Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson, 2012)
I learned of Bob Goff through reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. To me, the story of how Goff and his family became friends with heads of state from around the world was by far the best part of the book. But I never followed up, never looked further into the man and what he might be doing.
It was Janet who tossed his name back in my direction. She distills the best of Love Does in her post at Blue Ocean Families, so be sure to read it.
I could say that Bob Goff is the anti-me, both good and bad. He epitomizes extroversion and spontaneity. He cares little for details and less for the kind of theology that involves studying. He is a loose cannon—at first I wondered why all those non-profit organizations turned down his offer of the services of his law firm, gratis, but now I think I know why they wanted someone more predictable, if also more expensive and less creative.
However, I am inclined to believe that the Bob Goff who shows up in this book is an exaggeration of his character for dramatic effect: Surely no one can succeed as a lawyer, not to mention as the head of a non-profit organization, without caring more for structure, organization, and planning than the man portrayed here.
Take your ten-year-old daughter on a spur-of-the-moment trip to London, without the least idea of what you're going to do, not even where you're going to stay? Okay, I can see that. They speak English (of a sort) there, he's an experienced traveller, and he has enough money to fund last-minute air fares and hotel stays.
Take your ten-your-old son climbing Half Dome in a blizzard, on purpose? As one with personal connections to the expert and experienced climbers who perished on Mt. Hood in 2006 due to unexpected bad weather, this strikes me as less adventuresome than plain stupid, even if it turned out to be a great experience for them both.
I have to believe that Goff was much more prepared for both adventures than he lets on.
There's no doubt, however, that a good deal of that preparation was provided by a lifetime of sponanteous action. Bob Goff lived the "just do it" slogan long before it became a Nike ad, and his life is a testimony to the incredible things that can arise from that attitude. As Janet's article states, what he has done is so amazing that it's hard to imagine him as a role model for us ordinary mortals. But he certainly can be an inspiration.
To that end, I do not necessarily recommend reading Love Does. At least not first. Instead, go to Goff's website. You'll get a good introduction there, and his informal style works better in a speech or on a blog than in a book.
It was in the fifteenth chapter that I learned why the style of Love Does bothers me so.
Don is a friend of mine. He's written a bunch of books. ... Don actually played a big part in this book. He would review what I wrote and tell me to keep working on it or take it out of the book. Sometimes he'd tell me to start over entirely or tell me what to do to make it better.
That's right; the above-mentioned Don Miller, whose style rubbed me the wrong way in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, was the primary influence on how Goff wrote his book.
Here's an example of his fingernails-on-the-blackboard style, which I acknowledge some will enjoy. Just not me, if it's in a book or other formal publication.
In the Bible there's a guy named Timothy who gets a letter from another guy named Paul.
What also sets my teeth on edge is the number of times I've groaned, "Didn't anybody read this book before publishing it?" I don't blame Goff so much—it's hard to find the errors in one's own writing. But where were the proofreaders and editors here? Where was Don Miller? How, for example, could they publish "laundry mat" instead of "laundromat," "cast" instead of "caste," "track homes" instead of "tract homes," and "chalks" instead of "chocks" (the last from his website)?
I'm nitpicking, you say, and you're right. Neither the style nor the errors negate the value of what Bob Goff has to say. Nevertheless, there's a reason even the most brilliant job-seeker is advised to dress appropriately for his employment interview, and the most innocent (as well as the most guilty) defendant to ditch the nose ring and cover the tats for a court appearance. Even Bill Gates has assistants to keep his personality quirks from reducing his effectiveness.
Okay, I'm done with the complaints. Bob Goff is amazing, and inspiring. I just need to find my own path to being secretly incredible.
I think God's hope and plan for us is pretty simple to figure out. For those who resonate with formulas, here it is: add your whole life, your loves, your passions, and your interests together with what God said He wants us to be about, and that's your answer. If you want to know the answer to the bigger question—what's God's plan for the whole world?—buckle up, it's us.
Being secretly incredible goes against the trend that says to do anything incredible you have to buy furniture and a laptop, start an organization, have a mission statement and labor endlessly over a statement of faith. Secretly incredible people just do things. ... [T]he task would probably be even nobler if we didn't talk about it and just did it instead. It's not about being secretive or mysterious or exclusive. it's about doing capers without any capes.
Sometimes my clients have to be deposed, which means they are the ones asked questions by the other guys' lawyers. It can feel intimidating with a big room full of lawyers all staring at you. So when my clients are being deposed, I tell them all the same thing each time: sit in the chair and answer the questions, but do it with your hands palms up the whole time. I tell them to literally have the backs of their hands on their knees and their palms toward the bottom of the table.
I'm very serious about this. ... When their palms are up, they have an easier time being calm, honest, and accurate. And this is important, because it's harder for them to get defensive. When people get angry or defensive they tend to make mistakes.
If you're like me, I'd ask myself at the end of a book called Love Does—so what do I do? It can be a tough question to answer, honestly, but it can also be an easy one. Let me tell you want I do when I don't know what to do to move my dreams down the road. I usually just try to figure out what the next step is and then do that. ... What's your next step? I don't know for sure, because for everyone it's different, but I bet it involves choosing something that already lights you up. Something you already think is beautiful or lasting and meaningful. Pick something you aren't just able to do; instead, pick something you feel like you were made to do and then do lots of that.