When You Realize You’re Living in a Bubble

The following is an excerpt from the Foreword I wrote for Jeff Goins’s new book, Wrecked. It’s an excellent book that I recommend you pick up. At the end of the article, I’ll tell you how you can get over $158.00 worth of free resources if you buy it this week.

In 2009 my wife Gail and I traveled to Africa at the invitation of Rich Stearns, president of World Vision. It was our first trip to “the dark continent.” We had always wanted to go to Africa; we just never seemed to find the time.

Woman Relaxing in an Outdoor Jacuzzi - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/najin, Image #17995564

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/najin

Like Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey) in the movie, The Truman Show, we pretty much lived in a “constructed reality.”

I had a beautiful wife, five amazing daughters, and a great job. We were prosperous and comfortable. I didn’t realize I lived in a bubble.

We spent a week in rural Ethiopia. The poverty was astonishing.

We met people who survived on a few dollars a month, others who walked ten miles a day just to get water for their family, and children who had become orphans when their parents had died of AIDS.

Despite all of that, the Ethiopian people remained joyful in the midst of unrelenting hardship.

My friend Max Lucado, who was traveling with us, commented, “There are more honest smiles among the poor of Ethiopia than the shopping malls of America.” So true.

A Woman, a Hut, and a Smile

On the last day of our trip we visited a small village and met Wosne, a beautiful woman with a tragic story. Her husband had died suddenly, leaving her with four children in a one-room hut.

Without a husband, she had no way to support herself. She grew discouraged and desperate. She prayed God would take her life. Thankfully, God had other plans.

World Vision found sponsors for two of her children. This gave Wosne just enough margin to begin eking out an existence. Over time, she bought some chickens, sold the eggs, and bought more chickens.

Eventually, she was able to buy a cow. She sold the milk and bought more cows.

Then, with the help of her children’s sponsor, she was able to buy a modest four-room house. It wasn’t much by American standards—just a few walls on a dirt floor with a tin roof.

The day we met Wosne she was radiant. Her children encircled her and quietly sat as we spoke through an interpreter. She shared her story of hardship yet beamed as she recounted God’s provision for her family.

She had become so prosperous, in fact, she had adopted two other children in the village. She even had a couple of pieces of used furniture and electricity—a single bulb hanging from the ceiling.

By our standards, she was still living in abject poverty. By the standards of her village, however, she was one of its wealthiest citizens.

Max was so moved by her story—and how much she still lacked—he asked, “Wosne, if you could have anything else, what would it be? How can we help you?”

Her answer stunned us.

“Nothing,” she declared. “Nothing at all. I have everything I need. I am the happiest woman in the world.” And she meant it.

Several of us started weeping. In the space of thirty minutes, our entire worldview was turned on its head.

Wrecked—And Transformed

On the flight home, I was pensive and quiet. So was Gail, my wife. We couldn’t get two sentences out of our mouths without crying. Our experiences in Ethiopia had profoundly impacted us.

We were, in a word, wrecked.

I didn’t know what my experience in Ethiopia would mean for our future. I didn’t know if I should quit my job and move to Africa, sell my possessions and give the money to the poor, or stay put. Most of all, I didn’t want to be sucked back into the bubble of a comfortable life.

Over time, we worked through the implications of this experience for our lives. Not that we have it all figured out. We don’t. But we are working hard to make decisions that are counter-cultural and require courage.

In short, being comfortable is no longer enough. We want to make a contribution—in time and for eternity.

An Invitation to Be Brave

I want to invite you to what my friend Jeff calls the “wrecked life”—one that is shaken up but transformed by confronting the world’s most difficult challenges.

This requires sacrifice, but the sense of significance you get is well worth the cost. And if you’re ready to do this—to live the life you’re afraid of—here’s what you need to do next:

  1. Admit you’re living in a bubble.
  2. Step out of your comfort zone.
  3. Put yourself into a situation that will require courage.

Then see how you grow. You might be surprised at just how alive you feel.

