Find Your Identity in Christ
Like many men, business coach Cory Carlson found great success and meaning climbing the corporate ladder. But when he put too much focus on his career and not enough attention on his wife, he almost lost his marriage. Carlson now seeks his identity in Christ and tells how he's teaching his children to do the same.
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Like many men, Cory Carlson found great success and meaning climbing the corporate ladder. But when he put too much focus on his career and not enough attention on his wife, he almost lost his marriage.
Find Your Identity in Christ
Bob: Having our life priorities in order—that’s important. It’s easy for really important priorities—our spiritual life/our relationships—to get sidetracked while we start to prioritize the wrong things. Cory Carlson says that’s been his experience.
Cory: I know the right order it should be if I want to live life to the full; but in times of stress, times of frustration, times of anger, I personally can actually get them upside down. I’m the provider for our family, so I get nervous about: “Do we have enough money? Do I have enough clients in the pipeline?” You know, I can have a scarcity mindset.
That’s root—for me personally—that’s rooted back to my childhood.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 27th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Sometimes, the urgent things are not really the important things; and sometimes, the important things don’t wind up being urgent. How do we make sure we maintain the right priorities as we live our lives? We’re going to talk today with Cory Carlson about that. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to get to do a little coaching; this is your chance to coach.
Dave: —to coach?!
Bob: Yes, you do this with guys.
Dave: Are we going to go Post Route against Cover Two, or are we going to—no; what are we talking about?—coaching. [Laughter]
Bob: We’re talking about coaching guys to keep their priorities where they need to be and figure out how you balance the priority of providing for your family—
Dave: Because I’m so good at it; right, Bob?
Ann: You are good at it.
Bob: —because you’ve learned some things along the way.
Dave: I have learned some things.
Bob: That’s right. You want to introduce who is going to help us with all of this?
Dave: Yes; we’ve got Cory Carlson here today with a great book. I love the title because one of the things Ann and I try to do, when we speak, is talk about how to win at home. The most important area in your life is to win first at home, which is the title of your book. You had to learn that in your own life as well, right?
Dave: And Cory, you do all kinds of coaching—
Cory: —all kinds of coaching.
Dave: —not on a football field like me—but more important coaching; right?
Cory: That’s right. It is with corporate execs, business owners, small business owners; really, it was so interesting—because I would be with these clients—we’d talk about vision and values. When we got one on one on the call, what was really keeping the executive up at night was none of those; it was: “How can I be more intentional with my spouse?” “How can be more proactive with my kids?” “How do I lose ten pounds?” “How do I drink less?”
Once you went home first, then you have extra margin in your life to be empathetic with your coworkers.
Bob: If a guy is figuring out how to win at home, he becomes a better employee. You don’t get less of him; you get the better of him; don’t you?
Dave: So you mention The Five Capitals, and I know it’s the first section into your book. Let’s talk about them; what are they?
Cory: The Five Capitals is the idea that Jesus, in John 10:10, says, “I came to give life—life to the full.” All of us don’t feel we live life to the full, right?—it’s running from meeting to meeting, email to email; and life can feel chaotic.
In the early 2000’s, a book, Freakonomics, came out, where it was talking about, really, the complexity of the world and how it comes down to different currencies, and bartering, and things. The folks that created The Five Capitals thought, “Alright; this is great for Freakonomics,” but what would Jesus say about it? Taking a look at a couple of different parables—the Parable of Talents/the Parable of the Shrewd Manager—and then different verses to come up with the five capitals—that in order to live life to the full, then, we can get these five capitals in the right order; then, we can do just that.
The first one is spiritual, which is: “Love God.” The second one is relational; so “Love others.” The third one is physical; right?—the idea that you can’t do anything for God, for kingdom, for your family, if you’re dead—[Laughter]—so “How are you taking care of yourself as well as managing your schedule?” The fourth one is intellectual; it’s about insights and ideas. The last one is financial, which is about stewardship and generosity. Those are the five capitals in the right order, but it’s so hard to go put them in the right order.
