Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

A Letter to the Rest of the World

[box] This month I’ve been hosting a writing contest called The Open Letter Challenge. I would love for you to join in. But act quickly, entry closes on October 1. Here is my response to An Open Letter to You from the Rest of the World. [/box]


Dear Rest of the World,

Thank you for your letter. I am sorry life has been so difficult for you lately. I really want to see you succeed.

While I want to be a part of the solution, there are a few things you should know about me.

I am a work in progress. I decided a while back to treat life like a marathon instead of a sprint. That means I am intentionally choosing a pace I can keep up for the long run. I am more interested in what I will be able to do tomorrow than what I can do today. I am planning to peak between 50 and 65. That means my best work is ahead of me.

To that end, I care more about growing in character right now than succeeding. Sometimes I will make choices that seem strange to you. I may turn down an amazing opportunity. I may not always help out. Just understand: if I build character now, I will be an even greater help in the future.

I need you as much as you need me. So, I found out the other day I have the same personality profile as Joseph Stalin. He didn’t like people very much. He killed millions of them. My personality type is known for running over people on the way to accomplishing a goal. In the past, I maintained shallow relationships and put too much energy into tasks.

Not anymore.

I want you to know that I care more about relationships than success. I care more about you than achievement. I need you in my life. Now, I can’t have a close relationship with all of you, but I am committed to rejecting isolation. I will not try to do this alone.

I can’t do everything. There are only a handful of things I can do well. Sometimes I overreach because I really want to help out. But, that’s not the best thing for you. You don’t need my frazzled attempt at something I was not created to do. You need me to do what only I can do.

When I try to do something outside of my gifts (because I am trying to be like someone else) I cheat you out of my unique contribution. I also take up space meant for someone else’s contribution.

I am committed to understanding myself and focusing on my gifts. So, please be patient with me. And don’t get angry if I say “No” to some project because it doesn’t fit with the person God made me to be. I am saying, “No,” so that I can say, “Yes,” to something else.

Finally, I hope that as I grow in character, deepen in relationships, and focus on my strengths, my ability to help will increase. We will be able to face our problems together. And if I do these three things, I won’t crumble under the weight of responsibility or success.

The picture I have in mind is of a large tree planted by a stream of water. As my roots grow deep (relationships) and my trunk grows strong (character), my branches will widen (influence) and I will bear fruit (talents). Right now, I am trying to make sure I stay rooted and grow strong.

Photo Credit: Tim Green

Photo Credit: Tim Green

Well, I am praying for you and working every day to become the person God made me to be. I desire the same for each of you.

Your neighbor,


Open Letter Cover 2

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"I love Josh's writing. Big things to come from him." —Jeff Goins

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