Larry S. Julian is a successful consultant and speaker who specializes in Biblically-based leadership development and strategic planning. Larry's mission is to help business people integrate their work and faith, transform their adversity into their destiny, and revolutionize their life into their legacy. He's the author of the nationally acclaimed and best-selling business book, GOD IS MY CEO: Following God's Principles in a Bottom-Line World. His latest release, GOD IS MY SUCCESS: Transforming Adversity into Your Destiny helps people overcome the obstacles which keep them from being the success God intended.
As founder of God is My CEO, Larry addresses the needs of large groups of business people through church retreats and other programs. His Executive Forum helps small groups of business leaders integrate their work and faith and become the success God intended them to be. Through one-on-one coaching and consulting, Larry helps leaders of all levels overcome difficult circumstances to become effective and successful.
As President of The Julian Group, Larry uses his experience consulting with the corporate, government, and community sectors in successful speaking, facilitating, and coaching engagements. Over the past several years, he's facilitated hundreds of strategic planning retreats, teambuilding retreats and leadership development programs. Larry's unique talent is in bringing diverse constituents together in partnerships with a shared vision and a common purpose.
In addition to many churches and non-profit organizations, his clients have included 3M, American Express Financial Services, AT&T, BP Amoco, General Mills, Honeywell, Mayo Clinic, PepsiCo, Qwest and hundreds of other large and small organizations. Larry is also a popular instructor at the University of St. Thomas Management Center. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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Larry Julian, a successful business consultant and speaker, is the author of GOD IS MY CEO and GOD IS MY SUCCESS. In this interview, he chronicles how a professional, physical, emotional, and personal low point in his life served as the catalyst for a spiritual awakening, altering his notions of success from society's perceptions to God's aspirations. Julian discusses key elements of his books, such as integrating work and faith, the obstacles that keep people from becoming the successes that God intended, and the seven hidden blessings of pain that will transform adversity into destiny. He also underscores the importance of resisting financial slavery and creating a partnership with God.
Q: So how does an ambitious, success-driven Jewish kid from Brooklyn, New York who spends most of his adult life climbing the corporate ladder end up writing a book called GOD IS MY SUCCESS
Larry Julian: Let me take you back to July 1991. Every facet of my life was crumbling before my eyes. Physically, chronic back pain had totally disabled me. Professionally, though I did my best to hide my pain, I couldn't perform my sales and marketing director responsibilities. Emotionally, I feared losing my job because my worth had come from being a confident success. Personally, my marriage was failing.
Then it got worse. I was fired. I was out of work, disabled, and plagued with physical and emotional pain. All my internal issues --- fear, pain, financial slavery, distractions, and a lack of confidence --- came tumbling down on me like a house of cards. I was alone. I felt worthless and insignificant. I felt like nothing.
But in my nothingness, I became available. It was as if I was hanging off the edge of a cliff. God asked me to let go and trust that He would catch me. When I let go, I discovered that a life I thought was over was just beginning. Until then, I had spent 100% of my effort striving toward society's definition of success. From the edge of a cliff, I was put on a road toward becoming the success God intended and discovering that, in the end, God Himself would be my success.
Q: Why do people need a book like yours?
LJ: While GOD IS MY CEO, my first book, has been successful in helping business people integrate their work and faith, I've found that people want to honor God but struggle with five obstacles that keep them from being the success God intended.
The first obstacle is pain and adversity. We avoid pain and, as a result, never realize God's potential. The second obstacle is financial slavery. Regardless of our financial circumstances, it's "never enough"; we're either chasing money or worrying about the lack of it. The third obstacle is fear and worry. We torment ourselves worrying about things beyond our control. The fourth obstacle is lack of confidence. We lack the courage to follow through on God's call. The fifth and final obstacle is distractions. We're too busy dealing with life's distractions to hear God's call.
I wrote GOD IS MY SUCCESS to teach people how to partner with God to overcome these obstacles. My heart's desire was to write a practical guidebook that would address this need and put people on the path toward being the success God intended.
Q: How does your book help people overcome the five obstacles?
LJ: GOD IS MY SUCCESS shows that adversity itself holds the key to your destiny and the success God intended. God doesn't promise a life free of adversity. He does, however, promise to be with us in our adversity.