What’s interesting is a lot of it comes from our own/some of our own brokenness. For me, personally, I know the right order it should be if I want to live a life to the full; but in times of stress, times of frustration, times of anger, I personally actually get them upside down. I’m the provider for our family, so I get nervous about: “Do we have enough money?”
Cory: “Do I have enough clients in the pipeline?” I can have a scarcity mindset.
For me personally, that’s rooted back to my childhood. When I was 15, my mom died from breast cancer; and my dad had some bouts of unemployment during that time. The lie that I made was: “It’s all on me. My parents aren’t going to be able to do it for me, financially. God’s not looking out for me.” That’s a lie that I made.
Financial could be my number one go-to/what I get concerned about. When that happens, I then go to intellectual capital, which is: “I’m working. If I need more money, I need more clients. Therefore, I better listen to more podcasts; I better read more books; I better watch more YouTube videos on speakers.” Then that goes to physical capital, where it’s all about working; I’m working around the clock. Then the next—well, none of that is working—then I’ll ask some buddies for some help. [Laughter] If none of that works, I might ask God if He’s got any ideas; [Laughter] you know? I can totally get them upside down.
But what is interesting is—I think about this and even reflect back to my whole childhood. I was talking to/sharing some of this with my dad. I found out, just here in recent years—that year that my dad was unemployed—the church paid for our mortgage.
Dave: Didn’t know that?
Cory: I had no idea.
Cory: So hearing that and reflecting back—say, “Wait; God is the Provider,”—yes, I have to pound the nail every day; yes, I have to steward what I have well/I can’t just sit on the couch—but in the end, it’s God’s provision. That helps me recalibrate to get them back in the right order.
Dave: So how does a businessman/businesswoman, like yourself—
Dave: —put the spiritual capital as number one? How do you functionally/practically keep Jesus as your top priority—that relationship?
Ann: What’s the rhythm look like?
Cory: You know, as Paul talks about never cease praying. A lot of times, when I work with individuals—even myself—it is: “Are you going to God for your identity?—for intimacy with Him?” We talked earlier about different times in my life, where I’ve gone other places to find my identity: “Am I a man?”—it’s based on having the corner office/different things like that—but going to God for that identity.
Understanding how to find time—I love, even in Mark and other Gospels, but where Mark 1 and 2 are Jesus—He is healing people and doing amazing things; but yet, He retreats. He goes to God to understand His vision again. Then, when He comes around to the disciples, the disciples are like: “Where have You been? We’ve been looking for You.” He’s like, “This is not why I came; we have to go on to the town.” It’s just resetting with God of what’s going on.
That can look a variety of different ways. One is, for sure, a quiet time. I’ve had mentors in my life talk about journaling, so I’ve been journaling—that’s a big piece—so different devotion books—things like that. Some people are good about that practice; but what I find, where people lose the idea of having spiritual capital at the top, is they do their quiet time in the morning and then it’s off to the races. It’s off to the races all day long.
This idea of, where Paul says, never cease praying—to me, and what I try to work on my own life, but also clients—is throughout the day. In between, from meeting to meeting—instead of grabbing your phone, going straight to social media and seeing the Facebook® feed, seeing the Instagram® post, checking emails—stop; just pray, like: “Thank You, God, for that awesome meeting. Thanks for the insight You gave me. Lord, I pray for help on this next meeting. Give me clarity; give me wisdom for what I need to say.”
It’s that idea: throughout the day, of putting that spiritual capital at top.
Ann: You’re acknowledging His presence all day long: talking to Him all day long, seeking His wisdom—
Ann: —all day long.
Ann: That’s a good habit.
