(The following is a transcription from a video I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)
Today, I am sitting down with Mark Batterson, who is a prolific writer. And I am super excited to share our conversation with you!
He is actually a New York Times bestselling author of over 20 books. One of the bigger titles in his body of work, in which you might have heard of already, is The Circle Maker.
In this book he teaches a new way to pray, by drawing prayer circles around your dreams. It’s such a great book and something I recommend reading.
He has now authored a new book called, Win The Day which I’ve begun to dive into, and I’m really excited about it.
Before we get into the habits of the truly successful, I recorded my conversation with Mark, and if you’d rather watch and listen to our discussion, you can do so here (if not, you can read the transcript below):
Changing Your Focus
Bob: At the beginning of this book, I read through the introduction and I was hooked, it’s really great. You mentioned this quote by Thomas Carlyle, this guy from ages ago, and he says this, “Our grand business, undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
You go on to explain that, Sir William Osler, he had all this success because of that one particular quote and how it impacted him so much. I like what you said. He said, “Instead of fixating on things that lie dimly in the distance, concentrate on what lies clearly at hand. Simply put focus on inputs rather than outcomes.” Can you chat a little bit about that?
Mark: Yeah. Well, Sir, William Osler was the father of modern medicine, gave this speech at Yale University. I love studying commencement speeches because in about 10 minutes you get people’s philosophy of life.
Mark: Here he is talking to these Yale students and his message is, live in day-tight compartments. You’ve got to bury dead yesterdays. You can’t worry too much about unborn tomorrows. No matter what goal you’re going after, problem you’re trying to solve, habit you’re trying to establish, it happens one day at a time. That really is the heartbeat of the book, Bob, that every day in a sense, is the first day and last day of our lives.
Bob: Yeah. Let’s talk about that. The daytime compartment thing, that really resonated with me. Just this idea of, because I think so many of us get caught up in our one-year, five-year, ten-year goals and all these things. Like you mentioned in the book, we also get bogged down by all of our failures in the past that keep us from stepping out. I love this idea of just operating in a day-tight compartments. Can you expand on that a little bit? Explain what you mean by that and what that looks like practically.
Mark: Yeah. Maybe I have a little bit of fun with it. I don’t know why this pops into my mind, even though it is one story I tell in the book. Last year, the Washington Nationals started out the season terrible. My office is a few blocks from their stadium and I think there were in last place. I think they had a .1% chance of making the playoffs and here they end up winning the World Series. But I love the message that their coach, Dave Martinez, he said to the team, at a critical moment. He said, “let’s go 1-0 today.” That was the message.
Sometimes Bob, I think we get these losing streaks and they can happen emotionally or relational, even financially or spiritually. We give up on ourselves or we give up on God. What we have to do, if we’re going to flip the script, is we’ve got to 1-0 today, this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. The Lord’s prayer, we wish it said, give us this month or monthly bread, but that’s not what it says.
Mark: It’s daily bread.
Bob: Yeah. That’s really good.
Scheduling Your Day
Bob: Yeah. I’m trying to think, in terms of me scheduling out my day, each day, or I’m curious how you adjust your scheduling. How has this mentality and this mindset affected how you plan? I mean, because I think there’s still value in thinking beyond today, but yeah, I’ll let you comment on that.
Mark: Yeah. I love the question and I’ll answer it in a goal- oriented way.
Mark: When I was 22, Bob, I felt called to write, but it’s not a natural gifting. In fact, I had taken assessment that showed a low aptitude for writing. Whatever you do, don’t write books. I did. I read 3000 books before I wrote one. What I did was I started taking proactive steps, but still, I’m staring at 35 and I don’t have a book to show for it.
What I did, is I set a goal that I’m not going to turn 35 without writing a book. It was a self-published book. But, what I did then for 40 days, is I disciplined myself to write every single day. Now, is that the best book I’ve ever written? No. But I proved to myself that I was able to do it. So much of this is reverse engineering and I would even say this, people who asked me, how do you write a book? My short answer, set your alarm clock very early in the morning, because that’s where we get down to business and we really manage time.
Bob: Yeah. That’s a really good point. A good friend of mine, Jeff Goins is another writer in town, here in Nashville. He has written a handful of books and he put a post up on Facebook that just revolutionized my thinking as I’m working on this book now, and as I’ve been writing. He essentially said, “Every single morning I get up. I go to the same coffee shop. I sit at the same table, get the same cup of coffee, and I write, (I think it’s) 500 words every single day.”
I’ve done that and that’s written me three or four books. That’s written hundreds of blog posts and I just follow that same pattern, that same habit, doing the work every day. As soon as he did it, it just clicked for me that I, I just picked up that habit and just started doing it because for years, I’ve been a writer for many years, I would try to batch it.