Society tells us to take control of our own destiny. In reality, we will never overcome these obstacles on our own. Why? Because we tend to take charge of what we should surrender to God, yet don't take responsibility for the things for which we are accountable. As we partner with God to overcome our obstacles, we learn what we should surrender and what we should take responsibility for.
Through stories of leaders who have faced and overcome the same obstacles, practical applications, and discussion guides, I try to offer unique insights and encouragement for transforming life's obstacles into personal destiny. The result? From fear and worry, you'll discover peace. From pain, you'll discover destiny. From lack of confidence, you'll discover courage. From financial slavery, you'll discover financial freedom. From distractions, you'll discover God's whisper.
Q: When did you realize there was a connection between adversity and destiny?
LJ: Several years ago, I came face-to-face with coinciding personal and professional losses. Personally, my wife and I waited patiently for a baby, only to face the heartbreak of losing two children through miscarriage. Professionally, I faced rejection after rejection as I sought an agent and publisher for the book now known as GOD IS MY CEO. In the end, my walk in the desert, facing adversity after adversity, lasted three years. In the midst of defeat, I couldn't see the connection between adversity and destiny.
Now, when people ask me when I became an author, I tell them it was in November 1998, when at my lowest point, I claimed to be a white canvas totally available to God. I believe God prepared my wife and I not to achieve our goals, but to fulfill our roles --- the destiny He had in store for us. It wasn't about achieving a baby, it was about being prepared to serve as a parent. It wasn't about writing a bestseller, it was about helping that one reader who needed to integrate his or her work and faith.
Q: Why do some people seem to rise above their pain and go on to leave a lasting legacy while others seem to become victims of it?
LJ: I think it's helpful to first understand the purpose of pain. Think about some of the most difficult times in your life. Chances are, you found that your pain clarified reality and became a catalyst for change. Pain cuts through the minutia and distractions of life and exposes the Truth. It backs us into a corner, strips us naked, and forces our hand. Pain and adversity introduce us to our real selves and, in the process, introduce us to God in ways we hadn't even imagined.
Therefore, we are confronted with two choices. We can fall victim to our circumstances, or we can trust that God has a purpose for our lives. When the harsh realities of life expose our weaknesses, they also reveal the power of God that lies within us. It is at these times that we need not run from the pain and adversity, but partner with God to transform this adversity into our destiny.
In my book, I explain we receive seven hidden blessings from pain. For example, pain clarifies our motives. As a result, we gain clarity of purpose. Another blessing is that we appreciate the gifts God has given us. The outcome of appreciation is that we live richer, fuller lives. I've also found that pain makes us better leaders. The result is that we make a difference and leave a legacy. As you can see from these examples, the seven results or outcomes of our pain are what ultimately help transform our adversity into our destiny.
Q: You've talked about our need to establish a partnership with God. How does a person develop that kind of partnership?
LJ: In my work with leaders of all levels, I've found that people have a tendency to control the things they should surrender to God and relinquish control of the things they should take charge of. The key to a successful partnership with God lies in understanding when to surrender and when to take charge.
The surrender posture allows God to work powerfully within us, achieving things that are impossible for us but possible with God. This is the phase where we need to get out of the way and let God work on our behalf. We shed things like our ego, power, fears and control.
The take-charge posture, on the other hand, is one of personal responsibility. This is the phase where we need to have the courage and conviction to follow through on God's will. My book takes readers through a series of exercises that help them form their own partnership with God by learning what to surrender and what to take charge of.
Q: Are you a pastor?
LJ: I'm a businessperson who's discovered that following biblical principles leads to our genuine success and that living in partnership with God transforms our lives. Everything I do, from writing to coaching to speaking, is based on biblical Judeo-Christian principles.
Q: How does being a businessperson affect your writing?
LJ: For starters, I've lived in the bottom-line world in which businesspeople have to make hard decisions, day after day. I understand the roadblocks to success in business today. Therefore, I write in a way as to be both practical and inspirational.
Second, in the business world, confessing weakness is often perceived as the kiss of death. In the spiritual world, however, it's the breath of life. I believe that by exposing our weaknesses (i.e., our obstacles), we discover God's sufficiency and allow others to see Him at work in us. It's this kind of courageous leadership that inspires others to overcome their weaknesses to be the success God intended them to be.
Q: Your bio says that you conduct one-on-one coaching and consulting. How is that reflected in your book?