Question: Have you ever felt like you were living in a bubble? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://twitter.com/erintarr Erin Tarr

    headed to Liberia in January … great post to help me prepare.  Already ordered #WRECKED – on backorder everywhere though.  THanks Michael … great post as always! http://www.erintarr.com

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Erin. Should be getting some more copies soon!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    When we lived in Russia in the mid-90′s, I recognized that we had a safety net the Russian people didn’t have–a steady income from outside the country. At that time our Russian teacher friends received $15 a month for their work. And their paychecks were about 5 months behind. How the Russian people survived their situation still amazes me to this day. They were resilient under such harsh conditions.

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  • http://twitter.com/StuMcLaren Stu McLaren

    My experiences in Africa (particularly Kenya) mirror yours @mhyatt:disqus .  My takeaway as an entrepreneur was that “it’s ok” to want to make more money.  In fact, it’s “ok” to want to make as much money as I possibly can.

    The reason:  When you’ve made the money, you have the ability to channel it however you please (and that’s one of the big reasons my wife and I started our charity http://worldteacheraid.org).

    My “wrecked” experience was a new sense of responsibility as an entrepreneur to use my gifts to make more money and inspire others to channel their same gifts towards causes they too are passionate about (through our experience in Africa, we have dedicated our efforts there).

    That’s why my new mantra became:  Make More.  Give More.  Live More.

    I hope more entrepreneurs have a similar experience because it is life changing and tremendously rewarding.

    The book sounds great and I look forward to it’s release.

  • Pmpope68

    And one need not to go to Africa for the experience.  I say this because some people’s immediate reaction is to say that they can’t go to Africa.  One could visit a poverty-stricken area right within their own city; spend time volunteering in a homeless shelter or batter women’s shelter; just listening, REALLY listening to another’s story (something we don’t do enough of) might reveal a poverty we didn’t know existed that isn’t necessarily financial in nature.  I contend that opening our eyes, ears and hearts to all that is around us, can profoundly change our outlooks and perspectives.    

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    THIS is why every believer (every person for that matter) should go on a missions trip to serve in a different cultural environment.  It is singularly transforming.
    Trips to Russia taught me generosity…always.
    Trips to Brazil taught me to celebrate people, not stuff.
    Trip to Kenya taught me the simple Gospel is enough. 

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  • http://lesdossey.com/ Les Dossey

    I’d like to offer some perspective that I didn’t notice as I read through the 300 or so comments.

    It is easy to get distracted by emotion (guilt), opinion or outward circumstance if we don’t guard our hearts and minds. Look to Christ who often dismissed the circumstances and opinions of others choosing rather to stay laser focused on fulfilling what God was leading him to do.

    God created each of us with a specific purpose and mission and we are to be led by God (not emotion, opinion or outward circumstance) in fulfilling it.

    Christ was led to the cross, which is exactly where God is leading us. 

    Ford to the manufacturing of automobiles.

    Al Gore to invent the internet. (smiling)

    Jobs to i-everything.

    Hyatt to build a platform.

    Each person created by God (all of us) should ask – What has God created me to do? Where am I being led, not by my emotions or the opinions of others or by outward circumstance, but by God?

    Then once you know be as vigilant, dedicated, caring, faithful and excellent at fulfilling it as Michael Hyatt has and is-in fulfilling his.

    Thank you Michael for being led to do what you do. My life is better because of you. Change, but only that which God leads you to change and like Christ dismiss (guilt free) with grace that which might distract you. 

  • Susan Wilkinson

    Bar none, my favorite post of yours, ever. :) 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Susan!

  • Michelle Colon-Johnson

    Michael, Thanks so much for the post. This very morning I struggled with a choice to make. I have lived in a different kind of bubble than what you described above. I have not seen my father for over 10 years and because I was not raised by my father I thought I would not feel the impact of his missing presence.
     My brother recently reached out to me and invited me to share a visit with him in Puerto Rico, where my father lives. You see my father is getting up in age, and is 89. I at first declined the invitation… But my brother being the kind/wise man he is expressed to me that I might not get a second chance to make peace. This left me thinking how short life truly is and being a 5 time stage 4 cancer survivor I surprised myself that I did not recognize the importance of the here and now. So reading your post made me purchase my tickets to join my brother and other siblings in Puerto Rico, in November for Thanksgiving. I am taking that leap of faith, even knowing that things might not turn out how I hope– but I at least will not have to live with wondering if they would have. I am sure many growth lessons will come from this experience.Wishing you many blessings! ~Michelle Colon-Johnson

  • http://www.personal-success-factors.com/ steveborgman

    Michael, until we travel out of the bubble, it’s very difficult to really understand what’s on the other side.  I’m curious as to what practical changes you’ve made in your life since this trip?  I ask because I wish to reflect on these same things in my own life.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s a whole other blog post that I am considering. Frankly, it’s difficult to write this kind of stuff without appearing that I am bragging. Suffice it to say, we have worked hard to simplify our lives and reduce our expenses, so that we have more to give—both time and money.