I would have one day a week where I would go on a marathon, where I’d write for six hours. Inevitably, so many of those days, it would just be a bad writing day. I would just not get much done and feel like it’s not going anywhere, and it just didn’t work for me. There are some people that can work like that. But for me, I’m like what you’re talking about, this is a consistent thing of doing the work each day, focusing on that, getting that done. That has made all the progress, and it’s been so great for me in this process I’m in now. I love that.
Mark: Yeah. That’s encouraging isn’t it?
Mark: Because you don’t have to be a rocket scientist. It literally is about showing up. It’s funny, what I do, just to share a little bit behind the scenes, because I’m not naturally gifted as a writer, I have this little routine where I take my shoes off when I’m in a writing season. To me, it’s a reminder that it’s Holy ground.
Bob: That’s good.
Mark: Then I literally, I don’t type with the keyboard. I worship God with 26 letters of the English alphabet. It’s this mindset. Then I take my shoes off. It gets me into the flow or a zone. Then, when it’s all said and done, we even chatted about this idea before the podcast, I actually recruited a team and said, “Let’s pray that God puts the right book in the right hands at the right time,” so that then a book sold, isn’t a book sold. It’s a prayer answered. It really is a spiritual exercise.
Bob: That’s really good. Yeah. I love that. That’s so good. All right. There’s another quote from this book that I really like, just really powerful idea, and I’d love for you to chat a little bit about this. “Time is measured in minutes and life is measured in moments. Can we talk a little bit about that?
Mark: Yeah. We could add on to that, that the days are long, but the years are short.
Bob: Yeah, yeah.
Accumulate Experiences Not Possessions
Mark: I think, I live by a little mantra. “Don’t accumulate possessions, accumulate experiences.”
Mark: There’s this, if it’s okay, there’s this little microcosm of this guy. We don’t know his name, but he’s called the Rich Young Ruler. We know he has a lot of wealth. He has a lot of life in front of him, probably, and he’s in a position of power and he just couldn’t quite let go of that possession. Here he is, offered an internship with the Son of God. Think about all of the miracles he could have witnessed. He could have been there when Jesus walked on water. He could have ate the miraculous catch a fish, but he traded all of those miracles because he opted for possessions instead.
I think, the challenge there is we get so caught up in the minutes and listen, I advocate for stewarding minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months. Okay. We’ve got to be, if we don’t control the calendar, it controls us. But there’s this Greek word, Kairos, which is about time and opportunity. It’s perceiving the moment and the gift that those moments are. All too often, in our culture, we’re more focused on getting the selfie than really fully experiencing the moment. That really is the heart of that part of the book.
Bob: Yeah, that’s really good. I actually have this little, I want to read this passage because this is what you just mentioned. You said, “The only way to be fully alive is to be fully present and the only way to be fully present is to live in day-tight compartments. For too many of us, life feels like the meaningless passage of time between far too few meaningful moments. Even when they do come along, we take selfies instead of being fully present. We miss the moment because we’re living in the wrong time zone. We’re so fixated on the past and so anxious about the future, that we miss the present and then we wonder where life went.” It just hits home. It’s so strong, in our Instagram culture. Yeah. It’s like, yeah.
Mark: Yeah. Bob, is there one of those moments for you? I’ll give you a second to think about it, but I shared this story about the top of the Empire State Building moment.
Bob: Yeah, yeah.
Mark: Then, I share about a moment in my life at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Those are, those moments are such gifts from God. I’m just curious. Is there, as you were reading it, was there a moment that popped into your mind?
Bob: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of moments. I want more of them, but yeah, for me, there’s a spot on this trail in Sedona I went to Sedona for the first time, a couple of years ago and went hiking around there and I’m, it’s just absolutely so beautiful. It looks like heaven. It looks like heaven. I was with my brother-in-law and my son and his sons. Yeah, it was one of those moments where it’s like, I wish I could hang on to this and that, I’ll never forget. Like what you’re talking about and yeah, I want more of those. I want to fill my life up with those.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. That’s, some of it is a mindset. At the base of the brain stem, there is this reticular activating system that determines what we notice and what goes unnoticed.
Bob: Yeah, yeah.
Mark: It’s funny because this is really a rabbit trail, but I’ve found that keeping a gratitude journal, almost sanctifies my reticular activating system and forces me to look for those little moments every single day. Because, if we don’t, at the end of the day, what we’re remember is rush-hour traffic, the person that we work with that maybe wasn’t quite as courteous as we had hoped, the insult on social media, and we accumulate all of this stress and anxiety, instead of really having a mindset towards, okay, what is the moment today? There’s going to be a moment today where I can experience God’s presence and really realize how blessed I am.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. That’s good. I’m a parent right now, with three little kids, and so there’s a lot of really beautiful moments, and a lot of really stressful, difficult parenting moments.