Cory: Yes, then we talk about different life hacks. Some Bible apps you can set the time for the reminder. I’ve set mine up for 2 pm, because I can find that I can get drifted off into email land and doing all these different things; and if I get that email at 2, it’s like, “Whoa; hold up.” Now, in full transparency, there were some days, I was like, “Oh, that’s a great verse; delete,”—[Laughter]—move on to the next one.
Cory: But there are other days, it’s like, “Perfect; I’m going to read this, and I’m going to sit and think on this.”
Dave: It’s interesting that the second capital, right away, is relational.
Dave: It’s who are you doing life with: “Who are you investing in?” “Who is investing in you?” I know who you are yoked with/who you are doing life with is totally going to—now, we know, as parents, we tell our kids this; right?—“You hang out with bad kids; bad things happen,”—but as adults, we often don’t do the same thing; right? This relational capital is huge.
Cory: What I find with the relational capital—especially with clients/even, this is myself—where we may not even have friends. In high school/college, we had a lot of friends; it was great. Then we get married, and we start to have kids. Then we start to work—and we are just busy, busy, busy—that we start to lose touch of friends.
For me, this hit hard one time because, when I was president of sales for a national contractor—and I was travelling about every week and going around the country with, basically, I had 30 sales reps—I was spending time with them; I was investing in them—I was in with the company. Then, when I’d come home, I wanted to be super husband and super dad.
Well, when my coach had mentioned something about some of this teaching, it hit me hard like, “Wait; that’s me”; like: “I am doing pretty good with my relationship with God—going to Him/quiet time—and I’m out and having impact, and the marketplace is going well; but man, my relational capital is not good at all.” I knew I had friends I could call, and go watch a game with or do something with, but no one I was doing life with/no one that could hold me accountable on different things, as you mentioned with that yoke.
I made a change; I reached out to some guys—kind of prayed through—“Who are the guys that I needed to start investing in?” That was a few years ago. Fast-forward; now, I’ve got a fantastic men’s group on Monday nights—went on a hiking trip this/about a month or two ago, and just doing neat things like that, that I didn’t have.
I find, so often, with business owners and corporate execs, this lacks; this lacks. They don’t have friends, with whom they are doing life with, that they get together—and this isn’t just get together, “Let’s talk about stocks, weather, our golf score, and the latest trade in some sport,”—but it’s actually talking about life.
Cory: It’s talking about marriage. It’s talking—
Bob: —your struggles, yes.
Dave: Stuff that matters.
Dave: Well, talk about that. In the book, you go to marriage; you go to parenting. One of the big things you mention, that really impacted me as I read it, was: “Identity and pouring that into your children.” Talk about how you’ve done that.
Cory: Identity became an important thing to me, where learning of that/the idea of being a beloved son or a beloved daughter of God.
I’m involved in a men’s ministry. We also—we’re now kind of branching into women as well—it’s called The New Frontier. Through that, we talk a lot about the identity of—and even looking at Jesus’s life as the example, where He first found His identity; right?—He’s baptized; and God says, “You are a beloved Son,” and then from that flows the mission. Now, He knows what to go do.
After just seeing that, that became so critical, where I would go to my mission in my 20’s and 30’s—and that defined who I was: “I’m a corporate businessman,” or these different titles—so many people would do that. Seeing the shift that that made in my life, I wanted to make sure my kids had it. My daughter—when she turned 13, there were all kinds of coming-of-age ceremonies—
Cory: —that you could see out there.
Ann: But yours is unique, because I’ve read a lot of different ceremonies of our kids coming of age. Share about what you did with your daughter.
Cory: Oh, well, thank you. As I was looking for daughters’ ceremonies, they all involved the mom only; and then there were great father/son ones; but I couldn’t find any father/daughter ones. That, obviously, bothered me a lot. I mean, Holly and Kylie—that’s our oldest—they’ve got a great relationship; and they can do/they can do a lot of mother/daughter things; that’s great.