      • http://www.personal-success-factors.com/ steveborgman

        Thanks, Michael.  I grew up in Brazil, South America, and I was highly sensitized to poverty.  But that was over 20 years ago, and I’ve become insulated once again.  Simplifying, giving, and continuing to get out of the bubble in service to others seem to be some starting solutions. 

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  • http://leftrightorg.wordpress.com/ Brittany

    Thanks for this. Speaking from expereince, I can tell you that the problem with a bubble is that the light gets distorted and the oxygen eventually runs out. We think that the world inside this bubble is cush and enlightened but in fact we’re missing out on the greatest adventure God has to offer us – a life lived in the trenches, alongside people that aren’t just like us, expressing God’s love in all sorts of wonderful and often unpredictable ways.

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  • http://www.stuckinnewyorkcity.com/about Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

    Michael, thanks for such a moving story. And I am not ashamed to say that teared-up half way through your story.

    It’s just comfortable to live in a bubble. It’s that security blanket we all had as children. And to live or even explore life outside that protection is difficult for many. 

    But as you have mentioned in this post and a few others — stepping outside of that comfort zone is the only way you will grow. And actually begin to live your life.

    My wife and I are not religious (but we was raised Catholic) — which at times I think is a disservice to my family. And as I have read about 7 of your posts — I can’t help but see the spiritual fulfillment.

    In you, the people you touch, your community leaders, guest bloggers, etc. Truly  moving.All I can say is thank-you. And I just went to Amazon to purchase Wrecked :-)

  • Lola

    Dear Michael,

    I generally benefit from reading your blogs and this one reinforces a life lesson we should all have close to heart, however I think it is inappropriate for you to refer to Africa as the dark continent. It was an old name for the continent when large parts had not been discovered and gradually grew into a term of insult.

    I am African, we don’t call it that and personally, I think it is offensive when people do.


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  • toddstocker

    BUBBLE can be my life!  As a Pastor, it’s easy to spend my day/month only rubbing elbows with those like me.  Thanks for the reminder!

  • http://www.worldwidewonderings.net/ Aaron Sebesta

    Thanks for the recommendation on “Wrecked”, Michael – I picked it up today and am already half way through it – its a great set of stories and insight from Jeff.  My wife and I just recently returned from nearly 5 months in South America, so I can definitely relate to feeling “wrecked” and now searching for how best to take our new paradigm and use it to the fullest.  I’ve been getting caught up on your posts this week (for the record I agree with your decision to scale blogging back to 3 days a week) so I missed Jeff’s free give-a-ways, but am just glad to have the book as a confirmation that it’s a common feeling we’re having, and for the inspiration to keep pushing on. 
    Thanks again Michael and Jeff.

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  • Rami B.

    I ‘stumbled upon’ your article, incredible. I swear it inspired me since I am living in a bubble and literally started hating my life. Let’s hope I’ll be able to step out of my comfort zone…

  • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

    Interesting Story. As someone of ethiopian descent, I understand a little bit of what goes on there. My family is from Sidamo.
    My bubble broke in the military. They took a kid from the projects of the bronx NY and threw him overseas and allowed him to play with 30 million dollar aircraft.
    For instance, no one talks about the street gangs of poor children that run the streets of Naples Italy. Or roving bands of violent youths in England.
    anywho. I am a firm believer in you cannot give what you don’t have yourself. I take my kids to soup kitchens, we work with mentally disabled adults in homes and do things like sign up to different charities that use our home network to run simulations for AIDS, Cancer and other disease cures.
    I have no belief in god(s), so I cannot speak upon that and don’t find it relevant. We should have the need or a “creator” to understand that if we treat others with respect and love, the better our lives are.
    Keep up the good work sir.