How Do I Get Out Of The Box?



(or Unlearn The Junk That I Do Know)


This article was written by Clay Staires, Tulsa Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker & Founder of Tulsa’s #1 Leadership Program, The Leadership Initiative.

The Journey of Discipleship begins with discipline and character.  Before we can become true servant leaders in our culture, we must spend time being discipled (learning someone else’s thinking or message or yoke).  This process of changing the way we think is called ‘CONVERSION’, and it takes time!


Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, we have placed more emphasis on the event of ‘getting saved’ than on the vital component of converting people through discipleship.  This is by no means saying that ‘getting saved’ is somehow not important.  It’s vital!  However, it’s only the beginning of the transformation.


It’s a very common issue for new ‘believers’ to become very frustrated with sin because, for some reason, after they asked Jesus into their hearts they didn’t automatically change their life behavior.  Their new Christianity has brought guilt but has lacked the power to change.  THEY NEED TO BE DISCIPLED AND CONVERTED!!!


Discipleship is much more than just a class you take, so it needs more than just a teacher.

Discipleship is much more than a message you hear, so it needs more than just a preacher.

Discipleship is even much more than a program, so it requires more than just a good curriculum.

Discipleship is spiritual parenting and it requires spiritual moms and dads!!


The 3 E’s of Leadership Training:


Most common tools used by would be trainers…



Very important, but by itself it falls short of the goal of forming leaders.  These new experiences are often used to market programs saying, “Hey this will be really cool and a lot of fun!  You should do it!”  We respond with “Will it be fun enough?”  Emotion Driven!

What are some examples of experiences we market?





Very important, but by itself or only connected with experiences it falls short of the goal of forming leaders.  This also becomes a marketing tool for our program saying, “Here’s all the neat stuff you’ll learn.”  We respond with “Will it give me what I want?”  Emotion Driven!


What are some examples of curriculum we market?


Both of these are very necessary to the process but, as Dr. Phil would ask, “How’s that workin’ for ya”.


If we limit ourselves to just these two, we are missing out on the key ingredient needed in building a foundation for discipline and character.


Most common tool left out by training programs:



Most important! Without this piece, formation cannot be complete.  You must reveal wrong thinking and replace it with good in the midst of a practical context. 


“There is a field between wrong and right thinking.  I’ll meet you there.”


We can only think as well as our brains allow us.  What factors determine how we think as adults?  What factors have shaped your thinking up to this point in your life?





Our interpretation of life is directly connected to our ability to put situations into context.

Most people have a very limited range of interpretations (contexts) in which to evaluate their life situations.  This can be due to learned behaviors while growing up.


A                        +                        B                        =                        C

          Situations                            +                Interpretation            =                How we respond





This is why people say “I’ll never be like my parents” and then grow up to be just like them!  If they never learn a new context, they are only left with what they learned from their parents.


This is what makes a mentor invaluable in life:  THEY HELP YOU INTERPRET SITUATIONS DIFFERENTLY SO YOU CAN BETTER KNOW HOW TO RESPOND APPROPRIATELY.  They introduce you to new contexts.  This is the great value of Evaluation!


Most people are unsuccessful with a mentor because of the pressure involved in submitting to someone else’s thinking when it goes against what you think.  Humility, trust and submission (character) are required for success.  Evaluation is Character Driven!


Our culture has some real issues right now.  Watch the news to see how we are responding:             war, crime, violence, drugs, abuse, cheating, divorce, suicide…


These “responses” are related to our interpretations.


Evaluation is about the process of learning new interpretations (contexts).  It’s not just sitting down with someone at the end of program and asking what he or she thought about the education and experience you just gave him or her.  You have to give them a new ‘context’ to view life.  They must be ‘transformed by the renewing of their minds’.


The way you think will always determine the way you act.


What does the evaluation piece look like?


Intentional but unscheduled – it simply follows life

Responding to questions as they come up rather than giving answers to questions they don’t have

Letting go of your expectations and timelines

Can’t be forced

They have to want it, before you can give it

It’s ongoing

Much more than asking ‘how are you doing’?

Much more than just positive thinking or just telling them how they may be thinking wrong






This is why you can’t mentor yourself!  By yourself, all you can do is just ‘add on’ to your thinking.  It takes a mentor to help replace thinking!


Evaluation involves parenting and parenting requires time, focus and sacrifice.


Classic case:

A person has an experience or gains some great new truth only to find themselves in the future unchanged and longing to go back to the place where they got it so they can get it again.  This person has NOT been taught how to incorporate the new truth into their lives.  They haven’t learned new contexts.  They may have gotten really good new information, but they lacked the ability to integrate this new information into their daily lives.  It didn’t STICK!

This is what spiritual parents help you do!


Train up a child…

Transformed by the renewing of your mind…

You can’t train yourself.  You can’t transform yourself.  You need a trusted mentor!

It’s this ‘evaluation’ (nurturing) piece, that’s too often missing, that every single person longs for.


“How do I make it through this? Why am I all-alone?  Someone help!”


Luke Skywalker had Yoda

Frodo had Gandalf

Neo had Morpheus

Elisha had Elijah

David had Samuel

The 12 had Jesus

Paul had Barnabas


Who do you have helping you re-interpret life situations?


Evaluation is what will make your training program uniquely yours.  It will be yours because it will have your fingerprints all over it.  Without it, it’s so easy to feel like you have to compete with other people and their ‘great testimony’.


Would you be willing to be mentored?  Before you answer, think about how willing you are to listen and submit to someone else.  If you can’t listen, you cannot be mentored.




Let’s say you want to be mentored (just because you want to be mentored doesn’t mean you’re ready).  But lets say you want to find a mentor.  How do you find a mentor?  Here’s a short model you may follow:


How To Choose A Mentor:

The best way to summarize what to look for when searching for a Mentor is the acronym FRUIT

Do they have…

  1. Fruit that I want to have in my life
  2. Respect in their community
  3. Understanding of the process of growth
  4. Intentionality in relationship with me
  5. Time to give me

When choosing a Mentor, each of these is as valuable as the next.  If any of them is weak, it will greatly limit the effect of the mentoring.

Take a moment to list a few names of people that would fit these criteria in your life right now.

1. ___________________________________

2. ___________________________________

3. ___________________________________

Once you’ve identified a good candidate, what do you think is the first step in getting a mentor?  How can you take this next step?  Take time to write out your PLAN OF ACTION.


Clay Staires