But I wanted to be involved in this ceremony because—one, it’s so important to me—but also, in my learnings, I’ve just consistently found that so many—even corporate leaders—their brokenness/their disturbed view of our heavenly Father has to do with their earthly father. So often, if their earthly father did not show a lot of love or was not around, well, therefore, they think God is that way. I just kept seeing that. I was like: “No, I want to step into this. I want to try to be an earthly father that shows love, and casts vision, and do all of these things that God does.”
In that whole process—doing some research—couldn’t find anything that I liked. Pastor of the church I go to—his name is Brian Tome at Crossroads—he wrote an awesome book called Five Marks of a Man. It talks about the five different things that differentiate a man from a boy—love that—but I couldn’t apply that to a girl. Had that idea, but couldn’t necessarily do it exactly the way I wanted to do it.
So Holly and I felt called to go to Proverbs 31 and take a look at that verse. Liking the idea of five from Five Marks of a Man, we felt God lay on our heart five words that we were to affirm Kylie in at that age. Now, there are more words than just these five that we could have selected; and I think when we do it for our next daughter, there will be another word we may pull out; or if we do this again for Kylie when she’s older, it may be a different word, just due to the kind of the diversity and the just uniqueness of this woman in Proverbs 31.
But the five words we chose were: “character,” “committed,” “generous,” “influential,” and “excellence.” Of those five words, we assigned one of those words to a man—like one of my good buddies—and then he wrote a letter to her. The letter was, “This is how I live out this word in my own life; but this is how I also see it in a godly woman and how you can live it out.” Then Holly took those same five words and assigned one to each different person of her friends.
Cory: We get these letters back. I was blown away by the wisdom of friends and family that did that. Then her birthday was July 1st. We had, at basically four o’clock, I had some guys come over. They read their letters, and we talked for a little bit. It was—I mean, it, for sure, started off awkward. My daughter is at the head of the table; we’ve got men around this table, and it’s just like we’re all kind of staring. Luckily, a buddy cracked a joke; it was funny—loosened it all up—but we read these letters to her, and then she asked some great questions. We had some good conversation; then we prayed over her.
Then we left. Holly and I took Kylie out to eat—went to a nice restaurant, and had some steak, and just celebrated—but just affirmed her and who she is, and why we were doing this, and the importance of it—had a neat dinner. Came home; Holly did the same thing but, now, with women around the table. They read the letters. I don’t know all that was going on; I wasn’t in there. They read the letters and talked.
Well, I wasn’t in there; because I was outside, with some buddies, putting together a fire. We put together a—
Dave: You’ve got to have fire.
Cory: You’ve got to have fire—
Cory: —at all times—
Dave: Love it!
Cory: —even for a girl party. [Laughter]
We were outside, putting together a fire; and there was—driving to work one day, I heard on the Christian radio station—Kate Battistelli was doing this talk about
Exodus 38. I’ve never really paid much attention to Exodus 38, especially this particular verse. In it, it said that the women had to hand over their bronze mirrors to be melted to make the washbasins for the tabernacle. As she unpacks it, that verse more is about the idea of women’s beauty is great; but it can’t come before God—a little bit like we talked about earlier—The Five Capitals. I mean, it’s great to be fit; it’s great to—you know, beauty—
Ann: It can’t be their identity.
Cory: —can’t be their identity either.
Cory: In that, I just loved that teaching that I heard.
Then, in other settings, I have been a part of ceremonies at different churches—that idea of “burn your ships.” I’ve found breakthrough when I write something down, and I burn it; there feels some freedom.
Taking all those ideas together, what we did is—we went outside to our campfire. Now, we’ve got people round the campfire and Kylie. We give Kylie a blank bronze mirror and a Sharpie. We just told her to write down all of her, basically, image issues: “Where does she take her identity?” I don’t know what she wrote down; it was/obviously, it was confidential. I’m sure it had something to do with perfect body, straight A’s, social media likes—different things like that. She writes them down, throws it in the fire, and then we watch them melt. It was awesome/still awesome.