Bob: It’s so easy to let the stressful moments, because with kids, they can flip a switch. They can be like, whatever, are behaving so poorly and then instantly be so cute and adorable, and be the thing that I want to soak this up forever. I know this isn’t going to last forever. Yeah. That can really be a challenge just staying in that moment and not letting it be tainted by what’s on both sides of it.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s funny, since we’re on the subject of kids and my kids are a little bit older. In fact, we just, my youngest son just went to college. We actually went out and got a puppy and it’s sort of the same experience, awfully cute, with pretty sharp puppy teeth. On that subject, one of my favorite facts is that the word diaper spelled backwards is repaid. I’ll just leave that out there.
Bob: That’s good.
Mark: The way I think about it is, we have three kids. It divides our energy by three, but it multiplies our joy by three. So, it just comes with the territory. Such is life.
Daily Habits That Help You Stress Less And Accomplish More
Bob: Yeah. That’s good. That’s good. All right. Let’s talk a little bit about this. One of the habits you mentioned in the book and so the title for anybody listening, definitely check out this book, Win The Day. Let me go back to maybe get your subtitle right. Seven Daily Habits That Help you Stress Less and Accomplish More. Definitely, check that out.
Eating The Frog
Bob: One of these habits you talked about was this idea of eating the frog, which I believe was Mark Twain, or somebody came up with that, right?
Mark: Yeah, yeah.
Bob: You said, “If you want God to do the super, you need to do the natural.” With what we do with SeedTime, we focus on helping believers, win with money, to be the best possible stewards, and to honor God with that increase.
We talk a lot about paying off debt and Linda and I, we had a challenging debt story, a big pile of debt we had to overcome. I remember going through that process and looking at this mountain and saying, “All right, God, I’m going to step into this. I want to pay this thing off. I believe it’s going to be honoring to you to do this. This is going to take, when I do my math, it’s going to take a long, long time, but I’m going to step into this and I’m praying for your guidance, your strength to help me do this.”
We watched God miraculously sweep in so many different times, so many different ways to speed up that process so much faster. We did what we could do in our natural strength, and God did the supernatural. Over the years, as I’ve talked to readers and podcast listeners, I have heard that so many times, that same story over and over and over again. I think God just loves helping us pay off debt. All that to say, yeah. Talk a little bit about this idea. What can you add to that? Is there anything else here? Are we talking about the same thing?
Mark: We are. I mean, the idea of eating the frog is you do the hardest thing at the beginning of the day.
Mark: Then, the hardest thing is behind you. It’s, well, you can’t break the law of sowing and reaping. It will make or break you. But I love that mindset. So, we don’t forget, we ought to at least talk about that seven habits, seed the clouds a little bit.
Bob: Let’s talk about it. Let’s go.
Mark: But, one other thought, as it relates to eat the frog and this idea that if you want God to do the super, you have to do the natural. A couple of years ago, Bob, my wife, in her mid- forties is diagnosed with cancer. It’s one of those things that comes out of right field.
Mark: Two things were game-changers. One, she read this piece of poetry and it asked the question, “What have you come to teach me?” It totally flipped her mindset, and almost began to see cancer as a teacher. We started doing the hard work. We were praying for a miracle. We were believing that she would get to cancer-free, and she is now.
Mark Batterson: But, you know what? We had to do the hard work. I mean, we totally changed diet. We started going to comedy clubs more because laughter do us good, like a medicine. We started practicing gratitude as more of a daily discipline and we eliminated some of the toxins in our environment. Just a word of encouragement to people, the title of this book is not Win The Lottery. It’s Win The Day.
Bob: Yeah. Yeah.
Mark: It’s not waiting for something crazy to happen. It’s about doing the hard work day in and day out. When we do that, when we eat the frog, I think that we end up experiencing, God ends up doing more than what we would have imagined.
Bob: Yeah. Yeah. So good. All right. Yeah. Let’s talk about the other habit you were talking about, sowing the seed or something?
Mark: Yeah. Seed the clouds.
Seed The Clouds
Bob: Seed the clouds.
Mark: Well, I mean, we’re cut from the same cloth because there is … Listen, I think relationally, physically, spiritually, all of those are areas I’ve tried to grow in over the years, but I have to say it’s financially that we’ve had some of the most fun and we’ve got to make those decisions that really position us for the way that God wants to bless us.
The very first thing God does after creating Adam is to bless him. This is God’s most ancient instinct. No good thing will God withhold from those who walk uprightly before him. I have no doubt that God wants to bless us, but we have to, through obedience, really position ourselves for that.
Just as we, seed the ground, we also can seed the clouds. I have a little bit of fun with that idea that actually meteorologically, about 50 years ago, we discovered you can put some dry ice into the clouds and actually make it rain.
