s serving leadership novels over the past few years and we look forward to using this new release this July 19-25th.  The message to Grow UP couldn’t be more timely!

EXCERPT”Grow UP!” by Dr. John Stahl-Wert


“How are you, Mike?” Will repeated. “Really, how are you? I want to know.”

That had been his question, hadn’t it? And I voluntarily launched straight into “my drinking problem.” Well, into what I knew had precipitated this outreach – Anna’s concern about my drinking.

“Um,” I began. Then I stopped, fixing my gaze on a flagstone to the left of Will’s feet. I looked back up at him; he was just waiting. I looked back down, and then I answered.

“Everything’s very difficult right now.”

A single nod from Will said, “I hear that.”

“I’m not selling business.”

A small, sympathetic grimace.

“My couple of clients, forgive me, are small time.”

An arch of Will’s eyebrows and scrunch of his eyes suggested a small note of disapproval. He extinguished the expression as quickly as it had appeared.

I fell silent.

     “Not used to starting from the ground,” Will offered.

It was true, as much as I hated to admit it. In Boston, I moved with the jet-stream of a national brand agency. I caught the draft of a lot of positive inertia that was already moving things in the direction I was going. When I showed up, there was a positive assumption that I was their solution. Selling was more price re-negotiation with satisfied clients who already knew they were buying more of what they had already bought. Will hit the nail on the head.

“So, there are a lot of difficulties,” Will repeated.

“I’ve been talking to six prospects over the past two months, Will. Prospects I thought were ready to go. And I’m treading water. Decisions keep getting kicked down the road, priorities shift from upper management, there’s no budget this quarter. I feel like I’m chasing ghosts.”

“Selling’s difficult,” Will repeated, nodding his head. I could see his mind filling out the worksheet called, “What’s wrong with Mike.”

“Obviously it’s more than this,” I then added, feeling now a little peevish. At what, I wasn’t sure. How petty this was sounding when my actual experience of life right now was so awful. Was I this small?

Will was nodding, his head bowed, his lips pursed, his eyes peering at me up through his eyebrows. Everything about his expression conveyed respect. Nothing indicated that he felt I was being small.

“Can I tell you what I think the real problem is?” I suddenly blurted. Will’s head came straight back up. I had gotten my own attention, too, as the thought I was about to share was both unbidden and completely new.

     “I don’t know if I know how to be what I’m selling!”

Will straight out guffawed. His grin was immediately as big as the house, his eyes suddenly dancing with joy. The burst of his exclamation was electrifying. “Now you’re saying something big, Mike!” he nearly shouted. Then he hooted. Hooted! “You’re trying to sell something that you’re still trying to become.”

I’m not sure what the look was on my face in that moment. Like a deer in the headlights of a speeding truck, I suspect. Will was too caught up in his joy to be dissuaded by my alarm that I had just made a complete fool of myself in my unrehearsed admission.

“Welcome, son!” Will then added, his face as delighted and warm as I had ever seen it, “to the party that is called life!

“You know, Mike,” Will plowed straight on, “I think life has been a little unfair with you.”

My thought exactly!

     “Really, all things considered, you’ve been able to pretty much glide through, up till now. A good looking young guy, very smart, snapped straight up out of the University of Michigan into an enviable firm that fast-tracked you every step of the way. Life has allowed you, Mike, to get away with not really having to grow up!”

I was flabbergasted. Dr. Turner’s left turn made me dizzy. Me? Glided through? Who was he kidding?

“Excuse me,” I stammered. I was suddenly hot, but this was the Rev. Dr. Will Turner, after all, Dad’s closest friend, my erstwhile mentor. “I’ve gone through some pretty terrible things.” I left it there; it didn’t seem decent to roll out the whole awful litany.

“Oh, of course you have, Mike. Of course you have.” Will was passionate, present, strong, facing me square on with the intensity of an atom smasher that had just driven the particle called truth hard into the particle called love.

“Terrible things have happened to you. Your Dad talked about his neglect of your boyhood, the neglect of his fathering. Devastating, Mike.” Will gave it a beat. “I know about your divorce. Unimaginable pain, Mike,” he added. “And Bob’s now gone, and you’re newly uprooted, and business is hard, and whatever’s going on with Anna. And, Mike, I know there’s even more than this, because I know life!” he said.

His litany wasn’t far off, and I was just absolutely perplexed.

“But it all happened to you, Mike. At least that’s how you experienced it. Bob abandoned you; you didn’t abandon him. And everything bad since has happened to you, or you felt like it had. I’m guessing you never saw that divorce coming,” he added.

Bull’s eye. What’s to say.

“You’ve suffered tons, son,” Will continued, his voice suddenly deeply raspy, much quieter, cresting over with feeling.

Will Turner and I looked at each other. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen next, but I knew exactly where I was right now.

“But your life has been like a boy floating down the stream,” he then said, his face imploring that I hear him out and not take offense. “You’ve suffered terribly, but you’ve never stood up, put your feet down into the stream bed, pulled yourself still in the middle of all that strong current, and stood up.”

My thought right there was that Will Turner was courageous. My thought was also that I liked this. Will had just struck a hammer of truth onto an anvil of reality, and I liked it. Even though the blow had struck me, it made me feel strong.

I took a breath.

“So, what do I do?”

     Will smiled. “Come on a journey with me, son,” he then said. “Let’s grow you up!”

I was in like Flynn. Everything Will had just said to me was stern, strong, forceful, even demanding. But none of it felt harsh or abusive. I needed to grow up. I did! I needed to be grown up, strengthened, and stilled so that I could occupy the ground that was my life. No more getting tossed this way and that! I’d lost so much, but Will had thrown me a lifeline. However bad Anna had made me look last night, Will was going to keep me in his life. And maybe, just maybe, I could keep me in my life, too. Well, find my way into my life, first of all, and then stay there!

I smiled a wan smile, and started to breathe.


Dr. John Stahl-Wert is a best-selling author, an internationally known speaker, and a leadership development expert. Through innovative training, collaborative workshops, and best-selling books, John has impacted leaders and organizations around the world. John serves as the President and Director of the Center for Serving Leadership, which provides leadership solutions based on The 5 actions℠ described in John’s best-selling book, The Serving Leader.

Connect with Dr. John – 

Email: John@CenterForServingLeadership.com

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