After that takes place, my wife had embroidered those five new words onto a bronze mirror; and we gave it to her. We just affirmed in her that her identity is a beloved daughter: “These are traits that we feel God wanted us to affirm in you. You are not these things in the fire.”
Ann: I just want to say—to have your dad and to have other men, as a young woman, speak into you is an amazing gift; because I’ve seen this done countless times with women.
I think of myself, back as a young woman: I didn’t even know my dad. I knew that he went to work, and he talked to me some; but I didn’t really know him, and he had no idea who I was. For a dad to speak into a young woman—it’s so important for a mom—but for a dad, and even his friends, that are saying: “This is where you find value. This is who God says you are. This is what we see in you,” that’s life changing. That’s a marked moment that she will never forget. Well done.
Cory: Yes, thanks.
Dave: Yes; way to go. Fist bump.
Cory: Thanks. A lot goes to my wife as well.
Cory: I totally agree on the earthly father piece.
Cory: But just—I mean, having Holly involved as well—
Cory: —I mean, it was—
Ann: To have both is remarkable and beautiful.
Cory: —because she saw the unity in that.
Bob: This is an example of what winning at home first looks like.
Bob: And you talk about it in the book; it is weaved through the book. You share your successes like this and your failures along the way, and this is going to help a lot of people.
Dave: Oh yes.
Bob: Thank you for coming and doing this, talking about this, and thanks for the book.
Cory: Well, thank you very much.
Bob: I’ve got to imagine there are a lot of people, who’ve been listening to our conversation this week, who are saying: “That’s what I need. I need to get my priorities in order, and I need to make sure that I’m focused on the right stuff.” I’d encourage people to get a copy of the book, Win at Home First, by Cory Carlson. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Our website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Cory’s book, again, is called Win at Home First.
Now, we have just got a couple of days left before the month of May is over. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife®, is here with me. David, the month of May is a significant month for us. We’re asking FamilyLife Today listeners to help us take advantage of a matching-gift opportunity that has been made available to us this month. Every donation we are receiving here in the next few days is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $345,000. Honestly, this is a critical time for us, as a ministry; we hope to take full advantage of this matching gift.
David: Yes; there has, maybe, never been in the last decade a matching gift that’s been as important for FamilyLife as this one. Actually, two days ago, Dennis Rainey and I were connecting over Zoom and having our regular touchpoint. I was asking him to reflect on times throughout his four decades of leadership at FamilyLife that have been similar to this. He said, “Well, there’s been certainly ’08, and there has been one or two other seasons; but the unknowns of what comes ahead really—this is a unique one.” He just said, “David, I am praying for you; and I’m praying for the whole ministry.”
Certainly, a founder transition is a big thing to navigate; it’s been going so well. Yet, throw a pandemic into that, and this is something challenging for us to walk through. We ask you—we want to continue the legacy of helping families, with everything that we have, pointing them to the gospel and helping them experience the truth and life found in Scripture for their marriage and for their family. If you are able to give, we are a donor-supported ministry in need of your help in this season. If you are able, please give and help us meet this match.
Bob: We know, for some of you, this is a very challenging time for your family; and you’ve had to kind of cut back to the bare minimum; we get that. For those of you, who are able, if you can be extra generous to help cover for those who can’t be generous in this season, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
Keep in mind: your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar. We’re going to send you, as a thank-you gift, Barbara Rainey’s new book, which is called My Heart, Ever His, a great book on how to pray more effectively during challenging seasons/challenging times.
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Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to give a one-time gift or to become a Legacy Partner and help us take advantage of this matching gift. You can also connect with us by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Thanks, in advance, for your partnership with us; and we look forward to hearing from you.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how much more our children can grab onto, and comprehend, and understand from the Bible than most of us realize as parents. We’ve got a great opportunity to pour a lot of biblical truth into their hearts when they are young. Jennifer Lyell will be here to talk with us about that tomorrow. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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