Mark: Yeah. hat do we need to sow today to reap a better tomorrow? It sounds like that’s the heartbeat of your mission and what you’re trying to accomplish, even that seed metaphor.
Bob: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Mark: We want things to happen at the speed of light, but biblically things generally happen the speed of a seed planted the ground that has to take root and bear fruit.
Bob: That’s so true. That’s so true. Yeah. Yeah. I liked that you mentioned the obedience factor because I think that is so overlooked by so many people. When I look back at my life over the last 15, 20 years, when, I would say that I’ve really been all-in serving the Lord, I’ve watched God do these miraculous things, but it was always the result of a small step of obedience, or sometimes really big step of obedience, but small inkling from God to do it.
But, it was always something where it’s, there’s no way that this will ever amount to anything. Why would God want me to do this? It just seems like that’s a pattern that he’s led us down and without those acts of obedience, we wouldn’t have seen the resulting fruit.
Bob: I love that you added that in there.
Mark: Yeah. Well, some of the hardest steps of faith are financial steps of faith.
Bob: Yeah. For sure.
Mark: But, those can be some of the most rewarding. I think it was in my 20’s that I read this book about JC Penney, the founder of the department store, who by the end of his life was reverse tithing.
Bob: That’s so cool.
Mark: He was living off of 10%, giving 90%.
Mark: One of the ways that we’ve seeded the clouds over the years is that with that first book, we said, “Hey, why don’t we try to double tithe? What if we gave 20, instead of 10? Then, you have a little bit of fun and you get to 50-50, and then you have so much fun. You’re like, “Hey, let’s see what God could do if we could even take it a little bit further than that?” We found almost that it becomes, giving your generosity becomes this adventure where you can be a blessing to others. Then, the crazy thing, Bob, you know this better than me. You can’t out-give God. I’m not talking slot machine.
Bob: Yeah. Yeah.
Mark: I’m not talking … I’m just saying, God is so generous and so giving and so loving that when we exercise that godly characteristic, oh, it becomes so much fun. What Jesus said is true, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Bob: Yeah. Yeah. So true. So good. Love it.
Cut The Rope
Bob: All right, one other thing I wanted to ask about real quick, because this is something that I talk about a decent amount on the podcast. You talked about one of the habits, as you’re talking about how playing it safe is actually risky.
I know, as somebody who worked as an employee in a big corporate job for a long time, that felt, or that I believed to be very safe and then came to find out that it wasn’t, when I got laid off. Then, I stepped out into entrepreneurship, which a lot of people believe to be risky, but in a lot of ways is more safe because it was, actually is more safe because I was obeying God and what I was doing. But anyway, I’m just curious, talk a little bit about that idea.
Mark: Yeah. Well, at the end of our lives, studies have shown that our greatest regrets will be inactions. In other words, it will be the opportunities we left on the table, the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve and to the tune of 84 to 16%.
Mark: I read the Parable of the Talents and it’s fascinating to me because here is a guy who breaks even. He buries his talent and then gives back what he had.
Mark: Listen, in some economies, that’s not half-bad. You didn’t lose anything. Then. Jesus calls them wicked. I’m, “What?, What is that about?” Well, God wants that 1030-100 fold return. If potential is God’s gift to us, then what we do with it is our gift back to God.
Bob: That’s good.
Little Steps Of Faith
Mark: Sometimes we have this holiness by subtraction mindset. Like, if I don’t do anything wrong, then it’s all right. Well, goodness is not the absence of badness. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right. It’s the sins of omission that I think grieved the heart of God, because he gives us all of this potential. I think what we need to realize is that faith is spelled risk, that there are going to be moments, yes, go ahead and count the cost. Luke 14. Jesus said, “Count the costs.” But, at the end of the day, you have got to step out in faith. For me, I define faith as taking the first step before God reveals the second step.
Mark: Often, have you found Bob, it’s often faith has a financial dimension to it?
Bob: Oh, yeah.
Mark: It’s okay. It’s going to take about, $85 of faith to fill out the application or even your first date? That might’ve been a $30 step of faith.
Mark: I think it’s just important that we recognize, I love taking little steps of faith and then seeing the way that God honors those and the way that sometimes those then, those small steps of faith turn into giant leaps.
Bob: Yeah. That’s so good. All right. Yeah, I don’t want to take up any more time. I’m really enjoying the conversation.
The book is called Win The Day: Seven Habits to Help You Stress Less and Accomplish More. I’ve really been enjoying it and can’t wait until I learn the other habits, but so far it’s a really good book. You’re a fantastic writer. I definitely encourage anyone watching, listening, or reading this article to check the book out.
Mark, thank you so much for spending some time with me today, Brother.
Mark: Hey Bob, great to meet you and hopefully look forward to another conversation soon.
Bob: Sounds good. Thanks Mark.