LJ: GOD IS MY SUCCESS is based on my executive coaching process. Through the pages of the book, the reader has the opportunity to go through a consulting process with me. Each chapter is a standalone training module. Taken together, the chapters comprise my business coaching process.
I wanted to provide a personal training and development program to overcome the challenges unique to each reader, yet common to man. Therefore, the book includes stories of leaders who've partnered with God to overcome adversity, practical applications to help the reader immediately apply what he or she has learned, and discussion guides to connect them with God and others. After the reader completes the Spiritual Training Program, he or she then redefines success in a way that will provide him or her with God-given satisfaction and significance.
Q: Speaking of "success," you challenge its traditional meaning. In fact, your definition of success seems a bit controversial. Could you explain it?
LJ: One of my intentions is to help people get off their treadmill of striving, take a breather, and redefine what success really is. I recently heard an interview with a football player ready to start the NFL season. He said, "Anything short of winning the Super Bowl will be considered a failure." That's all well and good, but what about the successes along the way? What about the relationships that he could enjoy, the people he could help, or the honor he could bring to God by being a good man instead of just being a good athlete?
We all know people who have achieved financial success but are miserable. Perhaps they have wealth but live in financial slavery. Maybe they're a professional success but a personal failure. The traditional definition of success is based on outcomes; it's conditional, contingent upon achievement. Under this definition, our circumstances determine our success. We can never do enough or be enough. Therefore, we can't be fully satisfied.
When we redefine success, we discover that success isn't the result of what we achieve, but the result of who we are. God designed you to live fully and to celebrate life regardless of your circumstances. Part of success is surrendering the outcome to God and being content that God has you exactly where He wants you, even if that's smack dab in the middle of adversity.
God bases success on our relationship with Him. His definition of success is unconditional. It's a gift, given freely in love, to be experienced right now in the present, regardless of circumstances. Success is living your life in partnership with God in order to overcome life's challenges; it's the process. Further, I believe that in the midst of pain and adversity, you'll discover that God Himself is your success. Regardless of your situation, you can experience His love, peace, joy and contentment. When you stop striving to be a "success" as it's traditionally defined, you'll discover that God Himself is the true reward. He's both the Giver of life and the Reward, all in one.
Q: Why is financial slavery an obstacle to success?
LJ: Financial slavery is unique from the other obstacles in its subtlety. Even the most talented and well-intentioned Christian can fall prey to this subtle master. For businesspeople, what begins as a noble pursuit --- being a good provider for our families, for example --- quickly becomes a trap from which we can hardly escape. Over time we become slaves to the urgent, bottom-line demands of the moment. Before we know it, we've gone so far down the wrong path that we tell ourselves lies: "I feel trapped in a dead-end job but am afraid to leave because I can't risk being out of work and not getting a steady paycheck." "I know my kids would like to spend more time with me, but I have to work extra hard today to save money for a sound financial future." Over time, we begin to fall prey to financial slavery.
Financial slavery has nothing to do with either the accumulation of money or the lack of money; it's the result of our motive. Financial slavery is a crime. It robs us of the precious commodities of time, energy, and a joy-filled life when God invites us to live in freedom.
Whether you're chasing money or being chased, the trap is the same --- it's never enough. Again, the real tragedy lies in the deception of the pursuit. We forfeit our present life for what we believe will be a better life tomorrow.
Q: Your solution to financial slavery is "Discover Financial Freedom." What does that mean?
LJ: As I explained, money isn't the issue. In and of itself, money is just a form of exchange. Our trust in almighty God is the issue. Most people believe money is the link to their security, power, self-worth, and happiness. In essence, money is a means to that end. However, this is distinctly opposed to what God wants for us. God wants us to rely on Him for our security, power, self-worth, and joy.
Ultimately, it comes down to trusting that God will provide exactly what you need. Let me explain further. Most people want to honor God in their work but struggle with the realities of the bottom-line. We ask ourselves questions like, "How do I know I'm following God and not my own selfish desires? How do I balance work and family? How much money is enough?"
I wish there were a simple formula or an easy answer. It comes down to arriving at a place where you know with confidence that your motives are in alignment with God's will. Our partnership with God supplies peace, contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction, no strings attached. All we need to do is take Him at His word. When we accept God's promises, we are free to live without having to pursue or worry about money. We will still face daily business and financial obligations, but we aren't alone. God is with us, and He blesses us with the gifts we need to succeed.
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